30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 156 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Australia’s extensive road system is a national asset wasting because of inadequate Federal and State funding.
Commonwealth Government funding of roads has fallen over the last six years from 2.9 per cent of all Commonwealth outlays to 2.3 per cent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide 50 per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 407 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 Government employees strenuously oppose the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill first introduced in the House of Representatives on 8 December 1976. The basis for opposition includes the following reasons:
1 ) The grounds constituting ‘due cause’ for termination of services of tenured staff are expanded beyond those already available in existing legislation thereby introducing subjective discretionary powers which are inconsistent with career service expectations and entitlements;
The Bill relegates to subordinate legislation or administrative direction matters affecting substantive rights of employees including the scale of compensation, the composition and powers of the appellate tribunal, and the criteria upon which services may be terminated;
Existing rights of reinstatement in tenured employment are abrogated by the Bill;
) Agreement has not been reached on a number of matters which should have been finalised before any attempt to introduce legislation. These include: an arbitral determination on redundancy arrangements; benefits; procedures.
As currently drafted the Bill overrides entitlements under Arbitration awards.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should reject passage of any legislation to extend powers of compulsory retirement of Australian Government employees unless and until any variation has been agreed with staff representatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
The CLERK- A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of certain parents, citizens and teachers of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That we, the undersigned, consider that the failure to offer community languages as school curriculum subjects in schools in appropriate areas of the State is disadvantaging migrant children educationally, alienating them from their families and their cultural heritage and inhibiting their social development.
That the educational, emotional and social development of migrant children can be best assured by the provision of opportunities for them to learn their native languages at primary and secondary level. Confirmation of this view can be found in the report of the Committee on the Teaching of Migrant Languages in Schools tabled in the Senate on 8 December 1976.
That the opportunity afforded by the introduction of community languages into the school curriculum to children of non-migrant origin to study community languages will assist these children to develop a better understanding of ethnic communities and will contribute to the creation of a better integrated society within the State.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate direct the introduction of the appropriate community language/languages into the curriculum of primary and secondary schools in all areas where the appropriate ethnic groups regard the introduction of these languages as essential or desirable for the welfare of their children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Carrick.
– I give notice that, 10 sitting days after today, I shall move:
That the following parts of the Consumer Affairs (Amendment) Ordinance 1976, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 49 of 1976, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910. be disallowed:
Sub-section (2) of the new section 15C contained in section 1 1;
Sub-section (3) of the new section15E contained in section 1 1 ; and
the new section 1 6 contained in section 1 3.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade aware of a statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Singapore on Sunday, 24 April, in which the Minister for Foreign Affairs said:
Our co-operation must go beyond our aid programs … I think there is a profound duty to assist in trade relations.
Would the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade indicate whether he is aware of the intentions of the Minister for Foreign Affairs? Was it the intention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to indicate that there would be changes in our trade relations with South East Asian countries which would involve a greater co-operation in allowing imports of their goods into this country? Is it a fact that the Government is currently considering a proposal by which there will be a reduction in textile imports into Australia next year by nearly 50 per cent? If that is correct, could the Minister indicate the intentions of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and, specifically, how they relate to the proposal currently before the Government?
-That is a nicely convoluted question based upon newspaper reports. I read what the Foreign Minister is supposed to have said in Singapore. I know that he has certain views on how we ought to expand our relationships with countries belonging to the Association of South East Asian Nations. Nevertheless, comments on matters of trade are properly the province of the Minister for Overseas Trade who will speak on these matters from time to time, when government pronouncements are due to be made. There is another thing. One might equally say that there is a duty on Australian governments to protect Australian people. When one looks at the overall position one finds that we are one of the greatest importers of clothing and textiles per head of population. We are also a quite small country. Our market is not all that big. I think it can be shown that we have increased our imports of clothing and textiles from ASEAN countries by 5 times in about 5 years. We have obviously reached the situation in which the employment of Australian people in that industry is of paramount importance. It is that to which the Government is giving its attention. We are looking quite critically at the overall rate of use of clothing and textiles in Australia, at the overall ability of Australians to help other countries by having some imports from them and at the overall ability to help Australian people to maintain their employment. In due course, when those decisions are finally reached, they will be announced in the proper forum, not by newspaper speculation.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. He will recall Australian Labor Party defence spokesmen in 1972 referring to the then Government’s announcement of the acceptance of the 24 F 1 1 1 aircraft as compounding a calamitous affair. Did not such mindless criticism ignore the simple fact that if our Air Force were not equipped with the best it might not be able to carry out its missions? Is the Minister aware that these aircraft have now completed nearly 4 years of service under Australian conditions with very good results? Is he aware that the Royal Australian Air Force confidently expects the FI 1 1 aircraft to do all that it is called upon to do over the next 20 years? Does not the performance of these aircraft substantiate the decision taken in 1 963 and indicate that the F 1 1 1 project is the bargain of the century rather than the calamitous affair as described by the Labor Party?
– Those of us who were in the Senate prior to 1972 will recall that from 1969 to December 1972 the honourable senator who has just resumed his seat was Minister for Air. I think honourable senators will also recall that almost daily my colleague faced a barrage of critical questions from the Opposition about the purchase of this aircraft. In spite of the fact that Senator Drake-Brockman gave satisfactory and truthful answers all the time, it appeared that he was never believed by our opponents. Almost since December 1972 we have not heard one single piece of criticism about the F 1 1 1 aircraft. I agree with the honourable senator that in fact these aircraft were the bargain of the century, if one looks at the probable cost of replacement now and at their serviceability within the Royal Australian Air Force. I have yet to hear anybody criticise them as being not suitable for the purpose for which they were purchased. I really think that the Government of the day in 1963 and the successive Ministers who defended the purchase of the aircraft have been vindicated and are deserving of congratulations.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether reports of the March quarter consumer price index show an increase of 4.3 per cent? Are those reports accurate? If so, will the Minister agree that this represents an annual inflation rate of over 16 per cent? If that is the case, will the Minister explain how the Government expects a single digital inflation figure to be achieved this year?
– Again, why do we not wait and get the accurate figures rather than living in this world of make believe of what newspapers are supposed to have said might happen? How do I know? I have not seen the information yet.
– I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to a recent report that President Carter of the United States of America intends to spend in the vicinity of SUS 1.5 billion during the next 18 months in a 3- pronged attack on unemployment, one suggestion being the revival of the youth conservation corps which will pay the minimum wage to young people willing to work in national parks and forests and in towns on community conservation projects. A similar scheme to this has been advocated by myself and others in both Houses for some time. I ask the Minister to investigate in detail the President’s proposals with a view to implementing a similar scheme in Australia where there is an abundance of national parks, as well as many sorely needed community projects.
-I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whom I represent.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it true that the GovernorGeneral and his wife, who left Australia this week, will be absent from the country for approximately 7 weeks? Is the main reason for Their Excellencies’ trip the participation in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations? Does their itinerary also include stays in Tehran, Nice, Paris, Rome and Bangkok where, one presumes, there will be no Silver Jubilee festivities? Will the travelling and incidental expenses incurred by
Their Excellencies be met in full by the Australian Government or will the Commonwealth’s financial commitment be confined to that portion of their trip which is related to the Silver Jubilee celebrations?
-As I understand the position, the Governor-General and Lady Kerr have been invited by Her Majesty the Queen to attend certain Silver Jubilee celebrations in London in the first or second week of June and the Governor-General is going overseas for that purpose. I further understand that, while Their Excellencies are away, the Governor-General is taking the opportunity of taking what is normally known as mid-term leave. As I recall the precedents, this was done by his 2 immediate predecessors. Perhaps it is for that purpose that he is going to those other 5 cities; I do not know. Whether his travelling and incidental expenses will be met in part or in full by the Government I do not know. I will seek that information from the Prime Minister for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General and concerns what I consider to be an urgent need for uniform firearms legislation. The question follows what seems to be an increase in the use of firearms in crimes of violence in Australia, the last and most tragic example of this being the shooting and maiming in South Australia of 2 young policemen in the course of their duty. Can the Minister inform me whether the subject of uniform laws controlling the sale, registration, carrying and use of firearms throughout Australia has been discussed at a recent conference of Attorneys-General? What is the attitude of the Federal Government to complementary legislation being enacted by the States and by the Commonwealth in the Territories under its jurisdiction? If the matter of uniform legislation has not been discussed recently, will the Federal Government initiate moves to have it discussed as a matter of national importance?
– The question of uniform firearm legislation has not been considered at any recent meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. However, I understand that it was raised several years ago at the request of the police commissioners of the States and Territories. At that time there was very little indication of any likelihood of uniform legislation being agreed to and the matter has not been proceeded with since. The Commonwealth Government would need to have some indication of renewed interest in the question of uniform firearm legislation before the Attorney-General would be prepared to raise the matter formally at a Standing Committee meeting. I certainly will pass on to the Attorney-General the interest which has been shown here by Senator Jessop who perhaps might like to provide further evidence of such interest. It appears that each State will move along different paths in relation to the matter at this stage. The Commonwealth Government continues to take the firearm problem very seriously and certainly will have to deal with any proven problems in the Territories where it has constitutional responsibility.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to the Adelaide-Crystal Brook standardisation project. The Minister will be aware that, since the Commonwealth Government’s action last year which rather stayed the project, the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, met a deputation consisting of Mr Virgo, Senator Jessop and me. Later on a proposal to modify the plan was put by Mr Virgo and apparently it was acceptable to the Federal Government. I ask the Minister: Is he able to say whether a decision has been made in respect of this submission by the South Australian Government? I understand that officers have met to consider the matter. When will that decision be put to Cabinet for consideration?
-I understand that, as Senator Bishop said, a modified version of what is called the Maunsell plan was submitted by Mr Virgo to the Federal Government. My understanding is that the Government has not yet finalised its decision but I will refer the question to the Minister for Transport and seek further information.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. A memorandum circulated to honourable senators on behalf of the Australian wine industry indicates that the effect of changes brought in with the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Act 1977 would have the effect of reacting very severely against that industry which is already having problems of liquidity while meeting deferred tax payments. Will the Minister ask the Treasurer whether this position was taken into consideration when this Act was planned and whether consideration can be given to taking action that would at least restore the intentions of section 3 1 B.
-The honourable senator was good enough to let me know that he had an interest in this matter. I had an answer prepared because I imagine that many honourable senators will receive requests from the wine industry to take an interest in this matter and therefore the sooner some facts are stated the better it will be for everybody. The value of trading stock on which the proposed stock adjustment will be based is the cost price of the stock or such lower value as is taken into account for general assessment purposes. I am aware that this has brought representations from the wine industry that it will be adversely affected by reason of the transitional arrangements to bring to account over a number of years the assessable income that was deferred under the former section 31 A. These arrangements result in wine stocks being brought to account at something less than cost price over the transitional period with a corresponding reduction in the trading stock adjustment.
The position of wine stocks was fully considered by the Government before it made its decisions as to the basis of the trading stock adjustment. As a result of representations made to the Government following the Treasurer’s announcement of the details of the scheme in December last, the matter was again considered by the Government. However, as the Treasurer announced in his second reading speech on the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 1977, the Government decided that there should be no substantial departure from the lines of action set out in the Treasurer’s December statement. The amount by which returned values of wine stocks fall short of the cost price in any year represents the extent to which the stocks have been financed out of untaxed income and on principle should not attract the valuation adjustment as well. As the return values get closer each year to cost prices the amount of the adjustment will also become correspondingly larger. Finally, it should be made clear that the wine industry will be one of the largest beneficiaries of the trading stock valuation adjustment in its present form because of the relatively stock intensive nature of the industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Has the Minister noted the suggestion advanced by
Sir John Moore, President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, advocating amendments to the appropriate Federal Acts to facilitate joint sittings of members of State and Federal tribunals to deal with industrial disputes where pan of an industry is covered by a State award and pan by a Federal award? I instance the disputes over containers involving the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation in Sydney and the oil dispute in Sydney in which there is internal conflict between the Federal and State officers of the Australian Workers Union. I ask the Minister. Does the Government intend initiating joint action with State governments to attain the goal suggested by Sir John Moore?
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has advised me that he is aware of Sir John Moore’s suggestion as detailed in the honourable senator’s question. I understand that, following the first meeting of heads of industrial tribunals in Adelaide towards the end of last year, Sir John wrote to the Minister indicating that consultation between the tribunals, joint sittings in appropriate circumstances and related matters of an administrative nature had been discussed. Subsequently, the Minister raised these matters with his State counterparts at meetings of the Conference of Ministers for Labour. Already section 67 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act empowers the President of the Commission, where it appears desirable in relation to an industrial matter, to confer with a State industrial authority with a view to securing co-ordination between awards made under the Act and awards or determinations made by the other authority. This provision has been utilised on a number of occasions. Of course, the suggestions of Sir John Moore go beyond this and raise a number of complex issues. They are presently being given consideration.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Is it not a fact that military decorations given by the United States of America and by former South Vietnam to Australian servicemen while on active duty in the Vietnam war are not to be worn officially by the recipients? As these decorations were won by Australian servicemen on active service for their country, will the Minister give consideration to reversing this policy?
-I have no direct information on this matter. I shall seek it from my colleague in the other place.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: Has the Government decided what action it will take as a result of the High Court case involving Miss Karen Green? Will any action be taken in the many other cases involving similar circumstances to that of Miss Green?
– The decision with regard to the case for Miss Karen Green was handed down last Friday. As I understand the situation, within 2 1 days of the handing down of that decision an appeal may be lodged. Until those 21 days had elapsed the Government would not consider it appropriate to make any announcement or to canvass what action would be taken. When that period has elapsed the Government will make any statement it considers appropriate.
– Has the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs seen a report indicating that concerned citizens in Mount Druitt, west of Sydney, waited on a Minister of the New South Wales Government to seek assistance with the problems of unemployment in that area? Was their approach based in pan on a recognition that the problems in Mount Druitt were a direct and inevitable result of the original decision by the State Labor Government of the day to develop the Mount Druitt housing estate with no adequate community or industrial supporting base? Was the citizens’ approach to the New South Wales Government turned down with no offer of help? Were they in fact told to solve the problem within their community? In terms of federalism policy, will the Minister indicate the extent to which we need co-operative action from all levels of government, including the New South Wales Government, where particular circumstances demand their involvement and intervention?
– My attention was directed to an article in the newspaper, the Mount Druitt District Star, in which the matters outlined by Senator Baume are set out under the heading ‘Jobless told to help themselves’. That is the general theme of the argument. The article suggests that the President of the Mount Druitt Inter-Agency -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. In view of refusals by Senator Cotton on 2 occasions during question time today to answer questions allegedly based on newspaper reports and as a different Minister is now answering what is obviously a prepared ‘Dorothy Dixer’, also based on a newspaper report which he intends to use purely for an attack on the New South Wales Government, I ask you, Mr President: Is this to be a consistent approach by the Ministry during question times or are all Ministers to be required to answer legitimate questions based on newspaper reports?
– I pass the question on to the Minister. Would you please reply?
-I am well aware of the tactic to try to get an awkward question deleted from the broadcasting record, but of course that does not run -
– You are on the air direct.
– The Opposition is highly tender about the matter. The fact of the matter is that I have seen the article and it was brought to my attention. Since Senator Wriedt is tender about Government supporters bringing matters to the attention of Ministers, I ask him: Does he insist that in future his own Opposition members should not be allowed to use their technique, which is a daily one, of bringing to the attention of Ministers items for which they want answers? Is he in fact saying that there should be a rule for Opposition senators but that it should not apply to Government supporters?
– I raise a point of order. I understand that my Leader raised a point of order. Mr President, you gave a ruling and invited the Minister to answer the question that was put to him without notice. The Minister appears to me to be debating the point of order rather than answering the question. I invite you, Mr President, to direct attention to that invitation.
– I invited the Minister to reply to the question as he saw fit, which is the custom in this place. A Minister replies to a question as he sees fit. I call the Minister.
– As Senator Baume says, it is apparent from the article that some local people at Mount Druitt, a particularly distressed area in, I think, the most distressed State in Australia in terms of unemployment, sought help from the State Labour Minister, Mr Day, and on their say-so were refused help. That is a fact, if it is correctly reported, in the article as read. Naturally, the Labor Party would be sensitive to that. Senator Baume asks whether there is an indication that Mount Druitt itself over the very long term of planning apparently was so planned that there was not a sufficiency of proper industrial and commercial estates surrounding the area to provide direct access to work. I indicate that from the terms of the article and from my own less formal understanding, that appears to be so. Mount Druitt itself is an area in which I think the planners, if they were starting again, would do very many things much better than they have been done so far. In the interests of people in that area who are distressed, it is a great pity that there is not more co-operation between the State Government and the local people. It is fundamental to co-operative federalism that the States and local people, including local government, should work together.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. My question is based on newspaper articles concerning Mount Isa in Queensland. I ask the Minister: Is he aware that the Government has been approached- in fact there was a delegation here yesterday on this matter- for Federal Government assistance for the Lake Julius scheme in the Mount Isa region? Is he aware that the State Government in Queensland has indicated its support and in fact has been forthcoming with some financial support, but that the Federal Government under its cooperative federalism policy has refused support? In view of the Minister’s concern in respect of assistance to be given in these sorts of areas and his stated co-operation in federal affairs, I ask him: Will he personally take up with the Prime Minister the issue that has been raised by the people of Mount Isa?
- Mr President, it is almost irresistible to remind the Senate that 3 minutes ago Senator Wriedt was seeking from you a ruling that no Minister or senator should refer to newspaper reports in directing or replying to a question. Having failed in that, now he is basing a question on newspaper reports. Apparently, again, he seeks rules for the Opposition different from those for the Government. Having said that, I am not aware of the deputation to which Senator Wriedt draws my attention but I will look at the matter and, if it is necessary to do so, I will refer the matter to the Prime Minister. I refer Senator Wriedt to the fact that Queensland, as a State, has prospered very strongly in the 16 or 1 7 months that the Federal Liberal and National Country Party Government has been in power.
– Why is unemployment so high in Queensland?
- Senator Grimes has interjected and asked why unemployment is so high in Queensland. I think that if one looks at unemployment, one will find that the New South Wales Labor Government has the highest record of unemployment in Australia. Secondly, I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that under the new tax sharing revenue programs, Queensland- along with other States- has received significant increases in recurrent revenue which has enabled it, therefore, to expand its activities. I will examine the question relating to the funding of the particular work at Mount Isa to see whether any action is necessary.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development: In view of the apparent lack of housing for rehabilitation purposes through the women’s refuges, can the Minister say whether pressure can be put on the States to give priority in allocation of welfare housing to the clients of the refuges?
– One of the endeavours of my colleague, the Minister in another place, with regard to welfare housing is to seek to have discussions with his State colleagues in an effort to ensure that priorities are more correct in the allocation of welfare housing. It has been clear from statistics that many people who deserve high priority for welfare housing are not being allocated such housing and that those whose priority is lower or has lapsed are in receipt of welfare housing. I think an important question has been raised. Those who come from women’s refuges need requisite housing and need it at a low or subsidised cost. I am not aware whether any priority is given to women coming from the women ‘s refuges at the moment. I am prepared to draw the suggestion to the attention of my colleague.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is she aware that according to the last figures available- that is the figures for November 1976-11 006 Aboriginal persons were registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for employment and that, at the same date 5335 Aboriginals were receiving unemployment benefits? As only 48 per cent of registered Aboriginals are receiving unemployment benefits, as against 70 per cent for the population generally, is the Minister satisfied that the Aboriginal unemployed are receiving sufficient help in obtaining benefits? Will she see that this seeming inequity is referred to the Myers Committee which is inquiring into unemployment benefits? Is the Minister satisfied that members of the community are adequately advised of their legal rights in this and other fields coming within social security responsibility? Is there not a vast ignorance throughout the community regarding entitlements? What can be done to correct this situation?
– I have not had my attention drawn specifically to the figures that have been mentioned. I am aware that approximately 70 per cent of all citizens who are registered for employment are receiving unemployment benefits. I will have investigated the figures which relate more specifically to Aboriginals who are registered for employment and are receiving unemployment benefits. As the honourable senator has suggested, the matter could be referred to the Myers Committee which is looking at all aspects of unemployment benefits, including unemployment policy and the administration of such benefits. I will certainly do what the honourable senator has suggested. In fact, I understand that Dr Myers is aware of the need to look particularly at the Aboriginal population as far as unemployment benefit systems are concerned. With regard to information on social security matters in general, I am conscious of the fact that there are people in the Australian community who are not aware of the benefits to which they are entitled. My Department constantly is endeavouring to improve its information services and the dissemination of information with regard to our policies and programs. In the case of some Aboriginals, I think it would be understood that they are living in remote communities and do not have access to either offices or services of our Department. One instance was brought directly to my attention. I arranged for an officer of my Department to go to the community involved to facilitate the registration of persons for unemployment benefits, family allowances and other things. 1 will certainly look at the matter that has been raised in consultation with my colleagues who are in charge of ministries which also deal with these matters, to see whether we are able to improve the situation.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to the organisation known as the Clearing House on Migration
Issues which is located at Richmond, Victoria and which provides a national service, utilised across Australia, in education, welfare, industrial, health and community relations programs. I ask: Was this organisation established by trust funds and the efforts of the Ecumenical Migration Centre? Has financial assistance been sought from the Commonwealth Government over a period of about 1 ¥i years for the continuance of this work? Are such negotiations still unfinalised? Is it a fact that a small interim grant was given by the Commonwealth Government for January-February 1977 and that it ran out 2 months ago? Did the Department undertake that a final decision would be made in February 1977? When will the Government make a formal decision in respect of continued assistance for this valuable organisation?
– It is a fact that The Clearing House on Migration Issues was established as outlined in the honourable senator’s question. There was a request for financial assistance from the organisation some time ago. An interim grant was made in December 1976. I think that this grant covered requirements up to the end of February 1977. An interdepartmental committee comprising representatives of the Department of Social Security, the Department of Education and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has been evaluating the need of this clearing house. I understand that this study group has completed its work- its recommendations should be before the Government at an early date- and that some decision will be made in response to it.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to a question that I asked last Wednesday of the Minister in relation to a voluntary redundancy scheme proposed by employees at Cellulose Australia Ltd in Millicent, South Australia. I pointed out to the Minister that Mr Graeme Richardson, a shop steward of the Pulp and Paper Workers Federation of Australia, made representations to the Minister seeking eligibility for unemployment benefits for the employees for the period in which they would not be employed. Can the Minister now say whether she has decided what action the Government will take in response to these representations? Has the Government rejected the application? Is it not true that in similar situations employees of the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd at Nowra and at Burnie have been paid unemployment benefits? Has the Government changed the policy of the previous Labor Government in the circumstances? Will the Minister undertake to reconsider this policy change in view of the fact that over 20 employees at Cellulose Australia could find themselves without a job as a consequence of the Government’s policy change?
– I have had this matter under investigation. I have some information from the Department with regard to it and I am seeking further information. A difficulty arises, as I believe the honourable senator would be aware. This involves determining whether these people on voluntary redundancy are unemployed taking into account that there is no loss of long service leave, holiday entitlement or other provisions in the scheme which has been decided upon in this instance. As I said, I have been giving consideration to the matter. I expect further information from my Department today. I will give the honourable senator early advice on what decision has been reached.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to the successful treatment of epilepsy by neurologists through the use of sodium val porate which is commonly known as ‘Epilim’ which, I understand, is not on the list of approved pharmaceutical benefits and which is significantly alleviating the effects of epilepsy amongst the many hundreds of sufferers in Australia. Will the Minister refer the matter to her colleague for investigation with a view to having the drug included on the pharmaceutical benefits list?
– I understand that the drug sodium val porate is not available as a pharmaceutical benefit because it has not yet been approved for general marketing in Australia. The application to market this antiepileptic drug under the trade name .r..;’:- ‘ was considered by the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee at its last meeting in March. Unfortunately, there were deficiencies in the data submitted in support of the application and some questions of both safety and efficacy remain unanswered. The company sponsoring the application has been requested to provide data to rectify these deficiencies as soon as possible. When this data is received the application will again be considered by the Drug Evaluation Committee. A number of products for the treatment of epilepsy are available on the pharmaceutical benefits list at present. Following receipt of further information, if a decision is made with regard to this specific drug I will see that the honourable senator is advised accordingly.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs become aware of the fact that a number of Australians, particularly members of Amnesty International, are concerned about the imprisonment for alleged political offences of large numbers of Indonesian men and women particularly on Buru Island? Could the Minister find out from his colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, what information the Australian Government has at present about the confinement of these people, apparently without trial, on Buru Island; whether any representations have been made by the Australian Government as to their wellbeing; and, if that has not been done, whether any such representations can be made?
-I shall certainly do that for the honourable senator. I am aware of the concern of a number of honourable senators on both sides of this chamber who are deeply involved with Amnesty International. They have expressed concern both within this chamber and to me personally about this and other matters of denial of human rights around the world. I shall certainly seek this information from my colleague in the other place.
– I direct a question concerning another newspaper report to the Minister for Education. I refer to page 3 of the Australian of today, Wednesday, 27 April, and to an article entitled ‘Top college left to die’ in which a university researcher claimed that a successful college of advanced education was being abandoned because of careless and inadequate education reports. He cites Mount Nelson College of Advanced Education and Victoria’s fourth university, Deakin, as examples. In view of the somewhat serious charges made by Dr Neil Nillson, that inquiries into post-secondary education are in jeopardy because of shoddy educational theorising, etc., will the Minister state whether the claims made by this researcher have any foundation?
– A number of people drew my attention to the report in today’s Australian. I note that it purports to be a report of evidence given by 2 university people, Dr Neil Nillson and Mr Peter Sheldrake, to, I understand, the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training. On the face of it, Senator Kilgariff has given an accurate precis of the newspaper report at least. Firstly, I find the last 2 paragraphs of the report of particular interest. They state:
The problem with post-secondary education in Australia is that no-one has thought through what types of needs exist and how institutions should deal with the needs that exist.
Most important of all they have failed to set up a mechanism for ensuring that institutions do what they were originally set up to do.
The simple fact is that the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training fundamentally is seeking to do the former. The Tertiary Education Commission (Amendment) Bill which has passed through the Senate is seeking both to do the latter and to continue the former. Therefore, the claim that there is now no recognition of that need is not true. I wish to say a couple of things about the allegations regarding particular inquiries. The inquiry into education in Tasmania was carried out by a number of very distinguished academics and the report of the inquiry has been examined thoroughly. No report could have been more thoroughly examined. It was the target of a long pre-election examination, the setting up by the Neilson Government of the Cosgrove committee of inquiry and a dialogue, I think a valuable one, between the academics and the public. I believe that if the report had defects they would have emerged then. My recollection is that the Neilson Government has decided to adopt substantially the terms of the report. I think the same thing can be said about the other inquiries. Eminent people have been engaged in them. The newspaper report suggests that there have been too many inquiries into post-secondary education. Until recently State Government departments were largely organised in directing themselves to primary and secondary education in government schools. It is a matter of great interest and, I think, of great value to the Australian people that there has been a development of the higher education authorities throughout Australia and that there has been a tendency by State governments to set up inquiries into post-secondary education. My Government welcomes them.
-Will the Minister for Social Security release to Senate Estimates Committee D explanatory notes on expenditure under the National Welfare Fund, as she did in September last year?
– I would be prepared to release to Senate Estimates Committee D any information which it requires on expenditure under the National Welfare Fund. I am not aware whether it would be available up to the date of the Senate Committee ‘s work. It might be available up to the month prior to that. Senator Brown will remember that it was some time after 30 June that we were dealing with it. Bearing in mind the state of the information available, I am prepared to release it to the Committee.
-Can the Minister for Education say what further progress has now been made with proposals to establish a course at tertiary level for conservators of cultural and historical materials? In view of the fact that there is an urgent need for conservators in, for example, many museums and art galleries in Australia, can the Minister give an assurance that priority is being given and will be given to this proposal?
– This question overlaps 2 responsibilities, the responsibility of Senator Withers in the task of looking after museums and other institutions and the responsibility of the Department of Education in providing training for materials conservators. The report that emanates from Senator Withers’ department on the need for museums and institutions stresses that in Australia a great deal of very valuable material is decaying and is being destroyed simply because of the lack of people with sufficient knowledge to preserve and protect them. There is a demonstrable need for more people to be so trained. The Canberra College of Advanced Education has given some thought to this and has suggested that a course could be started in Canberra. That matter will come under consideration. The question of whether we can embark on further courses depends upon the supply of money in the education purse. That will be a matter of policy for the future. I acknowledge Senator Knight’s interest in the matter. I acknowledge the significance of the subject and the need to undertake such training in the future.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. It follows a question asked of Senator Carrick by Senator Knight. In view of the Minister’s statement yesterday at a meeting of a Senate Estimates Committee that the report of the inter-departmental committee that had been appointed by the Government to consider the reports of the committees of inquiry into public libraries and national museums and collections had been received by his department, what further action is to be taken by the Government before the Minister is in a position to announce the Government’s attitude on these nationally important, enlightened and informed reports?
– I suppose the action required most of all is for me to get some time to read the reports. I must admit that I have not yet had sufficient time to be able to sit down and go through them. As soon as I can get some time I intend to go through them and, as a result, it is my intention to put a submission to Cabinet so that Government policy on these matters may be made known to the electorate.
-Has the Minister for Science seen a report which has also received some publicity in newspapers relating to a solar scheme for irrigation in the United States of America which is described as the world ‘s largest solar-powered irrigation system? It includes a 50 horsepower pump capable of delivering up to 37 800 litres a minute. The system can deliver up to 2. 1 million litres of water in 9Vi hours. Will the Minister arrange for a detailed investigation of the scheme to be made by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to see whether it is suitable for adaption to Australian conditions?
– I noted the article in a number of newspapers and I got the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to make a response on the matter. Any comment I make certainly does not detract from my encouragement of funds for solar research. The announcement from Arizona of this type of operation is one which should certainly receive attention. However, in response to the honourable senator’s question, I point out that CSIRO is not working at the present time on research into solar-powered irrigation schemes. As a general rule it is not considered that solar energy is a suitable source for mechanical power at the present time. Since conversion efficiency is low and capital cost is extremely high, the resulting cost of power is very much greater than that which can be obtained from conventional sources. To place the Arizona report in some perspective let us assume that the plant operates at full capacity- that is 50 horsepower- for an average of 6 hours per day every day and that the electricity cost is 2c per kilowatt per hour, then the average annual saving would appear to be less than $2,000.
The article, as I read it, indicates that the size of the plant hints at its complexity. Unfortunately, the article does not provide the original capital cost for that farm operating unit. However, the potential saving is very small on the figures as I understand them. The cost of $910,000 is mentioned as the energy cost of the total farming operation. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation believes that the most immediate and economic use for solar energy is in the production of low grade heat- that is heat at about boiling point of water- for domestic and industrial purposes. Such heat can be used for crop drying. Some 5 years ago the Organisation built 2 experimental solar kiln timber drying units. One of these is located at Griffith and the second at Townsville. Honourable senators may be aware that solarpowered pumps for irrigation purposes are commercially available at the present time and that their use is determined purely by economics. If there is any further information I can obtain for the honourable senator I shall do so.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the visit of 2 Australian officials from the Embassy in Jakarta to East Timor. What are the full purposes of the visit? Is the visit being carried out under the auspices of the Indonesian Government? If so, does the Minister not agree that this action implies recognition of Indonesia ‘s sovereignty in East Timor?
-I do not think the visit implies anything except that Australia’s relationship with Indonesia is such that Indonesia is prepared to allow our Foreign Affairs officials to go to East Timor. As to the balance of the question which the honourable senator asks, I shall seek that information from my colleague.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is the Minister able to say when the local Leigh Creek television station is expected to be operational? Can the Minister say what arrangements have been made to ensure that appropriate programs, including topical South Australian segments, are made available to viewers in that area?
-My advice is that the television repeater station at Leigh Creek in South Australia is scheduled to go on air on 28 April. I am not aware of the source of the programs although I understand that there is some suggestion that it may have a Western Australian content. I appreciate that the South Australian people would be interested in a South Australian content. The matter is one which comes under the Australian Broadcasting Commission which is responsible for this type of repeater station. I will bring the matter to the attention of my colleague in another place and ask him whether he will refer it to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to see whether more South Australian content can be achieved.
-Does the Minister for Education recall my question yesterday in which I asked whether it was the Government’s intention to reintroduce tertiary fees and his reply, referring to a statement of last October, that the Government’s intention had been stated. I have discovered a statement by the Minister on 6 October last year. Is that the statement to which he referred yesterday? It has no reference to tertiary fees but is a statement on student assistance schemes. As university students believe that it is the intention of the Government to reintroduce fees and as this is part of their justification for a strike they intend holding this week, I stress upon the Minister the importance of his answer. Can he give a definite assurance that the Government does not intend to reintroduce or has not considered reintroducing tertiary fees?
-I do recall Senator Cavanagh ‘s question to me yesterday. At the time when a statement was made by me on behalf of the Government in October announcing that a very substantial increase would be made in all student assistance allowances to break the freeze that the Whitlam Government had maintained since the June 1974 crisis, a number of supplementary statements was made also. There had been throughout last year a continuous dialogue, which was encouraged by the Opposition, suggesting that the Federal Government intended to reintroduce tertiary fees either at primary or at postgraduate level, or for foreign students. I was able to say on behalf of the Government in or about October that it was not the Government’s intention to do so. That was the statement to which I referred yesterday. Since then the Government has not contemplated the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and follows the publication this month of an editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia relating to surveillance of salmonella organisms. Are domestic pet tortoises liable to infection by salmonella, the group of organisms which includes the organism that can cause typhoid fever? In view of the persistence of the presence of cholera organisms in water reservoirs near Brisbane and the undesirability of salmonella spreading through our community, and since it is reported that the sale of pet turtles has been banned in the United States of America, can the Minister advise the Senate of current knowledge in Australia on the safety of pet tortoises and any risk of disease which they could represent ?
– I understand from the Minister for Health that it is true that pet tortoises are capable of harbouring salmonella organisms and they are thus a potential source of infection in man. However, it is pointed out that typhoid is only one of a very large number of salmonella organisms which cause human infection, the others being by far more common. I also understand that salmonella infections are usually caught through improperly cooked poultry, meat, meat products and sometimes dairy products. Infections through family pets such as dogs, cats, tortoises and caged birds are comparatively rare.
– Tell him to stop eating other people’s pets.
– Perhaps the honourable senator should tell him. The Minister for Health is not aware of any documented evidence of infection in Australia being due to a tortoise. In view of the frequency of the occurrence of salmonella organisms in our general environment, the importance of adequate cooking of possibly infected foods and strict personal hygiene cannot be over emphasised. I have no further information on the matters that were raised by the honourable senator but if there is such information in this country I will see that it is made available to him.
-I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether it is correct, as stated in today’s Age, that Cabinet decided last week to cut textile import quotas by 50 per cent. If so, why has the decision not been announced? Is it because the decision, which would facilitate price increases by domestic manufacturers, is in conflict with the Government’s stated price and wage freeze objectives?
– I realise that Senator Wriedt is upset by my unwillingness to involve myself in what appears in a great number of the daily newspapers. Senator Walsh also seems to be upset by it. Perhaps I should have said at some stage in my career here that what I seek to do is to answer questions when I know something about the subject and can be helpful. I do not talk about things that I do not know about.
– You must give us the information when it is given to you.
-Senator Georges, who could be described almost as a comparatively unhelpful person, should keep quiet. I am trying to answer a question asked by Senator Walsh. I am trying to be helpful. Senator Georges is trying to be helpful too. I suggest that I answer Senator Walsh’s question and that Senator Georges answer himself. He will have a happy time talking to himself in the quiet of his mind. Senator Walsh, referring to some newspaper speculation, asked whether Cabinet has been considering the general matter of clothing and textiles. The answer is: Yes, but this week, not last week. When those conclusions are finalised they will be properly announced, as they always are.
-Yesterday Senator Young asked me a question in my capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. He asked whether Australia was eligible to become a member of the International Energy Agency. I told him then that I would seek an answer to his question. The Acting Minister for National Resources has supplied the following answer:
In answer to the first part of the question, Australia has always been free to become a member of the IEA. However, in September 1976 after consideration by government departments, the Minister for National Resources and the Minister for Foreign Affairs agreed that it would be premature for Australia to reconsider its relations with the IEA following the original decision not to join. In relation to the second point, the Minister for National Resources considers that the more fruitful method of international co-operation in the field of energy research and development- including the development of alternative energy supplies and instituting programs of energy conservation- is on a bilateral basis. Most IEA members are continuing to give emphasis to their own programs and, in the international sphere, to bilateral co- operation which complements these national efforts.
The Minister for National Resources considers, and the Minister for Science agrees, that substantial opportunities exist at present for our research agencies to co-operate with similar agencies in other countries. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australian universities and others have taken fullest advantage of these opportunities in the past and the Minister for National Resources feels sure that they will continue to do so in the future.
-I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter, dated 27 April 1977, from Senator Wriedt:
Dear Mr President,
In accordance with Standing Order 64, 1 give notice that today, 27 April 1977, 1 shall move- that in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The failure of the Government to produce a White Paper on Manufacturing Industry ‘.
Yours sincerely, K.S. WRIEDT
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I move:
I move this motion on behalf of the Opposition because for many months in this Parliament we have sought information on a White Paper on manufacturing. Of course, this Government came to office giving the impression that it would be the saviour of the manufacturing industry and, indeed, of the private sector of the economy in Australia. All that we have seen in the months since it has been in office is a series of ad hoc decisions which have caused a greater and greater lack of confidence amongst the business community, especially in the manufacturing sector. If this Government believes that there has been a turn-around in the economy, it ought to consider documents- incidentally, they are not newspaper articles- which indicate quite clearly that there is a deep malaise in the manufacturing sector and, indeed, across the whole business community.
If we want verification of that fact, we ought to read the documents that are produced by the business community. They establish the fact that at the present time the economy is in a very drastic situation. For example, the April edition of this year- that is, the current edition- of the publication by the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, entitled business indicators, states:
A basic problem in considering the underlying direction of the economy is the uneven performance between major sectors. Important areas of the economy are still near recession levels or exhibiting very little momentum.
We can turn also to the most recent survey by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and the National Bank of Australasia Ltd, which shows that only 57 per cent of respondents in the latest survey had good or satisfactory trading results during the first 3 months of 1977, compared with 70 per cent in the December quarter of 1976. Those comments were taken from documents issued by the business community. They obviously reflect very deep concern about what is happening, especially in the manufacturing sector. One wonders for how much longer the Government proposes to perpetuate the myth that it has instilled confidence and initiated recovery in the private sector. I must confess at the outset that I almost feel some sorrow for the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator Cotton), who is the responsible Minister -
– Please do not.
– Well, I do believe that the Minister has been endeavouring to persuade his Government that the White Paper on manufacturing ought to have become a reality by now; that is, of course, if the statements that he made to the Senate last year meant anything. I believe he was sincere when he made those statements. The fact is, of course, that the Minister has run into opposition in his Cabinet room. He lost the first round to the Treasury; goodness knows whether he will win a round at all. But we have waited patiently for a document for which the manufacturing industry is also waiting. As I shall illustrate shortly, that section of the community desperately needs a guide from this Government as to what it intends to do about the manufacturing sector. This whole issue of protection and free trade is going to take on a new meaning in this country in the years ahead.
Only today at question time we saw the conflict which exists within the Government. The fact is that the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( Mr Peacock) is making noises in South East Asia about improving trade with those countries, which essentially means liberalising trade between Australia and South East Asia. On the other hand we have a proposal by another Minister in this Government in which he is seeking very significant cuts in imports from those countries. So already we see out in the open the conflict between certain interests within the Cabinet.
Let us go back to the position that existed in respect of this White Paper on manufacturing. We will remember that in 1975 in its election platform the Liberal Party said: … we intend to take the matter further by having a White Paper developed for further discussion and investigation. The Jackson Committee’s conclusions and recommendations are of great importance and will be dealt with seriously by the Department of Manufacturing Industry when we are in Government.
Of course the Jackson Committee, as we know, was a committee appointed by the Labor Government. It is interesting to consider that it was only the second time that a committee of this nature had been appointed by a federal Government in Australia. In 1974 on the initiative of the Whitlam Government the Jackson Committee was appointed. The previous committee that I referred to was of course the Vernon Committee commissioned by the Menzies Government back in 1965. That canvassed the problems of the manufacturing industry in this country, as well as other matters. The Vernon Committee report, as we now know, was completely disregarded by the then Liberal Government. Despite all its alleged representation of the manufacturers, private interests in this country and the rural sector, we found that when the crunch came it was not able to deliver the goods. It was not even prepared to consider properly the Vernon report.
– It was thrown out.
– It was put in the too-hard basket.
– Exactly. It was put in the too-hard basket and then thrown out the window. This is an indication of how genuine at that time the Liberal philosophy was towards the socalled free enterprise system. In 1972 this ‘terrible’ Labor Government came into power- the government which is alleged to be against the private sector. One of the first and most significant things that we did- this was acknowledged by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in one of his speeches which I may be able to turn up- was to appoint the Jackson Committee to look at the long term and the short term problems in the manufacturing sector. That Committee reported in October 1975- unfortunately, in view of the events of November 1975. The recommendations of that Committee are very important. We should all be reminded of them. I will not do that myself; I think my colleague Senator James McClelland, who was the responsible Minister at that time and who is more conversant with the matter than I am, will elaborate on those aspects of the Committee’s report. The fact remains that on the initiative of the Labor Government we brought down that report. This Government, as I have just indicated, has said: ‘We will produce a White Paper on manufacturing’. What was the attitude of the present Government when it was in opposition? I quote the then shadow Minister, Senator Cotton, who is now the Minister. In debate on the sales tax legislation on 8 April 1 975 he said:
As an Opposition -
That is, a Liberal Opposition- we are strong believers in the Australian manufacturing industry. We are strong believers in it being supported. We are strong believers in its employment capacity. We can see no virtue in having to put it at hazard and its employment capacity also put at hazard. It has been a factor of our industrial and commercial life for as long as we can remember. We can see nothing to be gained by the process of chop and change, alteration and uncertainty that has characterised a great pan of the manufacturing industry over quite a long time.
In December 1974 in speaking to the Structural Adjustment (Loan Guarantees) Bill he also said:
All of this leads to a great state of uncertainty in the manufacturing industry which might well be described, and has been described, as a state of confusion and a crisis of confidence. This in turn has led to a rundown in investment and activity and a general state of fairly massive uncertainty
They were the sorts of sounds that were being made by responsible spokesmen when members of this present Government were in Opposition. Of course, the theme was being canvassed that the Labor Government of that time was out to destroy the private sector as it was allegedly out to destroy the States.
– It did.
– In fact the States, during the 3 years in which we were in government received more money than they had ever received under any Liberal government and certainly far more than they are receiving from the present Government. I refer again to the business sector. I remember that Senator Webster, who just interjected, indicated at that time that the Labor Government wanted to destroy small businesses in Australia. If we examine the figures, of course, we find that 1 972 was the year in which the greatest number of crashes and insolvencies of small businesses occurred in Australia. That was during the reign of the McMahon Government. That position was not equalled at any time during the 3 years of Labor Government. If any honourable senator opposite cares to challenge that question, I invite him to present to the Parliament figures relating to 2 years ago.
Following the election of the Fraser Government statements were issued concerning a White Paper on manufacturing industry. On 13 February 1976, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, said that work was proceeding on the preparation of a White Paper on manufacturing industry policy, following the publication of the Green Paper prepared by the Jackson Committee. He also said that State Ministers had agreed to provide him with material to assist in the preparation of the White Paper. On 22 April 1976, Senator Cotton said that work had been proceeding steadily on the preparation of the White Paper and it was the Government’s intention to have the White Paper ready later in the year. He said the final closing date for submissions had not been announced but was expected in the near future. Senator Cotton said that it was essential that submissions were in writing so that he and his officers of the Department of Industry and Commerce could have discussions with interested community groups. The last part, of course, we would not argue with but it was quite clear that as long ago as 12 months the Government was allegedly preparing this White Paper on manufacturing industry for presentation to the Parliament in the near future. At the time the Minister also said: the Government saw the White Paper as an important part of its program for economic recovery.
This is a significant point:
It would provide a basis on which manufacturing industry could plan ahead with greater certainty as to the nature and direction of Government policies.
This almost invites the question that in view of the fact that the White Paper has not been forthcoming and in view of the fact that the manufacturing industry in Australia does not know where the Government is going, is this one of the principal reasons that in fact we have not seen the recovery which this Government claimed we would have? Government supporters, of course, also made great noises about tariff cuts by the previous Government. Perhaps during the course of his reply the Minister may be able to tell us to what extent those cuts have or have not been restored. In the same debate on the Sales Tax Bills in April 1975, this statement was made on behalf of the then Opposition:
The magnitude of retrenchments was becoming very alarming late last year and early in this year. . . . However, we do have some concern about Australian manufacturing industry and the motor car industry in particular …
But now, after 17 months of Liberal and National Country Party Government, what does the industry itself and the manufacturers say about this Government’s approach to manufacturing industry? On 22 April 1 976 the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia attacked the Australian Government- this was only some months after this Government had been elected- and said:
The Coalition Government’s new automative policy appeared indistinguishable from the former Government’s plan and represented a singular lack of concern for job security and Australian enterprise.
We can see that at that early stage the manufacturing sector was not in any way happy with the approach that- was being taken by the Government. In fact, on 30 October, Mr Dillon, Federal President of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, said:
Associated Chambers of Manufactures has long been an advocate of explicit Government guidelines within which industry can freely operate with a degree of confidence.
Obviously that confidence has not been restored because the manufacturing sector is completely lost as to what the Government’s intentions are. Industry itself and the community would have some basis on which to plan the Government was allegedly tackling inflation on all frontsand expected to see the thorough and detailed work of the Jackson Committee report released at or about the time of the 1976 Budget. As far as the manufacturing industry is concerned, of course, the earlier it was released the better.
After April of last year it was to be assumed that work on the White Paper was actually under way because neither the Government nor the Minister made any serious comment about the Jackson Committee report or manufacturing industry until 14 September. On that day the Government announced the first of what could be described as a series of ad hoc measures concerning the economy and announced also that a Bureau of Industry Economics would be established. We have heard very little of this Bureau since. I understand that the first of its project references has not been given to it. In fact I doubt very much that much of its staff has been appointed. Here again, because of the Government’s determination to maintain this minimum spending policy, we see that it is prepared to put back the initiatives which were taken by the Labor Government for the manufacturing sector. After the devaluation of the dollar Senator Cotton in answer to a question from me said:
I believe that the document is a good one . . . it is hoped the report will be ready before very long. I shall be trying to get it out so that I can present it to the Parliament before we close.
In March, we had a very similar answer. I have no doubt that the Minister would like to see that report accepted by his Government and presented to the Parliament, but he is having a continual battle with some of his colleagues. The likelihood of our seeing the results of the work that has been done appears to be getting more remote as time goes by. We recall that the original Jackson Committee report of 1975 contained those basic recommendations which would be necessary if the manufacturing sector within Australia was to be revitalised. These factors have been bypassed.
The important point I make in this urgency debate is that the Government came to office on the basis that it would concern itself with the private sector, that it would be the champion of the free enterprise system and that it would remove or undo all those terrible things that were done by the Labor Government. What has been its record since? Let us have a look at some of the current factors which are indicative of its record. I have here the share price index figures for the Sydney Stock Exchange. They make interesting reading. We find that in February 1976 the share price indices for the manufacturing sector, excluding mining- this is immediately after the Labor Government lost office- was 396.82. In February of 1977, 12 months after a Liberal Government came to power, the figure had fallen to 351.78. They are not the only figures with which we ought to concern ourselves. In the Department’s own publication, Survey of Manufacturing Activity, of April this year, the current issue, the same trends in manufacturing industry are revealed. Sales to the December quarter 1976 were up 5 per cent. The expected increase to June 1977 is 2 per cent- in other words, a decline. For the same periods exports were up 10 per cent. At the end of the coming quarter they are expected to drop by 1 per cent. Overtime in the previous quarter was down 4 per cent. Overtime in the coming quarter is expected to be down 14 per cent. Orders in the quarter to December 1976 were down 3 per cent. For this quarter, remarkably and significantly, that question about orders was not asked. Apparently the Department did not bother to ask the manufacturing sector what its present order position is because if it did it would reveal, almost certainly, a very embarrassing position for industry and, of course, for the Government. I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– If we look at the same page of that publication we find the position concerning the utilisation of equipment. It is interesting to consider that in the September quarter of 1976 utilisation was 80 per cent. The expected utilisation for the June quarter 1 977 will be 79 per cent. In other words, there is expected to be a slight decline, but, in fact utilisation in manufacturing industry today is virtually stagnant. If we compare that with the level of utilisation under the Labor Government of December 1 973 we find that it reached a peak in that month of 88 per cent. How does anybody claim, in view of the facts that I have just indicated, that this Government is showing the concern to the manufacturing sector which it claimed it would show before it came into office? Even after the Government came to office, much has been said and noises have been made about how it wants to help the manufacturing sector. It will not be helped by the delay in the White Paper. If there is one thing that will give the manufacturing sector confidence, quite apart from market conditions which this Government is not providing anyway, it will be clear guidelines laid down by the Government as to what it intends to do about the manufacturing sector.
There are suggestions that the Government is considering giving local manufacturers a set section of the market. That is an arguable case to support, I do not believe that the manufacturing sector is looking for that sort of support; it wants to know from the Government what it intends to do, especially in relation to structural change, because all these factors are of direct concern to it. Unless the Government is prepared to produce this White Paper quickly, to stop the arguments amongst its supporters and to acknowledge that the business community is looking for this paper, we can expect the same malaise that we have witnessed over the past 1 5 months to continue.
– I am indebted to the Opposition for raising this matter because it will give a chance to the Senate to consider it in some depth and, if possible, without rancour, recrimination and obvious stupidity in observation. Senator Wriedt made a couple of comments to which I shall respond before I get to the broad area of the subject under discussion. It is always possible in matters like this to advert to various authorities, publications, experts, journals, etc. I shall refer to only one or two of these because there are more important matters to deal with. Senator Wriedt talked about the Sydney Stock Exchange index for share prices and drew some conclusions from it. The best comment I can make that might put his remarks in proper context is that although the all ordinaries index is marginally lower than it was this time last year it is 22 per cent higher than it was 2 years ago. It might be useful for Senator Wriedt to remind himself that he was a Minister 2 years ago.
I think Senator Wriedt talked about manufacturing industry being slack. If he did not say that I apologise to him but, no doubt, somebody will say that or has said it. Manufacturing investment was 33 per cent higher in the December quarter 1976 than it was in the December quarter 1975. It is expected to be 10 per cent higher in the first half of 1977 than the second half of 1976. 1 think that these facts may be useful to those people who have a serious interest in this matter. It is a serious matter. It is not a light or simple matter. It is not capable of instant solution. I think Senator Wriedt made some comment on the Chamber of Commerce bank business survey. There are various conclusions to be drawn from that survey. People will, of course, draw the conclusions which suit them. Various things came out of that survey. The reality of the March quarter is as Senator Wriedt stated. I shall now state the expectations for the June quarter. In that quarter 64 per cent of the firms expect good or satisfactory trading conditions. Fifty-four per cent expect good or satisfactory profitability. Ninety per cent expect higher employment. Eighty per cent expect better liquidity. A further reduction in purchase and overhead costs is expected in the June quarter. Stock levels are thought to be higher. Capital expenditure is seen to be increasing. The comment I have from official quarters is that one would expect in the March quarter a normal seasonal fall. Later, providing time is permitted to me, I shall comment about the difficulties of what I call short run observations.
I shall now come to what might be a more useful development of our general discussion on this matter. The last White Paper on manufacturing industry in Australia was produced in 1945. There have been a lot of opportunities to produce various documents since then. There has been a tendency in Australia through the years to distrust prediction and economic planning and to regard them to some extent as dirty words. I am not one of the people who believe that we can operate in the future without some general understanding of where our country is headed in the total context of what it is trying to do. Therefore, the White Paper in 1 945 was an important document. It had a general full employment approach. Those honourable senators who have studied these matters will have observed that this has been the general wish in Australian society ever since. We now come to what we are looking at today in manufacturing. Manufacturing in this country constitutes a very important part of the economy. It used to account for about onequarter of the production and about one-fifth of the exports, although it is tending to decline now. It employs about 1 300 000 people, many of them born overseas. It generates income of $10 billion and invests about $1.2 billion in new plant and equipment, lt pays out a lot of money in taxation.
Through the years- this is well known to members of the Labor Party who have studied these matters, some of them carefully and thoughtfully- in Australia quite a substantial change in employment patterns has been going on. This is consistent with the development of a country like Australia over a period of time. Conditions have altered from about 1965 to 1967 when about 27 per cent of the work force was employed in manufacturing. In 1971 about 24 per cent of the work force was engaged in manufacturing. By about the middle of last year that figure had fallen to 22 per cent or 21.5 per cent. Employment in agriculture had remained almost stationary at 6 per cent. Employment in mining had remained almost stationary at 1 per cent. Employment in service and other fields had gone up from 68 per cent to 7 1 per cent. It ought to be observed in that context that total employment by government changed very little. It is still about 25 per cent of the work force. Therefore, employment opportunities in Australia have increasingly shown themselves as emerging in the tertiary or government sector; otherwise in the past a problem of unemployment would have had to be overcome. That is the situation with which one ought to be concerned.
Anybody who thinks there is any great joy in taking over an economy rampant with high inflation and high unemployment and in trying to fix it is making a great mistake. There is no joy. It is a difficult job. What is needed for certainty in manufacturing industry- this may be agreed to by all of us- is a position in which a government can indicate in a White Paper on a consistent position, a sensible position, a workable position through time for that sector of Australia within the overall economy of Australia, for that to be, as far as possible, carefully done, thoughtfully done, not hastily done, and for that to be, as far as possible, a bipartisan approach. If in the end the White Paper is a document not thoughtfully done and not carefully done, if it becomes a matter of controversy and a matter on which an opposition can say: ‘When we become the government we will tear it all up and start again’, nobody knows where he is going. There is confusion in the whole area. If a government cannot overcome that it has not satisfied anybody in manufacturing. They need to get their state of understanding and their state of confidence from a confident economy and a well run economy so that in due course they will say ‘Everybody regards this as the fact’, not ‘Everybody regards this as a matter for argument for difference of opinion, and a matter on which we ought generally to be chopping each other about’.
I am fascinated by the people who will throw Australian employment over the cliff, who will destroy manufacturing industry and who will put all this sort of thing at hazard. Most of the people who are strong protagonists of what is called a free trade position tend to be people who have not had their employment or their capital greatly at risk. I am very much concerned with Australia’s economic future, its manufacturing future and the employment of its people gainfully. This business of getting involved in a protection free trade argument, like Senator Wriedt is, is not for me. I want to see a sensible Australia in which people have opportunity and can have confidence. That means manufacturing industry, but it means other people in this country as well. While it is a very critical, extremely important and vital part of Australia, other parts of Australia are equally important and equally necessary. Many of them produce the resources which all of us need. The great export industries are living in the world pressures of trade, cost disability, market access and all those things. They are very important. Without the capacity to export profitably, where are the resources for us to get a structural position which is safe and provides confidence for all people who work?
I am not disposed to instant decisions or instant solutions. I have suggested in the past that the attitude of mind of instant, overnight, top of the head type decisions and solutions brought us a great deal of trouble. I heard Senator Wriedt say that people are complaining that the White Paper is not available. I tell him, for his information, that I have had representations from very sensible and solid people in manufacturing. They said to me: ‘Whatever you do, Bob, take your time to get a good result. We would sooner see you take your time than be bulldozed, shoved, pushed and pressed into something that will not stand up and will not be acceptable’.
– They had enough confusion in 3 years of Labor government.
-I think that might be true. Looking at this matter again in a spirit of trying to be helpful and of trying to be thoughtful, I draw the attention of my colleagues to a published document, the Treasury Bulletin of October 1973. It states something like this: Australia, because of the massive development of its industries, particularly its mining industries, has now generated a great export surplus. It has now generated a massive balance of payment surplus. It has more overseas reserves than it requires. The time has come, in effect, to worry less about exports, to bring in a flood of imports and to put manufacturing under cost-price pressure. This is one thing we can afford to do. We no longer need much by way of big exports. We do not need a great deal by way of overseas reserves. Let us do that’. There it is. That document permeated a great body of official thinking in the time of the previous Government. Some decisions of the previous Government undoubtedly were influenced by that type of thinking. I did not agree with it then. I do not agree with it now. I have a view that out of the 1 950s and the 1960s there was a solid development of Australia’s infrastructure and its industries. They generated big export earnings. Costs were held well down. Opportunities grew. Living standards were rising fast. At about the end of 1972 we were in a fairly satisfactory shape as to balance of payment surplus, as to overseas reserves and as to opportunities for exports.
We must ask ourselves what happened to that situation in the following years. I think we are entitled to observe one or two economic indicators. In 1972 the number of unemployed was 2 per cent of the work force. In November 1975 it was 4.5 per cent. In November 1976 it was still 4.5 per cent. That demonstrates the problem of overcoming quickly a created difficulty. For the December 1972 quarter the rate of inflation was 4.5 per cent for the 12 months. For the December 1976 quarter it was 14.4 per cent for the 12 months. It was 14 per cent for the 12 months to the December 1975 quarter. Again the demonstration is how hard it is to overcome lumps of unemployment, lumps of inflation and lags in economic growth by instant solutions and top of the head decisions. It does not happen. Average weekly earnings increased by 13 per cent in the 12 months to December 1975. They increased by only 9 per cent in the 12 months to December 1972. They are now increasing at the rate of about 1 1.6 per cent. Economic growth, which had averaged 5.8 per cent annually in this country for the preceding 10 years, in 1975 fell to 0.9 per cent. In the 12 months ended December 1976, under this Government, it rose to 5.2 per cent. There are the indicators. Economic growth has returned.
We are still caught with a lump of inflation created in the past and a lump of unemployment created in the past by the people who have an interest in this matter. They raised this matter of urgency. Therefore, they must carry the responsibility for their actions in their time, as we must as well. The economic growth that is now occurring and the reinvestment that is now occurring will, in due course, produce the solutions to those problems of the economy with which we are confronted. Those problems will not be overcome quickly, simply or easily. I still say that it is very critical to understand that no Minister and no government is capable, in a short span of time, of producing solutions to the sort of chaos which was inherited, as the figures indicate.
The fact that we have not released a White Paper instantaneously does not mean that there has been a lack of action or initiatives. An immense amount of work has been done. We have undertaken a great number of policy initiatives. I shall refer to some of them because they may be useful to those who will follow. We undertook a major policy initiative on investment incentives, it came into effect on 1 January 1976. There was a 40 per cent phase to run to June 1978, and a 20 per cent phase to run from July 1978 to June 1983. We have in fiscal and monetary areas a system of trading stock valuation adjustment. We changed favourably the distribution requirements of private companies. We altered the impact of inflation on depreciation allowances, to help businesses. We devalued the Australian dollar by 17’A per cent on 29 November and readjusted it to 121A per cent. At the same time we announced tariff cuts to 900 items. We removed quotas in many areas. We put up a total control position, under very careful management, of the capital inflow in which we are involved as a department with other bodies such as Treasury, the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Department of National Resources.
We changed the reporting requirements of the Industries Assistance Commission and the Temporary Assistance Authority. We asked the IAC to consider particularly in its future reports the method and level of tariff and other assistance necessary to protect industry against import competition; whether industry could be made more efficient; the basis forjudging that efficiency; the possible improvements in it; the level of tariff assistance that this would require; whether restructuring was called for; if so, how this could be done; whether industry was less efficient than it could be due to fragmentation, insufficient specialisation or restrictions; and the consequences to the economy, to the social fabric and to employment of changing the levels of tariff assistance. We altered the program of looking at the metal products industry, to give more time for that industry to come under a period of adjustment. We made changes to the TAA Act. They have been announced but not yet implemented. They clarify its role and identify what it has to do. We developed a strong sectional policy in respect of the motor vehicle industry.
Despite comments by the Opposition, I remind the Senate that when we came to government we had all talk and no plan. We produced a plan after consultation with the industry. All members of the industry said: ‘Minister, this is the first time in our history that we have met together with a Minister to talk about the problems of the industry. It has never happened before.’ This was the first time this had happened. We produced the motor vehicle industry plan to which to work. I tell the Senate that in the total period of the motor vehicle industry in this country, that is from the end of the war in 1945 until about June 1976, capital investment was $ 1,000m. In the last 12 months, since we announced the plan, the investment program has been something like $500m. That is almost half the amount invested in the previous span of time, which was something like 30 years.
We have looked at the aero-space industry with a view to rationalising it and making it more certain and continuous. Those honourable senators who read the newspapers all the time and not some of the time will note that sales of the Nomad aircraft are expanding and are very encouraging. We are looking at footwear, textile and clothing with great care and attention. I observe that in the time of the Australian Labor Party Government manufacturing industry lost 1 10 000 people from its employment and 40 000 people were lost from the textile, clothing and footwear industries. It is that situation which I am trying to recover and to fix. That is what the Government is trying to do. We are looking at the Industries Assistance Commission and at the general area of the iron and steel industry. We lifted tariff quotas on uncoated cold rolled steel sheeting, galvanised iron steel and stainless steel. The Department of Industry and Commerce has been totally restructured and greatly expanded in its functional capacity.
As Senator Wriedt was good enough to observe the Bureau of Industry Economics has been created. It was only set up in its final form and the director appointed about a month ago. Staff is now being called for and looked at. Such a bureau is long overdue in this country. I make no apology for saying that. It should have been started years ago. But it is being started. It will be very useful. Like everything else in which we are involved, it will take time to produce results. It will not produce instant solutions. It will not be required to do so. If anybody says that the Bureau has nothing to do, I point out that I talked to the new director about a month ago. After we had had a discussion about the whole program he said to me: ‘It looks like 25 years work’. It has a lot of work to do. I assure the Senate that the work will be done thoroughly and carefully. It will be valuable work for the Australian community as a whole. The Chairman of the Council who has been announced, that is Sir John Crawford, at my request has taken up the job of making perfectly sure that the work is of merit and is thoroughly done. Nobody can say that there is sectional bias. That is the important matter to observe.
I can tell the Senate why 1 10 000 people became unemployed in Labor’s time and why 40 000 fewer people were employed in the clothing and textile industries. These are not matters which are unrelated to the problem of the 25 per cent tariff cut which encouraged a flood of imports. I have observed elsewhere, in other places- I do not mind doing so again- that I have no evidence and neither has anybody in the Department to whom I have spoken, that the increased flood of imports of clothing and textiles, putting at hazard all the employment about which I have spoken, produced a lower price in the shops to the consumer. I have no evidence of that. No evidence has been produced to me. But I have evidence that 40 000 people lost their jobs in the clothing, textile and footwear industries in the time of the previous Government. It is that matter to which I am directing my mind and to which I direct all our minds.
In the end we, in a nation like Australia, recognise the place of manufacturing industry. It is important because it employs people gainfully and usefully. It adds value to Australia’s primary production and mineral production. It adds to living standards. There are people who say we can do without manufacturing. I do not think that is a sensible view; I think it is a stupid view. There are people who take the individual position, who take the singular position in their inherited right. But I observe that in this country the production of primary industry is almost 50 per cent absorbed by manufacturing industry. This adds value and gives a better understanding of the interdependence of industries in Australia. If I am strong for one thing it is for this country understanding that it does not live and operate in a series of isolated compartments, all remote from each other. For too long in Australia manufacturing industry, primary industry, the mining industry and the general tertiary area have regarded themselves as isolated from decisions made by the others. It is not so and it will not work that way. Equally, with the Federal Government, State governments and local governments standing apart, all kinds of management problems have been produced. There have been substantial problems with the public and private sectors not relating to each other. Australia has to come to grips with a management system which needs to operate the country properly for the benefit of all people. That means an involved operation with an understanding between the public and private sector of what they are trying to do. There needs to be an understanding between the primary, manufacturing and tertiary sectors about what they are trying to do. There needs to be a clear realisation of their dependence upon each other for the total welfare of each other. There should be no taking part in the sectional rock throwing which tends to go on in this country.
There are traditional arguments which one reads in various journals. For example, someone says that he is a free trader and someone else is a protectionist, that Cotton is a high protectionist whilst so and so is a free trader. This is nonsensical. It was great fun back in the days of David Syme when Queen Victoria was still a girl. What is important now is how does one benefit this country best by maximising its resources in a resource hungry world? How do we help the Australian people to create opportunities and living standards and gainful employment? It is by people doing the things they can do best. It is necessary to get a consensus view, an understanding view and an involvement view of what is going on. If that takes time to achieve in the White Paper, then it is time well spent. What we do not want is a situation where all that has happened is that we have created a privileged elite in one section at the expense of another section. But that is not so. It will not happen. I am purposefully taking the necessary time to be sure about that. It has taken me longer than I would have perhaps cared because of devaluation.
I have been concerned, quite rightly, with the opportunities in this country for employment and where that might properly occur. As has been stated by Senator Wriedt, certain manufacturing associations have had one or two rude things to say. I usefully cite something which somebody said on 18 April in relation to the clothing and textile industry which has suffered a great deal. This is found in a publication which is freely available because it is a public document. I think many people would have had it sent to them by the Director of the Textile Council of Australia. This person talks about the work done by myself in New Zealand on the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The document states:
In brief, the announcement means that in future imports of apparel from New Zealand will be subject to similar quota restraints to those applying globally to all other countries exporting apparel to Australia.
Existing levels of quotas for each apparel category will not be increased as a result of this decision.
Imports from New Zealand, together with imports from other countries, will not be allowed to exceed the quota levels already announced for the period ending February 28, 1978.
The other aspect of the Minister’s announcement is that the New Zealand Government has agreed to freer access to the New Zealand market for Australian apparel manufacturers. Members interested should examine export prospects with their New Zealand associates, or if necessary, should seek advice from the Department of Industry and Commerce, Canberra.
This announcement must be regarded as an outstanding achievement in the Australia/New Zealand trade relations. Senator Cotton and those Departmental Officers who assisted the Minister in the negotiations, are to be congratulated.
So the situation is not all gloomy. It is not all black. It is not all people in one section saying rude things. Some people, occasionally, usefully say what is being done constructively. The Department does not spend its time making loud, public noises. As most Ministers who have served with officers of the Department will tell you freely, it is not a department which is given to pushing itself around and telling stories about its activities, other than in the proper place in the Parliament and in the Government. It is a responsible department, highly regarded by those with whom it works and serves. It has a difficult job to do in a difficult time. The Department looks after manufacturing industry. It looks after all importing, all wholesaling and all retailing. It has a substantial interest in the tourist industry. That interest is very large. It is very much involved in the tertiary sector. It is an open question as to who owns the picture business, whether it is myself or somebody else. But if good pictures are showing I try to go along. It has small business as a vital consideration. It has responsibility to deal with the problems of the shipbuilding industry and currently it is looking over and trying to help the island State of Tasmania with an objective analysis of what is happening there. It provides economic inputs to government in addition to Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia. It is part of the capital inflow control management program. So, what it has to say necessarily is said with thought and care. As I said earlier, it does not give itself to making rash statements and statements which in the end will not stand up.
What it seeks to do in the White Paper with which I have been helping the officers- we have had a lot of help from other departments; there has not been, as is presented in various journals, a conflict of view- is produce a White Paper which in the end must represent the Government position for the country both now and in the future. It must represent a position which will cover the interdependence factors of our society. It must look to the potential changes down the road. It must therefore have inputs from many departments and many people. In our consideration of this White Paper we have had 139 such inputs. It took a long time to get one from the trade union movement. It was a good one when it came, but I did not get the paper from the Australian Council of Trade Unions until about 8 October. So it has not been as simple as it might appear to people who adopt a simplistic approach and who can construct such documents over a long week end. I cannot do it. I need more time and so does the Department. We need more help and we look to our colleagues in all other government departments of consequence for it. In the end we want the White Paper to be a document which this Government and future governments of our character, the Australian people and manufacturing industry will recognise as a document which makes clear what we all feel and think about this industry.
It is an illusion to expect that this White Paper on manufacturing industry is expected by some to guarantee a position in time forever, an activity forever and a profit forever. Those sorts of things are not capable of being done. What we try to do in the White Paper is to say what will be the broad shape of the economy, how its employment characteristics will move, how we will look to maximise the opportunities of the people of Australia, what the best way is to look after those people and to help them to do the best possible job for themselves and their country, what should be our balance of trade position and the balance of local opportunity, how we should best add value to the natural raw materials we find or grow them in the ground, and how to maximise the opportunities for the Australian people. All these things are matters for consideration not only for a department like mine using a White Paper like this but also for a government totally, and in the end for a community totally, because if this produces through lack of thought or care a quarrelsome position, no one has been well served. I close my remarks by saying that I am motivated by a simple proposition: It is my job and the Department’s job through the Government to produce a result which is for the Australian people totally and in the public interest and not for any particular private vested interests.
– The Senate is debating as a matter of urgency a motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) concerning the failure of the Government to produce a White Paper on manufacturing industry. Despite all that the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) has said this afternoon, I remind him that it is now nearly 18 months since his Government assumed office. After the Labor Government was dismissed from office in November 1975, the Liberal and National Country Parties produced a policy speech for the edification of the Australian electorate. On the subject of manufacturing and industrial development policy they said then:
We intend to take the matter further by having a White Paper developed for further discussion and investigation. The Jackson Committee’s conclusions and recommendations are of great importance and will be dealt with seriously by the Department of Manufacturing Industry when we are in government.
The simple fact is that it is now nearly 18 months since that statement was made and 17 months since the Government assumed office. There is no longer a Department of Manufacturing Industry; it is now the Department of Industry and Commerce. Not only are we still lingering and waiting for the White Paper, but also are those who are earning their living from manufacturing industries in this country and those who directly as a result of the present Government’s policies are seeking work in either the manufacturing industries or elsewhere.
This debate highlights to the Parliament and to the Australian people another broken promise of the Fraser Government, and that is its failure to produce and to publish the White Paper for the development of manufacturing industry. Uncertainty is the consequence which flows from the Government’s hesitancy and delay in publishing the White Paper. That is having a deleterious effect on future planning by State and local governments. It is having a deleterious effect on industry itself and certainly is having a consequential effect on unemployment, especially in the heavy industrial cities of the Commonwealth. This is not an area in respect of which the Fraser Government can pass the blame onto the Whitlam Labor Government or on to the State governments. The Minister quoted a Treasury document of October 1 973, in the first term of office of the Whitlam Labor Government. I remind the Minister that whilst he says that governments need time to overcome these problems, the simple fact is that we had a mere 18 months in our first term of office in which to effect our policies before we were forced, as a result of the attitude of the Liberal and National Country Parties then in Opposition in this chamber, to a double dissolution of the Parliament. In May 1974 we were re-elected to government and got on with the task.
A mere 2 months after it was re-elected, the Labor Government in July 1974 established a committee, an expert committee, to advise it specifically on policies for manufacturing industries. Its terms of reference were to advise on appropriate policies for the development of manufacturing industry including the machinery required for integrating such policies with the Government’s general economic, social and regional policies, the place of exports and imports in the development of manufacturing industry, and the role of firms of overseas origin in manufacturing, and to advise on communication between the Australian Government and the private sector and the State governments with respect to the development and implementation of such policies. As we all know, the committee was comprised of some very distinguished and prominent Australians. Mr Gordon Jackson, the General Manager and Director of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, was appointed Chairman of the Committee which has become known as the Jackson Committee. As members of the Committee there were Mr Brian Brogan, then consultant to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; Mr Rod Carnegie, Chairman and Chief Executive of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia, Mr Neil Currie, then Secretary of the Department of Manufacturing Industry, and now, if I am correct, Secretary of the Minister’s present Department; Mr Robert Hawke, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions; Professor Ted Wheelwright, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Sydney, and Mr Rattigan who was at that time Chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission.
They are all very prominent and distinguished Australians. They set to work and, after some 15 or 16 months, produced what is known in political terms as a Green Paper, an interim policy document, which was tabled in the House of Representatives on 27 October 1975 and in the Senate on 30 October 1975. At the time when the document was tabled by my colleague, Senator Wriedt, in the Senate, Senator Cotton, the present Minister, made certain comments. I quote from page 16 11 of Hansard of 30 October 1 975. Speaking on behalf of the then Opposition, the present Minister, Senator Cotton, said:
I shall be extremely brief, Mr President. I just wish to say that as this is an historic and most important document, I believe the Parliament is entitled to have time to scrutinise it effectively and adequately. I wish to have some time later to discuss this report at length. Accordingly, I seek leave to continue my remarks.
That was said on 30 October. Twelve days later the Australian Labor Party Government was dismissed from office. An election was held. At that time and during the course of that election the Liberal and National Country parties undertook specifically to bring down in the Parliament a White Paper for discussion. As I have said, that was 1 8 months ago, and the Parliament, the Australian people, the manufacturing industry and those who have lost their jobs from industry as a direct result of the policies of this Government still await that White Paper.
From time to time the Government has talked about amending the Industries Assistance Commission Act. We of the Opposition say that before any amendments to the Industries Assistance Commission Act are looked at by this Parliament we should be able to see the White Paper that has been promised for some considerable time so that we will know and so that the Australian nation will be aware of the Government’s attitude towards manufacturing industry. We understand that three or four drafts of a White Paper have been prepared. It is all very well for the Minister to use the excuse that this takes time and that this is a matter that cannot be solved expeditiously or overnight because, to use his terms, of the chaos that was inherited from the previous Government. We noted that Senator Cotton also said during his remarks today that the problem has grown particularly since the Government took the decision to devalue in 1976. I suggest that that decision is causing the Government, Treasury officials, officers of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and of the Minister’s Department, the Department of Industry and Commerce, enormous problems. That in fact is the gravamen of the problem which confronts the Government at the present time.
I have already mentioned that I too understand that three or four drafts of the document have been prepared. I understand that the first one watered down the protectionist areas, much in line with the ideas of those people who believe in the concept of free trade. Of course, had that document been brought down at the time that there was very rapidly rising unemployment in this country as a direct result of this Government’s policies, it would have run into all the flack in the world, particularly from the Minister himself who, in the Senate on 30 October 1975, after I as then Special Minister of State had presented to the Parliament an annual report of the Industrial Assistance Commission, had this to say, as reported at page 1 608 of Hansard:
The IAC has been a contributor towards growing unemployment in Australia and it should not seek to excuse itself of its responsibility in its annual report.
I charge this Government with the crimes of delay, hesitancy and uncertainty and, as a result of that delay, uncertainty and hesitancy, of creating concern in manufacturing industry and in small business, and thus creating the unemployment that exists in this country.
The Minister made that statement about the Industries Assistance Commission on 30 October 1 975, 1 1 days before the Labor Government was dismissed from office. This Government has now been in office for some 17 months and we still await the White Paper. Let me cite to the Senate a report which appeared in the Melbourne Age on 24 February last. It read as follows:
Federal Cabinet has decided the long-awaited White Paper on manufacturing industry should be reworked.
Several Ministers have been asked to present views on what additional material should be included in the paper.
The paper, prepared by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, came under considerable criticism when it was examined by Cabinet.
Ministers said that it could not be tabled in its present form because it had important omissions.
The paper apparently does not develop what policies should be followed.
Rather, it concentrates on the problems, and is too generalised.
Therefore, whilst the bureaucracy dithers and the present Government dallies, industry continues along in a sort of concussed manner. I am rather interested in the statistics presented by the Minister in his speech this afternoon. The Minister for Science, Senator Webster, who is presently at the table, always blinds us with science. Senator Cotton, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, reminded me this afternoon of a walking computerised bureau of statistics. He plucked statistics from here, there and everywhere. I suggest that those statistics were based on the 1971 census and not on the 1976 census because, in order to cut back on public expenditure, this Government’s policy has been to phase down the analysis of the census of the Australian people that was taken in 1976. Therefore I express some doubt about the validity of the statistics that have been provided to the Minister by his Department.
He said that manufacturing investment was 33 per cent higher in the December quarter last year than in the December quarter of 1975 and was expected to be 10 per cent higher in the second part of 1977 than in the second part of 1976, but I ask him to look at some of the statistics for the industrial cities of Newcastle and Wollongong in the State of New South Wales which I represent in this Parliament. In September 1976, 7.4 per cent of the Newcastle work force was unemployed. In March 1977-the latest month of office of this Government- 9. 1 per cent of the work force in the Newcastle employment district was unemployed, which is the highest rate of unemployment in any city in Australia. In September 1976 in the employment district of Wollongong 6.6 per cent of the work force was unemployed. In March 1977, last month, that unemployment rate had risen to 8.6 per cent. Those areas are basically steel and heavy manufacturing industry centres. They rely to a very great extent on the public sector of the economy, on the construction of roads, bridges, railway lines, railway carriages and rolling stock, pipelines and sewerage lines, all of which construction has been cut seriously as a direct result of this Government’s policies. It is this Government that has closed down the heavy metal and manufacturing industries of this country. I say that it is in the interests of those cities in particular and of those who have become unemployed as a result of this Government’s policies, that the Government should act more expeditiously and should produce to the Parliament a White Paper on manufacturing industry in Australia.
-It has become almost typical of Opposition senators that, whenever it seems that definite signs of economic recovery are becoming apparent in the community, they make the sorts of accusations and very unwarranted attacks on Government policy that they have made today. They are continually seeking to undermine the confidence that is emerging gradually within the community. The point that they have raised today on the question of a White Paper on the manufacturing industry underlines that very clearly. If people expect that a White Paper on the manufacturing industry will suddenly solve all the problems overnight they have another think coming. The problems which emerged when the Australian Labor Party was in office, some of which are built into the system, chiefly through wage indexation, are the problems which we have to overcome in order to develop proper confidence in our manufacturing industries.
We face today enormous problems which have been brought upon us by the twin evils of inflation and unemployment. I think perhaps we ought to quote a few more statistics for Senator Douglas McClelland in order to show the problems that have arisen since 1971. It is quite clear that one of the chief problems in manufacturing industry that this country faces is that manufacturers find it cheaper now to import components or, in fact, to have goods manufactured overseas in order to lessen the Australian labour content in their particular industries. This applies in the motor vehicle industry, the white goods industry and particularly in the textile industry.
We have to ask: Why has this occurred? It occurred very chiefly because of the huge wage increase actively encouraged by the Whitlam Labor Government during 1973. In fact, if we look at the graphs we can trace from the March quarter of 1973 the trend towards rising wages which started 3 months after Labor came to office. I suppose it is all right to say that the Labor Government was activated by union pressures to increase the benefits for the people who were supporting it. But the fact is that these benefits were provided in such a willy nilly, not thought through fashion that they obviously created enormous pressures in the costs of manufacturing industry. I shall quote some of the figures for wage increases from 1971 to date in Australia compared with those in overseas countries. Wages in Australia have risen since 1971 by 69 per cent. This compares with an increase of only 22 per cent during that period in the United States. In Germany during that period wages increased by only 1 7 per cent. Wages in Australia increased at more than 3 times the rate at which they increased in the countries which are our major trading partners.
It is interesting to note that in the period June 1971 to March 1973- a period ending 3 months after Labor came to power- wages in Australia rose by only 5 per cent. During that period there was quite strong growth in manufacturing industry exports. Today export growth has disappeared before our very eyes. Consequently, the job situation in Australia has been affected also. If one compares the growth in wage costs with the increase in the consumer price index from 1973-74 to the September quarter of 1976 one finds that average weekly earnings in that period increased by 66 per cent while the consumer price index increased by only 49 per cent. So, in fact, wage costs far outstripped the increase in the consumer price index during that period. Consequently, wages have increased to such an extent that they have driven manufacturers’ costs upward to a point where they find it impossible now to compete on overseas markets. So much for the export situation.
It is most important, of course, to consider the imports which flowed into this country as a result of the over valued currency which the Whitlam Government deliberately brought about in 1973. The revaluation of the Australian dollar in 2 steps made it more attractive for people to import goods rather than to manufacture them in Australia. This affected the employment situation in manufacturing industry. The Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) has pointed out already that 1 10 000 jobs disappeared from the manufacturing sector. Employment in manufacturing industry fell from 23.6 per cent of total employment in 1973 to about 2 1.6 per cent in the past financial year. This is a dramatically different Australia from the Australia of the 1 960s when manufacturing was increasing rapidly under deliberate policies of the Menzies, Holt, Gorton and McMahon governments.
Senator Douglas McClelland has brought to our attention the fact that a White Paper on manufacturing industry has not yet been delivered. I support the thrust of the Minister’s comments, namely, that what we need is a document which is thoroughly thought through and that searches out the many difficult problems that we face in assessing the whole picture of manufacturing industry in Australia. Let me name just a few areas where many government departments would be involved in formulating their views in order to feed them to the Governmentall of them very complex areas. Taxation policy is a basic element in determining the future of manufacturing industry. Yet, of course, the Government, faced with a tremendous deficit, finds it extremely difficult to address itself to taxation cuts. It is one of the significant aspects of the overall result of the Whitlam Government’s policies that we are loaded with expenditures which cannot be reduced. Industrial relations are a very very complex and difficult area and raise many different concepts that perhaps have not been employed over the past few years. Yet during 1976, under the administration of the Fraser Government we have seen improvements in industrial peace statistics. Even that is generating confidence within the manufacturing sector of the economy.
It goes without saying that the many issues that are at the core of our employment situation need to be thought through very carefully and incorporated in a White Paper on manufacturing industry. Our overseas exchange situation is vital to consideration in preparing a White Paper. As I said earlier, we have just seen the impact of an over valued currency on the job situation in the manufacturing sector. We want to generate more and more exports of manufactured goods, if possible. The adjustments which the Government has undertaken recently in respect of the variable deposits ratio scheme to stabilise capital markets from the inflows to this country of speculative money have been directed in such a way as not to affect manufacturing industry.
Again, the Department of Overseas Trade and other departments connected with that aspect must be finding it very difficult, in the light of current situations arising from the Labor Government’s period of office, to prepare longer term policies and feed them into a White Paper. There is the whole issue of the finance marketsthe stability of the capital markets that was undermined during the term of the Whitlam Government. We now see extremely high interest rates which have resulted from the very high level of inflation we now face. It is a feature of inflation that interests rates are high. Therefore, we have to attack the root of the problemthat is, inflation- in order to ensure that interest rates come down. If interest rates fall, naturally more and more confidence will be generated. The Government’s policy is directed that way.
Consideration should be given to the immigration of the people we need to generate more demand for Australian manufactured goods as well as to provide more employment within manufacturing industry. It is said by some people, and particularly by members of the Opposition, that over the past few years migrants have been nothing more than factory fodder. Of course, this is absolutely ridiculous. We know that in many manufacturing industries there is a very high turnover of labour, so people coming into this country do have the opportunity to go into the manufacturing industries, establish a foothold and find their own way into the community from there.
So all in all we have a situation in which the Government, firstly, had to find out what sort of a mess the economy was in and, secondly, had to devise policies to remedy it. It has not been standing still waiting for the final preparation of a White Paper. In fact, we have seen in the past year or eighteen months policy decisions emerging from the Government in all sorts of areas affecting business and, in particular, manufacturing industry. We saw a statement on motor vehicle policy. We have seen a very clear approach being adopted in respect of tariff quotas as they apply to the textile industry. We have seen the introduction of the investment allowance, which has given companies an opportunity to benefit to the extent of about $400m as a result of new investment activities. This obviously has generated a great deal of interest in the manufacturing sector because some $1.2 billion worth of investment has taken place in the last year. The trading stock valuation adjustment, which is a very significant reform in favour of business and taxation policies, was introduced in the 1977 Budget. This permits a taxation deduction for 50 per cent of the increase in stocks as a result of inflation in the financial year ended 30 June 1977. This on its own will bring benefits to manufacturing industry worth some $400m. All these things are direct additions to the level of confidence in the manufacturing sector.
There are also the adjustments to the Temporary Assistance Authority which were mentioned earlier by the Minister and the special instructions to the Industries Assistance Commission. But there are other things as well. The Minister has undertaken to establish industry consultative committees which will include members from the Opposition and members from the Government Parties. There have been significant breakthroughs in overcoming the lack of confidence in the business community by virtue of adjustments to the Prices Justification Tribunal Act in such a way as to ensure a freer passing on of costs in the community in such a way as to enable business to survive. The amendments that were foreshadowed in a Bill brought down in the House of Representatives before February in relation to the Trade Practices Act are significant in terms of increasing confidence in the business community. This obviously will provide a basis for further discussion within the community as to freer movements within business and consequently will lead to more investment.
All these things of course are overlaid by the Minister’s administration. He has an obvious interest in the problems of business generally and I am particularly encouraged by his decision to establish a Bureau of Industry Economics. Obviously this sort of break-through is significant and will lead to a better understanding of the interdependence of our various industries in Australia and consequently a better understanding when it comes to making off the top of the head decisions in regard to tariff cuts such as we saw during the Whitlam era. We look forward to the emergence of reports from that Bureau over the next few years so as to gain a greater appreciation of the position of the manufacturing industry in our community.
May I finish my remarks by again pointing out to the Senate that although this motion of itself is of no value, I am glad to have been able to speak to it and to give people an opportunity to understand what the Government has been able to achieve during its relatively short period in office in the area of manufacturing industry and, in fact, in the economy as a whole. I hope that people will realise that the White Paper itself, being a very important document, must set down very clearly a blueprint for Australia’s manufacturing industry in the future. It cannot be motivated by short-term objectives. It must be motivated by an assessment of what is needed for genuine progress in Australian industry. It is that, I am sure, that the Government is undertaking. We look forward to its emergence.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Young)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– It must seem extraordinary to the dispassionate observer that a government which came to power proclaiming itself as the champion of private enterprise should have failed so dismally to live up to its promises. I think we can say that in no sphere of its activities, or rather its inactivities, has it been a more blatant defaulter than in its failure to bring down a White Paper on the manufacturing industry. Senator Cotton set out at great pains to show that this was due merely to a care on the part of the Government to hasten slowly, to make sure that it did not blunder into error in such an important sphere by going too fast. But of course this excuse does not stand up to examination because, on his own admission, after a few months a draft of a White Paper was presented to the Cabinet and the reason nothing has emerged from the Cabinet is merely because there is such a fundamental division in its own ranks about what should be the future of manufacturing industry. Obviously there has been not only a brawl between the leading departments, with the Treasury trying to sweep this paper under the rug in the same way as it managed to convince the Menzies Government to do with the Vernon report, but also there is a contest within the ranks of the Government parties about what should be an appropriate level of protection of Australian industy in the period ahead. It is not because the Government does not want to go too fast that we have not had this White Paper; it is because it does not know what to do. There is some food for thought in the fact that it was a Labor government which is constantly depicted by its opponents as being the scourge of private enterprise, which took the initiative to appoint the Jackson Committee in the first place. On the other hand it is a government which is depicted as having the interest of private enterprise closest to its heart which is dragging its feet.
My colleague Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out that the Committee was a highpowered committee consisting of some of our leading industrialists, economists and a leading pubic servant in the person of Mr Neil Currie, the then head of the Department of Manufacturing Industry, and Mr Hawke representing the unions. The remarkable thing is that this Committee was able, despite its variegated composition, to reach a consensus. This was because it got over the petty issues, with which our opponents are mostly concerned, of attempting to blame all the ills of society onto the trade unions. There was a trade union representative on the Committee. The Committee interviewed many trade unionists. The Committee members went into the work places of manufacturing industry and because they were bigger men than the people that we are used to dealing with on the other side of the chamber they were able to reach a consensus and come to grips with the real malaise of Australian industry.
Let us have a look at what has happened since so that we can examine Senator Cotton’s excuse that it has been merely a desire to hasten slowly. The Green Paper, that is the Jackson Committee report, was tabled on 27 October 1975- just a few weeks before we were caught up in the traumatic events of November 1975 when the Labor Government was robbed of office. In the election campaign Senator Cotton promised that he would carry out the recommendation of the Jackson Committee and would produce a White Paper. He did this in the course of the election campaign on 28 November 1975. In January 1976, when he had his present portfolio as Minister for Industry and Commerce, he met with State Ministers who had a realm of responsibility similar to his and asked them to make submissions for a White Paper. In February he requested submissions from the public. On 22 April 1 976 he repeated this appeal. On 30 April 1976 he stated the terms of reference of the White Paper. It was obvious that that is when it began to run into heavy weather. There were constant reports of sabotage from the Treasury and of cold feet by certain members of the Government parties. It was quite obvious to anybody who read between the lines that there was a fundamental brawl going on, not only in the Government Parties but also in the bureaucracy, on the vexed question of tariff policy which is at the heart of the future not only of manufacturing industry in this country but also of our entire economy.
In the brief time that I was Minister for Manufacturing Industry I realised that I had had a very sick child on my hands, or rather a very sick old man, because already it was showing signs of senility. I met with most of the leaders of industry and I was persuaded- I am still persuaded- that one of the things that aggravated the problems of manufacturing industry was the spectacular 28 per cent rise in wages in 1974 which so eroded the retained earnings of manufacturing firms that their gearing ratio was upset and many of them were facing bankruptcy. It was the thought, as much as anything else, of the massive unemployment which faced people in the manufacturing industry that led me to become an advocate of wage restraint when I became Minister for Labor and Immigration. But as this report of the Jackson Committee will show, it is a gross oversimplification of the problems of manufacturing industry, and it is an exaggeration that we hear every day from our opponents, to say that all the difficulties of manufacturing industry are due to the excessive wage demands of the unions and that if only the unions could be put in their place all would be well with manufacturing industry. Now its problems, as this variegated Committee pointed out, go much more deeply than that and are based on the history of manufacturing industry in Australia which could get off the ground in the first place only if it were given more protection than is probably healthy for any manufacturing industry. After all, we were a colony. It is notorious of the British who, when they were colonising people, did not foster manufacturing industry. They looked upon their colonies as quarries, as sources of raw materials which then should go back to the mother country for value added. This was at the heart of British policy. It was only when Australia began to assert some claims to independence that it became necessary to give the sort of protection without which manufacturing industry would not have arisen in Australia. I do not citicise those who introduced that in the first place. This was at the heart of a great contest between the free traders and the protectionists in the last century and in the early years of this century.
I agree with Senator Cotton that the argument has now risen above the primitive level of free trade versus protection. It is much more complex. As the Jackson Committee pointed out, the malaise of manufacturing industry was that it was developing before the present global recession and it will still be here with us after the global recession. The manufacturing industry in this country is structurally inappropriate to the present circumstances and incapable, in its present form, of coping with future challenges. These were the conclusions of the Jackson Committee. Its profitability has been declining steadily so it has not been attractive to investors. After all, the capital market makes pretty ruthless decisions. Labour productivity is low due to the low rates of investment in new plant. The misbegotten investment allowance of the present Government, which was supposed to cure that, was based on the fallacy that manufacturers or entrepreneurs generally would want to invest considerable sums when they had considerable unused capacity. Their problem was that they had no consumers on the local market for the goods that they were producing and any government which knew what it was about should have been attempting not to constrict consumer spending but to expand it. This is at the heart of the economic problems of the present Government.
In addition, the manufacturing industry has been beset by bad industrial relations and aggravated by the fragmentation of the union movement which has led to demarcation disputes which are amongst the silliest disputes and amongst the most costly to the community. Every time we have attempted to facilitate amalgamation of unions and have introduced legislation into the Parliament to do that, we have been frustrated by the Liberal-National Country Parties which have always defeated such attempts to rationalise the union movement. The manufacturing industry has further been hampered by bad working conditions, by its small scale- its smallness on the domestic market- and the Jackson Committee pointed out that there has been needless duplication of plant, there has not been any of the economy of scale and it must become internationally competitive and become an exporter so that it can burst out of the straitjacket of the constricted local market. These are the problems of manufacturing industry in Australia. They are not the problems which our opponents constantly tell us of wicked unionists asking for more than their share. After all, industry manages to flourish in Japan and the United States with people getting as high or higher wages as members of our work force. The fault is not with the work force in Australia. It lies with the managers and with- nobody is to blame here- the history of manufacturing industry in Australia.
Obviously, at the heart of the problem of manufacturing industry is this vexed question of structural change. I must say that I agree with Senator Cotton when he attacked those who attempt to oversimplify this problem. Many of the pundits- especially those in the newspapers who suggest that it is a matter of soulless, logical rationalisation and all will be right- are people with whom I have little patience. As it is pointed out in the Jackson report, what is required is a greater efficiency in the allocation of resources in Australia- that is, changes in the industrial structure should be achieved by freeing resources from established industries needing high tariffs with the reallocation to better use of resources so displaced being left to market forces. But having said that, there are many caveats that have to be added. As the report points out, the resources to be displaced are not economic abstractions. They are flesh and blood- men and women who work in factories and men and women who supply the factories with materials and services. They do not accept that they must suffer or at least be disturbed so that the rest of the community may benefit. The report points out that in principle there will be a benefit to the community in restructuring, in a more efficient allocation of resources. The benefit is likely to be delayed. It is likely to be a long-term benefit rather than shortterm and this is a fundamental economic and social matter to which governments must give their attention now, not in the future. This is why it is an urgent problem. I do not suggest that a Labor government would not have difficulties also in selling, say, structural adjustment. It is a matter on which there are irrational attitudes in the trade unions as well as in certain manufacturing circles. I point again to what the Jackson Committee decided. It said:
The central theme of this green paper- its key idearelates to change and the need to adapt to change.
Manufacturing industry in Australia has been concerned to quarantine itself from the mounting forces of change within and outside Australia. . . . But change is inescapable.
That is why this matter is urgent. It is not a matter that can be treated as though a leisurely approach lasting over several governments will be a sufficient answer to this problem. How can industry plan? How can it invest unless it knows what is to be the Government’s attitude towards its future? What industries are to be fostered? What industries are to be discouraged from further investment? Of course, the uneasiness of industry can be demonstrated by glancing back through the Industry Journal since this Government took office. I do not have time, unfortunately, to refer to any of the articles but they have headlines such as: ‘Private Sector Challenge’, Call for Positive Government Action’, ‘Tariff Debate- Need for Objective’, and ‘Manufacturing Situation Demands Urgent Action’. These are not hysterical cries from the Labor Party or from the unions. These are the considered opinions of those most affected; that is, the manufacturers themselves. They are constantly telling the Government that they had better get on with the job. They do not have a century or a decade to decide these matters. Of course, in his frustration Senator Cotton, understandably, on one occasion lashed out at the private sector and said that the solution was in its own hands and it should not be looking to the Government for any help and that it had better just get on with solving its own problems. I am sure from what Senator Cotton said today that that is not his considered opinion, that it was a bit of rhetoric in which he indulged when he was carried away by being heckled by those who did not understand the enormity of the problem which he was tackling. I know that the problems are enormous. I think that although the Government’s policy on manufacturing industry has been defective, as it has been on industrial policy, I can read between the lines and see that it was not the fault of a couple of capable Ministers such as Senator Cotton and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, but was due to the iron boot of their boss who takes all the important decisions that this Government takes. In any event, in the sphere of manufacturing industry, as in the related sphere of industrial policy we see that this Government, which promised to turn on the lights, gives the impression of a government which is still stumbling around in the dark trying to find the switch.
This Government will soon have been in office for nearly a year and a half and there is not much more time available for it to blame the Whitlam Government or the trade unions for all the ills of society. The people of Australia are waiting with growing impatience for more results to emerge from the awful political traumatic events of 1975. In the light of this Government’s record, I fear that the people of Australia are going to wait in vain. The real reason that we have not got a White Paper on manufacturing industry is not the reason that was given to this chamber by Senator Cotton- that is, that the Government wants to dot every ‘i cross every ‘t’, look to the long term future of Australia and not take any quick wrong decisions- but is due to the fact that this Government does not have a clue to the answers to these problems.
– It seems that a lot of store is being placed on producing a White Paper, irrespective of whether it is ready and irrespective of whether it is appropriate. I do not think we want just a paper or just another lot of promises. I think that what we need is some performance and some progress. The actual paper itself is the least important in this chain about which we are talking. When the paper is presented we know what we want it to provide. We want it to be the blueprint that we hope it will be. I do not see that the production of an interim document or one that is not consistent with present and future conditions will be any use to us at all. A statement was produced on this matter to the effect that due deliberation was given on a considerable range of submissions, which numbered, I understand, some 130. Conditions have been changing considerably. The document when produced must be based on what appears to be a reasonably stable situation for the present and future and must be consistent with conditions and the Government’s aims, prevailing and anticipated.
Manufacturing activity in Australia has increased over the years. It was on the increase for many years. It reached a peak some 2 or 4 years ago. Australia has always been a trading nation. What Australia does is very much tied up with what happens in other countries; what we buy or sell is related to conditions in other countries. As a trading nation we have to make sure that we are in reasonable harmony with our trading partners. The problem in the last three or four years was that our costs rose too high. This makes selling activities difficult and buying too easy.
The work force in 1971 was 5 35 1 000 people. By 1976 it had increased by 764 000 to 6 115 000 people. But the population was increasing faster than that. It is important to realise that, in this period, many more jobs were created, even though a lot of jobs were lost. In the dread period from June 1974 to January 1975 when unemployment increased by 233 000 people in 6 months, the change in manufacturing industry in Australia was brought home to us all. I will not go over whatever reasons caused this state of affairs. I will not try to place any blame. This condition arose because of the weakness of Australian society at the time. We all accepted it. We all lived with it.
It is significant that between January 1976 and January 1977 unemployment increased by 1 1000 in 12 months. Honourable members should contrast this with the increase of 233 000 which occurred in the 6 months from June 1974 to January 1975. I think it is apparent also to most people that the money that is currently being spent on unemployment would be far better spent on assisting industry. I think we also know that money can be spent only on one or the other- not on both. If we spend it on unemployment, we cannot spend it on industry, and vice versa. I believe that there is still plenty of room for more jobs, but the distribution of jobs and wages at the moment is not good enough. There is too much return for too few while too many receive nothing at all. This of course has given rise to technological combat with machine against labour.
While wages continue to increase at the present rate productivity is not increasing at the same rate, nor is our capacity to sustain such rises. This increases our problems overseas. We have only to look at our standing with countries such as Hong Kong, Korea, the Philippines, China and Taiwan to see where these factors place us. We are also having trouble competing with the higher developed countries such as the United States of America and New Zealand. While our rate of inflation continues to increase faster than the levels of inflation among our trading partners, the problems can only continue. In this regard I do not think that anybody can possibly query the claim that the Government’s main responsibility regarding the economy at present is to deal with inflation. That is clearly the right line to follow. If we were to provide Government measures that would give a great impetus to business at the moment out of balance to and failing to recognise the needs of the rest of the economy, we would suffer again the worst surges of inflation as we did in 1974-75. The period is still difficult. Costs are increasing. Markets are shrinking. Higher levels of imports threaten our industries. We have a non-improving production. We still have to work hard on these problems. In this period people in many cases seem to be trying so desperately to put themselves out of work by the actions that they are taking. People still demand cheaper overseas goods while at the same time forcing up the prices of what they make which is becoming harder to sell.
The economy is very much a moving target. It varies so much from day to day. With men like Senator Cotton and Messrs Anthony, Howard and Macphee monitoring it on a daily basis and doing their jobs well, I think we have much to be thankful for. At a time like this when the textiles area is the hardest hit of the manufacturing industries, I think it is well to take note that the Manager of the Textile Council of Australia personally wrote to the Minister and thanked him for the work that he and his officers have done in regard to negotiations with New Zealand. Manufacturing industry generally has never been served as well as it is served now. With the new and improved Department of Industry and Commerce, the Bureau of Industry Economics, the updated arrangements with the Industries Assistance Commission, the Temporary Assistance Authority and the Department of Productivity, industry has now more voice and more places in which to be heard by experts than ever previously was the case.
Over a period I have expressed concern at the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement and its complications and implications in the Australian trade field. I would like to say a little about it now as a Tasmanian looking at Tasmanian industries. It is significant that Tasmania’s main industries in the manufacturing field centre on textiles, timber and timber products, dairying, particularly butter and cheese, paper and pulp, processed vegetables, carpets and so on. All these items are well produced in New Zealand. These products are always in direct conflict with New Zealand trade arrangements. Every one of these items is in trouble in relation to New Zealand products at present. I have raised these matters with the Ministers and with the departments concerned. I have had very good and fruitful discussions. As a result of the last visit to New Zealand by Senator Cotton and Mr Anthony much progress has been made.
At times when trade becomes freer, our own industries cannot be ignored. I was pleased to hear Senator Cotton make the point so strongly today that we are trying to free trade in as many areas as possible but we still must consider the Australian situation and its relativity. NAFTA has been particularly anti-Tasmanian. All the things that Tasmania does well New Zealand also does well. Accordingly, NAFTA has been of great concern to me.
Strangely enough I shall refer to figures from the same document to which Senator Wriedt referred when he began his speech, the ANZ Bank business indicators of April 1977. In the normal course it is said that figures can prove anything and any document can be selectively quoted to produce whatever answer we are looking for. Whereas Senator Wriedt read from the beginning of this document, I read from the end of it. In the section headed ‘ANZ Bank Index of Quantity of Factory Production ‘ I noticed that of 69 items listed for quantity production, all but 1 1 have increased in the 12 months period from 1975 to 1976. These were mainly in the textile, clothing and footwear areas. Certainly, we need improved productivity, better work distribution, the easing of inflation and greater investment to get the economy back to where we would like it. None of these requirements can be induced by the Government. Each of them needs personal attention. I am well satisfied that the Minister and the Government have the matter well before them. They know exactly where we stand and where we are going. I am satisfied that the Minister will produce the document when it is right, when the time is right and when something permanent and definite can be said. But, in the meantime, those in the community who are frightened of the success that may be coming will continue to undermine stability and to talk down progress. I urge people to ignore the call for the White Paper for the sake of having it and to be prepared to take it when it comes in the form in which the Minister wishes it to be lodged.
– The Australian Labor Party in suggesting that there ought to be a debate in the Senate on the manufacturing industry has acted properly and responsibly. It is long overdue that the Senate and the Parliament should concern itself with the malaise that exists in manufacturing industry in this country. Whatever may be the reasons for the failure of the Government to act on this issue, the longer it fails to produce such a document, so that the Parliament can debate the issues contained therein, the longer will manufacturing industry remain in a state of uncertainty and confusion. After all, the Government seems rather loath from time to time to debate economic matters in the Parliament. For example, as yet the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers) has not put down the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on the wage and price freeze which supposedly was important enough to be debated in the House of Representatives last week. So far, the document has not even been presented in this place. It would appear that there is a reluctance on the part of the Government to debate economic issues. In the light of the views of industry itself I think it has to be said that the longer a White Paper is delayed the longer will any economic recovery similarly be delayed.
I shall refer to the comments made by one of the Government speakers in this debate. He said that if we debate these matters we contribute to the uncertainty and confusion in manufacturing industry. I refer him to a report which was submitted to the Government by the Metal Trades Industry Association in October 1976. 1 want to refer to some of the comments made in the final chapter of that submission. The Association said:
The Australian economy is not functioning well- the Government is still trying to bring it out of its most serious post-war recession.
Unemployment has risen to a level unheard of since the 1 930 ‘s depression, and it is still rising.
There is tremendous waste of resources represented by people out of work, idle plant, buildings unoccupied.
Inflation has reduced the value of the dollar and contrary to established economic theory, has influenced consumers to save rather than spend.
Our competitive ability against the rest of the world has deteriorated by 17 per cent since 1971, as the latest annual report of the IAC has pointed out . . .
Real growth in the economy is so low, if present at all, that it can no longer be considered the springboard for sustained economic activity.
In this context manufacturing industry finds itself operating under very difficult conditions and unusual uncertainty.
The report goes on to say:
In fact it is essential for industry to know the Government’s policies and plans, by virtue of the fact that it is a mixed economy, in which the Government exerts a major influence.
Those concerned with industry must necessarily look ahead. It is not being suggested that industry should or will stay rigidly the same. Indeed, even without intervention by others, industry is changing in one way or another all the time, in reacting to the market place, technological developments and international trading conditions.
In the past, however, industry’s decisions concerning investment and expansion were made against a background of confidence- confidence that despite economic fluctuations there was consensus that for Australia to meet its national objectives, a stable and diversified manufacturing sector was a basic requirement.
Much of this confidence is now eroded, and hence manufacturers are not responding to the Government’s call for an investment led recovery.
Of course, the investment-led and consumer-led recovery was the very strategy on which this Government operated its 1976-77 Budget. Yet, in some 17 or 18 months since this Government came to office it has not produced one report dealing with the subjects which have been referred to by Opposition speakers today. In the same period of time the Labor Government produced a very worthwhile and objective Green Paper on Rural Problems and a voluminous report which dealt objectively and properly with the problems facing manufacturing industry in Australia. We have to say that this Government is not carrying out the sort of fundamental review that is necessary for business confidence to be reestablished.
Of course, I know that this Government is faced with the same sorts of problems that exist elsewhere. No government anywhere in the world where inflation, economic downturn and unemployment exist can claim success in its efforts. Surely it is now apparent that the flimsy, superficial and illegal methods used in 1975 to destroy a constitutionally elected government had no substance and, in point of fact, contributed to this lack of business confidence we hear so much about. Clearly the Fraser Administration which used the state of the economy as the excuse to develop its campaign to destroy the Whitlam Government is having no success in its endeavours to develop a healthy economy. Its failure to produce a report on manufacturing industry, and its failure to achieve any worthwhile success on the state of the economy in relation to wages and prices is an indication of its inability to develop properly an alternative strategy. It is having no more success than the governments of France, Germany, Japan or the United States. Even those countries whose manufacturing industries- I am referring particularly to West Germany and Japan- at the end of World War II were given a massive input of American dollars, expertise and sophisticated new and modern machinery after the destruction of their internal economies following their defeat in the war, are now in difficulty. They, like the rest of the industrialised world, cannot find the answers to the current economic dilemma.
I suggest that the inability of this Government to make any fundamental review of the nature of the economy and the problems besetting manufacturing industry and the divisions that therefore exist within the Government are the reasons why the report on manufacturing industry has not yet been dealt with and placed before the Australian Parliament and the Australian community for a public debate. It is clear that we are not dealing just with an Australian phenomenon, as we were told in 1975. The problems are much more manifold and much more fundamental. Manufacturing industry in Australia has been in difficulty for more than 10 years. It was pointed out in evidence before a parliamentary committee that there had been a downturn in private investment in manufacturing industry since 1967. That was 5 years before a Federal Labor government came to power.
Nothing this Government has done since it come to power and nothing it has contemplated in its legislative program will improve the health of manufacturing industry. It is almost a century old. It has the support of tariffs and of government intervention from the first day of its inception. Firstly, it was a means of revenue support. Subsequently, it was a means of developing an alternative industry, as it emerged after Federation. The Federal Government took initiatives to place manufacturing industry on a firm and financial basis. For the last 70 years there have been protective tariffs designed principally to encourage local manufacture. By the time World War II was finished manufacturing was contributing something like 25 per cent of our gross domestic product. Now 25 per cent of the Australian work force is involved in manufacturing. There has been a decline, not very discernible but discernible, since 1967. It is that 25 per cent of the work force which is beginning to be unemployed in manufacturing industry.
Let us have a breakdown of where that 25 per cent of the Australian work force is placed. Of this 25 per cent, 72 per cent are located in the 5 main urban centres on the east coast of Australia. In New South Wales they are located at Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. In Victoria they are located at Melbourne and Geelong. Yet a month after the Wran Government was elected in New South Wales, the Prime Minister- ignoring the fact that there was a report on manufacturing industry known as the Jackson report and ignoring the structural difficulties that manufacturing industry had in Australia- in his typical, inane and inept way, had the temerity to suggest that the decline in the work force in New South Wales arose primarily as a result of Mr Wran’s election. The Prime Minister ignored the basic facts encompassed in the report on manufacturing industry. Australia’s rapid industrialisation took place in the post-war years. There was tremendous accumulation of capital as a result in the boom years of the 1950s and 1960s. It is a question of trying to work out what has happened to that capital, why it has not been applied to modernisation of manufacturing industry and why it is now leaving Australia in great quantities and finding its place in the cheap labour centres of Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines and Singapore. The fact that any Australian dollars in the form of capital go out of this country to cheap labour content countries which produce goods which are imported into this country must contribute to further structural difficulties of manufacturing industry in this country.
The structural problem that faces manufacturing industry is similar to the structural problems in agriculture. I do not think any honourable senator would disagree with me about the difficulties that face the Australian economy, as distinct from the general malady that faces countries in which capital is the predominant force on the world scale. In addition to those things which are affected by world trade changes and by changes in the pattern of trade, we have problems of structural difficulties in manufacturing and secondary industries. Yet we still hear Government members suggesting that those factors should be set aside and that we should have a development of our mineral resources, as if that would provide us with the wherewithal to bring about some resurgence in the national economy. Senator Messner obviously has not read the Industries Assistance Commission report dealing with the problems associated with the change in the structure of the Australian economy. That report drew attention to the unbridled and excessive acceleration of use of our mineral deposits in the late 1 960s that forced the Whitlam Government in 1973 and 1974 to revalue. It would not have mattered which Party was in power. There was such a massive outflow of profits as a result of the exploitation of our resources and the sale of those goods overseas, coming in the quantities that it did, that the Government was forced to revalue.
In the process of the revaluation and in the process of” the structural changes arising out of the unplanned and very rapid development of our mining resources we imposed extra stresses and strains upon our manufacturing and agricultural industries. The Government sits back and allows its Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony), to go on a world tour and suggest the way forward as far as the Australian economy is concerned is to stimulate income. The Prime Minister suggested that all we have to do is reduce the cost of production in the form of wages. He ignored the influence that the market place plays in the processes of determining prices and the cost of goods. He suggested that all we have to do is reduce real wages and, when we have done that, there will be no further problems within the economy. He ignored the clear facts that last year there was an increase of about 33 per cent in profitability, that real wages fell by 3.3 per cent and that in the same period the unemployment rate rose by 17 per cent. If we cut back wages to reduce costs, we reduce the capacity of the community to buy the goods that we are producing in an over-produced situation in the domestic scene. There would be an inability on the part of the community to absorb the imports from overseas.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
– This afternoon the Senate has been debating an issue raised by the Opposition about the lack of presentation of a White Paper on manufacturing industry by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton. I was surprised that the Opposition bothered to take up such an issue. I was also surprised at much of the socalled logical argument which the Opposition propounded this afternoon. We all know that manufacturing plays an important part in the life of this country. We also know that the situation regarding manufacturing industry generally, both large and small business, was in a very bad state when the present government took office and when Senator Cotton accepted responsibility as Minister and inherited many problems which were created by the Australian Labor Party when it was in power. Manufacturing is an important part of the whole of the economic sector of Australia. It accounts for about onequarter of our national production and about one-fifth of our exports. It has employed more than 1 300 000 people and generated incomes of more than $10 billion. Those figures alone show the importance of manufacturing industry to this country.
If one looks further one finds that, overall, from 1974 manufacturing industry employed something like 23.5 per cent of people working in general industry. By 1975 this figure was down to 21.9 per cent and by May 1976, fortunately with the wisdom of government, the position has been held and employment in manufacturing industry was standing at about 21.6 per cent. The point I am making here is that while manufacturing industry in many aspects had been sorely neglected and badly bruised because of the policies of the previous Government, when we took office we were able to reach a static position rather than a continuing decline. I was interested in the comment made this afternoon by Senator Douglas McClelland who stated that in 1974 the Whitlam Government established a committee for the development of manufacturing industry. I only say that I wish that Government had done that in late 1972 when it took office. If the then government had established a committee at that stage it would have had some sound advice on how to assist industry rather than to deter industry.
When we took office we were faced with manufacturing industry whose confidence was totally at rock bottom caused, as I have said, by the policies, attitudes and philosophy of the Labor Government. For quite a time profit was regarded as a dirty word. I concede that in 1974 profit was recognised as a necessary part of industry generally, but by then the damage had been done. Inflation was running at an annual rate of some 14 per cent. This afternoon costs were discussed. We found that average weekly earnings had risen by over 60 per cent in the 3 years of the Whitlam Government. Many forms of support by the previous Government which had helped to control costs had been abruptly removed. I refer to concessions to export industries and various taxation concessions. To top off the situation we had a 25 per cent cut in tariffs right across the board which had an adverse effect upon labour intensive industries. One does not have to go into detail to explain the chaos that caused in industry and the tragedies which resulted to employment in this country. Today we are trying to recover the situation, but on top of this we have the humanitarian problem of unemployment.
I was very interested in many of the comments and criticisms made today about our current policies and what is happening with regard to small businesses. I ask honourable senators to cast their minds back to 1 974. That is the year to which Senator Douglas McClelland pointed this afternoon as being the year in which the Whitlam Government established a committee to look into and to assist manufacturing and secondary industry generally. I shall read from the Sydney Morning Herald of 28 August 1 975. The article is headed:
The small man is going out of business.
I emphasise that this article was written in August 1975 towards the end of the 3-year term of the Whitlam Government. It states:
Statistics tell part of the sorry story. Last year 463 people in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory were declared bankrupt -
That is the year 1974- either voluntarily or by sequestration. In the first 6 months of this year 253 bankruptcies were registered. The figures for the second 3 months of this period, April S3, May 54, June 45, were higher than the normal monthly averages.
The article goes on to state:
A bankruptcy registry official said: ‘ Particularly in the past few weeks the number of individuals volunteering to be declared bankrupt far exceeded those over the same periods in the previous years ‘.
I refer to New South Wales in particular with these figures because this afternoon New South Wales was used as an example for the current situation. It is interesting that the article in relation to 1971 states:
A total of some 537 companies in New South Wales went into liquidation, 894 in 1972, 1058 in 1973 and in the year 1974, 1 155 companies went into liquidation in the State of New South Wales.
The article goes on and asks:
What of the fate of those businesses which are run as family concerns or partnerships and are not registered as companies? These businesses are registered under the Business Names Act and it is significant that in 1974 applications for new names were 1036 fewer than in 1973 -
These are the words I want to emphasise to the Senate- the first yearly fall recorded by the New South Wales Statistician ‘s Office since 1 967.
This shows clearly the situation which was current when this Government took office. This afternoon we have listened to platitudes. We have listened to criticism from the Opposition with regard to the current policies of this Government. I know we must look forward and not backwards to any great extent but I only wish that the previous Government in 1972 had thought about establishing a committee to give it a bit of advice on the realities of the economy and on the need to give assistance to industry rather than leaving it until 1974 when, as I have just shown from the figures I have cited, the damage was done. I have shown the tragedies of what happened with regard to the overall situation. As I said earlier, inflation was running at terrific rates. We had problems with increased weekly earnings. We had increased manufacturing labour costs. A document which I have states:
Between 1972 and 197S these costs increased at an average rate of more than 1 7 per cent per annum.
This rate of increase was greater than in any major trading partner and compared with a rate of about 6 per cent per annum in the United States of America. I think this is significant because if one looks at the figures for West Germany and Japan one sees that they had high inflation rates during the energy crisis but that they were able to recover their situation. We in Australia at one stage were one of the lowest inflated countries in the world but tragically, within 3 years, we became one of the international pacesetters for inflation. Today we are still paying a great price for it.
One could go to many other areas to illustrate the problems we are facing at present, but let me turn instead to what the Government is doing about them. A number of policy decisions already has been implemented. One is in respect of the motor vehicle industry and the other concerns the abandonment of a piecemeal approach towards the textile and clothing industries and the introduction of a tariff quotas policy for those industries in the short term. A fortnight ago Senator Cotton and Mr Anthony went to New Zealand to have discussions with the New Zealand Government on the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Arrangement. No doubt textiles were discussed because there has been grave concern in Australia as a result of the problems which have been created in the industry.
We face a great problem and I cannot emphasise too much that, whilst other factors contribute towards it, fiscal policies have had a great effect upon the general situation. One can appreciate that productivity in Australia is down at present in comparison with so many of our trading competitors throughout the world. Also other countries have reduced their inflation rate but we unfortunately, even though we have reduced inflation, are still facing grave problems in this area. I refer again to what the Minister said this afternoon about the White Paper. He mentioned many of the policies which the Government has implemented. I wish to mention two more which have had very beneficial effects upon the economy generally and upon industry in particular. I quote from a paper prepared by the Minister and delivered in Sydney a fortnight ago in which he said:
We have introduced adjustments to division 7 taxation to improve the retention of funds by private companies, most of which are small Arms. The amount of after tax income which can now be retained by private companies without further tax penalty has been increased from SO per cent to 60 per cent. Policies are already beginning to pay ofl” with regard to the overall economic performance. In investment in plant and equipment by private enterprise it has increased by 32 per cent in the year to the December quarter of this nineteenth year, 1976, equal to a growth of 18.4 per cent in real terms.
I could go on mentioning other policies. I wish instead to turn to the reference by the Minister to the White Paper in August 1976 where he stated:
I held discussions with representatives of 17 major manufacturing and non-manufacturing associations on the White Paper. In November I made an advanced draft of the White Paper available to officials of the Commonwealth Government. The November 1 976 devaluation and the subsequent change in the exchange regime had been one of the reasons for recasting the draft of the White Paper. More recently the main issue has been the study of employment opportunities.
I wish to underline ‘employment opportunities’. He continued:
My objective is to have the White Paper released in as short a time as possible but I am also concerned that it should be a good and sensible document. It is simply a case of balancing these two objectives.
I think that that is most important. It is all very well to talk about a White Paper. The Minister without any trouble could produce a White Paper. However, in view of the number of people who have presented submissions to the Minister, in view of the need to study those submissions in depth, the need to have discussions with other people and to take into consideration other factors such as the infrastructure and the general structuring of industries, the need to get industry established properly and not to have holes and pockets in a White Paper, there is every requirement to make sure that responsibility is directed towards the preparation of a White Paper and not just to the presentation of a White Paper. The White Paper will be a guideline not just for government but also for manufacturing industry in this country with all its diversification, with all its large and small enterprises, and for those who wish to start enterprises. They will be looking for clearly defined and positive guidelines.
So, there is a need to act responsibly. We have seen irresponsibility in the past in this country. We have seen the results of irresponsibility from previous governments. I support the Minister and am glad that he is taking his time to make sure that, when a White Paper is presented to this Parliament and country, it will be a paper of substance, a paper clearly defining the issues and guidelines and a paper that will give encouragement and confidence to manufacturing industry which for so long has been looking for leadership and has been lacking confidence because of the lack of leadership and lack of positiveness and clarity in Government policy. I support the Minister and totally reject the argument put forward by the Opposition today.
Question resolved in the negative.
-by leave- On behalf of the Standing Committee on Social Welfare, I wish to inform the Senate of the outcome of the Committee’s consideration of a number of annual reports referred to it by you, Mr President, pursuant to resolution of the Senate. The Committee sought elaboration from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in respect of one matter arising from the Department’s annual report for 1974-75. In response, the Department provided additional information on grants to States. Having examined the additional material, the Committee sees no occasion for further action on that report. The Administrator of Norfolk Island, at the Committee’s request, provided further information on the following 3 matters referred to in the annual report of the Norfolk Island Administration for 1974-75:
We have been advised that action has been taken to overcome the backlog of legislation and to control the spread of noxious weeds.
The air service to Norfolk Island is now conducted by East-West Airlines Ltd, which introduced Fokker F-27 aircraft when it assumed responsibility for this service at the beginning of March of this year. Furthermore, a number of important recommendations concerning the airport were made by the Royal Commission into Matters Relating to Norfolk Island which reported in October last year. The Committee considers that no further action on the Norfolk Island annual report is required at this stage.
The First Annual Report of the Commissioner for Community Relations, which covers the period from 31 October 1975 to 30 June 1976, raises a number of important matters which require departmental consideration. Future developments will be noted with interest. I should like to say, in conclusion, that the Committee’s examination of the following 12 annual reports referred to it has revealed no need for further action at present:
Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority 1975-76
Australian Capital Territory Police for year ended 30 June 1976
Medical Research Projects 1974
Department of the Capital Territory 1 975-76
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs- Review of Activities to 30 June 1976
National Advisory Council for the Handicapped for year ended 30 June 1976
Aboriginal Hostels Limited 1975-76
Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority 1975-76
Australian Capital Territory Fire Brigade 1975-76
Australian Military Forces Relief Trust Fund for year ended 31 December 1975
Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund for year ended 31 December 1975
Royal Australian Navy Relief Trust Fund for year ended 31 December 1975.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) agreed to:
That consideration of the business of the Senate be postponed until the next day of sitting.
Senator COTTON (New South Wales-
Minister for Industry and Commerce)- I move:
This is to enable the formal business of the Senate to be completed and for the Senate to adjourn in time for the Senate Estimates Committees to meet at 12 noon tomorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 2 1 April, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I have referred very briefly to some of the most substantial of Australia’s overseas aid programs and to the fact that the Australian Development Assistance Bureau has a staff of approximately 550. It is worth noting that in 1973-74 the former Australian Development Assistance Agency had approximately the same number of staff when the total overseas development assistance program was $26 lm. It is now $38 lm. This raises the question of whether the Bureau has adequate staff to handle that very large program. It has a larger Budget than 22 Commonwealth departments. This matter needs to be kept under review so that the staffing of the Bureau is adequate to handle this very substantial development assistance program. Let us take as an example the aid program for the South Pacific countries this year, which was intended to be $ 1 5m. My understanding is that now it will be about $ 13m. That raises the question of whether that shortfall, if it occurs, is due to the absorptive capacity, or lack of it, of the countries in the South Pacific with respect to the very substantial amount of aid that we had proposed or whether it is due to the problems that the Bureau may be having with staff. I simply say that this sort of thing needs to be kept under review by any government. It is something that could be taken up by the Estimates committees or, if necessary, subsequently in the Committee of the Whole.
I have already referred to some of the factors which are now affecting development assistance programs and I point out, with respect to the Bureau and its staffing situation, that it is important that these new factors which relate to development assistance must be carefully co-ordinated with our development assistance programs. If we simply take proposals for a new international economic order they encompass such issues as trade and development of raw materials and primary commodities, tariffs, the international monetary system, financing of development generally, industrialisation, the transfer of technology, the operations of transnational corporations and sovereignty over natural resources. Obviously all these things need to be considered carefully in the context of our foreign policy and of our development assistance policies. They are issues which will also have to be taken into account by the Development Assistance Bureau.
There are other important issues which also impinge upon our development assistance activities such as the problems of refugees throughout the world and new questions of assistance to Africa which pose some particularly challenging questions for us. Also, as I have mentioned already, trade and the related question of tariffs are of particular importance in this respect. It is well known that developing countries have to improve their export earnings otherwise their already difficult balance of payments positions will worsen and that will mean greater reliance on international loans or other development assistance to finance their development. It is interesting to note that in the first 20 years of major development assistance programs, from 1950 to 1970, the developing countries’ share of world trade declined by 35 per cent although their exports increased by an annual average of 6 per cent. This has continued in the period since 1970- that is if we exclude oil exporters. I believe that we ought to exclude the oil exporters because they are enormously wealthy countries although they are developing countries economically speaking and they have a great role to play in providing development assistance to the less affluent nations. There are signs that they are prepared to do so and are beginning to play that important role in development assistance.
A number of factors have contributed to the decline of the developing countries in world trade. There has been an increased volume of manufactured goods and there have been declining prices for primary commodities. These have affected the developing countries especially. In many developing countries population growth has absorbed the increased production of commodities and that means that they have had less to export. I think it is worth noting that in a paper produced recently by the Department of Foreign Affairs in its Backgrounder series the following statement was made referring to some of these difficulties which have arisen because of:
I think that there is a great irony in that statement that the provision of food aid to developing countries has retarded the growth of food production in some cases. That sort of shortsighted aid program can do as much harm as good. I do not refer to emergency food aid because obviously that has a different role from the general role of food aid as referred to in that paper. The paper also refers to the internal policies of developing countries. In that respect they have responsibilities to pursue domestic policies which will provide real development and be less concerned with more grandiose projects which are less relevant to the people concerned.
The developing countries have argued for and endorsed the concept of the need for fundamental structural change in international commodity marketing patterns. They have endorsed the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development idea of an Integrated Program for Commodities, known as IPC. That refers to international commodities stocking and pricing agreements for 18 commodities traded by developing countries. Fundamental to the IPC program is another proposal for what has been referred to as a Common Fund for finance commodity stocking arrangements and thus to improve the trading position of developing countries. Senator Wriedt suggested that the present Government has adopted a negative stand on these proposals, the IPC and the Common Fund. I reject that suggestion and I would like to quote from a letter on this question which I received from the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Anthony). It says:
The Fourth Session of UNCTAD, held at Nairobi in May 1976, adopted Resolution 93 (IV) on an Integrated Programme for Commodities of particular interest to developing countries. (A number of these commodities, e.g. bauxite, copper, iron ore, meat and sugar are also major Australian exports.) The Programme provides for a series of meetings on the individual commodities covered in it, to be followed by commodity negotiating conferences which are to be concluded by the end of 1978. The objectives of the Programme include seeking to achieve stable conditions in international commodity trade and avoiding excessive price fluctuations with price levels that are remunerative and just to producers and equitable to consumers.
As a major commodity producer and exporter, Australia has been advocating the need to try to improve the conditions of international commodity trade and welcomes this concentration of international effort on commodity trade problems. We have participated actively in the discussions to date and will continue to do so. As you are aware, I am about to go to Geneva to lead the Australian Delegation to an important International Sugar Conference. However, it needs to be appreciated that the Integrated Programme is a complex and ambitious project. We have learned from hard experience that it is not easy to make progress in the commodities field.
The proposal for a Common Fund is a related but somewhat different matter. The main purpose of a Common Fund would be to provide finance for buffer stocks and other possible stocking arrangements for individual products which might be agreed in the context of the Integrated Programme. As is evident from the Nairobi Resolution, buffer stocks and stocking arrangements are only one of the measures that are to be considered in seeking to achieve the objectives of the Integrated Programme.
At this stage it is far from clear what part buffer stocks or stocking arrangements might play in trying to find solutions to the problems of individual commodities and hence what finance may be needed. Moreover, a number of complex issues important to both developing and developed countries remain to be fully developed and discussed. It would, therefore, be premature for the Government to support the establishment of a common fund or take a financial commitment before all the elements have been considered internationally and firm proposals drawn up.
It should also be understood that the Nairobi Resolution did not provide for the establishment of a Common Fund. It called for a series of meetings to discuss and elaborate a proposal. This is the work that UNCTAD has been engaged in and was the purpose of the recent Geneva meeting.
In this context I think it is worth quoting also from a statement on the common fund made on 2 1 April by the Minister for Overseas Trade, in which the Minister said:
Australia firmly believed that its producers and consumers agreed in principle to establish buffer stocks in a commodity arrangement and such an arrangement could not fail for the want of funds. There was a need for a scheme and a target, where producers and consumers should accept joint responsibility for ensuring the availability of finance.
Mr Anthony drew attention to the importance of the present UNCTAD sugar negotiations. He said successful negotiations would give impetus to the UNCTAD idea of an integral program for commodities- including negotiations for a common fund. I think those statements demonstrate that the Government’s position is and has been anything but negative on this issue and that, indeed, we are actively involved in the negotiations which are being conducted- and quite rightly so. But it is only proper that those negotiations ought to be approached carefully and that they ought to be completely examined before any decisions are made. That is what is happening now.
I think the significance of these sorts of issues with respect to development assistance have long been recognised by Australian governments. I have mentioned previously that in 1966 we introduced preferences for less developed countries. In July 1976 the present Government introduced concessions for imports of tropical products from developing countries. In December 1976 we announced new concessions under the Multilateral Trade Negotiations. But it is of great significance also that more than 80 per cent of all imports into Australia from developing countries enter Australia now either preferentially or free of duty. That is a very substantial amount of imports. But the question now is whether we might be able to provide access for other products. That, of course, is one of the questions to which we must address ourselves in the future when considering our contribution to the growth of the economies of developing countries. All of these new developments require close co-ordination of aid, trade, investment, energy policies and, of course, our political and diplomatic activities around the world. Aid cannot be separated from these other things. I believe that placing the Development Assistance Bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs will strengthen the Bureau particularly, for example, in interdepartmental dealings. Australia’s aid program will thus be strengthened and, I hope, more closely co-ordinated with our overall international policies.
I think that everybody who is involved in this issue, whether in the private sector, voluntary organisations or the Government, has to recognise that aid is not the answer to development; it is only a small part of the answer. Many other policies or actions can be more important. Indeed, as I have mentioned already, some aid can be detrimental to real development needs. This may become apparent only in retrospect, but certainly it can be so. I refer to the impact in some cases of long term food aid which in fact had a detrimental effect on the food production policies of some countries.
I should like to refer to the Development Assistance Advisory Board which was established at the same time as the Development Assistance Agency and which will be abolished by this repeal Bill. I believe that the Development Assistance Advisory Board provided for important community participation and community contribution in the area of development assistance. I think it is important that aid should be a national effort, recognised as such, in which the community as a whole is involved. Indeed, it should be seen as a community responsibility. The Minister said in his second reading speech that he is giving thought to its’- that is, the Advisory Board’s- ‘replacement by an informal advisory mechanism’. There is a need to establish that sort of advisory mechanism. I believe that it must be advisory and that its membership should be drawn from the community. It ought thus to supplement the work of those people who are employed full time in the Development Assistance Bureau. But I think the emphasis should be on its advisory role and that its membership should be drawn from the community.
Finally, I would simply like to say that I think this proposal to abolish the Agency and to establish a bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs makes sense in current circumstances. But at the same time I think we and the Bureau should take the opportunity to reassess totally Australia’s development assistance program. I think we have a reasonable record in terms of the relevance of our aid, its impact in developing countries, the extent to which it has been integrated with development programs and the impact that it has made at the village or local level. In other words, in many cases- I think in most cases- our aid has reached the people. It has been given mostly in the form of grants. We are proceeding now to untie some aid which in the past has been tied and the importance of trade as well as aid has been well recognised by Australian governments.
As I said before, I do not think that this gives us any reason whatever to be complacent about our development assistance program. It does not mean we can overlook our obligations as an affluent nation to those less well off. It does not mean we can avoid our responsibilities in this respect. We do need to reassess our development assistance because of some of the complexities that are emerging now in international relations and because of some of the new issues which are emerging which relate to development assistance and to the general question of development around the world. There are new problems, new needs and, indeed, a lot of new countries. There are new technologies that can be applied, in some of which we have special expertise. But I think we have to see also that aid is put to the use for which it is intended. The donor country has a responsibility in that respect to see that the aid serves those who are in need and to whom the aid is directed. If our aid does those things and if it serves the principles which I outlined when I spoke previously on this matter, it will in fact be serving our own interests because it will be providing for development and ultimately, we hope, for stability, particularly in new countries in a world where we can only hope that equality, partly through our efforts, might eventually come to have some real meaning.
– I have listened with considerable interest to Senator Knight’s contribution to this debate and give considerable support to what he said. Much of what he said in relation to the need for appropriate technology transfers I agree with wholeheartedly. Therefore, one would hesitate to put the position of the Opposition- that is, its opposition to the Bill. Our opposition is based not so much on the principle of giving overseas aid but upon the dismantling of the Australian Development Assistance Agency and the establishment of the Australian Development Assistance Bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs. We believe this to be a retrograde step. The
Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) made this clear in his introductory remarks. He has also made it clear that this may be a device to reduce the level of overseas aid.
In this world of massive division between the rich and the poor- no one would deny that the division exists- those of us who have had the opportunity to travel north into South East Asian countries, and I can accept that Senator Knight must have travelled to these countries, would be impressed most unfavourably by the division which exists between the peoples of, say, Sri Lanka- Ceylon as it was known- and the peoples of Australia. In comparison with some of the provinces of India, Sri Lanka is advantaged. Nevertheless the division between the rich and the poor of countries of South East Asia and other countries to the north is, in the terms I have used, massive. The type of assistance which countries like Australia can provide is therefore crucial to the development of these countries. One finds it very very difficult to accept the position that the Premier of Queensland takes when he says: ‘Ignore the needs of the many millions to the north; look after our own first’. That parochial attitude is to be deplored when one considers the deprivation of the people of the many countries to the north of us. We cannot afford even in the depressed economic situation in which we find ourselves to reduce in any way the level or the effectiveness of the aid which we provide.
It is my firm belief that the bulk of assistance must meet the recurring problems of poverty, malnutrition, disease, illiteracy and the cultural and social needs of the recipients. Because they are recurring problems there is the need of continuing aid by Australia to these countries. For too long Western aid to the developing countries has been misplaced and misdirected. Those of us who have been on committees can realise just how much of the aid we have provided to countries to the north of us has been misplaced, misdirected and misused by the recipient countries. I would have thought that we should be directing our attention to this misuse of aid rather than to reducing the amount of aid. If it is necessary for economic reasons to maintain aid at the same level we must make certain that it is not misused. Unfortunately also- and there is criticism that we on this side must make- that aid has served as a mechanism to entwine the poorer countries within our own framework. The aid has been directed towards that end more than it has been directed to alleviating real poverty and oppression. One could be excused if one were to come to the conclusion that sometimes we give assistance and some support to development in underdeveloped countries merely to serve our interests and not to serve the interests of the recipient countries. One could criticise us for exporting know-how to the countries of the north and one could be cynical and say that the know-how is not to assist but merely to obtain a cheap advantage, sometimes to the disadvantage of our own industries and factories in this country.
The need for co-operation between rich and poor countries is probably the single most important step we can take in changing the global imbalance, but co-operation means partnership, equality and a willingness to accept the need for ourselves to change. We cannot continue to accumulate the world’s resources- that is what we are doing- while millions starve. I merely take our country in isolation, but we could be one of a number of nations which are guilty of this manoeuvre. We are the ones who will have to rethink our obsessions with growth, consumerism and resource development. We are the ones who will have to alter our view that the Western affluent countries should be served with commodities by the Third World and underdeveloped countries. If mankind is to survive a more equitable world system will have to be evolved or we will have to suffer many Vietnams. This may sound pessimistic but it is my view that unless we lift the standards of the people who surround us- not so much the people who surround us because by using that expression I might have to include Tasmania, so I should say the people in the countries to the north of us- in a time of world economic stress their poverty could invade us. If we look at this purely from a selfinterest point of view, this is something that we must resist. Fortunately, although steps towards a new international economic order which have been put forward by Third World countries have been small, they have been a significant move towards equality. I think Senator Knight covered this area quite effectively. He spoke of several schemes, including commodity schemes which seek to improve the position of the raw material producing countries. Our responsibility in Australia is to accept that changes are a necessity and to work in a co-operative way towards evolving those structural changes.
The Bill we are debating today very clearly represents to me and to the previous speakers on the Opposition side a backward step. Many of the non-government agencies involved in development co-operation are moving backwards. The Bill before us is a measure which frustrates the need for change not only in the type of assistance which we should or should not provide but also in the delivery process involved in providing assistance. It is this backward step which we oppose. Under this Bill the Australian Development Assistance Agency is to be dismantled and the Bureau is to be established within the Department of Foreign Affairs. This seems to be the point of our main opposition because it does impose limitations on the method by which our aid is to be delivered. The Bill abolishes an independent agency which was established by a Labor Government and supported at the time- I emphasise this point- by the Liberal and National Country Parties. The purpose of the Agency was to assess and to deliver an Australian assistance program, independent of foreign policy considerations. I repeat: Independent of foreign policy considerations. It was felt then that assistance programs were reduced in effectiveness by their overriding influence of direct political policies. Humanitarian considerations were secondary to the rule of political expendiency. The Australian Development Assistance Agency was an initiative designed to limit direct political influences and to enhance the humane ideals- to enhance them as keystones for assistance.
What has happened now is that the Agency, having become a Bureau, is directly affected by foreign policy considerations. The establishment of an Assistance Bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs damages the trend which was developed some years ago towards depoliticising Australian assistance. This, I believe, can be seen clearly if we look at the speech of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in detail. Mr Peacock, in introducing this Bill which integrates the Australian Aid Bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs, provided some questionable excuses for the dismantling of legislation. The Foreign Minister’s speech needs careful analysis by all Australians. I wish to comment on several points in Mr Peacock’s speech which show how damaging this change is to the process of evolving a more balanced and effective assistance program. In his speech, Mr Peacock said:
Experience over the last 1 2 months has already shown that the reintegration of the Agency into the Department has had a beneficial effect on the administration of our overseas aid program . . .
That is the message that Senator Knight endeavoured to project in his speech. I would dispute this comment by the Minister. Increasing concern has been expressed overseas about the delays and frustrations in the delivery of the Australian aid program. Honourable senators should realise, of course, that the Agency has been dismantled for quite some time. This is merely the dissolving legislation that we are dealing with now. In fact, what we are doing now is merely going through a pro forma exercise to repeal the legislation. For instance, the comment by Sir Albert Henry, who is the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands- one of the group of islands to our north-east to which we direct some aid- at the recent Commonwealth Parliamentary Association 14th Australasian Regional Conference in New Zealand said that the Australian aid program was similar to taking a SOc ride on a bus. In relation to Australian aid programs, Sir Albert Henry further commented: ‘When one is offered aid, one is asked, for instance, which bus one desires, what colour it should be, who is to drive it and whether he is wearing a cap. By the time all these questions are answered by the recipient country, the bus is gone’. This is a comment made by Sir Albert Henry. This type of comment is coming from many sources throughout our region. Similar comments have been made by government leaders in Papua New Guinea, the South Pacific and South East Asia. Under the new administration of our overseas program, now within the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are in fact increasing delays in the provision of assistance. When referring to where the integration of the Agency into the Department of Foreign Affairs would lead, Mr Peacock said:
What advantage he sees in that, I am not quite certain. He said that this would lead to a professional approach to aid administration. However, since the administrative reintegration with the Department commenced a year ago there have been numerous resignations of former professionals on the staff of the Agency. There seems to be a sense of despair, according to reports, which pervades the corridors of the new Bureau. Many of the professional staff of the Agency who still remain feel that this reintegration has hindered the development of a professional approach to aid administration by placing the Australian assistance program directly under the Department of Foreign Affairs. That is the opinion of the professionals in the Bureau who previously worked for the Agency. Many of the staff now feel that Australia’s political, economic and social interests will now dominate our aid considerations and that the role of the genuine humanitarian approach has been dismissed. Mr Peacock, in making this point about the Agency, has been less than honest in informing the Australian public of the many resignations of staff and the low morale within the proposed Aid Bureau. Mr Peacock, in his speech, went on to say that this Agency would lead to:
This, therefore, seems to underline the true meaning of the Bill. This, to me, appears to be the crux of the matter: ‘A deeper overall appreciation of the importance of development assistance in Australia’s foreign policy’. To understand why it is a shameful act to dismantle the independent Agency established by the Labor Government, it is necessary to look at the background of the establishment of the Australian Development Assistance Agency. We could put that development in human terms. Those members of the Senate who have been in contact with the various aid programs sponsored by this Agency will have come in contact with thousands of young men and women who have come from underdeveloped countries for training within Australia and they will be aware of the effectiveness with which that program has been carried out.
As I said earlier, for many years there has been considerable debate within the community concerning the reasons for providing overseas assistance and how that assistance is to be delivered. Throughout the 1 960s there was increasing criticism from developing countries of the major industrial countries for tying aid to political ends. The Third World countries believe that they were recipients of assistance because of political and economic considerations of the donor countries. In other words, the Third World countries were expected to give some political advantage to the donor country in exchange for developmental assistance. That is the only way that Mr Peacock’s deep overall appreciation of the importance of the development assistance in Australian foreign policies can be defined. The opposition to political reasons for the provision of assistance became increasingly strong in the late 1960s and the commencement of this decade. In the early 1 970s several advanced industrial western nations, including Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands, restructured their assistance progams in order to limit this political involvement in development aid. In 1973 Australia, under the Labor Government, followed the trend and instituted the Australian Development Assistance Agency- with, I repeat, the support of the Liberal and National Country Parties at that time. This Bill will destroy an autonomous body whose sole aim is the provision of development assistance to countries in greater need. In other words, what assistance is desired by Third World countries, and what level Australia can provide are now to be confused with a whole host of political considerations. In his speech Mr Peacock said:
The Bureau will have a very substantial degree of autonomy in relation to financial management of the development assistance program.
My point here is that this is fine but no mention is made of policy decisions. Further, the Department of the Treasury will continue to oversee the financial side to the same degree as in the past. This will continue the difficulties already experienced in instituting innovations in the program. To claim that it will have a degree of say in financial management says very little indeed and certainly does not clear up my concern that in the all important area of policy the new Bureau will be dominated by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Yet this Bill goes further. By abolishing the Development Assistance Advisory Board the participation of the community in the decision making process has been destroyed. The Minister says that he is giving ‘very careful consideration before taking any action’ to involve the wider community. The Minister has had over 18 months to consider this. I suspect he has done little. Surely he has had long enough to make a decision. Mr Peacock, in an attempt to soften opposition to the dismantling of ADAA, changes tack when he says:
The Government remains firmly committed to the achievement of the internationally accepted target of 0.7 per cent.
Yet the Government has done the opposite to these fine words. In fact assistance has been slashed to the lowest level in the last decade. It is now 0.48 per cent of gross domestic product. Under the Labor Government the figure reached nearly 0.6 per cent.
The Minister’s statement is a mass of words which will mislead and misinform the public. This Government has not the slightest interest in reaching the 0.7 per cent target. Yet it will cynically pronounce to the Australian people that it intends to reach this target. I believe that the Government has no idea of how it will budget for this target. I would dearly like to know how the Government intends to attain this target especially when it is so obsessed with slashing government programs.
Finally, I would like to say that this Bill demonstrates the abandonment of the Third World’s problems by this Government. Whilst this Bill shows an abandonment of changes to the structure of the assistance program, it was the failure to provide effective and positive support to the common fund proposals at the United
Nations meeting in March 1977 that reinforced this trend of an abandonment of humanity by this Government.
The Minister may deny this but it was clear to most observers and participants at the Geneva meeting that the Australian delegation was not only ill-prepared but also very negative in its approach. Most Third World delegations were disappointed with the Australian approach. This denial of change by the Government will only discredit Australia in the eyes of the Third World. This was clearly displayed in Geneva. It will become even more evident as the effect of this negative and destructive Bill becomes increasingly understood in Australia and overseas.
– We are dealing with the Australian Development Assistance Agency (Repeal) Bill 1977. In the process the functions of the Agency will be transferred to a Bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs. I have listened with interest to the speech by Senator Georges this evening. One could not help but note the concern expressed by Senator Georges and his Leader, Senator Wriedt, with regard to the repeal of a Bill introduced by the Whitlam Government. Comment has been made also that when in Opposition we agreed with the introduction of that legislation to establish the Australian Development Assistance Agency. This is so; we did. We were prepared to try this experiment or innovation, call it what we may. Having said that I point out the Government and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in particular feel that it would be to great advantage if we repealed the previous legislation and placed the aid agency within the Department of Foreign Affairs. I quote from part of the Minister’s second reading speech where he stated:
Experience over the last 12 months -
I refer to the experience of the practice then of the Agency being involved within the Department of Foreign Affairs- has already shown that the reintegration or the Agency into the Department has had a beneficial effect on the administration of our overseas aid program; a closer relationship between the Bureau and other areas of the Department has developed.
I think that that in itself is very important. The Minister continued:
Furthermore there is a deeper overall appreciation of the importance of development assistance in Australia’s foreign policy.
I think those words should be emphasised. I repeat them: . . there is a deeper overall appreciation of the importance of development assistance in Australia ‘s foreign policy.
Later on I hope to expand on this area and to give examples to the Senate of how just this has been put into practice and brought to reality. The Minister went on to say:
In establishing a Bureau the Government is concerned to maintain the professional approach to aid administration and the opportunity for career specialisation which was being developed in the Agency.
This again is very important. Senator Wriedt has made critical reference to the fact that the Agency will lose its autonomy. The Minister said:
The Bureau will have a very substantial degree of autonomy in relation to financial management of the development assistance program.
Whilst one can appreciate the concern being expressed by the Opposition because we are repealing something that it introduced, in all sincerity we believe, as the Minister has stated in his second reading speech, that there will be greater effectiveness by incorporating this Agency as a Bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Whitlam Government and the present Government have been concerned with overseas aid and assisting developing countries.
– Do you not believe in the virtues of a bipartisan policy in foreign affairs- a continuity of ideas?
– I think that was made clear in the second reading speech of the Minister. That is so. The honourable senator reads something dark and sinister into this legislation. We are trying to point out what the Minister fully appreciates. He is trying to give greater effectiveness in the types of aid given by Australia to developing and other countries.
I mention the fact that all governments have placed considerable importance on aid. Amounts of aid have varied because of economic situations within Australia. Whilst we are regarded as a developed country, in comparison with many other countries we could still be regarded as a developing country. Whilst we are rich in resources and have a high standard of living- we are a very fortunate people- nevertheless because of the limitations of finance for developments many things are still not achieved in this country. I refer to such things as a sealed continuous road link between Sydney and Perth- which was completed only recently. A great stretch of the road from Adelaide to Darwin is dirt. It is regarded as a dirt track. Quite often it is completely unuseable because of damage from rain. A similar problem exists with the construction of a railway from Adelaide to Darwin to provide a complete rail connection to the northern capital.
A railway line is under construction between South Australia and Mee Springs. This is something that has been needed for years. It will not be completed for years to come. One could go on and outline so many areas in which a great deal remains to be done. I mention the area of water conservation in which Senator Mulvihill is interested.
We appreciate the fact that we are a country rich in resources. We have a high standard of living generally in relation to our near neighbours. I refer to Indonesia, New Guinea, Malaysia and the Philippines. As I said earlier we have given a great deal of aid on a multilateral basis and a bilateral basis. I am concerned that Senator Wriedt, when this matter was last debated, referred to the fact that perhaps there were some hidden sinister ideals within the repeal of this legislation. I quote from Hansard, page 901, where Senator Wriedt states:
In fact, it is fair to say that the disbanding of the Agency and its being passed over to the Department of Foreign Affairs is a part of a move by this Government to submerge the activities of foreign aid.
This is not so. One must look at the figures. I refer again to Senator Knight’s speech. On page 903 of Hansard he said: in the 1975 Budget, for example, bilateral aid was increased by $20.7m. In the 1976 Budget of the present Government it was increased by $3 1 .9m. In the 1 975 Budget of the Labor Government, multilateral aid decreased by $ 1 .4m. Last year, in the first Budget of the present Government, multilateral aid was increased by $ 1 8.7m. The result was that in the 1975 Budget the total increase in development assistance was $19.3m compared with $50. 6m in the first Budget of the present Government.
I think that this shows clearly, in figures, that what was implied in a statement by the Opposition is not, in fact, a reality.
A great deal of our assistance has gone directly to Papua-New Guinea. As we all appreciate in this country, for many years Papua-New Guinea was a responsibility of the Australian people and the Australian Government. We are continuing to give assistance to Papua-New Guinea. In fact, the great proportion of our aid still goes to Papua-New Guinea. Indonesia, a very close neighbour of ours, also fits very highly into the overall pattern of aid that is given. I refer again to the Minister’s second reading speech. It stated:
The pledge of at least $930m in untied -
I emphasise ‘ untied ‘- grant aid over 5 years to Papua New Guinea was welcomed by that country as were our commitments of $86m over 3 years to Indonesia and at least $60m to the island nations of the South Pacific over the same period.
One can look at the area of the Association of South East Asian Nations from which the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, has just returned, having spent some days in discussions with leaders of the various countries in the group. These are Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. They are all very important countries. They are closely allied through ASEAN. They are looking to Australia not just for monetary aid but for greater assistance. They are in this very important part of the world which for so many years was totally overlooked by the commercial sectors of the world, if I can put it on that basis.
I have mentioned our aid to Indonesia. Australian aid to the Philippines amounted to some $6.78m in 1975-76, bringing the total amount since the inception of the program to nearly $22m. Expenditure in the current year is expected to be around $5. 36m. This money is going into general projects, into education and also into food aid. In respect of Thailand, another member of the ASEAN group, Australian aid for rural development alone amounts to $ 10.5m. I think that this itself is very important. It is all very well to continue to give money to countries to feed hungry people and to give food but it is far better to get to the root of the problem. This is what the Australian Government is doing. It is assisting in the development of rural production. It is assisting with the development of roads to open up the country so that production can be increased and so that there will be a greater amount of self-sufficiency. I wholly support this type of aid. It is far better to do this than to pour in continually shiploads of food. It is far better to assist so that there can be some independence within the country. I refer also to the Thai-Australian highway in northcentral Thailand. This road cost $7,950,000. lt has been under construction for some years. I was interested to see that the Minister visited this road whilst he was in Thailand.
– The terrorists would not let him.
– The honourable senator is quite right. That is one of the tragedies. The Minister saw part of it. He was not able to see all the road because of the tragedy of what the terrorists were doing in that country. That is one of the tragedies that some of these countries have to put up with. Australian assistance to the South Pacific amounts to $60m. It goes to 9 island nations throughout the South Pacific. I shall not go into detail of what is being done there other than to say that here again there is diversification in our aid. Aid is being given in real terms, not just on a dollar and cents basis. It is being followed up by the Australian Government.
Too much emphasis in the past has been put on how much has been given rather than what sort of aid should be given and how that aid should be applied and followed up. One can cite many examples, as Senator Knight and Senator Georges did this evening, of when the wrong type of aid has been given to countries. Whilst some may talk of dollars and cents it is far better to lay more importance upon the type of aid that is given and how that aid is given. In this respect I again refer to the Minister’s second reading speech. It states:
In order to improve the quality of our aid and to ensure its relevance to their needs, a series of program planning missions have been sent to the Pacific and to Asian countries.
This bears out exactly what I have said. If the Senate will agree I should like to incorporate in Hansard a paper I have which relates to the overall assistance and the manner in which it is followed up by the Minister’s Department, in discussion with the countries concerned, in making sure that the right type of aid is given. I refer to project reviews, commissioning of studies and project negotiations in the Philippines and Indonesia. Some 4 weeks were spent this year in study and discussion with people in those countries before aid was given. In real and practical terms the Government is making sure that our assistance will be of the greatest benefit to those countries. I seek leave to have the paper setting out these programs incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Before I ask whether leave is granted, has this matter been referred to the Leader of the Opposition?
– I am prepared to give this paper to Senator Keeffe.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Has that been done in accordance with the standing order recently adopted?
– It is about to be done.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted for the paper to be incorporated in Hansard? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
The paper read as follows-
– As I said earlier, it is all very well for a country to continue putting up money rather than putting up the right sort of assistance to countries. I am very pleased to see that the Minister, by repealing this Bill, has laid emphasis upon the activities of this Bureau which will be placing greater stress upon the real needs of countries and the type of aid that will be given and, hopefully, its follow up. There have been examples of what has happened in the past. Self-propelled headers were given to a certain country to be used for reaping and harvesting well before any projects had been undertaken in real terms. The land had not been cleared. A few years later, on a visit to that country, one saw those machines still in a corner, never having been used, with vines and creepers growing all through them. That was no fault of the country to which that type of aid was given. That was the fault of the donor country. In the first place it had not looked closely to see what type of aid was needed. Secondly, there had been no follow-up to see how that aid was benefiting the country.
There is a great need for the type of inquiries that are being propounded by the Minister to make sure that the correct sort of aid is given. Whether it is in the form of education, road construction, assistance for harbour development, general infrastructure, general agricultural development or anything else, there is a need for close examination, discussion with the countries concerned and a follow-up to make sure that the aid is being utilised to the greatest benefit of the recipient country. I say that not in the hope that we, as a nation, will buy over these countries by giving assistance but in the hope that we, as a nation, will accept our responsibility to give assistance to developing countries, to make sure that we give assistance to those countries in the best method possible to get the greatest effectiveness and benefits for the people whom we are trying to help.
-I support the contributions to this debate by my colleagues on this side of the chamber. I was amazed at some of the figures that Senator Young quoted. I suppose that when one is in political trouble and has one’s back to the wall one must make even the most unpayable pay-dirt appear to be politically payable. That is precisely what Senator Young was doing.
-Do not be unkind.
– I will refer shortly to some of your wheat exports. They will make interesting reading. Some years ago Mr Snedden, the present Speaker in the other place, claimed publicly that overseas aid had reached 1 per cent of the gross national product. We were in Opposition at the time. When we analysed the figures we discovered that the figure was only about half of that amount because he had included in that figure money spent by the multi-nationals. If they had a branch in Australia and they were operating in Jakarta, if they had a branch in Australia and they were operating in Singapore, that was supposed to be overseas aid. A lot of those people were there for the express purpose of making a fast buck. In most instances they were not helping the countries concerned. They were exploiting the countries shamefully. They still exploit those countries shamefully. I am referring to the so-called low cost or low wage countries. We debunked that argument.
This Government is now putting up a similar confidence trick. It is claiming that it is paying out a larger sum than is the case. From our analysis, something like 0.48 per cent of the GNP is being allocated. Under the Whitlam Government it was about 0.6 per cent. This Government has effectively decreased the amount of foreign aid. Senator Young will remember his efforts to help overseas people. When he was a prominent wheat farmer, in the days of quotas, he was able to dispose of his wheat crop to North Vietnam via China, while we were in conflict with North Vietnam. Some of his colleagues were getting rid of tallow and other products that could be used in the manufacture of arms. We had that argument out in this chamber on several occasions. It was not until the Vietnam conflict had been going on for two to three years that the Government decided to clamp down on those exports. I suppose that was overseas aid, too. On the one hand, people on the other side of the chamber were sending young men to the Vietnam conflict. On the other hand, they were making sure that the so-called enemy was receiving sufficient food, at a profit to some people on the other side of the chamber, to continue the conflict.
- Senator -
-You were selling your wheat in that way at that time. Whether they were your grains of wheat that went to North Vietnam is another matter. You had an export licence. I think we must look at these things in their proper perspective. That is what I am endeavouring to do. I know the reminder may hurt you. Nevertheless, it is true. My colleague Senator Mulvihill interjected at one stage this evening. You abused him for reading into your speech something dark and sinister. It was dark and sinister. In a moment I will quote some figures which will show that the Government has decreased significantly the amount of foreign aid, not for the so-called high motives to which you referred but for the express purpose of cutting down overall on foreign aid.
The 1976-77 Budget figures indicate that the amount appropriated for foreign aid is $353,684,000. For 1975-76 the appropriation was $364,793,000. Approximately $llm more was appropriated by the Labor Government than this Government appropriated in its first Budget. The Labor appropriation of $364,793,000 was reduced to an expenditure of $339,251,831. That was a reduction, in round figures, of $25m. I shall refer to some figures in the Budget Papers which will emphasise this point in even starker detail, for the edification of Senator Young and his colleagues on that side of the chamber. I refer to page 78 of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1976-77. For the Indo-Pacific Fisheries Council the Labor Government appropriated $75,000 and expended $64,283. Senator Young, who was quoting figures, has apparently left the chamber to round up some more. The appropriation for the current financial year is $64,000. There is no provision for inflation. There is no provision for the fact that a sum in excess of the appropriation was expended under a Labor government.
On other minor regional and international programs the Labor Government appropriated $43,800 and expended $38,136. This Government of great charity to overseas aid has appropriated $20,000. That is less than half of the previous appropriation and a little more than half of the actual expenditure for the financial year. The expenditure on those other minor regional and international programs which were supported by the Labor Government are set out in detail. The Labor Government appropriated $52,000 for the Colombo Plan Staff College and expended $35,134. This Government, in spite of the crocodile tears that its members are spilling tonight, appropriated nothing for the current financial year. The Labor Government appropriated $20,200 for the Asian Statistical Institute and expended only a quarter of that amount. This year there is no appropriation. There is nothing for humanitarian assistance to national liberation movements in Africa. I know honourable senators on the Government side criticised us at the time because they said we were supplying money to buy arms. We were doing nothing of the sort. The money was purely for humanitarian assistance. Consequently, in the current Budget this assistance has been totally abolished because the Government feared the voice of a very tiny, vocal minority.
The same thing has happened in relation to the population program of the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. No allocation has been made. No allocation has been made to the Asian Development Bank for further contribution to the Technical Assistance Special Fund. In relation to overseas research and development programs, no allocation has been made. This situation also applies to the contribution to intergovernmental agencies for assistance for most seriously affected countries and related activities. So the story we have heard tonight does not really ring true. For those who may want to read this debate in Hansard, in order that they may have a clearer picture I seek the incorporation of that page and of a paragraph in Hansard. Both of them are marked and they appear in Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) for the same financial year.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
– I thank the Senate. I do not intend to speak at length on this matter but I want to raise a couple of other points. The repeal of the Australian Development Assistance Agency Act means the dismantling of an independent organisation. If this matter is to be covered in another area it will be dominated by a department and it will lose its identity. It does not matter how the Government tries to smokescreen things, the agency will not be the same as was the original project. There is a great need to develop a professional attitude to assistance to developing countries. But it will be much more difficult to achieve this under the Department of Foreign Affairs. One can more easily foster professionalism under an independent organisation. We aggravate the situation because Australia’s assistance is often tied to Australian products. Sometimes, in fact quite frequently, this is not appropriate. In addition, Australia refuses to pay on-shore costs in recipient countries. This means that there is little local employment on Australian projects.
Often the assistance which is provided is technical and unsuitable. I suppose that if we want to pull political strings in relation to assistance to keep our neighbours sweet we can do all sorts of things in the name of political expediency. But that is not a satisfactory way in which to do it. I believe that the Australian Labor Party Government had the right attitude to overseas aid. Of course, had we been returned to office in 1 975 we would not have reduced aid in the way this Government has done. I know there is criticism among some Australians because, allegedly, charity should begin at home. We also owe a debt to those people who live close to us, particularly people in Third World countries whom the European people hove exploited for hundreds of years. I refer in particular to India, Indonesia,
Papua New Guinea and other Asian areas and to some of the Pacific countries. Numerous statements have been made in recent times which are highly critical of Australia’s overseas aid program.
Papua New Guinea is probably our special care and it is to this country that the great bulk of our overseas aid goes. We owe Papua New Guinea a great debt because had it not been for the people of Papua New Guinea in World War II Australian would have been in a state of crisis with a very large part almost certainly under the countrol of invaders. But it was the people of Papua New Guinea who stuck to Australia during the troubled years from 7 December 1941 until the termination of hostilities. There has been a paring down of aid there too. The current Government has given great encouragementwhether it has done this in an overt way does not matter because it has certainly done it- to multinational organisations from Japan or other countries to move into Papua New Guinea wherever possible. Australia was a wealthy country prior to 13 December 1975. 1 have no doubt that it will become a wealthy country again after the election in 1978.
– What rot!
-We will include Tasmania too. Tasmania will be able to get rid of its apples and pears when a Labor government is back in office. Tasmania cannot sell apples and pears at the moment. We will be prepared to completely overhaul the overseas aid program.
– What about our tariffs?
– I shall come back to that interjection in a moment. It is not very intelligent so I shall skip it at the moment. We will completely overhaul these things when the Labor Party is in government. I think I can give an assurance now that the people who need overseas aid most will be helped most by an Australian government with a real feeling for the shortcomings of life, particularly in the Asian area. Consequently I feel that this Government, as my colleagues said earlier in the debate, has taken a totally wrong attitude. I am disappointed with some of the speeches which are coming from the Government side of the chamber.
– The purpose of the Australian Development Assistance Agency (Repeal) Bill is to disband the Australian Development Assistance Agency and to incorporate its functions into a special bureau within the Department of Foreign
Affairs. The Bill enables us to reflect on our performance with respect to overseas aid. The Senate will recall that during my first speech in this place 14 months ago I regarded the matter of aid as so important that I referred to it in that speech. I did so because there was no reference to aid, as we understand that word, in the speech of the Governor-General. The reference was simply as follows:
The Government will seek ways of expanding cooperation with them -
That is, the Association of South East Asian Nations- both individually and as a group as well as maintaining and developing substantive communications with all countries in the Asia-Pacific area.
I made the comment at that time that communication and co-operation were mentioned but I asked: ‘What about aid?’ The Government must realise, as I realise, having worked on projects relating to the role of co-operatives in the economic and social development of developing countries, that with the withdrawal of United States influence in the area and its failure to match its military capability with political commitment, the individual nations in South East Asia are becoming a prey to the protagonists of the Sino-Soviet dispute. I asked what Australia was doing about that situation. I know that most people in nations in that area do not wish to be associated with the Sino-Soviet dispute. I know, however, that there are massive diplomatic offensives by the Soviet Union in those countries, and in particular institutions, to get members to go to the Soviet Union to learn their system of totalitarianism.
I pose the question: What are we doing about that matter? For example, what are we doing to assist trade unionists and their organisations in those countries? What are we doing for other institutions in those countries to foster the ideals of grass roots democracy? I raised these matters 14 months ago. I think it is necessary for us to examine our performance with respect to aid to developing countries. It has not been an attractive performance. The internationally recognised percentage of gross national product required to go to overseas aid- that is 0.7 per cent- has not been met; far from it. There has been a declining percentage of Australia’s gross national product going to overseas aid. I can quote figures to prove my point. The figures relate to financial years. In 1970-71 the percentage of gross national product devoted to overseas aid for developing countries was 0.56 per cent. In 1971-72, it was 0.55 per cent; in 1972-73, it was 0.53 percent; in 1973-74, it was 0.52 per cent; in 1974-75 it went to 0.56 per cent; and in 1975-76, it went down to 0.5 per cent. This is not a criticism of any government because of its political character as the lowest percentage I have just quoted of 0.5 per cent was during the reign of” the Labor Government. This year 1 976-77, it has dropped even further to 0.49 per cent.
So, in comparison with the recognised international figure established as a minimum for developed countries to set aside for assistance to developing countries- that is to say, 0.7 per cent of their gross national product- Australia donates 0.49 per cent. Of course, it can be said that there are many other countries which have a far worse record than we have but that is no excuse for our failure to meet our important responsibilities, particularly as we are in an area in which there are large numbers of underprivileged people in developing countries.
The Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers), who introduced this Bill into the Senate made a declaration of the Government’s intention to raise the standard to 0.7 per cent. For the record I quote this commitment. Senator Withers said:
Our commitment to aid must be seen in the light of present economic constraints and problems facing Australia in the short term. The Government remains firmly committed to the achievement of the internationally accepted target of 0.7 per cent. Regrettably present economic circumstances preclude our setting a date for its achievement. In the meantime, we are endeavouring to maintain our aid at the highest level consistent with economic and budgetary constraints.
Those were the words of Senator Withers. I can appreciate that there are conflicting claims on the Government, particularly in a situation of economic stringency. But I believe that the Government should not because of that situation pare the aid that we should be giving to those less privileged than ourselves. Most importantly, I believe that we should be making a greater contribution to solving the problem of refugees. I would like to quote to the Senate an article dealing with refugees that appeared in the Mercury on 25 April 1977. It reports a statement by the Director of Austcare, Mr Bob Doughtery. The article is headed: ‘Cent A Day for Asian Refugees’. It reads:
The newly-appointed national director of Austcare, Mr Bob Doughtery wants every Australian to contribute a cent a day to help refugees in camps throughout Asia.
He also thinks Australia could comfortably boost its intake of refugees to about 10 000 a year.
Mr Doughtery arrived back in Sydney yesterday from a 2 1 day tour of refugee camps in Thailand and Bangladesh, and discussions with refugee organisations in Hong Kong and Geneva.
He said the Australian Government was already highly regarded in Asia for its relief work with refugees.
If Australians were willing to contribute one cent a day each, the country’s stature would be even higher.
These people are living in appalling conditions, ‘ he said.
They’re not slums- that’s too dignified a word to describe them.’ There was an urgent need for food, material for crafts, medical supplies, and teachers, he said.
Mr Doughtery said he had visited a camp in Bangladesh where 6 1 000 people lived crowded into bamboo shanties with little water and virtually no sanitation.
In a camp in Thailand more than 800 Vietnamese refugees lived in a gully 20 metres wide by 200 metres.
In a camp for Cambodian refugees the people lived in corrugated iron buildings, similar to those at the Sydney Showground.
Incidentally, while talking about Cambodian refugees, it is interesting to note that the Marxist half hour, which has become the Marxist hour, on the Australian Broadcasting Commission- a program which was called Lateline but is now called Broadband- Mark Aarons last night made no reference to the sufferings of the Cambodian refugees. The article continues:
They’ve built bamboo floors and divided the area with bamboo walls.
There are families with four to eight adults living in these pens’.
They’ve no privacy and are allowed no dignity,’ Mr Doughtery said.
Many of them were businessmen who spoke two or three languages.
He said Australia could reasonably increase its yearly intake of refugees to 10 000.
This is a subject matter which I have raised before in this chamber. I believe that it is essential for the Government to make a substantial commitment to the resettlement of refugees as has been the call by many sectors of the community. The suggestion was for many of these people to be settled in rural districts in occupations with which they would be familiar. I understand that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) will be presenting a Green Paper on refugee problems. I look forward to this Green Paper and hope that the Minister will commit the Government to making a rather more substantial contribution to the settlement of refugees and the alleviation of their great sufferings. Ironically, in the same issue of the Mercury, there was a statement by an education officer with the Australian Council for Overseas Aid. I say ‘ironically’ because it highlights the difference in approach between the Director of Austcare and an education officer with the Australian Council for Overseas Aid. The Mercury of 25 April reported:
Some of Australia’s aid money should be redirected into an Australian education program, it was claimed in Launceston at the weekend.
In an address on development education, Mr Peter Lee, an education officer with the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, emphasised the need for Australians to educate themselves and become more aware of the complexities of Third World issues. He was speaking at a 2-day seminar of the council at Launceston at the weekend.
At the same time we must not forget the home situationthe two are so closely related and so very important ‘, he said.
A substantial part of taxpayers’ money which was paid to the Australian Council for Overseas Aid last year on the recommendation of the Australian Development Assistance Agency went to education and much of that went into the production of what is called the Development News Digest. An official publication of the Australian Development Assistance Agency had this to say:
Support for the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) has been maintained with a grant this financial year of $90,000 which includes finance for development education activities in the Australian community.
As I said, much of that money goes into the education unit of the ACFOA. At about the same time as that statement was made, one issue of the official paper of the ACFOA Education Unit, the Development News Digest- I am using one issue as an example- contained the following articles: Focus on Liberation’, ‘Victory in Timor’ by Chris Santos, ‘Peace in Timor’ by Jill Joliffe, Liberation’ by Germaine Greer, ‘Aid to Liberation Movements’, ‘Arukun Land Rights’ and interviews with a number of people including an article on the end of the Australian Development Assistance Agency.
– Which issue was that, Senator?
– That was an issue which came out at about the same time as the ADAA document to which I was referring. It is the issue of March 1976. 1 repeat what was in the official document of the Australian Development Assistance Agency:
Support for the Australian Council for Overseas Aid has been maintained with a grant this financial year of $90,000 which includes finance for development education activities in the Australian community.
The point I am making is that here are a number of matters which can be classed as of sectional political interest, not in the true sense of overseas aid, not in the marvellous spirit which has been maintained, for example, by the Red Cross. It is this involvement by persons such as the editors of Development News Digest in these specific sectional political matters that is bringing the aid question into disrepute.
I stand here on the policy of ‘save aid’. Not only I but people with far greater experience have expressed concern. For example, Dame Phyllis Frost, who dedicated many years to aid to underdeveloped countries, resigned over the issue. The Age of 30 March 1 977 reported:
Dame Phyllis Frost resigned last night as Victorian head of the Freedom From Hunger Campaign- and accused overseas aid bodies of wasting money.
The 59-year-old stalwart of the campaign since it started in 1961 said too much money was being spent inside Australia on education programs.
She included the national committee of the Freedom From Hunger Campaign in her criticism.
Dame Phyllis said she was resigning because she was ‘out of step’ with the accepted philosophy of overseas aid organisations that ‘vast amounts of money’ should be spent on the education programs.
They think that educating Australian people will get them to put pressure on the Australian Government to increase Australia ‘s contribution to overseas aid, ‘ she said.
From what I’ve seen of this in practice it does not work.
I think people have to accept the responsibility rather than push it onto governments.
Once Australians become committed they’ll do far more in involving themselves than in passing it on to the Government.
To simply say that we should educate everybody to force the Government to do something- I think there’s an awful lot of money wasted in that.
Surely Dame Phyllis Frost, after almost 20 years ‘ service in the organisation, was entitled to say what she said, and people should have regard to what she said. I certainly do not want to associate myself in any way with an overall criticism of the non-government aid organisations. Many of them do a remarkably good job, but this job is denigrated by the activities of a small minority such as the people engaged in the education unit of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, and the people responsible should have regard to that.
This is not a new question. I raised the matter at the Estimates Committee A meeting on 7 October last year. Those who are interested will find it in the Hansard record of that date. Furthermore, I notice that one of the Government supporters says that the Bureau which is to take the place of the Australian Development Assistance Agency within the Foreign Affairs Department will do a number of things. On 3 1 March 1977, as reported at page 846 of the House of Representatives Hansard, Mr Bourchier had this to say:
What does the Australian Development Assistance Bureau, as it will now be called, do in this country? Many people are unaware of its actions. One aspect of its operations is the care and service it provides to visiting students from Asian countries now staying in this country to advance their studies. The Bureau provides assistance to the sponsored students in various matters relating to their education, training and welfare. It guides them in all aspects of the Australian way of life and helps them with queries in relation to health, taxation and other matters. It assists in relation to marriage guidance, setting up seminars and social functions where the students can meet and mix with Australian people. These are some of its activities to assist the sponsored student. Similarly, it co-operates with service organisations throughout the country in organising various functions for private students visiting Australia.
This then raises the question of whether the Government has done anything in relation to the questions that I raised on expenditure recommended by the Australian Development Assistance Agency to, for example, the Overseas Student Service or to the Malaysian Union of Students. Honourable senators will recall that Mr Lee Kwan Yew, during his official visit, criticised some officers of that organisation as being responsible for some of the demonstrations that were made against him during his visit. Furthermore, in the appropriation last year for the Australian Development Assistance Agency an amount was detailed for the All African Students Union. Now that the Australian Development Assistance Agency is to be incorporated into the Department of Foreign Affairs, I do not know whether the Bureau will regard the expenditure of taxpayers’ money on these organisations as being useful, advancing overseas aid in any way or, indeed, advancing foreign relations. I should like to suggest that if the Bureau has any doubts on this matter it should look at the fact that the All African Students Union is the group to which people are called on to send their donations for the Zimbabwe Project which has been established to collect material aid for the Zimbabwe people in Mozambique. These are the sorts of things that ought to be considered by the Bureau once it has this responsibility, in order to make sure that the taxpayers’ money is spent in the interests of overseas aid and not in sectional political interests.
The Bill does not entitle me or enable me to speak at length on a problem confronting Australia, that is, the turning of the aid issue into a political football. Much needs to be said on that matter but I hope the people responsible will get the message and it will not need to be said. I support this legislation to establish a bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs to perform the functions previously performed by the Australian Development Assistance Agency. I am opposed, of course, to the other bureau that the Government is trying to set up, namely, the Industrial Relations Bureau. Honourable senators heard me speak on that last week. But the Bureau which the legislation before us seeks to establish will provide the Government with an opportunity to shoulder its responsibility. The responsibility will be sheeted straight home to the Government. It cannot get out of its responsibility in this particular matter.
I shall wind up my remarks by referring again to the Development News Digest which contained an article intitled The End of ADAA. In that article it referred to the ADAA Advisory Board, which has been referred to by Senator Knight, with, to quote Development News Digest, ‘Sir John Crawford as Chairman and representatives from business, trade unions, non-government organisations, community groups, scientists and politicians as its members’. As I understand it, there was no trade union representative on the ADAA Advisory Board. I suggest that when the Minister does establish the advisory committee as promised in his second reading speech, he consider appointing a trade unionist who is experienced in the work of the international trade secretariats. These international trade secretariats do a great deal. They have the ability and desire to protect developing countries from multinational organisations which seek to obtain tax free holidays in return for providing developing countries with the expertise and technological advances of which the multinationals are the innovators and applicators. Of course, the work of the international trade secretariats- those are the international trade unions to which particular trade unions in Australia and the free world generally are affiliated- is very important in this particular field. In conclusion, I suggest to the Minister that he might consider appointing to his advisory body a union official who is experienced as a member of an international trade secretariat.
– I recall that during the term of the previous Government, when the legislation to establish an Australian Development Assistance Agency was introduced into the Parliament I questioned the wisdom of the establishment of such an Agency. I know that the Opposition at the time did not oppose it, but I had very serious doubts about it. I believed that the divorcing of aid from the Department of Foreign Affairs would cause problems in the proper co-ordination of our aid program, particularly in relation to foreign policy. Whatever is said, aid is an important element in the conduct of foreign policy. I think it should be acknowledged that the previous Government, particularly the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, recognised this and tried to overcome the problem of co-ordination by appointing a body to co-ordinate aid. From memory, I think the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs was a member of that body.
It is fair to comment from memory also that Senator Willesee acknowledged the force of some of the arguments which questioned the wisdom of the then Government’s policy. He recognised the problems and he sought to ensure that there would be proper co-ordination by the establishment of an advisory body. However, whatever the intentions were- I believe they were the best intentions and that the then Minister recognised the close relationship which should exist between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the body responsible for aid- history has shown that these intentions were not realised. Whatever advantages were then expected from the establishment of a separate agency, it did not encourage or assist the close working relationship which was necessary between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the aid agency.
If any honourable senators read the record of the hearings of previous Senate Estimates Committee A they will see that another factor of which I was extremely critical was the tremendous growth in the number of personnel in the Agency. I think that at some stage the number reached about 750. Of course, this greatly increased the cost of the administration of our aid program. I think it is fair to say that the Minister recognised this problem at the time. Nevertheless the Agency continued to grow in strength. I think the history of aid throughout the world shows that the cost of the administration of aid is tremendous. Much of the funds which have been provided by donor countries to the multi-lateral aid agencies, the United Nations and others, has been eaten up by the bureaucratic machines that are devised to administer aid programs.
I think it is terribly important to recognise and to acknowledge that the administration of aid is a very specialised objective and that those engaged in the administration of aid should be people who have a high degree of specialisation. I notice that when the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) introduced the legislation which we are now debating he recognised this objective. I shall quote from his second reading speech. He covered 2 points. One is the need for close co-ordination between aid and foreign policy and the other is the part played by those whose responsibility it is to administer aid influencing the nation’s foreign policy. I quote from the House of Representatives Hansard of 17 March at page 332 where the Minister said:
Effective administration of our foreign policy, and indeed the development of the best possible policies, requires that officers concerned with aid should be given opportunities to make an appropriate input into thinking about our foreign relations as well as being fully conscious of the manner in which those relations bear upon their responsibilities.
It appears to me that this is a clear recognition by the Minister and by the Government that those responsible for the administration of aid have an effective part to play in Australian foreign policy. The Minister went on to say:
In other words, there must be close working relations between aid officers and their colleagues of the Department. The new arrangements will facilitate the development of such relationships. In establishing a Bureau the Government is concerned to maintain the professional approach to aid administration and the opportunity for career specialisation which was being developed in the Agency. The Bureau will have a very substantial degree of autonomy in relation to financial management of the development assistance program.
This seems to me to be the most desirable element- the close co-ordination between the aid Bureau and the Department of Foreign Affairs. This is why I say that under this legislation the career specialisation will be protected and the Bureau, because of its close relationship with the Department of Foreign Affairs, will be in a far better position than it would be as a separate statutory body to provide an input into the development of Australian foreign policy. Because there is a tendency with all statutory bodies to work in watertight compartments- this is something which I think everyone in this Parliament knows- they develop their own pride and I feel that they resent, quite naturally, having to consult others in the development of their own policies. This is not conducive to proper coordination of aid and foreign policy.
I recognise that overseas aid is an important humanitarian consideration which we all recognise, but its main objective, I believe, is to assist in stable development in the less developed countries as a contribution to peace, stability and good international relations. I believe that over the years Australian aid policies have been generally most effective. Emphasis has been placed on the needs of recipient countries according to their needs and their priorities. There is a continuing need to concentrate on programs in which we as a nation can assist the recipient countries better to help themselves. This surely must be the main objective of our aid programs.
I have always been critical of the emphasis on the amounts of money given in aid when I have heard great emphasis on 0.7 per cent of the gross national product being given in aid. That may be a very desirable objective, provided the money that is given is spent effectively. Much of the aid given throughout the world has been judged on the amount of money that has been spent regardless of whether it has been spent effectively or whether it has helped the recipient countries to help themselves. There has been some ratu “:r sloppy thinking about this. The most effective programs that I have seen have been the least expensive in money terms.
I recall our aid program in Singapore under which we provided expertise and equipment to produce craftsmen at a level lower than technicians which the Singapore people required at the time. Under that aid program we provided a small number of lathe experts and experts in other technical areas. We brought Singaporeans to Australian technical colleges so that they could go back to their country and teach their own people. Many of them were swallowed up by industry where they provided an expertise which was lacking. We continued to provide training for these people and enabled them to go back to their country for short periods to train their own people at this level. At the time this was the most effective system of aid that the Singapore Government required, but in money terms it really amounted to very little. I recall the road aid programs in Thailand. We provided from the Snowy Mountains Authority expertise in the form of engineers, mechanics, bulldozer drivers, grader drivers and so on to build roads in co-operation with the Thai Government which provided half of the funds. We provided the other half. In money terms this did not cost much but in effective terms it opened up large areas in the north east of Thailand for the development of agriculture and enabled the people in the area to get their products to markets, something which they were previously unable to do. I recognise that we have continued this type of aid in Thailand and in Malaysia. I know that at the moment we are involved in another aid program in the south of Thailand to open up large rural areas for development under the same system. In money terms this does not amount to very much but in effective terms it opens up for the common people, the people who matter, tremendous opportunities.
This is why I say that I think we sometimes get confused and rather involved when we talk about aid representing 0.7 per cent or 0.8 per cent of the gross national product, or some other figure which somebody grabs at as being a desirable objective, and thinking that if we spend that much we can sit back and relax. My view has always been that we should judge aid upon its effectiveness and not upon how much money it costs. In general terms I think it can be said to be true that Australian aid has been effective, even if it has not reached this mystical or magical figure of 0.7 per cent of gross national product.
-Senator Withers used that figure.
– I take Senator Harradine ‘s point. It is a figure which everybody aims at reaching. My argument is that merely to reach that figure because it is a desirable figure without ensuring that it will be effective is a waste of money. That is the point I want to make. It is no use expending $500m a year and saying: ‘Look, we are doing wonders. We are spending 3 per cent of the GNP on aid ‘. Unless that aid is being effective and unless it is assisting countries to help themselves that aid is completely wasted.
– Are you suggesting the aid could be effective if the amount were reduced?
– lt may well be. I do not make a judgment on that point. What I am saying is that we should ensure that the aid is effective and not try to reach a particular figure because some judgment has been made about it.
– That is part of your smokescreen, is it?
– It is not a smokescreen. Senator Keeffe does not know what he is talking about. There is no smokescreen. I think that Senator Mcintosh and I probably agree on this pointthat to reach a magical figure without it being effective is a waste of Australian taxpayers’ money. We have to ensure that our aid is effective. We have to ensure that what we are doing -
– We should do bothreach that target and make it effective.
– If we can reach a target and can be effective that is desirable. But if we cannot be effective, we should not reach a target simply for the sake of reaching that target. That is my argument. I notice that my friend, Senator Mcintosh, is nodding his head in agreement. If we look around the world- I notice that Senator Keeffe is looking at Senator Mcintosh and I do not know what he is saying to him but I think that Senator Keeffe and I probably disagree-we can see how much money from donor countries has been wasted. The other factor that we have to consider is that Australian aid is granted free. No repayment is required. We may talk about 0.7 per cent, or some other magical figure, of our gross national product for aid, but many countries have tied loans, soft loans or all sorts of loans on which interest has to be paid. It is all very well for a country to lend 1 per cent or 2 per cent of its gross national product for aid if it is to receive 5 per cent interest on it, but our aid is in the form of grants, not loans. No repayment is required. I think that when we look at this sort of magical figure this factor should be taken into consideration.
I do not think that Australia has anything to be ashamed of in relation to its aid program. I, like Senator Mcintosh, have seen the implementation of many of our aid programs. Whilst one might be critical of some of them, in general I think that they have been effective. I was talking recently to a head of mission from one of the most undeveloped countries. He said: ‘We do not ask for anything for nothing. The aid we ask for from Australia is the type of aid which will help us to help ourselves. It will help us to train our people to do better and to develop our country. Gifts do not help us because the more you give, the less incentive there is for us to help ourselves’. I will not mention the name of the head of mission or his country but it is one of the less developed countries- one of the poorest countries. That country is looking to Australia for help in areas in which we can best help but, in money terms, that is probably very limited.
I think this is a principle that we should clearly understand. Money is not everything. We should judge aid on its effectiveness and on how it helps people to help themselves. If we pour too much money into a country we offer no encouragement to those people to help themselves. They are like any other human being in the world; the less they will do for themselves. The only hope for the less developed countries is a type of aid which will encourage them to help themselves. I believe that the decision of the Government to introduce this legislation to establish the Bureau- which should never have left the Department of Foreign Affairs- is a wise decision. It certainly will contribute to the better co-ordination of aid with Australian foreign policy. It will enable those who are responsible for the development of aid programs -
– That is very wishful thinking, Senator.
– I do not take much notice of Senator Keeffe. There is no wishful thinking involved at this at all. I think that the people who are now involved in aid assistance- people who are responsible, who have a sense of responsibility and who believe that they have a mission to perform and I believe they do- will now be in a far better position to influence Australian foreign policy than they were when they worked as a completely separate body, only joined to the Department of Foreign Affairs by some mystical advisory body. They are now in a far better position to influence foreign policy than they were in the past. I believe that our aid programs will be better directed than they have been in the past because of that. I know that the Government wishes to deal with this legislation this evening so I will say no more than that. I welcome this legislation. I believed, at the time, that it was a mistake to divorce our aid Bureau from the Department of Foreign Affairs. I welcome its return. I believe that those who have a responsibility for the administration of aid and who are dedicated and sincere people have a far better future now. They will have a far greater influence in the development of Australian foreign policy than they had when the Agency was a separate body. I welcome the words of the Minister which clearly recognised this. Knowing the Minister as I do, I believe that he will do everything he can to encourage the Bureau to play a prominent part in the development of our foreign policy.
– I seek some information from the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) in his reply to this debate. I am prompted by comments which appear in the second reading speech when reference is made to Australia ‘s contribution of $30.73m to the first replenishment of the Asian Development Fund. I want to relate that to a previous practice when we were committed to the World Bank. I think Senator Sim in particular will appreciate this point. Some years ago I can remember questioning the then Liberal Minister for Foreign Affairs through his spokesman in this place. When Australia commits itself - whether it be to the Asian Development Fund or to its predecessor, the World Bank- and we cast our bread on these particular waters does it mean, in effect, that money unwittingly can be used to prop up a regime that we would hardly regard as a democracy or a country in which there is brotherhood and unity amongst the citizens of that country?
The point I make is this: As Senator Sim would well know in the era of John Grey Gorton, there was a particular country in the Caribbean, whose leader was known as, I think, Papa Duvalier, which was receiving money from the World Bank. This money helped to provide a sealed road to his chateau in the middle of the island where his goon squads operated. I can remember Senator Gorton telling me that we were in bondage when we were committed to the World Bank. I should like to relate this aspect to the situation which exists now in the South East Asian area. I know that it is repugnant to act as a super banker and say how every dollar shall be spent but I would hate to believe that, by this legislation, we could get an Idi Amin of Uganda being reincarnated in South East Asia and Australian taxpayers’ money, through the Asian Development Fund, being used to build up his regime. I think that we are entitled to know where funds are used. As a social democrat, I have never been happy about some facets of the leadership in Burma. I have known socialists who have gone to Burma and have not been very well treated by certain leaders there. I simply leave it at that. Can the advisers to the Minister tell me whether financial sanctions can be applied to a country, say, in Asia or in the Caribbean, which is a beneficiary of some international banking operation and which, at a particular time, shows manifestations of a dictatorship? Honourable senators should not get me wrong. I would not expect the matter to be left to the whim of the Australian Foreign Minister. I would like to believe such a decision would be referred to the Parliament in some form of consultation. I have an inner feeling that on the other side of the coin a different approach would be adopted with respect to a country which Foreign Affairs officers felt had a minimum of corruption. If we look at the Middle East area, we find that it is accepted that Algeria is exceptionally well run. I might not be able to say that for all of the countries in that area. I think the Minister will grasp the point as to the information that I am seeking.
– I seek leave to ask a question of the Minister.
-Is leave granted?
– This is an unusual procedure. We are not at the Committee stage yet. I think it may be appropriate for the honourable senator to ask a question at that stage.
– If the Bill is to go into Committee, I will ask the question then.
– That would be the more appropriate time to raise it.
– I thank honourable senators for their remarks. I believe honourable senators on both sides have shown their interest in the important matter of aid. The decision to abolish the Australian Development Aid Agency was taken within a few months of the election of the present Government. Since that time, the aid program has been administered by a group of people operating formally as an agency. Undoubtedly these people will continue to operate in the same manner within the Bureau itself. That purpose, perhaps, is at the core of this Bill.
I listened to the remarks of honourable senators and appreciated them. I will see to it that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) takes note of the comments that have been made. The remarks of Senator Sim, the last Government backbencher to participate in the second reading debate, were most appropriate. He summed up clearly the attitude which the Government takes on the matter of aid. He has been consistently interested in foreign affairs and in seeking the proper application of aid for the benefit not only of the recipients but also of the donor country.
I have taken note also of other comments particularly those made by Senator Harradine. I will see that an opportunity is given for the honourable senator to discuss with the Minister his suggestion that a trade unionist with international trade secretariat experience should be on the advising committee, the establishment of which the Minister in his second reading speech, as I understand, said he would consider. At the conclusion of the debate in another place the Minister for Foreign Affairs said that the Opposition appeared to be confusing the ends of aid with the means that may be used. It must be recognised that the Government in abolishing the Agency is convinced that this action will contribute to better aid administration. That is the prime basis on which this Bill has been introduced by the Government. The Agency has been operating as a Bureau for the last year. This has demonstrated the advantages of that concept. The level of staffing which the Government would wish to see in the bureaucracy associated with the aid program has been kept closer to the intended figures by this action. Undoubtedly the move has established closer co-ordination between its activities and Australia ‘s stated foreign policy.
If an assessment is to be made of what the Government has done or whether this type of administration is appropriate, I point out that the Government has pledged some $930m over a 5-year period to Papua New Guinea. That proposal has been held up as an example to other prospective donors by the Papua New Guinea Minister for Finance. He commented in an international forum that Australia’s program of development assistance to Papua New Guinea was a model for all other countries to follow. Whether in government or opposition, I think we can be proud of Australia’s stance in that matter. This stance is no more than our obligation, but our action has been recognised in the international scene. The Government has pledged some $60m to the South Pacific area in the same period. It must be recognised that that amount is 4 times the previous pledge. The Government has said many times that it remains committed to the international target for aid purposes of 0.7 per cent of gross national product, a percentage which Senator Sim spent some time discussing. This Government has not set a date to reach that percentage. In the present economic circumstances it cannot set a date for attaining it. I believe that that is an appropriate stance for this Government or the previous government to take in this matter.
Our wishes and our aims perhaps cannot be achieved as quickly as we would hope. In spite of this we have made substantial increases in Budget allocations for aid purposes in 1976-77. It is difficult to understand why some senators and some members in another place keep referring to reductions in our aid program. Perhaps there may be reductions in some small items which for a variety of reasons the Government sees as wise. This matter must be looked at in the main context of those substantial items with which we deal in aid and in the main totals of aid. We see an increase of $14m in aid to Papua New Guinea. There has been an increase of some $ 15m in aid to Colombo Plan projects. Aid to international institutions has increased by some $18m. We can be proud of those figures. I do not think that we should be mesmerised by gross national product percentage figures. What matters really in this community, and also in the international community, is the quality of aid and the need to see that it reaches the people who need it. That point was emphasised by a number of speakers in this debate. Improved administrative arrangements, as this Government sees it, and better co-ordination with the aims of our foreign affairs policies, will help to achieve the aim of delivering aid in a better form.
Several speakers have referred to instances of wasteful or counter-productive aid. I will see to it that their remarks are taken into account. I think that it is most important to keep this aspect matter in its proper perspective. It has been noted very often that, when such claims are investigated, they turn out to be untrue or to be entirely misleading in regard to the actual benefits that were obtained by the recipient country. I believe these statements are made by members because of a concern that aid should be used efficiently and that it should be well managed by this country. That is what the Government is seeking to achieve by this Bill. The Government would not wish to dictate policies or opinions to any of the groups that were mentioned.
Senator Harradine spent some time referring to the comments made by Dame Phyllis Frost.
The whole community noted that most elevated lady’s comments when she resigned from her position. The Australian Council for Overseas Aid, because it grants some $40,000 or $50,000, has been divided on issues which have been raised. It will have to sort out the particular problems that are created. Undoubtedly, that organisation and others which are noted in the excellent report to which I refer the Senate, the first annual report of 1974-75 of the Australian Development Assistance Agency, will point out that those voluntary agencies are of enormous importance in elevating the status of aid in this country.
Australia and Australians have shown a deep and sensitive concern for the needs of developing countries. It is interesting to note that since 1 945 when the international development assistance effort began and gathered momentum, more than $3,000m in official aid has been delivered to developing countries. Our reputation as a donor country has been enhanced by the initiatives taken during the last 12 months. Australia’s development policies and assistance traditionally have been forward thinking and have resulted in Australia having a good international reputation as an aid donor. Senator Sim, I believe, made the point that from the beginning of the Colombo Plan in the early 1950s Australia’s aid has been almost entirely in grant form. That avoids adding to the debt repayment burdens of developing countries, something which is the subject of criticism from time to time in the international scene.
Again I thank honourable senators for the comments they have made. Government senators have supported the Bill. Perhaps Opposition senators have taken that stance while pointing out to the Government that more funds should be available. They have taken the traditional stance that they are there to oppose and if there is anything to be opposed they should do so. My conclusion is that they did not bring anything great to light in their criticisms of the Government in the move it is taking in relation to this measure. I thank honourable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I do not want to hold up the Bill. My question is fairly brief. Senator Sim appeared to indicate in his general remarks that there will be a continuing process of cutting back funds for overseas aid. I was frightened when I heard the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) virtually back up that remark. Will the Minister give us an assurance that it is not the intention of the Government that the paring back will be a continuous process, particularly in the next Budget? The Government will bring down two more Budgets while it is in office. I wonder what it will do about this matter.
– I did not read that interpretation by Senator Keeffe into Senator Sim’s comments. Senator Sim indicated that an alert government and an alert agency would seek to evaluate its contributions at any particular stage. Indeed, that would be wise on the part of any government. I am unable to give the honourable senator any definite statement as to what the levels of aid will be in future budgets. I made the point that the general level of our aid to those countries which are major recipients has been elevated in the last 12 months. That is the type of operation that we all hope is capable of continuation. I did not make a point of answering the comment by Senator Mulvihill when I spoke previously. I thought that I should leave it until we were in the Committee stage. The honourable senator may know that Australia has a director on the boards of the banks to which he referred. Whilst he mentioned the World Bank, my understanding is that the banks do not make decisions on political grounds. I do not believe that the World Bank would lend purely for the purpose of building the road to the premises he mentioned for the benefit of that individual. I believe it would be a well evaluated project.
– I do not wish to be obnoxious. Can the Minister give me the precise definition of the word ‘elevated’ in the context in which he used it on 3 occasions? What did he mean by it?
– I thought that I answered the honourable senator sufficiently. Are we dealing in dollar terms, in terms of effective aid or are we to look with incrimination upon those areas in which funds have been wasted by governments in past days and spend our time in asking what the elevation and the type of aid mean? The facts are as I have stated in relation to the major areas concerning Papua-New Guinea, the Pacific and development agencies. We have seen that the contribution has been increased. The type of aid has been refined in successive years. I think that even the Opposition can be proud, as we are, of the aid that has been given over past years and in this current year to recipient countries.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment:
Ternary Education Commission Bill 1977.
Commonwealth Teaching Service Amendment Bill 1977.
Debate resumed from 2 1 April, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads (Repeal) Bill is to repeal the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act 1964, thus abolishing the independent statutory authority known as the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, to enable the establishment of a new and expanded Bureau within the Department of Transport which will be known as the Bureau of Transport Economics. The larger Bureau, attached to the Department of Transport, will comprise the Bureau of Transport Economics which was originally set up in 1971 and the existing Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. I make brief mention of some of the technicalities of the Bill because a few days have elapsed since it was introduced into this chamber. The Opposition agrees with the concept of a strong multi-modal transport advisory body. However, we believe that such a body should be established as an independent statutory authority, along the lines of the Bureau of Roads, under specific legislation. In those circumstances, the Opposition must oppose this legislation.
We have no opposition to the amalgamation of the 2 bodies as suggested. Our objection, in effect, is to the lack of legislation which would deal with the replacement for those bodies. One should take some notice of the history of the matter. In that context I quote a couple of points from the Coombs task force report of June 1973 entitled Review of the Continuing Expenditure Policies of the Previous Government. In item 48, paragraph 5, the following comment is contained:
There appears to have been no compelling reason for setting up the Bureau of Transport Economics separately in 1970 . . .
That was under a previous Liberal government. The task force also reported: . . rather than enlarging the functions of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to take in all of surface transport. The main reason appears to have been that the Bureau of Roads had gained the confidence of the States and it was feared that, given the inter-modal jealousies existing in the transport field, widening its functions might complicate its role in the roads field, in which extensive liaison with State road authorities occurred. The independence which its statutory role give to the Bureau of Roads appears also to have been unwelcome to the proponents of a wider ranging transport research bureau.
I think that sums up that aspect fairly well. In that lies some of the reasons for the action taken by the current Government in abolishing the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and not replacing it with another body with any legislative discretion, but letting it disappear within the Department where it will be subject to political direction. Further, its independent assessments will not be available. That is one of the aspects to which the Opposition and local government generally throughout the country object. I will be quoting at a later stage in this debate some correspondence that I and others have received from local government organisations. Local government wants the Australian Government to reconsider the proposed amalgamation and to agree to the formation of an independent body. This has been spelt out effectively by the Local Government Association of Queensland and by bodies such as the Gulf Local Government Association and councils such as the Carpentaria Shire Council, the Croydon Shire Council, the Townsville City Council and other bodies. I am quoting Queensland places at the moment.
They set out certain criteria for the establishment of this objective. Firstly, they say, and the Labor Opposition says, the new body must be acceptable to all 3 tiers of government and to the transport industry. Quite clearly the propositions of the Government in relation to this issue are not acceptable. Secondly, they believe that the new body should be established by legislation in a manner similar to the way in which the Bureau of Roads was originally established. The third reason which they give is that the new body should be independent to ensure the maintenance of a high level of credibility. Fourthly, they say that the existing level of co-operative consultation and effort demonstrates co-operative federalism at work. The word ‘federalism’ is becoming almost a new swear word in Australia, judging by the way some State Premiers, including those who support the Federal Government, are using it.
The Bill deals with road funding investigations, evaluations and priorities. It affects the safety of roads and the lives of motorists. Only a few months ago the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), who introduced this legislation, sponsored a similar Bill which was designed to abolish the independent statutory Road Safety and Standards Authority and to absorb it into the Minister’s centralist empire, the Department of Transport. The pretext used on that occasion was that that action would save money. The same pretext is now being used. Undoubtedly it would save a relatively small amount of money, but at the expense of lives of motorists. The Labor Party has never been opposed to the setting up of organisations that are for the good of all the people of this country, but when the original spirit is subverted, as it is in this Bill, we have objections.
I turn now to the origin of the Bureau. It was foreshadowed by Sir Robert Menzies in his 1 963 election speech. He said that there would be established an independent national roads authority. That was about 14 years ago. The legislation was subsequently introduced in 1964 by the then Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Freeth. At the time he stated:
We have felt it is essential for us to have a body capable of investigating roads and road transport with a view to assisting the Government in reaching its decisions as to the nature of the financial assistance to the States for roads and road transport.
That is an extract from Hansard of 1 964. He continued in the same vein:
Having decided on these functions we feel that they could best be undertaken by a statutory body, to be called the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, responsible to the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
The title of the portfolio has changed since then. A number of policies have changed. He said that the Government believed that the best body to implement these functions was an independent statutory body. That is what local government is now asking. It is suggesting to this Government that it ought to re-examine the situation and have some sort of organisation that will not be subject to political pressures. I suppose one could say that the Australian road network is one of the worst in the world. Those of us who live in northern Australia know that it is twice as bad there as it is in any other part of Australia. North of the Tropic of Capricorn, right across Australia, roads are in a very poor condition or non-existent. In the past few weeks most members and senators have received petitions and submissions from motorists’ organisations and local government calling for the establishment of the amalgamated Bureau by separate legislation. In addition, there has been a very large amount published in the daily Press in letters to the editors, articles by experts indicating the criticisms levelled against the Government and making constructive suggestions about what ought to be done. I received recently a reply from the Minister to representations that I made about the proposed amalgamation of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics. I want to make a quick reference to the letter. The date is not on the letter. It is a quite recent letter. It is signed by the Minister. In his second paragraph he wrote:
The Australian Council of Local Government Associations has been quoted as agreeing that the most essentia] characteristics of the new body should be-
that it is created by legislation which sets out its role, functions and responsibilities
b ) that it is independent, reporting directly to the Minister for Transport rather than being attached to or incorporated within the Department of Transport.
Then the Minister set out all the reasons why that should not be done. Mr President, I have shown this letter to the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) and to yourself. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The letter read as follows-
Minister for Transport, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
Dear Senator Keeffe,
I refer to your recent representations concerning the Government’s proposed amalgamation of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics on behalf of the Croydon Shire Council and the Townsville City Council.
The Australian Council of Local Government Associations has been quoted as agreeing that the most essential characteristics of the new body should be-
that it is created by legislation which sets out its role, functions and responsibilities
b ) that it is independent, reporting directly to the Minister for Transport rather than being attached to or incorporated within the Department of Transport.
I have received a number of similar representations from Members and Senators on behalf of local Government associations in their electorates.
The Government has decided that the new Bureau of Transport Economics should not be established under legislation, however it also decided that the Director of the new Bureau will have substantial professional and administrative autonomy.
As I explained in my second reading speech on 24 March 1977 (copy attached) the new organisation will continue the evaluations previously carried out by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and will continue to assist the Government in its consideration of financial assistance to the States.
I am sure that, with the greater concentration of expertise available in the Bureau and consequently the greater crossfertilisation of ideas, local Government organisations and other bodies concerned with transport matters will greatly benefit from the amalgamation. I am sure they will find that any reservations they may have concerning the amalgamation will prove to be without foundation.
Yours sincerely, P.J.NIXON
Senator J. B. Keeffe, The Senate, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
-The answer of the Minister for Transport does not help to alleviate the Opposition’s suspicions of the usefulness of an independent organisation, nor will it appease the fears of local government. The general feeling of relevant bodies in Australia about this matter is fairly well summed up in the editorial comment of the Australian Municipal Journal of September 1976 which sums up the fears and misgivings of most organisations about the proposed amalgamation.
– 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.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circula
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 8 March, 1977:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government is presently considering the recommendations of the Inter-departmental Working Party set up to examine future requirements for interpreters and translators and to make recommendations for the improvement of interpreting and translating services available to the Australian community.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The position since 11 November 1975 regarding interest by any other States in the establishment of Land Commissions is as follows:
Beta-blocking Drugs (Question No. 329)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 16 March 1977:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) (a) Yes. On 14 February 1075 a letter from the Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee was circulated to all doctors. This was followed up in May 1975 by an article in the Adverse Drug Reactions Bulletin and again in September by a letter from the supplier company, I.C.I. Australia, the text of which was approved by the Department of Health. The honourable senator will of course be aware that the company has withdrawn Practolol tablets from the market although the injection is still available to hospitals.
All beta adrenergic blocking agents are known to cause some side effects and reports have been received implicating these drugs particularly in the development of skin and eye reactions although the effects are not as severe as those with Practolol. In view of this and the fact that Practolol was available for some considerable time before the severe side effects were associated with the drug, recent approvals by the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee for marketing of these drugs have been on the basis that a method of monitoring usage and adverse reactions be developed to ensure appropriate feedback. This aspect of monitored release’ is discussed and agreed between the company and the Department of Health prior to general marketing approval being granted.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 22 March 1977:
What special facilities are provided by the Minister’s Department or Australia Post to assist handicapped people in the use of postal facilities.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Access ramps and easy-opening entrance doors are provided in all new Australia Post buildings. Several older buildings also have been modified to include these features.
Experiments have been conducted in the past with drive-in’ posting boxes. A box was established on an experimental basis in 1961 in a Canberra car park, but the idea has not been proceeded with because of safety hazard problems and traffic regulations in some States.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade the following question, upon notice, on 24 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Mr Bruce Gyngell: Pecuniary Interest in Warooka Pty Ltd (Question No. 429)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 30 March 1 977:
With reference to the Minister’s answer given to question No. 257 in the House of Representatives on 24 March 1977, in relation to paragraph (b) of part 2 of the answer, what contracts, agreements or investments does Warooka Pty Ltd have which bring that company within the requirements set forth in section 9 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am advised that none of the pecuniary interests in Warooka Pty Ltd referred to in paragraph (b) of Pan II of the answer to House of Representatives question No. 257 brought Mr Gyngell ‘s appointment within the requirement set forth in section 9 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942.
Mr Bruce Gyngell: Association with American Broadcasting Company (Question No. 430)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 30 March 1977:
Prior to his appointment as Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal was the Chairman of the Tribunal producing a feature for the American Broadcasting Company; if so, (a) what remuneration was the Chairman to be paid in respect of such production; (b) was such remuneration to be paid to the Chairman or to any and what company or business on his behalf; and (c) are any, and what amounts, of remuneration still owing.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed by Mr Gyngell that, prior to his appointment as Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, he was associated with the production of a feature film involving the American Broadcasting Company, but his association with this project has been terminated, (a), (b) and (c)- I am also informed by Mr Gyngell that he does not wish to disclose details of his financial dispositions prior to his appointment to the Tribunal.
Mr Bruce Gyngell: Association with Television Corporation Ltd (Question No. 431)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 30 March 1977:
Prior to his appointment as Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal was the Chairman a consultant for the Channel 9 network in Australia; if so, (a) what were the terms of such consultancy arrangements, (b) were the terms of such consultancy in writing or in what other form, (c) what remuneration was paid by Channel 9 in respect of the consultancy, and (d) was any and what amount owing to the Chairman as at the date of his appointment.
I am informed by Mr Gyngell that, prior to his appointment as Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, he was a consultant for Television Corporation Ltd, (a) and (b)- His services were provided under a verbal agreement between that Company and Warooka Pty Ltd, (c) and (d)- I am also informed by Mr Gyngell that he does not wish to disclose details of his financial dispositions prior to his appointment to the Tribunal.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 3 1 March 1977:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 30 March 1 977:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 April 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770427_senate_30_s72/>.