30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 64 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 Democratic control of organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is essential to a sound system of industrial relations.
And whereas democratic control can only be guaranteed by the opportunity for all rank and file members of organisations to vote in elections for officials and Committees of Management, and whereas some forces within the Trade Union Movement are attempting to deny rank and file members the right to vote in Union elections.
Your petitioners humbly pray, that the members in Parliament assembled will take steps to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 37 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any one year would-
be faced with complicated variations in his or her personal income taxes between States; and
find that real after-tax wages for the same job would vary from State to State even when gross wages were advertised as being the same; and
require citizens to maintain records of income earned in each State.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 56 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 Lawley House residents are deeply concerned at recently introduced and newly proposed tariff increases as
Many are unable to afford additional increases and many would be unable to secure suitable alternative accommodation;
Financial statements made by Commonwealth Hostels Limited do not clearly indicate such increases to be justified:
The Government, in pressing for such increases, does not appear to have given due consideration to the special needs of Commonwealth hostel residents.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should press for a full disclosure of Commonwealth Hostels Limited finances and for the mitigation of the financial strain upon many Commonwealth hostel residents.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
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 from 1st October, 1974 the National Employment and Training System came into operation;
And at that time the then Government agreed that ‘widow pensioners and recipients of Supporting Mothers Benefit will be in no way disadvantaged . . . ‘ under the National Employment and Training System;
And that ‘for all trainees over 2 1 years and Junior trainees with dependents a full-time training allowance equivalent to the average adult male award wage, which will be adjusted quarterly- at the present time approximately $90 per week’, is to be provided;
And that there is strong objection to the reduction in training allowance to trainees under the National Employment and Training System, to be effective from 1st April, 1976, as this places these trainees at considerable financial disadvantage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in the Senate assembled will take the most urgent steps to readjust the payments under the National Employment and Training System so that they are equivalent to the average adult male award wage.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Thomas.
-I ask the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs: When will local government authorities know how much they will receive under the new financial proposals? Will local governments be allocated a fixed percentage of personal income tax as promised or is the Government reconsidering its promise?
– Local government will know, in terms of the actual amount of money, the total percentage of personal income tax revenue when the Federal Budget is brought down. Shortly afterwards it should be possible for individual local government authorities to know what their personal break-up will be. The Senate will be aware that in the past under the Grants Commission the distribution of moneys to local government was not done until about November or December. We should be able at least to adhere to that timetable and local government should know much earlier. So, in terms of quantum, local government authorities should know by August. The actual mechanism should be known progressively as the Premiers Conference and the Commonwealth Government reach decisions. The second question was whether local government would get a fixed percentage. The answer is emphatically yes. There is no basis for any belief that the matter is under reconsideration. I have not heard of any reconsideration. Certainly, we will proceed from 1 July on the basis of a fixed percentage.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. While congratulating the Minister for the announcement on 6 April about 6 grants for social welfare, I draw to her attention the fact that the Australian of yesterday’s date indicated that the grants would be administered by the Department of Social Security because ‘the Social Welfare Commission had been abolished’. I also draw to the attention of the Minister her departmental Press release of 6 August which contained the following words:
Following the abolition of the Commission . . .
I ask the Minister whether the Social Welfare Commission has been abolished or whether the Government has made any commitment to abolish this body.
– The announcement of the grants was related to the fact that they had been negotiated and approved by the Social Welfare Commission last year. The fact that there was some mention that these services would be administered through my Department following the abolition of the Social Welfare Commission relates to the fact that the Government had announced already that it intended to abolish the Social Welfare Commission. The honourable senator would be aware that it will be necessary to repeal the appropriate Act in both Houses of Parliament for the Commission finally to be abolished. But the references in the Press to these grants did point to the fact that when the abolition of the Social Welfare Commission occurs these services will be administered by my Department. It may be of interest to the Senate to have further information with regard to grants that have been approved. All outstanding commitments of the Social Welfare Commission will be upheld and there are 26 other projects for which grants have been approved. Because it is a lengthy list, may I seek the concurrence of the Senate to have it incorporated in Hansard?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Four fellowships in Social Welfare have been granted to:
Mrs J. Salmon, a research worker with Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne for ‘An Evaluation of the First Australian Income Maintenance Experiment, ‘ ($ 1 2,700 ).
Dr T. Vinson, Director of the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Sydney, for ‘Social Indicators for Single Regions in New South Wales, ‘ ($7,750).
Mr R. Brown, regional social planner with the Fitzroy Interim Regional Council for Social Development, Rockhampton, for ‘Welfare Services and Delivery Structures in Remote Areas of Queensland,’ ($ 14,850).
Mr P. Nankivell, tutor at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Business Management, University of New England, Armidale, for’Effective Extension and Counselling Services for the Rural Poor in New South Wales and Queensland ‘,($11 , 570).
Two research projects will be undertaken by Professor Ludwig Geismar, Visiting Professor in the Department of Social Studies, University of Melbourne.
Professor Geismar, who is director of the Social Work Research Centre of Rutgers University, New Jersey, U.S.A., is to research ‘The Structure of the Australian Family and the Roles Individuals may take within it’, and ‘The Social Functioning of the Australian family- particular welfare aspects. ‘ His grants total $4,000.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services, by reminding the Minister that on 30 March last, in answer to a question on notice asked in another place by the Leader of the Opposition concerning section 1 5 1 of the Electoral Act, he said, amongst other things:
As all returns lodged with the Australian Electoral Officers are available for inspection by members, it is not proposed to make information from the returns otherwise available. 1 ask the Minister: Why was he unforthcoming in his answer to the question on notice when 51/2 years ago his colleague, the Minister for Transport, who was then the Minister for the Interior, answered an identical question in a most detailed fashion naming those persons who had provided returns, thus enabling all interested persons to deduce which members had failed to furnish returns?
-I thought that if anybody was so interested in seeking information which is on the public record he should have enough energy to go and to get it for himself.
– I ask the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs: What provision is made to see that adequate film supplies are available for exhibition in cinemas throughout Australia? What steps are taken to restrict the import of’R’ films into this country?
– I regret that I am not able to give a comprehensive answer to the honourable senator’s question.
– Can you give any answer?
– It gets close to that, Senator. The fact is that I think it is in my capacity as Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral that the question of what restrictions exist upon the admission into Australia of ‘R’ certificate films ought to be addressed to me. I understand that the control of the Customs regulations rests with the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs but that he implements them in accordance with the decisions of the Film Censorship Board, for which the AttorneyGeneral holds a responsibility. I shall seek the information asked for by the honourable senator and shall give him as comprehensive a reply as can be supplied by each of the Ministers.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Did the Prime Minister during the last election campaign make an unqualified commitment to maintain tax deductibility on home mortgage interest rates as introduced by the Labor Government? I further ask: Does he consider that the new proposals which exclude all taxpayers other than first home owners in their first 5 years of home purchase is a repudiation of that commitment?
-I do not have the exact text of what the Prime Minister said, nor did Senator Brown read it out, so I cannot answer the first part of the question. Perhaps the question ought to have been directed more specifically to my colleague, the Minister in charge of this area. The simple fact is that this whole matter has to be looked upon as a package operation- as a home savings grant and as tax deductibility for mortgage payments. It is not a matter of opinion but a matter of notorious fact that during the last 3 years -
– Come now! Here we go again.
-I was asked a deliberate political question and the honourable senator does not like a political answer. It is a matter of notorious fact that people were given less and less opportunity to purchase a home. Due to the lunatic economic policies of the previous Government inflation ran rampant and a home was being totally priced out of the range of many people in Australia. It is also a matter of fact which is beyond dispute that the percentage of people able to purchase a home in Australia is falling. This Government has decided to restore what we believe ought to be the situation in Australia wherein most people can own their own homes.
– You are going the wrong way about it.
-It is interjected that we are going the wrong way about it. In 1944 the late J. J. Dedman went on record on behalf of the Labor Party as saying that he did not believe in home ownership because it created a race of little capitalists. I believe that was the expression. I think it is fair enough to say that over the last 3 years the odd Government under which Australia suffered for so long did its best to implement that policy. It was taking away people’s capacity to own their own homes in Australia. The home savings grant scheme which my colleague, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has introduced will do much to restore the proper balance in Australia so that those young people particularly who seek to own their own home will have a proper opportunity to get one.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that radio station 5DD, a closed circuit radio station operating from the Media Monitoring Service of the South Australian Premier’s Department in Adelaide, has recently been established? Is it not significant that the call sign, 5DD represents the initials of a well known political figure in South Australia? Is it not a fact that Telecom is providing landline and switching facilities for the relay of the station’s broadcasts? Can the Minister say whether these activities are undertaken within the laws governing broadcasting in Australia?
-I am not aware of the matter raised in the first part of the honourable senator’s question, namely whether a closed circuit radio station 5DD has been established within the South Australian Premier’s Department. It would not surprise me, because, over the years, the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan, has established the most massive personal public relations unit at the taxpayers’ expense in South Australia that any would-be dictator could establish. So it is not unusual that it should be so. It would not be unusual for the radio station to adopt the call sign 5DD, although as I understand it at this moment it would be wiser for the radio station to adopt the morse code distress signal SOS. The honourable senator asks whether Telecom has undertaken certain work. I do not know; I shall find out. He also asks whether this matter is within the law. I do not know; I shall find out.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs by reminding him that a minority of persons and companies are still cheating on that section of the community who are competing, in an unfair struggle, to obtain a home. I cite the case of Mr H. T. McCollock of Magnetic Island, Queensland, who paid a deposit of $5,200 for a home to be constructed on his own land. The home was not built and the company will not refund the deposit because it is alleged that an undisclosed sum of trust funds has disappeared together with a prominent company executive. I ask the Minister whether he will undertake to have an urgent investigation of the company concerned, Insulite Developments Pty Ltd, together with its alleged backers, Logan Homes, and an unnamed ‘multi-millionaire’. Will the Minister ascertain also what additional safeguards can be established to protect prospective home owners in the circumstances I have outlined?
– I am not sure in what way the honourable senator believes that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has a legislative or mininsterial responsibility for the particular matters which the honourable senator has chosen to give an airing in this forum. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has a federal responsibility. But if there is a malpractice, at present that is a matter for investigation under State law. If the honourable senator is concerned about the matters which he has raised, I would suggest to him that he will get an effective investigation first of all by going to the police or by going to the corporate affairs commissioners who are established in each of the States, placing the facts before them, and doing what he can to ensure that a comprehensive investigation is undertaken. I do not have to tell the honourable senator his business. But if he is concerned to look after the interests of the individual on whose behalf he purported to raise this question, the course of action which I suggested is, I think, more likely to be productive than asking questions of that character in this place.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to an article in the Australian of Monday, 5 April, entitled A most inhumane gamebashing the unemployed, by Senator James McClelland in which the words ‘the Fraser Government’s dole bludger campaign’ are used.
The article states:
There is a certain droll irony in the fact that so many people can hold the unemployed responsible for their fate and at the same time blame unemployment on the Whitlam Government. Surely they can’t have it both ways.
The Fraser Government is playing an inhuman game in exploiting this unlovely side of human nature.
My question is: Is not the honourable senator endeavouring to continue to confuse the citizens of Australia, as Labor practised over the last 3 years, by its irresponsible spending that brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy, brought industry to a chaotic condition and, with the resultant widespread unemployment, brought considerable misery to the people of Australia?
-I must confess that I have not read the article by the honourable senator in the Australian.
– What do you read?
-I do not. That is why I am not misinformed like the Opposition. I think it is fair to say that perhaps the most tragic situation about the present unemployment figures is that there are so many genuine people who are anxious to go to work but who cannot find it. This situation was deliberately brought about by the lunatic economic policies of the previous Government which, in 3 short years, created the highest unemployment since the last depression.
It deliberately caused that situation. For those who genuinely seek work, the Government is doing all that it can to restore the economy so that they can obtain work and, in the meantime, is doing all that it can to cushion the effects of unemployment on them.
In addition, due again to the peculiar administrative methods of the previous Government, a number of people started to bludge on the taxpayer. This is a matter about which Mr Clyde Cameron, I think it was, when he was Minister did something. As I recall, when Senator Wheeldon was Minister for Social Security he had the registers gone through and had a large number of people taken off those registers. Even the previous Government, incompetent administrators as its members were- I almost said maladministrators but that is not right- took some action.
– We have ‘Maladministrators’ now
-No, no. The country is back in the hands of the real administrators. That is why it is safe. Honourable senators opposite are back in their rightful places in Opposition, where they do their job well but not as well as we did. They have had a lot of practice. I think those who have been properly trained ought to continue in their rightful place. If people seek to live off the taxpayer and use unemployment benefits as a way of life, we have a responsibility to look after taxpayers’ funds. To assist those who are genuinely unemployed and who genuinely seek work we have an enormous responsibility both to get the economy going so they can have work and in the meantime to look after them the best we can.
-I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as the Minister representing the Treasurer and may I refer to the lunatic economic policies of this Government. Considering the answer the Leader of the Government gave to the question asked by Senator Brown, is it not a fact that the $3,000 grant being made for home building will immediately add $3,000 to the cost of a home. Is it also a fact that in many cases this grant will postpone the building of homes for 3 years, thus setting back the building industry even further? Will he not agree that this is lunatic economic policy and a policy that ought to be changed quickly?
-Mr President, I do not represent the Treasurer. Senator Cotton does, but I think he is prepared to trust me to answer the question. I cannot follow the logic of the question. As I understand it, the honourable senator is saying that because the Government will give a grant of $3,000-1 thought it was $2,000, not $3,000-that amount will be added to the cost of a house. The previous Government took away the housing grant and the price of houses still went up. If the honourable senator’s argument were sound, one would imagine that when the Australian Labor Party abolished the grant the price of houses would have come down by the amount of the grant.
– I am glad you are not the Treasurer.
-A11 I am saying is that that is how silly the argument is- that because a grant is given the price of a house must go up.
– It does.
– In that case, one would imagine that if it were abolished the price of a house would come down. Even I can work that out. What the honourable senator is saying is a piece of absolute nonsense. Next he will be saying that because age pensions go up retailers put up food prices or some other prices. Yet at the same time he would say that increases in wages have nothing to do with increases in prices. Honourable senators opposite ought to make up their minds. To them wage increases are different. They tell us that wages are only chasing prices. Now they tell us that prices have something to do with grants. They should make up their minds. Senator Georges said that the grant would postpone the building of houses. As a result of 3 years of lunatic government by the present Opposition the building industry has been battered almost to its knees. Any further postponement could not affect it. In fact the building industry can only get better under this Government because really it could not have got much worse than it did under the previous one.
-Has the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development seen a publication headed ‘To all members of the Australian Parliament’ and signed ‘concerned residents of Lawley House’ which was circulated to members and senators recently and which expressed concern at the proposal to increase the tariff at Lawley House and the alleged refusal over past weeks to admit new residents? If the Minister has seen this publication or is familiar with it will he answer some questions in relation to the allegations contained therein? Is it true that Commonwealth Hostels Ltd has never produced a comprehensive and clear financial statement? Are profits from hostels similar to Lawley House used to subsidise migrant hostels? Is it true that the most recent tariff increase, together with the proposed increase, constitutes a government measure to force resignations from the Public Service to help meet staff ceilings? In relation to the second allegation of refusal to admit new residents to Lawley House, is it intended to convert Lawley House into a joint Services mess and to close the hostel altogether as a first step towards eliminating hostel accommodation for Public Service employees in Canberra?
-The honourable senator has raised a number of questions. I think I can give her an answer to them. I saw a deputation this morning composed of persons from some of the Commonwealth hostels who were concerned about recent tariff increases. With respect to some of the matters which the honourable senator has raised, I think I was able to allay their apprehensions. I am not able to inform Senator Martin whether Commonwealth Hostels Ltd has in the past produced a clear and comprehensive financial statement. I say to the Senate, as I said to the deputation this morning, that I will certainly arrange for a full statement to be prepared which sets out why the recent tariff increases have occurred so that if anyone doubts the way in which the increases have occurred, he can examine the material himself. I was certainly given the gross figures to show how costs have increased in recent times, primarily because of the 3.5 per cent wage increase late last year and the 6.4 per cent wage increase this year, which have added most substantially to the essentially labour costs which are involved in the maintenance of the hostels.
The second point which the honourable senator raises relates to whether hostel charges in Canberra subsidise migrant hostels or whether the Canberra hostels run as a self-sufficient unit. I state that the Canberra hostels do not in any way subsidise the cost of running migrant hostels in the States. The policy of increasing tariffs is not designed to enforce people to leave hostels. That is a fantasy which ingenious minds, doubtless concerned at the tariff increases, have dreamed up. The plain fact is that costs have risen. I think that as a result of the 6.4 per cent wage increase there was a $64,000 increase in costs for the balance of this year in regard to the 4 hostels in Canberra which are grouped together. The tariff increases are designed to meet that charge for the balance of this financial year.
Finally, I state that the rumour that Lawley House is to be closed down or that the intention is to make it available to the Army is to my knowledge completely without foundation. The plain fact is that Lawley House has a capacity of 348 guests. It is presently catering for 1 86 people. That number is diminishing rapidly. The actual rate of departure from Lawley House is about 25 people a week. Since January of this year no new persons have moved into Lawley House as a result of the company’s policy. In fact, due to a lack of recruitment in the Public Service and the fact that tariffs have been increasing, the general population of the hostels throughout Canberra has been diminishing. I understand that the company is looking ahead to see whether it might be most beneficial and commercially sensible to move people out of Lawley House into one of the other hostels in which there is ample accommodation. No decision has yet been made on that matter. If the honourable senator requires further information on the subject, I think I can supply it for her.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the Montagu Medical Union located at Rosebery on the west coast of Tasmania currently has before the Government a proposal for financial assistance to replace the quite inadequate and out of date health centre which serves a substantial and growing area of the west coast region of Tasmania? This question may have been raised on some previous occasion, but I would like to know the present position with this application and when the Montagu Medical Union can expect to receive advice of the result of its application.
– I have some recollection of this matter that has been raised by the honourable senator but I am unable to give him an accurate answer at this stage. I will seek it for him and advise him of the progress of the application.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, concerns the disastrous strike of storemen and packers over the handling of wool bales which has now proceeded for 5 weeks and which is affecting not only the producers of wool but also all areas of the economy directly or indirectly connected with the wool industry. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the present position in relation to the strike and whether the Government or the Minister can exercise any initiative to resolve the dispute?
-My understanding is that this dispute has been referred by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to a Full Bench which is scheduled to hear this matter and other matters next week. The issue is one in which the union is seeking a wage increase which is, on the face of it, outside the wage indexation guidelines. The issues which have been raised by that strike have led to the President of the Commission referring it to a special hearing. I think that that is the current position. I think the issues have been canvassed in the past. When a union is apparently prepared to seek what it wants outside the Commission and outside the processes of conciliation and arbitration, problems occur for the industrial system and also for our society which have to be faced. This issue has to be faced and known by the people. I think the President of the Commission is indicating that by the step which he has taken.
– I direct my question to Senator Carrick. Yesterday I asked him: Where a State government, because of policy decisions made of its own volition, might be in conflict with the Commonwealth Government’s overall economic management policies, would the Minister give the Senate an assurance that the Commonwealth Government would not interfere with that State policy decision? He will recall that his answer to me was a commitment in respect only of a State imposing a surcharge or rebate on taxation. As my question related to any policy decision by a State government, I again ask the same question and seek the same commitment. To assist the Minister I quote an example of the New South Wales Government’s seeking to proceed with a major developmental program which may conflict with an overall economic program being pursued by the Commonwealth Government. Can he give an assurance that the New South Wales Government would be permitted to proceed without interference or penalty under this Government’s federalism policy?
-It is quite clear that where a Government under a federalist system has the sovereign powers to take a particular course clearly it may take that course without any interference at all, and that is the whole basis of federalism. It is the basic reason why we want to alter the mess of centralism which exists today and to give to the States more power in decision making. So the aim of our policies is to give the States more clearly identified powers. Federalism is a co-operative matter and it aims to have discussions between the States and the Commonwealth on matters that are mutually of concern. The Government would, if it held its views to be worthwhile, seek to persuade but it would not seek to coerce in any way at all. The simple answer is that under the system the States clearly could proceed in their own right. I was wondering whether it was a Freudian slip that the final sentence of the Leader of the Opposition referred only to the New South Wales Government. My answer applies to all governments throughout Australia. Under federalism we will restore the sovereignties that were destroyed by the previous Labor Government.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for Education. Has the Minister been informed by the Chancellor of the Australian National University of a letter written on his instruction by the Academic Registrar informing a student that membership of the Australian National University Students Association is compulsory and that failure to pay fees to the Association may lead to cancellation of enrolment? Is membership of the Students Association necessary before the Australian National University Council accepts a student’s enrolment, even if the student may have serious conscientious objections to certain causes to which the Association makes financial contributions? Must a student violate his or her conscience in order to receive an education? A letter from a student states:
It has come to my notice that the Students Association has a stated policy favouring abortion on demand. Because of this policy I find membership of that organisation to be totally incompatible with my membership of the Russian Orthodox Church and ask to be exempt from joining the said organisation.
Could the Minister give consideration to amending the Australian National University Act to incorporate principles of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which enable persons who have a conscientious objection to joining an organisation to pay to the Industrial Registrar an amount of money equivalent to membership fees? In this instance it could be paid to the University Registrar.
– This is a very important question and one that has exercised my mind since I assumed the portfolio. It is one upon which I have received quite a number of submissions. May I respond to the question first of all by pointing out what Senator Walters will know already, that is, that individual universities are autonomous organisations- and rightly sooperating under charters to protect their acadamic freedoms. Therefore, under their charters they make decisions in respect of their management. One of those decisions concerns the conduct and role of student organisations. Without opting out on this question, let me say that it is primarily a matter for the individual college or university whether the joining of organisations should be compulsory in the light of the nature of the student organisation. Secondly, I would say that student organisations have vital roles to play in providing a series of facilities within universities and to that extent it is necessary that some fees be paid. Of course, if contributions to those organisations were voluntary it would be inequitable. I think that the honourable senator recognises that.
The same obligations apply to student organisations as apply to any industrial or commercial organisation in Australia, whether it be a trade union or a union of employers. The primary duty of students if they reject the policies of the student organisation is to organise their numbers, toss out the leaders whom they regard as unsuitable, take over the organisation and restore sensible, moderate and majority rule leadership. So primarily I make a plea that the students themselves should accept their responsibilities. A handful of students normally capture control of these organisations. I apologise for the length of this answer. The honourable senator would know also that the Commonwealth Government pays the fees of students to universities but does not pay students’ fees to student organisations. Therefore, in the primary situation, it does not have a direct influence. Nevetherless, I am concerned. I am concerned that I have had representations from so many quarters. I am interested in and attracted to the suggestion put forward by the honourable senator that there should be some way for students to register their desire not to support with their private funds policies with which they do not agree. I propose to have a thorough look at the matter. I hope to be able to report to the Senate in due course the results of my studies.
-I ask the Minister for Education a question arising from his last answer. Is the Minister saying that the fact that the student organisation referred to by Senator Walters has incorporated in its policies abortion on demand, as Senator Walters put it, is a result of a minority group of students taking over the organisation in question? Is that his view of what the student population of that university thinks about this matter?
– The inattention of Senator Button to this Senate and to the answer I gave is evidenced by the nature of his question. I say emphatically that that is not what I said. I said that the primary cure that lies in the hands of any student who feels that the policies of a student organisation are such as not to warrant his support is to so organise, to be so articulate and to be so vigorous in action as to ensure, if possible, that he or she can create a majority view to set aside those other views and to establish in the student organisation executive members who support their own views. I did not in my answer in any way reflect what Senator Button has said. He was somnolent at the time.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to the demand for influenza vaccinations in Australia, particularly in South Australia. Is the Minister aware that some doctors in South Australia are complaining that there are insufficient supplies of this vaccine and that one group practice has been able to receive only onethird of the supplies it ordered in February? Can the Minister say what the Government is doing to ensure that adequate supplies of vaccine are available for this purpose.
– It should be recognised that the distribution of all the produce of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories is made through accredited drug wholesalers in accordance with established industry and professional practice. Therefore, the CSL has no control over the distribution of influenza vaccine once it is dispatched to these wholesalers. As I understand it, it takes approximately 10 weeks to produce the vaccine. At present the Laboratories are working 7 days a week to ensure that adequate supplies will be available for the coming winter requirements. I can only add to that the fact that in South Australia as of today some 5 1 SOO doses of vaccine have been forwarded. It is hoped that with the 7 days a week schedule the Laboratories are working there will be sufficient supplies. But there is no control by the Laboratories over the distribution of those supplies.
– I address to the Minister for Education a question which refers to a statement in the Sun-Herald of 4 April 1-976 in which it is suggested that the Schools Commission, the Universities Commission, the Commission for Technical and Further Education and the Commission for Advanced Education may be abolished. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether this is likely to occur? If not, has the Minister discussed such a possibility with his departmental officers and are major changes to be expected in these 4 commissions in the near future?
-I saw the article and I was gratified to learn something of my alleged activities and general personality. It is always well to be educated by others in that regard. I am happy to inform the honourable senator that I have not entered into any discussions with my Department for the abolition of all or any of these commissions. I make that quite clear. I am happy to inform the honourable senator that the policy of the present Government is to maintain the commissions. I add qualifications to that. I point out that the former Government was in the process of bringing about an amalgamation of the 2 tertiary commissions, namely the Australian Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education. The Federal Government reserves its viewpoint on this matter. In due course the Senate and the Parliament will have before it what proposals, if any, are necessary in our view for the general reform and consolidation of post secondary and tertiary education.
I make the other qualification that the policy of the Federal Government with regard to the Schools Commission is to maintain it and reform it on a broader federalist level. The Australian Labor Party has become possessive about these commissions as though they are of its creation. I remind the Senate that it was Liberal governments of the past which established federal intervention by way of independent commissions. Such governments established the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education. Liberal governments set a standard of behaviour and propriety in the maintenance of these commissions which might well have been followed by all. The fears expressed in the newspaper are unnecessary. It is true that there will be reforms. There can be no static situation with regard to these matters. I remind the Senate that in the whole system of post secondary education the question of what we do with the Australian Commission on Technical and Further Education and how we rationalise education has exercised the minds of previous governments and, at the moment, it is exercising the mind of my Government.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services: Can he inform the Senate what has happened to the photographs of the former Prime Minister, which were quite large and, I am sure, expensive? Have they been placed in the archives in the hope that they will reach antique value so that we can recoup the amount of money spent on their production?
-I confess that I am not sufficiently interested in the photographs to find out where they have gone. I imagine they are now surplus to requirements and that eventually they will be put up for auction. No doubt a lot of honourable senators opposite will be rushing along to buy them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government has considerable involvement in the development of the Botany Bay area of New South Wales through the proposal to lease a container terminal for the Australian National Line, through Commonwealth aid to the rail and road infrastructure and through the future development of the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport? What assurance can the Minister give that there will be an opportunity for public discussion and debate on these projects having regard to the community interest which is being expressed at the present time? Will the Minister have discussions with his State counterpart on the possibility of establishing a joint land use transport study for the Botany Bay region?
-The Commonwealth Government is involved with certain developments in the Botany Bay area. The New South Wales Government established a Botany Bay Management and Advisory Co-ordination Committee- I think that is the name of the body- upon which the Commonwealth Government, through my Department, has a regular observer present. That Committee is designed, as far as possible, to bring into perspective all that is occurring currently in that Botany Bay area. Indeed, as the Deputy Premier of New South Wales said earlier this week, many environmental studies of particular projects are taking place or are about to take place in that Botany Bay area and there is a great concern to ensure that what develops does take account of the environmental and regional considerations which ought to apply in that area. I understand the honourable senator’s question to be: What is the Commonwealth doing in that area? Since I have been the Minister concerned with such matters, I have had discussions with Sir John Fuller and, less formally, with Mr Punch about what the Commonwealth might do in this area and currently certain proposals are being considered by these people and by myself. I can assure the honourable senator and others who are interested that the necessary environmental assessments will be made with regard to particular projects which are contemplated for the future.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware of the danger that could have been caused to this country had the Labor Government remained in office and managed to develop the Department of the Media into more of a propaganda department than it actually did. I therefore ask: In view of the wide publicity given to the abolition of the Department of the Media, can the Minister advise what has happened to the staff of this Department, particularly the senior officers, and how many have actually left the Public Service?
-The old Department of the Media disappeared into at least 2 and possibly 3 present departments. I do not have the knowledge at my fingertips as to the exact number of employees involved and the qualifications of each individual. I shall obtain the information for the honourable senator as early as possible.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, refers to a report this morning that an additional Commonwealth Employment Service officer will be appointed to the appeals tribunals. I ask the Minister: If this is correct, would she review any such appointment, having regard firstly to the independence of the tribunals? Also, in any such reconsideration would she consider whether any appellant who might be applying in respect of unemployment allowances or social service benefits generally might be represented or assisted in the same way as an appellant is represented in other tribunals set up under Commonwealth laws? Does she agree that, for example, in respect of the unemployment work test many new categories of skilled and professional workers will be scrutinised and interviewed and may require sympathetic and specialised assistance, not only at the counter, but at the appeals stage?
– It is not correct to say that an additional person has been appointed to the social security tribunals. Earlier this year it was decided by the Government that, in order to facilitate the work of the social security tribunals, it may be of assistance to have a person from the Commonwealth Employment Service as an observer and as a person who could provide information when requested by the members of the tribunal. It was desired to try this service for a limited period and then to review whether it had been of assistance to those who were facing appeals where information may be required which could facilitate a determination of the appeal before the tribunal. I shall report later as to the outcome of the testing of having attend the tribunals this additional person, who is an observer but not a person who votes on the appeal and not a person who may be required to take any part whatsoever in the consideration of the appeal. The broader question of representation of appellants is not something that I have considered because, in the setting up of the appeals tribunals it was intended to have an informal atmosphere where a free exchange could be undertaken. I certainly shall give consideration to what has been suggested and in particular to the need for specialised advice to be available. It was in that context that we felt that the person from the Commonwealth Employment Service may be able to give advice at the time of the appeal being heard rather that the matter being referred back again for further information. I shall take into consideration what has been suggested.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I refer to recent reports that the French Government has resumed nuclear testing in the Pacific. Can the Minister advise the Senate of the effects, if any, of last week’s detonation on Australia’s environment which have already been detected or which are expected to occur?
– I understand that there was a French underground nuclear test in the Pacific on 2 April. I think the only effect which has resulted in Australia so far has been that some questions have been asked in the Parliament about it. I am informed that in Australia there are some air monitoring facilities equipped to ascertain any fallout effects, if they should occur. I am informed that it would be 10 days in any event before any effects, if they are to be felt, would be recorded. No effects have been recorded by any of the existing monitoring equipment which we have in this country. I should stress also that it was an underground testing. The information which is available to me- I appreciate that this is not a response in depth- is that it is not felt that any effects will be recorded.
-My question to the Minister representing the Treasurer follows questions previously asked by Senator Brown and Senator Georges. I ask: What projections have been done to determine the number of taxpayers who will be deprived of tax deductibility of mortgage interest rates as a result of the Government’s decision to confine the benefit to first home buyers in the first 5 years of repayment? Is it likely that more than half a million taxpayers will lose the right of tax deductibility? Finally, does the Government anticipate a net saving in excess of $200m in the 3 years preceding payments under the home savings grant scheme by denial of tax concessions to existing eligible home buyers?
– That question was asked in the House of Representatives this morning. I shall obtain for the honourable senator the same answer as was given in that place.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. While I fully support the playing of God Save the Queen on all official occasions associated with the Queen or her representative, I ask the Minister whether consideration would be given to the playing of God Bless Australia in recognition of any Australian winning a medal at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Montreal? As God Bless Australia incorporates the tune of Waltzing Matilda, made internationally famous by Australian serviceman, would the playing of that tune not add a touch of instantly recognisable Australian colour at each medal presentation to an Australian?
– I marvel daily at the range of interests which my portfolio responsibility embraces. I will take note of what the honourable senator said and make inquiries as to what arrangements have been made in the event of an Australian anthem being played at the Olympic Games. I would have thought from what has been said and from what generally would be popular acceptance that the playing of God Save the Queen, on the occasion of an Australian winning a medal, would be inappropriate. I would have thought that the controversy would be as to what appropriate anthem or song should be played. May I be permitted to express a preference for Advance Australian Fair which is developing as a distinctive Australian theme even though its music may not be as popularly known as Waltzing Matilda. It is an interesting question and I shall investigate the matter and give the honourable senator a fuller answer at some later stage.
-Has the Minister for Social Security knowledge of the remarks made on Monday last by Mr Justice Staples in the Industrial Court in granting an application of wool brokers to stand down without pay some 83 people employed in the wool stores in Sydney and Newcastle? As the judge’s remarks included the statement that such stood-down employees should receive immediate unemployment relief from public funds, will the Minister accept the judge’s opinion and assure us that the 83 employees will receive relief immediately upon application?
– I did see the statement by Mr Justice Staples. It was discussed in the departments concerned with these matters in the Government. As far as my Department is concerned, the members of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia involved in or affected by this current dispute are ineligible for unemployment benefit as they are unemployed because of industrial action taken by their union. I think that has already been stated. Some members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives have made specific representation to me with regard to members in South Australia. I have information that I can release on this matter to Senator Cavanagh as I can to other honourable senators in view of their representations made on behalf of members in their own States. The situation is that unemployment benefit will not be paid to the members of the union. I can give the honourable senator a more detailed answer. But in the view of my Department and in view of the tests that have always been applied to such situations by people who sit opposite and by those who sit on this side of the Senate, the requirements in respect of unemployment benefits are not met.
– I address my question to Senator Carrick as Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. I ask the Minister: Will the Government’s federalism policy enable the States to levy personal income tax? When is this scheme likely to start? Will the scheme permit the Queensland Government to introduce double taxation with both the Commonwealth and the State getting their share of the cake? Finally, if so, what safeguards will the Commonwealth insist upon to protect already oppressed salary earners from savage tax slugs which money-hungry States will be able to impose at will?
– The greatest safeguard that has been imposed was imposed by the community on 1 3 December last when it threw out a Government which was the greatest tax-raider since King Herod. It is well to remember that it was that Government which doubled the take of personal income tax, doubled the take of sales tax, doubled the take of customs duty and forced the States to impose indirect taxes and charges of a magnitude never before experienced. So, the first safeguard has been applied by a very sensible electorate. Secondly, the Premiers’ Conference which meets tomorrow will be considering federalism proposals which will, in terms of the policy, rationalise taxation throughout Australia so that, in the longer run, there will be less taxation and a lesser tax burden upon the people of Australia. I remind the Senate that, unlike the Opposition, the Commonwealth Government is pledged to tax indexation, which the Opposition rejected. We are pledged in fact to lower taxes, to reform the tax scale and to impose tax indexation which is in itself a sanction -
-An interjector asks: When?’ I am happy to say to the Senate that tax indexation will, we contemplate, be part of the next Budget. Having said that, I point out that the specific question was whether this will enable the States to levy personal income tax. Stage 1 , which will be the stage to be introduced in 1976-77, will have these characteristics. I interpolate by saying that at no stage will there be double taxation. At all stages there will be one income tax form, one income tax scale, one income tax scale for rebates and deductions, and one income tax assessment. So, to the taxpayer, there will be one income tax. For the first time he will be able to look at his assessment and see where his taxes go, how much goes to the Federal Government for spending, how much goes to a State government for spending, how much goes to State equalisation and how much goes to local government. So the first safeguard will be in the hands of the taxpayer at the ballot box. The taxpayer at the ballot box at Federal, State and local levels will know for the first time where his money is being spent. There will be in the first stage no capacity for the States to impose surcharges or to bring about rebates in their tax. It is true that as the economy reaches -
- Mr President, I am loath to interrupt, but the Opposition has been patient for some time. I draw your attention, Sir, to standing order 100 which says that in answering any such question a senator shall not debate the matter to which the question refers. I suggest that the Minister has been doing this constantly all this week. I now draw that standing order to your attention.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. It sits ill in the mouth of Senator Douglas McClelland, who was one of the notorious 11 -minute answerers in the previous Government -
– He got the Swartz award.
– Is that what he got? He was notorious for the length of his answers, as were some of his colleagues. Senator McAuliffe asked a very sensible question seeking information as to whether or not double taxation will be imposed. I think it is reasonable that the Minister ought to be able to give a proper, detailed reply. I imagine that Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s colleague, Senator McAuliffe, would be a little cross and entitled to be cross, if Senator Carrick gave a brush-off answer. Senator McAuliffe nods his agreement.
- Senator Carrick is giving a direct reply to the question asked of him. He may proceed.
– I have directed myself specifically, without debate, to the exact points raised in the question. Senator McAuliffe nods in acknowledgment of the fact that I have not debated the matter. It is a vitally important matter and any distortion should be removed. I make one final comment. As the economy reaches stability and national growth occurs, for the first time the revenue of the States will grow in parallel with, and at a rate not less than, that of the Commonwealth. In future years the States will be able to have more flexibility of revenue and therefore be able to remove or abate the range of indirect taxes and charges that they have now. The Government’s policy aims at rationalising the reducing taxation over the whole field of the 3 spheres of government.
- Mr President, yesterday Senator Robertson asked me a question which I regarded as having some urgency. It related to Darwin. I have some information that I would like to give today. His question related to the difficulty of unemployment benefit claims being facilitated. It is true that since early February the number of unemployment benefit claims received in Darwin has doubled. This has been due to the fact that with the start of the dry season and the opening of the roads many people have gone to Darwin in an attempt to find work. Because of the general economic conditions the employment situation in Darwin is not promising at this stage. Consequently, many of the people who have gone to Darwin have found it necessary to lodge unemployment benefit claims.
State headquarters of the Department of Social Security in Adelaide has arranged for an immediate increase in the Darwin staff. One assessor commenced work last week. Another assessor is to go to Darwin in the next week or so. Local recruitment for a typist and a clerical assistant has commenced. Generally it is considered that the position is now being controlled and should continue to improve as the new staff becomes available. The Director in Adelaide has requested the Registrar in Darwin to contact the Department of the Northern Territory so that some publicity can be given in the southern States about the work situation in Darwin. It is hoped that such publicity may deter people from visiting that city.
- Senator Messner asked me a question earlier relating to a rather special radio station that Mr Dunstan had instigated. I am advised that whilst arrangements made for the South Australian Government with respect to 5DD could be classified as those for a radio station, it cannot be picked up by any receiving equipment- a blessed thought. Hence, it is not governed by the Broadcasting and Television Act. The arrangement consists of landlines being hired by the South Australian Government from Telecom Australia. These can be connected by pre-arrangement with local and interstate radio stations. I am advised, perhaps unnecessarily, that the station is used for State Government announcements and interviews of State Ministers.
– Last Tuesday, Senator Sim asked me a question concerning television interviews with Mr Wran, the Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament. The interviews were held in Parliament House by 3 commercial television networks on Wednesday of last week. I have interviewed representatives of the 3 channels concerned and they have all given me written explanations of their actions and have apologised. For the information of honourable senators, I table the letters of explanation and apologies. Consequent upon this incident, I have had consultation with Mr Speaker. We consider it advisable that the rules relating to television within Parliament House be reviewed and codified. I am putting this matter in train.
-I bring up the second report from the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
-I present a report on the outstanding references of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
Ordered that the report be printed.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a brief statement in relation to the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-When the Committee was re-constituted on 2 March 1976 it was empowered to inquire into and report upon uncompleted matters referred to the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee during previous sessions. Prior to the double dissolution of Parliament on 11 November 1975 the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs had before it 6 matters which related to: Elimination of discrimination against Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders; the report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee; amendments of the Matrimonial Causes Rules, (Statutory Rules No. 8 of 1973) the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse; the Evidence (Australian Capital Territory) Bill 1972) and ordinary annual services of the government. As honourable senators will observe from the report, four of these matters were referred to this Committee during the years 1971 and 1972.
The Committee does not propose to continue its deliberations on the first four of these matters, in the case of the first three because the main thrust of the references has been overtaken by subsequent events. In respect of the reference on drugs the Committee feels that the matter which was previously divided between 3 committees would best be considered by one committee. The Committee proposes to continue its consideration of 2 references, the Evidence (Australian Capital Territory) Bill 1972 and the ordinary annual services of government and hopes to complete its inquiry into both these references at an early date.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement to the Senate relating to the future program of inquiries by the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– When the legislative and general purpose standing committees were re-constituted on 2 March 1976 they were empowered to inquire into and report upon such matters as were referred to the legislative and general purpose standing committees appointed during previous sessions and not disposed of by those Committees. Prior to the double dissolution of Parliament on 11 November 1975, the former Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts had before it several matters which are regarded as being appropriate for inquiry by the new Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. At a meeting on 7 April 1 976 the Commute gave attention to this provision in the resolution of appointment and has made the following decision on these outstanding references.
Karmel report, free tertiary education and allowances available under the tertiary education assistance scheme. In the light of these and other circumstances the Committee has decided that these petitions will not be investigated.
-I seek leave to make a few comments on the statement by Senator Davidson.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– First, as past Chairman of the Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, I thank members of the Committee for the letter which they sent me acknowledging my services to the former Committee. Certain information that has been circulating makes it even more important that the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts should give priority to its reference on the Australia Council. By giving priority to that reference the Committee perhaps will be able to put to rest some of the rumours that are circulating concerning the financial activities of the Council and the manner in which the boards have carried out their responsibilities.
In particular I ask the Committee to quickly seek a reference to the Auditor-General’s Department in regard to correspondence between the Australia Council and the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association which covers employees of the Council. I think it is necessary for the Committee to be aware of such correspondence, by a reference to the Auditor-General’s Department, in order to support what I say. The reference of the Australia Council should be given priority. I am pleased to see that the Committee is again under the Chairmanship of Senator Davidson and I am certain that the Committee will carry out diligently and well all the reference to which Senator Davidson has referred.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 27 April 1976, at half past two p.m., unless sooner called together by the President, or in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
Debate resumed from 7 April, on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When this debate adjourned last night I was talking to the second reading of the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill and during my remarks Senator Greenwood endeavoured to prevent me incorporating in Hansard a list of names which I was able to prove was pertinent to the debate on this Bill. He took two points of order. If he had not done that I probably would have finished my remarks last night. Looking at Hansard this morning I saw that Senator Greenwood in speaking to his points of order misrepresented me and misrepresented the parent Act and the regulations that go with it. I want to quote some of the words that Senator Greenwood used in speaking to his point of order as they are recorded at page 1 164 of Hansard. I notice that Senator Greenwood is looking for his copy of Hansard. He said:
I think it is clear to the Senate that my initial objection to the whole tactic was on the basis of the invasion of privacy which this information disclosed. Parliament and the privilege of Parliament ought not to be used simply to name people and to allow those who name them to use the epithets which they think are applicable to denigrate their reputation and character.
Senator Greenwood was quite wrong in making that statement. I now refer to a letter which was tabled on 4 September 1975 with other documents which I have been consistently seeking to have incorporated in Hansard. The letter is dated 11 April 1974 and is addressed to the General Manager of Australian Fertilisers Ltd, P.O. Box 528, North Sydney, New South Wales, 2060. It states:
In accordance with your company’s obligations under Section 17 of the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act and Section 14 of the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act, the Minister for Customs and Excise requires the following information: the names and addresses of all customers whose purchases in a twelve months period would attract bounty and/or subsidy benefit in excess of five thousand dollars.
Your faithfully, J. D. CAHILL Assistant Comptroller-General (Revenue)
Either Mr Cahill is abusing the legislation or Senator Greenwood is wrong because that is the letter, asking for those names in accordance with the Act signed by the Assistant ComptrollerGeneral (Revenue). Yet Senator Greenwood says that because I want those names incorporated in Hansard I am trying to denigrate people who are recipients of this large bounty. I put it to the Senate: Who is right? Is the Assistant Comptroller-General (Revenue) right or is Senator Greenwood? The Government has used argument after argument to try to prevent the incorporation in Hansard of the names of the persons who are recipients of $5,000 or more, as pointed out in the letter which was sent to the General Manager of Australian Fertilizers Ltd in accordance with the Act. It can clearly be seen throughout the whole debate that has been taking place- I think we are in the third day of debate on these bounty Bills- that all that the Government has achieved in its endeavours to prevent those names being incorporated in Hansard has been to highlight the fact that there are many people in the community who are receiving a large amount of bounty.
I think that Senator Greenwood, on reflection, probably realises now that had he allowed the incorporation of that list in Hansard on Tuesday it would have been a dead issue. It would have been buried in the Hansard record and the only people who would have seen it would have been the people who read Hansard. But, of course, all day yesterday while the proceedings of the Senate were being broadcast it was a hot topic. People have rung me today and they have asked me: ‘What has the Government got to hide?’ They have listened to the debate and they have asked: ‘Why is the Government preventing those names being incorporated in Hansard?’
I do not want to delay the Senate because we have to deal with a lot of business today. It is of no use my seeking leave again to have the list to which I have referred incorporated in Hansard. As I said on Tuesday, as I said yesterday, and as I say again today, an occasion will arise when I will get those names into Hansard, despite what the Government says. I will read the names into Hansard, if necessary, even if it is during an adjournment debate one evening and we keep the Senate back. As I said, the taxpayers of Australia are entitled to know who the recipients of this bounty are. I again ask whether Senator Greenwood will give me leave to incorporate that list in Hansard. I seek leave, Mr President, to incorporate that list.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
– An objection has been made again.
– Who made the objection?
- Senator Greenwood made the objection, of course. Again the people will ask: ‘What has the Government got to hide? Why are they afraid to have these names of the beneficiaries inserted in Hansard!’. The Government must be objecting because of the criticism that is coming from a lot of members of its own Party. This was illustrated in the debate on the Social Services Bill in the other place. Criticism was levelled by Government supporters against their Leader because he is abolishing the $40 funeral benefit to pensioners. As has been pointed out, that action will bring into the Government coffers $ 1.7m which will be of some assistance in giving this bounty to the wealthy people in the community. Among them is their own Leader, Mr Fraser, who we know is in receipt of at least $5,000 which is the equivalent of 125 funeral benefits for pensioners. I should like to go through the list- I am afraid I will have to do it when we are debating another Bill- to point out how many pensioners are being deprived of their funeral benefits because of the people named in this list who are in receipt of at least $5,000. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics points out, in another document, that these people who are in receipt of that bounty, that is those who purchase more than 400 tonnes of superphosphate, receive an average of $7,500. 1 shall not delay the Senate any longer. The opportunity will arise when the names can be published in Hansard. When that opportunity presents itself I intend to take it. As I said in my opening remarks, the Opposition supports this Bill. We have no objection to it.
-in reply-The Opposition indicated at a fairly early stage yesterday evening that it supported this Bill. I am grateful that at approximately 12.30 p.m. on Thursday I am rising to thank the Opposition for its support of this measure. As the Government indicated, this Bill restores the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy for a short period pending consideration by the Government of the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on whether the subsidy should be restored. I think the benefit of that approach has been acknowledged by all speakers. I rise to acknowledge the support of the Senate for this Bill and also to reply very briefly to a point upon which there doubtless will be continuing misconception. Senator McLaren has persistently sought to have incorporated in Hansard a list of the names of persons who are the users of either superphosphate or nitrogenous fertiliser and who, because they are users, receive a benefit in the sense that the cost to them of the superphosphate or the fertiliser is not as great as it would otherwise be.
The Government believes- this belief was expressed last year when Senator McLaren’s Government produced the list- that this would be an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Why should the people of Australia be informed of the names of people who use superphosphate and therefore get a bounty? Why should the people of Australia be told the names of age pensioners? Why should the people of Australia be told the names of medical practitioners and chemists who happen to receive a benefit from the Government under Medibank? Why should the people of Australia be told the names of lawyers who receive money through the Australian Legal Aid Office? I imagine that to all these questions Senator McLaren asks: ‘Why not?’. I think we ought to endeavour to preserve in this country the benefit of individual privacy. People’s personal affairs are their own.
The fact that a government is prepared to extend a benefit, a bounty or a subsidy or to do business with people ought not to expose those individuals so that their private affairs are paraded through Parliament and made a matter of public knowledge. If an occasion arises when, as a matter of public interest, there is a need to investigate a transaction because someone is concerned as to whether propriety or the law has been observed, then totally different considerations arise. Simply to expose the names of people who have had dealings with a government because someone is a stickybeak or wants to use the information to denigrate those people politically ought not to be tolerated. I think that on reflection Senator McLaren ought to see that there is benefit in that argument. He sees some political advantage, as he views his politics, in having published the names of those people who have received a benefit or subsidy because they happen to use superphosphate or nitrogenous fertiliser. If the boot were on the other foot and if it were a question of ascertaining what emoluments were paid to the persons whom the Labor Government appointed to public office, Senator McLaren would say: ‘Why should that be a matter of public record?’. Or if we wanted to know who were the trade unionists who received benefit under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in regard to costs or assistance which is capable of being given under that Act he may fairly say: ‘Why should those names be made public?’.
It seems to me that each case should be examined in terms of what public benefit would be served to warrant the intrusion into privacy which thereby takes place. I do not believe that any justification has been given in this particular case for these names being made public. Until such justification is given we on this side of the chamber will do what we can, consistent with the Standing Orders, not to allow Parliament to be used as a forum in which these names can be publicised and all sorts of denigratory epithets applied to them. Furthermore, there is always the risk of inaccuracy. Senator McLaren sought to have read into Hansard the names of people which were contained in a list which was tabled in this chamber on 9 September 1975. That list was inaccurate. On 30 September 1975 Senator Cavanagh said in the Senate with respect to that particular list:
On further investigation it was found that the answer was not correct insofar as the list supplied by the producers included the users and the companies which were distributors of fertiliser. We supplied only a list of users. On checking the list we found that the Australian Capital Territory and the New South Wales Department of Agriculture were included among the distributors of superphosphate. Therefore, those names were not included. A lot of other names which were specified as distributors, not users, were in the list which was not tabled.
There is error. It seems to me that if one attempts to make a comprehensive list of people ‘s names the risk of error is always a factor to be considered. I feel that this particular interlude is not one which has redounded to the credit of the Senate nor to the use which is made of our debating time. I thank the Senate for supporting the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 17 March, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I assume that we will debate cognately the Loans (Qantas Airways Limited) Bill 1976 and the Loans (Australian National Airlines Commission) Bill 1976. Does the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) agree to that course being followed?
– I am perfectly agreeable.
-These Bills, the first of which involves loans to Qantas Airways Ltd and the other which involves loans to the Australian National Airlines Commission, better known as Trans-Australia Airlines, of course are not new. Over the years we have dealt with many of these types of Bills whereby the Australian Government, of whatever political complexion, guarantees overseas borrowings for the purchase of certain aircraft. I notice from the second reading speech that in relation to Qantas and, I think, Trans-Australia Airlines this is the twelfth occasion on which a Bill of this type has been before the Parliament.
In the case of Qantas Airways Ltd we are dealing with a Bill which seeks the approval of Parliament for the Commonwealth to undertake borrowings overseas for an amount not exceeding the equivalent of US$32.4m to be on-lent to Qantas Airways Ltd to assist in financing the purchase of its twelfth Boeing 747 jet aircraft. In the case of the Australian National Airlines Commission, the Bill seeks the approval to undertake a borrowing or borrowings overseas for an amount up to the equivalent of US$9.3m to be on-lent to the Australian National Airlines Commission to assist in financing the purchase of its seventh Boeing 727 aircraft. As I understand it, TAA is operating 12 of that type of aircraft and I think that this will make the thirteenth of the 200 series aircraft. Of course, it has six of the earlier 100 series aircraft.
These Bills seek the approval of the Parliament to negotiate those loans. As long as I have been in the Parliament it has been customary, I think, that whenever Bills of this nature come before the Parliament we have a very long debate on the 2 airlines policy. We do not normally argue about the manner in which these loans are negotiated, because the same mechanisms were available to both the Liberal and Labor governments, and they were utilised through the Export-Import Bank of the United States. As we are not opposing these Bills I do not wish to go over the ground covered by the great debate which has gone on for so long about the 2 airlines agreement. I think it is fair to say that even during the last 3 years the policy adopted by the previous Labor Government was basically similar to that which obtained in earlier years, and presumably that policy will continue to obtain while this 2 airlines agreement continues to serve the Australian public in a reasonably fair and economic manner. Trans-Australia Airlines, which we are dealing with more specifically today under this legislation, has, I believe, given that service.
I will not be long in my remarks because I know that the Government wants these Bills passed this afternoon before we rise. The matter with which I shall deal is the question of government involvement in the industry itself. We are looking at a new position in the Australian economy at the present time. We now have a government which seems to have very strong views about government initiatives and government enterprise. It would pay us, I think, to dwell for a few minutes on that aspect. The airline industry involves enormous capital investment. It literally stands at the forefront of technology for a number of reasons. It requires a large infrastructure, and it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. In all those cases- it even applies in the case of the Qantas loan for which approval is now sought- I notice that the amount which successive federal governments have guaranteed over the years is no less than $253m. There is a vast outlay in the industry on navigation aids, airport facilities and access roads to airports, which means that Federal governments are an enormous source of capital assistance to the airline industry. It is therefore reasonable to say that any government must be expected to accept responsibility in that field and that it must indicate to the airline industry policies which are clear and which are in the best interests of the community as a whole.
The performance of the Australian domestic airline industry in recent years has been good. I am talking now in terms of returns to the main operators, namely Ansett Airlines of Australia and TAA. They have provided, I believe, a reasonable service. They have done so with reasonable returns. However, in the last few months we have been witnessing a downturn in the activities of both of those airlines. I notice that for the quarter up to the end of September of last year the average domestic passenger traffic growth increased by 6 per cent compared with the same quarter of the previous year. In a period of alleged recession, that hardly suggests an airline industry that is going broke. Probably few industries in Australia could claim the same growth rate in that particular period as the airline industry has been able to do. Both of the major operators have shared almost equally in that growth. That growth must be compared with the quite abnormal- I think ‘abnormal’ is a fair word to use- increase in the growth rate in the previous 2 years. So taking the position in its totality, the last 3 years have been quite successful years for the industry as a whole.
We see that TAA to the end of June 1975 made a net profit of $2.2m. The net amount available for appropriation is nearly $7m, which means a return, expressed as a percentage of operating profit to capital, of 14.8 per cent. That is a marked improvement over the figure for the previous year of 5.4 per cent. I assume that similar figures could be quoted in the case of Ansett. So the domestic airlines, with which we are dealing under these Bills, are in quite a healthy position. It is not a bonanza, of course; we would not claim that. Both of the major airlines have been averaging a 66 per cent or 67 per cent, I think it is, load factor. Australian airlines have always had a very high load factor in comparison with most domestic services overseas. That does not suggest that either of these airlines is in a depressed state at the present time.
The principal problem can be seen in their increasing costs against revenue received. TAA’s revenue between 1973-74 and 1974-75 increased by 23.7 per cent and total expenses increase by exactly the same percentage. No doubt Ansett would have experienced a very similar situation. It is understandable that those 2 operators want to keep their costs at a minimum.
By exactly the same argument- and I remind the Senate again of the enormous investment by successive Federal governments in this industrythe government of the day must consider seriously also the cost factor to it as it is responsible to a much bigger group of people than, say, is represented by the shareholders of Ansett Airlines of Australia. It was for that reason I am sure that in 1972- and I suppose it is almost ironical that the same Minister, Senator Cotton, involved then is in charge of this legislation in the Senate now- the Government enunciated the principle of cost recovery in respect of navigational services through charges by the Federal Government.
Although the Labor Government did seek a higher rate of recovery than did the previous Liberal-Country Party Government, the principles accepted by both major parties are the same. These air navigation charges have increased most markedly over the years. I feel it is both relevant and desirable that we should incorporate in Hansard a table which will show the very difficult position in which a Federal government is placed. I would indicate also the difficult position in which this Government will find itself. Although we were criticised for the degree to which we wished to increase air navigation charges, I believe that there is good evidence to show that the present rate of increase must rise further and that the recent legislation which provided for an increase of 1 5 per cent in air navigation charges will not make any significant impact on the percentage of recovery. I therefore ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard this table which is from the November issue of the Australian aviation magazine Aircraft.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The document read as follows)-
-I thank the Senate. The table shows the costs to the Government from 1971-72 to 1974-75. The significant factor is that, despite the increases in those charges, in 1 974-75 cost recovery was only 54.1 per cent. This was slightly higher than the 53.2 per cent recovery in 1973-74. Clearly a further rise is needed this year, particularly in view of the sharp increase in costs. Despite the criticism which may have occurred with respect to the actions of the previous Government through its policy, I believe that our friend, Mr Lynch, will find himself in an extremely difficult position if he wants to achieve those things which he claims he seeks to achieve to get his deficit down. He will find that he will need to accept or come much nearer to the rate of increase which we advocated last year.
I turn briefly to Qantas Airways Limited. Undoubtedly Qantas is the world’s most successful international airline. We would all be a bit prejudiced in that respect, but what Qantas has achieved is remarkable. Its safety record is outstanding. From memory, I think the last time when Qantas suffered a fatality was in 1947. So I guess that every time we board a Qantas aircraft we have not much to worry about in that respect. Qantas has been outstandingly successful. Its load factor again is above the national average. Despite the fact that last year saw Qantas passing through more difficult times, for the same reasons that I have indicated, we nevertheless see a quite healthy operation by this Australian national undertaking.
As I do not wish to be overlong in what I have to say, may I emphasise at this point in dealing with these 2 Bills that all governments over the years have accepted the need to help in the financing of equipment for these 2 airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd. Surely they are examples of the success of a public investment by government. I do not think anyone could argue seriously with that proposition. It is a matter of concern, I am sure, to all of us who accept that principle that this Government has expressed in the clearest terms its intention to shift the resources of this country from the public sector to the private sector. I believe that it would be tragic if undertakings of this nature or of a similar nature were to be victims of that deliberate policy.
It is argued that under the 3 years of Labor Government too much of the nation’s national income came from the public sector. It is true that whereas, in 1972, 27 per cent of our gross national product did come from the public sector, at the end of 1975 the figure was 3 1 per cent. There was a 4 per cent increase. It was not an increase of substance; rather was it an increase in trend. Even that percentage does not put us at the same level as such citadels of the free enterprise system as the United States of America, with 38 per cent of its national income derived from the public sector, Germany with 36 per cent and Sweden with 38 per cent. I have not heard criticism levelled at any of those countries for the degree of involvement by their governments in their generally healthy economies.
I close on the note that, although we support this legislation- we believe it is important that we continue to support two of the most successful enterprises, government or private, that we have seen in this country through the whole of its historywe do look with great concern at statements which have been made and which are indicated by spokesmen for this Government which would suggest that at some time in the future not only enterprises of this nature but others as well may suffer. On behalf of the Opposition, I indicate that we will not be opposing these Bills.
– I rise to speak on the Loans (Qantas Airways Limited) Bill 1976 and the Loans (Australian National Airlines Commission) Bill 1976 which the Senate is now debating. In doing so, I am pleased to hear the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) that the Opposition will give support to this legislation. It is interesting to note that the loan for Qantas will enable it to purchase its twelfth 747 jet and to observe how, as a company, Qantas has gradually changed from one generation of aircraft to another in its operations. Very many years ago Qantas operated petrol fuelled propeller-driven planes, then moved to turbo-prop aircraft, on to the Boeing 707 aircraft and finally introduced into service the Boeing 747 or the jumbo jet as it is known. Today Qantas finds it necessary, as many of the international airlines have done, to rationalise the types of aircraft it uses to make sure that it can have maximum carrying capacity and at the same time operate at maximum passenger content in the high density air routes.
Having said that, I add that Qantas has had a remarkable history from its small beginnings when it was established in Queensland as the Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service QANTAS. Today it is the international flag-carrier for Australia, flying its flag throughout the world. Not only is Qantas recognised as the international Australian airline but also is it recognised, as Senator Wriedt said, for its reliability and service. Today it is recognised as one of the top quality airlines in international air services.
Having made that point, I must make a passing reference to a news release that was put out by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) earlier this year in which he dealt with aspects of exercising more control in the way in which air line travel is sold, stating that there would be penalties imposed on other airlines if they tried to alter commission rates to agents or if they engaged in advertising which was not quite in line with the manner in which this should be done.
I do not disagree with that statement. Unfortunately, one has not time today to go into that detail of this aspect. I am very much aware, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that the Government would like these Bills passed this afternoon. Whilst I accept the Minister’s statement, I hope that the management of Qantas is conscious of cost structures and does not automatically give in, as it has in the past, to demands made upon it without the fight that perhaps there should have been. Whilst the Government will continue to protect Qantas, it must not overdo the protection. I think there should be a two way flow. We must go for maximum efficiencies all the way, and I hope that Qantas in the future will stand up a bit more than it has in the past to some of the demands made upon it for excessive wage rates and pay rises by various members within the organisation.
Unfortunately I am not able to deal with many other aspects I would like to have touched on today. I turn to the Bill dealing with the purchase of Trans-Australia Airlines’ seventh Boeing 727 or stretched jet, as it is called. Trans-Australia Airlines also has done an extremely good job in Australia. We have a 2-airline internal policy involving TAA and Ansett Airlines of Australia. I am concerned by the number of occasions on which members of the Opposition go out of their way to make vindictive statements about Ansett Airlines of Australia. I commend the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) for the manner in which he presented the case today on behalf of the Opposition. Frankly, I think it is essential for competition that we have a 2-airline policy in this country. We appreciate that Ansett is purely a private airline whereas TAA is working basically as a semi-government organisation.
It is noticeable that there is legislation before us approving a loan for TAA to obtain a new aircraft but there is nothing at present for Ansett. I am given to understand that Ansett also hopes to obtain another stretched 727 later this year; so one would expect legislation to be forthcoming in relation to an Ansett Airlines’ purchase. Several matters concern me. I wish to quote very briefly from the House of Representatives Hansard at page 665. The former Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), speaking on the Bill relating to TAA, said:
TAA is doing the right thing by buying a new aircraft because this will then allow it to sell the one they want to replace. In my opinion, Ansett should be doing the same thing. In other words, people flying with Ansett will be getting second best and not the best to which they are entitled in this country.
This is an unfortunate statement. As recorded at page 661 of the House of Representatives Hansard, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said:
Frankly, my personal view is that we would have cheaper, more co-ordinated, more satisfactory internal travel, if like Germany with its Lufthansa, our domestic as well as overseas airlines were totally in public hands.
This has been and is the philosophy of many members of the Opposition. Statements attempting to denigrate Ansett Airlines are unfortunate. It is in open competition with the Government airline. In fact, it provides more than adequate competition because last year Ansett showed that it was a very efficient airline by making a profit of some $4m whereas TAA had a profit last year of approximately $ 1 m.
Senator Wriedt referred to the problem of high costs within the airlines. We are faced with high costs in so many areas, but air travel today is very important in a continent such as Australia where vast distances have to be covered. It is essential that we try to keep our costs to a minimum in all areas, but particularly in the airline industry, which should be giving greater opportunity to more people to take the benefit of quick, easy transport by air. Unfortunately costs are increasing. The increases are not all increases we would normally expect as a result of inflation. Some of them are brought about by irresponsible strikes and stoppages within the airlines and the transport system. Because of a strike by transport workers a few weeks ago certain scheduled flights were cancelled and there was great disruption of air services affecting both TAA and Ansett. The strike was unnecessary because the matter could have been handled by conciliation and arbitration but was not. Many private citizens suffered. One read of the tragedies of certain people in Western Australia, where air services were totally cancelled. A woman who wanted an urgent operation in Sydney was unable to get to Sydney. People who wished to travel because of bereavement also suffered. Whilst strikes cause immediate inconvenience to people they also have a longer term effect on costs within the industry which in turn can only affect many of the smaller people of our community. Costs encountered by airlines must be passed on and are reflected in higher charges. Business people travelling by air can pass these higher charges on to the consumer, but the private air traveller has to absorb extra costs. On all counts the cost comes back to the little person who pays the price for the irresponsibility of certain extreme, radical leaders within some of our unions.
I have made only a passing reference to this matter. There are many more things I would like to have said in that area. There are many more things I would like to have said in relation to the 2-airline system, and there are many more things, some complimentary and some critical, I would like to have said in relation to Qantas. I have much pleasure in supporting the legislation.
-I reiterate what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) said. The Opposition will cooperate to ensure the passage of this Bill this afternoon. I suppose one wonders why we should be so co-operative in view of the fact that the people now in government once held up a Budget here for several weeks. I want to make a couple of pertinent remarks in reply to the points raised by Senator Young. He put a lot of the blame for strikes and stoppages on to the workers of the aircraft industry. I point out to him that wage indexation was approved by the Australian Labor Party and by the great majority of unions. I notice from headlines in the last day or two that the Government is now perturbed that it may lose wage indexation. I remind honourable senators opposite that the first assault on wage indexation was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) a few weeks ago when he entered a plea to give only half the flow-on cost of living increase to the workers. Senator Young referred to radical leaders in the aircraft industry. I assume he was implying that the leader of the Australian Air Pilots’ Association is a member of the Communist Party. That is the inference I drew. Pilots, hostesses and ground workers are fighting for their rights. When the Government and employers refused to negotiate, strike was the last resort. I have not known any people in the aircraft industry who have used the strike weapon in a flippant or irresponsible manner at any time. I say good luck to them. It is a great pity that the employers forced them to this method of trying to get wage justice. I want to make a couple of comparisons. I anticipated that I would have a longer time in which to speak to these Bills. However, as this is not the case I will ask for leave to incorporate a couple of tables in Hansard. I will incorporate them as I speak to the matters with which they deal in order to save time and to make sure that the Bills are passed this afternoon.
Firstly, I make the point that we are dealing with 2 loans. I will direct my remarks to them together. The loan for Qantas Airways Ltd is for an amount of $25.7m and the one for TransAustralia Airlines is for $7.4m. I wish to mention something to the Minister while I am speaking now so that perhaps he can give some answer to me when he is replying in the debate. It concerns the interest rate on the loans which is 9 per cent. I hope that is a negotiable interest rate in view of the fact that there appears to be some upturn in the economy of the United States of America. The remarks that Senator Young made a few moments ago about the free enterprise system are very interesting. As I progress to make my speech in the next few minutes I will point out that Ansett Transport Industries has worked in a very advantageous position in that it is able to obtain the type of financial assistance that it would not be able to obtain if the company was working in the ordinary commercial field and did not have some sort of government assistance or government backing.
The total success of the 2 publicly owned companies, Qantas Airways Limited and TransAustralia Airlines, speaks for itself. We should consider that approximately 60 per cent of the total passenger volume on the Australia-Europe route was carried by Qantas Airways Limited during the financial year 1974-75. That high percentage of the traffic was achieved by a public company which is in direct competition with private companies. I know that a couple of the overseas airlines are government owned. Nevertheless, Qantas is set out here as a clear example. Record figures were achieved by Qantas for the 1974-75 financial year in all facets of air travel. Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which shows this increase in air traffic.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
-Other than 2 subsidiary companies which did show a small loss, affiliated companies of Qantas recorded net profits for the financial year 1974-75. There were 2 small net losses. One was incurred by Air Pacific Limited which showed a net loss of $509,250 and the other by New Hebrides Airways Ltd which showed a net loss of $3,807. From these figures it is quite obvious that Qantas Airways Ltd is a very successful public company and competes more than favourably with other international airline groups, many of which are privately owned.
The present Government is obsessed with the private enterprise slogan, but one wonders why it feels that a publicly-owned company cannot compete successfully. This year, Qantas Airways Ltd is likely to record a loss in excess of $20m. Much of this will be due to increased fuel charges. But I think that when we line up this loss against the losses that will be incurred by other world airline companies in the general downturn in air traffic, we will see that probably they will show much greater percentage losses than Qantas. There are a couple of other points I want to make in this area. An indication of the present Government’s vehement dislike for anything owned and operated by the Australian people is afforded by the remarks of an honourable gentleman in the other place who represents the Federal division of Swan when he was speaking in the debate on these Bills in the lower House. He is recorded on page 668 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 16 March 1976 as saying:
No matter what one thinks of public enterprise we do have the ongoing situation of maintaining Qantas and TAA … It does not matter whether some of us feel from time to time that we ought to sell our interests in Qantas and that we ought to sell TAA to private enterprise.
There have been times in years gone by when the Liberal Party has been in government when it has been most anxious to dispose of all public companies. Obviously, this is still reflected in the statements that I referred to by the honourable member in another place. In a similar way, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd is helped in the same way as the Government helps TAA. Senator Young referred to this briefly. When Ansett desires to purchase aircraft abroad, the Government comes forward with the same son of funding operation or loan operation as that offered to TAA or Qantas. I wondered, as Senator Young did, why Ansett has not applied for a loan to replace its current aircraft, the Boeing 727-100 series aircraft, which, if they are continued to be operated by Ansett Airways Ltd, will be among the oldest passenger aircraft operated on the Australian routes.
I wish to refer again to the speech made by the honourable member for Swan in another place. This paragraph highlights the Liberal-National Country Party Government’s obsession of giving a preference to anything that smacks of free enterprise. This is what Mr Martyr said: . . We, as a free enterprise government, are prepared to help TAA even if its profits are less than those of Ansett and its staff is greater.
He also said a little later in his speech:
Secondly, the Treasurer has indicated that the airline -
That is TAA- will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreements and that there will be no net charge on the resources of the Commonwealth, which is really the only way in which government assistance ought to be given to public enterprise in this country.
Again, we see this rather ugly sort of attitude that rears its head from time to time in statements made by Government members. I think that a glaring example of the preferential treatment that Ansett receives from the Government under its philosophy is the Western Australian section where Ansett has a monopoly advantage over TAA which earns in excess of $5m a year. If I had more time I would be able to give much more detail about a couple of other areas in which Ansett has a total monopoly. References have been made in the remarks that I have quoted of how this benevolent Government will help TAA and Qantas despite the fact that they show a lower profit than Ansett. I ask: Which government allowed Ansett to develop this monopoly in air traffic in various parts of the country in the first place? To find the answer we have only to look back over the history of the airlines in this country to find that there has been preferential treatment given at all times to the Ansett group of companies. I have taken out some figures which show the operating profit before tax, the operating profit after tax and the operating profit after tax as a percentage of shareholders’ funds. This table, which I seek to have incorporated in Hansard in order to save time, shows the position of TAA and Ansett in these 3 profit categories. Mr President, I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
– The existence of loan guarantees for the purchase of aircraft enables Ansett Transport Industries to borrow certain funds at more favourable terms than would be possible without such guarantees. This is the point I mentioned a little earlier in the debate. In addition, this tends to maintain the profitability of airline operations because of the lower costs of raising finance and the reduction of certain commercial risks which would certainly arise in all normal circumstances if the company were competing in the open market. In other words, the Australian people are subsidising ATI whilst it continues to maintain very large profits.
Before I conclude my remarks, there are a number of points I wish to touch on briefly. I think they should appear in the record for historical purposes if for no other purpose. Obviously, ATI has been given blatant preferential treatment by this Government and by previous Liberal-Country Party governments. In addition to extra loans for TAA, this Government should take steps immediately to rectify the monopoly that ATI has created in the northern and western parts of Australia. ATI has a total monopoly on the routes Darwin to Perth, Cairns to Weipa and Thursday Island, Darwin to Kununurra and on many of the subsidiary routes it operates in that part of Australia. This has been carried over to the share that ATI has in Air Niugini, a system which is now operated by a separate organisation in New Guinea under that country’s own flag. But in this particular grouping, TAA has only a 12 per cent share, Qantas only a 12 per cent share, the New Guinea Government a 60 per cent share and Ansett Transport Industries has a 16 per cent share.
As an Australian concerned about Australian events and who runs this country, I draw the following points to the attention of the Government which apparently is so dedicated to pursuing its ideal of free enterprise. Ansett Transport Industries Ltd receives preferential treatment from the Liberal-National Country Party Government over the public airline. As at April 1 972 overseas shareholders had 9.8 per cent control in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd- I think this percentage has increased; it is difficult to get the figures. The company was 10.5 per cent controlled by nominees residing in Australia who may represent some overseas corporations and was 23.3 per cent controlled by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd, which in turn is 34 per cent controlled by overseas interests. Once again we find that not only does the Government support this section of private industry- that is its prerogative if it wants to be so blatant- but also that the percentage of overseas shareholding as compared with the 2 public companies for which these loans are being approved today puts the overseas shareholders in a favourable situation in terms of the capital that is available and the profits they are able to turn in. I believe that Qantas Airways and Trans-Australia Airlines have a record second to none, and they deserve whatever assistance can be given at the government level. The Opposition does not oppose the Bills.
– in reply- I understood that the broad aim was to conclude this debate by 3 p.m. That would be extremely difficult were I to make my normal lengthy and well-considered reply. This debate has been very heavily canvassed by both sides in the House of Representatives. A number of things that have been said have actually been said for the second and third times. They add nothing to the quantum of the argument. 1 think it is known to the Senate that I have some familiarity with the subject with which we are dealing. Only one basic question has not been answered. I shall seek to answer it. Loans are made available to Trans-Australia Airlines at fixed interest rates and on favourable terms. The other question raised by both Senator Young and, I think, Senator Keeffe was what would happen to Ansett Transport Industries Ltd when it wanted aircraft. I understand the company now requires another aircraft. It will get its normal loan guarantee. The Bills are not opposed. As I said, we could have a lengthy discussion on the question of who was responsible for costs rising in the last 3 years, the program of charge recovery and the 2-airline policy but that would add nothing to the quantum of the debate or to anybody’s knowledge. Accordingly I suggest that the Bills be now taken through their remaining stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 17 March, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Assent reported. ( General Business taking precedence of Government Business at 3 p.m.)
– I move:
Since this motion concerns the vexed question of Federal-State financial relations I want to nail at the outset the monstrous lie which has been repeated on innumerable occasions by assorted spokesmen for the Government and in its most recent form was repeated in the Senate -
– Order! Is the honourable senator accusing Government supporters of lying?
– The statement, as I am about to demonstrate, Mr President, I believe to be a lie. Whether it is stated consciously or not may be another matter.
– The honourable senator must not make any imputation against any member nor suggest that any member be telling a lie.
– Very well. I accept your ruling, Mr President. I want to nail a monstrous misstatement of fact which has been repeated ad nauseum by assorted spokesmen for the Government and was repeated most recently in the Senate yesterday by Senator Carrick. Senator Carrick said that above all the States would have more money so that they could reduce and wipe out a great number of the indirect taxes and charges that they had been forced to impose by the squeeze of the previous Government. The misstatement of fact is embodied in the final phrase which refers to the alleged squeeze imposed by the previous Government. No such squeeze was imposed and the facts demonstrate that very clearly. Never have the State governments been so well catered for financially as they have been during the last 3 years of the Whitlam Government.
I have obtained, with the assistance of the Parliamentary Library, statistics which show under various headings distributions of funds from the national government to the States collectively for the 1972-73 year, as shown in the 1972 Budget, and for the 1975-76 financial year, as shown in the 1975-76 Budget. The figures show, under the heading ‘General Revenue Assistance: Financial Assistance Grants’- the sub-heading which Government supporters usually assert is of primary importance- that in 1972, $1,647,000 was paid to the States. In the 1975 Budget provision was made for paying $3,184,000 to the States. That represents an increase of 90 per cent in payment under the sub-heading which spokesmen for the Government constantly assert is the crucial sub-heading.
Under general purpose capital grants- that is another untied grant- the figure of $248m in 1972-73 was increased to $430m in 1975-76. That is an increase of 73 per cent. Specific purpose payments- a tied grant- for both recurrent and capital purposes aggregated, increased from $93 lm in 1972-73 to $4,051m in 1975-76. That represents an enormous increase of 335 per cent. Total Government payments to the States, disregarding Loan Council borrowings, increased from $2,881m in 1972-73 to $7,705m in 1975-76, an increase of no less than 167 per cent in the 3 years, 3 years during which spokesmen for the Government continually asserted that the States were subjected to a severe financial squeeze. As a proportion of total Federal outlays, grants to the States exclusive only of Loan Council borrowing programs increased from 28 per cent in 1972-73 to 35 per cent in 1975-76, using round figures.
It is true that there has been a considerable increase in the consumer price index throughout that period. Using the figures supplied to me this morning by the Parliamentary Library, in the 3 years from December 1972 to December 1975, the consumer price index increased from 127.7 to 191.7, representing an increase of 50.1 per cent. Just in case someone should assert that that is the highest ever, it is not. The highest was in the 3 years from December 1949 to December 1952 when it was 52.6 per cent under the MenziesFadden Government which had been elected mainly on the platform of putting value back into the pound. So, even though there has been a high rate of inflation in the last 3 years, and nobody denies that, in none of the categories I have cited have the grants to the States increased by less than 73 per cent during the 3 years of Labor government. They have increased in the main sub-heading, special specific purpose payments, by 335 per cent and have increased overall by 167 per cent. In only one very minor category, special revenue assistance to the States, has there been a decline and under that sub-heading $ 1 5m was provided in 1972 and nothing was provided in 1975-76.
Previous experience leads one to believe that the facts will have little, if any, influence on statements which are made in public by members of the Government. No doubt they will continue to assert that the States have been financially squeezed during the last 3 years notwithstanding that the increase in total Federal Government payments to the States of 167 per cent more than offsets the increase in the consumer price index. In fact it offsets it by the ratio of 3 to 1. 1 move now to the existing position with respect to Federal-State financial relationships. The present arrangements have 2 notable features. The first is that 2 States, New South Wales and Victoria, pay more income tax per head of population than do the other 4 States and, again from the figures supplied by the Parliamentary Library, the highest per capita personal taxation payment in 1974-75 was in New South Wales where it was $620 per head. The national average was $572 per head. In Tasmania only $470 per head or $ 102 below the national average was paid, and in Western Australia $528 per head or $44 below the national average was paid. In Queensland the per capita figure was $124 below the national average and in South Australia $26 below the national average. So it was not particularly important to South Australia, but for all other States it is apparent -it is undeniable- that the per capita collection of taxation is higher. That recorded fact is partially related to the heavy protection afforded by tariffs to manufacturing industry which is heavily concentrated in the south-eastern States. The per capita tax collections reflect the higher levels of personal income prevailing in those States and in turn are very largely a function of the protection to manufacturing industry. I shall return to that point later in my address.
The other notable feature of the existing Federal-State financial arrangements is that the same 4 States- South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland- receive from Federal sources significantly more than the national average and more again than is received by Victoria and New South Wales. On page 1 45 of” Budget Paper No. 7 relating to payments to or for the States and local government authorities for 1975-76 is detailed the distribution of all payments to or for the States for the 1974-75 financial year. There is a discrepancy in the date because the figures for 1975-76 were not available at the time the Budget Paper was printed. At least that is what the Budget Paper states. These figures show that the average distribution per capita of Federal funds was $441. The amount received by Western Australia was $549 or $108 above the national average and the amount received by Tasmania was $699, an incredible $248 per head above the national average.
It is not surprising, therefore, that many people in Tasmania, including Senator Rae who sits on the Government side of this chamber, have publicly expressed their grave concern about the implications of the Government’s stated objective of changing the existing arrangements. Of course, members of the Australian Labor Party throughout Australia likewise have expressed their grave concern. In aggregate, bearing in mind the lower collection of taxation per capita and the higher distribution of Federal funds per capita to the States of Western Australia and Tasmania- I will not detail all the other States- Western Australia was advantaged by the existing system to the extent of $ 1 54 per head in the last financial year. If that figure is adjusted in accordance with the increase in the consumer price index, the total financial benefit to Western Australia from the existing financial arrangements would be in the vicinity of $200m. In the 1974-75 financial year the total benefit in Tasmania was $350 per head and in the 1975-76 financial year, in absolute terms, approximately $175m. I wonder how any Tasmanian government would survive if its revenue were reduced or if the State was financially disadvantaged to that extent.
In other words, the existing financial arrangements entail a massive redistribution of income from New South Wales and Victoria to the other 4 States. The current Premier of New South
Wales, Sir Eric Willis, also is well aware of that fact. For that reason, of course, Sir Eric Willis is one of the strongest supporters of the Fraser Government’s proposition that these existing financial arrangements should be changed. Sir Eric knows very well that a change of the type proposed by the Government would advantage his State and make his financial management problems much easier. In the Australian Financial Review of 1 1 February 1976 Sir Eric Willis, when referring to the existing financial arrangements, is reported as saying:
Another expression of the poor situation New South Wales finds itself in compared to other States is that we receive in financial assistance grants only 28 per cent of the total personal income tax paid from this State. Victoria gets 27 percent.
Other States do much better. For instance, Queensland’s return is 52 per cent and Tasmania gets 73 per cent.
Sir Eric went on to state his belief that the proposals put forward by the Fraser Government would significantly advantage New South Wales. I have no doubt that Sir Eric is correct. Whatever Sir Eric may think and however convenient the current proposals, if implemented, may be to him there is, I assert very strongly, a complete justification in both social and economic terms for the redistribution of income from New South Wales and Victoria to the other 4 States which is achieved by the existing FederalState financial arrangements. The social justification, I think, ought to be self-evident. Surely nobody in Australia wants to have whole States living in poverty. Surely nobody wants to condemn some Australian citizens to a lifetime of secondclass citizenship. I would hope that no one, even honourable senators opposite, would be happy if that son of policy were adopted. The other justification is a purely economic justification.
I believe that the existing arrangements provide an acceptable degree of compensation to the weaker States- I am referring to the 4 outlying States- for the degree to which they are penalised by the existence of the Australian tariff.
I think it is fairly well known that there are wide variations in the percentages of the States’ work forces employed in manufacturing industry. It is equally well known that the Australian tariff protects, overwhelmingly, secondary or manufacturing industry. If we look at the percentage of the work force employed in manufacturing, we find that the national figure is about 26 per cent; that the figure for New South Wales is 23 per cent, which is slightly below the national average; that the figure for Victoria is 28 per cent, which is above the national average; and that the figure for Western Australia is 13. 1 per cent. The degree to which manufacturing industry as a whole is protected by the tariff advantages New South Wales and Victoria. It provides far more benefit for New South Wales and Victoria than it does for the other States because manufacturing industry is more heavily concentrated in those States than elsewhere.
Moreover, the level of protection varies greatly between different types of manufacturing industry. As a general rule, the more highly protected an industry is the more heavily it is concentrated in the south-eastern States and, in particular, in Victoria. I have a table setting out the percentage of total industry employment in various States by 3 different groups of industrytobacco, food and beverages; textiles, clothing and footwear; and transport equipment. I seek leave to incorporate that table in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The level of protection varies greatly between different types of manufacturing industry. As a general rule, the more highly protected an industry is, the more heavily it is concentrated in the South Eastern States-especially Victoria.
-I thank the Senate. Although leave has been granted for me to incorporate the table in Hansard, I will comment briefly on the information it discloses. The sources for the figures I am using are the Industries Assistance Commission report of 1973 and the Australian Year Book for 1974. We find, firstly, that the level of effective protection as assessed by the IAC varies considerably with different groups of industries. A low protected group is the tobacco, food and beverages group with an effective protection rate of 1 1 per cent. We find that the total level of employment in that industry group and the percentage of the national work force in each State are comparable. New South Wales has 32 per cent of the total industry employment engaged in that group and 36.2 per cent of the national work force. Victoria has 3 1.5 per cent of the industry work force in that group and 27.2 per cent of the national work force. Western Australia has 6.7 per cent of the work force engaged in that group and 7.9 per cent of the national work force. Although there are some minor variations it is apparent that there is little difference between the proportion of the national work force in each of those States and the degree to which this particular group of low protected industries is concentrated in those States.
When we look at textiles, clothing and footwear we find that a different picture emerges. These industries are normally assessed as 2 groups in official publications. New South Wales has 32.7 per cent of the total employment in that sector and 36.2 per cent of the national work force. Victoria has no less than 54 per cent of the work force employed in that industry as against only 27.2 per cent of the national work force. Western Australia, with 7.9 per cent of the national work force, has only 1 .4 per cent of the work force employed in that extremely highly protected industry. A similar pattern emerges for transport equipment, mainly motor vehicles. This also has a high effective rate of protection, namely, 57 per cent. The effective rate of protection for textiles, clothing and footwear was 62
per cent. I am not sure whether I mentioned that figure earlier.
The picture is quite clear. Firstly, manufacturing industry is very highly concentrated in the south-eastern States. Secondly, the more highly protected an industry is the more likely it is to be concentrated in the south-eastern States, and in particular Victoria. Given those facts, I would argue very strongly that the existing system which effectively redistributes wealth away from the south-eastern States in favour of the other States is fully justified on economic grounds by the pre-existence of the Australian tariff. The redistribution to which I have referred is now threatened by the Government’s policy which the Government itself in its official publication refers to as ‘Federalism Policy’. The objective of this policy as stated by the Liberal Party in its policy document issued in September last year is:
If government is to be effective, it must be accountable for its actions. It should raise the moneys which it spends.
Logic dictates that if that stated objective is to be fully achieved- that is, if governments are to be made responsible for raising all the money they spend- there will be no distribution of money from the national Government to any State government. That is an unchallengeable proposition. Of course, it appears that the Government does not intend to proceed that far. In other words, it will not seriously attempt to achieve its stated objective of making governments responsible for raising the moneys which they spend. Nevertheless, it will travel some of the distance along that road. To whatever degree it pursues that objective, the 4 less populous States will be severely disadvantaged.
- Senator, have you taken any trouble to find out the real intention of the Government or are you just waffling on?
– I have read all the documents. I grant that they show a considerable degree of obtuseness and self-contradiction. They could be interpreted in almost any way one wished.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, we were going along quietly but Senator Walters obviously needs an audience so I draw attention to the state of the House. ( Quorum formed)
- Senator Walters asked me whether I had read the Liberal Party’s documents on this subject. I have, and I have found that they can be interpreted in a way which could mean anything or all things to all men. I suppose that is an attitude of mind for which Senator Walters should have a good deal of personal sympathy because in Hobart the honourable senator is noted as a rabid opponent of abortion and a prominent member of the Right to Life movement. When Senator Walters went to Launceston and addressed a meeting of the Women’s Electoral Lobby we find that she said that abortion was a private matter which should be restricted to consultation between the woman concerned and her doctor.
– Quote me correctly.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Order! Interjections are out of order. Senator Walsh, I understand that the subject before the Chair is not the subject to which you are now addressing your comments. Will you be good enough to come back to the matter before the Chair. I remind the Senate that interjections are out of order.
– I apologise. As I said, there are large areas of vagueness and many points of contradiction in the documents. We have the absolute guarantee of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- I use his words- that the interests of the smaller States will be fully protected. There are a number of people, including several prominent members of the Liberal Party, who do not believe that the Prime Minister’s absolute guarantee is an acceptable guarantee. The Prime Minister gave a guarantee to Mr Snedden on 6 March last year. He said that he supported the leadership of Mr Snedden and that there was no contest for the leadership of the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister gave an absolute guarantee that if the Liberal Party were elected to government last year it would support wage indexation and that it would maintain Medibank. Absolute guarantees were given in relation to a number of other matters. Given all the absolute guarantees of the Prime Minister and their subsequent worthlessness, it is not surprising that a great number of people, including many prominent members of the Liberal Party, and some of whom I shall name shortly, are not satisfied with the Prime Minister’s absolute guarantee that the interests of the smaller States will be fully protected. I shall not quote what members of my Party think and what they have publicly stated concerning this policy. I think it is far more significant to quote what many prominent members of the Liberal Party said.
– It usually is.
– I have here the remarks of Senator Rae who is Senator Wright’s Tasmanian colleague. At least Senator Rae, to his credit, had the courage to come out publicly and state these things. To the best of my knowledge Senator Wright has not done this. In the Australian of 13 February 1976 regarding the new federalism or taxation and financial distribution policy Senator Rae stated:
It is inevitable that unless there is through the system a tremendous improvement in tax-gathering efficiency (and this does not appear to have been claimed) -
It still has not been claimed- then someone is going to suffer if someone else obtains an advantage.
That statement is logically unassailable. Senator Rae continued:
It is significant that in an interview after the Premiers Conference Sir Eric Willis of N.S.W. expressed his enthusiasm saying that he would like to see his State retaining or obtaining a greater percentage of the total taxes raised within it.
Just 2 days before Sir Eric stated that, in the Australian Financial Review of 1 1 February 1976 he is reported to have said that if New South Wales received a return of 2 per cent more of the taxation which it paid he would be able to abolish the petrol tax. Since then Sir Eric has abolished the petrol tax. Obviously he is assuming that when the Fraser Government’s new fiscal arrangements come into operation they will provide New South Wales with additional revenue which will be sufficient to enable him to abolish the petrol tax. As Senator Rae has said, if Sir Eric gets that extra revenue it will be to the disadvantage of some other State. No doubt, Tasmania will be one of those States. The alternative assessment is that Sir Eric as Premier of New South Wales has decided with a total abdication of responsibility to abolish the tax because he is facing an election on 1 May. If that is why he has abolished the tax, that is even more outrageous. Sir Gordon Chalk, the Liberal Party Leader in Queensland and Deputy Premier, in the Australian of 12 February- I think this was just after he met the Prime Minister- was reported in these terms:
Queensland ‘s Treasurer and Deputy Premier, Sir Gordon Chalk, yesterday accused the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, and the N.S.W. Premier, Sir Eric Willis, of plotting against the smaller States.
The report continues:
Six Eric Willis said earlier he believed the 4 smaller States were receiving too large a percentage of Federal finance.
To his credit, Sir Eric has consistently said that in public. He has stated consistently that, in his view, the 4 smaller States are receiving too large a percentage. He has demanded consistently a larger percentage for New South Wales. Sir Eric Willis is completely happy with the Fraser Government’s new federalism proposals because he knows very well that if they are implemented his State will be better ofT, Victoria probably will be better off and every other State in Australia, which the self-proclaimed defenders of States rights who populate the Government benches in this Senate say that they are protecting or that they represent, will be worse off. Sir Gordon continued- and this is a direct quote:
Sir Eric’s statement has taken the lid off the plot which I believe was being hatched all along.
That was not a member of the Labor Party speaking; that was one of the most prominent Liberals in Australia- the Liberal Party leader in Queensland and Deputy Premier of Queensland. Mr Kevin Cairns, the honourable member for Lilley, was to my knowledge, the first Liberal politician in Australia to speak publicly against this proposal. Way back on 26 September 1975 Mr Cairns was quoted in the Australian Financial Review as having stated:
In the Liberal Party at present economic decision making is centralised in Victoria, with a little bit left over for Sydney.
Mr Cairns very perceptively put his finger on a crucial issue, that is, that this Fraser Government, which claims to be a power sharing, decentralising government, is overwhelmingly concentrated in the city of Melbourne. As Mr Kevin Cairns who is not a Labor Party spokesman said, the economic decision-making is centralised in Victoria with a little bit left over for Sydney. Mr Kevin Cairns ‘ comments were summed up in this way in the editorial of the Australian Financial Review:
Mr K. Cairns has fired a shot across the bows of the new policy.
For the sake of Mr Kevin Cairns’ State, Senator Wright’s State and Senator Jessop ‘s State, I hope that Mr Kevin Cairns’ shot across the bows of the new policy deters the Fraser ship of state from following its present course. The Premier of my own State, for reasons best known to himself because they are not apparent to anyone else, supports the new federalism policy. I suppose one possibility is that the Premier of Western Australia, who has no objection to centralism whatsoever and who in fact is a very firm believer in centralism provided that he is centralising all power unto himself, sees in this proposal an opportunity to centralise further power unto himself, regardless of the consequences it may have for the State of Western Australia. He at least publicly claims to support the Fraser Government’s federalism proposal.
It is significant, however, notwithstanding the Premier’s publicly proclaimed support for the proposals, that he has decided to hold a State election in August, 7 months before it is due. The Liberal Party has made this decision at the instigation of the Premier and is planning accordingly. The only thing that may deter the Premier is a backlash from the public in either New South Wales or Western Australia. Nevertheless, the Liberal Party’s current plan is to hold a State election in August, before the Federal Budget comes down, because the Premier of Western Australia knows very well that he would have no chance of winning an election if it were held when it is due- in March 1977. It is disgraceful that the Premier should contemplate abusing his power in this way.
Within my memory a premature election has not been held previously in the State of Western Australia. Western Australians are sick and tired of elections. Two elections have been forced upon them prematurely already by the actions of the Liberal Party and National Country Party in this Parliament. The last thing that Western Australians want in 1976 is another election. Indeed, I believe that the case against the Premier’s plan is so strong that the Governor of Western Australia should refuse to grant the dissolution of Parliament when the Premier asks him for it in July of this year. Certainly, the people of Western Australia ought to make known in no uncertain terms that they are not impressed by the Premier’s cynicism, his opportunism or by the cheap trick that he contemplates- the cheap trick of getting an election out of the way before the people begin to learn the truth about the Fraser Federal Budget and the Liberal Party’s new federalism policies.
– Did the Governor of South Australia refuse Mr Dunstan an election last year?
– As Senator Chaney knows very well, the South Australian Government was defeated on a crucial piece of legislation by a singularly unrepresentative Legislative Council. When the almost equally unrepresentative Legislative Council of Western Australia defeats a crucial piece of legislation introduced by the
Court Government I should have no objection to the Governor granting a dissolution of Parliament on those grounds. The honourable senator knows as well as I do that that is not going to happen. Far from encouraging fiscal responsibility for State governments and State Premiers, the embryonic emergence of the new federalism policy seems to have made State Premiers even more irresponsible than they have been in the past. For example, we have Mr Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland, backed by his Party or prodded by his Party- I am not sure which is the more accurate- promising to abolish death duties. He is gaily promising to forego some $25m to $30m in State Government revenue without putting forward any alternative proposition as to how the money will be replaced. Of course Mr BjelkePetersen knows that, in the confusion which is bound to surround the introduction of the new federalism policy, he will be able to blame the Federal Government for the fiscal consequences of his own irresponsibility, a tactic, of course, which he has employed over many years.
In New South Wales we have the Premier, Sir Eric Willis, with his election-eve promise to abolish the State petrol tax, again without making any suggestion as to how the consequential shortfall in Government revenue will be funded. Sir Eric Willis knows also that in the confusion which will surround the introduction of the new federalism policy he also will be able to blame the Government in Canberra for everything that is unpopular with his electors, while at the same time, of course, standing up and taking the credit and kudos for spending moneys provided by the Federal Government in ways that are popular in New South Wales. Sir Charles Court, in his maiden speech to the Parliament in Western Australia some 23 years ago, made this very point- that it just was not good enough that State governments should continue to blame the national Government for everything that is unpopular and take the credit for everything that is popular. Of course, that longstanding subterfuge used by State governments and State Premiers reached new levels of refinement during the 3 years of the Federal Labor Government.
It is difficult to be definitive about the major features of the new federalism policy because the relevant documents are vaguely worded. They contain that fundamental contradiction between the Government’s assertion that governments should be made responsible for raising the moneys that they spend and its then going on to detail, albeit in vague form, mechanisms to provide for the distribution of federal funds to State governments. As I said before, if State governments are going to be made responsible for raising the moneys that they spend there will be no distribution of funds from the national Government. So that is a fundamental contradiction in the document which, I suppose, is the basic cause of many of the consequential contradictions.
In his Press release of 6 October 1975, Senator Carrick- I do not know whether Senator Carrick still stands by this statement- said:
The Commonwealth would vacate part of the income tax field equivalent to the value of Commonwealth reimbursements to the States.
In the last financial year the total value of Commonwealth reimbursements to the States was in the region of $8 billion, which is almost as much as the total collections from personal income tax for the same year. So if the Commonwealth is really going to vacate a part of the income tax field equivalent to the value of Commonwealth reimbursements to the States, as Senator Carrick proclaimed on 6 October 1975, then the Commonwealth will not be allowing the States to impose a supplementary income tax surcharge. Indeed, the Commonwealth will be obliged to withdraw almost entirely from the field of income taxation.
The official document of the Liberal Party, Federalism Policy to which I referred earlier, supplemented by other statements which have dribbled out over the months from allegedly responsible spokesmen in the Party and in the Government, states as its first proposition that a fixed share of personal tax on an historically determined basis will be paid to the States. At no stage, so far as I am aware, has any spokesman for the Liberal Party suggested a figure for that share. Speculation by journalists has put it at 30 per cent, but no spokesman for the Liberal Party or for the Government, so far as I am aware, has put a figure on it. The official document of the Liberal Party provides, secondly, for equalisation payments. The Prime Minister, in a statement attached to the opening speech he delivered at the Premier’s Conference on 17 February 1 976, was not particularly lucid or decisive on the question of the basis for the equalisation payments. Indeed, when some of the paragraphs in that Prime Ministerial statement are juxtaposed they appear to be contradictory, and I shall quote the two paragraphs which appear to be contradictory. The first one states:
At all stages the arrangements will be consistent with the broad equalisation principles presently embodied in Commonwealth general revenue grants to the States (although that is, of course, not to say that the present detailed methods of assessment of appropriate relativities-
The crucial words are ‘appropriate relativities’- between the States would necessarily remain unchanged.
So the Prime Minister has said that the relativities between the States will not necessarily remain unchanged. Yet on the very next page of his statement he says:
In one instance the Prime Minister is suggesting that the relativities will be changed or may be changed from time to time; in the other instance he is suggesting that the present relativities will be frozen indefinitely. Senator Carrick, who has been the main spokesman on this question for many months, has hardly been more enlightening. The Australian Financial Review of 24 November 1975 carries this article:
When asked about the formula yesterday -
That is, the equalisation formula-
Senator Carrick said he did not expect it would be issued before the December 13 election.
It was not. The article continues:
He said it was an algebraic equation and he did not think it would be of any electoral interest as it was it was a ‘rather esoteric thing’.
That was almost five months ago, and that algebraic equation, which is a rather esoteric thing, still has not appeared. I do not dispute Senator Carrick ‘s assertion that it is a rather esoteric thing, but I certainly challenge the assertion that it is not of any electoral or public interest. Indeed, there are a great number of people throughout Australia, both within Senator Carrick ‘s Party and outside Senator Carrick ‘s Party, who are vitally interested in that algebraic equation. If we cannot understand it I am sure that there are plenty of competent mathematicians in Australia who will be only too happy to interpret it in layman’s terms. I trust that Senator Carrick will provide that rather esoteric thing to the Senate before much longer.
The third proposition in stage one of the new federalism policy, so far as can be gleaned from the document published by the Liberal Party and the Government, is that a percentage of income tax revenue will be earmarked for local government as well as the State governments. Of course, the percentage is not named. It was not named in the document and it is not named still. The Liberal Party’s Federalism Policy document states:
The money is intended for two distinct purposes: (i) a per capita grant to ALL local government bodies, with a weighted ‘ formula in contemplation.
That is an interesting clause- a ‘weighted’ formula. By definition a per capita grant surely cannot incorporate a weighted formula. Surely a per capita grant is a per capita grant. If one wants to weight something, one weights something else, but not a per capita grant. I think it is indicative of the haste and the ill-considered way in which the Liberal Party threw together this document that it could express itself in such imprecise and contradictory terms. The document continues: and (ii) an equalisation or ‘topping up’ grant to be distributed through State Grants Commissions.
It appears from supplementary documents that the proposal is that data relevant to these equalisation grants will be collected by the Federal Grants Commission and will be supplied to the States on request, and that the States will distribute the grants in some way- probably in the proper way, at the appropriate time and having regard to all the circumstances, to use the cliches for which the Prime Minister has become famous. But this matter certainly has not been defined in any meaningful way, although it has been suggested that the State governments would be obliged to establish six States grants commissions to distribute these equalising or topping up grants. That seems to be somewhat at odds with the Government’s proclaimed policy of reducing the size of the bureaucracy, unless the Government believes that State bureaucracies should thrive, survive, prosper and multiply and that only Federal bureaucracies should have their growth restricted. I suppose there is a fair bit of evidence around to suggest that that is the belief of the Liberal and National Country Parties, since the bureaucracies of the State governments controlled by those parties have proliferated in recent years at a very much faster rate than has the bureaucracy of national governments.
It is envisaged in stage two of the new federalism policy that State governments will reimpose State taxes which will be collected by the Federal Government and that these State levies, surcharges or rebates- there will be a lot more of the former than of the latter; I think we can all agree on that- will gradually replace specific purpose grants which will be phased out. There has been no definite statement, so far as I am aware, as to when, if ever, stage two of the federalism policy will be implemented. Therefore we cannot be sure of the timing. Of one thing we can be quite certain: Given the fact that average incomes in those 4 States- and in 3 States in particular- are very much lower than they are in New South Wales and Victoria, either the surcharge imposed in the States other than New South
Wales and Victoria will be higher than the surcharge imposed in New South Wales and Victoria or the quality of services provided by the State governments in the 4 outlying States will be inferior to the services provided by New South Wales and Victoria.
We are frequently told by the Government’s own spokesman that the proposition is roughly comparable with the Canadian system where the law does allow State governments at their discretion to impose surcharges on Federal personal tax. What do we find in Canada? We find that the Provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, which are analogous to New South Wales and Victoria, levy a 30 per cent surcharge to fund their services. The State of Manitoba which probably is analogous to Queensland or Western Australia imposes a surcharge of 42% per cent. There is no doubt that if this policy is ever implemented the surcharge imposed on the 4 outlying States will be higher than the surcharge imposed on the 2 south-eastern States, or the quality of services will be markedly inferior.
Another question which arises is: Will a surtax be levied in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory? If so, what conflict will there be between the Federal Government imposing such a surcharge and section 5 1 (ii) of the Australian Constitution? I hope that some of those on the Government side will take that question up and seek a legal opinion on it if they have not done so already.
It is suggested once again in an extremely vague way that the lower tax-raising potential of the 4 outlying States will be compensated for by some additional equalisation grants. This is suggested very vaguely in the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 17 February this year. He refers to this point at page 5 of his statement where he states:
Equalisation payments under (b) -
That relates to special payments to disadvantaged States: . . supplemented if necessary and as appropriate by additional grants on the recommendation of the Commission, will enable the less populous States to be compensated for the lower amounts of revenue per head they would gain from their levying, under Stage 2, surcharges at the same rates as New South Wales and Victoria.
So it is suggested that the lower tax-raising or taxing potential of the 4 outlying States will be compensated for by that provision. I mention that if this is to be done it erodes or destroys the principle of fiscal responsibility as the weaker States, if that principle were to be applied, would not be responsible for raising the money that they spend. In fact, they would be partially compensated by the national government. Once what are said to be these appropriate corrections are made, what we really finish up with is the existing system with different names and different sub-headings.
The idea of tying tax surcharges which may be levied to the other States or relating them to the surcharge in New South Wales and Victoria also appears as centralism in another form. It is just that it will be Victoria and New South Wales which are perhaps unintentionally dictating policies to the other States instead of the national government. Finally, I turn to the great dishonesty of the spokesmen for the Government. It was repeated in the Senate yesterday and I think again today, when they suggested that as a consequence of the introduction of their federalism policy everyone will be better off, everyone will pay more tax, and then in another area they say that they will abolish the deficit as well. They must go down in history as 20th Century fiscal alchemists.
Debate (on motion by Senator Webster) adjourned.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I move:
On researching this matter, I was alarmed at the little information which is made available. That which is available is extremely out of date. But it is a common belief that producers obtain less and less for their products, their efforts and their capital investment than anyone else in our economy. It is a commonly held belief that wholesalers who provide little in the way of productive output take an exorbitant rake-off for their efforts.
We are continually hearing, for instance, that the primary producer is getting so little for his product and the consumer is being fleeced so continuously. We hear harrowing tales of farmers losing on their investments and virtually living on less than the age pension. These statements alarm one. But, on research, we find that it is a very difficult task to obtain any factual information and, as I said, the information that is available is all out of date. The type of information which is made available needs to be seriously studied in relation to the dissection of programs and dissection of information.
Some studies have been carried out in respect of meat by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. But the usefulness of this information is somewhat impaired in that that knowledge relates to the period January 1970 to December 1 973 and, of course, this does not cover the enure period of extreme hardship which the farmers claim they have suffered and are continuing to suffer. Nevertheless the results of that analysis are useful in some respects. I refer to the results from a study by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics on meat marketing entitled A Report on Price Differentials in the Meat Market which bears close analysis. I have selected some statistics covering prices to the producer, the wholesaler and the retailer for 3 classes of meat, namely, ox/heifer, lamb and mutton. At a later stage in my speech I will be asking for leave to incorporate a number of tables in Hansard.
The report shows that prices to the wholesaler have not risen substantially, which surprises me more than a little, and demonstrates for example that the price to the producer rose 46.4 per cent in the period January 1970 to December 1973 whilst in the same period the price charged by the wholesaler increased 48.6 per cent and that charged by the retailer increased 65.2 per cent. If we look very closely at the results, they show that the price differential achieved by the wholesaler was actually less than that achieved in January 1970 for a substantial time in the period to December 1970 whereas the price differential enjoyed by the retailer showed a substantial gain. The price differential in the period January 1970 to December 1973 for the wholesaler varied substantially from 15.39 per cent in October 1971 to 2.5 per cent in March 1973.
If honourable senators care to” look later on they will see that the index numbers shown in the table indicates clearly that the price differential for the wholesaler has not increased substantially over that period. It should also be noted that it cannot be said that the differential in January 1970 was relatively high because the profit rate at that time was 1 1 .9 per cent. However, it is quite clear to me from my deliberations that the retailers of ox/heifer have been able to increase their prices substantially. The percentage increase over the period was relatively steady and faster than the increase in prices. I remind honourable senators that the action taken by the Consumer Action Movement in Western Australia some time ago was taken because of its concern not only about ox, heifer and lamb meat but also about mutton. We staged a demonstration in the centre of the city of Perth and marched on the State Parliament House asking for a complete and comprehensive investigation in relation to the markups on all primary food products such as meat. We did this because of our concern that at that time the primary producer, who has to account for his labour and his risk in capital expenditure, was getting the least out of the consumer’s dollar, and we were disturbed to find that at the time when consumers were paying for prime grade lamb meat at least 79c per lb the producer was receiving 23 per cent of that 79c.
The situation over the last 4 years since that demonstration has not changed at all. The figures I shall cite now will show that whilst in my original notice of motion I wanted to ensure that any investigation would cover the wholesale area there was also an assumption on my part that it would be extended to cover the retail area, including such things as packaging, excessive packaging, advertising and excessive advertising. So we looked at a great number of areas. We tried to obtain figures, as I said earlier, and we found it was virtually impossible. As shown by the economic census of 1968-69, it is of interest to me that as at 30 June 1969 the 22 947 retail grocers and tobacconists had a gross profit margin of 16 per cent. For bread and cake shops, which numbered 2709, the gross margin was 41 per cent. The wholesale area shows a slightly different picture. My figures are also for 1968-69 because no further figures are available. The gross margin of profit for meat wholesalers was 9.6 per cent and for photographic equipment and supply wholesalers 31.1 per cent. The latter had the largest margin of gross profit. A lot of meat is being distributed through the supermarkets. I think we should be looking at the whole field of pricing by these price leaders to see why in some areas they can cut costs to a bare minimum and in others increase them to such an extent that frequently the price of a product could more than double by the time it reaches the consumer.
Mr Deputy President, as you would be aware, consumer organisations throughout Australia have been conducting surveys for a number of years. In 1972 the Consumer Action Movement in Western Australia conducted a survey of prices and price increases over a period of some 6 months. Honourable Senators would be aware that one of the least used but nevertheless essential products in their household is pepper. It was the only product out the 35 which we considered would be used in each household each week which did not increase in price over 6 months. It was interesting that a short time after the end of our survey it was reported in one of the national newspapers that it was expected that later that year there would be a world-wide shortage of white pepper. The price increased by 40 per cent within 7 days.
The part that is played by the media is extremely important. Retail outlets, as do wholesale outlets, rely to a large extent on advertising. I am disturbed that a number of producers throughout Australia believe that they have to advertise to promote their goods when in actual fact they virtually control the whole of the market. I refer particularly to the producers of soap powders and breakfast cereals. I have a copy of a report which was brought down some time ago by the Prices Justification Tribunal. It is parliamentary paper No. 85 of 1974, a report by the Prices Justification Tribunal on the proposed increases by Kellogg (Aust.) Pty Ltd. I was rather interested in reading this report to see that the company itself claimed that it was in a high risk area. I was even more interested to note from the report that the Prices Justification Tribunal found that no risk was involved, saying that breakfast cereals are an accepted part of our daily menu. The report states:
It is undeniable that the Company has incurred heavy and largely unavoidable additional costs, particularly in relation to raw materials and labour but it cannot be assumed that all these costs provide justification for price rises bearing in mind the overall situation we have been required to examine.
The Company is a market leader in its field, has enjoyed many years of successful opreration in the face of competition and is likely to continue to do so. It is claimed by the Company that the industry is a ‘risk ‘one . . . However the Company was not able to put forward any substantial factor to demonstrate that there were any more risks than those encountered by the majority of trading companies in Australia. In fact there would appear to be less than usual risk of other companies coming into the market. Breakfast cereals are no longer ‘on trial ‘-they are accepted as having a permanent place in the breakfast menu and there appears no likelihood of that situation changing. From time to time there may be consumer demand for new products and occasionally some of these products may not have outstanding success but, from the evidence, the Company’s position has never been seriously impaired as a consequence.
The report says that from time to time there may be consumer demand for new products, but I point out that if there is a demand for new products it is normally created by the company which is manufacturing the existing product. It advertises, for instance, through the mass media that it is now putting Fred Blogg’s breakfast cereal and it creates what can be termed a false demand. Then Bill Smith and Joe Brown and even the children ask housewives to go to the local supermarket and obtain some of Fred Blogg’s breakfast cereal.
It is the company itself which is largely responsible for the creation of a false consumer demand. Through its advertising great expense is incurred. This advertising expenditure is a tax deduction and therefore is not chargeable to the company’s account. I return to the report of the Prices Justification Tribunal. It states:
We have considered the Company’s overall position including, amongst other things, its capital structure, profitability, productivity, expected revenue gains and the possible effects of the increased costs directed to our attention and are of the opinion that the proposed weighted average increase in prices of 12.42 per cent is not justified.
However we are of the opinion that a weighted average increase of 6.7 per cent is justified.
One of the things that disturbs me is that in the information that was readily available to me through our services here at Parliament House I was not able to find out exactly how much profit had been sent by Kellogg (Aust) Pty Ltd to its parent company in the United States of America, nor could I find out whether that profit had been taken into consideration when the determination of the Prices Justification Tribunal was brought down.
We have only to look at the newspaper reports over the last few days to see what is happening with price increases in Australia. I am interested specifically in one from the Daily Telegraph of Wednesday, 7 April. An article by David Hurley under the headline ‘Willis move to cut price of bread ‘states:
The State Government -
This is the New South Wales State Government- would act to reduce the price of New South Wales bread by up to 3c a loaf immediately after the May 1 election, the Premier, Sir Eric Willis, said yesterday.
My concern is that the Premier of any State can forecast that he is able to reduce to that extent the price of a loaf of bread, but not until after an election is held. I believe that this statement has been put out as a vote catcher. People will have to look at what he has had to say and determine for themselves whether he can do this. Perhaps that may influence them in their voting patterns on 1 May. The Premier is also reported to have said: . . The Government would legislate to control unions that prevented retail discounting in the bread industry.
He said the Government would also prohibit credits on unsold bread.
As a former member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices, I can assure you, Mr President, from information that we have received through that Committee at its public hearings in Melbourne and Sydney that it would be basically impossible to prohibit credits on unsold bread. It is a relatively simple operation for bread manufacturers not to note anywhere what credits are being paid to retailers for unsold bread. It is my personal opinion that manufacturers, particularly in the bread industry, will continue to increase their prices until such time as it is necessary for a government, either State or Federal, to institute price controls on the particular commodity concerned. Manufacturers will continue to over-produce. On the figures that were given to me- I must admit that I am speaking from memory- there was 20 per cent over-production by the leading bakery in Melbourne which controlled something like 40 per cent of the market. But the manufacturer, knowing that he had 40 per cent of the market in the metropolitan area, could over-produce. This enabled him to ensure that in actual fact all bread returns were credited. I do not know whether this was done in cash or by the supply of further loaves of bread. But at least he was able to determine for himself that he would continue crediting for unsold bread.
This raises a very important question in regard to what happens to unsold bread. There was an experiment in Victoria at one stage to sell dayold and 2-day-old bread at a reduced price. However, it was carried out through only one rather small and limited retail outlet area. I do not know whether that experiment is continuing or whether it has been successful. But I concern myself particularly with reports that it is possible to buy a wheat bag full of day old bread for $1 direct from the bakery. This bag would contain 30 to 40 loaves of bread. If it is not taken by people who know of its availability, I understand that it is sold to pig farmers for something like 2c a loaf. If in actual fact one day old bread can be sold to anyone, whether that person be a primary producer looking for feed for animals or a consumer who wishes to buy bread at a lesser price but still through the normal retail outlets and it can be established that there is over production, there should be automatically a decrease in the over-production and a decrease in the price of bread to the consumer. This is because it takes fewer people and facilities to transport a smaller number of goods to the same number of retail outlets as it takes to transport enormous amounts of bread that presently not only have to be delivered but also have to be collected for return.
I am also disturbed by an article that appeared in yesterday ‘s West Australian newspaper. It was delivered to my desk only today. The report appeared on the front page of the newspaper and is entitled, ‘Western Australian apples go on the dump’. There is a picture of a large number of apples being dumped at the Kalamunda tip. The article states:
Apple growers in Western Australia are dumping surplus apples.
Sub-standard apples are being burnt at a Kalamunda rubbish dump and being fed to cattle in the south-west.
It is thought that 7S0 000 boxes may be destroyed this season.
The apples dumped at Kalamunda were discarded because blemishes and other faults made them unacceptable for export.
In Western Australia quite recently I paid 39c a lb for apples. I would buy only 1 lb of apples at that price. I would have preferred to be able to say that I bought 2 lb at a lower price. Until we can get some preferential marketing system for our primary products inside Australia- that is, on the domestic market- we will not be able to reduce the cost of primary products to the domestic or the export markets. I am concerned that the article goes on to state:
The Agriculture Department has told growers that granny smith production should be cut by at least a third. Granny smiths represent 78 per cent of Western Australia’s apple production and 95 per cent of its exports.
We concern ourselves very greatly with the export of our primary products. Yet, when the previous Government introduced the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation Bill into the Senate it was defeated. I thought that that legislation would have provided an ideal vehicle to establish an efficient marketing program for all types of primary and secondary industries. I thought, for instance, that this was the area that could have been utilised in the sale of meat, fruit and vegetables to other countries. I thought that it would have combined all forms of marketing into an expertise area in which there would not be the division that we have at this present time when we have the farmers acting as individuals and the organisations they belong to also acting as individuals. Some of their marketing procedures seem to be most inefficient and do not do anything either for the price of those articles on the domestic market or to make sure that we have a comprehensive export market to which we can send our goods.
On the other side of the coin, there is an article which appears in The Age of Tuesday, 6 April 1976. It is written by Mr John Holland, the primary industries reporter and relates to the fact that Victorian and Tasmanian dairy farmers suffered another setback when the price of Australian skim milk powder on the export market was slashed by nearly a third. The point I am trying to make is that whilst we are concerned about the slashing of the price of any Australian primary product on the export market, we have to be concerned also about whether we are overproducing or whether we are pricing the goods out of the domestic market pocket. We have to be concerned, for example, about whether the production of skim milk power or milk products could be increased if the prices of these products were reduced and whether the - increased turnover would compensate the dairy farmers to a large extent for their efforts. The newspaper article to which I have referred states:
Although the international price has dropped, it is not expected to make any difference to Australia ‘s huge stockpile of more than 90 000 tonnes of powder.
I remember a number of years ago that there was a great campaign in all States because of an overproduction of eggs. I was concerned at that time because approximately 400 000 dozen eggs were in cold storage in Japan. Those eggs had been trans-shipped to Japan and the transport cost had been met by taking a little from the domestic market retail price and a little from the domestic market producer price and by instituting a levy which covered the cost of the transportation of the eggs. The eggs were held in cold storage in Japan until such time as the Japanese decided whether they wanted to buy them. We were told subsequently- I do not know whether the claim was valid- that the Japanese had agreed to a price of 10c a dozen.
Eggs are an extremely important factor in our diet. They provide our children especially with a great deal of the necessary proteins and nutrients. But priced as they are on the domestic market at this time, it is impossible for a person in receipt of an average weekly wage of, say, $70 with a family of perhaps 4 children to be able to afford to provide the children with one egg a day, plus the eggs that are used in cooking. If we take those figures into account, such a family would be paying in the vicinity of $3 a week for eggs alone. Mr President, you will appreciate that that is not possible for a large number of people who find themselves in that situation.
The same applies with milk. I believe that the domestic consumption of milk could be greatly increased if the price of milk were reduced to such an extent that it was available to all people in greater quantities. We seem to be concerned so much with the value of our export markets that we lose sight of our domestic markets. We have done that with meat, eggs and just about every commodity that we produce. Great stockpiles of most of those commodities are either hanging around somewhere in Australia or in other countries. It must be of concern that the storage of these commodities and the expected or anticipated export price are keeping prices on the domestic market so high.
We can look particularly to the primary industries. I think members on this side of the House as well as on the Government side would agree with me that there is a great deal of need to ensure that our farming communities become viable and that in actual fact their marketing procedures make them more efficient than they are at present. One of the biggest problems in the farming community is that everybody has to be an individualist. There is no such thing as collective thought unless farmers go along to a farmers’ union meeting or a pastoralists’ and graziers’ meeting where perhaps they will agree for a short time.
One of my concerns when I gave notice of this motion was the disbanding of the former Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices. I am concerned also with newspaper reports which indicate- in actual fact some reporters have said this-that because of the non-continuation of that Committee prices are rapidly increasing outside the area of prices controlled by the Prices Justification Tribunal area. As a result I think both Government and Opposition have to look now at the role of the Prices Justification Tribunal, not as to whether it should be in existence but whether in actual fact we should give it sufficient powers to make it a worthwhile institution in the area for which it was set up in the first place.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices conducted a number of inquiries. Members will be aware of such inquiries. They will recall the report on prices which was presented in 1973, the report on the prices of household soaps and detergents and the report on the practice of retailers repricing existing stock. It is my feeling that all of these reports and the inquiries themselves were comprehensive. They engendered a great deal of interest in the domestic community as well as in the manufacturing community. Submissions were received from people in all walks of life at each and every one of those parliamentary hearings.
It is of concern that the present Government has seen fit not to reconvene that Committee. 1 think it is rather a strange determination for the Government to make when in actual fact its policy, it says, is to look very closely at what is happening to prices, price controls and wages. The previous Government produced, under the auspices of the responsible Minister, the National Shopping Basket Survey which was conducted on 16-17 October 1975 in all States. There were 37 grocery items priced in 10 supermarkets in each of the 6 State capital cities. The pilot survey was carried out to determine which brands and sizes of commodities were most available in all cities. I am concerned at the wide variety of price ranges that operate even between supermarkets under the same name. The survey shows that Coles New World and K’Mart stores have completely different prices on most of the commodities depending entirely on the area. The price of goods depended on whether the store was considered to be in a low income area, a middle income area or a high income area. I think the National Shopping Basket Survey was a most comprehensive guide to the ordinary consumer, normally the woman of the house who does the shopping each week or to some men of the house who like to keep their hand in and keep their eye on prices too. It was quite a comprehensive survey.
I would like to think that this type of survey could be continued by the present Government. But as consumer affairs and business are now coupled under the one portfolio- I fail to see that these are compatible bedmates anyway- I doubt very much that consideration would be given to its continuation. I suggest to the Minister that it would be well worth while and would at least avail people throughout Australia of the statistics that are available in that Shopping Basket Survey. The 37 items used in the survey were collated with the assistance of most consumer organisations throughout Australia, and they had some part in compiling the survey itself. I suggest that this is a well worthwhile area and one into which inquiries should be continued.
As I said when I commenced my speech this afternoon, it is always difficult to establish that the statistics one is giving are comprehensive. In my instance they are neither comprehensive nor even up to date. The figures I have given in regard to retail establishments in the wholesale areas go back to 1968-69. They are the latest figures available. The other statistics range from January 1970 to December 1973. 1 seek leave to have both sets of statistics incorporated into Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The documents read as follows)-
– One of the other areas that concerns me is the production of drugs and pharmaceutical goods. I was concerned when I examined documents that came to my desk by fair means or foul. I had made available to me a copy of a journal called Pharmacy Trade. The issue was dated January 1973. Once again no up to date information seems to be available on the pharmaceutical goods. Publicity is given in this journal to a bonus offer by Abbott Laboratories for Seleen suspension. The bonus offer enables chemists to buy a 12-unit pack for the price of 10 units- representing a saving to the chemist of 1 7c per unit. In the same journal an advertisement by Berk Pharmaceuticals offers up to 8 bonus units to the dozen for a product called Uvistat. In addition it suggests a profit margin of ISO per cent. In the same journal- the November 1973 issueBerk offers a remarkable bonus on Ponoxylan. I do not know what was the remarkable bonus. I was not told as an ordinary reader of the journal but I am quite sure Berk Pharmaceuticals would have been prepared to talk to the pharmaceutical trade. What is clearly needed is, as I said earlier, a complete and thorough study of profit margins by a Senate select committee. I believe the Senate select committee should extend its inquiry into all areas and not simply as suggested in my motion inquire into the wholesale area or the disparity in prices between those paid to the producer and those paid by the consumer. It should inquire into all areas of marketing throughout Australia in selected commodities. I believe the committee should be assisted by experts from the
Bureau of Agricultural Economics and by experts from the .Bureau of Statistics. I believe that if the Government undertakes such an investigation it will find that consumers, retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers alike throughout Australia will co-operate to the greatest degree.
Debate (on motion by Senator Webster) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 25 March, on motion by Senator Keeffe:
That the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should maintain all services to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders at not less than the standard established by the previous Labor Government.
– I am delighted to hear Senator Keeffe express such a wish, although I would prefer the word ‘Aborigines’ to ‘Aboriginals’. I want to assure him that his motion expresses my wish and the wish of my colleagues in this chamber as well. I want to assure him also that we certainly will be not only keeping services at not less than the standard established by the previous Government but also improving many of the services to Aboriginal and Island communities. This is clearly spelt out in the Liberal Party policy and has been spoken about on many occasions by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and me. When looking at services that we provide to any section of the
Australian community we must ensure that those services not only are in the best interests of the people but also are provided in such a way that the people will benefit from them and the amount of money that is set aside by the national Parliament for them.
I have found during the last 3 years particularly that whilst there has been a great deal of money set aside for the advancement of Aboriginal and Island people, this money has not always been administered correctly and put to best use. I say this very sincerely because I have come across instances not of misappropriation- I do not imply that at all- but of mismanagement of the money that has been made available. I am aware of it as are the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) who was a shadow minister for aboriginal affairs, Senator Rae who was the shadow minister before him and the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Minister is having this whole area of Government Aboriginal advancement programs thoroughly examined and for this purpose has set up a committee. He has given the task to Mr David Hay who is a man of high qualifications and repute. The Minister has asked him to conduct an inquiry and his terms of reference are to examine and report to the Government on the delivery of services financed by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs with a view to assessing the effectiveness of the services financed, recommending improvements in the delivery of service and the financial arangements in the interests of the Aboriginal and the community at large, establishing where there are areas of waste or inefficiency. There is quite a deal of waste and inefficiency at the moment and there has been for a long time throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
Let us look at some of the services that have been provided in the past for the Aboriginal community. I refer to services such as the Aboriginal and Island medical service, the Aboriginal and Island legal service and a host of others. I turn firstly to the housing societies that have been established throughout this country allegedly, but perhaps in all genuineness by the previous Government, to provide accommodation for Aboriginal and Island people. What happened was that a number of building societies were set up and run- rightly so- by Aboriginal people. However, unfortunately there are many of them operating very close to each other and the cost of setting them up has been so great that less than one third of the amount of money set aside for housing has gone in the actual purchase of houses. In my area around Brisbane and Ipswich there are 3 housing societies. These Aboriginal housing societies or building societies, whatever they are called, have been set up to service a community of some 8000 or 10 000 Aboriginal and Island people. The waste occurs because there are 3 such societies which have each had to set up their own machinery, each had to set up an office, each had to staff that office, and each had to employ architects and someone to do the valuations. In an area of that size with that kind of population it would have been far better to have had one group having one set of machinery instead of having 3 groups of people doing the same work.
In Queensland under the system adopted by the previous Liberal-National Country Party Government prior to 1972 money was made available through the State government to the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs which had the machinery to do the work, its own staff, its own officers and its own equipment which were paid for out of funds allocated to it by the Queensland Government. The money that was made available by the Federal Government then was actually spent on housing. This was a far better method in my opinion because the money provided was going directly into housing. Consequently the Aboriginal people were benefiting from the whole amount of the money that was allocated to Queensland for Aboriginal housing. The present scheme involves the Aboriginal people in the matter of self-determination, about which we have rightly spoken so often, and Aborigines having the opportunity to manage their own affairs and do things for themselves. That is a wonderful idea and one that I applaud, but I cannot applaud it when the money made available is used unwisely and the Aboriginal people are not benefiting from it. This is what happens in so many areas.
During Senator Keeffe ‘s speech he raised a matter which I would like to mention now because it is something in which I have been involved for some considerable time. I am quite sure that the members of this chamber are well aware of the situation at Aurukun because I have brought it to light here on many occasions. For the Hansard record, I should like to state that the Queensland Ombudsman went to Aurukun. Although, when his visit was announced, I was rather sceptical I am now convinced that he has been able to achieve what perhaps I have not been able to achieve. His report has now been tabled in the State Parliament. I am quite happy with the findings of the Ombudsman. I should like to read from the report. It is an extensive report and I do not want to read all of it. I think the relevant part of the report to which Senator Keeffe referred can be answered by the following words in the report of the Ombudsman:
I suggest that a meeting be held at the Aurukun settlement to discuss with the Council, Elders and the people the social and environmental issues.
The persons to attend such conference, to my mind, would include:
Respective legal representatives.
If this proposal is accepted, I urge that the meeting take place as soon as possible.
The Ombudsman did go to Aurukun, he spoke with the people and, although some of the senior members of the Council were away at the time, he still was able to submit to the State Parliament a comprehensive report. During that visit he developed a fair understanding of the problems and the wishes of the Aurukun people. In view of the time, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.47 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated”.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, upon notice:
– The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) Policies of growth centre development and decentralisation, including their impact on location of Government agencies, have been placed under review. The Government is examining these matters and expects to make an early announcement.
Visit of Vice-President of the United States and Mrs Rockefeller (Question No. 126)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) Dealings between the Government and its advisers are private and confidential. I do not propose to make press reports about official advice to the Government the subject of discussion and comment in this Parliament. The proper subjects of Parliamentary inquiry and debate are the views of the Government, not those, real or imagined, of its advisers.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Sixth Report was not accepted by the former Government and the Universities Commission was requested to prepare recommendations in respect of the 1976 calendar year. The Commission’s Recommendations for 1976 have been accepted by the Government and are embodied in the States Grants (Universities) Act 1976. In accordance with the criteria laid down by the previous Government for determining programs in 1976 (inter alia, that new capital projects were to be limited to those demonstrably essential) no funds have been provided for buildings in the University of Queensland in 1976.
The States Grants (Universities) Amendment Act 1976 provided for the termination of a number of building projects from the 1973-75 program which had not been commenced. In the case of the University of Queensland no projects from the University’s general building program were terminated, although two teaching hospital projects were terminated.
The level of recurrent funds allocated to the student counselling and student health services is a matter for detemination by the University of Queensland. The recurrent grants provided to universities take account of the costs of student service activities.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In addition to research grants, funds are available to the States under the current Commonwealth grants program for technical and further education which may be applied to programs designed to improve community access to technical and further education particularly by disadvantaged groups. The Technical and Further Education Commission is not directly responsible for the implementation of these programs which are administered by the State technical and further education authorities. Comprehensive information on the degree of success of State programs is not yet available as even those operating the longest have just completed their first year of operation.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Department and the Interim Australian Capital Territory Technical and Further Education Authority regard this project as one which requires a high priority and it has been included in the draft 1976-77 Capital Works proposals.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Visit to Europe by the Governor-General (Question No. 401)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Did the Government pay for two first-class air fares each for the Governor-General and Lady Kerr when they returned recently from Europe.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes and I am informed that the arrangement, when compared to the estimated cost of $76,000 for using a RAAF BAC 1 1 1 for the entire overseas trip, as originally approved by Mr Whitlam, represented a considerable saving.
See also my answer on 23 March 1976 (House of Representatives Hansard page 927).
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In line with the wishes of the students themselves, the Commonwealth has provided the means to enable the students to proceed with further studies.
With study grant assistance, Mr Thorne is completing his diploma at Armidale this year, and Mr Lester has entered a Bachelor of Education degree course at Macquarie University. Misses Mumbler and Carriage have entered Bachelor of Education courses at Canberra College of Advanced Education occupying student places funded by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Freight Equalisation for Tasmania
-On 18 March 1976 (Hansard, page 614) Senator Walters asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question without notice concerning the recent meeting between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Tasmania, and whether the Premier made any inquiries regarding the Nimmo Report or freight equalisation generally. The Prime Minister has now supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Neither the Nimmo Report nor freight equalisation generally were mentioned in discussions with the Premier of Tasmania on 17 March. The Nimmo Report has since been completed and was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on 25 March. A copy had been sent to the Premier. The Report is being considered urgently by the Commonwealth Government.
Film and Television School
-On 23 March (Hansard, page 660) Senator Button asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question without notice concerning the vacancy of the position of Chairman of the Film and Television School and the Government’s intentions regarding the continuing independence of the School. The Prime Minister has now supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The term of the past Chairman, Mr Barry O. Jones, M.L.A., expired on 12 November 1975 and a successor has not been appointed.
The Council of the School has elected one of its members, Mr John J. Morris, as Deputy Chairman to continue the function until a new appointment is made.
In Opposition we supported the passage of the legislation which established the School as an independent statutory authority, and in Government we recognise the place of the School as a specialized tertiary training institution serving the rapidly developing and changing film and television industries, and education needs in these areas.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
No other types of assistance have been given by the Department of Social Security through the Australian Assistance Plan.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 April 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760408_senate_30_s67/>.