30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 78 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 from 15 citizens has been lodged for presentation:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned at the announced decision by the Australian Government to reduce the 1973-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote by $21m, and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Jessop.
– I give the following notice of motion:
That contingent on the President proceeding to the placing of business on any day, I shall move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Wriedt moving a motion relating to the order of business on the notice paper.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That there be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment the following matter: The impact on the Australian environment of the current wood chip industry program.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. Again I refer to the report of the Karmel Committee on postsecondary education in Tasmania. If the report is implemented, will the Government give an assurance that funds will be made available to the Government of Tasmania to continue the employment of those members of the staff of the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education who will be affected as the result of the adoption of the Committee’s recommendations?
– At the moment the matter rests primarily with the Premier of Tasmania to assess the report and to decide whether it should be implemented, because the constitutional power over such colleges of advanced education lies with the States. As the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate will know, in the case of Deakin University, arrangements were made when there were rationalisations, for the protection of the staff of the various organisations. Only yesterday I was discussing that rationalisation with staff associations. I believe that there is a sound case to protect staff and 1 will take up with the Tasmanian Government and with the Commission on Advanced Education the matters which the Leader of the Opposition has raised.
– But you cannot give me the assurance?
-Subsequently I will add to my answer if I am able to do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Can the Minister inform the chamber of what extent the proposed Omega base to be set up in Tasmania will benefit the State in terms of employment opportunity, particularly in the setting up of that base and, to a lesser degree, in its operation? I believe that $8m is to be spent on the setting up and $500,000 on the maintenance.
-The honourable senator shows her concern to advance the welfare and prospects of her own State to a very advanced degree. Yesterday the Minister for Transport made an announcement that, on agreement with the United States of America, the installation of the Omega radio navigation system was to be completed, but I believe that no announcement has been made as to where in Australia the installation will be sited. I think that Tasmania is one of the prospective sites but I gather that that has to be determined along with other prospective sites by the Government in conjunction with the State governments. I am not sure of the detailed costs but obviously the construction of an installation which will be in excess of 1000 feet high and which will need 2 very large supporting and sustaining buildings will undoubtedly generate employment. One might be permitted to trust that Tasmania would benefit, but I think that the decision as to where the installation is to be located has yet to be made.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is he aware that 17 Liberal and National Country Party members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly left Darwin by air at 2 p.m. Central Australian time yesterday? I believe that they have since arrived in Canberra. Is the Minister also aware that the Liberal-National Country Party parliamentary delegation can only be described as a massive vote of no confidence in the Australian Government? Has he been informed that if the delegation does not receive satisfaction it is the intention of the 1 7 members to consider disaffiliation with the Country Party? Can the Minister assure the Parliament that residents of the Northern Territory will not be disadvantaged by the intimidatory tactics being adopted by the delegation? In particular can he reassure the Parliament that the Aboriginal lands legislation will stay with the Federal Parliament and that sufficient funds will be made available for on-going capital works in the Northern Territory and reconstruction work in Darwin?
-I am not aware that 17 members of the Legislative Assembly have left Darwin. I have no direct knowledge of that.
– They are here.
-I am not aware of it. I am just saying that I am not aware that they have left or am I aware that they are in Canberra. In reply to the second part of” the question, whatever else happens their coming here certainly would not indicate that they have no confidence in the present Government. After all, as I recall the position, their election a year or 1 8 months ago provided one of the first pieces of evidence that the people of Australia were rejecting the lunatic policies of the Whitlam Labor Government. By a massive vote in the Northern Territory, the National Country Party and the Liberal Party candidates took almost every seat in the Legislative Assembly. It also indicates that there is no dissatisfaction with what has happened under this Government. As to the problems which the honourable senator raises in regard to Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory, that is a matter on which the Government will make a policy decision. When that policy decision has been made it will be announced to the Parliament.
-Mr President, I ask a supplementary question: Can the Minister for Administrative Services say whether sufficient funds will be made available to make sure that there are on-going programs both for capital works and for reconstruction in the Northern Territory?
-That matter does not reside within my portfolio. I will seek the information from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or the Treasurer as the case may be.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. Is he aware that a notice has been posted recently in the roster room of the Commonwealth car drivers to the effect that when they drive members of Parliament they are to speak only when spoken to? Does he know why the notice was posted? Did he give directions for it to be posted?
– The honourable senator was kind enough to mention this matter to me last night. I have had my Department make inquiries. I am advised that the Department has been unable to find any notice posted in its Brisbane facilities which deals specifically with instructions to drivers not to initiate conversations with passengers.
– In Canberra.
-As to the Canberra situation, that comes under the control of the Minister for the Capital Territory. It does not reside in my area. I am responsible for Commownealth cars everywhere in Australia, except the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Responsibility in those 2 areas rests with the Hon. Tony Staley and the Hon. Evan Adermann.
Perhaps I might make it clear- I imagine that the same rules apply everywhere- that instructions to passenger car drivers were issued in all States by my Department in 1 974. It is a very old instruction. It has been in force since at least 1967 and reads as follows:
Drivers should not enter into general conversation with passengers unless invited by the passenger initiating the conversation.
I can well understand that drivers may wish to initiate conversations, especially when some honourable members and honourable senators are travelling with them. Perhaps also they wish that they should have control of conversation instead of being ear-bashed by some member of Parliament.
– I direct a question to Senator Guilfoyle, the Minister for Social Security, who yesterday presented a statement relating to unemployment benefits and work tests on behalf of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is the Minister aware of the provisions of International Labour Organisation Conventions, including Conventions No. 2, No. 83, No. 88 and No. 122 which have been ratified by the Commonwealth Government? Is the Minister aware that these conventions concern employment policies, unemployment, including unemployment benefits, and the organisation of employment services and that they specifically require member countries to consult trade union and employer organisations on these matters? Is the Minister aware that a previous coalition government was so committed to the consultative provisions of the then unratified conventions concerning unemployment and employment services that the then head of the Department of Labour and National Service, Sir Henry Bland, used those provisions to persuade a doubtful
Australian Council of Trade Unions to participate in formal consultative machinery on employment, unemployment and industrial policies? Does the Minister realise that the failure of the Government to consult plays into the hands of extremists bent on industrial confrontation for political purposes? Is the Minister aware that on Tuesday, 17 February, the ACTU Executive specifically referred to the Government’s proposed interference with unemployment paymerits and systems without consultation or advice to the ACTU and requested that such consultations take place?
– Does the honourable senator want an extension of time?
-Is the Minister aware that there has been no consultation with the trade union movement on the work test and unemployment policy which were the subject of the ministerial statement presented by her yesterday?
– Does the honourable senator want another 5 minutes!
– This is an important subject. Was this apparent disregard for international conventions and recommendations undertaken on the advice of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations which, under a previous distinguished Permanent Head, was familiar with the responsibilities of the ratifying parties and the obligations of the Government to consult? Is the Minister aware that methods are available, under international covenant, to bring to heel the failure of the Government to observe those international instruments, with consequent damaging exposure to Australia’s international standing? Finally, in view of all those factors, are the Minister and her colleague prepared to give an undertaking now- at this late stage- that they will immediately enter into consultations with the trade union movement on the matter of the ministerial statement to overcome the recognised problems associated with the work test, the payment of unemployment benefit and relevant matters?
– A number of questions has been addressed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations by the honourable senator. Those questions relate to International Labour Organisation conventions- in particular, Nos 283, 288 and 122. The honourable senator has also raised the matter of consultation with the Australian trade union movement. I will bring the matters which have been raised by the honourable senator to the attention of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and ask him to respond to the request for an undertaking to be given with regard to a consultative process with the trade union movement on the matter of the ministerial statement presented by me on his behalf yesterday.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. As this is an urgent matter, can we have a reply from the Minister as to when an answer can be expected to my question?
– As with my own Department and any other Minister whom I represent, I always express the urgency of any matters which are raised in the Senate. I can do no more on this occasion than request that urgent consideration be given to the matter so that the giving of the undertaking which has been requested can be facilitated.
- Mr President, my question may require the attention of the Minister representing the Prime Minister and 3 other Ministers, namely, the Minister representing the Treasurer, the Minister representing the Minister for Health and the Minister for Science. However, I will direct the question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and leave it to his good judgment as to how he handles it from there. I ask: Is the Minister aware that more than 168 million litres, or in the old measurement, 35 million gallons, of wine were sold in Australia last year and that of that total the sales of red wine accounted for 36.1 million litres? Is the Minister aware that red wine contains a headache producing substance known as histamines and that the rougher the red the higher the content of this unpleasant substance?
– The rougher the headache.
– It is a serious question. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an article in today’s Sydney Daily Telegraph entitled ‘Wine growers fight hangovers’, which indicates that research is being undertaken by the Australian Wine Research Institute and the South Australian Institute of Technology with the object of, as the article says, ‘taking the headache out of wine’. Having regard to the deleterious side-effects that this substance has on the consumer of red wine, will he seriously consider giving both physical assistance by way of making the expertise of officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and financial assistance available for this important field of research?
-I have been asked about a subject of which I have very little personal knowledge. I accept as factual the figures which the honourable senator has given. I am just surprised that we do in fact drink so much. The honourable senator asked whether I know that red wine has the capacity to produce headaches. I have both direct and indirect knowledge of that situation. I think the real substance of the honourable senator’s question is contained in the last part. I think it is a reasonable request and one which I ought to put to the Prime Minister so that he can take up with the Ministers concerned whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories should also be involved in this exercise. I think that perhaps Senator Brown has done a great service to a lot of people this day in making that suggestion.
– My question refers to the statement released yesterday in relation to unemployment benefits and the work test and presumably I should direct it to the Minister for Social Security. In view of the high percentage of persons found to be ineligible for benefits among the 1 12 000 beneficiaries visited by field officers of the Department of Social Security between May 1975 and January 1976, will the Minister arrange to have the remainder of the beneficiaries checked with a view to eliminating further persons found to be ineligible and thus afford a further saving to the taxpayer?
– The matter of eliminating further persons who are ineligible for unemployment benefits is of continuing concern to officers of my Department. The remark in regard to the numbers who were visited between the dates mentioned is a statement of fact. I assure the honourable senator that people who are eligible for unemployment benefits will have their claims facilitated by my officers. Those who are detected to be ineligible will have their unemployment benefits withdrawn.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is the Minister aware that 7 1 per cent of appeals against the denial of unemployment benefits were upheld by the Social Security Appeals Tribunal in 1975? That was before the recent implementation of more severe work tests for unemployment benefits. Is the Minister aware that a survey done by the Department of Social Security in September 1975 showed that only 6 per cent of those unemployed could be considered unwilling to work? In view of these facts, is the Government considering increasing the investigatory staff of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations to carry out the new policy which was announced yesterday in the statement? Will the Minister confer with the Minister for Social Security to discover a means of speeding up the hearing of appeals by the Social Security Appeals Tribunal?
– I think the honourable senator appreciates that the reason why Senator Guilfoyle made a statement yesterday in this chamber explaining the approach which the Government is now adopting to the payment of unemployment benefits is that her Department administers the payment of those benefits. I know that there is close consultation between Mr Street, as Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, and Senator Guilfoyle, as the Minister for Social Security, on the methods by which the unemployment benefit is determined and on the administration of the whole scheme. If as a result of the present Government’s decisions there is an upsurge in appeals, that is the people’s right and entitlement and it would be the desire of the Government that those appeals should be determined as quickly as possible. I have no doubt that that would be the case. With regard to the other matters, I am not in a position to answer the honourable senator, but I will refer them to my colleagues and I hope that the honourable senator can have an answer as quickly as possible.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the recent decision by the Trades and Labour Council in Western Australia and the Transport Workers Union to ban the distribution of the West Australian newspaper because of editorial criticism of Mr Whitlam. I ask the Minister: Is not such action reminiscent of the actions of Hitler’s brown shirted thugs in intimidating newspapers and denying the right of free expression and free opinion? Will the Government make it clear that it accepts the right of newspapers fearlessly to express opinions, regardless of whether one finds such opinions agreeable or disagreeable? What powers does the Government possess to protect newspapers from the activities of facist-minded individuals who, like the Nazi thugs of old, wish to deny free expression and free opinion?
-I am aware of the matter raised by the honourable senator, because it has received a great deal of publicity in my own State of Western Australia. As 1 recall, it is not the first time such a thing has happened. I recall an occasion when a columnist in that well known paper the West Australian, one Bill Bailey, who writes a very interesting and occasionally amusing column, had the ‘temerity’- if 1 may use that word in inverted commas- to write a jocular article concerning the waterside workers’ union. That union promptly banned the supply of newsprint to the newspaper. In this place we are used to receiving lectures from those who sit opposite us concerning the freedom and the independence of certain institutions and of the Press and concerning the necessity for Press councils to protect the right of freedom of expression of all sorts of people. I am more than interested that when incidents such as this happen one does not receive ‘ letters signed by 10 well known citizens of Australia protesting against such intimidatory tactics.
All I can say is that this is but another example of the double standards adopted by so many people in our community. It seems to be quite right and normal for the trade union movement, for instance, to run a printing press and newspapers for its own members and write all sorts of things about people whom they oppose and for it not to be subject to a Press council. But the moment newspapers in which people own shares via the stock exchange write criticisms of the trade union movement in comes the Big Brother standover tactic. It was because we on this side of the Parliament are so aware of the fact that there ought to be freedom of expression, whether or not it hurts us, that it was part of our policy to get rid of that department previously known as the Department of the Media. As I said during the election campaign, and I will keep saying, there is no doubt that once governments get involved in the media and there is a Department of the Media, both the Minister responsible for that Department and the departmental people get an itch to interfere with the media. As I recall it, Australia was the only country outside the totalitarian world that had a Department of the Media. *
We on this side of the Senate are totally opposed to any interference with the normal expression of opinion, whether in news gathering or news reporting. For trade unions to attempt to interpose themselves between those who wish to express views and the public is, I think, disgraceful. I regret that as far as my knowledge extends the Commonwealth Government does not have the power to stamp out this interference, but I hope that this is a matter which the Prime Minister might raise with his colleagues at the next Premiers Conference to see whether there ought not to be some legislation passed in Australia to protect the free dissemination of opinion in this country.
– I direct my question to Senator Greenwood in his capacity as Minister for Environment. By way of preface I refer to an answer which he gave in response to a question concerning the control of the import of American bear traps used in Queensland. The Minister stated that these traps were not used frequently and suggested that I should take the matter up further with the Queensland Department of Lands. I now ask the Minister: In view of his apparent refusal to confer with his ministerial colleague who is responsible for customs control, are we to continue to allow these sons of traps to enter Australia? If the answer is in the affirmative, is it not possible that not merely the fourfooted inhabitants of Australia but also those of the two-legged variety, bushwalkers and the like, could suffer severe injuries due to the Minister’s failure to deny entry to Australia of these fearsome weapons? May I conclude on this note: If members of the Senate committee which deals with the woodchip industry were to go into an Australian forest- even with Senator Baume accompanying it- some members could put their feet in some of those traps all because the Minister will not have their import banned?
– I can go a long way with Senator Mulvihill in sharing his concern about the protection of imperilled species of our native fauna. However, the question about beartraps and their importation is one upon which I must crave the indulgence of the Senate in order to make further inquiries. I gave an answer to the honourable senator recently, but I thought that it was with respect to the use of bear-traps to catch dingoes. On the general information which I received, I believed that the use of these implements was quite restricted. I shall make inquiries concerning the rate of importation of these bear-traps and consider the matter in the light of the question asked by the honourable senator. If a decision has to be taken I shall consult with my colleague, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, who is responsible for these matters.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. I refer to a hearing that is taking place in the High Court in which one Ellis Robinson is seeking a declaration that he is the finder and owner of one of the historic Dutch wrecks off the coast of Western Australia. The ship in question foundered in 1656 on a reef about 3 miles off the coast. Does this not indicate that as a result of the High Court decision regarding the Seas and Submerged Lands Act, there may be a serious area of no law beyond low watermark off the shore of Australia? Does it not also indicate the urgent need for legislation in this area, particularly in this case to protect the public ownership of such historic wrecks off the Western Australian coast? Is it not yet another example of the urgent need for Commonwealth legislation to give at least temporary effect to State laws which have hitherto been thought to apply below low watermark?
– I am aware of the action before the High Court to which my honourable friend and colleague refers. As a result of consultations between the Attorney-General and myself, it has been decided that the Commonwealth will intervene in this matter. As I understand it, the Solicitor-General himself will be arguing the Commonwealth point of view before the High Court in this matter. We are well seised of the difficulties which the honourable senator raised in his question as to the area of no law. I also indicate to the Senate that I hope very soon to be able to introduce into this place legislation designed to carry out the matters adverted to in the last part of the honourable senator’s question. This matter has been under urgent consideration, by both my Department and the Attorney-General’s Department since the decision of the High Court regarding the Seas and Submerged Lands Act was announced. I am aware of Senator Durack ‘s very keen interest in this matter. I hope that I will be able to satisfy his request and have the legislation before the Senate shortly.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, relates to the review of the supporting mothers’ benefit. Last January the Government announced that as a result of a Cabinet decision, a review of this benefit would be conducted as quickly as possible by the Department of Social Security. In view of the widespread concern in the community by beneficiaries of this benefit, can the Minister indicate to the Senate when the results of this review will be known?
– A separate review of the supporting mothers’ benefit is not being undertaken by the Government at the present time. An income security review of all benefits which are being paid by the Government is being undertaken. The supporting mothers’ benefit would come within the realm of the work that is being undertaken as part of that review. We expect to receive the results of the income security review within the next two or three months- probably in time for this year’s Budget preparation. That is all the information that I am able to give about this matter at the present time.
– My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to the statement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications yesterday that it was proposed that the Government might institute an inquiry into broadcasting and television. Is the Minister aware that 5 years ago the Senate referred a similar inquiry to the then Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts? Is he aware that this Committee, of which I was privileged to be Chairman and the Minister was a member, has presented 3 progress reports on this subject to the Senate? Is he aware that these reports covered such issues as national, commercial and public broadcasting and especially in the area of the introduction of VHF or frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia? Is the Minister aware also that this Committee has had some 27 public hearings and some 200 written submissions from a wide cross section of the radio and broadcasting community? Does the Minister agree that such a reference might well be referred with suitable qualifications to the present appropriate Senate committee? Will he take the matter up with his colleague and suggest that appropriate steps might be taken to carry out this assignment? Finally, in view of the Government’s financial program of economic restrictions, could not the Government avail itself of the work already done and particularly of the work of senators and especially of the skills of the officers involved?
– Yes. I am very much aware of the reference which, I think, was entitled ‘All Aspects of Broadcasting and Television in Australia, including Australian Content’, which has been before the Senate standing committee for 5 years. Yes, I am aware that there were 3 progress reports. Indeed, I participated in their preparation. I am aware that the investigations covered a very wide range of subjects. I note that it was primarily because of the committee’s report that the frequency modulation inquiry- the McLean inquiry- occurred and a completely new resource was exposed within the band of the spectrum. I am aware of the number of public hearings and the volume of evidence taken. It has been a most valuable investigation. Already its progress reports have produced very great results for the Australian people.
I am acutely conscious that lying within the evidence already given to that committee would be substantial evidence which would be of direct interest to any inquiry which will be set up. At the moment I am not aware of the type of inquiry that the Government has in mind. I will bring to the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, the suggestion by Senator Davidson. Even if the committee itself is not the body to do what the Government seeks to do, I will certainly draw the attention of the Government to the resource content that lies within the committee’s evidence.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the Government’s announced intention to set up an Omega station in Australia, and in view of the fact that Tasmania is a preferred site, what cognisance will be taken of the attitude expressed by Mr Neilson, the Premier of that State, who is reported to oppose strongly the establishment of such a base?
– I am quite sure that in the general evaluation of this matter the best site will be chosen. If Mr Neilson, acting in the interests of Tasmania, refuses to add to the prosperity of his State, that is his concern.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. As background to my question, may I say that perhaps wage indexation need not be a purely automatic operation without balanced consideration of total economic and social consequences. Perhaps it is not necessary to relate it to statistics alone. In the major commitment to defeat inflation, I ask the Minister whether too tight a definition for the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s observance may not, firstly retard the growth of confidence now emerging, secondly endanger the long-term outlook for all wage and salary earners and, thirdly, place Australia at a further disadvantage as an international trader.
– The Government has made it clear that it has in this area, I think, two commitments. Firstly, it will uphold and maintain as far as it can the authority of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Secondly, it will accept the principles of wage indexation which were laid down by the Commission in 1975. The application of those indexation principles, as the honourable senator supposes in his question, may have damaging results upon the nation’s combating of economic recovery if they are applied rigidly or statistically. I think the Commission, in the judgment in which it upheld the full indexation figure of 6.4 per cent, said, in effect, that the best way to stimulate economic recovery would be to make no increase in wage costs whatsoever. The Commission then chose, in its judgment, to grant the increase. This represents part of what the Prime Minister was referring to when he made a public statement over the week-end. It reflects also the truth that if the wage indexation principle is applied in the strict manner in which the Commission has applied it there can be, as the Commission itself acknowledged, some problems in the economy. The basic concern of the Government, however, is to ensure the nation’s economic recovery and that will be its pre-eminent concern. We shall be looking at all times to all persons, organisations and statutory bodies like the Commission to cooperate in the attainment of that objective.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations: Is it a fact that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government and the Labor Government, together with employers and trade unions, have, over the years, advocated that industry and Commonwealth Departments should take a maximum of apprentices and other skilled trainees? Is it a fact that special incentives were introduced by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government and later improved by the Labor Government with the result that the intake of these apprentices and trainees was greatly increased? Is it now clear that because of Government cuts and the general cut in capital works programs the intake of these 2 classes of labour is likely to be reduced? Will the Minister see to what extent- despite the Government’s ceiling on staff intake- efforts might be made to maintain a general increase in apprentices and industrial trainees which would give Australia a highly skilled workforce?
– I think the honourable senator has opened up a very wide question because the availability of prospective apprentices to fill positions and the availability of apprentices generally is a matter of concern. As far as I am aware no cutback has been made by the present Government additional to the restraints which were imposed by the Labor Government with regard to the availability of funds for what broadly may be called technical or apprenticeship training. In response to the honourable senator’s question I will endeavour to seek further information from my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and also from my colleague the Minister for Education who, I think, has some knowledge in this area.
-The question I direct to the Minister representing the Treasurer deals with the hardship being experienced by wool growers in meeting taxation commitments. Is the Minister aware that considerable pressure is being applied to wool growers for payment of income tax by the due date and that interest calculated at the rate of 10 per cent per annum is being imposed on the outstanding balance? Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the plight of many primary producers in Australia generally but particularly in South Australia who planned to pay their tax from the proceeds of March wool sales? Does the Minister appreciate that the strike by member’s of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union in the wool stores has created insurmountable difficulties for many people in this category? Will the Minister ask the Treasurer to instruct the Taxation Commissioner to allow an extension of time in order to enable wool growers to pay their tax without penalty?
-I listened very carefully to that question. It seems to me that this is a genuine case emerging hardship. There is always provision in the hands of the Taxation Commissioner to be lenient in circumstances like this. I shall refer the whole matter to the Treasurer so that he can take it up with the Taxation Commissioner.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware of the confusion in the community over the amount pensioners must pay for pharmaceutical benefits? Prior to the recent increase in the amount paid by individual payers, pensioners paid only 75c for a prescription, a 50 per cent cut in the cost. Is anyone now eligible to pay less than the $2 for each prescription which is the amount laid down in recent legislation?
– I was not aware of the confusion which is referred to by the honourable senator. I shall see that a statement is made to clarify any confusion which exists.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. The Minister may recall that I gave some advance notice of this matter to his office yesterday. Will the 40 per cent investment allowance- I assume it is for an expenditure in excess of $ 1 ,000- apply to expenditure on farm water storages for irrigation and equipment such as pumps, motors and pipes which are used for irrigation?
-The answer to both the questions, on the information given to me this morning, is yes.
– I cannot answer the honourable senator’s question as to whether the Minister of Justice of Papua New Guinea is a permanent member of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. I shall make inquiries and let the honourable senator have the answer. By way of supplementary comment I say that there have been occasions in recent times when the
Standing Committee of Attorneys-General has travelled to New Zealand for meetings of the Standing Committee at which the AttorneyGeneral of New Zealand has been present. I understand that he has come to Australia for meetings of that Committee on occasions. I am unable to say what precise position is held by the Attorney-General or Minister of Justice of neighbouring countries. I shall find out the answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to the statement which was released to the Senate yesterday about unemployment benefits. Is the Minister aware of voluminous reports which indicate that migrant women are often discriminated against and coerced by unscrupulous employers? Does the Government acknowledge that there is evidence that some such employees are often forced into sexual activity with the employer or face dismissal? In view of the Government’s new guidelines for unemployment benefits, will the Minister advise what steps have been taken or are proposed to be taken to prevent the sexploitation of migrant women by some employers who can now threaten such persons not only with the loss of employment but also with their being ineligible for unemployment benefits for at least 6 weeks?
– I hope that it is accepted by all that there is no intention in the new guidelines which were announced yesterday to exploit anyone. In particular there is no intention to exploit migrant women. The matters which have been referred to concerning unscrupulous employers who make undue demands upon migrant women, with the threat of dismissal and loss of employment, are matters that concern us all. But I think that it should be said that in the guidelines that were announced yesterday the position exists which has always existed- that is, if there is any doubt in the matter, the employee is the person who is given the greatest consideration. This position will continue to exist in dealing with situations in which some doubt could attach to a resignation. Giving a person the opportunity to resign rather than being dismissed is a practice of which we are all aware. The situation that could occur, as outlined by the honourable senator, is one that would be subject to investigation. It could be subject to appeal or it could be dealt with very closely by the officers concerned. I can assure the Senate that under the new guidelines there Ls no intention to exploit anyone and that the benefit of the doubt would always be given to the employee in a situation in which any doubt existed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education. Is the Government doing anything to foster negotiations between tertiary institutions and employer groups to ensure that graduates are suitably qualified for private industry and to enable later year students to meet prospective employers so that each can better appreciate the other’s needs and expectations?
– The question which Senator Missen asks is a very important one. It is particularly important with regard to colleges of advanced education because those colleges are or should be more specifically vocation oriented than universities. It is of primary importance that colleges should attune their curricula and courses to the end product that industry and commerce seek. Indeed only in the last few days I have been talking with principals of the colleges along these lines to bring the colleges themselves closer to the community. There is a tendency in some colleges to proliferate courses in a vacuum rather than in relation to the real world outside. In universities it is almost equally as important except that in the established faculties of universities over the years there has been a professionally oriented relationship particularly in such fields as medicine, architecture and engineering. There is still a great deal more to be done. I will look at the matter further and let the honourable senator know what other steps are being taken.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. The Minister will be aware that all capital cities with the exception of Darwin are included in the computations of and are given a consumer price index. Over the years civic leaders, employee and employer organisations and statisticians have asked that Darwin be included with the other capital cities. Recent discussions in Darwin have once again highlighted the need for a consumer price index for Darwin as an objective base for wage negotiations for both employee and employer. Will the Minister raise this matter with the Treasurer and ask that arrangements be made to compile a consumer price index for Darwin as a matter of urgency?
– Yes, I will certainly bring that matter up with him.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport relates to the statement about the Omega base that may be set up in Australia. I preface my question by saying that it has been reported that the closer a ship gets to an Omega base the greater the area of uncertainty of its position. Therefore, a ship close to an Omega base cannot accurately navigate by the use of the Omega system. I ask: Is the Minister able to say how far a ship must be from an Omega base to obtain accurate navigation, as would be necessary, say, in Bass Strait? Has the Minister any knowledge of tests for sites that have been carried out in Tasmania?
-I am not the world’s leading expert on Omega. I know a little about it because it was being discussed as a possibility for aerial navigation and for position fixing in earlier days. My understanding is that there is a need to have a fair stand-off distance to obtain total accuracy. I do not know the distance required. I do know that Tasmania was regarded as a potentially good site. I believe that there are other potentially good sites. The honourable senator’s question asks for an answer in a technical area. I think he is entitled to a precise answer which I shall seek for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. In any future examination of the appropriateness of social security benefits, particularly in the area of unemployment benefits, will the Minister give special consideration to the very difficult situation of persons whose work capacity has been impaired by a medical condition and who, as a consequence of that, have been certified by an examining medical officer as fit for light work only, thereby debarring such persons from receiving invalid pensions or sickness benefits which are both, of course, substantially higher in terms of benefit than the unemployment benefit? Does the Minister appreciate that so-called light jobs are almost non-existent and that employers shy off persons with a diminished work capacity thereby placing these people in a serious financial situation in which they cannot in some instances support their families adequately? Does the Minister further appreciate the fact that persons in receipt of the unemployment benefit seeking to increase their earnings by casual work have a very limited allowance in this connection, thereby subjecting their families to a standard of living well below the poverty level? Can something be done about this most difficult situation which is creating extreme hardship in a great many homes? Would it not be possible, for instance, to raise the permissible earnings of people in this situation to a level at which the families in such unfortunate circumstances can have a reasonable expectation of an income? In other words, to summarise the position, can some special classification be made for people who are somewhere in between, that is, they are handicapped to the extent that they are not able to work in a full time normal occupation and are not sick enough to qualify for an invalid pension or sickness benefits? It is a most difficult situation and one that we do not cater for currently.
– The situation outlined in the question is undoubtedly a difficult one. There is nothing in the guidelines or the operation of the work test that would suggest that any person with limited physical capacity would be required to undertake work which would be outside that capacity. It is not only a matter of looking at a person’s experience and qualifications. It is also a matter of looking at a person’s capacity. I assure the honourable senator that that situation would not arise to the detriment of a person seeking a lighter type of work than the work for which he may have been formerly trained.
The other matter, that of increasing the amount of earnings without loss of unemployment benefit, is one of policy. The honourable senator will realise that unemployment benefits were not determined to be a permanent way of life. They are emergency payments. They were to be short term payments. For this reason, there is a very limited amount which can be earned without loss of unemployment benefits. It could be a matter that would be the subject of discussion and review and future policy. We are not endeavouring to equate unemployment benefits with permanent pension entitlements or other matters which would be related strictly to people with physical or mental handicaps. In this situation, it is a matter of making an emergency payment to people who, we would hope, would be unemployed for a short term rather than suggesting that this should be a way of life and a permanent means of support. I take note of what the honourable senator has suggested and will subject it to review as a matter of policy.
- Mr President, I ask a supplementary question, merely for the purposes of clarifying the situation. I was referring to cases involving people who are desperately trying to get work and who cannot. They are somewhere in between the 2 categories. They do not have sufficient income on which to live but they are genuinely trying to get work. I am genuinely concerned for their welfare.
– There is nothing that I can add to what I have said already. I understand the proposition that is put by the honourable senator. He is referring to the seeking of work which may not be available or easily available to a person with a more limited capacity. What I have said relates to the situation which he has outlined.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. I preface it by reminding the Minister that the Tasmanian Premier last week visited the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and, amongst other things, discussed the financing of the north-west regional water scheme. In view of the Prime Minister’s statement last week that the Federal Government’s commitment still stands and will be available when Mr Neilson can tell the Prime Minister that there is agreement between the participating councils and the totally incorrect and I believe deliberately misleading publicity being given to the matter by both the Premier and Mr Duff, the Chairman of” the North West Municipal League, I ask: Firstly will the Minister advise the Senate whether Mr Neilson provided any potentially acceptable alternatives to the proposal under discussion, which is not acceptable as presently presented? Secondly, will he ask the Prime Minister or the Treasurer whether he will make a short confirmatory statement of the position not only of the Commonwealth but also of the State and local governments so that the people of the area- and, hopefully, Mr Neilson and Mr Duff- may understand the position?
-It is a cardinal rule that Ministers who wish to survive do not take up the discussions between Prime Ministers and Premiers as part of their official doctrine, but one can be quite sure that if Mr Fraser said that he means it and will stick to it. Therefore, what the honourable senator really wants to get from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer through me is a clear statement of what the Government is prepared to do about the water supply scheme. I shall ask for that for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Australian News and Information Service distribute copies of all ministerial Press releases on a regular daily basis to the electorate offices of senators and members? Is he aware that included in yesterday’s distribution was a Press release from the Federal Secretariat of the Liberal Party of Australia dated 19 March and entitled ‘Visit by Mrs Margaret Thatcher’? If the Minister is not aware of that, will he inquire into the matter and advise the Senate accordingly? How long has a government agency been distributing party political propaganda on behalf of the Liberal Party and presumably the National Country Party of Australia? Will the Minister make the necessary inquiries so that he can advise the Senate what the cost has been to date of so distributing Party propaganda?
– There is in operation within my Department a body- it is not the Australian News and Information Service; it is called, I think, the Ministerial Document Servicewhich not only distributes ministerial statements to all honourable senators and members but also is prepared to distribute statements of the 4 Opposition Leaders in the Australian Labor Party. I am unaware of the distribution of the release that was said by the honourable senator to have come from the Federal Secretariat of the Liberal Party. I will look into the matter and inform the Senate on it later. I will obtain information as to the cost.
When we came into office we discovered that the previous Government had been building an enormous propaganda machine to promote its view. It was generally known as the Department of the Media. It was one of the more scandalous operations that were indulged in by the previous Government at the taxpayers’ expense. That is why it was dismembered. We make no apology for doing so. The present operation is there so that senators, members and members of the Gallery -
– That is why the ABC -
-Do not raise the Australian Broadcasting Commission. You blokes have been leaning on it for years. It is full of your supporters and has been pumping out your propaganda year in and year out. That is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of notoriety. The sooner it is cleaned up the better as far as I am concerned. It is rather remarkable that honourable senators opposite always rush to the defence of their friends. If all the people they defend are as objective as they claim them to be why do they rush to their defence all the time.
If one were looking for objectivity and one looked at the appointments made by the previous Government one could hardly say that they are on our side of politics. The previous Government was really looking for objectivity at that stage! As I recall it, a person appointed from Western Australia used to participate in Vietnam protest marches. Perhaps that was his major qualification for being appointed as the Western Australian representative on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. One would hardly imagine that he would bring some objective view to the operations of the ABC. Let us not raise the ABC too much. As I recall also, when the previous Minister for the Media brought in a Bill to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act he was attempting- until my friend and colleague Senator Guilfoyle got amongst it- to take dictatorial powers to himself to direct the commercial electronic media not only what to show but also when and how to show it. They were quite notorious powers, which this Senate quite rightly threw out for the protection of the free dissemination of news in Australia. For the Opposition to get all uptight about this is almost laughable.
I come back to Senator Colston’s question. The present operation is to inform senators, members, members of the Press Gallery and a limited number of media outlets which do not have representatives in Canberra. The releases are not for general distribution as was the last one. I think one member of the previous Government had more than 3000 people on his mailing list. That was a misuse of taxpayers’ funds to pump out propaganda. The present system relating to the distribution of ministerial statements is limited to Departments of State, senators, members and members of the Press Gallery. That distribution will apply also, if they so desire, to releases by the Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament. I think that is a fair and reasonable operation. It is wrong for the honourable senator to come in here and attempt to make a cheap piece of publicity because- perhaps it may be true; I do not know- he alleges Liberal Party matter is being slipped into the mail. I will inquire as to that. We should look back over the last 3 years at how the taxpayer’s money was squandered in an attempt to bolster up a government. It would not have mattered if twice that amount had been spent. The result would have been the same.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Loan Bill 1976.
Loan Bill (No. 2) 1976.
Meat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1 976.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972-73,I present the annual report of the Council of the Institute of Marine Science for the year ended 30 June 1975.
I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Obviously I cannot comment in depth on the report but I hope that it will be the subject of debate in this Parliament at some later time, hopefully in the next few weeks. The Minister would be aware that there has been quite a bit of controversy over the whole establishment of the Institute because of the cutback in finance which originally was to be made available. I leave my remarks at that point and seek leave to continue them at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974,I present the Thirty-ninth general report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement concerning Notice of Motion number 2, which reads:
That the Administration Ordinance 1975, as contained in Norfolk Island Ordinance No.5 of 1975, and made under the Norfolk Island Act 1957-1973, be disallowed.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Norfolk Island Administration Ordinance 1975 empowered the Administrator of the Territory to declare any place to be a gaol. The Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances considered this provision to be unsatisfactory because there appeared to be nothing to prevent a declaration being made in relation to private property without the consent of the owner or the lessee. The Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, has agreed to amend the Ordinance so that the power of the Administrator may not be exercised without the consent of the owner or the lessee of the property concerned. The Committee has accepted the Minister’s undertaking, and accordingly I withdraw Business of the Senate Notice of Motion number 2.I should like to thank the Minister for his cooperation in this matter.
Debate resumed from 23 March on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this Bill, as outlined in the second reading speech of the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton), is to provide loans to three States to enable fruit canneries to increase the interim payments to growers for the 1974-75 crop- that is, the crop which was harvested about a year ago. The problem which provoked this legislation is a hangover- that Friedmanite term should appeal to members of the Liberal and National Country Parties- from the wild binge of the 1960s, a period in which the production base of the fruit industry was expanded wildly and recklessly under a host of incentives and with the encouragement of Liberal and Country Party governments both State and Federal. It is patently dishonest to assert, as the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, did in a Press release of 22 January 1976, that the problems of the fruit industry were induced by the actions of the Labor Government either in 1975 or in the previous 2 years.
The fruit industry presents us with a classic case of surplus capacity, of an industry which sells on a 2-tiered or 2-price market and which faces rapidly diminishing marginal returns for the product which it must sell overseas. It was inevitable that this situation would arise sooner or later. Throughout the decade of the 1960s there was a steady increase in the production base for fruit growing. In that decade the area of irrigated orchards increased from 1 20 000 acres to 180 000 acres, much of this expansion occurring in the Goulburn Valley of Victoria, where the current problem is most severe. That that expansion in the 1960s is the original cause of the problems confronting the industry today has been conceded in the debate on this Bill in the House of Representatives, both by the honourable member for Forrest, Mr Drummond, and, in somewhat more explicit terms, the honourable member for Murray, Mr Lloyd, whose electorate encompasses probably the major fruit growing area of Australia.
Mr Lloyd attempted to exonerate the Liberal and Country Party governments of the 1960s from blame for this situation by claiming that Sir John McEwen as far back as 1965 issued a warning. Mr Mr Lloyd said, referring to Sir John:
While it may be true that Sir John McEwen did so warn the canning fruit industry at that time, it is equally true that the Federal Government, of which Sir John was a member, encouraged the expansion of orchard plantings and the production of fruit, both directly and indirectly. The Government encouraged this expansion because it provided taxation incentives which were explicitly designed to expand the entire agricultural production base, and this inevitably had an effect on fruit growing. National governments also were providing substantial amounts of finance for the extension of irrigation schemes, particularly in the Goulburn Valley.
In the debate in the other place on 18 March Mr Lloyd said:
The closer settlement policies of the Victorian Government at that time also were contrary to the warnings given by the Federal Government.
Taken in isolation, that statement is also true. It draws attention to the problems which confront any national government in assuming its responsibility for national agricultural policies, especially as they affect the export industries, when it is unable to obtain co-operation with or compliance from the State governments. I find it difficult to reconcile the facts and the underlying sentiments in Mr Lloyd’s statements with the obsessions within the present Liberal-National Country Party Government. It has an obsessive desire to allow the 6 States to pull in 6 different directions, and each of those directions is different from the one which is perceived by the national Government, which is charged with the prime responsibility of setting a rational course to follow. While Mr Lloyd has correctly drawn attention to the role played by the Victorian Government in ultimately inducing this crisis, he has, of course, neatly sidestepped the fact that the Federal Government of the day, by the provision of irrigation water at well below true market cost and by the provision of taxation incentives designed to expand the agricultural production base, also must be held to be partially responsible.
Senator Cotton’s answer to a question which I asked only half an hour ago reveals that, in fact, the Federal Government, with its new investment allowance policies, still provides the taxation incentives which can, and no doubt will, be used to increase the area of irrigated orchard. We are in the ludicrous, absurd position where a government is providing, with one hand, financial incentives through the tree-pull compensation scheme to eliminate unwanted orchards and, with the other hand, taxation incentives which, inter alia, will encourage the planting of new orchards in some areas and the installation in other areas of irrigation equipment which will substantially increase production from existing orchards.
The market structure of the fruit industry is parallel with that of many minor Australian agricultural industries. We sell on a 2-tiered market. Through what may be described as a gentleman’s agreement, the Australian canneries have entered into a collusive marketing arrangement under which they sell at agreed or administered prices within Australia. Depending on the type and quantity of fruit, the portion of total output sold on the domestic market varies from between one-third and two-thirds. Generally, more than 50 per cent of total production is exported. Statistics are not yet available but in the current season and perhaps in the last season the percentage sold on the domestic market may well have risen to a figure above 50 per cent- perhaps as high as 60 per cent. In broad terms, roughly half the output is sold on the domestic market at higher prices and roughly half the output is exported to overseas markets at very much lower prices. Very recently there has been a tendency for this second half of production which would normally be designated for export to accumulate as unsold stocks within Australia. A similar dual pricing arrangement or 2-tiered or multi-tiered market structure applies for butter, skim milk powder, eggs, normally for sugar and for a number of other agricultural products. A moment’s reflection should reveal that in this sort of marketing situation any increase in output increases the proportion of the product which must be sold on the lower priced overseas market. Inevitably this must reduce the average return to the producer. It also induces pressures in other directions either to extort a higher price from the captive domestic market in order to cover the increasing losses on an increasing volume of low priced exports or to obtain financial assistance from governments to maintain returns to producers at higher levels.
The old assertion which is valid in a truly free market situation, if ever in fact there is a truly market situation, that increased output of a commodity and expansion of the production base equals lower prices for consumers is stood on its head in this situation. In fact, an increase in output certainly will not lead to lower prices to consumers but is likely, through the juggling of prices on the domestic and overseas markets, to increase prices paid by domestic consumers. When I inquired some time ago it was not possible to obtain from official sources the statistics of price relativities between the export market and the domestic market. The Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library, in response to a request from me in 1974, made this statement:
Canned Fruits. Details of returns to canners are not available for export sales. Neither the Department of Agriculture nor the Australian Canned Fruits Board have ever compiled these data. Australian canned fruit prices are set at competitive levels in all export markets and because the degree of competition varies in different markets the net return to Australian canners differs according to the proportions sold in the various overseas markets. However, the main problem appears to be that most canned fruits are exported at less than the equivalent domestic prices and could become subject to anti-dumping duties under the terms of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs if this fact was widely publicised. Australian canned pears have already had antidumping duties imposed in the United States market. Authorities associated with canned fruit exports are therefore reluctant to provide the information to answer your question.
The use of the word ‘reluctant’ appears to be somewhat euphemistic. It seems that information of the type requested is denied. Nevertheless, the quotation is useful in that it authenticates and confirms the 2-tiered structure of the market and the fact that the domestic consumer to some extent carries the losses on low priced exports. As a result of this legislation, the efforts of the domestic consumers will be supplemented by this loan.
Because prices on the domestic market are normally administered at higher levels, in times of marketing difficulties or marketing stress there is the danger or the likelihood that Australian canneries will compete on the Australian market with respect to the pricing of their products. In fact, during 1975, and particularly the first half of that year, this is what happened. Let me repeat what the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) had to say in this respect in his second reading speech in the House of Representatives. He said:
There was a serious ‘price-war’ between the canneries on the Australian market which lasted for some months in the first half of 1 975, with disruptive effects on that market and a marked reduction in returns from domestic sales.
Unfortunately the Minister did not state- I have not been able to find it out at this stage- what effect the lower domestic prices had on domestic sales. It could be erroneous to assume that because per unit prices for output sold on the domestic market had declined ipso facto returns to the entire industry had declined. In fact, it is possible I am in no position to know whether this is a probability because I do not have the information that returns to the whole industry could be increased by increasing the proportion sold on the domestic market at lower prices providing, of course, that the new and lower domestic market price still remains substantially above the normally much lower export parity price. The Minister continued:
I find such behaviour by canneries most disturbing.
Some might find it surprising that a senior Minister in a government which purports to be a free enterprise government, which purports to believe in competition between assorted suppliers and which, indeed, according to its rhetoric sees such competition as being crucial to the health and survival of the free enterprise system, should find such competition disturbing. One would have thought that a government committed to the principles of free enterprise and competition would applaud such competition between Australian canned fruit producers to increase or to optimise their shares of the domestic market regardless, of course, of the damaging effects such a price war may have on the canneries themselves, their employees or the suppliers of the raw materials- in this case, the fruit growers.
It is indeed surprising that the Government which purports to be committed to the competitive free enterprise system, should find that disturbing. Many people would think it is surprising. Those, of course, who know that doublethink and double-speak are standard attributes of most Liberal and Country Party governmentsparticularly the Fraser Governmentwould be less than surprised. It is typical of their attitude about a whole range of issues. They purport to believe in a particular policy or support a particular ideology but, in fact, many of their actions and their specific statements of belief contradict their philosophical position. The general philosophical record of the present Government, as it has actually emerged, appears to be that this Government has no objection in principle to government intervention in economic affairs. What it does appear to object to is government intervention of a type which provides for a more equal distribution of wealth and income. The present Government’s policy record so far indicates that it believes that government intervention should be directed towards increasing the inner quality of distribution of wealth and income.
The legislation currently before the Parliament cannot be regarded as anything more than a short term palliative. I do not believe that any honourable senator opposite would seriously dispute this. The real problem in the industry is one of excess supply relative to the level of effective demand. It was claimed by an assortment of Government supporters in the House of Representatives that, in fact, the problems of the industry could be found entirely in a fairly high rate of inflation in Australia, rapidly rising wages within the industry and exchange rates both between Australia, Britain and other European countries and between South Africa, Britain and other European countries. While all these factors have had a short term influence, in total the picture which they reveal is that the exporting sector of the Australian fruit industry, as distinct from the sector of the industry which is supplying the domestic market, is rapidly losing and has long been losing whatever comparative advantage it may once have possessed. Rising wages, exchange rate variations and so on are symptoms rather than causes.
The basic cause is that the industry is losing and has long been losing its comparative advantage because Australia has a relatively high wage structure and many of our competitors are situated geographically in a more favourable position. That geographic advantage has become more and more important as shipping costs have continued to increase at a higher rate than costs generally. Obviously it was apparent even to Sir John McEwen, if Mr Lloyd’s statement is correct, as far back as 1965 that these realities existed and when- even in 1965 it was quite obvious that it was when and not if- Great Britain joined the European Economic Community the problem would be intensified. All those things have happened. One could give Sir John something close to full marks for his perception. One must give him and the Government of which he was a senior member very much less than full marks for the actions which they took in relation to the need which Sir John had perceived. The actions of the government of the day were in conflict with the perceived need as expressed by Sir John McEwen.
In the longer term the Government will have to visualise some way in which overseas demand will effectively increase. This could be either by a permanent policy or by a fixed policy of making fruit available to underprivileged people or people in other parts of the world who have nutritional problems at concessional rates or on the basis of gift. Something like this will have to be done unless something which cannot be foreseen emerges. It is apparent that the only real solution for the problems of the Australian fruit industry is to bring supply and domestic market demand more effectively into balance. In other words, the industry will have to contract to a level somewhere very much closer to the quantity which is demanded on the domestic market. In conclusion I shall move to the motion for the second reading the same amendment as was moved by my colleague, Mr Keating, in the House of Representatives. I move:
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second it.
– I rise to support the motion and oppose the amendment which has been moved to the States Grants (Fruit Canneries) Bill. Before proceeding with the substance of my speech I shall deal briefly with some of the points raised by Senator Walsh who has just spoken on this matter. Apparently the honourable senator is under several misconceptions. One has to look at the history of the industry back to World War II to get a proper appreciation of its problems and of the present situation in which it finds itself. For some years after the conclusion of World War II the whole of the Austalian pack was sold to Britain as Food for Britain before it was off the tree. It was very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain fruit on the local market. This was a climate which encouraged governments of that day, I think of both persuasions, including some State governments, to increase production. This occurred notably in Victoria where the then Government opened up other lands under irrigation schemes in order to plant further orchards.
The problem which the industry now faces is one of the 1970s only. There were no problems at all of a major degree in the industry, apart from the usual minor problems which any primary industry experienced from time to time in the 1960s. It was not until the early 1970s that the problems began to emerge. For the honourable senator to say that a Liberal-Country Party government prior to 1972 encouraged production is not to state the truth. The only argument he has given in support of his assertion is that tax incentives were given by that government. We all know- those of us in primary production know to our sorrow- of the great and damaging effect the abolition of these incentives had when they were abolished by the Labor Government when it took office in 1 972.
– Do you think fruit production should be increased?
– I am not saying that fruit production should be increased. I ask the honourable senator to listen to my argument. All he said was that the tax incentives were encouragements given by a Liberal-Country Party government. I say that those incentives applied to a whole range of primary industries. I do not think any Government, whatever its persuasion, would propose a scheme whereby, because there is a bit of over-production in an industry, it takes the tax incentive off that industry. The taxation system is not based on that criterion. Of course the truth is that over the whole gamut of the primary industries of Australia there was a scheme which led to the development of properties and, in certain cases, to an increase in production.
But the story of Australia’s development as a great primary producing nation is, in part, due to the system of tax incentives which were introduced over the years by Liberal-Country Party governments. These incentives enabled a farmer to improve his property to the point where he could live with more comfort, produce more income and produce more goods. To say that our Government did something which encouraged an increase in production and to pose the only argument in its favour, namely, tax incentives, I think is not a valid argument. In dealing with the matter of assistance to the industry and what happened to the industry, I remind the honourable senator that in 1972, before the Australian Labor Party came into government, it promised 2 things. The first of these promises was that it would ease the means test in relation to the tree pull scheme which had been introduced by our Government in 1971 with a view to easing people out of the industry.
As I said earlier, it was in the 1970s when the problems arose and when a Liberal-Country Party Government introduced this tree pull scheme. It was designed to ease, and it did ease to some degree, people out of the industry by paying them compensation for grubbing their trees out and for entering into a covenant with the State government concerned not to replant that area to fruit for, I think, a period of 10 years. But there was a very strict means test on this scheme. Only the growers who were destitute were able to avail themselves of the scheme. In 1972 Labor promised to ease the means test so that the acreage could be further reduced in areas of over-production in my State of Victoria. But nothing was done about that during Labor’s term of office.
Labor also promised the sum of $5m, part of which was to be paid as compensation to the industry for the loss of a fruit juice plant which had been set up by the Ardmona cannery in the Goulburn Valley in Victoria. The aim was to cushion the effects of the loss of export markets and to encourage the industry to diversify with a view to remaining viable. That co-operative cannery spent $2m on installing a fruit juice plant of the most modern type in the world to concentrate fruit juices. One of the things which Labor did when it got into office was to abolish the sales tax exemption for aerated waters when 5 per cent fruit juice was added. The Ardmona cannery was relying on the sales tax exemption to remain a viable operation. Then Labor said: ‘All right, you have lost your viable operation because of the abolition of the exemption. We have destroyed your industry. We have $5m here and we will do something about it.’ Nothing further was heard of that $5m during the whole of the term of office of the Labor Government. If anyone is seeking to lay the blame for the position in which this industry finds itself I suggest that he looks at the other side of the chamber as well as at this side of the chamber. The problems of the industry stem from a number of factors, not only from the fact that it was encouraged by government to produce.
I am glad that Senator Walsh realises that one of the basic causes of the present situation is the high wage structure in Australia. Honourable senators on my side of the chamber believe in the principle of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. I am not suggesting that the wage rates paid in this industry are not consistent with those paid in other industries but I agree with Senator Walsh that the high wage structure is one of the major reasons why this industry is unable to compete with similar industries in other countries. This fact applies not only to the fruit industry. It applies to a great deal of primary, secondary and tertiary industry in Australia today. Until the wage earners in the community realise that they must do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, I am afraid that not only this industry but other industries in Australia will have a great deal of trouble. The honourable senator referred to Sir John McEwen. He gave him high marks for his perception of the problem which was to be caused by Britain’s entry into the Common Market but then he said he gave him low marks because that government encouraged production. I have already dealt with that matter effectively and exhaustively so I will not spend more time on it.
As I said, this is a timely Bill. I want the Senate to realise that the Government is giving the canneries a loan- it is not a gift or a subsidy- at an interest rate of 10 per cent, to enable them to remain viable in the short term only. I congratulate the Government for its wisdom in realising the importance of the fruit industry to Australia. It is a labour intensive industry and, as I have already stated, that is part of the cause of its troubles. A high labour factor is involved in the industry from the time the fruit is planted until it appears on the supermarket shelf. Many people are engaged in spraying orchards, pruning trees, picking the fruit and processing the fruit. Others are engaged in the tinplate industry and various other allied industries. If the industry collapsed a further grave problem would be added to the already serious problem we face in the employment situation in industry today. The Government’s decision should be supported on both sides of the chamber if only to prevent an increase in the unemployment rate. No one wants to see more unemployment.
In my maiden speech in the Senate about 4 weeks ago I dealt in great detail with the problems of the industry. I do not propose to canvass that detail again. Other matters such as Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community have played a decisive part in making further trouble for the industry. Senator Walsh talks about the increase in production of the industry but the facts do not support what he says. Over the last three or four years there has been a drop in production of canned fruit. The industry is resigned to the fact that its major export markets have gone- I have stated some of the reasons for that and I will come to the others in a momentand is looking in the future to marketing 4 million cartons which will be taken up almost exclusively on the local market. I think that about 5 years ago the figure was 10 million cartons. It has come down progressively to a figure of just over 5 million cartons for this season.
I think it is fair to say that the growers, the producers and the canners realise the grave problems that face them. In addition to Britain’s entry in the European Economic Community, the devaluation of currency with which I dealt at length in a previous address and the freight advantages enjoyed by our competitors hinder our competition with other countries for the limited export market which is available. The previous Government, in which Senator Wriedt was the Minister for Agriculture, sought a report from the Australian Industry Development Corporation. Prior to 13 December that report was available but nothing had been done. At that stage the report had not been released to the industry. Immediately on assuming office the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) asked the Corporation to update the report because there was a major worsening of the situation in relation to the export market during those few short months from September to December. The producers and the canners realised in December of last year that the whole of the export market was in jeopardy. If we can believe what is reported in The Financial Review today, that report is now complete and available. So far as I am aware, it has not been released officially by the Minister. I think I would know if it had been released. But we are able to read about something of its contents in The Financial Review today.
In the long term the future of the industry is not good. Any industry which faces decreased competition for its product cannot have a good outlook. In these times of rising cost factors on the one hand and reduced market prices on the other hand, there is only one future for such an industry and it is bleak. However, the short term assistance which is being made available by the Government under this Bill will enable the canners the proportions in which the amounts are to be paid are set out in the Schedule of the Bill- to pay the growers the balance of the money which was legally due to them for the 1974-75 season.
Many of these growers faced grave problems. They had been paid only 40 per cent of the amount contracted to be paid for their product. Honourable senators can readily appreciate, as I have stated already, the high intensity of labour in this industry in which the producers have to pay fruit pickers, sprayers, pruners and the various other people who are employed on an orchard on a weekly or fortnightly basis. In the absence of these payments, the growers faced very grave liquidity problems. The payments to bc made under this legislation will enable them to pay their bills. I acknowledge that the producers have been carried by the patience and the tolerance of the people in the private enterprise sector in the towns and cities which this industry supports. These people realise the plight of the growers and they were prepared to wait for payment until some form of assistance became available.
One matter that I ought to mention is that conditional on the growers accepting this payment there is to be a reduction of 15 per cent in the price paid to them. The fruit industry has a complicated formula for fixing prices. The formula is fixed by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. The price is included in the contract between the cannery and the grower. There is no mention of a figure in the Bill. Conditional on the growers accepting this proposal is a proposition which apparently has been agreed upon between the Government and the canneries that the grower will receive 15 per cent less than the agreed price for his product. The grower has nowhere else to go. He has to accept this and will accept it. I mention this merely to show the grave problem they face. Inflation is hitting everything. Here we have an industry which supplied a product 12 months ago. Now, those engaged in the industry are to receive 15 per cent less for their product than was anticipated in their budgets to keep them viable and developing. However, the payment will enable them to carry on.
I return to the Australian Industry Development Corporation report which I have mentioned and which has been updated. I think there is an urgent necessity for the Minister to make that report available to the industry so that the people who are not viable in the industry- there will be a fair number of them- can be phased out of the industry and paid tree-pull compensation to pull out their trees. There is a further problem in this regard which I should mention. I refer to the depressed condition of the dairying industry in Victoria, in contradiction to what Senator Douglas McClelland had to say yesterday. The Victorian dairying industry is in a depressed state. Every second dairy farm in the State is for sale and there are no buyers. Under the previous tree-pull scheme back in 1971 it was a relatively simple matter, with an economic future, to convert the land from which the trees had been taken into pasture land for dairying. At that stage, I think it was being converted for beef production also because this was before the beef market had taken a downturn. But there are grave problems in this high production area of primary industry- the irrigation system and everything else involved with the industry is there. But what can be done with the land? There may be a future in the intensive cultivation of vegetables. However, there is a very grave problem facing the fruit grower who wishes to leave the industry. The growers realise that some of them will have to vacate the industry because there is no future in it for them. There has to be a reduction in acreage, particularly of pears. The growers are already facing up to this. They knew that with the change of government there would be some sort of financial assistance flowing through to them to help them with their prob- lems.Butitwillrequiretheco-operationof growers, canners, government and everyone in the industry to save something from the present wrecked condition in which this industry finds itself. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– I rise to speak rather briefly in the debate on the States Grants (Fruit Canneries) Bill 1976 which basically provides financial assistance by way of loans to a handful of canneries to enable them to pay the growers in those areas for the 1974-75 season’s crop. If one looks at the history of assistance in recent years which has been given to fruit canneries by the Federal Parliament, one sees that this is the fourth occasion since 1 970 when Bills of this nature have been before the Senate. That indicates the position of the fruit canning industry in Australia. The industry is fraught with a malaise which unfortunately is confined not only to it at this stage. It is a malaise that is bearing down also on the beef industry, to some extent on the wool industry and, as the previous speaker noted rather well, on the dairying industry. We have reached a situation in at least some of these industries- perhaps for some it is only temporary but for others I fear it may be on a long term basis- in which they are at the end of their tethers so far as export markets are concerned.
I digress slightly to state that I have been a dairy farmer for some 40 years. I was one who thought that there was a rainbow around the corner or that the goose would lay the golden egg. But I have come to the conclusion that the salvation for that industry lies solely in its home market with perhaps a reliance on a minor export market. As I read the situation, that is exactly the situation that the fruit industry in particular faces. The industry grew up when we had complete access to the United Kingdom market for everything that it could produce. It was its golden era. I believe that today the industry faces a situation, through events that have occurred in Europe over the last decade, of being precluded from these markets. Today nations that we hardly realised had fruit exports are getting access to what was once our traditional market. I refer to a country like Greece which will receive duty-free preference into the European Economic Community for its fruit and to other countries like Italy. They will take over Australia’s position as a fruit exporter in the EEC and particularly the United Kingdom.
In effect all this Bill is doing is providing for a welfare payment to perhaps 2500 fruit growers in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. I have no doubt that the growers concerned would be somewhat indignant at the use of the term ‘welfare payment’ because they would not see it in that light. But if they were to stand off from their industry for a little while and rationalise it I think that they also would agree, when the chips are finally down, that it can be seen as only a welfare payment. As I said earlier, unless favourable markets can be foundmarkets that will pay a price that will enable the producer to earn over and above what he is earning at the moment and allow him to stay in the industry- the industry must be rationalised and brought back to one which produces only for the domestic market. At the moment some 40 per cent of our produce is retailed overseas. From memory about 30 per cent of the market is provided by local consumption. I believe that that is where the industry’s future lies.
I believe that the amendment which was moved by my colleague Senator Walsh is far more pertinent to the future of this industry than is the Bill before us. The Bill allows a breathing space for the industry, the Government and everybody concerned with the industry to sit down for perhaps another 12 months and investigate where the industry is going. The trauma- it can only be described as trauma- that is being experienced and will be increasingly experienced by the producers of canned fruit as they watch their industry decline is not something that anybody takes great pleasure in watching them suffer. One can readily appreciate the highly disadvantageous position that these fruit growers are in at the present time. To see everythingtheir lifetime, perhaps in many instances every cent that they have in this world, the work of their wives and families- crumbling or potentially crumbling before their eyes is not a pleasant sight for anybody who appreciates their position. But I believe, as I have already said, that unless some rather advantageous market can be found quickly the industry must surely rationalise and look only to the domestic market. To that extent I believe that the quicker the Government gets round to examining the existing report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation or an updated version of it the better it will be for the growers engaged in the industry as they will experience much less heartburn.
– I am sure that all honourable senators realise that the canned fruits industry is facing many problems. This Bill does not provide for welfare payments, as Senator Primmer put it; it provides for loans to be made to the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to enable them to help the canneries in those States overcome their temporary difficulties by making money available to them at an interest rate of 10 per cent. That was made clear by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) in his second reading speech when he referred to clause 4 ( 1 ) of the Bill and stated:
As provided in clause 4 ( 1 ) of the Bill, the loans are to he subject to such conditions as are determined in writing by the Minister. Clause 4, sub-clauses (2) and (3), provides that the funds provided to the States will bear interest, and repayment of principal and interest will be required in instalments over a period of about Vh years. Interest will be at the rate of 10 per cent per annum.
I do not think that the fruit growers expect handouts or welfare payments. I believe that they expect government to provide them with loan moneys to help them over their temporary difficulties. I must say that Senator Walsh made some useful points in his speech, as did Senator Primmer; but I cannot subscribe completely to the sentiments expressed in the amendment put forward by Senator Walsh, which attempts to blame successive Liberal and Country Party governments for the plight of this industry. I suggest that Senator Walsh ought to reflect upon the era of the mid- 1940s when the Chifley Government, through its policy, established soldier settlements in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. I am not saying that the Liberal and Country Party governments have been completely white and pure in this matter, but I do suggest that much of the trouble of the industry has been caused by the policies of the Chifley Government.
This Bill provides for the provision of funds to enable such canneries as the Riverlands Fruit Products Co-operative Ltd in South Australia to obtain the loan moneys necessary at 10 per cent interest. The industry is facing such acute financial difficulties that the major co-operative canneries have been able to pay growers only 40 per cent to 60 per cent of the money owed to them for fruit delivered 12 months ago. The fixed price for the 1974-75 season as declared under the terms of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee which is a statutory body under Commonwealth law, has not been paid to the growers. Until the fixed price is paid the canneries and through them the growers cannot receive the rebate on sugar, which amounts to 15 per cent of the money to be paid out. The 1976 crop, which has just been completed, is another problem. It is the subject of a government inquiry that is under way by the Australian Industry Development Corporation.
The Minister in his second reading speech referred to the problems that are facing the canned fruits industry. He said:
The canned fruits industry has encountered difficulties at various times over a long period. The 1974-75 season has been particularly difficult. There was a serious ‘price war’ between the canneries on the Australian market which lasted for some months in the first half of 1975, with disruptive effects on that market and a marked reduction in returns from domestic sales.
I agree with the Minister’s statement that the price war has had serious disruptive effects. I am certain that the growers are also in agreement with that statement. In my opinion that price war was a matter of gross stupidity. (Quorum formed.) I thank the Opposition for providing me with the audience which discussion on this Bill warrants. I was about to say that the whole selling structure in the fruit canning industry must be changed. I consider that it ought to be done by establishing an industry sales organisation for both- home and export sales. Primary industry has put up with the whims of sawdust Caesars who gain power and use it not to promote their shareholders’ products but to promote themselves, largely. I believe this results in a bitter power struggle in industry politics. This has to stop. I am told that moves have been made to set up a rationalised selling organisation to serve all sections of the industry. Another point which is touched upon in the Minister’s second reading speech relates to over-production. He says:
To make matters more difficult an unseasonably large crop of peaches for canning came forward in 1975 beyond pre-season expectations. The general inflationary climate has also aggravated the industry’s circumstances.
Fruit growing reconstruction of course is essential. We recall that a tree-pull scheme was introduced in 1 972 under a Commonwealth Act, cited as the States Grants (Fruit-growing Reconstruction) Act 1972, the object being to remove unwarranted and unthrifty orchards from the industry and to turn them over to other forms of agriculture. That is not being fully availed of for several reasons. Pear growers, for example, are reluctant to remove trees in full heart, obviously because it takes 10 to 15 years for such trees to become fully established. I recall an old saying in the fruit growing world- you plant pears for your heirs- which indicates the long term nature of this fruit growing. A means test was applied which precluded some growers from taking advantage of this change-over technique. I think that this means test ought to be removed. I understand that the closing date for applications for benefits under this Act was 3 1 December last year. I believe this should be extended to at least the end of 1976. 1 understand also that all applications outstanding must be completed by June of this year. No new applications can be accepted.
I am also concerned about the future of the industry from here on. Unless changes are made to prevent over-production and marketing methods are substantially improved the industry in my view is doomed to a slow and painful death. Figures available I believe indicate that unless exports revive- this is extremely doubtful in the short term- and if local sales do not increase dramatically canners will have to make further cuts in their intake. The intake has already been reduced alarmingly this year. The Australian market normally absorbs 3 lA million cartons annually and each carton contains twelve 30-ounce cans of fruit. The average production between 1969 and 1974 was 9% million cartons. In 1974 the export market absorbed only 4’/i million cartons. If this trend continues canners will have to reduce intakes as follows: Peaches, which are now at a production level of, I think, 83 850 tonnes, would have to be reduced to 31 800 tonnes; pears, which are now at a production level of 69 500 tonnes, would have to be reduced to 21 500 tonnes; apricots, the current production level being 10 000 tonnes, would have to be reduced to 7700 tonnes. These figures are from the 1975 annual report of the Fruit Canners Association. These figures suggest an overall reduction of 63 per cent in Australia’s canning fruit production.
The problems faced by exporters revolve around several other main considerations. These are currency movements with respect to devaluation in other countries, inflation, competition from cheap labour exporters, production costs, liquidity problems in the co-operatives in all States of this nation and the industry war to which I referred earlier. The fact that it is a labour intensive industry also presents problems. There is no doubt that the year under review- 1 975-76- will be the most significant in the history of the industry and the events of the next few months will determine the industry’s future. I commend the Government for the action it is taking in presenting this Bill to the Senate in order to alleviate the financial burden of the cooperative canneries. I support the Bill. It will bc of some help but I stress to the Minister and to the Government that no other section of the community is asked to reduce its income by 15 per cent in order to get its last week’s or year’s wages. This, in effect, is the precise position with respect to the canning industry and the growers.
What a hue and cry would go up throughout this country if the workforce of Australia was put on, say, 63 per cent of normal working hours and was not compensated for loss of income. But the canning industry is facing just that position to which I referred a while ago when quoting figures from the annual report of the Fruit Canners Association. Australia cannot afford to lose a valuable export industry such as this. Some 20 000 families are directly involved in growing fruit. This represents a considerable involvement in the workforce throughout Australia. Decentralisation as a result of this industry is of major importance. The allied industries involving sugar, steel- I think Senator Tehan referred to the steel industry when commenting on the can making manufacturers- the label manufacturers, the machinery manufacturers, sales personnel and the advertising and promotional industry are all tied up with the very important canned fruit industry that we are discussing at the moment. I wholeheartedly support the Bill before the Senate and reject completely the amendment moved by Senator Walsh.
– We are debating the States Grants (Fruit Canneries) Bill 1976. As has been pointed out by the 2 previous Opposition speakers, the Opposition is supporting the Bill; but we have moved an amendment which we hope will be carried. However, it is obvious from the remarks made by two of the speakers opposite on behalf of the Government that they will oppose the amendment. We are well aware of the problems facing the canned fruit industry and that these are of a long standing nature. This was recognised by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in another place and the Minister representing him in this place (Senator Cotton). People who are not aware of the problems facing the industry and who probably are listening to the debate on this Bill for the first time would have been led to believe by the remarks made by Senator Tehan and, to some lesser degree, by Senator Jessop, that all the disibilities that are being experienced by the canned fruit industry now were brought about by the actions of the Labor Government in its 3 years of office. When we read the Minister’s second reading speech we find that this is not correct. As the proceedings of the Senate were not being broadcast when the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry made the second reading speech in respect of this Bill in this chamber I think that I ought to quote some of the passages of this second reading speech for the information of people who may be listening now. The Minister’s second reading speech states:
At the present time, the canned fruit industry is facing such acute financial difficulties that the major co-operative canneries have been able to pay growers to date only 40 per cent to 60 per cent, depending on the cannery, of the prices declared in 1975 by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee- FISCC- for peaches and pears delivered Ibr canning early in 1975.
The Minister went on to say:
The canned fruits industry has encountered difficulties at various times over a long period.
Of course the people in the industry are well aware of this. The Minister continued:
The 1974-75 season has been particularly difficult. There was a serious ‘price-war’ between the canneries on the Australian market which lasted for some months in the first half of 1975, with disruptive effects on that market and a marked reduction in returns from domestic sales.
I find such behaviour by canneries very disturbing. No canner gains.
I add here that no grower gains either. The Minister went on to say:
In fact, all major canners report or expect losses for the year, and it is the grower who suffers at the end of the line. I am pleased to note, however, that canners have very recently agreed upon an arrangement for the orderly marketing of canned fruits for 1 976. 1 trust that this will be complied with.
Those of us who have earned our living in years gone by from primary production would know that we have to have an orderly marketing system for the marketing of all primary produce. Otherwise, if produce is going to be grown with no guaranteed market the grower eventually suffers and he then has to appeal to a government, State or Federal, for some assistance to tide him over his problems. It is essential that we have an orderly marketing system for all primary produce. I know that some people in the community believe in the old free trade edict- the survival of the fittest. My Party believes that we should have an orderly marketing system. I am pleased to note the remarks of the Minister indicating that the canners have agreed upon an arrangement whereby we should have an orderly marketing of canned fruits for 1976. 1 wish every success to the canners, the Government and all people involved in trying to bring about that orderly marketing arrangement. The Minister continued in his second reading speech:
Returns from sales have also been reduced by currency variations . . .
This brings me to the problems which were being experienced by the canned fruit industry also when we were in government. Despite some claims that the Labor Government did nothing to assist the industry I want to refer to some of the things we did do to assist the industry with regard to currency variations. I am often appalled at the politics that are played by people of the Opposition Parties when primary industry finds itself in difficulties. I refer to a statement which was made in May 1974 by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) at the declaration of the poll for his division in South Australia following the general election held after the double dissolution of the Parliament. Embodied in the electorate of Angas is one of the largest fruit growing areas of the Commonwealth, that is the area in the Riverland area of South Australia. Referring to the vote, Mr Giles is reported in the Murray Pioneer newspaper of 30 May 1974 as having said: the vote was against ALP Senators in particular because of their refusal to attend two large grower meetings. He said his vote was up over 1000 votes in this area.
Mr Giles attributes his increase in his vote to the fact that South Australian Labor senators refused to attend large grower meetings in the Riverland area which were held to discuss with the growers the problems they faced. I want to tell the Senate and some misinformed people that in the previous July South Australian Labor senators, in the company of Mr Chris Hurford, the honourable member for Adelaide, met a deputation from the growers. We were well aware of the problems they faced. Those who met that large deputation in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in the AMP Building, King William Street, Adelaide, were Senator Arnold Drury, who is no longer with us, Senator Cameron, myself and Mr Hurford. We listened to the problems that were being experienced by these people and then came back to Canberra and had a discussion with the then Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Wriedt. As a result of our discussion we were successful in persuading the Government, through the agency of the Minister, to write off an amount of $ 1.5 m on the currency revaluation.
I mention only the main cannery in South Australia, the Riverland cannery, which was the beneficiary of some $194,000 which was written off against a loan of $205,000, leaving the cannery to find an amount of $10,900. Growers in the area were able to be paid and they were very happy with what the South Australian Labor senators I have mentioned and Mr Hurford were able to do to persuade the Government to assist them. Yet we find the local member playing politics and saying that his vote increased because we did not attend a meeting of growers in the Riverland. We did not need to attend, even if we had been invited. I was one of those who did not receive an invitation. We had already done our work and had obtained assistance for the industry after meeting a deputation of growers.
– You have been a political St Paul, Senator; you took the message ahead.
– We did our work and we saw no reason to go to the area, as probably Mr Giles did, for political rabble-rousing, because results cannot be obtained by working that way. We proved that: We got the results in the right way. Senator Tehan blamed the Whitlam Government for the problems being experienced in the industry in relation to juicing. He mentioned that the Labor Government removed the sales tax exemption but he did not go on to tell the full story- that rackets were being conducted under the guise of the sales tax exemption. Some of the people who were manufacturing cordials and soft drinks, particularly lemonade, Coca Cola and that sort of thing, were taking the acids out of the fruit juice and making the result tasteless. They would then put it into such drinks as lemonade and Coca Cola to compete against the real fruit juice product. This is one of the reasons the sales tax exemption was taken away after the matter was examined. I am pleased that Senator Jessop made his remarks in low key when referring to over-production and the problems being faced now by the canned fruit growers. He claimed that the blame could be laid at the feet of the Chifley Government because it saw fit to settle returned servicemen on fruit blocks.
– I did not say that.
– The honourable senator should read Hansard because that is what I understood him to say. I shall read Hansard tomorrow -
– You want to read Hansard.
– I shall read it tomorrow, but it is my understanding that you said that the trouble originated when the Chifley Government settled ex-servicemen on fruit blocks. I shall be very interested to learn of the reaction to Senator Jessop’s statement by the settlers in the South Australian Riverland, because I know many of the ex-servicemen there who are making a good living on their blocks and are very grateful to the foresight of the Chifley Labor Government in bringing about a soldier settlement plan to develop the Riverland. One only has to drive through the Riverland now to see how very worth while that area is, now that it has been developed. Senator Jessop went on to say that
Australia could not afford to lose a major exporting industry such as the canned fruit industry. Of course we would not have that major exporting industry if it had not been for the foresight of the Chifley Labor Government in making land available and in assisting ex-servicemen to settle and produce the fruit which they are producing now.
In conclusion, I point out that the major problem facing the canned fruit industry appears to me to be one of over-production and underconsumption. When we were in government we tried to find markets for our excess production of canned fruit. We were not as successful as we would like to have been. One would have thought that, because of the price cutting war which was mentioned by the Minister in his second reading speech, there would have been probably an increase in the consumption of canned fruits in Australia, but this was not to be. All we found was that in the end the producer was the one who suffered. The consumer stocked up his cupboards with canned fruit which he purchased at the cheap cut price rate and he did not buy any more canned fruit when the price cutting war was finished. Because of the actions of the supermarkets we were not able to encourage consumers to consume any more canned fruit.
I remember that many years ago a small cannery was set up in my home town of Murray Bridge. The supermarket in the town, Woolworths Ltd, practically ran that cannery out of business, because when Woolworths tendered for the canned fruit that was produced locally its tender price was below the cost of production. How can a cannery compete if it cannot get back even its cost of production? Consequently, that cannery went to the wall, and quite a few of the growers in the area around Mypolonga lost the money that they had put into the cannery to try to promote a local industry. However, I am pleased that the present Government is carrying on and providing through this loan Bill the same sort of assistance which we provided when we were in office. We were not able to solve the problems confronting the canned fruit industry, and I do not think that the loan which is being made under this legislation will solve the problems either, because the main problem is overproduction and under-consumption. As I said in my opening remarks, the Opposition supports the Bill, but we have moved an amendment which asks the Government to consider the AIDC report and to implement its recommendations with a view to trying to bring about some improvement in the position of the canned fruit industry.
– in reply- Mr President, this has been an interesting debate to listen to for one who has had practically no experience in fruit growing or in trying to put fruit into cans and to sell it on difficult world and Australian markets. But the debate really has not changed the basic approach which the Government has adopted. As I listened to the debate I could not help but wonder why the Opposition moved an amendment. To me it seemed to be a totally counter-productive exercise. Of course, the canned fruit industry has suffered very greatly from the relative cost disadvantage which Australia has faced during the last 5 years. That has been true of so many other industries and activities in Australia. That is one of the penalties that you pay when you embark upon the high spending sprees and adopt the extravagant methods which the previous Government adopted.
It seemed to me that the Opposition had begun to make a case to abandon the canned fruit industry entirely; to wash its hands of the industry; to give the industry up; to say that the industry had no future and to let it go down the drain. The adoption of the attitude to give things away because they were too hard has never succeeded in Australia. You have to stay with these things. Our primary industries have been characterised by the fact that on a great number of occasions it has paid to hang on in difficult times. It has never paid just to turn your back on a thing and give it away. This applies whether we have been talking about difficult markets, difficult times or difficult seasons. I do not support the proposition that because something is hard you walk away and give it up.
The other thing that interested me greatly in listening to the debate was the evidence which indicated that here is one of those cases where the domestic consumer in Australia- whether he be employed in the Public Service or in manufacturing or in a retail store or engaged in the legal profession- is subsidising heavily the sale overseas of this product of Australian primary industries. There are a number of cases of this. I just raise the point to illustrate once again the interdependence of people in this country. It is not good enough to say that primary producers arc entirely without blemish and that manufacturers are the only ones getting help from the Australian society to overcome the various problems that they face. This is true of so many areas; it is true of this area of primary production. So I think that we aid the process of this chamber in particular when we think about interdependence and recognise that certain areas of primary industry in Australia are fairly heavily dependent upon subsidy in one form or another. I find nothing objectionable about that. What I find objectionable is this holier than thou attitude of some of the proponents of some primary industries.
A few other things might usefully be said, although most of the material was covered in the second reading speech. I have here a useful statement which illustrates how the canned fruit market has moved in Australia. It deals with the volume of production between 1965 and 1975, the actual destination to which canned fruit was exported, the way in which the domestic market has moved and what the total market is. Taking 1965 as the base year, the total market in that year was 8 271 000 basic cartons. The total market in 1975 was 7 359 000 basic cartons. So the volume of the market in this country has declined and that is, in many ways to me, a tragedy. The proportion of the canned fruit market that is exported has decreased fairly heavily. The proportion that has gone to the domestic market has increased, but the domestic market has tended to average out at a fairly constant factor during the last 5 years. I think that it might help those who follow these matters in detail if I were to ask leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The document read as follows)-
-I incorporate that statement in Hansard because Senator Jessop, I think, was quoting some of the figures set out in the statement, and I thought that some of our colleagues might like to have the more precise figures. Now I will deal with the amendment. It seems to me to be of practically no value at all. The first part of the amendment seems to be a recipe for closing the canned fruit industry, but that is not stated. The second part of the amendment asks the Government to consider the Australian Industry Development Corporation’s report. It has been considered, and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is to make a statement on this matter tonight. One can also observe that the previous Government received this report in September 1975. It had an opportunity to consider the report, did it not?
I now will deal with some of the other factors that concern the canned fruit industry. Senator McLaren referred to the problems which previously faced the industry. There have been problems in the industry for quite a while, and
Senator McLaren might care to hear some details of them. I will give some figures regarding loans for other than currency realignment assistance. In 1970 the sum of $4.2m was provided to Victoria to assist the Shepparton Preserving Co. Ltd. The loan is repayable over 16 equal halfyearly instalments by 1981. In 1971 the Federal Government provided the sum of $2.2m, which was matched by the New South Wales and South Australian Governments, to relieve the cooperative canneries of the Letona Co-operative, the Riverland Fruit Products Co-operative Ltd and the Jon Preserving Co-operative Ltd of the burden of servicing long-term debts. The loans were free of interest and there were repayment obligations for certain periods. Then in 1972-73 a loan of $1.9m was made to the New South Wales, Victoria and South Australian Governments for the co-operative canneries, once again, of Letona, SPC, Riverland and Jon to enable the acceleration of payment to growers for the 1971-72 season’s fruit. Those loans have all been repaid in full. So governments of our characteristic and of the characteristic of the previous Federal Government equally have helped the canned fruit industry from time to time with loans quite outside the currency realignment scheme.
I will refer now to the financial assistance that was provided under the currency realignment scheme of 1971-72. An amount of $1.5m was distributed to canneries in December 1973 on the basis of their exports in 1 972. In regard to the 23 December 1972 revaluation, post-revaluation adjustment assistance of $3.3m was given to 4794 fruit growers. This assistance was given to growers producing export apples and pears and canning peaches, pears and apricots. The maximum payment was $1,500 per individual fruit grower. Out of the total of $3.3m, canning fruit growers received $ 1 .7m, or a little more than half the total amount. Most of the factors that bear on this matter have been taken up by previous speakers in this debate and in the second reading speech, but there are one or two other points which might usefully be added for the benefit of those who are interested in this matter.
Canners are presently holding a high level of unsold stocks, and the market prospects for 1976 are not a bit encouraging. The canners have agreed to limit the intake of fruit in the 1975-76 season in Une with the sales prospects- something which caused Senator Jessop a lot of concern, and which, I think causes all of us concern. It is expected that the availability of fresh canning pears will greatly exceed the market requirements and that quotas may have to be looked at in that area. There is a general scheme of working to an orderly marketing pattern in Australia, and it is true, as Senator McLaren has said, that in some of the areas in which Australia does not have any particularly great advantage against overseas competitors it has been necessary to introduce orderly marketing to ensure the survival and prosperity of those engaged in this industry. I think fruit growing, whether it is fresh fruit growing and canning or vine fruit growing has been a classic example of the need for orderly marketing. I do not think any sensible political party will walk away from the fact that it is necessary to have an orderly marketing scheme and to have co-operation among the producers, the Government and the export marketing areas.
We have mentioned the question of the Australian Industry Development Corporation examining the industry and its restructuring. The report on this industry was handed down in September of last year. It is significant in that since then the Shepparton Preserving Co. Ltd, Ardmona Fruit Products Co-operative Co. Ltd and Riverland Fruit Products Co-operative Ltd have announced a merger of their marketing divisions. That would be a movement in the direction, one would hope, of efficiency and greater opportunity to survive. As honourable senators know, there is also a canned fruit growing reconstruction scheme under consideration by the Industries Assistance Commission. An interim report was produced on 30 October 1975. This has yet to be studied in full detail and decisions have not yet been reached in total on that matter. But it is under earnest study; it is under consideration. The Government is doing something about getting that matter resolved.
Senator Walsh in particular made some comments about the Government encouraging fruit growing expansion. No specific Government measures are being undertaken at present to aid in assisting increased production of canning fruit. Production, as the table shows, is in fact declining. This fact was mentioned by Senator Tehan. It is a condition of the loan arrangement that canners limit the intake of fruit in the 1975-76 season in line with sales prospects. The canners, as I have said, have severely limited the intake of fruit. I do not think I can say a great deal more. This subject has been covered by the second reading speech and by various speakers. The amendment is, to me, of no value whatsoever. What is of value, I think, is to observe once again that there has never been any future in Australia in giving up an undertaking that can be carried on quite well when circumstances go a bit against that undertaking. This Government is not going to do that.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Walsh’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 23 March on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Australian Labor Party is not opposing this legislation. I shall not speak for more than a few minutes. This Bill is an interim measure only, pending the receipt and consideration of the final Industries Assistance Commission’s report on the dried fruits industry which, I understand, is expected within the next few weeks. This Bill has elements in common with the previous Bill in that the products of the dried fruits industry- sultanas, raisins and currantsas with canned fruits, are normally sold on the domestic market at prices considerably higher than the export market prices. In the 5 years from 1 969 to 1 973 export prices, although they fluctuated between the different commodities from year to year, generally were 50 per cent to 60 per cent of Australian domestic prices. In 1 974, as a result of a shortage of supplies normally obtained from Turkey and Greece, export prices moved to very high levels and the Australian domestic price and the export price were roughly comparable. Incidentally, I understand that in the most recent season the traditional price relationships have been reinstated in that the Australian domestic price is likely to be 50 to 60 per cent higher than the export parity price.
Since it has that in common with the canned fruit industry which was dealt with in the previous Bill, it follows, therefore, that the greater the volume of production- other things being equal- the lower the return to growers will be. It is important to stress once again that this is a reality with a number of Australian agricultural industries and a number of commodities. Under the standard laws of the free market, increased supply and increased output equals lower prices to the domestic consumer but, in fact, increased supply in this case tends to result in higher prices to the domestic consumer as the marketing authorities attempt to recoup losses from an increasing volume of export sales. On occasions, it calls for and receives action on the part of government to compensate producers for the additional losses incurred in the increasing volume of low priced exports.
Despite the sometimes inflammatory rhetoric which we hear about the causative factors of the problems of this industry and the canned fruit industry, sometimes it is simplistically suggested that it is due solely to inflation or to the level of Australian wages. The followers of Milton Friedman who, I understand, includes the present Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and many of his colleagues, ought to understand this argument since it is explicitly spelt out by Milton Friedman. If a particular country has a higher level of wage increases than the country with which it normally trades and if exchange rates are flexible, then inflation affects an exporting industry only in the short term. In other words, if the inflation rate in a particular country is higher than in the countries with which it normally trades, before very long an appropriate adjustment of the exchange rate will compensate those industries which, in the short term, suffer from a higher rate of inflation. So, we need to look much further than that very superficial and simplistic analysis. The reality is that this industry and the canned fruit industry, which was the subject of the previous Bill, are losing their comparative advantages. It is not something that has started in the last few years; it started at least in the 1960s and possibly as far back as the 1950s. The industries themselves and governments will ignore that reality at their ultimate cost and to their ultimate peril.
The sentiments that the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) has expressed today and on other occasions I think could fairly be described as paternalistic sentiments from government towards industry and, therefore, I would think very difficult to reconcile with the Randian sentiments which are sometimes expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm
Fraser) and which I understand constitute the guiding philosphy of this present Government. Whilst those paternalistic sentiments are not particularly disconcerting in the short term, if the argument that because an industry is in trouble we should support it and if its troubles are progressively becoming more intense because it is losing its comparative advantages we should support it, ultimately the problems that are generated by that denial of reality or refusal to recognise reality will become more intense and more severe and suffering will be inflicted upon the people who will be victims of those changes when ultimately a very drastic adjustment has to be made and perhaps made in unfavourable circumstances. It does have potential dangers in the long term.
In conclusion, I make the point that if that view were carried to its absolute or absurd limits, we would still be making horse-drawn buggies because the buggy industry was temporarily in trouble. The Opposition will not be opposing this Bill, recognising, as we do, that it is an interim measure. We trust that before the end of this calendar year the Government will have introduced appropriate legislation to cover this industry in the longer term.
– The purpose of this Bill is to continue in operation a stabilisation scheme for the current 1976 season similar to that operating from 1971 to 1975. Those persons participating shall be producers of any or all of the dried vine fruitssultanas, currants and raisins. The Bill provides for the establishment by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics of an annual base price for each variety of dried vine fruit. The Bureau will establish this on a cost of production formula. Three funds have been established, one for each of the crops to which I referred- sultanas, currants and raisins. Government and industry contributions are paid into the funds and drawn upon in the following ways: First, when the average return to the grower is within the range of $10 per tonne above or below the base price, no payment is made either into or out of the fund; secondly, when the average return is more than $10 per tonne above the base price all of the excess over the $ 10 per tonne with a limitation of $20 will be paid by the growers into the fund, subject to the crop exceeding a minimum tonnage. Conversely, when the average return is more than $ 10 a tonne below the base price, payments from the stabilisation funds are then made to the growers. Commonwealth Government contributions to the funds which may be necessary to meet these payments are subject to a limit of $23 per tonne on the maximum quantities of fruit.
It is interesting to look at the history of the dried fruits industry. It was established in Australia in 1887 under the guidance of the famous Chaffey brothers in South Australia at Renmark and in Victoria at Mildura. Renmark was established 4 months before Mildura, therefore becoming the first irrigation settlement in Australia. The dried fruits industry has had many ups and downs for several main reasons. More than any other primary industry it is affected by seasonal conditions. There is a long growing period of 8 months and then a drying season, dependent on a rain-free period. I can recall on many occasions going to the Berri area of the Riverlands and working at properties belonging to my cousins and uncles. I can recall being faced with the problem of taking out of the rain trays of dried fruits and covering them. Sometimes later on I had to cart these trays of dried fruit to the Berri Co-operative, as it was called in those days, so that it could be dehydrated by mechanical or other artificial means. Of course this added considerably to the cost of the industry. Secondly, 80 per cent or more of the product has to be exported. This means that we have problems associated with fluctuating world markets. I think Senator Walsh mentioned something about the cost of labour in Australia not being significant. He seemed to disregard that cost. But when we are competing with countries such as Greece, Turkey and South Africa certainly labour costs are a major consideration for the industry. High freight charges are another problem. Delays on the waterfront in Australia are notorious, world wide, and this causes added problems to the industry.
– What are the current figures to sustain that assertion?
-I refer to the high freight charges which Senator Mulvihill must agree are a problem in relation to the main markets for the industry. Our main markets are New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and West Germany. The matter of over production again comes into the problem as it did with the canning industry. I always listen to Senator McLaren with a great deal of interest. He comes in here with his affable smile and with a general sort of friendliness towards this side of the Senate. He then proceeds to cast aspersions at me for some unknown reason. He implies that because I suggested that the Chifley Government was responsible for soldier settlement I was not interested in the welfare of ex-servicemen in the Riverlands. That is quite wrong.
I admit quite freely that we have made mistakes in the past and that we must accept some responsibility for that. But I believe that Senator Wriedt will agree that the Chifley Government in developing irrigation settlements throughout Australia after World War II caused a problem of over-production. That is a factor. Another factor is that people who came to Australia from southern Europe were encouraged to develop properties in those irrigation areas. All these things have contributed to a problem of overproduction. I have had 3 ex-servicemen cousins who have had to leave their properties in those areas. They are now working in other occupations. I sympathise with them and with the industry. I believe it is up to us to do what we can to help them out.
The dried fruits industry is, in effect, the handmaiden of the wine industry. We have seen the disastrous effects of some of the decisions which were made by former Liberal governments. I know that Senator Laucke, the President of the Senate, was concerned when we imposed the wine tax of 50c a gallon. It was largely due to his efforts that the Government recognised the need for that tax to be reduced to 25c. Senator Laucke was not happy about that. He would have liked to see the tax removed, as we all would have, and as those of us from South Australia who were interested in the industry tried to do. The Australian Labor Party came into government with the great promise that it would remove this tax. Then it imposed the impost on brandy which I believe caused greater problems. Because of these actions by the Government problems of disposal of fruit surpluses were created, in particular in the sultana and the gordo area. I think the Government owes the dried fruit growers an apology for the way in which it has treated them over the 90 years in which the industry has battled along, mostly without government assistance.
The dried fruits industry was the first industry to organise and obtain legislation which permitted it to operate an orderly marketing scheme. The Commonwealth Dried Fruits Board was established in the early 1920s and was the pilot scheme for primary industry marketing schemes which came much later. I cite the examples of sugar, wheat and canned fruit. The dried fruits industry featured in the famous James case in the early 1930s which went to the Privy Council. It affected section 92 of the Constitution and led to the referendum on that section. The decision altered the whole concept of marketing and trade within Australia. We certainly need this legislation for a further period. The Industries
Assistance Commission is taking a further look in depth at the needs of the industry and will make recommendations to the Government soon, I understand. In the meantime, the industry needs protection because of an expected increase in tonnage. I support the Bill wholeheartedly. I hope that we can look forward to some constructive suggestions from the report which is currently being considered by the Government.
– in reply- Like every other honourable senator I support the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilisation Amendment Bill. I shall say something briefly which has been adverted to in debate. We probably ought to acknowledge that here is another labour-intensive and export orientated primary industry which has been affected by severe inflation in the past few seasons. It is faced with severe international competition. The entry of Great Britain to the European Economic Community will have some severe effects for the industry because the final phase for the preference will be eliminated at the end of June 1977. The new tariff policies of the EEC favour Greece and Turkey which are our main competitors. About two-thirds of the crop is exported in an average season.
This is an industry of great importance to certain areas of Australia, namely, the Murray and Mumimbidgee Irrigation areas. A lot of good, fine towns which are full of good people with u great sense of civic pride have been based upon this industry. Therefore, it is critical that the Government should move in to produce some sort of a floor position to allow these people to see what their future will be and how they should resolve that future. I suppose this demonstrates, as do many things in this country, that one cannot really avoid change. Nobody can and nobody tries to. Change is inevitable. What we arc trying to avoid is the dramatic over-night and unnecessary change which puts people into a state of economic or personal distress. In order to have change managed satisfactorily the Government has to know what it is doing and where it is going. For every industry it has to provide a period of stability on the understanding that that stability will lead to the necessary adjustment and change which has to be conducted carefully through time and not over-night. As far as possible it has to be conducted in a state of understanding by those involved in the industry and those associated with the communities in which the industry operates.
Change should not be imposed from outside. It is very critical to manage change like that. That is what one seeks to do in one ‘s approach to these problems. Once again I say that we have seen a lot of occasions in Australia where, in various areas of primary industry, it has looked like a waste of time. Often it is the very last people who have hung on in the industry and who have kept it going who have been told later on how lucky they were when the industry has turned around and become something useful. So I ask honourable senators to bear that in mind. I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for supporting the Bill. I suggest that the question might now be put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.41 to 8 p.m.
– I have to announce that I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate and from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate nominating senators to serve on the legislative and general purpose standing committees, as follows:
Constitutional and Legal Affairs:
Senators Button, Chaney, Devitt, James McClelland and Missen.
Education and the Arts:
Senators Button, Collard, Davidson, Martin, Robertson and Ryan.
Foreign Affairs and Defence:
Senators Knight, Mcintosh, Primmer, Scott, Sibraa and Sim.
Senators Baume, Brown, Grimes, Melzer, Tehan and Walters.
Trade and Commerce:
Senators Archer, Donald Cameron, Coleman, Lajovic, Sheil and Walsh.
Senators Durack, Maunsell, McAuliffe, McLaren, Robertson and Thomas.
Science and the Environment:
Senators Bonner, Gietzelt, Jessop, Melzer, Mulvihill and Townley.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That the senators nominated be appointed members of the respective committees.
Debate resumed from 23 March on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– The debate on the Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill 1976 commenced just before 5 p.m. yesterday. This is one of a series of Bills concerning dried fruits which has been before the Senate but it is different in that it is a Bill which the Senate may not amend. As honourable senators will be aware, under standing order 190 it is quite in order to discuss matters relevant or not relevant to the subject matter of the Bill in the first reading stage. I must say that for 5 or 6 hours so far the Senate has with great gusto been discussing matters not relevant to this Bill. I believe that 6 honourable senators have spoken so far. Some very interesting material has been presented, none of it to do with dried vine fruits in any way.
I rise to respond to comments made yesterday by Senator McLaren in the first reading debate on this Bill. He made a number of points concerning health services and health care delivery in this country. His remarks were not really related to dried vine fruits but they were perfectly in order in view of the fact that this is a Bill which the Senate may not amend. Last night I discussed Senator McLaren’s first point, which was that he felt that unless we had a proliferation of diagnostic services, health care in Australia would suffer. Last night Senator McLaren pointed out that Medibank had made diagnostic services readily available for people. He said:
This has been of great benefit to the underprivileged and to the people on lower income.
That was part of his basic misconception of the role which diagnostic tests play in medicine. The mere availability of tests is not in itself any indication that they have any effect on health care delivery or health care standards. One of the problems which the Government is facing is that there has been a proliferation and a clear overuse of diagnostic tests with far too little return in the way of improved health care statistics. The fact remains that diagnostic tests have been overused. It did the honourable senator no credit to advance that argument with no evidence to support it, just to give it as an opinion and ask us to accept it as holy writ.
Senator McLaren made 2 other points about health care delivery in his contribution last night. He drew to the attention of the Senate certain problems of hospital staffing. He sought to assert, perhaps by implication, that there has been a loss of salaried staff and that under the Australian Labor Party Government efforts were made to retain salaried staff to the benefit of the community and community health. I would like to place on record some of the facts concerning salaried staffing in hospitals, the price the country has had to pay for the Labor Government and what it did to the capacity of hospitals in Australia to function.
I want to direct attention to hospitals in the Northern Territory. In 1972 the hospitals staff situation in the Northern Territory was adequate. Staff positions were filled. The situation was not perfect but the McMahon Government thought enough of hospital services in the Northern Territory to commission a special report which was presented in the Northern Territory Legislative Council at the end of 1972. It drew attention to what the health services provided and it made recommendations concerning hospital staffing. When it came to power the Whitlam Government had before it a document which should have assisted it to improve and maintain hospital staffing in the Northern Territory.
I have been a member of 2 Senate Estimates committees, each of which has concerned itself with the question of health services in the Northern Territory. It has become apparent each time the Estimates committee has met that we have been facing an increasingly serious situation in the Northern Territory. It has become apparent that there is inadequate hospital staff. Several days ago I asked a question in the Senate concerning this very point. I was informed by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that, of 55 resident medical officer positions available in the Territory, 19 are vacant and cannot be filled. Included in those positions are 3 positions for anaesthetists- the people who give anaesthetics when one needs an operation. Not one of those 3 positions is filled at the present time.
Let me say again that when my Party left government in 1972 the Northern Territory hospital service was functioning effectively and was staffed. In 1975 when the Australian Labor Party left government almost one-third of the positions were unfilled and unfillable. In regard to the anaesthetists not one position out of the three available was filled. That is the kind of legacy the Fraser Government received from 3 years of Labor rule. We could see it coming. It might interest the Senate to know why this situation occurred, why the staffing situation of one of the only 2 hospital systems under the control of the Federal Government should have gone to pieces. This makes a mockery of what Senator McLaren was saying last night. I will tell the Senate what happened. The Commonwealth Medical Officers Association- a proper union body acting on behalf of the medical officers in the
Territory- put in a log of claims in 1974 and made an application for increased salaries. The Government will not keep doctors in the Northern Territory unless it pays them wages comparable with those paid in the adjoining States and comparable with those for salaried positions elsewhere in Australia. The claim put in by the Commonwealth medical officers in 1974 was delayed. It was not dealt with by the Whitlam Government until April 1975 when the wage index guidelines had been brought in. The doctors then discovered that they were faced with the situation in which they could not receive what every tribunal agreed were the increases to which they were entitled. They had not received those increases because of the great delays. The position then was that the wage fixing tribunals found it impossible under the wage indexation guidelines to grant any increases. The doctors have been faced with the situation in which their increase has to be achieved without destroying wage indexation. This happened because the Australian Labor Government delayed- it took its time and procrastinated- and eventually presented the doctors with a fait accompli saying that there could be no salary rises because wage indexation had been introduced.
There are very few of these doctors in number, but their importance to the Northern Territory is immense. They provide a resource the Territory needs. If Senator McLaren wants us to believe that the Government of which he was a member put a high value on hospital staff and staff salaried positions and if he wants us to believe that these salaried positions are needed to maintain a good standard of health care, let him explain to the Senate why his Government has virtually destroyed one of the hospital systems and has diminished the number of salaried doctors available in the Northern Territory.
Let me repeat the position in case Senator McLaren has not taken in what I have said: None of the 3 positions of anaesthetist is filled. That is his Government’s record. Of the 55 positions at the hospital, nineteen are vacant. These are figures given to me last week in the Senate in answer to a question. They are figures which the honourable senator can check. He attempts to interject. He does not like what I say because it hurts and it shows up the shallowness of what he was saying last night.
– Order! Senator McLaren, you will cease interjecting. Interjections arc highly disorderly.
- Mr President, I rise to order. Since he commenced his remarks at 8 o’clock this evening Senator Baume has stated continually that I have misrepresented the case I put in the Parliament. I did not.
– There is no substance to your point of order, Senator McLaren. I call Senator Baume.
– We have a situation in which the health services of the Northern Territory are falling to pieces because they cannot offer competitive salaries to attract the people needed. For the interest of the Senate I mention also that during our examination of the Estimates we asked departmental officers about the position of nurses and associated helping professionalsradiologists, social workers, etc. We were informed that in general the Commonwealth was not offering a competitive rate of pay and that the staffing position in the Territory was parlous and desperate. The losers will not be the professionals. We live in a country where there is an inadequate number of these professionals. They can obtain employment and find the positions they want. They can go into private practice. But if we want to attract them to the Territories to provide the services for the people of the Territories we will not do it with a government such as the previous Government which holds up their pay claims and then will not allow them to catch up with competitive salaries because of its wage indexation guidelines.
I am aware that the new Government, sensitive to the situation and understanding correctly the need of the people of the Territories to have medical services, is doing all it can to overcome the mess which we have inherited. Let us make the position quite clear: The same difficulties apply to the other great Commonwealth health system but to a lesser degree. I refer to the repatriation system. There is the same situation of non-competitive salaries in that system. If Senator McLaren wanted to talk to us last night about salaried medical services, he should have prepared his material and known something more than what he read in a couple of Press releases. Let him know something about the topic. That would help to improve the standard of his contribution and the standard of the debate. The honourable senator said last night how terrible it was that many salaried specialists were resigning to enter private practice. I will tell the honourable senator how bad it is. It is a disgrace. It is a disgrace that we inherited from the Government of which he was a member.
Senator McLaren went on last night to raise one other point for the consideration of the Senate which I shall refer to now. He referred to the
Fawnmac group of companies. I must be fair to the honourable senator and quote what he asserted:
As I was saying, the Whitlam Government set out to provide the people of this country with a company that could provide drugs at a fair and reasonable price rather than the people being exploited by private enterprise.
The honourable senator does not know much about the pharmaceutical industry. Fawnmac is in fact a group of companies. It was purchased by the Australian Industry Development Corporation. It was one of the Corporation’s ventures. It was bought using a complicated cost procedure which ended up costing the honourable senator’s Government $2,500,000 more than it thought it would cost when it started out.
– It cost the taxpayers.
– I thank Senator Withers for his interjection. It cost the taxpayers $2,500,000 more than we were originally told. Senator McLaren honestly believes that this group of companies will have the effect of lowering pharmaceutical prices in Australia. I must make a couple of points for the honourable senator. Firstly, I ask: What does he think this group will produce? Does he think it will produce the well known brand names- the patented drugs? If it is to do that, it can do so only if there is a compulsory acquisition of licences from the companies at present holding the patents or by a decision to ignore the patent rights of the companies that have the rights to produce the drugs. Of course, Fawnmac cannot go into the field of the well known patented drugs. It will have no effect whatsoever on that very major slice of the pharmaceutical market which is occupied by drugs which are ordered by name. They are the brand name drugs which are ordered specifically, because brand loyalty exists. Fawnmac cannot enter that field because it does not have licences. It will not get licences unless the Government takes them by force from the drug companies which developed the products. That is not part of our way of doing things and I wonder how the honourable senator thought this drug company would control costs.
Perhaps he thought the company would produce generic drugs. For the information of some honourable senators, I will explain the position in this area. Some drugs are known by their chemical names on which patents do not exist, lt is quite within the competence of a number of companies to produce such drugs. In fact, a number of companies in the Australian market do produce generic drugs. Fawnmac could enter this field. Against which companies would Fawnmac then be operating? It would not be the multi-nationals, because the multi-nationals are not engaged in the field of producing generic drugs. The multi-nationals produce brand name products and Fawnmac will not have any relation to them. The kind of companies that the honourable senator would put out of business would be the small Australian enterprises which, in fact, are operating against the multi-nationals to supply a small segment of the market which generic drugs occupy at the present time.
The honourable senator opposite has good intentions. He would like to see the Australian public receive cheap drugs. He would like to see a good standard of pharmaceutical products. But the fact is that he knows nothing about the subject. He contributed nothing in his speech because he did not understand the role that Fawnmac would play.
It is essential that we recognise at this time that the Australian pharmaceutical industry is in a very bad situation We have had in this country over several years a highly effective price controlling mechanism within the Department of Health. The pharmaceutical companies believe that it is more than effective. They use quite pejorative terms to describe it. They have the view that it has been unfair. Nevertheless, I refer Senator McLaren or any other honourable senator to a speech that I made in this place last October when we were discussing a Bill to force the disclosure of drug company costs. I presented extensive figures then on what the price movements have actually been in the pharmaceuticals used in this country and prescribed under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Senator McLaren will doubtless remember that the prices of almost all pharmaceuticals prescribed under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme have dropped- they have not stayed steady; they have been dropping- because of the effectiveness of the pricing bureau within the Department of Health. We had a 50 per cent increase in labour and packaging costs in the last 2 years of the Australian Labor Party being in power, but there has been no consequential increase in the price which the pharmaceutical industry receives for drugs. I can accept the contention of the industry that it faces a financial crisis. All I want to see is that the Department of Health carries out a complete review of the profitability of the drug industry and makes sure that it gets a fair go.
Senator McLaren raised 3 main points in his contribution to the debate. They were all misconceived. They were all based on an inadequate understanding of the true situation. I shall remind the Senate once again of the 3 main points. One of them led us to re-examine the situation in Commonwealth hospitals where there is inadequate staff and where there will not be adequate staff until some pay anomalies are ironed out. I hope that we can do that quickly. The second situation is that facing the pharmaceutical industry in Australia, which we have discussed in the Senate before. I would not like to see the situation develop where Australia ceased to be a country which manufactured its own drugs and became a country which acted only as a distributor of drugs manufactured overseas. That does not seem to me to be in the best interests of the 8000 or 10 000 people who now work in our pharmaceutical industry and it does not seem to me to be in the best interests of the country. I hope that we can reach a situation whereby there can be a fair return for the companies that supply drugs under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and I hope that honourable senators can get a more realistic idea of what a company like Fawnmac can and cannot achieve. It has been a pleasure to speak on the Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill and to have had so much to say about dried fruits.
– I also rise to speak to the motion for the first reading of the Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill 1976. Like Senator Baume, I have very little to say about dried fruits, dried vines or anything else in that line. I must admit that I frequently use such products while wandering through the valleys and over the mountains of Tasmania, that I enjoy them and that they sometimes keep people alive in the cold weather. I wish the producers well. Having said that, I will leave them to that famous Australian character, Dame Edna Everage, whose husband I understand is in dried fruits, and to the experts from the National Country Party in South Australia to debate the issue. I am very wary about intruding into their field for fear of what would happen to me if I started to pretend that I was an expert on the subject.
I was provoked to join in this debate by Senator Baume ‘s reactions to Senator McLaren’s remarks. Senator Baume became very excited about the remarks of Senator McLaren, whom he considers knows nothing about the situation in the health field in this country. I am not one of those doctors who believe that one has to be a doctor to know something about the health problems of this country. There are many more patients than doctors and patients also have a very good idea about some of the things that are going on in the health field in this country. I believe that Senator Baume overstated his case in his desire to destroy Senator McLaren’s case. Senator Baume became very excited about the second point, I believe it was, that Senator McLaren made about the remarks of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in a Press statement concerning salaried people leaving Commonwealth hospitals. I will concede to Senator Baume that there is a problem in staffing hospitals in the Northern Territory. I will even be gracious enough to concede to Senator Baume that part of that problem was due to the wage difficulties that we had in 1974 and 1975 in getting some sort of parity for the doctors employed by hospitals in the Northern Territory. But Senator Baume knows as well as I do that that is not the whole problem and that it never has been the whole problem.
We could double salaries in the Northern Territory and we would still have, as we have always had in the past and we have always had in other isolated areas in Australia, difficulty in filling positions like this. We have difficulty in filling positions like this anywhere that is isolated. We have difficulties even in a place like Tasmania that is isolated by the 200 miles of Bass Strait. For as long as I can remember we have always had difficulties in Launceston, which is where I come from, in getting anaesthetists, residents and salaried specialists for the hospitals. It is a fact of life that doctors, who mostly grow up in the big conurbations and who are always trained in them, hate to leave them. There are rural towns in New South Wales and Victoria, as our Country Party friends would know, which cannot attract doctors even with the attraction of what I would consider in some cases to be quite enormous salaries. The difficulties of travel, the difficulties of isolation and, in particular, the difficulties of educating their children make doctors reluctant to go to such centres. Salaries are not the whole problem. I will concede that there was a problem with the salaries. I will concede that perhaps we should have tried to find some way of getting over the indexation difficulties which inhibited a proper salary rise for the doctors in the Northern Territory. But in areas like this doctors come and go. Even though the payment of very high wages may attract people to them they generally attract the majority of them to such places for only a short time and then they quickly go.
I believe that Senator Baume overreacted or misconstrued Senator McLaren’s concern for the approach that the Minister implied in his statement when he said that he was hoping that the Medibank Review Committee would pay special attention to diagnostic services in the course of its review. Senator McLaren went on to say, as recorded on page 700 of the Senate Hansard of 23 March 1976: . . with the advent of Medibank the medical practitioner has been able to have a pathology test or an X-ray made immediately if there is any doubt, particularly in the case of children, instead of the patient’s having to wait for up to a fortnight or 3 weeks before these tests could be carried out. This has been of great benefit to the underprivileged and to the people on low incomes.
In response to those remarks Senator Baume said:
I believe that in this case both honourable senators are probably right. The implication of the Minister’s statement that special attention will be paid to this area of medical care is disturbing to me as well as to Senator McLaren, in view of our experience of what the Government’s attitude has been to Medibank and other social security matters in this country. It suggests to me that the Government is considering the wrong approach in relation to the way in which it will attack this problem. I will concede that there is a problem. The cost of diagnostic services, pathological tests and radiological tests is too high. I agree with Senator Baume that the cost reflects the over-use of those services. To me the implied solution of the Government will be to take out the broad axe and chop these services, either by financial sanctions, such as increasing the cost of the services to the patient, or by limiting the services available to the patient.
I think an analogy exists here with the overprescribing problem that we discussed in the last debate. The Government’s approach to overprescribing was to increase prescription costs, thereby penalising the patient and trying to stop the patient having so many prescriptions, but the problem in fact lies with the doctor who overprescribes. The people who over-use and abuse diagnostic services in almost all cases- I shall come to some cases where this does not applyare the doctors and not the patients. To attack the problem by attacking the patients and the patient’s use of these things I believe will get us nowhere. One result of the over-use of pathological and radiological services in this country can be seen in the Taxation Commissioner’s figures of the net incomes of the various groups in the medical profession. The last exact figures which I have are for 1970-71 and they show the net taxable incomes for various groups of doctors. The net taxable income for general practitioners was $15,054, for physicians $17,900, for surgeons $23,530, for radiologists $36,100, and for pathologists $50,765.
– That means you and I were the poor ones.
– I will concede that, senator. It was estimated in 1975 that the figures for the top people in these groups were $32,000 for general practitioners- I am certainly in the wrong place- $47,000 for surgeons, $85,900 for radiologists and $1 12,000 for pathologists. I will be gracious enough to concede that certainly back in 1970-71 the relative income of specialists like Senator Baume was far too low on this scale of things. I certainly would not have given them the $50,000 in those days that the pathologists were allegedly getting, and it seems from the Taxation figures that they were getting this amount, but I think even the consultant physicians will admit that their situation has been improved a little by Medibank, and with some justification.
One reason for the inflated level of pathologists’ incomes has been the changeover from time-consuming manual methods of performing various investigations. There has been a change to automated methods, to very rapid and efficient methods, which frequently require less skill and which are frequently done by technicians. While this has happened the fee schedules- the relative costs of fees reward the pathologists- have stayed at the relatively high levels they were at when the pathologists were carrying out time-consuming and difficult tests. Before the pathologists start penning me abusive letters and marching on my front door, I concede that their work is vital, their skill is very great and their standards in this country are very high. I have great respect for them. I would like to point out that they do not form the only group in the medical profession which I consider is overpaid, which I consider gets more than it is worth.
– Do you have a view on accreditation?
– I have a view on accreditation. I shall come to that indirectly later. I believe that these tests have become over-valued in the schedule of fees and that we have not, for various reasons, taken a proper look at the new methods that are used and the new abilities of various people in the pathology profession.
I think the overall position of the high costs of tests, such as pathological tests and others, would not have arisen if it were not for a sort of general malaise- for want of a better word- in the medical profession. I believe as Senator Baume implied last night that the medical profession has become obsessed with multi-phasic investigations. It is a technique of carrying out many investigations and hoping to pick something out of the bag when the results come in. We are not the only people who believe this. Professor Kenneth Cox, from the University of New South Wales, in an interesting article in The Medical Journal of Australia of 12 July last year said:
Multi-phasic’ investigations provide a seductively simple opportunity for avoiding thinking. 1 cannot tolerate this Micawber approach to diagnosis and regard it as an abdication of doctor responsibility from the obligation to work at a professional intellectual level.
It is to me intolerable that the community should accept responsibility for a health cost structure without thorough justification of the cost-effectiveness of the investigational apparatus it is purchasing and sustaining.
I do not think there are many people these days in the medical profession who, when spoken to privately and calmly, would not concede that that is so. I think it is interesting that doctors in rural areas who have not this accessibility to highly skilled pathological and radiological services themselves get on very well and very satisfactorily without daily recourse to these sophisticated pathological, radiological and other services. They use their clinical skill. They refer people when necessary, and in general they refer people wisely. I believe the results are good. I believe that it is a fair criticism to say that some doctors in urban areas who have complete access to this multitude of tests and investigations have let their clinical skills atrophy. I certainly share Senator Baume ‘s distaste for the health screening organisations which are set up in generalalthough not always- to make a lot of money. Their cost-effectiveness in general is appalling and the reward for the use of all the modern techniques they have is very small to the patient, I believe.
We have to get away from the general expectation in the community that unless a battery of tests are carried out the doctor has not done his job. I do not believe that this attitude is the fault of the patient. I do not believe it is the fault of the Labor Government, the Liberal Government before that or anybody else. I believe the fault for this attitude can be laid squarely at the feet of the profession. Some members of the profession have become obsessed, as I said before, with investigations. I do not believe in general that it is out of avarice, laziness or anything of that kind; it is because of the way they were taught medicine. They were taught medicine in teaching hospitals which are away from the real world in many ways. They have an unreal selection of patients. They perform tests as a routine frequently for the very good reason of gathering research data. Sometimes one wonders whether it is not just for completeness or just for medical curiosity.
I believe it is interesting that in this country and in the United States of America a revolution is building up against this attitude within the profession and amongst medical students. They can see that the faults in the medical training system and the medical profession in general reflect some of the faults they see or they believe they see in society. What is more, patients, by their increased awareness, are reflecting this unease about the way the medical practice is going, sometimes by going in increasing numbers to unorthodox practitioners, to chemists and to all types and rather strange methods of medical treatment, sometimes to their detriment. I think they are doing this basically because they are not satisfied with what is going on in the medical profession in general.
Chinks are appearing in the conservative armour that has surrounded the medical profession for so long. We are getting over the ghetto mentality which some of our professional organisations have. Less and less does the profession close ranks and put up a sort of immobile barrier against any outsider whenever the word reform is mentioned. I believe that people are recognising that medicine is not just a mechanistic approach to a sort of specific incidence of breakdown in the human machine. I believe in the words of a gentleman named Hagerty, who wrote in the Journal of Medical Education in 1971 and was quoted by Dr Sidney Sax in an article appearing in the Medical Journal of Australia of 2 August 1975. He wrote:
It can be seen that we need a change in the community’s attitude towards medicine and we need a change in the attitude and approach of the profession. I believe that this will come about only by self-examination within the profession, by education of the community and by a careful examination of the methods that we use in training our doctors. This will require the close cooperation of health authorities, of the profession and of the community. The profession has to come from behind the mystical veil that either it has drawn up or that has grown between the profession and the community. Otherwise, as has happened in the past in other fields, the people will tear down that veil and will force the profession out. Unfortunate results may come from that.
My point is that financial sanctions against patients, as seem to be implied by Mr Hunt, and as seen to be the attitude of this Government in other fields, will not work. Worse still, such a blunderbuss approach will affect innocent people. A broad general financial approach to cutting down the number of tests and investigations that are undertaken invariably will involve innocent people. It will cause resentment and great dissatisfaction in the community- dissatisfaction with the profession to which I am proud to belong. Senator McLaren was correct in saying that Medibank has helped many good doctors and many patients by removing the worry from the patient and the doctor of the cost of investigations when the doctor is considering what treatment and approach he should use. Sure, some not so good doctors have abused the Medibank system; they abused the previous system also. Most doctors who abuse the system do so because of the way that they are taught.
If sanctions are to be used we should find whatever means we can of controlling the people who are abusing the system directly rather than controlling the patient. On the point of accreditation I refer to the United States of America, the land of free enterprise, the land of the free where, we are told, individual freedom is precious above all things. In the United States surgical and medical audits are carried out in the hospitals. Accreditations are much more common in that country than they are in Australia. The results of such surgical audits, particularly in some States and cities and hospitals, are used to decide whether a particular person will remain on the staff of a particular hospital. How many times has that happened in this country? How many times has an honorary medical officer of a hospital who has held that position for 50, 40, 20 or even 2 years, lost his job because of the results of some careful and properly assessed audit of his work? We do not hear much about complaints in the United States against these accreditation schemes in terms of abrogation of the freedom of the individual. I accept, as does everyone who thinks about this matter accepts, that we must be conscious of the economic cost of health care and must stop abuse. But I repeat that if that abuse does not lie with the patient, as it does not in the vast majority of cases- abuse by excessive diagnostic tests and by over-prescribing- those who are responsible for the abuse ought to bc investigated or penalised. Better still, I believe, let us change the situation by education and by letting the patients into our confidence. I believe we then may have a situation of mutual trust that we do not have now. We have a situation of suspicion between the community and the medical profession and in many cases we have a situation of outright hostility. But if we can create a situation of mutual trust we may succeed in breaking down abuses and in obtaining a more rational approach to medicine. Then we shall succeed in getting a proper health service in this country and we will stop the arguments that have been carried on over the years about funding and about individual freedom. Maybe then the medical profession will stop having an automatic Pavlovian reaction every time anybody suggests that there is a need for reform. Perhaps then the medical profession will realise that suggestions for reform made by people outside the medical profession are not always stupid and not always put forward by communists, socialists, intellectual economists or any of the other pejorative words that are used to describe anyone who criticises the profession. Then we will have a reasonable system, one based on mutual trust between the profession and the community.
-I do not ignore the dried fruits people or their industry because the Bill which is before us is not worthy of comment but because, in compliance with the pattern of such debates, the opportunity arises to debate other issues. I wish to speak briefly on three small matters, all of which I believe have been in receipt of publicity adverse to them and which I believe accordingly deserve to be spoken for. Firstly, a question was asked in this chamber last week about Savage River Mines. The question and the answer gave rather an incorrect impression of the position of the company previously and of the position in which it now stands.
Savage River Mines was established in 1 968 in Tasmania as an exporter of iron ore pellets. It was planned to have a capacity of 2 ‘A million tons a year and it employs approximately 670 workers at the Savage River Mine, and at the pelletising plant at Port Latta. The undertaking was constructed at a cost of about $80m, of which half was supplied by the Japanese- about $40m- $37m was supplied by the United States of America and about $3m by Australia. The Australian investment in the venture comprises Ampol Mining Pty Ltd, Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd, Kathleen Investments (Australia) Ltd, the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Insurance Co. Ltd, the National Mutual Life
Association of Australia Ltd and the United Insurance Co. Ltd.
– It was a good multinational put together by the Labor Government, was it not?
– Yes, it is a multinational company. In the early days of the mine’s operations it suffered from minor problems but with practice they were overcome. It achieved its target production in the early times. However, since then it has had problems. It has a turnover now of about $34m a year, of which about $25m goes directly into the pipeline in Australia. The undertaking’s main imports are bentonite clay, which comes from the United States, and oil for the furnaces. It is the largest magnetite mining and processing operation in Australia, and the mine has really settled in to be very much an integral part of the community in the area. However, there are 2 points which I wish to make clear. When referring to the operations for the last year the manager of the mine, Mr Sheppard, said:
One of the barriers to attaining economic viability at Savage River was industrial disputes. Shutdowns in the past 12 months caused by strikes had reduced production by at least 400 000 tonnes.
The whole operation depends to a very fine degree on keeping the mill operating at full capacity, and to be 400 000 tonnes down on a projected production of 2 250 000 tonnes makes all the difference to the viability of the mine. The mine did have trouble because it underestimated the amount of waste per tonne of pellets, but this has been overcome. The main cause for the reduced production was the industrial disputes at the mine, and no amount of guaranteeing of quotas would have altered the position. Every pellet that the mine can make is sold. The mine has a 1 5-year contract. There is no question that it would not help the Savage River mine in any way to have a quota on anything except work.
The second matter that I wish to mention arises from a statement made in this chamber yesterday by Senator Douglas McClelland. He said: . . Bearing in mind that the LAC has found -since the last report of a committee of inquiry into the dairy industry in 1960- that the industry generally is in a viable and economically sound position? This is so, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania. The dairy industry in South Australia is picking up considerably.
I would not like that remark to pass without making some reference to it. We find that the dairy industry has gone to a lot of trouble recently to get itself into a better condition. The Australian Dairy Corporation which was set up by our predecessors has had committees of inquiry working on this question. The equalisation board has revamped a new system, and many other proposals have been brought forward to help the dairy industry in a number of ways. I hope that the first results of these initiatives will become apparent in the very near future.
At present there are about 2 500 000 milking cows in Australia. The dairy industry is a completely export oriented industry, because 91 per cent of our casein, 87 per cent of our milk powder and 45 per cent of our butter and cheese is placed on the export market. Of that, in total tonnage, approximately half is surplus. This means that at present approximately one-third of our total dairy production is not required either at home or abroad and that of the 2 500 000 cows in Australia, about 750 000 are at present surplus. In Australia at the present time there is a surplus of nearly 100 000 tonnes of milk powder and 15 000 tonnes of cheese, besides the casein and butter which we are having trouble in selling. We must look at the question of how the industry will survive by changes in technology, in new products, in new markets both at home and abroad and in new methods of manufacture. Rationalisation in the dairy industry, as in other industries, is a must, but the problems connected with it will not be easy or pleasant to overcome. Nonetheless, it is necessary that rationalisation should be introduced into the dairy industry.
I believe that there must be a degree of cooperation with New Zealand on overseas markets if better prices are to be obtained by either New Zealand or Australia. I commend to the Government the proposal that it should make every effort to have some sort of a joint marketing system. I believe it is necessary that we should introduce quotas on imports, particularly of fancy cheese. We are producing fancy cheese in Australia and trying to sell it overseas, but at the same time we are importing approximately the same amount of this type of cheese. The position of the milk powder section of the dairy industry is most critical at the moment. At present milk powder is costing about $400 a tonne to produce but it is being sold overseas for approximately $250 a tonne. Until stocks of milk powder are reduced not only in Australia but also throughout the rest of the world, the situation in this section of the industry will not improve.
I believe that we must build the dairy industry around the most efficient manufacturers and producers engaged in it. But we have to look after the areas in which the potentially sociologically disadvantaged people are located so that those people will not be put to too great a disadvantage by whatever form of rationalisation is introduced. There is no doubt it is a great pity that the dairy industry, which is another of Australia’s great primary industries, is in this trouble. It is not on its own. There is no doubt that the good areas are terrifically efficient. In Tasmania, where dairying represents 28 per cent of the total rural production, the dairy industry is a major factor in the economy of that State.
The third matter on which I should like to make a few comments concerns the north-west regional water scheme. Because totally wrong information has been given in the local Tasmanian Press and on Tasmanian radio and television, I should like to make some comments to clear up some of the misconceptions that exist in both Canberra and Tasmania. The north-west regional water scheme was designed originally to produce filtered water for the 8 constituent councils in the area. On 1 August 1973 the Federal Government agreed to provide 60 per cent of the total cost of the scheme- 30 per cent of this money by way of grant and 70 per cent by way of loan. The plans for the scheme were prepared at about that time, and from then on the scheme was taken as gospel. Of the 8 councils in the area concerned, six needed water and they needed it badly. But to provide water for those 6 councils, the other 2 councils which are part of the scheme that has been proposed would be very seriously and unfairly disadvantaged, and I think that everybody would or should concede that much.
As the plans for the scheme had been prepared and as the scheme was taken for gospel by the Tasmanian Government and by the main recipients under the scheme, nothing further was done to see whether the scheme was the best one, or in fact whether it was a good one or a bad one, or whether it was economic or whether it was what we wanted. Because the plans for the scheme had been prepared and because Commonwealth money was available for the scheme, it was decided that that had to be the scheme. From that time practically no moves have been made to try to close the gaps that existed between the numerically minor councils and the 2 major councils. The 2 major councils which both have adequate supplies of good water, do not accept the proposal that has been put forward, and they never have accepted it. But no effort has yet been made to come up with an alternative scheme that would satisfy those 2 councils. Many private people- engineers, experienced council people and the like- have come up with alternative schemes but they can not get them seriously considered. For instance, in correspondence that I have received on the subject is a letter from one such person who states: we are convinced that the Regional Scheme, in its various forms at present being considered by the Councils and the Commission, is neither the most economic nor the most practical for the area . . .
The letter continues: an amended proposal for the North West Regional Scheme . . . would be both considerably lower in capital cost and operating costs . . .
Later, the letter reads:
The technical report . . . has been taken for granted. We do not agree with this and suggest that a further investigation of the form of scheme could result in a more satisfactory final regional scheme for the North West Coast with both substantially reduced capital costs and operating costs.
This has not been done.
I support the councils that need water because water is probably the single most important factor in general urban life at present. But I do not see that the costs of providing water should be forced upon people who already have it and have already paid for it. I say again that I sympathise with the councils which do not have sufficient water. I will do everything that I can to assist in the promotion of alternative schemes that will see that they get the water that they need.
When, by various direct methods, the Premier of Tasmania was unable to have the major councils agree to the plan, he then produced a proposal out of the blue. It was reported in this way:
If the Bill is passed, Burnie and Devonport, who have both rejected the project in its present terms, will be compelled to take part.
The Warden of Burnie, Councillor Filled who followed the matter up was reported as saying:
Mr Neilson ‘s ‘dictatorial attitude’ extended not only to the forcing of Burnie and Devonport into the scheme.
It also established the form of the proposed authority which would in effect be controlled by ‘bureaucrats appointed from Hobart’.
Cr Filled said the Premier told the council that if it was not prepared to help the region by joining in the regional water scheme, it could not reasonably expect the Government to be sympathetic to Burnie in considering future financial assistance in other areas.
The Burnie Council has always been aware of the water needs of the region and is extremely sympathetic to the problems facing the small authorities.
The costs could amount to up to $230,000 a year in return for no advantage to Burnie till 1981 . . .
I must support the Warden of Burnie and the fight against this dictatorial attitude. I believe that, if it comes to the point, in this place we should also give that support. In all fairness, the people who need water must have water. We need to come around to retaining the options which are open. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said that the money is still available when uniformity can be achieved amongst the proposed recipients.
With this in mind, the Premier of Tasmania came to Canberra last week to ask the Prime Minister whether he would make the money available. In spite of his meetings with the Burnie and Devonport Councils and others, he came to Canberra to see whether the Prime Minister would provide the money so that he could still force the scheme through. When he received a reply from the Prime Minister, a news release was issued in the name of the Premier. It said:
The Federal Government has withdrawn its financial support for the North West Regional Water Supply Scheme at least for the time being.
The Premier, Mr Neilson, said in Canberra today he had been told Federal budgetary problems meant the Government was not able to commit itself to the scheme at this stage.
And the Prime Minister- Mr Fraser- had not indicated when the situation would be different.
Mr Neilson said this meant the State Government which had hoped to introduce legislation for the scheme this year could not go ahead.
He said the previous Federal Labor Government had made a firm agreement to support the scheme to the extent of 60 per cent of the required loan fund- part of it nonrepayable.
The ABC ‘s political reporter says the loss of Federal funds could be the final blow for the scheme, following the withdrawal of the two major municipalities, Burnie and Devonport, last year.
– What right has the ABC to make political comments of that nature?
– That statement is completely untrue as well because the Prime Minister has confirmed that the money is still available, as soon as Mr Neilson and the councils are able to decide what scheme they want and that they are all prepared to agree to it and to pay for it. The payment aspect is where this matter becomes important. Where some of the councils are now paying quite low rates for their water, the smaller councils could be involved in costs of up to about $150 a tenament a year on the basis of the scheme proposed. If they were to pay that sort of price for their water, I think the Burnie and Devonport councils could probably allow the scheme to go ahead now. But where Burnie and Devonport councils are expected lo pay more than double the water charges than they now pay, to achieve no benefit, they are not prepared to do so. If the scheme can be reorganised and reclassified, I still believe that there is no real reason why we cannot have this water scheme implemented. I follow up my remarks by what I suppose is, more or less, an appeal to the people who are concerned. I ask them to get together, to forget politics and to think about the need for the water. If this is not done, everybody will miss out, particularly people who need the water most.
-Mr Deputy President, I take the opportunity to speak on the first reading of this Bill to bring before the Senate a few comments that normally I would not have the opportunity of making. I have listened intently to the comments of other honourable senators tonight. One of the things that I have learnt from the debate is that, from the comments Senator Grimes made perhaps I did my university work in the wrong faculty. I wish to deal with 2 points tonight. I say at the outset that one of them covers the general problem of unemployment. But I make the comment that I am not going to speak on the ministerial statement that was presented in the Senate yesterday. Indeed, if I did, I would not be in order. Before speaking on the general problem of unemployment, I must say that I am glad to see Senator Bonner in the chamber tonight. Last night, Senator Bonner made some comments about a member of the Queensland Parliament, Mr Aikens. Senator Bonner had some words to say which were not very complimentary to Mr Aikens. I wish to make a few comments on the man myself. This man said some things about me last August, which I think are probably worth repeating, in view of what Senator Bonner mentioned last night. I quote this evening some extracts from the Hansard of the Queensland State House, the Legislative Assembly, to illustrate some of the comments that Mr Aikens made last year when he was speaking on the debate on the casual vacancy for Queensland in the Senate when that vacancy was being filled last August.
– I would not take his comments too seriously, senator.
-Oh, I agree. I would not take his comments too seriously. But I think it is worth while bringing these extracts before the Senate to reinforce the speech made by Senator Bonner last night. One comment that perhaps Senator Bonner might find most interesting is contained in one of the early statements in this speech by Mr Aikens, who said:
I would make an excellent Senator.
That is Aikens speaking of himself:
I would fill the halls of the Senate with glorious golden oratory.
Let us listen to some of his golden glorious oratory. Unfortunately, I will not be able to read some of it because 1 am sure I would be out of order because of the language used. One of his statements was:
I am not going to make any personal attack on Dr Colston. I never launch a personal attack on anybody . . .
He also said:
Let me refer to what the Leader of the Opposition said about Dr Colston being an honoured servant of this State. Colston has been crawling to the National-Liberal Government for years. He crawled to it to get a job. After he had dropped out to contest the Senate, he subsequently crawled to the Government, but the Minister who had previously employed him would not employ him again. He went to the most warmhearted Minister, a man who to judge from his appearance, would be the antithesis of a ballerina. That Minister said, ‘Poor bugger. Give him a job’. He has been crawling to the National-Liberal Government for years for a position. He got his position and held it until he resigned in anticipation of an appointment to the Senate.
I have read this quote because Mr Aikens had said: ‘I am not going to make any personal attack on Dr Colston’. Let us look at the golden oratory that followed. I will not pursue this line further after these few words because I do not think it is worthwhile dwelling on the remarks of Mr Aikens.
– You have had the last laugh on him.
-My word, I have had the last laugh on him. Mr Aikens said:
I will put it mildly. Colston is one of the trendy university set- one of the trendy mob.
Someone interjected and said: ‘An academic’. Mr Aikens replied:
He is worse than that. The other day I was out at the James Cook University . . .
He related how all the students gave him a grand ovation and then proceeded with this golden oratory:
One young woman stood up- if she had been dressed in male attire I would have mistaken her for Colston- and she asked me, ‘Mr Aikens, what is your attitude to masturbation?’ I said, ‘I have never had any personal experience with it but doctors assure us that it will not do us any harm . . .
I have quoted those few extracts to follow up the comments made by Senator Bonner last night about that member of the Queensland Parliament. I think they reinforce Senator Bonner’s comments about that parliamentary representative.
The other point I wish to mention tonight deals with the plight of the unemployed. Most people who are unemployed and receiving unemployment benefits are genuine. They really cannot find jobs. Therefore, they should be treated with the dignity with which we would treat any of our fellow citizens. I think, sometimes, that this dignity is lacking in our attitude. I look forward to the debate that will follow on the paper that was presented yesterday by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) about unemployment benefits. The reason I look forward to that debate is that perhaps, somewhat naively, when I was first elected to this Senate I thought that senators from both sides of the chamber would have the opportunity to debate proposals put forward by the Government and would be able to allow their feelings on all matters to be made known. I was rudely shockedperhaps brought back to reality- in the first month after my election to this place. The Government outlined a number of changes- in fact a plethora of changes- on various matters before this Senate actually assembled. So, at that time I, as a new senator, and all other honourable senators, did not have the opportunity to use this chamber as a forum in which to speak either in favour of or against those changes which the Government had made.
I look forward to the day when we can debate the paper presented to the Senate yesterday. In the meantime I should like to make a few comments about the unemployed. I know what it is like to be unemployed and receiving unemployment benefits, as indeed I think do a few other honourable senators. Too few people know what it is like to be in such a position. Certainly one does not have to be unemployed or to have been unemployed to understand the plight of the unemployed. If people have sufficient insight, they should be able to understand these problems without having been in that position themselves. Not only have I been in that position but also another member of my family has been unemployed. I know what it is like to be unemployed. I will always be sympathetic towards people who find themselves out of a job through no fault of their own.
I mention the 2 instances of unemployment in my family with which I have had experience. When I was a young lad my father found himself out of a job through no fault of his own. It was not the first time that he had been out of a job because he worked in the building industry. Those who know the building industry reasonably well will know that a person in that industry is often out of a job even though it may be for only a short time. The instance to which I am referring occurred in 1961. At that stage, my father had been working for a firm in Brisbane for 9 years and 9 months. He was put off deliberately so that the firm would not have to pay for his pro rata long service leave when his service reached 10 years. In 1961, as most honourable senators will remember, it was not easy to find a job in the building industry. It is never easy for a person in his fifties to find a job in the building industry. For a long time my family suffered because my father had to receive unemployment benefitsbenefits which barely kept us living.
I had hoped that this would never happen to me. I had hoped that it would never happen to any person. But, of course, it does happen to other people. It has happened to me 3 times. The first time was in 1 970. Those who know me personally will know that I stood for the Senate in 1970. Before doing that, I had been a fulltime university student. My university studies finished on the last day of August 1970. On 1 September 1 started to campaign for the 1970 Senate election. I campaigned from then until the election in November. The result, I think, was almost a foregone conclusion considering my position on the ballot paper. However I had set out in that election to try to get into this place. After having found myself unsuccessful in that election I went back to the State department in which I had been employed before I left to do fulltime university studies. I was told: ‘Yes, we will give you a job but we cannot start you until the end of January ‘. I had no other qualifications so I could not take another job. I had been campaigning without any income coming in. For my family’s welfarefor the welfare of my wife and my young son- it was necessary for me to take the unemployment benefit. That was the first time that I had ever been unemployed. It taught me a good lesson. 1 think that there is no stigma in having to take unemployment benefits because if a person finds himself in a difficult position society will help him over an awkward period. The next time I was in receipt of unemployment benefit was again after a Senate election. In 1974 I had to resign my position to contest the Senate election.
– That was a voluntary termination of work. Under this Government you would not have got unemployment benefits.
-Indeed, I voluntarily terminated my employment, but some compulsion was attached to it. I was a public servant at the time. I was obliged to resign from that position because I was seeking election to the Senate. Section 44 of the Constitution, as all honourable senators would be aware, in part states:
Any person who-. . .
Holds any office of profit under the Crown, . . . shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator . . .
So it was necessary for me to resign my public service position. I was not successful in that election either. After finding out that I was not successful I applied for a job back with the State Government Department. A long story surrounds that matter but eventually I got back into the State Government, although not into the department from which I had left. There was a long period before I got my job back. Again, because of the expenses I had incurred as a candidate and because I had been off work for a long period before the election I was forced, because of family responsibilities, to take unemployment benefits. I thought that this would probably be the last time, but it was not.
There was a third time when I was forced to seek the help of the Government by asking for unemployment benefits. This happened in August last year. I referred to a part of that episode when I first spoke about the debate on the casual vacancy. I was the nominee of the Australian Labor Party for the vacancy which occurred when Senator Milliner died. Wanting to contest that vacancy which was decided by the State Parliament I again had to resign my position as a public servant. The State Government quite readily allowed me to resign to contest that position but, quite as readily, it did not allow me to fill that casual vacancy. Again I became unemployed and again I had to seek the help of the Government of the day by asking for unemployment benefits. These are the 3 times on which I have experienced this situation. I am determined, now that I have come to the Senate, that I will not experience this circumstance any more. Whether that is so or not, I learnt a lot about the plight of the unemployed through personal experience. I learnt that people often are not treated with the dignity which should be given to a person who has found himself in this position. For instance, once when I went to enrol I was given a gruff greeting and told that I would have to wait for some time. When I was filling in the application form for the person who was to decide whether I should get the benefits, he asked: What are your academic qualifications?’ I told him. He said: ‘You should not be here. Anyone with those qualifications should be able to get a job.’ This was the sort of thing which I experienced.
I think the most embarrassing situation I experienced in relation to unemployment benefits was an occasion when I went to the employment office and took my young son with me. He was under the age of five at the time. He found it necessary to go to a toilet so I asked the people in the office whether I could use one of their toilets for my young son. They said: ‘No, it is a definite rule that we do not allow any of our clients to use our toilets. There is a hotel up the road. You can take him up there.’ That is what I had to do. People have been coming into my electoral office fairly regularly with problems in relation to employment. I probably treat them a little differently from the way in which I would have treated them if I had not had this experience myself, although I hope that without these experiences I would have treated them with dignity as I do now. I give them all the help I can. I certainly understand their problems. A lot of them come to my office because they are confused. They do not know what the proper procedures are. It is not long before they are put on the right track.
Some of them have comments about public servants. They really do not paint a picture of public servants as I see them. I think there are a lot of pressures on public servants these days. The public servants who look after people who are unemployed have a lot of frustrations. I commend the public servants for the job they are doing. Before leaving this matter of my personal experience I digress to mention the matter of having to resign as a public servant. I think this is something at which this Parliament should look. I know that it would probably mean a change to the Constitution, but it is rather awkward for a number of public servants who want to offer themselves for political office when they find out that they have to resign. In the State from which I come there is no obligation on the State Government to re-employ a person who has resigned to contest a political office and who has not been successful. I think this must put doubt in the minds of many public servants who could probably make a sound contribution to this Parliament about whether they should, in fact, consider nominating for political office.
Some people have told me that perhaps this part of the Constitution which mentions the holder of any office of profit under the Crown might not necessarily apply to State public servants. They suggest that the word ‘Crown’ might mean the Commonwealth Public Service. Any public servant who wishes to come into Federal Parliament could not take such a risk. It is probably worth while for Parliament to look at that provision at some time to make sure that public servants are not denied ready access to nominate for political office.
I received a letter from a constituent which brought to my mind some of the problems of the unemployed in country areas. I think this is an aspect at which the relevant Minister or the Government should look. Part of the letter states:
The Commonwealth Employment Service in Caloundra is located in and administered by Carrigans Real Estate. It has come to my notice that this office is refusing to register as unemployed those men and women who do not conform to Mr Carrigan’s idea of being well dressed. It was my belief that the dress rule applied to the payment of benefit and not to registration with the Commonwealth Employment Service. You can, of course, see the logical implication, that is, that if sufficient number of unemployed are refused registration the figures begin to look quite good for the Government.
Then, later on, the letter states:
Actually, the whole system of locating offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service in other businesses needs investigation, particularly with regard to training of staff and confidentiality of information.
I have no personal knowledge of this real estate office or of the man who runs it. Therefore I cannot make any comment. But there seems to me to be a problem that where the Commonwealth Employment Service is administered by local people who are not public servants there is need for these people to be trained, to be given the proper information about current policy, and also about problems such as those mentioned by this constituent relating to confidentiality of information. I conclude by saying that I look forward in the next few days to a full debate being held on the statement which was introduced into the Senate yesterday.
– I rise briefly to refute certain statements relating to the dairy industry which were made by Senator Douglas McClelland yesterday. I know that my colleague Senator Archer has already referred to those statements, but because the industry is of such importance in my State and because the comments are so far from the facts I feel impelled to correct the misapprehension which may exist in some minds following the honourable senator’s statement. I refer to the statement which appears at page 691 of yesterday’s Hansard. The honourable senator was chiding the present Government for failing to take action on the report by the Industries Assistance Commission on the dairy industry, which was presented on 23 October last. He also mentioned that the New South Wales Government recently set up a committee to investigate the dairy industry. He said:
Is it any wonder that people who are employed and engaged in the dairy industry in New South Wales are at a loss to understand why, in all these circumstances, the New South Wales Government finds it necessary to appoint a committee of inquiry into the dairy industry, particularly bearing in mind that the IAC has found- since the last report of a committee of inquiry into the dairy industry in 1960- that the industry generally is in a viable and economically sound position? This is so, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania. The dairy industry in South Australia is picking up considerably.
In my State of Victoria conditions in the dairy industry have never been worse. In my 30 years of association with the industry I have never known farmers io attend meetings in such numbers as they have done over the past few months to protest about their situation.
Before I conclude I would like to tell the Senate something about the problems they face. But firstly I would like to deal with what Senator Douglas McClelland had to say about the failure of the Government to deal with this report. In the very passage which the honourable senator himself quoted, which appears on page 690 of HansardI will not quote it in full; it is there for honourable senators to read- the Industries Assistance Commission report refers to a separate report which it is making on rural reconstruction. It goes on to say that in that report will be found its final recommendations in relation to what should be done to assist the industry. As was pointed out by interjections from Senator Wright and Senator Withers last night, that report is not yet available or, if it is, it has come to hand only very recently.
The second matter concerns the New South Wales Government. I hold no brief for it as I want to speak for Victoria. But surely it is reasonable that a State government should be entitled to have its own inquiry. We know that honourable senators opposite want centralised power in Canberra and have no time for what State governments may wish to do in relation to any problem concerning the dairy industry or anything else. It is well known that if the problems of this industry are to be solved- they are grave problems- ultimately there will need to bc complementary legislation in the States to achieve a comprehensive plan which will put the industry in a sound and viable position for the future.
I turn now to the problems of the industry in Victoria at this time. These problems are occasioned largely, although not solely, by a world glut of skim milk powder. This puts the whole of the Australian dairy industry in a state of major crisis. The world price of skim milk powder fell dramatically in 1975 and there has been no light on the horizon yet in 1976. This has caused a 30 per cent reduction in the price now being paid to Victorian and Tasmanian producers for manufacturing milk. In 1975-76 most producers supplying factories that process butter and skim milk powder have seen their milk payments slashed from 70c per lb butterfat to 50c per lb butterfat or even less. It will be appreciated that in a time of rising costs on the expenditure side of the dairy farmers’ budget this reduction in price by 30 per cent puts the industry in a situation of peril, of a fight to survive. That is exactly what is happening in Victoria at the present time and also in Tasmania.
I am pleased to say that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has intimated in the last few days that he proposes to make some monies available to the industry to cushion the effect of this problem. But if that is not done the producers will receive less for the 1976-77 season. Costs are still rising; they are not being reduced. The general inflationary trends which are present throughout industry apply of course in the dairy industry. I have here a report from J. C. McColl and Associates Pty Ltd, consultants on agriculture, the partners of which firm all hold degrees of Bachelor of Agricultural Science. They are specialists in the situation. This report was prepared for the industry. A precis of it appeared in tonight’s Melbourne Herald.
Later I propose to seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard 3 tables of figures from the report. The first table relates to stocks of skim milk powder and it emphasises what I have been saying about the glut in the supply. The table refers to Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America, Canada and the European Economic Community and states the position at 1 July in the years 1973, 1974 and 1975. We find that in Australia at 1 July 1973 the stocks on hand were 9800 tonnes whereas at 1 July 1975 they were 57 000 tonnes, which means that 6 times as much skim milk powder was stored in Australia in 1975. All these countries show an upward trend. I will not bore the Senate by quoting the figures in detail. They will appear in Hansard. For the EEC at 1 July 1973, 354 200 tonnes were stored and 764 900 tonnes at 1 July 1975, which is more than double the amount for 1973. The figures for all the countries show a total at 1 July 1973 of 532 300 tonnes as against 1 272 400 tonnes at 1 July 1975. So it will be appreciated from those figures that there is a major crisis in the skim milk powder section of the industry.
It is perhaps worth looking briefly at the major factors in this buildup of stocks. There was a change in the trading position of the United States of America which suddenly discontinued butter and skim milk imports in 1974 and there was a sharp reduction in the use of skim milk powder for animal feed in the EEC associated with the decline in the beef industry. There is an enormous subsidy paid to primary industry in the European Economic Community. I will cite the position. The various support measures in 1976 are expected to be in excess of $5,500m for agriculture generally. Of this amount, $ 1,900m will be absorbed by the EEC dairying sector. So honourable senators will see that there are international problems.
I turn now to the second of the tables to which I referred which illustrates vividly the situation of a typical dairy farmer in an irrigation area in Victoria. One has to remember when dealing with the dairying industry in Victoria that after World War II the Berne Swiss Company came from Europe to prospect the whole of Australia and New Zealand for the best area in which to operate a dairy. It chose a place called Tongala in northern Victoria. The factory there is still being operated by what is known as Nestle Co. (Aust) Ltd. Some 18 months later- I think in late 1948-the Carnation Milk Co. Pty Ltd came from America and went through exactly the same exercise and chose a place called Merrigum some 20 miles away. From that time on I and many other people in Victoria who have dealings in the dairying industry have always regarded this area as the optimum area in the Commonwealth in which to dairy. This table deals with a typical 100 cow irrigated dairy farm supplying milk for manufacture in northern Victoria for the 1975-76 season. I will deal first with the income side. The farm produces 30 000 lb of butter fat which brings 50c per lb which is now the ruling price in the co-operative factories. That gives an income figure of $15,000. Stock sales would be 20 cull cows at $25 a head, giving a figure of $500 and 60 surplus calves at $2 a head, giving a figure of $120. It is doubtful whether a farmer would receive $2 a head for the calves these days. Anyway, the gross income figure for the farm is $15,620. I will outline next the cash operating costs of this farm. Rates, administrative costs, farm insurance, repairs and maintenance to improvements amount to $1,700. Plant, which includes fuel, oil, repairs, etc., amounts to $1,800. Pasture production, which includes seeds and chemicals- $300; water rates in the irrigation area-$ 1,000; and fertiliser- $ 1 ,200; amounts to a total of $2,500. Fodder conservationthat is hay to enable the cattle to be fed during the winter months- is shown as 100 tonnes at $15 a tonne, giving a figure of $1,500. The cost of rearing 25 calves at $ 12 a calf is $300. Herd costs such as husbandry fees, veterinary fees, artificial insemination, herd tests and milking shed expenses for 100 cows at $20 a head amount to $2,000, giving a total cash operating expenditure of $9,800. The surplus to the farmer is $5,820.
That figure of a little over $100 a week represents the residual reward for the operator’s labour and management to service borrowings. The figures do not include the borrowing costs, that is, the interest on borrowed money. We all know that that can be a very significant factor on the expenditure side of running a farm. There is nothing also in the figures for depreciation and farm improvement. It is obvious that this surplus of $5,820 is quite inadequate to meet the normal living expenses of the farm operator, his wife and family without taking into consideration other factors such as the interest on borrowed money. If we assume a 15 per cent inflation rate in costs for the year 1976-77, we have a very gloomy picture.
The third table I will seek leave of the Senate to have incorporated in Hansard sets out the typical dairy farm returns and costs for 1976-77. It shows gross income, cash operating costs and surplus. It gives 3 different price levels per lb for butterfat, namely, 40c per lb, 50c per lb and 70c per lb. I understand that already in Tasmania there are a number of factories which are paying a figure which is closer to 40c per lb than 50c per lb. In Victoria as of today the price has not fallen below 50c per lb. But I understand that there is some likelihood that this will happen in Victoria between now and the end of June. At all events, a farmer who receives 40c per lb for his butterfat as the basis for his gross net income will receive $12,620 for the year. His cash operating costs amount to $1 1,270 and he is left with a net surplus of $1,350. One would hardly expect a man with a wife and family to survive on such an income. Even if the farmer were on his own, it scarcely would be enough to keep him alive. Working on a price of 50c per lb for butterfat, the gross income would be $1 5,620- this was the gross income figure I cited in table 2- the cash operating costs would be $11,270 and the surplus would be $4,350. At a price of 70c per lb for butterfat, the gross income would be $21,620, the cash operating costs, which do not alter, remain at $1 1,270 and the surplus is $10,350.
It will be appreciated from those figures that last year in Victoria no farmer engaged in dairying operations received less than 70c per lb for butterfat. The price has dropped to 50c per lb. In that case, the farmer’s net income drops from $10,350 to $4,350. Yet an honourable senator opposite has the temerity to profess in the Senate to be an authority on the dairying industry in Victoria and says that all is well with the dairying industry. I make these few brief comments to set the record straight. Earlier this afternoon, there was a debate on a Bill which dealt with the fruit industry which is in a deplorable position. I can say only that the dairying industry is also in a deplorable position but not quite as bad as the fruit industry. I share Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s hope that the Federal Government and the State governments in co-operation with the industry will come up with a comprehensive plan which will enable those people in the industry who are viable to retain their livelihood. I think it is vital to the future of Australia that this industry be retained. It is one of our great primary industries. We would see whole areas in various States devastated if this industry were allowed to go under. I trust that before very long we will have the final report from the Industries Assistance Commission and that the State governments will take action to co-operate. I hope that the industry itself will co-operate and that the people who have worked so hard in this industry over the years will be able to survive.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Senator Tehan, do I understand that you want to incorporate some tables in Hansard?
-Mr Deputy President, I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate 3 tables in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The tables read as follows)-
DAIRY FARM CASH BUDGET
The calculation of a cash flow budget for a typical 100 cow irrigated dairy farm supplying milk for manufacturing in Northern Victoria for the 1 975-76 season is set out below.
– I take advantage of this occasion to talk about certain threats which have been made in relation to the employment opportunities of members of the Public Service and statutory authorities. Most honourable senators will know that hundreds of public servants and employees of statutory authorities are now wondering what is going to happen to their jobs at the end of June following the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of certain policies. At the same time the Government has announced that far more stringent work tests than those now applying will be applied to those people who find themselves out of work as a result of the announced cutbacks. It is to me a fundamental and important question concerning the Australian economy. The Government ought to say very clearly and concisely what it proposes to do.
Despite the fact that most of the central organisations representing the staff and the Australian Council of Trade Unions have been to the Prime Minister about this matter there has been no guarantee from him that the ceilings will be arrived at simply on the basis of wastage, although when the Prime Minister announced the cutbacks last year- cutbacks which have been made more severe more recently- he assumed, as did the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers), that the targets set would be secured by wastage and retirements. The position has not been made clear yet. I am tonight urging that the Government hold the position as of now and that there be no further indications of sackings in the Public Service which must only add to the general unemployment situation in the community. The unions are concerned about this matter. Many of them are threatening to take action if such retrenchments occur.
What is the position? We have had an announcement by the Government early in December about a reduction in staff numbers and we have had the statement made by the Prime Minister as recently as 12 March at a meeting in Victoria when he said:
A stop has been put on the growth of the federal bureaucracy. On 23 December we announced our intention to hold staff ceilings at the level they had reached at the end of November. As a result of a further searching appraisal of priorities and programs, we have reduced these ceilings still further. By the end of June -
That is June of this year- there will be 17 480 fewer people employed in the federal bureaucracy than under the ceilings set by the previous Government for departments and authorities.
Having regard to the general economic position, the previous Labor Government did not restrain staff recruitments. It intended to expand various commissions and authorities but we know such proposals have now been cut. The Fraser Government has now said: ‘We have done a good thing. We have saved over $360m.’ But the net result of those staff ceilings is that there will be 8000 fewer workers in the Public Service and the statutory authorities by the end of June, or a total of nearly 18 000 workers on the basis of the Labor Government’s program, which means that many people are going to be sacked. Many of them are highly trained people. Some of them are unskilled. Many of them decided to make the Public Service their career. It is true that the Prime Minister had consultations with the unions about this matter and then made announcements which were considered at the time to be to some extent a moderation of the Government’s policies. But the point I am making is that there has been no clear statement from the Government that it will not secure those ceilings without sacking people. It will be recalled that it was in respect to a question that I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers, on 1 8 February about the employment of people at Woomera and the Weapons Research Establishment in South Australia that he first announced his opinion about these targets. He said:
My understanding of the directive from the Prime Minister is that the reduction in numbers is to come about by natura] wastage.
When a clear statement on the situation was available to him he wrote to me in the following terms:
As indicated in ministerial statement I made on behalf of Mr Killen on 18 February 1976, the rundown of the Joint Project at Woomera and Salisbury will involve some 700 f>ersonnel on the number employed at the beginning of July ast year.
In another part of the letter, amongst other things, he said:
At this stage it is apparent that a reduction of this size cannot be expected to come from natural wastage alone. . . .
He went on to say that some examination had to be conducted of the matter. It is clear to me and to the unions that there will be sackings unless the Prime Minister says that there will be no sackings and that the Government will hold the position as of now because of the general unemployment position. There is no doubt that many people are going to be forced into the unemployment field. As honourable senators know, the work test for unemployed people is already very strict, but the Government announced only yesterday that the position is going to be made worse. It is quite possible that professional people- architects and engineers- and highly skilled people could be made in the future to take a job which is certainly not a job for which they have been trained and at lower rates of pay- a menial job. The position is probably worse for the school leaver and the person who wants to undertake an apprenticeship.
Perhaps I should mention that there was a small improvement in the employment figures at the end of February. We believe that it was the result of the Hayden Budget. The situation improved to the extent that there was a fall of 2793 in the number of people out of work after the seasonal adjustment had been taken into account. It is significant to note that at that time- in February- the unfilled vacancies dropped.
– That was the result of the return of business confidence.
-That is naturally what Senator Walters would say. If it was due to the return of business confidence, I ask Senator Walters to do what I am proposing to do, that is, request the Prime Minister to tell the unions concerned that there will be no sackings of people from the authorities about which I am talking. It might be appropriate to mention at this stage that many statutory authorities and constructing departments employ people who are productive in that they are performing a service. I instance the position with respect to the organisation with which I was associated. It is darn silly to say to Telecom Australia, which has a great target set down for the laying of cables and the establishing of new services, that it will have to reach a target which will impede it from providing services for the community and the private sector which might easily bring into the private sector new orders, which is what it wants at the present time. To attempt to set a target over the whole range of Commonwealth departments is wrong, as the unions have already told the Prime Minister.
I return to the unemployment figures. I suppose that I should remind honourable senators what it is like to be out of work. Those who listened to Senator Colston tonight will have a very good idea of what it is like. He told a personal story- a very human and genuine story- about the difficulties that he, a highly trained person, had in getting employment and the indignities that he suffered under the old system of going to the Commonwealth Employment Service and sometimes being confronted by public servants who, because of the amount of work they had to do, were not as considerate as they might have been. He told the story about his child wanting to go to the toilet. I compliment Senator Colston on his very human story. The new guidelines- the new work tests- can force a boy living in a country area to shift to a city. A professional man can be denied unemployment benefits if he does not accept a menial job. When we are discussing them we ought to think about what Senator Colston talked about.
Following the report in February of an improvement in the unemployment situation and a drop in the number of vacancies, which I have mentioned, Mr Street was asked to comment on the situation. An article in the Age of 6 March 1976 states:
He said it appeared a significant number of school leavers had found employment, although many had also returned to full time studies. He said the reduction in the number on the dole was due to a combination of factors including the absorption of school leavers into the work force and the stricter guidelines formulated by the Government for paying unemployment benefits.
To reduce the number of people on the dole we will have a work test which makes it much more difficult for people to get the unemployment benefit. As everybody ought to know, of course, the result of the combination of these new measures will be more people out of work in the Public Service- generally public servants are a highly qualified group of people- and school leavers who ought to be trained in apprenticeships will not be given unemployment benefits.
As I mentioned this afternoon in a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, over the years, and including the reign of the previous Liberal Government and of my Government, many incentives were provided for employees. This was done more recently by the Labor Government when we bumped up incentives to make sure that every employer had good reason to take on young people to train in the trades, to train as cadet engineers and so on. We had been doing that and most of the State governments had been doing that. While the Government is providing financial incentives to employers it has decided to set staff ceilings throughout the whole of the Commonwealth Government and the statutory commissions, some of which are independent, because it will save $20m. The Government will create conditions which no doubt will result in some people being sacked. I suppose I should mention here something which was written in the National Times of 9 February 1976 about the problems of a young school leaver. The young person was looking for a job and she is mentioned in the article in these terms:
To go on the dole before you turn 16 you must have worked in at least one job, which Shirley -
That is the girl the article is about- has not. If she could get a job, she could then get the dolebut if she had the job, she would not need the dole.
She says the easiest thing to do would be to go back to school. The article then refers to a number of figures which ought to be quoted. I mentioned today in a question the drop in the number of apprentices in training. When we were in Government we asked all Government departments to take on more apprentices, not only to take on the prescribed number of journeymen, but also to take on more than their quota. In one year and adequate number of apprentices was being trained. The article in the National Times of 9 February to which I have referred continues:
In New South Wales this year, there will only be 12 000 new apprentices taken on- 1000 less than the previous year, and 2500 less than in 1973. Of course, the problem of unemployment isn’t confined to would-be apprentices. The building, metal and electrical trades provide three-quarters of all apprenticeships. In those industries alone there are already more than 35 000 skilled people unemployed in Australia. This includes 7622 apprentices who have finished their training.
The article then refers to the efforts being made to recruit new apprentices. Let us look at the situation in regard to plumbing, which is a very important, skilled and highly paid trade. In New South Wales over 3 years the intake of plumbing apprentices into the technical schools has dropped from 1300 in 1973 to 600 today. Of course that is the position generally. What I am saying is that rather than the Government inflict these very stringent conditions of staff ceilings on the Public Service, it should be doing the relatively important work of providing financial incentives- the same as the Labor Government did with financial incentives- to make sure that if young people cannot get ready employment they certainly can be trained in jobs which will in the future be very important for the work force. While it is true that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has made various statements about a cheaper bureaucracy, what in fact is happening today is that the Federal Government is investing in the Commonwealth Employment Service officers vast new powers, which they should not have, to decide how to judge the eligibility of a person to receive unemployment benefits.
– What is wrong with honest work?
– The honourable senator ought to know. She has heard Senator Colston tonight telling the Senate about the very difficult times a person out of work would experience. Fortunately I have never been out of work. I have been very fortunate. I came into the railways following the Depression years, but I know the fate of the people who were out of work then and who are out of work today. The Government is doing something worse than was done to those people on the dole in the 1929-32 period when they got at least a ticket for four and tenpence to buy foodstuffs to live on. Honourable senators opposite talk about decentralisation and helping the country people. They will force the young person to leave his country home and go to the city. Of course what they are doing -
– Come off it senator. You created the unemployment and now you are complaining. You did not have the competence to manage the government yourself and now you are complaining.
-Senator, what will you do about the ceilings I have referred to?
– You certainly did not have a breath of what to do when you were in government.
- Senator, what about the cuts that have been made in your Department? How many people will you retrench, or are you going to hold them? What do you propose to do in your portfolio? What about the skilled people?
– We will do a lot better than you ever did in government. How many did you lose work for when you were in government?
– The matter does not rest on whether we might have done enough. The Government has been in office now nearly 3 months and it was going to do all these things to correct the economy and to stop unemployment. As everybody knows, not only is it creating new unemployment- and the honourable senator knows that is a fact; it is on record- but also the work test will be so difficult that the Government will create within the Australian community a new group of displaced professional workers, semi-skilled workers and unskilled workers who will highly resent what the Government is doing and certainly will take very strong measures in the future, despite what might be done electorally.
My effort tonight is mainly to ask the Government to reconsider the argument put to it by staff associations in February and early March of this year when they requested that no sackings be made in reaching these ceilings to which I have referred. That would be a very constructive aim. I suggest that so far in answering questions neither the Prime Minister nor the Leader of the Government in this place (Senator Withers) has agreed to the request. It is a very urgent problem. I hope that as a result of the union representations, my own statements and other comments made today in the Senate, reconsideration will be given to this matter by the Government.
-Last night Senator McLaren spoke on several medical topics. Senator Baume dealt with Senator McLaren’s knowledge or lack of knowledge of pathology and the fact that the information that is obtained from some pathological examinations is not always very useful. Senator McLaren also spoke briefly upon the decision of the Government to sell the Fawnmac group of companies. He seemed to think that by retaining the Fawnmac group the Government would be able to ensure that medicine prices came down or at least would stay at their present level. I find that very difficult to believe. Perhaps before we look at the proposal to set up a government-run drug manufacturing industry we should look at some of the present commissions that are run by the Government. For instance I do not believe that if we examined the operations of TransAustralia Airlines we would be able to show that they were very profitable. That airline certainly is not run as profitably as the privately controlled airline. The 30th report of TAA shows that the dividend paid to the Government fell from $1.5m at June 1973 to $100,000 at June 1974 and then lifted to $ 1.25m at June 1975. The report also shows that in spite of a very large increase in turnover of about one-quarter, obtained mainly by massive fare increases, the wages bill increased by about one-third, so staff numbers did not increase; in fact they decreased. Yet if one continues to look at this report one sees that TAA contributed only that $ 1.25m by way of a dividend to the Government, which is a very low and unreal level of dividend from such a concern. Perhaps that example shows better than anything that government-run industries, whether they be under ministerial control or operating as commissions, are just not as efficient as privately-run concerns. Therefore I agree with the assertion of the Minister for Health, Mr Hunt, that at the present time there is no reason for the continuation of government ownership of Fawnmac and that greater benefits will accrue to the country by returning the group to private enterprise. I believe that private enterprise- free competition- is the only area of the economy that can rescue this country from the economicmess created by the Labor Government. It has been shown in other countries that privately-run companies are more efficient than government organisations, because whenever governments interfere profitability and jobs seem to disappear. I hope that when the Government does get around to selling Fawnmac- I hope that that happens fairly soon- it does all it can to see that at least the bulk of the ownership remains in the hands of Australian citizens.
I want to say a little about the way in which the ex-Prime Minister has done all he can to downgrade the office of the Governor-General. I believe that what the ex-Prime Minister has been doing is counter-productive and that it does the Labor Party a lot of damage. Of course Labor does not really have much else to talk about. All the troubles that we have in Australia at this time are of Labor’s making. We have inflation; the cost of living went up over 50 per cent while Labor was in power; in other words the dollar of a year or two ago is now worth only 60c to 65c. So Labor does not want to talk about that.
While Labor was in power unemployment went up and up until last year we saw a situation of which even some of the socialists who sit opposite were plainly ashamed. It is a situation which I agree will take a long time to repair, but the Labor Party does not want to talk about that either. Then there was the Labor tax rip-off. Pay as you earn tax leapt some 90-odd per cent during the last 2 years of Labor administration even though wages did not increase at anything like that rate. In company tax the take from companies was some extra 60 per cent, and this was at a time when companies were having trouble staying afloat. They were having to put people off yet the then Government continued to take this money from them. So it is obvious that Mr Whitlam cannot spend much of his time talking about those things.
We only have to look at what happened to air fares. While Labor was in power the cost of travel to and from Tasmania just about doubled, and air travel is now just about out of the reach of the ordinary people who want to travel backwards and forwards to this larger island for one reason or another. This was due mainly to increases of wages and of things like fuel tax and landing charges- I believe they are called air charges in the report- which just about doubled for the domestic airlines under Labor. So Mr Whitlam does not want us or his colleagues to talk about these things. He simply has set on a track to attack the Governor-General who, he knows, cannot easily defend himself. Never let it be forgotten who appointed the GovernorGeneral. Mr Whitlam did. He had the choice; he chose Sir John Kerr. (Quorum formed) I notice that hardly any of the Labor Party senators came into the chamber after Senator Georges’ call for a quorum.
– You are supposed to keep the House.
– I admit that it is not for the honourable senator to keep the House. Before Senator Georges called for the quorum I was saying that the Labor Party keeps attacking the Governor-General because I do not think that Mr Whitlam has anything to talk about considering the troubles and the economic mess in which he has left this country. I mentioned inflation, unemployment, the cost of air fares, the Labor tax rip-off and things of that kind. I was going on to say that we have to remember that it was Mr Whitlam who chose Sir John Kerr. When Sir John did what he had to do to protect this country from an attempt to set up a dictatorship, which I believe was what Mr Whitlam wanted, Mr Whitlam started to attack and has continued to attack the Governor-General.
– Oh, rubbish! Why do you not join the National Party? That is the rubbish they pump out.
– I do not believe that the people of Australia- the people who put us here- can be fooled. They worked out whom they wanted in government on December 13, and they ratified the action of Sir John Kerr at that time. It appears that we now have the situation that Mr. Whitlam just cannot take it. Either he cannot take it or there could be one other explanation, and that is the explanation that I find is being mentioned increasingly as I go around this country. It is that this matter has become an obsession with him. I would never be one to say that any member of a particular House, either this one or the other, has gone round the bend, but what is being said increasingly in this country is that Mr Whitlam has gone around the political bend. He has become quite paranoiac about his being sacked by the Governor-General.
– Do you believe that? Are you saying it?
– I said that I would never be one to say it, but if I were to say it I would certainly not be the first to do so. We have to remember always that Mr Whitlam chose Sir John. I hope that one of these days he sees the light and settles down again to acting like a rational person; lately it has appeared that he will never do that again. I mention one other matter briefly before I close- the suggestion that has been floated lately that we should allow advertising on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I think that would be quite disastrous, and personally I would rather see the ABC disbanded than see advertisements being allowed in its broadcasting and television. In places like Hobart and Launceston television companies have been able to maintain a fairly stable profit by keeping down their numbers of staff over the last 2 years. If the ABC were allowed to carry advertising we would find the ABC was competing with those private stations for the advertising dollars. Without a doubt, it would send those private stations broke. I believe that that is exactly what the Labor Party wanted and what it eventually might have obtained had it been returned to power in the last general election.
– Who wants to listen to Vincent’s APC powders and drivel like that? You are a lackey of the drug companies.
-After hearing the honourable senator interject like that, I am going to take some Vincent’s just as soon as I sit down. Let us be quite clear: I do not believe that the
Liberal Party should consider for one moment allowing the ABC to carry advertisements. It would certainly be to the detriment of television in cities such as Launceston and Hobart and no doubt in other areas of Australia. I believe that a great number of people who regularly watch the ABC, perhaps to avoid the advertisements to which Senator Mulvihill referred, would oppose the ABC carrying advertisements.
-Mr Deputy President, last night in this chamber Senator Bonner who sits on the Government benches referred to the proposed mining venture at Aurukun on Cape York Peninsula. I wish to make some further points regarding this venture while there is an opportunity to do so during the first reading debate on this Bill.
On 1 December 1975, during the currency of the election campaign, Mr Bob Ellicott, who was then the Liberal-National Country Party spokesman on Aboriginal affairs and who is now the Australian Attorney-General, sent a telegram which was widely distributed throughout Australia. I will have more to say about it in a later debate. In the telegram he said:
Aboriginal land rights. Will grant land rights over all Aboriginal reserves in Northern Territory. Will help Aborigines to buy land off reserves. Land rights legislation to have top priority immediately after election. All aboriginal councils and other interested bodies and persons to be consulted on land rights Bill. Want local Aboriginal land owners to control use and development of their lands and to decide who should be permitted to enter whether Aborigine or non Aborigine. Prospecting and mining to reflect views of local Aboriginal land owners. Protection for all sacred sites. Mining royalties from Aboriginal land to go to Aboriginal people and fair share to local Aboriginal land owners.
Bearing that in mind, and being aware of the fact that the Queensland Government has sent its Ombudsman to Aurukun to investigate the rights of the Aborigines there, this afternoon I sent this letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser):
As you are probably aware I have been consistently opposing the attitude of the Queensland Government in relation to the development of bauxite deposits on the Aurukun Aboriginal reserve in Northern Queensland. .
Opposition has also come from many other quarters but the Premier and his Government appear to be adamant that the development will proceed at the appropriate time and that there be no change to the State legislation.
I, therefore, respectfully suggest that you look at the possibility of having the whole project examined publicly, including the activities of the Queensland Government in respect to this project, by way of a Royal Commission or a Senate Select Committee.
In spite of all protestations by the Premier (the Honourable J. Bjelke-Petersen, MLA) there has not been continual consultation between Aboriginals and the Government over the past seven years and though the Premier has said only one or two’ sacred sites will be destroyed- it is possible that as many as six or seven sites of significance will be destroyed.
There is grave doubt as to whether any of the companies associated with the dev.- loping consortium have any Australian capital at all.
If an inquiry, as suggested, is set up it would, therefore, he necessary to set out wide terms of reference, investigating the claims of the Government and of the Aboriginals and examining also the financial structure of the consortium.
I am not casting reflections on the Ombudsman, but I am casting reflections on the integrity of the Queensland Government in relation to this venture.
I wish briefly to state two or three facts for the historical record. Aurukun is situated on the Cape York Peninsula, 50 kilometres south of Weipa and 20 kilometres from the coast. The authority to prospect- the permit number is 493M- has an area of 2150 square kilometres and is in the Aurukun Aboriginal Reserve. It was acquired originally in 1968 by the Tipperary Corporation. When this was done it was done very quietly. There were statements that the Queensland Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement Department knew nothing about it, and the Aborigines living on the Aurukun Reserve certainly knew nothing about it. The joint venturers, the Aurukun Associates, and their shareholdings are: Tipperary Corporation, 40 per cent; Billiton Aluminium Australia, 40 per cent; and Aluminium Pechiney Holdings Pty Ltd, 20 per cent. I will go into more detail about the shareholders in a moment. According to the agreement, it is hoped that at some date Australian capital will be attracted to invest in the project.
By world standards, the bauxite finding is a major reserve. The 3-year close grid drilling program established proven reserves of several hundred million tonnes of high grade bauxite. This is about the same magnitude as the Gove and Darling Ranges reserves, but less than that of Weipa which is one of the world ‘s major single deposits. As I have mentioned Weipa at this point, I think that Australia ought to take a warning from the fact that, in spite of all sorts of watertight agreements in relation to the development of the Weipa bauxite field, the Aborigines lost out all the way. They lost most of their reserve, they lost a lot of their culture and they have never received the compensation that they were promised. The development of the Aurukun field will mean a large open-cut bauxite mining operation. The quality of the Aurukun bauxite is very high. The project provides that at a later date an alumina refinery with a minimum annual capacity of 600 00Q tonnes will be established either in the Aurukun area or elsewhere in Queensland.
The franchise agreement provides for construction of a town, either on the lease or adjacent to it. Many hundreds of thousands of Australian Government dollars already have been spent on developing this area, but of course neither the mission nor the Aborigines were told that at a later date the school and other developments on the reserve may be needed for a mining town. The prospecting rights were granted on 31 December 1971, although the original agreement was made in 1 968. In December 1 975 a Bill was passed making certain provisions for the development of the Aurukun field. There are a number of clauses in this agreement which I wish to quote and challenge later in the debate. I think we should remember, too, that Australia has 30 per cent of the world’s known reserves of bauxite. We provide more than 21 per cent of the world’s supply of bauxite. It has been stated that 5 per cent of the profits from the Aurukun venture are to be given to the Aboriginal people of Queensland through the Queensland Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement Department. In other words, by the time that this money filters back to the Aurukun people, they will get very little of it.
I am familiar with the reserve itself. The sacred areas are spread over an extensive area of land. Honourable senators will know from the figures that I quoted regarding the size of the lease that a very large proportion of the Aurukun reserve will in fact become part of the mining lease. The story is being told that barrages will be erected on the local river so that if the Aborigines are not prepared to move out of the lower portion of their village they will be flooded out. The agreement is known as the Aurukun Associates Agreement. I wish to read two or three pertinent paragraphs directly from the Agreement. I have quoted already the holdings of the 3 companies involved and the composition of their shareholdings. The Agreement provides:
That neither they nor any of their agents -
That is, the people associated with the Agreement- employees or contractors will commit any act or adopt any practice which is contrary to or disrespectful of a tribe, tribal law, custom or religion so far as the same is known or revealed to the companies or is otherwise sacrilegious or offensive to any tribe, the Aboriginal Council or the Director.
The Director has already said, either directly or through the Premier, that there are only one or two sacred sites there. Quite frankly, neither would know. The agreement says that the companies are:
To employ employable Aborigines in positions and occupations which they are capable of filling and to seek the advice and assistance of the Mission and the Council in the selection of such employees and the allocation of such duties.
The Agreement provides that the companies are:
Not to disturb natural millable timber without the prior approval of the Director and the Conservator of Forests.
To conduct their operations upon the Reserves so as to cause as little inconvenience as practicable to the Aborigines.
You will notice, Mr Deputy President, that both of these clauses are open-ended. Who is to decide what class of timber will be classified as millable? If it is an open-cut operation, obviously large areas of trees will be destroyed anyway. The Agreement says that the companies are:
To give the Director and the Aboriginal Mission 6 months notice in writing of those areas within the Special Bauxite Mining Lease required or about to be required for the companies use in connection with the Franchise Agreement.
It goes on to say that the companies are:
Not to bring any alcoholic beverages onto the Reserve without the consent of the Director.
The companies are:
To prohibit the hunting of game on the Reserve by their employees, agents and contractors except in the case of an emergency without the prior consent of the Aboriginal Council.
I think we are fairly well aware that in the Yirrkala area, on the Gove Peninsula and in the Weipa area game hunting is a week-end sport. The Agreement provides also that the companies are:
Not to damage any Leichhardt pines or other good stands of timber used by the Aborigines as a source of lumber.
All of these provisions are, of course, so much hogwash so far as the Queensland Government and the company are concerned. Mining companies have a record of destruction wherever they develop. There are very, very rare exceptions to that rule. The Agreement provides further:
The companies have the right to export the following quantities of beneficiated bauxite-
The Agreement goes on to set out the amounts which may be exported each year. I have greater detail in some other figures that I have taken out, and I will mention those in a moment.
I turn again to the timber stands. This is a further part of the Agreement with the State. The provision is:
The companies have the right without payment of any royalty to the State to timber (subject to the consent of the Director and of the Conservator of Forests) stone, clay, gravel and other aggregate materials and to use such materials in the companies’ operations.
The Agreement provides also:
They also have a right to draw water from the sea and estuaries and to win and use any salt and other materials as may be contained therein for the production of alumina, aluminium and associated products and for other purposes connected with their operations.
I turn quickly to a summary of the companies involved. Before I read the summary, I remind the Senate that the adoption of the word ‘Aurukun’ as a description of the mining company was objected to by the Aurukun people. But the Aukurun people were told that they had no right to use the word ‘Aurukun’; the mining company had sole rights to the name. The summary states that when the international Dutch, French, United States consortium, Aurukun Associates, which is composed of Tipperary Land Corporation, Billiton Aluminium B. V. and Aluminium Pechiney Holdings Pty Ltd, first went to the Aurukun Reserve to prospect in 1968 it appears that there may have been some negotiations with the company although there is no real evidence to indicate that at any time were there ever any negotiations with the Aboriginal people in the form that is acceptable to them and that is acceptable to everybody else. The joint venture does not conform to the Australian Government minerals policy which is on record as stating that it will accept Australian equity capital up to 50 per cent. I believe that in my submission to the Prime Minister this has been pointed out quite clearly. No attempt has been made to obtain Australian capital. In the event of the relinquishing of the land, the provisions do not conform with the demands of the Aborigines, that is, that those areas should not be developed where certain relinquishments have to be made annually, but more so with the Queensland Department of Mines regulations. This is that one-third of the leases must be surrendered each year where the development does not take place.
As I asked a moment ago: How do we discern between millable and unmillable timber? What will happen to millable stands of timber which overlie the bauxite fields? My view is that it will be totally destroyed. Water is to be taken from the Reserve. No figure has been set in this respect. So, one can assume that each year large quantities of sea water will be used as required. Incidentally, the company has the right to spill its refuse into the sea. If one notes the activities of some of the other mining ventures in Queensland, pollution is of secondary consideration to the Queensland Government. When Aboriginal people live in the area involved, the State Government does not consider that aspect at all. The companies are entitled to take from the artesian basin 10 million cubic metres of water a year and 7.4 million cubic metres of the shallow ground water. The companies are allowed to direct and dam 62 million cubic metres per annum. One wonders what effect this will have on the eco-system within the area, lt is possible that these activities could change the whole area.
The companies have a 42-year lease and an option for a further 2 1 years, a total of 63 years. By that time, no doubt, their hope is that they will either have driven every Aboriginal off the Reserve or the Aborigines will have died of broken hearts. It is estimated that the size of the deposit is 600 million tonnes. The companies must mine at least 10 million tonnes a year. This does not tally with the proposed export figures. So, again the Australian Government has a moral responsibility as well as a legal responsibility to investigate what sort of hokey-pokey is going on between the consortium and the Queensland Government.
The incidental costs- land rental, etc- for the first 5 years is at the rate of $3 per square kilometre. The charge is $6 per square kilometre for the next 10 years. Thereafter the charge is not less than $12 or more than $20 per square kilometre for the life of the undertaking. The proposed expenditure ranges from $lm in the first year of the commencement of mining operations to $ 1.25m in the second and third years of operations, $1.5m in the fourth to eighth years inclusive, $3m in the ninth to eleventh years inclusive and $5m in the twelfth year and each succeeding year, for three years. Those figures, sir, have not been exposed to date, I believe. I particularly want them on the record.
Let us look at the make-up of the companies involved because it is rather strange. The Billiton International Metals organisation is a subsidiary of the Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum Company, which incidentally is a collection of many companies. This company in turn is composed of Shell Transport and Trade, 40 per cent, and there is no record of this company that can bc found which sets out these details in clearer terms. A Dutch company holds 60 per cent. Aluminium Pechiney Holding Pty Ltd is owned and operated by Pechiney (Australia) Exploration Pty Ltd which in turn is owned and operated by Pechiney-Ugnine-Kuhlmann, which is operated by a group of 4 companies which are all associated. Let me mention the names of those French companies. They are Financiere de Suez, Alsacienne de participations Industrelles, Lille Bonnieres et Colombs, and Auxillarie de Placements Industriels et Commerciaux. The last 2 companies are closely associated and the latter company is controlled by Francaise de Raffinage and Fransaise d Petrols. The last company is a State controlled company. Incidentally, the last 2 companies I mentioned are also closely interrelated. It is impossible to obtain any readily available data about the Tipperary Land Exploration Corporation. One does not know how this company is made up. It is possible that it is a large group of companies trading for the express purpose of developing this area. There have been many protests. I received a protest from the International Development Action Students group on 1 December 1975. It clearly indicates the feeling of many people in Australia. It stated:
Queensland Government taking advantage of the political crisis to pass legislation this week giving mining lease and refinery at Aurukun to wholly foreign owned bauxite consortium. . . .
It goes on to mention three companies. It states further:
No consultation with Aboriginal people their representative or Presbyterian Church. Development clearly not in the interest of Aborigines against Australian equity in mining ventures and clear indication of opportunism by consortium and State Government.
Early in the piece a number of people associated in trying to preserve the rights of the Aboriginals. The Queensland Government says that it has, in fact, been in close consultation with the people right from the start. Mr Hewitt, the then Minister for Conservation, Marine and Aboriginal Affairs, on 26 January 1972, wrote to Reverend Jim Sweet and said:
I write further to your letter of 6 September and pursuant to subsequent discussions relative to the Tipperary Land Exploration Corporation and negotiations with regard to the Aurukun Reserve.
I can now advise that the Premier has indicated to the solicitors of the consortium who have assumed negotiations with regard to the development of the bauxite deposits embracing the Aurukun Reserve, that the Government requires the negotiation of a firm agreement by representatives of the companies with representatives of the Aurukun Aborigines and the Presbyterian Church of Queensland regarding the payment by the companies, in addition to royalties, of an amount to be credited to the Aborigines Welfare Fund. As Trustee of the Reserve the Director of Aboriginal and Island Affairs will, of course, require to be present at such discussions.
No response is yet to hand from the solicitors.
I refer to a couple of other points for the record. The Tipperary Corporation pushed a road right through the reserve. There was no consultation with the people. Lacking the approval of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs, the Corporation was forced to withdraw. This is the point I make in relation to the 1968 operation. I mention also that the Aboriginal people said that they did not want to lose the right to their name as the Weipa people had lost the right to their name. The consortium stated that it had the right to the name and, in fact, had registered it. The people were left without even the right to the original name for the reserve. In 1973 the Aboriginal council at Aurukun, which had 3 elected members and 2 members appointed by the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs, asked Mr Frank Purcell, a Melbourne lawyer, to act for them in their efforts to get land rights. In 1975 they asked him to act for them in the negotiation of mineral rights. Mr Purcell is well known as an activist in the legal field for many Aboriginal tribes. He was a Liberal Party candidate in the 1975 election, after the double dissolution of Parliament. He has been described by the Premier of Queensland as a communist.
– As a what?
– As a communist. No negotiations or consultations have taken place between the consortium and the legal representatives of the people. Richard Kelinda, Chairman of the Community Council, wrote to Mr Barrie Dexter, the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs on 26 February 1973 as follows:
I wish to advise you that on the 26th ultimo, the Community Council requested the Superintendent to forward the following telegram to Mr Frank Purcell, Lawyer of Werribee Victoria.
Aurukun community requests you to advise and represent them re negotiations arising soon February between Government Department and HA Bauxite Mining Company. If at all possible imperative you visit Aurukun for consultation with Aboriginal leaders week of 19th January. HA Bauxite Authority to Prospect contains an estimated 300 million tons of bauxite. For further reference contact Rev. Brown Superintendent Board of Missions phone 292748 Sydney. Require urgent reply. ‘
Mr Purcell has accepted the appointment as our legal advisor and visited Aurukun on the 10th February for two days.
A number of other items of correspondence no doubt will be used in subsequent debates in this chamber and in other Houses of Parliament in this country.
I have endeavoured to set out the facts on behalf of the Aurukun people as have other honourable senators in this chamber and honourable members in the House of Representatives. Representations on behalf of the Aurukun people have been made in the latter stages of the Parliament last year and also since Parliament has assembled this year. The land rights legislation which the Labor Government tried to establish before Parliament was prorogued in 1975 would have given the people of the Northern Territory the right to own those areas in which there were some tribal ties. The Queensland Government has consistently opposed this proposal. In fact, not many months ago the Queensland Parliament passed special legislation which incorporated all the islands off the Queensland coast, including the Torres Strait Island, Mornington Island and Palm Island on which there are Aboriginal reserves in an endeavour to block the then Australian Government from ever obtaining that land to give to the Aboriginal people.
I understand that at a later stage this year- if one can believe the rumours emanating from the State National Country Party circles- the two Acts that currently suppress the Aboriginals and Islanders of Queensland will probably be abolished and all of the reserves thrown open for white settlement. This is a shocking state of affairs. It is impossible to obtain documentation of this matter but strong rumours have come from the National Country Party camp associated with the Government of Queensland. If these rumours are true, it will be a national scandal for Australia. God only knows we want the abolition of these 2 Acts, and the sooner the better. The Aboriginal people have a right to those things that have been theirs traditionally for 30 000 or 40 000 years. I sincerely hope that this Government stands up to its responsibility and gives the Aboriginal people that which is theirs. If they were white people, there would be an uproar. The Government would be up in arms in an effort to protect them but because the Aborigines are an indigenous minority group- they have suffered 200 years of government dominated by people of European descent- this is their final call. I hope that this Government heeds their call.
– I take this opportunity of discussing the confrontation that exists between the Third World and the First World because during recent months it has shown a marked change and an important change so far as the rest of the world is concerned. A new phase has opened. I should like to take a look at the origin of the confrontation, its nature and the way it has developed. As recently as 1968 the American Ambassador to the United Nations published that he felt the political and economic idiosyncrasies of the Third World should not be treated as though they would have a marked impact on the balance of world power. In the event, they have been treated just so.
Those idiosyncrasies, now, have turned into a monstrous burlesque. For example, last October President Idi Amin of Uganda attended the United Nations as Head of the Organisation of African Unity. The United Nations is a global organisation designed to promote world peace and international discourse. Idi Amin was accepted there, despite a 63-page report from the International Commission of Jurists detailing his reign of terror in Uganda, his repeated violation of human rights, his expulsion of 50 000 Indians and the mass murder of more than 100 000 of his citizens.
Idi Amin heads the Organisation of African Unity which is a group of some 3 dozen nations comprising by far the greatest proportion of the less developed nations. Idi Amin left his less developed nation in his own private jet and went to New York. He was preceded by a group of Ugandan dancers and bongo drummers. He also sent ahead a herd of goats to add an exotic flavour to his reception at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The Americans, with an odd sense of discrimination, refused entry to the goats. Idi Amin sat on the floor of the General Assembly of the United Nations, to one side. He was wearing his self-appointed Field Marshall’s uniform and his self-awarded Victoria Cross. His speech, which lasted 90 minutes, was read by his Ambassador. It was a tirade repeatedly attacking Great Britain and calling for the extinction of Israel. It was so bad that the Ambassadors of both those countries left the Assembly.
These events would not have caused much note except that this time the West reacted and the United States Ambassador, Mr Moynihan, got up and defended the stand of the West. He said that in future spokesmen for the West would have to be feared more for the truths they would tell. The United Nations consists of 142 member nations. Of this number only 24 are democracies. By far the greatest number of nations are either totalitarian states- communist or socialist- or ancient or modern dictatorships. I should not say dictatorships; I should describe them as despotisms. I fear it is no accident that Idi Amin is the President of the Organisation of African Unity. The First World consists of the industrialised developed West. The Second World is the Soviet bloc. The Third World consists of the less developed nations. The Chinese, for ideological rather than economic reasons, want to lead the Third World of less developed nations. The pitiful circumstances of some of the Third World citizens cannot be denied.
In 1960 the United Nations started its first decade of development. The idea was to lift the gross national product of these countries to 5 per cent a year. By 1970 the decade of development had not even got off the ground so the United Nations started another decade of development. By 1975 this plan had not got so far as lifting these countries even 3 per cent a year. Meanwhile, their populations have continued to rocket. Inflation and, recently, runaway fuel prices have compounded their problem. These United Nations programs have failed to meet the crisis in these nations much as similar programs in both Russia and China have failed. I think this demonstrates the futility of introducing legislation to try to fix these problems. Also, it shows the dangers of interference by governments in the economies of countries.
There are 4 billion people on this earth. Half of them- that is 2 billion- live on incomes of less that $200 a year. Of this poorer 2 billion people, hundreds of millions live in situations which are incomparably worse off as they are on incomes of less than $75 a year. These are the absolute poor of the world. They live in an atmosphere of hunger, want and hopelessness which is beyond any rational form of human dignity. Their plight is manifest. It is natural that their leaders should want to come together to improve their lot. The course which their leaders have taken over the years has gone from one of irrationality to what is now a tragic farce. I shall give honourable senators some recent examples. In 1972 the United Nations called a conference on the human environment. It was held at Stockholm. The United States and its co-sponsors thought that this was a field for fertile co-operation between the nations. But immediately that conference opened it was turned into a bitter political conflict. The Brazilians claimed that the conference was a conspiracy of the haves against the have nots. They said that the rich nations got rich by polluting their environments and that the conference was a plot to prevent the poor from trying to get rich by stopping them polluting their environments. They said that the conference was a plot to perpetrate the monopoly of the rich and that all the First World wanted was to exploit the poor nations, not help them.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India squealed: ‘Are not poverty and need the greatest polluters?’ Yet shortly she was to turn her country into a naked despotism. She also stated that ecology and the problems of ecology were distracting India from the problems of the war and poverty. At this environmental conference apartheid was brought in. The discussion was elevated above garbage disposal and the problems of indisposible industrial waste to the rarified atmosphere of political ethics. That conference declared as its first principle that man had the fundamental right to freedom, to equality and to adequate conditions of life in an environment of quality, permitting a life of dignity and well being with a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations. It went on to state:
In this respect policies promoting or perpetuating apartheid, racial segregation, discrimination, colonial and other forms of oppression and foreign domination stand condemned and must be eliminated.
That conference ended in 1974. The United Nations convened the World Population Conference in Bucharest. This was occasioned because of the rocketing populations of these countries. China had a population of 800 million. Over some years it had started family planning which was having some degree of success. India, with a population of 550 million, was in a much more acute position because it is only one-third the size of China. The conference was regarded as a substantial advance. Ground rules and a plan of action had been worked out. The idea was to reduce the population growth in less developed countries from 34 per thousand a year to 30 per thousand a year. This seemed moderate and reasonable enough. But it was not for the less developed countries and the communists. President Ceausescu of Romania opened the conference and declared that the division of the world into developed and under-developed nations was a result of historical evolution and was a direct consequence of capitalist, imperialist and neo-colonialist policies of exploitation of many peoples. He called for a new economic order and rejected a pessimistic outlook on population growth. The Indian representative denounced the colonial denudation of the East and the vulgar affluence of the West. The Chinese saw population control as fundamentally subversive to the Third World and stated:
The bright future of the Third World could only be spoilt by the Imperialists-
That is the West- and the Hegemonists-
That is the Soviets. The Chinese representative declared that population control was their wrecking device. The upshot of the whole conference was that the Third World demanded that economic development in the West should cease and that the wealth of the world should bc redistributed.
Education in the Australian Capital Territory- Ministerial Press Releases
– Order! In conformity with the Standing Order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to take this opportunity to speak briefly about a subject that is very important to the Australian Capital Territory and that is education. Education is important in any community. In the Australian Capital Territory, because of the structure of the population and the number of young families here, it is a matter of particular importance and one which has faced some problems recently. I think it is well known that Canberra and its surrounding ‘new towns’ constitute Australia’s most significant growth centre. In the last couple of years that very growth has given rise to some problems in planning and these have affected education especially. The new Government has had to face up to some unusual and very complex problems in this area.
I would like to refer particularly to the announcement made yesterday by the National Capital Development Commission that projects amounting in value to $50m will be commenced between now and the end of June this year. Despite the very serious economic problems which the present Government faces, this decision has been made particularly because of the need to build a number of new schools in the Australian Capital Territory.
The statement by the Government yesterday announcing works to be carried out by the National Capital Development Commission includes several important projects relating to education in the Australian Capital Territory. Let me mention just a few of them. The Belconnen Technical College will proceed, the Melba College will proceed, the Holt Primary School extensions which are very urgently needed will proceed, the Kaleen High School will be built and the Spence Primary School and the Spence Pre-School will be proceeded with. All of these will be commenced before the end of June.
On this matter I would like to take the opportunity to commend the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) for the energy that he has shown, his decisiveness in approaching this problem in the Australian Capital Territory and his understanding of it.
– They were all planned by the Labor Government.
-That is where the problems came from. I would like especially to acknowledge the sympathy with which the Minister has approached this critical problem of education in the Australian Capital Territory. But I know that he is very well aware that as these buildings go ahead there are still other problems in front of us in the field of education. These range from such matters as outdoor recreation facilities at Telopea Park High School to the Interim Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority. I am confident that his decisions in these areas will be as significant to the Australian Capital Territory as are the decisions announced yesterday with respect to the work of the National Capital Development Commission.
– I rise to follow my colleague Senator Knight who commented on the decision to allocate $50m for educational buildings in the outer Belconnen area of the Australian Capital Territory. It is true that we have had a reprieve by the making available of $50m for these essential buildings. I will certainly not express anything other than satisfaction that this has come about. As Senator Knight has seen fit to draw the attention of the chamber to the problems surrounding education in the Territory, I think we should see this reprieve of $50m in its full context. After the change of Government we had a complete stoppage of all building programs, including those to do with education, in the Territory. This meant that hundreds and hundreds of children and young students in outer Belconnen who would have been ready the next year for schools ranging from pre-schools to technical schools would have had no accommodation.
Although I express satisfaction that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) saw fit to visit this area and recommend this minimal funding, there was really no other decision he could have taken, I suggest, because otherwise children from pre-school age to technical school agc would have been sitting in the gutters or waiting at home because they had nowhere to go to school. I admit that this action is satisfactory but I think that this stop-go policy of the Government on this matter does not inspire confidence in those concerned with education in the Territorythe planners, the teachers, the students, the parents and the administrators.
A number of other outstanding matters are of great moment to the community concerned with education in the Territory. I refer particularly to the ordinance which would give legal authority to the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority. Until now we have had only an Interim Authority. This has meant that administration of schools, provision of school supplies, maintenance of schools, extension of school facilities such as the sports facilities for Telopea Park High School referred to by Senator Knight, have been in a very ambiguous state. The needs have been very definitely established. The provision for the needs has not yet been forthcoming. I am happy to say that the Minister has found time to meet a deputation of parents who are concerned about the problems of maintenance. Some of the problems are quite severe and involve danger to small children. We were very happy that the Minister met us. Nevertheless the outstanding problems with the provision of school supplies, text books, libraries and so on will not be solved until the ordinance setting up the Schools Authority in the Territory is passed. I hope that the Minister by now has had time to examine this ordinance. It has been with us for a long time. It was debated at considerable length over some months in the Legislative Assembly and was passed with the support of all political Parties and the independents. Despite this, because of the problems last November with the change of government, there has been no progress.
Some of the administrative procedures still rely on New South Wales procedures. Some are still controlled directly by the Department of Education. Having studied with some interest the federalist policies of the Government, it would seem to me that the Government would not be anxious to preserve an area in which there is centralist control of education. I hope that, in keeping with the Government’s stated policy on federalism, the Territory might have something of the status of the States and have the formal powers to run its own schools. Until that happens we will have tremendous wastage of time, talent and resources. We will have school supplies not turning up for a term or two. We will have maintenance problems untreated for more than a year because nobody has authority to fix a broken window. We will have decisions on remedial teachers, and teachers of English as a second language, taken far too late and inefficiently because they cannot be taken at the school level or at the Authority level where the knowledge of the situation is.
Although we welcome the Minister’s decision to allocate $50m for essential expenditure, there are many other matters which require the Minister’s urgent attention. I hope he will give us an assurance in the very near future that the ordinance setting up the Authority legally and giving it the quite modest delegated powers to set about the business of running the schools efficiently in the interests of the children will be passed as soon as possible.
– This evening I intended to make some comments about a question that I asked this afternoon of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) concerning Press releases from non-government bodies coming through a government agency. I am saddened that the Minister is not in the Senate chamber this evening. Therefore, I will make only a couple of comments and perhaps at a later stage make some more that I was going to make tonight. I made a slight error this afternoon in my question when I referred to an organisation called the Australian News and Information Service. The Leader of the Government in the Senate said that no such organisation existed and he is quite correct. I should have referred to the organisation as the Australian Information Service.
After I asked my question this afternoon and received a lengthy answer from the Minister, some of which was relevant, I contacted my staff and asked them to investigate this matter a little further. It seems from the investigation that they have made, initially anyway, that the Australian Information Service is in operation in Brisbane. It appears also to be acting as an agent for the Government in distributing ministerial statements to the offices of members of Parliament. It seems that the Press release from the Liberal Party of Australia emanated from this office. I would like to conclude my remarks at that point because it seems that with the Minister not present it is not worth while going on any further with my comment. Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate this Press release from the Liberal Party of Australia into the Hansard record.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The document read as follows)-
The Liberal Party of Australia Federal Secretariat 19 March 1976
VISIT BY Mrs MARGARET THATCHER
The Federal President of the Liberal Party, Mr John Atwill, announced today that the Leader of the British Conservative Party, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, would visit Australia in September as a guest of the Liberal Party.
She would be a guest speaker at the Liberal Party’s 1976 Federal Council, to be held in Canberra on the weekend of 18-20 September.
Mr Atwill, warmly welcoming the visit, said there would be great interest in the Conservative Party Leader, who could well become the first woman to be Prime Minister of Britain.
Mrs Thatcher’s Australian itinerary is still to be finalised. She may visit several States.
-Thank you, Mr President. I shall continue my statements on this matter at a more appropriate time.
– I will be very brief in my remarks. I acknowledge the interest of the 2 honourable senators from the Australian Capital Territory in the education problems of the Territory. The matters referred to by Senator Knight have received very close and urgent attention from me. I seek not to make any political capital of this. If I can say so, the mote may be in 2 people’s eyes. After all, the debate on these matters shows that there were many problems outstanding- they remain outstanding- that arise from the fact that they had not been dealt with by the Government in the last 3 years. I do not seek to make a ping pong match of this matter. I think that the people of the Australian Capital Territory deserve the best schools we can provide. I refer to it as such. It is therefore important that we are able to say that the 5 major projects referred to have been secured and will go ahead. In my view, they will result in good school conditions, particularly in the Belconnen area.
– You are surely not taking credit for it?
-Senator George’s remark shows quite an obtuse attitude when I said that I was not taking a political partisan view. However, since Senator Georges has interjected, I will take some credit in the matter. I take credit as the renovator who followed 3 years of Labor Government in the Australian Capital Territory. Mr President, you notice that the honourable senator retreats now.
– I am not retreating. I am going back to my seat.
– Incidentally, the honourable senator was out of his place when he interjected. Every day since I have been a Minister in the Senate I have received representations from honourable senators and honourable members regarding the complete neglect of vital thingsmaintenance and general services- by the former Government in the Australian Capital Territory in the field of education. I am seeking to rationalise these matters. I think Senator Ryan acknowledged that. I do not seek to take credit for the 5 public works. If Senator Georges had listened, he would have known that I said I am delighted they are going ahead.
– I know what the exercise is all about.
-If Senator Georges knows what the exercise was all about, let me say that there has been no contrivance on my part in this or any other matter. I do not deal in Dorothy Dixers. I leave that to the Opposition.
– And to some of your colleagues.
– The former Government was distinguished by the fact that question time was ruined by a series of Dorothy Dixers and the extreme length of answers by Ministers; so the mote is very much in the Opposition ‘s eye.
I direct myself purely to the question of education. I will do what I can to expedite the ordinance. I recognise the need for a proper and orderly authority. So many of the problems that have occurred have arisen from the rather clumsy system of administration that has existed in the Territory. There have been great delays in getting even a light switch or a door stopper fixed. In my view, these problems can be obviated and, with the help and co-operation of honourable senators, I hope that they will be. I hope that those who have education problems to raise will continue to come to my door- it is my job to see whether we can get them fixed- and that by this building program we can make sure that in the years ahead the people, particularly in Belconnen, will be well served in education.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
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 for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is:
The Cities Commission, the then responsible agency, employed consulting engineers and planners to study this matter. The resulting Report showed that Albury-Wodonga can be developed as planned without the development having a degrading effect upon the riverine environment. The Report set out the measures and procedures in relation to sewerage, drainage and water system management necessary to achieve this aim. The findings were published in three volumes entitled River Murray in relation to AlburyWodonga, in 1974, and tabled in Parliament on 21 April 1975.
These findings are now being used in the design of the sewerage, water and drainage systems for the new town development.
An extensive forward program of water quality monitoring and river ecology study was initiated in October 1973 in order to set waste water treatment standards and to check on river water quality. This program being carried out by the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation concentrates on sampling the main rivers and drainage returns between Hume Dam and Yarrawonga. The results will provide bench mark’ chemical and biological data against which ecological changes can be measured and standards set. Further studies are examining the impact of development to meet a basic principle of the development of AlburyWodonga: that the riverine environment should not be downgraded by the development.
In relation to water quantity, the development of AlburyWodonga will result in loss to the existing average yield to New South Wales and Victoria from the River Murray system at Lake Hume (as assessed by the River Murray Commission) of less than 2 per cent. This assumes no increase in the average annual yield to New South Wales and Victoria, and that the total population of Albury-Wodonga is 300 000.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minster has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Prime Minister’s Office
Mr D. Barnett
Miss A. Bennett
Miss S. Law Smith
Miss L. Hiddlestone
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Mr J. L. Menadue
Mr A. T.Griffith
Mr J. H.Scholtens
Department of the Treasury
Mr J. O. Stone
Department of Administrative Services
Detective Inspector G. Davidson (joined in Auckland)
Senior Constable F. J. McArdle
asked the Minister for Social Security upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Premiers’ Conference (Question No. 286)
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
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:
-On 17 March, 1976, Sena tor Baume asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory the following question:
Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory been drawn to a report in the Australian’ newspaper of 16 March that 1 1 per cent of all males 17 years and over in Darwin have been charged with drink-driving offences and that many other drinking drivers escaped detection? Does the Minister agree that alcohol is the major identifiable contributing factor to the road toll throughout Australia and that it is a potentially remediable factor in road deaths and injuries? In answering a previous question from me did the Minister inform me that alcohol was a major factor in Darwin in 1975 in one-sixth of all crashes and one-quarter of the single vehicle crashes? Did he further inform me that only one of the 4 breathalyser units available in Darwin was in fact operative? Does the Minister agree that there appears to be an urgent need either for more units to be available or for more of the available units to be made operative?
I provided some information to the honourable senator and undertook to refer the last part of the question to the Minister for the Northern Territory. The Minister for the Northern Territory has provided the following information:
The situation is that four breathalyser units are available in Darwin and that their use is arranged so that one fully serviceable unit is available at all times with the others available as spares to cover necessary routine maintenance or repairs arising during service.
I am informed that the number of breathalyser units presently in operation in Darwin meets the needs of present requirements.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 March 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760324_senate_30_s67/>.