29 April 1976

30th Parliament · 1st Session

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.

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Pharmaceutical Benefits: Milk Substitutes

Senator COLSTON:

-I present the following petition from 163 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.

Australian Assistance Plan

Senator COLSTON:

-I present the following petition from 20 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 the responses to opportunities created through the Australian Assistance Plan and the achievements of Regional Councils for Social Development in planning the efficient use of resources have justified the expenditure of public moneys to date.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government endorse the continuation of the Australian Assistance Plan as a longer term program to be implemented on a regional basis throughout the Nation.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.

Petition received and read.

Australian Heritage Commission

Senator RYAN:

– I present the following petition from 3 1 citizens of Australia:

To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned 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 Government’s program 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 1975-76.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.

Petition received and read.

Overseas Development Assistance

Senator KNIGHT:

-I present the following petition from 27 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 many Australians are concerned at the announced decision by the Australian Government to reduce the 1975-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote by $21 million, and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency.

We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:

as a matter of urgency, reverse the decision to cut the 1975-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote, so as to ensure that the full amount appropriated by Parliament for Overseas Development Assistance is spent this financial year to meet the pressing needs of those in developing countries;

reaffirm Australia’s commitment of Overseas Development Assistance being a minimum of 0.7 per cent of GNP, and

establish a fully independent statutory authority to administer Australia’s official Overseas Development Assistance.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.

Petition received.

Australian Heritage Commission

Senator KNIGHT:

– I present the following petition from 37 citizens of Australia:

To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of 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 Government’s program 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.

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Senator WRIEDT:

-Is it the intention of the Minister for Education to maintain the system of cost supplementation in order that the value of educational grants administered by the Universities Commission, the Commission on Advanced Education, the Technical and Further Education Commission and the Schools Commission will be held at the same level as that determined by the previous Government?

Senator CARRICK:
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs · NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

-The question that Senator Wriedt has asked concerns Government policy and the determination of budgeting and forward estimating. It is the desirable goal of the Government of the day to maintain the principle of cost indexation or cost supplementation for the future.

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Senator JESSOP:

-Has the Minister for Education received a circular issued by the Primary Teachers Association of South Australia? Is he aware that the Association states that ‘although the Fraser Government has not committed itself to cutting educational expenditure in the next financial year it is logical in the light of recent Government pronouncements concerning general curtailment of expenditure to assume that this may be the case’? Can the Minister say whether, under the new federalism policy which was recently acclaimed by the States, there is a lump sum guaranteed for education? Are there any strings attached by the Federal Government to this sum? Whose responsibility is it to allocate priorities for capital expenditure, teacher housing and support staff, etc?

Senator CARRICK:

-Yes, I have seen the petition or the letter from the Primary Teachers Association in South Australia signed by its secretary. I have read it with considerable interest. I share, as does my Government and all of its members, the concern and desire expressed by teachers and parents of this country to maintain and expand the optimum education system. I have read the query within the letter as to whether there will be budget cuts. The situation is that the Government is currently studying forward estimates and what guidelines it will be able to give to the various commissions. Consistent with that, it will maintain for education the highest possible priority with the aim of maintaining and raising standards.

If we look at it, the simple situation at the moment is that last year the then Government- the Labor Government- made what amounted to a 6 per cent cut in real values to education in Australia. So the cutting of education was set by the previous Government. It will be our aim, consistent with returning Australia to economic stability, to full employment and to abated inflation, to maintain education to the highest possible standards.

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Senator BUTTON:

– Surprisingly enough, my question also is addressed to the Minister for Education. Does the Government intend to adhere to the concept of defining particular schools as disadvantaged and positively providing the means for the enrichment of education in disadvantaged areas? If so, will he give an assurance that such definitions of the concept of disadvantaged will be determined only after analysis and advice from the Australian Schools Commission?

Senator CARRICK:

– I applaud the new found interest in education of the Australian Labor Party today. It is to be applauded, however belated it may be. It will be, as always, the intention of the Government to look towards education policies in the federal sphere and in the States aiming to help the disadvantaged. It is our fundamental principle to establish equality of opportunity for all children and all students throughout Australia. We will at all times consult the Australian Council of State School Organisations and other State bodies. It has been my pleasure since I became the Minister for Education to have a number of formal and informal consultations with the Council. I shall continue with that. I have a great respect for the Council. It is not a new found respect of today. It goes back over many years of consultation. Therefore, I am happy to say in respect of both matters that the Government earlier apprehended these things and is acting upon them.

Senator BUTTON:

-Mr President, I wish to ask the Minister for Education a supplementary question. I congratulate him on his new found interest in the Australian Council of State School Organisations, but the question which I directed to him related to the Australian Schools Commission. I ask again: Will he, in relation to disadvantaged schools and disadvantaged areas, consult the Australian Schools Commission in determining definitions in relation to those concepts?

Senator CARRICK:

-To the extent that I confused the 2 institutions, I apologise. Of course, it is fundamental to the duties and responsibilities of any Minister for Education that he will work in day to day contact with the 4 commissions which are there to advise him. I am happy to say that I have the closest possible daily contact with the Australian Schools Commission. That contact will be continued in relation to disadvantaged schools as it will be in relation to every other aspect of education. While I am on my feet I want to say emphatically that the rumour that is being spread that it is the Government’s intention to abolish the Australian Schools Commission is without any foundation at all. It is our policy, as stated in writing and on the platforms, that we will maintain the Australian Schools Commission and have it as a very effective working body. I simply remind the Senate and the people of Australia that it was a LiberalNational Party government in the past which set up the idea of federal commissions to give advice on education. They were commissions such as the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education. We will continue that principle.

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Senator BAUME:

– I direct a question to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. Has the Fraser Government made a public commitment to introduce a system of indexation of personal income tax? Will this, combined with tax rearrangements under the new federalism, increase or decrease future income tax burdens of individual taxpayers in Australia?

Senator CARRICK:

-It is a fact that the Fraser Government has stated that it proposes within the next Budget context to introduce the substantial principle of tax indexation. Incidentally, this is a fixed principle of all teachers federations in Australia. Those who are here today will be equally interested in it, because it is important for teachers, as for others, to keep the real value of their wages. We will see that they do so, haveing before us the aim of lowering the iniquitous tax burden which arises from inflation and which is caused by the arbitrary harvesting of inflation if there is no tax indexation. The result will be substantially lower taxation for all Australians in the year and the years ahead.

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Senator MELZER:

– Will the Minister for Education confirm that he has not received the updated reports of the 4 education commissions that were due at the end of March? If he has not received them, is the delay due to the commissions’ having to wait on the Minister providing guidelines, such guidelines being an indication of the amount of finance that will be available?

Senator CARRICK:

– This is the only statement that I make today that is parallel with previous Labor Government policy. We are finding ourselves in exactly the same situation as that in which the Australian Labor Party found itself in July and August last year. We have had to tell the commissions that because of the economic stringencies created by the previous Labor Government it will be necessary to provide guidelines so that it will not be a foolish, openended venture and there will not be a repetition of the 1 975 triennium, when the previous Labor Government deliberately allowed the commissions to go ahead with open-ended investigations, then rejected the triennium out of hand, sent the commissions back with a flea in their ear and told them that within fixed monetary guidelines they must do as they are told.

We have said that we will indicate guidelines to the commissions as soon as we have our forward estimates in shape. That is absolutely necessary. We will indicate guidelines. There is a delay. In the last day I indicated the delay and I acknowledged that I had been inaccurate in an answer to Senator Wriedt when I said that I hoped the matter would be completed by April. There will be delays because there must be monetary guidelines within the forward estimates. That was acknowledged by the previous Government. They are the only realistic things, and therefore we will give to the commissions realistic indications within which they can then freely indicate their priorities.

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Senator WALTERS:

– I will give the Minister for Education a rest by directing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of the article from the Canberra Times referred to by Senator Ryan last night? I quote her extractions: the AMA passed the 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.

Can the Minister confirm my understanding of this supposed Australian Medical Association meeting? My understanding is that in point of fact it was a meeting held by visiting medical officers in private practice to Canberra hospitals and had nothing to do with the AMA, for not only were doctors who do not belong to the AMA present but the AMA was not consulted in any way at all. Does the Minister agree that before senators accept -

Senator O’Byrne:

– Extension of time.

Senator WALTERS:

– Let me just explain it to you, Senator. Would you like me to repeat my question? Does the Minister agree that before senators accept newspaper articles as accurate they should do a little research of their own?

Minister for Social Security · VICTORIA · LP

– In the Senate last evening I did make a statement on behalf of the Minister for Health in which I spoke of meetings and consultations which he had had with the Australian Capital Territory Branch members of the Australian Medical Association and with the Staff Specialists Council. With regard to the matters that have been raised by Senator Walters, this morning, I can only assume that the honourable senator has well researched the matters she has referred to me. I just say that I shall refer the matters to the Minister for Health to determine whether what the honourable senator has told me is accurate with regard to the meeting which was the subject of debate in the Senate last evening.

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Senator COLSTON:

-Would the Minister for Education inform the Senate whether the Government adheres to the objective in the Karmel Report that over a period the resource level of schools should be raised by a defined percentage? In other words, has the Government an objective of raising the quality of education in government and non-government schools?

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack:

– I take a point of order, Mr President, because of the thrust of questioning in this chamber this morning. I refer you, Mr President, to standing order 99 which states that a question shall not ask for a statement of government policy.

Senator Wriedt:

- Mr President, this is the first time that I have ever heard a point of order taken on a Minister simply because he was being asked a series of questions. On many occasion in this Parliament we have heard Ministers being asked a series of questions. I do not think that Senator Carrick seemed to be greatly disturbed about the question. If it is apparent from the behaviour of honourable senators sitting behind the Minister that he is starting to crack under the pressure, that is his misfortune.


– In replying to questions a Minister uses his discretion. The point of order is not sustained. I call Senator Carrick.

Senator CARRICK:

– In essence Senator Colston asks: Does the Federal Government have as its policy goals the objective of raising very substantially the standards of all schools in Australia and of all the teaching and learning in government and non-government schools in accordance with the general concept of the Karmel Report? The answer to that is an emphatic yes. Our belief is that our goal should be to achieve a standard of excellence for education for all- not in any elitist sense- with a full understanding that there must be equality of opportunity; that we must help to raise up the underprivileged as much as we can, but that we ought also to stimulate all education so that whilst there is a great genetic diversity in the intellectual and physical capacities of persons there will be equality of opportunity from the grass roots upwards. That will be our goal.

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Senator MISSEN:

-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: With regard to recent expenditure cuts at Australia’s overseas posts, is it true that there were ‘across the board’ cuts in expenditure at diplomatic missions? If so, what was the extent of these cuts? If there were no ‘across the board’ cuts, what basis was used to detemine areas where expenditure would be reduced? Were overseas posts requested to provide suggestions for expenditure reductions in their own budgets? If not, why not?

Senator WITHERS:
Minister for Administrative Services · WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

-After all, I only represent my colleague, Mr Peacock, in this place. The honourable senator asks for detailed information which I could not be expected to have. Therefore I shall seek the information from my colleague in another place.

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Senator RYAN:

– By way of introduction to my question, which is directed to Senator Carrick, the Minister for Education, I refer to the Minister’s Press release of 4 February where he announced that the innovations program would be cut by $ 1 .6m but that the rest of the program would continue until the end of 1976. The innovations program was the only program of the Schools Commission that permitted a direct measure of local decision making in educationthat is, it permitted parents and teachers to initiate a local program and to have it, after favourable assessment by peers, directly funded by the Federal Government. In view of that fact, what assurance can the Minister give that the innovations program will continue after 1976 and that it will continue with its basic objective unchanged, that is, the objective of stimulating desirable educational change through direct funding of local programs in schools?

Senator CARRICK:

– One thing is certain and that is that my Government will be able to give a more clear and sustainable assurance than the previous Government was able to give on the innovations programs during the period between August and December last year. I remind the honourable senator and the Senate that it was because of the confusion over the triennium and the guidelines that the innovations program was put in jeopardy and doubt and was delayed. It was necessary therefore for the calling of applications for innovations programs to be deferred and for the closing date to be the end of February.

Senator Georges:

– What about the refusal of Supply?

Senator CARRICK:

-One of the interesting things about Senator Georges is that when he realises that the Government is bang on the target he tries a diversion. He will not succeed, but I wish him well. Let me make it perfectly clear -

Senator Gietzelt:

– So do we.

Senator CARRICK:

-And well you might. You need what little resources you may have. The fact is that the Federal Government did make a cut in the innovations program primarily because of the delays and because there would not have been a practicable method, due to the actions of the previous Government, to institute the whole of the program for last year. The future of this and other programs in terms of their specifics is a matter of budgetary decision, as the honourable senator must know. As to the principle of creating -

Senator Cavanagh:

– You will say nothing; that is what you mean.

Senator CARRICK:

– I find Opposition members cynically helpful in the way they respond. I was about to say that as to the general principle of stimulating innovations, diversity and experimentation in education our policies are quite specific. They are our policies and we will carry them out.

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Senator SIM:

– The Minister for Industry and Commerce will recall my question yesterday concerning the import of ceramic sanitary ware from the Philippines. I ask: Has the Minister considered the effect possible retaliatory action would have on Australian exports to the Philippines and other less developed countries? Would not such retaliatory action have serious economic implications including unemployment for Australia?

Senator COTTON:
Minister for Industry and Commerce · NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The honourable senator will recall my answer also yesterday. It is perfectly correct that in making a judgment on these matters we consider the whole effect on Australia and not just on one part of it.

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-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Education, concerns the provision of education for the handicapped child. The Minister will be aware that in some States the responsibility for the education of the blind, the deaf and the mentally retarded rests with the parents. Under the Labor Government Schools Commission, grants for handicapped schools provided government funds to assist in this field. Will the Minister encourage State governments to assume responsibility for the education of handicapped children within State schools and, on the recommendation of the Schools Commission, make funds available for this purpose?

Senator CARRICK:

– The Government gives very high priority to the education of the physically or mentally handicapped. I am aware that the Schools Commission sought to do certain things. I am bound to say that the Schools Commission’s program was itself a partial and inadequate one. As the honourable senator would know, it aimed to provide some facilities for taking over voluntary organisations, but not for their future funding. Therefore the States were left in very considerable confusion. The stated general principle that a government ought to have a total commitment for the state- meaning the government- to take over arbitrarily all organisations previously run voluntarily may be a good socialist concept; it is not a good Liberal concept. To the extent that parents and members of the community involve themselves and wish to involve themselves, we will encourage them. To the extent that we can achieve the optimum by state takeover, by co-operation or by helping voluntary organisations, we will do so. Accepting the fundamental principle that one should help, we would give help to the optimum extent. In some cases the voluntary organisations want to sustain themselves and want to run their own shows. If they want to do so, God bless them and good luck to them because they have made a wonderful commitment over the years. If they cannot sustain themselves the Government ought to step in.

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Senator TOWNLEY:

-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to my question on notice No. 427 to which I have received an answer today. I asked what arrangements could be made for persons who live away from capital cities to telephone Commonwealth departments at local call rate so that they might have the same access to those departments as do people who live in the cities. The answer states that Telecom Australia has advised that such an arrangement is not technically possible at the moment. I now ask: Has Telecom Australia indicated to the Minister an aim to develop such a capability? When it is technologically possible what will be the Government’s attitude to allowing long distance calls to be made to Commonwealth departments at local call rates?

Senator CARRICK:

– I do not have available to me the reasons why Telecom Australia advises that it is not presently technically possible to give country subscribers local call access to Commonwealth departments, although I have no doubt that the information would be available to the Department of Post and Telecommunications. I acknowledge, incidentally, the idea that permeates the question- the desirability of making it possible for individual citizens to communicate with government departments without any punitive costs to them. I will refer the question to my colleague the Minister to see whether he can obtain from Telecom Australia reasons why this is not technically possible. I will then invite my colleague to look at the practicability as well as the desirability of such a course of action being taken.

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– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I will wait with bated breath to see whether the Minister for Education comes to her defence. I ask: Since the Government is on the verge of determining the 1976-77 migrant intake, can we have an assurance that in depth discussions will be held with the various teachers’ associations to ensure that we do not have a repetition of some States recruiting teachers from overseas such as in the case of New South Wales, which recruited teachers from the United States and virtually created an impasse? Can we get an indication of how many overseas teachers may be recruited for the new program? Will it destroy relations with the various teaching associations?


– I feel quite sure that when considering the intake for 1976-77 all relevant material will be discussed and considered by the Government. I have no information that I can give to the honourable senator about numbers of teachers who may be recruited from overseas in the years 1976-77. It is the responsibility of State governments and education authorities to provide teachers for every school for which they are responsible. If there are teachers in Australia who are not prepared to accept vacancies in some schools, then it is necessary, as it has been in the past, for State governments to arrange to import teachers to staff the schools in that situation. At this stage I have no knowledge of the planning in that particular area by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I point to the necessity not always to look at numbers of teachers and those who are unemployed, because there may be vacancies in schools in which some teachers choose not to use their skills.

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Senator TEHAN:

– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: In view of the Minister’s recent statement that the number of letters sent by post has fallen since the introduction of the 1 8c postage rate and because many commercial institutions, including banks, are now using alternative means of communications, will the Minister arange for a public inquiry to be held into all aspects of postal services before any further increase in postal charges becomes effective?

Senator CARRICK:

– I will be pleased to direct the attention of my colleague the Minister in another place to that question.

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Senator BISHOP:

– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It refers to previous questions about how to achieve the staff ceiling targets of the Government and to statements made yesterday by the Prime Minister that those targets had been attained without any dismissals. I ask the Minister: Is it now clear that the previously announced redundancy at Woomera and at the Weapons Research Establishment of between 400 and 700 workers who may or may not be placed elsewhere now does not apply? In relation to answers given to my questions by the Minister and by Senator Greenwood, is it also clear that no dismissals will arise from the Government’s objectives which, according to the Prime Minister, have been achieved?

Senator WITHERS:

-Senator Bishop was courteous enough to give me prior notice of this matter. The information which I have from my colleague in the other place is this: Woomera was required to lose 700 personnel over 3 years. The plan for the first year, 1975-76, was to lose 172. So far there has been a loss of 212, so the wastage is higher than expected. Of course, there is no guarantee that this higher than expected wastage rate will continue. Also, it may be that future wastage is in categories where a high wastage rate is not required and consequently counter recruiting may, in some circumstances, be necessary.

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– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I have been advised by Timorese citizens now in Darwin that there are numerous women and children in Timor who have lost their husbands and fathers in the present Timor debacle. What is the Government’s attitude to the possibility of absorbing some of these unfortunate Timorese people into the Australian community? Many of these Timorese are reported to be on the poverty line. Has the Government made any move to indicate that it is prepared to accept further Timorese evacuees?

Senator WITHERS:

-This is a matter both for my colleagues the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Mr Michael MacKellar, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It would be unfortunate if I said something here today which was not totally accurate so I shall consult with those 2 Ministers in the other place and get an answer from them.

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Senator KEEFFE:

– I preface my question, which just happens to be directed to the Minister for Education, by reminding the Minister that on 5 April 1976 I wrote to him requesting information on 9 specific areas where massive cutbacks had been made in education in the Northern Territory. The Minister will recall that he subsequently advised me that he was gathering the information and that he would write later. As it is a matter of urgency and as most of the questions concern cutbacks in Aboriginal education, I ask the Minister to inform the Parliament whether it is his policy to withdraw most of the education funds from the Northern Territory only in those areas where the majority of pupils are Aborigines?

Senator CARRICK:

-If I were to respond to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question it ought to be by ignoring it. To suggest that this Government would give a low priority to the education or the general welfare of Aborigines is to fail to understand both our policies and our actions. As soon as I can I shall answer specifically the letter which I am well aware was written to me by the honourable senator. Incidentally, I acknowledge his genuine interest in Aborigines. I and my Government share that interest. I and my Government are endeavouring to do the best we can to maintain the real standards of education for Aborigines and others in the Territories. I hope to be able to announce in future weeks some substantial innovations or reforms aimed to give to the Aborigines a greater facility and quality of delivery of education. I am simply saying this to the honourable senator, as I have said before: I know of no more profoundly difficult problem for any individual or for any government to understand than the problem of educating the Aborigines. My Department and I are directing our minds to the problem. We are directing Government resources to it. We will not neglect the Aborigines in any way.

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Senator MESSNER:

-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs seen recent reports of conflicting rulings on the acceptability of tax effect accounting by company registrars in the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, New South Wales and other States? Is he also aware of the widespread confusion and mounting concern amongst investors as to the value, reliability and worthiness of accounting reports, which arises generally from the various accounting methods currently in use? Can the Minister say what action the Government will take to co-ordinate the activties of accounting and other interested bodies in order to resolve these conflicts rapidly?

Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development · VICTORIA · LP

– I am sure that anyone who is interested in this question has seen the conflict which has arisen between the interpretations supplied by the Commissioners of Corporate Affairs in the various States as to the requirements of the Companies Act. It is a matter of interpretation of the Companies Act. I think one can well understand why the Commissioner of Corporate Affairs in the Australian Capital Territory has taken the stand which he has.

The Minister whom I represent is in the course of preparing for the Government a submission as to the role which the Commonwealth should play with regard to uniform laws right around Australia. It will be concerned with such matters as companies Acts, securities, corporations, and the various requirements to which bodies subject to those laws should conform. I think the Minister’s attitude is that in the course of that examination consideration will be given to the differing interpretations which have been made. The only way in which we can ensure uniformity of interpretation is so to prescribe the laws under which the Commissioners operate that there will be no room for differing interpretation. That is, of course, a matter which would involve consultations with the various Ministers responsible throughout Australia.

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– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Why has the environmental impact study completed by the Australian National Line on its container berth development at Botany Bay not been tabled in the Parliament? Did the Government accede to the request of the New South Wales Deputy Premier, Mr Punch, to delay presentation of that report until after his recent personal public relations inspection of Botany Bay and until after the New South Wales State election?

Senator CARRICK:

– I do not know the reason why the Botany bay environmental impact study report was not tabled in the Parliament. I shall ask my colleague, the Minister for Transport, to find out. I reject any inference that the delay is for any reasons other than good, sound nonelectoral ones.

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Senator KNIGHT:

– I ask the Minister for Education whether it is a fact that ancillary staff in Australian Capital Territory schools will take strike action next Monday. If that is the case, can the Minister indicate why such action is proposed and whether some means can be found or considered to avert that industrial action which will adversely affect students at Australian Capital Territory schools?

Senator CARRICK:

– In terms of the overall economies of the Government, it has been necessary to limit staff ceilings in the Australian Capital Territory as elsewhere. The Government of the day and I as the Minister for Education agreed that our first priority was to maintain the pupil-teacher ratio at the 1 975 level, and I am happy to say that we have done so. It has not been possible to increase, pro rata, the ancillary staff, even though in order to help in that regard my Department willingly made cuts in its departmental estimates and transferred them sideways to provide more money for the teaching service and for ancillary staff. It is true that it has been necessary therefore to rationalise the staff, although we have been able to get some more staff. It is also true that there are some jobs- for example, the use of schools or colleges at night time- for which one would want more ancillary staff. It is equally true that the teachers and the ancillary staff have been concerned about this matter. They held a meeting recently. They invited me to come to it. I could not attend but I sent officers from my Department. I have received a report from the meeting. I share their anxiety concerning work loads and the fact that there are jobs that could be done in the Territory.

They have expressed another worry, and that is that there is a use of volunteers for particular jobs. Volunteers are coming in and doing jobs. As I understand it, they have no objection to volunteers carrying out particular activities, such as helping in libraries, but they fear that perhaps volunteers coming in may competitively destroy their own work possibilities. Let me make it clear: I hope that never at any time will it be necessary for those engaged in teaching to hold strikes because, of course, in doing so they would be using the children of this nation as a bargaining power. I hope that that will be unnecessary. Suffice to say that I am in contact and will be in contact with the teachers. I will try to do the best I can to resolve the problems. I hope that on this occasion, as any other occasion, there will not be the necessity for strike action.

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Senator Douglas McClelland:

– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services whether he was correctly reported in the Melbourne Sun as saying that he saw nothing wrong with Cocos islanders being paid in plastic tokens and that this was the same as using bankcards and credit cards? Does the Minister agree that the plastic tokens are issued to Cocos island workers by the

Clunies Ross estate in payment for work performed by them and that they are issued in lieu of Australian currency and can be associated in no way with any form of credit? Is it also a fact that these plastic tokens, which have a nominal value of about 30c each, can be cashed only in the store that is owned and run by the Clunies Ross estate on Home Island? Is the Minister also aware that in 1974 Australia gave an undertaking to the United Nations that the token money used on Cocos Islands eventually would be discontinued and replaced by Australian currency? Does the Government now intend to repudiate that undertaking?

Senator WITHERS:

-I must confess that I have not seen the report in the Melbourne Sun.

Senator Cavanagh:

– There was one in yesterday’s Advertiser, too.

Senator WITHERS:

-I have no doubt there was one in the Border Watch that Senator McLaren is so keen on reading.

Senator McLaren:

– Quite a good newspaper.

Senator WITHERS:

-I have no doubt it is. I do not know where else it might have been reported.

Senator Cavanagh:

– It came from one of the reporters who accompanied you on the trip. He came up with the conclusion that you did not know what you were talking about.

Senator WITHERS:

-If honourable senators opposite desire to answer the question I will sit down and the Senate can get on to its next business. As I understand the situation, and as I was told when I visited the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, it is not true that the plastic money can be cashed only at the store on the island. It is readily convertible on the island. I have been assured by the Clunies Ross estate that any person in possession of these tokens can go to the office and convert them immediately into Australian dollars and cents.

Senator Georges:

– It has never been done.

Senator WITHERS:

– The honourable senator says that it has never been done. I am informed that it is done and that those Australian dollars and cents are spent in the store on West Island. I think that if the honourable senator really wants to know what the Government’s intentions are he should contain his patience a little longer. I hope shortly to be able to indicate to the Parliament -

Senator Douglas McClelland:

– You appear to be making statements and we are entitled to interrogate you on those statements.

Senator WITHERS:

– The honourable senator is answering his own question. I have not read the report. I do not know what it is alleged I have said. But I must say that the subject of money being in a plastic form does not excite me in the manner that it makes the honourable senator terribly excited. For years I have not used Australian currency; I have used credit cards and cheques. I say to those Opposition senators who are trying to interject that the whole point is that we all start talking about different aspects. There are many people in Australia who deliberately go to stores and obtain store currency.

Senator Primmer:

– They have some freedom of choice, have they not?

Senator WITHERS:

– Yes. Again, it is the old, old question. Some of these problems in the Cocos and Christmas Islands which must be solved will not be solved by making a lot of hoo-ha in the Press about them. They will be resolved by sensible negotiations.

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Senator McINTOSH:

-Is the Minister for Science aware of the need for a very limited program of scientific drilling on the Great Barrier Reef? Does the Minister agree that such a program will lead to a greater understanding of the Great Barrier Reef and hence aid in its preservation? Does the Minister believe that such a program should be planned jointly by the Institute of Marine Science and pertinent departments within the James Cook University of northern Queensland? Will the Minister recommend finance for such programs for the coming financial year before the Barrier Reef is further destroyed by various interests?

Senator WEBSTER:
Minister for Science · VICTORIA · NCP/NP

-The question that the honourable senator asks is quite an extensive one.

Senator Georges:

– Can we expect an extensive answer?


– Order! I must point out to honourable senators that interjections are disorderly. The Minister will proceed to reply to the question without interjections.

Senator WEBSTER:

-The Federal Government and the Queensland Government joined to make an assessment of the prospects of drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. Over many years this interest has continued. I would believe that the Institute of Marine Science is not the appropriate body to be involved in the type of operation suggested by the honourable senator. There is great argument whether drilling should be permitted on the Great Barrier Reef. Several reports which have come to light have indicated that there would be no damage. There is interest at present as to what the effect of oil spill may be on the Reef. That matter is of great concern to Queensland senators as it is to all of us. However, if the honourable senator will place his question on notice, I will get an appropriate answer for him.

Senator McINTOSH:

-I wish to ask a supplementary question. My question was not about drilling for oil. It was about drilling for scientific reasons. I commenced by asking: ‘Is the Minister for Science aware of the need for a very limited program of scientific drilling on the Great Barrier Reef?’

Senator WEBSTER:

-My answer to that question is no.

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Senator O’BYRNE:

– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. If the report is correct that on a recent visit to that well known so-called benevolent dictator, Mr Clunies Ross, the Minister advised him to get rid of his troublemakers on the Cocos (Keeling) Islandsthose remarks applied also to Christmas Islandand that this would snuff out the ray of hope that the benighted workers there entertained that their days of serfdom were over, I ask: Has the Minister given similar advice to another of the Clunies Ross variety to take similar action to solve his Senate problems by getting rid of the troublemakers?


– I call the Minister for Administrative Services.

Senator Withers:

– I am not obliged to answer questions. Ask a sensible question and you will get a sensible answer.

Senator Georges:

– I rise to take a point of order. The Minister cannot answer a question sitting down. That is in the nature of an interjection about which, Mr President, you made some comment a few moments ago. The Minister ought to have the decency to stand and say that he will not answer a question and not mutter sitting down.


-The point of order is not sustained. A Minister may reply to any question as he or she desires, or not reply to it at all.

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Senator McLAREN:

– I ask my question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I recall to the Minister that on 25 February I asked him whether the Government had closed down a number of Australian embassies and foreign missions abroad where officers of the Australian Information Service were stationed. If so, were the officers to be returned to Australia or were they to be transferred to overseas posts? I also ask the Minister what action was being taken to secure permanency of employment for many of these officers who had been in the temporary employ of the Commonwealth Public Service for upwards of 20 years. The Minister, in reply, said that he would obtain the information for me. In view of the fact that it is now more than 9 weeks since I asked that question, I now ask when can I expect a reply to my question?

Senator WITHERS:

-I apologise to the honourable senator that it has taken so long for him to receive an answer. I only wish that he had drawn the matter to my attention earlier. I must confess I did not know it had been 9 weeks. I will do my very best to make sure that he receives an answer today. I apologise for the delay.

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Senator JESSOP:

-Is the Minister for Administrative Services aware that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works visited the Cocos (Keeling) Islands a couple of years ago. Is it a fact that at that time the cost of living for the average family on Cocos Islands was approximately 4 plastic rupees a week? It is also a fact that the average income at that time was about 6 rupees. Is he able to say whether the Clunies Ross estate subsidises the price of rice which is the staple diet of the Malay people? Can he say whether the estate provides free housing, free light and power, free medical treatment and free education for 2 children in the family and whether it also provides material to enable those who wish to do so to build their own outrigger canoes which were valued at that time at about SA800?

Senator WITHERS:

-I understand the matters as put down by my colleague Senator Jessop to be true. Might I say that I am more than interested that all the experts in regard to Cocos (Keeling) Islands seem to be those who have little knowledge of the Islands. 1 was interested to receive a letter dated 20 April 1 976 from a Dr Rankin who is a specialist psychiatrist in Brisbane and a former medical officer on Cocos (Keeling) Islands. In his letter to me he said:

I am enclosing a copy of a letter I wrote, that was published in the Courier Mail newspaper, Brisbane, on 4 September 1972. During my service on the Cocos Islands I was greatly impressed by the sincerity of Mr John CluniesRoss and understand the needs of his people. As you will see, they are essentially a self-governing community and I feel any disruption to their way of life and culture would be to their detriment. I hope this letter reaches you before you leave and that you enjoy your visit to these beautiful islands.

I do not say that I necessarily agree or disagree with what Dr Rankin wrote to me. But I have read that letter just to provide an indication that there are a number of views about the Cocos Islands. These are the views of some people who have been there for a very long time and who have lived amongst the people. There are also the views of people who have never been there and who therefore draw conclusions from facts about which they know nothing.

One of the comments that interested me came from one of the journalists who accompanied me on my visit to the Islands. It relates to the matter of housing which was raised by Senator Jessop. I think that I may have mentioned this yesterday. This journalist, being a Western Australian, goes to Rottnest Island quite often for his holidays. He said that the standard of accommodation in which the Cocos Islanders lived was better than the bungalows on Rottnest Island for which Western Australians paid $100 a week and for which they queued. Western Australians, by the thousands, tried to have a holiday in a bungalow which, in this journalist’s opinion, was of a lesser standard than the accommodation on the Cocos Islands. I do not know how many honourable senators have been to the Islands. I suppose some may have been there for as long as I was there.

Senator Gietzelt:

– What about taking us?

Senator WITHERS:

-I would take honourable senators opposite if I could leave some of them there. I do not know whether that would be to the Islands’ benefit. I think most probably I would need the consent of my colleague Senator Greenwood, because of the environmental impact. As an Australian, I get quite enraged at times when somebody from overseas flies into Sydney or Melbourne, stays overnight in a hotel, and goes off and writes a book about Australia. Yet we in the Parliament seem to have the idea that any of us on either side can go to a place for 24 or 48 hours and return as instant experts. I do not claim to be an instant expert. I went to look, to listen and to learn. As a result of what I heard and what I saw and what I learnt- I trust I learnt something- I will be making recommendations to the Government, and when these recommendations have been processed by the Cabinet 1 will inform the Parliament of them.

page 1409



Senator PRIMMER:

– To follow up questions addressed to the Minister for Administrative Services I ask him how he equates a Cocos Islander receiving 6 rupees a week, paid in plastic tokens and redeemable only at his boss’s store, with the Minister’s own use of cheques, bank and credit cards? Is he aware that despite his assertions about housing standards, Cocos Islanders have no stoves, flywire, refrigerators, running water or toilet facilities of any kind? Is he also aware that most Cocos Islanders, because of the method and paucity of payment from the Clunies Ross estate, would find it extremely difficult to pay fares in order to leave the Islands, and further, that any of them who could muster such funds and leave would not be free to return to their kith and kin on Home Island? Is the Minister also aware of the lack of any higher education facilities on the Islands?

Senator WITHERS:

-I am aware of all those things. All I can say is that in 3 years the Labor Government not only did nothing about Cocos Islands, but the standard of its inhabitants went backwards. The Labor Government was so busy fighting with the Clunies Ross Estate and so busy dividing the Cocos Islanders against themselves that nothing was done for the people. As I have said time and time again, if any person in this Parliament or in Australia has the interest of the Cocos Islanders at heart he will realise that more will be done by co-operation than by confrontation. The last Government, whether dealing with State governments, local government authorities or whomever, believed in a policy of crash or crash through. That is what it did on Cocos Islands. That is not the present Government’s policy. Its policy is one of co-operation.

page 1409




– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services whether he gave an assurance to Mr Clunies Ross while on Cocos Islands that he would resettle in Australia any troublemakers on the Islands or any of those who resented remaining on the Islands. Is this what he meant when, in his reply to a question last week, he referred to getting them out of the road?

Senator WITHERS:

– I gave no assurance whatsoever to anybody on Cocos Islands. Tragically, this is what happened so much in the 3 years of Labor government. Promises were made which were not realisable and were not kept.

Senator Douglas McClelland:

– Promises were made by Mr Clunies Ross that were not kept.

Senator WITHERS:

-That is what Senator Douglas McClelland says, but his record in government was such that we would not take much notice of it anyhow. The simple thing is that I said, no matter where I went, be it Christmas Island or Cocos Islands, that I was there so that I could inform myself at first hand and that the decisions would be made by the Cabinet. We know that under the previous Government the method of government was that decisions were made by individual Ministers, they were upset by Cabinet, reorganised by a Caucus committee and again filtered by Caucus. That is not the way we run things. We have no intention of doing that. I gave Mr Clunies Ross no assurances at all. Mr Clunies Ross put certain propositions to me. I said I would put them to the Government and would inform him of the result. I said that to Mr Clunies Ross; I said it to the Cocos Islanders; I said it to anybody who asked me questions during the time I was there. That is the way this Government happens to run. It happens to run on a collective Cabinet responsibility system.

page 1410



Senator WALSH:

-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does a document tabled in the Senate last night allege that an envelope containing $500,000 was handed to Mr Whitlam in Sydney last year? Is it possible to fit 10 000 $50 notes, or alternatively 25 000 $20 notes, into an envelope allegedly 15 inches square? If not, will he acknowledge that the document is inaccurate or fraudulent?

Senator WITHERS:

-I never had-how many was it?

Senator Walsh:

– Ten thousand or twenty-five thousand.

Senator McLaren:

– The Minister does not read enough.

Senator WITHERS:

-I do not; the same as I do not read newspapers. I never had that amount of money. If Senator Walsh wants to get some statistical information on this -

Senator Drake-Brockman:

– He is a rich farmer.

Senator WITHERS:

– As someone interjects, the honourable senator is a rich farmer. Perhaps that is how he gets his wheat payments each year. I do not know. I suggest that the honourable senator ask the Reserve Bank. I assume the honourable senator has a banker- he could go and ask him. I suggest that the honourable senator asks somebody who has some knowledge of the matter. It is not for me to say whether what was alleged in this chamber last night is correct. I think that this is a matter to be proved by people who have the $50,000 or $500,000 at hand which would enable them to answer the question.

Senator Georges:

-The Attorney-General has made an investigation, what does he think?

Senator WITHERS:

-We are not talking about that; we are talking about how many notes will fit into an envelope. I do not know. I have not seen the envelope. I have not seen the notes. But perhaps Senator Walsh should ask some people in his Party just how big the envelope was.

page 1410


Senator WITHERS:
Western AustraliaMinister for Administrative Services and Leader of the Government in the Senate · LP

– For the information of honourable senators I present the report by the Advisory Group on the Australian Science and Technology Council together with a statement by the Prime Minister relating to that report.

Senator WRIEDT:

-(Tasmania)-I move:

I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later date.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

page 1410


Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development · Victoria · LP

– Pursuant to section 11 of the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act 1974 I present an agreement in relation to the provision of financial assistance to Tasmania for land acquisition for nature conservation purposes (Lavinia Nature Reserve, King Island) 1975-76.

page 1410


Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:

That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Grants Commission Act 1 973- 1 975.

Bill presented, and read a first time.

Standing orders suspended.

Second Reading

Senator WITHERS:
Western AustraliaMinister for Administrative Services · LP

– I move:

This Bill is a step in the implementation of the Government’s federalism policy. Essentially, its purposes are three-fold: Firstly, to remove from the Grants Commission Act 1973-1975 those references to assistance for local government which are no longer appropriate under the federalism policy; secondly, to make specific provision for the Commission to advise the Government on matters relating to assistance to local government under the new policy; and thirdly, to remove the obligation presently upon the Grants Commission to report on applications by local governing bodies referred to it in accordance with the provisions of the existing Act.

The Bill leaves unchanged the right, which the less populous States have enjoyed for 40 years, to apply for supplementary financial assistance. The Government’s federalism policy provides a framework for a co-operative partnership between all 3 levels of government- Federal, State and local- to ensure effective and responsible government with maximum community involvement. Local government will receive assistance under the new tax sharing arrangements as from the 1976-77 financial year. Under these arrangements a fixed percentage of personal income tax will be earmarked for distribution through the States to local government to provide per capita grants, possibly weighted, to all local government bodies and an equalisation or topping up’ grant to be distributed through State Grants Commissions.

The proposed arrangements will be a major advance in Federal-State-local government financial relations. They ensure that local government will have a guaranteed and substantially predictable addition to its financial resources to meet its responsibilities. Local government will have access to these untied funds without the need to apply to Canberra for assistance or to form artificial regional groupings in order to qualify for assistance. The needs of less populated areas and of municipalities and shires with special disabilities will be protected. Assistance to all local government authorities will be provided- no longer will some councils be excluded from sharing in the monies provided for local government purposes; no longer will local government have to approach the Federal Government ‘ cap in hand ‘.

Considerable progress has been made in reaching agreement with the States on the principles and details of the new arrangements. Some matters pertaining to the new arrangements have been referred to the Grants Commission for advice and it is expected that this advice together with the States’ views will be discussed at the next Premiers Conference in June. It is also expected that a statement outlining details of the new arrangements, and how local government is to participate in them, will be released following that Conference. The precise role that the Grants Commission will play in the implementation of the Government’s new Federalism policy has yet to be finally determined. While the Commission will continue to exercise its traditional role in relation to the less populous States, its role in relation to local government finances will be considerably modified. The proposed amendments to the Bill reflect this modified role.

I turn now to the detail of the Bill. Clauses 3 and 6 relate to the change in the title of the Commission from ‘Grants Commission’ to ‘Commonwealth Grants Commission’, to avoid confusion with State Grants Commissions. Clauses 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 1 1, 12, 13 and 15 have the effect of deleting references which, under the new federalism policy, no longer have application. Clause 8 repeals sections 17 and 18 and substitutes a new section 17 which provides for the Minister to refer to the Commission matters relating to the provision of assistance to the States for local government purposes, as distinct from matters relating to the provision of other assistance to the States. It also defines ‘assistance to a State for local government purposes’ in such a way as to comprehend the unincorporated areas in some States where local government-type services are provided by the State Government. Clause 16 revokes references made to the Commission between October 1975 and March 1976 but permits the Commission to have regard to information gathered in connection with these references. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.

page 1411


Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:

That Government Business, Order of the Day No.1, Wheat Industry Stabilisation Amendment Bill 1976, be postponed until after consideration of order of the day No. 2. Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1 976.

page 1411



Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:

That unless otherwise ordered Government Business take precedence of General Business after 3 p.m. this day.

Senator Douglas McClelland:

– I understand that in proposing this motion it is the desire of the Government to pass these 3 wheat Bills, namely the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Amendment Bill 1976, the Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1976, and the Wheat Products Export Adjustment Amendment Bill 1976 before the House adjourns at 5 o’clock. I noticed that the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers) moved that Government business order of the day No. 1, namely, the Wheat Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill 1976, which I understand is not a money Bill, be postponed until after consideration of order of the day No. 2. 1 presume that it is the Government’s intention to deal with the Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1976. There has already been a long debate on the first reading stage of that Bill. I presume we will then proceed to the second reading stage of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill and then go back to the first reading stage of the Wheat Products Export Adjustment Amendment Bill.

Senator Harradine:

– Is that a money Bill?

Senator Douglas McClelland:

-That, of course, is a money Bill of which I have the adjournment. The Government Whip, Senator Chaney, had discussions earlier this week with Senator Georges and me. We agreed that we would forego General Business this afternoon, rather than have all honourable senators delayed this evening to enable these 3 Bills to be passed. I also understand that in the event of those 3 wheat Bills being passed at a point after 3 o ‘clock but well before 5 o’clock we will then proceed to General Business.

Senator Withers:

– That is the Government’s understanding also.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 1412



– I inform the Senate that I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, nominating senators to Estimates Committees, as follows:

Estimates Committee A- Senators Knight, Douglas McClelland, Mcintosh, McLaren, Scott and Sim.

Estimates Committee B- Senators Jessop, James McClelland, Mulvihill, Rae, Sibraa and Tehan.

Estimates Committee C- Senators Archer, Gietzelt, Maunsell, Messner, Primmer and Walsh.

Estimates Committee D- Senators Collard, Colston, Martin, Melzer, Townley and Wriedt.

Estimates Committee E- Senators Baume, Bonner, Brown, Grimes, Sheil and Wheeldon.

Estimates Committee F- Senators Devitt, Kilgariff, Robertson, Ryan, Thomas and Wright.

Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:

That the Senators nominated be appointed members of the respective Estimates Committees.

Senator WITHERS:
Western AustraliaLeader of the Government · LP

– I seek leave to make a statement relating to the proposed times of meeting of Estimates Committees.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator WITHERS:

– I have arranged to have a schedule circulated setting out the current proposal for times of meeting of Senate Estimates Committees next week. It will be noted that Estimates Committees A, B and C are scheduled to meet next Tuesday, 4 May at 4 p.m. subject of prior suspension of the sittings of the Senate, and Estimates Committees D, E and F are scheduled to meet on Thursday, 6 May at approximately 12.30 p.m. subject to the prior adjournment of the Senate.

It is possible that legislative pressures may require this program to be varied. Should this be necessary the Committees will meet during the next sitting period after the one week recess and senators will be advised today of a possible alternative program for next week. I regret having to do this but Senator Douglas McClelland will understand that as the parliamentary session proceeds representations are made by my colleagues who have legislation which they believe to be most urgent.

Senator Douglas McClelland:

– Now you are realising what I had to cope with.

Senator WITHERS:

-That is right. Some of these priorities have yet to be determined. I think that our forecasting on Thursdays has worked quite well so far this year and honourable senators have known with a fair degree of certainty what was coming in the following week. What will be circulated is a program as if the Estimates committees are sitting and a program as if they are not sitting. I regret that we have to do that this week. I hope we will not have to do it again. Everyone will be advised which program will be running as soon as I am able to get the priorities right. I regret this, but I think it is the most sensible way of doing things at this stage.

Senator Douglas McClelland:

- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement on the same matter.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDHaving been the manager of Government Business in the Senate I well understand the problems now confronting the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) so far as the legislative program of the Government is concerned. Senator Chaney, the Government Whip, mentioned to me and to Senator Georges this morning that this situation might arise. I merely point out to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, with a certain degree of cynicism, that earlier in the session he advised me and, I think, the Senate that he hoped it would not be necessary at any time for a variation to be made in the order of business so far as the notice paper was concerned. I am sure he is now beginning to realise that things are not always as easy as they appear to be on the surface. The other thing which I wish to briefly mention to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is a matter which I mentioned to Senator Greenwood yesterday in the temporary absence from the Senate of Senator Withers. Before the Estimates committees sit it is the desire of the Opposition and I am sure the desire of all honourable senators who will sit on the Estimates committees to obtain the summary details from the various Government departments. It would be desirable if that could be done today before honourable senators leave the place. If the committees sit on Tuesday it is desirable that this be done no later than Tuesday morning.

Senator Withers:

– I have in hand the last matter raised by Senator Douglas McClelland. I am having those documents chased up. I started the process this morning. I wanted to know which departments had not sent the documents and why they had not been sent. I hope that because of certain procedures the Government is bringing in, this will be the last time we will have to alter the projected weekly program.

page 1413



Senator WITHERS:
Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate · LP

– In relation to my previous motion as to the placing of business, I ask for leave to add at the end of the motion: ‘And order of the day No. 3’. The motion would then read that Government business, order of the day No. 1, be postponed until after consideration of orders of the day Nos 2 and 3.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Motion ( by Senator Withers) proposed:

That order of the day No. 1 be postponed until after consideration of orders of the day Nos 2 and 3.

Senator Douglas McClelland:

-That will overcome the problem which I mentioned earlier. The 2 money Bills will be dealt with first by the Government. The Opposition does not oppose the motion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 1413


First Reading

Debate resumed from 28 April on motion by Senator Cotton:

That the Bill be now read a first time.

New South Wales

– At the outset I say that I propose to speak to this money Bill substantially on the subject matter which I proposed to discuss yesterday because of the events which have unfolded in recent weeks. The subject relates to the Government’s economic policies and new federalism which we believe requires us at least to present our point of view in Parliament. We believe steps might well be established not only for new principles in terms of relationships between the respective arms of government- those principles we will not oppose- but also forms of taxation which will militate against the best interests of those other forms of government. Of course, we use the forms of the House to do that.

Already I have heard some criticism from those Ministers for whose portfolios I have responsibility in a shadow capacity that Bills relating to primary industry are being held up because members of the Senate are using their time to debate matters which are not necessarily related to the matters before the chamber. I think it has to be stressed that this is one of the forms which members of the Parliament may utilise to express a point of view. If other avenues of expressing those points of view are denied to the Opposition and to honourable senators then they must use the forms of the House.

If the debate yesterday had not been gagged I would have been able to say what I wanted to say at 20 minutes to six last evening and I might well have completed the contribution that I wish to make on this important question of federalism and particularly the impact that it will have in the whole area of taxation. That importance, of course, is enhanced by the very substantial view which is expressed in the political arena in New South Wales and in editorial comments in our newspapers. As the editorial writers have endeavoured to influence the views of people who will go to the polls in New South Wales on

Saturday, I think it is quite proper and responsible that members of this Parliament should have the opportunity to present their viewpoints in this forum. We have seen the use- maybe some would say the gross misuse- of the debate on the motion for the first reading of money Bills for the purpose of presenting general topics for debate. To the degree that that practice will be persisted with, we will have to enter the debate to answer those contributions as well as to present our own philosophical point of view.

I regret that yesterday on the first occasion in the life of this new Parliament on which the Opposition presented a matter of urgency we were cut off in the prime of our debate, as I might put it. In the previous 3 years the Government parties when in Opposition used the forms of the House to bring up matters of urgency Wednesday after Wednesday when the Senate proceedings were being broadcast in an endeavour to obstruct, which is the construction I would put on it- certainly to examine very critically- the policies of the Labor Government. So on the first occasion on which we used the forms of the House we were denied the opportunity of presenting our total position. That is a matter of regret So we must use the forms of the House that are available to us today.

As the Sydney Morning Herald has said, and as has been said by many speakers in the debate, one would imagine that federalism has suddenly become the panacea of all of the economic problems which are bedevilling government in this country and that suddenly a new economic Messiah has emerged from the ruck. Senator Carrick, who has been given credit for this federalism policy, is suddenly regarded as a person who has thought up a concept which, we were enjoined to accept yesterday, will solve all the economic problems that exist between the 3 arms of government. In his contribution to the debate Senator Missen spoke at great length about the Canadian and American experiences. What he did not and obviously has not understood, and what he did not explain in his contribution, is that the legalities of the way in which the federalist system operates in Canada are not applicable to Australia because of our constitutional restrictions. If the United States is to be regarded as displaying a step forward in the evolution of relationships between the different arms of government then clearly it is remarkable that in that country about 33 per cent of the gross domestic product comes in the form of taxation, whereas in this country even under Labor, only 30 per cent of our gross domestic product comes from taxation. This, in fact, would indicate that we were correct in lifting that figure from 25.7 per cent in 1972, when we first came to office, to some 30 per cent. That seems to be part of the trend that is taking place in the world. One can only say, when listening to the contributions that are made in this place, how quickly members of the Government parties have seized upon federalism. They suddenly have developed a new philosophy. They believe that what Senator Carrick has put forward will, in fact, create a whole new area of relationships between the various arms of government in this country.

The Sydney Morning Herald, which is noted for its conservatism and for its editorials at the time of a federal, State of local government election enjoining the people to vote in a certain way, in its editorial today states: . . attitudes to the ‘new federalism’ are of great importance in this argument. Sir Eric Willis fervently supports the Fraser Government’s commitment, overwhelmingly endorsed in the December election, to reverse the centralist trend of the Commonwealth Governments (of both parties) since the war.

I want to take the editorial writer somewhat to task for his approach. We have had the centralist label- I think there is no other way to describe it- pinned on our lapel by our opponents, whether they be in the media or in the Parliament or wherever conservatives abide in this country- and, let us face it, they are everywhere, and that is part of our problem as a party of social reform. I put it to the Senate that the legislative program with which the former Labor Government was associated did more than any legislative program introduced by any other government in the history of Australia to transfer powers and decision-making processes and to allocate responsibility in the form of recommendations to the grass roots levels.

I refer honourable senators to the Australian Assistance Plan and to the fact that that plan enjoys very warm support in many centres of Australia where some genuine endeavours were made to get this project off the ground. Members of the National Country Party, in particular, ought to be aware of the support that exists for this project in various local government areas of New South Wales. I can speak only of my own State but I am sure that it applies generally throughout Australia. The Australian Assistance Plan and the area improvement schemes have proved to be popular. These schemes were innovative. It may be argued that they were experimental. They were not necessarily the perfect structure or form but they were an endeavour to take away from the centre the important question of determining responsiblities, priorities, and the allocation of funds. We were the first national Government in Australia’s history to establish the important link with local government which had been ignored in the post-war years by the Liberal-National Country Party government settled, as it was and is, in Canberra. Our endeavours to set up land commissions and to place new emphasis on housing were part of a process of devolution of power. They were part of a general decentralisation process, not part of the bureaucratic control which has been suggested by many of the speakers in the debate. Of those who contributed to the debate yesterday, I have this to say - (Quorum formed)


– I thank Senator Wright for improving the size of my audience. I am discussing the important questions of financial relationships, taxation and federalism. As I was pointing out, speakers on the Government side have utilised every opportunity to attack the Whitlam Government by suggesting that it was creating some monstrous bureaucracy in Canberra. Such was the state of the nation in terms of the lack of public facilities and the very badly run down public sector of our economy that it was essential at the outset to bring about some centralisation so that we could introduce essential decentralisation. That has been part of the world trend. There is no doubt that the development of the economy which has been described as capitalism has as one of its principal features in its developmental stage the bringing together of all the strands into a strong central government.

Once having reached that point of centralisation, it is essential that the community and political parties should find the forms for a decentralisation of responsibility and a decentralisation of power. To suggest that federalism, which is an outmoded form in the evolution of our society, is something new or is something that can be accepted as the way forward for Australia does not attempt to grapple with the essential reorganisation which should take place within our society. The Sydney Morning Herald loves to get across anti-socialist propaganda, as indeed do many members of the Government Parties, not recognising that in the ideals of socialism are expressed an extension of the democratic processes, and extension of the decentralisation of power and responsibility and, in fact, a society upon which will be based the social and not individual ownership of the means of production and the right of people at the grass roots level to participate in all of the decisions which should be taken in the very complex industrialised societies which now predominate in the Western world.

The Senate will accept that yesterday was the first occasion when the Parliament had had the opportunity to debate these essential questions and that these new philosophical emphasis which the Government Parties claim to be espousing have not been a matter of public debate or of parliamentary debate. Therefore, the Opposition, whether Senator Wright accepts or rejects our point of view, was acting within its areas of responsibility and obligations in ensuring that the Parliament had some opportunity to debate these very important questions. After all, this is an area of public interest. It is an area in which decisions have to be made which will affect considerably the living standards of the Australian people. If incorrect legislation and policies are applied, it will have detrimental effects upon local government, State and Commonwealth relationships. I find it very difficult to understand how Senator Wright, as the representative of one of the smaller States which can be likened to Oliver Twist always asking for more, can take the position that he took in the debate yesterday, a debate which he alleges had some relationship to the election in New South Wales. There is an obvious area of conflict in regard to Commonwealth-State relationships.

I say this to Senator Wright: If in fact New South Wales is to receive more Commonwealth funds, it is clear that the other States must receive less or, alternatively, the whole program of Commonwealth involvement in the areas upon which we have entered in the post-war years will have to be set aside. It was the former LiberalNational Country Party Government of which the honourable senator was a member which decided to enter the area of education, I say, for purely opportunist reasons. It saw that there were votes in the State aid issue. That is why it acceded to the demands for Commonwealth involvement in education.

Senator Wright:

– It saw that the universities were being starved.


-I do not want to enter into the controversial area of State aid or of schools generally. I support substantially the principle upon which the Australian Labor Party need concept was injected into the area of education. But if we examine the position back in the 1950s, we find that there was no Commonwealth involvement of any substance in education, except within its territories and for very limited moneys made available to the States. In his wisdom Sir Robert Menzies recognised the need for the Commonwealth to spend more on education. I say that it was for opportunist reasons, but that is my view. He may well have taken that viewpoint for other reasons. Of course, the position substantially is that in the 1972-73 Budget-the last Budget of the conservatives before the change of government- the Australian Government made available $442m for education. I ask honourable senators to compare this amount with the amount of $ 1 ,908m which is the amount which my Party when in government allocated for spending on education in its 1975-76 Budget. That amount represents a 5 -fold increase in funding to the States for education. I find it inconceivable that during a period in which we have a large number of protest groups and different interest groups- whether they be composed of teachers, parents, sociologists or educationalists generally- requiring the maintenance of this sort of allocation for education, members of the Government Parties, such as Senator Baume and to some extent even the Minister for Education, can decry, as Senator Baume did yesterday, the degree to which the previous Government became involved in increasing funding to the States in particular areas such as education.

I wish to make a point which I believe is essential to the whole argument of centralism, decentralisation and taxation. Let us look at the areas in which my Government increased public spending over the last 3 years. As I said, it increased spending in education 5-fold. In public health, 4 times the amount of money was spent than was spent by the previous government in 1972-73. In social security and welfare we doubled the sums of money that were paid. We did this not only in terms of the amount of money that was made available by way of pensions, whether the recipients of these sums were war pensioners or otherwise, but also in the whole area of welfare generally.

Sitting suspended from 12.4S to 2.15 p.m.


– Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the 1975-76 Budget brought in by Mr Hayden and to the increased payments to the public sector during the period of the previous Labor Government. I was doing this because it might be remembered that Senator Baume particularly, as well as some of the other Government senators, was stressing that the deficit of the Australian Government last year was perforce a bad development, that it should be reduced and any increase in it avoided. I was pointing out that in the area of education, for example, the Whitlam Government contributed 5 times the money that was made available in the last year of the previous LiberalCountry Party Government.

The amount increased from $442m in 1972-73 to $ 1,908m in 1975-76. In the field of health-I do not think anyone would disagree that money should be spent on public health- there was a great increase in expenditure. It was 4 times as great as it had been previously. Twice as much money was spent on social security and welfare. We make no apology for the new pensions made available to supporting mothers, deserted mothers, deserted fathers and so on. In the area of housing the Whitlam Government increased payments to the States. That needs to be stressed, because it is in the area of State and Commonwealth relationships that the previous Government is being criticised very severely by Government senators. Payments went up to more than 8 times what they were previously. They increased from $77m to $633m. In the area of urban development the increase was more than 9 times in the 3 years of Labor Government.

In the light of those sorts of increases we have been assailed by the conservatives, wherever they exist in the community- in newspapers, in the media, in the Parliament and in the community generally- for spending so much money in these important areas. I believe that this Government will be forced to accommodate the same sort of demand as the previous Government had to accommodate to make up the very serious lag in public works and social welfare which had been a characteristic of both Commonwealth and State funding in the whole of the post-war period.

In a newspaper article of 2 April of this year the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) is reported as saying that there was a need for the Government to develop a new attitude to government spending. The article reads:

There has to be a new attitude in this country towards Government spending, ‘ Mr Anthony said.

The previous Government built a mentality in this country where all you had to do was to ask for more and more and the Government would supply it.

Every single one can be looked at, said Mr Anthony, and found worthy and justifiable but it is the total situation that has to be assessed.

We have to get Government spending down and productivity up.

Obviously he does not convey that sort of thinking to Sir Eric Willis, Mr Bjelke-Petersen or to the other State Premiers. The new federalist policy is being developed allegedly for the purpose of making money available to the States to provide the States with the ability to provide services to the communities in their respective areas. I can never understand the logic of the conservatives who suggest that if the Australian Government spends more money it is inflationary but if the State governments spend money it is not inflationary. The whole purpose of the federalist policy, as it has been expressed in the few handouts of the Liberal and National Country Parties and in the public pronouncements of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and its architect, Senator Carrick, is to give the money to the States.

The Prime Minister has talked about making more money available to the States and, according to his several pronouncements, he is going to put more into the pay packet, the hip pocket, of the average wage earner and at the same time maintain the services which the Australian people have demanded recognition and which they think ought to be provided in the public sector. It is just unbelievable that Government senators, particularly those from the small States, could fall for this 3-card trick. They have been conned into believing that the federalism policy will solve the problems of the small States just as Sir Eric Willis has been conned into believing that there is to be some improvement in State finance via the Australian Government formula about which Senator Carrick has spoken so often in this Parliament at question time and in debate. Sir Eric Willis has said that despite the Fraser Government’s new federalism policy New South Wales faces the prospect of continued steep taxes or a progressive running down of services.

I am sure it would be agreed that the purpose of taxation is to provide services where need exists, for the public sector to make available money via the taxation structures so that Government instrumentalities, whether they be Commonwealth, State or local, or public corporations can provide facilities and services so that the public is able to enjoy an improving standard of living and quality of life. Of course the only way that can be achieved is by the process of taxation. In this country, because we are more backward than many other countries, we cannot rely on profit making in any of the profit making areas of the private sector. That is left for private development. As a distinction, France has very important public corporations which supplement the taxation system. They are able to make profits available to the Government for spending.

When governments have to rely upon taxation as the only source of revenue, how can it be argued in support of the federalism policy, which has been hailed as the answer of all answers, as the panacea of all relationships between the 3 arms of government, that the Government can reduce taxation at the national level, to which Mr Fraser has committed his Government? How can the Government provide more money to Queensland and Tasmania, probably two of the most vocal of the small States that I am able to appreciate? How can we provide more money for New South Wales, as it is alleged this policy will do? Mr Willis states in this special article which appears in the same paper that published an editorial comment today about centralism and the reason to keep an affinity between the Commonwealth and State Liberal governments that he has to try to get public recognition of the fact that the 2 most populous States- New South Wales and Victoria- are not receiving an equitable share in the split up of income tax revenue that the Commonwealth returns to the States. Mr Willis goes on in the article to quote figures. I shall not weary the Senate with the figures but simply state that, in terms of the current formula, New South Wales and Victoria are receiving less per head of population than other States because the whole basis for the Commonwealth-State relationships in the post-war years has provided a topping up arrangement- a special grants arrangement for the small States.

Notwithstanding that, what the honourable senators who entered this debate yesterday and have entered similar debates on other occasions have failed to recognise is that on 19 January 1970 the 6 conservative State Premiers, Liberal and Country Party- at that stage in your State of South Australia, Mr President, Senator Steele Hall was then the Premier- put out a document about the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. This document pointed out that the outstanding feature of the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States in recent years had been the progressive deterioration in the financial position of the States under the Commonwealth controlled system of uniform income taxation, introduced originally as a temporary war-time measure. The document went on to produce a case for improvement in Commonwealth-State relationships. Arising out of that, the Commonwealth in 1971-72 agreed to return the payroll tax to the States and slightly to improve their financial position.

It is rather ironical and, I think, hypocritical to hear senators indicating that the whole problem with Commonwealth-State relationships began in December 1972 when a Labor government was elected. This document was an indictment, if ever there was an indictment, of the 6 ideologically committed Premiers of this country, who belonged to the same philosophy as that of the Government parties now here in Canberra. The documents indicated the sort of problem that existed in Commonwealth-State relationships. When I referred to the document in one of my earlier speeches I was chided by senators of the Government parties in those days because they were basing their philosophy at that time on the need to maintain the existing relationships.

What have those existing relationships meant in terms of Commonwealth-State relationships? I am sure that honourable senators opposite would not concede that the documents issued with the Budget last year are not a statistically accurate record of payments that have been made to the States and local government authorities. I refer to table 108 of Budget paper No. 7 entitled ‘Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities 1975-76’, which deals with the payments to or for the States and State government loan council programs. Commonwealth Government outgoings to the States in 1969-70 in their various forms of grants, revenue sharing and so on in totality represented some 35.5 per cent of Commonwealth Government income. In the year in which Mr Whitlam’s Government left office, that percentage had been increased to 38.1 per cent. This means that the indicting document to which I referred earlier had had some effect because the Commonwealth in fact increased the payment of moneys to the States by something like 2.6 per cent and in addition made available to the States the payroll tax.

What did the Labor Government do? It lifted this payment to the States year by year, percentage by percentage, to a higher level than it had been at the highest point in the 20-odd years in which we had had a conservative government in Canberra. In the 1972-73 Budget of Mr Snedden ‘s- at that time Mr McMahon was the Prime Minister- the percentage of Commonwealth Government outlays to the States was at the highest point at which it had been in the post war years. Revenue then flowed to the States to the degree of 31.8 per cent of Commonwealth Government income. In the 1975-76 Budget we lifted that percentage to 41.6 per cent, which represented, in terms of percentages over the 3-year period of 1973-74 to 1975-76, an increase of 137 per cent. Over that period- according to figures which have been provided by the Parliament- average weekly earnings increased by only 70 per cent. So the States in fact were considerably better off. They were receiving in real money terms almost twice as much as they had been receiving from the previous Government. I am talking about direct grants to the Statesmoney that has been paid to the States for their own essential services and for the provision of facilities.

Yesterday Senator Baume in his contribution had a great deal to say about the terrible deficit and the terrible expenditure of the Australian Government. As I have just indicated, in the last Budget 41.6 per cent of national revenue was paid to the States. I could add to that figure the payments that were made to the Australian Capital Territory and also to the Northern Territory. This outlay would then represent more than 50 per cent of the total receipts of the Australian Government. If we add to that payments that were made to individuals and institutions by the States and which are provided by the Federal Government we have the magnificent sum of 30.6 per cent of our Commonwealth revenue. We could then take into account payments made to people who qualify for building grants for hospitals, for example, payments to people associated with State emergency and welfare organisations, payments to hospitals and so on, in addition to the direct grants to which I referred previously. This gives a figure of 72.2 per cent of national revenue which goes to the State governments directly or to people in the States. This means, of course, that the Australian Government has only 27.8 per cent of its revenue to spend in its own right.

Yet we have editorial writers writing malarky- this absolute nonsense- in what is regarded as one of the most responsible newspapers in this country. They have suggested that the States are going to get an even better deal than they are getting now. That would mean that the Commonwealth’s share of its revenue- 27.8 per cent- would be reduced even further by increased payments to the States. Now, of course, we are going to decrease personal taxation. The Government is a contortionist if it can achieve all those objectives.

This so-called federalism is one of the greatest hoaxes of this century. It is completely misleading. It misrepresents the real basic position. Of course, at election time one could imagine that Mr Willis would try to suggest that he is going to do very well out of this new system. But if we collect X thousand million dollars in taxation and reduce it by Y to leave more money in the pockets of the private taxpayer, which is what the Government parties have said they are going to do we would reduce the X minus Y proportion by giving more to the States. At the same time Senator Carrick is out on the hustings, out on the steps of Parliament House, assuring the teachers and parents of this country that there will be no reduction in education expenditure and that the Government will recognise the plight of education, of the remedial teachers and the handicapped children, and extend the many benefits which we have become more aware of as a result of the establishment of the Schools Commission. Or is the Government intending to cut back on housing? This Government has a submission before it which suggests that unless energetic steps are taken to stimulate housing this country will face the worst housing crisis in the whole of the post-war period.

Or is the Government intending to cut back on pensions? I have been listening to Senator Guilfoyle fairly consistently and she gives me the impression that she is trying to retain as much as she can of the share of Commonwealth revenue for social welfare. In what areas will the Government make cuts? Will it be in defence expenditure? Heavens above, something like 9 per cent of Commonwealth revenue is allocated for defence. We should examine in more detail the 27.7 per cent of total revenue which the Australian Government has. We can take out of that 9 per cent for defence expenditure, take out the other debts and requirements for past borrowings, take out the amount given to public instrumentalities with which the Australian Government is associated and take out the public service salaries. It just does not make sense. That is why I believe that this whole argument about federalism is just a political ploy. It is just an electoral gimmick. It has no substance unless, as we asserted yesterday, there is a dramatic increase in State taxation. It might well be that Mr Fraser will want to honour one of his few election promises about reducing Federal taxation, but he can only do so at the expense of cutting back on his total program, his total responsibilities and his relationships with the States.

In addition Senator Carrick is getting a great amount of publicity about what he will do for local government. Honourable senators should look at the sorry plight that exists in respect of local government rates. In the capital cities and rural areas they average about $5 or $6 a week for an ordinary residential lot. Senator Carrick says that he will also give money to local government. Of course legislation that was introduced into the House today for the first time by Senator Withers proposes to change the existing formula through the Grants Commission and to have a fixed proportion of Commonwealth revenue allocated to the States. I advocated, campaigned, agitated and held conferences over many years in my period in local government to get that principle established. Are Government supporters contortionists? Are they able to get more out of the cake than is there?

Let us look at what Senator Carrick says of his great expectations. A special article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald concerning funding for local government states:

The Federal Minister responsible for federalism. Senator John Carrick, provides little hope for them. ‘In the year ahead,’ he said, ‘there will be no time for lavish promises. It will be a year of restraint. ‘

As honourable senators will appreciate there is a genuine fear in local government about changing even the meagre resources which the Whitlam Government was able to make available to local government in its 3 years of office. Unless substantial sums are made available to local government rates will continue to rise. That is a natural consequence of the increasing responsibility in the public sector of our country. People are demanding better recreational facilities, better libraries, better roads, better public transport, better hospitals and better schools. Many of those- not the last ones but some of those I referred to earlier- come within the province of local government responsibilities. One has to challenge and question the grounds upon which this Government bases its federalist policy.

Let me refer to the taxation problem. I think it is right and responsible that we should be raising these matters in the Parliament prior to people voting in the New South Wales election. Mr Fraser, when he was campaigning last year had this to say:

The taxpayers will keep the advantage of one tax return, but there will be a provision for the States to impose their own taxation.

Will the State governments impose taxation for local authorities? If it is to do so it contradicts what Senator Wright said yesterday. He said:

The man who raises the money should have the right to spend it.

In the new relationship between Commonwealth, State and local government, will the local authorities impose taxes? Will we leave that to the States to make the decision? The States themselves are very centralist. They are 6 central authorities. The people of north Queensland, from where Senator McAuliffe comes, believe that Brisbane is just as much a bogey man and a centralist place as is Canberra. The isolation from the centre where decisions are made creates that sort of reaction. If the States are to make the decision about a proportion of the tax being allocated to local government will the States, for example, remove the existing payments which are scheduled to be made available annually to the States? Will they abolish their own State commissions, their library payments and their other subsidies that they give to certain councils based on requirements in particular areas? Will the allocation be related to the fixed percentage of income which Senator Carrick suggests while on the other hand the money that is already available to local government will be taken away?

These matters have not been debated or publicly aired. Within local government there is a great deal of disquiet as to whether in fact even if the total objective of getting a fixed share of national revenue perforce through the States is realised, they might finish up worse off in terms of existing payments that are made at the moment, by Whitlam Government initiative, from the Commonwealth direct to local authorities and from the States to local authorities. I think that what Mr Fraser said at the Premiers Conference on 4 February is germane to the debate we had yesterday. He said:

If a State sought to raise no taxes and just lived on what came from the Commonwealth, I suppose it would be seen to be irresponsible when the power to raise or lower a tax was there and it was not using that power.

We were assailed in the debate yesterday for suggesting that there was a dangerous atmosphere about the federalism policy, that in fact we were giving to the States an opportunity to lift taxation and that whilst we in Canberra may take decisions which will lessen personal income tax at the Federal level we will be increasing it in the States. We are correct in asserting that in fact more taxation will be paid by the Australian people.

The only alternative to that, if the Government continues on its present economic policy, is to reduce services which are currently being provided. Senator Carrick himself, as the main spokesman for this policy, has been consistently shown to be the master of gobbledegook and double talk. One only has to read his answers to questions to appreciate that he does not understand the problems and the questions that have been raised with him. When speaking about equalisation, he said:

I repeat the unqualified assurance given by the Prime Minister and also by me in this Senate on behalf of the Government that the four less populous States which have traditionally achieved equalisation benefits under the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which was set up in 1933 by a Liberal government, will have their rights preserved in their entirety.

How the Government can do that when Sir Eric Willis in particular, and Mr Hamer, are demanding a greater share of national revenue for their States? Senator Carrick, in referring to the equalisation formula, which he said will be wholly maintained, gave a clear undertaking to the less populous States that they will not in any way suffer as a result of this policy. If more money is to be made available to the States I want somebody from the government benches to tell me how it is that a dollar spent by State governments in the public sector is more inflationary than a dollar spent by the Australian Government in allocating the money in the way that it has to education, welfare and so on.

We were subjected to the usual farrago of nonsense. It seems that what happens in the Government parties is that if a person becomes an outrageous and exaggerated spokesman for the Government, ultimately he will get a promotion into the Cabinet. That seems to be the format on which Senator Carrick has developed his attitudes in recent times. I see some dangerous tendencies developing in Senator Baume, who spent a greater part of his speech attacking centralist policies and referring to what he said was the failure to provide money to the States. I hope, through the documents which I made available, that I have shown that to be a false premise.

I should like to refer now to the platform of the Australian Labor Party. The editorial in the Press to which I referred earlier and the contributions of both Senator Carrick and Senator Baume to the debate yesterday indicated that the Labor Party was opposed to the States. It is clearly set out in the Australian Labor Party Platform Constitution and Rules that we believe in constitutional action through the State and Australian Parliaments, municipal and other statutory authorities. We have carried that out in the establishment of area improvement programs and the Australian Assistance Plan.

The whole strategy which this Government is applying to economic management principles in Australia is that government spending is creating the economic problems in this country and that it is the contributing factor to inflation. Conservatives, wherever they are, have been talking that way for the last couple of years. We sought to bring about a more equitable distribution of resources and a more equitable distribution of welfare payments. If that premise has any substance at all can someone tell me why in Sweden tax collections, measured against gross domestic product, amount to 50 per cent; in France to 42 per cent; in Canada to 39 per cent; in the United

States of America which is the very heart of capitalism, to 33 per cent; and last year in Australia to 32 per cent? If there was any recognition of the principles upon which the Government bases its whole economic rationale and if there was any substance in the allegations of honourable senators opposite, one would imagine that those nations would be high on the list of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries suffering from inflation. They are not. They are at the bottom of the list. When are we going to get away from this simplistic philosophy that was developed by Adam Smith a century or two ago and get down to a proper understanding of the way in which the system operates in this country- a system which relies upon capital and a system over which governments have limited power?

Senator Wright is the very last person who should be talking about economic management principle. He put his signature to a document in 1959 relating to constitutional rights. He supported the idea that the Commonwealth government had, under various provisions of the Constitution, legislative powers which could be exercised so as to affect the state of the national economy but that the powers collectively which the Parliament possessed did not permit the development of an integrated economic policy. That document goes on at greater length but I will not refer to it further other than to draw attention to the fact that the Government’s federalism policy will give to the State Premiers an opportunity to take independent action in respect of taxation that will not necessarily be related to a national economic management policy. If in fact at the beginning of the year the Government established a fixed rate of income based on income tax then if there is a fall in farm incomes, for example, or some other fluctuation in our trade relations which affects employment and that level is not reached, what does the Government think will be the resources available to it to make up the leeway quickly in order to exercise sound management principles at the national level?

We will be surrendering to six independent State Premiers the right to make decisions which will affect decision making about the economy. Even a conservative like Senator Wright was prepared to put his signature to a document relating to constitutional rights some 17 or 18 years ago. It indicates, of course, how simple the Government’s thinking is; how inadequate its thinking is and how dangerous its responsibilities are when it believes that, with all the ills in the economic management field and all the ills in the relationship of Commonwealth, State and local government, all the problems will be signed away by the simple application of a federalism policy designed by one senator, Senator Carrick. He has not impressed us with his basic understanding of economics or of government administration since he has been in this place.

Senator McLAREN:
South Australia

– In speaking to the first reading stage of the Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1 976, 1 want to take the opportunity, as it is the first reading stage of the money Bill, again in this place to seek to incorporate in Hansard a list of names. I have been refused leave to incorporate this list in Hansard by honourable senators opposite on no fewer than 4 occasions. What is more, my intentions were misrepresented on one of those occasions by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood) in the previous debate. On page 1200 of Senate Hansard of 8 April 1976 Senator Greenwood, in his endeavours to prevent me from doing what I thought was right and proper, amongst other things said:

Furthermore, there is always the risk of inaccuracy. Senator McLaren sought to have read into Hansard the names of people which were contained in a list which was tabled in this chamber on 9 September 1975. That list was inaccurate. On 30 September Senator Cavanagh said in the Senate with respect to that particular list-

This is recorded in Hansard. Senator Cavanagh, when he was the Minister for Customs and Excise, said that there were some anomalies in his list which had been first tabled in the Parliament. But, of course, the list I wanted to incorporate in Hansard was the amended list which was tabled on 30 September and which I was led to believe, by the statement of the Minister, contained no inaccuracies. I want to refresh the minds of some people who may think that there were inaccuracies. I shall read the statement which was attached to the list of names when it was tabled in this place on 30 September last year. It states:

The attached list contains the names of all firms and individuals who are known to have purchased in 1973 more than 400 tons of fertilisers, both phosphatic and nitrogenous, that attracted bounty or subsidy.

This list includes all names supplied by the various producers and distributors. It also includes certain names subsequently identified by officers of the Department, as having been supplied by resellers and not included in the original list supplied by producers and distributors.

The names of purchasers marked * were not included in lists tabled in the Senate on 9th September, 1975 because:

they had been identified as NOT direct beneficiaries in that they were resellers or agents; and

one purchaser which further inquiries revealed did NOT, in fact, purchase 400 tons during the period involved.

Two purchasers marked ** were also not included in the lists already tabled in the Senate, because a producer had included them in that portion of the list covering resellers. Subsequent inquiries revealed that these purchasers were users, Le. direct beneficiaries.

This is the document which I sought to have incorporated in Hansard. As I said, 1 was frustrated on no fewer than 4 occasions when I sought leave. Furthermore, during the committee stage of a certain Bill the Chairman of Committees upheld a point of order in my favour when Senator Greenwood tried to prevent me incorporating those names. I then set out to read the names into Hansard. I think I got 4 names read into the Hansard when Senator Greenwood again took a point of order. After some debate on that point of order during the committee stage when an honourable senator is allowed only 1 5 minutes in which to speak, in the short time left to me I was able to say thank you, Mr Chairman. The Chairman then said that my time had expired. Then, Senator Chaney, the Government Whip, moved the gag. Again, this was to prevent my reading those names into the Hansard after I had been told by the Chairman of Committees that I was in order in endeavouring to do so.

As I said on that occasion, I thought it was a travesty of justice that a document which had been tabled in the Parliament containing names which had been legitimately acquired under section 14 of the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act could not be read. In the Senate during the adjournment debate last night we found that the Government supported one of its members in tabling an unsigned document. He could not vouch for the accuracy of the document and it had 2 pages missing, yet Government members supported that proposition. The document was tabled. It slurs anybody who might be mentioned in it. We have no verification of the truth of the document. I have tried on four or five occasions to have incorporated in Hansard a document which, as I say, has been compiled under the Act. The names have been acquired under the Act. It is an authentic document. It has been tabled in the Parliament. I know that the Senate wants to get through the Bills on the notice paper before we adjourn at 5 o’clock. To save further time I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard this list of names which was tabled in the Parliament on 30 September 1975.


-Is leave granted?

Senator Wright:

– No.


– Leave is not granted.

Senator McLAREN:

– I have no alternative left to me now but to read the 16 pages of names into Hansard. I am entitled to do this under the

Standing Orders during the first reading stage of a money Bill. If Senator Wright wants to delay the business of the Senate by refusing leave, I shall read those names into Hansard.

Senator Wright:

– I simply refuse leave in the absence of the Ministers in charge of the business to which Senator McLaren has referred. I have no objection to this document. I suggest that the honourable senator consult those Ministers and at an appropriate time next week he could ask for leave. It is in the decision of those Ministers. I am only speaking in the absence of the Ministers who managed the business previously.

Senator Cavanagh:

– The Minister in charge of the House does not count? Why did the honourable senator refuse leave?

Senator Wright:

– Of course Senator Guilfoyle counts. It was after consulting with her that I spoke.

Senator McLAREN:

– In view of the action taken by those Ministers on previous occasions I have no desire to postpone what I am endeavouring to do. If the person in charge of government business has conferred with Senator Wright and if they have agreed that leave will not be given, I shall read those names into Hansard. It will take quite some time because there are 16 pages of names. Page one of the list which was tabled in the Senate states:

Survey of Fertilizer Sales

New South Wales

List of beneficiaries and agents/resellers supplied by Australian Fertilizers Ltd

An asterisk ( * ) indicates agent/reseller.

Anderson, T. H. and B. K.., Armidale; Andrews, Carl, Singleton; Auscott Pty Ltd, Warren; Auscott Pty Ltd, Narrabri; Auscott Pty Ltd, Trangie; Baldry & Sons, Wallendbeen; Bayley Park Pastoral Co., Armidale; Bell, P. J. and R., Goulburn; Blake, E. A., Walcha; Bowden & Schadel Pty Ltd, Newcastle; Burindi Station Pty Ltd, Barraba; Byron Agricultural Co., Narromine; Caldwell, N. W. and J. W., Young; Cameron, D. and B. L., Wollomombi; Camperdown Pastoral Co., Armidale; Clarke & Sons, Narromine; Clerkness Pastoral Co., Bundarra; Emu Creek Estate, Walcha; Fagan, Mrs Jean Mary, Lyndhurst; Falkiner/Brereton Skerret/Foxlow/Bungendore; Field Pty Ltd, Sydney; Fox Investments Pty Ltd, Avalon Beach; Funny Hill Pastoral Co., Crookwell; Girrakool Grazing Co., Armidale; Gostwyck Estates, Uralla; Graham, E. J., Coolac: Graham, Herbert Lloyd, Coolac; Haslingden, John Alexander, Bombala.

In view of the time this will take I again seek leave to have these names incorporated in Hansard.


-Is leave granted?

Senator Cotton:

– I intend to grant leave because I believe this is public property. The list has been published before somewhere else. I think it is quite futile to waste our time reading out the names. Leave is granted.


– There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-



List of beneficiaries and agents/resellers supplied by Australian Fertilizers Ltd.

Anderson, T. H. and B. K., Armidale

Andrews, Carl, Singleton

Auscott Pty Ltd, Warren

Auscott Pty Ltd, Narrabri

Auscott Pty Ltd, Trangie

Baldry and Sons, Wallendbeen

Bayley Park Past. Co., Armidale

Bell, P. J. and R., Goulburn

Blake, E. A., Walcha

Bowdenn and Schadel Pty Ltd, Newcastle

Burindi Station Pty Ltd, Barraba

Byron Agricultural Co., Narromine

Caldwell, N. W. and J. W., Young

Cameron, D. and B. L., Wollomombi

Camperdown Past. Co., Armidale

Clarke and Sons, Narromine

Clerkness Past. Co., Bundarra

Emu Creek Estate, Walcha

Fagan, Mrs Jean Mary, Lyndhurst


Field Pty Ltd, Sydney

Fox Investments Pty Ltd, Avalon Beach

Funny Hill Past. Co., Crookwell

Girrakool Grazing Co., Armidale

Gostwyck Estates, Uralla

Graham, E. J., Coolac

Graham, Herbert Lloyd, Coolac

Haslingden, John Alexander, Bombala

Kelly, J. W., Boorowa

Killara (Quirindi) Pty Ltd, Quirindi

Kilrea Pastoral Co., Boro

Knight Holdings, North Ryde

Kooba Station, Darlington Point

Koomooroo Pty Ltd, Quirindi

Landora Pty Ltd, Wee Waa

Laurie, T. W., Taree

Lawson, T. N., Double Bay

Ledgworth Pty Ltd, Yass

Lyndhurst Grazing Co., Armidale

Lynoch Pty Ltd, Armidale

MacLeod, James D., Sydney

Maxsons Pty Ltd, Yenda

McKillop and Sons Pty Ltd, Narromine

McLaughlin Simmental, Hill Grove

McLeish Est. Pty Ltd, Nundle

Merced Pty Ltd, Wee Waa

Merriman and Sons N.S.W. Pty Ltd, Yass

Merryvale Pty Ltd, Yass

Mitchell, W. J. and H. C, Kingstown

Mould, Ron M., Nimmitabel

Naroo Past. Co. Pty Ltd, Scone

Naroo Past. Co. Pty Ltd, Forbes

Naroo Past. Co. Pty Ltd, Boorowa

Oakleigh Holdings Pty Ltd, Canowindra

Quamby Partnership, Wongarbon

Rose Bros., Nimmitabel

Scottish Aust Co. Ltd, Sydney

Sullivan, Keith, Euchareena

Thompson, A. B., Bathurst

Trelana Pty Ltd. Uralla

Triple C. Ranch Pty Ltd. Wee Waa

Webster, G. J., Binda

Wombramurra Pty Ltd, Nundle

Woombi Past. Co., Wandsworth

Wright and Sons Pty Ltd, Armidale

Yonda Past. Co., Guyra

De Luca Bros, Tharbogang

Dept. of Agriculture, Sydney

Dept. of Capital Territory, A.C.T.

List of beneficiaries resulting from Departmental survey of agents/resellers

Finance Corporation of Aust. Pty Ltd, Inverell

A.M.P. Society, Myall Lakes

  1. K. Livermore, Taree
  2. K. Hammond, Taree

Auscott Pty Ltd, Grafton

Methco Steel Exports Pty Ltd, Grafton

Banyabba Pastoral Co., Grafton

  1. J. Webster, Binda via Crookwell

Rosslyn Pastoral Co., Rosslyn


Beneficiaries, agents/resellers supplied by The Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia

  1. N. and R. N. Bainger Pty Ltd, Frances
  2. A. Balmer, Maldon

Barrama Pastoral Co., Coleraine

Stanley J. Blackmore, Mannibadar

  1. N., G. W. Box, Tarwin Lower

John Calvert, Geelong

Noel Calvert, Streatham

Caupaul Proprietors, Casterton

Ronald J. Chenery, Linton

  1. C. Chirnside (Partnership), Little River
  1. Pairthome and Son Pty Ltd, Cape Bridgewater

Miley R. Freeman, Tallarook

Latrobe Valley Water and Sewerage Board, Traralgon

Sir Maurice A. E. Mawby, Keith M. B., R. J. McCourt, Beachport Thomas McCourt, Beachport John W. McDonald, Sale

  1. L. B., J. C. B. Powell, Werribee A. T. Reid, Yass

Rural Finance and Settlement Commission, Melbourne (Estate) James Russell (decd), Geelong

Phillip Russell, Beaufort

Salt Creek Pastoral Co., Woorndoo

  1. M., H. M. and E. M. Trimble, Pine Lodge
  1. B. Watson and Sons, Tallygaroopna R. C, E. C. Webb, Seymour

Westlands Pastoral Co. Pty Ltd, Altona North Woodhouse Pastoral Co. Pty Ltd, Melton South Wurrock Estate, Romewood

Beneficiaries resulting from Departmental survey of agents /resellers

Aubedal Pty Ltd, Lang Lang

Cobungra Pty Ltd, Omeo

Cuthnertson R. J., Drouin

Turnbull Bros. Pty Ltd, Ardmona

Drysdale Estates Pty Ltd, Euroa


Beneficiaries supplied by Consolidated Fertilizers Ltd.

Howstan Pty Ltd, Hunter Hill

Caloundra Downs Pastoral Co., Beerwah

Golden Mile Orchard Pty Ltd, Mundubbera

Tully River Station, Euramo

Stanbroke Pastoral Co., Melbourne

Northern Agricultural Development Corp., Katherine

Australian Investment Co. Ltd, Rockhampton

Bundaberg Sugar Co., Bundaberg

Ord Beef Pty Ltd, Kwinana

  1. M. McTaggart, Wilson and Wilson, Redshirt Pastoral Co., Loukedbye Pastoral Co., Kiora Pastoral Co. Pty Ltd, trading as Calliope Station, Gladstone

Peter Dane Pty Ltd, Mossman

Mudginberri Station, Darwin

Landora Pty Ltd, Sydney

Byrne Hart Pty Ltd, Kanoanga

Beneficiaries resulting from Departmental survey of agents/resellers (Note: Agents/resellers’ names were obtained by Departmental investigations of CFL’s records.)

Lando Enterprises, Ayr

ATG Holdings, Pittsworth

  1. & V. Rossi, Aloomba
  2. W. Rasmussen Pty Ltd, Alligator Creek
  3. D. Pratt and Pratt, Calen

Synca Pastoral Co., Seville, Casino

  1. W. Millar, Casino

Ralph Grosby, Tabulam North

Bundaberg Irrigation Supplies Pty Ltd, Bundaberg

D.N. Thorp, via Gympie

Tinana Development Pty Ltd, Gympie


List supplied by Adelaide & Wallaroo Fenilizers Ltd contained beneficiaries only. No investigation of resellers was necessary.

  1. L. Ackland, Tintinara

Adelaide Engine Service, Kingston

Amherst Pty Ltd, Keith

Artimore Props, Tintinara

  1. B. Ashby and Sons Pty Ltd, Tintinara

Baines Bros, Karkoo

  1. G. and H. G. Bell, Tintinara

Bundella Industries, Naracoone

  1. A. Cameron and Sons, Lucindale
  2. J. and N. I. Cane, Tintinara

Carcuma Pastoral Co., Coonalpyn

Davies, Estate J. S. Spalding

Dayspring Development Co. Pty Ltd, Tintinara

Dehy Fodders, Coonalpyn (Coomandook)

  1. Gibbs and Son, Lucindale (Millicent, Kingston)

Gilbrae Pastoral Co., Coonalpyn

  1. T. Goodall, Coonalpyn
  2. E. Glover and Sons, Yeelanna

Hindmarsh Park Props, Kingston (Keith)

  1. A. and F. O. Hooper, Tintinara
  2. R. Hurst and Sons, Kingston (Millicent)
  3. T. Hurst and Son, Kingston (Millicent, Reddy Creek)
  4. V. James and Son, Lucindale
  5. S. Johnson and Sons, Lucindale (Naracoorte)

Kentish and Sons, Mount Gambier (Penola, Wandillo )

Koondi Pastoral Co., Mount Gambier ( Burrungule )

  1. E. and M. R. Lehman, Keith

Logan Rock Pty Ltd, Tintinara

  1. A. McBride and Son, Kingston (Reedy Creek)
  2. A. M. and P. McBride, Kingston (Avenue)

McBride Props, Reedy Creek (Kingston, Lucindale, Naracoorte)

  1. A. and A. G. McGregor, Padthaway
  2. G. McLaren and Son, Kingston

Mount Penny Station, Tintinara ( Yumali)

Nangwarry Pastoral Co., Penola (Mount Gambier, Glenroy, Kalangadoo)

Nonning Pastoral Co., Naracoorte

Nonhey Bros, Tintinara

Peebles Proprietors, Wolseley (Serviceton, Bordertown, Serviceton, Wolseley, Bordertown, Serviceton, Wolseley)

Pitlochry Station, Keith (Tintinara)

  1. M. Sutherland and Sons, Millicent

The Aia Exmoor, Naracoorte

Tolcairn Proprietors, Keith

  1. E. Truran Pty Ltd, Bordertown
  2. H. and Y. V. Varcoe, Millicent

Warreena Pastoral Co., Bordertown (Tintinara, Keith, Wolseley)

West Gums, Kingston

  1. H. Wylie, Keith (Cannawigara, Bordertown)
  2. W. Young and Son, Naracoorte


CSBP and Farmers Ltd have no end-user customers. The Co. supplied the following list of distributors who purchased quantities reflecting $5,000 benefit. The tabled list resulted from a Departmental survey of these distributors.

Westralian Farmers Co-op. Ltd:

Accfin Pty Ltd, Esperance

  1. and M. Adams, Mount Barker

Arinya Grazing Co., Beyup Brook

Armadale Holdings Pty Ltd, Penh

  1. V. and C. V. Arnold, Grass Patch
  2. and I. and J. E. Beaumond, Geraldton

Beaument West, Albany

Beef Enterprises, Esperance

Benedictine Community, New Norcia

John Bowman and Co., Carnamah

  1. W. Brown and Co., Coorow
  2. H. Brown and Sons, Bruce Rock

Canberra West, Albany

Casatti Chapman Valley, Perth

  1. G. and R. E. Claxton and Son, Mingenew
  2. Connaughton and Co., Three Springs
  3. R. and S. M. Correy and Son, Eneabba
  4. T. Davies and Co., York
  5. Emmott and Sons, Moonjin

Esperance Past, Co. Pty Ltd, Esperance

Fielder Downs Pty Ltd, Esperance

  1. S. and L. J. Flavell, Yuna
  2. C. Fillugge and Co., Katanning
  3. P. Flynn and Co., Kojonup
  4. C. Garnett and Son, Gnowangerup
  5. H. Huesler and Son, Three Springs

Haddon Rigg Pty Ltd, Namogin

  1. E. V. and C. M. Hodgson, West Gin Gin
  2. G. and L. V. Johnson, Northhampton
  3. P. Joubert and Co., Gnowangerup
  4. V. Jupp, Geraldton
  5. E. Kett and Sons, Cannington

Lannagan Farms, Canna

Lanwan Pastoral Co., Esperance

  1. D. Lindsay and Co., Calingiri

Linkletters Place, Esperance

Lynford, c/o C. W. Houghton, Victoria Park

C J. and L. M. McDougal, Pingrup

  1. N. Marriott and Co., Frandland

Mount Hill Pastoral Co., Walkaway

Naroo Pastoral Co., Albany

  1. J. Kielman and Sons, Cannington

Medannio, Jerramungup

Nyabing Pastoral Co., Bunbury

K.. R. and D. H. O’Keeffe, Gnowangarup

O’Neil andO’Neil, Watheroo

Onya Park, Ongerup

Richard F. Overhue, Esperance

  1. and N. Palmer, Collie
  2. S. Partridge, Brunswick
  3. S. Peron, Moora
  4. W. and M. P. Piercely and Son, Esperance
  5. Piercey and Son, Esperance
  6. A. and T. Polinelli, Boulder
  7. F. Pugh and Co., Namikup

Pyle Bros, Mount Many Peaks

  1. Rayner and Sons, Wubin
  2. A. Scott, Eneabba
  3. M. Sharkey and Co., Woodanilling

South Coast Development Co., Esperance

D- C. and G. R. Spinks, Jerramungup

  1. J. and S. M. Stone, Borden
  2. Thomas and Co., Three Springs
  3. W. and P. J. Thomas, Mingenew
  4. O. and M. B. Vanzetti, Moora
  5. Vlahou and Sons, Yuna

Westwithy Past Co., Bluff Point

Young River Station, Young River

White Wells Past. Co., Parenjori

Wilaust Pty Ltd, Esperance

  1. J. Williamson, Geraldton

B, Wilson, Esperance

Wrights Ltd, Gosnells

  1. and M. Ladyman, Kalanny
  2. and M. Webster, Tincurrin

Ord River-Manufactured by CFL Qld supplied through Westralian Farmers as distributor

Boab Farms, Kununnurra 830 Farms, Kunnunnurra

  1. W. L. Forrest and Co., Kununnurra

Western Livestock Ltd:

Dookanooka Pastoral Co., Three Springs

Frankland River Grazing Co., Cranbrook

  1. T. Field and Co., Yericoin

Ferguson and Lockyer. Yericoin

  1. D. and E. J. Milner, Yericoin
  2. S. and G. Latham, Ballidu

Tom the Cheap Pty Ltd, Perth

Wilroy Pastoral Co., Mullews

Worsley Timber Pty Ltd, West Perth

Dalgety Australia Ltd:

Arkell and Wilmer, Yandanooka

Cail Bros, Wubin

  1. R. Cameron and Co., Three Springs

Elamourne Pastoral Co., Canna

  1. F. and E. Exten, Yuna
  2. A. Fabling and Co., Canna
  3. and M. Hill, Gnowangerup

Jebarjup Pastoral Co., Cranbrook

Lake Carmody Pastoral Co., Hyden

McCarthy Rock Dev., Holt Rock, via Newdegate

Martindale Pty Ltd (Bullsbrook), Perth

Mary Springs Grazing Co., Northampton

  1. M. and J. H. Mitchell and R. and L. Bartlette, Arrino

North Gully Farming Co., Geraldton

Northern Cattle Co., Moore

  1. J. Moore, Cranbrook

Orandeen Pastoral Co. (Esperance), Cottesloe

Orleans Farms, Esperance

  1. and U. D. Reed and Son, Arrino

Shas-Lee, Esperance

Thagard Downey Pty Ltd, (Mullwea), Perth

  1. and L. Watson and Son, Irwin

Wepowie Pastoral Co., Northampton

Wong Wong Pastoral Co., Watheroo

Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort Ltd:

Boyagin Valley Farm, Brookton

Clearemont Speedway Pty Ltd, Perth

Walker Grazing Co., Brookton

  1. F. Cole and Co., Bruce Rock

Shepherd and Co., Kwolyin

Webb and Co., Babakin

Sedgwick and Son, Mount Lawley

  1. R. and J. Tozer, Kondinin
  2. A. and N. E. Kirby and Sons, Jitarning
  3. and G. Alvaro and Co., Merredin

Taywood Farms Pty Ltd, Merredin

  1. T. and B. E. Roberts, Nukarni
  2. A. Wahlsten and Son, Walgoolan
  3. W. Flavel, Narrogin
  4. Hodgson and Son, Nedlands

Anna Downs Pty Ltd, Peppermint Grove

  1. M. B. Edwards and Son, Moore River, via Gingin

Kargotich Bros, Byford

Mrs J. J. Matthews, c/o Perth

Snaigow, Armadale

Western Stud Farms, Perth

Graham D. Bell, Peppermint Grove

Burlington Farms, Coomberdale

  1. L. and G. W. Edwards, Badgingarra

Joanna Plains, Tamworth, N.S.W.

Ranfurly Pastoral Co., Moora

  1. and Y. Roberts Chelsea, Moora
  2. A. Rigg and A. Patton, Perth

Nedlands Pastoral Co., Dandaragan

K.V.Scott, Watheroo

  1. E. Williams and Sons, Moora

Woodsome Estates, Walebing

Yabba Downs Pastoral Co., Dandaragan

Dr J. C. Bremner, Esperance

Duke of Orleans Bay Pastoral Co., Esperance

Esperance Land and Development, Esperance

Torradup Pty Ltd, Esperance

Leighton Farms, Ardross

McMora AACM, Esperance

Mayo Pastoral Co., Hamilton Hill

Munglinup Farmers, Esperance

Neds Corner Pastoral Co. Pty Ltd, Esperance

Soothsay and Co., Esperance

Westpoint Pastoral Co., Esperance

Wilaust Pty Ltd, Esperance

  1. E. and R. C. Bairstow, Lake Grace

Carstairs Farming Co., Perenjori

Nanekine Pastoral Co., Canna

Grindley Partners, Mosman Park

Fielder Downs W.A. Pty Ltd, Tamworth, N.S.W.

Kappa Pty Ltd, Esperance

  1. and A. Hunt and Sons, Three Springs
  2. F. and A. M. Barrett, Irwin

Chilimony Bowes Merino Stud, Perth

Norman Dempster and Sons, Irwin

Gabyon Pastoral Co. Pty Ltd, Irwin

  1. J. McKay and Co., Binnu
  2. E. Oliver, Walkaway
  3. E. and B. H. Teakie, Northampton

FMS Pty Ltd, Eregulca Spring Ltd, Perth

Nangetty Pastoral Co., Mingenew

  1. C. Newton and Co., Mingenew

Ivan C. Obst and Sons, Mingenew

Randord Investments Pty Ltd, Bellevue

  1. F. Smart Pty Ltd, Mingenew
  2. J. and K. Stokes, Mingenew

Yarragadee Pastoral Co. Pty Ltd, Mingenew

  1. L. Keeffe and Co., Muliewa

Marlingu Pastoral Co., Muliewa

  1. E. Stagg and Co., Muliewa
  2. C. Dempster and Sons, Grass Valley

Hasely Stud Farms, Toodyay

  1. W. Leeson and Sons, Northampton
  2. J. Posselt and Co., Northampton
  3. F. and I. Barrett-Lennard, Kondut

Casuarina Enterprises, Wongan Hills

Glenvar Pastoral Co., Wongan Hills

  1. Sadler and Co., Wongan Hills
  2. M. Sewell and Co., Wongan Hills
  3. and D. Walker and Sons, Cadoux
  4. H. and J. V. Pearse, Wubin
  5. J. Pearse and Co., Wubin
  6. and N. Grazing Co., Wubin

Marshall Hood and Co., Albany

  1. Stoney and Son, South Stirlings

Caralinga Grazing Co., Borden

Smart and Humphrys and Sons, Gnowangerup

Stone Bros Glenisia, Borden

Wemyss Estates Pty Ltd, Gnowangerup

  1. O. and G. Williams, Armadale
  2. and E. J. Fuller, Jerramungup
  3. J. and P. M. Jenzen, Jerramungup
  4. W. Colling and Co., Katanning
  5. T. and D. James, Broomehill

Kingsley James and Co., Katanning

  1. A. Larter and Sons, Katanning

Palomar Estate, Broomehill

  1. J. and O. P. Bell and Sons, Mount Barker
  2. W. Griffiths and Co., Cranbrook

Graham Moore and Co., Kojonup

  1. Reid and Co., Kojonup
  2. O. Timms and Co., Kojonup
  3. J. and M. M. Buller, Darkan

Congeling Park Grazing Co., Williams

Dunleath Pastoral Co., Darkan

Aubrey Fowler and Co., Williams

Irevena Pty Ltd, Williams

Peters Ice Cream (W.A.) Ltd:

  1. W. Pearson and Son, Brunswick Junction


List of Distributors supplied by Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Aust. Ltd

List of probable beneficiaries supplied by H.Z. Co. of Aust. Ltd. An asterisk (*) indicates the name was deleted after departmental investigation showed insufficient quantities had been used.

V.D.L. Co., Smithton

Estate of G. E. Archer, Launceston

North Eastern Pastoral Co., Gladstone

Benham Estate, Avoca

Fingal Pastoral Co., Fingal

Tullochgorum Est., Tullochgorum

  1. A. Cameron, Ross
  2. J. Dowling, Ross

Mount Morriston Est., Ross

Connorville Station Pty Ltd, Cressy

  1. A. Farquhar, Scottsdale

Evercreech Estate, Fingal

Leverington ‘ Pty Ltd, Cressy

Panshanger Estate, Longford

  1. and C. Von Eibra, Ross

Cape Portland Estate, Gladstone

  1. L. Archer, Jericho
  2. T. Bignell, Bothwell

Bisdet Bros, Melton

  1. V. Bowden and Son, Bothwell
  2. M. and A. Bowden, Bothwell
  3. T. Downie, Gretna

Hermitage Pty Ltd, Hermitage

  1. H. and F. J. McShane, Stonehenge
  2. Morrison and Son, Oatlands
  3. J. and R. J. Nicholas, Antill Ponds
  4. B. K. Pitt and Partners, Ouse
  5. K. Taylor and Co., Jericho

Winspear Bros, Glenora

Glenelg Estate, Gretna

  1. Lawrence, Bothwell
  2. R. and N. K. Parsons, Hamilton
  3. Ashton- Jones, Ouse
  4. A. Ellis and Sons, Bothwell

Doug. P. Cotton, Swansea

  1. B. Edgell and Son, Bothwell
  2. F. Ferguson, Grinstone Bay
  3. T. Reardon, Bothwell

Sole beneficiary resulting from departmental survey of distributors:

Reekara Park Grazing Enterprises, King Island

Originally included in that part of AFLs list relating to resellers.

Senator McLAREN:

-I thank Senator Cotton for at last deciding that I should be granted leave and for his admission that this is a public document. The reason I want these names incorporated in Hansard is that many people have come to my office and have wanted to be informed as to who were the people in receipt of these massive amounts of money.

Senator Durack:

– Why did you not give them a copy?

Senator McLAREN:

– I wanted it in a public document as well. As I said on a previous occasion in this chamber, it is very difficult to get a document and to copy it, and there is no point in doing so when it can be found in the Hansard. I do not intend to delay the Senate any longer. I again thank Senator Cotton for his wisdom in granting leave.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a first time.

Second Reading

Senator COTTON:
New South WalesMinister for Industry and Commerce · LP

– I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I shall open with a few remarks of my own. This has been a fascinating debate about wheat. The word wheat has hardly ever been mentioned.

This Bill, complementary to the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Amendment Bill 1976, is a minor measure of a machinery nature to expand the definition of ‘wheat products’ as presently contained in the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act 1974 and to transplant the definition to the Wheat Export Charge Act. That Act imposes levies on exports of wheat and wheat products, under defined circumstances, the proceeds of which are used to support the operation of the Wheat Prices Stabilisation Fund.

The existing definition, which includes within the jurisdiction of the Australian Wheat Board commodities ‘produced mainly from wheat or other wheat products’, has been found in the light of experience to be potentially deficient in that the Board may not be able to exercise its powers and functions in relation to exports of certain commodities produced partly from wheat or wheat products, in particular stockfeed and petfeed preparations. Thus, the existing definition has been expanded by clause 3 of the Bill to cover by regulations, when desirable, the prescription of substances produced partly but not mainly from wheat or wheat products. The opinion of the First Parliamentary Counsel is that the definition should more properly reside in the Wheat Export Charge Act than in the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act. Clause 3 brings this about. I commend the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) adjourned.

page 1429


First Reading

Debate resumed from 25 March on motion by Senator Cotton:

That the Bill be now read a first time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a first time.

Second Reading

Senator COTTON:
New South WalesMinister for Industry and Commerce · LP

– I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill is complementary to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill 1976 and the Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1976. The Wheat Products Export Adjustment Act, which this Bill amends, authorises the Australian Wheat Board, in connection with the collection of the export charge under the Wheat Export Charge Act, to require exporters of wheat products to pay to the Board the difference between the export price and the home consumption price of wheat when the former exceeds the latter. This Bill proposes minor machinery amendments consequent upon the definition of ‘wheat products’ being transferred, by the 2 Bills it accompanies, from the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act to the Wheat Export Charge Act. I commend the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.

page 1430


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 25 March on motion by Senator Cotton:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Senator GEORGES:

– I take the opportunity to speak briefly on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill 1976 to give both Government senators and Opposition senators who wish to speak on this Bill the opportunity to catch up with the rate at which the business of the Senate has proceeded. Over the past few minutes it has accelerated beyond our expectations. We are now debating the motion for the second reading of this money Bill. It has been brought to our notice by an irate wheat farmer that we have debated these wheat Bills for more than a week and have not mentioned one word about wheat. Such people really do not understand the system. They do not understand that in the debate on the motion for the first reading of these money Bills it is possible for any honourable senator to speak on any matter which is relevant or irrelevant to the subject of wheat. Up to this point we have spoken on matters that are quite irrelevant to the subject of wheat, and we need to apologise to that irate wheat farmer and explain to him just why that is so.

I am not part of what is termed the rural rump of the Labor Party. I have certain basic feelings concerning rural industry. There are basic positions which I take from time to time in support of the Party. The Labor Party has a good record in regard to its rural policy in spite of the attempts by the Government when in opposition to decry us and to define us a sectional Party. The attack on the Labor Party in recent months has been quite unfair, especially the attempt to define it as a sectional Party. The Australian Labor Party has, I think, represented the rural interests far more effectively in its 3 years in office than did previous governments in 23 years. I am tempted to go on and speak further on this matter but I have the feeling that the debate can now proceed. I think that the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) may wish to make a statement, and perhaps some other honourable senators may wish to contribute to the debate.

Senator COTTON:
New South WalesMinister for Industry and Commerce · LP

- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement in relation to this debate.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator COTTON:

-I am grateful for the intrusion of that noted wheat farmer, Senator Georges. Like me he is a person of little experience in that field but because of his broad humanity he has an understanding of the total problem to Australia. I also noted his remarks about the great feeling that people in the farming community have for the Labor Party. That was demonstrated by the way in which they voted for the Labor Party at the last election. Seriously, I am indebted to the honourable senator. I suggest to the Senate that it would be very useful, now that we have got ourselves on to the subject of wheat, if we debated cognately the Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1976, the Wheat Products Export Adjustment Amendment Bill 1976 and this Bill.

Senator Georges:

– That is acceptable.

New South Wales

– The Senate is being asked to consider an amendment to the Wheat Stabilization Act which was first introduced by the Chifley Labor Government in 1948. The Bills before the Senate were introduced last year into the House of Representatives by Dr Patterson but they lapsed at the second reading stage when the infamous action of the Governor-General brought about the untimely end of the Twenty-ninth Parliament. In the circumstances, the Opposition naturally will be supporting all 3 Bills.

The purpose of the Bills is to refine the wheat stabilisation plans currently in operation. The purpose of the Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1976 and the Wheat Products Export Adjustment Amendment Bill 1 976 is to expand the definition of ‘wheat products’ as contained in the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1 974 and to transfer the definition to the Wheat Export Charge Act in order to include, for example, preparations which are wheat based. The legislation authorises the Australian Wheat Board to collect from exporters of wheat products the difference between the home consumption price of wheat content when the export price exceeds the home consumption price. Both of the Bills are therefore somewhat of a machinery nature.

The transference into a charge Act- the Wheat Export Charge Act- of the power to tax exports is a machinery matter, and the Opposition agrees with the submission and the argument which the Parliamentary Counsel made available to us. The Wheat Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill is another refinement of a plan which has had the support of all political parties since first introduced by the Chifley Labor Government in 1948. It is worth recalling, of course, the very numerous attempts that were made in the 1920s and the 1930s, as well as in the 1940s, to achieve a more stabilised price. There is no doubt that as a result of that early legislation and the refinements which have taken place in subsequent years the community as a whole, and the rural community in particular, has benefited and is aware of the benefits of the stabilisation schemes, of the cost to the community of stabilisation, and of the cost of not having stabilisation schemes. It is one of the progressive pieces of legislation which fortunately has enjoyed a fair measure of support both in the political parties and in the community.

Each rural scheme should not be considered in isolation, however, as benefiting or handicapping a particular section of the community; they should be considered as a part of an integrated economic policy- a policy which should seek to achieve the full and effective use of the resources of the community, equitable distribution of wealth, and social welfare in accordance with the aspirations of the community as a whole. This legislation does play some part in that aspiration. Rural policy should not be viewed as a sectional interest policy benefiting or affecting only the non-urban communities at the expense of the urban communities. Honourable senators will be hearing me express sentiments such as that more and more, because clearly we will be dealing with a lot of rural legislation in the next few years. It is not a national economic objective to raise the living standards of the rural sector of the community at the expense of another, but rather to raise and maintain the standards of all sectors of the community, and particularly the disadvantaged sectors. To that degree the Government will find that we are prepared to consider restructuring many sectors of rural production.

We welcome this refinement to the wheat stabilisation plan currently in operation for its gives full recognition to the labour of the owneroperators of wheat farms who work very hard to achieve a successful crop. The provision for a labour component in the index used to vary the annual movement in the home consumption price of wheat under the wheat industry stabilisation plan was only nominally taken into consideration in 1968 when the Liberal-Country Party Government severed the link between the cost of production and export guaranteed prices. I think that obviously that Government was acting under bad or wrong advice at that time, although it must be stated that during the 1960s it was obvious- even to some growers- that something drastic had to be done. The Act was 20 years old and the flaws in the stabilisation scheme were pushing both wheat acreage and the level of subsidies to the industry to ridiculous extremes in the face of sharply contracting export markets. With a new 5-year stabilisation scheme up for negotiation it was thought that that was the time for action. In a rare burst of tough mindedness, as far as dealings with farmers were concerned, the Federal Government severed the link between cost of production and export guaranteed prices. This brought the minimum export prices for Australian wheat under the International Grains Agreement.

The change in policy in 1968- it was a fairly substantial change in policy insofar as it affected great numbers of farmers- was brought about because of Treasury pressure on the Government. The cost of the labour of owner-operators was previously included in the index for home consumption price prior to that period. The Whitlam Labor Government also was victim to similar pressures in 1972-73 and 1973-74, but it began to realise that it was inequitable to pursue this Treasury line, and in 1974-75 it moved to remedy the situation. So the legislation, which is currently before the Senate and which is substantially the same as that put forward by the Labor Government in its last year of office, provides for the calculation of labour content based on the award rates paid to station hands and leading hands.

The effects of the legislation can be shown as follows: The price of wheat in the current year should rise to 62c a tonne, which ought to have next to no effect on the price of wheat products. Of course, there is the added factor of there being probably no cost to revenue. This legislation has the support of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and the State governments. Of course, this does not mean that the wheat stabilisation scheme in operation at the moment, and including the refinement presently before the Senate, results in the best possible scheme in the overall rural policy. Nor does it follow that it is the most efficient scheme. Efficiency in any government policy is desirable. It should not be considered as an end in itself but as a means by which society can do more of whatever it wants to do which, of course, emphasises that all policy, and in particular rural policy, is concerned with individuals in the community at large.

The need for planning in order effectively to use resources, to conserve resources, to raise the standard of living of all Australians and to create an equal society has been accepted directly or indirectly by the rural communities. Of course, it is the very basis upon which Labor Party philosophy is built. In particular, attempts to overcome the problems of rural communities in relation to fluctuating incomes and marketing problems have brought about the establishment, primarily in the last 50 years, of 1 1 boards or corporations. This has been designed to attempt to correct the imperfect free market system which operates not only to the detriment of the producers but also to the community as a whole. I think it has to be said time and again that we cannot rely upon the free marketing economy in the way in which governments in the highly industrialised West have done. They have sought to leave industries free of influences and government intervention.

The high degree of variability in factors affecting rural incomes of itself should not be considered as making it impossible to adopt a policy which is sufficiently flexible to cater for the difficulties which occur. What has to be determined is the long term national objective of this country in respect of rural policy which I must emphasise is part of the overall economic policy. The future objective in a changing world has to be discussed, and the results of past experience have to be taken into consideration. It is interesting to note that in respect of the problems confronting the rural communities, and in particular the wheat farmers, the Australian Labor Party was the first to respond positively. It was a national Labor government during World War I that used its wartime powers to get planning into wheat growing industries. After World War I, with the assistance of State Labor governments, harvest co-operatives were established. I was surprised to find the degree of opposition that was shown to co-operatives, even at that time, by many strange political places. These cooperatives, because of the practices of wheat merchants at the time, were not ultimately successful.

Not much credit was given to the Labor Party for the worthwhile attempts which it made in this period to try to bring some stability to the wheat industry. Of course, in the early 1930s the Scullin Government saw the need to assist wheat growers and encourage large scale production- it would appear now historically-not because of the need to support the wheat farmers specifically but to play a significant part in the Government’s national economic program. Of course, Mr Scullin is on record at that time as saying that he believed it was necessary to do this in order to trade overseas. However, overseas influences, as most of us recognise, did not help us very much in those very difficult years, and the plan failed to produce what were probably important social objectives.

The importance of the wheat industry is such that in 1941 when the position of wheat farmers and the problems of the rural sectors were grave, 2 supporters of the Government- one an independent whose name, I think, was Mr Coles, and the other a Mr Wilson, if my memory serves me correctly- crossed the floor to bring down the Fadden Administration. That indicates that wheat has played a fairly significant part in political developments in Australia. After World War II quotas naturally were suspended. Emergency powers ceased. There was a world wide shortage of wheat as a result of the ravages of World War II, and the Federal Government relied substantially on complementary State legislation. Notwithstanding opposition in certain quarters, the need for stabilisation plans was apparent after the War and Mr Chifley responded. Farmers had remembered the harsh Depression years and the difficulties which were experienced during World War II when there were labour problems of some magnitude. There was an increasing acceptance of the need for government assistance, intervention and encouragement.

Not all of the plans proposed and carried out by the Labor Government have had the success that was desired. But I think that that has to be stated and constantly stressed in order to overcome the feeling which unfortunately exists in rural communities that Labor is opposed to farmers; that Labor has no interest in or concern for the farming or rural community. During the period in which I have some responsibility in this area I will be doing everything I can to ensure that some of these hoary ghosts are laid to rest and in fact that the rural sector appreciates that the Labor movement has always been concerned to recognise a need wherever it be- whether it be in the cities or the country or amongst rich people or poor people. If people are in need of help it is our responsibility in the Labor movement to provide assistance.

It cannot be doubted that the response of Labor governments to the needs of the rural community in this area have been genuine, have been related to need and from time to time have met with enthusiasm even in the rural community. The National Country Party for all its reputation of representing the interests of the rural community has done little more than attempt to use its influence to continue substantially Labor Party initiatives. In this instance the Liberal-Country Party Government has taken over Labor Party legislation which was proposed and put to the Parliament in 1975. It is to be commended for doing so, but it should not consider that by doing so it has solved all of the problems of the wheat industry, any more than we did when the matter was before our parliamentary committees and our Caucus last year prior to the dissolution of the Parliament.

The legal problems emanating from the Constitution give rise to legal loopholes in overcoming in certain instances and giving favourable conditions to the wheat industry in the operation of any stabilisation plan. I refer to the operation of section 92 of the Constitution which has been judicially invoked to confirm that trade between States must be absolutely free. No one authority therefore can place conditions for the sale from State to State contrary to the stabilisation criteria without the express co-operation and coordination of State and local authorities who would have to legislate in accordance with the overall plan and within the judicially defined constraints placed on their powers. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that community needs and aspirations may require the unfettered use of an overall power for the good not only of those engaged in rural production but of the community at large.

Perhaps the existing powers of the Commonwealth under section 5 1 (iii) which deals with the power with respect to bounties on the production and export of goods- but such bounties must be uniform throughout Australia- and under section 99 by which preference cannot be given to one State or any part of a State, need to be altered. The practical effect of the LiberalNational Country Party new federalism on rural policy and the overall national interest and objectives not only has not been satisfactorily worked out but also has had little impact on the area to which I am now referring. In an already difficult area to achieve national powers and coordination to duplicate the problems six times and leave the overall policy to be determined by narrow parochial interest as so often happens is to abdicate totally from involvement to the detriment of the Australian economy and in particular the rural communities.

The need for planning, of which this is but one amendment relating to one rural industry, has been accepted. We hope that it will be extended time and time again. No doubt acceptance of this principle as it relates to this legislation has occurred because of the rapid drop in rural population occurring partly as a result of industrialisation or the existence of job opportunities in the cities and partly because rural districts no longer offer the facilities and incentives for people to work there. We know that the problem in this country is not so much production of rural products but substantially how and where to market them. It is the latter that has to be assessed if the rural industries are to overcome some of the chronic problems associated with their industries and not attributed to the known variables such as failure of crops. Until such time as the burden on local governments is alleviated to enable them to provide the facilities required for rural areas to raise the standard of living in those areas- such facilities have become part of the expectation of the individual in Australia- the drift to the cities or large country towns will continue to the detriment of the small country towns and country areas generally.

I think we must recognise that in this century there has been a dramatic and continuing decline in rural community population to the extent that today only 8 per cent of the male work force is now involved in rural farm employment. About one-seventh of our people live in rural communities while only one-fourteenth of them are associated with rural holdings. So, planning is necessary time and time again to take into consideration the factors involved in this decline. But that planning should take into consideration also the need for providing to all of our citizens the refinements that make for good living. The Bill seeks at least to do something to stabilise the incomes of wheat farmers.

The Bill amends the revised wheat stabilisation plan of 1968. It is an improvement which caters for an equitable return to the farmer and other operators in the wheat industry. It is as such fortifying the original concepts upon which wheat stabilisation was considered desirable in 1948. It does not of itself solve the problems of the rural sector of the economy. It does not provide a much needed overall plan for the rural industries to take those industries as part of the overall Australian economy into the last quarter of the twentieth century. Notwithstanding those perhaps lofty ideals, the Opposition welcomes the legislation and will give it adequate support in this place.

Senator SCOTT:
New South Wales

– I rise to speak briefly in this cognate debate on the wheat industry legislation now before us in which we are considering the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Amendment Bill, the Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill and the Wheat Products Export Adjustment Amendment Bill. I will not take any time in explaining the intricacies of these pieces of legislation; Senator Gietzelt has already adequately told us what is their portent. I do feel that, in the course of the next few minutes, I should address a few words in relation to the wheat industry itself, its place in the Australian economy and the position of the wheat farmer who, quite obviously, is fairly basic to the wheat industry. I appreciate the support that Senator Gietzelt has indicated to this legislation. I noted that he intends to exhibit a sympathetic ear to the problems of rural Australia. I am certainly glad to hear that and I am sure that his colleagues in the Labor Party also will be glad to hear it because in extra-metropolitan Australia today almost every seat is held by the National Country Party and our colleagues in government, the Liberal Party.

The purpose of the major Bill- the other 2 Bills are supplementary machinery measures related to it- is to incorporate in the annual adjustment of the home consumption price of wheat an amount which is referable to the value of the labour increment- that is, the labour on the part of the owner-operator in the farming undertaking. Indeed, it is high time that this was once again part of the legislation and part of the construction of that home consumption price. In the first 4 stabilisation plans, it was the annual adjustment of that increment that contributed to the final home consumption price. In the fifth Elan, for reasons that basically Senator Gietzelt as outlined, it was held to be constant along with a number of other items. Of course, this was in the longer term an unacceptable position, and it has become particularly unacceptable in the circumstances of spiralling costs and inflation in this country. To hold that factor constant for a period of 5 years in relation to the return on the owner-operator’s labour is certainly an unfair imposition on the farming community and the owner-operator in particular.

I think it is reasonable to make the comment that, over the many years of stabilisation plans that have passed, the contribution to the consuming public of wheat and wheat products in Australia by the wheat producing industry amounts to approximately $500m. I do not say that with any sort of malice. I mention it in order that people may recognise the type of contribution that the industry makes in order that it retains for itself a measure of stability. I would suggest that there is not one farmer in Australia today who would be opposed to the concept of and the imposition of stabilisation schemes. Even at today’s prices and today’s increased home consumption price there is still virtually what is a subsidy to the consumer in the Australian context of some $50m annually. I make those comments not with any manner of malice but merely because I believe that they should be said. From time to time there are misconceptions and misrepresentations suggesting that the stabilisation plan for wheat as for other products is an example of the community subsidising those engaged in the industry. It is important that people should realise that this certainly is not the circumstance.

I do not intend to say anything more on the Bills themselves at this stage as their provisions have been outlined, as I said, by Senator Gietzelt. But, as they are referable to the great Australian wheat industry, I believe it is proper that we should have a slight look at those people who are the basic members of the industry, namely, the farmer himself and his family. It is certainly appropriate that in an industry such as the wheat industry there should be an amount added, as is proposed in this legislation, which is referable to the labour input in the home consumption price. Historically, the Australian farmer has been very much an individualist. Indeed, I suppose that one of the basic reasons why it took so long to make the final move towards stabilisation in this industry was that the farmers of this country were used to combating the various problems in the industry under their own steam. They encountered difficulty in building up the sort of mentality that brought them into the total stabilisation scheme. That is one of the basic or characteristic reasons why for many years it was so difficult to introduce stabilisation schemes into this industry. It was due to his individualist character and his habit of being a master of makeship and a jack of many trades. The farmer would make no apology for that and nor would I because it is one of the most basic characteristics of the Australian community.

I think it is pertinent to remind honourable senators of the efficiency of the Australian farmer. In the area of efficiency, he ranks among the most efficient and is probably the most efficient operator in the world. In the Australian context, less than 5 per cent of our people are involved in the actual farming operation. Yet, those people produce not only the total requirements in grain for the people of Australia but also they produce a very significant export abundance which runs to a minimum of 65 per cent of our total production. This production finds its way on to the world markets. As I say, less than 5 per cent of the people in the work force are engaged in that sort of exercise. Whilst it is not absolutely relevant to the discussion of these Bills, it is interesting to notice that in the Soviet Union, a country that produces a massive amount of wheat, 32 per cent of the population is engaged in producing wheat. Oft-times that country does not have sufficient wheat for its own consumption. I believe that that has some relevance in identifying the efficiency of the Australian farmer.

Consequently, the Australian farmer certainly cannot afford to have a home consumption price that is not totally and absolutely referable to the cost situation. In his industry, only 35 per cent of the market is found within our shores. He has to export the remaining 65 per cent of the production at the best prices available on the world markets which certainly do not have any reference to the cost situation in the Australian scene. The Australian farmer is a hard worker. He is a man who has seen fit to involve himself, mostly through necessity and certainly at times just through sheer interest, in the research and development of appropriate machinery and cultivation research and development. This has been necessitated by the variable nature of the soils and the somewhat harsh climate of this country. He has to be versatile. He has to work long hours, often 12 to 18 hours a day when soil and moisture conditions are right and when the grain is ready to harvest. For the remainder of the time, he does not sit around and wait for things to grow. He is involved in stock husbandry and in the maintenance and development of Ins asset which is also an Australian asset, an asset whose maintenance and development contributes significantly to the national product of this country.

I think it is important to recognise that the amount of money involved in this legislation is not by any means enormous. But the principle involved is extremely important because it is another item that should be related to the establishment of the home consumption price. As Senator Gietzelt told us before, the amount involved is 62c per tonne on home consumption wheat. The increase in price is a tiny amount when it is related to the present day cost of a loaf of bread. From memory, I think it represents 3/50ths of a cent per loaf. Yet it is interesting to note that the price of bread was increased on 1

December last year by lc per loaf. We have been waiting for this legislation to be passed to increase the home consumption price to 62c per tonne.

It is also worthy of note that this increase which is referable to the value of the farmers’ or owner operators ‘ labour, is an increment which has to stand for a full year. Even that places a certain minimum value to the farmer -

Senator Wright:

– What is the value?

Senator SCOTT:

– The new price is 62c a tonne which, taken over the whole farming community, represents approximately $50,000 a week. If we were to make a calculation based on the number of farmers, the amount of the increase would be something like 50c a week per farmer. That is not a very great contribution and it is unchanged over a full 12 months whereas the wages and salaries of employees in almost every other field seem to change almost every 3 months. It is pertinent that we should be mindful of the fact that the farmer, even under this legislation, still has to wait a full 12 months for any added increment which is referable to his own labour contribution.

The farmer is by no means a fool. From time to time and in place to place it is sometimes suggested that he is. It is suggested that if someone makes a product a little cheaper, the farmer will use 3 times as much of it, just out of the sheer joy of using it. Of course, that is not applicable. On the contrary, far from being capable of making a farm labourer’s contribution- that in itself is significant- the farmer has to be a businessman of some significance. He has to be in some measure a scientist and a whole number of other things. These days, he must be more than ever a mechanic of some real capacity. It would be quite silly not to point out that above all these things he has to be a philosopher because he has to contend with so many totally unknown quantities in his industry and his particular operation during the year.

I wish to move on and briefly draw to the attention of honourable senators the significance of the wheat industry, particularly in the context of the last two or three years. We certainly should be mindful of the fact that if it had not been for the buoyant world wheat market in the last two or three years, the circumstances of the overall primary producing area of Australia today would be infinitely worse. In 1 974 we saw average costs in the industry rise by 34 per cent and prices overall, including the buoyant wheat price, fall by some 1 3 per cent. So it can be seen that the industry has been of great significance to the Australian economy, particularly to the primary industry economy and that part which is related closely to it, that wheat prices have been high. It has been significant because, as I said before, 65 per cent of the whole of the Australian crop has to find a market overseas. In the last two or three years it has produced an overseas credit earning of some $ 1 billion annually.

It is essential, as I said earlier, that the home consumption price should truly reflect the current cost circumstance in the industry. The addition of this 62c per tonne relevant to the owneroperator’s labour is another item in the establishment of that home consumption price. It is probably more important today than at any other time in the industry’s history because of the recent escalation of the whole cost structure of the farming industry along with so many other industries. We have found in recent years a great spiralling in the cost of machinery, labour, freight, chemicals, superphosphate and practically everything involved in the farming industry. Indeed, these costs have risen so dramatically that probably the first payment in the next year will have to take cognisance of these matters and may have to attract some realistic increase.

The industry is tremendously dependent on and liable to the vagaries of climate not only at home but also in the major producing countries. Climate variations in other producing countries are certainly relevant to the price and demand that we can expect for our product. Plant disease and pest control are other areas in which there is a large measure of variance in the wheat producing industry. The point I make is that because we are suffering largely from uncontrolled world market prices, any legislation that contributes to stability in the Australian wheat industry is important even though the amount it provides may be relatively small at the time. The principle is important. Insofar as the legislation contributes to stability in the farming industry it contributes to stability across a whole range of occupations, industries and commercial enterprises which are directly and indirectly relevant to the wheat industry. I think of the manufacturers of farm machinery, maintenance men, skilled mechanics and tradesmen, salesmen, superphosphate spreaders, carriers, the State railways which earn so much from freight, and so on across the board. In all these areas there is a relevance to the buoyancy or otherwise of the wheat industry.

Also relevant is the involvement of the industry in scientific research by highly trained people.

There are people in colleges, agricultural institutes and universities around the land who contribute tremendously to the Australian wheat industry. The buoyancy and stability of the industry are certainly preferable to the stability and buoyancy of the occupations that they fill in such a distinguished manner. For those and other reasons which time will not permit me to state, I am thankful that the Opposition adopts the attitude it has to this legislation, and I support it fully.

Senator THOMAS:

-We are debating 3 Bills- the Wheat Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill 1976, which seeks to include an allowance for the labour of owner-operators of wheat farms in the specified cost items used to determine annual movements in the home consumption price of wheat under the current sixth wheat industry stabilisation plan; the Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1976, which is a measure to expand the definition of ‘wheat products’ contained in the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1974; and the Wheat Products Export Adjustment Amendment Bill 1976, which is complementary to the other 2 Bills and proposes minor machinery amendments. As these Bills are being supported by the Opposition and are similar to legislation prepared by the previous Government, I shall confine my remarks to general comments about wheat stabilisation.

Stabilisation was introduced soon after the Second World War, as Senator Gietzelt explained, and provides a stable price for the producer and some stability for flour millers and bakers. As my learned colleague Senator Scott demonstrated, the increase in the price of wheat has an almost negligible effect on the price of bread, contrary to the popular thought amongst members of the Press and bread consumers. Wheat stabilisation provides stability for producers. It is generally believed by producers to make a valuable contribution to the wheat industry. The security it provides is valuable. Security is an important consideration to a farmer, as it is to any small business. It is not generally understood that even medium sized wheat farmers have assets in excess of $250,000. With rapidly changing rates of income and rapidly increasing costs, farmers for very good reasons are concerned for their survival.

That farm income varies dramatically from year to year is illustrated in the Green Paper on rural policy. This paper entitled Rural Policy in Australia at page 63 states -

Senator Wright:

-What date is it?

Senator THOMAS:

– It is dated May 1974. It states: 4.39 Information obtained from a sample survey of almost 9000 taxpayers conducted by the Commissioner of Taxation shows that primary producers’ net incomes are subject to a great deal more year-to-year variation than the net incomes of wage earners or operators of other businesses. 4.40 For instance, in each of the yearly comparisons, less than 16 per cent of primary producer taxpayers had relatively stable incomes (plus-minus 10 per cent variation between year one and year two) compared with over 25 per cent of other business operators and 3 1 per cent of wage and salary earners. Again a much larger proportion of primary producer taxpayers have very large fluctuations in their yeartoyear incomes (plus-minus 50 per cent or more). Over 40 per cent of primary producers had fluctuations of this magnitude compared with no more than 23 per cent for other businesses and 1 7 per cent for wage earners. 4.41 Furthermore, a greater proportion of primary producers appear to suffer decreases of incomes than other groups. Even in 1968-69, when total farm income rose by 50 per cent one-third of the primary producer taxpayers in the sample recorded declines in income.

Broadly, wheat sales are directed into 2 partsthat portion that is consumed in Australia, which averages more than a fifth of our production, and that portion that is exported. The home consumption price is arrived at by using a complicated formula while the export portion is sold at world parity prices, sometimes on extended terms. At the beginning of each 5-year stabilisation period the Government negotiates with the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation to determine the rate of the first payment, which is guaranteed by the Government. Subsequent payments are made to growers based on overseas sales and, in particular, on how quickly we are paid by the countries to which we export. Final payment for a particular year can be many years after the grain is produced. In fact, last year wheat growers were paid the final payment on the wheat that was produced in 1970. Honourable senators can imagine what inflation did to that payment.

I said that the security provided by stabilisation is valuable, but it has a price. It has been demonstrated that because of the scheme growers have forgone income of the order of $500m. That is the price of security and it is also some indication of the subsidies paid by growers to the bread consumers of Australia. Since the Second World War wheat growers have subsidised the cost of bread by almost $500m. In fact, during the debate on the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill in another place in 1974 it was demonstrated quite clearly by tables that in that year alone the farmers subsidised the Australian consumers by $ 107.9m. That was in one year.

Another problem created by wheat stabilisationthis comment could apply to all similar schemes for the marketing of rural products- is that the producer is insulated from changes in world demand. This has the advantage of security but it does create major problems. Most wheat growers can change from one type of production to another in one year if demand changes but if a stabilisation scheme insulates their returns from changes in world demand farmers are not encouraged to change, even when their industry leaders try to persuade them to do so. In the early 1950s there was a substantial world demand for wheat which was not reflected in the stabilised price, so growers did not increase their production. Conversely in the period leading up to the wheat quotas in the late 1960s lower world demand did not reflect in the stabilised price quickly enough to encourage growers into other types of production. In other words, without stabilisation growers could have more rapidly increased production to take advantage of high world prices in the 1 950s and could have reduced production more quickly prior to the world glut in the early 1 970s.

World prices for both feed grain and grain for human consumption are high at the moment and this is one of only 2 major areas of rural production in which prices are high. The main reason is that Russia has had 2 poor grain seasons in a row. This may seem a remote reason but world trade is so finely balanced that a major change in production in one country has repercussions all over the world. We must expect world wheat production again to exceed demand sometime during the next few years, particularly as China, traditionally a large if inconsistent importer of our wheat, is becoming selfsufficient. Grain production in China is based mainly on irrigation so it is not affected by droughts. Also, because the headwaters of her major rivers are being brought under control, floods do not present the threat to her grain production that they did in the past. In fact, from first hand knowledge I gained in China in 1973, 1 suggest that with her increasing mechanisation, her work on breeding better varieties, her disease and insect control and, just as important, her success with population control, China may very well become an exporter of wheat quite soon, in competition with Australia.

I counsel industry leaders and governments in the strongest terms to start planning now for the certain necessity of production restrictions in the future. We must avoid the confusion and inequities that occurred when the industry was forced to introduce production restrictions in 1 969 with little or no advance warning. One inequity that occurs when the home consumption price exceeds the export price places farmers who live close to a State border- that does not include very many Western Australians- at an advantage in relation to their fellow growers. Because of the provisions of section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution, State authorities are powerless to prevent growers on one side of the border from selling their grain direct to mills on the other. These growers are thus able to receive the higher price for their whole production instead of the average between domestic and export prices. When quota restrictions apply these growers are able also to avoid the restrictions of quotas by selling direct to mills and outside the Australian Wheat Board. Figures I have available to me suggest that during 1968 and 1969 about a quarter of our domestic sales were made in this way. Now, while export prices are high, is the time for governments and the industry to sort out these anomalies and to plan for the future.

When industry leaders and governments get together to plan the future of the Australian wheat industry I suggest that 3 matters should be at the top of their agenda: Negotiability of wheat quotas, 2-price quota arrangements and another look at the fair average quality system. I shall deal firstly with the negotiability of wheat quotas. Under the previous quota arrangements nonnegotiability restricted production in areas that had no economic alternative production while at the same time producers who wanted to sell their quota entitlement and to grow more barley or oats or to increase their stock numbers were prevented from doing so. In other words, negotiability of quotas would tend to encourage wheat growing in the most economic areas and would tend to discourage it where other crops could profitably be grown. Also, a rigid quota system is quite often unfair on the young farmer who is trying to make a start or to expand his enterprise.

I deal next with the two-price arrangement. With the security of a share of the domestic market some producers would be happy to sell their surplus production on the world market for whatever price it brings, particularly those who, for whatever reason, can produce wheat cheaply. I should like to see quotas applied only to the domestic market. It seems patently wrong to restrict production of food in an underfed world.

With respect to the fair average quality system, the present arrangement whereby almost all of our crop is sold under the fair average quality system as Australian standard white, is easy to administer. Certainly it is the most efficient way for producing, storing, selling, shipping and paying growers over most of the wheat growing areas of Australia. There are many advantages in the present arrangement and I know that there would be strong resistance to change from many quarters. However, just as there are some parts of Australia that could economically produce other types of wheat, there are corresponding markets in the world for specialty wheats that we are not now supplying. This does not seem important now when export prices are relatively high but this is the time when we should be developing these alternative markets so that when our traditional markets are again over-supplied we shall have developed other markets and diversified our production to take advantage of them.

I wish to make one comment on Senator Gietzelt ‘s address. He expressed the hope that the Labor Party policies would again become more attractive to country people. He went on to explain that his Party will always meet a need when it sees one. To my mind this expresses exactly the difference in philosophy between our parties and the Labor Party. The Labor Party will prop up an industry when it sees one that it considers to be in need of propping up. It is our firm belief and our policy to create a situation whereby this need does not arise. I think that this has been well recognised by the farmers of Australia.

I should like to bring to the notice of honourable senators another matter which is causing the industry great concern. I refer to the immunity of stored grain pests to the commonly used insecticides, particularly malathion. Our exported wheat is guaranteed free of insects- a guarantee which is essential if we are to maintain our exports. In fact, a ship load of, say, 20 000 tonnes of wheat could be rejected if one live insect were found amongst that load. So this is an important consideration. This guarantee that we give is much easier for our competitors to comply with than it is for us because almost all of our competitors produce wheat in much colder climates. Malathion is a chemical used widely to control grain insects on the farm and in country storage facilities. It is relatively cheap and safe. However, in recent years a dramatic increase in resistance to malathion has been detected.

In Western Australia, where the problem is not as acute as it is in most other States, a farm survey was conducted in 1972 by the Western Australian Department of Agriculture on 525 farms throughout all major wheat growing districts. Results showed that whilst 87 per cent of the farms inspected had insect infestation, 13.5 per cent of the farms had insects that were resistant to malathion. That was in 1972. In 1975, last year, 394 grain samples containing insects were collected from widely scattered receival centres in Western Australia and 38 per cent of them were found to be malathion resistant. That shows a dramatic increase in 3 years.

To this date no suitable substitute for malathion has been found, but I am informed that there is no lack of research to find a substitute as the rewards for such a find will be high. What should be the concern of us all is the huge extra cost of having to provide fumigation facilities at seaboard terminals. What should also concern us is that as the use of other more expensive and more dangerous materials becomes more widespread because of insect immunity to malathion, resistance to these other materials is becoming apparent. This could mean that all of the known chemicals that can be used to kill grain insects have a limited period of usefulness and we may have to resort to techniques such as sealing grain in nitrogen filled gas type bins for a minimum of 40 days. The cost of doing this has been estimated at between $ 100m and $200m.

On the farm hygiene must be improved as most infestations can be traced back to this source. However, to get results extensive education programs coupled with regular farm inspections are required, and these cost money. Much is already being done by State departments of agriculture, mainly with industry funding but much more obviously needs to be done. I urge our Government to take whatever necessary steps it sees fit in this regard. Finally, let me cite some figures which demonstrate the importance of the wheat industry. During the last few years the average annual production was over IVA million tonnes of which Western Australia produced a third. Currently something slightly less than four fifths of our total production is exported, and it was worth over $ 1,000m in export earnings for the year 1974-75. Western Australia has a relatively small population and so a small consumption of wheat, yet exports some 40 per cent of the total Australian crop. The figure of $ 1 ,000m is hard for me to visualise. If we take the average weekly wage as $170-1 know it is a bit higher than that now-$ 1,000m would be sufficient to pay the annual wage bill of 113 000 people. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.

Senator COTTON:
New South WalesMinister for Industry and Commerce · LP

-in reply- The beginning of this debate on wheat had a fairly wide ranging character. I have not noted all of the subjects we talked about. We talked about elections in New South Wales, the

Federal election, the dairying industry, federalism and a great number of other things. One found oneself hoping that the day would eventually arise when wheat would get mentioned. It happened today. I observe to my honourable colleagues that I though we listened to 3 excellent speakers, taking different points of view, on the subject of the wheat industry. I am reminded by my colleague, Senator Chaney, as a former Whip and a member of the Whip’s union- I think he is vice president of the Whip’s union at the moment; Senator O ‘Byrne is the Presidentthat we ought to acknowledge the contribution of Senator Georges to this debate. I do that with great gratitude. Seriously, I observed there were 3 useful speeches taking different positions naturally but demonstrating an interest, an understanding and a wish to have some of the problems of the industry brought to solution.

I am reminded of the fact that when I was a schoolboy I was an agricultural science student. Perhaps at one stage of my life I could have been a wheat plant breeder. It did not work out that way, but I had great interest in the subject. I was reminded of that when listening to honourable senators talk. I think we ought to acknowledge not only the contribution Australia has made through time to the solution of its own trading position and the easing of world hunger by exporting great quantities of wheat, but also the contribution the industry has made to the development of wheat as a food grain around the world. We were in the forefront of countries notable in plant breeding and developing improved varieties. Many of us have forgotten the names of Farrer and others who did such important work in the early days of our agricultural history.

As a nation we are very efficient producers of wheat. We have made, as I said, great contributions to plant breeding. I was reminded, when listening to honourable senators speaking, of the fact that one of the experts on breeding the famous dwarf varieties of wheat was a man who was trained in Australia in plant breeding. He went back to India and developed the new dwarf varieties which made such a difference to Indian grain production. I listened to Senator Thomas with some interest when he spoke of the way the world’s position may change, of which countries may have a surplus for export and which will move from being importing countries to exporting countries. When we think of the consequences to our total trade in wheat which we export and the money it produces any such alteration in the export-import balance by countries becoming more self-sufficient will be of great importance to this country.

I wonder whether we ought to be making some inquiry later on as to the state of our wheat plant breeding at the moment, whether we are developing potentially new varieties for new purposes and whether we are as up to date in wheat plant breeding as we used to be. The new techniques of the application of water and massive fertiliser are without doubt going to change the structural balance of wheat production and this may have a substantial effect on us as a nation. I suggest to the adviser from the Department of Primary Industry that he communicate to his Department the speeches of Senator Thomas, Senator Scott and Senator Gietzelt so that it can see their thinking on the current position and their thinking as to developments in the future. I would like us to know more about this overall position as time goes on. We could well be at a slight disadvantage against the producer who has more certainty because of plenty of water and plenty of fertiliser. We are fundamentally large dry land farmers. The greatest bulk of our production is from dry lands. To apply water, I think, probably would be uneconomic because of the Australian water labour costs. These are things that may well be needing attention in this chamber, if not in other places, as time goes on.

Senator Scott mentioned the inclusion of operators’ labour allowance in the home consumption wheat prices. This is expected, I am informed, to add only about half a cent to the cost of a 21b loaf of bread over the 4 remaining years of the current wheat stabilisation plan. Senator Thomas talked about the negotiability of quotas and the 2 price quota system. This has been high on the list of the Government industry quota reviews. However, the quotas remain in suspension and for the foreseeable future reintroduction of controls on production is not anticipated. Senator Thomas may wish to do more work on that later on. Senator Thomas also talked about the continuing attention by wheat breeders and wheat boards to develop varieties and to seek additional outlets for wheat in speciality areas, even despite market conditions currently existing. I was taking that point a stage further by asking the adviser to take back to his Department the general interest of the Senate in what will be happening in the future in our wheat industry, the interest of the Senate in the balance of our position in the future and the interest of the Senate in whether we are doing the necessary work to breed varieties that may well be needed to meet perhaps the more speciality purposes of the future. These are only queries; they are not objections. They are only matters of interest.

Wheat is a very great industry. It has meant a lot to Australia’s development. It has meant a lot to Australia’s living standards. Some of the figures Senator Thomas mentioned need to be taken into account because Australia is very much a country whose living standards and employment are based upon its capacity to earn funds in the world ‘s export markets. Wheat has been a notable contributor throughout time to that. The country owes a lot to the foundation of agriculture which has allowed so much of the infrastructure to grow upon it. I thank honourable senators for their support for the 3 measures. I note that the measures are not opposed. As I have said we will see that the speeches made will go forward to the Department.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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Second Reading

Consideration resumed from 28 April, on motion by Senator Cotton:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.

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Second Reading

Consideration resumed from 25 March on motion by Senator Cotton:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.

page 1440


Motion (by Senator Cotton) agreed to:

That intervening business be postponed until after consideration of General Business notice of motion No. 1 standing in the name of Senator Douglas McClelland.

page 1440



Senator Douglas McClelland:

-On behalf of the Australian Labor Party I take this opportunity to move:

That the Senate is of the opinion-

The boundaries of the Electoral Divisions for the House of Representatives as presently drawn are in need of urgent revision because of their present imbalance;

To eliminate the large informal vote cast for the Senate at the Double Dissolution Elections of 1974 and 1975 the Government should legislate to introduce optional preferential voting; and

There is a need for legislation to be introduced limiting electoral expenditure and making public disclosure of the sources of funds made available to political parties and candidates.

Notice of this motion was given on 17 February 1976. One of my colleagues in the House of Representatives, the honourable member for Port Adelaide, Mr Young, recently introduced a private members’ Bill to initiate electoral reform, but it was rejected by the present Government in the House of Representatives. That Bill was in near identical terms to the electoral reform Bill initiated in the House of Representatives last year by the then Minister for Services and Property in the Whitlam Labor Government, the Honourable Fred Daly. That BDI secured a passage through the House of Representatives but was rejected by the then Senate Opposition when it came up for debate in this chamber.

Thus, this motion which was put on the Senate Notice Paper by me on the second day of sitting of this Parliament is a continuation of the fight the Labor movement is waging for reform, or if you like, modernisation- a bringing up to date- of the Australian electoral system. In my remarks on this motion I do not intend delving into many of the related subjects upon which one could touch. Questions such as the names of the political parties that the various candidates represent appearing on the ballot paper and the filing of returns under the Electoral Act are all matters that have been proposed by the Labor Party in the legislation that it has presented over the years to this Parliament but which has been rejected by our political opponents.

One, of course, also could discuss the decision of the Austraiian High Court last December when it held that the manner in which the present Federal electoral boundaries are drawn was not in breach of section 24 of the Constitution, but held at the same time that sections 3, 4 and 12 (a) of the Representation Act were invalid. Those sections, of course, are provisions which made the Commonwealth census the basis of the number of seats that each of the States would be entitled to have allocated to it in the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament based on population figures which come forth as a result of the census.

The Court pointed out that there is no constitutional requirement that a census be taken or. if taken, that it be taken at regular or particular intervals. The High Court also pointed out that by regulation the interval had been altered from 10 to 5 years- not by Act of Parliament but by way of regulation. In effect, the Court determined that the census as such is irrelevant but that what matters is the latest set of statistics on population that is available to the Australian Electoral Officer, whether those figures be coming from a census or otherwise. That is, if the latest statistics now available to the Australian Electoral Officer were used, there would have to be redistributions in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales before the 1978 election to take account of the changed number of members to which each of those States would be entitled.

All of those matters, and many others, are quite important to the development of a system of real democracy in this country.

We of the Labor movement are constantly accused by our political opponents of being socialists. But we are more than that. We are democratic socialists. We are people who believe in the principles of real democracy, not the half baked system which I suggest Australia has at the present time. The time is very much ripe for the Australian Electoral Office to commission a report for publication and debate on all aspects of electoral reform. As well as the matters to which I have already alluded, I suggest the report could look at the excessive costs involved in conducting an election. It could consider the anomalous position of State quotas being determined on an all-in population basis, whilst the boundaries of the electorates are based on numbers of voters. It could look at the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act concerning elections, whether there should be a 3-day blackout on radio and television immediately preceding the poll whilst there is no similar embargo on newspapers, journals or magazines.

It could look at a whole host of matters which I suggest are very much wrapped up in the Electoral Act and in electoral reform. I urge such recommendations on the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). But now let me come to the aspects of the proposals contained in my notice of motion. The first is, of course, that the boundaries of the electoral divisions for the House of Representatives as presently drawn are in need of urgent revision because of their present imbalance. Surely no one can argue otherwise. The last redistribution of boundaries, other than in Western Australia, occurred in 1968 when the enrolment of the various electorates was as set out in the table which I now seek to have incorporated in Hansard.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

Senator Douglas McClelland:

– While on the matter of incorporations I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard tables showing enrolments in the same electorates as at the 1969, 1972, 1974 and 1975 Federal elections.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

Senator Douglas McClelland:

-To cite some specific instances which appear from the tables which I have just had incorporated, I refer honourable senators to the seats of McPherson and Maranoa in Queensland. In 1968, 8 years ago, the number of voters in McPherson was 47 371. In Maranoa the number was 44 788. At last December’s election, in the seat of McPherson, the number of voters had increased to 102 175 and in Maranoa, in the same State, the number had increased to only 46 433. In other words, on that electoral distribution for the 1975 election it appears that 2 Maranoans go for every one McPherson. In the best of Scottish language, I suggest that just canna be.

In 1968 Diamond Valley in Victoria had 50 668 voters. Last election it had 9 1 8 1 8. On the other hand Wannon, the electorate of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in 1968 had 47 928 voters. By last December’s election the number of voters in Wannon had risen to only 54 583. This represents an increase in one electorate over 8 years of 41 000 compared with an increase in another electorate in the same State over the same period of about only 7000. Quite clearly, there is an imbalance. More than an imbalance, there is disparity and there is need for urgent revision. This has to be done before the next Federal election and that, at the most, is only 2h years away.

The second proposition in my motion which I have moved on behalf of the Australian Labor Party concerns the large informal vote which was cast for the Senate at the double dissolution elections of 1974 and 1975. I know that my friend and colleague Senator Mulvihill has interested himself in the very large informal vote which has taken place in Senate elections over the years in New South Wales which is the State he and I have the honour to represent in this Parliament. The Labor Party, when in government, brought down legislation to provide for optional preferential voting on the part of an elector. That provision was also included in the 1976 Bill which was introduced as a private members Bill by my colleague the honourable member for Port Adelaide in the House of Representatives. The provision and the Bill were rejected on both occasions by those who now sit in government. But surely, as night follows day, it must come in as a reform, particularly so far as Senate elections are concerned.

Until it is introduced the whole system, particularly for the Senate, is being made a farce. After all, we have compulsory voting in Australia and, in the best traditions of democracy, it is assumed that every Australian over the age of 1 8 has listened to the political debate that has taken place over an election period, has assessed the political issues and has made a selection, on an alternative basis, of his choice of candidates. That is the principle of the existing system of preferential voting. A voter says: ‘I want candidate A as my first choice, then candidate B as my second choice if candidate A does not get sufficient votes, and then I want candidate C if candidate B does not get sufficient votes. Last and least of all I want candidate D. Indeed, I hate candidate D so much that in normal circumstances I would not vote for him at all unless I had to. But I have to. Therefore I have to go through the farce of voting for every candidate.’ When there are 40, SO or 60 candidates at Senate elections, as there have been in New South Wales, the task becomes a farce if not an impossibility for many people.

Under our existing system that is how we assume a voter’s mind functions. We demand that he register a vote. We dictate to him that he shall vote and then, in exercising that vote, we expect him to have acquired a good knowledge of all the candidates contesting the election. When one comes to think of it, it is something like backing every racehorse in a race. I suggest that one would have to be the most avid racegoer and fanatical follower of the sport of kings to judge in which order one wanted all the horses in the Melbourne Cup to finish, especially if there are 40 or 50 horses running, and then, having determined the order of all the horses, to expect one to make a book on the whole race. One would have to be a madman to expect anyone to do that. But that is not much different from what we expect a voter to do in Senate elections. By asking him or her to cast a vote for every candidate before we count that vote as formal, I suggest, is asking too much of anyone, especially those who are aged or infirm or who might be retarded in the slightest possible way. To expect the person to determine an informed order of preference for all the candidates is the height of bureaucratic absurdity and either political arrogance or political ignorance.

Instead of making it a near impossibility for countless thousands of Australians to cast an informed compulsory vote when there is an extraordinary number of candidates, as legislators we should be doing everything possible to make the task of the voter much easier. Australia as a nation cannot afford the luxury any longer of having the most complex and complicated voting system in the world, thus having to wait at least 2 and possibly 3 months after an election is held to know the composition of its Parliament. That is the situation at the present time when a Senate election is held. The introduction of optional preferential voting, I suggest, is the principal answer to the problem.

Now, Mr President, I come to the last proposition in my motion, namely that there is need for legislation to be introduced limiting electoral expenditure and making public disclosure of the sources of funds made available to political parties and candidates. Again provision for such matters was contained in the Labor legislation of 1975 and the Labor private members Bill of 1976, both of which were rejected by the members of the present Government. Had our legislation been passed we would have required the lodgement of returns and the listing of gifts, including donations of $100 or more made to political parties or candidates.

Senator Wright:

– Whether by Act or otherwise?

Senator Douglas McClelland:

-No matter how it was done. That would have been the provision in the Act. It would have prevented the sort of farce that we had last night, when an honourable senator entered the chamber with a document which was depleted of 2 pages. We do not know whether or not that was deliberate, but certainly it was depleted of 2 pages. It was certainly an unsigned document, certainly an excised document, certainly an altered document. It was tabled in this Parliament in order to besmirch, defame and libel decent, honest Australians. Had the Labor legislation of 1975 and the private members Bill of 1 976 been accepted we would have prevented the son of farce that went on in this chamber last night and have cut out a procedure which certainly would not be admissible in any court of law, as Senator Wright would well know.

We also made an attempt in our legislation to raise campaign spending limits on candidates to a realistic level. The present limit of $500 for a House of Representatives candidate and $1,000 for a Senate candidate is quite absurd. If it were rigidly enforced a candidate would spend the maximum allowed by law on a 30-second commercial television advertisement in a country electorate. Indeed, the fact that it is not enforced while such provisions remain on the statute book surely must bring Parliament itself no credit at all. I know that such a provision was not enforced by a Labor Government or by a Liberal Government. I do not wish to make politics out of it. I am merely saying that if there is legislation on the statute book and it is law then it should be enforced. If people are required to file returns, if organisations are required to file returns, and if newspapers are required to file returns, then that law should be enforced. The very fact that it is not surely must bring Parliament itself no credit.

Recently I asked the Minister about possible enforcement of the provisions of sections 151, 152 and 153 of the Electoral Act. They relate to the furnishing of returns by candidates, political parties and newspapers. Clearly the Minister said that none of the provisions had been enforced since 1904 and therefore he did not intend to police them. If the Government intends to ignore them, then clearly for the sake of the Parliament itself it should see that those provisions are removed from the Act. The Labor Party wants the limits of expenditure on the part of candidates and political parties raised to sensible levels and a register kept of the sources of funds made available to political parties and candidates. As the result of public debate that has taken place on this subject over recent months an overwhelming case has been made out for such a law. Not only would such a provision introduce a new factor of accountability into government but also for the first time it would introduce a factor of accountability into parliamentary and political conduct.

The Whitiam Labor Government in its 2 years and 1 1 months in office did more than any other government did over a generation to bring about reforms in our electoral system. We introduced voting for people aged 18 years and over; we gave Senate representation to the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. We reduced the permissible variation in electoral numbers from plus or minus 20 per cent to plus or minus 10 per cent. Although we accomplished all those things, there are many other matters that need attention. There is much more to be done before we as a nation can rightly say that real democracy exists in Australia. An affirmative expression of opinion by the Senate agreeing to the terms of this motion will be another step along the road of electoral reform in Australia. I commend the motion to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.

Senate adjourned at 4.41 p.m.

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The following answers to questions were circulated:

Repatriation (Question No. 118)

Senator Keeffe:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:

  1. Has the Minister delivered instructions to the Department of Repatriation requiring officers of that Department to give special consideration to all ex-servicemen living in the electorate of Bass.
  2. Will the Ministers give an assurance that the same preferential treatment will be extended to ex-servicemen living in all other federal electorates in Australia.
Senator Guilfoyle:

– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

  1. No. I can assure the honourable senator that, at no time, have I instructed or hinted to my Department, either orally or in writing, that it should give any section of the community, including people living in my electorate, any special consideration. I have never exerted, nor do I intend to exert, pressure on the Department to give any preference, even in the handling of correspondence from my constituents. However, as all honourable senators know, the correspondence received by Ministers is voluminous and I have asked that correspondence from my electorate be specifically drawn to my attention so that I can more readly assess the problems encountered by my constituents.
  2. As the honourable senator is aware, decisions affecting eligibility for pensions and assessments in respect of pensions are made by the statutory determining authorities, the Repatriation Boards, the Repatriation Commission and Tribunals. These authorities are all, by the terms of the legislation, independent of the Minister and I could not give, nor would I wish to give them any instructions to give preferential treatment to any person or group of persons. All persons must be, and are, treated on the same footing.

Repatriation: Expenditure (Question No. 215)

Senator Wriedt:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:

What was the expenditure by the Department of Repatriation for the financial years 1973-74, 1974-75 and what is the anticipated expenditure for 1975-76 in each of the States and Territories.

Senator Guilfoyle:

– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

Expenditure by my Department is recorded under functional headings as set out in the Appropriation Acts. This is a practice followed by successive governments over many years and I am not prepared to authorise the time and expenditure that would be involved in dissecting all departmental expenditure on the basis requested.

If the honourable senator seeks information related to a particular government program or area of expenditure I shall be pleased to provide him with whatever figures are reasonably available.

Building Societies (Question No. 309)

Senator McAuliffe:

asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:

  1. Will the Government give an unqualified assurance that the Reserve Bank will intervene to stop a panic run on Queensland building societies.
  2. Is such an action warranted, in the emergency now confronting Queensland investors and the thousands of couples borrowing for home building purposes from building societies.
Senator Cotton:

– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

In a Press statement on 1 8 March 1 976 the Treasurer indicated that the Reserve Bank had received assurances from the trading banks that they would consider sympathetically requests for finance received by them from building societies which were responsibly managed and had adequate asset backing. The Treasurer’s statement reinforced, in respect of the Queensland situation, a statement made by the Queensland Treasurer on 17 March 1976 reassuring depositors of building societies in that State. Following these assurances, the situation with building societies in Queensland quietened significantly in the week beginning 22 March 1976.

Pharmaceutical Benefit Prescriptions (Question No. 326)

Senator Colston:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:

  1. Has the Pharmacy Guild of Australia recently put forward a submission to the Government, that the patient signature requirement for prescription medicines in Australia is costing millions of dollars annually, and should be dropped.
  2. Did Mr Rupert Frew, the Chairman of the Guild’s National Health Committee, claim in the Guild’s 1975 National Report that the Department of Health’s reply to the submission was that we would not even put it to Treasury.
  3. Will the Minister recall the submission for personal study and evaluation by him, and subsequently advise the Senate of the results of his inquiries.
Senator Guilfoyle:

– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

  1. I am not aware of any recent submission from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia that the requirement for the signature of the patient on pharmaceutical benefit prescriptions be dropped. (2)1 understand that Mr Frew included a statement to this effect in the Guild ‘s 1 975 National Report.

Departmental Expenditures (Question No. 370)

Senator Rae:

asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:

Has it been practice to require departments and government agencies to justify their total expenditures, or just any requests for additional or new expenditures, over recent years in respect of budgetary preparations; if so, for how long.

Senator Cotton:

– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

Yes. It has always been the practice for the Treasury to seek from departments at about end-April each year estimates of their requirements for all on-going expenditures for the new financial year commencing on 1 July. These estimates, which are for the whole of each department’s expenditures with the exception of new proposals yet requiring Cabinet decision, are carefully examined in the Treasury and discussed with the departments and are then considered by Cabinet when it is preparing the Budget.

Other reviews are made from dme to time as Ministers consider them to be warranted. For example, this Government initiated a wide-ranging review of expenditure programs soon after it came into office.

Chloroform (Question No. 389)

Senator Baume:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Is there evidence that Chloroform causes hepatomas or other liver tumours in mice.
  2. Has information of this association been known for almost 30 years.
  3. Does it also, from recent experiments, appear to cause kidney tumours in rats when fed in large doses.
  4. Is Chloroform still used extensively as a preservative in compounds mixed by pharmacists.
  5. In particular, is it still a major constituent in preparations, such as Chlorodyne
  6. What implications does the recent confirmation of the association between Chloroform feeding and tumours in small animals have for the availability of these compounds in Australia.
Senator Guilfoyle:

– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes. A paper was published by A.B. Cancer Institute in the United States in 1945, stating that hepatomas had been induced in female mice by feeding them chloroform over a four month period.
  3. , (4) and (5). Yes.
  4. To date there have been no published reports of any associations between chloroform and cancer in humans. All reports received from the U.S.A. on this matter are being referred to the National Health and Medical Research Council for consideration and possible recommendation as to the future availability of chloroform containing compounds in this country.

Darwin: Ammunition Depot Security (Question No. 392)

Senator Robertson:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:

  1. Did an advertisement appear in the Northern Territory News on 15 March 1976 calling tenders for a security patrol service for the Australian Army at Darwin in the Northern Territory.
  2. What Army facilities are to be patrolled by a civilian patrol service.
  3. Why cannot this patrol work be carried out by members of the Armed Forces.
  4. Will the Government be letting out for tender the security patrolling of other defence establishments.
Senator Withers:

– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

  1. Yes.
  2. The advertisement related to after-hours protection of an ammunition depot in Darwin.
  3. In the Darwin area there are insufficient military personnel available for security patrolling tasks related to the ammunition depot.
  4. In situations where military personnel are not available for security patrolling of a particular Defence establishment, civilian security patrol services may be employed.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (Question No. 407)

Senator Colston:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Does the Minister intend introducing the commission system for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, as recommended by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
  2. Will the introduction of the commission system vastly improve the scheme, and initiate considerable savings in the scheme ‘s operating costs.
Senator Guilfoyle:

– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

  1. 1 ) and (2) I am not aware of what the honourable senator means by the ‘commission system for pharmaceutical benefits’. No recommendation has been made to me in these terms.

Medibank (Question No. 411)

Senator Colston:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has the Minister seen the 1 975 National Report of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
  2. Does the Minister agree with Mr Alan Russell, the National President of the Guild, who, in his Presidential Report, remarked that Medibank has had a comparatively smooth introduction.
  3. Is the smooth introduction of Medibank due to the responsible manner in which pharmacists have discharged their duties as agents for Medibank.
Senator Guilfoyle:

– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

  1. Yes.
  2. In part, yes; insofar as the provision of convenient access to facilities for the receipt and pre-assessment check of medical claims is concerned. I draw the honourable senator’s attention to the 1974-75 Annual Report of the Health Insurance Commission, pages 12-13, which makes reference to the agency arrangements undertaken by the Commission and which was tabled in the Senate on 3 March 1976.

Australian Meat Board (Question No. 478)

Senator Colston:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Did Mr H. W. Jenyns, Chairman of Hannaford Branch of the South-East Graziers Association, on 1 April 1976 claim that the Australian Meat Board has been a poor adviser to the producer; if so, is this conclusion correct.
  2. ) What is the composition of the Australian Meat Board.
  3. Has there been a degree of political infighting within the Board.
  4. Can the Board be encouraged to be more effective.
Senator Cotton:

– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

  1. 1 have no knowledge of such a statement, which, if made, would be inconsistent with the facts.
  2. The present composition of the Australian Meat Board
  1. No.
  2. Criticism of the Australian Meat Board needs to be viewed against the difficulties confronting the Board in relation to restrictions on overseas market access and industry problems in Australia.

The beef industry throughout the world has gone through an extremely difficult period in the last two years. I am confident that the Australian Meat Board has at all times acted and will continue to act in the best interests of the total Australian industry, in the light of the information available to it at the time.

Soviet Warships in Indian Ocean (Question No. 183)

Senator Rae:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has the Minister seen a report of comments by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic’s Ambassador to Australia in August 1 975 that the Soviet Union did not have any significant naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
  2. Does surveillance by Australia and her allies indicate that Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean does and has existed over the last decade.
  3. What, according to Australian and allied defence authorities, is the number of Soviet ships known to be carrying out naval work and which have been present in the Indian Ocean in each of the last ten years.
  4. Do any or all of the governments of nations surrounding the Indian Ocean regard the Soviet naval presence as not significant; if so, which nations have held this view.
Senator Withers:

– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

  1. Yes.
  2. Surveillance of the Indian Ocean has indicated a continuous Soviet naval presence since 1968.
  3. The table below lists the estimated average Soviet presence of naval-subordinated ships in the Indian Ocean for each of the years since 1968, the year in which this presence was first established. Figures placed in brackets are additional annual average estimates of units engaged in harbour clearance of Chittagong (Bangladesh) and mine clearance of Red Sea approaches to the Suez Canal.
  1. The governments referred to have not all commented in terms that enable a complete reply to this question. Few governments appear to see the Soviet deployments as a direct threat to their security. The deployments are, of course, in a part of the Indian Ocean many thousands of miles away from Australia. Many governments are concerned, however, that there should be not a competitive build-up in the naval deployments of the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. and there is widespread support for the Australian Government’s policy in this regard.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 April 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.