30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
- Mr President, I inform the Senate that the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, left Australia this morning to attend a meeting of the South Pacific Regional Shipping Council in Auckland. He is expected to return to Australia on 3 May 1976. During his absence the Minister for Construction, Mr McLeay, will act as Minister for Transport.
– I present the following petition from 78 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That reduction of the age limit from six years to eighteen months for patients eligible to receive cows’ milk substitutes as a Pharmaceutical benefit under the schedules of the National Health Act will cause serious financial hardship to many families;
That the Government ‘s action is responsible for a severe increase in the cost of cows’ milk substitutes which penalise parents of children aged eighteen months and over who have a medical need for these substitutes.
That there is an urgent, humane need to restore cows’ milk substitutes to children up to six years of age to the schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that cows’ milk substitutes be restored to the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits for children up to the age of six years as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 98 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.
That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organisations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.
That a proper balance between the Governments programme of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1 975-76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 54 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.
Petition received and read.
Omega Station in Australia
– I present the following petition from 152 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That Omega is the only worldwide navigation system, whose continuous Very Low Frequency signals can be- used by submarines to determine their position, while remaining completely submerged.
That in particular the missile-firing submarines of the U.S.A. can improve their destructive potential by using Omega signals.
That it represents a major escalation of the arms race, and directly involves Australia even further in nuclear war strategies.
That therefore an Omega station built in Australia would be a prime nuclear target.
That such a station would therefore represent a further deterioration of Australia’s independence and initiatives towards a non-aligned and peaceful foreign policy.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government will reject any proposal to build an Omega station on Australian soil.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 22 1 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-
1 ) The Australian Assistance Plan is a vital welfare programme because it is one of the few attempts by the Australian Government to foster local participation in community affairs.
The Australian Assistance Plan has been able to provide support to many local organisations whose needs were able to be well documented, but who would otherwise have been unable to gain access to funds for welfare projects.
The Australian Assistance Plan in its conception is remarkable in that it enables funds to be channelled directly to where the need is greatest.
Your petitioners pray that the Australian Government will continue to support financially and politically the Australian Assistance Plan in its present form, and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Construction of Family Flats in Turner, A.C.T.
– I present the following petition from 208 residents of Turner, Australian Capital Territory:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned residents of Forbes Street, Turner, A.C.T. and their neighbours respectfully showeth that they object most strongly to the proposed development of between one hundred and one hundred and fifty family flats on the site between Condamine Court flats and Construction House.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should note that their main objections are:
1 ) the resultant traffic congestion and noise and the inadequate off-street parking which would be exacerbated by this action;
the air pollution already existing in the area would be greatly increased;
the crowding of approximately 400 to 500 persons on the small amount of land available would create an overcrowded situation in what has until now been a reasonable residential area; and would suggest that up to fifty townhouse units be constructed after the existing traffic and air pollution problems have been examined and solutions devised.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 279 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
1 ) that the Australian Government uses its constitutional powers to prohibit the export of any mineral sands from Fraser Island, and
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional authority to assist the Queensland Government and any other properly constituted body to develop and conserve the recreational, educational and scientific potentials of the natural environment of Fraser Island for the long term benefit of the people of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– The following petitions, identical in wording, from 12 and 15 citizens of Australia respectively, have been lodged for presentation:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas from 1st October, 1974 the National Employment and Training System came into operation;
And that 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 dependants 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 Chaney.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move that leave be granted to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Grants Commission Act 1973-75.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Bland Committee has made a recommendation to the Government that the Government not proceed with the financing of the second bridge across the Derwent River in Hobart? Will the Minister give a categorical assurance that under no circumstances will the undertaking given by the Labor Government to finance this essential project be revoked?
-As I understand it, Sir Henry Bland reports directly to the Prime Minister. I do not know whether he has made a report, therefore I cannot give any categorical assurance one way or the other. All I can undertake to do is to seek from the Prime Minister the information sought by the Leader of the Opposition.
-I think that I ought to ask my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, for a considered answer to that question. That I shall do.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs: Can he inform the Parliament whether the plan for a royal commission into Aboriginal-police relations which was initiated by the previous Australian Government will be proceeded with? If the royal commission is not proceeded with, can the Minister advise whether some other form of public inquiry will be established, or will the Government revert to the previous practice of other Liberal governments and evade the problem of police victimisation and brutality experienced by many sections of the Aboriginal community?
– I am unable to inform the Senate with regard to the question that has been directed to me concerning a royal commission into Aboriginal-police relations. I can assure the Senate that there would be no intention to evade responsibilities. I shall have an answer prepared for the honourable senator by the Minister concerned.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Has the Government made a decision, as reported, to remove preferential tariff status from imports of ceramic sanitary ware from the Philippines? If so, is the reason that the Philippines are now becoming competitive in sanitary ware? Will the Minister define the expression ‘becoming competitive’? Is the decision an indication that we regard trade as important to less developed countries so long as they do not compete with Australian industry? Is the Government concerned that trade restrictions of this type, if the report be correct, invite retaliatory action and can affect the diplomatic relations with less developed countries?
– I have on occasions here in the Senate stressed the fact that I regard employment in this country as being of major importance. When employment in Australia comes under challenge the Government and I take whatever action we feel is necessary to try to safeguard it. Employment will come under challenge from time to time by excessive imports from certain areas. This particular problem was referred to us a little while ago. We have made some changes. The whole matter of the tariff preference to less developed countries is now under review. It ought also to be examined I think in the context that some countries that are claiming to be less developed are becoming much less so.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: When does the Government intend to introduce legislation to provide for instant and automatic increases in pensions in accordance with movements in the consumer price index and thus take pensions out of the area of political debate as promised by the previous Liberal Party spokesman on social security, Mr
Chipp, in the November-December election campaign?
– The Government has no plans at present to introduce amending legislation which would give rise to automatic increases in pensions. It will be understood that there is a policy of the Government to provide increases at 6-monthly intervals in accordance with movements in the consumer price index. I am delighted that the first of those rises will take effect as from the first pay period in May of this year.
-Has the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development seen a statement which appeared in the Adelaide Sunday Mail of 24 April and which was attributed to the Deputy Premier of South Australia, Mr Corcoran? Is he aware that Mr Corcoran accused the Federal Government of hindering moves to improve water quality in the River Murray? Can the Minister say whether his Department has any plans to improve the quality of water in Australia’s inland rivers? In particular, will the Minister examine the need to alter the River Murray Waters Agreement so that legislation can be drafted to extend the interests of the River Murray Commission to water quality as well as quantity as to which, as Mr Corcoran indicates, lack of such a provision appears to be an inhibiting factor associated with the work of the Commission.
– I must regretfully confess that I have not seen the article in the Adelaide paper to which the honourable senator refers. I also think that many parts of his question ought to be directed to my colleague the Minister for National Resources because the administration of the River Murray Waters Act and water resources generally lies within his responsibility. On the broad question of facilitating development and the monitoring of South Australia’s water supplies, I recently went to Adelaide and had an interesting discussion with Mr Corcoran on those subjects. The Commonwealth Government over a period of time has contributed significant monetary sums to South Australia in order to achieve those objectives. I was happy to assure Mr Corcoran that so far as we are financially able we will continue to do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to the publication of the March consumer price index figures and the Prime Minister’s subsequent comment that economic recovery would depend a great deal on what the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission decided in its current hearing on wage indexation. I also refer to the comments made yesterday by members of the Full Bench of the Arbitration Commission in which the Commonwealth Government’s submissions were described, amongst other things, as selfcontradictory and superficial. I ask the Minister. Having regard to the constitutional function of the Arbitration Commission, is it considered responsible government to seek to make the Commission responsible for the confusion of the Government’s economic policies? Secondly, does not the Government recognise its responsibilityas the previous Government did- to provide leadership by putting a considered and coherent submission to the Commission on wages policy?
– In all questions in which different bodies have responsibilities there will be subjective elements as to whether or not a submission is a sensible submission, whether it is a submission which will assist or whether it is related to the points under consideration. All I feel I should say is that the Government carries the responsibility for ensuring an economic climate in which people can be secure in their jobs and in which enterprise can be developed. No Commonwealth Government can divest itself of that responsibility. Under our Constitution and having regard to the development of the procedures for the settlement of industrial disputes, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has placed itself in a position of some influence. It is regrettable that the Commission does not see fit to accept the general approach which the Government advances in the interests of developing the economic climate to which I referred. It should be quite clear from what I have said that the Commission is independent by statute. Whilst that independence exists we must realise that comments like that may from time to time be made.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Has he seen a report that the Australian Government has had discussions with the Government of New South Wales about a proposal to extend KingsfordSmith Airport at Mascot in Sydney by the construction of double runways at the airport? Will the Minister agree that such a proposal, along with the proposal by the Ports Authority of New South Wales to construct a coal loader and container port in Botany Bay, will have a deleterious and injurious effect on the environment in the area, particularly on the environment and community development of the people living in the municipalities of Hurstville, Kogarah and Rockdale? Has the Minister’s Department been consulted in any way about the proposal? Has it prepared a detailed report on the matter? If so, will the Minister make available a copy of the report?
– It is fairly obvious from the reference to the suburbs which Senator Douglas McClelland mentioned that there must be an election about to be held in New South Wales. I hope he will pardon me if I regard his question as being directed primarily to that election on next Saturday.
– There are other people involved too.
-No, no. May I say that the Labor Government threatened the people of Galston in New South Wales with an airport, notwithstanding that there had been no environmental assessment of that area before the announcement was made and notwithstanding that the Government of the day told the people of Galston they would get an airport, come what may. It was only the superior judgment of people throughout Australia which prevented that unhappy fate being imposed upon the people of Galston. The present Government will ensure that proper environmental assessments are carried out in all cases where the Commonwealth Government has a responsibility. I have discussed with the Minister for Transport Commonwealth involvement in the Botany Bay region. I have discussed with Sir John Fuller, who is the responsible New South Wales Minister, and also with Mr Punch, aspects of Botany Bay development. I assure the honourable senator that every Minister with whom I have discussed this matter accepts the need for a proper environmental assessment. Of course, with the continuance of Liberal Government that is what the people of New South Wales can look forward to.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. During the past few years of rapid inflation salaries have risen at a rate equal to if not in excess of the inflation rate. This is also true of the incomes of business and professional people who have found it necessary to keep pace. As a result, not only are their tax rates higher but also their assessments of provisional tax are higher. We have seen the waiving of company tax instalments by the Government in a move to assist private businessmen. However, no relief has been granted to those who do not trade in the company tax form. I am advised that in accordance with the previous Government’s policy stated last August, the Taxation Office -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order.
– Order! Senator Walters, please direct your question to the Minister.
– I am, Mr President. The Taxation Office is refusing all applications for an extension of time without interest in which to pay tax, even where undertakings have been given by the taxpayer to pay instalments. Can the Minister indicate whether there will be any relaxation -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to the fact that in spite of your warning the honourable senator is unable to direct the question to a particular Minister. I remind you that I think that ought to be done. Besides that, the subject matter is a worthy one but it does not look as though the honourable senator is asking a question at all.
– There is no substance in the point of order. Senator Walters indicated that her question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer.
-Can the Minister indicate whether there will be any relaxation by the Taxation Office in this matter?
-It falls to my lot to speak about this matter. It is a fact that company taxation has been abated and that people have been given more time to pay that taxation.
– You were told that. You do not have to answer it.
-I thought the honourable senator would be interested because he seemed to be half asleep a while ago. I think there is a case in certain areas for tax relief to be given to people who find it very difficult to obtain money because of liquidity problems and growing inflation. But this is not a subject which the Minister who represents the Treasurer can properly give an undertaking upon. All I can say is that there would be cases when it would be fair to try to give relief and to try to help people. Specific cases could be directed to me. I could send them to the Treasurer. Beyond that I can only make a general comment to the Treasurer that this matter has been raised in the Senate.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to the explanation which the Minister gave during the adjournment debate on the future role of State governments in the intake of United Kingdom migrants. This question is supplementary to last night’s question. Firstly, is the Minister in a position to say whether this procedure will also apply in regard to intending migrants from both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic? Secondly, does this situation apply to family reunions where some of the family who are of African and Asian descent reside permanently in Britain? Thirdly, and by no means last, are State authorities receptive to Commonwealth members who endeavour to expedite the transfer from England of both rugby league and soccer players who are signing on with clubs in New South Wales and Queensland?
– With regard to the first part of the question, I am able to inform the honourable senator that the matters to which I referred last night on behalf of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs apply to all citizens of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland; but, I am sorry to say, they do not apply to citizens of the Republic of Ireland.
– They would if Ambassador Gair were there.
– That is right. I assure the honourable senator that I have no personal interest in the inclusion of Northern Ireland and the exclusion of the Republic of Ireland. The second matter raised by the honourable senator concerned Asians and Africans. I am unable to give him any definitive information with regard to that matter. In regard to the third matter, which concerned co-operation received by Federal members of Parliament who go to State immigration offices, I am assured that that cooperation will be given readily and that any facilitation that can be given by means of representations by Federal members will be welcomed by the State authorities.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Science, relates to the noxious weed known as water hyacinth. I refer to the large infestation of water hyacinth in the river system in western New South Wales and the possibility of the weed eventually entering the Murray River in Victoria and South Australia where it could cause inestimable damage. I ask the Minister whether scientists overseas have discovered successful eradication or control measures and whether like methods are being, or can be, adopted in Australia. I further ask him whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is engaged in research into the water hyacinth and, if so, with what results.
-The water hyacinth is generally regarded as the world’s most serious aquatic weed. There is concern about the Gwydir River infestation which covers about 8000 hectares in the area west of Moree. Control has been attempted overseas. Usually mechanical, chemical or biological methods have been used and an integration of all these methods has been attempted. However, no completely adequate form of control has yet been devised, despite the great amount of research which has taken place in many countries and no economic use has been found for this plant as it contains approximately 95 per cent water. Americans still look to chemicals as the main form of control.
Australia has a water hyacinth working panel, which was set up by the Standing Committee on Agriculture in 1972. Its recommendations have included the spraying of the perimeter of the Gwydir River infestation with herbicide and the studying of the feasibility of draining that area. The New South Wales Government set aside $50,000 in 1974-75 towards the cost of implementing the recommendations and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation has given a quote for a drainage survey. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is studying the feasibility of establishing biological control of water hyacinth, making use of some of the American efforts in that regard. Two insects- a weevil, about which the Opposition would know a great deal- and the stem-boring moth have been introduced into Australia under quarantine. The weevil has been released in the Gwydir River area as well as in sites in coastal New South Wales and Queensland. The moth is still being studied under quarantine with a view to its release. If any other information comes to hand, I shall inform the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I hope that he will be able to give as competent an off-the-cuff reply as the Minister for Science gave to the previous question. I refer to the statements made by the Chairman of the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council, Mr
Dingwall, indicating that the limits set by the Australian Meat Board for the export of quota meat to the United States of America are at this time too high I ask the Minister: What effects will the Board’s decision have on the operations of the Queensland and northern New South Wales meat works whose operations commence later in the year? With the probability that the quota will be filled earlier than planned, is not the Board’s decision effectively excluding the Queensland and northern New South Wales meat works from the higher priced meat market of the United States, to the detriment of the meat producers in those areas? Will the Australian Government give a directive to the Australian Meat Board to review as a matter of urgency the current United States export limits set, in order to prevent the needless discrimination against sections of the meat producing industry which are likely to be confronted by a drastic slump in Australian cattle prices later this year if immediate action is not taken?
-Dingwall or no Dingwall, off the cuff or not off the cuff, that is not a question to which I can give the honourable senator an immediate, ready, accurate response. There is the prospect of a problem in the total supply position and for a number of producers if the supply to America is exceeded in the early part of the year. I know a little about the matter but not anything more than that except that we have had previously problems like this in which the quota was filled too early, causing trouble to many other producers. I will take the suggestion of the honourable senator and ask the Minister what the Board is doing about this matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware that the Premier of South Australia has stated on one of his overseas trips that the South Australian Government intends to establish cement factories at Perak and at other locations in Malaysia? Can the Minister say whether such investments by State governments are within the limits of the Commonwealth Government’s overseas guidelines for investment and whether in fact the South Australian Government intends using its budget surplus for this purpose?
– I know no more about this matter than from having read a report in a newspaper some time ago that the Premier of South Australia has been talking about some venture in cement making in Perak, Malaysia. It would seem to me that he would need to get Reserve Bank approval for the transmission of any money out of Australia for the purposes of such an undertaking. I do not know whether or not he has done so but my own view is that it is a highly unlikely proposition.
– Is it a fact that the Minister for Social Security early this afternoon instructed her Department to prepare the necessary machinery for an increase of 6.4 per cent in pensions and benefits in anticipation of the legislation providing for such increases being passed by both Houses and receiving the royal assent by Friday of this week? Does this indicate a change of attitude from that expressed by her last night and a truer reflection of the real concern which I am sure she has for the pensioners of this country?
– It is not strictly accurate to say that I have instructed my Department to prepare the cheques in anticipation of the legislation being passed. I am unable to do that. But I think that it is now known to everyone that the decision has been taken by the Government that the amendments passed in the Senate last night will be accepted and that, when the normal chain of events takes place and assent is received to the legislation, the cheques for payment of the increased amounts will be able to be paid on the dates on which they were promised. In answer to the last segment of the question directed to me, this does indicate a change of Government attitude with regard to the clauses which were deleted in the Senate last night. That decision was taken by the Government this morning.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it correct that there is a very large number of unutilised places at commercially operated child care centres in Australia? Does this situation apply also in the Australian Capital Territory? Can the Minister indicate approximately how many such places are not used? Is it possible to consider some steps to ensure that these unused places are filled to avoid the need for more expensive capital works and to ensure that the funds available provide for the maximum number of children to obtain care in areas where there may already be existing child care facilities which are commercially operated but not fully utilised? Is it a fact that a special subsidy is paid in respect of children in special need at government centres? If so, can a similar subsidy be provided, on a similar basis, for children who attend or who would thus be able to attend, commercially operated child care centres so that these valuable existing facilities are fully utilised?
– It has come to my notice that there are many vacancies in commercially operated child care centres in the various States and also, I understand, in the Australian Capital Territory. Some figures that were given to me earlier this week show that at present there are approximately 12 000 vacancies in commercially operated child care centres. The honourable senator said that if the positions in these centres were used it would avoid the necessity for building new centres under the programs that had previously been arranged through the Interim Committee of the Children’s Commission. When I received a representation from the commercial child care centres this week I said that it was a matter that would receive some consideration because I believe that the utilisation of existing facilities may be of assistance to many needy families who otherwise are unable to obtain the use of child care facilities. The question whether some subsidy may be provided to enable children in need to use commercial child care centres is not one on which I have taken a decision or one to which I have given any consideration at this stage. However, the other matters mentioned by the honourable senator have been brought to my attention and I will give consideration to them. With regard to the Australian Capital Territory, I understand that about 30 per cent of places in commercial child care centres are presently vacant.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications tell the Senate when it is likely that frequency modulation broadcasting by the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be extended to Perth and those other cities which do not at present have this service? Are the proposed cuts in ABC expenditure likely to have any effect on the extension of frequency modulation broadcasting to Western Australia and those other States and the Northern Territory which do not at present have this service?
– I am not aware of the program or the time-table for the extension of frequency modulation broadcasting to Western Australia or to the Northern Territory. I can appreciate the desire of all honourable senators for FM broadcasting to be available in Australia. It is, of course, a very valuable new technique, particularly for good music. I am intrigued by the daily references by the Federal Opposition to many millions of dollars with regard to the alleged cuts in ABC expenditure. These cuts are, of course, of the order of $ 1 .2m.
- Senator Georges is -
– You will never convince me. You are $8m short of the need.
- Senator Georges then corrects himself because he realises the truth is that the Australian Broadcasting Commission sought in addition to its budget some $7.3m, and that it did not get that additional money. Therefore, when one mentions an amount of $8m one is stating something that is not true.
– I have not said anything. I am just asking you when FM broadcasting will be extended.
-It is true that until this moment Senator Wheeldon did not interject. As to the second part of the honourable senator’s question, I am unaware that any reduction in funds to the ABC, however slight, would have any effect at all on the extension of FM broadcasting. But I will refer the question to the Minister and to the ABC and get an answer for Senator Wheeldon.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. Has the Minister received from the Australian Shorthorn Export Association a request for an advance of up to $100,000 to assist in the promotion of Australian cattle on a world basis in Sydney in March and April 1977, and from which it is hoped to build a great new export field for Australian primary producers. If so, can the Minister advise whether support by way of grant, loan or both can be given and if so when, so that the organisers can proceed with finalising arrangements for the many overseas buyers already expected?
-It is a bit tough when one who breeds a certain breed of cattle is asked to promote the interests of a different breed of cattle. However, I must say that I know nothing of this matter. I have no knowledge of it at all, but I will make inquiries. I hold a general view that Australia has a future for exporting stud beef cattle to many countries. I think it is an exercise well worth fostering. I shall refrain from promoting my own breed of cattle any further.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It relates to people from Lebanon who wish to come to Australia. Has the Minister seen publicity referring to the arrival in Adelaide of Mr and Mrs F. Aoukar who fortunately came to Australia via Cyprus after a rather spectacular exit from Lebanon and who were met here by Mrs Aoukar’s brother who brought them to South Australia but who, on arrival in South Australia, said that their sister Vivienne and her family had been refused visas to come to Australia? I have been told personally that this is the case. Would the Minister be good enough to refer the case to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs with a view to seeing whether any such direction might be reviewed in the compassionate circumstances occurring?
– I would be pleased to direct that specific question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I know of his concern with regard to applications for migration from Lebanon. I am sure that what has been said by the honourable senator will be of interest to him. I hope that the matter will be resolved satisfactorily.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It is related to reports of a meeting held in Brisbane last week between the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, and the Papua New Guinea Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Dr Taureka. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Australian Government has been officially informed that subsequent to this meeting the Queensland Government announced that it offered a technical aid scheme to Papua New Guinea? If so, when did the Australian Government receive that advice and from whom? Is it usual practice for State governments to undertake aid and assistance agreements with foreign powers without reference to the Australian Government? Finally, has the Australian Government had any indication from the Government of Papua New Guinea whether it shall accept the aid which the Queensland Government offered?
-I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. She has announced that she is talking to insurance company representatives, the Australian Council of Trade Unions representatives and State Ministers about a proposed national compensation scheme. Does she intend to ask the representatives of the various voluntary welfare agencies who took such a great interest in previous attempts to introduce a compensation scheme to contribute to her deliberations?
– I have arranged consultations amongst various groups of people, institutions and organisations in this country with regard to proposals for a national compensation scheme. Voluntary welfare agencies are bodies with which consultation will be held. I would assume that arrangements have been made already for these organisations to be consulted. If not, I will see that that is expedited. However, they are certainly within the ambit of the consultations which 1 require.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware of a statement made by the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, in his electoral talk on 18 April 1976 in which he characterised many social welfare programs as being socially irresponsible? Is the Minister prepared to identify which programs are thought by the Government to be socially irresponsible?
– I am not prepared to embark upon listing a number of programs that the Prime Minister may have characterised as being socially irresponsible. What will be evident when we are preparing this year’s Budget will be an application of the philosophy of the Liberal and National Country parties; that is, that the social welfare programs are directed towards those people in the greatest need.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister seen or otherwise become aware of statements being made in Tasmania by representatives of dairymen and other primary industry bodies that farmers were tricked into voting for the present Government with promises of financial assistance where necessary to effect improvements in the economic circumstances of dairymen who are now threatening to blockade roads, participate in protest marches, withhold their products from the market and to seek unemployment benefits? In view of the obvious inadequacy of the present milk powder subsidy which will do nothing to help the producers and which has been condemned by industry spokesmen throughout Tasmania, will the Government take steps further to increase the subsidy to a realistic level and thereby keep faith with those people who believed they would be assisted by this Government?
-I have not read the reports. I have heard nothing of this matter and I would think that the whole lot would be quite untrue. The Tasmanians are most sensible people. They threw out every Labor member of the House of Representatives in the last election.
-Can the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development inform the Parliament whether the Government can guarantee continued financial assistance to Aboriginal housing societies throughout Australia? If the answer is in the affirmative, what forms will such assistance take?
– All these questions of financial assistance are to be viewed in the Budget context. I think that the honourable senator’s question with regard to Aboriginal housing should be directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the Government’s commitment to the abolition of inefficiency and waste in government administration, I ask the Minister: How many committees and inquiries has the Government so far set up? What is the estimated cost of these inquiries, including numbers of people involved, salaries, sitting fees, administration expenses, travel costs and allowances? Will the Minister indicate just how much the Government will be spending in these efforts to save the taxpayers’ money?
-I do not carry the precise details with me, but I will attempt to put them down by tomorrow morning. So that we can get a balanced view of what is happening, I also will attempt to put down details of what the previous Government was doing in this area.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Some weeks ago I asked a question relating to a petition to the Court of Disputed Returns on the matter of the Tasmanian Senate election. I asked when this important Senate matter was to be heard and whether a full panel of the High Court of Australia would comprise the Court of Disputed Returns. I now ask the Minister: Has he any reply to this question and, if not, when is it likely that this matter will be resolved?
– I certainly recall Senator O ‘Byrne asking about this matter some time ago. I think I indicated at the time that the Commonwealth was not the instigating party and that the information about this matter had been tabled in the Senate because that is what the legislation requires. I do not know when the matter will come on. I am sorry if a reply that was expected has not been forthcoming from the Attorney-General. I will endeavour to ascertain the information which the honourable senator seeks and will give him a response as soon as I can.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. In many areas in the Northern Territory and, no doubt, in other places in Australia people, particularly those of the Aboriginal race, because of lack of work opportunities are paid living allowances or unemployment benefit. Having in mind the effect of this type of assistance on the Aboriginal people, who call these unemployment payments ‘sit down money’ and in many cases believe that the Government makes this payment because it does not wish people to work, has the Government considered removing this type of payment and in lieu thereof making payments to allow employment on Aboriginal community projects for the benefit of the community?
– The matter raised by the honourable senator is the subject of discussion between the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and myself. It is not being discussed in the terms that were expressed by the honourable senator; it is a matter of looking at the way in which we are able to direct to Aboriginal people the assistance that now is given in the form of the unemployment benefit. I am unable to give any progress report at this stage, but the matter has been the subject of some meetings amongst the Ministers I have mentioned because we are aware of the difficulties that seem to be implied in the question asked by the honourable senator. As soon as I am able to give some information, I hope that I can make a report to the Senate in conjunction with my colleagues. Our interest in this matter is to endeavour to give the best form of appropriate assistance to the Aboriginal people and to overcome some of the difficulties implied in the honourable senator’s question.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is the Government aware that the new American Ambassador to Australia, Mr James Hargrove, was with the United States military intelligence during World War II? Does the Government know of connections between the new Ambassador and the notorious American Central Intelligence Agency? Is the Government aware that the new Ambassador will take over the post vacated by the former American Ambassador, namely Marshall Green, as head of what is described as the ‘country team’ which is the nerve centre of the Central Intelligence Agency’s operation in Australia? Further, what measures is the Government prepared to take to protect Australia and its people from the covert conduct of this sinister and clandestine organisation which has wrought such havoc in other countries?
-If the honourable senator keeps seeing spooks or bogy-men at every turn that is his privilege. But I really do not think that the question is worthy of an answer.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Why is it that some Australians are not allowed free access to the Australian Embassy at Jalan Thamrin in Indonesia? Is it a fact that all Australian visitors have to be vetted by Indonesian officials? It is also a fact that the Embassy is frequently closed to Australians?
– I cannot answer those questions. I shall make inquiries and inform the honourable senator.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, by saying that the Minister for Health said on 8 April in another place, in reply to a question on notice, that the Commonwealth Government had decided to reduce by 10 per cent the proportion of its contribution to the school dental scheme. I ask the Minister: Has the Minister for Health discussed this reduction with the State Ministers? If so, has there been any opposition from the State Ministers to the cuts? Is the Minister aware that in Western Australia alone the State Government will have to find $400,000 to maintain the scheme? Is the Minister aware that the harsh decision will result in hardships for thousands of Australian families?
– I am not able to supply any information which relates to the question raised in connection with the school dental scheme. I am unaware also whether consultation was undertaken with State Ministers; nor am I aware of the hardship which has been claimed with regard to Western Australia. But I shall undertake to relay this question to the Minister for Health and obtain information without any delay to give to the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. Outside the Parliament the political party to which the Minister belongs has paid tribute to the work of voluntary agencies in the field of welfare and has said that the Government will assist these agencies in their work. In the Bill relating to social services which was passed recently by the Senate no provision was made for special benefit. How then does the Government propose assisting the voluntary agencies in their work in the field of special benefits and how does the Government propose assisting those people who find themselves in need of special assistance?
– The Bill which has just been passed through the Senate with amendment was a Bill which passed on the increases in the basic pensions. The Bill did not encompass a whole range of matters which are desirable as far as social security is concerned because those matters would be initiatives to be considered at the time of the introduction of the Budget. However, with regard to assistance to voluntary agencies, I have been repeatedly using funds which are still in existence from the emergency fund which can be applied as once-only grants to organisations in need. I have been releasing the names of the organisations which have benefited from this fund since we assumed government. They are noteworthy organisations: The Australian Council of Social Services, which works with the general range of welfare associations; others, such as an ecumenical centre which works essentially with migrants; and others which have needs of voluntary associations in the work that they do in the community. We do uphold the principle that a great deal of work is effectively done by voluntary agencies and any assistance that we are able to give will be directed towards them. The fact that the assistance was not introduced in the Social Services Amendment Bill which came forward last night does not indicate that no funds will be available for social welfare assistance.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Having regard to the problems that inflation has created in the cost of housing and the fact that rental housing as a result is now required for a longer period than ever before, would the Minister advise whether any financial consideration could be given by way of investment or depreciation allowances that may allow the encouragement of the construction of more rental accommodation?
-This is an interesting suggestion. I shall have to direct it to the Treasurer for his attention.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. Senator Carrick when answering a question yesterday from me stated: ‘My answer is an unequivocal yes’. I ask for the purpose of clarification whether his unequivocal yes applies to both sections of the question I asked, bearing in mind that the second section sought a guarantee from him that total payments to the States in the next 3 years would increase by more than they did in the 3 years of Labor Government, that is, by 58 per cent in constant values?
– I repeat what I said yesterday. At the Premiers Conference the Prime Minister, with the unanimous acclamation of the Premiers, indicated that the revenues that would flow to the States from the Commonwealth from the tax sharing in the next 3 years would never fall in those 3 years below what would have been the amount that would have been set under the previous Whitlam Government formula. So the answer to the first part of the question must be clearly yes. The question relates also to whether the amount will be less than the formula. I repeat: Since the national growth will add to the income tax collections- by people being restored to work, by people paying tax and by the ordinary growth of employment and productionthere will be prospectively in the next 3 years, over and above the minimum guaranteed base, further revenue accruing to the States.
-The Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory will know that the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund is required to issue monthly reports of its activities. The last report issued was for the month of January. Could the Minister advise why no reports have been issued since that time? It was envisaged that the final report of the Trust would be a comprehensive document which might act as a manual for future committees. Could the Minister advise whether this report is in course of preparation and whether it might be tabled in the Parliament?
– I am unable to answer the honourable senator. I shall seek the answer and give it to him.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware of a warning in the British Medical Journal Lancet that anxiety has lately been expressed over the possible dangers of microwave radiation? In view of the fact that many thousands of mircowave ovens are in use in food shops around Australia, what action is the Government taking in investigate this hazard? Does the Government intend to see that some sort of standard specification for microwave ovens is set up to protect public health and safety?
– I really have no information on microwave ovens. I suggest that the honourable senator put his question on the notice paper and he will get his answer in the ordinary course.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I preface it by referring to a statement made yesterday by the Minister for Transport. Mr Nixon was reported to have come out in strong support of a second north-south runway at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. I ask the Minister: Can one reasonably infer from this statement that further expensive work for Sydney airport will receive priority over the work necessary to bring Brisbane airport up to a standard which befits a State capital of Australia? Finally, does the Minister expect that the Bureau of Transport Economics’ paper on the Brisbane airport, currently on the notice paper as an order of the day, will be debated by the Senate, or is it likely that the needs of the Brisbane people will be conveniently disregarded?
– The needs of the Brisbane people and the Queensland people have been given such close attention over the years that they have consistently and almost unanimously returned in both State and Federal spheres Liberal governments. I think it is not right to assume that the Brisbane airport will be disregarded. Allocation of priorities for funds for various works will be, of course, a Budget matter. This matter will be dealt with by my colleague, the Minister for Transport and an announcement will be made in due course.
-I should like to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport a supplementary question. It formed part of the previous question but was not answered. Does the Minister expect that the paper to which I referred will be debated by the Senate?
– I apologise to the honourable senator. He did ask me whether the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics would be debated by the Senate. I will make inquiries and will obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: Will the Government take the steps which are necessary to provide adequate insurance cover for employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission who travel on unscheduled or hazardous flights? In determining what constitutes adequate insurance, will the Minister acknowledge the expressed opinion of the Australian Journalists Association which has called for insurance cover to be based on salary rates rather than a flat sum to guard against erosion of value through inflation?
– As the Senate is aware, the ABC is an independent statutory body. The employment of staff and employment conditions are matters for the Commission itself. I will refer the honourable senator’s question, through my colleague in another place, to the ABC and seek further information.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that laxative drugs are no longer available as pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners and that this means that all laxatives have been removed from the free list for pensioners? Will the Minister reconsider this decision because thousands of pensioners are now faced with the added financial burden of paying the full cost of these expensive drugs? Can the Minister explain why the infirm and the elderly who over many years have become reliant on these drugs are now forced to pay for them?
– I will direct the question to the attention of the Minister for Health and obtain an answer from him on the matter raised by the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I ask: If the Government goes ahead with plans to bring trade unions under the Trade Practices Act, has the Minister an estimate of the huge number of extra staff needed in the appropriate government departments? Will an increase in these departments be in conflict with the general policy of the Government at the moment of reducing staff levels?
-A number of hypotheses are involved in the honourable senator’s question and because his question is of a hypothetical nature I cannot give him an exact answer. I invite the honourable senator to reflect upon what he has said, because in his question he has impliedly assumed that there are thousands -maybe hundreds of thousands- of restrictive practices with which the trade union movement is concerned. If that is not the case, why is he suggesting that there will have to be such an enormous increase of staff?
– I ask the Minister for Science whether he can inform the Parliament why the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville is calling tenders for the sale of one 45-foot trawler, 2 two-man inflatable boats, air compressor scuba tanks, steel scuba tanks and 12 44-gallon drums of contaminated diesel fuel. Is this part of the Government’s program to slow up the development of the Institute in an effort to save government funds?
-As the honourable senator knows, the Australian Institute of Marine Science is basically a statutory authority. It works through my department. From time to time materials become available which are surplus to its purposes as well as to those of Federal Government departments. In this instance the equipment, in all probability, is surplus to the Institute’s requirements. If there is anything other than that about which I can inform the honourable senator I shall do so. It may be of interest for the honourable senator to know of another matter which will be of concern to him as it is to myself because the honourable senator is very interested in the institute. The Director, Dr Gilmartin, has been taken ill while overseas and is presently in hospital.
Formal Motion for the Adjournment
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter from Senator Wriedt: 28 April 1976.
Dear Mr President,
In accordance with standing order 64, 1 give notice that on Wednesday, 28 April, I shall move:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The imposition of a double taxation system on the Australian people, and the implications flowing therefrom.
Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
– On behalf of the Opposition I move:
In 1972 when the Labor Government was elected it was the first occasion on which a Federal Government set about solving Australia’s national problems with a national approach. At that time we were accused of wanting to centre all power in Canberra. We were told that certain authorities and powers that rested with the States were things which we wished to take away from the States. We realised from the beginning that if the great problems which confronted this nation were to be grappled with and resolved that had to be done at the national level. I am sure that there are many authorities in Australia today which we could name to support that contention.
Of course, as a result of this we were accused of being a government which wanted to destroy the States when, in fact, we realised from the beginning that it was the States which were incapable of providing the necessary finance as every government, both Labor and Liberal, has said ever since federation. They have said that it was impossible to provide the finance to develop the services which they were required to create in their States in the enormously expensive areas of education, health, public transport, roads and so on. The States have consistently said, and we recognise, that they were not able to do these things from their own resources. As a result of that the Labor Government set about a program in a range of areas where, in co-operation with the States, it determined to provide the necessary finance to develop these areas of government which had been neglected for 23 years of Liberal Party rule.
The central point of all this was that the States ‘ capacity to raise revenue varied between the States. Therefore, if the States were left to themselves not only would it mean an encumbrance on their own development but also inequities would develop between States. In particular States which were not perhaps as highly industrialised as others or which were not capable of raising that revenue would suffer. As a result of this attack on the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975 we saw the Liberal and National Country parties go overboard and come up with a policy document in September of last year which purported to be a new approach to federalism. This policy document undoubtedly was a straight political document. It suited the Liberal and National Country parties at that time to maximise the feeling of antagonism which had been engendered in some areas against the efforts of the Labor Government to approach our national problems at the national level.
At the outset I want to quote from this LiberalNational Country Party document which makes it quite clear what the Liberal federalism policy is all about. I refer to paragraph 4, which is concerned with responsible government. I point out that this is not referring only to the Federal Government; it is referring to any Australian government, Federal or State. This current document states:
If government is to be effective, it must be accountable for its actions, lt should raise the moneys which it spends.
I repeat those words:
It should raise the moneys which it spends.
That statement is from the Liberal Party document, which sets out quite clearly the intention behind the new federalism policy; that is, to allow the Federal Government to escape its responsibilities as a national government, to escape the politically undesirable task of raising revenue and passing it over to the States. This argument, of course, is not new; it has gone on in this country for many years. We can go right back to 1942, during the war, when legislation was enacted and debated in this very chamber. That legislation was concerned with the transfer of taxing powers from the States to the Commonwealth. The then Minister for Customs and Excise, Senator Keane, in his second reading speech made this observation:
The differing rates of Commonwealth and State taxes form a tangled skein of figures which prove a veritable nightmare to any Commonwealth Treasurer in the preparation of a budget calling for additional revenue.
I suggest that those words are as true today as they were then. I suggest that it has been the fear of every responsible Federal Treasurer ever since that time that he would ever again be confronted with that tangled skein which existed prior to 1942. At that time the government of the day appointed a committee to inquire into the benefits of transferring taxing powers from the States to the Commonwealth. That committee was composed not only of the Professor of Economics at Sydney University at the time but also of one prominent member of the Labor Party and one prominent member of the United Australia Party, as it was at that time- otherwise the Liberal Party. In his second reading speech the then Minister also said:
The Committee examined the problem from every angle and came to the conclusion that its solution was to be found only in a uniform income tax for the whole of the Commonwealth.
The Government’s proposal, based on a politically motivated action of last year and made for the sole purpose of capitalising on criticism which existed against the Labor Government, is to revert to that very system which stands condemned and which has been condemned for decades. The Government has given no thought to the future of Australia, whether under a Liberal government or under a Labor government. Its only concern was to make political capital at that time out of this measure. Of course, it has now got itself hoist on its own petard.
I want to make one other thing clear before I go any further. Yesterday Senator Carrick, who is the Minister responsible for the Government’s federalism policy, insisted that under this proposal the States will not have the power to impose additional tax. He said that they will have the power to impose a surcharge. He insists on that particular wording. But I asked him: Is not a surcharge an additional tax?
– Of course it is.
– That is the way in which Webster’s international dictionary defines it anyway. It is an additional tax, and the idea is to place that additional tax on the States. In fact, at the Premiers Conference in February the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, described it as an additional tax. His actual words were:
However, once this scheme is in full operation each State will, subject to the foregoing points, be able to legislate to impose tax in the State additional to that imposed by the Commonwealth.
There is a very clear statement by the Prime Minister.
– When did he say that?
-He said it at the Premiers Conference in February. If Mr Fraser is wrong, I hope that Senator Carrick will put him right. If Mr Fraser was right, I hope that Senator Carrick will concede now that the surcharge that he refers to under Liberal federalism in fact means an additional tax, because that is exactly the purpose of the exercise.
– It is a double tax.
-As Senator Douglas McClelland says, it is intended to be a double tax measure. That is the matter, Mr President, to which we address ourselves today, because of the enormous importance of disrupting a taxation system which has been worked out over many years, has been refined through a series of various payments to the States to bring about a reasonably equitable system of payments, to give to all of the States the chance of equal development. This is all to be thrown overboard because of a political move in 1 975.
I refer again to some comments that were made only 2 or 3 weeks ago in the Senate when I asked Senator Carrick a question concerning the basis on which these decisions are being made. He referred me to no other person than Professor Mathews of the Australian National University. The implication of his answer was that I would find a justfication for Liberal federalism if I read Professor Mathews. As it happened, I had Professor Mathews books. I had not had time to read them, but I have since. Let me take a couple of quotations from Professor Mathews to show how well what he says stands with the Liberal Party federal policy on federalism. Professor Mathews wrote in one instance:
Because the Federal Government has the overriding responsibility for national economic policy, it must have effective powers to determine policy in relation to economic development, stabilisation of employment, prices and the balance of payments and the interpersonal distribution of incomes and wealth.
That is hardly the statement of a man who would be supporting the present proposals of this Government. I take another quotation from Professor Mathews. These quotations are taken from his book Fiscal Federalism- Retrospect and Prospect. He wrote:
In a country such as Australia with a history of broken railway gauges, incompatible education systems, erosion of uniform company legislation, disagreement about trade practices legislation, failure to achieve uniform manufacturing and building standards, and arguments about the marketing of minerals and other primary products, it is surprising that we still give credence to the view that interstate co-operation can resolve national economic policy issues.
That surely indicates the contradiction that now exists in the policies that are being enunciated by this Government. But let us not forget that in the original document on federalism put out by the Liberal-National Country Party in September last year, in paragraph 4 this position was made quite clear:
It must maintain the authority of the Commonwealth over economic management.
Yet, only last week, when I asked again a question concerning the rights of States to go ahead and develop certain economic development programs within their own borders, I was told that there would be no objection to this action, that it would be fine, no trouble at all. It sounds good, Mr President. It sounds good politically; I admit that. But it is not a responsible approach. That is the point. This Government is not being responsible by making commitments and promises which it must know it cannot maintain in the years ahead. I will say more about that matter later.
What are the main features of this federalism policy? The States will receive a fixed share of personal income tax by way of untied grants. They will have the power to legislate and to impose tax in the State additional to that imposed by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth will retain the right to impose its own surcharge or rebate which will not affect the level of grants to the States. Certain specific purpose payments now funded by the Commonwealth will be either absorbed into State revenues or abandoned. It all sounds good, but let us have a look at the immediate effect of it, how it will affect the States. Sure there is to be an election in New South Wales on Saturday. We all are aware of that. I hope that every New South Welshman and every New South Welshwoman is listening to what I am saying and that the message gets across to them. I hope that people living in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong will realise that they will be paying double taxation in future as a result of the proposals of the Liberal Government.
For example, in the short term let us try to envisage the position in the financial year 1976-77. Let us estimate that financial assistance grants could be of the order of $4,000m. During question time today Senator Walsh asked for clarification of what Senator Carrick meant yesterday. He asked whether Senator Carrick meant that he would give an unqualified guarantee on behalf of the Government that payments would not fall below the levels that were fixed by the Labor Government? He said yes. But it is important to qualify that statement because he was referring, of course, to financial assistance grants which are only one component of the total payments. He did not give any undertaking at all about the other 2 major components, Loan Council programs and specific purpose grants. He said: ‘There will be further revenue payments to the States’. However, Senator Carrick has given no guarantee that that level will be maintained, although he has given a commitment in respect of financial assistance grants. Therefore we could envisage payments in that category of around $4,000m for the 1976-77 financial year.
Let us assume that there will be an increase of 15 per cent over what was provided last year in respect of Loan Council programs, which will make an amount of about $ 1 ,500m. In regard to specific purpose payments, let me generously allow $4,000m. I do so because on so many occasions this Government has criticised the previous Labor Government for providing too much of its payments in the form of specific purpose grants. So we can assume that the Government will not increase those payments. It is much more likely that it will decrease them. But I am being generous. I am making these assumptions on the basis that payments will be made this year at the same level as they were made last year. The total increase in payments of about $9.5 billion would represent an increase of approximately 1 1 per cent over the 1 975-76 level. Once we start to analyse the actual commitments that will be made, maintaining the formula under the first provision and recognising the fact that the Government is not likely to increase specific purpose payments, the picture does not look quite so rosy. Obviously in 12 month’s time the States will find the position quite different from what they had expected.
If we compare an 1 1 per cent increase in payments to the States this year with the increases that were made under the Labor Government we find that in 1973-74 the Labor Government increased payments to the States by 20.6 per cent. In 1974-75 the Labor Government increased payments by 50.6 per cent, and in 1 975-76 it increased them by 30.4 per cent. At no time in the history of the federation has there been such increased payments to the States as there were under the Labor Government. There is no propaganda in that. Those figures can be established by the Budget Papers.
– We certainly paid tax on it, did we not?
-I do not intend to be diverted but I will answer that interjection. That is another point that Senator Carrick continues to raise- double taxation. When we talk about double taxation we mean exactly what will flow from the Liberal-National Country Party policy. There will be a Commonwealth tax and there will be a State tax. That is what we mean by double taxation. Senator Carrick says: ‘Yes, when you talk about double taxation, you people doubled taxation’. It is quite true that under the Labor Government taxation did increase markedly, but do not ever forget that payments to the States increased by 137 per cent, and wages and salaries also increased by a greater amount than any increase in inflation or taxation. In fact, in the first 2 years of the Labor Government, real incomes rose by 12 per cent. That was a creditable peformance on the part of the Government of the day in view of the problems with which we were confronted. So do not let us be diverted by the misuse of words.
I turn to look at the longer term position. State general purpose payments are calculated from a base plus a percentage for population, plus a percentage for increases in salaries, plus a betterment factor. That is the formula to which reference has been made. Incidentally, it was the Labor Government which increased the betterment factor from 1.8 per cent to 3 per cent to ensure that the States would not fall behind in their revenue collections or in their payments in relation to the rate at which revenue was being collected by the Commonwealth. But, of course, this Government has not taken into account the effect of tax indexation. That will affect not only the States but also the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth will commence raising its own revenue by imposing its own surcharge. The States cannot benefit from that. The Commonwealth is likely to rely on increasing taxes which are excluded from present arrangements. Senator Carrick, only this week, in answer to a question asked in the Senate said that we over emphasised the significance of tax indexation. But, of course, when tax indexation is introduced- that is assuming it is and the Government is committed to introducing itrevenue must fall. Senator Carrick said that when tax indexation is introduced, inflation will fall. There is no guarantee of that whatsoever. But even assuming that it does fall, he says that the State governments will not have to pay such high salaries and that the rate of increase in salaries will decline. If the States are to be given these additional responsibilities- it is quite clear what the Government’s intention is- the States will need to employ a lot more people to do the jobs. They will need a greater degree of expertise. They will have to find people and pay them higher salaries as the Commonwealth has had to do over the years. So one factor would quite probably offset the other.
Let me turn to the reduction in the Commonwealth’s ability to manage the economy. When the State governments introduced their own taxes, the Commonwealth had less flexibility to manage the economy. Surely this is self-evident. For that reason I quoted earlier the statement in the Liberal Party platform that the party insists that the Federal Government must have control over economic management. I would not argue with that. I think that it is a sensible proposition. But is it reasonable to assume that the Liberal Party could maintain that control over the economy if we were to see a responsibility transfer to the States of what will eventually become major areas of development? The development of the States is part of the national development. If we are to forfeit those responsibilities at the federal level, we are leading the States right up the garden path into the same situation that obtained before 1 942.
Of course, there will be other consequences of this policy. There will be increasing competition between the States for development prospects and resources. We know already that State deputations are going overseas trying to get capital into their areas and trying to get companies overseas involved and interested in what they are doing, whether in Queensland, Tasmania or somewhere else. This policy will exacerbate that position. We will see more deputations going overseas from the various States trying to involve overseas interests in developing projects in the States. This will happen because State revenues will be tied to income tax collections in a current year. Thus there will be violent fluctuations in their revenues. We have had a measure of stability in the past brought about by the fact that the Federal Government has been the sole collecting body of income tax. Now we are going to put all that at risk just for what appears to be no more than a political point. The States could increase tax only by way of personal income tax and not by way of company tax. The small taxpayers will pay for government services and effectively subsidise the large companies. What sort of a proposition is that? How are State governments expected to impose this additional tax which I think it is now agreed they will be able to impose? The State governments will impose this additional tax on the ordinary person. I hope that the New South Welshman is listening to me speak today. Let him realise what will happen before the election next Saturday if he votes for a party which endorses this type of policy. In three or four years time- indeed, less than that- he will find himself paying taxation in excess of what he is paying now because the State government has determined that he will pay that tax as a result of the Federal Government’s policies. Let him be fully aware of that now before he makes a decision on Saturday.
There are a number of uncertainties involved in this whole procedure. Before I move off dealing with companies, let me make this point, for example. Is it possible that a government can make a commitment of the type that this Government is making when it could not commit itself to the level of company taxation in the years ahead? Of course, it was the Liberal Government during the last 2 years of its office in 1971 or 1972 that actually increased company taxation. The Labor Government, of course, reduced it because it realised at that time that there was a good case to reduce it. Has the Government given proper consideration to the differences in departmental spending in the various States? In fact, is the Government aware of the disparities that exist and the different effect upon different States that will occur as a result of different levels of Commonwealth departmental spending?
This year, as I have done in the past, I endeavoured to obtain a breakdown of the various payments to the States through departmental spending. I will say that Senator Carrick was one of the very few Ministers who showed any willingness to co-operate and to give me information. I am afraid, probably unbeknown to him, that the great majority of his colleagues, including the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) did not consider it sufficiently important to attempt to give me the details that I sought. I suspect that the reason is that they would not want the uptodate figures to be known. They would not want the public to know the current figures on the disparities that exist in departmental spending between various States and how one State can be disadvantaged against another. I ask again: Has that been taken into account in this Government’s proposals for federalism?
Again, in relation to investment allowance proposals, we see a commitment going as far ahead as 1984. There is to be a 40 per cent investment allowance, I think for the first 2 years, and then a reducing allowance to 20 per cent up until 1984. 1 find it incredible that a government which alleges that it has some knowledge of economic management, and which was so prepared to criticise the Labor Government because we were prepared to make commitments on expenditure which the Liberal Party claimed reflected our inability to manage the economy, will make this commitment 8 years hence when in 3 years time we could have an over-heated, inflated economy. Yet, we are committed to a 40 per cent and then a 20 per cent investment allowance. It is just not a goer and the States themselves will come to realise just how difficult their position will be as a result of these measures.
We have been told that there will be less taxation. Under what authority can anyone make that statement? How can we predict that in three or four years time- even in 2 years time- we will have less taxation? How can we say that State revenues will grow faster than ever when, as I have indicated earlier, no commitment is being given by the Government on two of the most important areas of Commonwealth assistance to the States? Of course, the contradiction lies there. If, on the one hand, a commitment can be given that State revenues will grow faster than ever before, then the other commitment also should be given, namely, that the levels of all forms of assistance from the Commonwealth to the States will, in fact, be maintained. Mr Fraser himself has talked about public expenditure being reined back. If public expenditure is being reined back, obviously the effect of that will be felt also by the States.
Let me sum up my contribution to the debate on this urgency motion. There is no question about the intention of this Government. It does not want the responsibility of being a Federal government. It does not like the idea of being responsible for national programs of education, development, health, roads and a whole range of other things which should be the responsibility of a Federal government, not matters which it hands over to the States, saying to them, as the Liberal Party document says: ‘If you want these things, then you pay for them ‘. That is what this federalism policy is all about. This Government is saying to the States: ‘You raise your own moneys if you want to do these things, because we are getting out of the field’. In New South Wales this time next year and the year after -
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– It cannot have escaped notice that a State election campaign is being held in New South Wales. Equally, it will not have escaped notice that the New South Wales State Labor Party does not want the Federal Labor Party to share its platform because, of course, it does not want the ghosts of Khemlani, the Iraqi affair, the discredited Federal Labor Government, inflation, unemployment and all the scandals of that Government to share the platform with it. A forced sharing of the platform is being attempted this afternoon. I welcome this because with that forced sharing and the hapless speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) the Federal Labor Party is bringing more and more of its ghosts to share the platform with Mr Wran. Let the Labor speakers who follow me deny this. Any debate on federalism must polarise the Liberal Party, which stands for federalism, and the Labor Party, which stands for centralism. I bring out one ghost. I ask whether the Labor Party supports its Federal leader’s description of centralism, which Senator Wriedt now says is the best system. I ask whether it supports Mr Whitlam when he says, as recorded in Hansard:
This uniform taxation system does, as he, Mr Turner, said, debase politics. It does, as he said, debauch the States and it does lead to the enunciation of the perfectly reasonable theory that those who spend the money should bear the odium of raising it. But the solution lies not in abandoning the uniform taxation system but in taking over those functions of the States which the States at present administer but for which the Commonwealth foots the bill.
I take it that every Labor senator agrees with Mr Whitlam that the uniform tax system debases and debauches and aims to take over the States; or are they going to deny Mr Whitlam as Mr Wran is attempting to do haplessly at the moment?
What does Mr Whitlam say is the solution? Mr Wran supports him in this. He says that the solution is to take over the States. What a fascinating situation it is in New South Wales at the moment. The State Labor leader is saying that he goes along with a Federal Labor Party which says that the uniform tax system is corrupt, debauching and debasing- the very words of Mr Whitlam. Mr Wran says: ‘I go along with it. I go along with being taken over’. Yet he is asking for a mandate for alleged sovereignty in New South Wales. Does Senator Wriedt deny the writings of his Federal leader? Mr Whitlam, in his book Labor and the Constitution, gives this advice to Mr Wran and other State leaders:
Much can be achieved by Labor members of the State parliaments in effectuating Labor’s aims of more effective powers for the national Parliament and for local government. Their role is to bring about their own dissolution.
Mr Whitlam said, and Mr Wran is supporting him because he is a member of the same party, that the role of Mr Wran and his State Labor members who are hopping about the platforms today is ‘to bring about their own dissolution’. Does the Labor Party say that this is not its role? Does the Labor Party say that Mr Whitlam is wrong when he says that the Labor Party will not have 6 State governments and 900 local government bodies and that its aim is to abolish State governments and to amalgamate the 900 local government bodies into 60 regional councils which are puppets of Canberra? Is this consistent with the uniform tax system which Senator Wriedt is advocating today in support of Mr Wran? Senator Wriedt and the other Labor senators are getting up on a platform- they are being pushed away by Mr Wran, it is true- and saying: ‘We want to expose to the people of New South Wales that we want to abolish State governments, to amalgamate all local government bodies and to enforce on the States a uniform tax system which we know to be corrupt and which we know debauches and debases’. This is the system on which Senator Wriedt today attempts to take a quick trick. The skeletons of Labor have come out of the cupboard as they have before. Indeed, the aim is to frighten people with the assertion that they will have to pay more taxation.
I want to talk plainly about this question. I will recite what Senator Wriedt was nervous about. No other government in the whole history of federation has been such a predator upon the people of Australia in respect of taxation as the Whitlam Government. No other government in our history has doubled income tax in 3 years, as the Whitlam Labor Government did- and this is the government that Mr Wran will mirror. I repeat that the Whitlam Labor Government doubled the take on sales tax, doubled the take on customs duties, forced the States into putting up their indirect taxes and charges and, in fact, by any calculation made the tax impost on the Australian people by far the heaviest. It doubled taxation in a shorter period than ever before. This is the Government of the past that now says: ‘You must watch out; they will put up taxation ‘. It says this when 2 things have happened. It says it when the present Federal Government, the Fraser
Government, is pledged to bringing in tax indexation and to reducing taxation substantially. Indeed, Senator Wriedt acknowledges this but uses it in a perverse argument which I will explain in a moment. It says it when Sir Eric Willis, the Premier of New South Wales, is pledged to abolishing petrol tax, to cutting payroll tax, to cutting land tax and to cutting probate duties. In the face of all this, the Labor Party says that there will be more tax. The party which was the greatest tax raider in history is confronting a Federal government and a State government which are pledged to reducing tax across the board. This is humbug. It is no wonder that Mr Wran wants to shoo Senator Wriedt and his senators off the platform.
Senator Wriedt has been rather over skilful. He has been what one would call over-selective in his reading. He picked a sentence out of the Government’s federalism document. I will read from that document, because Senator Wriedt said that it proves that the Government will abdicate its responsibilities on education, health and social welfare and that it will not take the responsibility any more; it will give it to the States. Let us have a look at the fundamental words, the vital passages of the document. The document states:
All experience, both in Australia and in other countries, underlines this vital principle:
If effective government, geared to the needs of the 1980s and beyond, is to be achieved . . . if the great issues of national and local concern such as education, health, social welfare, housing and urban development are to receive maximum intelligent attention . . . if all our resources including human talents and local knowledge are to bc effectively harnessed … if innovation, diversity and imaginative reforms are to be encouraged . . . then we must restructure our forms and institutions of government and our attitudes of mind to achieve co-operation not conflict, partnership and not domination.
Clearly, here was a platform which said: ‘The Federal Government will bring about a federalist policy in which the national concern for great issues will be maintained and strengthened at the national level. Our concern for education, our concern for social welfare, our concern for health will be as strong as or stronger than ever, but will not bring about the duplication, the waste, the extravagance, the standover tactics of the Labor Party; we will not ourselves tie up the States and local government in bureaucratic trivia; we will work out a co-partnership which will be more efficient, more economic, which will save the taxpayer’s money, which will define the responsibilities of Federal, State and local government, which will show the taxpayers where their money is going and which, because of the responsibility of government, will bring about more efficiency and less taxation.’ That is what the document said.
Senator Wriedt has said that his flag, the flag of the Labor Party, is tied to uniform taxation, is tied to the policies of the past. Let us remember that it is tied to a statement that the aim of the Labor Party is to take over the functions of State governments.This aim has been stated and restated by the Labor Party. It is important to understand that, in the 3 years of Labor government, that takeover was almost complete. The special purpose grants that had been of the order of 32.4 per cent of total moneys granted to the States from the Commonwealth in the year 1972-73 when we left government had in 2 years risen to 50.35 per cent and rose further to well over 50 per cent in the current year. In fact, Senator Wriedt and his fellow senators are saying that they propose to go on and maintain and increase specific purpose grants in order to do as their leader, Mr Whitlam, says- to take over the States and local government. Already Mr Whitlam had said that he was aiming through regions to amalgamate local government. He was well on the way to doing that when he left government.
It would be interesting to know whether the people of New South Wales fully realise the threat to local government. The Labor Party never will stand up and state that its platform is what it is. Its platform is to abolish the Senate, to abolish the 6 State governments, to abolish the 930 local, municipal and shire councils and to have some puppet regions. That is the Labor Party’s policy and the Labor Party thinks that it is helping Neville Wran with that policy. The simple situation is that federalism is not some new dream. It is a policy which now is being accepted more and more by the major countries of the free world. The Labor Party, in its socialist narcissism, in looking towards centralisation of power, is looking into the past. The great countries of the western world- Canada, the United States, West Germany, to name just a few- are rejecting centralism as being completely wasteful, being completely oppressive to the taxpayer and they are moving towards federalism, as Australia now is, thank God, in order to bring government closer to the people. 1 give a very clear concept of what the Federal Labor Opposition is now rejecting. The basic principle of federalism is that the people know best and that it is a good thing to bring government as close to the people as possible, to consult them, to invite them to express their views, to express their local differences of opinion and to recall governments if governments are doing something that the people believe to be wrong. In principle federalism is geared to bring government, in terms of decentralisation, in devolution right down to the grass roots, to the community. Senator Wriedt and his Senate Party are saying today to the people of New South Wales and to Australia, in a hapless support for Mr Wran, that they oppose bringing government close to the people, that they believe in the paternalism of government centralised in Canberra. They believe that Gough knows best. Well 350 000 miserable Australians on the dole know that Gough does not know best. Senator Wriedt had the nerve to talk about stable economies under uniform taxation. He talked about a stable economy when in 3 years his government took this country from absolutely stable economics to the greatest mess -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. I have been waiting for about 20 minutes for the speaker to refer to the motion before the Chair. Would you please call his attention to that motion?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- The urgency motion covers a pretty wide sphere relating to local government and so on. I think a certain amount of latitude is necessary. But I ask the speaker to confine his remarks to the motion.
- Mr Deputy President, I should like to say emphatically that to suggest that I have moved away from the motion in my remarks is a ploy aimed to disguise the fact that I am bung on the target. The target is: Is it true that there would be double taxation under federalism, or is it true that the real quadruple taxation came under a Labor Government? Is it true that there would be a reduction of taxation under federalism? Is it true that there would be stability of the economy under federalism? Senator Wriedt laid the ground on this motion by stating that there had been stability of the economy under his Government. It is strange, is it not, that one of his crowd should rise now and take a point of order because he does not want the people of New South Wales to recall that for 2 decades of Federal Liberal-Country Party Government Australia had the highest sustained full employment in the whole free world; it had the lowest sustained inflation of the whole free world; it had the highest sustained home ownership in the whole free world; and it had the greatest and most humane distribution of wealth between the rich and the poor. That is a pretty good record of good solid government. In 3 years, with its claimed stability of the economy under uniform taxation, this government of the past, this
Whitlam Government, produced the greatest mass unemployment since the depression- a level of unemployment which tragically tells me that I must talk to the parents of kids at school and elsewhere and say that as a result of this high rate of unemployment 1 5 per cent of the kids who left schools and colleges last year cannot get a job at this moment because of the disastrous instability produced by that Government. Another 20 per cent are in makeshift jobs and many more have gone back into schools and colleges as an alternative to the dole. Yet Senator Wriedt has the gall to say that his Government created a stable economy. His Government caused an inflation rate which ran at 15 per cent, 16 per cent and 1 7 per cent.
Let us look at this. What do we say? We say that if you want good government you must define the responsibilities of government. You make the Government responsible for spending its money; you stop the begging bowl, you stop the Government alibi. You say to a government: Before you spend money, before you raise money at all, think twice. Think of your priorities. Think carefully. Think of the way your are hurting the taxpayer. Your job is twofold. Your job is to define the State or national purse and to define priorities. ‘ I say to the people of Australia: If there is one major condemnation of the Whitlam Labor Party of the last 3 years it is the fact that it sought to spread the pernicious doctrine to the people of Australia that they could have open-ended expectation of funding from Canberra. The Whitlam Government was saying: ‘Bypass local government. Bypass the States. Come to Canberra. Despite your wishes and despite whether your priorities are good or bad we, the paternal fathers of Canberra, will give you the money. The national purse is openended. There is no need for priorities at all. We will give you the money. ‘ The disaster was that in 2 short years, last year and this, the Labor Government overspent the national purse by just on $7,000m. So the people of Australia today are paying in unemployment and in inflation for this gross instability which occurred as a result of these policies.
Federalism means that it is the primary duty of government to determine the precise amount of the national or State purse that can be taken from the people at any one time without harm and without serious burden and how it shall be taken, whether by way of a scale or other methods. Having made out a priority in terms of the national purse, the priorities in terms of the issues and programs will then be worked out.
Sweat may be involved in getting the right priorities so that waste and extravagance do not occur. That is what federalism is all about. In future when people receive their tax assessments they will be able to see how the money is spent in Australia. They will be able to see what part of their money went to Federal Government, what part of their money went to State Government, what part of their money went to equalisation and what part of their money went to local government. This is anathema to the Labor Party which wants to disguise all and roll it into a great ball because the Labor Party breeds on inefficiency and extravagance.
Let me sum this up. Members of the Labor Party, for the benefit primarily of New South Wales, have got on the platform of Neville Wran- although he is busily pushing them off- and said that they will help him by a scare tactic and will pretend to the people that under federalism they will pay more taxes. Mr Wran is trying hard, but in fact under federalism the result has been a wide announcement of reduced taxation across the board in the States. He is trying even harder and sweating harder when he knows that tax indexation is to be applied federally and therefore will be applied across the board to the people of Australia. The picture is one of very substantially reduced taxation for the people of Australia in the year and years ahead. It will be better still as we rationalise and remove the duplications and inefficiencies and cut away the waste so that tax money can be used more skilfully and to better purpose and taxes can be saved. The Labor Party of course did not believe in that.
It is interesting that the Labor Party is opposed to progressive taxation and wants to use the device of indirect taxation. The Labor Leader, Mr Wran, has come out with a prodigious lot of promises running into hundreds of millions of dollars of extra money. If he is not going to use direct taxation he is going to raid the people of Australia in every nook and cranny of every indirect tax and charge. Clearly that is the real threat to the people of Australia of double and treble taxation. I want to put the folly of what Senator Wriedt said. He said: ‘I am the only fellow in step in the regiment, and I must be right. It is true that the Federal Government says that federalism policies are good. It is true that the 6 State Premiers, Liberal, National Country Party and Labor, say that the federalism policies are good. It is true that the local government associations of the 6 States and the Commonwealth applaud federalism. It is true that all those people think federalism is good but I, Senator
Wriedt, and my tattered little Senate Labor Party know better. The Premiers are wrong; they are being misled. They do not know they will be robbed at the Loan Council and by specific purpose grants.’ What a gratuitous insult to his Premier. Senator Wriedt is saying to Mr Nielson that he is so low in his intelligence that he does not understand that he is picking up something this way and losing it in another way. What a contemptible little smear against his own people, and yet his own Premier is happy with what is happening, as is the Premier of South Australia.
I repeat that only the Federal Labor Party is making this claim. To its absolute disaster 2 Premiers Conferences have occurred, one in early February and the other in early April and both of them were unanimously successful. Both of them were agreed by the Premiers to have been the best Premiers Conferences that had happened in years and years. In each case the Premiers for the first time in years were asked their views, asked to co-operate and asked to achieve team work. Senator Wriedt is saying today: Put aside all this useful co-operation for the future. He wants to go back to the blood bath. One of his Labor Premiers said to me the other day: ‘Fancy me being asked my view. I have never been asked in recent years my view on anything. I have been summoned by my ear to Canberra and told what I am getting. I have not been allowed to argue. I have then been sent away with a flea in my ear’. That was a Labor Premier reporting on what had happened in recent years. At this moment Senator Wriedt is saying to Mr Wran that he should tell the people of New South Wales that they should go along with this bleak prospect of their Premier being dragged by the ear by a Federal Labor GovernmentGod forbid- in the future and told what he will get, that the States will be taken over and will not have any powers or any flexibility at all.
Let us come back to what is being said because it is important. It is being said that we are not to have federalism; we are to have in fact uniform taxation. Mr Whitlam says:
This uniform taxation does . . . debase politics, lt does . . . debauch the States. And it does lead to the enunciation of the perfectly reasonable theory that those who spend the money should bear the odium of raising it. But the solution lies, not in abandoning the uniform taxation system, but in taking over those functions of the States which the States at present administer, but for which the Commonwealth foots the bill.
That is Mr Whitlam saying what the people will get if they support Wran and if they support Senator Wriedt. It is important to realise that under federalism there will be one income tax form for all people, one income tax scale, one series of income tax deductions and rates, and one income tax assessment. There will not be 2 income taxes.
From time to time over the years Commonwealth governments have varied income tax scales. There can be variations in income tax scales. There will be one income tax. If there is any variation at all in the scale it will be seen and identified upon the assessment and the elector himself or herself can punish the government of the day in the ballot box. For the first time the responsibility will be identifiable. There will be none of this nonsense about double taxes. The only double taxes were the Labor Party’s. Let us have none of these scare tactics.
Finally, tax indexation will be a potent measure, one hopes, to abate inflation. I believe that the Labor Party agrees with this. It will help the States, therefore, in their Budgets. As it abates inflation it will vitally increase the national revenue. As we get the inflation rate down we will get the commercial and industrial investment rate up and people will get jobs. As we do what we are dedicated to do- that is, get jobs for the 300 000 people who are now unemployed so that they will cease to need social service benefits, regain their human dignity and be earners and creators of national wealth- the pool of national revenue will increase. As each dollar of revenue increases alongside tax indexation, so the States will share fully by percentage with the Commonwealth. In the past in their direct reimbursements the States have received less than the national growth, but now they know that they will get the same percentage as the national growth. It is good business. We are in business to reduce taxation. We are in business to regain full employment. We are in business to bring down inflation. We are in business to bring about a system of government which will be good for the people because it will bring government close to them.
– In these troubled times it is reassuring to know that a new Messiah has arrived. In his windy Billy Graham style the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has made it clear that he proposes to repeat the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Taxes will be lowered all round but everybody will get more. One oddity in the Minister’s speech was that it took him until the closing minutes of his half-hour oration to mention the subject that we are discussing today. Obviously what he, the architect of the new federalism, fears above all else is that it will get through to the people of New South Wales and to the people of Australia that his scheme of federalism does involve double taxation and inevitably involves more taxation.
Yesterday, he was particularly evasive when subjected to some questioning. He explained that double taxation is not double taxation, that what the States impose in addition to what the Commonwealth imposes is to be called a surcharge instead of a tax. That is something like offering a condemned man a choice of strychnine or arsenic. In order to dissipate the obfuscation which I believe may be in his own mind or which he may be deliberately employing in order to hide the sordid reality of his plans, let us have a look at the record. I am not referring only to the propaganda document of the Liberal Party; I also mean the transcript of the proceedings at the Premiers Conference which took place on 4 February. Obviously it never occurred to Senator Carrick, to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or to Sir Eric Willis that this document would come into the hands of their opponents and that we would find out exactly what they did say behind closed doors.
Surely the test of what the Government’s policy means was what occurred at that Conference of 4 February. The official transcript tells a story which not only confounds Senator Carrick but illustrates dramatically the downright deceit of Sir Eric Willis in his desperate attempts to hold on to the job of Premier of New South Wales. At first Sir Eric Willis was against a State income tax. On page 8 1 of the official transcript of that Conference, Sir Eric Willis said:
If in fact the rule was laid down for this game that we are about to play -
He saw that it was a charade- that only if a State wants to impose a surcharge is it necessary for that State to bring in legislation, then no State will be the first one to move in that direction. They will all prefer not to be branded as the first one to reimpose State taxation on their own citizens. So we might as well stop right here and now. But I have been assured here today by at least one of your colleagues, Mr Prime Minister, that that is not your intention. This is why I am a little confused as to what is in fact the ultimate objective.
There we have it, Sir Eric Willis, a man of noted perspicacity, confessing that he was confused. Nevertheless he was bravely telling his boss, the Prime Minister- this great federalist who emerges from this document as a mighty centralistthat he would not legislate to bring in a State income tax. That is what we may call the Willis position No. 1. Immediately after Sir Eric Willis said that, the Prime Minister did his best to dissipate Sir Eric’s confusion by saying these brutal words:
The interpretation that Sir Eric Willis gives this clause is not the one we had in mind, because we believed it simpler to write into the basic grant the historic situation that has developed, and that is what States get-
But mark these words- and then if they want more they can tax more.
– Who said that?
-That is what Mr Fraser said to Sir Eric Willis. What was Sir Eric’s reaction to this? The answer is simple: He backed down. Sir Eric backed down and said:
I do not want to flog a dead horse and I think that the horse is already dead.
A franker way of putting it would have been to say that Sir Eric’s principal objection to State income tax had died a sudden death. It took 5 minutes for him to back right down and to agree on a State income tax, which he did in these words:
There has to be some understanding that, whether we do it in the first, second or third year, we will ultimately reach a point where the States are imposing income tax in addition to Commonwealth income tax- Commonwealth for Commonwealth purposes and for topping up the less affluent States; the States for their own purposes.
That we may call the Willis position No. 2. What else does that mean in plain English? We know now why Senator Carrick wanted to avoid like the plague the words ‘double taxation’. Senator Carrick was at this conference. He knows that the record damns everything he has said not only here today but also in answer to a series of questions to him during the past few weeks. He knows that the record shows beyond peradventure that what is ahead of the people of Australia is double taxation and additional taxation.
– Have you lost your place?
– I am quoting from documents and I want to be accurate. That is why I paused for a moment. Senator Wright would rather have waffle, would he? This is confirmed a little later when Sir Eric Willis asked the Prime Minister:
What I would like to get clear is whether your objective is that it will be a voluntary matter and whether I am working towards a point where you accept the thesis which I have just advanced and that a responsible State government should be raising its own taxes.
Again, this federalist Prime Minister did not mess about. He said:
If a State sought to raise no tax and just lived on what came from the Commonwealth I suppose it would be seen to be irresponsible, especially when the power to raise or lower a tax was there and it was not using that power … I would have thought that if a power were there the Premiers would use it.
Sir Eric Willis not only responded enthusiastically to the idea but also made it clear that New South Wales would go it alone if the other States desisted from imposing their own income tax. He announced to the other Premiers:
We could not accept the view that any one State that decided to introduce income tax could be frustrated by the inability of other States to finalise arrangements. We should be free, individually, to take our own courses.
This is what Sir Eric Willis permitted himself to say behind closed doors at the Premiers’ Conference on 4 February. He did have some initial misgivings but it is worth noting that far from being based on principle his misgivings were based on cynical party political grounds. He was simply afraid, to use his own words, of being branded as the first Premier to introduce State income tax. But when the Prime Minister cracked the whip he went to water. But the drama of Sir Eric or Little by Little does not end there. When Mr Wran exposed his suppression of the facts and secret commitments, he twisted once again. By Friday night of last week Sir Eric was pledging that a re-elected State Liberal-National Country Party government would not abolish State taxes and replace them with an income tax during the life of the next State Parliament. So, we now have the Willis position No. 3. In short, on the question of imposing a State income tax the stand of this man of principle is: ‘We won’t; we will; we won’t’.
– Are you fighting the State election here today?
-Of course, Senator Carrick did not mention it. I suggest that the honourable senator get used to the realities of politics. After she has been here a little while she will understand that. There is another very interesting matter. It has been suggested that if there is ever to be State income tax it will be a very gradual process. The interesting point to note from the transcript are these words from Mr Fraser:
I should like these arrangements introduced as quickly as possible. I should like the transitional period to be as short as possible . . .
All the waffle which we have heard about this being something in the far distant future falls to the ground in the light of that statement by the man who was really cracking the whip. When we consider whether the Premiers are likely to introduce State income tax and when, we must bear in mind that tax indexation- no matter what Senator Carrick says- must reduce the amount available for distribution to the States. That is not my say so. Senator Carrick paints a rosy picture of the wheels of industry turning again with everybody back at work. He forgets that the Government is following a deliberate policy of increasing unemployment. That is the only policy it knows for putting the workers in their place. Senator Carrick forgets that in a recent Treasury Department document which was considered by his Cabinet these words were put by a Treasury official:
But the position will, of course, change quite markedly, once the personal income is fully subjected to indexation. Leaving aside the possibility of discretionary charges in income tax rates, an indexed personal income tax would over a longer term at least, almost certainly, yield less in terms of growth than the present grants formula . . .
I ask every honourable senator to listen closely to the words which follow because they sum up the whole position. The paper states:
This could mean that, to simply maintain what they have now, the States may be forced to increase the surcharge on income tax which they would have to levy under their own legislation. This could be summarised as the Commonwealth handing over the dirty work of increasing taxes to the States.
That sums up neatly and precisely, in the words of an impartial public servant, just what the Liberal Party’s new federalism amounts to. It means handing over the dirty work to the States. Despite all the noble protestations which we have had from Senator Carrick today, that is the reality of the package which he is trying to sell under such a noble label.
– I almost apologise for interrupting the conduct of the New South Wales election which has broken out, particularly in the last speech. I say to Senator Walters, who a few minutes ago expressed some shock at the extent to which the Senate would be so used by members of the Australian Labor Party to fight that election, that there is a curious feature about the matter. A feature of the last Victorian State election was that Senator Button rose so valiantly into the lists. We know the result of that election and we know the assistance which members of the Labor Party in this chamber gave. Today those honourable senators are endeavouring to support Mr Wran and his party in New South Wales. In fact, they are uninvited guests in the contest. I understand that there is nothing Mr Wran wants less than to have honourable senators contributing with their record, their ideas, their negative and defeatist views into the campaign in which he hopes to shine as some sort of bright well scrubbed example of a Labor Party which has some message. We all know that he is but a small cog in the Labor Party system and has enmeshed in the web which federal members of the Labor Party in the Senate and in the other place weave around the Labor Party.
Of course, at this time Mr Wran may be saying, ‘Save me from my friends’, because it is his friends in this place who are imposing and who are insisting that they want to be in the election. They insist on making their contribution. Today they have put before us a propagandist proposal as a matter of urgency which states:
The imposition of a double taxation system on the Australian people and the implications flowing therefrom.
They describe something as double taxation. That sounds good. It engenders in the public mind the idea of something being repeated, something double or treble or more. In fact, we have lived for years under a system of taxation which could be called double, treble taxation, and so forth. It is a system which has broken down badly. It has meant that the State governments throughout the country have been forced to exploit every type of tax that they could and to impose on people who want to buy homes and who want to engage in this or that occupation. The State governments have had to impose over and over again on some people in various activities because we do not have a system which enables the States to impose a growth tax. Therefore the system has required the States more and more to squeeze certain areas contrary to the interests of the economy of the country and of those States. Today we have a negative, conservative Labor Party in this country clinging to a system of uniform taxation as the only answer. In fact, the new Government has brought forward a responsible system of taxation.
Senator James McClelland, in a terribly turgid and tedious repetition of arguments, unfortunately with no sound effects which makes it very difficult, has come out with selected quotations. He stated that the Government is handing over the dirty work’ to the States. In other words, he says that the Federal Government is saying that the State governments should be responsible and should have to answer to their constituents. They should not be expected to go cap in hand to a Federal Government to get a grant and then have no responsibility. Sure, the State governments will have to answer for the dirty work, if the honourable senator likes to use those words. The people in the States will thereby be entitled to judge a State government and to compare it with another one.
– They will next Saturday.
– Of course they will next Saturday, ls there the slightest doubt that the decrepit Labor machine of New South Wales will not be elected but will once more find itself in defeat? We do not have any worries on our side of the fence. Honourable senators opposite have a great deal of worry on their side. That is why they are trying to buy in on the campaign.
The unsatisfactory nature of uniform taxation has been recognised for a long time. Back in 1952 Mr Menzies, as he then was, at a Premiers Conference- they have been difficult things for years- stated:
I say at once that as a government we agree that the uniform tax is thoroughly unsatisfactory and that in principle it would be most desirable for the States to be in command of their tax revenues. Therefore, I tell all the States here represented that the Commonwealth Government is abundantly and promptly willing to discuss with them the return to the States of their taxing power.
It has taken a long time for the States to recognise that fact and to reach the sort of agreement which this Government in the first phase has now successfully started. But that unsatisfactory system has lasted for a long time.
I am glad to know that our federalism policy has been read, even in a somewhat separated way, by honourable senators opposite from the Labor Party. In that policy we set out that the Government must have a fair tax sharing program. The taxpayer must be able to identify clearly his individual payments to the Commonwealth, State and local authorities. This will bring responsibility back to the system.
I turn in this argument to what is happening in other great federalist countries in a similar situation. Listening to Senator Wriedt one would think that countries which had more of a decentralised system would be hopeless and that they could not be successful in running their economic policies. But this is not the case in the United States of America or Canada.
I refer to a very interesting piece of writing by Daniel J. Elazar of the United States. It is called The new federalism: can the states be trusted. He points out the tremendous difference which has occurred there. We are years behind but we will catch up under this Government. Mr Elazar points out what has happened in the United States since the Second World War and how the criticisms of the States as being incapable of doing various things and of exercising various powers are shown to be faulty. He states:
There is more than enough evidence to show that the States and localities, far from being weak sisters, have actually been carrying the brunt of domestic governmental progress in the United States ever since the end of World War II, and have done so at an accelerated pace since the advent of America’s direct combat involvement in Vietnam. Moreover, they have been largely responsible for undertaking the truly revolutionary change in the role of government in the United States that has occurred over the past decade.
That statement is illustrated by figures relating to payments which have been made since World War II. He goes on to state:
No matter what base period is used, the fiscal data confirm this. Since 1946, state and local revenues from their own sources have risen from under $10 billion to over $100 billion, or by more than 10 times, while federal revenues have only quadrupled.
In other words, in the States and localities of the United States there is a real development away from federalism. It is a recognition, as this paper points out, that it is not possible to run large and vast countries on a basis of centralism, which the Opposition Party here would have us do. I shall read a little more from this most interesting paper. It states:
There are clearly no grounds for believing that one plane of government is more wasteful than the others, though the way in which their wastefulness is manifested may differ … It has become increasingly apparent that federal regulation has meant not higher standards in these areas but an adjustment of standards toward a national mean that suits the interests of the parties being regulated, often to the dismay of those who championed federal intervention in the first place on the ground that federal action would obviously mean higher standards.
So- Federal activity- or, as we would say in our context, centralism, as we know it in Australia, has not guaranteed any better or higher standards. In fact, it is a system from which we must move away on the basis of what the United States found and has done for many years now.
We should look also at the case of Canada. I refer in this case to a man who I think did more than anybody else to raise this issue and to inspire the new federalism policy of the Government parties. I refer to the present Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser. He in fact went to Canada in 1973. I wish to quote some extracts from an article which he wrote for the Melbourne Herald on 18 September 1973. In that article he pointed out:
While the Commonwealth government has the responsibility and odium attached to raising funds spent by the States, experience shows that the Commonwealth finds the temptation to put tags on those funds irresistible.
It should be remembered that he wrote that article in 1973. Of course, the proof was that it was so irresistible that those tags continued to the extent that more than half the moneys was handed to the States in that way. The article continued:
If the States are to have continuing important functions, they will need access to funds and the responsibility for raising them.
In the course of that article Mr Fraser also pointed out what I believe is one of the most salient facts, and that is the great difference between Canada and Australia. In Australia the
Commonwealth collects more than 78 per cent of all revenue and the States collect about 17.5 per cent, while local government bodies raise less than 5 per cent. Then mention was made of the significant part played by specific purpose grants. Mr Fraser pointed out that in Canada the Federal government collects, in the first instance, only 50.6 per cent of all revenues, the provinces collect a little more than 40 per cent, and local government bodies collect a little less than 10 per cent. When it comes to spending, of course, the Commonwealth of Australia pays across to the States moneys which they have not had the responsibility of raising; whereas the Canadian Federal governments spends about 41.3 per cent of the revenue it raises and the provinces spend 41.4 per cent. So in Canada there is a much greater decentralisation of funds, both in collecting and in spending. Therefore the Canadians have a better system. We are now moving towards a similar system- something which has been tried and has been operating successfully in Canada and, as I said, also in the United States.
The conservative Opposition in this Parliament, the Labor Party, is trying to hold back this progress.
In the course of their criticisms the first 2 speakers for the Opposition in this debate made some extraordinary statements. There was the allegation that with this new system the Federal governments in other countries have been able to do that. They do not have to have all the moneys in their hands for that purpose. A Federal government has mighty economic powers apart from the raising of revenue.
Then, of course, we had that extraordinary glasshouse-type statement that we have had stability in financial affairs in recent years and that we could not disturb that precious stability which we have had. That is what we were told by honourable senators opposite. Yet today we have a Budget deficit in the order of- what is it?- $7,000m. They are figures which I am afraid are often beyond my comprehension. Nonetheless, do we call what has prevailed under the federalism system over the last few years ‘stability’? It has not been stability because there has been overweaning power on the part of the central government in this country. It has been so overweaning that at times the government was not satisfied with it and sought the most extraordinary loans from abroad in an effort to gain complete power.
This particular stunt on the part of the Opposition today is well meant; it is meant to help to elect a somewhat sad and worried party in New
South Wales. But, when one looks at the system and the changes which this Government recognises are needed, it is also an illustration that the Federal Opposition is a negative one. It is defeatist. It is old-fashioned and centralist in its whole approach. It has learnt nothing. It is like the Bourbons, who learnt nothing and forgot nothing. It is learning nothing about the way in which this country ought to be run and how there ought to be a decentralisation of power.
For those reasons I oppose the matter of urgency, the piece of political propaganda, which is before the Senate today. I am quite sure that the listeners throughout Australia, including those in New South Wales, will not be fooled for one moment.
– The Senate is debating as a matter of urgency the proposal put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt), namely, the problems that will arise to the people of Australia as a result of any arrangements that might be entered into between the Australian Government and the respective State governments on the question of double taxation and, of course, the implications that flow therefrom. I remind myself that my colleague, Senator James McClelland, referred to Senator Carrick ‘s remarks as being equivalent to the message relating to the miracle of the fishes and the loaves. So far as I am concerned, having listened to Senator Carrick, I rather feel that he should have been given the portfolio of Minister for Agriculture. He seems to have been the first parliamentarian in the world to be able to produce a disease-free money tree.
Representing the people of New South Wales and the State of New South Wales in this chamber, I am very concerned at the implications in utterances that have been made by Ministers of the Australian Government and Ministers of the New South Wales Government. I make no apology for the fact that the Labor movement in the Senate is raising this issue today, 3 days before a State election is held in New South Wales. Despite what has been said by honourable senators opposite, I, as a member of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, am one of those who have participated in the State election campaign. Like a number of my colleagues who sit on this side of the chamber with me, I know that the people of New South Wales are expressing concern and dismay at the fact that they are likely to have double taxation imposed upon them in the event of this new federalism policy being implemented.
New South Wales is the most populous State in the Commonwealth. Regrettably, it is the most expensive and highest taxed State in the Commonwealth. Everyone knows that land prices are higher in Sydney than anywhere else in Australia. Recently I read that a block of land in Sydney was dearer than a comparable block of land in the great city of New York. Consequently, as land prices are so high, rents are also very high. Rents in New South Wales are higher than they are anywhere else in Australia.
The public transport system in New South Wales has been shockingly neglected in the last decade, so much so that practically every day somewhere in that State a rail breakdown causing dislocation and chaos occurs. The fact that only a couple of weeks before the New South Wales Government faced a State election it decided to order some new commuter buses for the travelling public of Sydney indicates surely that the needs of the community in this regard have been wantonly disregarded for so long.
The petrol tax or petrol surcharge- as I think it was called by the New South Wales Governmentwas a surcharge of 10c on every gallon of petrol that was bought by motorists in New South Wales. It was taken off by the New South Wales Government about three or four weeks ago. Notwithstanding that action, petrol is still dearer in New South Wales than anywhere else in Australia. Incidentally, might I add in passing that, despite the dropping of the 10c surcharge or petrol tax in New South Wales, I have not yet seen a reduction of lc in the price of any other commodity in that State. Bread is dearer in Sydney than elsewhere in Australia. Milk is dearer as are fruit and vegetables. The story goes on. New South Wales is the most populous State but it is also the most highly taxed State.
Suddenly a State election is called. There is a Premiers Conference at which a so-called financial formula is worked out and the whole problem, according to both Liberal governments and particularly according to Senator Carrick, appears to be solved. One day we are told by Senator Carrick, the Minister who is responsible for Commonwealth-State relations, that there will be one tax form, one tax scale, one scale for rebates and deductions, and one tax assessment. I think Senator Carrick repeated that statement today. On 8 April last, as reported at page 1 196 of Hansard, Senator Carrick said:
There will be in the first stage-
I emphasise those words; let me repeat them:
There will be in the first stage no capacity for the Slates to impose surcharges or to bring about rebates in their tax.
Later, in the same answer, he continued:
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.
I suggest that those remarks by the Minister responsible for Commonwealth-State relations are most interesting indeed.
Surely in the first instance he is saying that the States will not be imposing surcharges or taxes. That is what he said on 8 April. But he continued:
In future years the States will be able to have more flexibility of revenue . . .
Surely what the Minister was saying was that if the States did not do this in the first breath they could or would do it in the second breath.
Yesterday, as reported at page 1240 of Hansard, the Minister said:
There will be in stage 2 the right not to impose a State income tax but to impose a surcharge or a rebate on the one income tax that exists.
Whether it is called a tax or a surcharge is little to the point; to the taxpayer that is Tweedledee or Tweedledum. For the person working, the small businessman or the employer of labour it will be more money out of the pocket, out of the till or out of the business. As I understand it, the percentage of the surcharge will be determined by the State or by the Commonwealth and the State.
If we take the argument one step further we find that, whilst Senator Carrick is saying that the imposition of the surcharge will take place in stage 2, the Premier of New South Wales has in fact undertaken to remove the surcharges of payroll tax, land tax and certain dutiable burdens, ostensibly because of this new, magical formula that apparently has been discovered. I suggest that one way or the other either the formula has gone awry, that no one in fact knows just what it is all about- I rather suspect that that is the case- or, worse still, that those in positions of government are attempting to hoodwink the Australian people.
To hammer the point home, be it a tax or be it a surcharge, let us look at what the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Eric Willis, had to say at a lunchtime talk at Sydney’s Royal Exchange Club as recently as February of this year, just after the first Premiers Conference was held by the present Prime Minister, to which Senator James McClelland has referred, and at which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) mentioned the imposition of a tax by the States. At the Royal Exchange Club in Sydney, the Premier of New
South Wales was giving a dissertation on taxation generally. He came to the subject of payroll tax, a tax which, as I have said, he has decided to abolish if he is re-elected next Saturday. He will do so because of this magical formula, not because he will reduce services or because he will impose another indirect tax. He will take this action as a result of this magical formula which, we are told, does not involve taxation being imposed by the States. I do not accept it for a moment. The Australian Financial Review of 11 February 1975 reported:
Thus, while agreeing that payroll taxation was a tax he would like to see the end of, Sir Eric pointed out that, in the current state of State finances, prospects for its abolition were remote.
Then, he is reported as having said:
When the Commonwealth agreed to give payroll tax to the States … all the States sitting around the table in 10 seconds flat agreed to put it up.
Since then it’s been put up a couple of times. It brings in hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It’s now twice as high as when the Federal Government administered it.
It’s not a tax I like in the slightest, but the hope of eliminating it is impossible.
Yet, in the course of the current election campaign in New South Wales, the State Premier has determined that if he is returned to office payroll tax will be eliminated. I ask: With what will it be replaced? If payroll tax can be doubled, as it has been doubled, as admitted by Sir Eric Willis, so too, I suggest, can the surcharge that will be imposed. I say that under the proposals by the Australian Government and the New South Wales Government the hip pocket nerve will be very touchy indeed- in fact, at least doubly touchy. If one doubts the arguments of the Opposition one need only refer to the editorial in yesterday’s Australian Financial Review headed Fraserism bites Willis’. Certainly this newspaper is not sympathetic to the philosophy or policies espoused by the Labor movement. The editorial writer of the Australian Financial Review of yesterday ‘s date said:
To the undisguised delight of his political opponents and the scarcely disguised anguish of his supporters the New South Wales Premier, Sir Eric Willis, has performed a policy somersault in the closing days of the State election campaign.
He has found, as many another State Premier will discover, that Fraser federalism is more a burden than a bounty.
Later in the same editorial the editorial writer said:
So on Saturday -
That is last Saturday-
Sir Eric guaranteed that there would be no increase in taxation if his Government was returned to power.
This statement is a load of old codswallop, incapable of being honoured and worthy of consideration only as an example of lowest common denominator politics.
If the Fraser Government implements its policy of tax indexation along with its proposals in respect of FederalState financial arrangements then the only way in which New South Wales and any other State can avoid the necessity of increasing taxes is by reducing the services they now provide to the electorate.
It is because of those words written in the editorial of the Australian Financial Review and the words of other economists who have expressed concern about the utterances of various Ministers in the Australian Government and in some of the State governments that Senator Wriedt has raised this matter of urgency in the national interest. I commend its terms to honourable senators.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) has introduced into this Senate today for debate a matter of urgency which he has expressed in these terms:
The imposition of a double taxation system on the Australian people, and the implications flowing therefrom.
This is an undisguised and confessed attempt by the Federal Labor Party to get in on the platform that is being occupied by the campaigners in the New South Wales State election. That has been confessed by every one of the Labor speakers in this debate. Some of the Labor speakers have said that they have taken pan in the election campaign itself. However, when honourable senators opposite put forward their proposition in this chamber they represent the Federal Australian Labor Party. It is these honourable senators who wish to create in the minds of the electors of New South Wales a fear about the imposition of a system of double taxation. As Senator Carrick has so clearly put forward in reply to Senator Wriedt, the issue between the 2 parties in this matter is the theory of centralism espoused by Whitlam and the theory of federalism espoused by Fraser. The theory of federalism demands that for the proper governing of this country the State parliaments should have a share of responsibility and a corresponding share of revenue.
We know that Mr Whitlam has deliberately gone on record more than once and said that the best service that State parliamentarians can do for their parties is to abolish their parliaments. The whole thrust of Mr Whitlam ‘s purpose is to abolish State parliaments and substitute under the omnipotent central government of Canberra regions which would get whatever revenue Canberra supplies. The country has had a taste of Whitlamism. In the 3 years in which the Labor
Government was in office the wages tax- that element of personal income tax which comes from wages and salaries- rose from $3,000m in 1972-73, which was the Labor Government’s first year of office, to $6,000m in the next year and to $8,600m in its last year of office. It was the Labor Party, which now wishes to warn the State electors of New South Wales of the dangers of a State parliament which is closer to the people and which has a much greater knowledge of the needs of the people of New South Wales, that increased the general yield of wages tax for the whole of this country from $3, 000m in its first year of office to $8,682m in its last year of office.
– That is treble tax.
-As Senator Chaney says, that is treble tax. The former Labor Government correspondingly increased its expenditure. It was debauched with money and, to use the words which Fred Daly used the other day, it spent money as if it had gone out of fashion. Before the Labor Government came into office Budget expenditure totalled about $ 12,000m. In its last year of office the Labor Government budgeted for an expenditure of $22,000m. These are the gentry who would ask the populace of New South Wales to believe that the Federal Government should retain a monopoly on personal income tax. Let us have a look at that. To the present time the States have been completely excluded from the field of personal income tax. That is a result of the uniform tax system. That system has gone through various changes since 1942, but the principle that this Parliament should have a monopoly in the personal income tax field has been followed rigidly. Any compensatory reimbursement which the States receive to service their responsibilities is just so much as the representatives from all States in both House of this Parliament decide. Therefore, the States have had to rely increasingly on receipts duties, stamp duties on home and other property transfers, motor vehicle taxes and lotteries. Then about 4 years ago the Federal Government transferred to the States, as a growth tax, the payroll tax.
The proposition which Senator Carrick has presided over and which the Government of which he is a member is putting forward as a most imaginative, constructive and positive proposal- probably it is unique in financial genius since Federation-is that the sole right to impose personal income tax will be retained by this Parliament. This Parliament will remain the only authority to say what items of income shall be taxed and what items of income shall be allowed by way of deduction. Also, that tax should be levied and collected by one return, one assessment and one authority. Therefore, if the Federal Government is able to reduce this swollen mass of expenditure which I have referred to as the product of the Whitlam Government, obviously it will be straining every effort to reduce the degree of personal income tax that it will levy. That is indicated by its policy upon indexation of taxation. Consequently as responsibilities are adjusted between State governments and the Federal Government, as Mr Whitlam was quoted by Senator Carrick today as saying, we have to reach the stage at which the man who raises the money spends it; the man who wants to spend the money upon services, if he is to be responsible, will be the one who has the odium of increasing the tax. Therefore, it is an aspect of this new federalism that the sole income tax on personal incomes in Australia will be continued to be levied under the sole authority of the Commonwealth Government. This can be adjusted by a State Parliament up or down by way of surcharge or rebate. What parliament in the country exists that does not have any power to raise revenue? At the present time, the States have power to raise revenue by payroll tax, stamp duty tax, motor vehicle tax and lotteries. That is what they are responsible for at the polls. If they impose a surcharge on the Commonwealth income tax, they answer for it at the polls. If they make a rebate, they get the credit for it. Therefore, far from this system being one of double taxation, it is a system of unified taxation. But it is a system decreeing by statute a responsibility as to the sharing of the yield of taxation.
I have about 5 minutes remaining in which to speak. I will not take all that time. However, I want to say that I speak as a Tasmanian senator. The taxable income per capita of population in my State is about 13 per cent less than the average taxable capacity per capita of population of the whole of Australia. New South Wales and Victoria both enjoy a taxable capacity 3 or 4 or more per cent above the average. My concern is expressed on behalf of a small State which has an income taxation yield of about one-tenth of that of New South Wales. For every dollar that we pay in income tax in Tasmania, New South Wales under the present system pays $10. We demand, as a part of the federal compact, some share of that by way of adjustment. My concern about this is that that adjustment will not be prejudiced and that the policy comes with an equalisation formula and a surcharge in favour of the less populous States. That will be my great concern. However, that means to say that the obvious benefit in all this is for the major States, the States which at the present time have their greater taxable capacity exploited by Canberra. hey will then, through their own State parliaments, be able to modify the degree of their personal income taxation. Far from it being a system of double tax, it is a system of continued unified taxation under which State parliaments are capable of making adjustments in regard to their own States.
I wish to devote a few words in reply to the rubbish that has been trundled in on us. Senator Wriedt said that the federalism policy applies to personal income tax but not to company tax. Therefore, he said, the Government intended to tax the people of Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle to subsidise the big companies operating there. Even the most amateurish, kindergarten politician in the Senate would know that the reason companies are excluded under this policy is that so many of them have their head offices in one State and their mines, stores or warehouses in another. Unless complete control is retained over that situation, there will be endless competition between the States as to what percentage of the company tax the head office State or the operating State should claim. I suggest that the Senate has given very ample discussion to this motion this afternoon. In view of that situation, I move:
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 p.m.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on spectacle and sunglass frames, sunglasses, etc. (Quorum formed)
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian Sports Institute Study Group dated November 1975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board together with a report to the Board by the Australian Government Actuary on the assets and liabilities of the Fund at 30 September 1972.
Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement relating to this report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The report I have tabled refers to an excess or surplus of assets at book value over the liabilities of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund upon transfer to the Commonwealth, as at 30 September 1972, attributable to those who were pensioners over a period of 8 years 3 months from 1 July 1964 to 30 September 1972. Preparation of data for the Australian Government Actuary- originally intended for December 1975- for the further report relating to former DFRB contributors has been delayed because of a need to finalise outstanding options available to them upon transfer to the new scheme. The further report will refer to 2 groups of contributors: First, those who were contributors on 30 September 1972 and transferred to the new scheme on 1 October 1972; and secondly, those who were contributors for portion of the period 1 July 1964 to 30 September 1972 with pension entitlements falling due before 1 October 1972.
Before summarising the outcome and the arrangements for a cash distribution, I should place on record the very considerable difficulties which have faced the Australian Government Actuary and the DFRB Board in resolving the problems posed by this task. Not only was it necessary to establish new specifications for the statistical information to be used but there is no precedent for the methods which were developed. Uncertainties about the appropriate action which might be taken and in the interpretation to be placed on the results of the actuarial calculations are reflected in the report. On the other hand, there is a fundamental actuarial approach recorded in the report of the Australian Government Actuary to the Board and his further expression of views as a member of the DFRB Board. An alternative approach was to relate the conclusions and proposed action to the basic approach of the Joint Select CommitteeJess report- on DFRB legislation of May 1 972 and the policy incorporated in the relevant legislation brought down by the previous Government and assented to on 19 June 1973. The latter approach was used by the Board- by majority decision- in formulating its conclusions and has been adopted by the Government in reaching a decision on this matter.
Of the moneys in the Fund as at 30 September 1972-$160,866,000 at book value-transferred to the Commonwealth under the terms of the amending Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act No. 82 of 1972, the following excess or surplus amounts at book value have been accepted as attributable to those who were eligible pensionersthose who were pensioners during the period 1 July 1964 to 30 September 1972:
An excess or surplus of $6,337,000 as at 30 September 1972 will be distributed in cash to those who were pensioners during the period 1 July 1964 to 30 September 1972 or their survivors. The principles to be applied under the relevant legislation are similar to those adopted for the cash distribution of surplus from the DFRB Fund for eligible pensioners during the period from 1 July 1959 to 30 June 1964. The amounts allocated to eligible pensioners as at 30 September 1972 will be accumulated from 1 October 1 972 to the date stipulated for distribution using a factor based on 6.533 per cent, the earning rate of the Fund at 30 June 1972.
It should be added that the legislation will provide for the Australian Government Actuary to develop a basis of allocation of these moneys to each eligible pensioner. This will be as simple as possible commensurate with the essential requirement that each person should receive a fair share. The Board will need to consult some thousands of records over the period from 1 July 1964 and develop the relevant computer procedures. In these circumstances, some months will elapse before the task can be completed. However, every effort will be made to arrange for the procedures to be developed for payments to be made before Christmas 1976.
-Mr President, I seek leave to propose a motion in relation to the statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
Unless otherwise ordered, the annual Estimates, as contained in the Papers presenting the Particulars of Proposed Expenditure, and the Additional Estimates, as contained in the Papers presenting the Particulars of Proposed Provision for Additional Expenditure, shall on motion be referred for examination and report to six committees, to be known as Estimates Committees A, B, C, D, E and F, which are appointed by this Resolution.
Each Estimates Committee shall consist of six Senators, three being members of the Government to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and three being Senators who are not members of the Government, to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or by an Independent Senator.
The particular Estimates Committees in respect of which the Leader of the Opposition or the Independents make nominations shall be determined by agreement between the Leader and the Independents, and, in the absence of agreement duly notified to the President, the question as to the representation on anyparticular Committee shall be determined by the Senate.
Each Committee may proceed to the dispatch of business notwithstanding that all members have not been appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy.
Each Committee shall elect a Government member as Chairman.
The Chairman may from time to time appoint another member of the Committee to be Deputy-Chairman and the member so appointed shall act as Chairman of the Committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee.
In the event of an equality of voting, the Chairman, or the Deputy-Chairman when acting as Chairman, shall have a casting vote.
Three members of a Committee shall constitute a quorum.
A Senator, though not a member of a Committee, may attend and participate in its deliberations, and question witnesses, unless the Committee orders otherwise, but shall not vote.
10) The Committees shall sit in open session, unless otherwise ordered, may sit during any adjournment or suspension of the Senate, and may adjourn from time to time.
1 1 ) A Committee shall not meet while the Senate is actually sitting, unless by special order of the Senate.
Not more than three Committees shall sit simultaneously.
In considering the Estimates, the Chairman shall, without motion, call on divisions of expenditure in the order decided upon and declare the proposed expenditure open for examination.
The Committees may ask for explanations from Ministers of State in the Senate, or officers, relating to the items of proposed expenditure.
The Resolution referring the Estimates to the Committees may fix a day for the reporting of their proceedings to the Senate, by which day the final Reports of the Committees shall be brought up.
The Report of a Committee shall be presented to the Senate by the Chairman and, if considered necessary, may propose the further consideration of any particular items. A reservation by any member of a Committee may be added to the Report.
The Reports from the Committees shall be received by the Senate without debate and their consideration deferred until consideration of the Appropriation Bills.
1 8 ) A Hansard report of Committee proceedings shall be circulated, in manner similar to the daily Senate Hansard, as soon as practicable after each day’s proceedings.
19) The foregoing provisions of this Resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
– By command of His Excellency the Governor-General I lay on the table the following papers:
Particulars of proposed additional expenditure for the service of the year ending 30 June 1976; particulars of certain proposed additional expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1976; and statement of savings expected in annual appropriation made by the Appropriation Acts Nos1 and 2 of 1975-76.
– I seek leave to move a motion for the reference of particulars of additional expenditures to the Estimates Committees.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Estimates Committee A:
Department of Administrative Services
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Department of National Resources
Department of Foreign Affairs
Department of Defence
Estimates Committee B:
Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development
Department of Employment and Industrial Relations
Attorney-General ‘s Department
Department of Business and Consumer Affairs
Estimates Committee C:
Department of Industry and Commerce
Department of Overseas Trade
Department of the Treasury
Department of Primary Industry
Estimates Committee D:
Department of Education
Department of Transport
Post and Telecommunications Department
Estimates Committee E:
Department of Social Security
Department of Health
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Department of Repatriation
Estimates Committee F:
Department of Science
Department of the Northern Territory
Department of Construction
Department of the Capital Territory
– It is not my intention on behalf of the Opposition to oppose the motion that has been put by Senator Greenwood. I merely indicate to the Government that I am given to understand that it is the Government’s hope that next week the Estimates Committees, assuming they are formed by that time, will be sitting and taking evidence. If that be so I draw to the attention of the Ministers in the Senate and ask them to draw to the attention of their counterparts in another place that it is the desire of the Opposition and indeed, the desire of all members of the Senate to have before them for adequate consideration, before the Senate Estimates Committees sit, the departmental explanations that normally are forthcoming.
– in reply- The point made by Senator Douglas McClelland is I think well known to those honourable senators who have experienced the workings of the Estimates Committees in the past. I am quite sure that all Ministers and the Government will ensure that as soon as possible the material will be available. I think that Senator Douglas McClelland will discover when he examines the Appropriation Bills that the material upon which elaboration is required is much less than has been the situation in other years.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a first time.
(8.14)- I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to make the legislative provision necessary to enable a simplification to be effected in the method of citation of Commonwealth Acts that have been amended. Under the present system, when an Act is amended, it is given a new citation which includes a reference to the year in which the amendment is made. For example, when the Customs Act 1901-1973 was amended in 1 974, it was given a new citation and became known as the Customs Act 1901-1974, and all references to that Act made in other Acts after 1974 would refer to it by this new doubleyear citation.
Under the proposed new system, the original short title of an Act- for example, Customs Act 1901- will continue notwithstanding amendments of the Act, but, when used in other Acts, will be construed as including references to the original Act as amended or re-enacted from time to time. The present system was presumably intended to put people on notice that the Act in question has been amended and to indicate the year of the last amending Act. However, its usefulness in this respect breaks down because references to Acts in other Acts and documents that are up to date references when made soon become out of date and can be positively misleading. The present system causes difficulties both for the practising legal profession and for the Parliamentary Counsel and other government lawyers. For example, it is not easy for a solicitor drafting a private document to ascertain quickly and with certainty the very latest citation of a Commonwealth Act and, if he uses an out of date citation, the interpretation of the document could be affected in a way that he does not intend. Similar difficulties can arise in respect of court documents.
It is true that it is sometimes necessary to refer to an Act as amended and in force at a particular time. Under the new system this can be done by suitable words, for example, by referring to ‘the Customs Act 1901, as in force as amended at the date of this agreement’. The profession in the two most populous States is already familiar, in dealing with State Acts, with the system now proposed for Commonwealth Acts. As it is proposed that the new system commence on 1 July 1976, the profession will have ample notice of the change. The new system will avoid technical problems in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and will save a really substantial amount of checking work and risk of error in that office and in the other legislative drafting and publications establishment in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. The technical problems can become acute when several Bills amending the one Act are before Parliament at the same time. The new system will also save a substantial amount of checking work on the part of the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives.
Double-year citations are not used in Canada, New Zealand or South Africa and are not generally used in the United Kingdom. In Australia they are not used in the legislation of New South Wales, Victoria or Tasmania. New South Wales did use double-year citations, but abandoned them in 1969. Double-year citations have never been used in the case of Commonwealth statutory rules. In the case of Northern Territory ordinances, they were abandoned in 1972. As regards Australian Capital Territory ordinances, a similar change in practice is proposed.
I would emphasise that, despite the change, every amending Act will continue to list in a footnote all the previous amending Acts, and that every reprint of an Act as amended will show the date as at which the reprint is prepared and will list all amending Acts in force up to that date.
– The first reform this Government has made.
– It is the beginning of many, Senator. There are, of course, innumerable existing references in Acts to other Acts by the use of double-year citations. It is not proposed to alter these references except when the provisions in which they occur are being amended for other reasons, but this Bill will ensure that these references will continue to be effective.
I turn now to the provisions of the Bill. Clause 4 will amend the Acts Interpretation Act so as to provide, in effect, that a reference in an Act to another Act by its original short title, for example Customs Act 1901’, is to be construed, except so far as the contrary intention appears, as including a reference to that other Act as amended or re-enacted from time to time. The provision also covers references to Acts by an altered short tide, so as to take account of changes in the names of Acts, for example the change of name of the Australian Broadcasting Act to the Broadcasting and Television Act.
Under the present system, by virtue of the Amendments Incorporation Act, where an Act has been given a double-year citation, the short title of the amended Act is deemed to have been amended accordingly. The result is that at present the short titles of almost all amended Acts contain references to 2 years, for example Customs Act 1 90 1 - 1 975 . Clause 6 will bring the short titles into the new form by omitting the reference to the second year. A few short titles that contain the word ‘Acts’ are specially dealt with in the clause. Clause 5 will make consequential amendments to the Amendments Incorporation Act. *(Quorum formed) I am indebted to
Senator Keeffe for calling for a quorum. I now commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
-On behalf of the Leader of the Government, Senator Withers, I move:
The motion is self-explanatory in its terms and I understand the Opposition concurs with it.
– The Opposition, as a political Party, some time ago gave consideration to the terms of the motion now put forward by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood). The Opposition does not oppose the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7 April on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition, ever responsible, does not oppose this Bill. For the reasons given in the cognate debate last night I wish to move an amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time. I move:
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Grimes amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 3 1 March on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I take this opportunity to raise a number of matters which fall within the ambit of creative federalism which has been debated today and yesterday. I think it is fitting that I ventilate these grievances and refer to the relationship between members of the Australian Parliament from New South Wales and Ministers of the present
Willis Government in New South Wales. I shall commence with what I consider the discriminatory attitude of the New South Wales AttorneyGeneral and Minister for Justice, the Honourable Mr Maddison. It is a simple matter. We have been prating about the partnership between the States and the Commonwealth. I shall deal with the peculiar attitude of the New South Wales Department of Justice in relation to a combination of State Opposition Legislative Councillors and Australian senators who have made representations to this Minister. As a response they are virtually given a back of the hand brushoff.
I deal with a very mundane subject and that is the appointment of justices of the peace. I am not making an eleventh hour comment. I wrote to Mr Maddison early in January. I made my point as the then Chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council. I know that if Senator Davidson were here he would agree with me. The fact of the matter is that a host of people hold office in various ethnic organisations and they realise that in this age in which we live the witnessing of documents faces us regularly. As a result a lot of these people seek appointments as justices of the peace. I wrote in very polite terms to the Honourable Mr Maddison and pointed out that when he was criticising the Australian Government about slowness in making decisions, he ought to put his own house in order. This was due to the fact that in New South Wales there is a 6, 7 and 8-month wait before people get to the rather obscure position of being a justice of the peace.
There is a more sinister aspect. Submissions have been made by the Honourable C. Healey, M.L.C., who is a very respected Opposition member of the Legislative Council. I am dealing now with the ethnic community. Submissions were made six and eight months ago by people in the Italian, Greek and Yugoslav communities. As yet the New South Wales police have not been around to interview them, apart from the normal processing that goes on. Tonight I challenge- I say this very definitely- Ministers in the Willis Liberal Government in New South Wales who talk about efficiency. It is time that they put their house in order. I say this with all due respect to Senator Guilfoyle because State officers are seeking to put their paddle in the lake in relation to immigration responsibilities.
I say without any inhibitions whatsoever that I believe that the Minister for Justice in New South Wales, Mr Maddison, has a deliberate phobia about people applying to be justices of the peace who have 2 strikes against them. In the first instance, if an Australian Labor Party Legislative Councillor makes the submission and it so happens that one of the people who provides a reference is a Labor Party senator, the applicant will wait six or eight months. I refer to a specific case of Mr P. of Randwick, a gentleman who is a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation officer. Last year I complained about slowness. Officers said that they had lost the papers. Then in January this year the Honourable C. Healey, M.L.C., put in a fresh application but I find that as yet no overtures have been made. I take the matter a little further.
I went down to the south coast of New South Wales to the Slovene association function at Dapto and I was accosted by senior officers. They said: ‘Well, you took our names. You submitted them to the Honourable Clive Healey, M.L.C., at Christmas time’. I am talking about events which happened last week. They said: This is virtually the fourth month of the year and not a blow has been struck’. I say to the Liberal Government in New South Wales that it has alienated the major ethnic communities.
– You are not talking about -
– I know it hurts, senator. It is hurting you to the quick. I am not going to be silenced.
– Madam Acting Deputy President a point of order. The honourable senator is referring to New South Wales. I believe that he ought to be referring to the Senate and not to New South Wales. So I suggest that you drag him into order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Melzer)- I am sure that Senator Mulvihill will confine his remarks to the area of discussion.
– I appreciate the help that Senator Jessop is endeavouring to give me, but I point out to him that I am only emulating one of the Government’s senior Ministers, Senator Greenwood, who repeatedly uses the debate on the motion for the first reading of a Bill as a forum in which to air what he regards as injustice. Both Senator Jessop and I know that last year, when we were in government, Senator Greenwood used such an opportunity to ventilate certain matters dealing with the Croatian community. I am simply using this opportunity tonight to contend that Mr Maddison -
– Madam Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I do not think that the honourable senator is confining himself to the subject before the Chair. I suggest that you instruct him to make his speech in the proper manner.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! This is a debate on a motion for the first reading of a Bill, and the honourable senator has every right to range over the area on which he is speaking.
– When I came into the Senate a very great senator on the Government side, Senator Wright, told me that this was a forum for airing injustice, and I am following Senator Wright’s advice tonight. I make the point that the ethnic communities in New South Wales will be voting for a Wran Labor Government on Saturday because of the insults offered by Mr Maddison. I feel that what he has done is impossible.
I would not have raised this matter without extending to the Minister the courtesy of asking him to look at the backlog of applications by people who wish to become justices of the peace. I took the opportunity to confer with the Honourable Clive Healy, who is virtually a State senator for New South Wales. He agrees with me. He, too, is fed up to the teeth with the way in which Mr Maddison deals with applications by people who wish to become justices of the peace. It is not a laughing matter. I think that Senator Jessop is a sensible senator. He would realise that a person’s dignity is involved. If an officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has been waiting for more than 6 months for appointment as a justice of the peace, he could think that an adverse report has been submitted by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I know that in this case that is not so. These are the sorts of things that are causing people to say that it is time for a change in New South Wales. I do not want to belabour that point.
I wish to deal with two other matters. One of them is concerned with the New South Wales Minister for Labour and Industry, Mr Hewitt. I am broadminded enough to believe that even Mr Street at least tries to be reasonable with the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. If one reads the Sydney Morning Herald or the Australian one finds that all that the New South Wales Minister for Labour and Industry, Mr Hewitt, does is spend his time pontificating on the evils of trade unionism in New South Wales. I believe that when a person is appointed as a Minister, irrespective of his party, he should adopt a neutral or balanced attitude. What is the track record of Mr Hewitt? I have raised in this place questions about people, particularly females, in those sectors of industry in which they are more open to exploitation. I refer to domestics in the motel industry and cleaners in the office cleaning industry. In relation to the latter group, I have spoken with officials of the Miscellaneous Workers Union such as Mr Blackwell. There is no doubt that because of language difficulties it is impossible for the unions to control exploitation unless there are joint operations between the inspectors from the Australian and State departments of labour. We are not getting that co-operation.
Due to the efforts of successive illustrious Australian Government Ministers for Labor, such as the Honourable James McClelland and the Honourable Clyde Cameron, as of a few weeks ago we have an arbitration inspectorate report which deals with those employers who are transgressing awards. But it is impossible to get equivalent information from the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry. I am not questioning the dedication of the inspectors, whether they be employees of the State of New South Wales or of the Commonwealth. However, I do know that Mr Hewitt has a hang-up. He is completely biased. He should not hold the position which he does. I shall give an illustration of what I am saying. Well over 12 months ago, at the request of the Chilean community in Sydney I raised a question about certain Chilean women who were being underpaid by W. D. & H. O. Wills. It was 6 months to the day before I got a letter from Mr Hewitt in which he said that the matter was being investigated. It was 2 months later that I was told blandly that justice had been done. To this day I do not know to what extent those women recovered wages. I believe that the Minister should give clear-cut answers. He should give the sorts of answers that were given by the Honourable James McClelland and the Honourable Clyde Cameron and the sort of information that is in the Federal arbitration inspectorate report in which one can find out who is guilty and who is not. What I have refered to is the sort of slothfulness that goes on.
I take a little further this thesis that Mr Hewitt is always talking about trade union power. What he does not understand is that what I am saying is probably true in relation to not only the mining industry, the metal industry and the waterfront industry. I know that many people engaged in those industries do not come under State awards, but many Cinderella industries are under State awards. The tobacco industry epitomises what I am talking about. I claim without any inhibitions whatsoever that Mr Hewitt’s role in the Willis Government is to nobble any prosecutions or any exposure of excessive dereliction of duty by employers in meeting their obligations under State awards. I looked at the minutes of the last meeting between Mr MacKellar, the Australian Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, and his State counterparts. It is remarkable that there was not any reference to State awards. I say that with some feeling.
I have sat with my colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland, on many Estimates Committees, both in government and in opposition. I think we can say that over a period of time, with the help of our Commonwealth officers, we gradually open the door and get progress. I amplify what I am saying in this way: In the Commonwealth arbitration field we have been able- true, to a limited degree- gradually to get acceptance, in the case of some industrial awards in relation to which a lot of industrial conflict has occurred, of the proposition that summaries of those awards should be issued in languages other than English. The Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr McKenzie, who is a very dedicated officer, has indicated that that proposition is a goer. It was done following what was almost an industrial brawl at the Ford Motor Co. plant last year. I know that the situation was assisted by eminent jurists such as Mr Justice Moore and Mr Justice Robinson. The only regret I have, unfortunately, is that some Ministers, both State and Federal, do not adopt the broadness of vision of the 2 jurists I have mentioned.
I say again and again that regrettably the New South Wales Minister for Labour and Industry, the Honourable Mac Hewitt, has blinkers on his eyes and refuses to face up to any changes. I say to the electors of New South Wales that if they can tell me of any industrial innovation that has come about during the 3 years that he has been Minister for Labour and Industry I will make a substantial donation to Liberal Party funds; that is how sure I am about it. Mr Hewitt has this stock answer to anything that is put up by trade union leaders such as John Ducker and Barry Unsworth: It is not time. That is his attitude.
I noticed in this morning’s Australian that Mr Fisher, the New South Wales Minister for Lands, has complained about a very eminent conservationist by the name of Vincent Serventy- a name that has been identified with conservation over many years. He is a very eminent Western Australian. In fact, he is a very good friend of an equally illustrious Western Australian, Senator John Wheeldon.
– A very great Minister.
– Hear, hear! I agree. The fact of the matter is that Mr Fisher claims that Mr Serventy has been very biased in regard to the conservation record of the New South Wales Liberal Government. What are the facts? Early in the life of the Whitlam Labor Government Dr Moss Cass was prepared to offer the States $8m for the acquisition of additional wildlife habitat. Most of the States, including the State that Senator Jessop represents- I notice that he disappeared from the chamber but I am pleased that he has returned to listen to my eloquence- were prepared to go along with the vision splendid propounded by Dr Moss Cass and provide a shopping list of land that was to be acquired. I do not back away from this problem. State Liberal Ministers have told me that care must be exercised in such matters, as a developer will come on to the scene and land which might be an ideal habitate for a wallaby or koala will be sought by somebody who wants to make a quick dollar.
One must be adroit in one’s land acquisitions. All of the States were prepared to submit their shopping lists, except New South Wales which was represented by the deposed former Premier, Tom Lewis. He said that the money was tainted. As a result of that infamous decision based on his claim that the money was tainted, all the States suffered following his procrastination. Although Mr Fisher, the new Minister, writes now to take umbrage at what Vincent Serventy has said, the fact of the matter is that it was Tom Lewis, through his hang-up about what he called tainted Commonwealth money, who acted in such a way that New South Wales suffered and lost a golden opportunity to add to its acreage.
It does not matter what State one lives in or represents; the plain fact of the matter is that, until 10 per cent of our continent is denned as some form of national park or wildlife acreage, we will not meet world standards. Even people like Senator Jessop, who will be chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment, have been converted by me. Senator Jessop is accepting what I am saying. Until 10 per cent of the land of this continent is reserved for that purpose, Australia will be far behind world standards. I emphasise the point that, as Australia is an arid continent, 10 per cent is a pretty small figure to set.
The examples that I have given are all typical of the ineptitude of the Liberal Government in the State of New South Wales. Let me give 2 other examples. I listened to Senator Carrick in an earlier debate today. He worked himself into a frenzy about the present Government’s federalism policy as compared with our policy. I say to Senator Carrick that it was never the intention of any Minister in the Whitlam Government to go after the States with a big stick. But one trait that we do reject and despise is ministerial slothfulness.
I elaborate my point by relating 2 stories. I know that my political adversary, Senator Greenwood, shares my belief that our gun laws are not tough enough. He would know that in the last 5 years both his Government and mine endeavoured to get the States to tighten up their gun laws. We could never get the States to work in unison. In particular, New South Wales was one of the States which was very slow. It felt that any proposal from Canberra contained some overlord concept. The crime figures in Australia suffer as a result of the inability of the States to work together to establish effective gun control. There is no question about that.
I turn to another aspect of this failure to achieve partnership. One of the reasons why we have never run away from these difficultiesSenator Wriedt in his usual eloquent style made this point- is that we believe that whoever is in government in Canberra does not pass the buck back to the States. One difficulty in this respect is epitomised by the problems faced by migrants when they seek to adopt children. It is almost a Russian roulette situation. An inability exists among the States to reach agreement on laws with respect to adoption. Senator Baume, who knows Sydney pretty well, understands as I do that one of the greatest bugbears in relation to the Child Welfare Department in New South Wales concerns complaints from people about the lack of uniformity among the States with respect to adoption laws. A person may refer to the manner in which his or her sister was able to adopt a child in another State. I do not believe that the achievement of efficiency by way of uniformity and other common principles results in any concept of vicious dictatorship in the application of such laws.
There is no question that in respect of the matters I have raised tonight New South Wales Ministers have been timid. They have never been innovators. That is why I have no doubt that a new chapter in the partnership between Canberra and the Government of New South Wales, the mother State, will commence after 6 p.m. on Saturday next when the Hon. Neville Wran who has expounded his views and proposed innovations will become Premier of New South Wales.
That is the development that we face. That is the reason why people like Senator Douglas McClelland, Senator James McClelland, Senator Arthur Gietzelt, Senator Kerry Sibraa and I have crossed the State in the election campaign; that has been our objective. If one accepts the concept of creative federalism, one accepts also the interplay of ideas. The plain fact is that for a long while in New South Wales there were Labor governments. When honourable senators opposite speak about innovations in the industrial field, let me remind them that it was a Labor government in New South Wales which first implemented long service leave. That is one of the reasons why the trade union movement wants Labor leadership in New South Wales.
It was not my intention, Madam Acting Deputy President, as you know, to hold up the proceedings of the Senate but I could not remain silent in the face of some of the furphies that were expounded by Senator Carrick this afternoon. His speech was a disgrace to New South Wales, which has always been a State of progress. I summarise my remarks by running again through the matters that I raised. Any honourable senator who has read La Fiamma and other ethnic papers will know that there has been a genuine complaint that people with nonAnglo Saxon names must wait longer than anyone else to be appointed as Justices of the Peace. Why is it that what one might describe as the mark of Cain’ is placed upon people for whom Labor senators submit character references? I have no doubt that Mr Maddison has a black list and that he says: ‘Let the people on that list wait’. I wrote to Mr Maddison in January to raise the case, which I mentioned earlier, of Mr P. of Randwick, a CSIRO officer. The month of May is nearly upon us and nothing has happened in relation to this matter. Honourable senators cannot tell me that in the year 1 976 with the modern office methods available that is an effective performance. I do not think it is. If Mr Maddison found time to administer his Department instead of indulging in silly sophisticated remarks about law reform and other such matters he would be a better Minister. I cannot remain silent when people ring me to ask: ‘How long have I to wait before I am made a Justice of the Peace?’ The matter can be summed up as simply as that.
I mention again the other matter. The ill-fated New South Wales Minister, Mr Jago, forgot to lodge his nomination for candidature in the last election. Three years have passed. I cherish a letter I received from him in response to a question that I raised concerning insufficient interpreters in our hospitals in New South Wales. He said:
When you get the Health Commission, everything will be all right’. I concede that something has been done, but what has been done is not good enough. What does one find in hospitals beyond the Sydney metropolitan area? All sorts of language difficulties can arise. I think we can agree upon one point. Being doctors, Senator Grimes and Senator Baume will appreciate that if a Greek girl who has been 6 months in Australia and is working as a domestic attempts to tell a doctor the symptoms experienced by an expectant mother, all manner of peculiar symptoms may be related to the doctor. There is no running away from that fact. These human problems arise. I wind up my contribution in this way: I could not remain silent tonight. I had to indict State Ministers. I am sure that retribution will occur in New South Wales on Saturday next.
– I wish to quote from certain sections of a document which I feel will be of interest to honourable senators on both sides of the Senate. The quotation commences thus:
Mr Whitlam arrived at approximately 8 a.m. and met the Iraqi visitors around the breakfast table which was prepared and served by my wife.
Mr Whitlam said that he welcomed the visitors and he wanted to thank the President of Iraq for sending them at such a crucial time when democracy had been overthrown in Australia.
He wanted to make plain that the Australian crisis was due to a coup d’etat having taken place and therefore he welcomed the friendship of the progressive country of Iraq.
He said that Australia was part of the Third World whether Imperialism wanted it or not.
Mr Whitlam would commit himself to visit Iraq officially in his capacity of the real and democratically elected Prime Minister of Australia and would cement the relationship on a strong and permanent relationship between the 2 countries.
Mr Takriti pulled out of his briefcase ;
– Rip Van Winkle! How long have you been asleep?
-This is the bit that you might be interested in. Do not miss this bit.
– Where did you get it?
– I will get to that in a minute. Do not get excited. The document continues:
Mr Takriti pulled out of his briefcase a very large, thick white envelope (approximately 15 inches square) and a letter, and then gave the letter to Mr Whitlam to read saying: This is a presidential message to you which I have been asked to give you by hand ‘.
Mr Whitlam read the letter and Mr Takriti presented him with the large envelope.
Mr Whitlam turned his head towards Mr David Combe and gave him the letter and indicated to Mr Takriti to give the large envelope to Mr Combe saying ‘Well, you will look after this’.
On page 3 1 the document states:
Mr Whitlam then said to Mr Takriti: ‘I want to thank you very much for this generous help, but I am afraid that due to election pressures I must now leave because I have an appointment with the television station and 1 am only sorry that I cannot talk to you more. If only you could have stayed in Australia I could have talked to you longer but I must go now. I sincerely hope to see you in Baghdad when I come there’.
I now turn to page 33 which reads:
The whole conversation lasted for approximately 1 hour and contained many statements by all parties on Imperialism and Zionist pressure and Mr Whitlam said the Jewish pressures were enormous in Australia and the Iraqis must understand what the democratic forces in Australia were going through to withstand these pressures.
I turn then to page 35. It refers to the fact that the gentleman who wrote this letter was travelling with the 2 Iraqis.
– What is the document?
– I said that I will tell honourable senators that in a moment. It reads:
During this trip with the two Iraqis, I was told by Mr Takriti (as translated by Mr yeyah) that the package handed to Mr Combe contained half a million dollars and that another half a million would be forthcoming and that it would be useful if the Labor Party could prepare an account for them.
That was a quotation from part of a document that appears to have been dictated by one Henry John Fischer. It has been added to and corrected by him in his own writing. The statement is some 40 pages long. It is not closely typed. Pages 36 and 37 have been removed in the interests of security of people in other parts of the world. In light of the mystery and the confused statements that have surrounded the Iraqi money affair, and in the interests of the public, I believe that the statement should become public. There are a couple of other parts of the statement that I would like to quote before I sit down. On page 41 the document states:
At the beginning of the negotiations Mr Hartley had assured Mr Whitlam that should it ever be known that Arab money has been used he would assume total responsibility and Mr Hartley appeared to be ready to take the blame personally and be the scapegoat for everything. He said ‘we are going to back Gough all the way and Gough had nothing to do with it’.
There is one part that I would like to quote on page 42 of the document. It reads:
The final interesting point that I have forgotten to mention was that the Iraqis had said they would ‘put money into the militant unions- not the soft ones’.
Mr President, I seek leave to table that document.
-Is leave granted?
- Mr President, do I take it that the honourable senator is seeking now to table only the portions of the document from which he has quoted, or is he tabling all the document?
– Would you clarify that for me, Senator Townley?
– All the document.
– The whole document?
-Is leave granted? Senator Townley, do you seek leave to incorporate the entire document?
-No. I will get to that in a minute.
– Rather, do you seek leave to table the entire document?
– I seek leave to table the entire document.
– Thank you. Is leave granted for such tabling?
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, I may be hard of hearing, but I understood Senator Townley to say when he expounded this story that 2 pages are missing. If you take 2 pages from a report and destroy the sequence of the report you can form all sorts of conclusions. I want to know whether we are getting only 80 per cent of the product. What about the other 2 pages? Are we to be denied those? If they are not given to us we do not have a full record of the report.
– Speaking to the point of order, how do you table 2 pages when you have not got them?
– I refer to standing order 364 which states:
A Document quoted from by a Senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such Order may be made without Notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who has quoted therefrom.
Senator Townley seeks leave to table those documents from which he is quoting. The request has come to the Senate in that form.
- Mr President, I understood from your interrogation of the honourable senator that he had agreed to table all the documents -
– That he is quoting from.
– No, at present in his possession. I specifically asked you, Mr President, whether he was seeking to table the documents from which he quoted or the documents in his possession. The answer was that he was seeking to table the documents in his possession.
– I take it, Senator Townley, that you propose to table the entire document from which you are now quoting.
– I propose to table the entire document which I have here, which does not include the 2 pages that I have mentioned.
-Two pages are missing.
– If I had those pages anywhere I would table them. I do not have them.
-Is leave granted?
- Mr President, there seems to be some misunderstanding. I understood originally that Senator Townley wished to table all the documents from which he has read during the course of his speech. Now I understand that there are 2 documents which he does not wish to have tabled. Is that the position?
– No. I understand, Senator Townley, that you seek to table, in its entirety, the document from which you are now quoting.
– I do.
– Thank you. Does that clarify the position, Senator Wriedt?
-Is leave granted? Leave is granted.
Opposition senators- No.
– You were hesitant in denying leave to table the documents.
– We were seeking clarification.
- Mr President, you quite rightly pointed to standing order 364. 1 believe that Senator Townley has the right to table those documents. I move:
– Under what standing order?
– Under standing order 364. There is something wrong with Senator McLaren’s auditory ability. I referred to standing order 364.
– Order! The tabling of the document, if it is allowed, can be done only at the completion of your speech, Senator Townley. I ask you now to proceed with your speech, unless you have finished your speech.
-The only other thing was that I was going to ask whether I could seek leave to have this transcript as it is here and as I brought it into the Senate incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted for that incorporation?
Opposition senators- No.
– Leave is not granted for the incorporation.
-Mr President, I seek leave to table the document.
-Is leave granted for such tabling?
Opposition senators- No.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. The position is that Senator Townley has asked for leave to table a document. He has asked for leave to table the document that he held in his hand. Now the argument is being used that because the document does not contain 2 particular pages it is not a complete document. Senator Townley asked for leave to table the document as it is. It is just silly nonsense to argue that Senator Townley must have those 2 pages, which he has not got, before he can table the document. The point is that he has asked for leave to table that document. Not to grant him leave to table the document in the Senate is, I believe, a very serious matter.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order.
– Under what standing order?
– Under standing order 364. 1 will read it if Senator Cavanagh wishes. It states:
A Document quoted from by a Senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such Order may be made without Notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who has quoted therefrom.
Therefore, I submit that it is quite in order for this document to be tabled.
- Mr President, I rise to speak to the point of order.
– I shall hear argument on the matter. I call Senator Cavanagh.
- Mr President, I acknowledge the validity of standing order 364, if it is so ordered by the Senate that the document be laid on the table. If a motion to this effect is moved, it may be a different question. Nevertheless, things not contained in the Standing Orders can be done in the Senate if leave of the Senate is granted. Leave of the Senate has been requested in this case and it has been refused. It can be refused. That ends the matter if a motion to the effect that the document be tabled is not moved. I think that Senator Wright rose at the appropriate time. I want to say in fairness that as a Minister he took every opportunity to refuse the tabling or the incorporation of documents which were not shown to him prior to the tabling or incorporation request being made.
– That is right.
– I think that perhaps I am misjudging the position. It has also been requested that the document be incorporated in Hansard. Let me state this from the point of view of justice at this stage: We have a document that was prepared by one Mr Fischer.
– A Mr Murdoch.
– The document states that it is Mr Fischer and I think he is -
– It is a Murdoch document.
– He is under guard of Mr Murdoch and cannot be found by Australian organisations. Senator Townley has destroyed or at least did not include in the document the 2 pages that may incriminate someone who is overseas. However, he has read from pages in the document for the purpose of incriminating someone in Australia. Are we to have this kind of balanced justice whereby someone can be protected and another man whom the Government wants to persecute can be persecuted? I do not think it does this man a disservice to discuss the matter because it has been published and the individual involved has paid the penalty. The whole question is one of distorting justice. How can some individual table a document that incriminates those whom he wants to incriminate and leaves out pages which could possibly incriminate others who are just as guilty, if not more so, because that individual does not want to do them an injury? There is no justice in the Government’s attitude on this matter. There is no justification for tabling this document.
– I understand that Senator Townley has finished his speech.
– Has he?
-I take it that he has. I therefore move:
That the document from which Senator Townley has quoted be tabled in the Senate.
- Mr President, I rise to order. I was of the impression that Senator Townley had not finished his speech.
– You are wrong.
– Well -
– If I may say so, one would never know when Senator Townley started or finished his speech. My view of it was that he had not finished his speech. Suddenly, we have this motion before us. I do not doubt that the motion can be moved and should be moved at the end of the speech. But my view of it is that Senator Townley still has more of the rubbish to give us. I say: Let him finish if he wants to.
-I might add to the confusion by saying that perhaps the best judge of whether Senator Townley is finished is Senator Townley.
– He indicated earlier that he had completed his speech.
– There is a motion before the Chair.
- Mr President, a motion has been moved in accordance with standing order 364. There is no prohibition in debating this motion. Therefore I appeal to honourable senators for the reasons that I have stated that they do not carry this motion. Obviously, it is a plan to carry on a dead issue against the leader of the opposing political party. I do not think it does anyone justice to carry on this dead issue that has been trumped up again. Let us look at the justice of the whole question. One Mr Fischer was engaged and had negotiations with Mr Whitlam over the gift of some money from Arab countries for election campaign funds. That has been admitted. There were discussions. It has all been agreed to. There has been an inquiry into the matter. It was the subject of an investigation by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) who handed the matter to the Commonwealth Police to investigate. Mr Fischer cannot be found. He had an escort which Murdoch paid for to take him to Singapore and to see that he never got away. Fischer disappeared from the escort while our police were looking for him. He cannot be found now for the purpose of bringing this question before a court of law to see whether there has been a breach of Australian law. In the interests of justice, he cannot be found to give evidence.
- Mr President, I rise to order. I seek your guidance on this matter. Is it in order to range as widely as the honourable senator is in his remarks upon this motion or should he confine himself to the question before the Chair?
– The situation is that the honourable senator can advance only such argument as is directly relevant to the matter pertaining to the tabling of this document.
-I appreciate that, Mr President, and support the ruling actually. I do not think that we should wander all over the place in our remarks. Honourable senators have been asked tonight to carry a motion which seeks to have a certain document tabled. There is no reason for the Senate to carry that motion and have the document tabled unless there are some paramount reasons or there is something dirty, filthy and vile in the presentation of the document. I have a responsibility to tell the Senate what I know of this matter to prevent it from falling into the error of carrying the motion to table a document that any decent, fair-minded citizen of Australia would never vote for. I think that the motion has some appeal to Government senators because it represents an attack upon the leader of the opposing political party but they should realise the history of this whole case.
There is a man who will not present himself for the purpose of interrogation or questioning by the Australian police to help enforce the laws of the land, to see whether there is a breach of the laws of Australia. He is in hiding. I would venture to suggest that he is possibly available only to the Murdoch Press for the purpose of writing documents. Nevertheless, he is in contact somehow with Senator Townley. It is not supposed that he is a caller at Senator Townley ‘s chemist shops in Tasmania seeking to have prescriptions filled. So obviously there is a sinister alliance whereby this document can be presented by a normally less advanced section of the Senate. Therefore, I suggest that honourable senators should not vote for the motion. I would say only this: If anything is to be regretted, it is the vendetta that has been carried on by one of our newspaper magnates hiding under the shelter of living in a foreign country. Possibly he is doing this because he did not receive satisfaction from the former Whitlam Government in regard to some mining interests in Western Australia. Perhaps it is because he was not appointed High Commissioner to Great Britain. I do not know. However, I appeal to the Senate not to be so unjust as to permit the tabling of a part document which has pages deliberately removed from it to prevent the incrimination of someone while the purpose of tabling the document is to incriminate others who might not be incriminated if the whole document were available.
Question (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Cotton’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Lauke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator TOWNLEY (Tasmania)-I table the following document:
Iraqi Funds- Copy of statement by Henry John Fisher, of Sydney, concerning overseas fund raising activities (pages 1-35,38-42).
– When I was first listening to Senator Townley speaking I did not know whether he was quoting from the Arabian Nights or talking of some fairy tale from Hans Christian Andersen. Of course, the Opposition knew about the document he sought to table. It was obtained by the police in the investigation of the Iraqi loans affair. It was investigated and found to be false. An attempt was made by the Australian Labor Party to have the document about which Senator Townley talked tonight tabled in the House of Representatives along with other documents. This was refused by the Government in the House of Representatives because, quite obviously, the Government did not want to dirty its hands. I believe that Senator Townley was given this document by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) to try to influence the result of the New South Wales elections, and he was probably the only person who was prepared to use the document.
– Order! Senator Sibraa, you must not make imputations against a member of Parliament or a Minister.
– I withdraw. I just pose the question: Why has the Government not acted on the breach of the banking regulations to which
Senator Townley referred? I submit to the Senate that the answer is that the Government knows that the document is a lot of Murdoch rubbish. The Australian Labor Party does not intend to answer further this stupid nonsense.
I have risen tonight to speak to this Bill to give me the chance of raising a matter that I feel is of importance to the people of New South Wales. I refer to the Government’s federalism policy. I believe that under the Fraser Government’s federalism policy the States will now be obliged to assume responsibility for the administration of many programs in the areas of health, education, welfare, transport and urban and regional development, without being provided with the financial capacity to fund these programs. This becomes evident on looking at the result of the Premiers Conference of this month. The result is that the States are to receive 35 per cent of Commonwealth personal income tax revenue as financial assistance grants, which historically is a low percentage of revenue.
Under the Labor Government the States did not have to rely greatly on financial assistance grants because the Federal Government accepted total responsibility for the provision of funds for many programs, which consequently saved State resources. An example is the recurrent costs of Australian universities. This became a Federal responsibility in 1975-76 under the Labor Government, with costs totalling $406m. But under this present Government there is no guarantee that the responsibilities undertaken by the previous Administration will continue to be Federal matters. These responsibilities may be returned to the States without the Australian Government allocating the resources to meet attendant expenses in areas such as health, legal aid and urban development. Indeed, the Bland committee of inquiry is expected to recommend reductions in financial commitments of the order of $ 1 ,000m in the areas which constitute the Australian Government’s social welfare and environmental infrastructure. The Australian Government will therefore, under this policy, vacate these fields.
This will mean that many programs will either be abolished entirely or, if the States desire to continue many worthwhile initiatives that were brought in by the Labor Government, such as hospitals development, growth centres and urban public transport, they will be obliged to introduce their own income tax levy or surcharge or whatever else anybody on the Government side wants to call it. Otherwise the States, for reasons of financial incapacity, will not be able to carry on these programs. Therefore I believe that the Fraser Government’s federalism policy will mean either reduced government services or double taxation or both. A reading of the transcripts of the April Premiers’ Conference reveals that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) anticipates that in 1976-77 the States will be forced to levy an income tax to meet their increasing responsibilities.
The new federalism policy means a dramatic increase in the problems of local government. An allocation of 2 per cent of personal income tax revenue to local government is totally insufficient to meet the needs of local administration. In fact, I believe that local government wanted at least 4 per cent of the revenue to meet these requirements, especially in the outer suburban areas of capital cities and in the large provincial centres of New South Wales. This will mean that council rates will have to increase rapidly merely to keep pace with the demands of citizens for a better environment and better services.
I want to mention briefly some areas in which the new federalism policy will cause problems in my State of New South Wales. The first is in decentralisation and development. The new federalism has caused the Government to vacate the field of urban and regional development. Senator Greenwood, the Minister in the Senate responsible for these matters, has conceded that the present Government has no policy on decentralisation and development. I believe that the future of the Bathurst-Orange growth centre is conspicuously in doubt and I believe that the future of the Albury-Wodonga growth centre is seriously in doubt also. Therefore, many opportunities for lessening the pressures on the major metropolitan centres of New South Wales- that is, Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong- by encouraging new development in other centres will be lost. The opportunities for establishing new decentralised economic ventures in a better working environment will be lost.
With respect to the dairy industry, the new federalism policy promises nothing to improve the disastrous position of the milk industry in New South Wales, where the base milk quota zoning system has resulted in waste, inefficiency and injustice, all to protect the interests of a few privileged producers, including several Cabinet Ministers in New South Wales. I believe that, in all, 9 members of the Government in New South Wales hold milk quotas under this scheme. One only had to see the actions of the Dairy Farmers Action Group within the last few days to realise how serious the situation is in New South Wales. I am pleased to say that the Leader of the Labor Party in New South Wales, Neville Wran, has promised to abolish the BMQ zone after the election on 1 May next.
I want to deal also with transport, because the new federalism policy offers no answers to the problems of the New South Wales transport system. In 1965- that is, the last year under a Labor Government- the New South Wales Railways earned a profit of $176,000. Admittedly that is not a large amount; but it is a profit. In 1976- that is, 11 years later- under a LiberalNational Country Party coalition government, the loss is approximately $250m- that is, a loss of $ 1 m for every working day on the railways alone. I am sure that the other senators from New South Wales will agree with me that the safety record of the New South Wales railways is deplorable also. In the period 1965 to 1975 the New South Wales Railways lost 37 million passenger journeys. This is of concern to everybody in New South Wales. The Labor Party in New South Wales has promised that it will reduce fares by 20 per cent in order to attract passengers back. A number of overseas studies have been undertaken on this matter and it has been shown that the only way to get back these passenger journeys that have been lost- 37 million- is either to cut fares or to stabilise them at their present level.
In the field of education the new federalism policy has already forced the cancellation of the Australian Government’s innovations programs in schools. In New South Wales at the moment there are over 3000 unemployed Australian teachers. No advances are being made on class sizes in schools. Unless Federal assistance is provided the New South Wales education system will deteriorate further and all the gains made under the previous Federal Labor Government could be lost.
– But you did not pay for it last time. Where is the dough coming from?
– We shall come to the matter of where the money is coming from.
– Australia wants to know where the money will come from.
-I shall deal with that. The new federalism policy has meant already the abolition of the innovative Department of Urban and Regional Development. The policy will soon ensure the end of the Lands Commission, urban rehabilitation, area improvements and the national sewerage program. Such measures, I believe, will prove disastrous for all residents of New South Wales. Reference was just made about where the money is to come from. In 1975 the New South Wales Government failed to spend $17m of finance that was made available to it by Canberra for the field of housing. But the State Government has announced that the Housing Commission is without sufficient finance to carry on its building program, even though $ 1 7m could not be spent last year. If this is not inefficiency I ask what is.
The cost of living in New South Wales at the moment is far higher than it is for a comparable State, such as Victoria, especially on ordinary everyday items such as bread, milk, petrol, land, motor charges and motor insurance. This new federalism policy will add the burden of double taxation to the crippling cost of living being endured by the citizens of New South Wales at the moment. In conclusion, I believe that the present Government’s approach to Federal affairs has seen the end of national superannuation, insurance and compensation, the winding down of legal aid, the emasculation of welfare programs and in the future could soon mean the end of Medibank. The Government’s approach will ensure that the States must take on programs for which they do not have adequate resources. In short, I believe it is a series of retrograde steps which will have the combined effect of making State and local government services poorer for lack of finance, and the citizens of New South Wales liable to a double income tax or a levy or a surcharge merely to keep some essential public welfare programs functioning in the fields where responsibility has been abrogated by Canberra.
– The Senate is debating the first reading of the Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1976 and in accordance with the provisions of standing order 190 the debate is ranging to matters relevant and not relevant. Many of the honourable senators opposite have decided that they have an interest in the elections in New South Wales and that they wish to speak to matters relating to New South Wales. It is reasonable, therefore, to test part of the record of the party which honourable senators opposite represent and the party which is representing itself as some kind of alternative government for the first State of Australia. Members of the Labor Party have been talking to us tonight about taxation, about all kinds of taxation. Maybe it would be as well to look at personal income tax. Perhaps it would be as well to find what the Labor Party record has been in the field of personal income tax. We will then learn that it is a case, as we have seen tonight, of Satan preaching against sin, for there is a matter which the Labor Party has to answer concerning the amount of personal income tax paid in Australia and a neat little rip-off against the average salary earner and wage earner in this country which the Labor Party introduced during its term of office whereby it takes more tax than necessary from the ordinary wage earner, including the taxpayer of New South Wales, as a compulsory interest free loan equal to about $300m a year.
I will demonstrate how this has been done and suggest to the Senate that this has been done by the Labor Party while it was in office. This is the same Labor Party as now tries to hoodwink the people of New South Wales and dares to talk about taxation and taxation rates. There are 2 ways by which people pay their personal income tax. They can either pay once a year or they can pay weekly. For these purposes of payment 2 sets of documents exist which give the rates at which the tax must be paid.
– I take a point of order. We had a debate here this afternoon which dealt with the 2-system taxation that will operate in New South Wales providing the Liberal Party is returned on Saturday. That debate was gagged. I suggest it is quite improper now for the honourable senator to re-open the debate which he was instrumental, with his colleagues, in gagging earlier today.
-On the point of order, I submit that the subject which I am discussing now is quite different from the subject of discussion this afternoon. It is totally hypocritical for the speaker who preceded me from the other side to discuss the very matters to which Senator Keeffe now takes exception. I believe there is no substance in the point of order.
– The point of order is not sustained.
– Thank you, Mr President. As I was saying, 2 sets of documents are used to determine the amount of income tax a person pays. People who are self-employed or who pay their tax once a year pay at a rate determined in a book issued by the Taxation Office called The Income Tax Ready Reckoner. It is entirely competent for any citizen to get this ready reckoner from the Taxation Office and find how much tax he or she is required to pay each year. I have the current edition for 1975-76 with me. But a person who is a salary or wage earner is required to pay his tax weekly on a pay-as-you-earn basis. In that case he will not use The Income Tax Ready Reckoner. He will pay his weekly tax deductions according to a scale contained in another document which is called Income Tax Instalment Deductions: Rates of Weekly Deductions from Salaries and Wages. This is based upon the
Hayden Budget, the Hayden tax scales, the Labor tax proposals.
One would expect the amount of tax which Australians pay to be the same whether it was deducted weekly or paid annually. One would expect that the tax would be the same. That would be common justice. If a person paid tax in 52 weekly instalments he would expect it to be the same as the yearly tax. It is not the same amount. It is interesting that the Labor Government authorised and issued, before we came in, a tax scale which has now been incorporated into the rates of weekly deductions which takes from the little man more tax than it should, and the little man has no way of avoiding it. If a person’s weekly wage is $150 a week the tax works out at $33.20 a week. Over a year, say from 1 January last year, he would pay $1,726 tax. If a person is paying tax on a single annual basis and if we allow the standard deduction which is incorporated into the Labor tax scheme the tax works out at $1,650 per annum- a considerable difference, about $70. A person paying tax weekly would pay more than he should have paid and that would have been by courtesy of the Labor Party program. I have constructed 2 tables which are designed to set out the differences in tax which a person would pay if he paid tax weekly or if he paid tax annually over a number of different salary scales. I have already made the tables available to the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland). I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the first of the 2 tables.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– This table sets out in a series of columns the amount of tax a person pays weekly or annually whether he uses the ready reckoner or the weekly instalment plan. The important thing is that it shows, using the current rates, that a person with no dependants paying tax weekly on a salary between $ 100 and $200 a week would be paying somewhere between $60 and $120 extra over a year. That would represent an extra amount of 5 per cent or 6 per cent of his tax. That would mean that if he were just an ordinary Australian he would be making a compulsory loan which the Government organised for him.
– Do I take it that you will correct that?
– This matter has only just come to our attention. We immediately contacted the Taxation Office to find out its views. The officers acknowledged that the person who paid weekly would actually be worse off than the person who paid annually, but they did not care very much because people would get it back at the end of the year and it was thought that there was extra income which people generally did not declare. But people have to pay 10 per cent interest when they are in arrears with their tax and they are having to make this loan to the Government because of the Hayden tax rates. In fact the amount of extra tax they are likely to pay is even greater because the person who pays annually can claim all of his deductions at the time. The person who claims weekly does not get those deductions week by week.
I worked out how much extra money it is likely that the Taxation Office would take because of the Labor Party’s miscalculations. Were they miscalculations or was it deliberate on the part of the outgoing Government to maximise its tax take? Pay-as-you-earn tax for the current financial year is estimated at $8, 683m; that is shown in Budget Paper No. 4 at page 11. Taking the conservative figure that the tax scales are taking from the small man 5 per cent extra in tax, in one year the Government gains $430m by way of compulsory loan. The next question to be answered is: Has it always been like this? Has the man who pays his tax week by week always been at a disadvantage? I chose for comparison the last year in which the Liberal-National Country Party Government was in office. I worked out how much tax a person paid if he paid tax once a year and how much he paid if he paid each week. I had a second table constructed to set out the figures. I seek leave to incorporate that second table in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Leave is not granted.
– I accept that members of the Labor Party do not want the documents incorporated in Hansard. They do not like the material contained in them. They do not like what it shows about their taxation practices. They do not like what it shows about what they are doing to the average wage earner in Australia. I shall make clear to honourable senators what is contained in the second table. It sets out the amount of tax paid by a person on a week by week basis. What comes out is a figure which shows that the person who paid his tax week by week under a Liberal Government actually paid less tax over the year than the person who paid his tax in one hit. If a man with no dependants earned $100 a week, he paid $81 less tax when he paid week by week. That money was in his pocket and not in the Government’s pocket.
But the Labor Party changed this. After 3 years of Labor- a little legacy of Labor- the wage earner has less money in his pocket because the Labor Party fiddled the tax scales. It fiddled the tax scales as it fiddled everything else. If a man earned $120 a week he was $92 worse off over a year. If a man with a dependent wife and 2 children under the age of 16 earned $200 a week, and paid his tax weekly, under the figures that operated in 1972-73 he got $122 in his pocket that was not given to the fellow who paid tax once a year. The Labor Party has turned that right around. While the Labor Party has been destroying the economy of this country and while it has been crying crocodile tears about how much it cares, it has been ripping off the pay packets of the little Australians. It has been ripping off the pay packets of the weekly wageearners. It has been ripping off from the pay packets of those who pay their taxes each week extra amounts of money which the average citizen cannot avoid paying.
This is a legacy of 3 years of Labor Government. This is how the Labor Government managed its affairs and how it treated the ordinary citizen. We knew what the Labor Party was like in the Federal sphere. We always knew what it was like in the Federal sphere. Obviously there are questions that arise now that these facts have been drawn to my attention and now that I have drawn them to the attention of the Senate. It is my hope that they will be made known immediately to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). I hope that he will seek from his officials in the Department of the Treasury an explanation why the rates on the 2 kinds of reckoners do not coincide.
I suggest that the people of New South Wales think carefully. When we left government we had a system operating that was to the benefit of the man who earned his wages each week, when compared with the richer person who paid his tax once a year. We now have a different system. We now have a system in which the average wage-earner is subsidising the Labor Party budget deficit by means of a compulsory- (Quorum formed). I thank Senator Georges for drawing attention to the state of the House. I note that none of his colleagues saw fit to come into the chamber and that we have now 4 Labor senators only in the chamber.
– I rise on a point of order. Those remarks are offensive to me.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The point of order is not upheld.
– I have not finished my point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The point of order is not upheld.
– I was saying, before the point of order -
– I rise on a point of order. If Senator Baume is going to name how many Labor senators allegedly are in the chamber, I wish he could get it right. There are, in fact, 5 Labor senators and not four in the chamber. I hope the rest of his arithmetic is better than that.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! There is no point of order. I call Senator Baume.
– I rise on a point of order. My point of order is, in a way, a reflection on your action, Mr Deputy President, in cutting me off before I completed my point of order. I do not see how it is possible for you to cut me off in the middle of my statement on the point of order. I would have thought it would be necessary to allow me to complete my point of order before you ruled on it. The point I wished to make was this -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Georges, you are not to talk about the decision I made unless you want to move a motion to disagree with my ruling. You can talk to another point of order.
- Mr Deputy President, I should like to say that I would never take such action against you, having known you so long. I do not want to say any more than that; you are aware of my views, Mr Deputy President. Accepting your ruling on this occasion, I do protest somewhat. I think it is a little unfair that I was cut off before I completed my point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I repeat to the Senate what I said the other evening: There is no requirement in the Standing Orders for the President to listen to a full length discussion on a point of order. Once he has heard sufficient to make his decision, then he can make it. If Senator Georges wishes to object to the decision I made he can use the procedures of the Senate to do so. I call Senator Baume.
– I was discussing the rip off that has been occurring by means of a tax mechanism which was altered during the period of the Labor Government and which disadvantages those who pay their tax week by week. I was about to remind the electors of New South Wales that they should consider that the party that engineered this alteration in the tax scales is the party which is now seeking their support in New South Wales. The party of Wran is the party of Whitlam. The party of the federal rip off is the party they should watch very closely in New South Wales. What I have said tonight is factual and exact. These matters have arisen and these changes in the tax scales have occurred. They occurred as a result of Labor Party manipulation and Labor Party Budgets. We saw it happen federally; we saw what it did to the country. I know that the people of New South Wales will not be fooled and they will not let it happen there.
– I had intended to speak rather briefly in this debate but I feel that I should make some comments about a couple of the remarks made by Senator Baume. I raised a point of order with you, Mr Deputy President, earlier tonight. I asked whether Senator Baume ‘s remarks related to the subject matter of this debate. I know that Senator Baume became rather critical when I refused him leave to incorporate into Hansard the second of what appeared to be many dozens of documents. I think it was most unfair for the honourable senator to enter this debate tonight and to start making excuses for the double taxation system that is now operating in New South Wales and which will continue to operate unless there is a change of Government next Saturday. He was one of the team of people who today applied the gag to the debate which was going on in this chamber because it was becoming embarrassing for members on the Government side of the Senate. Ever since the statement that the 2-tier system of taxation would be introduced under the so-called federalism scheme was first made, it has been an embarrassment to the Liberal Party in every State and at the federal level too.
Because Senator Baume and his colleagues on that side of the chamber decided that they did not want to hear themselves being denigrated, truthfully, justifiably and rightly, they sought the easy way out by gagging the debate. But the honourable senator attempted to reintroduce the matter tonight. There have been too many problems in this country such as the multinational corporations, Patrick Partners, mining companies and people who have been battening off Australia year after year. Apparently they will now be encouraged by this Government not only in New South Wales but also nationally. Honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber claim to be people of fairness. Yet they are prepared to do this sort of thing. I refer briefly to the honourable senator from Tasmania who first came into this chamber in 1971, allegedly as an independent.
– Who is this?
– I think his name is Townley. He is a pill mixer- I am sorry, he is a chemist.
- Mr Deputy President, before Senator Keeffe continues I draw attention to the state of the House.
– Nobody wants to listen to him. (Quorum formed).
-I heard the interjection from Senator Webster across the chamber. At a later date I shall refer to some documentation which I have in a number of areas. Unlike the honourable senator to whom I commenced to refer a few moments ago and who came into this chamber with unsigned documentation, all my documents are signed. I will not have time to deal tonight with the area covered by the Minister for Science (Senator Webster). I will be dealing with it during the currency of this session to point out a few things which are going wrong in certain areas which come within his administration. I hope the Minister will bear with me for a week or two until I am able to give him the information which I am sure he ought to know and which Australia ought to know.
– Tell him the facts of life.
– As my colleague says, I will tell him the facts of life. As Senator Grimes said earlier, he is the only Minister for Science in the world who still believes in the flat earth theory. Earlier tonight Senator Baume started counting the number of Labor Party senators in the chamber. He miscounted, deliberately or otherwise, because there were more honourable senators here than he claimed. But it is significant that during the period that this Government has been elected there is rarely a Minister in the chamber. Sometimes he is supported by two or three people. Government members feel so built up by the majority which they have in the other place that they think they can get away with such action here. They are arrogant and they take it out on the electorate. The Government is not taking it out on the Opposition because we are more than able to defend ourselves. It is taking it out on the people whose votes the Government sought before the last election, before it started pulling the rug from under those people. They are not gullible. Government members might have caught them in a moment of emotion on 13 December but they will never be caught again. They will not be caught in New South Wales on 1 May. They have learnt the lesson of how deceitful Government members can be.
I refer again to the honourable senator from Tasmania. Afterwards I want to make a brief reference to a couple of doctors and their attempts to rip off Medibank. I suppose that this is probably the best wheat debate that we have had for a long time. I am sure that the wheat farmers will understand that honourable senators on this side of the chamber in particular are taking the opportunity to expose some of the fallacies put by people on the other side of the chamber. When the honourable senator from Tasmania came here in 1971 he patted himself on the chest. He stood over on the cross benches and said: ‘I am an independent. Unless there is something very wrong I shall always vote with the popularly elected party in this place’. Of course, he was referring to the Australian Labor Party. That was the last famous statement he made. Shortly after that he and I became involved in a bit of cross chatter across the chamber one night. At that time I pointed out that he would not be voting again with the Labor Party because he was busy buying his way back into the Liberal Party. It was not many months later that this very same gentleman who proudly proclaimed that he was an independent allowed himself to be bought back into the Liberal Party.
I do not know what happened last night. I am not going to question the reasoning behind the honourable senator’s actions on that occasion. But I question his reasoning tonight when he brought in a document and claimed that he really had something on the Labor Party. It is a scandalous, unsigned piece of paper. That is all it is. It is a hangover from the Khemlani days.
– You are an expert. You would know.
-There is no need for the honourable senator to interject because he paid large sums of money to bring Mr Khemlani back to Australia.
– I did?
-Not the honourable senator personally, but his party. The Liberal Party was going to bring Mr Khemlani into this chamber and cross examine him publicly. He was such a hot potato that the honourable senators were not game to do it. Let us reflect. Mr Khemlani brought with him the famous 8 cases of documents. Every one was supposed to be a valuable document which would send the Labor Government down the drain. He was taken on a roundabout tour to the Hotel Wellington. He was fed potato chips and peanuts through the little hatch near the shoeshine box. The cases were opened and a lot of the members of the Liberal Party pored over the documents day after day and night after night. One valuable document was found. It was a roll of toilet paper. That was the only valuable document in those 8 cases. I say to the honourable senator that if he needs the toilet paper I will buy him a roll. Tonight an honourable senator on the Government side came into the chamber and he brought in the equivalent of a roll of toilet paper with scratchy writing on it. He deciphered some of the notes and said that he had a document. This was a totally dishonourable thing to do. It was unsigned. I ask: Where did it come from? Was it concocted during the party meeting today?
– It had pages left out and excisions made.
– That makes it even worse. My colleague Senator Douglas McClelland has had an opportunity to look at it. He has found out that in fact it is not the Lady Scott brand of toilet paper. But pieces of paper were used from the middle of the roll. After all, good toilet paper does not fall to pieces like that. One does not take this sort of thing out if one is not afraid of what is in the document. This was a despicable thing to do by a so-called honourable senator. I shall make a reference to the other 2 points in the brief time that I have available. Over a long period of years the Government has been working to dismantle Medibank. It said that Medibank was one of the most terrible things that had ever happened to this country. It fought 2 elections on the matter and lost. At the third election the present Government was not game to fight on Medibank. It fought the election on other dangerous issues. It only narrowly won that election in terms of the percentage of the vote. I shall quote from a signed document which has been made available to me by a gentleman who is most disgusted at the rip-off being made by doctors. He is a Queenslander. The original letter is available for scrutiny by the appropriate committee, if it is required. Unlike the bit of paper that was brought in by my political opponent tonight, it is a signed document.
In 1970 this gentleman had a cataract operation. It was successful and no further medical assistance was needed then. Six months ago he had the second cataract operation. Five months before the operation he was told that a second surgeon was necessary. So the second surgeon was brought in. As far as he can ascertain, all that surgeon did was clip the eyelashes on the eye that was to be treated. The surgeon was around for 45 minutes and he got the sum of $50-a good old Medibank rake-off The total bill, when the patient got it, was $280 for the operation, plus $24 for the local anaesthetic and 3 post-operative visits. He has taken into calculation the time involved in changing patients and so on, and he has worked out that that doctor got $2.70 a minute for the job. In this country today there are adult workers who get less than that an hour.
This gentleman had a further operation at a later date, and equally outrageous charges were made. He had a prostrate operation for which the fee was $200, plus $45 for the anaesthetic, plus $50 for the pathology. There was no postoperative advice or treatment, and he developed 2 serious infections which added further to his medical bill. He does say that he got on very well with the doctor. He exchanged fewer than 100 words with the doctor, and they were not about the bill. In Townsville we have a doctor who is a very respectable member of the community. His name is Dr T. T. Pietzsch. Should anybody want to consult him for medical attention, I mention that he lives at ‘Bayside’ Belgian Gardens, which is a suburb of Townsville. This man was one of the first opponents of Medibank in north Queensland.
– A free advertisement.
– A free advertisement for him; good. Many people will not go to him after I have said what I am about to say. This gentleman was the secretary of the General Practitioners Society. He could have been the president. The Association had trouble in getting a secretary and a president; maybe he filled both jobs. In his campaign against the Labor Party and against the Medibank system that we introduced, he went to all sorts of lengths. But what do we find? After Medibank was introduced he was one of those who hopped in to rip it off. I have here signed documents, unlike the unsigned document that another senator produced tonight. I refer to 2 receipts- No. 15342 and No. 15345- both of which were issued on 22 April 1976. One was made out for $10 and the other for $4.35. 1 understand that in the language of Medibank and doctors there are symbols. In this case the symbol is item 3, which means, I understand, a short consultation. Two other receipts were attached to those to which I have referred.
The gentleman concerned has given me permission to use his name. He is also a resident of Townsville and his name is Mr T. A. Yard. When he went to claim his refund from Medibank his attention quite rightly was drawn to the fact that the 2 receipts had been made out for the one date-one for $10 and the other for $4.35. He was told that Medibank could not make a proper refund on that basis. In fact, out of a total outlay of about $28 he got back only $ 1 7.40. So he took the receipts back to the doctor and said: ‘There is something wrong here’. The receptionist crossed out the amount of $10 and put above it the amount of $4.35. Just for good luck he said that he needed to renew his script. The doctor did not take him into the surgery to examine him. The doctor merely said to him: ‘The receptionist will fix up your receipt’. The doctor did not give him a new prescription. All that happened was that he got another bill for $4.35. He then took that around to the chemist and waved the receipt at the chemist. He paid another $2 and got one of the drugs that are on the pharmaceutical benefits list.
– Is that Hippocratic or hypocritical?
-I think there are some people who want to say that they subscribe to the appropriate oath. There are many good doctors, but there are some people, such as this gentleman, who apparently are prepared to do a rip-off. The chemist was at fault also, because he should not have issued a drug merely because a man waved a receipt at him. He should have signed the document that was necessary. It could have been a rush job and I have no other complaint about the chemist, so I do not propose to name him. If he allows it to happen again, of course, he is looking for trouble too. I suggest that, if one can have a doctor’s receipt altered and be charged another $4.35 for a notation which takes half a minute, that doctor ought to be investigated by every tribunal that is set up by the Government. It is obvious that he is ripping off the taxpayer- and he is a man who condemned the Labor Government because it introduced Medibank. Now he scrapes off the fruits of it.
The 2 points I have made, I think, are very important. I do not apologise for what I said earlier in the evening, because I think the truth ought to be known about honourable senators opposite who are prepared to tell us how pure, how innocent and how totally unaffected they are politically. Yet they can let one of their numberas one of my colleagues on this side of the chamber interjected, he was probably the only one they could find to scrape the bottom of the barrel- do such a dastardly thing in this chamber tonight. It is to the shame of the Party to which he belongs, to the shame of the people who lead him, and to his own eternal shame that he should have been allowed to do that in these circumstances.
– I rise to make just a few points in the debate on the motion for the first reading of the Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1976. In the circumstances of today, of course, the debate has been used as an election campaigning exercise. It seems to me to be rather strange that the Labor Party in the Senate has chosen to use most of the time today to identify itself totally and absolutely with Mr Wran and the New South Wales Labor Party which desperately seeks office in New South Wales on Saturday. It seems to me and, indeed, to most Australians, in view of the decisions they have made over a period of 12 months or so, to be strange that the Whitlam men in this place are still intent, regardless of the thoughts and wishes- Quorum formed). I note that once again there are 5 members of the Labor Party in the Senate. That seems to be Labor’s average attendance. It is rather remarkable that only 5 Labor senators should see fit to be here engaged in an exercise which Labor itself projected today and which I presume is related to the coming election in New South Wales. However, there are 5 Labor senators present. I was saying -
– No, four.
– There are only 4 Labor senators.
– Well, an attendance of five is above average, I will admit. But if honourable senators insist on accuracy I take the point that there are only 4 members of the Labor Party present. Some few moments ago, I was making the point that it does seem rather extraordinary that, in the circumstances of recent months and in spite of the fears of Mr Wran and what there is of the Labor Party in New South Wales, the Whitlam Labor Party in the federal field here in Canberra should insist on using most of this debate to identify itself with Mr Wran and with what is Labor in New South Wales. I am sure that it could do no greater disservice to Mr Wran, whatever chances he may have, than to identify itself so clearly with him and with his program. Indeed, Mr Wran has been quite clear and quite insistent that he regards himself and his Party in New South Wales as something apart. But that is not to be. There has been an insistence by the Whitlam group in Canberra on being associated with Mr Wran. Mr Wran’s fear that such an involvement would come about is held in common with virtually every other Labor leader in the Commonwealth.
Mr President, I am reminded that in July of last year Mr Dunstan, the Labor Premier of
South Australia, sought desperately to bring about an election before the Labor Budget was presented a month later in Canberra. Even though he succeeded in holding that election a month before the Federal Budget which filled him with fear was presented he gained only a one seat majority in those circumstances. Of course, Mr Holding in Victoria, whose Party was so severely defeated in the recent State election, would have no brief for Federal intervention in his State. A similar sentiment would be felt, I guess, by the Labor remnant, if I could call it that, in Queensland.
– The cricket team.
-It is a cricket team. Judging by the remarks of the last speaker, a Queensland senator, it seems to be involved with matters relating to toilet paper and other such materials. However, I am sure that the remnant of the Labor Party in Queensland is not terribly keen about involvement with its Federal partner. The same is the case in Tasmania.
Mr President, I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that Mr Wran in one particular is totally out of step with his fellow Labor leaders in the other States, his brothers in the various State Labor parties. Mr Wran alone, in isolation in New South Wales, has set himself up as totally opposed to the federalism system which has been accepted and applauded by virtually every Labor leader, whether he be a premier or a leader of the opposition. Mr Wran is out on a limb. He has certainly allied himself to the Whitlam attitude in that he has concerned himself with promises worth hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. He certainly does not seek to be involved in a circumstance which will produce for New South Wales a better share of federal personal income tax moneys.
It is, I believe, quite significant that Mr Wran alone of members of the Labor movement in the Australian States chooses to abuse, and to divorce himself from acceptance of, the new federalism system that has been accepted on every other hand. There is no doubt that today the double tax bogy which seems to be the only subject about which Mr Wran finds to talk, other than his massive multi-million dollar promises, has been laid to rest by Senator Carrick, Senator Wright and almost every other senator who has spoken from the Government side in the course of today’s proceedings. What will happen is that a specific percentage of personal income tax raised in each State will be returned to that State. A measure of confidence must be generated from the knowledge that that is at last to be a specific and clear undertaking to the various States of this Commonwealth. If a State at any time should see fit to raise by a tiny percentage the level of tax or indeed to be involved in rebates, that is a matter and a responsibility for the State itself. It is not something that we should judge to be right or wrong. Surely the sovereign States of this Commonwealth have the power and indeed the right to exercise such a responsibility in government.
If they see fit to seek more money for any reason, whether it be through this or other avenues, it may well be that by this action the States can reduce such tough and unpopular measures as indirect taxation. This could well be the reason that may see the States seek to raise money in other areas. But that is a province of government. If governments raise money they must share the responsibility that comes from that exercise. States raise moneys for specific reasons including further development in education or communication or whatever the case may be, or, as I said before, to reduce the damaging impost of indirect taxation.
I make the point finally in this respect that it is for the sovereign States to bear a full measure of responsibility in these matters. They are able and, with the exception of Mr Wran, those with responsibility in this direction, to have indicated their preparedness so to do.
I have mentioned, and I believe it should not be forgotten, that there is the possibility, and in some circumstances the probability, that there may well be rebates in the taxation field if an economy succeeds, as we believe it will succeed, in developing a measure of productivity which will see an eradication of a high level of inflation, unemployment and industrial unrest. In those circumstances, it could well be that rebates rather than tax increases would become a reality from the provisions of the new federalism philosophy. I make the point that the strength of a democracy is surely that the state will remain the servant and not the master of the people. I am sure, particularly because of the intervention of the federal centralist Labor Party in today’s proceedings, that the people of New South Wales are well aware of the meaning of the state as the servant and not the master of the people, for the socialist experiment in the last 3 years has indicated beyond all measure of doubt that in that circumstance the state becomes the master of the people.
It has been indicated time and again- indeed, in 2 elections in the last couple of years- that the responsibility of government and of particular houses of parliament has been exhibited by the very Senate which has been debating these matters today. Had the actions that have been taken by the Senate in the last couple of years not been responsible actions, I put it to you, Mr President, and to honourable senators that we would not have a significant majority in this chamber today. So there is a measure of responsibility, and the Australian people have indicated their recognition of that responsibility. The sovereign States are adult entities and they do not need to be totally directed from a centralist circumstance, such as was the Whitlam Labor Government.
I refer very briefly to the concept of federalism itself because, after all, this is the matter that has been predominant in the exercise in which we have become involved today- not, mark you, at our choice. The concept of federalism involves the exercise of responsibility by people on the spot. It concerns itself with a constitutional and governmental set up in which the attitudes and priorities of people on the spot are the attitudes and priorities that are capable of being followed. That is what federalism is all about. This set-up is starkly opposite to the attitudes and values of the centralist socialist experiment which has occurred in Australia during the last 3 years.
I have noted that a number of things have been said today and in rounding off my remarks I will mention but a few of them. Earlier Senator Wriedt said, amongst other things, that we must deal with national problems at the national level. That is no reflection on the policies and attitudes of a federalist society. Of course we deal with national problems at the national level. Are not the national problems in the context of the Commonwealth of Australia the sovereign rights and responsibilities of the States themselves? Of course they are national problems, and we accept and recognise them as just that. Senator Wriedt also said that federalism was politically motivated. He referred us back to the Liberal and National Country Party policy on federalism and said that it was politically motivated. Is that a condemnation of the policy? Is there any policy of any party in this chamber that does not in some way bear relevance to political motivation? If federalism is the expression of our philosophy as a group of political organisations, surely it is our right to project that sort of thing. As socialism and centralism- the destruction of the power of the Senate and local government- are the particular philosophy of honourable senators opposite, of course they have the right to promote and project them. That is exactly what they have been doing. But they never did it so clearly as they did when they were in government.
Mr Wran’s socialist attitudes are identical with the socialist attitudes and programs of the former Whitlam Government. At another stage in his speech Senator Wriedt referred to the increased payments which had been made to the States. I think he said that in the Labor Government’s first year of office there was an increase of 20 per cent in the payments to the States and that there was an increase of 50 per cent in its second year in office. I have not the percentage increase for the third year of office of the Labor Party, but it was a significant figure. That sounds excellent, but let us have a look at the result of these massive increases in payments to the States. We find that this country had a national deficit of $5 billion. That was the net result of these gifts of increasing percentages of money. On the surface it sounds fine, but in actual fact when one relates these increased payments to the circumstances that were the prelude to the Federal election in December 1975 one finds that they were part of a system- in fact, part of an ideology- that produced for this country a national deficit beyond the imagination of any Australians up to that time.
Together with that deficit of $5 billion came record levels of inflation, unemployment and industrial unrest to which we became accustomed in the last 3 years. The damage that was done to the national character of Australia in that period was considerable. We were in danger of becoming a community brain-washed into assuming that the state could provide everything and that it was everybody’s right to be looked after, no matter what. Initiative was to be left aside. Initiative was to have no place in the character of this great country. So the promises of Mr Wran surely must be related to the $5 billion deficit that the promises and actions of the Whitlam socialists achieved during the 3 years that they occupied the Federal treasury bench.
It is also suggested that the new federalism policy will lead to competition between the States for developing resources. If that were a fact, is it so bad? Is it so bad that there should be a measure of competition in developing areas of this great continent? I suggest it is far better that such competition in development should exist than that we should find ourselves in the position of virtual total inertia in which our growth rate reached, rather alarmingly for the first time in the history of this country, a negative figure. I remind the Senate and the people who may be listening to the broadcast of these proceedings that in the State of New South Wales- that is the matter which the Labor Party has debated in this chamber today- in 1 1 years of Liberal-Country Party Government, there have been great advances in the areas of education, health and hospital facilities, decentralisation and communications. Of course, excellent progress has been made in the communications field in the 1 1 years in which the Liberal-Country Party Government has been in office in New South Wales. This progress has been made in spite of the extraordinary difficulties associated with inflation which occurred during the last 3 years when Labor occupied the Federal treasury bench.
I conclude by saying, as I said in the beginning, that there can be no doubt that this exercise by the Whitlam Labor Party in the Senate in Canberra today has identified that Party and all that it was able to achieve in its 3 years in government with the proposed Wran legislation in New South Wales. It is an identity which the people of New South Wales will recognise with a great and, I am sure, alarming clarity. They will vote as one would expect them to vote on having become aware of that sort of a threat to the most populous, and indeed the oldest, State in Australia.
– Two of the incidents that we have witnessed tonight constitute a fair measure of the desperation of the Liberal and National Country parties on the eve of the New South Wales State election. Despite all the boasting and the bombast which we saw early this afternoon and which we have seen during the previous few weeks, it is quite apparent that the Government parties desperately fear that they will be defeated in the New South Wales State election on Saturday. Indeed, so desperate are they that tonight they put up a feather duster senator who sat here in the Senate for 18 months without speaking a word to try to re-present a tattered, tatty and puerile document that they have been hawking around the Parliament for weeks. They were not able to get anybody to take any notice of it. It has been treated tonight with precisely the contempt which it deserves. The Government parties do all these things in the forlorn hope that somehow or other they will be able to inject some elixir to revitalise the wilting Willis campaign for the New South Wales State election.
Then, of course, following Senator Townley we heard from Senator Baume, the zealot, who was protecting the interests of the Australian people. He presented an extemely complicated set of figures which we have not sighted and a complicated argument in which he alleged that in some way which he did not explain very clearly the Budget introduced by the Labor Government last year had enforced loans of approximately $300m from the Australian taxpayers to the Government. Not having seen the documents, it was a much too complicated argument to enable an evaluation of its merits. But 1 leave the Senate with this thought. It is a great pity for the people of New South Wales- in fact, it is a tragedy- particularly for those who were short changed by Patrick Partners, that they did not have a zealot of Senator Baume ‘s calibre looking after their interests and protecting the money that they had invested in that firm.
There is one thing I can state assuredly without having seen any of the documents that Senator Baume presented. He persists in peddling the untruth that personal PA YE taxation collections this financial year will be $8.6 billion. It is true that this is what the Budget estimates show. Since then, because of the success of the previous Labor Government in reducing the rate of inflation, average weekly earnings have increased by less than 60 per cent of the amount forecast at that time. Therefore, PA YE tax collections will be some $1.5 billion lower than the Budget estimates show. It is about time that the Liberal Party caught up with that simple fact. However, if its members have not caught up with that simple fact it is about time they stopped trying to have the best of both worlds by on the one hand asserting that PA YE tax collections this year will be $8.6 billion and on the other hand asserting simultaneously that we will have a deficit of $4.5 billion. The reason the deficit has increased is that PA YE taxation collections will be $1.5 billion lower than Senator Baume claimed they would be.
The Liberal and National Country parties are terrified that they will be defeated in New South Wales. The Willis Government is in danger because of its crass incompetence, and particularly because of its crass incompetence under its previous leader whom they successfully, and very astutely no doubt, assassinated last January. This happened because many of the New South Wales Cabinet Ministers are involved in a shameful scandal and an extortion of the Sydney milk market which deprives low income dairy farmers on the north coast of New South Wales who live in the electorates of Mr Sinclair and Mr Anthony. These farmers recently rebelled against the National Country Party. They formed an organisation urging the return of a Labor Government in New South Wales. Not only has this crass Government in New South Wales failed to give the farmers a reasonable share of the lucrative Sydney milk market, not only is it over charging milk consumers in Sydney to the extent of 5c a litre but also, to complete the scandal, several members of the New South Wales State Government have major quotas to supply that Sydney milk market. I am surprised that the pseudo zealots who pretend to protect the interests of the public have not demanded a royal commission into the Sydney milk scandal.
Of course, mostly the Willis Government is in danger because of the Federal Liberal Party’s much vaunted new federalism policy which was presented as the brightest jewel in the crown of liberalism. It is now revealed as a shoddy document and as a shoddy, ill-considered policy. Let us disregard the pseudo philosophical claptrap which seems to permeate practically all the policy statements which came from the Liberal Party both before and after the election. Its slothful drafting is epitomised by such a selfcontradictory clause as that providing that there will be a per capita grant paid to local government authorities which incorporates a weighting formula. That is a self-contradictory statement which is written into the policy of which the Liberal Party is ostensibly very proud. A per capita grant is a per capita grant. There is no room for a weighting formula.
Then, of course, we have such inconsistencies as those contained in Senator Carrick ‘s assertion in the Senate only yesterday when he said:
The present Federal Government does not consider it at all desirable that the States should have the sole responsibility for raising the finances for education and hospitalisation.
What Senator Carrick is saying there is that this Government believes that it should bear at least some of the responsibility for raising finances for those services. This contrasts- indeed it contradictsthe Press statement issued by Senator Carrick on 6 October 1 975 in which he said:
The Commonwealth would vacate part of the income tax field equivalent to the value of the Commonwealth’s reimbursement to the States.
So 6 months ago Senator Carrick was saying that the Commonwealth would vacate that part of the income tax field. Yesterday he was saying that the Commonwealth still has responsibility to raise some of the money for those services which lie constitutionally within the province of the States. Of course, under cross-examination or interrogation about this issue in recent days Senator Carrick in particular has replied to questions in a manner which can be described only as prevaricatory or simply incompetent. Before I cite the examples of prevaracation and /or incompetence and /or deceit in the answers that have been given in the Senate in the last couple of days -
– Order! Senator Walsh, you are not in order when you make imputations of deceit against a member of Parliament.
– I withdraw that word, Mr President, I will stick to the only other alternative remaining. That is that Senator Carrick does not understand his own policy. I suspect that that really is the truth because large sections of it are completely incomprehensible. Before citing the examples which we have seen in the Senate in the last couple of days, I wish to draw attention to the fact that it has been asserted constantly for many months by members of the Liberal and National Country parties that under the previous Labor Government the States were severely squeezed financially. I am gratified to see that Senator Scott at least tonight has acknowledged that that is not true and that in fact there were massive increases in grants to the States during the previous 3 years. Indeed, the total payment to the States from federal sources during the period from the 1972 Budget to the 1975 Budget increased by a massive 137 per cent or by 58 per cent in constant value dollars. The States were never so well treated financially as they were under the Labor Government. Senator Scott, although at the time he spoke was unaware of the precise figures, acknowledged this and I was very gratified that he did so. It means that he has been considerably more forthcoming on this matter than any of his colleagues. I was interested to hear him say that the result of this policy of being too generous financially to the States is that it induced a substantial deficit. Implicit in that comment by Senator Scott and the assurances given by the Fraser Government that the deficit will be eliminated is the fact that the Fraser Government intends to squeeze the States financially. That is precisely what the Fraser Government intends to do.
I do not have to go back farther than yesterday’s Hansard to find examples of Senator Carrick ‘s apparent ignorance of the policy which he is expounding on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and of which he is alleged and believed to have been the author. By way of supplementary question yesterday, Senator James McClelland asked Senator Carrick very pointedly, after Senator Carrick had failed to answer the question the first time:
Will the Minister for Education tell us whether the Government’s new federalism policies envisage a power resting with State governments to impose their own income tax?
Senator Carrick replied:
The strict answer to that question is no.
The Liberal Party’s own policy document, issued in September, and numerous Press statements issued since September clearly and unequivocally state that in stage 2 of the federalism policy the States will be empowered to levy an income tax. Senator Carrick insists on trying to draw a distinction between a second tax and a tax surcharge. The West Australian newspaper, which is hardly noted for its radical left wing editorials or, indeed, its support of the Australian Labor Party, observed in an editorial today that we are in a farcical situation where every day spokesmen for the Australian Labor Party state the self-evident fact that the Liberal Party’s new federalism policy envisages the imposition of a second or State income tax and every day spokesmen for the Fraser Government attempt to deny what is self-evident and obvious. I do not know why they are so frightened and are running away from this. It has not even been very good tactics. They would have done less damage to their credibility if they had acknowledged that they are proposing to allow the States to levy a second income tax.
Yesterday, I put to Senator Carrick a question in which I cited the figures on the value in real terms of Federal payments to the States during the 3 years of the Whitlam Government, which showed that in real terms there had been an increase of 58 per cent. I asked Senator Carrick whether he was asserting that under the new federalism the States would be treated more generously financially and whether he also was asserting that under the new federalism payments to the States in the next 3 years would increase by more than 58 per cent in real terms, since if the Fraser Government’s policy was to be more favourable to the States than the Whitlam Government policies had been the payments would have to increase by more than 58 per cent in real terms. Senator Carrick replied:
In response to Senator Walsh, my answer is an unqualified yes.
Because question time was then cut off I was not able to ask a supplementary question, but today I asked Senator Carrick to clarify whether his unqualified yes answer was applicable to both sections of my question; that is, whether he was asserting that the States would be treated more generously under the new scheme and whether they would receive in real terms within 3 years 58 per cent more than they received in 1975. For fairly obvious reasons Senator Carrick did not answer the question. He waffled and prevaricated for 2 minutes, with a lengthy and rather incoherent discourse on the provisions governing the allowance for general purpose payments over the next 3 years.
One particularly objectionable feature of a proposition to restore significant income taxing powers to the States which has not yet been brought out in any of the debates on this proposition is the scandalously undemocratic nature of every State Parliament in Australia with the exception of that of Tasmania- even there, of course, the Upper House is scandalously undemocratic- and that of South Australia. South Australia has the only tolerably democratic Parliament in this country. If the State governments are to be given significant powers to levy income tax, let us remember that these taxes will be levied by parliaments which are not representative of the people they purport to represent. In my own State of Western Australia, where all people are equal, but some are 16 times as equal as others because they have a vote in the Legislative Council of Western Australia which is worth 16 votes of other Western Australian citizens, quite massive income taxes can be and may be applied by a Parliament which is elected on a basis which is democratic to the extent of a ratio of 16 to one.
Once again, Senator Carrick asserted yesterday that a Labor government had put through a gerrymandered redistribution in Western Australia. I challenge Senator Carrick to name the date on which the Labor Government put through a gerrymandered redistribution in Western Australia which favoured it. Indeed, I would be very interested to know how a Labor government could have gerrymandered the electoral laws of Western Australia when the Labor Party has never in the 86 years of responsible government had control of the Legislative Council. I would be very interested to hear from Senator Carrick how a Labor government managed to get a pro-Labor gerrymander through a Legislative Council which Labor has never controlled. He would have been on somewhat safer ground- I acknowledge this- if he had referred to what were quite improper gerrymanders ordained by Labor governments in the States of New South Wales and Queensland in the dim and distant past. Senator Carrick, like many other members of the Liberal Party, apparently sticks by the belief that because electoral malpractice was tolerated by a Labor government in some State two or three generations ago that situation should be perpetuated forever. I have heard both Senator James McClelland and Senator Hall attempt to drive that lesson in elementary morality into the consciousness of the members of the Liberal and National Country Parties who sit opposite. I wish Senator Hall well in his continuing endeavours to drive that lesson in elementary morality into their consciousness, whether from inside or outside the Liberal Party.
Finally, it is obvious from the antics and contortions of members of the Liberal and National Country Parties in the Senate today that they have little confidence in the ability of the Willis Government to survive next Saturday’s election. It is equally apparent from a cutting which I have from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 9 April that the Willis Government has no confidence in the Fraser Government’s ability to fulfil its preelection pledge to control inflation. I cite a claim by Sir Eric Willis that the transport policy proposed by the New South Wales Labor Party would not cost $825m as the Labor Party had suggested, but would cost $ 1,400m. To show the rationale behind the cost inflation of Sir Eric , I quote from the newspaper:
A Transport Department’s costing of Labor’s program showed that with a modest cost rise of 10 per cent the 5-year scheme could cost at least $ 1 , 300m, Sir Eric said.
In other words, for the purpose of costing a transport policy, the Premier of New South Wales has assumed a 10 per cent compound rate of inflation for the next 5 years and he describes the assumption of a 10 per cent compound rate of inflation as ‘modest’. I use his word. He believes that that is modest. It is clear that between the Federal Liberal Party and the New South Wales Liberal Party there is a reciprocal lack of confidence. The Government of New South Wales, on the admission of its own leader, its own Premier, believes that inflation in Australia will be compounded for the next 5 years at a rate of 10 per cent or more under a government which claims that it will control inflation. On the other hand, the Federal Party clearly has no confidence whatsoever in the ability of the Willis Government to survive next Saturday’s election. I believe that the mutual lack of confidence is well justified.
Pharmaceutical Benefits- Staffing of Hospitals in the Australian Capital Territory -Radio Broadcasting-Adelaide Water Supply -Vehicle Builders Employees Federation
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– This evening I wish to make a few comments on difficulties that people in the community are facing because of changes in the pharmaceutical benefits list. I believe that many people are nowadays finding it increasingly difficult financially because of what the Government had done with the pharmaceutical benefits list. One of the most unfortunate aspects is that all of the changes that have been made to the list have been made without reference to this Parliament. The changes have been made by regulation only. Some of the effects that have resulted have occurred because of two main reasons. One is that many items have been withdrawn from the pharmaceutical benefits list and other items have been reduced in the quantity that can be obtained at one time. One of the effects of this is that persons are being required to pay highly increasing costs for medical treatment. This occurs when medical practitioners are still prescribing treatment which requires drugs which have been taken off the pharmaceutical benefits list. People are being required to pay increasing amounts for these drugs or medical preparations. An alternative effect is-I believe this is happeningthat some people are neglecting their health care because they cannot afford the costs.
A third effect has been that some people are having to make more visits to medical practitioners because some of the medical preparations have a reduced repeat rate. This seems to me to create an effect which might not have been looked at when the Government took some of these medical preparations from the pharmaceutical benefits list. This results in cost increases, not only to the people concerned but also to the Government in the costs that will be paid through Medibank in respect of people going back to medical practitioners for an increased number of scripts. I do not intend to speak at length but I should like to quote to the Senate a copy that I received today of a letter that a constituent in Brisbane sent to the Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Council. This points out the difficulties faced by one person in the community, but I think they are difficulties that would be reflected over the entire Australian community. The letter reads as follows:
Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Council,
Department of Health,
It is with regret and with personal suffering I view the latest restriction concerning anti-histamines and soya bean products. I am a member of an allergenic family. I have never considered this a particular disadvantage because with modern drugs and treatment we all keep well and maintain a useful function in society.
However since December we have faced one financial burden after another because of the function of the Health Department. We, on my husband’s $110 a week ‘bring home’ pay, have managed to absorb the rise in chemists prescriptions, aided by my pan-time earnings.
My husband is asthmatic and uses (4) drugs. My son aged 8 has chronic allergic rhinitis and uses (3) drugs. My daughter and I with a milder rhinitis ( 1 ) each (i.e. 9 prescriptions at $2 each every 4 or 5 weeks). One sister has 5 allergenic members in her family and another sister two allergenic children. We continue to pay into medical benefits because of the uncertainty of the government’s intent re Medibank (if we leave now and rejoin we may lose our allergy claims). These restrictions may save government expense but surely discriminate against an already disadvantaged group of people mainly because this is a familiar complaint.
Of course we can use the simple anti-histamines but the more recent long acting drugs are better- as this law is only the privileged can enjoy the fruits of modern medical research.
One more comment. If one member of your Board lived in Brisbane with the warm days and cold nights so devastating allergy sufferers or had any of your members reared small children through babyhood fighting asthma and sinus infections perhaps your decision would have been more humane.
We do have free hospitals here. With the long wait in crowded outpatients quite often the children contact more disease and the adult section 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. would force I or my husband to take off work days losing even more money.
As things are now my family would be just as well off if my husband went on the Invalid Pension with time to sit around and wait for free drugs.
I can see a time when people with an allergenic history are forced to remain childless because it will economically be impossible to have children.
I hope your members are able to rethink this discrimatory restriction before the quality of treatment for asthmatics and other allergenic sufferers is back where it was 10 years ago.
I remain. Yours faithfully
I am not sure what sort of notice the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Council takes of such letters which come to it from the public. I am not sure that the contents of that letter bring forward to the Council the medical and pharmaceutical reasons for or proposing recommendations to the Government but it does illustrate the human element involved in some changes to the pharmaceutical benefits list. I hope that when this letter reaches that Council, and if similar letters reach it, it takes into account not only any medical factors raised but the human factors as well.
– I wish to make a few remarks about a matter of great concern to the people in the Australian Capital Territory and of concern to all Australians who supported the Labor Government’s program for the option of free medical services. In the Australian Capital Territory there are a number of salaried specialists at the Canberra Hospital who have been working for some time and with great success- success measured in medical terms and also success from the point of view of consumers of medical services in the Australian Capital Territory. This has been an extremely popular service and their work load has increased enormously. There is a need to extend these services if the whole program is not to be undermined. Most recently- this is the event which gives rise to my remarks tonight- one member of the salaried specialist service resigned and the Minister for Health, Mr Hunt, was reported in the Canberra Times of 21 April as having said that he would not replace that specialist until the Medibank Review Committee made its recommendations.
This statement has been interpreted by many people in the Austraiian Capital Territory and by me as evidence that the Government is intent on allowing this scheme to run down to the point where it will be eliminated. This decision removes the choice of patients at Canberra Hospital to have the free health service. That was a choice provided by the Labor Government and we in the Territory had believed that it would be maintained by the present Government.
Another point to be made is that the salaried specialists do provide in some cases specialist services not otherwise provided by any specialist in the A.C.T. Another alarming aspect of the Minister’s decision is that to date the Minister still has not met members of the salaried specialist staff at the Canberra Hospital to discuss the future of the service. The Minister has met representatives of the Australian Medical Association, which is opposed to the service and which has recently passed resolutions designed to destroy the service. I refer to another article in the Canberra Times which states that the AMA passed and published 2 resolutions to the effect that after a certain date to be decided by it it would not refer patients to the salaried specialists nor would it accept patients referred from the salaried specialists. Also, the report stated, the AMA would establish a means test and decide which patients might under certain circumstances be referred.
I believe this is an unwarranted intrusion of some pans of the profession into the business of government. It would seem to me to be the business of government to decide who should have access to services that are provided, and it should be the business of government to decide means tests if such tests are indeed to be established. I wrote to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) some weeks ago supporting the request by the salaried specialists to have an interview with him to discuss their future careers and also the future of the service they are providing. The Minister made an appointment which he subsequently broke. I think it is a cause for alarm that the AMA resolutions have been published but apparently the Minister has no objection to the AMA establishing this kind of monopoly over certain services to the detriment of the community. The Minister has still not met the salaried specialists. I raise this matter tonight in the hope that it may prompt the Minister to consult the salaried specialists and also the community which apparently is to be deprived of the choice of free service, and to be deprived in some cases of the only specialists in their medical field in the Territory.
– I rise to add a brief postscript to the speech I made during the adjournment debate last night. At the conclusion of the debate Senator Carrick, the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) in this place, was good enough to say that he would refer to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the text of the Hansard report on the debate and to invite him to pursue the matter and to investigate the points made. I want to raise one other matter which I realise I could possibly raise directly with the Minister, but a slightly different issue is involved although there are some parallels so far as the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is concerned.
Last night I referred to the role of certain Brisbane radio stations beaming their signals into areas served by regional stations. Another case has come to my attention relating to a number of regional stations. The Brisbane situation is not involved. The case revolves around the city of Toowoomba which has a population of approximately 70 000. That city, as well as having an Australian Broadcasting Commission transmission has 2 commercial stations. One is 4GR, which has been established for a long time, and the other is 4AK, which was formerly a regional relay station for 4BK, a Brisbane station, but is now a full regional station with its own programs. So that city is already served by 2 commercial stations as well as the ABC.
The city of Warwick lies some distance to the south of Toowoomba, if my geography is correct, and is served by one commercial radio station, 4WK. Last year 4WK acted on the invitation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to make a case for increasing its transmission power. It increased its power from 2000 watts to 5000 watts. This has given it a signal which transmits strongly into the Toowoomba area with the undoubted result that effectively Toowoomba now has 3 commercial radio stations. There is some upset and unhappiness about this in Toowoomba. Another commercial radio station has been added to that area effectively without any such policy decision having been announced by the Broadcasting Control Board and without being put up to scrutiny by members of the industry and other interested parties.
I understand that when radio stations are given permission to increase their transmission power from 2000 watts to 5000 watts some conditions are usually applied relating to the direction of the beam that is sent out and the area that it covers. I am not aware of the sort of conditions that were imposed on 4WK in this case. However, I mentioned last night the conditions which I understood had been imposed on 4IP and as far as anyone can tell are not being enforced. It is quite possible that this also comes into that category. As I said, the fact is that Toowoomba now has 3 commercial radio stations without anybody having been invited to operate as a commercial station in Toowoomba- again a de facto situation coming from a city lying some distance to the south of Toowoomba.
Station 4WK has transferred its entire sales staff and sales office to Toowoomba. It retains only one member of its staff in Warwick. So there can be no doubt about the intentions of 4WK operating as a commercial station in Toowoomba. I am also informed that there is some unhappiness in Warwick about the fact that the one commercial radio station it has is now concentrating its efforts in Toowoomba. Station 4WK is supposed to serve Warwick in the way regional commercial radio stations are expected to serve local communities. There is also some unhappiness in Warwick about the fact that it has effectively lost its regional radio station’s involvement in community activity. All of that station’s sales staff except one is now in Toowoomba, so the implications are clear.
Frequently in debates on matters of this type it is pointed out that such decisions are made by statutory corporations, but I do not think that this in any way precludes a member of Parliament from seeking information. I should like to know why such a decision has been made, not just in terms of transmissions and the positioning of masts. I should like to know the Board ‘s policy and attitude to this sort of case in terms of the social effects of its decisions. I should like to know whether the Board is engaging in the sort of follow-up that is necessary with respect to the restrictions that are placed on regional radio stations when they are given certain privileges and opportunities to increase their strength of transmission. Is the Board aware of the effects that the sort of decision to which I have referred can have on other areas? I would assume that the Board is aware and, if so, I want to know why it made this sort of decision.
As I said earlier, I intended to make only a brief speech. I have made it because the case I have raised is slightly different from matters normally associated with regional radio stations. I should be pleased if the Minister could possibly make some comment tonight. I certainly hope that he will bring this situation which could exist in other areas of Queensland and other areas of Australia for all I know, to the attention of the appropriate Minister. Perhaps we as representatives of the public may, in the public interest, get some satisfaction from a statutory body.
– I raise a matter this evening which is causing grave concern to the South Australian Labor Government and, in particular, to the Deputy Premier of South Australia, Mr Corcoran, who is also the Minister of Works. I refer to the continuation of Commonwealth funding for a water filtration plant for the metropolitan area of Adelaide. I was prompted to raise this matter this evening by a question asked of Senator Cotton by Senator Messner on 1 April. Because the Senate rose for a fortnight’s recess for the Easter period time was not available for me to raise it on the last day of the sitting when I was in possession of a Press release made by Mr Corcoran. I think this Press release prompted Senator Messner to ask his question. I was interested to hear him ask the question and show some concern for a water filtration scheme to serve the Adelaide metropolitan area. However I was rather amazed to hear the offhanded and flippant answer given to him by Senator Cotton. Before I read the Press release I shall quote from page 982 of the Senate Hansard of 1 April 1976 the question asked by Senator Messner and the reply by Senator Cotton. The question was headed ‘Adelaide Water Supply’ and read:
My question is addressed to Senator Cotton as Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister seen reports that the South Australian Minister for Works, Mr Corcoran, claims that a lack of communication on the part of the Federal Government is jeopardising the implementation of the $100m water filtration scheme in Adelaide? Will the Minister request his colleagues to make an early statement on the continuation of the Federal funding program for this scheme?
Senator Cotton in reply said:
I have not seen the report but I am always astonished by these observations about lack of communication. There is a telephone, there are letters and there are telegrams. Senators also can go and see Ministers. I know nothing about this matter but if lack of communication is claimed it quite astonishes me. Why can Mr Corcoran not ring Mr Lynch?
Of course, I do not think this is the way that government to government business takes place, with someone getting on the telephone, particularly when a promise has been made. In view of that question and the answer given by Senator Cotton, I want to enlighten the Senate as to the full text of the Press statement of Mr Corcoran, who is the Minister of Works in South Australia. It is headed:
CORCORAN BLAMES FRASER GOVERNMENT FOR DOUBTS ON ADELAIDE’S WATER FILTRATION PROGRAM
For release 3 1.3.76
This is why, in my opening remarks, I said that no doubt the question asked by Senator Messner arose out of this Press statement which would have been reported in the Adelaide Advertiser. The Press statement states:
The Minister of Works, Mr Des Corcoran, today hit out at the Fraser Government for allowing an air of doubt and uncertainty to surround the water filtration program for the metropolitan area.
The Fraser Government is a secretive Government which prides itself on the suppression of information, playing its cards close and telling the public as little as possible about matters the people are entitled to know’, he said.
It is this attitude of contempt towards the general public which also makes it difficult for us in the State Government to plan our programs’.
I do not know what the Federal Government attitude is towards our water filtration program simply because I have not been told. What I do know is that the former Federal Labor Government agreed to provide funds for the $100 million 10-year program to supply all of the metropolitan area with filtered water’.
On that basis we started the program which is now in its second year’.
Mr Corcoran said an assurance had been given by the caretaker coalition Government that the necessary funds would be made available this year.
Of course, as Mr Corcoran said, an assurance had been given by the caretaker Government. What concerned him was that there has been no follow-up communication. The Press statement stated further:
But since the elected Fraser Government came into power last December we have lived in an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty on many Government projects, including water filtration, with hints of cut-backs and threats of reductions in financial assistance’, he said.
At this stage I must confess that I do not know whether the Australian Government will continue with its financial assistance for the water filtration program beyond this financial year’.
If Federal aid is withdrawn there will be an intolerable situation in Adelaide where all ratepayers will be paying for filtered water while only some of them will have the benefit of the improved water quality ‘.
Mr Corcoran, who was inspecting work at the Hope Valley water filtration plant, gave an assurance that even if Federal financial aid is withdrawn the State Government would continue with its water filtration program for the whole of the metropolitan area.
But if this undesirable eventuality comes about the present 10-year program will take 20-30 years to complete’, he said.
This is a situation I would find reprehensible’.
Of course, that word was used by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) prior to the coup d’etat of 11 November last year. The Press statement continued:
Mr Corcoran said he wanted to make it quite clear that Adelaide had not received any preferential treatment over other major cities in getting Federal funding for the water filtration program.
When the offer of funds was made by the previous Federal Government we told them that unlike Sydney and Melbourne we needed only limited funds for sewerage projects and that instead funds should be directed into securing filtered water for Adelaide ‘, he said.
Sydney and Melbourne were funded heavily for their sewerage programs but because we were so far ahead with our sewerage facilities we pressed for priority for our water filtration program’.
The $12 million Hope Valley plant, due for commissioning next year, will serve about 200 000 people in 60 000 homes in the inner northern and north-western suburbs.
The plant would ensure that water was crystal clear with elimination of all tastes and odours.
It had been designed by the Engineering and Water Supply Department and incorporated many advanced concepts including operational control by computer.
The major portion of the civil works was being undertaken by the Engineering and Water Supply Department day labour work force and the remainder of the civil works by a private contractor. The bulk of the mechanical and electrical work was being done by contract.
We have paid particular attention to aesthetics and environmental matters with the construction of this plant’, Mr Corcoran said.
He also revealed that excavations for the second water filtration plant at Anstey Hill were well advanced with construction of the plant already started.
The $15.8 million Anstey Hill plant, due for commissioning in 1 978, would give filtered water to an additional SO 000 homes.
Homes in the north eastern suburbs bounded by the River Torrens in the south, and by the suburbs of Highbury, Windsor Gardens, Gepps Cross, Para Hills and Banksia Park would receive all of their filtered water from the Anstey Hill plant.
The plant would also give periodic supply- particularly during the summer months- to foothills suburbs stretching from Athelstone to Torrens Park.
Mr Corcoran said the Hope Valley and Anstey Hill plants were the first two of a projected eight treatment works to provide all of the metropolitan area with a completely filtered water supply.
So, Mr President, you can see how important it is that the State Labor Government through its
Minister, Mr Corcoran, gets an immediate answer as to what the intentions of the Fraser Government are. It wants to know whether the Fraser Government is to honour, firstly, a promise made by the Whitlam Labor Government and, secondly, a promise made by the caretaker coalition Government. I ask the Government why an assurance cannot now be given that the undertaking given by the Whitlam Government to finance the whole program on the basis of a 70 per cent loan and a 30 per cent grant will be honoured by the present Government. As was pointed out in the Press release, the State Government is now in the second year of a 10-year program with the construction of two of the projected 8 water filtration plants at present in hand. It is vital that we get an early assurance on the future of the program so that planning of the remaining 6 plants can be developed.
I hope that Senator Cotton, as the Minister representing the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in this place, can take the necessary action to see that either the Treasurer or the Prime Minister has immediate contact with the South Australian Government to tell that Government whether the Federal Government intends to honour the 2 promises I mentioned or whether it intends to repudiate them. The South Australian Government needs to know one way or the other whether it will be able to continue with the program as it had planned to do with federal funding, with so much loan and so much grant, or whether it will have to curtail the program and spin it out over a period of 20 to 30 years which will result in many people being thrown out of work, particularly people in the private sector on which so much emphasis has been put by Mr Fraser and Ministers in this place when they have spoken on a variety of subjects. The private sector along with the public sector and the residents of Adelaide, will suffer undue hardship if we cannot get an answer in the very near future as to what is the intention of the Fraser Government.
– I wish to raise tonight an issue which is of great concern to New South Wales members and officials of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation. Earlier tonight I received a telegram from Mr Joe Thompson, secretary of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation, who informed me that the Borg- Warner (Australia) Ltd automatic transmission plant at Albury is under threat to possible closure. He states: . . company will cease operation if any major manufacturer of automobiles decide to cancel orders and purchase automatic transmission from overseas request you seek an assurance that Government will intervene and prevent possible closure.
I hope that Senator Cotton, who is the appropriate Minister, will treat this matter with urgency. I am sure that he will agree with me that the BorgWarner plant at Albury is an integral part of the community and that the future of the AlburyWodonga growth centre would be severely affected if the plant were forced to close.
– Earlier tonight during the adjournment debate Senator Ryan spoke on the staffing of hospitals in the Australian Capital Territory. She made some comments relating to the replacement of a surgeon who resigned earlier this year from the Woden Hospital. I believe that he was an orthopaedic surgeon. She spoke about the replacement of salaried staff. She made some statements that she thought this man should be replaced by another salaried specialist. She made what I thought was a rather ideological appeal. But she made some very specific statements about initiatives taken or not taken by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and about actions which he had or had not taken but which she thought were necessary. Of course, the real issue here is the care people get in Canberra, lt does not matter whether doctors are salaried or private as long as the medical care is there. I am glad that Senator Ryan has some concern about health care in the Australian Capital Territory. She may care to acknowledge that following the confrontation which took place 2 years ago in this part of the world the immigration of doctors to the Australian Capital Territory has almost ceased and the medical manpower situation is a lot worse.
I return to what Senator Ryan said tonight. She referred in detail to certain matters. She referred to the activities of the Minister for Health, Mr Hunt. She related in detail one matter. She said specifically that the Minister was to be criticised because he had not met with the salaried officers association. I notice that Senator Ryan is nodding her head in agreement that she said this and that she stands by it. But it is not true. It is probably as well that the Senate is told that this is not true. If the honourable senator is going to come here and make a case, she might as well be accurate.
– When did the Minister meet with them?
– I ask the honourable senator to contain herself in patience. I have come here ready to demonstrate that the Minister met with them. The honourable senator is wrong in what she said about the Minister for Health. I wonder why the honourable senator has not bothered to check what she said. She has acknowledged that she specifically said that the Minister did not meet with people representing salaried medical officers. That is either right or wrong. The honourable senator has made her case and pan of her case is that the Minister did not consult. She wants to come in and make the case out. She should make sure that she is telling the truth. I am sorry, she should make sure that she is accurate. However, I have no doubt that she was inaccurate because she did not check.
But the matter is very simple. The salaried specialists in the Australian Capital Territory have an association to represent them. I would have thought that the honourable senator would have seen the Press release which the Minister put out on 26 April in which he stated that he would discuss with medical people the question of replacement of doctors in the Australian Capital Territory. He made it clear at that time that he intended to consult widely to find the best answer to this question of staffing in A.C.T. hospitals.
– When did he meet with the salaried specialists?
– The honourable senator does not seem to believe me. We had better help her. I have here portion of a letter. The heading on the letter is:
The Staff Speciallists Council A.C.T. Hospitals.
– What is the date?
-The date on the letter is 28 April 1976.
-Today is 28 April 1976. The honourable senator has said that the Minister has not met with these people.
– Did he meet with them today?
– The letter is addressed to the Minister for Health, the Honourable R. J. D. Hunt.
- Senator, you have come into this place and made statements about our Minister for Health. Your job is to be right. The letter states in the first paragraph:
Dear Mr Hunt,
It was most helpful to have the opportunity to meet with you recently, and to discuss the problems of health care delivery in the A.C.T.-
That is what it says-
Since that time certain events have occurred which you are well aware of, and which caused the Staff Specialists’ Council some concern.
That is all I have in my possession. The letter which is from the Staff Specialists Council indicates that it met with the Minister for Health.
-The Council had met with the Minister recently and it was grateful for the chance to meet with him. Although I do not have the letter I believe it was signed by Dr Peak who was a classmate of mine, incidentally, at Medical School. I believe that he is some kind of office bearer in the association.
It is perfectly simple. Either Senator Ryan is correct and the Minister has not been carrying out consultation or she is wrong. I make a point. It appears that the Minister has consulted. It appears that he has every intention of consulting. It appears that he is concerned about health services in the A.C.T. It appears that some of these criticisms are unfair, incorrect, inappropriate and unreasonable.
If Senator Ryan wishes us to take notice of her expressions of concern she should take more care with the details of what she presents. Many of us share her concern about health services in the A.C.T. and throughout Australia. We share her concern that Canberra has not as many doctors as we would like it to have. We are concerned that in the last 2 years so many doctors have decided not to come to Canberra. Mr Hunt is a responsible and concerned Minister who, far from refusing to consult, has gone to some pains to make sure he meets the salaried medical officers about whom Senator Ryan spoke. Under his stewardship of the portfolio we will see an end to the kind of unnecessary confrontation that has taken place in the Territory and which has soured relations here for 2 years. We will see the resolution of the problems that came about when we saw the salaried medical service imposed, without adequate consultation, by the last Government. By all means let Senator Ryan advance the case for what she believes in- a fully salaried service. Let her be factual when in this place she criticises a Minister of the Crown who is not guilty of the things she said but who is consulting and who will resolve this situation.
– Senator McLaren spoke about the need for a better water supply for Adelaide. As one who has spent some part of his time there, I am prepared to believe that it is necessary. I still cannot understand why Mr Corcoran, the Deputy Premier, is unable to communicate with the Commonwealth. I cannot see why it is impossible for him to obtain from the Commonwealth the information which he requires. He is the Deputy Premier. The normal rules are that the Premier writes to the Prime Minister in such matters to seek information and to receive clarification. If that has not been possible for some reason, I certainly will take it up with the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). I still find it hard to accept, because Mr Corcoran can communicate with me. On Monday he sent me a telex about various things. Why this strange process of sorting the matter has to be gone through I cannot say, but I shall certainly take up with the Treasurer the matters that Senator McLaren has apparently obtained from the newspapers or from a Press statement.
– I obtained it from the Minister’s office- a copy of his Press statement.
– I thought you were quoting from a Press statement. Apparently it represents something that would have appeared in a newspaper, in due course.
Senator Sibraa spoke about the problems of Borg-Warner (Aust.) Ltd in Albury and of a telegram he received from Joe Thompson of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation. I know Mr Thompson. He is a person for whom I have very great respect. He has been in touch with me about this matter. There is no trouble yet. The problem is the possibility of the market perhaps going down if there is any change in the purchasing pattern of some of the Australian motor vehicle manufacturers. Like Mr Thompson, I am watching that position very closely. As always, I will be doing everything I can to help. I am very happy for Senator Sibraa to get in touch with me at any time he has extra information.
– I wish to refer to matters raised by 2 senators concerning the portfolio of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). Senator Colston expressed concern about changes in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I have taken note of the matters to which he referred. I will see that the Minister is advised of them. I will obtain his reaction to the matters that were raised. I did note that the honourable senator spoke of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Council and about representation which might be made by individuals to that Council. I am sure that those matters will be of interest to the Minister. If there is any information which I am able to obtain without delay covering the matters that were brought forward by him this evening, I will obtain it.
The other matter to which I wish to refer was raised by Senator Ryan. It concerns medical services in the Australian Capital Territory. The Press statement referred to by the honourable senator was released by the Minister on Monday night and, I understand, was reported in the Canberra Times on Tuesday of this week. The Minister has advised me that he has held a meeting with the Australian Capital Territory Medical Association and has another meeting scheduled for tomorrow. He also has met with the Staff Specialists Council of the Australian Capital Territory hospitals. At that meeting, which was held by appointment at 4.45 p.m. on 5 April, he met Dr Kerry Goulston, Dr Eastmann and Dr Peak. He has received an acknowledgement from those medical representatives, thanking him for the consultation they had with him on 5 April. The Minister is hopeful that as a result of his consultations with the Staff Specialists Council and the Australian Capital Territory Medical Association many of the matters which have been of concern to him will be freely discussed. He hopes that, in the form of a round table conference, many matters will be able to be pursued with the ultimate result of achieving the services which we believe are desirable for the people of the Australian Capital Territory.
That is all the information I am able to give on the matters that have been raised. If any other specific questions have been brought to the attention of the Senate, I shall see that they are referred to the Minister for Health for his reaction and so that the information which has been requested can be provided.
– During the adjournment debate Senator Martin spoke about a Queensland radio station- 4WK, Warwickand the suggested effect that an increase in transmission strength from 2000 watts to 5000 watts may have had upon the neighbouring towns. She was good enough to indicate to me that she intended to speak on this matter. I have some information on this matter and I propose to allude to it very briefly. I am instructed by the Department concerned that yesterday the Australian Broadcasting Control Board at its meeting approved as a temporary measure transmission during daylight hours at 5 kilowatts for station 4WK. It is intended that night time transmission at present should continue at the current level of 2 kilowatts. The station has not yet commenced transmission at the higher power, although a 5 kilowatt transmitter has been installed.
Station 4WK has applied for permission to transfer to 5 kilowatts following the Board ‘s letter of 7 January 1975 offering the increase in power to all medium frequency commercial broadcasting stations. All but 15 of these stations have applied for the increase in transmitting power. Station 4WK has not been given immediate permission to transmit at 5 kilowatts because it shares a frequently with Station 3BO, Bendigo. Until there is a variation in this frequency it is intended that night time transmission be at the lower power. Both 4WK and 4GN, Toowoomba, are received in Warwick and Toowoomba. For 4GR the signal received in Warwick is at least as strong as it is in Toowoomba. But 4GR has not taken up the option of increasing to 5 kilowatts, being one of the 15 which have chosen not to make application. The Board advises that 4GR is currently received well in Warwick but has the option of applying to increase power to 5 kilowatts if it feels that the better reception in daylight hours of 4WK in the Toowoomba area provides undue competition.
That is the advice I have received. I shall draw the attention of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) to the remarks of the honourable senator and invite him to respond.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What was the expenditure by the Department of Health for the financial years 1973-74, 1974-75 and what is the anticipated expenditure for 1975-76 in each of the States and Territories.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer provided by the Prime Minister in response to Question 192. (Hansard, 30 March 1976, page 892).
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The term ‘rejection’ in this context does not mean that benefit is necessarily refused, it merely means that payment of benefit is deferred pending additional clerical checking. Indeed the claimant is not advised that benefit has been refused until such time as it is clearly determined that benefit is in fact not payable in respect of a particular claim or any of the services included on the claim.
There are no statistics maintained on claims and services which are rejected, re-examined, re-input and then result refusal of benefits because of clerical or computer error, but because of the inbuilt controls, the incidence would be very low.
There are circumstances, however, when incomplete claims must be returned to claimants, without payment of benefits, but with a request for additional information so that benefits may be correctly assessed. The percentage of claims which have been rejected by the Health Insurance Commission month by month because of incomplete information supplied by claimants is shown in Tables 1 and 2 below.
These statistics are of necessity presented in two complementary parts- that is, rejected claims and rejected servicesbecause of the Health Insurance Commission ‘s claims payment policy not to reject benefits for the entire claim unless there is insufficient information provided for every service on the claim. Whenever possible, immediate partial payment of benefits is made for those services which may be assessed so that only the services which have insufficient information for benefit to be assessed are referred back to the claimant.
The percentage of claims rejected month by month (in terms of the total claims processed each month) by the Health Insurance Commission because of incomplete information provided by claimants:
The percentage of services (not included in the claims in table 1 ) rejected month by month (in terms of the total services processed each month) by the Health Insurance Commission because of incomplete information provided by claimants:
The foregoing figures do not take into account any claims which may have been returned to claimants by Health Insurance Commission cash payment centres or agent funds because of the need for additional information.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Did the Government promise during the 1975 Federal Election Campaign to establish a Rural Bank; if so, when is it intended that the necessary legislation will be introduced into the Parliament.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The answer to the first part of the question is yes. The Treasurer and I met with representatives of the trading banks on 1 1 February 1976 to discuss a number of matters including the proposal to establish a National Rural Bank. It was agreed at that meeting that a working group would be set up to investigate all aspects relating to the proposal. I am unable at this stage to estimate when the proposal will be advanced in sufficient detail to enable consideration to be given to it by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question, upon notice:
What was the expenditure by the Post and Telecommunications Department for the financial years 1973-74, 1974-75 and what is the anticipated expenditure for 1975-76 in each of the States and Territories.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Postal and Telecommunications Department did not exist in 1 973-74 or 1 974-75 which was prior to the vesting of the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions. In those periods the Postmaster-General’s Department expended $1,093,757,000 and $ 1,340,083,000 respectively.
The Postal and Telecommunications Department’s anticipated expenditure for 1975-76 is $573,893,000 which includes $40 1,800,000 in interest bearing advances from the Treasury to the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission. As this capital expenditure of $401,800,000 is matched by internally generated funds from the statutory authorities concerned, it is not possible to allocate this precisely in each of the States and Territories.
It should also be noted that the 1975-76 figures are not readily comparable with the previous PMG figures because of the inclusion of expenditure associated with parts of the former Department of the Media, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the exclusion of the expenditure by the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions of internally generated income.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question, upon notice:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
That installation is adequate to meet the requirements of the Nareen Pastoral Company and one other subscriber as well as the additional requirements of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and those relating to security. The Telecommunications Commission’s recent decision to install a further 10 pair telephone cable from the Nareen Exchange to the ‘ Nareen ‘ property was taken to meet its own technical and developmental requirements and in accordance with its legislative authority.
The Commission is not obliged to engage in prior consultations with Departments or Ministers on such matters and did not do so in this case. Its decision derived from an assessment, including cost justification, in relation to actual and potential service and traffic demands and the standards of service, including reliability, for subscribers in the Tarrayoukyan area.
The length of cable from the Nareen subscriber network to the property of the Nareen Pastoral Company is approximately 2000 metres. The cost of the installation, which will be completed shortly, will be about $2,200 and will be funded by the Commission in conformity with practice applying to its installations. The 10 pair cable installed is a standard cable for this type of installation.
The Prime Minister will be with his family at his residence at ‘Nareen’ on a significant number of occasions each year and the needs of his office as Head of Government mean that official communications facilities will be in regular use on these occasions.
The Commission intends that when the installation is completed shortly the bulk of official communications will be routed through the Nareen Exchange rather than Tarrayoukyan.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
Has the Minister considered allowing people who live in areas outside the capital cities to make free telephone calls to Commonwealth Departments, such as the Taxation Office, the Department of Social Security and the Repatriation Department in the capital cities so that these people can have the same access to, and service from the Departments, as do people who live in the cities.
Telecom Australia advises that it would not be technically practicable at present to give country subscribers either free calls or local call access to specified metropolitan numbers.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Information as to the number in each category of support staff in past years is not readily available. The total full-time support staff from 1972 onwards is:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 April 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760428_senate_30_s68/>.