30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
-On behalf of Senator Keeffe I present the following petition from 16 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia do humbly pray that the Australian Government:
Extend the freeze on alienation of vacant Crown land in the Northern Territory.
Give urgent consideration to amendments to the Northern Territory (Land Rights) Bill 1 976 to give effect to:
The restoration of the role of land councils and the Land Commissioner.
The removal of distinction between ‘needs’ and traditional claims.
The re-introduction of the 1975 Land Rights Bill’s provisions regarding mining.
The withdrawal of power from the Northern Territory Assembly to make laws over sacred sites, permits and entry to pastoral properties.
The control of all roads through Aboriginal land being held by the Aboriginal people themselves.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 96 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Extend the freeze on European claims to the unalienated Crown Lands of the Northern Territory until 12 months after the passage of the Bill; and to provide for speedy lodging and hearing of Aboriginal Claims. The hearing of Aboriginal claims has been postponed as a result of Government decisions. Aboriginals should not be penalised.
Amend the Bill to ensure:
The removal of all powers to pass Land Rights Legislation from Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, particularly its control over sacred sites, entry permits, control over the seas adjoining Aboriginal land, the fishing rights of non-Aborigines, the right of Aborigines to enter pastoral stations and control of wildlife on Aboriginal land.
The control by Aborigines of all roads passing through Aboriginal lands.
The restoration of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner’s powers to hear claims based on needs as well as traditional claims lodged by Aborigines.
The restoration of all powers vested in Land Councils and the Land Commissioner in the 1975 Land Rights Bill.
A provision that any Government decision to override Aboriginal objections to mining on the basis of national interest be itself reviewed by both houses of parliament.
A provision that Land-owning groups of Aborigines may apply to form separate trusts if they wish.
The removal of artificial barriers to traditional owners imposed by the Territory Borders on all tribes so affected.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 232 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas an amnesty was announced for all illegal migrants and that whereas Mr Ignazio Salemi, an applicant for amnesty, has been denied amnesty.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members of the Senate will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
That as Mr Salemi fulfils all the publicly announced criteria for amnesty he is permitted to remain in Australia as a resident.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 20 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
that many people in Australia are denied justice because of their lack of means;
that at the same time there is a reduction of funding of legal aid;
that the activities of the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Australian Legal Aid Office and the professional, State and voluntary services are sabotaged by lack of adequate financial support.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should provide an allocation in the next Budget for: (a) the Aboriginal Legal Services and (b) the Attorney-General’s Department to support the other forms of legal aid, of an amount of not less than the equivalent of 1 per cent of the amount allocated to the Department of Social Security.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 5 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
The Australian Broadcasting Commission belongs to the people and not to the Government of the day whatever political party.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled should:
Eschew all means, direct or indirect, of diminishing the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Reject all proposals for the introduction of advertising into ABC programs.
Develop methods for publicly funding the commission which will prevent the granting or withholding of funds being used as a method of diminishing its independence.
Ensure that any general enquiries into broadcasting in Australia which may seem desirable from time to time shall be conducted publicly and that strong representation of the public shall be included within the body conducting the enquiry.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
SenatorGEORGES-I present the following petition from 59 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
Subscribe to the view that the Australian Broadcasting Commission belongs to the people and not to the government of the day whatever political party.
Eschew all means, direct or indirect, of diminishing the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Reject all proposals for the introduction of advertising into ABC programs.
Develop methods for publicly funding the Commission which will prevent the granting or withholding of funds being used as a method of diminishing its independence.
Ensure that any general enquiries into broadcasting in Australia which may seem desirable from time to time shall be conducted publicly and that strong representation of the public shall be included within the body conducting the enquiry.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petitions received, and first petition read.
– I present the following petition from 5 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the recent Budgetary allocations endanger the quality of Australian education, especially for disadvantaged groups and in particular for migrants, Aboriginals and tertiary students from poor backgrounds.
Your petitioners believe that:
All persons admitted to institutions of Tertiary Education in Australia have a right to adequate living conditions and that it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that sufficient funds are allocated to protect that right.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the quality of education in schools and tertiary institutions be not eroded but extended through the provision of adequate funds.
That in view of the substandard living conditions forced upon many tertiary students as a consequence of the totally inadequate student assistance scheme there is an urgent need for a substantial increase and indexation of grants provided under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme to the level of a living wage and further that the needs based grants scheme be in no way jeopardised by any other program of student assistance.
That in order to preserve the quality of higher education in Australia and so as to prevent discrimination against disadvantaged groups there should be no introduction of fees for overseas students, second degree students, higher degree students or any students.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator Button I present the following petition from 125 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional powers to prohibit the export of any mineral sands from Fraser Island, and
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional authority to assist the Queensland Government and any other properly constituted body to develop and conserve the recreational, educational and scientific potentials of the natural environment of Fraser Island for the long term benefit of the people of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Senators of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned students and staff of the State College of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That the immigration of teachers recruited from outside Australia be prevented while students with similar university qualifications are refused entry into Diploma of Education courses and school leavers are refused entry into the State colleges of Victoria.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Minister for Immigration, Mr MacKellar, will carry out this petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Wriedt.
To the Honourable the President and Senators of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned students and staff at the colleges respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government Tertiary Educational Allowance Scheme be raised from $30 per week to $48 per week.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, and the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, will carry out this petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Wriedt.
To the Honourable the President and Senators of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned students and staff of the State Colleges of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That teachers recruited outside Australia by the Victorian Education Department have their income taxation exemption for the period of their stay in Australia cancelled.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Treasurer will carry out this petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Wriedt.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, in the Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Townley.
-I direct a question to Senator Carrick as Minister for Education. Is the Minister aware that on the recently appointed committee of inquiry into education and training both teachers and parents’ and friends’ organisations are not represented? Why are there 3 representatives from industry and 2 representatives from institutes of technology on the committee? Will the Minister consider reducing by one the representatives from each of these groups with a view to allowing teachers and parents to be represented on the committee?
– No, I am not aware of the information stated by Senator Wriedt. It is quite clear that Senator Wriedt has not studied the facts. If he were to have looked at the record of service of the various members of the committee he would have noted, for example, that Miss Guthrie was until recently a most distinguished subjects mistress at St George Girls High School and that other committee members have been teachers in the past. I believe that almost all are parents although I am not aware whether all 10 members are parents. In fact the very situation that the honourable senator is seeking to establish is utterly wrong.
The committee has been praised throughout Australia as being a highly balanced committee of all forms of education. As it is primarily post secondary, it would be strange if it did not have as members representatives of universities, including its chairman. Sir Peter Lloyd, who comes from the Council of the University of Tasmania is a member. I presume that the honourable senator is asking that we drop Sir Peter Lloyd from the Council of the University of Tasmania since he asks that we reduce the number of industrialists on the committee. He may be happy to indicate which members we should drop. Since the committee is inquiring into vocation why should there not be 2 members interested in technology? Since it is inquiring into jobs why should it not have as members such eminent persons as Mr John Hooke, the Chairman of Directors of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd, one of the great Australian industries, or a very distinguished person, the Chairman of ICI Australia Ltd and a former member of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation?
I think it would be well if the honourable senator studied the biographies of the persons on the committee. He would find that they include teachers, parents, former high school teachers and a former Assistant Director-General of Education who fully understood and still understands primary and secondary education and who is now involved in further education in South Australia. Indeed, every section of education is covered.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. Perhaps Senator Carrick misunderstood the intent of my question. I certainly did not intend to provoke any questioning of the calibre of the people on the committee. I shall ask him a further question. I do not know whether he realises that in the Commonwealth Record it is stated:
Senator Carrick said that in selecting members of the committee the Government had balanced interest and experience between the various sectors of education and the links between the education system and the labour market.
I can understand his point that it is essentially an inquiry into post-secondary education. That is a valid point. I ask the Minister again: Would he not agree that parents’ organisations and teachers’ organisations are very much part of the education system, and it is for that reason that they are requesting the balance on the committee which the Minister himself seeks? Would he consider that two of the three members of industry whom he has appointed to the committeepresumably they are all competent people; I would not suggest otherwise- would be quite capable of putting the views of industry to the committee?
-I believe that 10 parents are competent to put the viewpoints of parents. I equally believe that a number of persons who are or were teachers are competent to put the viewpoint of teachers. I believe that all those who are in the teaching, lecturing and academic professions are capable of putting their views. The supplementary question of the honourable senator bore no relation to the first question. In the first question he asked me whether I realised that there were no teachers or parents on the committee, and whether I would be willing to drop somebody from the committee. In fact, there was a retreat like one has never seen when I suggested that the honourable senator might be advocating the dropping from the committee of Sir Peter Lloyd of the Council of the University of Tasmania.
– I address a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. I remind him of the recent public discussion in Western Australia about the development and improvement of the city of Perth. I refer to the key site occupied by Padbury building in Forrest Place which is under the control of the Commonwealth. Various proposals from time to time have envisaged the incorporation of that site in the development plans for the northern part of the city. I ask the Minister to advise, if he can, what the Government’s intentions are with respect to that site.
-As the honourable senator will know, the subject of Padbury building in Forrest Place in Perth has been a matter of some public comment and at times public controversy in Western Australia. Perhaps the honourable senator will recall that when the previous Government was in office Mr Whitlam put forward a plan which aroused a great deal of public debate and opposition. As I recall, it was proposed to close off the northern end of Forrest Place with some monolithic Telecom building. I think that was the proposal.
– It was a suggested one.
-I said that a proposal was put forward. I am quite clear about that. The honourable senator will also recall that not much happened after that controversial proposal was put forward. I can tell the honourable senator that in recent weeks officers of my Department, together with officers of the Perth City Council, have been doing a great deal of work on this matter. Last week in Hobart I had the opportunity, during some part of the Constitutional Convention, to have personal discussions with the Lord Mayor of Perth about this matter. I have great hopes that the Perth City Council and the Commonwealth will shortly resolve this problem so that this land will become part of the open space of the City of Perth and the dream of Forrest Place as envisaged some 50 years ago will shortly come to fruition.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Is it a fact that staff ceilings imposed by the Government have resulted in a worsening of the chronic staff shortages at repatriation hospitals? Has this rigid application of staff ceilings resulted in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs sending patients to some private hospitals and paying the bills for those patients which, in some cases, are double the cost of patients in repatriation hospitals? Is it a fact that as a result the Hospital Employees Federation is imposing a ban on civilian patients in repatriation hospitals? Is the Government intending to do anything about the staff ceilings applied to repatriation hospitals to relieve the apparent difficulties?
-There have undoubtedly been some difficulties in rearranging staff in repatriation hospitals, within the staff ceilings established by the Government. I think I have already answered some questions generally on this matter and have indicated that the staff ceilings present some challenge to management techniques. One of the major justifications of staff ceilings was that management could be given proper incentives to look at their requirements for staff and so on. However, the position in relation to repatriation hospitals has been greatly worsened in particular by the maternity leave provisions introduced by the previous Government. One of the major problems faced in repatriation hospitals is the high proportion of women who are employed in them. It is a fact that the President and the Secretary of the Hospital Employees Federation have been in touch with me and have conveyed to me the concern that their members feel. This was discussed at a recent national conference. They saw me, I think, within a few days of that conference being held. I have taken their concern very seriously. I have initiated discussions throughout the whole of my Department in relation to the problem. We are doing as much as we can as fast as we can to see what can be achieved in relation to the problems which they have raised with me.
It is also a fact that the President and the Secretary of the union indicated that members of the union may consider, as I understood it, placing a black ban or whatever one likes to call it on the admission of civilian patients to repatriation hospitals in the event of the problem, as they saw it, continuing. I sincerely hope that they will not go to any lengths such as that because a very important feature of the policy, not only of the present Government but of previous governments, including the Labor Government, has been that for the general good of the repatriation hospitals and for the quality of the medical attention given to patients in those hospitals there should be an admission of some civilian patients so that there would be a variety of illnesses in those hospitals. I am sure Senator Grimes would understand the need for that variety. Therefore it would be very serious indeed if members of the staff were to take action of the kind suggested. I sincerely hope that they would not carry on with such a proposal.
-Mr President, I have a supplementary question.
-Is it directly relevant to the question you have just asked?
-It is directly relevant; it was part of my question. I am interested in the claim that patients are being sent to private hospitals and particularly in the claim that the cost of treating those patients in private hospitals is twice the cost in repatriation hospitals. I am genuinely seeking the information.
-I am sorry I omitted that. There were so many parts of the question. I thought I had answered the major ones but I omitted that one. It is rather difficult for me to give any specific answer to the question. I would prefer to have it looked at closely and to give the honourable senator details later.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Government issued a directive to Government departments that the terminology for statistical information relating to China and Taiwan be changed to ‘China, excluding Taiwan’ and Taiwan, Province of? If it be correct, upon whose direction was this directive issued and upon what basis was the decision made? What countries other than communist countries and Australia recognise Taiwan as a province of China? Does Australia trade directly with any other province of China? If not, why is Taiwan singled out for special treatment? As the Government has proclaimed its belief in the right of selfdetermination for the people of East Timor, does it recognise the right of the people of Taiwan to self-determination? Is it within Australia’s right to determine the future of Taiwan?
-I have not seen the directive. I certainly did not issue it and it certainly has not come under my notice. I shall inquire from the Prime Minister whether his Department has issued it. The balance of the questions really fall within the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I think I would be a very wise person to seek information on those matters.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General relating to the problems besetting Mr M. A. Reardon, of 14 Parkinson Place, Hillarys, in Western Australia, of which the Minister is no doubt aware as they have received a great deal of Press publicity in Western Australia. By way of explanation, let me say that the facts of this matter are that Mr Reardon and his wife were divorced and that some weeks ago she, apparently using a passport which was improperly obtained from the British High Commission, abducted their child and travelled to Singapore with this child whom she had illegally taken. Representations were made by Mr Reardon to the Western Australian Minister for Justice, who applied to the Commonwealth Attorney-General for extradition proceedings to be taken in Singapore to return Mr Reardon ‘s former wife, who is now Mrs Ritzell, and the child to Australia. On 2 1 October the Attorney-General wrote to Mr Reardon a letter in which he referred to the fact that he had received a request from the Western Australian Minister for Justice regarding Mr Reardon ‘s former wife, Maureen Ann Ritzell, that she be surrendered from Singapore to Western Australia to face charges of disobeying a court order and child stealing. The AttorneyGeneral said:
Only child stealing is an extradition crime. After careful consideration of this request I have come to the conclusion that extradition proceedings in this case would not be appropriate. That conclusion is in conformity with what I regard as an important principle, namely that extradition proceedings should not be used as an indirect means of obtaining or attempting to obtain custody of or access to children. The restoration of children is, I think, more properly a matter for civil proceedings.
The Attorney-General then went on to say that he would be prepared to consider an application for ex gratia assistance for part of the cost of any proceedings which Mr Reardon might take in Singapore. As in this instance it is not so much a question of enforcing a divorce order made by the appropriate court but rather dealing with a breach of an order which amounted to child stealing- an offence which is an extradition offence- can the Minister ask the AttorneyGeneral to give further consideration to this matter in view of the fact that it is not merely a matter of civil proceedings to obtain custody in a matrimonial suit but that there has been what is or is tantamount to a criminal offence committed by the absconding former wife of Mr Reardon? I suggest that this is a matter which requires some further consideration, as an important principle relating to the whole question of extradition is involved and I think it deserves perhaps more consideration than has already been given to it.
-Senator Wheeldon raises a very difficult and a very human and distressing problem which unfortunately is all too common, particularly to those of us who have had some practice in the legal profession in these matters. I am not aware of the actual terms of the reply that the Attorney-General has given to Mr Reardon in this matter. I thank Senator Wheeldon for having given a summary of that reply. I think the reasons behind the Attorney-General’s thinking on this matter could be well understood. However, I do appreciate the additional point that Senator Wheeldon has raised and I shall certainly make that point to the Attorney-General. I am sure that he will reconsider the matter.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Education. It refers to an Australian Broadcasting Commission news broadcast of a statement reported to have been made at the weekend by the South Australian Minister for Education that, as he called it, the Federal Government’s commitment to education funding was under threat. Is that statement accurate? Is there any accuracy in Dr Hopgood’s statement that a 2 per cent increase in real terms for education funding, as promised, was under a Treasury threat of being cut? Finally, is it true that there are to be some changes made, as the South Australian Minister said, in the functions of the Schools Commission? If so, what are their implications and when will they be implemented?
– Somebody once said, I think, that even a clock is right twice a day. In this case Dr Hopgood is right m only one case out of three. It is true that changes will be announced for the Schools Commission in due course. That, of course, is part of our policy. There is no truth at all in the statement that the Federal Government’s education policies are under threat. The only time that education was under threat in Australia was by the decision announced in the August 1975 Budget of the then Whitlam Government. It is not true that education funding is under threat. There is no threat from Treasury. In due course we will be announcing in the Senate the details of the Government’s policies. They will show that in fact the statements made in the Budget will be carried out in practice.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In the interests of the preservation of life, taking into account the considerable growth in the number of people taking to the water in small boats, and further having regard to the cost, which is frequently quite considerable, of search and rescue operations which must be borne by the Australian taxpayer anyway, will the Government give the most serious consideration to the removal of sales tax on life saving and life preserving equipment necessary to be carried on small craft as an inducement to people using these small craft to equip them adequately with that essential gear? Would it not be a most desirable development for the Government to take every possible step to encourage people to carry the basic essentials of life saving and life preserving gear on small craft by such means as limiting the cost of this equipment to the maximum degree possible?
– Any encouragement to people to take maximum care at sea is certainly highly desirable. All I can do is put the case to the Treasurer on behalf of the honourable senator, and I shall do that.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that the Income Security Review Committee has not yet sought the views of Professor Ronald Henderson in its deliberations? Since Professor Henderson has made quite specific proposals regarding a scheme for income security, will the Minister seek from the Committee an assurance that the views of Professor Henderson will be obtained before the Committee completes its deliberations?
– I am not aware whether it is a fact that the Committee has not yet heard the views of Professor Henderson. It is a fact that Professor Henderson and many other commissioners of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty have reported publicly and that those reports would be available to the Income Security Review Committee. I can refer to the Prime Minister and to the Committee the matter that has been raised by the honourable senator in regard to a guaranteed minimum income which was referred to by Professor Henderson in his report. It should be understood that the Committee is a continuing interdepartmental committee which may have matters referred to it from time to time and which reports from time to time. I will ensure that the matters raised are referred to it.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Education. If, as the Minister said in answer to a previous question, education in Australia is not under threat, how can he explain the considerable apprehension amongst education authorities and organisations concerning the future of technical and further education in Australia? Is the Minister aware that this concern has been expressed because of several factors which include, firstly, the slashing of funds for the Technical and Further Education Commission for 1977 to an extent that the allocation falls well below the projected needs of the second report of the Commission; secondly, the high incidence of chronic unemployment amongst youth; and thirdly, the need for considerable retraining amongst the work force, taking into account the fact that in 1971 more than 71 per cent of males and 88 per cent of females held no formal post-school qualifications of any kind? In view of these facts, can the Minister provide guidelines as to when TAFE institutions will be upgraded along the lines of the second report of the Commission?
-To put the record straight, funds for the TAFE Commission have of course been very considerably increased by the present Fraser Government by a factor of 7M per cent. To put the record straight in another respect, the only government which cut TAFE funds was the Whitlam Government. If there is apprehension about TAFE and if TAFE is not performing its functions, it is because of the August 1975 cut in the TAFE allocation, as there was throughout the whole of education, by the then Whitlam Government. I remind the honourable senator that because of the lack of funding by the Whitlam Government the present Fraser Government has decided to give TAFE the highest increase this year of 7.5 per cent and on a planning basis an increase of 5 per cent. Equally, when in due course the Government spells out in detail its plans for the general coordination and development of post-secondary education in Australia the honourable senator will discover that it intends to increase the significance of technical and further education. In doing this it will recognise that, because of the failure in recent years to concentrate upon technical, vocational and craft training and to apply real money to it, it is true, as the honourable senator said, that there is a very high incidence of unemployment and low skill amongst the young.
I think that the figures which the honourable senator gave in the second part of his question are wrong. As I understand it, some 70 per cent of males and some 80 per cent of females receive no further formal education. I think that those are the census figures. Nevertheless, in general terms what he said is true. It is deplorable that only a handful- about 20 per cent to 25 per cent- of the population of Australia receives post-secondary education. I acknowledge that fact and I acknowledge that it is a defect that must be cured. My Government is keen to cure it.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that one of the Australian Labor Party members of the Queensland Parliament has found it necessary to approach the National-Liberal Party Government there seeking protection from his Party in relation to a levy which his own Party has assessed on him because he is a parliamentary representative, on the ground that the levy may be a breach of parliamentary privilege? Would the Minister be prepared to say whether the Federal Government would give consideration to protecting Federal members of Parliament from this form of financial and political coercion which amounts to the purchase of endorsement for Parliament?
-I happen to be aware -
– Because Senator Martin just told you.
-I was going to tell Senator Cavanagh how I became aware of it, but he is so impetuous that he keeps making a goat of himself. I became aware of this matter last week at the Constitutional Convention in Hobart when one of my State colleagues from Queensland raised it with me informally. I can well understand the sense of outrage which the individual member feels and the sense of outrage that the National and Liberal Party members in the Queensland Parliament feel about such an exercise. I do not think that Senator Martin ought to be surprised that such a thing happens because, whilst the Australian Labor Party is long on philosophy about human rights it is pretty short on the practice of them. Anybody who has studied the record of the Labor Party over a number of years will see that that is the way it turns out.
So far as I know, no approach has been made by any member of the Labor Party in this Parliament to ask for the protection of the Parliament either by Government action or by parliamentary action against such a blackmailing tactic. If any honourable senator should raise the matter in this place I am certain that the Senate Standing Committee on Privileges would be quite prepared to investigate it. I am quite certain also that the Government, which believes in true human rights, would be prepared to do its utmost to protect members of Parliament against blackmail from outside organisations.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Education, follows the question asked by Senator Georges. Does the Minister remember saying to Senator Georges that the Australian Labor Party Government cut spending for technical and further education in Australia? I ask him whether he has read page 42 of his own Treasurer’s Budget Paper No. 7 which outlines spending on technical and further education by the Labor Government as follows: In the first year $29m; in the second year $45m; and in the third year $65m. Will the Minister identify in which year the Labor Government cut spending? I also ask him whether he recalls saying that his Government is keen to cure the problems of technical and further education in Australia. If he is so keen will he give us an assurance that the increase in the level of expenditure on technical and further education under this Government will not fall below the level of increase under the Labor Government?
-I shall be happy-I do not have the figures with me- to give -
– Well, you should do.
– But I shall be happy to provide the figures showing the whole of the cuts in all the 4 areas of education amounting to -
– We are talking about technical education. Stand by the statement you made and do not try to get out of it.
- Mr President, I shall repeat. I shall be happy to provide for the honourable senator the information, including information on technical and further education, to disclose the cuts amounting to $ 105m in education by the Whitlam Government in its August 1975 Budget. As to the program of the Government for technical and further education, the Bills will be before this Parliament fairly soon. The debate will be capable of being entered into then.
- Mr President, I have a supplementary question. I ask Senator Carrick: Is he prepared to admit that he is making wild, inaccurate statements at question time which, when challenged, he cannot substantiate? I ask you, Mr President: Is there any means whereby you can force him to make accurate statements based on fact?
- Mr President, of course the whole of the facts of this matter are against Senator Wriedt. Time and again he asks questions and I table answers which refute the very things he has said. I repeat that I shall table and indeed have incorporated in Hansard the details of how the Whitlam Labor Government cut the 1976 calendar year education expenditure of the 4 commissions by a total of $ 105m.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the so called across the board cuts and staff ceilings being applied to Commonwealth public servants and Government departments. Are there indeed across the board cuts directed at all Government departments or are they selective to the degree that they are not expected to cause over loading of the work force, lack of efficiency by departments, etc? In the event of these measures causing lack of efficiency, with a department unable to carry out its duties to a reasonable standard, does the Government review such situations as outlined? I might also say to the Minister that I believe this does happen in isolated areas of the Northern Territory.
-Whilst a general staff ceiling has been set across the Public Service it is applied in different degrees of stringency, department by department. It has always been open for the head of any department or any Minister who believes that the staff ceilings cause either overloading or lack of efficiency within a department to approach, respectively, the Public Service Board or the Prime Minister. It is just not a broad, sweeping staff ceiling applied right across the Public Service without any consideration of efficiency, overloading or service to the taxpayer.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services: Does the appearance of margarine on the tables in the parliamentary dining rooms represent a new trendiness on the part of the Liberal-National Country Party Government or is it simply a sop to the margarine manufacturers?
-I thought the honourable senator would have been here long enough to know that you, Mr President, and Mr Speaker are in charge of the Parliament and that I, together with the rest of my ministerial colleagues, like all private members in this place, are but your guests in this Parliament. I suggest that the honourable senator take up the matter with either the Joint House Committee, which I understand runs the refreshment rooms- if that is the right name- or with you, Sir. It is none of my business.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the appointment of an Assistant Director for Migrant Services in the Department of Social Security in Adelaide, which was advertised nationally in June. Is the Minister aware that there is considerable concern amongst migrant interest groups in Adelaide that the Telephone Interpreter Service Advisory Committee is not meeting and that they regard the appointment as the key to catalysing its activities? Does the Minister agree that the appointee should have outstanding linguistic and human relations skills? Can the Minister say when an appointment will be announced? Will this officer be responsible to the Assistant Director-General, Migrant Community Services Branch of the Minister ‘s Department in Canberra, or to the National Groups Unit or some other officer? If he will be responsible to the National Groups Unit, what level of officer will be his immediate superior and what is that person’s experience with groups of migrant origin? Does this Unit co-ordinate or liaise with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs?
– The honourable senator raised several questions and I shall attempt to answer them. The position of Assistant Director of Migrant Services in Adelaide was advertised in the Australian Government Gazette on 8 July this year and in the national Press on 1 9 July. As I understand it, there have been 36 applications for the Adelaide position and a decision is expected shortly. This will be notified in the Gazette in accordance with normal Public Service procedures. I am aware of the concern amongst the migrant community in Adelaide with regard to this key appointment and for this officer to work closely with the community, both through the Telephone Interpreter Service Advisory Committee and many other migrant community groups. The occupants of the positions of Assistant Director are officers directly responsible for migrant activities in each of the State headquarters of the Department of Social Security.
I acknowledge the necessity for linguistic and human relations qualifications to be held by the person who will be appointed. I can only say that these matters will be taken into consideration when the appointment is being made. What is of considerable importance is that these officers must have a good understanding of the social, psychological and cultural aspects of the migration process and especially the problems which are associated with settlement in a new country. They must be good administrators and have the capacity to liaise closely with the ethnic groups and voluntary agencies in the field of migrant welfare. The Assistant Director, Migrant Services, Adelaide, as with his counterparts in the other States, is directly responsible to the Senior Assistant Director of the Community and Social Welfare Branch in the State headquarters. The Department’s Migrant Community Services Branch has a policy co-ordination role across all State offices of the Department and includes a National Groups Unit which works closely with ethnic organisations throughout the community. I shall make inquiries with regard to the degree to which it has liaison with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and advise the honourable senator accordingly.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education. In view of the statements of the Minister this afternoon that he would provide to Senator Wriedt information regarding an alleged $105m cut in education funds by the Whitlam Government, in preface to my question I remind the Minister that on 1 7 August this year I put a question on notice which read as follows:
In view of the fact that the Minister has said he will provide information to Senator Wriedt, I ask: First, when does the Minister expect that I shall receive an answer to a question I placed on notice on 17 August? Secondly, will Senator Wriedt have to wait 2y2 months for his information as I have had to wait?
– The honourable senator will be delighted to know that Senator Wriedt will not have to wait at all because with the blessing of the Senate I shall incorporate the proof in Hansard. Mr President, you will recall that the emphasis of Senator Wriedt ‘s question was to deny that there had been a cut by the Whitlam Government in technical and further education expenditure. I shall seek to incorporate in Hansard a table prepared by the Commonwealth Department of Education based upon December 1975 figures which show incidentally that for the 4 education commissions for the calendar year 1975 the Whitlam Government’s expenditure was $l,595m. That Government’s provision for the calendar year 1976 totalled $ 1,490m, being a deficit of $105m. For Senator Wriedt’s benefit, I might say that the same table shows that for the calendar year 1975 expenditure on TAFE by the Whitlam Government was $74m and for 1976, $65m. I seek leave to have the whole table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
Depanment of Education 14 May 1976
– What about my other question?
-I apologise to the honourable senator. I was unaware that an answer had not been given to that question. I will seek to hasten it for him.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Telecommunications give an assurance that if any alteration to the broadcasting control system is to be considered by him following the Green report, protection of children through the design of children’s programs, viewing times and quality will be given top priority?
– The question that Senator Walters raises is very important. I have received literature from voluntary organisations drawing attention to the need for appropriate programs to be presented in children’s viewing hours and equally, if possible, that proper protection be afforded. I will draw the request to the attention of the Minister in the other place. I am unaware of the contemplation of the method of ensuring standards for the future but in any case there is an overwhelming need for both the national and the commercial elements of broadcasting and television to assume a voluntary responsibility to ensure that the quality of children’s television viewing is the highest possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and relates to the table which he has just had incorporated in Hansard in response to the question asked by Senator
Colston. I ask: Is the Minister saying, in effect, that the Treasurer’s figures as provided in the Budget Papers are incorrect? If they are incorrect, will he also table an explanation as to why either the Treasurer’s figures or his own figures are incorrect?
-I know that Senator Wriedt would like to place words in my mouth. I said no such thing, of course. What I said was that the table produced and published by the Department of Education is correct and it, being correct, shows that in the calendar years of which I spoke it supports the figures I asserted, namely, that the Whitlam Government cut education by $105m, including a significant cut in respect of technical and further education. I said nothing else. Indeed this is a trick of Senator Wriedt ‘s because, having been shown basically that a table that cannot be questioned as to its validity proves the points that the Government asserts, he now seeks to shift his ground.
– As a supplementary question I ask the Minister for Education whether he is now questioning the validity of the Treasurer’s figures.
– I am not doing anything of the sort. What Senator Wriedt is doing defies the Senate’s interpretation.
– My question to the Minister for Social Security relates to an answer given by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs concerning the problem faced by his Department due to maternity leave. Has the Minister received any complaints from female public servants who have to carry the can on behalf of people who are enjoying maternity leave, particularly because of Public Service ceiling restrictions? Is the Minister in a position to inform the Senate of the annual cost of maternity allowance and paternity allowance since they were introduced by the former Government? Can she say what the projected cost will be for this year? Has she considered reviewing the maternity leave provisions to ensure that female employees in the Public Service are able to attract that leave but only after, say, a qualifying period in the Public Service?
– I was asked whether I was aware of problems faced by my own Department with regard to maternity leave and whether it had placed undue strains on the work of the Department. I have no figures which I could quote with regard to the incidence of maternity leave in my Department. I am aware that throughout the Public Service maternity leave has caused some strains through the number of inoperative staff resulting from this form of leave. I shall treat the question so far as it related to costs and the other matters that were raised by the honourable senator as being placed on notice and shall provide the information. As to reviewing maternity leave and the conditions under which it is given to members of the Public Service, this is somewhat outside my own direct responsibilities. I could draw it to the attention of those who are more directly responsible for Public Service matters but I do believe that maternity leave and paternity leave are now accepted as conditions of service within the Public Service. I can only draw those matters to the attention of the Minister responsible.
-My question which is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services follows his statement yesterday that what passes between Ministers is something which he does not intend disclosing to the Senate. Is the Minister aware that last March the Crown Solicitor advised the Secretary of the Department of Administrative Services that the fact that legal proceedings are instituted by a common informer under the Common Informers Act 1975 against a member of the Parliament is not, in the Crown Solicitor’s view, of itself a sufficient justification for the Commonwealth paying the costs incurred by that member in defending the proceedings; that to justify such a payment the member would need to establish that there were special circumstances warranting the payment being made, and that in the view of the Crown Solicitor Mr Albert Field had not made out any such special circumstances? Was that opinion of the Crown Solicitor brought to the notice of the Minister by his Department?
-The honourable senator is reading something which he alleges to be correspondence which passed between Government departments.
– I am asking you the question.
– Wait a minute. You are alleging that what you said is correct.
– I am asking the question.
-No, you are not. I am not going to prove whether or not what the honourable senator said is correct. It is for him to vouch for the authenticity of what he has said and of the letter and to disclose the source from where he got it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to the recently introduced special incentive scheme for youth employment training, offering 6 months on the job training for unemployed school leavers aged 1 5 years to 1 9 years and providing a $58 weekly subsidy to employers during the training period. In the context of this national program to assist unemployed young people, can the Minister say what progress has been made with the scheme in the Australian Capital Territory? Can he say whether significant numbers of young people in the Australian Capital Territory who qualify to do so have now sought assistance under the scheme? Have some been placed in job training? In what types of jobs have they been employed?
-I do not know whether I have sufficient detail to answer fully Senator Knight’s question but I have some rather interesting information in relation to the special training program introduced by the Government about a month ago to assist with the placing of young unemployed people. As the Senate would know, the scheme was introduced under the National Employment and Training scheme.and began on 4 October, with the object of providing assistance to young persons who had not been able to establish themselves in stable employment. As honourable senators would be aware, the group given initial attention under the program comprises 15 to 19-year-olds who left school in the preceding 12 months and who have been registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service for not less than a total of 6 months during this period. I am pleased to inform the Senate that there has been a most heartening response to the program both from employers and young people. In the first 3 weeks of the program in excess of 1 100 young people have been placed in training throughout Australia. Approximately 320 of these were in New South Wales, and 29 were placed in the Australian Capital Territory. As far as the more detailed questions regarding the Australian Capital Territory are concerned, I will endeavour to get information from the Minister whom I represent and let the Senate have it as soon as possible.
-Will the Minister for Social Security inform the Senate whether she made a promise on a television program Telethon in Perth on the weekend of 16 and 17 October that the Fraser Government would give the Sir David Brand Handicapped Children’s Centre a $1 for $4 subsidy? Is it true that the promise of money has since been withdrawn? Is it a fact that the film of the program has been destroyed so that no record of the Minister’s promise is available?
– I have no knowledge of films being withdrawn, destroyed or anything of that nature. What I am able to advise the Senate is that with regard to the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act projects in Western Australia it was said on the television program and elsewhere during that day that a meeting would be arranged between the Federal Government, the State Government and voluntary agencies dealing with assistance to handicapped children to determine the priorities of the projects which could be approved in the 3-year program. The subsidy will be at the level of $4 for SI. Those projects which are approved in the priority determined in that State will have funding in the 3-year program concerned. The promise of the $4 for $ 1 is in accordance with the provisions of the Act under which the grants will be made, and the promise of consultation amongst the bodies concerned in Western Australia was made on that television program. As to the other matters raised, I have no knowledge of them.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister who is the Minister responsible for the Arts. As one who has for many years had an interest in the performing arts, I am greatly concerned that Mr John Winther. the General Manager of the Australian Opera Company, is reported to have declined to co-operate with the Industries Assistance Commission in its present inquiry. Does the Minister share my concern that this attitude could prejudice the company of which Mr VVinther is General Manager and could be against the interests of those who derive enjoyment from it or who engage in it?
-I would hope that what the honourable senator said does not come about and that Mr Winther for the sake of the arts and his own branch of them, will change his mind and co-operate with the Industries Assistance Commission.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of reports that Indonesia has threatened military intervention in Papua New Guinea in order to suppress allegedly communist political movements? Is the Minister further aware that the Commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Forces, Brigadier-General Ted Diro, was informed by Indonesian authorities in Jakarta that they considered both the Bougainville Secessionist Movement and the Papua Independence Movement to be communist influenced? Is the Minister prepared, in the light of these developments, to state that Australia will always act to protect the political and territorial integrity of Papua New Guinea from external threats of aggression ?
-The first 2 parts of the question asked whether I was aware of certain reports. I have never heard of them. As to the latter part, that is a matter of government policy which I do not think should be answered at question time.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that if a telephone subscriber decides to have his telephone barred from subscriber trunk dialling he is also barred from contacting the trunk operators via the usual numbers such as Oil or 018 because Telecom Australia says it is technically not feasible to do otherwise? Is the Minister also aware that the only way a subscriber with STD barring can make a long distance call via the trunk operators is to use 0176, which is the number that is usually reserved for trunk calls from public telephone boxes, and that attempts to make calls through that number from a private telephone are often met with argument from the operaters who are most likely unaware of the difficulty a subscriber has in these cases? Does it not seem at best doubtful that a subscriber can be allowed to dial 0 1 76 and yet it is not technically feasible to dial Oil or 018? Is it not time the Government insisted that Telecom make life easier for those people who decide to have their telephones barred against unwanted STD calls? At the moment it appears that Telecom wants to force people not to have telephones barred, which in the words used by the Minister a little while ago, seems to be a defect that should be cured.
-I have to declare an absolute ignorance of the technicalities of the barring of telephones from subscriber trunk dialling. Therefore I am unable to say whether the matters as alleged by Senator Townley- I accept them- are technically accurate. My simplest recourse is to draw the attention of my colleague, the relevant Minister, to the substance of the question and ask him to study it. I will do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I remind him of an answer prior to the advent of Budget details which indicated that the Wetlands survey was in doubt. The Minister frequently refers to expenditure of $3m on conservation projects. Is the Wetlands survey included in the $3m proposed?
– From the information immediately available to me, I cannot answer the question accurately. I know the honourable senator’s interest in this matter. I will contact my colleague in another place and ask him to give the information.
– During question time reference was made to the availability of margarine in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. It is available at the request of members. Of course, butter is available at all times in the Refreshment Rooms.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter from Senator Wriedt. 3 November 1976
In accordance with Standing Order 64, 1 give notice that today, 3 November 1976, 1 shall move:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
That the Neilson plan form the basis for a Commonwealth initiative with all the States to reduce unemployment.’
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I move:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
That the Neilson plan form the basis for a Commonwealth initiative with all the States to reduce unemployment.
It would be unnecessary for me and indeed for any member of this Parliament to emphasise the gravity of the unemployment situation facing this country- not only the increase in unemployment which has taken place over the past few months as a direct result of the policies of the Government, but also the very difficult position the work force, especially young people leaving school, will be facing towards the end of this year, and the problems that will be exacerbated early in 1977. It is for that reason that we believe that this is a matter of urgency which should be dealt with by this Parliament and which might stimulate the Government into taking some action to relieve what is in fact a disastrous trend. The Premier of Tasmania, Mr Neilson, made this comment only recently: the only way to tackle unemployment is on a national scale- it is a national problem and relief should be right across the board.
I believe that we should take notice of those words of the Tasmanian Premier because the essence of what he was saying is that no individual State can possibly solve the problem of unemployment in this country; the initiative must come from the Federal Government. In the course of my remarks I want to illustrate the reasons why the State of Tasmania finds itself in this particular position and indeed why so many other States of the Commonwealth also find themselves with a level of unemployment which they have not experienced for many years. It is perfectly obvious that the policies which have been followed by this Government have brought about an increase in the rate of unemployment. Then I intend to deal with the proposals, or some of the proposals, which have been put forward by Mr Neilson as the first constructive initiative taken by any person in this country to seek to overcome the problem that is facing us and the problem, as I have indicated, which will get worse as the months go by.
– I suppose you can be more constructive now that you are in Opposition.
-The Government has decided to ignore the plight of the unemployed, as I will ignore the interjections from my friend Senator Durack. The Government has taken certain steps over the past few months. It has deliberately budgeted for an increase in the number of unemployed of 0.5 per cent of the national work force, which is equivalent to about 30 000 jobs. Secondly, it has deliberately suppressed demand by maintaining high interest rates and keeping a tight control over the money supply. Thirdly, it has slashed expenditure in the public sector, which is one area capable of relieving the unemployment problem. Fourthly, it has discontinued employment schemes which have been in operation since 1971. The Government is not attempting to relieve unemployment. It is merely seeking to devise schemes which are useful only for propaganda purposes, and that is the point which must be remembered. There is no conscious effort on the part of the Government to relieve unemployment. It is part of its alleged plan to reduce inflation by maximising the number of people who are out of work.
It announced that it would pay the removal expenses of people shifting in order to obtain work. As there are no jobs, there is no point in shifting. It has also announced a scheme for subsidising the training of people who are under 19 years of age and who have been out of work for 6 months. However, that scheme is so limited it will do virtually nothing to relieve the situation. A current example of the Government’s refusal to take any measures to relieve the situation concerns an apprenticeship assistance scheme. On 6 October Mr Willis, the Opposition spokesman on employment and industrial relations, pointed out that the unemployment rate for teenagers is no less than 12.6 per cent. That means that about 90 000 teenagers are unemployed, of whom 26 000 are still seeking their first job. The fact is that apprentices are having their indentures cancelled by employers in their second or third year when the subsidies paid under the apprenticeship scheme are no longer available. Thus apprentices are in fact being put out of work because of the economic situation that the Government is creating. Yet the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations has advised the Government that the number of apprentices entering the work force is barely keeping pace with the loss of skilled tradesmen. The Department estimates that the apprentice intake this year will be some 10 000 less than is actually required.
Not only is the Government doing nothing to assist unemployment at present but also it is creating problems for the future, as those figures indicate. Next week a conference will be held between State and Federal Ministers who deal with labour matters to review the existing apprenticeship support programs. Until now the Commonwealth has refused to increase its support for apprenticeship training, even though its major adviser, the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, estimates that another $10m should be invested in the scheme immediately. Is it not only right that the Government should acknowledge the gravity of the position and accept the advice of its own departmental advisers?
We cannot, of course, escape the implications of the new federalism policy upon which this Government has embarked. Under the policy the Government seeks to transfer responsibility for social and economic problems to State governments. At the same time it prevents State governments from doing anything about those problems by restricting the funds available to them. We have heard a lot of noise in this Parliament about the increases in general revenue funds to the States. How many times have we heard Senator Carrick say in this place that under the tax sharing formulas of this Government the States will receive more money than they received under the so-called Whitlam formula? But of course that is only a half-truth. It can be argued whether or not even under the new arrangement the States will receive more money, but what we have to bear in mind is that this constitutes only a part of the total payments to the States. This year the States will receive $3,743m in general revenue funds, but the following points should be made: Firstly, this year the increase in general purpose funds is 20 per cent, which is almost identical with what the States would have received in general revenue under the Whitlam formula. The difference is marginal. Secondly, general purpose funds amount to only 40 per cent of total Commonwealth revenue provided to the States. Thirdly, all other forms of funds from the Commonwealth to the States have in fact been reduced. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table setting out the categories of Commonwealth payments to the States and showing the percentage increase for each category so that we can get a total picture. It is a simple table. I do not think it poses any problems.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-This table sets out that general purpose funds- which are referred to by Senator Carrick on so many occasions- constitute only 40 per cent of Commonwealth payments to the States and this year there is a 20 per cent increase. Specific purpose payments for recurrent purposes, which cover education, hospitals, roads etc., amount to 26.7 per cent of Commonwealth revenue to the States but these have increased by only 7 per cent. General purpose capital funds, which are the funds the States use to maintain their works programs and general employment, amount to 14 per cent of Commonwealth revenue to the States but the increase is only 5 per cent. The real significance of this table is that the specific purpose payments for capital purposes are a real disaster area. These are the sort of funds used to build schools, hospitals, urban roads, rural roads, etc., and amount to 18.4 per cent of Commonwealth revenue to the States. This year those amounts have been reduced by 7 per cent in money terms which is a decrease of nearly 20 per cent in real terms.
As we go into the details of these various payments we then come to realise why the States find themselves in these difficulties and in fact why the Tasmanian Premier has seen fit to put forward the proposal that he has put forward. Even with the adjustments for early Medibank payments the increase in total State revenue from the Commonwealth is just over 12 per cent, and this is significantly lower than in any year under the Labor Government. This Federal Government has sought to persuade people that the level of assistance from the Commonwealth to the States is really higher, but I would hope that the figures I have cited show that it is in fact lower and that in real terms the States are not able to maintain services to their people which they normally would have been able to do. On this point I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a copy of Table 41 from Budget Paper No. 7 for 1975-76. It sets out grants to the States for unemployment relief for the years from 1971-72 to 1975-76. Again, it is a fairly brief table.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-The table shows that unemployment relief grants were made to State governments during every year in that period. In 1972-73- the McMahon Government was the last Liberal Government before 1973- the grants amounted to about $103m. But this Government is trying to write the existence of those grants out of the Budget Papers by claiming that they are non-recurring. The only reason that they are non-recurring is simply that they have been dropped this year. Not only has the Commonwealth reduced the funds available to the States but also it has insisted that the States lower their taxes, allegedly to assist the Commonwealth’s fight against inflation, and cut down public expenditure to assist in the transfer of resources to the private sector. I believe it would be fair to say that in most cases the States have endeavoured to accede to that request.
I have spent a few minutes outlining what I believe and what the Opposition believes to be the essential reason why the States find themselves in this position. Despite all the assurances that were given in the past, at the time leading up to the last election, on how the States would be given more decision-making powers and how they would be better off under federalism- many of the State Premiers believed early this year that they would be getting a better deal- now as the truth seeps through all the State Premiers are objecting to the arrangements which the Commonwealth is forcing upon them. I am very pleased to see that the daily Press has finally come to realise that the new federalism policy of the Government is imposing loads on the States which the Press either could not see earlier in the year or did not want to see.
Now I want to come to the specific proposals that have been put forward by Mr Neilson, the Premier of Tasmania. As the Premier of the smallest State in the Commonwealth he would know probably better than any other Premier the difficulties of maintaining employment in a comparatively small economy. Although I am a Tasmanian I do not want to debate this matter purely on the basis of how it affects my own State. But I can say with some knowledge that over the past few years- even under the State Liberal Government from 1969 to 1972 -the same basic problems existed. The sorts of problems that are experienced in that small State- the problems of a small market and transport difficulties- are common to any government no matter what its political colour may be. I believe that it is to the great credit of the present Tasmanian Premier that he has taken this initiative and brought forward a plan which the Commonwealth would be wise to accept, at least in principle, not just for Tasmania but for all the States.
Even though the Commonwealth demands have placed the States in an almost impossible position, the Tasmanian Government has been able to devise a bold and imaginative plan to combat unemployment. The recently announced Neilson plan to combat unemployment is the first major and constructive step taken by a State government in Australia to remove this social evil. The plan attempts to do all the things which the Commonwealth has failed to do. The Neilson Government has been able to devise a scheme which, with the co-operation of the Commonwealth, could make substantial inroads into unemployment in Tasmania. Basically, the plan falls into 2 groups. The first group deals with the steps which the Neilson Government will take without any assistance from the Commonwealth. The second group deals with joint initiatives by the Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments but which can be carried out only with the co-operation of the Federal Government. There are 1 5 specific set initiatives included in the Neilson plan. I will not go through all of them in detail because some of them are really only relevant to Tasmania. I concede that fact. However, they can be divided into the following categories: Firstly, funds will be set aside specifically for employment-generating activities.
A portion of these funds will be available to local government on a $1 for $1 basis. This should be contrasted with the Commonwealth’s refusal to provide any funds for unemployment relief. Secondly, a major program of capital works will be commenced. The works will include school buildings, buildings for other educational purposes and also for housing. Again this should be contrasted with the cutback in Commonwealth funds for all of these activities. Thirdly, major initiatives will be made available to the private sector. They include payroll tax concessions, preference for local tenderers and a publicity campaign in support of locally produced goods. This should be contrasted with the Commonwealth’s attempts in fact to suppress the private sector, quite contrary to what the Government claims.
Fourthly, new training schemes will be introduced not only to relieve unemployment but also to make provision for skills which will be increasingly in demand. This should be contrasted with the Commonwealth’s lack of initiative in this area. Fifthly, a new scheme of portability of apprenticeships will be introduced.
Again this should be contrasted with the Commonwealth’s activities concerning apprenticeship to which I referred earlier. Sixthly, the State Government will co-operate with industry to establish a committee to investigate labour intensive industries, particularly in rural areas. This should be contrasted with the Commonwealth’s failure to make any provision for rural areas and to devise any appropriate decentralisation policy.
Although the specific details are relevant to Tasmania the ideas included in the Neilson plan would, if suitably adapted for local conditions, be beneficial in every State of the Commonwealth. The joint initiatives with the Commonwealth Government are particularly important. The Neilson plan calls for a special Premiers conference on unemployment and an increase by the Loan Council in the level of funds which States may borrow. This is one of the most important features of the plan and it is one which I am certain every State Premier would support. We know that this year an increase in those loan funds has been restricted very severely and the States depend so much on their borrowing capacity in order to provide so much of the services that they do provide. But unfortunately this year we have seen this quite dramatic cut-back by this Government under the new federalism scheme. To date the Commonwealth Government has flatly refused to agree to hold a special meeting and to lift the Loan Council allocations.
Other major features requiring Commonwealth co-operation involve an extension of the Commonwealth youth employment program to all breadwinners, increasing support for local industries and support for the dairying industry. One of the constructive features of the Neilson plan is that the State Government has not requested that the Commonwealth do these things on its own. The State Government also proposes that the Commonwealth subsidy to employers be increased by $15 a week. It would provide $750,000 to the dairying industry from its own funds. All these things indicate the extent to which the Neilson Government has been prepared to go in committing itself to a program which, even on the basis of the initiatives it is prepared to pay for itself, imposes a strain on its own budget. I hope that during the course of this debate we do not hear the arguments advanced that the Tasmanian Government should involve itself in millions of dollars of deficit budgeting. We heard the State Liberal Leader in Tasmania arguing some time ago that the State Government should have budgeted for a deficit of $ 1 5 m.
– Never, no more than $ 10m.
-This would be absolutely careless budgetary policy on the part of any Premier. I heard an interjection to the effect that the figure mentioned was up to $10m. I can only say that I was referring to a report in the local Mercury newspaper. Perhaps the Mercury was in error.
– It was.
-If that is the case, Senator Rae may be correct. I accept the good faith in which he makes that interjection. Nevertheless, $10m or $ 15m, the fact remains that we have a Liberal Opposition Leader in Tasmania advocating that the State impose a burden upon itself which a small State budget cannot do. Any State Premier who undertakes that course will inevitably lead himself and his State into the most serious difficulties.
Up to the present time the Commonwealth’s response to the Neilson plan has been less than encouraging. To its credit, the Commonwealth has backed one element of the Neilson plan by allocating funds for the Tasmanian railways system. However, only yesterday Senator Webster made it clear that no funds will be allocated this year for the Antarctic Division base in Hobart. The Commonwealth Government has set its face against increasing the allocations for capital works, even though commentators throughout the country are in agreement that that course is necessary- again, one of the essential* areas in which, through Commonwealth action, the States find themselves in these difficulties. The Commonwealth is against lowering indirect taxes and increasing outlays by the public sector. The only step left to the Government is to adjust the income tax scales and it will delay this course as long as possible. Even if it takes that step the delays involved will ensure that there is no improvement in the employment situation for nearly 12 months. The essential problem and the reason why we in the Opposition feel a great sense of urgency in this whole question of unemployment is not only the effect on the economy, the loss of productivity, but also the effect on individuals who are caught in a period of unemployment. Nothing can do more to make the individual feel that his contribution to society is meaningless and unwanted than if in fact he cannot obtain work.
During the early part of this year we saw what happened as a result of the efforts of the Labor Government last year in the last Budget of the Labor Government which took steps to reduce the level of unemployment in Australia. We did so not only because of the moral need to do so but because we knew that the States would not be able with their own resources to find the necessary capital to implement the programs necessary to reduce unemployment. We were successful. If we look at the figures we find that until February of this year unemployment in Australia was decreasing. It peaked in November at 282 000. It declined each month until February of this year at 252 000. But then we saw a reversal. A dramatic change took place and there was an increase month by month to August, the last figures available to me, to a figure of 327 000. That has occurred because this Government has set out deliberately to create unemployment.
Mr Neilson has made the point that it is a national problem. He has suggested that by collaboration between the Commonwealth and the States on the basis of the principles outlined in the Neilson plan we can in fact reduce unemployment not only in Tasmania but in all of the States. The unemployment situation will become a national disaster early in the New Year unless steps are taken now. These measures to relieve its effects are required urgently and immediately. There will be no value in bringing in a minibudget in March of next year. Immediate measures must be taken on a national scale. The Prime Minister must immediately call a special Premiers conference with a view to implementing the Neilson plan on a nationwide basis. If he were to do that I am sure he would receive the support of all other Premiers and the gratitude of all Australians.
-This debate, I believe, may be divided into 2 parts. Firstly, it relates to the Tasmanian Government’s belated recognition of its obligation to take some steps to relieve unemployment in Tasmaniaunemployment in the State which suffers from the highest rate of unemployment in Australia. The second question is whether the measures could and should be applied Commonwealthwide in the other States. It is obvious that the State Premier, Mr Neilson, has at last gathered the courage to face the people. This plan is nothing more than an election gimmick. It has become increasingly obvious that what has happened is that the plans we have all known about for some time and which have been going ahead to prepare for an election on 4 December have now been taken to the stage where Mr Neilson had to find an issue, had to find something that might make him look a little bit more like a competent Premier and less the way he has appeared during his time as Premier of the State. One wonders who thought up this plan. Let us examine that in a moment.
Let us see where it came from because there is nothing particularly novel and there is nothing particularly Neilsonish about these proposals. It is an election ploy by a desperate Government to pinch from here and to pinch from there, to put up windmills to be tilted at, with a view to being able to distract people from the real truth about Tasmania and the incompetence of the Government which has been administering it for the last 4 years. In fact if one goes back one finds that for 39 out of the last 42 years the State has laboured under a Labor Government. How it has laboured. What has happened? We find that Tasmania now is the State with the lowest trading bank deposits per head of population, the lowest income per head of population, the lowest average weekly earnings per employed male unit, the lowest number of new dwellings completed for any State in Australia- significantly lower than the national average for home ownership- and so on. If one likes to go right through the statistics it will be found that Tasmania has been brought to the stage of being the tail end Charlie of the Australian economy. It is the people who have had control of it for 39 of the past 42 years whom I believe the people of Tasmania will be blaming for what happenednot the Commonwealth Government.
An attempt was made today by Senator Wriedt to suggest that the Commonwealth Government’s policies are wrong and that the Commonwealth Government has been recreant in the task for which it was elected, of restoring sane economic management to this country, of reducing inflation to manageable levels and of bringing back employment opportunities. If the Commonwealth were to accept the proposition put forward this afternoon by Senator Wriedt, it would be going against the very advice given by the Tasmanian Treasury to the Tasmanian Government and accepted by the Tasmanian Government and published by that Government. I quote from a document called Tasmanian Economy 1975-76 which was presented by the Honourable W. A. Neilson for the information of members of the Tasmanian Parliament on the occasion of the Budget 1976-77. In fact that Budget was presented on 1 September- just 2 months ago. The statement says:
However, the only real solution depends on restoration of confidence in the future prosperity of the nation, leading to business expansion and new job opportunities.
It goes on to talk about what is in effect the Commonwealth Government’s approach of reducing the public sector expenditure and being able to create a little stability in the economy and to get the economy moving again. We find it being suggested that this plan, which is merely an election gimmick in Tasmania produced to confuse and bemuse people who will not be confused by it, should be applied throughout Australia. If it were to be applied, it would be to the detriment of the whole country, for reasons which I shall explain further in a moment.
The State of Tasmania has an uninspiring Premier who leads an uninspired Cabinet. It has been almost devoid of ideas, initiatives and managerial capacity. I am not making this a slinging match; it is important to my speech in explaining what this plan is all about to make these points. I refer back to the tragic history of this present State Government. It is one of bungling and mismanagement. One needs only to mention some of the more notorious things like the Tasmanian Government buying ferries that were unserviceable, sinking ships, and the poor, tragic fiasco of the sinking of the Blythe Star. The Tasmanian Government ran such a system that it did not know which way round Tasmania the ship had gone when it left Hobart. It did not even know where to start looking for the ship. Then we have the fiasco involving doctors of the Royal Hobart Hospital and the former Minister for Health, Mr Farquhar, who was so piqued because the Premier had bought into an argument which appeared to be going to close the biggest hospital in Tasmania that he resigned. But when he thought of missing out on his black car and his salary he said no, he only meant to resign as Minister for Health; he still wanted to be in the Cabinet. The Premier was weak enough to appoint him to some other ministry.
The Tasmanian Government has had a history of resignations. More than half of that Cabinet has resigned during the life of the present Government. So the horrible story goes- a story of the last 12 months of deliberately hoarding $4.5m for an election campaign fund. That is really what it boiled down to. The State Government has claimed great credit for ending the year with a surplus of $4.5m. That money, if expended during the past year, and not left as a surplus, would have encouraged employment in Tasmania and provided employment in Tasmania. Many of those who are out of work in that State can thank the Premier of Tasmania for the fact that they did not have work earlier this year. What has happened to that money? The Premier has been going around handing it out in $500, $1000 and $5000 lots to every organisation in the State that wants to hold out its hand for some money just before the election. This money is not being spent in the best interests of the State; it is being spent in the best interests of the Labor Party’s election campaign. In that background the Premier introduced his Budget on 1 September 1976. He proclaimed with great selfcongratulation:
It is with great pride that I introduce what I believe is the best State Budget introduced in the thirty years since I first became a Member of this House.
It was trumpeted around the country by him that this was the best State Budget in 30 years. It is now in tatters, on his own admission and on his own proposal. The Tasmanian Government is acting directly contrary to the whole basis upon which that Budget was produced and introduced into the House just 2 months ago. The so-called 24 point plan now being proclaimed by the Premier of Tasmania and by Senator Wriedt here this afternoon is an admission that that Budget was a bungle, was seriously deficient. The plan is an open admission that far from being the best Budget for 30 years, it may go down as one of the worst. That Budget failed to take any of the possible steps which can be taken by a State to reduce unemployment- the worst’ unemployment in Australia. The plan was almost in conflict with the Government’s own statements on the Tasmanian economy. I have already cited the fact that the Tasmanian Government itself recognises the importance of the restoration of confidence and the lowering of inflation to provide opportunities for business expansion and new jobs. The 24 point plan goes directly against that budgetary strategy.
Let us take up the story then from where the Budget was introduced on 1 September. On 2 September, the Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania, Mr Max Bingham, replied. He advocated a number of possible and practical measures which could be introduced and which should have been introduced, with a view to overcoming the unemployment situation, which, I remind you, Mr President, is the worst in Australia. He pointed out that Tasmania, with its very small economy from the point of view of the total Australian economy with 3 per cent of the population and less than 3 per cent of the national economy, was able to take steps which would not interfere in the national economic management plan of the Commonwealth. These are small steps which could be taken which would make a significant difference in Tasmania if they could have the effect of promoting job opportunities through some encouragement to private enterprise. He suggested that funds were available in the Trust Accounts to enable what, on the face of it, in a separated Budget, would appear to be a deficit.
One of the other things about discussing Tasmania and its Budget is that unlike Victoria, for instance, it separates its funds and does not bring them together so that what in one section appears to be a deficit is in fact not a deficit at all, of necessity, because it can be covered by other funds in other accounts. What he recommended was an expenditure out of trust moneys, loan moneys, of up to $ 10m. I mentioned, when Senator Wriedt alluded to this matter, that the newspapers referred to ‘up to $ 15m’, picking up an interjection that was made across the chamber in the Tasmanian Parliament from the Labor side of that Parliament suggesting ‘Why not $ 1 5m? ‘ when Mr Bingham mentioned $ 10m. The figure was ‘up to $10m’ so far as he was concerned. He advocated a number of measures with which I will deal in more detail in a moment. The Premier replied that such action would be impossible and irresponsible. I emphasise those words. He said it was both impossible and irresponsible to take the measures advocated by the Leader of the Opposition on 2 September.
The so-called 24-point plan now takes up those other suggestions made on 2 September by the Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania, Mr Max Bingham. It does involve borrowing funds. It does involve the equivalent of a deficit of $2m which the Tasmanian Premier just 2 months ago said was impossible and irresponsible. So there is not a great deal of novelty in the plan. It took up the suggestion made by the Opposition. However, it does prove that what the Opposition in Tasmania said was correct; that is, that the Budget was not a good Budget, that it could have taken steps to help overcome unemployment and that it had failed to do so. The Premier has now acknowledged that his Budget is in tatters and that he needs to take such steps. It proves also that he is either ignorant- so ignorant that he does not know the inconsistency between his claims that these steps would be irresponsible and impossible and that what he is now doing is just that- or that he was deceptive when he claimed 2 days ago that the Commonwealth had pigeonholed the Antarctic base in Hobart knowing as he did that the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) and the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) had been in Hobart the week before, inspecting various sites so that the project could proceed.
Let me refer to what Senator Wriedt said this afternoon about this matter. He made mention of the fact that no funds were being approved. That was not what Senator Webster said at question time yesterday. What he said was that no funds for the construction were being provided out of his departmental estimates because the next stage was the planning, development and design stage which was being paid for out of funds of the Department of Construction. The attempt by Senator Wriedt, perhaps in collusion with Mr Nielson, to give a totally false impression about the Antarctic base is to be deprecated.
As to the sequence of events, on 9 September the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Neilsen, replied formally in winding up the Budget debate in that State Parliament. He said there was no way by which the State could cure unemployment. He was excusing himself for his Budget, which had been attacked by the Opposition as doing nothing for unemployment, making no appropriate provision. He said there was nothing the State could do to reduce unemployment effectively and that it was the Commonwealth’s responsibility. He is now proudly proclaiming- it is bandied all over the newspapers- his 24-point thrust to provide jobs. It is said that the plan is to reduce Tasmania’s unemployment rate which is the highest in the nation. Let us examine this a little further. It is beyond doubt that Tasmania has the greatest need for steps to be taken to reduce unemployment. It is also beyond doubt that what steps are taken in Tasmania are unlikely to have any severe repercussive effects on the rest of Australia, because Tasmania’s economy is such a small part of the total economy of Australia. But were all of the States to take steps such as have been advocated in Tasmania the whole budgetary strategy of the Commonwealth for reducing inflation would be in the same sort of tatters as Mr Neilson ‘s Budget of 1 September. Nearly half of the plan involves proposals for action and spending by the already embattled Commonwealth Government. After all, let us remember who it is who has been carrying the burden of trying to overcome the inflation and the unemployment which mismanagement by a Labor government from 1972 to 1975 created in this country. It has been the Commonwealth Government trying to battle it out and trying to ensure that a firm and clear Budget strategy is followed through.
This proposal put forward by Mr Neilson and taken up this afternoon by Senator Wriedt as something which should be applied Australiawide would totally destroy that budgetary approach. It is also very nice to be able to claim credit for a 24-point plan to overcome unemployment when it is being said: ‘But I want somebody else to do half of the things that have to be done’. It is pretty easy to suggest that somebody else should spend money to overcome the problems. This was what Mr Neilson was doing. There was no great novelty in any of the things he was suggesting so far as the Commonwealth was concerned. At one time or another it has been suggested by various people and various individuals. I imagine that he had some research officers going through the newspapers and gathering the views together. There was no novelty.
The next point is to look at what the other half contains. Strangely it contains the measures which the Liberal Opposition in Tasmania proposed on 2 September in the Budget debate. It proposed payroll tax cuts and the Government is going to make them, not to the extent that perhaps it should do but in a way which it is believed by the Liberal Opposition in the State will enable encouragement to be given for the provision of employment opportunities by businesses in Tasmania. It is a way of encouraging the private sector to stimulate employment. Another matter that was proposed by the Opposition was that money should be made available for private housing. The Tasmanian Government is letting out a few Housing Department contracts to private contractors, claiming that this will stimulate the growth of employment opportunities. In fact it would have been much better, much quicker and much more effective if the Tasmanian Government had let out money for people to employ builders to construct their houses for them. A lot more could happen a lot more quickly by that means but this at least is something. It was taking up one more of the Liberal Opposition’s suggestions about what should have been done in the 1 September Budget.
For some months now the Liberal Opposition in Tasmania has been suggesting that substantial help is necessary for primary industry in Tasmania, particularly the dairying industry and the fruit industry. The State Government did not recognise that need in the Budget it brought down on 1 September. But after more and more probing by the Opposition the Government was eventually embarrassed and agreed that it would take some steps, and has done so in the 24-point plan as part of a way to create employment in Tasmania. It is a step which was obvious and should have been taken months ago by a government which has been recreant to its duty to look after the interests of people such as those hard hit in the dairying industry and fruit industry in that State.
There was a further proposal by the Opposition in Tasmania for the abolition of death duties on estates transmitted between spouses.
The State Government, for reasons which I assume have something to do with its ideology, refused to go that far. That was one of the Opposition’s suggestions that it did not take up. The Opposition also suggested that there should be massive increases in intakes into the police training school, into the. national parks and wildlife training service and into other areas where the State has both the need to train people and the facilities to be able to train them. That would have played a part in encouraging employment opportunities in Tasmania. The State Government has decided, belatedly, after prodding by the Opposition, that that is what it will do. But so many of the things it is proposing in further parts of the 24-point plan will have no noticeable effect on employment opportunities in the near future.
For instance, the proposal with regard to the introduction of intermediate technology to assist small business is a good move, but it is another proposal which has been suggested by the Liberal Opposition in a slightly different way in a policy which has been published for some months. The Labor Party is taking up this proposal but it cannot be said that this will cure unemployment in the foreseeable future. It is a gimmick to call this a 24-point plan to overcome unemployment. It is an admission that the Budget of 1 September was totally deficient in doing what could and should have been done by a State government that was conscious of the need to look after the interests of the people in its State and to use to the maximum the opportunities presented to it to do so.
The State Government did not see the necessity to take action until it was pointed out in plain terms by a much more intelligent and competent Opposition. This proposal is a rag bag of suggestions as to what others should do for Tasmania. Mr Neilson says that the Commonwealth should do a lot of things for Tasmania. It is a rag bag of what the Liberal Opposition in Tasmania has suggested the State Government should do and a few rather feeble measures which the State Government has actually thought of itself. As most of the newspapers have commented, for any degree of success it involves the Commonwealth changing entirely its Budget strategy which has been accepted and supported by the people of Australia who have confidence that this is the way in which we will be able to bring down inflation and create employment opportunities. Just 2 months ago the State Premier said that this rag bag, this 24-point plan, which he now proudly proclaims as his own, was impossible to implement. I think one can judge the credibility of the man putting that forward. It makes it very easy to look to the fact that perhaps after 4 December or after next May or whenever the State election may be held, one of the worst aspects of the unemployment problem which the new Liberal Government will have to consider will be to find some sorts of employment opportunities for a number of members of the State Labor Party who have been sitting in Parliament waiting for the Liberal Party to tell them what they can do by way of producing a Budget. Anything worth while in this plan has been pinched. It demands that the Commonwealth bail the State Government out of the problems it has created in Tasmania to a large extent by its own incompetence over the last 39 years.
– What about the textile industry’s problems? It did not create them.
- Senator Harradine reminds me that one part of the plan is to overcome the problems in the textile industry in Tasmania which the State Government did not create. The Federal Labor Government did that. What has been happening in the State of Tasmania will not be overcome by the 24-point plan put forward by Mr Neilson, which has been gathered together from the good ideas put forward by the Opposition, from other ideas which have at some time been put to the Commonwealth by various people throughout this State, and from a couple of ideas which the State Government has managed to think of itself. But it could help. I am sure that if a lot of these measures can be undertaken now- they should have been undertaken earlier- they can reduce to some extent the number of unemployed in Tasmania. What would be better still to reduce the numbers of unemployed in Tasmania would be to change the Government and put people who can really manage and think of their own ideas for economic management of the State into the position where they form a direct government instead of an indirect government, which they have been for most of this year.
-The Senate is debating an urgency motion moved by Senator Wriedt, which states:
That the Neilson plan form the basis for a Commonwealth initiative with all the States to reduce unemployment.
That is all the motion says. In fact, it suggests that unemployment is a problem in this country. It suggests that unemployment is a very important problem in Tasmania and that for the first time a government in Australia- the Neilson Labor Government in Tasmania- has produced a plan to do something about it. This is something that the Federal Government has not done since it has been in power since December 1975. I have some sympathy for Senator Rae’s situation this afternoon. As well as being a senator from Tasmania, he is, in fact, the campaign director for the State Liberal Party in the forthcoming State elections. The State Liberal Party has no one amongst its members or amongst its eleven or twelve full-time staff with sufficient intelligence to perform the task of director of its State campaign. I have some sympathy with Senator Rae for the job he has ahead of him. But perhaps it is to our advantage that we now have some idea of the sort of campaign we can expect in Tasmania some time between now and next May.
Senator Rae made a very interesting statement early in his speech this afternoon. He said that this debate is not a slanging match and that he was not attacking anybody. He then proceeded to blame the Tasmanian Government for the sinking of the Blythe Star. He made the disgraceful claim that the surplus in the State Budget was to be used for campaign funds for the Labor Party. He then attacked the Neilson plan consistently through his speech until about 10 minutes from the end when he picked up a piece of paper and said that the Neilson plan is not really the Neilson plan; it is the Bingham plan. He told us that the plan he was attacking all afternoon was, in fact, the plan of the leader of the Liberal Party in Tasmania. It was a good plan when it came from Bingham but it was a bad plan when it came from Neilson. He did not go into any details of the comparison between the 2 plans because he knows that the Neilson plan and the so-called Bingham plan are very different.
Senator Rae then went on to produce what I think should go down in this place as Rae’s law on unemployment in Australia. The law goes like this: When Labor is in power federally, unemployment is a Federal issue. When the conservatives are in power federally, unemployment is a State issue. He pointed out, correctly, that unemployment in Tasmania is the worst in Australia. Nobody denies this. The figures are there to show it. Because of the nature of Tasmania, being an island State with transport problems and having small markets and all the other difficulties that all island states in the world have, it has, in my experience during the 16 years I have lived in Tasmania, always had a higher than average unemployment rate in this country. In fact, for many years, it used to vie with Western Australia and sometimes South Australia for the highest unemployment rate in Australia. This was during long periods of conservative Federal governments, lt again has the highest unemployment rate in Australia. But it is an interesting fact that from November 1974 to September 1975 when there was a Federal Labor government in this country Tasmania had an unemployment rate lower than the national average. From September 1975 to December 1975 it had an unemployment rate higher than the national average but not the highest unemployment rate in Australiaa distinction it did not achieve until June 1976, when the Liberal-Country Party Government had been in power some 6 to 7 months. The unemployment rate in Tasmania in the last couple of years has varied not with the presence of different State governments, it has varied with the presence of different Federal governments. I believe- every commentator in this country believes- that unemployment is essentially a national problem. When we have buoyant conditions we have high employment. When we do not have buoyant conditions we have high unemployment.
In the election campaign of December 1975 the present Government knew all about unemployment. It knew exactly what to do about unemployment. Mr Street, in his election campaign statements, said: ‘We have a 4-point plan. We will continue the Regional Employment Development scheme. We will introduce new retraining schemes. We will produce plans for local assistance for areas where unemployment is high and which, therefore, have the greatest need. We will introduce relocation assistance for people who are unemployed’. The only one of those 4 initiatives which has been brought in by the present Government is the relocation assistance scheme which, it is estimated, will benefit some 2000 people in Australia. Mr Fraser knew all about unemployment. He told us that when the Liberal-Country Party Government was returned there would be an immediate and a miraculous increase in business confidence in this country, resulting in a drop in the unemployment rate. He was even unwise enough to tell us that after 4 to 5 months of conservative government the number of unemployed in this community could be expected to drop by 200 000. Unemployment has continued to rise. Business confidence has not increased.
During the election campaign there was mention of specific plans for Tasmania. These plans, I have no doubt in the world, were in the pipeline. These plans were considered by Senator Rae and others, and by Mr Snedden when he was Leader of the Opposition. We had continuous advertisements saying ‘Liberals will increase jobs. We have specific plans for Tasmania, plans involving primary industry, tourism, transport, employment’. These were Federal plans.
– And freight equalisation schemes.
– And freight equalisation. When the election campaign was on I, and other Labor people, said: ‘Let us see these plans in writing’. We asked to see these plans that had been so long in preparation. We asked to see them written down to see what would be done for Tasmania. We were told that they were not printed because the election had come too soon, but they were in preparation.
– I will send you an autographed copy.
– I have asked to see the plans since. I have inquired from the Parliamentary Library. I have even inquired from the Liberal Party. I have been consistently told, as I was 2 days ago, that they have not been printed. If they have, they have just been printed or Senator Rae may be hiding them for fear that someone may see them. I ask: ‘What has happened to these plans? What has happened to Tasmania in this time? All these plans, all these promises, all these specific plans for Tasmania did not eventuate. We have not seen a plan since the election. When the Premier of Tasmania produces a plan and says to the Commonwealth Government: Here is a suggestion. We will do this, you can do that. Look at it. See what improvement you can make’, Mr Fraser does not look at it. He sees the headlines in the paper and says: ‘We are not interested in that’.
Senator Rae attacks the plan and says that it is no good, that it is disastrous. Then he claims that the plan is pinched from his Party. The logic of that sort of argument in this place is very difficult to understand. The sort of slanging and the sort of personal denigration that we have had of Mr Neilson this afternoon have at least given us warning of what we can expect in an election campaign between now and next May. Mr Bingham had a plan. When the last State Budget was presented he had a plan which embarrassed his Federal Ministers including, one day at question time, Senator Carrick. It certainly embarrassed one of his candidates in the State election, a distinguished Launceston banker, who no doubt has ambitions of being Treasurer of Tasmania if the Liberal Party should ever win in Tasmania. The Federal conservative parties and Mr Robson have continually and persistently attacked deficit budgeting as the cause of all our troubles. Deficit budgeting, in the words of Mr
Robson of Tasmania, is causing inflation. Mr Lynch spent all his time in this Parliament last year attacking deficit budgeting. This went on continually. When the Tasmanian Budget came out it had a surplus. Mr Bingham suggested that we should have a deficit budget of some $10m. I think it is about time the conservative opponents of the Tasmanian Labor Government got together and started to talk with one voice, started to produce plans that were coherent and started to produce plans that would help the State of Tasmania and that may well help the other States, because their Federal colleagues have not done so.
The Tasmanian Government has been in power, as Senator Rae says, for 39 of the last 42 years. It has been in power for that time because it has the confidence of the people of Tasmania. It has been elected by the only electoral system in this country that cannot be gerrymandered. It spent 3 years in Opposition when Senator Rae’s colleagues were in government. They were thrown out and the Labor Party returned with the biggest majority that has ever been held by any government in Tasmania.
I am not suggesting, nor is Mr Neilson, nor did Senator Wriedt, that this plan is the panacea for all this country’s economic ills. I am not suggesting that we agree with everything in this plan. What I am suggesting is that this plan should be considered because it is the only plan that has been produced in this country since December 1 975 by a government that is involved with the problems about which we are talking. This plan should be considered, discussed and examined, not dismissed out of hand by Mr Fraser and Senator Rae. The Tasmanian Government of Mr Neilson has produced a suggested plan which involves Federal-State co-operation. We understood that was what the new federalism was all about. The Neilson Government has had to produce this plan largely because of the failure of the present Federal conservative Government to carry out the plans that it promised it would carry out. It has failed not only to carry out its promises but it has compounded its failure by deliberately encouraging unemployment in this country as a means of attacking inflation and as a futile means of suppressing union activity.
The unemployment rate has increased to the extent that the Federal Government has ceased to produce seasonally adjusted figures, for fear of embarrassing itself. It has excluded school leavers from eligibility for unemployment benefit in December of this year and January of next year, apparently to cut down on the number of unemployed people in this country. It has conducted a campaign against unemployed people in this country by calling them dole bludgers and by making it difficult for them to get employment. It has done everything to increase unemployment, to cut Government expenditure and to cut capital expenditure so that there are 1800 fewer building apprentices in New South Wales this year. It has not produced a plan to increase business confidence. It has not produced a plan to produce employment. It has not produced a plan to increase capital expenditure so that employment can be encouraged. Mr Neilson has produced a plan. Honourable senators opposite may not agree with it, but I ask them to consider it or even modify it. I ask them not to just sneer at it and indulge in a slanging match. They should try to do what Mr Neilson has done and solve the problem.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I have been listening to the debate this afternoon and I have been amazed at the comments of honourable senators opposite. Anybody would think this Government had brought unemployment to this country. A few weeks ago Mr Neilson brought down a Budget which he claimed was the best Budget Tasmania had ever seen. Of course this followed immediately his abuse of the Federal Government for its federalism policy. He claimed that the federalism policy would lead to double taxation, etc.- a truly terrifying wail. However he proceeded to prove that he had not only enough money to bring down his supposedly wonderful Budget but also $4m over, plus $17m from loans that he felt he did not need to use. At the time of the Tasmanian Budget the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bingham, pointed out that all this extra money should be used to try to relieve unemployment in Tasmania. He has reiterated this over and over again. Finally Mr Neilson, realising that the elections were rapidly approaching, decided to take Mr Bingham’s advice and spend some of this money on unemployment relief.
So Mr Neilson has come up with something. We heard from Senator Rae just what that something is. It is a rehash of all other unemployment relief schemes. An example is a restructure of the Regional Employment Development scheme that the previous Labor Government in this place found unsatisfactory. In fact, as Senator Rae pointed out, Mr Neilson ‘s lack of incentive proved not only his incapacity but also his lack of sympathy with the needy. If any further proof of this is necessary, Mr Acting Deputy President, I draw your attention to Mr Neilson ‘s new plan for intermediate beds at the Royal Hobart Hospital. In Tasmania legislation has just been passed allowing intermediate beds at the hospital in Hobart, but the eligibility test for these beds is very restrictive. I would like to read the wording of that eligibility. Only those patients who are non-Medibank levy payers and carry both hospital and medical private insurance will be eligible for admission as intermediate patients. Worker’s compensation, motor accident liability and compensation patients will not be eligible for intermediate beds.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Standing order 64, relating to urgency motions, amongst other things, says:
Senator Walters is raising the matter of health and Hobart hospitals. I submit that this is not the subject matter of the motion. The matter of urgency is as follows:
That the Neilson plan form the basis for a Commonwealth initiative with all the States to reduce unemployment.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, may I address you briefly in relation to the point of order. I submit that standing order 64, which specifically governs the normal question of relevance in relation to urgency motions, does not mean that when the Senate is discussing the economy of Tasmania, the Budget of Tasmania and the plans that are made in relation to expenditure on various items that one of the items in the Tasmanian Budget, namely health, cannot be discussed in detail. If Senator Walters wants to spend the whole of her time discussing how the State Government is spending or not spending money on health and how that may impact on the plan of the Tasmanian Government that is being debated, that is her choice. It certainly does not offend standing order 64.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I was listening to Senator Walters. She was referring to matters relating to a hospital and some statements in relation to the Tasmanian situation. I was aware that these matters were a little different from the actual wording of the matter of urgency, but it was my view that they were related to it. I draw Senator Walter’s attention to the wording of standing order 64 and to the wording of the urgency motion. I ask her to keep within the bounds of the urgency motion and to continue her remarks.
– I am not surprised that Senator O’Byrne raised the point of order, because what I am saying is something that I am sure the Opposition would not want put across the air today. If honourable senators opposite are proud of this, let me go ahead. I would certainly challenge them to allow me to express myself on this part of the Budget.
– It is not part of the Budget.
– It is part of the Budget. It is part of the decisions of the Tasmanian Labor Government. Seeing that honourable senators opposite are happy about it, I will go ahead. Seeing that it is not their desire to stop this going across the air today, I will continue. I thank Senator O’Byrne for his confidence. We will see how he feels by the time the people hear this one.
– You will observe the Standing Orders.
– I am in order under the Standing Orders, according to the Acting Deputy President. Because of the interruption, I would like to read the eligibility provision in legislation passed last week in Tasmania. This applies to the economy of our country and to the economy of Tasmania in particular because Tasmania is the only State in which these restrictions apply. I would like to repeat the eligibility test for intermediate beds. Only those patients who are nonMedibank levy payers -
- Mr Acting Deputy President I insist on drawing your attention to standing order 64.I do not mind if we have a full debate on the hospital system in Tasmania or the Commonwealth medi-muddle at any time but the matter of urgency before the Chair today is:
I ask you, Mr Acting Deputy President, whether it is possible for Senator Walters to tie up with the motion her diversion from the debate before the Chair to reference to Hobart hospitals. It is ridiculous.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I would like to speak to the point of order. I listened to other honourable senators on both sides. They did not stick entirely to the subject of unemployment. They ranged over the whole of the Budget of Tasmania. I am not deviating from that. I too am sticking to the Budget of that State. In no address this afternoon did any honourable senator stick entirely to unemployment. The economy was discussed by Senator Grimes a few moments ago. His remarks ranged over all facets of the economy in this country. He did not stick to the subject of unemployment in any way at all. I beg your consideration of that, Mr Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Discussion of a plan such as that mentioned in the urgency motion may well provide the opportunity for introducing related matters. I would ask Senator Walters, if she is introducing related matters such as the ones that have been raised, to link them as closely as possible to the terms of the urgency motion.
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President.
– That has wasted 5 minutes of your time.
– Yes, Opposition senators have succeeded in doing that; I have got 6 minutes of my time left.
– I was trying to be helpful.
– I thank Senator O’Byrne. However, the crux of my remarks is that pensioners, low wage earners and Medibank levy payers are not included amongst those eligible to use intermediate ward beds; they are denied access to them. In fact, any pensioner, Medibank levy payer or low wage earner who in fact insures on that low hospital table will not be allowed to use those facilities in the State of Tasmania. The Federal Government has subsidised very heavily the Medibank Plus table to allow that small group of people to obtain their private medical insurance at the lowest possible cost. As I have said, Tasmania is the only State which has discriminated against pensioners in that way, and the State Government should be ashamed of its restrictive policies.
I would like to cite just a couple of examples of how it affects people. If an insured pensioner who has been attending his or her own specialist for a heart complaint suddenly has an attack, for example- either a major or a minor attack- and if that person is insured under the Medibank Plus table, that low hospital table, the Tasmanian Government will not allow that person to use an intermediate bed and so have the doctor of his or her choice. Such a person would not be able to see his or her specialist. The State Government will permit only the person who can afford to insure privately, for both medical and hospital benefits, to use an intermediate bed. The pensioners and those low wage earners would be admitted to public beds and treated by the doctor on duty at the time, even though they have taken out insurance on the Medibank Plus table.
After speaking on this subject in Hobart recently I received a telephone call from a single mother who asked me whether she would be eligible to receive intermediate ward care. She is a single mother on a pension. She has a mentally retarded child who is subject to convulsions. She said that she often has to take her child down to the hospital at any time during the day or night. She has her own paediatrician, the child’s own doctor. She wanted to know whether she would be eligible, having taken out this insurance. I had to inform her that under the policies of the Tasmanian Government she is not permitted to use those intermediate ward beds; she must go into the public section of the hospital and use the services of the doctor who is on duty at the time. This is a matter at which the Neilson Government must have another look.
I first became aware of this situation some 3 weeks ago when Mr Hunt was visiting our State. I informed Mr Hunt that Mr Lowe had put forward these eligibility criteria and had refused to budge from his position. Mr Hunt sent him a telegram begging him to change his ideas and to allow these people to use intermediate ward beds because, as I said, our Government has subsidised those beds in a very large measure to entitle such people to use them at the lowest possible cost. But Mr Lowe refused to accept the suggestion and he has stuck by the eligibility criteria.
By talking about these things I am certainly not taking anything away from the seriousness of unemployment, for it is the greatest scourge we have in this country. However, as I said earlier, the present Government did not introduce it into this country but we are doing our level best to decrease it.
– You are not very successful.
– All right, Senator Primmer. The method we are using to decrease the unemployment rate is to attack inflation. That is the method being used in all of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, and that is how it is best done. We restrict government expenditure and we reduce inflation. In that way we will increase employment. We are proving that these objectives are coming to fruition. Inflation is being reduced. I am perfectly confident that in 12 months ‘ time we will see a great reduction in unemployment in this country.
-I regret that Senator Walters had, in my view, transgressed the Standing Orders to the extent that I had to take up some of her time by drawing attention to that fact, because she was just beginning to get on to the subject matter of the urgency motion when she concluded her speech. However, Senator Walters, together with Senator Rae, has taken the attitude that all of the ills of the economy and Tasmania are attributable to the present Premier of Tasmania. When the Premier introduced his plan to combat unemployment, which in our view is one of the greatest social evils that confronts our nation, we heard nothing but cynical, sick, destructive criticism of that plan. For the enlightenment of the Senate I would like to read the initiatives that the Premier of Tasmania, the Hon. W. A. Neilson, proposes.
He proposes the establishment of an intermediate technology group in Tasmania to be subsidised at the rate of $1,500 monthly. The only part of Senator Rae ‘s speech that was in any way generous was his admission that that was quite a good scheme. Senator Rae is the campaign director for the effete and decrepit Liberal Party which was given a few years of the past 42 years to prove itself but was dismissed by the people of Tasmania and is not likely to get back on to the Treasury bench again. Senator Rae was whistling in the dark during the course of his remarks this afternoon. He did not have the generosity to admit that the State Government can do good things under this plan. Senator Rae said that the State Government has made handouts to various groups just because an election was coming up. What about the united milk people that he wanted to support on the northwest coast of Tasmania? Did he think that that was a miserable handout which was made because an election is coming up or does he think it was made because those people desperately needed assistance? People in the Circular Head area have been able to be retained in employment in the industry.
Mr Neilson also proposes that private companies which are increasing their work force be exempted from additional payroll tax for the next 2 years. He proposes that there be a special appropriation of $2m for unemployment relief. He proposes that we launch a Buy Tasmania campaign. He also proposes that there be a new increased intake into the Police Academy, that there be a scholarship scheme for cadets in social welfare, female secretaryship, and so on. He proposes that there be a letting by the Housing Department of contracts for building individual houses in country areas to small builders. He proposes the establishment of a full time interdepartmental youth work unit on the South
Australian pattern. He proposes the letting of a contract to a local firm to provide sports halls at a number of schools. He proposes that there be the letting of a contract for the provision of additional terrapin units for education purposes. He proposes that there be a number of cleaning and reclamation works undertaken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Lands Departments. He proposes portability of apprenticeships within government departments and instrumentalities. He also proposes that $ lm on a $ 1 for $ 1 basis be made available to municipal councils as part of a $2m special appropriation. He proposes that there should be a major acceleration of a school building program which was to be announced.
He also proposes joint initiatives with the Commonwealth Government to arrange a special meeting of Premiers and the Loan Council to consider the problem of unemployment. This has been met with a rebuff at the federal level and from the Prime Minister. The Premier proposes the lifting of the authority of the States to borrow for the remainder of the year by 10 per cent. He proposes the immediate lowering of the retirement age to 63 years- this would be voluntarywith a consequent provision for age pensions for males at 63. There would be consequent alterations to superannuation and retirement benefits legislation and the ultimate aim would be to make retirement possible at 60 years. He proposes an extension of the Commonwealth youth employment program so that the State subsidise by $15 a week the Comonwealth unemployment benefit paid to all breadwinners who have been unemployed for 6 months. He proposes that the Commonwealth be urged expeditiously to commence the Antarctic base and the Maritime College and to employ local contractors. He proposes that the Commonwealth be asked to maintain tighter protection against overseas imports, particularly in the textile industry. He proposes that the Commonwealth be asked to grant special dispensation against the effects of the Mackie scheme on the overseas meat marketing controls. He proposes that the Commonwealth spend a substantial sum this year on the rehabilitation of railways and he also proposes that there be a $ 1 for $ 1 subsidy for the dairying industry.
Government speakers this afternoon have adopted an almost pathological attitude to these proposals. Senator Rae tried in his contribution to discredit these proposals on the ground that they were an election gimmick. Thus is an irrational attitude to take. It seemed to be the whole theme of his attack. He said that it was an election ploy by a desperate government. On the one hand Senator Rae has the temerity to express sympathy for the unemployed and the disastrous situation facing school leavers, the very difficult situation which Tasmania as an island State is placed in because such a huge proportion of its products are exported and a low proportion is consumed locally which puts it in a different situation from any other State, but on the other hand he denigrates his own State. The State of Tasmania has been a wonderful home over the years for both Senator Rae and me. It has provided an education system which has been very suitable for Senator Rae. It had provided until the time of the ‘Medimuddle’ one of the finest hospital systems in Australia. So the State Government of Tasmania does not deserve this type of denigration in the eyes of the Australian people that has been put forward this afternoon by people who wish to score a few political points in speaking against the proposals that have been put forward by the Premier of Tasmania. Senator Rae said that the State Premier was erecting windmills to be tilted at. The policy that has been put forward by Mr Neilson is a constructive policy. Tasmania needs something along these lines to help it get out of the difficult problem that exists there at the present time.
During the few moments Senator Walters spent on the subject of unemployment she said that she did not think the Federal Government had brought unemployment to Tasmania. I would like to remind Senator Walters that unemployment is inherent in our system. It is part of the whole economic system under which we live. The United States of America, the United Kingdom and France and practically every other country in the Western world are in a desperate position when it comes to unemployment. They do not know how they can adjust the capitalist system to overcome the situation, and I do not think we will be able to do it. Unemployment is inherent in our system and this is particularly so while there are in power people such as those who support the present Government who are trying to turn the clock back to the private entrepreneurial system which says if you leave the problem to the private sector it will resolve itself. That is absolutely psychopathic and old hat. It is impossible to revert -
– That is from the expert.
-It is impossible to turn the clock back. People like Senator Wright live in the past. He is one of the most extinct of the old dodo types. He believes in that type of ideology and philosophy that it is possible in 1976 to be able to revert to the private enterprise philosophy by handing back to the people the spending power of the nation when he knows very well that all the criteria for the circulation of money have been altered by a new approach to economics. The Government must spend these days. It has to spend money on all the main public works. It has to develop our railways, roads, wharves, public services and the like. It is of no use thinking that by cutting out spending in those areas the private sector will take over the problem. Whatever type of business activity one looks at today one can see that there is no confidence. The people on whom this Government places this responsibility at the present time do not know where to go. There is no lead for them. Unless people spend money there is no turnover; there is no profit. It follows that the people are not going to expand their factories or develop industry. There is a vicious circle. This Government says that the way to solve the problem of unemployment is to have a war. This is the type of foreign policy this Government is playing around with in its imagination. It thinks it will be able to absorb the unemployed in the way it did last time in the 1930s when there was a big unemployment problem with 25 per cent of the youth of the nation unemployed. In 1939 this Government got them involved in a war and killed them off. This is the capitalist system. This Government says that the way to absorb them in employment is to produce armaments and by putting them into the army. This is part of the Government’s policy.
– Is that unemployment?
– The honourable senator said that ‘anyone would think this Government had brought unemployment to Tasmania ‘. Nothis Federal Government did not bring it to Tasmania.
– Who did?
-I just explained that to the Senate. There is unemployment in every country in the western world. An organisation in Europe has done something about it by coordinating public spending. All the governments there are spending publicly and employment opportunities are being created. But in the United States, as I pointed out earlier to Senator Walters, in the United Kingdom and in most other Western countries the problem of unemployment is inherent. We will not beat it by doing as this Commonwealth Government does. The attempt by the Tasmanian Government to create employment opportunities has been denigrated this afternoon by Senator Rae who accused it of tilting at windmills, using the situation as an election ploy, or an election gimmick.
-I accused them of not having the brains to think things up themselves and having to pinch the ideas of the Liberal Party.
– This is where Senator Rae is so contradictory. He condemns it as being an election ploy and on the other hand he says that it was Liberal policy that had been pinched by Mr Neilson. That shows how shallow and cynical is his argument. On the one hand he attacks Neilson for his plan. Then, being a lawyer, he says: ‘On the other hand-‘. If we could ever find a one handed lawyer we would get some good decisions, because lawyers give good advice on the one hand and then take it away with the other hand. Senator Rae said, on the other hand, that Mr Neilson had taken the policy of the Liberal Party. However, there was no mileage for Senator Rae or Senator Walters in trying to denigrate the Premier of Tasmania and his proposals.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– As the first non-Tasmanian to rise in this debate I feel that I must justify my doing so. This afternoon the Senate is debating a motion drawing attention as a matter of urgency to a plan put forward by the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Neilson, to attempt to alleviate the levels of unemployment in that State. A great deal of detail has been given concerning the plan. When Senator O’Byrne was not talking about the evils of the capitalist system he was reading out a number of the details of the plan. So the Senate will be quite familiar with it. However, the suggestion was made in the motion and in the speeches, particularly in that of Senator Wriedt, that in some way this plan could be taken over by the Federal Government and introduced as part of its economic strategy for Australia as a whole. The only reason why I propose to say anything in this debate is that certain aspects of the plan concern proposed policies of the Federal Government.
Broadly, the plan has been put forward by Mr Neilson in rather extraordinary circumstances. As has been pointed out, on 1 September this year he brought down a budget which he said was the best that had been brought down in the Tasmanian Parliament for some years. Certainly the economic circumstances under which Tasmania may be suffering at the moment were apparent on 1 September when that budget was brought down. It is rather surprising that, in the previous 12 months of the administration by Mr Neilson and his Government, greater efforts had not been made to alleviate the unemployment situation in Tasmania because in the last financial year, at a time when it would have been most valuable for some positive action to have been taken by Mr Neilson ‘s Government, that Government had a Budget surplus of $4.1m, a Loan Fund surplus of $ 17m and a guarantee this year of $4.5m more from the Federal Government than it would have received under the Whitlam Government. Yet Mr Neilson allowed a situation to develop over the last 12 months or 18 months when he could have taken some positive steps which would have assisted greatly in alleviating the unemployment situation in Tasmania. This situation would not have developed if he had made full and proper use of the moneys at his disposal.
The Budget which he brought down on 1 September was supposed to be the panacea for the coming year, yet within less than 2 months he has brought forward this so-called Neilson plan. As I said, I wish only to make some reference to the aspects of the plan which it is said the Federal Government may take up or in which it may participate. First of all, one or two matters should be emphasised. Mr Neilson has called for an early start on the Antarctic base to be built in Hobart and the maritime college at Launceston. As has already been mentioned in this debate, the Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, and the Minister for Science, Senator Webster, the Ministers concerned with this matter, have recently been in Hobart inspecting sites for the Antarctic base. A very definite commitment has been made that the base will be built in Hobart. There remains only the matter of selecting the appropriate site. When that has been done work will commence on it as soon as possible.
The Government is pressing on as fast as it can with the proposal to establish the maritime college at Launceston. It has established the council of the college, and that council, in consultation with the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), is now actively engaged in selecting a site. I am advised that Mr Neilson or his Government could assist greatly in the early start on that college by making available State Government land in Launceston which would be eminently suitable for it. It may be that that will not be done by the Neilson Government and that other land will have to be purchased. This year’s Federal Budget contains an item of $500,000 to be spent this year for the purposes of that maritime college. It is certainly the intention and policy of the Government to get on with the work as fast as possible. Senator Wriedt stated that the desirability of one aspect of the plan involving the Federal Government- that there be additional expenditure on upgrading the Tasmanian railway system which has been taken over by the Federal Government- has already been acknowledged by the Federal Government. In fact some additional moneys have been made available for that purpose.
I turn now to some of the more general questions which were raised concerning Federal policies. The Neilson plan proposes that there should be a general lifting by 10 per cent of the authority of State governments- not only of the Tasmanian Government but apparently of all State governments- to borrow money under the loan program. Of course, if that proposal were adopted by the Loan Council, it would involve a very great increase in the total level of government spending and an increase in the deficit of the Federal Budget. It has been made clear over and over again by the Federal Government that this would run entirely counter to the strategy of the Budget which is a strategy of overall restraint on government expenditure and overall restraint on the activities of the public sector of the economy. The purpose of this is to encourage the private sector which provides three out of four jobs in the community so that the private sector will have available to it, without competition from the Government, the resources that exist in the community. The Government does not believe that an increase in Federal Government spending would reduce inflation and thereby reduce unemployment.
Another proposal that has been put forward by Mr Neilson in his plan which would have some impact on the Commonwealth Government is a proposal in relation to retiring age. Mr Neilson has proposed a general retiring age of 63 years and apparently proposes that the retiring age in the Tasmanian Public Service will be reduced by the Tasmanian Government to 63 years. This proposal deserves consideration, but I think it should be pointed out that by reducing the retiring age, and thereby perhaps making jobs available for other people, more jobs are not created. In fact there would be an overall reduction in productive forces of the community by retiring people at an earlier age. The strategy of the Federal Government is to create more jobs, to solve the unemployment by creating more jobs, not by this artificial method which has been proposed by Mr Neilson.
– I thought we were going to retire them at 55 years.
– We propose to create more jobs in the community, as I said, by stimulating the private sector, the one which provides three out of four jobs in the community. I do not have time this afternoon to go through the various major steps that the Government has taken in this Budget in order to provide that stimulus for the economy, but certainly it is a strategy which is already showing signs of working. We have seen a stabilisation in the rate of inflation in the last 2 quarters. We are already observing a stabilisation in the level of unemployment in recent months. There has been a marginal reduction in the figures from the end of June, when the figure of unemployed was 265 25 1 and the end of September registered unemployed figure of 264 305.
The Government believes that in recent months there has been real evidence that its economic policies are working. It would be a tragedy and it would be absurd for the Government now at this stage, so soon after the Budget, to change course in this dramatic way which overall is the proposal of the Neilson plan. It may well be that there are some virtues in the Neilson plan for Tasmania. I am sure many of the virtues which it has are those which have been suggested by the Tasmanian Opposition and its leader, Mr Bingham. But those virtues are primarily in relation to particular problems which exist in Tasmania. They do not necessarily exist generally in Australia. There is evidence that economic conditions are relatively buoyant in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria and what we really have is various pockets of problems with unemployment in different parts of Australia. Admittedly, Tasmania is one of the areas.
As I said earlier, this debate seems mainly to concern a Tasmanian plan for a Tasmanian problem put forward by the Tasmanian Premier. The Government is most concerned that the Senate should not spend any further part of this day in debating matters which are primarily the concern of the Tasmanian Parliament and the Tasmanian Government. The Government is anxious that the Senate should get on and debate the Federal Budget. There has been ample opportunity, which has been wasted by the Opposition so far this week, to debate the Budget. For this reason I move:
Question put: The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– For the information of Senator McLaren and pursuant to section 2 1 of the River Murray Waters Act 1915, I present the report of the River Murray Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Council for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
– Pursuant to section 38 of the Australia Council Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Australia Council for 1974-75. The report contains a list of grants made by the Australia Council and its predecessor, the Australian Council for the Arts, during 1974-75, and financial statements relating to the Australia Council’s operations during the period from when it became a statutory authority on 13 March 1975 to 30 June 1975.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1967 I present the annual report of the Australian Tourist Commission for the year ended 30 June 1976.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 5 of the Dairy Adjustment Act 1974 I present an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Queensland relating to that Act.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Temporary Assistance Authority for the year 1975-76.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I present the 7th report from the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
– I present additional written information supplied by the Department of Transport following the hearing by Estimates Committee C on 7 October 1 976.
Debate resumed from 2 November, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– In rising to continue my remarks on the Appropriation Bill I should like to make a few preliminary comments about what has just happened in the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) moved a motion on behalf of the people of Tasmania. It sought to encourage this Federal Liberal-National Country Party Government to work in co-operation with the Tasmanian Government to bring about a situation under which some of the unemployment in that State could be eliminated. I am sorry to have to relate that all of the Government Tasmanian senators, who claim on many occasions in this place that this is a State House in which they are prepared to defend the rights of the State they represent- the smallest State in this Commonwealth which sends 10 senators to Canberra to represent its people- voted, when a motion to gag that debate was moved half-way through the normally allotted time, to prevent Opposition senators from presenting a case on behalf of the Tasmanian people, particularly the unemployed people there. Those senators voted as a body to gag the debate. Not only did they vote to gag the Opposition, they also voted to gag themselves, because I understand that Senator Townley wanted to make some contribution to the debate. However, because of the Government’s decision, he had to vote to gag himself and could not present a case. I think that perhaps when Opposition senators return to Tasmania they will relate to the people of Tasmania the sorry episode that occurred in this Senate. The Government did not want to co-operate with the Tasmanian Government, only because it is a Labor Government. Had the Tasmanian Government been a Liberal government the debate would have gone the full time. Some Tasmanian senators might even have voted for an extension of time to put a stronger case. However, most of them saw fit to rise and support the people of Tasmania. I am sure that when the Tasmanian State election is held the people of Tasmania will remember the way Government senators were under riding instructions and carried them out.
During the remainder of time available to me in this debate I shall discuss a matter which affects my State of South Australia. I will call on the South Australian Liberal senators to give some support to the proposition that has been put forward by the Premier of that State. However, bearing in mind the way those South Australian senators voted with the Tasmanian senators against the interest of Tasmania, I think it is a forlorn hope that they will support the people who live in South Australia, particularly the people who are engaged in the canned fruits industry in the Riverland area of that State. I shall talk about the problems that exist in the canned fruits industry in South Australia. We all know that the canned fruits industry is going through a hard time. It was going through a hard time when Labor came to power in the Australian Parliament. The McMahon Government granted a loan to the canned fruits industry to endeavour to tide that industry over the problems that then existed. When we came to power the problems still remained. Senator Donald Cameron, Senator Drury, Mr Hurford, who is now the shadow Treasurer, and I received in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Adelaide a deputation of fruit growers and people representing the canning interests in the Riverland of South Australia. That deputation put a proposition to us that we should approach the Whitlam Government, and in particular the Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Wriedt, and ask the Government to forgo that loan and make it a direct grant to the canneries. I am happy to say that we were persuasive enough to convince Senator Wriedt that it was a good proposition that we put on behalf of the growers and the canned fruits industry. He agreed with the proposition, so much so that action was taken.
I have with me a list of the loans available to all of the States which were involved with the canned fruits industry but because of the short time available to me I shall express my concern only in respect of the South Australian industry. A sum of $383,000 was advanced as a loan to the South Australian Treasury on 1 December 1972. On the same date the State advanced $205,000 to Riverland Fruit Products Co-operative Ltd and $178,000 to Jon Preserving Co-operative Ltd. These sums, requested by the canneries after calculating likely levies, were considered sufficient to raise cash payments to about 75 per cent of Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee prices. With respect to the 1 June 1973 payments, the Australian Government agreed to defer the first repayment of the principal and interest from 1 June 1973 to 1 December 1973 because of the difficulties confronting those canneries. Because of the effect of the November 1973 currency realignment grants Riverland ‘s and Jon’s shares of the $1.5m assistance which was granted to the canning industry were $194,064 and $52,606 respectively. This meant, in effect, that the Whitlam Labor Government forwent an amount of $194,064 with respect to Riverland and $52,606 with respect to Jon Preserving Co. to assist the canning industry. Despite the fact that it is often claimed that the Labor Party in Government did nothing for country people, it is on record that it assisted those people in the Riverland area.
The situation has again arisen where a loan has been granted and a request has come forward from the canning interests and fruit growers in South Australia to the State Premier to bring some relief to the industry. Unfortunately that relief is not forthcoming from this Federal Government although Mr Sinclair, the Minister for Primary Industry, was in the Riverland area not so long ago and Mr Giles, the local member, made great play of the fact that Mr Sinclair was the only Federal Minister for Primary Industry who had seen fit to visit Riverland on 2 occasions. However his visit did not accomplish much because Mr Sinclair has now refused to accede to the request of the Dunstan Labor Government on behalf of the growers and canners in South Australia. A Press release was put out on 6 October 1 976 by the South Australian Government. It reads:
The Premier, Mr Dunstan, today announced substantial assistance to the Riverland fruitgrowing industry.
Payroll tax remissions will be available to all co-operative packing sheds in the area, the Riverland Fruit Juices Cooperative and Riverland Cannery Ltd. These concessions are expected to cost the Government half a million dollars a year.
As well, the State Government is prepared to convert a $545,000 loan to the Riverland Cannery to a direct grant. The loan was made to the Cannery early this year by the State and Commonwealth Governments. The South Australian Government would urge the Federal Government to agree to this proposal, the Premier said.
Mr Dunstan said the Government had decided to make this assistance available in order to substantially assist the Cannery to make payments to growers.
We are very concerned that the fruitgrowers should be helped out and that the benefits of the Government’s moves should go to the growers, Mr Dunstan said.
The Riverland areas are facing serious problems because of changed market conditions in the canning, dried fruit and citrus industries, and industries in the Riverland must be prepared to work with the Government to come up with the necessary changes to ensure their economic viability.
We want the Riverland industries to achieve long term stability and viability but this will require changes in marketing and organisation.
As a condition of the grant to the Riverland Cannery, the Cannery is being asked to accept supervision by the South Australian Industries Assistance Commission of its day to day management decisions. This will include a restriction on the Cannery intake to meet present market requirements.
The restricted intake will be quoted among growers with care being taken that smaller growers and ethnic minorities have fair access to the quota. In addition to this, the Riverland management will work with the SAIAC to establish the means by which they intend to cope with marketing and product development
The payroll tax remissions will be subject to annual application. The conditions include the packing sheds satisfying the SAIAC that the remissions will be used to achieve rationalisation within the industry and to strengthen marketing and management expertise.
These measures are designed to provide immediate and improved cash returns to growers and to aim for longer term improvements in the efficiency of marketing and management.
The Government is anxious to ensure that individual growers and their families can be confident that there will be stability in the industry of which they are a part and that there will be secure and viable employment available in the region.
MrDunstan said the administration of both the loan conversion and the payroll tax remissions would be handled by the SAIAC. As well, the SAIAC will be requested to conduct a full inquiry into the problems of the Riverland region as a whole.
That statement was put out by Mr Dunstan on 6 October after consultation with the people in the Riverland. Late yesterday I received a telex from the Premier. It contained some very disturbing news, It reads:
The State Government will go ahead and convert to a direct grant its share of a $545,000 loan to the Riverland Cannery, despite the Federal Government’s refusal to give similar assistance to the canning fruit industry.
The Premier, Mr Dunstan, announced the State Government’s commitment to make the money available while in Berri at the weekend for the inaugural dinner of the Greek Rural and Social Council of the Riverland.
I interpose here to say that Senator Georges, who is of Greek origin, and I were both very honoured to be guests at that meeting with the Greek community of the Riverland in South Australia. The telex continues:
Mr Dunstan said the Federal Government had refused to convert its half of the $545,000 to a loan, despite repeated requests for it to do so from the State Government and the canning fruit industry.
Last week the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, told us that he would not support the conversion of the loan despite the fact that the State Government would be meeting half the cost.
The conversion of the loan to a grant was a major part of the State Government’s assistance package which I announced last month-
That is the one to which I have just referred-
Which has been enthusiastically received by the industry and the people of the Riverland.
We will go ahead and make our share- $272,500- a direct grant regardless.
The Government not only offered to convert the loan, but gave very substantial payroll tax concessions to packing sheds, the Riverland Cannery and Berri fruit juices.
As well, the Government said it would provide technical and management help for the industry.
We gave this assistance because the South Australian Government was very concerned at the situation facing the canning fruit industry and the whole Riverland community.
The Riverland areas are facing serious problems through changed market conditions and the Government wanted to make sure that its assistance would help the individual fruit growers.
We insisted that the financial benefits which the cannery and the packing sheds would receive from our actions would be passed on in the form of payments to growers.
But as well as financial help we wanted the Riverland industries to work towards long term stability and viability and an essential part of this objective was the conversion of the whole loan to the Riverland Cannery.
The Federal Government has again refused to help the people of the Riverland. Earlier this year the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, was asked what his Government would do and he said he would wait for the State Government to provide assistance.
We have now given very generous help and Mr Sinclair has no further excuses. He has deliberately ignored both the immediate and the long term needs of the canning fruit industry.
The people of the Riverland must make Mr Sinclair realise that the Federal Government cannot ignore its responsibilities.
I hope the Member for Chaffey, Mr Arnold, and the Liberal Senators for South Australia will join the State Government in making strong representations to Mr Sinclair.
Mr Dunstan repeated that the South Australian Industries Assistance Corporation had been asked to administer the payroll tax remissions scheme and also to inquire into the difficulties of the Riverland region and the canning fruit industries and to recommend a plan for the reconstruction of those industries.
Mr Dunstan said payroll tax applications for remission would be considered by the Corporation which will recommend to the Government the levels of remissions for each application.
The SAIAC will need to be satisfied that the remissions will be used to achieve rationalisation within the industries and to strengthen marketing and management expertise.
The Government is particularly concerned to ensure that cash returns to growers are maximised, and this can only be achieved if attention is given to the underlying causes of the region’s problems, Mr Dunstan said.
Mr Dunstan also said the SAIAC would work with the Riverland Cannery Ltd to ensure that: ffi. The cannery restricted its intake in line with realistic market requirements:
That quotas caused by the restricted intake are distributed as equitably as possible among growers with special care being taken to ensure that smaller growers and ethnic groups have fair access to the quota system:
That the cannery management develops an effective strategy in relation to marketing and product development.
I want to refer to the paragraph in which Mr Dunstan and the South Australian people expressed the hope that the honourable member for Chaffey, Mr Arnold, and the South Australian Liberal senators would make a plea to Mr Sinclair, and through him to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), to convert that part of the loan for which they are responsible- an amount of $272,000-to a direct grant. I said in my opening remarks this evening that Senator Donald Cameron, ex-Senator Drury, Mr Hurford, who is a member of the House of Representatives, and I took up a similar plea with the former Labor Government. We were successful. There is nothing in the wide world to prevent the South Australian Liberal senators and Mr Arnold doing likewise. If they are as persuasive as we were and if they have as considerate a Minister for Primary Industry as we had, they might be able to help the people in the Riverland of South Australia. But if those South Australian Liberal senators are to disregard the interests and the disabilities of the people in South Australia as they have just shown their disregard for the interests of the people of Tasmania by the way they voted, I am afraid that the people in the Riverland cannot hold out very much hope. Despite the fact that the South Australian Labor Government and Labor governments generally are always criticised by honourable senators opposite, who say that Labor has no sympathy for country people, and despite the fact that we went out of our way on 2 occasions to help the fruit growers in the Riverland, this Government has already turned its back on them with the statement by Mr Sinclair. He is refusing to give any assistance to the fruit growers.
Let us not see the episode again of honourable senators opposite criticising Labor governments, whether they be Federal or State, for having no sympathy for country residents- whether they be residents of country towns or primary producers. If they are genuine in attempting to help primary producers they will be successful. They will make a strong plea to Mr Sinclair on behalf of the fruit growers in the Riverland. Let us bear in mind that it is not a Labor seat, either State or Federal. The State seat is held by Mr Arnold, a LiberalCountry League member, and ex Liberal Movement member.
-He did not beat Mr McLaren.
– Who is the one who beat Mr McLaren?
– I might tell you if you were interested. I am talking about the State member for Chaffey. Senator Baume resides in Sydney. He does not get too far outside the bounds of the airport. He knows nothing about the country areas of South Australia. I live in the Riverland. I am well aware of the geography of the Riverland of South Australia. I am only too well aware of the problems that face the people who live there and try to earn a living there. Since I have been a senator I have done my best to assist them at every opportunity I have had. Mr Arnold is a State Liberal member. Mr Giles is the Federal Liberal member for that area, He is the member for Angas. Incidentally, I think he is the Chairman of the Government’s back bench rural committee. If we have a quick look at the names of the back bench members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party on that rural committee, we find that no other South Australian has been sufficiently interested in rural matters to nominate himself to sit on that committee. I have just had a quick look and I cannot find any other South Australian on the list I have. Apart from Mr Giles not one of them is sufficiently interested to nominate.
– You must have the wrong list of members.
-This is the list that was given out at your last convention and given to the Press.
- Mr Porter is on it.
– Yes, Mr Porter is on it. There is nobody else from South Australia on it.
– We will have a retraction from you then.
– I will retract that.
– What about senators?
– There are no senators on it. I suppose my plea tonight is falling on deaf ears when I am asking South Australian Liberal senators to put a proposition to the leader of their Government on behalf of rural interests, because not one of them has enough interest in rural matters to be on that rural committee. Yet on the Labor Party’s rural committee we have quite a few South Australians. I have the honour of being the Secretary. Mr Laurie Wallis, the member for Grey, is the Chairman. Senator Don Cameron, my colleague, is a member. Mr Hurford, the shadow Treasurer, is another member. There is the proof. Our South Australian members have great interest in the problems of country dwellers. Despite what members opposite continually say, they will not nominate for their committee, to look after the interests of
South Australian people. Once again, I make a plea to the South Australian senators. I include you, Mr President, because you are a South Australian. As President of the Senate, you might be able to persuade them to do something to assist the people in the Riverland. You live in a fruit growing area, although the fruit grown in your area is of a much smaller size than the fruit grown in the Riverland. The produce of the fruit grown in your area gives people more headaches than some of the larger fruit grown in the Riverland gives. All the people who grow this type of fruit derive a living from it. I hope that in the not too distant future Mr Sinclair will change his mind and, through the Minister who represents him in this place, will make a statement that the Government has seen the error of its ways and has decided to convert its share of the loan to a direct grant to the canning industry and the fruit growers in South Australia.
There are a couple of other things on which I want to touch. Last night I was extracting parts of the present Prime Minister’s policy speech and proving that many of the promises he made had come to nought and I was pointing out some of the cuts he made in very worthwhile areas. I refer to an article published in the Australian Financial Review of 3 May of this year headed Treasury cuts back on growth centres’. This cutback is unfortunate, I think. One growth centre is dear to my heart, and that is the growth centre of Monarto in South Australia. While we were in government we funded the South Australian Government to such an extent that it was able to purchase sufficient land to establish a city which would settle 250 000 people. Despite the fact that the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament continually makes misstatements, as Mr Fraser made in his policy speech, that Monarto was just a pipe dream of the Premier to set up a new city, that is not the case at all. What disturbs me is this: Opposition members of the South Australian Parliament say to the people at Mount Gambier, Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla that the South Australian Government will spend money on Monarto which could be better spent in those areas. That is quite untrue. The whole purpose of Monarto is to take the overflow from Adelaide.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the Senate suspended its sitting for dinner I was explaining the great need for the development of the growth centre of Monarto in South Australia. I had made some remarks about the opposition to this growth centre by members of the Opposition in the State Parliament in South Australia. I had explained the reasons why they opposed it and the type of tactics that they had been adopting and that we can expect them to adopt during the next State election. They will be trying to convince the people in some of the more populated country areas that money ought to be spent in their areas rather than in the growth centre. I had gone on to explain that the whole reason for Monarto was to take the overflow of Adelaide so Adelaide would not end up a concrete jungle of congestion of traffic and population as Melbourne and Sydney are.
The Dunstan Government showed foresight in legislating for the construction of Monarto. It had the full support of the Liberal Party when the matter went to a vote in the House of Assembly in South Australia. There was a unanimous vote in support of Monarto but because of the political implications that arose later the present State Opposition decided it would oppose Monarto. One of the devices it used to try to sell opposition to Monarto to the people in South Australia was reference to the Borrie report. I remember Senator Hall referring to the Borrie report when he sat on this side, when he came into this place as the celebrated Leader of the Liberal Movement. He used the Borrie report, but he picked out only the parts of it that suited him. I want to refer to parts of the Borrie report which contradict some of the arguments against Monarto. In paragraph 0.07 on page xxxvii of the report, Borrie says:
It is to be emphasized that the Inquiry was not asked to establish an ‘optimum’ population, a term not used anywhere in the terms of reference, or to determine ultimate carry capacity’ on the basis of assumed or current technologies. However, the thrust of various assumed growth rates beyond the year 2000 will be presented primarily to give illustrative perspectives, but not as ‘predictions’. While the relatively short range of the Inquiry of some thirty years may disappoint some, anyone who has had experience with projections in the social sciences must know how hazardous a forward glance is, even to ten, let alone thirty years. Moreover, as the Report will show, the current demographic scene is so pregnant with evidence of change, both within and beyond Australia, that forecasting at this moment has become almost as hazardous as it was found to be during the years of the great depression of the ‘thirties when the dominant fear was population decline.
Of course we know that the population did not decline; it increased. That is the document which opponents to Monarto are using to bolster their argument against the growth centre. Monarto has been better planned and is more forward in its planning than any other growth centre in Australia. I am very disappointed that there is no allocation in the present Budget for funding of Monarto so that we can get ahead on construction of it.
The Monarto Development Commission has put out a document entitled Bibliography of Monarto Reports. It lists a whole series of studies that have been done on Monarto to counter any arguments that have been put forward by honourable senators opposite particularly the people who sit behind Mr Tonkin in the South Australian Parliament. If people are interested in getting a copy of this document they can go to the Monarto Development Commission office at Greenhill Road, Unley, South Australia and judge for themselves the great features of Monarto. If they cannot find the time to do this or if they are country people who cannot get there, all they need to do is to write to the Librarian of the Monarto Development Commission, Box 219, Unley, South Australia, 5061, and they will be supplied with truthful information so that they can judge for themselves. They can also be supplied with a copy of the Monarto Development Commission annual report. It is a very good report.
The point is that I am trying to convince honourable senators opposite that for the benefit of the people in South Australia the Monarto growth centre ought to be proceeded with. If it is not proceeded with the people of Adelaide will rue the day they took notice in particular of the State Opposition in South Australia, and they will rue the day that they turned out the Whitlam Government, which was providing money for growth centres and urban and regional development, and exchanged that government for a government which could not care less about the living conditions of the people of this country. All it is concerned about is feathering the nests of its wealthy supporters. I do not have the time in the few moments left to me to illustrate to the Senate the type of people who support the rabble opposite. In view of the way honourable senators opposite are carrying on, trying to interject, they can be described only as a rabble, and Senator Cormack is in the forefront of the rabble. He used to sit in your place, Mr President, and upbraid people in this Senate if they did not give a fair hearing to a man on his feet. Now he is in the forefront of the rabble rousers. It might be bis age that is getting beyond him.
– You are hurting him.
– It could be that I am hurting him too, but he will not shout me down, and I have proved that in the few short years that I have been here. I will have my say and I will let the people who either listen to the broadcast of the proceedings of this Parliament or read Hansard judge whether what I am saying is rubbish or whether I am trying to defend the rights of the electors of Australia. So honourable senators opposite can rabble rouse as much as they like.
The matter on which I want to wind up is the state of the economy of this country. I have posed a few questions to Senator Cotton as to when the Government is going to announce the date of the devaluation of our currency. A conference of international financiers is being held in Canberra at present, and one of the foremost topics being debated is the date of devaluation It is being bandied round in Canberra that 1 January is the date when the Government will announce devaluation. There is one supporter of the Government whom this will please very much and that is Mr Wentworth, because he advocated it in a speech on the Budget in the other place.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
- Mr President, would it be in order to move an extension of time for Senator McLaren? I make the point seriously because he intends to complete his speech on the adjournment. He may as well do it now as later on.
– I call Senator Wright.
– It is quite obvious that Senator McLaren was making a purely political, rabble rousing speech. It has not dawned on him yet that we are debating a Bill in the Senate in the year 1976 just one year after the Australian Labor Party learned that this Senate had the right to reject a Bill of this order. The rejection of this Bill last year gave to the people of Australia a chance to change the calamitous government under which they then laboured. I suggest that the authorities who have analysed the situation from a constitutional point of view, such as Professor O ‘Connell, Dr Forcey and Professor Richardson, citing such authorities as Mr Justice Dixon for the right of the Senate to reject Bills with a consequent dissolution of the Parliament, bring home to the people of Australia how useful it is in this democracy to have a mechanism in the Senate with the power to reject a money Bill such as this. That is a power which, of course, prudence will suggest should be exercised only on the most important occasions, such as was November 1975. That exercise of power was supported by the country at the poll.
I rise to bring to the Senate a few thoughts about some of our other lesser but quite potent procedures. We have not in the past rejected a Bill for the appropriation of moneys, such as those we are discussing tonight, except for the occasion of last November. That action is reserved for the most important occasions. But we in the Senate have power as to which there is no capacity to dispute. We have power expressly under section 53 of the Constitution as follows:
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
In other words, the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, agree to those amendments, with or without modifications. What I am suggesting here is that we should take a few minutes to remind ourselves that that is our constitutional authority and our constitutional duty on some occasions. Those who argued from the archaic stance of E. G. Whitlam last November likened us to the House of Lords which lost at the beginning of this century all power to reject, amend or discuss for any purpose a money Bill. Those people did not heed the American Constitution which we borrowed from largely in the formulation of the Federal Constitution for the Australian States. Although the American Senate cannot initiate a money Bill it may reject or amend a money Bill ad lib. We do not have the power to amend an Appropriation Bill of the type we are discussing but, as is stated in the section of the Constitution from which I read, we have express power to request the amendment by way of reduction or omission of any item within it. So to advance that proposition for the consideration of the Austraiian Senate would be regarded as old hat in Washington and, of course, it would be regarded as completely revolutionary in London. But we are in Canberra.
I want to show tonight by reference to one or two facts on the record that the absolutely outrageous expenditure on the part of the Labor Government last year illustrates to us the wisdom of the Senate’s exercising that power year by year as the occasion makes it proper. I refer honourable senators to page 145 of the AuditorGeneral ‘s report for 1 976, which reads:
As part of a feasibility study into the suitability of hovercraft for inter-island transport in the Torres Strait, the Department leased from a British company one SRN5 hovercraft for a trial period of 12 months which expired on II January 1976. Studies by the Department of the operations of the hovercraft have established that an air cushion vehicle is neither the most suitable nor the most economical means of transport in the Torres Strait area.
The records of the Labor Government show that the Department expended $264,950 on hire and operational costs. A mere midget figure of $264,950 was expended on operational and hire costs. The result was a recommendation against such a means of transport both on the grounds of suitability and economics. Yet in April 1975 the Department entered into an agreement with an Australian contractor for the design and construction of an air cushion vehicle for use in the Torres Strait. Subsequently a deed of compromise and mutual release was entered into whereby that contractor was released from his obligation with a payment of $115,699, including $18,731 as compensation for loss of the contract.
– Are you working up to refuse Supply?
– The honourable senator has just entered the chamber. During the Committee consideration of the Bills I will further advise him privately if he wishes, but I am not going to recapitulate what I have said. Payments amounting to $28,000 have been made by the Department to the consultants engaged for that construction- a construction which was recommended against on 2 grounds. The amount of $115,000 was expended on abortive construction, after more than $250,000 had been spent on hire and operational charges for the use of a hovercraft in Torres Strait for 12 months.
– Come to the point.
-I will move to the next point, in view of the impetuosity of the Labor recruits. I have taken 3 items to illustrate the degree to which Bills similar to those we are discussing now required scrutiny last year. If we develop a practice in the Senate of scrutinising such Bills item by item to ensure that departments do not enter upon construction costs to the tune of $115,000 against the recommendations of feasibility studies, we will be discharging a duty which we are here to discharge- that is to say, exercise responsibility in relation to the money that the Australian people provide by way of taxes.
Let me refer to another grand illusion in the great Whitlam drama. In a moment I shall read a brief excerpt from page 152 of the AuditorGeneral’s report. Mr Whitlam conceived the idea of compiling our own records in the form of a book and an Australian author was commissioned for the purpose. The commission called for the entire work to be completed by November 1973 to the satisfaction of the former Department of the Media. The AuditorGeneral ‘s report states:
A printing contract, negotiated in November 1973, required delivery to the completed book in April 1974. Subsequent protracted delays caused by, among other things, the rejection of creative material stated to be unsuitable; rejected material having to be rewritten; consideration of different approaches to the form of the book; reduction in funds available in 1974-75 -
That perhaps was when Dr Cairns was Treasurer- the necessity to revise further and, in some instances, to rewrite contributed material; and examination of proposals to have production and distribution taken over by a private publisher have resulted in the book not being published at the date of this Report, notwithstanding expenditure in excess of $93,000 to 30 June 1976.
That book has been relegated to the wastepaper basket as complete rubbish, but the Whitlam Government incurred an expenditure of $93,000 to get that book into the wastepaper basket. Let me refer briefly to one other instance. In the Committee stage I will give Senator McAuliffe who comes from Queensland a whole lot of other interesting details. These examples are just illustrative of how we have to exercise, now that we have a majority in the Senate, more vigilance over expenditure which may be wasteful and extravagant. Turning to another example- I do not know whether this was when Senator Murphy was Attorney-General but I suspect that it washonourable senators will see in the AuditorGeneral’s report under the Attorney-General’s Department a reference to the Australian Legal Aid Office under the heading ‘Unoccupied leased accommodation’. It reads:
Audit examination of accommodation leased by the Australian Legal Aid Office reveals a number of instances where rental has been paid for unoccupied premises or for premises occupied some time after rental payments had commenced. Seven examples have been noted where rental costs of approximately $71,000 have been incurred on premises not occupied prior to the Australian Legal Aid Office advising it no longer required the accommodation.
Just a little item. Those are 3 matters which I draw to the attention of the Senate. They show that it is probably wise that we examine the items in this Bill a little more closely. Even though the Government has changed, the Public Service has a habit of producing proposals which require scrutiny. Although we have no power to amend this Bill, we do have power to reject, but we would not use that power except in exceptional circumstances. The power to request amendments enables us in respect of any particular item about which there may be criticism or concern to require reconsideration by the House of Representatives before giving the Bill passage.
– Have you got the numbers?
– Of course we have the numbers whenever we think it is proper to use them. I am just introducing this proposal tonight to ascertain whether or not the Whitlam supporters will go to their archaic precedents and say: ‘We will not have a bar of the Senate interfering with a money Bill. We would not allow one item to be rubbed out of an appropriation Bill advanced by Dr Cairns, Mr Hayden or Mr Crean’, to mention three of the great Treasurers of this country. I suggest that we now enlighten the Labor Party in respect of the Bills that may come before us in the next couple of years. I am amazed at the moderation I am displaying when I travel on these excursions, but I suggest that we consider this proposal. When the reports of our valued Estimates Committees come forward we can only give reality to and effectuate those reports properly if we find in the Bills and in appropriate expenditure and amend by omission or reduction any of those items.
– You are like a light on the stern of a ship; you only show where you have been, not where you are going.
-Senator McAuliffe from Queensland scoffs at this- and he is the mouthpiece for the Labor Opposition- just as Labor Party supporters scoff at the idea of the Senate on exceptional occasions rejecting a money Bill. What I point out is that there is nothing essentially in the principles of Cabinet, government or solidarity of” the Executive that would prevent the development of a practice in this Senate of requiring objectionable items in appropriation Bills to be reconsidered by the Government. Whenever the waste and extravagance of proposals such as I have illustrated are revealed by the Auditor-General’s report in relation to the hovercraft, or the great ‘Domesday Book of Whitlam’, or in relation to the Australian Legal Aid Office, the proposition I am advancing is that the Senate turn its mind to exercising the undoubted power that it has to request amendments to those particular items.
– Are you going to move an amendment?
-No, I am not going to move any such amendment on this occasion.
– Come on. Line up at the barrier.
– I shall give the estimates of a Labor Party Government all the examination that they deserve and when its supporters have heard the last of the Auditor-General’s report and when they take it out and read it to their constituents they will hang their heads in shame at the way they squandered taxpayers’ money. I was about to say that there is nothing essentially in the system of Cabinet government or responsibility that prevents or even makes inappropriate the development of that course. I speak tonight in the hope that the Senate will interest itself in the development of the practice, that the Government will give consideration to it and that that practice will develop, notwithstanding the existence of the Public Accounts Committee and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure that has recently been set up, because all these matters require that this chamber considers its undoubted constitutional power of request for amendment to be exercised on the appropriate occasion.
I rose to speak in this debate because I thought it was quite timely to remind the Opposition of the shock that it got in November 1975 when its supporters realised that the Senate had a power to reject or defer a money Bill. I want to point their attention to the fact that they have the right to request amendments of items in a nonamendable Bill and I hope ere long, in proper time, after due consideration, this practice will begin and be developed.
– It is a pleasure to follow the eloquent senior senator from Tasmania, Senator Wright. One can only wonder why he enjoys such a wide audience in the Senate this evening because when the Senate was discussing the very important initiative that the Tasmanian Premier had taken in respect of the state of the economy there were only 4 Government senators sitting in this place listening to that important debate. I do not know whether the Government Parties have introduced conscription to get their colleagues into the Senate or whether we have in fact been witnessing the swan song of Senator Wright. Nevertheless we are amused by the fact that there is such interest in the speech that he has made this evening, particularly as Senator Wright has drawn attention to the infamous impropriety of the conservative Parties just a year ago when we were dealing with Appropriation Bill (No. 2) in October 1975. Of course the honourable senator set out to try to convince the people of Australia and his colleagues that they were justified in taking the course of action that they took because they believed, or so they said- I am sure they did not believe it, although they tried to convince the Australian people they believed it- that Government expenditure at that time was of such moment, of such magnitude, that if the Senate passed Appropriation Bill (No. 2) which was before the Senate at that time it would be doomsday for Australia.
It is very interesting to note that the Senate which a year ago procrastinated for some 8 weeks in relation to Appropriation Bill (No. 2), which was designed to vote the sum of $6,976m, has failed to do just that because of the attitude of the conservatives in this place, such as Senator Wright, who want to maintain the ability of the Senate to block Appropriation Bills. Yet when this particular Bill is designed to spend $7, 502m, an increase of $526m on the Bill which the Senate refused to deal with just a year ago. How inconsistent can honourable senators opposite be? They have the gall and the temerity to stand here and criticise a government which was properly elected, which had to face 3 elections in 3 years and which had to face obstinacy and obstruction by the conservatives who never accepted the view of the Australian people when it was made clear on 2 separate occasions and who then used every trick in the political book to bring about the defeat of a properly and constitutionally elected government. They have the audacity to suggest that that power of the Australian Senate ought to be maintained.
They say that whatever we decide on this side of the House is a political decision, as though that was not a political decision to strike a very serious blow at parliamentary democracy in this country to create in the minds of a lot of people, after years of propaganda by those who might have had revolutionary concepts, a lack of faith in the parliamentary processes. That is precisely what honourable senators opposite did a year ago and that is precisely what this Government seeks to perpetuate in this place, according to Senator Wright.
It is interesting to realise that those of us who wanted to discuss the economic initiatives being taken by the Tasmanian Government were denied the right to do so because those who have had the numbers in this place over the last 4 years applied the gag to that debate. They will continue to try to deny the right of expression in the Parliament and to deny the Opposition the opportunity to move a motion and debate in this place. The Government has taken away the right of the Opposition to debate general business on Thursday afternoons, which time was invariably used by the conservatives when they had the numbers in this place during the 3 years when Labor was in Government and had the numbers in the House of Representatives. Honourable senators opposite suggest that we should not have the right to use the proper forms of this House on a Wednesday to debate a matter of urgency, although the dismissal of the Government last year involved the question of government finance and the state of the economy. Here we have an Appropriation Bill which involves the expenditure of $500m more than honourable senators opposite refused to consider just a year ago. The people of Australia are concerned about the state of the economy. The Labor Premiers of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania have taken the initiative and have tried to do something about the very serious plight of the Australian economy.
Last year when the Australian Labor Party was in government honourable senators opposite, the newspapers and the conservatives right throughout Australia said that the fault in the economy was due to the activities of the Federal Government. Of course, they were able to convince the majority of the people for the time being that the state of the economy was the fault of the national Government. Mr Fraser did not take long to change his mind on that question. In July this year in a statement to the Canberra Times he said that the reason why there was so much unemployment in New South Wales was that the Wran Government was elected on 1 May. Less than 3 months after that election the Australian Prime Minister was not saying that a national government was responsible for unemployment but he was trying to lay the blame on the newly elected Labor Government in New South Wales which had not even met to put forward its legislative program. Senator Rae and Senator Walters made rather puny contributions to the debate today on the plan put forward by Mr Neilson, the Premier of Tasmania. The Opposition is not committed to that plan. It is not saying that it agrees with every one of the 15 points. But at least it shows some initiative.
– It was an attempt.
-It was an attempt, which is more than we are seeing from this Government which is still involved in rhetoric and making all sorts of ludicrous statements about the state of the Australian economy. What have Mr Fraser and Mr Lynch done? Every so often on a public platform they plead with the Australian people to buy. They say: ‘Go into the market place and buy.’ Mr Fraser says to the Australian people: ‘Stop saving.’ If we examine whether the Australian people are taking very much notice of the Government’s advice and we look at what is happening in respect of retail sales- that is part of the economic strategy- we find that public expenditure is more this year than it was last year. The other arm of criticism that was levelled at the Labor Government was that the Australian people lacked confidence, that they would not spend in the market place and that they were putting their money into the savings banks. I do not need to remind honourable senators and the people of Australia that savings bank deposits are continuing to rise and, on the latest evidence available, retail sales are stagnant. According to the Australian Financial Review, consumers are sitting pat.
It is very interesting to compare government spending in this Appropriation Bill and last year’s Appropriation Bill. I would like to deal with one or two items and compare them with the items in the Appropriation Bill which honourable senators opposite, in an infamous way, hypocritically refused to deal with last year. For example, in 1975 the Labor Government voted $l02m for Aborigines. This year the Government is spending $8 lm. We voted $25 lm for Administrative Services and $232m was spent. This year the Government is spending $239m. For the Department of Defence we voted $ 1,801m; $ 1,202m was spent by the present Government which was in office for the greater proportion of that year. This year the Government is spending $2,036m. We allocated $440m for Foreign Affairs, and $4 1 lm was spent due to cutbacks in expenditure. This year the Government is spending $432m. So we can give no credence to honourable senators opposite when they say that they were entitled to take the action they took a year ago to cut back on public spending, because in the present Budget the Government is spending more than we spent and there does not appear to be any recovery in the Australian economy.
Clearly the Government does not enjoy the confidence of any sections of business in Australia. Honourable senators opposite will have noted the statements which have been cited many times in this place by the officials of the Australian Chamber of Manufactures and the statements made by other authoritative employer groups about the state of the economy. Surely they have seen the statements put out by the Australian Industries Development Association, which is probably one of the most important groups concerned with the Australian economy. It has said that the 1976-77 Budget is the product of what has become known as the official view’ of Australia’s economic mess and how to get out of it. It has also said that the Budget will not achieve its particular objectives. Mr Lynch has said repeatedly in the national Parliament and elsewhere that an economic recovery is under way. I do not know whom the Government is trying to convince, but the fact is that there is no revival in the private sector of the economy. I would like to spend the remainder of the limited time available to me in talking about the state of the economy. I do not think there is any substance in the criticism of government spending which has been the basis upon which the Government has based its economic strategy.
I turn now to the rural sector. One of the big issues of the Australian farm in the Budget, according to an article in the Melbourne Age of 27 August, was a stall. It offered no pointer for the future of Australia’s rural industry. It did not come to grips with the future of farm families deeply mired in asset-rich poverty. That article was published about the time this Government brought in its Budget. In an article that appeared about the same time the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in Canberra was predicting that farm incomes would drop by about 27 per cent. But what is the real position? According to the latest figures of the BAE- these have been published in the Australian Financial Review of 29 October 1976- real farm income is expected to decline by 36 per cent in 1976-77. In these circumstances what is this Government doing? It has certainly taken no initiatives in this Budget or in this Appropriation Bill to bring about any attempt at revival within that sector of the Australian economy.
Surely those members of the National Country Party who are not asleep as a result of having a good dinner during the 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. break would agree with me that there is a very serious situation in the rural sector of the Australian economy, even for those industries which hitherto had had some prospects of remaining viable and prosperous in a period of over-production on the world scale. I am thinking of the grain industry because indications now are that there is to be a drop in the price of grains on the world scale which will seriously affect the Australian producer. We all know of the problems of the beef industry which we have talked about from time to time. One does not need to draw attention to the critical position in which so many thousands of dairy farmers, beef producers and fruit growers find themselves.
So nowhere can this Government justify the horrendous action that it set in motion 1 8 months ago to bring about the defeat of the Government based on either government expenditure or the state of the economy. The state of the economy a year after Government supporters brought about the coup is considerably worse. It does not matter how much rhetoric is practised by Mr Fraser, Mr Lynch, Mr Sinclair or any other Government spokesmen about the state of the economy. The plain facts are that it is in a decline, that it is in a mess and that there are structural difficulties which are beyond the Government’s power of comprehension or legislative actions to overcome. I have noticed that even Senator Carrick has become converted to an understanding of the serious structural problems that exist in primary and secondary industry in Australia.
We know that the Industries Assistance Commission has been making all sorts of recommendations in respect of the rural sector, and I shall deal with the manufacturing sector later. In respect to the rural sector, what has the Government done about the reports of the IAC? It has sat on them for the whole period it has been in government. Rural incomes are declining. Yet the Prime Minister has mentioned in many speeches that he has made to various farmer groups around Australia the critical poverty that exists in our rural communities. Of course, we all know that Mr Giles carried out an inspection on behalf of the Government parties. He told the Government 3 months ago of the critical state of the rural economy. But what has happened? Absolutely nothing to set in train the sort of structural recommendations that have been made, whether they are right or wrong. The Parliament is never given the opportunity to debate these things. Least of all does the farming community or the community generally in Australia have an opportunity publicly to debate the very parlous state of so many sectors of agriculture.
The basic strategy of this Government was to bring about tax indexation and on 1 July, if my memory serves me correctly, tax indexation became a fact. We applauded that there was some recognition of this by the Government. So in July, August and September the Government’s tax indexation strategy was to put more dollars in the pockets of every wage and salary earner in this country. I am sure that no Government senator would challenge me that that was what the Government had in mind when it brought in tax indexation to take effect as from 1 July. If the Government strategy was to work in respect to the economy, if the purpose of that piece of regulation was to put money in pockets so that it could be spent in the market place, why is it not reflected in the market place? Why is not a consumer revival taking place? It is because there is a deep sickness in the Australian economy. This applies both in the primary sector and in the manufacturing sector.
This Government came to power illegally and improperly for the purpose solely of maintaining its political base and getting some stimulation of the mining sector. I think it is about time we really called the National Country Party what it should be called- the National Mining Party. It has taken no initiatives in this Budget or in any other legislative form other than to continue the initiatives of the Labor Government to bring about any stimulation of the rural sector. Yet all the activities of the National CountrycumMining Party have been to develop the boom sector and that boom sector it believes to be the mining sector. It has ignored the important Jackson Committee report which refers to the fact that the Australian manufacturing industry is in an acute financial crisis, that unemployment is high. The report states that factories are running below capacity, that many farmers have borrowed to the hilt and that manufacturing problems are manifestations of the world economic crisis in which all countries including Australia are enmeshed. What are the initiatives that this Government proposes to take, even in respect of the manufacturing sector? When we look at the various sectors of the Australian economy, whether they be the rural or the manufacturing sectors, we see that there is no response to the rhetoric of this Government.
I turn to the problems in the building industry, which for many years we have said represents the base upon which all economic activity ultimately revolves. I am staggered to read the contradictory reports about the state of the building industry in Australia. An article in the National Times of ‘23 October states:
The building industry in Australia appears to be operating at a very low ebb, according to figures issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
On 20 August this year a comment was made by Michael Blendell, a journalist for the Australian:
Mr Lynch dealt the ailing construction industry, already on the floor after a knock-out punch from the 1974 credit squeeze- another body blow on Tuesday. He ignored vociferous lobbying that the industry’s situation was so parlous it merited special consideration.
In an article on 22 October, which is only a week or so ago, the Canberra Times reported a statement by Mr Powell, the Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission, that slow-downs in the construction industry in Canberra during 1975-76 because of Government spending cuts had added direct costs to the activities of the NCDC. An article published in the Melbourne Age on 30 September about a survey conducted by John Jackson and AssociatesI am sure they were not put up to this by the Labor Party or anyone associated with the trade union movement- states:
A grim picture of the building and construction industry is painted in a survey of projects started last month.
The survey by John Jackson and Associates shows an 1 8.5 per cent drop in tendered contracts during August. These contracts were worth $92. 3m compared with SI 13.2m in the previous month.
The value of non-tendered contracts fell by 29.8 per cent . . .
The industry-already one of the hardest hit by the recessionsuffered further with a drop of more than 20 per cent in the value of all new contracts.
Then in the Australian Financial Review on 29 September, Brian Toohey said:
Building approvals fell in both the dwelling and nondwelling sectors during August despite the reassurance given by the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, in Parliament last week.
An article in the Australian quoted the Master Builders’ Association, which is one of the organisations more closely associated with the conservatives than with the radicals in the political movement. It stated:
The total on-site building workforce fell from a peak 58 506 in March, 1 97 1 to a low of 38 502 in March this year, according to figures released yesterday by the Master Builders Association of New South Wales. the Master Builders’ Association is becoming increasingly alarmed at the progressive deterioration of the industry. Yesterday it said that Government has failed to act to revive building despite advice from its own Indicative Planning Council, the Department of Construction, and various industrial organisations.
While all of those reports were on hand for governments and parliaments to examine what statements were made by the Ministers of this Government to show their hypocrisy and inability to understand the economy? In the middle of all this evidence, on 16 October the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, Mr Newman, said in Launceston that there was an encouraging improvement in the construction industry and there were signs of further gains. Mr McLeay, the Minister for Construction, who has the responsibility on behalf of this Government, was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying:
I would say to anybody anywhere in this country, and in particular in New South Wales, now is the time to build.
So we have this inability by this Government to come to grips with the very grave economic problems that exist in this country- problems that are not the result of 3 years of Labor Government; problems that are structural problems based on the development of industry in Australia over 90 to 100 years; problems which the Industries Assistance Commission has repeatedly drawn to the attention of Governments with regard to what is needed to be done; problems that show that there are cyclical movements within sectors of the Australian economy. For example, in March this year there was a peak period in manufacturing. But since then there has been a decline. Motor vehicle sales are now in a similar state of decline to those items to which I have already referred. Of course, unemployment is higher now than it has been for many years and there is no prospect of the situation improving. It is rather galling to have to sit here this evening and listen to the sort of speech that came from the mouth of Senator Wright who tried to justify all of the activity of last year. He said that the actions that the present Government took were justified because of the state of the economy when in fact the state of the economy is worse now than it has been since the recession of 1 96 1 . This Government is instituting policies that will institutionalise and make permanent in the Australian economy a large number- hundreds of thousands- of unemployed. It will become a permanent feature of the Australian economy that unemployment will be an acceptable fact. This is not hard to understand because the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Mr John Stone, is reported as saying in an article in the Sydney Daily Mirror just 2 years ago:
The only way to reduce unemployment is to create more unemployment.
This is precisely the advice which was tendered to the Labor Government but we rejected it. It has clearly been accepted by this Government. Nothing in these Appropriation Bills which we are discussing will do anything to bring about the sort of economic revival that is essential in this country. We know that throughout the Western world and throughout the industrial countries of the world there is this philosophical argument taking place in which the orthodox economists say that the way out of the difficulties of the economy is to cut back public spending. That is the policy to which the Government is wedded in this country. Unfortunately it is the policy which has been accepted by the British Government as a way out of its problems. It is a policy that has been accepted by successive British governments over the last decade or so. We do not accept this philosophy. We believe that an examination of the decline in the workforce in the rural sector and those involved in manufacturing industry and accepting the very great increase in the workforce in the tertiary sector- since the war it has risen from half of the workforce to two-thirds of the workforce- will show that it is in the service sector that there will be a stimulation of the Australian economy. This has taken place irrespective of philosophies, irrespective of governments, and irrespective of policies, budgets, deficits and elections. We will not get a revival in the private sector. The revival will come from an expenditure of government funds to improve goods and services to the Australian people. That was the very issue, Mr President, that you and your colleagues used to bring down a properly elected constitutional government when you took the infamous action just a year ago of denying the right of this Parliament to look at the Appropriation Bills.
– (Victoria) (8.58)- Mr President, I was impelled to ask if you would catch my eye earlier this evening when I heard Senator Wright address himself to the fiscal responsibilities that are imposed upon the Senate by the Constitution and the reasons for which these particular responsibilities were imposed upon the Senate. But before I embark upon a re-enforcement of what I conceive to be the correctness of Senator Wright’s point of view, I feel bound to reply to Senator Gietzelt. Senator Gietzelt has been saying that a modern society can conduct itself effectively and efficiently only if it spends government money- what is known as spending money in the government sector. But where does government get money? It gets money from only one source and that is by taxing the people. What Senator Gietzelt is arguing is that it is the responsibility of government to extract the maximum amount of money from the taxpayer, the citizen, and spend it in the community. No one will object to that as a philosophical argument provided that the money that is being spent in the public sector is creating wealth.
I refer to the Sydney Opera House for example, which would interest Senator Gietzelt who is a senator representing New South Wales. It was built by sucking money out of the New South Wales taxpayers’ pockets in the form of lotteries in order to satisfy a pseudo-elitist element inside the New South Wales Labor Party which has been seeking to have an opera house for the last 50 years. Having sucked the money out of the pockets of the poor by encouraging them to gamble in the hope that their numbers might come up, this monstrous building was finally built on the shores of Sydney Harbour. It has now been decided that it is one of the world ‘s wonders. I remember travelling down the harbour in a Maritime Services Board launch and telling some of Senator Gietzelt ‘s colleagues who asked me what the building was that it was a new grain terminal for the Grain Elevators Board of New South Wales. They were impressed with this new modern architecture and believed it was a grain terminal. That is what it looks like to me. However, the spending of money on the government sector in New South Wales assumes a rather interesting aspect. Having sucked all the money out of the pockets of unfortunate widows and people aspiring to get easy money in New South Wales, the New South Wales Government has put the finger on the Commonwealth Government to try to get money to sustain the people who parade inside this grain terminal, Opera House or whatever it is called. The Industries Assistance Commission has drawn attention to this matter.
I mention this as an illustration of the fact that when money is taken from the taxpayer and devoted to such an area it is being applied to a non-profitable area which is not producing anything. Senator Gietzelt also referred to Great Britain and said that Great Britain is in terrible trouble because it is going through a deflationary period. He said this could all be solved quite simply if the Government of Great Britain, headed by Mr Callaghan at the moment as Prime Minister, would spend more public money. What Mr Callaghan, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, has said to his people in Great Britain is that money has to be taken out of the public sector and put back into the private sector. The reason it must be put back into the private sector is so that the people of Great Britain can earn some money. In the 21/2 years of Mr Whitlam ‘s Government, under the economic and fiscal theories of Senator Gietzelt, what happened was that there was a massive diversion of resources into the public sector- taking resources away from the private sector. What has happened to Australia in the meantime is that it has costed itself out of export markets. We cannot sell a car in New Zealand because Holden cars are too expensive to get into New Zealand. Holden cars have become too expensive because of the withdrawal of resources from the private sector and their direction into the public sector.
Australian dockyards are in a state of collapse because they cannot even build ships. It has been canvassed many times in the public newspapers and inside this Parliament that to build a ship in Australia costs $ 1 1 , 000 per man employed in the shipyards. The most memorable illustration of this sort of dockyard is the New South Wales State Dockyard in Newcastle. I have heard dockyard unionists complain justly that the reason the Newcastle dockyard has costed itself out of markets is that it has no modern resources- no modern technology- to build ships, unlike West Germany, Sweden, Japan or South Korea. There has been no reinvestment in the Newcastle dockyard for 10 years. Why has there been no reinvestment in that dockyard? It is a government dockyard and governments have not reinvested any money in it. It is a simple illustration of socialism in practice.
We have had 2 problems illustrated by Senator Gietzelt. One is the decayed economy in
Great Britain which cannot finance itself any longer. It has been living on the savings of past generations. It has exhausted the savings of past generations. It is no longer competitive in the world. It is a sad feeling that I and any honourable senator sitting in this House who derives paternally from Great Britain have when I see that the country which led the industrial revolution is now in its present state simply because of the besotted pursuit of a socialist objective. Having said that, I do not want to say any more about it. The issue was decided on 11 November and agreed to by the Australian people on 13 December 1975. They had had a gut full of socialism as practised by the Australian Labor Party. Any housewife can tell honourable senators opposite, if they will listen, the position when she went about trying to keep her family. Costs were rising day after day and week after week.
– Do you think it has stopped?
-No, but we are going to stop it. The only way to stop it is to reach an understanding in this country that the people who exist here can no longer enjoy the standard of living which they are justly entitled to expect unless we start to produce something that will enable us to maintain that standard of living. Senator Gietzelt conveniently forgets that I have lived in a time when people were very lucky even to have a job. If they had a job they probably got 30s, 45s or something of that order a week. We then had a population of about 7.3 million people. When the election of 1949 took place- it was equally as climacteric as the election of December last year- we set out as a Liberal Party and Country Party coalition to raise the standard of living in Australia by increasing to the maximum the wealth that this country was capable of producing. During our term of office- I make no apologies for repeating this- the population of Australia doubled and the standard of living increased about ten fold. However in21/2 years it was reduced almost to half of what it was when we began our efforts in 1951.
– I thought you were complaining about the workers getting too much money.
-I am not complaining about workers getting too much money; all I am saying is that suddenly in pursuit of a besotted concept which had no reality in economic terms this country was encouraged to believe it was a lucky country and that out in the
Brindabella mountains there was a cave filled with gold and anything else that was wanted and all that was necessary was to send a Treasury truck out to that cave to gather what was needed. The basic factors concerning the wealth that is created have been totally overlooked, destroyed or disregarded by the Labor Party.
Having rebutted in part in general terms the theories of Senator Gietzelt, I now turn my attention to the matters raised by Senator Wright. He said- it was proper he should say it- that when this country was brought into being as a national entity in a federal structure it was granted to the Parliament of this country under the Constitution the means by which money could be provided for the conduct of government- that is, through taxation. It was laid down in the Constitution how that money should be obtained. If Senator Gietzelt looks at section 53 of the Constitution he will find out how it is to be obtained. However, with certain restrictions the grant of money for the conduct of government services in this country is equally the responsibility of the Senate. It is not a single grant by the House of Representatives. It is a grant equally provided by the Senate. It is proper that I should remind honourable senators that the Senate cannot appropriate money. It cannot increase the taxation burden on the people; it cannot initiate an Appropriation Bill. Apart from those 2 simple restrictions the Senate has a co-equal right in the granting of money as has the House of Representatives.
- Mr Whitlam and Senator Murphy agree with that view.
-Senator Murphy, of course, agreed with it. However Senator Wright tonight raised another interesting matter. A large part of the money that is granted is granted in terms that maintain the constitutional requirement. The Senate cannot amend measures that relate to the ordinary annual services of government. All that Senator Wright was suggesting was that there had been so much misapplication of resources inside the ordinary services of the government that the Senate was approaching a situation in which it now has to begin to consider very seriously whether it should not start to make requests of the House of Representatives to look at the application of moneys that have been raised under Appropriation Bills for the ordinary annual services of the government. I cannot recall an occasion when the Senate has requested the House of Representatives to make a change in the ordinary annual services of the government so as not to increase the taxation burden on people but perhaps to reduce the burden that rests upon the backs of the taxpayers of Australia. The ordinary annual services of the government account for the largest portion of government expenditure.
Inside the parliamentary system we have created various methods by which Parliament should exercise and maintain control over the expenditure of public money. The Government has no right to public moneys. A government can have money for public purposes only if it applies to the Parliament for money. It is the Parliament that grants money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the conduct of government. Yet the largest portion of the expenditure of government relates to the area of the ordinary annual services of the government. There is an officer of the Parliament who is known as the Auditor-General who reports to the Parliament each year on matters in respect of which he considers the Government either has expended money not in accordance with law or has misapplied the resources which Parliament has voted to the Government. That is the function of the Auditor-General in very broad terms. Tonight Senator Wright quoted from the AuditorGeneral’s report to illustrate that the AuditorGeneral has pointed out to the Parliament areas in which he considers moneys appropriated for the ordinary annual services of the government have been inappropriately expended. I do not wish to involve myself in the hyperbole which Senator Wright applies to certain of these matters. In the context of the Auditor-General the Parliament has set up the Public Accounts Committee on which honourable senators as well as members of the House of Representatives sit. The interesting thing about the Public Accounts Committee is that it looks at the question of how money which has been appropriated by Parliament has been spent. In 1910 the total appropriation of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia was approximately £10m, whereas today this Parliament is asked by the government of the day to appropriate thousands of millions of dollars for the conduct of government. That money is spread all around the place. We give money to Papua New Guinea. Millions of dollars are given to the Papua New Guineans. The sum of $20m is given to the Fijians or to other South Pacific Islanders, and the sum of $20m is thrown away somewhere to support and sustain some weakening economy in some other part of the world. These sums of money are being expended today without any scrutiny by Parliament as to how they are to be spent. The Auditor-General and the Public Accounts Committee deal with the matter of how money was spent. The problem which faces the Parliament today is that it has to look at government and find out how government intends to spend money.
For this reason some few years ago the Senate embarked upon the tentative exercise of setting up Estimates Committees to look at the question of how government intends to spend the money. In other words, the Senate has taken another step. The Estimates Committees have been finding their way slowly through this murk of government financing, to discover accurately the intentions of government departments about how money is to be spent. This is meeting resistance. It is not meeting so much resistance from Ministers of State who always begin as earnest parliamentarians to their boot heels- a phrase which I once heard a Prime Minister apply to himself. They continue this way until the holy oil is put on their heads at Government House. Then they change from being parliamentarians to their boot heels to being Ministers of State to their boot heels, which is another matter altogether. I see one Minister of State smiling at me, and well may he smile. I see another Minister of State looking rather sour.
We have now reached the stage where the Senate is becoming very dissatisfied with the way in which the money provided for the ordinary annual services of the government is being spent. As I understand Senator Wright and other honourable senators on this side of the chamber, they are becoming concerned to look at some of the moneys that have been embedded year after year in the ordinary annual services of the government, which the Senate may not amend but in respect of which constitutionally it may request the House of Representatives to consider whether in fact the money should be authorised.
If I may be permitted I will tell a short story. I remember having dinner in a foreign capital one day with an ex-Minister of State who by any standard would be regarded as a very tough administrator. I asked him what was his experience as a Minister of State in controlling his departmental estimates. He replied that when an incoming Minister is discerned in the Commonwealth Gazette, having been sworn in by His Excellency the Governor-General of the day, the officers in the government department want to know what sort of a character he is. When they come to the conclusion that he is a tough administrator they then begin to shovel up to him at the first opportunity the departmental estimates. When the unfortunate Minister first sees the departmental estimates there has been an enormous increase in them, so he attempts to control this. He calls in his departmental officer who calls in his assistants, and they argue vehemently. The Minister says to his officers: ‘You must reduce those estimates by 10 per cent’. He had had only 3 days or 5 days to look at them. They argue about a reduction of 10 per cent. If one listens to what is said by the commissioners of the Australian Broadcasting Commission one knows that this sort of thing happened here in 1975 and 1976. Yet the new chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has said that this is a good idea, because suddenly there is a spirit of efficiency in the Commission which has not been experienced previously. But that is by the way. The ex-Minister of State, a man of great experience, told me that finally the Minister says: ‘We will reduce the estimates by 10 per cent’. He having overborne his departmental officer, the officer disappears out of the room. The exMinister said that one always thinks one can see a smirk on the officer’s face as he disappears through the door, because in fact he has successfully increased the estimates for the department by 5 per cent.
That story means that there is embedded in the Public Service a vested interest in maintaining rates of expenditure in areas which it considers proper for its own particular purposes, whereas Parliament, which is the source of the money, is unable in any way to provide a scrutiny of those ordinary annual services of the government. So because there is an inability on the part of a Minister of State to police effectively his own departmental estimates, the Parliament itself now has to start to look at the ordinary annual services of the government. I regret to say that such is the pressure of business upon the members of the other place that they have almost abandoned any scrutiny of the ordinary annual services of the government, which are the greatest element in the expenditure of money which Parliament appropriates for government purposes. So, as I have mentioned, the Senate in a very tentative way some years ago- mainly at the instigation of Senator Withers who is now the Leader of the Government in the Senate- began to look at this matter to see whether it was possible to exert some sort of control over the ordinary annual services of the government.
The Estimates Committees have worked very hard and are beginning to have an impact on the departments of State, because at least the officers who produce these estimates realise that finally an element of the Parliament, which is the source of the money, is beginning to scrutinise the ordinary annual estimates. It has to go further than that. The ex-Prime Minister, the Honourable E.
I add this note: Unless Parliament controls money Parliament is nothing. Parliament never was anything until Parliament took control of money. Parliament was nothing until it took control of the imposition of taxation. Parliament was nothing until it began to control the outgoings derived from taxation. Unless Parliament has that control Parliament is nothing, and the Executive Government is all. If the Executive Government of any nation is all, there is no democracy, there is a dictatorship. Therefore, in the latter part of the 20th century, the parliaments of the Western world or the derived Western world, such as North America and the western European countries, are beginning to realise that parliaments in the Anglo-Saxon concept anyway must begin to take a tight control of the expenditure of money- how it is derived and how it is spent. In Australia we are moving into that situation at present. Having said that Parliament is nothing without its control of the public purse, I add that the Senate is nothing unless it has an equal control of the public purse. The Constitution grants to this chamber an equal right with the House of Representatives with respect to money. The House of Representatives may originate a money Bill. It has the right to do so under the Constitution. Taxation, the supply of money or the appropriation for the Consolidated Revenue Fund is not lawful unless the Senate agrees to it.
The events of last year were of such a nature that finally the great club which has been in existence for 74 or 75 years had to be taken out, and the Senate had to use this weapon in order to bring sanity into the control of money in this country. I do not care what is said by jejune professors from various parts of the world who ensconce themselves like crows on the bough of some university branch. The facts of life are that this country knows that it needs a Senate. It knows it needs a Senate in order to control the extravagances of adventitious majorities from time to time in the House of Representatives. As long as I am a senator- for how long heaven only knows- the power and authority of this Senate will be exerted for good order and management of this country. That is the reason I sought your acknowledgement, Mr President, when I rose in my place tonight to defend the rights, powers, authority and integrity of this chamber of which I am a member.
-The comments which I shall make tonight refer to the question of staff ceilings in the Public Service and opportunities for employment of young people as apprentices and trainees and are related to some extent to what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack said. I shall use the evidence which was put before Estimates Committee F in respect of staff ceilings and how they affect 3 commissions to claim that the Government is not doing all it can about employment opportunities for the young. For many months in this place and in the other place members of my Party, including myself, have been arguing that Public Service ceilings inhibit the employment of young people. Not only that, they restrict and inhibit the efficiency of the various departments. The replies from the Government have always been that staff ceilings and cutbacks are there to make economies and that the Government will see that the opportunities for training are kept to the sort of requirement needed by the particular department. I have argued on the basis that if there is a need in Australia today it is a need to have skilled men available in the years to come. None of us, I suggest not even the most conservative member on the other side, would say that because there is reduced activity there should be a reduced requirement to train young people. I think the obligation should be to train the maximum number of skilled people.
I take up the point that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack raised earlier, which was rather a doomesday statement, about the years which preceded the last war when this country faced a dearth of skilled people. Everybody knew when the war started that there were many people whom we had to train in a hurried fashion. They were not as skilled as they might have been in the early stages of the war. Australia should be well aware of that requirement to keep apprentices trained and to take trainees into the Public Service even in a period of cutbacks. My point of view has been reinforced by the evidence put before Estimates Committee F, which was the only one I could attend. I have been arguing for many months that staff ceilings should be increased in many areas. Not only myself but the staff associations and the trade unions in the Public Service have been arguing that. I have pointed to the restrictions which have applied in many departments and in many statutory authorities. Perhaps I should direct the Senate’s attention to a question which I asked Senator Durack as Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). On 16 September I asked this question:
My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations is about unemployment but it refers particularly to the subject of reduced apprenticeship employment in government departments and statutory authorities resulting generally, I think, from the reduction in capital works programs and staff ceiling policies . . .
As it is now clear that some more positive steps are necessary to ensure the employment of more young people, particularly apprentices and appropriate trainees, will the Minister consult with his colleague with a view to lining staff ceilings in relation to the employment of young people . . .
That is the first proposition which I put to the Government. There is clearly an opportunity for the Government to do what the Labor Government did when it was in power and when it was facing an impending unemployment situation. We lifted the allowable ceilings in the awards to take in apprentices and asked all the Commonwealth departments and the State governments to take in more apprentices. By this action the Government would absorb many people from the unemployment pool and would be assured that those people would get training. The general answer has been: ‘Look, you must worry about the future when job opportunities may not be available when they have finished their training’. My answer, like that of the unions, is: ‘We should not anticipate a situation in which employment opportunities in Australia are so restncted that we cannot train the people necessary to have a competent work force’. Despite these regular questions and the answers by the Government that there is no impediment to the Public Service by imposing restrictions, recently I pointed out to Senator Withers what was in the Public Service Board’s annual report. The Minister replied that the report merely says that there is a point beyond which restraints may impede efficient administration. As the Public Service Board has said that, I ask the Government at what point does it say the efficiency of the Public Service administration will be impeded. The Public Service Board says it will be. I say there are opportunities for young people and something should be done. The Government has said: ‘Staff ceilings have been applied. There has been a reduction in the public works program. Generally departments are coping’. Only today the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) said exactly that.
I want to refer as quickly as I can to the evidence given before Estimates Committee F, firstly by representatives of the Trade Practices Commission. Senate Hansard of the Estimates Committees records at page 528 the following answer given by Mr McKeown to a question asked by me:
It is a fact, as Senator Bishop recalls, that in the second annual report of the Trade Practices Commission, which was tabled a month or so ago, there were some comments about the effect of staff ceilings. There were really 2 points: First of all, the commission was not really fully staffed up, or anything like it, when the staff ceilings were introduced, it being a comparatively new organisation. As a result, the staff ceiling had never got up to anything like the establishment that was originally approved. That figure was 243 and the maximum staffing was 228. As a result of staff ceilings, the present level of staffing is about 120. This has been achieved by tapering off recruiting at base levels, and this has an effect which concerns the Commission both for the present and for the future, because it is from recruiting at the base levels that future operational staff is trained. There is concern that not only are they not available now, but their absence will have a long-term effect. I think those are probably the matters which concern the Commission most.
On further questioning not only by me but also by Senator Jessop, who is not here tonight, we found that the same situation applied in the Industries Assistance Commission. You will recall, Mr President- of course the Minister will, because he has been concerned with this matterthat the Industries Assistance Commission has recently made reports on many matters, including the shipbuilding industry. We found on questioning representatives of the Commission that they have been suffering from the same problem resulting from staff cuts. Mr Koukoulas, who represented the Commission, said this in answer to a question from me, as reported at page 529 of Hansard of 1 2 October:
I think it is true to say that we have had some difficulty coping with the staff ceiling cuts that have been imposed over the last 1 5 or 1 8 months, to the extent that we have had to cut back on administrative support and technical support areas to cope with the level . . .
Later he supplied a written reply to further questions from me and my colleagues on the Committee. It appeared to us that maybe the Commission was impeded by not having a satisfactory establishment or sufficient consultants. In a written answer which was given to the Chairman of the Committee about expertise it was said:
In cases where the Commission does not have available sufficient background or detailed technical or specialist knowledge, it has sought to use consultants to supplement its available resources. Consultants are largely drawn from academic institutions and, from time to time, from industry.
This is what I want to emphasise:
This source of supplementary experience has been markedly affected by recent expenditure cutbacks.
Under our responsibility to examine the estimates of the Attorney-General’s Department we looked at the Australian Legal Aid Office. I asked a similar question of the departmental officer about the representation of officers throughout the States and cutbacks in staffing and representation. As recorded at page 544 of the Senate Hansard of 12 October, I said to Mr Harkins:
You refer to the fact that they are operating under very difficult conditions. While I do not want to press you too much, you also mention that in the case of 13 officers there is only one officer present. In your opinion, does that constitute a service which is satisfactory in the circumstances?
Mr Harkins, who represented the Australian Legal Aid Office, said:
It creates obvious difficulties. Where there is only one lawyer, he perforce will be confined primarily to the office and giving legal advice. It makes it almost impossible to provide a duty lawyer service at the local court, which is one of the functions of the office, or to provide any other handling of court cases. So it does create special difficulties . . .
If other senators on other committees put to officers of the departments the sorts of questions my colleagues and I put they would have found that that answer is typical of what is occurring today. It may be that in some departments the ceilings are satisfactory, but certainly the efficiency of some other departments is impaired. Most precisely, I want to argue that ceilings ought to be relaxed in respect of the employment of young people. So I return to the first proposition I made. One of the things which the Government can do now, apart altogether from the apprenticeship support schemes which have been tried to see if they can cure the problem, is immediately relax the apprenticeship intake targets in all departments to ensure that this country will have not only a reduction in the unemployment total as such but also a work force which is equipped with higher skills. I follow up this proposition. I hope that the Minister will again examine what I have stated in support of the general contention. The answer has been: ‘We do not intend to relax staff ceilings, only to see that certain minimum necessary requirements are met in relation to the employment of apprentices and trainees’. I think it is an acute situation. What was said today in the debate about Tasmania and what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack described as the general economic conditions which preceded the war years ought to remind us that in this country today employment certainly has been reduced by the effects of inflation, but we might still support essential industries such as the defence industries by telling departments to relax their targets to ensure that training can be made available to young people. That will certainly help the unemployment situation.
– I shall deal very briefly with many matters in my reply but only in the broad, not the specific. I want to pick up the comments of Senator Bishop. They are the only ones I shall deal with specifically, because I am very impressed with his general argument. I thought he might like to know that in the Department that I currently administer I have a responsibility for defence factories, where, as he would know as well as I would know, the work load is extremely low. I have already visited two of them recently and I will visit the others fairly soon. Specifically I have asked these direct questions: ‘How much could we improve your apprentice intake? What would you need to do to achieve that? Do you believe you would be capable of doing more than the norm in order to provide more skilled labour and give young people opportunities that they do not now have?’ The problem that has been put to me is that in order to overcome it as well as one might like we have to face the difficulty in some areas of giving people an adequate degree of apprenticeship training in what I call practical work as against theoretical work.
I have a substantial number of departmental people at work in this area myself because I respond to Senator Bishop’s argument. I believe there is a lot of validity in it. He has my assurance as the assurance of one person to another that I take his remarks seriously and I will do what I can to see to it that at least I can facilitate these matters to the best of my ability both in the particular scene in which I am involved and in the government scene. It may take time. One finds in these jobs that one cannot achieve the rate of progress that one would always like. There are lots of things to be done. There are immense pressures. I always find that the most skilled people in administering the departments for which Ministers are responsible have never been Ministers. Those people who hold those positions know that there are pressures and problems to overcome. But the intent is there to take serious notice of what honourable senators have said.
I think we will all agree that many of the speeches were completely irrelevant to most of the matters with which we are dealing. On the other hand, many relevant matters were raised. My practice has always been in relation to long debates such as this to see that the Hansard record is sent to the appropriate Ministers in the other place so that they can take action in relation to those matters which are raised specifically and which need particular attention. I cannot do better than that because, in the time limits available, that is the sort of thing which produces results most quickly.
I think most of the matters raised in this debate were matters that it would have been far more appropriate to raise during the Budget debate than during a debate on Appropriation Bills. I remind myself that there have been 35 speakers already during the Budget debate.
– We have not finished yet.
-For my part I thought honourable senators might like to know this because it is an attractive proposition now that we are approaching Christmas. I still have to deliver a fairly substantial speech in the Budget debate in reply to all past and potential speakers in the Budget debate. When that time comes- I am sure it will come before Christmas- we will no doubt put the amendment moved by the Labor Party. That will be defeated and the Budget will be carried. I think that can be regarded as almost a certainty, as Christmas is a certainty. The Budget will be carried by the Government. The Government was voted in by the people quite decisively, with a majority both in the House of Representatives and in this place. Those matters are inescapable.
We have been debating Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2 ). They are brought before the Senate so that the Senate can put under review the total expenditures proposed by the Government arising out of the Budget. Appropriation Bill (No. 1) deals with ordinary annual services and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) deals with capital works and services. The Senate has greater authority in relation to the latter area than it has perhaps in relation to the former. I do not in any way want to change the views expressed by Senator Wright and Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. We have examined carefully the proposed expenditures in our Estimates Committees. The reports of those Estimates Committees have been presented to the Senate. In due course we will consider them in the Committee of the Whole.
I listened with considerable care to the remarks of Senator Wright and Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. I have very considerable respect for the views that were expressed. I have always shared their concern, both in opposition and in government, to endeavour to expose extravagances and waste of public money in any area of government expenditure. Indeed, I think one might fairly claim that as a Minister and as a senator I have found the work of the Estimates Committees and of the Senate to be very helpful and of great value. I have particular knowledge of some matters which have been brought to the notice of the Government and which otherwise the Government might not have known about had the Senate not deliberated and examined these matters as carefully as it does. I hope that the work will continue. I hope it will grow. I do not see any particular problem in that regard. I see no objection to it. I see a great case for that work to go on in the style in which it has been going on. I hope that the Senate will continue to do that work by itself in the style that it has developed. I have been very happy to be associated with it and to have been either part of an examining committee or in the position of responding as a Minister. I know that many departmental officers have come before those Estimates Committees in the past rather fearful and rather concerned. Those with whom I have been associated have, after the experience, commented to me that they found it extremely valuable and they have not found the problems that many people thought they would.
I believe that as the years have passed the departments concerned and the Committees themselves have considerably improved their capacity to get material before the Estimates Committees. I was involved with the Estimates Committees when they were first established, as indeed was Senator Wright and many other honourable senators. I trunk that there has been a marked improvement in the manner in which the material now comes before the Estimates Committees compared with the way in which it came before the first Estimates Committees. I refer to such things as the identification of the data, the clear numbering of pages, the explanatory notes, the way in which the kinds of areas where people might be looking for extravagances are carefully explained. Equally the Committees themselves have rationalised their approach to the problem with the help of the Senate officials. All in all it seems to me to be a very well conducted and carefully constructed attempt to look at what is clearly and sensibly stated by both Senator Wright and Senator Sir Magnus Cormack to be the forward expenditure proposals as distinct from the past expenditure patterns. I think the Senate has done the Australian community and itself a great service in the way in which it has built itself up to this position. Therefore it has my full and earnest support, and it always will have.
As I said at the outset, we are now really engaged in the examination of the Appropriation Bills which deal with the expenditure proposals of the Government. That examination has been carried out in detail. The Bills have now come before the Senate, accompanied by the reports of the various Estimates Committees that have been tabled in the Senate. In that general spirit I suggest to my colleagues in the Senate that the time has now come for us to proceed to examine the whole of the expenditures in the Committee of the Whole.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) agreed to:
– I seek leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I believe that we are to begin by considering the departments examined by Estimates Committee A. That group of departments will be in the care of Senator Durack for the time being in the absence of Senator Withers. Senator Durack will be coming into the chamber fairly soon, but I shall reply in his absence to any areas that may be of interest to honourable senators.
– The Committee will now proceed to consider the votes in group A. Is it the wish of the Committee to consider the votes as a whole?
- Mr Temporary Chairman, it would assist us greatly if you were to identify the pages to which you are referring. I do not think we have any objection to considering the groups of departments as a whole, except that by doing so we may perhaps go backwards and forwards between the various departments. I think it would be better if we proceeded section by section. I think we can proceed through these estimates quickly. During the hearings of the Estimates Committees the proposed expenditures were examined in depth, although some of us will now be able to look at one or two items which are of particular interest to us and on which we consider we did not receive satisfactory answers previously. So I put it to you that you should identify the pages for the benefit of honourable senators and that we should proceed section by section.
– As I understand it, the Minister has circulated a document which puts into compartments the items in the Bill according to the groups in which we considered them in the Estimates Committees. I suggest, as we have resolved, that we consider the items in those groupings. When we start with group A I suggest we take the expenditures line by line so that, in the case of the Department of Administrative Services, we will deal with divisions 130 to 161 as is indicated on the document circulated. I suggest that for the purpose of consideration of these items in Committee it would be most conducive to the dispatch of business if we called on each matter line by line according to the index that the Minister has circulated. I think it would guide us all to the relevant parts of the Bill under discussion and not leave any of us hidebound by relevance.
– We will deal with the Estimates in accordance with the document which was circulated earlier today. For the present it would seem to me to be a very convenient and efficient arrangement if we took the Estimates line by line. The Committee will deal with divisions 130 to 161 which are on pages 13 to 28 of the Bill.
Department of Administrative Services.
Proposed Expenditure, $239,997,000.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I appreciate the ruling you have given on the way in which the Estimates shall be dealt with, but I had hoped that the Chairman of Senate Estimates Committee A, Senator Sim, would be here to make some explanatory remarks in the first instance in the Committee stage about the general overall content of the report of that Committee. There are matters of a general nature in that report which make it difficult for one to deal with if we proceed along the lines you have suggested, Mr Temporary Chairman, that is, to relate our remarks for the time being only to matters covered in divisions 130 to 161. 1 therefore seek your approval, Sir, and the approval of the Committee of the Whole to touch briefly on one or two matters in the report of Estimates Committee A before I come to the items that you have enumerated.
Firstly, I should draw the attention of the Committee to the remarks of Estimates Committee A as they relate to the administration of the Austraiian Electoral Office, to the use of computers within the Public Service generally and to the conservation of valuable collections. So far as the Electoral Office is concerned and the conservation of valuable collections, I think it will be found that those 2 matters come within the purview of the Department of Administrative Services under divisions 130 to 161 inclusive. In referring to the Electoral Office I draw the attention of this Committee to the remarks of Estimates Committee A commencing on page 3 of its report. I think I speak on behalf of all members of Estimates Committee A when I say that all of the officers from all of the departments who came before that Committee did their utmost to answer the multiplicity of questions that were asked. I note that Senator Sim is now in the chamber, for which I am most grateful. It is pointed out in the report of Estimates Committee A that during the examination of the estimates for the Electoral Office the Committee was informed by the officers that approval had been given by the Public Service Board to the Electoral Office for 25 additional positions to be created in the Electoral Office to cope with the anticipated- I emphasise the word ‘anticipated’ increased workload flowing from union ballots to be conducted by the Electoral Office. But in the explanatory notes relating to the administration of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, under which the provision included for industrial ballots and other miscellaneous elections is retained at the same amount as for the previous year, it was stated:
Because of the lack of any basis for estimation at this stage, no provision has been included in this Item for increased costs likely to result from the recently introduced legislation offering industrial organisations the right to have the Australian Electoral Office conduct ballots for their offices at Government expense. Similarly there has been some recent increase in the number of such ballots being requested under present legislation but no basis exists for estimation of the likely extent of further growth in these requests. .
When I went further into the explanatory notes and the reasons being given by the officers it appeared that 25 additional positions were being created to carry out additional work within this area but the vote for the work in question was being reduced by $109,000. It seemed strange to me, and I think to my colleagues on the Estimates Committee, that here was a situation in which approval had been given by the Public Service Board for 25 positions to be created to cater for additional work to be carried out but no one could say with precision what type of workload might be involved in those 25 positions nor indeed how much this would cost. Rather than leave the old estimate which previously appeared to cover the additional work the vote in fact was reduced by $ 109,000. As the Estimates Committee has said in its report:
The Committee draws attention to this matter as an example of a situation which can develop whereby an impression of saving can be given, (in this case $109,000) when in fact there are clearly going to be additional costs arising directly from recently passed legislation. The estimated increased activity in this case has given rise to an approved increase in staff positions, to which staff are being recruited, but apparently no comparable estimate has been possible in respect of the other costs involved.
We suggest that in preparing future estimates the Department should give these matters more detailed consideration so that there will be a balance, as it were, between the appointment of the additional officers and the provision of money for them to carry out their work.
Having said that, I now go to the remarks of Estimates Committee A on the use of computers. A lot of evidence was adduced from officers of the Public Service Board concerning the use of computers throughout the Public Service generally. Indeed one need only refer to the annual report of the Public Service Board. Under the heading ‘Automatic Data Processing’ there is a long explanation on page 40 concerning computers and privacy, and the Mandata system. In short, I think it was found that the Mandata system was approved of as long ago as 1973. The first phase of it was expected to be installed in 1976 but it is still causing difficulties. I draw to the attention of the Committee of the Whole the statement by Estimates Committee A concerning the use of computers. I regard this as a very important statement:
The attention of the Committee was directed on a number of occasions to the use of computers within the Public Service. Although the Committee has been informed that the Public Service Board monitors the use of computers in the various departments, with a view to ensuring the integrated, maximum usage of the equipment, the Committee recommends that the Senate should consider referring the subject of Public Service computer use to one of its Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees for inquiry and report. In making this recommendation the Committee is conscious that such a follow-up investigation might, with benefit, become an established practice in the Senate. Following recommendations of Estimates Committees in 1973 and 1974 the Senate referred the question of the ‘ordinary annual services of the government’ to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and that Committee considered and reported upon the subject It appears logical and sensible that matters arising from Estimates Committee deliberations should form the bases for such further Standing Committee examination, and the continuation of the practice warrants the consideration of the Senate.
In short, what the members of the Senate Estimates Committee are saying there is that, as a result of the examination of officers who gave evidence to the Senate Estimates Committee, it was felt that there was a need for a more thorough and detailed investigation and inquiry by a Senate Standing Committee other than that which could be given to it at the time by the Senate Estimates Committee. A lot of public expenditure is involved with computers within the Public Service. It may be, and prima facie it appears to me, that a computer within a government department has somewhat the same status as an LTD motorcar. It can be said: ‘If you have one, you are in business; the bigger the one you have, the bigger the business you are in’. Prima facie that appears to me to be the situation. I think that it is deserving of closer consideration by a Senate Standing Committee. The recommendation of the Estimates Committee of which Senator Sim was the Chairman- I would prefer him to be making this speech now- was that the Committee of the Whole of the Senate should consider referring the subject of Public Service computer use to one of its legislative and general purpose committees.
The other matter on which I must touch briefly is the last item- the conservation of valuable collections. Unquestionably and undeniably, on evidence given to the Estimates Committee by officers of the Australian War Memorial and by officers of the National Library, there is a great dearth of well-trained and experienced conservators in Australia. Unless action is taken by government immediately to overcome this dearth of trained conservators, this nation could well lose hundreds of millions of paintings, historical documents, records and all those other objects that go to make up the collection of the history of a nation. The recommendation is that this matter is of such national importance that something should be done to establish a specialised training school in this area and that the matter should be drawn to the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers), the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and the Public Service Board. The Estimates Committee believes that something must be done but it is not quite sure what should be done. Whether conservators can be imported from abroad or whether steps can be taken to have suitable people trained in Australia is something that should be considered as a matter of urgency.
I notice that my time is just about completed and I know that my colleagues Senator McLaren and Senator Sibraa wish to relate other matters to the Committee of the Whole. Having made those initial comments on the report of Senate Estimates Committee A, I wish to commend the officers of the various departments who came before the Committee and gave us every possible assistance.
– I wish to apologise to Senator Douglas McClelland for not being here when the debate started. No discourtesy was intended on my part, and as soon as I found that the debate had commenced I came into the chamber. I would like to make a few general comments and one or two in support of what Senator Douglas McClelland has said. He read the recommendation of Senate Estimates Committee A concerning the use of computers. I think that we should look at that recommendation in connection with the recommendation from Senate Estimates Committee F, as follows:
The Committee agrees with the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System that the scrutiny function of Estimates Committees could be enhanced and made more effective by providing them with both a full-time function and full-time staff.
Here, Senate Estimates Committee F was looking at a continual scrutiny by Senate Estimates Committees of government expenditure. I think it is true to say that the members of Estimates Committee A would not oppose such a view. In fact we believe that it is the ultimate objective. Certainly I feel that until such time as the problems of expert staffing and the time involved for honourable senators are solved there has to be an intermediate step. I am sure that these problems will be solved. The intermediate step may be that the Estimates Committee should refer to the legislative and general purpose standing committees specific problems which arise within its deliberations. This happened in 1973 and 1974, as Senator Douglas McClelland mentioned, when the question of the ordinary annual services of the government were referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. In due course that Committee considered the reference and reported to the Senate.
As Senator Douglas McClelland has said so clearly and so correctly, Senate Estimates Committee A felt that there should be an examination of the use of computers within the Public Service. It is proper at this time for a Senate standing committee to examine such an important matter. I think that we should pursue this question. It seems to me to be a sort of intermediate step which Senate Estimates Committees should take until such time as the Senate feels that it is in a position to exercise the ultimate function- the constant and continuous supervision of government expenditure.
Senator Douglas McClelland also mentioned the conservation of valuable collections. I will say no more on that question because I know that my colleague Senator Knight, who has a particular interest in this matter, wishes to say something about it. The other matter to which I wish to refer is the recommendation from Senate Estimates Committee A of last year, that the explanatory notes should be made available at the time of the Budget so that the Estimates Committees would have ample time to consider them, to meet in private session and to indicate to the departments those areas of particular interest to the Committee. We felt that this idea had 2 merits. Firstly, we could expect to receive clearer and better answers to our questions. Secondly, it would be a saving of time and expense. Over the years we have noted that a large number of departmental officers attend Estimates Committee hearings. I do not know what percentage of them answer questions but I suspect that it would be fairly small.
Many hours were taken up with officers in attendance who probably could have been engaged far better than sitting in the Senate chamber. This did not in any way- and we made this clear- inhibit members of the Committee or members of the Senate in pursuing other matters. I note that Estimates Committee F was rather critical of this procedure. The members seemed to believe that if Estimates committees meeting privately had indicated to departments areas of interest, that would inhibit members pursuing other areas of interest. This was never intended and in fact never happened. In Estimates Committee A members did question in other areas, but we made the point that if we went outside these areas it may well have been that we would not get as full an answer as we would normally get but as long as those answers were provided to the Committee in time, senators could pursue the matters further in Committee of the Whole. But in fact I think our experience was very satisfactory. In our report, in commenting upon the system we stated in paragraph 4:
While it is recognised that this system may not have operated as fully or as effectively as possible on this first occasion, this Committee holds firmly to the view, expressed in its last report, that the new procedures will greatly improve the Estimates Committee operation.
I think we made the point very clearly that responsibility for this improvement in effectiveness must be shared by all participating senators and departmental witnesses. If this Committee’s recent experience is a reliable guide, it is likely that the new procedure will prove successful. We do not claim that the procedures were 100 per cent effective this time but we believe the experiences we gained and other committees gained will make them more effective next time. But there is no intention- and there should not be any intentionof inhibiting members of the Estimates committees or other senators from pursuing other areas of interest. We believe that the overall effectiveness of this has been proved and that if we continue with this experiment- and it was only an experiment which we found, I think unanimously on Estimates Committee A, was successful; not as successful of course as we would all have hoped, but it was successfulgaining the new experience will make it more successful in the future.
I do not think there is much more I wish to comment upon except one matter; that is, that we believe that in the attendance of departmental officers there were not enough senior officers present whom we could expect to answer most questions. I think in the case of one department which had some 45 or 50 officers present there was only one first assistant secretary.
– Did the head of the department have the courtesy to turn up at any stage?
– No, he did not turn up. There was only one first assistant secretary. We felt that if departments would send more senior officers we could expect those officers to be able to answer most questions. I think this is desirable not only from the point of view of the Senate but also from the point of view of the departments. We make the point that perhaps next year we will see an improvement in this area. Indeed, I think it would assist Ministers if the most senior officers possible were present. I do not exclude the secretary of the department or at least his deputy from being present either.
Supporting what Senator Douglas McClelland has said in the areas in which he has commented, and supporting what Senator Wright has said tonight and also what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has said, I think it is the objective we must seek and achieve very quickly because whatever side of the Senate we sit on, I think the ultimate objective and the whole purpose of the Parliament is that there must be proper scrutiny and control of government expenditure. Perhaps as Senator Sir Magnus Cormack pointed out we are still groping but we are improving and with more experience I believe that the Estimates committees, with the Public Accounts Committee and with the new Expenditure Committee of the House of Representatives- all of which have different roles as has been pointed out tonight- will enable the Parliament to achive the ultimate, and that is parliamentary control, not executive control, upon government expenditure.
Despite the rhetoric which may occur from one side of the chamber to the other I do not believe there is any disagreement on the opposite side of the chamber to this ultimate objective. With those few general comments and in support of what Senator Douglas McClelland has said I conclude my remarks. I believe that we must continue to seek the ultimate and until we have achieved that, if we ever do, this Parliament has not achieved its ultimate function.
– I do not disagree with the comments that have just been made by Senator Sim about the procedures that were adopted by Estimates Committee A but I should like to carry on with some of the remarks that were made by my colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland, dealing with division 133 of the Estimates for the Australian Electoral Office. Even though I raised some questions on these matters I think that something further should be added at this time. When one looks at division 133 one sees that the appropriation for 1976-77 is approximately $ 10.5m as opposed to last year’s expenditure of $15m. I realise that an election of either the House of Representatives or this chamber is not scheduled for this year so naturally there would be a reduction. But the matter that I wish to raise tonight is the electoral provisions for election of senators and therefore the departmental costs involved as dealt with in division 133. As honourable senators would know, I was elected as the tenth senator from New South Wales after the first complete recount that has taken place since the present system was introduced in 1948. Whilst the electoral legislation was probably suitable in 1948, I am of the opinion that it is badly in need of reform in 1976. Therefore I was amazed when earlier this year on 16 March Senator Baume directed a question without notice on this matter to the Minister for Administrative Services. Senator Baume asked:
My question, which is directed to the Minister Tor Administrative Services, relates to the recent election for 10 senators for New South Wales in which there was an initial count and a recount. Is it a fact that on a recount of almost 2.8 million votes only some 10 000 votes changed hands? Did the majority for, the successful candidate for the last Senate seat in° New South Wales change only from 800 to some 2000 votes in the recount? Is this not a tribute to officers of the Australian Electoral Office in New South Wales and to the Chief Electoral Officer for the State, Mr L. Noble, for the way in which the count and recount were conducted? Is it not a statement of confidence in the system under which Senate ballots are conducted in this country?
I shall not quote what Senator Withers replied as it would take the time of the Senate but briefly what Senator Withers said was that he agreed with the suggestions contained in Senator Baume ‘s question. I do not argue about the capacity of the electoral officers; what I do argue is that the system of election to the Senate at the moment places undue and needless strain on the staff of the Australian Electoral Office. At the last election in 1975 and previously in 1974 they were confronted with a huge task in determining which candidates would be successful in the Senate poll not only in New South Wales but also in other States. I question the cost of employing the additional staff. I also question the competence of that staff in a very difficult task. These people are employed in a temporary capacity to perform a very difficult task at a tremendous cost.
The last Senate recount in New South Wales was of particular importance to everybody who sits in this chamber. It was not just the fact that 2 counts took place; it was the fact that 3 counts took place. There was the original count, that is, the preliminary count following the elections; then there was a recheck that took place over the Christmas holiday period; and, finally, as I said there was the first full recount under this system since 1948. The recount eventuated because Senator Cotton asked the electoral officer in New South Wales for a recount to take place. I do not blame Senator Cotton for doing this. I would have done so too if I had been the candidate defeated by 854 votes, as I think the result was at that stage. I happen to be the one who won, as Senator Lajovic knows. I do not blame Senator Cotton for seeking that recount. Although Senator Baume says that only 10 000 votes changed hands, I think the system under which we are operating needs an overhaul. The 10 000 votes to which Senator Baume referred were nearly all additional informal votes. Approximately 4500 votes were taken from the Liberal-Country Party total, 3600 were taken from the Australian Labor Party and 300 were taken from the Socialist Workers League which had been the recipient of the donkey vote. I submit that actually many more votes changed hands. A document entitled Election Statistics for New South Wales was given to all honourable senators recently. It shows that in the recount it was found that votes had been credited to the wrong candidates. I had scrutineers ringing me up and saying that a bundle of 50 or 100 votes credited to the LiberalCountry Party should have been mine, and vice versa. Of course these tended to cancel out when we consider New South Wales as a whole.
As I said, many more than 10 000 votes were involved. Also when we are talking about 10 000 informal votes that were wiped out, we have to consider that scrutineers reported that many informal votes that originally were put out of the ballot were then put back into the ballot. So we are talking about a figure much larger than the figure to which Senator Baume referred. When we consider that the final vote which elected the last senator, who happened to be myself, showed a majority of 2016, those 10 000 plus votes tend to assume rather critical significance. I submit again that if the votes were recounted today the totals would probably be altered because of the near impossible task given to the officials of the Australian Electoral Office in scrutinising the votes of 53 candidates in the Senate election in 1975 and, perhaps even worse, the votes for 73 candidates who stood for New South Wales in 1 974.I think it should be mentioned also that because there was a complete recount there was also a new random sample. Again I submit that even if not one additional informal vote had been found, if not one wrong vote had been found credited to any candidate, the result must have been different because of our system of counting with random sample.
Any procedure that involves a ballot on 13 December 1975, the counting for which is not completed until 6 February 1976, certainly must be in need of review. I say that the task of governing Australia is far too important to be delayed for months on end while polls are finalised. I think it is quite relevant that these matters should be discussed today when one considers the United States Presidential elections. Although the people of the United States went to the polls only yesterday or early this morning Australian time, probably nearly all the votes for governors and senators have been counted, and with perhaps 80 million votes to be counted, the new President of the United States is probably known. Yet here in Australia, as I said, we waited from 13 December 1975 until 6 February 1976 to get the decision for one senator in our Parliament. I think the main cause for this delay stems from our exhaustive preferential system of voting.
If there is to be electoral reform, I think we should eliminate the system we have at the moment and go for optional preferential voting. The book on election statistics that was given out in this place the other day showed a farcical situation in that the preferences of the Social
Workers League, which is a Trotskyite organisation, drifted to the Liberal-Country Party because of its position on the ballot paper and because the people in New South Wales were forced to fill out 53 squares. If we look at the donkey vote and at those statistics, we find that 22 230 votes drifted directly across to the Liberal Party. But in fact the drift was much more than that because 2302 votes went to the Family Action Movement, 474 went to the Democratic Labor Party and 233 went to the Workers Party. This meant that the donkey vote was over 25 000 in New South Wales at that last election. I think one can reliably conclude from this evidence that at least 25 000 of the voters in New South Wales at the last Senate poll were intent on and serious about filling out their ballot paper but saw a lengthy and confusing ballot paper placed in front of them and tried to fill it out as quickly as possible and still comply with the Electoral Act.
This is one of the things I am questioning. They did not have any real desire to vote for the Socialist Workers League; they just wanted to fill out that ballot paper. As I said, perhaps 25 000 people voted in that way. But from scrutineers’ reports I have received it appears that supporters of both major parties, that is, the LiberalCountry Party and the Australian Labor Party, made serious mistakes on the allocation of preferences on their ballot papers with the result that the donkey vote was much more than 25 000. I remember that when the LiberalCountry Party ticket came out I thought it was a very good ticket because on the ticket they had the House of Representatives candidates on the lefthand side and the Senate candidates on the righthand side. My scrutineers reported that some hundreds, possibly thousands, of people in New South Wales went down the House of Representatives side of the ticket and then went to the Senate side, making their vote informal. This cost the Government Parties thousands of votes.
– We wanted to have you here, senator. It got you here.
– But the Australian Labor Party also made a mistake. Because of ideological preferences we left the Workers Party until last. This meant that people moved across the ballot paper to the righthand side, came back to the lefthand side and finished their votes with the Australian Labor Party. They thought they had completed their ballot paper whereas, of course, they had not done so- they had left a blank column. I would say that some thousands of people did this. So both sides certainly paid, and I suppose both political parties will look at this again in the future.
If we go for an optional preferential system I think we would reduce the informal vote which the figures show amounted to 9.7 per cent. The vast number of informal votes I have talked about did show a clear intention to vote for one party or the other. Those voters, I feel, were disqualified unnecessarily. Malcolm Mackerras, who is regarded is something of an expert in these matters, has mentioned informal voting. Quite recently in a book he stated:
The present Senate voting system discriminates against migrants and poorly educated people- and this should concern all of us.
I agree. I think the Australian Labor Party could have won the sixth Senate seat in New South Wales in 1974 and altered the course of Australian history, it it had not been for the complicated Senate ballot paper. If we go back also to 1974 and look at the Queensland ballot paper, we find that my colleague who now sits in this place, Senator Mal Colston, would probably h ave been elected had it not been for these extreme measures that are needed to fill out the ballot paper.
A number of things have been raised about what should be done in a Senate election. It has been suggested that the deposit required of Senate candidates should be raised to $1,000, This would eliminate some of the nonsense candidates who appeared in 1974 and in the last Senate election. It has been suggested also- I think Senator Mulvihill has raised this matter in the Senate before- that in order to be nominated a person should have a certain number of nominators from every Federal electorate division in New South Wales. As I said earlier, I think optional preferential voting should be introduced. Probably one other point at which the Australian Electoral Office and the Minister should look at is the confusion that arises from the fact that people do not know when looking at a complicated ballot paper for which party they are voting. I think that party affiliations could be shown on the ballot paper. This would help everybody. More than 40 countries now follow this practice, including West Germany, Austria, Italy and Ireland. They show the names of parties on the ballot paper and therefore cut the informal vote. This practice, if followed, would particularly assist migrants.
Regarding the Department of Administrative Services, as Senator Douglas McClelland has already mentioned, we should be looking at computers. At the same time I think we should be investigating the use of voting machines. Again I do not want to dwell on what is happening in the United States of America today but it is an example of how millions of votes can be computed quickly. I raise this issue because of my concern about the cost involved in not only a recheck but also a recount of the Senate vote. I feel that the present system becomes so complicated that it is not understood by the vast majority of voters or, for the reasons I have stated, becomes something of a lottery in a close contest. Not only does the system come into disrepute but also the reputation -
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I refer briefly to the need to examine and improve the role of the Estimates committee system in this Senate. In doing so I compliment my colleague, Senator Wright, on the way in which he described the responsibility of the Senate to exert a continuing oversight of the expenditure of government departments. I also compliment Senator Sir Magnus Cormack on his support of what Senator Wright had to say. I think it appropriate to discuss the function of Estimates committees at this particular stage when we are dealing with the report of Estimates Committee A which includes the estimates of the Parliament. In the report of Estimates Committee F emphasis was placed on this matter. A week or so ago Senator Rae presented that report in the Senate and highlighted matters related to this aspect. I note that Senator Sim also referred to it in the report of Estimates Committee F. It was agreed that the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System regarding the scrutiny functions of Estimates committees could be enhanced and made more effective by providing them with a full time function and a full time staff. The importance of the continuing role of Estimates committees was also pointed out. The report of Estimates Committee F stated:
The Senate’s attention is particularly drawn to the fact that the sum of the Special Appropriations in 1975-76 ($1 1,424,350,000) was 36 per cent greater than for Appropriation Bills (Nos 1-4) 1975-76 ($8,288,738,000) and the Advance to the Treasurer ($69,077,000). To formally refer Special Appropriations to the Estimates Committees would, the Committee considers, enable the Senate to maintain a constant, better and wider surveillance in this area of expenditure from the public purse.
This has been referred to time and time again and we have highlighted in the Senate the need to examine the appropriations to special authorities as well. Therefore it is my view that it should be our responsibility as a House of review to exert a continuing oversight of all government expenditure. This would be particularly so if we adopted the recommendation of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System that the Senate should no longer participate in the Public Accounts Committee. Clause 176 of that report states:
Retention of Senate estimates committees provides balance of scrutiny as the Senate would no longer participate in the Public Accounts Committee. The examination of estimates, line by line, is not the main task of the proposed Public Administration Committee. There is therefore a clear and complementary role for the Senate estimates committees.
Clause 180 states:
It is proposed that estimates committees of the Senate be appointed for the duration of a Parliament and that sections of the Appropriation Bills be referred to them from time to time at the discretion of the Senate. It is also proposed that, although time limits must necessarily be placed on the reporting of the estimates contained in Appropriation Bills, there should be a total continuing examination of government funded authorities which are not Departments of State.
I have been a member of the Senate for a number of years now and I have overheard officers of departments after being examined by estimates committees heaving sighs of relief upon leaving the examination room and commenting with obvious elation that they were not asked to follow up questions on matters raised which almost exposed discrepancies in the way moneys had been expended by various departments. Senator Wright exposed one or two matters referred to in the Auditor-General’s report. He highlighted mismanagement and carelessness which typified the reign of the Whitlam Labor Administration. He referred to extravagances of expenditure on hovercraft services in the Torres Strait and the escalating cost of a national gallery from $1 lm to the order of $26m or $27m. He also highlighted the expenditure of $71,000 unnecessarily on rental of offices for the Australian Legal Aid Office.
I suggest that if Senate Estimates committees had research staff on a full time basis they would benefit. This would not require an inordinately large number of additional staff. It occurs to me that members of the Senate and the Parliament should not be beholden to the Executive for the staffing required to perform their duties here. I have always maintained that the Senate and the House of Representatives- the Parliament itself- should be masters of their own destiny. I do not think it is a great request to expect that staff should be supplied to us to enable us to perform our duties in a more effective manner. If we were able to provide Estimates committees with permanent staffing this would provide the members of those committees with the back-up support necessary to enable them to deal more effectively with departmental estimates. If that were done the departments would not be able to bluff their way through as they do from time to time at committee examinations. I think that the knowledge in the departments that this support was provided to us would certainly make the departmental officers far more careful about their expenditure. Perhaps it would be a good idea for the Estimates Committees to be given the power to send for persons, papers and records. I think Senator Georges alluded to this matter last night when he spoke on this subject. I think he suggested- I do not want to quote his speech because I do not want to advertise him too muchthat our Estimates Committees ought to be given far greater powers to call for papers, persons, etc., in order to enhance the operations of this committee work. It may well be that the Standing Orders Committee ought to consider making some amendment to the Standing Orders to provide for that facility.
The unfortunate facts are that the Estimates Committees look, as I have said previously, at only $8,000m-odd out of a total expenditure of $23,000m. We hold only very brief hearings and we have no real effective research support staff. Because of the way in which the Estimates Committees are now constituted, we find ourselves in a position where we cannot ascertain very much. I think it is quite significant that in the committee system as it is presently constituted, we are dealing with only a very small percentage of the whole gamut of government expenditure. The Appropriation Bills are listed here. I shall cite one example connected with education. The sum of $3 80m is appropriated. Yet if we look in the special appropriations for the Department of Education we find sums in excess of $540m. There is another quite considerable sum.
– I raise a point of order Mr Chairman. I seek your clarification as to whether we are dealing with the whole of these Appropriation Bills or whether we are to abide by what was stated previously by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, that we would deal with divisions 130 to 161 under the Department of Administrative Services. Senator Jessop has ranged over a wide field and now he is getting onto education, which is not in these divisions.
– Speaking to the point of order, if I may, Mr Chairman, I am speaking to a line concerned with Parliament which I understand is included in the report of Committee A. Is that not correct?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Before I took the Chair I understand that the Committee had agreed to deal with these estimates line by line. At present we are dealing with pages 13 to 28 of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1), divisions 130 to 161. The item with which Senator Jessop is now dealing is outside those divisions. I have allowed him to continue, but I intended to remind the Committee when he sat down that we were dealing with divisions 130 to 161. Senator McLaren has taken a point of order. I must uphold it. I think it would be in the interests of the Committee if you, Senator Jessop, were to finish what you are saying now, and then we will move onto the other items.
– I thank you for your consideration, Mr Chairman. I think I have made my point. I will resume my seat, hoping that the Committee will take note of the need to improve the functioning of the Estimates Committees.
– I point out to the Committee that as Senator McLaren has pointed out, we are dealing with divisions 1 30 to 1 6 1 .
– Under the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services I wish to refer to a matter which was canvassed in the Senate tonight by Senator Wright. He referred to unoccupied premises.
-It is rent under the Department of Administrative Services.
– What item number? You took a point of order. What item number?
- Mr Chairman, you did not ask Senator Jessop to itemise the items.
– Order! With what item are you dealing?
– I am dealing with divisions 130 to 161 in the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services which is responsible for the renting of government premises.
– No. Division 250 refers to rent.
– No, division 250 refers to defence premises. I am dealing with rent which comes within the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services.
– You are dealing with divisions 1 30 to 1 6 1 . You are in order. Proceed.
– This evening Senator Wright made great play about the wastage of government space under the Whitiam Government. I wish to take the opportunity now to refer to the report of the Auditor-General for 197 1-72. It refers to the Department of the Interior which, when we became the Government, was changed to the Department of Services and Property. When dealing with the Department of Interior, the report of the Auditor-General for 1971-72, at page 365 under the heading ‘Delay in Occupancy of Leased Premises’, states:
An audit review of the occupancy of premises leased by the Commonwealth disclosed instances in 3 States where delays had occurred, or were anticipated, from the commencement of the period of the lease to the date of actual occupation.
– When was that?
– That was when Senator Wright was in government. But he came in here tonight and castigated the Whitlam Government. The only figure that he could quote was an amount of $76,000 which had been provided for officers in the Legal Aid Service. Yet the report of the Auditor-General which was presented while Senator Wright’s Government was in power disclosed instances in 3 States where delays had occurred in the occupancy of premises.
– It only reinforces my argument.
– Yes, but the honourable senator emphasised that the Whitlam Government was the only government which had made these mistakes or had unoccupied premises. I am pointing out to him that it happened under his Government but, as far as I can ascertain, he never criticised his Government then. He waited until 1976 to come in and criticise the Whitlam Government. Why did he not do it previously? He was a Minister. Probably there were some unoccupied premises in his own Department. The report of the Auditor-General continues:
The Department of the Interior, as the Department responsible for the management of Commonwealth office accommodation -
As I have said, it is now the Department of Administrative Services- has advised that it is aware of the need to reduce delays in occupation of buildings to a minimum. Attention has been given to its internal method of handling accommodation matters and the Department stated that a series of regular meetings with the Department of the Treasury had commenced.
The total process for leasing, funding, planning and preparation of premises for occupancy involves a number of departments -
Of course, no doubt Senator Wright’s Department was one of those at that time- and the extent of delays indicates that current procedures for overall co-ordination of effort are inadequate.
We had to wait nearly 5 years for Senator Wright to get up in this place and make an issue of this. The report continues:
Accordingly, Audit has suggested to the Department of the Interior that there is a need for a comprehensive review of current methods and procedures. The Department recently advised that action is currently being taken to ensure that delays in the occupancy of leased premises will be reduced to a minimum.
That is what is stated in the report of the AuditorGeneral 1 97 1 -72. 1 come now to the report of the Auditor-General for 1972-73, which would have taken in 6 months of the Government of which Senator Wright was a member, and 6 months of the Government of which I was a supporter. At page 348, under the heading ‘Delay in Occupancy of Leased Premises’, that report states:
Paragraph 3 13 of the 1971-72 Report -
That is the report from which I have just quoted- referred to instances where delays had occurred, or were anticipated, from the commencement of the period of the lease of premises to the actual date of occupancy. The Joint Committee of Public Accounts inquired into this matter on 2 August 1973.
During 1 972-73 further instances of delays were noted.
Why did Senator Wright wait all this time when this was going on under his Government? He was made aware of it by the Auditor-General in 1971-72. He obviously took very little action to rectify the position. It might be very difficult to do it. Perhaps it is. While the officers are present tonight I would like them to provide the Committee, if they can, with details of the leasing of unoccupied premises, say for the last 5 years. If they cannot give that information tonight, they might give it at a later date. What departments were involved? What was the cost? I am being very generous to the previous Government by asking for information for only 5 years, because I could go back further than that. Perhaps I should go back 6 years. Then we would have 3 years of each government.
– How relevant is that?
– It is very relevant because Senator Wright tonight, as Senator Rae knows, made an issue of it. His whole purpose was to make out that the Whitlam Government was irresponsible in leasing premises and then not occupying them. The Auditor-General’s report states that that was not so. It clearly points out that this was occurring under the previous Government.
I turn now to a matter which I raised under the Department of Administrative Services, division 130- Administrative. During the discussions of
Estimates Committee A I raised a matter concerning the Commonwealth Railways. As reported at page 8 of the Estimates Committee Hansard of 16 September I asked:
Is it possible to get some details of surveys that have been carried out for the Commonwealth Railways?
What sort of details are you looking for, Senator?
Work that has been carried out; whether it is in respect of surveys for further construction or destruction.
I had in mind that a survey may have been done to uproot the Northern Australian railway line from Larrimah to Darwin which has been closed by this Government. Mr Kennedy, one of the officers, replied:
Yes, we can get that information for you, Senator.
I said: ‘Thank you’. Looking through the report of Estimates Committee A, I see that that information was not contained in the report.
– Has it come subsequently?
-No, I have not got it. I am very concerned to know what surveys have been carried out in respect of Commonwealth Railways, in particular the surveys on the Tarcoola-Alice Springs line. I want to know whether the Commonwealth Government has carried out a survey to curtail the length of the line or to curtail the progress of it or, as has been said in many quarters, to curtail the quality of the line- that is, to reduce it to a lower base rail standard so that it will not carry traffic as heavy as it was designed to carry although the construction of it was commenced under the Whitlam Government in accordance with that design. This is of great concern to me as a South Australian. It should be of concern to Senator Kilgariff too because he is a territorian senator.
– It was commenced by a Liberal-Country Party Government.
-It was not.
– It was funded by a LiberalCountry Party Government.
– It might have been funded by a Liberal-Country Party Government, but the construction was started by the Labor Government. It is very interesting to know, now that Senator Wright has interjected, that the opening of that line was boycotted just as the laying of the foundation stone of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority was boycotted by all Liberal and Country Party members except the Country Party member for the Northern Territory, Mr Calder. Not one other Liberal or Country Party parliamentarian, except the State member for Eyre, Mr Gunn, attended the opening of the line. I was there. I had a close look. I asked in the Senate a week before the opening whether the then Opposition would carry out the same exercise as it carried out at the opening of the Snowy Mountains Authority when senators opposite boycotted that venture because it was a Labor Government enterprise. We had started the construction. Low and behold, no one from the other side of politics turned up except Mr Calder and Mr Gunn. The then Government was well represented. Senator Cavanagh, Senator Bishop, Laurie Wallis, the member for Grey and I were there.
This is the reason that I hope the officers can supply me, before this Bill is passed, with information as to what will happen to the construction of this railway line which is of vital importance to the people who live in the area. It is of vital importance to the defence of this country. We hear a lot about defence from senators opposite, but they are taking away 1 method of defending this country by leaving us with no railway line from Larrimah to Darwin. There is some talk that they will close a portion of the central Australian railway and that they will downgrade the construction of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs Railway line.
– You are spreading malicious rumours.
– They may be malicious, but they can be answered. I pose the question in all simplicity, but I cannot get an answer. What surveys have been carried out at the taxpayers expense on these projects? It is impossible to get this information. It might be like some other reports which I have tried to get of surveys. One has to wait and keep pursuing the thing month in and month out until one is provided with it. I am hoping that the officers here tonight will take note of what I have said for the second time and then be able to provide the Committee, because it should be made public, with information on the Government’s intentions in respect of the completion of the construction of the TarcoolaAlice Springs line and with information as to whether the Government intends to tear up the track which has been laid for many years from Larrimah to Darwin. I hope that that information can be provided.
- Mr Chairman, I refer to 2 rather disparate aspects of the Department of Administrative Services’ appropriations for 1976-77. I seek your indulgence to make one general comment, and that is to commend the officers of the departments who participated with the Estimates Committees in these inquiries because I believe these inquiries are an important link between the Public Service, the Executive and the Parliament. They play an important role for the Senate. I think the officers who participate deserve to be commended by this Committee, and I would like that recorded. The particular aspects of the appropriations of the Department of Administrative Services with which I deal refer firstly to a matter dealt with earlier by Senator Douglas McClelland and also referred to by Senator Sim. That is the conservation of cultural and historical materials and collections in Australia. I agree with Senator Douglas McClelland- I am pleased to be able to agree entirely with him on this issue- that it really is a matter of some urgency and a matter in which governments must make decisions and take action if vitally important cultural and historical collections in this country are to be preserved for the future.
I refer to the report of Estimates Committee A in which reference is made to the lack of sufficient conservators in Australia. During the considerations of Estimates Committee A it became clear that there is an enormous amount of very valuable cultural and historical materials in Australia that needs to be better preserved, that requires fully trained conservators and more of them than we have at present. For example, the Director of the Australian War Memorial pointed out that his collection has one conservator for materials worth over $ 100m. It is a collection which, because of its very nature both as an artistic collection and as a collection of war materials, is increasing in value every day. The Acting Director of the National Gallery referred during the hearings of Estimates Committee A to the value of the National Gallery’s current collection. He pointed out, quite rightly, that it is very difficult to estimate the current value of a collection of that nature, but he said that he thought it would be reasonable to suggest that Australia’s national collection for the National Gallery, which is currently under construction, is probably worth in the vicinity of $30m to $40m. These are just 2 examples of the sorts of collections of materials throughout Australia, in libraries and museums, for which fully trained conservators are urgently needed.
I follow up some comments made by Senator Douglas McClelland by indicating that some action has been taken on this matter, though obviously more is needed. On 1 9 May of this year I asked a question in the Senate in which I raised this issue.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Chairman having reported accordingly-
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to raise a matter which was first raised in this chamber on 7 October by Senator Archer. It deals with butter. A question was posed of Senator Webster. I am not going to repeat what is recorded in Senate Hansard of 7 October. The answer given by Senator Webster attracted the attention of Dr John Cornwall, a member of the Legislative Council in South Australia, who has a great interest in the dairying industry and particularly in the possibility of getting on to the market a butter spread which in my view will more than outstrip the spreadability qualities of margarine. I want to quote the comments made by Dr Cornwall in the Legislative Council on 19 October when he talked about the people waiting for the dairying industry to produce a more spreadable butter. He went on to say:
Last week’s Stock Journal reports that the Federal Minister for Science (Senator Webster) was questioned on whether there had been any research carried out in Australia to develop a spreadable butter. The Senator outlined research work carried out in Sweden and he also referred to work done in New Zealand. The report states that the New Zealand work has been investigated by the Victorian Institute of Technology. However, it has indicated that the product would be uneconomical and unsatisfactory under Australian conditions. It concerns me greatly that the man who holds the Federal portfolio of science makes absolutely no mention of the excellent work that has been carried out by the Depanment of Agriculture and Fisheries at Northfield. It also concerns me that it is almost two years since the South Australian product was subjected to consumer trials and was proven to be a most acceptable product. Can the Minister explain what has happened to the South Australian product and why people in South Australia are being denied access to this much sought after product?
Dr Cornwall asked this question of the South Australian Minister for Agriculture, Mr Brian Chatterton, and the Minister in reply had this to say:
I, too, am concerned that the South Australian product known as ‘Dairy Blend’ is not yet available to the public. It was produced by research officers of the Agriculture and
Fisheries Department at Northfield. The patent on Dairy Blend is held jointly by the State Government and the Commonwealth Government. The responsibility for placing Dairy Blend on the Australian market is in the hands of the Australian Dairy Corporation. The problem that has arisen over the Swedish patent for a similar type of product has meant that the Dairy Corporation has not proceeded with the marketing of this product in Australia. That was the situation more than 12 months ago. 1 have raised the matter with the Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry in Canberra on a number of occasions to try to clarify the situation and to get the product moving on to the Australian market. At the Agricultural Council meeting in Bundaberg last August, Mr Sinclair said that he would look into the matter. When I again asked him about it the other day, when there was an Agricultural Council meeting in Sydney, he told me that he thought the Dairy Corporation ought to proceed with the marketing of the product and take its chances in connection with any legal challenge over the question of the Swedish patent. I am in the process of writing to Mr Sinclair asking him to confirm that decision and asking whether the Australian Government would in any way support the Dairy Corporation if it was faced with a legal challenge and who would bear the costs, and other detail of this sort. I hope to have a letter from Mr Sinclair shortly.
I raise this matter tonight to get it on record in the Federal Parliament in the hope that something can be done to prompt Mr Sinclair to take action to give a guarantee to the South Australian Government that if the Australian Dairy Corporation does market this product and then comes under legal challenge the Commonwealth Government will assist with funds to fight that challenge. I believe, as many consumers of margarine believe, that we ought to have this butterine product on the market. It has been proven in South Australia. It it a worthwhile product. As I said when I opened my remarks, it would be more than a proper competitor for margarine which is not, in many instances, made from the best quality products. I hope that when Mr Sinclair reads the remarks I have made tonight he will do something along the lines suggested to him by Mr Chatterton, the South Australian Minister for Agriculture.
– I regret that I did not hear all that Senator McLaren had to say. I realise that he directed his comments to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) but I respond because as I listened in my office to his remarks I heard him mention my name in relation to this matter. I have taken account of the comments Senator McLaren has made. He opened by referring to the answer I gave to a question asked by another honourable senator. Indeed, I think Senator McLaren disclosed his interest in this matter when he made his final comment that many consumers of margarine would like to see used the blend to which he was referring. He went on to say further that he realised that in many instances margarine is not made from the best quality products, Indeed, the South Australian Government at the present time is attempting to promote on its own market a situation which has been responsible for bringing enormous distress to the dairy industry throughout Australia. It will stand to the everlasting disgrace of the South Australian Government that it has moved in that way.
– In relation to margarine?
-The South Australian Government decided that it would not adhere to an agreement entered into by the Australian Agricultural Council and it was responsible for lifting quotas on margarine in South Australia. This stands to its everlasting discredit. The point that Senator McLaren has made is quite appropriate. When one has a query about the quality of materials that go into a particular product one ought to be very cautious about getting involved in the manufacture of that product. Senator McLaren has made the point quite clearly. I shall refer Senator McLaren’s comments to the Minister for Primary Industry and obtain a response for the honourable senator.
– I want to comment briefly on the matter which has been raised by Senator McLaren. I would not have done so if Senator Webster had responded in the spirit in which Senator McLaren raised the matter. I have some knowledge of the background of it. I do not intend to delay the Senate for more than two or three minutes. Suffice to say that Senator Webster’s attack on the South Australian Government was completely unwarranted.
– That is not true.
-If Senator Webster would listen he might learn something. I know that he is speaking for bigoted interests in Victoria in the form of the Victorian dairy industry. I would know more about the background to this matter than would Senator Webster. Senator Webster has always adopted this bigoted approach to the margarine industry. The actions taken by the South Australian Government were initiatives to ensure the advancement of not only the margarine industry but also in fact the dairy industry in order to promote a product called butterine- this is the point that Senator McLaren raised- which would give the consumers in this country a product manufactured in a blend which they require. The sort of mentality that Senator Webster shows now was exemplified in the wool industry when that industry refused to accept the blend principle. After it did accept that principle the resultant product was more acceptable to the market. That was the key, of course, to getting the product on the Australian market. In other words, what the consumer needed was a way to stimulate the market.
– What a lot of rubbish!
-Senator Webster still thinks about the dairy industry in the old fashioned way of the nineteenth century. I must confess that I was not aware that this product was still in this dilemma, because I am not in touch with these matters these days. After what has happened in the last few months I would have assumed that by now the wisdom of the moves made in South Australia would have been recognised and that butterine would have been accepted as a product. Senator Webster is a voice talking from the past, as many other people did in connection with the wool industry and are doing still in connection with the dairy industry. Senator Webster represents those who will defeat the purposes of the dairy industry by opposing the initiatives taken by people in South Australia. He nods his head in agreement.
– I do not.
– I am glad he does so and is realising that time has passed him by. That is the reason for his interjections. If we are not prepared to market blends such as butterine- the product mentioned by Senator McLaren- it obviously will be to the detriment of the dairy industry- including, I point out to Senator Webster, the dairy industry in Victoria. Unfortunately these proceedings are not being broadcast. If they were, perhaps the dairy farmers in Victoria, whom Senator Webster claims to represent, would realise the stupidity of the case he presented tonight. I believe that the request made by Senator McLaren was a valid one. I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) takes a more intelligent attitude than Senator Webster indicated in his response tonight.
– I would like to say a few words about this matter which Senator McLaren has raised tonight. Senator McLaren spoke about the spreadability of butter and how butter can be made to compete with margarine. He wanted some reason why this food item should be subject to a game of political football rather than be considered reasonably and regarded as an item of food with advantages. I believe that Senator Webster and his National Country Party colleagues, in particular, have been responsible for a vicious and wicked presentation in the competition of margarine as against butter, purely for selfish purposes and to benefit one section of the community as against another. Many doctors realise that butter is harmful to the health of many people in the community, but such people have been prevented from getting margarine. I have no brief in this matter.
– Oh no!
-Senator Wright should have cut down his butter intake because he is fat and old. It will do his brains a lot of harm. Please do not interject, Senator Wright. You are being highly disorderly in interjecting.
I have no brief for margarine, but I must make my strongest objection against the longstanding lobbying that has been done by the National Country Party to stop margarine taking its rightful place in the diet of our community. Quotas and the like have been completely discriminatory. I wonder to what extent the work of this Parliament has been influenced by the lobby against margarine and in favour of butter. I would like Senator Webster, on behalf of the National Country Party, to reply to Senator McLaren and to say why his Party is able to play 2 hands, to almost carry out a doublecross, or to have 2 bob each way. Senator McLaren put up a proposal to promote a more spreadable form of butter which will compete against margarine. Why has the National Country Party for so long opposed the open sale and availability of margarine on the Australian market for people who prefer it to butter? I think it is time we opened up this subject. The rump of politics, the National Country Party, has been pushing butter as against margarine, but then is not prepared to adopt an attitude when butter manufacturers put up a case. There is still a blank wall. I think it is about time that the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry had something to say in the Senate on behalf of his Party.
- Mr President -
– Order! As the Minister has already spoken he will require leave if he wishes to speak again.
– I thought I would have the right to speak in reply to the matters that were brought forward.
– No. You have already spoken in the debate. If you wish to speak again you must have leave. Do you seek leave?
– No, I will not seek leave.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.16 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Raw Crocidolite is now no longer imported or mined in Australia.
Data collection on occupational diseases, including diseases related to exposure to asbestos, is the responsibility of individual States. However, I can tell the honourable senator that the National Health and Medical Research Council has recommended now the membrane filter method for estimating air-borne asbestos dust in the asbestos industry.
The Northern Territory Division of the Department of Health maintains surveillance of dust diseases, which include asbestosis. Mines and quarries are under the surveillance of the Mines Branch of the Department of the Northern Territory.
In the Capital Territory, use of asbestos for insulating purposes has markedly decreased following an active information campaign on the dangers involved some four years ago. The Capital Territory Health Commission is responsible for the continued monitoring of the situation.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The information sought by the honourable senator was supplied in my answers to House of Representatives questions No. 634 (Hansard of 4 June 1976, page 3 103) and No. 101 1 (Hansard of 13 October 1976, page 1829).
Telecom Australia: Staff Reducations (Question No. 1060)
Seantor Ryan asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
1 ) What are the reductions in staff levels required for Telecom Australia during 1976-77.
What effects will these reductions have in the following areas: (a) installation of new telephones, (b) repair and maintenance of existing telephones, (c) telex services- installation and maintenance, and (d) datel services- installation and maintenance.
Is the Minister prepared to accept delays in public inconvenience caused by staff reductions.
Is the use of existing resources uneconomic and inefficient due to staff cuts in an enterprise which is growing and financially viable.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The technology to allow the provision of automatic service for subscribers served by certain types of radio-telephone exchanges has recently been developed by Telecom Australia although the conversion costs are very high. Pending further studies it is not possible to say whether or not it will be feasible for subscribers to the Alice Springs and Katherine radio-telephone exchanges to benefit from this development.
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:
These are Alyangula, Amoonguna, Angurugu, Areyonga, Ayers Rock, Bamyili, Borroloola, Croker Island, Daly River, Docker River, Elcho Island, Elliott, Goulburn, Hermannsburg, Hooker Creek, Iwupataka, Jabiru, Maningrida, Mataranka, Milingimbi, Nangalala Ngukurr, Numbulwar, Oenpelli, Papunya, Pine Creek, Port Keats, Santa Teresa, Ti-Tree, Umbakumba, Warrabri, Wattie Creek, Wave Hill, Yuendemu, Yirrikala
In addition the Depanment of Health subsidises the provision of health services on the following pastoral propertiesAlexandria Downs, Alroy Downs, Ammaroo,
Bradshaw Downs, Brunette Downs, Elizabeth Downs, Hodgson Downs, Lake Nash, Mistake Creek, Mt Denison, Moroak, Mudginberri, Neutral Junction, Pt. Stuart, Rockhampton Downs, Victoria River Downs, Waterloo, Wave Hilt
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The Minister fur the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Gun’ includes any lethal firearm or other weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet, or other missile can be discharged, or any part thereof, or from which any noxious or irritant liquid, powder, gas, chemical or substance capable of causing any bodily harm can be emitted, and includes an air gun, but does not include a spear gun or a toy gun, or an antique gun which is kept or sold as a curiosity or ornament;
Pistol’ means any lethal weapon of a size ordinarily capable of being carried or concealed upon the person from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged, or from which any noxious or irritant liquid, powder, gas, chemical or substance capable of causing any bodily harm can be emitted, but does not include a toy pistol or antique pistol which is kept or sold as a curiosity or ornament.
It is of importance to note that the Gun Licence Ordinance 1937 relates to the issue of licences to persons who possess guns or pistols as the case may be. Consequently the Ordinance does not to any great extent exempt the firearm but rather grants exemption to certain persons and classes of persons. Such exemption is provided for by virtue of Section 5, sub-sections, 5, 6, 7 and 8 which are set out below.
5 ) This section shall not apply to-
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What was the average level of borrowings by the Australian Wool Corporation to finance its stockholding during 1975-76.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Information provided by the Australian Wool Corporation is that during the 1975-76 season external borrowings by the Corporation for the purpose varied between monthly drawings of $372. 32m and $266. 15m with an overall average of external borrowings of $322.3 lm for the season.
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Australian Tourist Commission
Australian Industrial Research and Development
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australian Telecommunications Commission
Australian Postal Commission
Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia)
Australian Broadcasting Commission
Australian Broadcasting Control Board
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 November 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19761103_senate_30_s69/>.