30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 1 99 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 the Family Planning Association and similar organisations throughout Australia contribute to the welfare and well-being of a great proportion of the Australian people both in family planning and in an advisory capacity on the prevention and control of social diseases.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that urgent consideration be given to a favourable decision on the continuation of Federal Government finance to enable the activities of the Family Planning Associations and like organisations to proceed unimpaired throughout Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. I understand that under the federalism proposals there will be a periodic review of relativities between the States. I ask: Has the Government decided that the financial arrangements made with Tasmania and South Australia in connection with the railway transfers will be included in any such review?
– The Premiers Conference has agreed to the whole of the methodology for Stage 1 of revenue sharing. One of the decisions arrived at there is that there shall be a periodic review not later than every 5 years of the relativities. That will, of course, look at the total quantum of money for all States. The question at this moment is concerned purely with the institution- the body- that will conduct that relativity review. My understanding is that all payments that go to the States would be included in it; but, lest there be a technical matter arising out of the railways transfer, I will seek the information specifically and give Senator Wriedt a detailed answer to his question.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that New Zealand solid pack pie apple is being sold in eastern Australia for $ 1 5 a dozen tins whereas the comparable Tasmanian packed pie apple costs $18 a dozen? Can the Minister advise the Senate what quantity of New Zealand apples is being sold? Does he regard this as dumping? Does the Minister realise the damaging effect this will have on the already beleaguered Tasmanian apple industry if these apples are continued to be allowed into Australia? What action is being taken by the Government?
– I am aware of quite a number of the factors which the honourable senator mentions. Particularly I am aware of the effect that the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement and New Zealand exports to Australia have on Tasmania. Nobody could have gone through in the Senate the days of the debates on Surprise peas and not know that and not have had it clearly driven home to him. A factor of considerable importance in the relationship is the relative order of cost difference which the honourable senator mentioned to me. I did not have that in my mind. I do not think it is dumping. I think this is a case where there will have to be discussions between both countries about the problem. Mr Anthony and myself are due to begin talks with our New Zealand colleagues, Mr Talboys and Mr Adams-Schneider, in about a month’s time. I am grateful to the honourable senator for his intervention and for the extra knowledge which he has provided to me. I thank him.
– I ask the Minister for Science: Can he inform the Parliament whether nuclear fall-out monitoring is still carried out on the Atherton Tableland? If the answer is in the affirmative, what are the readings in terms of integrated concentration of iodine 131 in pococurie days per litre of milk produced in the area and the level of estimated external gamma radiation levels in milrads at 30 June 1974, 30 June 1975 and 30 June 1976?
– I am unable to answer the honourable senator’s question because of the way it is posed. I shall seek the information and supply it to him. I understand that monitoring is carried out through the Bureau of Meteorology in some way for the testing of this matter. The question which the honourable senator asks is a little long for me to answer now.
– I am unaware of the source of the information from which my colleague Sir Magnus Cormack draws. I am aware that within the tertiary education field there is some need for co-ordination and rationalisation as was recognised by the previous Government. As to the field of the Remuneration Tribunal, the matter, as at this moment, is under discussion by Cabinet and by my colleague Senator Withers. It is a field on which I cannot comment at this moment. In due course the Government’s attitude to the Remuneration Tribunal report on academic salaries will be made known in the Senate.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and refers to her reply to questions asked by Senator Grimes and by me on Tuesday. In answering these questions the Minister stated that single pensioners who qualified for pensioner medical health service cards and who are on an income level of up to $33 a week will have exemption from the Medibank levy. Does this not mean that a single pensioner with an income, inclusive of pension, of up to $76.50 a week- that is $3,978 a year- is exempt from the Medibank levy? Does not the booklet produced by the Commonwealth Department of Health about Medibank say, in relation to pensioners: ‘If you pay any income tax you will also have to pay the levy.’? Allowing for the $610 rebate, pensioners are eligible to pay tax when their total income is $2,845 a year. But the statement by the Minister on Tuesday was to the effect that single pensioners with an income of up to $3,978 a year are exempt from the Medibank levy. In view of these facts, will the Minister now admit to the inadequacy of the Government’s booklet and relieve many pensioners of anxiety occasioned by the incompetent mistakes in the publication?
– I advised the Senate on Tuesday that those pensioners who are entitled to pensioner medical service cards will be exempted from the levy. The figure of $76.50 a week which was mentioned by the honourable senator today is not accurate because a pensioner who has other income of $33 a week would receive the pensioner medical service entitlement and would have a total income of $70 a week. There would be a tapering of the pension entitlement because of the other income. With regard to the other aspects of the honourable senator’s question, I will have the booklet investigated and determine whether it is inaccurate. However, I make it perfectly clear that those pensioners who have entitlement to use a pensioner medical service card have exemption from the levy for the standard Medibank care.
– Is the Minister for Science aware of the visit to Canberra last week by Sir George Porter, Director of the Royal Institution in London? Has his attention been drawn to the lecture Sir George gave to the Academy of Science in which he suggested that if the solar energy falling on one-tenth of the Australian desert were converted to electrical energy it would be sufficient to provide for the world ‘s future energy requirements? In view of the obvious importance of this alternative source of energy, can the Minister indicate what current research work is being carried out in Australia with respect to solar energy development by Government institutions, universities and private enterprise? How much money was provided for solar energy research last year? What is the allocation for this purpose in the current Budget? Also, the Minister may care to inform me what encouragement is being given to those sections of private industry which are conducting research into this important area.
– I certainly had my attention drawn to the comments of Sir George Porter who is the Director of the Royal Institution of London. I have noted his comments- not quite in the words that Senator Jessop usedsuggesting that Australia had more solar energy available to it per capita than any other country in the world. However, he indicated that cost was still the major problem. For instance, he stated that the cost of using silicon solar cells, which were developed for use in communication satellites, is 100 times more expensive than the use of any other source of energy which may be contemplated. Sir George also suggested- I believe that we in this country must give closer attention to this aspect- that photosynthesis in plants presents perhaps the greatest prospect as an alternative to solar energy. He also indicated that if Australia grew 7 times more sugar cane than it grows at present it could produce sufficient energy for all of its fuel needs.
I have information relating to solar energy. I indicate to the honourable senator that in general solar energy research in Australia is being conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, some universities and tertiary institutions and industry. The work conducted by the CSIRO concerns the following applications: Domestic water heating, industrial water heating, space heating, space cooling, power production and heat storage, distillation, controlled environment horticulture, heat storage, production of energy from crops, forests and other organic material and swimming pool heating. The work funded by the Australian Research Grants Committee encompasses the following subjects: Selective surfaces as solar energy absorbers, photo-voltaic and thermoelectric conversion of solar energy to electricity, solar energy concentrators, solar energy systems evaluation, heat and mass transfer theory applied to solar air conditioning.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. We know that this practice of long technical answers being given by Senator Webster is possibly strictly within the Standing Orders. We have been pretty tolerant about this, but this is another instance of the time of the Senate at question time obviously being wasted. I do not want to be unreasonable, Mr President, and I know you do not want to be unreasonable, but I think Senator Webster ought to be asked to answer questions succinctly- questions without notice.
– It would be appreciated if replies were precise in direct relationship to the question, and as brief as possible.
-Mr President, I take note of your comment and I certainly take note of the comment of the Leader of the Opposition. Certainly when questions seeking information come from his side of the chamber, as they do regularly, I shall note your comment and shall not give the answers that are necessary.
– Order! Senator Webster, as I said, I would appreciate replies being given in precise terms and being as short as possible while still conveying the information sought.
– I acknowledge your comment, Mr President. In this instance I was asked to give information concerning the type of work being conducted by the CSIRO, by any other government bodies and by private industry. I have attempted to give, as succinctly as I can, an indication of the work that is conducted by the CSIRO. I am sure the honourable senator behind me who asked the question would wish to have the information relating to the other areas but, as my answer annoys the Opposition, perhaps I shall not give the information as fully as I would wish. The question was a genuine question and I can assure you, Mr President, I have the answer, which I wish to give, which will make clear the work that Australia is doing in solar energy. It is a most important subject at the present time, even if the Leader of the Opposition is incapable of viewing it ±at way.
– Order! Do not debate the question. Answer the question, please, Mr Minister.
-The work funded by the Australian Research Grants Committee encompasses a number of topics, which I have mentioned. I was asked what funds are devoted by the CSIRO to that particular work. I quote the figures: In 1975-76 $663,000 was applied.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. As you pointed out, this is a misuse of question time. If the Minister desires to give a fuller answer to the question he should make a statement at the end of question time. No one is denying him the right to give the information. All we are questioning is his right to do it at such length during question time. The Minister is not answering a question; he is making a ministerial statement and it should be considered as such.
– I call Senator Webster.
– I shall quote one other figure. In 1975-76 the Commonwealth applied $663,000 and in this current year the figure is $800,000. With due deference to you, Mr President, I shall not give an answer to the other part of the honourable senator’s question which related to industry and other areas, but I think it is of importance.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health advise the Senate whether there is any ground for fears about the introduction into Australia of lassa fever, particularly whether there is a tab on all the people who came in on the aircraft concerned, and also on any manifestations of the disease that may have become apparent.
– I am aware of the concern about lassa fever and I have some information from the Minister for Health which I can give to the honourable senator. It is a fact that a recent arrival from England, a Mr Moore, was hospitalised in Fairfield because he had been in contact in the United Kingdom with a lassa fever suspect. Four of Mr Moore’s close contacts in Australia were also hospitalised. Extensive testing has indicated that Mr Moore has not contracted the disease and the other 4 people hospitalised have now been entirely cleared. As lassa fever has a maximum incubation period of 16 days, passengers on the flight to Australia on 27 July on which Mr Moore travelled are no longer at risk. Lassa fever is a quarantinable disease covered by the Quarantine Act. The Act provides extensive machinery to minimise the possibility of the disease entering this country and to contain or control the disease should an outbreak occur in Australia. All passengers are required to report any untoward symptoms which they may experience after arriving in Australia. The Department is in touch with Health authorities in other countries, so that persons entering Australia who have been in contact overseas with any suspects can be traced rapidly. I hope that the fears expressed by Senator Mulvihill and others about this particular case are allayed by that information.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security and the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I preface my question by reminding the Minister that the Aboriginal community on Bathurst Island has decided to ban the receipt on the island of unemployment benefits because of the disruption to the society on the island caused by benefits being paid to individuals. The Bathurst Island Council made that decision unanimously and it is worthy of note that that body is comprised wholly of Aborigines. I ask: Has the Minister received a copy of the resolution requesting that unemployment benefits otherwise payable to individuals but not accepted because of the Council’s decision be paid in a lump sum to the Council of the island in order that the money might be spent in a manner which the Council determines is beneficial to the people of the Island? Will the Minister give consideration to the resolution? Does the lead of the Bathurst Island Council in refusing to allow the receipt of benefits that would otherwise cause social strife merit commendation and examination by the Government as a lead which could be followed not only in other Aboriginal communities but by the white Australian community generally?
– I mentioned earlier this year that my colleagues the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs had established a working party to inquire into the possibility of paying unemployment benefits to Aboriginal community councils. The working party consisted of officers of the 3 Departments concerned and it reported to us quite recently. The report is being considered at the present time. I shall investigate whether a communication has been received from the Bathurst Island community council and determine whether the matters that were under consideration by the working party can be dealt with in the way that Senator Bonner has stated, the Bathurst Island Council has determined with regard to its own affairs. Without pre-empting what may be the judgment of my 2 colleagues, could I say that the working party concluded that the most acceptable way to reduce the amount of unemployment benefits being paid to Aboriginal communities, and to reduce the undesirable social conditions which may be attributed to those payments, is to provide useful work for the Aboriginal people concerned. I think that would have the general agreement of most Australian people.
– There is no other way.
– As Senator Georges would acknowledge, there are difficulties in providing the type of employment that can be made available to Aborigines in remote communities. In answer to the other part of the question dealing with the payment to councils of a lump sum related to unemployment benefits, it is fair to state that the working party did see that that would involve some difficulties. It would be understood that if we were to provide alternative employment there might not be eligibility for unemployment benefit as we know it, and if we were dealing with individual beneficiaries there would need to be a general acceptance of the trusteeship of the community council to deal with it. I say this as background to what will be the considerations of the other Ministers and myself in this matter. I certainly welcome the question and the fact that one community council has sought to apply some different method of dealing with Aboriginal employment and the payment of unemployment benefit. I hope that in conjunction with my colleagues we will be able to respond to the report of the working party and in particular to the matters raised concerning Bathurst Island.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. When did the Minister take the decision to eliminate about 20 regional offices of the Department of Social Security from the Department’s establishment? Was this decision taken as a result of recommendations of the Bland Committee or did the Minister have advice from her Department that these offices were no longer necessary? Will the Minister release a statement on the assumptions and evidence relating to this decision for the benefit of those communities which will now be deprived of an essential reference point for their legitimate claims and queries?
– The question assumes a great deal. It assumes that decisions have been taken in regard to regional offices, but this is not a statement of fact. It is a fact that the Committee looking at the administration of government made certain comments in regard to regional offices of my Department and this matter is being considered. No decision has been taken to withdraw services through regional offices in any way, but it is fair to say that some regional offices do not provide a wide range of services, nor do they have autonomy in decisions to be given on matters affecting the people who contact them. However, in saying that, I still stress that the assumption in the question is not accurate and no decision has been taken to close regional offices. I can see Senator Grimes expressing some disbelief at what I am saying, but I repeat that no decision has been taken to close regional offices. I can respond to the question only in that way.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Will the announcement by Medibank that in Queensland the Manchester Unity Medical and Hospital Benefits Fund will be acting as agents for Medibank in that State mean there will be an increase in the staff of Medibank in Queensland? What is the position of staff for Medibank in the other States particularly now that Medibank Private is being introduced?
– I am unable to give information in regard to any possible increase in the staff of Medibank in Queensland as a result of Manchester Unity acting as agents. I can only say that the objective of the Government in regard to Medibank and Medibank Private insurance is to see that staff is available to give the service that we believe Medibank and
Medibank Private insurance must give to ensure Australian people are covered for health care. I will refer to the Minister for Health the specific matter in regard to Queensland and obtain information for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Has he seen statements from various student leaders in Victorian universities, including Monash University, that the overwhelming majority of those demonstrating at the function attended by the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, on Monday were university students? Is the Minister also aware of a statement made by a senior Commonwealth police officer which confirms that view and asserts therefore that the involvement of unionists was minimal compared with the great number of students demonstrating? In view of the statement made by the Prime Minister that unionists were principally involved, will the Minister seek confirmation of the remarks of the Commonwealth Police officer to substantiate the report, or are we entitled to draw the conclusion that the Prime Minister has misled the Australian people and the Prime Minister’s statement is just another example of union bashing by some members of this Government?
– I have not seen the reports to which the honourable senator refers nor have I seen the statement allegedly made by a Commonwealth Police officer. I will pass on the honourable senator’s question to the AttorneyGeneral and endeavour to obtain these details.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. What is the present position on the transfer of responsibilities from the Commonwealth Government to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly as recommended by the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory? When is it anticipated that the recently passed Northern Territory Administration Act will be proclaimed?
– In keeping with the Government’s policy undertaking the Northern Territory Administration Act was amended in May of 1 976 to permit the appointment of executive members of the Legislative Assembly and the allocation of responsibility to executive members for such functions of government in the
Northern Territory as may be determined. Discussions are being held with the Legislative Assembly to reach agreement on a range of activities to be transferred to local control and the financial and administrative arrangements which are to apply. It would appear both appropriate and proper I believe- I am sure the honourable senator would agree with me- that the date of proclamation should be announced by the Minister for the Northern Territory. I understand that a date will be announced after a number of minor changes are resolved.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Education been drawn to a letter which appeared in the Melbourne Age this morning from Professor Ronald Goldman, acting Dean of the La Trobe University School of Education, relating to the supply of teachers for Australian schools? If so, does the Minister agree with Professor’ Goldman’s criticism that the interim report of the study group investigating the supply and demand for teachers in Australia in the next 10 years is inadequate and that its prediction of a surplus of teachers cannot be regarded as proved on what Professor Goldman describes as thin, tentative and inadequate evidence? Will the Minister dispel Professor Goldman’s fears that the interim report will be used as an excuse by the Government to cut back funds for teacher education? Finally, will the Minister advise whether his department is considering the establishment of an Australia-wide teaching service, with common salary scales and portability of pensions to enable teachers easily to transfer within Australia, as suggested in Professor Goldman’s letter?
– I have not seen Professor Goldman’s letter in the Age this morning. I will in due course read it. Accepting the substance of it as stated by Senator Colston, I say emphatically to the Senate that the interim report as put out does not purport to be authoritative in any way and admits that it could have quite some weaknesses in its assumptions. I want to dispel any idea that the report regards itself as being authoritative. Far from that; it has been submitted through the Australian Education Council to the 6 State Ministers for Education and the Commonwealth Minister for Education for complete re-examination. The basis of assumptions must, of course, produce different answers as we vary the basis. For example I refer to the whole pupilteacher ratio, the use in future of teachers in various ways-their use in the technical and further education field; their use in the pre-school fieldand the question of whether Professor Borrie ‘s projection on immigration will be correct in the long term. All these assumptions must be looked at. I want to make it clear that there is no intention at all that this report will be used as a weapon.
The honourable senator should know that the Government made it clear in its guidelines that whilst there is demonstrably a world surplus of teachers and that there is some evidence of a teacher surplus in future in Australia, we should do no more than maintain this year’s intake of student trainees for next year. There is no suggestion at all of cutback. All there is is an assumption that it might be necessary not to have such an accelerated increase. The report makes the assumption that there will be a need for a total of at least 30 000 more teachers in Australia in the next decade. So, there will be a need for more teachers; it is. the question of the rate of acceleration only which matters. We will take this report deadly seriously. I am in no way using it as any instrument. We will get the facts and they will become the basis for an Australia-wide dialogue. It is not the Federal Government alone which is involved; it is the Federal Government and 6 State governments, including 3 Labor governments, all of which are part of that involvement. So it is a totally joint federalist venture.
As to the question of an Australia-wide look at this matter, I have long thought it desirable that there be transferability of teachers between States and between States and the Commonwealth with protection of their amenities and allowances. I certainly will keep that matter under review. However, I stress that in no way is this report a device. It is a sober consideration by all governments involved to find out what is likely to be the use of teachers so that in future years young people wanting to be trainees will have before them the best evidence possible on the likelihood of full employment. That is the duty of a government.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to the articles appearing in this morning’s Age newspaper and in the Financial Review yesterday purporting to describe the recommendations of the Hay report on Aboriginal land and enterprises and other administrative and departmental responsibilities. Are these newspaper reports correct summaries of the Hay report and its findings?
-Is it a fact that the Hay report has not been released?
-I think I would prefer answers from the Minister. Is it intended that it be released shortly? Does the Minister agree that the release of the Hay report in full is essential if the Senate and the public generally are to be in a position to assess properly the wisdom of any reductions or increases in expenditure or other changes in Aboriginal policies that are to be implemented in the coming months?
– I have not seen the report in the Age today but I am aware of the subject matter raised by Senator Missen. The Hay report in its first stage has been received by the Government. Mr Hay, as was expressed yesterday in a question asked by Senator Bonner, is also investigating land rights and other matters at this time. However, I believe that the report referred to by Senator Missen is the one looking at Aboriginal programs. That report has been received. It is in the nature of an interdepartmental report to Government and is a report on which the Government can take a decision whether it should be a public document or remain advice to Government. As far as I am aware there has been no decision to table the report in Parliament because the report was not sought with that intention in mind. If a decision is taken to make public some of the findings and recommendations of the Hay report, I am sure that that will be announced by the Prime Minister at the appropriate time.
With regard to programs for Aborigines and the provision of funds, it should be understood that the Treasurer announced in the Budget when giving the allocation this year for Aboriginal programs and fundings that as we determine appropriate and beneficial programs for Aborigines further funds will be forthcoming. Some of these programs will result from the recommendations of the Hay report and others probably will arise in other ways as investigations proceed. It was not the intention in the first place to table the report in the Parliament. Such a decision could be made by the appropriate Minister or the Prime Minister.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, refers to the rail transfer agreements affecting South Australia and Tasmania and statements by the Minister on 1 1 August and subsequently, that the main issue remaining to be resolved is the terms and conditions of employment for the State personnel who will become employees of the Australian National Railways Commission. The Minister said:
I would urge those engaged in the negotiations to reach agreement quickly.
I now ask: Can the Minister give any indication as to the progress of discussions relating to these conditions in view of the fact that difficulties associated with reconciling grades might take a long time? My second question relates to superannuation which could be a major obstacle. I refer to the proposal put forward by the unions in South Australia and the State Government that the South Australian Government would, if necessary, amend the State Superannuation Act to provide a benefit to those who elect to remain in the State scheme. Will the Minister consider whether this easy solution might be given priority and be reached more quickly?
-I draw Senator Bishop’s attention to an answer given by my colleague the Minister for Transport 2 days ago in another place. I do not respond in respect of the progress of the general discussions because my colleague indicated that the Government accepted the validity of the agreements and was proceeding to carry them out. I respond, more particularly, in respect of a very important matter, that is, the question of the conditions of employees of the systems of South Australia and Tasmania and the need for some guarantee to them of preservation of their amenities. I do have some information. The Minister for Transport has indicated that he is very well aware of the concern felt by South Australian and Tasmanian railway employees concerning the superannuation arrangements which will apply following their transfer to the Australian National Railways Commission. The Commonwealth Treasury has prepared a proposal for these arrangements and I understand that it has been circulated to all unions concerned. The proposal is to be considered at a meeting arranged for 31 August which will be attended by representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the various unions, together with Commonwealth and State officers. After that meeting the Federal Government will be better equipped towards an understanding of this matter. I shall mention the concern felt by the honourable senator and by the Senate to my colleague in the other place.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I understand that the State Governments have written to the Minister about the proposal in order that this matter might be solved more quickly. Perhaps the Minister could advise the Senate at another stage what has been done in relation to this matter.
-I undertake to do so.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, relates to promises made during the recent election campaign in New South Wales in relation to imposts by way of taxes upon the people of New South Wales. I ask: Did Mr Wran, in election campaign speeches on the new federalism, give to the people of New South Wales any undertaking that municipal and shire rates would not be increased in New South Wales if he became Premier?
-As I understand Senator Baume ‘s question, he asks, in general terms on the one hand, about undertakings on taxes and tax commitments by the New South Wales Government and, specifically on the other hand, about municipal and shire imposts. Following the last Premiers Conference, when all the details of the Commonwealth’s allocations to the States in each of these spheres were known- I refer to the Premiers Conference on, I think, 9 June- the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, was reported in the Press to have commented on about 17 June on municipal and shire rates. I have the text of that comment in front of me. It appeared in an article in the Daily Telegraph of 1 8 June. The article states:
The Premier, Mr Wran, said yesterday council rates would be pegged in the September State Budget.
Mr Wran said he was confident that by rearranging State finances the new Labor Government could guarantee relief for ratepayers.
We shall determine a maximum percentage by which local government rates can be increased in any given year’, he said.
That is quite clear. As to the earlier point that the honourable senator made, I remind the Senate that during a Press interview the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales and present Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, reportedly said that he would commit himself and his Party not to introduce new taxes or increase existing ones. I emphasise the words not to introduce new taxes or increase existing ones’. So, in answer to the honourable senator’s question, there is a clear commitment by the Government of New South Wales not to impose any new taxes or to increase any existing taxes and, indeed, to peg municipal and shire rates.
– My question of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs flows from the one that has just been asked of him. Is the Minister in fact saying that the federalism policy the Premier of New South Wales, or any other State Premier for that matter, should not increase State taxes or institute new taxes if so, is not the statement he has just made in conflict with the whole concept of tax sharing under his federalism policy?
-Senator Wriedt in fact failed to listen. The question I was asked did not seek my opinion on whether Mr Wran should put up taxes. I was asked a simple question, namely, whether Mr Wran and the New South Wales State Labor Government had given any undertaking that they, of their decision, would not put up taxes.
– I am now asking you.
– With great respect, that is not the question I was asked. If the honourable senator wishes to phrase a supplementary question I will answer it, but I will answer the question as it was posed. The simple fact is that I responded by saying that there is unqualified evidence that the Premier of New South Wales has given a guarantee that he will not introduce new taxes or increase existing taxes, and that he will peg municipal rates. Having said that, if there is further information that the Leader of the Opposition wishes, he might seek to amplify the matter.
– I accept the invitation, Mr President, and ask Senator Carrick: Does he agree that the implementation of his federalism policy will require the States to institute additional taxes and charges?
– The answer to that is no, because the implementation of the federalism policy will, for the first time, give the States relief from imposing new taxes.
– Ha, ha!
– Supporters of the Australian Labor Party laugh. They are supporters of the same Labor Government which, in 3 years, managed to treble the take from income tax and to force the States to put up a whole range of indirect taxes. That same Labor Government refused to index taxes and to give any relief by reducing taxes. Since they are hoist on their own petard, I remind the Senate that in this Budget the first relief to the taxpayers of Australia in 4 years is being given, and it is a massive relief of $ 1,000m. I also remind the
Senate- I am grateful to Senator Wriedt for his question-that in fact under the revenue sharing arrangements this year the States will get $8 9m more than they would have under the Whitlam formula. I remind the Senate too that it has always been possible for the States to put up indirect taxes and charges. They have always had the power to be massive tax imposers and tax gatherers; the position has never been otherwise. The question is whether, by duress, they will have to do so. Mr Wran has said that under the Premiers Conference decisions of June he will not have any need to do so. So he, of course, has paid tribute to the bounties that flowed from it. It so happens that the States have always had this power. So let us get rid of this nonsense that is being talked about some new power. The States will now have relief. Just as the Federal Government will reduce probate and so help, so the States have shown that they will do so. The Queensland Government has shown that it will reduce taxes. For the first time in 4 years the States will be able to reduce taxes. After the Premiers Conference Mr Wran hinted that he might be able to reduce payroll tax. Let us have it quite clear: After knowing everything that was given there were clear statements that there was a capacity to reduce State taxes.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware of reports that some concern has been expressed that radio station 2XX on the campus of the Australian National University might have its licence withdrawn? Can the Minister say whether any action is proposed to investigate 2XX? In particular, is there any proposal that its licence be withdrawn? If some action is proposed, will the Minister indicate the reasons for this action?
– My attention was drawn to an article in, I think, the Canberra Times of yesterday in which it was stated that a number of complaints had been made about 2 matters. The 2 allegations were that there had been the use of obscene language in the broadcasts of 2XX and that the station had been exceeding the terms of its licence. I noted in the Press, and I have confirmed it, that the Department has invited the manager of the station to report upon the allegations because a number of people in the community have made them. I understand that the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations has also done so. Radio station 2XX has one of those special licenses granted, I think, by the previous Government under the Wireless Telegraphy Act.
At this moment the station does not come under the general umbrella responsibilities and powers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Therefore, the standards of conduct of station 2XX and those stations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act are not supervised by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It will be necessary for the Government in the future to look at the general rationalisation to see that whatever standards a government of the day may consider necessary ought to apply with equity. I seek in no way to make any judgment on what station 2XX may or may not have done. That is a matter for others. It is true that the licence of station 2XX is restricted and special, directed towards broadcasting to the staff and students of the University. It is alleged that the station has gone wider than the franchise given to it. That is matter of judgment on which I cannot comment. A report has been called for. No doubt the Government will act upon the report.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. It refers to the cut in the Estimates of some $33m in expenditure on unemployment, sickness and special benefits in the next year despite the increased rates of benefits and to the Minister’s reply that explanations of these estimates would be forthcoming for the Estimates Committees. I ask the Minister: As the estimates of expenditure for her department which have been released to honourable senators do not include those of the National Welfare Fund will such explanations be released in the future for the information of honourable senators? If so, will these explanations contain facts and figures of projected employment in this country on which the estimates are based? What part did her Department play in arriving at these estimates and, of necessity in the estimates of future employment, as the estimated expenditure seems to assume a 25 per cent to 30 per cent decrease in unemployment in the next 12 months.
– I will give consideration to making available information with regard to the National Welfare Fund as the honourable senator has requested. If it is in a form that would have meaning for honourable senators I will see whether it can be released at the time when we deal with the Estimates. I have no personal objection to doing this, I will give some consideration to the matter. The honourable senator also asks about the basis upon which the estimates for unemployment benefits have been based. These have been estimated in the same way as they have always been estimated, namely, on the numbers of people who, we anticipated, would be unemployed, requiring sickness benefit or any other benefit for that matter. There is co-operation between the Treasury and officers of my Department of Social Security in formulating figures. The figure that has been shown in this year’s Budget reflects the strategy of the Budget in which the Treasurer has assumed that in the later stage of this financial year there will be a fall in the expenditure on unemployment benefit that will be required. It is on that basis that we have shown the figures that have been estimated.
As anyone would realise, they are estimates made in relation to beneficiaries and pensions in this country. Taking into account the statement concerning the estimated projected rise in employment of approximately 2 per cent, an assumption has been made that the figure contained in the Budget will be that required in respect of unemployment benefits. I should point out that an examination of the estimates for unemployment benefits for last year shows that there is a very great disparity between the estimated figure for unemployment benefits and the amount actually paid to recipients. But, as with all National Welfare Fund expenditure, there is an automatic withdrawal of funds from the Fund in respect of all of the programs for pensions and benefits. It does not require that there be a separate matter dealt with. It is simply that when the benefit has been established those who are eligible receive the benefit from the National Welfare Fund.
I am not sure what the basis of the question is. I understand the honourable senator to be seeking an explanation of why a particular figure was taken as an estimate. There seems to be some assumption that we will withdraw unemployment benefits when that figure has been reached. That is not the way in which we deal with this matter. All the facts as they are established at the time of Budget preparation are used and this figure is the projected one in relation to requirements.
– I wish to direct a short supplementary question to the Minister for Social Security. Can we assume from her answer that the Government’s projected estimate of unemployment in the next year shows that there will be a decrease- that is, that total unemployment will decrease by 25 per cent to 30 per cent in the next 12 months.
– As I said, what has been shown by the Treasurer to be a growth of between 1 per cent and 2 per cent in employment reflects our projection that there will be a reduction in the amount of unemployment benefit that will be required in comparison with last year. I will give the honourable senator the figures on which this estimate is based. There is an increase in some of the figures that apply to sickness benefit and there is a decrease in the figures which relate to unemployment benefit. There is a net reduction reflected in the $33m. If the honourable senator reads the Budget documents he will see the projection of the Treasurer with regard to employment trends and the anticipated effect that this will have on the requirement for unemployment benefits during this year.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. The Minister will be aware that section 31a of the Income Tax Assessment Act which relates to nominal valuation of wine stocks was repealed in 1973 because it was being used as a tax shelter by wine makers. Can the Minister indicate to the Senate what effects the new stock valuations recently announced in the Budget will have on the wine making industry and whether they themselves can be used as a tax shelter?
-I am quite sure that there is no intention within the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act or the recent announcements that any area of the law can be used as a tax shelter by one group of people on the one hand as against the general body of revenue on the other hand. This is a technical question. 1 think I should properly ask the Treasurer to give the honourable senator a definite answer on all aspects of this matter.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Federal Affairs, refers to his answer to a question asked last Thursday by Senator Wriedt in which the Minister asserted that total payments to the States will be higher in real terms this year than they were last year. The Minister claimed also that that supported his answer to a question asked by me on 27 April. Leaving aside the basis on which Senator Carrick calculated the alleged 14 per cent increase, I ask him: Does he know that on 27 April I asked him not whether total payments to the States would be maintained in real terms but whether they would increase in the next 3 years by more than the 58 per cent in real terms by which they did increase in the 3 years ending 1975-76? To that question the Minister replied on 27 April: ‘. . . my answer is an unqualified yes ‘. I further ask the Minister: Does he still assert that his 27 April answer is correct or should it be regarded as a well considered or amplified statement?
-Senator Walsh will be delighted to know that as a result of his desire to immortalise his question I sought and obtained a copy of the question and the answer; so I have no need to be reminded of what I said in reply. He will understand that what he asked me was whether in the next 3 years- he reminds me and the Senate of this- our federalism policy will yield more in real money for the States than the old Whitlam formula, which was rejected by all States. I answered ‘Yes’. The basis is very simple because it is now being demonstrated that the old Whitlam formula- rejected, I repeat, by all 6 Premiers as being completely inadequate- is being replaced by a formula that is yielding substantially more for the States and, as we return to national stability, will yield infinitely more.
The new local government untied grants, which are 75 per cent ahead, demonstrably will yield much more over the years. The Labor Party is making much play of specific grants. What it likes to do is to pick a vintage year and forget that there were years earlier in its regime when its specific grants were not all that high. It tends to forget to take out the little matter of $93m for the Regional Employment and Development scheme, which it adds into its formulae. When the statistics are adjusted the answer is in these unqualified terms: Yes, beyond any doubt in the next 3 years the States will receive in real money more, and substantially more, than they did under the Whitlam Government.
- Mr President, I ask that further questions be put on notice.
– I have a supplementary question, Mr President.
– I call Senator Walsh on a supplementary question.
– It had better be supplementary, Mr President, and not a further question.
- Mr President, I think I had better tell the Senate that I am not going to permit the Opposition to take over question time with these sorts of tactics.
– I have a supplementary question, Mr President.
– It had better be a supplementary question.
– If the Leader of the Government is going to take that view, we could always use the adjournment for this. It will not save any time.
– I might shut it off, too.
– Order! Senator Walsh, you have a question supplementary to your previous question?
– Yes, a supplementary question. Since Senator Carrick has my question in front of him he will note that it says:
Does the Minister still say that his answer to that question is an unqualified ‘ Yes 1
- Mr President, that device was used to repeat the question. I draw the honourable senator’s attention to the answer I gave before, which he does not like.
- Mr President, yesterday Senator Wriedt asked me whether it was correct that table 41 in Budget Paper No. 7 last year recorded substantial payments to the States for unemployment relief in every year from 1 97 1 -72 to 1975-76, including a payment of more than $100m by the McMahon Government in 1972-73. He further asked how, if the answer to that question was yes, it could be reconciled with my earlier answer concerning the interpretation of certain figures contained in table 2 on page 7 of the 1976-77 edition of Budget Paper No. 7. 1 have looked at the table and I have sought information from the Treasury. I am now able to say that the answer to the first of these questions is yes. There is a table 41 in last year’s Budget documents which does set out those things and I have it in front of me. Table 41 records Commonwealth payments to the States from 1972-73 to 1975-76 for employment creation purposes. The defect in the question asked yesterday was that Senator Wriedt was comparing two totally dissimilar tables. They are in no way related to each other.
It is impossible to understand why this fact should need to be reconciled with my earlier answer on the interpretation of the tables on page 6 and page 7. Table 41 is included in a chapter in the 1975-76 edition of Budget Paper No. 7 designed to provide descriptive and historical information on Commonwealth specific purpose programs of assistance to the States. Table 41 does no more than record the historical fact that certain payments were made to the States in the years concerned for employment creating purposes. On the other hand, table 2 in the 1976-77 edition is designed to assist in the interpretation of comparisons between the 1975-76 and 1976-77 aggregate figures by removing incomparables like non-recurring payments such as those for the Regional Employment Development scheme for employment creating purposes which would otherwise distort assessments of underlying trends.
-Senator Harradine asked me a question yesterday and since it concerned a member of my Department and the question of certain activities I sought some information. Senator Harradine asked whether a document produced by the Curriculum Development Centre was produced in excess of the powers of the Centre and what was the basis of it. I am advised that the Director of the Centre was approached by 2 State Directors-General and, because of his close past and present association with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, he was asked whether he had any knowledge of the voucher system through his contact with other OECD countries. It was a perfectly normal approach to a person with experience to ask about his source of information. Dr Skilbeck agreed to undertake the task of gathering together a series of documents on OECD situations, and that was done. A letter was sent with the report stating that it was prepared at the request of the States, that responsibility for voucher systems lay primarily with the Schools Commission and that the Curriculum Development Centre would not be proceeding any further with the study. The letter concluded:
In the meantime, alternative and, on the whole, better tried and better understood methods of achieving the educational objectives of a voucher system . . . could be progressively introduced and evaluated.
In other words, the report does not suggest that the principles of the voucher system are wrong. I conclude by saying that whatever the document may say, it is not an official document and does not reflect the Government’s view at this moment. The Government has not as yet undertaken an investigation.
- Mr President, I wish to raise a point of order. I seek your ruling on a question asked by Senator Sheil towards the end of Question Time relating to section 31a and the imposition of a tax on the wine industry. As this matter is already before the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce and Trade, which is at present conducting public hearings, I seek a ruling on Standing Order 99, which states:
Questions shall not refer to-
proceedings in Committee not reported to the Senate.
Is the honourable senator entitled to have the Minister reply to his question?
– The rules have never been so interpreted as to prevent from being answered a question about a particular area which may or may not have a direct bearing on an inquiry currently proceeding. Otherwise no questions could be asked in the Senate. An interpretation which is not too rigid has to be made in a situation like this.
– For the information of honourable senators I present an interim report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships dated 13 January 1976.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian delegation to the Thirtieth Session of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York during the period 1 6 September 1 975 to 1 7 December 1 975.
– Pursuant to section 1 8 of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1966 1 present the annual report on the operations of the National Debt Commission for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report on the meeting of the Australian Education Council held in Cairns during 8 July and 9 July 1 976.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry for the years 1976-77 to 1978-79 inclusive.
-I present the report of the Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders on the reference relating to the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the preservation of their sacred sites, together with a copy of the official Hansard transcript of evidence taken during the inquiry.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
At this moment, in the capacity of senator and an Aborigine, my heart is full of joy. This is indeed an historic day for me and I hope it will be for all other Aborigines because the report just presented marks the culmination of what I understand has been the first completely national examination of the circumstances of the Aboriginal people and the Torres Strait Islanders. It is of no little significance, I believe, that this examination was undertaken by one of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees of the Senate, namely, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment. That Committee had presented 2 progress reports on its work and when it was not reappointed in this Thirtieth Parliament, owing to a reorganisation of committee responsibilities, there was genuine concern on both sides of the Senate that the inquiry should be brought to fruition. So it was agreed on a motion by my colleague Senator Baume that the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders be appointed to complete the reference and present the report.
At this stage I shall not discuss in detail the findings and recommendations contained in the report. I trust that there will be an early opportunity for debate and that the report will be thoroughly discussed then. The recommendations, totalling ninety-seven, cover a vast range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders existence, and are listed at the front of the report for convenience with appropriate references to the text. I wish, however, to mention briefly certain basic matters which are canvassed in the report.
There is, first of all, absolutely no doubt that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders generally are culturally, socially and economically deprived with a consequent psychological scarring. It is equally beyond doubt that, in the formulation and implementation of programs for the advantage of the indigenous people of Australia, a number of areas have to be considered together rather than in isolation. These are particularly housing, health, employment and education, all of which are interdependent. Superimposed are factors such as racial, social and community attitudes and behaviour patterns which are, of course, of fundamental importance in their influence on program formulation, on the one hand, and Aboriginal and Islander response to programs on the other hand.
The report brings into the stark light of reality, I believe, iniquity of many kinds which is Stil being inflicted upon Aborigines and Islanders. In making that statement I give to ‘iniquity’ the meaning ‘gross injustice ‘ as set down in the Fifth Edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary. Gross injustice continues while we, the indigenous people, are allowed to remain in- no, perhaps I should say are relegated to- an inferior status, socially and economically. Among other things we have to contend with education systems and health services which inadequately serve our real needs, with the meanest standards of housing and, especially where Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders live in isolated communities and settlements, deficient community infrastructure services. Furthermore, we experience a high degree of unemployment continuously, not merely in times of economic difficulty. Indeed, the lack of economic viability is one of the major problems in isolated communities especially. I stress that it will need particular attention in the near future if not immediately.
As long ago as 1837, a House of Commons Select Committee on Aborigines (British Settlements), which examined the situation of indigenous people in a number of British settlements around the globe, made these statements in relation to the Aboriginal people of Australia or New Holland, as it was described in the Committee’s report:
Many of us in the present era may well be appalled that for the next 130 years the iniquity continued largely unabated, sheer cruelty abounded until, with the passage of the referendum in 1967, we illuminated the dark scene, we crossed the watershed and the Commonwealth was given an adequate measure of responsibility in Aboriginal affairs and was drawn deeply and directly into the task of bettering the conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and altering their status. I hope, I pray, that this report will help to inject a note of greater urgency into the future than there has been in the dark past. In conclusion, I wish to remind honourable senators and the Government of the Senate’s resolution of 14 March 1973 which stated:
That expression of opinion stands unless and until a contrary intention is expressed by the Senate. I expect, therefore, that within the next 3 months the Government will inform the Senate of its observations and intentions with respect to the recommendations made in this Select Committee’s report.
Before I resume my seat I, as a senator of Aboriginal descent, would like to have recorded in the annals of this Chamber my deep personal appreciation of the arduous and dedicated work performed by those senators and committee staff serving the Senate who in any way aided in the compilation of this report. Their patience and their compassion were evident and constant. Those virtues are indicative of the concern of those Australians who do care how the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders fare. As long as such senators, staff and Australians in general continue their endeavours, I am fully confident, as an Aborigine, that the many existing wrongs enfolding Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders will be steadily and surely righted.
– I wish to speak briefly on the tabling of this report in the Senate. At the outset I join with Senator Bonner in expressing appreciation and thanks to the staff, whom I am delighted to see sitting in the gallery, and to those who worked on the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders over a long period. Having survived to be the longest serving chairman of the Committee prior to the events of 13 December last year, I suppose that I can speak with some experience. The Committee has worked particularly well. It has worked harmoniously. I think that this reference is probably the first reference in a long time on which no minority report has been presented in the Senate. The decisions and recommendations in each of the 3 reports are unanimous. The first report was presented under your chairmanship, Mr President, some considerable time ago, to be followed by the second report and now this, the final report. I suppose, too, that one of the harmonious ways I can recall in which the Committee worked was when the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment ceased to exist and reappeared in the form of a new committee. There was difficulty in reaching agreement on how we would dispose of the reference then before us, particularly in view of the fact that we had reached the stage where we were preparing the final report. However, through good relationships on both sides there was no opposition and we were able to establish the select committee for the purpose of finishing this report.
It has been a committee with wide experience, as Senator Bonner mentioned. It instituted the first national inquiry ever into the problems confronting the indigenous people of this country. We received very great support from all sections of the Aboriginal and islander communities. We had a number of adventures ranging from the stark racism that we saw in a place called Oodnadatta to the ceremonial lunch on Badu Island with music, singing and what have you. These experiences afforded us the opportunity to talk with thousands of Aboriginal and islander people. We examined many witnesses. Many academic papers were placed before the Committee for its consideration. I wish publicly to say ‘thank you’ to everybody who assisted the Committee in those 2 areas, particularly the specialists in the various fields of anthropology, health, education and so on, who went to very great lengths to produce documents setting out their views in specialist areas which assisted the
Committee in large measure. The recommendations, as mentioned by Senator Bonner, are, we hope, set out concisely and in simple language so that all members of the community will be able to read them with ease and those who are specialists in the community will readily understand the meaning that we hope to convey.
I am pleased to support the suggestion of having a report brought into this chamber in 3 months time. I think this will help to speed up the implementation of the recommendations which we have made. Previous governments, at both State and Federal level, have already implemented some of the previous recommendations contained in the first reports. I hope that in the future sufficient time will be allowed for a lengthy debate on this report to give all of us an opportunity to examine the recommendations that have been made. Some of them are quite exciting. As Senator Bonner has said, there are a number of areas in which a great deal of work has to be done.
I do not propose to turn this into a political debate. Members of the Committee and those who have served with us will be getting together this evening to celebrate. Normally we have a public ceremony associated with the publication of a report but there is no more public place than this chamber. I reiterate my thanks to all who worked on the Committee for long hours and weekends and put up with short periods of sleep as we travelled from one remote area to another. They were not a bit worried about getting out before daylight in the morning. I did not hear any complaints but I think Mr Thomson, our Secretary, sometimes had a few complaints on the side about digging us out of bed too early. But those complaints did not come back to any of the chairmen of the Committee. We accepted these conditions because everybody on the Committee was dedicated to the job. I think this report spells out in very simple terms the recommendations that we hope will be implemented by the Government. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-74, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Development of Navy Supply Centre and Army Workshop Facility at Defence Establishment, Zetland, New South Wales.
-I present the fifth report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
– by leave- Estimates Committee A in its report to the Senate in May 1976 recommended that Government departments provide detailed explanations of estimates of expenditure at the time of the presentation of Appropriation Bills to the Parliament, and that Estimates Committees take the opportunity of having a preliminary examination of” the estimates and explanatory notes in private session prior to public hearings of the committees. The Committee suggested that such a procedure could lead to a clarification of proposed areas of particular concern and, perhaps, a decrease in the number of departmental officers required to attend the subsequent public hearings.
The Government commends the Committee A suggestion and to facilitate such a procedure has requested departments to provide explanations of expenditure before the end of this week. It is suggested that for this purpose the committees hold private meetings during the week 6 to 10 September, and attempt to define the areas of expenditure that members would like to examine. Senators who are not members of a particular committee, but who would like to exercise the right to attend and ask questions at the public hearings, should indicate, in writing, to the secretary of that committee before 10 September those particular areas which they may desire to examine.
It is the Government’s hope that by adopting this new recommended procedure senators may be able to obtain more detailed information and that the conduct of committee hearings may become more efficient and more effective. The intention is that this year Estimates Committees should meet in public sessions commencing on Thursday, 16 September. A proposed schedule of meetings has been circulated for the guidance of honourable senators. I emphasise that it is a proposed schedule It will be a matter for negotiation between the Government and the Opposition as to how to meet everybody’s requirements.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act 1 974 to increase the handicapped children’s benefit, and with respect to certain formal matters.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision to increase the rate of the handicapped children’s benefit as announced by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in his Budget Speech of 17 August 1976. Honourable senators will be aware that the handicapped children’s benefit was first introduced in 1968 under the National Health Act 1953-1968 and was incorporated in the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act 1974 when the Act was passed in 1974. The handicapped children’s benefit is payable to an eligible voluntary, religious or charitable organisation, or local governing body, which provides approved residential accommodation for handicapped children who are engaged in training programs The Bill provides for the rate of this benefit in respect of each physically or mentally handicapped child under 16 years of age to be increased from $3.50 a day to $5 a day with effect from 1 November 1976. Claims for payment of this benefit are submitted monthly in arrears by the organisation. Currently, the benefit is payable to 86 homes in respect of 1400 handicapped children.
As the Senate is aware the Government has also decided to increase the handicapped child’s allowance from $ 10 a week to $ 1 5 a week, which is payable under the Social Services Act 1947-1976. In addition, an amount of $30m comprising $27m for continuing commitments and $3m for new projects is being provided this year under the handicapped persons assistance program. In 1977-78, $ 10m will be provided for new projects as well as an amount for continuing commitments. In 1978-79 provision for new projects will be doubled to $20m in addition to providing for continuing commitments. Over these 3 years, a total of $ 121m will be provided under this program. Furthermore the Government is providing $ 14.1m this year for the operation of the Commonwealth rehabilitation service, which provides rehabilitation treatment and training to restore disabled people to their fullest physical, mental, social and vocational usefulness. These measures illustrate the Government’s concern for the welfare of the handicapped and the high priority afforded the provision of adequate facilities and care to meet their needs. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sim) agreed to:
That the time for the presentation of the report from the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Australia and the Indian Ocean region be extended, and that the Committee now report on or before 30 November 1976.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 7 September 1976, at 2.30 p.m., unless sooner called together by the President, or, in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, Government Business take precedence over General Business after 3 p.m. this day.
– 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 requesting variations in the membership of Estimates Committees in accordance with the list circulated to honourable senators.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That the requested variation in the membership of Estimates Committees be agreed to.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate nominating Senator Townley to be a member of the Standing Committee on National Resources in place of Senator Durack.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Townley, having been duly nominated in accordance with the resolution of the Senate of 2 March 1976, be appointed a member of the Standing Committee on National Resources.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate requesting that Senator Durack be discharged from further attendance on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, and nominating Senator Young to be a member in his place.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Durack be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, and that Senator Young be appointed to the Committee.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
( 12.39)- I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide legislative authority needed to meet the prospective deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 1976-77. At the same time, the borrowing authority it will provide will, together with borrowing authority expected to be available under other legislation, enable the amount of borrowing needed to finance the estimated overall Budget deficit for the financial year to be undertaken. As honourable senators will be aware, for many years there has been legislation for these purposes in the legislative programs of successive governments.
In his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced that the prospective overall Budget deficit for 1976-77 is estimated to be $2, 608m. Except in so far as funds are available from accumulated cash balances or other minor financing transactions, this deficit must be financed by net borrowings. Such net borrowings must, of course, be within proper authority from the Parliament.
The overall Budget deficit is a comprehensive figure. It takes into account all relevant transactions of the 3 separate funds used to record Commonwealth receipts and outlays. These funds are the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the Loan Fund and the Trust Fund. The amounts which may be paid from each fund are limited to the amounts legally available to it.
Underlying the overall deficit estimated for 1976-77 is an estimated deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The current estimate of this Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit is $ 1,435m. This is after allowing for the charging to Loan Fund of expenditures totalling $82 7m on capital grants to the States and payments to the States for housing.
It is our intention to propose that legislation to be introduced in respect of these expenditures should, as in previous years, authorise payments to be made either from the Loan Fund or the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Details of the current estimate of the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit are set out, for the information of honourable senators, in Table 3 of Budget Paper No. 4- Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure. As payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund cannot exceed moneys available in it, it is necessary either to reduce payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund by charging to another part of the Commonwealth’s accounts some of the expenditures normally met from it or, alternatively, to supplement the receipts of the Fund from some other source. Appropriate legislative authority is needed for such transfers. The simplest and traditional means of providing appropriate legislative authority is a Loan Bill of the type I am now presenting.
This Bill will authorise borrowings for defence purposes in order that defence expenditures, which would normally be met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, may instead be met from the Loan Fund. The Bill authorises borrowing for defence purposes, but it does not authorise any additional defence expenditures. It will simply allow reallocations between the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the Loan Fund of defence expenditure to be made during the remainder of the financial year- defence expenditures which have already been authorised by Parliament in Supply Act (No. 1) 1976-77 or which will subsequently be authorised in Appropriation Acts for this financial year. In this regard I draw honourable senators attention to clause 8 of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1976-77 introduced into the House of Representatives on 17 August. The clause makes that Bill subject to the provisions of the proposed Loan Act.
I should also mention that, as borrowings under this legislation will be for the purpose of financing defence expenditures, those borrowings will not require approval from the Australian Loan Council. However, the Bill includes a specific limit to the amount of such borrowings that may be undertaken. I am sure that I do not have to elaborate on the point that, at this early stage, the estimate of the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit is inevitably a qualified one. The actual figure for the year will be affected by all the developments during the year which cause departures from current estimates of receipts or payments of the Fund. In setting a limit on borrowings for inclusion in the Bill these inherent uncertainties need to be recognised. The limit that has been included is $ 1 ,600m. This provides a relatively small margin over the estimated Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit of $ 1,435m. Borrowings under this proposed legislation will be undertaken within the framework of monetary policy, to which the Treasurer referred in his Budget Speech. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 24 August, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Senate is debating the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1976. The Opposition will not be opposing this Bill for reasons which emerge partly from the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in which he sets out in some detail the main purposes and effects of the legislation. I will refer to those main purposes in summary form. They are: Firstly, to give effect to the Government’s decision on banning advertising of cigarettes and cigarette tobacco; secondly, to amend the Act in relation to the licensing of translator stationsthat is, television stations; thirdly, to amend the Act relating to community television aerial systems; and, fourthly, to permit licensing of broadcaster translator stations for radio purposes.
Since the Bill was first introduced into the House of Representatives there have been further amendments brought down by the Government which were designed, I believe, to clarify certain aspects which were set out in the first amending Bill. For example, there were problems which arose- apparently these were brought to the Government’s attention after the first piece of legislation was introduced- relating to translator services being available to metropolitan television and radio stations. As I see the further amendments, they are purely in the interests of clarification of those points.
Insofar as the provisions of the Bill deal with these matters of translator stations and community television aerials, I state that we see them as measures which are designed to reflect community needs and to increase technological capacity. We welcome those measures. Insofar as community television aerials are concerned, I think the Minister explained in his second reading speech that that amendment is made on the basis of what is referred to as ‘community of interest’ considerations when recommending grants of licences and, in particular, for aesthetic reasons which would enable the States to have one television licence effectively instead of a mass of them as now is the situation.
I wish to say a few words regarding the proposals to ban cigarette and tobacco advertising from television. The previous Labor Government introduced a system of phasing out the advertising of cigarette and tobacco products on television. We did this because of the known health hazards associated with tobacco and cigarettes and the incontrovertible evidence relating to those health hazards in relation to lung disease and heart disease. Of course, we did this also because it is the one area in which the Federal Government has constitutional power in relation to the media. That is to say, this Federal Parliament has power over broadcasting and television and power to stop advertising of products of this kind on that form of the media.
I notice that the Minister has referred to the fact that approaches have now been made to State health Ministers to see whether a consistent approach can be developed in relation to the banning of cigarettes and other products of that kind in other forms of the media. Of course, that requires an exercise of the constitutional power of each State. I mention this because it again draws attention to one of the difficulties which any Federal government faces when embarking on a policy of this kind in a Federation such as Australia.
The lack of constitutional power over the media in general terms including, for example, newspapers has the consequence that a government is unable to follow a consistent policy. So there seem to be inequities in this Bill in terms of its capacity to stop advertising on radio and television but not to stop it in newspapers or in other forms of the media which are not the responsibility of the Federal Parliament. In a sense, I suppose, it results in unfairness and a degree of sloppiness in the administration of what might be described as a health program or a preventive medicine program in relation to the effects of tobacco and cigarettes.
The other point which I mention briefly in relation to the ban on cigarettes and tobacco advertising is this: There has been a lot of publicity associated with this move. In fact, I welcome the Government’s decision to proceed with the course upon which the Labor Government embarked. I say that there has been a lot of publicity about it because there is much criticism in terms of freedom to advertise. I suppose that, of the thousands of people who have been disappointed with the present Government, nobody has been more disappointed than the cigarette and tobacco advertisers. I congratulate the Government on the decision which it has taken and maintained in relation to this matter. I said last night in the course of the Budget debate that on 13 December last- the election day- many people in the country thought everything would suddenly become right. For example, the people in the rural sector thought it would rain again when Mr Fraser was elected as Prime Minister. I am sure that the tobacco interests in this country were confident that the present Government would not proceed with the Labor Government ‘s decision on this matter. As I say, I congratulate this Government for having done so.
In the course of mentioning that aspect, I refer to a document which has been put out by the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations entitled Freedom to Advertise. It is described as a report of findings from a Roy Morgan Research Centre survey of public opinion about advertising freedom. I cite this document to the Senate because it is one of those extraordinary documents which demonstrates what is often said: If you ask a silly question, you are likely to get a silly answer. In this document, a number of loaded questions has been asked and many loaded answers have been provided. Let me refer to some of those questions. Question 1 states:
Free speech- being able to say what we want, when we want- is an important part of the Australian way of life. How strongly do you agree or disagree?
Surprise, surprise! About 90 per cent of Australian people say they agree. The conclusion is drawn that freedom of speech is part of the Australian way of life. Question 2 states:
Advertising is just like free speech. Do you agree or disagree?
The conclusion drawn, by a majority of three to one, is that Australians equate freedom to advertise with freedom of speech. The third question states:
Goods openly and legally on sale to the public should be allowed to be advertised. Do you agree or disagree?
Again, a very large percentage of Australians say yes, leading to the conclusion that goods and services openly and legally available should be freely advertised. The fourth question is:
Goods on which a Government collects taxes should be allowed to be advertised. Do you agree or disagree?
The answer to that is that products which yield revenue to the Government should be freely advertised. As I have said, that is a publication of the Federation of Australian Commercial Stations, as part of its campaign to reverse the Government’s decision on this question of cigarette and tobacco advertising. I repeat that if you ask silly questions, you get silly answers. Also if you ask loaded questions, you get loaded answers. I ask honourable senators: What if we took the consequences of those answers to their fullest extent? It could emerge clearly as the view of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations- on the basis of this FACTS document- that, for example, if sex shops or vendors of contraceptives upon which, of course, taxes are paid to the Government, want to advertise, the majority of Australians would approve of that action or that the majority of Australians, in fact, would approve of advertising anything, on the basis of those questions which have been asked and the conclusions which have been drawn from the answers.
The freedom to advertise and the freedom to speak, which I believe crosses party lines, is relative. Only 150 years ago employers were free to employ 12-year old children in coalmines. That was described as a freedom 150 years ago. A few years ago in our own country we had a great and quite extraordinary debate about whether people should be free not to wear seat belts in motor cars. We have had debates over the years also about whether people of certain ages should be free to go into hotels, whether women should be free to go into hotels, and so on. Only some 4 years ago we had a government which decided that 18-year-old young men were not free to determine whether they should go to fight in Vietnam. The freedom to decide that people who could not vote could still be sent to Vietnam was reserved for the government of the day. That, of course, was the subject of a lot of debate in this country. All these sorts of freedoms are relative and must, in a sense, be examined on their merits.
I am not without sympathy for the people in the tobacco industry who ask: ‘Why should we be singled out against the breweries and others who are free to advertise their products which are equally harmful?’ I suppose the answer to their question is that they constitute the first cab off the rank in terms of relative freedoms, because the evidence against the product of the tobacco industry in terms of health seems to me to be absolutely compelling. The previous Government saw that this evidence was compelling and that advertising of cigarettes should not be allowed. The present Government is of like persuasion. It is because of that that these amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act have been proposed. On behalf of the Opposition I very much regret that the Government does not have the capacity to influence more widely tobacco and cigarette advertising but, as I said earlier, I congratulate the Government on the steps it has taken within its present constitutional powers. As I have indicated, the Opposition will not oppose the Bill. In fact, we commend it to the Senate.
-I note that Senator Button said that the Opposition does not oppose this Bill. When Senator Button began his speech he outlined the various aspects of the measure. I must say that I am very happy with the section of the Bill that relates to translators, but for many of the reasons that Senator Button outlined I endorse with a certain amount of reluctance the section relating to the banning of cigarette advertisements. I do not think there is any doubt in the world about the health problems that are associated with cigarette smoking. That is not the question in debate here this afternoon. We have a certain number of statistics that point to smoking being the cause of lung cancer, as well as heart disease, hardening of the arteries and so on. I dare say it is questionable whether it is the role of government to protect people from themselves, but that also is a subject for another debate.
I should like to deal very briefly with the effect of banning cigarette advertising or, indeed, of not advertising at all. When Mr David Jull spoke during the debate on this matter in another place he quoted statistics relating to the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In the United States of America the per capita consumption of tobacco did go down but at the same time as cigarette advertising was banned they also had a very heavy campaign against smoking. The ban had the opposite effect in the United Kingdom. The consumption of tobacco per head of population actually went up. In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which is not known as one of the bastions of a free enterprise society and, indeed, where they have no advertising at all, consumption has gone up quite substantially. This means that in our society today we have a problem that is quite a bit bigger than the subtlety or seductiveness of modern advertising. I just place those few observations before the chamber. I think it should be noted that when the ban comes in- I believe it will be on 1 Septemberthe broadcasting industry will already have some self-imposed controls. I believe that now such advertisements are not broadcast between certain times. The industry has tried to tidy up advertising.
As Senator Button has said, we have also the problem of the advertising of analgesics and alcohol. The type of advertisements employed in this area are cause for concern to those who are worried about the future of our younger generation and about their use of these things. As Senator Jessop has said, the fact that motor cars are one of the major killers in our society does not necessarily mean that we are going to go out madly and start banning the advertising of those vehicles.
– Motor cars do not cause cancer of the lungs.
-they might not, but they can kill a person a darned sight quicker. One thing I do question is the advisability of using the regulatory powers of the Broadcasting Control Board in this way. The problem is that it is discriminatory censorship of almost the worst form. We realise that we have to have these powers to regulate the broadcasting industry, because of the different frequencies and the different outputs of the various transmitters. There has to be an overriding body which allocates these frequencies and stipulates the output under which each station should operate. I do not think it was ever envisaged when this regulatory body was set up that it would act as a means of censorship of the electronic media. We have here a means of discrimination against the electronic media alone.
One of the paradoxes of the whole situation is that we are going to find that the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be one of the major advertisers of cigarettes. I do not have to go into what happens at a football match or a cricket match, when the ABC cameras pan the ground and all the advertisements in the world appear right round the grounds. I understand a higher fee has to be paid to advertise if a particular advertisement is within the range of the television cameras. So we have this irony that the ABC will become one of the major broadcasters of cigarette advertisements. As well as that we have the tobacco companies promoting the various sporting competitions. Also, we have no restrictions whatsoever on advertising in the newspapers. I submit that this legislation probably would have been better if it had been prepared in consultation with the States and more on a health basis than within the portfolio of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson).
One of the ironies of the whole situation is that because of this banning of cigarette advertising the other part of this Bill becomes all the more important, that is, the part relating to providing licences for translators, especially in country areas. To my knowledge there are at least 30 country radio stations in Australia that are losing money; I think the number is about 34. The denial of this cigarette advertising revenue will not help this situation. I support quite gladly the part of the Bill that relates to licences for translators. The stations are going to be allowed to put in translators and so cut down on some of their operating expenses but at the same time provide a service to the people in the country areas. One of the problems of the outback areas of our country, in all States, is that of isolation. Indeed, when people on properties are looking for labour now one of the questions a prospective employee asks is: ‘Have you got television?’ If the answer is no, he is likely to go somewhere else looking for employment. If there is any chance of providing an alternative network or increased media outlets in the more sparsely populated areas of our country, they should be welcomed. I hope that the ABC will put more translators through the western part of the country. When translators were first introduced they were a great boon to people in the country towns, and the situation now is that people on the fringes, although they get very bad reception, do get some and it is whetting their appetites. Obviously they would like better reception, which would help to meet the isolation problem in the west. I support this part of the Bill and I hope that the commercial stations as well as the ABC can increase their output of translators for both radio broadcasting and television, in order to give these people an alternative network, or indeed any sort of network. I support the Bill.
-As Senator Button has already said, the Opposition offers no objection to this legislation. Indeed, it commends the Government for implementing the fulfilment of the Labor Government’s program in this area. I wish to take the opportunity in this debate to make some comments on the television industry generally. In this present period of economic uncertainty and recession, one industry which is enjoying an extraordinary period of prosperity is the commercial television industry. The fact that that industry is recording such buoyancy at this time is related very much to the policies pursued by the Labor Government. When Labor came to office in 1972 it was said that the commercial television industry would not be able to cope with the luxury of having 3 commercial television stations in each of the cities of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. At a meeting with commercial licensees in February 1973, when I was the Minister for the Media in the Labor Government, I was told by a number of those licensees that when colour television was introduced one of the commercial stations, certainly in Adelaide and Brisbane, would have to go. Unfortunately I do not have the returns before me at the moment, but the stations, including the three in both Adelaide and Brisbane, are doing reasonably well. Again I emphasise that the buoyancy presently existing in the industry is the result of the policies pursued by the Labor Government and are directly related to the Labor Government’s decision not to enforce by way of a guillotine an immediate cutting out of cigarette and cigarette tobacco advertising but to phase out that advertising gradually over a period of three years.
The annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for 1 972, the year before Labor came to office, stated in paragraph 153 on page 40:
The Board in its Twenty-fourth Annual Report recorded the fact that the Broadcasting and Television Act was amended in June 1972 to provide for warnings to be included in advertisements for cigarettes and cigarette tobacco on broadcasting and television stations. The provision became effective from 1 January 1 973, at which date it was obligatory on licensees to ensure that the warning Medical Authorities warn that smoking is a health hazard’ followed each advertisement for cigarettes and cigarette tobacco on broadcasting and television stations.
The Labor Government adopted the attitude that if that form of smoking was a health hazard then, using the powers that were available to the Government, it should take action to ban that sort of advertising in media under the control of the Australian Government. True it is that the Labor Government could not exercise constitutional control over advertising in newspapers or magazines, but it could exercise such control over radio and commercial television advertising. I as Minister for the Media, and my colleague Dr Everingham, the Minister for Health, had discussions with officers of my Department and his Department and with highly competent officers, if I might say so, of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It was pointed out to us that if the Government had adopted a guillotine attitude of immediate banning of this form of advertising it would find extreme difficulty in implementing the other plank of its policy to obtain greater employment opportunities for Australian performers. After discussions that took place between Dr Everingham and me, we persuaded our Cabinet colleagues that in the interests of carrying out both aspects of the Government’s policy the matter should be approached on a phasing out basis.
I come to the 26th annual report of the Broadcasting Control Board for the year 1 973-74, the first annual report after the Labor Government came to office. At pages 46 and 47 of the report the history of that approach is set out. I place on record paragraphs 223 and 224, which state:
The Government decided that advertising of cigarette and cigarette tobacco should be completely banned on broadcasting and television. However, in view of the evidence submitted to it on the economic consequences to the industry of an immediate total ban it decided that such advertising should be phased out over a period of three years.
The Minister requested the Board to implement the Government’s decision and the matter was discussed with the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations and the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters.
The Board then sets out in its report how the phasing out of that sort of advertising was to take place. I mention that merely to indicate that the Labor Government, in a very earnest desire to make the industry buoyant, to improve opportunities and to provide greater opportunities for Australian talent, decided to adopt that attitude. Whilst I do not see much television nowadays, nevertheless I know that today, because of that 3-year phasing out period, television stations have had the opportunity to search for other forms of advertising and have been able to find such advertising, principally in the retail industry.
Might I say also that the Labor Government decided to assist the stations to overcome their problems by diverting a lot of Government advertising to the television industry from newspapers and magazines. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an answer provided by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) on 4 April 1976 to my question on notice No. 453.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Administrative Services (Question No. 453)
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Separate figures for newspapers and magazines are not readily available but the following figures are provided in respect of(l) and (2).
– It will be seen that so far as Government advertising is concerned, in 1972- the year before the Labor Government came to office- the amount spent on Government advertising on television was $488,642. In 1974-75, the last financial year in which the Labor Government was in office, the Government spent $2, 124,38 1 on advertising on commercial television. The Government increased its proportion of advertising from 9 per cent in 1972-73 to roughly 25 per cent in 1974-75. As a result of the policies that were pursued by the Labor Government, funds were available to provide better and more opportunities for Australian performers.
As far as television was concerned, we deliberately set out through our policy to obtain work opportunities for Australian performers. In 1973, it will be recalled, the Labor Government increased tax on commercial broadcasting stations because on the figures that were put forward to us it appeared that the industry at that time was sufficiently viable to bear another tax upon it. Although in that year we imposed a tax on the commercial broadcasting industry, we left the commercial television industry alone as far as additional tax was concerned in order that the additional revenue it was then receiving might be available for use on Australian productions. I now notice that there is a Bill before the Parliament to increase television station licence fees which amount, I think, to about $650,000. We introduced colour television in 1975 in conformity with the previous Government’s timetable and to encourage that industry- that new electronic media- to get off the ground in Australia for the first time, we as a Labor Government abolished ;n the 1 974-75 financial year television viewers and wireless listeners licence fees which from recollection represented about $120m a year in revenue not collected by Treasury. We abolished those licence fees to get colour television moving in Australia. I think it is a well known fact that colour television has developed in this country at a much faster rate than it has in any other country.
It is often said that the Labor Government has no interest in the commercial life of this country. We realise that a great number of workers are employed in the commercial life of this country, and certainly we realised that there had to be an increase in competition so far as radio and television stations were concerned. Just let me say that in the few years that we were in office we put commercial television stations into RenmarkLoxton in South Australia and into the central agricultural area of Western Australia around Mawson. We put a commercial television station into Geraldton in Western Australia. We approved a commercial radio station going into Port Hedland in Western Australia; a commercial radio station going into the DampierRoebourne area of Western Australia, and a new commercial radio station here in the Australian Capital Territory- radio broadcasting station 2CC. We authorised a station going into the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne. We approved a commercial station in Adelaide. We approved, although it has not gone in for whatever reason, a commercial radio station in Sydney. If I might say so, no commercial radio station had been added to the capital city stations for some 40 years prior to the advent of a Labor Government. I have merely taken the opportunity of this debate to put on record what was done by the Labor Government so far as commercial radio and commercial television are concerned and to say, as I said earlier, that the buoyancy that is enjoyed by this industry today is directly attributable to the policies that were practised by the Labor Government.
In relation to that part of the Bill dealing with translators, we support the proposal. Indeed, shortly prior to the time when I became Special Minister of State, that is, at the time I was the
Minister for the Media in the Labor Government, my former department and the officers of the Broadcasting Control Board were looking at the situation to ascertain how the difficulties that do exist in this area could be overcome. In relation to the proposal on translators, we certainly support it. I say this quite properly- I do not say it with any disrespect at all because ironically this was my intention- that one of the areas that will probably benefit from this part of the Bill will be the Gold Coast area of Queensland which of course is represented in the Parliament by the present Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson). That is an area that certainly needs television translators.
During the period of the Labor Government tremendous strides were made in the broadcasting and television areas. I certainly say that the buoyancy that exists in this industry today is directly related to the policies that were pursued by the Labor Government and that because of Labor’s policies greater and many opportunities were provided to Australian performers.
– There are 2 main aspects of this Bill. One, of course, is the ban on cigarette advertising and the other is the amendment to the Broadcasting and Television Act dealing with the licensing of translator stations. The decision to ban cigarette and cigarette tobacco advertising on the electronic media is not new. One can cast one’s mind back to the days when Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was the Minister for Health when by his direction as Minister all advertisements had to have the footnote ‘Smoking is a health hazard’. So through the progression of time we have gradually reached the situation where today we are dealing with legislation that will totally ban the advertising of both cigarettes and cigarette tobacco. This ban was commenced by the Whitlam Government as far back as 1973. The electronic industry was given a 3-year period in which to phase out cigarette advertising and an opportunity to re-arrange its revenue earnings. The period expires on 3 1 August this year. Although there was a change of government the present Government under Mr Fraser has continued that policy of the previous Labor Government.
There has been much concern about the aspect of revenue earnings. Senator Douglas McClelland dealt earlier with the buoyancy of the television and radio industries today. Let me say that there was a period not so long ago when these industries were in quite a deal of trouble financially, some States more than others and some stations more than others. This applied to radio as well as to television. Having said that, when one considers the revenue aspect of radio and television stations one also has to consider very seriously the health of this nation. In the second reading speech the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said:
I think it would be wrong of the Government, even though one can express concern about the revenue aspect for the electronic media, to go on encouraging cigarette smoking when the facts are clearly showing it is doing so much damage to the health of so many people in this country. The decision taken in Australia is not singularly peculiar to this country. Let us look at what has happened in other countries. Advertising of cigarettes on television and radio was banned in Canada as early as 1 January 1 972; in the United States of America it was banned in January 1971 and in the United Kingdom in August 1 965. Lifts in most States of the United States carry a notice stating that a fine of $50 will be imposed on anyone smoking in them.
My own State of South Australia experimented for 3 months to see whether smoking should be allowed on public transport. Today smoking is banned on all metropolitan buses in Adelaide. There has been a growing awareness throughout the world, including throughout the Australian community, that something must be done to discourage the smoking of cigarettes. I think it is only right that this Government has continued the previous policy which was initiated by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson when Minister for Health finally to abolish and ban the advertising of cigarettes and cigarette tobacco.
– Would you prefer to be in the grip of the weed or the grip of the grape?
– I take on board what the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has just said. One could also refer to the advertising of analgesics and alcohol and even go to the extreme and refer to the advertising of motor cars. What greater hazard is there in our community than motor cars? They cause so many deaths in our community. I think we have to adopt a rational approach in this area. Figures have shown clearly what smoking does. I would hate to think what would happen in this country if we banned motor cars. This is something that must be watched very closely.
I turn now to the area of fringe advertising. When this legislation is passed- which it will be because the Opposition supports it- what will be the position on fringe advertising? When sport is being televised from football fields or cricket fields one sees around the arena perimeter advertisements of tobacco companies, paints or of so many other bits and pieces. They bring in quite a deal of revenue for the particular sporting club or arena. I am also very conscious of the great deal of money that is given by tobacco companies to so many sporting communities and clubs throughout Australia. Many racing, tennis, cricket and football competitions are being heavily supported financially by various tobacco companies. The same applies with regard to trophies given by companies. I hope the Minister will clarify a matter for me. I refer to clause 5 of the Bill which states:
Section 100 of the Principal Act is amended-
by adding at the end thereof the following subsection:
10) A reference in sub-section (5), (5a) or (6) to the broadcasting or televising of advertisements or of an advertisement shall be read as not including a reference to the broadcasting or televising of matter of an advertising character as an accidental or incidental accompaniment of the broadcasting or televising of other matter in circumstances in which the licencee does not receive payment or other valuable consideration for broadcasting or televising the advertising matter. ‘.
I hope that references will continue to be made in radio programs and commentaries to a company that has sponsored a match or has presented trophies. I emphasise that we must look at the whole situation rationally and accept the fact that whilst we are prepared no longer to support something that is injurious to the health of our community we will not totally abolish any opportunity for companies to give their support to the sporting bodies of this country. Sport plays a very important part in our community. Finance is one of the great problems today not only for sporting bodies but also for areas of our community which carry out welfare and social activities. I would hate to think that these companies would be driven away from giving further support and encouragement to the expansion and continuation of sporting bodies in Australia.
If we go even further and accept the proposition that we ban fringe advertising in Australia what will happen when test cricket is being played in England? The dear old BBC would be televising the test match from Lord ‘s. I recall the last occasion that this was done and the match was retelevised in Australia by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. What did we see scattered around the perimeter of Lord’s? Advertising. How do we overcome this problem? How do we overcome the problem of a tennis player, who is playing in international competition which is being televised, walking out with a towel that has a certain brand name on it? There is nothing we can do. I think the matter has to be looked at. I hope that my interpretation of clause 5 is correct. I hope that the Minister will clarify this position for the Senate. We can go to extremes with these things.
I now turn to the other aspects of the Bill. I will deal with the licensing of broadcasting and television translator stations. These stations will be of great assistance in many borderline areas of Australia. Some communities at present are being serviced by a television program that is not really a local program. The introduction of the licensing of translators will be of great benefit to these communities. Senator Douglas McClelland referred to the Gold Coast. One can think of other areas in Australia to which the benefits of translator stations will apply and be of great assistance. The benefits will go further than just State borders. They will go to local areas where great assistance eventually can be given.
I look now to the area of broadcasting services. Many deficiencies occur, particularly in the outback areas which have a low density of population. Broadcasting services, together with the introduction of broadcasting translator stations, can bring great benefit to many people. I recall the irony of one situation in my own State of South Australia. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission has a radio telescope 30 miles from Ceduna near the Western Australian border. One can sit inside the building and watch a colour television program being transmitted from another country. Yet one can walk out of the station, go down the road and not even receive a decent radio message. These people could get no advantage from the colour television. Yet colour television, before it was introduced in Australia, was at their back door. At the time they did not even have a decent radio program. Today they do. Many people who up to now have not had the advantage of good reception will now receive that advantage.
I commend the Government for taking these 2 important steps. One could look to the problems that would arise with the introduction of more frequency modulation radio stations and the eventual changeover in some areas of television to ultra high frequency. Whilst making passing reference to the problem, the confusion and perhaps the need for long-term planning in this area- something that has been needed for quite some time in this country- I refer also to the long-term planning in regard to ether waves for both radio and television. I take on board what Senator Douglas McClelland said earlier. I worked fairly closely with Senator Douglas McClelland when he was Minister for the Media. But there was a time when the previous Government was in power when I was most concerned, as were many other people, by the proposal for the proliferation of so many radio stations whose introduction was planned in my view on a haphazard basis.
I emphasise that there is a great need in this country to look at the situation very closely and do some long-term planning. The advances in technology taking place throughout the world today and the advances in technology that will be introduced into radio and television in many areas including South Australia are such that there will be need for long-term planning. When more radio stations change to FM broadcasting and when, as we will no doubt see, UHF television transmission is adopted by some stations there will be a need to make sure that we do not finish up with a situation similar to what I call the railways complex’ that we had in Australia for so many years when there was haphazard introduction without any long-term planning. I hope that the inquiry into broadcasting that is taking place will come to light with many satisfactory ideas of benefit to this country for the future planning of the electronic media.
I commend the Government for the Bill and for concluding a policy in one area, that was started a long while ago. I emphasise one point: Whilst I fully support this concept proposing the banning of cigarette advertising I hope we will adopt a rational approach and will not go to extremes whereby companies will face total bans. This could have an adverse effect on a very healthy section of our community- the sporting world.
– I rise to take part in this debate very briefly as I wish to make reference to one matter only. It is not really involved in this legislation. However, this is an opportunity to place my views on record regarding one aspect of broadcasting in Australia. There would be very little point in my arguing the merits or otherwise of the legislation because I feel and am convinced that alcohol and driving are every bit as dangerous to health as smoking. I for one do not believe that any section of the community should be discriminated against. I would rather smoke my 2 packets of cigarettes a day than drink heavily or drive fast. I think I might be safer doing that.
– It depends what they carry you off in.
-One gets carried off eventually one way or the other. It is a matter of not exposing oneself to whatever is the most dangerous. I do not want to dwell on that aspect. I wish to place on record- and I believe this ought to be done in this Parliament- my congratulations to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the excellent work it is now doing in the broadcasting of serious music on FM radio. FM radio was late coming to this country. It came largely as a result of the efforts of Senator Douglas McClelland as Minister for the Media. It was his proposal which was put before the Labor Government in 1 974 that brought about the introduction of FM broadcasting after it had been operating in many other countries for many years. As a result of its introduction we find now in Australia a quality of broadcasting of serious music which is quite outstanding. From my very keen interest in this subject and from listening to broadcasts of this type of program overseas I am sure that we in Australia can say that we enjoy an excellent standard of broadcasting of fine music. Only last week I noticed that the ABC has varied its program on FM radio. It is now possible to hear major works of music as early as 7 o’clock in the morning. If it were not for the ABC taking these initiatives, the cultural life of this country would be affected to its detriment.
– Are you getting the benefit of the good one in Adelaide?
-I did not want to make this a political debate. I could have said that because of the advent of this Government there are certain cities, such as my own, Hobart, which will not get FM radio, but I do not want to be provocative in my comments. I think Senator Douglas McClelland has covered all the necessary political points. I felt that someone from this Parliament ought to compliment the ABC on the work it has done and I certainly do so. Only yesterday, I was able to have my morning cup of coffee with my cigarette and listen to Prokofiev’s classical symphony. I had the best of all worlds.
– in reply- It is a great joy to be able to rise as a Minister and find such a bipartisan approach to legislation. I thank all honourable senators for their contributions. I join Senator Wriedt in his comments. He will recall, as will Senator Douglas McClelland, that it was the bipartisan approach to FM radio of this Senate, through the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, of which I was a member at the time, which led to a recommendation on FM radio being made to this Senate. This in turn led to the McLean Committee and the results that have flowed from it. So the introduction of FM radio has flowed from bipartisan actions. I share with Senator Wriedt his comments on what a contribution to the recreation, enjoyment and culture of this country fine music through FM radio has made.
Senator Young sought clarification of one point, that is, whether the purpose of clause 5, which seeks to insert a proposed new sub-section (10) in section 100, is as the honourable senator set out. What is called peripheral or perimeter advertising is permitted by this Bill. Advertising of slogans on billboards or fences around sporting ovals is permitted providing there is not abuse of the intention of the legislation by a broadcaster or a telecaster. That is what is meant by the accidental or incidental penetration by slogans or advertising. As I understand it, it also would be possible for sponsorship by particular sponsors to continue so long as it was not sponsorship in the direct sense of sponsoring certain cigarettes or cigarette tobacco. So, those aspects do not cut across the intentions of the legislation at all. What was intended by both sides of this Senate and of the other place was a sane approach. I thank all honourable senators for the speedy passage of this legislation. I commend the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 25 August, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Australia ‘s Official Development Assistance to Developing Countries 1976-77
Civil Works Program 1976-77
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30 June 1 977
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30 June 1977
Particulars of Certain Proposed Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1977
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1 976
Income Tax Statistics
National Accounting Estimates of Receipts and Outlays of Commonwealth Government Authorities
National Income Tax and Expenditure 1975-76
Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities 1976-77
Upon which Senator Wriedt had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Senate condemns the Budget because:
1 ) it pursues a policy of unemployment as a weapon to reduce real wages and salaries;
it abdicates Federal Government responsibilities and forces the State governments and local governments either to reduce their services or to institute additional charges, or both;
it introduces an additional tax in the form of the Medibank levy, thus further reducing consumer spending;
it reduces the availability of services to the whole community but particularly to those most vulnerable to hardship notably aborigines, the unemployed and migrants; and
5 ) it fails to institute selective stimulatory expenditure to reduce unemployment and restore consumer confidence’.
-Last night, before the debate was interrupted, I was drawing my remarks to a close. In view of the benign nature of the Senate at the moment I hesitate to spoil the atmosphere. But for a continuation of the message I was hoping to get across, I am afraid I must continue. I was speaking about the path Australia was following with regard to violent demonstrations. I had pointed out that only in a free democracy were demonstrations considered a right of the people; only in a free democracy were trade union strikes considered a right. Honourable senators opposite appeared to be unhappy about many of the things I was saying. If that is so, let those honourable senators approach their Leader in the other place and prevail upon him to call off his supporters and allow our Governor-General to go about his duties in peace. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitiam) was quoted in the Age as saying that Australia is indeed a most lucky country, a very fortunate country, the most fortunate country on earth. I agree with that statement. Australia is one of the most fortunate countries. If our Government, through this Budget, can bring our country back to the position it held in the ladder of countries in the Organisation of Economic Corporation and Development prior to 1972, that is, the country with the fifth lowest inflation rate out of the 24 listed, instead of the 16th lowest, which it was when this Government took office, we can be justly proud. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) on the magnificent Budget he has introduced into this Parliament.
-On the first page of the Budget Speech delivered last week, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) made this assertion:
The farm sector was in a state of collapse.
This statement refers, of course, to last year when the present Government came to office. The latest publication of Trends, a publication of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, dated June 1976 has forecast a 27 per cent decline in net farm income for this financial year. If, as the Treasurer asserted, the farm sector last year was in a state of collapse, how, I wonder, will the farm sector survive a 27 per cent fall in net farm income. I wonder whether any of the National Country Party senators, or the one National Country Party senator sitting opposite, could tell me how, if the farm sector was in a state of collapse, it will survive a 27 per cent fall in real net farm income. If he is unable to explain how the farm sector will survive perhaps he will tell me whether the Treasurer was wrong, whether the Treasurer’s assertion was false, or whether the BAE’s forecasts are wildly inaccurate. I wait eagerly for his reply.
The farm sector will receive little comfort from this Budget. Despite all the windy rhetoric, particularly of the National Country Party component of the Government, over the last 3 years, net payments to agriculture within this Budget will be negative. Repayments by the Australian Wool Corporation, as the stock of wool is sold off, will amount to $245m and payments to agriculture, as outlined in the Budget papers, will be just under $220m so there will be a negative net payment to agriculture. I do not wish to suggest that wild across-the-board handouts would necessarily have achieved anything towards overcoming the structural problems of several sectors of Australian agriculture. Those very structural problems themselves reflect the inept policies, the across-the-board handouts and the mindless expansionary policies fostered and foisted upon agriculture for many years by Liberal-National Country Party Governments.
I want to refute yet again a myth that I have refuted many times before. I trust that ultimately it might penetrate the consciousness of members of the Government who keep making false assertions. The myth is that under the Labor Administration Australian farmers had a very bad financial deal and were in grave economic troubles. The simple facts of the situation are that for the 3 calendar years ending 1975, net farm income in constant 1966 value dollars was $ 1,430m; for the 3 preceding years it was $980m, also in 1966 value dollars. So for the 3 years of Labor Government the amount was 45 per cent higher than it had been in the 3 preceding years of coalition government and according to the BAE forecast the figure was 27 per cent higher last year than it will be this year.
If any Government senators wish to dispute the accuracy of those figures while I have a chance to reply, I trust they will speak now else forever hold their tongues. There is silence on the opposite side of the chamber. Yet previous experience, I fear, suggests very strongly that the moment they are away from anyone who can refute the falsehoods they state, they will slip back into repeating the same falsehoods as they have repeated ad nauseam over the last Vh years.
There are problems- both chronic and acute -of excess capacity in several sectors of Australian agriculture. They will not be solved by the searching for scapegoats or the blind-alley thinking exhibited consistently by the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The Minister for Primary Industry, for example, when addressing the official opening of the United Farmers and Graziers Association Conference in Sydney on 2 1 July, was peddling the line that the only thing that had caused any problem with Australian agriculture was inflation. In an attempt to prop up his hypothesis he said:
In the meat industry, for example, in the 4 years from June 1970 to June 1974, killing and boning costs together with associated labour charges rose about 73 per cent.
That statement is accurate. Then he said:
In the next 12 months to June 1975 these same costs escalated by a further 80 per cent, largely as a result of wage increases.
Costs, said the Minister for Primary Industry, had gone up 80 per cent in a 12-month period. Is not that fantastic? Without being unduly suspicious of statements that have been made over the years by the Minister and having known many of them to be false, even superficially it seemed that that was unlikely. I was collecting data to check and refute that statement when I was saved the trouble. Just a fortnight later, when the Minister was opening the National Cattlemen’s Council of Queensland on 4 August 1976, he said:
The total costs to shipside -
That is the same cost he was talking about previously- over the period from July 1974, 25.06c a kilogram, moved to 29.3 1 c a kilogram in July 1 975.
Except that the figures for June and July have been transposed- probably that means nothing because July means the beginning of July- the increase in costs that he had earlier asserted to be 80 per cent, was in fact an increase from 25.06c to 29.31c. That, by the way, is an increase of 17 per cent. I wonder whether any Government senator presently in the chamber would care to explain, either now or later, which, if either, of those mutually exclusive assertions made by the Minister for Primary Industry was true.
The Prime Minister is more an apostle of blind alley thinking than of scapegoat searching. When opening the conference of the Victorian Farmers Union on 6 July this year he commented upon the very real problems of the manufacturing sector of the Australian dairy industry. According to the Prime Minister, the way in which to overcome the problem is to equalise milk prices. He said:
Many of the dairy farmers now in acute difficulties would be in no difficulty if there was an appropriate equalisation based on quantity and quality throughout the whole of the State.
Then he said:
In Sydney whole milk prices have moved with the consumer price index. If this movement had occurred in Melbourne there would be at least an additional $40m a year to distribute to dairy farmers in Victoria.
What he was advocating was that whole milk prices not only in Melbourne but also, of course, in the major country towns of Victoria, should be increased from 17c for a 600 millilitre carton to 23c for a 600 millilitre carton, which was the level prevailing in Sydney. Let it be very clear that what the Prime Minister was advocating was an increase of some 35 per cent in the price of milk in Victoria. But that is not the only thing. One would have thought that even the recipient of a third class honours degree from Oxford University would have sufficient perspicacity to realise that this very concept of equalisation has been a major cause of the dairy industry’s current problems. Equalisation breaks the nexus between the price received by the producer and the marginal price paid by the market. So the message that comes through to the producer is to go on producing a commodity that cannot be sold. That is precisely the situation with respect to the manufacturing sector of the dairy industry today. Butter at the margin is virtually unsalable. Skim milk powder at the margin is unsalable. That is why we are accumulating a massive stockpile. Yet the Prime Minister has recommended that we should compound the idiocy by bringing the liquid milk sector of the market in with the manufacturing sector and equalising prices.
Even if that is beyond the comprehension of the recipient of a third class honours degree from Oxford University, one would have thought that he would have some knowledge of the structure of the dairy industry in his own State, and in particular would have some knowledge of the fact that only 13 per cent of total Victorian milk production is sold on the liquid milk market and that, even if his formula for compounding disaster had been adhered to, equalising the prices for that 13 per cent around the other 87 per cent would make little difference to the average price received by dairy farmers in Victoria. In fact, it would not offset the losses that have been incurred pursuant to the decline in the price being obtained for manufactured dairy products over the last 12 or 18 months. It is the epitome of blind alley thinking. Perhaps it is fortunate, given that this man is currently the major economic strategist, if one could dignify his pontifications with that term, or the person who imposes economic policy upon this Government, that section 92 of the Constitution would almost certainly spike his plan in any case.
The Prime Minister went on to say at the same meeting that fruit growing and dairying are industries which Australia should be well placed to undertake. It so happens that the Australian dairy industry is reasonably efficient by world standards. The problem is that people overseas just prop up their inefficient dairy industries and there is no reason to believe that that will change. The situation concerning fruit growing, which Mr Fraser has said is an industry that Australia should be well placed to undertake, is quite different. For purely technical reasons he was once again abysmally wrong. The simple fact is that fruit growing is a labour intensive industry in which Australia’s comparative advantage has been progressively eroded over the years. It has turned into a comparative disadvantage that is progressively deteriorating. Does the Prime Minister not comprehend any of these things, or does he not care? I would suggest that the greatest enemy that the Australian farmer has or ever has had is not the person who cancels the superphosphate subsidy, as the previous Government did, or who cancels the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy, as this Government is doing, or even who makes inflammatory statements about the Russians and thereby talks us out of any possibility of selling beef in Russia, which is what the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, said about the Prime Minister’s statement of 1 June.
– Of course, he is the Father of the Year, which is something in his favour.
– Yes. Senator Archer who is seeking to interject seems to have picked up most of his economics from the greatest of all of the Liberal Party’s bourbon economic thinkers, that is, his Tasmanian colleague Senator Wright. I repeat that the greatest enemy of the Australian farmer is not the person who cancels the superphosphate bounty or some other fertiliser bounty, or someone who talks us out of a market for a certain product because of his belligerence towards a particular country, for whatever reason he is belligerent towards that country; it is the politician who tells the farmers what is popular instead of what is true. That is precisely what the Prime Minister, the Minister for Primary Industry and, indeed, most of the other members of the present Government who comment on the subject have been doing for the last 3lA years if not for the last 2 decades.
Looking at the Budget itself, I wonder what logical imperative dictated that the Government reintroduce the superphosphate bounty and phase out the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty.
– The Industries Assistance Commission.
– The Industries Assistance Commission? The Government did not accept the recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission that the superphosphate bounty be introduced retrospectively. The Government has not accepted the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on the beef industry. The Government has not accepted its views on mining industry taxation, and the Government seems to be in the process of reversing its recommendation on the subject of taxing gold mining profits. So if this Government bases its policies on an uncritical endorsement of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report, all I can say is that it does it very selectively. It seems to me that a more relevant factor might be that among the group of people who really made this decision, which at the most numbers 12 people, one can find 6 consumers of superphosphate and, I expect, no consumers of nitrogen. Perhaps that is the logical imperative behind the decision.
I turn to the subject of income equalisation deposits. I commend the Government for accepting the principle of income equalisation deposits. I think it is a very sound principle. It is one that has benefits in both directions. But its short term importance if the Budget estimates can be taken seriously- many of them should not be taken seriously- is negligible because the Government has allowed only $2m for it. Again I point out for Senator Thomas’ benefit that in a very significant respect the Government has deviated from the IAC’s recommendation on income equalisation deposits. The Industries Assistance Commission recommended that interest be paid on the deposits at the medium term bond rate but not on the tax deferred component of the deposits. That means that the IAC recommended that no interest be paid on that component of the deposit that would otherwise have had to be paid in taxation.
That is very important because, with a maximum marginal taxation rate of 65 per cent, it means that anyone who has a taxable income in excess of $28,250 this year or who had a taxable income of $25,000 last year can deposit money with those income equalisation deposits and receive an effective interest rate of 14.3 per cent. It is not only the people who could, by any reasonable definition, be considered to be farmers who qualify for this; city businessmen who have a purely nominal financial interest in agriculturewho have a $2 share in some agricultural companycan also deposit money in these IEDs and receive an effective interest rate of 14.3 per cent.
It is a great pity and it is so unnecessary, of course, that a sound and justifiable policy is in danger of degenerating into a regressive taxation investment rort. I wonder why the Government did that? I wonder whether it acted in ignorance because it could not see the implication of paying interest on the entire deposit or whether it was a Machiavellian plot designed specifically to provide a tax investment rort for some of its Pitt Street and Collins Street farmer friends.
-Why was it done? Why did the Government do it? Could it not work out the interest rate calculation?
– It is in line with the long term interest rate.
- Senator Messner tells me that the long term bond rate is 14.3 per cent. Even the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) knows better than that. What do we find for rural areas generally as distinct from the purely agriculture sector? We find that road construction funds have been cut. I remember that when I first came into the Senate in 1974 National Country Party speaker after National Country Party speaker stood up and castigated the then Australian Labor Party Government because allegedly it was not spending enough money on roads generally and on rural roads in particular. There has been an effective cut of about 5 per cent in road construction funds for this year when compared with last year. The isolated children’s education allowance has not only been reduced in absolute terms but also the Government has failed to increase it in terms of the individual grant.
The Budget tacitly acknowledges that unemployment will be higher. It will be even higher in the rural areas. Finance has been severely restricted to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In real terms there is a cut of about 17 per cent for radio and television services. In many areas of rural Australia the ABC is the only radio and television service received. Because of the fiscal stringency imposed upon the States by the much vaunted new federalism policy, State charges will inevitably increase. As well as everything else, this Budget is technically dishonest. It misrepresents the facts. Cosmetic adjustments have been made to the figures in order to appease the Liberal Party’s deficit demonology and the Prime Minister’s pre-election, preKeynesian pontifications about paying back deficits.
– Say that again.
– I will speak slower and in monosyllables if the honourable senator cannot understand me. Statement No. 1, the summary of the 1976-77 Budget, shows a deficit in the last financial year of $3, 585m and a deficit in this financial year of $2,608m. That is what this Government and this Treasurer would like the public to believe. The truth is very different. That deficit needs to be adjusted in a number of ways. Firstly, there is an adjustment for the Medibank pre-payments to the States of $2 , 1 1 5 m which has to be subtracted from last year’s deficit and added onto this year’s deficit. Secondly, there has to be an adjustment for the private borrowings for the Australian Telecommunications Commission of $200m which was previously funded through the Budget. This year the Government has decided, again for cosmetic reasons, to force Telecom onto the private capital market for $200m of its borrowings. To get a comparable figure that amount has to be added to this year’s Budget deficit.
Finally, there should be an adjustment for repayments from the Australian Wool Corporation which were $3 lm last year and which are predicted to be $245m this year. That amount has to be added to the deficit for both years. What we finally come out with as a true deficit on a comparable basis is $3,40 lm for last year and $3,268m for this year. That is not very much different in real terms or as a percentage of the gross domestic product. In fact, the deficit last year was lower than it will be this year if the Budget forecasts are accurate. Of course, we have been told in the last few days that those forecasts probably are not accurate.
We have been told that in fact the Government will be spending more on Aboriginal welfare than the Budget figures show; that the
Government probably will be spending more on unemployment and sickness benefits than the Budget figures show; and that Mr Sinclair is now twice as certain that the Government will be spending a great deal more on the agricultural sectors than the Budget figures show. Maybe other Ministers have also said that they will be spending more than the Budget figures show and I have not heard about that yet. If that is the case it just adds to the real deficit for this year. It also casts more doubts on the fundamental honesty of the figures which have been presented. It seems that the paramount objective has not been to lay down a set of estimates which truly represent fiscal transactions of the Government for this year and for last year but to come up with an answer which has been virtually pre-determined by the Liberal Party for ideological reasons.
When the Treasurer calculated the deficit he said that Medibank should be ignored. Of course, when it comes to payments for the States the Treasurer says that the figures have to be adjusted. The Government keeps changing its definition depending on the conclusion it wants to come up with. It cooks its books according to different recipes, depending on what it wants the end product to be. When it comes to assessing payments to the States, the Treasurer says that these figures should be adjusted. This year actual payments to the States will increase by 7.2 per cent over last year according to Budget Paper No. 7, at page 7. 1 do not dispute the Treasurer’s definitions in this instance. I do not think that anyone who thinks about the matter will dispute the definitions. The Treasurer says that the Budget ought to be adjusted for the early payment for hospital Medibank. If we do that it comes up to a 12.6 per cent increase. As far as I am concerned there is no argument about that.
I pose the question again: Why does not the Treasurer apply the same rule when he is calculating the deficit? Perhaps someone can help me if there is another obvious answer which I have overlooked. But the only answer which appears to me is that the Treasurer has cooked the books. He has decided that the figures have to be presented in a certain way which is politically favourable to the Government but which, in fact, misrepresents the facts. The Medibank adjustment puts the figure up to 12.6 per cent. Then, says the Treasurer, another adjustment should be made because money was paid to the States for unemployment relief last year and no money will be paid this year. Therefore we have to knock off last year’s payments the money which was paid and which will not be paid this year. If we adopted that sort of accountancy principle we could cease paying any road funds to the States and say that the Government has not reduced grants to the States. It is not as if the need for unemployment relief will be any less this year than it was last year. All the evidence, including that available from outside sources, suggests that unemployment will be very much greater. Even the Budget papers tacitly acknowledge that the number will be as great.
This morning the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) kept insisting that the Budget papers forecast that the absolute number of people employed will increase by 2 per cent this financial year. On a year end basis that seems to be what the Budget papers forecast. What Senator Guilfoyle has overlooked is that the potential work force will also increase by 2 per cent. Therefore, if the absolute number of people employed increases by 2 per cent and if the work force increases by 2 per cent the level of unemployment remains precisely where it is now. So there will be as great a need for payments to the States for unemployment relief as there was last year. But no provision has been made for that in this Budget.
Senator Carrick in that euphoric period in March and April when he was making the most extravagent statements about new federalism and issuing most extravagent promises about what it would achieve guaranteed with an unqualified yes that payments to the States would increase in the next 3 years in real terms by something more than 58 per cent over the amount by which they had increased in the previous 3 years. Of course, now Senator Carrick squirms and filibusters at every question time trying to find some way out of the answer which he gave and which he will not admit was false. Today we had the spectacle of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) trying to end question time to rescue Senator Carrick from further interrogation on the subject.
The Budget in general can be described only as a dismal and dishonest document. It is dishonest because it deliberately misrepresents the facts concerning the Government’s fiscal transactions. It is dismal because it implies higher unemployment, continuing inflation and lower real wages. The investment led recovery which, according to the policy speech of the present Prime Minister and the pre-election policies of the Liberal Party, was the only way to secure an economic recovery, has now been dropped as an economic measure from the Fraser-Lynch rhetoric. Economic recovery now seems to be predicated on the assumption of a consumer led recovery. That conclusion that there will be a consumer led recovery is arrived at against a background of lower real wages and threats of higher unemployment. Given that background, the Budget papers seem to suggest that consumers will go out and spend more. Perhaps they will. But it just seems to be a little in conflict with common sense. I suspect that the real reason for this suggestion is that the Government does not care. It does not care whether there is an economic recovery, consumer led or otherwise.
Its unstated strategy is to try to get inflation down by the use of massive unemployment. There is little doubt that the massive unemployment will materialise. Whether the lower rates of inflation will actually materialise is more doubtful. Again, the Budget papers do not seem to be particularly optimistic on this subject. The Treasurer talks in a somewhat vague and qualified way about single digit inflation by the end of June. Other assumptions in the Budget are based on a 12 per cent price increase on a yearonyear basis. Economic recovery is not the strategy of this Budget, and I use the word ‘strategy’ only insofar as one can dignify the Budget with the use of that word. The strategy of the Budget is to make the recession which has been deliberately deepened and extended by this Government more comfortable for business.
Of course, it is not surprising that the newspapers in Australia which comment most seriously on fiscal matters have seen this coming. Indeed, in the last couple of days we have seen newspaper articles on the subject. The Australian Financial Review of 25 August 1976 stated:
Production downturn reduces hopes of recovery. Motor vehicle sales which had been previously booming turn down.
The Melbourne Age of yesterday’s date, 25 August 1976, states in an article by its economic writer, Kenneth Davidson:
On Monday, car registration figures showed a sharp down- turn- sharper than might have been expected. Yesterday industrial production figures for July showed a slump. A Business Age survey showed the retailing industry in the doldrums and that car sales have shown no signs of recovery.
The Bureau of Statistics figures showed only 10 of the 32 basic items of production increased after seasonal adjustment in the 3 months to July compared with the previous 3 months.
Many of the newspaper articles continue in that vein.
I do not intend to go through in great detail the specific alterations that have been made under the various heads of expenditure. This has been done by other people and I suspect it probably will be done again. But there is one matter which I think deserves special comment. Even within the rather peculiar value system of the present Prime Minister, one would wonder what the rationale would be for reducing spending on Aboriginal health programs by $lm. That is the reduction in figures. In real terms, the reduction is about $3m. I would be very interested to know the rationale for that expenditure cut. One would have thought that even in the judgment of values by the Prime Minister the expenditure of money on Aboriginal health programs would be seen as a good investment. This is not because people like the Prime Minister are usually very concerned about the health or welfare of people in any way. If money is spent on Aboriginal health programs- on actions that are likely to reduce the incidence of infantile disease, debility and so on- it will not be necessary to hospitalise more people later or perhaps to keep more of them in gaol later. I would have thought that, even to the Prime Minister, these programs would have looked like a pretty good investment. I wonder why the expenditure was cut.
There have been very few persons to gain from this Budget, apart from the minor exception of a few families. It is not the 300 000 families, as the Treasurer keeps insisting, whose incomes were not high enough to take advantage of the dependant’s rebate scheme introduced in the Hayden Budget. Incidentally, I endorse the modifications made to that 1975 Hayden Budget scheme by the present Budget. But this Budget will not provide major benefits for 300 000 families and 800 000 people as the responsible Ministers keep asserting. Of course, those figures refer to those people who could not fully utilise the previous taxation rebates. But there will be gains for some low income families and, to the extent that the Budget does this, it is good. However, apart from that minor exception, the only major group to gain from this Budget will be the mining sector. I guess that the Government hopes- I do not think we could call this a strategythat the mining section will lead the economic recovery which has eluded the Government everywhere else and which will continue to elude it.
The Government may be lucky; that may happen, if there is a very quick and very intense resurgence of demand overseas for Australian minerals. It does not seem likely but perhaps it will happen. If it does not happen, this strategy of helping the mining sector, while it would be very costly to revenue, is unlikely to have much effect on the level of employment for 2 reasons: Firstly, unless and until that major resurgence in overseas demand reappears, there is a quantitative limit on the demand for mineral exports.
That will not be changed by any Australian Government unless, of course, we were to indulge in massive price cutting. I notice that even the present Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) has sufficient sense to see that overseas controlled mining companies which have subsidiaries in Australia mining minerals -of course, they would like to have a price war because their overseas parent companies would be the major beneficiaries of it- will not be permitted to allow that to happen. So there is at the moment a quite severe quantitative limit on demand for these minerals.
The second and perhaps more important point -it is the one that is permanent, anyway-is that mining developments are capital intensive. They are small employers of labour. It is true that, in the construction phase, the employment rate is higher. But in the producing stage, they are small employers of labour. Any strategy for full employment which features as a ‘Lynch ‘-pin- pardon the pun- massive growth in the mining sector is likely to fail. It almost has failure built into it.
– What about the cumulative effect in townships?
-The cumulative effect of what?
– In the mining complexes where you have townships established.
– In the construction phase the employment generating potential is somewhat higher. In the production stage they are very capital intensive industries. That will always be the case. The reason why the industry is competitive is that it is capital intensive.
Of course, the Fraser philosophy comes through very clearly in this Budget. It is not seriously based on any economic theory. What it is based on is the Prime Minister’s ideological preference. His basic ideological j judgement is that all public sector spending is bad and that all private sector spending is good. Therefore, all taxation is immoral. Therefore, a tax dodge is the universal panacea for every problem that arises. I concede freely to the Government that this is a very difficult time for governments in the area of economic management. I concede that this has been the case for some time in Australia and overseas and that it is most unfortunate. However, it also seems unfortunate that at this time Australia’s economic policy seems to be dictated by a Prime Minister whose obsession with deficits is equalled only by his failure to understand the true meaning of a deficit, a man who does not understand the concept of a deficit and appears to know nothing about the concept of money supply or to have any interest in it. This Prime Minister was described by his former Oxford tutor as the greatest of all the colonial drongoes that were ever inflicted on Oxford University. He is assisted in devising his economic strategy by a Treasurer who was described by the Economic Editor of the Melbourne Age on 20 August as the most technically incompetent Treasurer since Harold Holt. This is what Mr Davidson had to say about the present Treasurer:
Question time in Parliament provides one of the few opportunities to judge the personal performance of Government Ministers.
This week the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, has been in the spotlight. He has left the impression that his technical grasp of his portfolio is weaker than that of any Treasurer since the late Harold Holt.
Mr Lynch floundered in response to 3 relatively straightforward questions from 3 members of the OppositionMessrs Bill Hayden, Rex Connor and Tony Whitlam.
He attempted to cover his lack of technical understanding of the Budget with bombast when straightforward answers could have turned the attack back on the Opposition.
Mr Davidson continued:
As Mr Holt’s long period as Treasurer shows, it is not an absolute pre-condition for the job to be well versed in economics.
However, Mr Holt was different to Mr Lynch in 2 important ways.
First, Mr Holt allowed the Treasury to run the economy and design the Budget.
The first Lynch Budget is not a Treasury document in that the department violently opposed income tax indexation, the Mathews stock proposal and the 40 per cent investment allowance.
So whilst the Treasury approves of much of what is contained in this Budget, it is not a coherent Treasury document and does not outline Treasury strategy. It outlines a Treasury strategy which has been meddled with and amended in particular by the 2 people I have mentioned who obviously, from their public record and their statements, have absolutely no grasp of the subject.
I hear someone babbling on the other side of the chamber and trying to defend the Prime Minister. I wonder whether honourable senators opposite would like to defend the Prime Minister on his assertion in September, October, November and December last year that deficits had to be paid back. During the general election campaign the Prime Minister was saying that we had overspent by $6 billion and that it was just like a household that has overspent- if one overspends one has to pay the money back. Would any of the Government senators like to endorse the Prime Minister’s judgment on that matter? No. I am very pleased to see that not one supporter of the Government who is in the chamber at the moment- all eight or nine of them- agrees with his Prime Minister when he says that deficits have to be paid back and that a national deficit is analagous to a household deficit. I am very pleased to see that 9 supporters of the present Government are at least marginally more literate in economics than their Leader.
If honourable senators want to talk about deficits- they seem to be a matter of such interest to the Prime Minister- the possible effect of a deficit on the inflation rate is that it may increase the money supply. Whether it does increase the money supply depends entirely on the way it is funded. Just because the money supply increases it does not necessarily mean that the rate of inflation will rise. I presume that at least some of the honourable senators opposite know something already about that because they know that what their Prime Minister has been saying is sheer nonsense and they would not stand up and support him. Even if the Prime Minister was right and we did have to pay back $6 billion as he asserted- it turned out to be $5 billion and not $6 billion- we would now have to pay back nearly $8 billion. So we can see how much worse our position is now than it was 1 2 months ago.
As the Australian Financial Review states, even a person moderately literate in economics would recognise that what the Prime Minister says is patent nonsense. That statement sums up the situation very succinctly. Upon this dismal, dishonest document, soon to be discredited, rests the Fraser Government’s final hopes for justifying its infamies of last year. This document will fail to justify those infamies and it will be seen to have failed. If the members of the present Government have any interest in remaining in government I suggest that they should unload this Leader at the earliest opportunity.
-I rise to oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition and to support the Budget Papers that are before us this afternoon. I want to make some general comments on the Budget, but before I do so perhaps I should refer to one or two of the things that Senator Walsh has said in the last half hour or so. As is always the case, Senator Walsh chooses to vent his spleen upon the National Country Party in this chamber and today has been no exception. I suppose that he could pay us no greater compliment than to do just that. But today he has included with us- and I appreciate this-no less a person than the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). We certainly have no problem or worry in being associated with Mr Malcolm Fraser.
Senator Walsh said so many things that I certainly do not want to canvass them all. I do recall his referring to a possible decline of some 27 per cent in farm returns. Naturally every Australian would hope that this does not occur, but virtually every Australian, perhaps with the exception of Senator Walsh, would realise that the problems that confront the traditional primary producing area in the Australian economy today are related quite directly to several things. In the first place they are related to the extraordinary climatic circumstances in which the southern half of this country finds itself in one of the worst drought conditions of its history, a circumstance that no legislation can really overcome. It also finds itself as an industry in a severe corner because of the market situation, in the meat industry in particular and also in the dairying industry and fruitgrowing industry. These again are areas where governments have to be flexible. They have to look at the situation. They have to discuss with the industry the ways in which these areas can overcome what we believe will be virtually temporary circumstances.
Far above all these matters the problems that confront the Australian primary producing sector are related to a creation of the socialist government of the previous 3 years: They are closely related to the extraordinary measure of inflation that has grown from within our economy in its years of socialist experiment. It is severe indeed in the Australian scene because primary industry is, to a degree that varies from 65 per cent to 95 per cent, dependent upon world markets, a circumstance in which it is totally incapable of relating its cost structure to market prices.
Senator Walsh suggested further that during the period of the Labor Government the farming community had a pretty good time. He quoted some fascinating figures. The thing that fascinates me, however, is that after those 3 luxurious years the Australian Labor Party was unable to gain even one seat in rural Australia. I certainly do not disregard the intelligence of the people who live in and operate rural Australia. They have an intelligence, a capacity and an efficiency which place Australian primary industry probably above any counterpart in the world.
May I make a few general remarks referable to the Budget with which we are dealing this afternoon. In the first place, contrary to suggestions that have come from the Opposition, this Budget has had a very good response from most responsible critics. I believe it set out to establish a situation in which the inflationary problems of the last 3 years can be attacked and overcome in the relatively short term. That is the prime objective of the current Australian Government, and it is right that it should be. It is quite remarkable that so many constructive measures are capable of being tackled in the circumstances in which we find ourselves today. I will refer in greater detail in the course of my speech to such things as the implementation of personal income tax indexation, a measure which will cost the Treasury a very significant amount of money- some $1 billion in a year. It is a really constructive attempt to reduce the strain on our economy of ever increasing wages and salaries, and undoubtedly that has been the basic cause of the inflation which has troubled us for the last 3 years.
This Government, which quite rightly is concerned with development and reform, has seen fit to make the most wide-sweeping changes to family endowment that have occurred in the history of this country. Legislation being introduced is directed towards establishing a great measure of benefit for some 300 000 families and almost one million children. The old income tax deductibility allowance has disappeared and in its place is a direct endowment payment of very considerable proportions. That can be seen only as something which will further secure the family unit in the Australian scene.
The Budget before us and the legislation which is contemplated seek to place extra emphasis- real and proper emphasis- on the development of the private sector, not in any real measure at the expense of, but along with, a reasonable maintenance of the public sector. After ail, the private sector is a traditional area in a free enterprise democracy, and that is what Australia has been throughout its history. The private sector is the area m which real employment is found and in which real production of goods and services occurs. I believe it was the dramatic move away from an emphasis on and support for that sector- which incidentally employs 72 per cent or 73 per cent of Australian workers- which has been one of the dominant factors over the last 3 years in bringing about the economic and social problems that confront us today.
It is remarkable that in this Budget the Government could set about making constructive attempts to control inflation and consequently bring employment back to its proper level. Despite the economic circumstances, the Government has still been able to reduce the deficit in this land very significantly. Notwithstanding what Senator Walsh has said, a deficit is of considerable importance because it has to be financed eventually. It cannot be allowed to continue to grow, as it has grown in the last 3 years, from a matter of millions of dollars to a matter of thousands of millions of dollars. A deficit has to be met. If we are not able to increase confidence and employment and productivity, a deficit can be met only by large scale and often expensive borrowing or by the printing of treasury notes. Only 12 months ago the former Labor Government printed treasury notes to the extent of $ 1,700m, I think it was, in order to keep the deficit as low or as high- depending on the view one took- as it had been. That son of approach to financing deficits can only be, has been and always will be totally inflationary.
I have indicated that the Government’s first priority- a priority it undertook when it sought office at the election in December 1975- is to come to grips with, to steady and finally to reduce inflation in this land. Having reduced inflation, what will follow? Unemployment will improve immediately and confidence will return to the total economy, to the total society. With a reduction of inflation, those things will follow naturally. We have seen it happen. It is happening today all round the world- in America, in Japan, in West Germany and soon across the developed Western world. Naturally and responsibly, inflation is the prime target of this Government, and it is the prime objective of the Budget which confronts us.
Regrettably perhaps, it is necessary to recall the legacy inherited by this Government when it came to office only 8 or 9 months ago. It was a legacy of 3 years of socialist experiment- I think that is a useful description of those 3 years. In December 1975 that legacy showed that some 330 000 people were unemployed and inflation, which had reached a peak of about 1 8 per cent, stood at the significant level of 14 per cent. That was the legacy this Government inherited in December 1975, and it contrasts markedly with the legacy of 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government prior to December 1972. If I recall correctly, at that time inflation stood at approximately 4.2 per cent, and unemployment at 1.6 percent as opposed to the December 1975 figure of 5.6 per cent. By March 1973, only 3 months after Mr Whitlam came to power, unemployment was down to 1.4 per cent as a result of the working of the 1 972 Budget.
Why did those things occur? I believe it is abundantly clear today to most Australians that they occurred because the Labor Government when it came to office was in an enormous rush to change abruptly the course of this country. The Labor Government was in an extraordinary rush to implement an ideology, regardless of the socio-economic consequences on the millions of Australians who elected it. That was the tragedy, and it was exemplified by the immediate transfer of virtually all emphasis from the private to the public sector, and a significant withering of the private sector quickly followed. This Was revealed in the attitude of government. We believe that government has to be regarded as the basic security agent for people against exploitation whether it be of man or materials, yet Mr Whitlam ‘s clear indication of his idea and the Labor Party’s idea of the role of government was such that it was to be not only the owner but also the director of man and materials. This was the alternative that finally confronted the Australian people after 3 years of this sort of experiment. I suggest that the answer from the Australian people came through very clearly and very strongly in December 1975 when they threw out the socialist experiment of previous years.
Before I examine some of the features of this Budget and lend to them perhaps a measure of applause, and in some cases perhaps a measure of constructive criticism, at the risk of being accused of being an idealist and certainly at the risk of being accused of speaking with a measure of despair, let me say that we can recover from the circumstances to which this country economically and socially has fallen only if there is a realistic recognition of the situation by all people, by government, by the rank and file of trade unionists and by employers. A constructive and realistic approach is the only way in which we can recover from the problems that beset us. I would hope that having discarded so clearly the socialist experiment of the last 3 years- a socialist experiment which, judged on any grounds at all, has proved to be a significant failure- we will by co-operation be prepared to set about the task now, using and implementing the legislation, the processes and the program of this Budget, of realising and achieving the enormous potential of this country- an enormous potential to secure affluence for its people; an enormous potential to make this country one of the really great trading countries of the world, and an enormous potential to make this nation of a nature and character whereby it can be a leader amongst the developing countries in its own region and beyond. If we are to do that- I am sure we can do it- it will only be by constructive recognition of the need for cooperation. The other course- the course of constant opposition for the sake of opposition- can only lead us through chaos to dictatorship. It can only lead us through chaos to a circumstance in which we may find ourselves in a dictatorship, and whether it be of the left or the right is of no significance. Dictatorship in general is totally objectionable to the Australian view, to Australian history and to Australian intelligence. Even the oft vaunted phrase of the dictatorship of the proletariat really means nothing except the dictatorship of yet another hierarchy.
I was interested a few nights ago to hear on television an interview with an American. The American was asked, among a number of questions, what he thought would happen if the presidential election in his country saw a move from Republican dominance to Democratic dominance. I must say that I was somewhat envious of him in his reply, envious of what I regard as a real measure of democratic maturity because the answer was that there will be no dramatic switch; there will be no enormous change. There will be change indeed but it will be gradual. It will be in fact evolutionary and it will be based on compromise, on intelligent discussion and consequently it will have about it a real measure of permanence. I must say that as an Australian I felt a real measure of envy that that was the circumstance because I believe that the survival of this country, related as it may well be to the implementation of the policies of this Budget, depends in the long run on closing and not widening the gap between the major political entities in Australia. I think that as responsible adult people we should look at this with a very serious view indeed. No matter what circumstances we or any other nation finds itself in there will always be an employer-employee relationship and it behoves us to ensure that intelligence and maturity gain the day in this somewhat desperate circumstance into which Australia has recently been thrown.
The ball is in our court. It is in the court of all Australians and it would be hoped that Australians are prepared to recognise the measure of interdependence and the high degree of integration that is typical of this community. If we recognise those things, if we get away from constant criticism for the sake of criticism, if we show some really constructive criticism and if we show a real measure of co-operation then there will once again be a reward for initiative and this country will ride on the sort of wave on which it and all its people should ride.
– If you had accepted the decision of the people 3 years ago that might have been the position.
– The people made a very clear decision only a few months ago and I think that decision was preferable to the alternatives I have been talking about. That is the most significant thing that all Australians ought to concern themselves with in the near and immediate future.
May I just make a few general comments on what has been and what is proposed to be achieved by this Budget. I have mentioned personal income tax indexation. It is a very significant contribution. Not only does it represent a loss of revenue of one billion dollars a year; it also seeks to create for people in Australia a real increase in wages of perhaps $5, $6 or $8 a week. In education we see a circumstance in which, in spite of the fairly tight guidelines in which we find ourselves as an economy, the actual expenditure is up by 1 5.3 per cent and we are returning to triennial funding. In the social security area there is again a significant increase to a mammoth percentage of total income- 25 per cent as against 23 per cent last year. In terms of the personal income tax this expenditure represents 56 per cent of the total collection. That is a significant amount of money to be spent, and spent intelligently, on social security. In defence we have increased our expenditure by some 18 per cent on last year’s expenditure. I will refer later to some of the increased expenditure in various areas of primary industry. As has been amply clarified in this chamber on a number of occasions by Senator Carrick, moneys that go to State and local government are significantly greater than they have been in past years. In these circumstances I believe it is quite remarkable that these sorts of constructive matters could be seriously adopted by this Government and at the same time reduce a deficit to $2.6 billion. I was fascinated when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) the other night referred to the Hayden Budget. He suggested that the Hayden Budget was a fine document. It is rather extraordinary that the Hayden Budget which anticipated a deficit of $2.8 billion was confronted with a probable deficit of $5 billion when we came to office in December 1975.
I make a general comment on 2 areas of human behaviour. I suppose they are 2 elements of immense importance to a society- wages and profits. I just make these comments in passing. It is intensely important that we recognise that the only wage increase that is of real value is the wage increase that enables the wage earner or the salary earner to purchase more of what he or she chooses to purchase with his or her income. That is the circumstance that has to be achieved and that is the circumstance that has been remarkably lacking in the economic and social history of this country over the last 3 years. We hear a lot from time to time about the revival of consumption expenditure and no doubt the ultimate revival of this economy is dependent both on investment and consumer expenditure. It is significant to recall that in 1974 when wages rose in money terms by 16 per cent the increase in consumer expenditure was 1 per cent. There must be an enormous importance relating to confidence if we are in fact to get a rise in productivity and a rise in real wages. Profits seems to be an abused concept, but profits are absolutely essential. Reasonable stability and a reasonable prospect of profit is essential if this economy or any other economy is to develop, is to grow and is to provide goods and services that of themselves provide employment across the nation.
The Budget for 1976-77 outlays a sum of some $24.3 billion dollars. The amount is up 1 1.3 per cent on the previous year. This compares with 23 per cent the previous year and a massive 46 per cent the year before that. I believe that that in itself is an indication that we are seriously on the track to controlling and significantly lessening the inflationary problem that has confronted this country in the past 3 years. These outlays are in a number of areas. I have mentioned the enormous gain to the family unit by the new scheme of endowment payments to mothers. I have mentioned the extraordinary percentage of money involved in the social security area. It is not really surprising that we should be significantly concerned in areas of social security and national health. I believe that it was our side of politics that introduced child endowment payments. It was in the days of Sir Earle Page back in the 1930s that Australia first involved itself with a national health scheme. These attitudes, these priorities, are in no way unusual. Indeed they are typical of the political philosophy and determination of the Liberal and National Country parties.
I refer in the social security field, as I pass on, to significant increases in the area of handicapped people. New projects are being provided for by the allocation of $3m this year, by an extra $10m the following year and by $20m the year after, making a total payment over the period of some $12 lm. Payments to handicapped children have increased likewise from $10 to $15 a week and payments for allowances applicable to children in institutions have increased from $3.50 to $5 a day. In the area of overseas aid, which is an area of great involvement and great importance, we have again in the stringent circumstancesand I mark the words ‘stringent circumstances’been able to increase the percentage of the Budget in that area by some 14.6 per cent. I am pleased to say that of that significant amount of $400m by far the greatest recipient is our close neighbour and friend, Papua New Guinea, which received no less than $228m in overseas aid from the Australian Government in this current financial year.
Defence expenditure is up 1 8 per cent, but that is just a start of a 5-year program in which we believe there will be a most significant increase in the morale and capacity of the Australian soldier, sailor and airman and indeed a significant increase in the mobility and fire power of our defensive equipment so that we can have and promote a realistic defence of this continent which of itself will create a measure of confidence among our friends and allies, a measure of confidence which we sadly need. Some areas of primary industry are of great concern. I have already touched on these matters. Many of the problems faced are related to inflated costs, extraordinarily severe climatic circumstances and to markets around the world. We are providing for the struggling beef industry- I hope that it is struggling in the relatively short term only- $ 15m of carry-on finance which will be matched by the States. In this area there always has been and always will be a real measure of flexibility, a real determination by governments of our philosophy to talk to the people of the industry, to discuss the problems and to solve them in a proper, sensible and adult manner.
The fertiliser bounty has been criticised by various people, but I think that in passing not only should I remark that the restoration of the superphosphate bounty was a recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission but also I think it is most pertinent to remark that today the bounty represents a subsidy of a mere 19 per cent whereas only two or three years ago, prior to the escalation of the prices of superphosphate, it represented 45 per cent. So, although the bounty has been restored, in percentage terms and in the extraordinarily severe circumstances of today its value is less than it was a few years ago. The Government has determined to continue until the end of this year the rural reconstruction schemes that prevail pending the report of the Industries Assistance Commission. 1 move briefly from discussing fertilisers to the wool industry. Let me comment on one or two features which I believe should be highlighted. The Australian wool industry has been helped by our Government and our parties since the extremely serious days of 1970 when there was near disaster in the whole wool industry in Australia. It was at that time- November 1970 from memory- that the Liberal-Country Party Government instituted the Australian Wool Commission, the forerunner of the Australian Wool Corporation, which paved the way for the developments in marketing that are now bearing the fruits which the industry believed and hoped that they would. The constructive attitude of this Government to our great wool industry as demonstrated when the Government determined that the basic price should be raised to 275c a kilogram from 250c a kilogram or raised to an average of 234c a kilogram should be reiterated time and again. Not only did the Government decide to make that basic raise but also it has continued to implement a flexible reserve price. It has made that base price relative to the next 2 years. This is perhaps the most significant contribution to stability and development that the wool industry could hope to have. In the last few years there have been -
– What about what the Labor Government did? It is unbelievable that you can ignore the most significant piece of assistance given.
– I do not recall ignoring any significant assistance. I have merely outlined what has happened to the industry in Australia. That the Labor Government was able to accept the recommendations is to its credit, if that is what Senator Gietzelt wants me to say.
– You talked about previous governments.
-If that is what Senator Gietzelt wants me to say I will say it, but it was not to his Party’s credit that it floated, for instance, that the price should be reduced to 200c a kilogram in May last year.
– It became 250c.
-It became 250c. The period during which the Wool Corporation has been in operation has seen the provision of objective clip preparation which is of great significance to the producer, the manufacturer and ultimately the retailer. It has seen the implementation of areas of research that are proving productive in all aspects of the wool industry, an industry, I might add, in which Australia provides the most wool and the best wool in the world. Consequently, the total balance of Australia’s primary industries is in no small way measured against the stability and development of that particular industry. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted, debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table the departmental explanations of the estimates of proposed expenditure for the year 1976-77.
– I draw to the attention of honourable senators the fact that today is the last sitting day on which the Senate chamber will have the services of Mr William Stitt who for many years has looked after the needs of honourable senators in this place. Mr Stitt is to retire on Thursday next. Mr Stitt commenced duty in Parliament House in March 1946 shortly after being discharged from the Services, joining the Senate staff in 1950. For many years he has been in charge of the attendants serving the Senate chamber. In his quiet, courteous and unassuming manner he has been responsible in no small way for the smooth running of the Senate. In recognition of his service, Her Majesty was pleased to bestow the British Empire Medal on him in the last Birthday Honours. On behalf of honourable senators, I offer my best wishes to Mr Stitt and his wife and wish him good health and a long and happy retirement, with thanks for the assistance he has given the Senate throughout his career.
– The Government senators would like equally to thank Mr Stitt for 34 years of very distinguished, capable and generous service to the Senate and members of the Senate. We have been reminded that he came from the Australian Infantry Forces to work in the Parliament and has been in various positions in the Senate since, reaching finally the position of responsibility to which you, Mr President, have referred. He is certainly entitled to a well earned retirement and we all wish him the very best of luck and happiness in that retirement. I am informed that he is a bowler of very considerable renown and a member of the Canberra City Bowling Club. All I can suggest to him is that he stays on the bowling green as long as he can and keeps out of the garden at home as much as he can. I extend our best wishes to him.
– On behalf of Opposition senators I join with you, Mr President, and Senator Cotton in wishing Bill Stitt a happy retirement. It is a very long time to be in the Senate. Perhaps if he had been a member of the Senate he would not have had the ambition to be here 34 years. I am sure none of us would, even though we all struggle to survive for as long as we can. Nevertheless, on behalf of my colleagues I extend our very best wishes to him. I strongly suggest that he should take Senator Cotton’s advice and do whatever it is that he gets most enjoyment from and make a task of nothing.
Senate adjourned 4.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated
asked the Minister represent ing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) An interdepartmental committee did report on security aspects of the Prime Minister’s overseas air travel in 1974. That report was made on the basis of circumstances existing at that time. The advice contained in that report has been updated as required in the light of changes in circumstances. The current situation is that providing certain requirements are met, there can be acceptable security arrangements made for a Prime Minister on commercial flights overseas.
On the basis of the advice he received, the former Prime Minister travelled overseas on scheduled commercial flights, and chaner flights, although for the most pan he travelled on chaner flights.
I have used both scheduled commercial nights and charter flights in my travel overseas, although for the most pan I have travelled on commercial flights. The decision on these matters in each case rests with the Prime Minister, not with officials.
Statutory Reserve Deposits (Question No. 70S)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to a request by the President of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, Mr Blocksidge in the Brisbane Courier-Mail, of 12 May 1976, that the Reserve Bank reconsider its statutory reserve deposits in the light of Queensland circumstances. If so, (a) has the Treasury investigated this proposal, and (b) does Queensland warrant special consideration because of local conditions in this regard.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
My attention has been drawn to the newspaper article referred to in the honourable senator’s question, and the proposal made by Mr Blocksidge has been examined.
The statutory reserve deposit mechanism is one of the instruments available to the Reserve Bank for directly regulating trading bank liquidity for the purpose of keeping the level of bank credit appropriate to the needs of the economy as a whole. The aim of current banking policy, including policy in respect of statutory reserve deposit accounts, is to keep bank liquidity at a level that will enable banks to provide funds sufficient to finance the economic recovery now taking place, while at the same time remaining consistent with an appropriate growth in monetary aggregates having regard to the need to brake inflation.
As Mr Blocksidge ‘s reported comments were particularly related to housing finance in Queensland, it might be noted that aggregate lending by savings and trading banks for housing in that State has been at record levels in recent months. Bank loan approvals for housing in Queensland totalled $88m in the March 1976 quarter compared with $73m in the previous quarter. Approvals in the June quarter 1976 rose even further to $107m. Against that background no special action of the kind referred to is considered to be called for.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Allowing for some wastage of vaccine it is estimated that approximately 55 per cent to 60 per cent of the children becoming eligible each year receive measles immunisation.
Australian Broadcasting Commission
-On 18 May 1976 Senator Harradine asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question without notice:
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian public has been given a recent opportunity to hear Solzhenitsyn ‘s views which were expressed in a two hour radio program entitled Solzhenitsyn ‘s Message to the West which was broadcast over ABC Radio 2 on Wednesday, 12 May at 8 p.m.
Misuse of Subscribers’ Telephone Lines
-On 19 May 1976 Senator Martin asked me the following question without notice:
Has the Minister seen an article in yesterday’s Daily Mirror headed PMG Men Accused of Swindle which contains allegations by a former Telecommunications Commission linesman that telephone subscribers are footing the bill for Australia-wide calls recorded on subscribers’ meters but made by Commission technicians with tapping devices, achieved by the technician either by clipping a portable automatic dialling device onto overhead lines and then attaching markers to cables to remind him when a householder is away, thereby allowing others to misuse the line as well, or by attaching a dialling device to a subscriber’s severed cable in a metal street terminal box? Is it a fact that regulations require that any such use of a subscriber’s telephone be reported to enable a credit to be made for that service? If so, is it possible for the Minister to inform the Senate what records are kept of such calls reported to and credited by the Commission? If records are kept, are details of the number of calls made available to any subscriber whose service has been used in this way? Is it true that a linesman who did not report that he had made a call on a subscriber’s line could be dismissed? If so, what attempts are made to detect this dishonesty and how many Commission employees have been dismissed for this reason?
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Telecom Australia advises that technical staff employed on telephone installation and maintenance work are required, in the normal course of their duties, to contact the local exchange from field locations using portable telephones linked to a subscriber’s line. Such calls are made to special non-metering numbers and do not register on the meter associated with the subscriber’s service concerned. On rare occasions calls may have to be made to normal metering numbers, eg. an engineering store or depot, for information or material. Officers are required to keep a record of any such calls made and to forward these to the accounting area to arrange for the appropriate number of rebates on the service concerned.
Details of meter registrations rebated are not shown on telephone bills but the number of rebates allowed on each service is contained in the individual accounting records for each service and may be ascertained by subscribers on enquiry. The number of rebates allowed is deducted from the total meter registrations during the accounting period before computing the metered call charge to be billed.
In appropriate circumstances, action could be taken under the provisions of section 58 of the Telecommunications Act 1975 to dismiss an officer found guilty of improperly using a subscriber’s line in the manner described by the honourable senator. However, there is no evidence of any offences of this nature having been committed.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 August 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760826_senate_30_s69/>.