30th Parliament · 1st 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 3,575 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure :
That the Prime Minister and the Federal Government voice emphatic protest to the Vietnamese Government about the continued imprisonment of the Most Rev. Francis Nguyen Van Thuan, Co-adjutor Archbishop of Saigon, and call for his immediate release.
We also call on the Federal Government to enquire into the whereabouts and well being of Archbishop Thuan who has been under house arrest since August 15 1 975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 30 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned students, parents, teachers and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the report of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations on Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation, July 1977, p 197, states that, in respect of stenographers/secretaries:
With the exception of new business college graduates the demand for less experienced and less skilled people in Sydney is in balance with the supply.’
Business College graduates are exactly what the market wants and employers demand.
In one of the few fields of employment shown by the report to be under-supplied, the Government is effectively reducing the ability of business colleges to train enough secretaries and stenographers for the positions which are available.
The sixteen technical colleges in the Metropolitan area of Sydney which accommodate 3220 students in day secretarial studies do not have the capacity to accommodate more than 6 per cent of the 2435 students at non-State business colleges in the same area who will be disadvantaged by the Government’s recent decision to withdraw fees subsidies and living allowances from the end of 1 977. 1977 School leavers who wish to undertake a course in Secretarial Studies and thus ensure they obtain a worthwhile position of employment on graduation are being forced to pay fees of the order of $1400 for the year and also to forgo TEAS living allowances.
The Government’s decision is unfair, unjust, discriminatory, unreasonable and capricious.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will act immediately to undertake a thorough review of the position of non-State business colleges, guarantee interim funding forthwith and reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
As this petition exceeds 250 words in length, I do not propose to ask that it be read.
– I present the following petition from 23 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 objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will every pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That where whole or part of a deceased estate passes to the surviving spouse it should be free from Federal estate duty.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Mulvihill, Senator Carrick and Senator Gietzelt.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned students, parents, teachers and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the report of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations on Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation, July 1977, page 197, states that, in respect of stenographers/secretaries:
With the exception of new business college graduates the demand for less experienced and less skilled people in Sydney is in balance with the supply. ‘
Business college graduates are exactly what the market wants and employers demand.
In one of the few fields of employment shown by the report to be under-supplied, the Government is effectively reducing the ability ot business colleges to train enough secretaries and stenographers for the positions which are available.
The 16 technical colleges in the metropolitan area of Syd - ney which accommodate 3,220 students in day secretarial studies do not have the capacity to accommodate more than 6 per cent of the 2,435 students at non-State business cotleges in the same area who will be disadvantaged by the Government’s recent decision to withdraw fees subsidies and living allowances from the end of 1 977. 1 977 school leavers who wish to undertake a course in secretarial studies and thus ensure they obtain a worthwhile position of employment on graduation are being forced to pay fees of the order of $ 1 ,400 for the year and also to forgo TEAS living allowances.
The Government’s decision is unfair, unjust, discriminatory, unreasonable and capricious.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will act immediately to undertake a thorough review of the position of non-State business colleges, guarantee interim funding forthwith and reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Guilfoyle, Senator Mulvihill, Senator Lajovic and Senator Tehan.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
-Unfortunately, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, cannot be here today. I ask that any questions which would normally be addressed to Senator Cotton be addressed to me.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer and refer to the Prime Minister’s address at the South Australian Young Liberals dinner last weekend wherein he was reported to have said that from February next year the level of unemployment in Australia will fall in a steady and sustained way. Is the Minister aware that six of the seven major Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, namely, the United Kingdom, West Germany, France, Japan, Italy and Canada, are currently experiencing major structural unemployment problems? Is the Minister further aware that every one of those countries except Italy has recently introduced selective expansionary policies to overcome their unemployment problems? Can the Minister indicate how, in the absence of similar selective stimulatory measures being taken in Australia, the Fraser Government would achieve a steady and sustained fall in the level of unemployment from as early as next February?
-In the absence of Senator Cotton, may I say that I am aware of the statement made by the Prime Minister-it is one that should give very great encouragement to all Australians- that the level of unemployment which was created some three or four years ago is now moving to a point where we can look, following the flush of school leavers, to a downturn as from February next year. The honourable senator should be aware that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has commended from time to time the Australian Government’s policies. Indeed, the Reserve Bank has commended our policies as being fundamental.
If the honourable senator is looking for an authority to guide him on this matter he might look to an erstwhile Treasurer and erstwhile Shadow Treasurer, Mr Hayden. I commend to the honourable senator the Budget Speech of his then Government in 1975-76. Within the first 100 words of Mr Hayden ‘s speech he laid down that if there is to be an attempt to reduce the level of unemployment it will not come by increasing the money supply. He went on to point out that if attempts are made to increase the money supply in a time of inflation, all that will do is exacerbate inflation and high interest rates and create more inflation. So if the honourable senator is looking for an authority, although he may differ from his leader on whether Mr Hayden is such an authority, he should look to Mr Hayden ‘s last Budget Speech. But if he wants to do more than that he should look to the year 1974-75. In 1973 the level of unemployment was some 78,800, from memory, but at the end of the period of the Labor Government it was 246,000, at a time of the greatest expansion of the money supply in the public sector in the history of the Federal Government.
So there are two kinds of proof. First of all, there is proof by experience. If the Government stimulates simply by inflating the money supply and increasing the deficit in fact it creates inflation and more unemployment. But the erstwhile Treasurer- what is his responsiblity now; I cannot recall what shadow ministerial responsibility he holds for the Opposition- commended to the
Australian Labor Party the policies which the Government is now pursuing and which Senator Douglas McClelland is now criticising.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the decision by the Australian Government to declare a 320 kilometre- for Senator Wood’s information- fishery zone by 1 March 1978 and the interest of the Australian fisheries industry to enter into joint venture arrangements with distant fishing states to ensure that Australia shares to the maximum the wealth of the living sea resources. I ask the Minister: When can the industry expect to receive guidelines from the Government for such joint ventures?
-I do not have any particular knowledge of this matter but I do know that my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry in the other place, is anxious that such joint ventures start at the earliest possible moment. Beyond that, I cannot give any definite detail but I shall seek further information from my colleague for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether she has read a report in the Canberra Times of today’s date that the manager of a station in the Northern Territory has removed 2,000 head of cattle from a wildlife sanctuary. I ask further whether this wildlife sanctuary is Crown land promised to the shareholders of the Unia Association who have worked the land for five years. What action does the Government propose to take following the telegram sent by the Northern Land Council which calls on the Government to take legal action for the return of the cattle or reimbursement to the extent of their value to the Aboriginal people?
-I am aware of the incident which was reported in the Press this morning and which has been referred to by Senator Robertson. I have no information from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on this matter. I shall seek an answer from him and see that the honourable senator is advised.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. I preface the question by saying that no doubt the Minister recognises the importance which returned soldiers place on any fringe benefits which may be associated with any pension that they receive. This question relates to such fringe benefits. Could the cut-off level of fringe benefits be adjusted as pension rates increase, preferably with the cut-off level on a sliding scale and not fixed arbitrarily as at present? Also, could arrangements be made so that war disability pensions are not regarded as income when assessing eligibility for fringe benefits?
– I am aware of the importance of the matter raised by Senator Townley. I shall certainly refer it to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.
-I refer the . AttorneyGeneral to the fact that the Trade Practices Commission has recently distributed a letter to hundreds of persons who invested sums of $5,000 each in a fraudulent caravan rental scheme known as Holiday City. The Commissioner suggested that each person pursue a private right of action in relation to this matter. I point out that most persons received no income from the scheme and many did not even obtain a caravan. Can the Attorney-General confirm that legal aid will be provided for these persons suffering hardship in this matter through either the loss of their life savings or other financial commitment to the finance company initially involved in this fraud? I further ask the Attorney-General whether he will confirm that the finance company concerned, Eastrock Finance Pty Ltd, is partly owned by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne? Can the Attorney-General make a statement to allay fears that the interests of persons who have suffered as a result of this fraud will not be properly treated because of the ownership of part of this company by the Liberal Lord Mayor of Melbourne?
– I have no knowledge of these matters which are before the Trade Practices Commission. Nor do I know of any advice which may have been given to those who have been concerned in the scheme referred to by Senator Button that they should take a private right of action. I am not sure whether the honourable senator indicated that the Trade Practices Commission was taking any action.
– It advised the people concerned by letter.
-I will refer that aspect of the question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs who is responsible for the Trade Practices Commission. Senator Button also raised the question of legal aid. I will investigate that matter to see what eligibility these people have for legal aid. I am not aware whether any application has been made to me for legal aid but I will certainly make inquiries as soon as possible.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. There was another part of my question which related to the ownership of the finance company involved. Can the Attorney-General advise the Senate in regard to the allegation that the Lord Mayor of Melbourne is involved in that company? Will the Minister allay the fears of those persons concerned that this has been an obstruction to their obtaining legal aid?
-I have said that I will refer to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs the whole question about which complaint has been made to the Trade Practices Commission, and this obviously involves the ownership of the company concerned. I have no information on the subject but I will endeavour to get information for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer Has his attention been drawn to the rise of 6.6 per cent on the Sydney Stock Exchange yesterday, one of the strongest rises for years, which was attributed to the falling of official interest rates and the prospect of a Government win at next month’s election?
-I have had my attention drawn to the news item which appeared in the column ‘Business Age’ in the Age today. The article was headed: ‘Market Value Leaps $ 1,000m’. The interesting part of the article was that the rise continued in Sydney yesterday despite the closure of the Melbourne Stock Exchange for Melbourne Cup Day. Sydney was one of only two major exchanges operating in Australia. I am more than interested to note that there is confidence in the market place. The article states:
The rise was prompted by falling official interest rates and the prospects ora Government win at next month ‘s election.
We in this place have been saying for a long time that some things are necessary for the economy, one being a downward movement in interest rates. We all recall that in a short period of one or two years the Whitlam Government doubled interest rates in this country just like that.
– And trebled inflation.
-It trebled inflation and doubled interest rates. We have been pursuing policies over the last two years which are now bearing fruit. No matter how much one tries to knock it there is no doubt that the consumer price index rise of 2 per cent in September showed that the Government has tackled and is controlling inflation. There is no doubt that interest rates are moving down. There is no doubt that people outside have greater confidence now than they had before. I am certain that after the Government has won and won well on 10 December next we will see further confidence return to the stock exchanges of this country.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I presume that the Minister knows that yesterday an allegation was made to the Windscale inquiry in England, an inquiry into aspects of nuclear power industry, by the widow of a former director of the Lucas Heights atomic energy establishment that 100 lb of pure plutonium and 300 tonnes of highly radioactive waste was dumped at Pine Gap and Maralinga. On 9 August last this Government announced that it was sending a team of experts to those areas to investigate such matters. Has the Government yet received that report? If so, will the Minister make available the results. If the report is not available yet, can we be told when it will be made available?
-I have no detailed information on that matter. I will seek it from my colleague the Minister for National Resources in the other place.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the statement by the Tasmanian Minister for Transport, as reported in the Tasmanian Press of 27 October, that the Commonwealth Government had suspended payments of between $4m and $5m a year for the next five years and that work on the upgrading of Tasmania’s railway system might have to be stopped within a month, can the Minister advise whether funding has been suspended? If so, why, in view of the agreement and the Budget allocation? If not, why should the Tasmanian Minister have made the statement? Is it reasonable to seek to have that Minister not only correct the statement that he made but also to add a comparison of the commitment of the Federal Government over the last two Budgets with the amounts spent by the State Government over the previous 20 years on the Tasmanian railway system?
– Already a considerable sum of money has been allocated and a considerable amount of work has been undertaken by way of Federal endeavours in Tasmania. In 1976-77 a great deal of work was undertaken federally to help overcome the backlog of many years of State Government neglect. Expenditure on deferred maintenance during 1976-77 was $2. 3m. This work is continuing within a provisional amount of $2.7m for 1977-78. It is not correct to suggest that funds needed to ensure the safe operation of trains are being withheld. In addition, the Commonwealth has offered to carry out the rehabilitation of the railway system at a total cost of $23m. An amount of $4.1 m has been offered for 1977-78, and the officials are to meet next week to deal with this matter.
In regard to the Minister who made the statement, we do not have the State Government figures for the last 20 years, but I am able to say that in seven years from 1968-69 to 1974-75 the State’s principal items of capital expenditure on the whole railway system, except the Bell Bay railway, amounted to only $7m. It is again a case of physician cure thyself. It is quite clear that during those years the Tasmanian State Government let the maintenance of the railway system run down. It is equally quite clear that the Federal Government has undertaken very considerable expenditure and has a very progressive program for the future. So the story is a good one for the future and a very black one indeed for the past.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to statements made by Sir Samuel Burston of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Association suggesting that protection of secondary industry is costing the average farmer more than $1 1,000 per farm per year? In view of the Prime Minister’s repeated assertions, which are factually sound, that nearly half of Australian farmers are receiving less than $5,000 per annum, can the Minister advise the Senate whether the exaggerated claim of Sir Samual Burston can be substantiated? Is it not a fact that protection of Australian industry is an integral part of government policy?
-I do not know whether Sir Samuel Burston ‘s claims are exaggerated or factual. I have no knowledge of that. But it is part of the Government’s policy that it has a duty to look after people employed in industry in Australia. As I have said in this place previously, one of the great tragedies which happened in this country was the 25 per cent across-the-board tariff cut made by the previous Labor Government which so threw the whole of industry out of gear in so many areas that most probably it will take years to recover. As the honourable senator would know, this Government has a Buy Australian policy in respect of its own purchases, even though on quite a number of occasions this means paying more for goods and services. Time and time again, I know, an argument is advanced about the burden that primary industry is bearing in relation to protection to Australian industries generally, but I have always believed that we do not help one industry by destroying another.
– My inquiry of the Minister for Education is based on the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts and in particular its recommendations concerning the education of isolated school children. I remind the Minister that prior to his taking up his present portfolio he was a member of that Committee. Does the Minister keep closely at hand the substance and the recommendations of the report, which has been tabled in the Senate, and does he suggest to his officers that they constantly study it? I may add that it represents the study and practical experience of people from isolated areas with a concern for the education of their children. My question relates particularly to the progress that has been made in extending the various allowances which were recommended. I refer particularly to the proposed tax deduction, the means test and such benefits as are outlined in recommendations 1 1 and 12 of the report. Also, what progress has been made in giving effect to the recommendation concerning the role of the Curriculum Development Centre and the provision of suitable material for children who live in isolated areas?
-To answer fully the honourable senator’s important but multifaceted question would take longer than Question Time would permit, but I well recall my membership of that Committee, travelling extensively throughout Australia and meeting some first class people who, in the isolated areas, take a lively interest in the education of children. Indeed, in recent weeks I revisited some of those areas: For instance I visited Wentworth at the junction of the Darling and the Murray, and spoke to people in the isolated children’s field, from the whole of the western lands division.
The report of the Senate Committee was a very good one, and it is acknowledged as such throughout the country. It was sent by me to the various States, because the States themselves have a policy function to perform and some, Queensland in particular, go to great lengths to be helpful in supplementary fashion in that area. It was sent also, for example, to the Curriculum Development Centre and the Schools Commission, and was given overall review by my Education Policy Group. The report, of course, concerns also a number of other departments, such as Postal and Telecommunications Department, which can have a profound influence on the success of such an activity.
In regard to allowances, a great deal has been done and even more will be done in the coming year. For example, the basic boarding allowance has risen this year from $350 to $500; the additional boarding allowance maximum has been increased from $350 to $450; the special supplementary allowance, primary, is to be $300; the special supplementary allowance, junior, remains at $450; the special supplementary allowance, senior secondary, has gone from $450 to $550; and the means test for eligibility for the maximum additional boarding allowance has been increased from $7,600 to $8,200. The means test for the maximum special supplementary allowance payable has been increased from $4,300 to $5,100.
Finally, let me say this: The best way, apart from these measures, to assist the parents of isolated children is to do what this Government is doing, namely, to bring down the rate of inflation which over the years of the Whitlam Government added enormously to the burdens of costs on these people. Indeed, we must help where we can in rural matters, specifically those people in the beef grazing industry who have suffered from such disastrous world prices. In those fields, the Government is very active and is active, of course, in the general field of isolated children. This policy will be constantly under review.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question.
-Is it based on the original question?
-Yes, sir. It relates to my further inquiry in relation to the Curriculum Development Centre and concerning especially material for isolated children. Is the Minister in a position to give me any further information on our recommendation relating to the development of additional material as far as the Curriculum Development Centre is concerned?
-I mentioned to Senator Davidson that I had referred the report to the Curriculum Development Centre. In March 1977, in response to the recommendation of the Standing Committee, the CDC convened a conference of educational technology, media and audio-visual supervisors from States and Territories. The supervisors felt that the general problems could be handled by improving access to materials between States and by the development of a national catalogue of materials and that special problems could be met by the establishment of a working party on isolated children. Accordingly, the conference recommended the establishment of a working party to examine means of adapting materials to the needs of isolated children and to examine means of facilitating access to existing materials between States. The Curriculum Development Centre has developed a national catalogue of material produced by States and will identify material suitable for use by special groups, for example, isolated children. The Director of the CDC has written to the directors-general in the States and Territories putting forward the recommendations of the conference. So, as the honourable senator will see, much progress has been made in that regard.
– Has the Minister for Social Security seen a report in a weekend newspaper that her Department intends to introduce a sole parents benefit as part of the Government’s election policy? The report suggests that, as no provision has been made for the inclusion in the Budget of a benefit for lone fathers, their benefit will be made available at the expense of supporting mothers, who will find it harder to qualify. Can the Minister confirm that this is so? Alternatively, will she guarantee that there will be no arbitrary tightening up of the supporting mothers benefit to provide the money needed to pay lone fathers a benefit as well?
– I am not able to make any comment on speculation which has been running in the Press with regard to proposed policies of government. Any time that a government wishes to announce a policy it will do so. There is no proposal to change in any way the eligibility requirements for a supporting mothers benefit. The other comments which have been made with regard to no provision of funds being made overlook the fact that any of the pensions and benefits paid through my Department are paid through the National Welfare Fund. If legislation entitles people to a benefit or a pension of a particular kind, the National Welfare Fund makes that benefit or pension available at any time without the necessity for provision for it in the Budget Papers. The way in which this is dealt with is that benefits continue to be paid under the legislation from the National Welfare Fund. No assumptions should be drawn from the amounts that are shown as estimates for any of the pensions or benefits at the time when a Budget is prepared.
-Has the attention of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs been drawn to recent Press reports in which the Secretary of the Local Government and Shires Associations in New South Wales, Mr Graeme Miles, gives the Fraser Government credit for keeping local government rates down in New South Wales? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the average percentage increase in local government rates m New South Wales and also the amounts which local councils in New South Wales have received through this Government’s new federalism policy?
– The statement on this matter by Mr Graeme Miles was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 27 October. I take it that is the article to which Senator Scott referred. I have a copy of that statement before me. It is a fact that the New South Wales Local Government Minister indicated that local government rates in New South Wales had risen by only 4.6 per cent this year. Mr Miles intervened to point out that the fundamental reason that rate increases had been abated was the Federal Government’s local government financing policies. Honourable senators will recall that some months ago discussion occurred in the Senate regarding the rate of local government increases in recent years. Documents were tabled showing that in the period of the Whitlam Government it was not unusual for local government rates to rise by 20 per cent, 25 per cent or even 30 per cent in a year. Local government found that it had to shrink its programs because inflation was destroying them. The comparison now can be seen after the second year of office of the Fraser Government. Local government rate increases are being abated.
The picture is much the same throughout Australia. The Government has received general commendation from local government in this regard. Senator Scott asked what is the picture in New South Wales. In the last year of the Whitlam Government, local governments in New South Wales received from the Commonwealth$29.3m. In the first year of the Fraser Government they received $5 1 . 3m. In the second year they received $60.3m. The amount, as honourable senators will see, has more than doubled over a period of two years. Local government needs as its greatest assistance the continual policy of reducing inflation and interest rates. The real things which destroyed local government policies in the Whitlam years were inflation and soaring interest rates. The exciting thing happening now in that field, along with the decline in inflation and the turndown of interest rates, is the supplementation of funds through new federalism and the consequent abatement of rate increases. It is a pretty healthy story.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Is the Government promising among other things a fuel price equalisation scheme costing about $lm as proposed by the Deputy Prime Minister and a me fathers supporting benefit which was mentioned by Sentor Ryan? Since these unplanned proposals will significantly increase the Budget deficit, does the Minister know whether the Treasurer has changed his belief that a higher deficit would be irresponsible and inflationary?
-The honourable senator has asked hypothetical questions to which I do not intend to give answers. What is important is that it is quite obvious that he was a keen supporter of the Whitlam Labor Government’s previous policy when it abolished the fuel price equalisation scheme. I take it that he and all his colleagues will campaign before the next election saying that they are totally opposed to fuel price equalisation in Australia as they are opposed to the superphosphate bounty. As I said in the chamber yesterday, the Whitlam Labor Government was known as a Sydney-Melbourne government. It was known as an anti-outlying States government. It was known as an antifarmer government. I should have thought that after two years Senator Walsh would have learned something from the results of 13 December 1975.
– I ask a supplementary question. Since in that harangue the Minister failed to answer the question, I put it to him again: When Mr Anthony proposed the fuel price equalisation scheme was he speaking for the Government or for himself? If he was speaking for himself will the Government explicitly say that he was speaking for himself and that he is not to be taken seriously.
-The honourable senator has again fallen into the error of imagining that the Fraser Government is like the Government that he supported between 1972 and 1975, when it was notorious that Ministers spoke only for themselves and never for one moment believed in collective responsibility. I have said in this chamber time and time again that we believe in and practise collective responsibility.
– Not much.
-I think it was Senator Button who interjected the other day and said that Mr Whitlam can speak for himself. He does not even believe in collective responsibility within the shadow ministry. I should have thought that any party that was desirous of getting into government- the Australian Labor Party may be desirous but it is certainly not anxious to do so under its present leader- would be at least practising in Opposition the virtues it ought to have in government. I can assure Senator Walsh that we believe in collective responsibility in government. I am again interested to note that Senator Walsh is so keen to ensure that under no circumstances ought there to be fuel equalisation in Australia.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I do so following the complete turnaround of Mr Whitlam and the Australian Labor Party with regard to the mining of uranium. I ask the Minister whether he has seen paragraphs (g) and (h) of clause 2 of the Memorandum of Agreement that was signed by Mr Whitlam, as Prime Minister of Australia, in October 1 975, which states:
Is it not a fact that that spells out very clearly that the then Labor Government, under Mr Whitlam, was pressing for a full go-ahead for the mining of uranium and giving every encouragement and financial support to the mining partners, Peko
Mines Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd?
– Subject to Fox.
-I was interested to note that Senator Mulvihill said ‘subject to Fox’. I draw Senator Mulvihill ‘s attention to the first page of that document, which Senator Bishop was kind enough to draw my attention to last week. It was not subject to Fox; it was subject to the then Government giving consideration. It was never subject to anything more than that. As honourable senators know, governments cannot bind themselves in the future to the result that might come out of an independent inquiry. I should hope that by now the Australian electorate would be well aware that in the period 1974-75 the Whitlam Labor Government was pressing ahead with the mining, export and, most likely, enrichment of uranium.
That is pointed up in a number of areas. There was the Memorandum of Understanding in, I think, 1974; there was the Executive Council minute of 13 December 1973, which exhorted the late Mr Connor to go overseas and borrow $4,000m, part of which was to be used for a uranium mining and milling plant; and, of course, there was the further agreement of 28 October 1975 whereby the Australian Government was to put up 72& per cent of the capital in return for 50 per cent of the profits. I am delighted that Senator Young has also drawn my attention to the fact that not only was the company given that fairly great sort of benefit- 72Vi per cent of the capital in return for 50 per cent of the profit- but also no royalties were to be imposed. If anybody wants an indication that the Whitlam Labor Government was desperately anxious to mine, export and enrich uranium, I think the documents speak for themselves.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: In view of the distinct hardening of attitude of the President of the United States of America, Jimmy Carter, and his Government to all forms of whaling, including the impounding of an Australian cargo of that source, does the Minister not feel that, in the light of the attitudes of his party and my own, it would be wise to cut our losses and convert the Albany whaling station into a marine research station rather than affect relations with out large and powerful ally?
– The honourable senator’s very keen interest in the environment, particularly in flora and fauna, is well known in this place and I understand him asking such a question. I am delighted that the honourable senator, almost alone among his colleagues, is a follower of the policies of the United States of America. For so long the Party he represents has been nothing but a ‘bash the Yank party’. I think that is a fair comment to make in respect of most members of that Party. They have always been rather prone to bash the Yanks at every opportunity. Senator Mulvihill has asked a serious question and I know that he has a keen personal interest in this matter. I will refer his question to my colleague in another place for an answer.
– My question, directed to the Minister for Administrative Services, relates to the position of the electorate secretaries of senators and members of this Parliament. The Minister no doubt would have received many representations from colleagues on both sides of the House with respect to the remuneration of staff. Is the Minister aware that electorate secretaries do not enjoy the privileges of paid overtime and flexitime provided to other public servants? Bearing in mind that over the next few weeks leading up to the election these people will be doing quite a lot of extra work and also that their salaries have not kept pace with those of their counterparts in the States, can the Minister say whether senators’ and members’ staff can be recompensed by the payment of overtime during this period? If not, will the Minister review this matter with the object in future of paying overtime to our staff and providing them with the option of flexitime if they so desire?
-I think the question of flexitime is a matter between the electorate secretary and the senator or member concerned. I have been trying to get an understanding around the Parliament of the fact that for almost two years the terms and conditions of employment of electorate secretaries are set by the Public Service Board, not by the Remuneration Tribunal or by me.
– They are under review at the moment anyhow.
-I understand that the Public Service Board is having a look at the whole question. I know that there are arguments along the line that the honourable senator has put. The honourable senator raised the question of whether salaries of electorate secretaries have kept pace with those of their State counterparts. I have no evidence of that but I understand that in at least one State the electorate secretaries of State members are paid roughly $2,000 a year less than Commonwealth electorate secretaries. I do not know anything about the overall Australian comparison. I will certainly keep in mind what the honourable senator has raised and I will ascertain what attitude the Government should take while the Public Service Board is making its determinations about this matter.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents the Treasurer. It refers to Commonwealth superannuation pensions and the continued representations by public servants not only to myself but to others about a proposal which was outlined by the Acting Treasurer in September. The Acting Treasurer said that there was to be a new basis for indexing increases in the pension rate. It was proposed, as the statement read, that there would be a change from the consumer price index basis to a combination of the average wage and the CPI, or the lesser of the two. As there has been no further announcement about the proposal to legislate, I ask: Is the Minister able to state whether that proposal has been dropped or whether there have been satisfactory discussions between the staff organisations and the Minister to resolve the matter?
-I have no direct knowledge of this matter. As far as my memory serves me, there is no intention of legislating in this area during the balance of this period of sittings. The honourable senator referred to a statement by Mr Eric Robinson which was made last September. I will seek the information from Mr Eric Robinson for the honourable senator.
– I wish to ask a question of the Attorney-General which refers to the current work load of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court and action that is now being taken to resolve the position of Mr Justice Fox, the Chief Judge. I ask: Can the Attorney-General say when he might be able to announce the appointment of a new judge for the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court?
– A good deal of concern has been expressed in recent weeks about the bench of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. The position is that the Prime Minister, in announcing the intended appointment of Mr Justice Fox as Ambassador-at-Large, indicated that Mr Justice Fox’s inability to continue as a judge of the Supreme Court would mean that there would have to be a further appointment to that Court and an amendment of the Act to provide for a fourth judge. At that point, however, it was not quite clear whether Mr Justice Fox was going to resign from the Court or only from his position as Chief Judge. It was never the intention to appoint two more judges to replace Mr Justice Fox. Only one appointment was contemplated. I say that because there has been some speculation whether the Government intended to appoint two judges.
The position is that Mr Justice Fox has not yet resigned as Chief Judge and an appointment cannot be made to replace him because the Act does not provide for more than a Chief Judge and two judges. So, the resignation of Mr Justice Fox as Chief Judge- and he now intends that to be a resignation from the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court- is a condition of any further appointment being made. That is the only reason for the delay in making the appointment. The Bill enabling Mr Justice Fox to be appointed as Ambassador-at-Large while still holding his office as a judge- despite his resignation from the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court, he remains a judge of the Federal Court- is on the Senate Notice Paper today. I am hopeful that that legislation will be passed speedily by the Senate. The question of the replacement of Mr Justice Fox is awaiting the passage of that legislation and his resignation as Chief Judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether I can get specific answers and the word ‘specific’ has significance- to the questions I asked yesterday, to which I received no answers. I now ask: Do the Minister’s initials on the side of the letter tabled by Senator Grimes indicate that the Minister has read the letter? Does the date in the Minister’s handwriting, which appears underneath the initials, indicate the date on which the letter was read by the Minister? Did the Minister between 28 September and 18 October have discussions with her DirectorGeneral about the Ombudsman handling the Karen Green case? In view of the fact that the letter tabled by Senator Grimes does not bear a date stamp indicating when it was received by the Minister’s office and in view of the fact that the letter in the Minister’s office does bear a date stamp, did Senator Grimes get his copy of the letter before it was delivered to the Minister’s office?
– Some of the parts of that question I am unable to answer. I suggest that the whole question be placed on notice so that I can give a considered answer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and refers to the reply given earlier by Senator Carrick in connection with the money supply and government spending in 1974 and 1975 under the control of the Whitlam Labor Government. Can the Minister confirm that, although government spending increased in 1973-74 by 46 per cent, unemployment increased by 300 per cent? Have the sundry Australian Labor Party shadow treasury spokesmen advocated increased Government spending by increasing the deficit by $ 1,000m as well as increasing indirect taxation? Is it likely that such policies will increase inflation, destroy incentive to business and increase unemployment when those policies obviously failed in 1974-75?
-I think the fact that unemployment increased threefold is a well known fact to the Australian community. What the Labor apologists do not tell us at the moment is where they are going to get this extra $ 1,000m. As I said several times last night during the debate on appropriation Bill (No. 1), I think those who propound this theory ought to tell us where they will get the money. Does the Opposition intend to impose further taxes or to print money? We well know that in the three dark years of Labor, personal income tax as a percentage of one’s income, rose enormously. It was part of the Labor Party’s then theory that it did not have to impose taxation because, through inflation, it would receive enormous amounts of tax from the worker’s pay packet due to the marginal rates of taxation.
The Opposition is now in a bit of a bind. It should be prepared to come out and say whether it will repeal this Government’s tax indexation legislation which will prevent governments in the future indulging in that very bad practice. I repeat that the Opposition ought to tell us whether it is going to print the money. It certainly printed plenty during its term of office. Or will the Opposition tax people as it did during those three years? There is no other source of money unless it raises up Mr Khemlani and puts this country in hock for the next 20 years. Really, there is no doubt at all that unemployment under Labor in three years increased threefold. That is a statistical fact that not one of its apologists can refute.
-My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In the puerile efforts of this Government to try to denigrate Mr Bill Hayden, does the Minister recall that in a television debate between Mr Hayden and Mr Lynch prior to the last Federal election it was agreed all around the country and especially by the media that Mr Lynch came out second rate at best. Is it also true that Mr Hayden challenged Mr Fraser to a television debate only a matter of two or three weeks ago and that this Prime Minister did not have the backbone to accept the challenge? Is it also a fact that a recent survey showed that twice as many Australians regarded Mr Hayden as a more credible Treasurer than Mr Lynch?
-If the honourable senator is so keen to believe in surveys, perhaps he will show Mr Whitlam the same surveys because what is well known in this country is that Mr Whitlam has no faith in Mr Hayden and has no intention of appointing him Treasurer. What will Mr Hayden ‘s responsibility be? Is it to be foreign affairs, defence, or economic traveller abroad?
– Answer the question.
– When Senator Wriedt does not get the answer he wants he complains. Whether Mr Hayden can beat Mr Lynch in a television debate is totally irrelevant. What really happened was that in Queensland the Liberal and Country Parties not only won 17 out of 18 seats in the House of Representatives and six out of 10 seats for the Senate but also they jolly near won Oxley, the seat held by Mr Hayden. I remember that at the time Mr Hayden was so browned off with politics that he intended to take up the law and get out. He thought he would not be able to survive another election. We are not interested in .television debates and who scores points afterwards. The only result worth anything is what happens when the ballot papers are counted on polling night.
-Mr President, I have a supplementary question. I ask the Minister again: Why does the Prime Minister not have the backbone to accept Mr Hayden ‘s challenge?
-That is about the corniest operation in which anyone in Opposition can indulge. For goodness sake, all the time I was in opposition I challenged everyone to debate with me. The obvious thing is to get a platform for oneself and to promote oneself. Why does Mr Hayden not get out and promote himself and debate his own issues? Why does he want Mr Lynch and the Prime Minister there? It is merely to provide an audience.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Does the International Whaling Commission impose regulations upon the harvesting activities of whaling nations, including an international observer scheme which provides for independent observers in foreign whaling stations to oversee whaling operations? Is it true that a Brazilian observer should be stationed at the Cheynes Beach whaling station at Albany but was not stationed there at any stage last year, and up till June 1977 still had not arrived? Has this Brazilian observer arrived in the meantime and, if not, what is being done to ensure that this Australian whaling station complies with the regulations laid down by the International Whaling Commission?
– I can assure the honourable senator that if the Brazilian observer is not there it is not the fault of either the Australian or Western Australian governments. That ought to be made clear. The other thing which ought to be made clear is that, as I understand the position, both the Department of Primary Industry and the Western Australian Government police operations and make certain that the Cheynes Beach Whaling Co. Ltd carries out its obligations under the International Whaling Commission. Since both the Commonwealth and State governments are engaged in policing I think that Australians can rest assured that the Cheynes Beach Whaling Co. Ltd is carrying out its obligations under the agreement.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: Is it a fact that two experts of Telecom Australia conducted an investigation into Omega and found that either the side band or the harmonic frequencies of Omega transmissions are used for the control of killer satellites? Was their report the subject of a D-notice by the Government? Could this be one reason that the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, refuses to allow spokesmen for the Stop Omega
Committee in South Gippsland to debate the question with him on the public platform?
-In reply to the first two questions, I am not aware of any such circumstances but I will seek information for the honourable senator. Since the question implies that the activities of the Omega navigation aid could have bad or sinister qualities, I repeat that the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence of this Parliament indicated that Omega is a useful and valuable commercial and peacetime navigation aid, that it is not a military weapon of any kind, that it is not capable of sending or carrying signals of its own or of receiving them, but that it is simply a time phase device which enables by triangulation the fixing of the location of a vehicle, be it aircraft or ship, anywhere in the world provided that throughout the world there are eight stations, each operating on its own, not all of them on the same allied territory, and all of them capable of turning off their time phase signal from Omega. They, therefore, are like lighthouses and are capable of ordinary peacetime operation.
Nobody ought to suggest that there could be anything wrong or sinister about Omega. It is operating today. It will be of immense value to Australia and to Australian navigation. It could save much money in freight rates since Australia is so dependent upon the waterways and airways of the world. We do a great disservice to the Australian community by pursuing the scare tactics which were used throughout the world but which have been proved wrong. I will seek the specific information which the honourable senator has requested, but as to the general question I hope that all Australians would encourage the use of Omega. I understand that it is Australian Labor Party policy to support the Omega navigation aid but, as with the Hayden- Whitlam situation, on every subject there are at least two or three different policies and spokesmen for the Labor Party.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General in both that capacity and as Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to a complaint that I received by telegram from the Farmers Union of Western Australia, that the constitution and rules of the Waterside Workers Federation expressly exclude Asiatics from membership of that union. Will the Minister investigate that matter and ascertain, firstly, whether the constitution and rules do so provide; secondly, whether such a provision is in accordance with industrial law in this country; and, thirdly, if it is, will he refer the matter to the Commissioner for Community Relations?
- Senator Chaney has supplied a very interesting piece of information to the Senate which apparently was brought to his attention by the Farmers Union of Western Australia. Certainly, it is a matter which I think should be investigated. I will refer it to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to ascertain whether a provision excluding Asiatics from membership is in the rules of the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia. Such a provision would be completely in conflict with Australian policies, particularly the immigration policies which are administered without discrimination as to race or colour. I will ask the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations for his advice as to how such a provision would stand under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. If an investigation of racial discrimination reveals that assertions presented by Senator Chaney are correct, the matter is one which I think should be referred to the Commissioner for Community Relations and I would certainly do that.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Education been drawn to a statement by Bishop F. P. Carrol, the chairman of the National Catholic Education Commission in The Leader of 16 October 1977 in which he stated:
While we recognise that reasons can be advanced for the allocation of $2m to schools in levels one and two we believe that additional recurrent funding in 1978 might more appropriately have been distributed across a wider range of nongovernment schools.
Does the Minister agree that Bishop Carrol’s assertion that the $2m in question may have been more appropriately distributed across a wider range of non-government schools?
-I did not see the report. One would need to look at the whole report to understand the purport of the statement made by the chairman of the National Catholic Education Commission. I have frequent discussions with Bishop Carrol. He has made frequent representations to the Government. Indeed, one of his recommendations to the Government was that there should be extra money for the capital development of new schools in new growth areas. This was accepted by the Government and roundly rejected by the Australian Labor Party both in this place and in another place. I point out that the Labor Party has taken a stand against some of the principal policies of the National Catholic Education Commission. But the Labor Party -
– You are wasting your time talking like that. They are not going to believe you. They know you as well as we do.
-It is true that these people know me as well as Senator Wriedt knows me. That is why letters of commendation have been written to me and to the Government in regard to the policies of the Government. I am eternally grateful to Senator Wriedt in these situations. The Commission also has written to me to indicate that last year this Government, unlike the previous Government, recognised the basic need to upgrade the most needy schools- that is, level six schools- and apply $ 1.9m to them. This is an amount similar to that to which Senator Colston alluded. In fact, what Bishop Carrol was alluding to had been done and was functioning in this year. I take it that Senator Colston cannot have any objection to some schools in the independent system in Australia reaching level two which I am delighted to say a substantial number of government schools both primary and secondary have reached already.
It is my aim and the aim of my Government to increase the standard of government schools so that they will be even better. I take it there is nothing wrong with a Government policy which seeks to ensure that at least some nongovernment schools shall almost reach the average level attained at government schools? Or is it the intention of the Labor Party that non-
S government schools should always be kept at a lower and more disadvantageous level? I remind the honourable senator that during the term of office of the Whitlam Government the gap between the levels attained for government and non-government schools widened seriously, to the disadvantage of the latter.
Senator GUILFOYLEYesterday I answered a question from Senator Bonner with regard to the restoration of damaged housing on Mornington Island. I should have made it clear that the Commonwealth Government will finance the provision of 83 houses and 40 shelters and will seek information from the Queensland Government with regard to the development thereof. The answer did not make this clear. I would like to have it clarified.
– On behalf of Senator Cotton, pursuant to section 14 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, section 146 of the Taxation Administration Act, and the corresponding provisions of the assessment Acts relating to sales tax, payroll tax, estate duty, gift duty, the stevedoring industry charge, and the Export Incentives Grant Act, I present the Fifty-Sixth Report of the Commissioner of Taxation, dated 27 October 1977.
– Pursuant to section 24(2) of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, I present the first annual report of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council, for the year ended 30 June 1977.
Pursuant to section 24(1) of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, I present the annual report of the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the Foreign Investment Review Board Report, 1977.
– Pursuant to section 102 of the Postal Services Act 1975, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Postal Commission, 1977.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the State Grants (Schools) Act 1972, 1 present the report on financial assistance granted to each State under the terms of that Act during the financial year 1 975-76.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 171 of the Trade Practices Act 1974, I present the annual report of the Trade Practices Commission for the year ended 30 June 1977. Copies of the report will be sent to all senators as soon as bulk supplies become available. In the meantime, copies have been placed in the Parliamentary Library and the Senate Records Office.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later. Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the Defence Report 1977.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
-I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted: debate adjourned.
– I seek leave to amend the motion of which I gave notice yesterday.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-In respect of the sitting on Monday, 7 November, I wish to alter the time of sitting from 10 a.m. to 1 1 a.m. I move:
Thursday, 3 November- 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.; 8.00 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
Friday, 4 November- 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Monday, 7 November- 1 1.00 to 1.00 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.; 8.00 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
Tuesday, 8 November- 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.; 8.00 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed: That the Bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McAuliffe) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Durack)- by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977 and the six associated Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977
This Bill, which fixes the rates of tax payable by individuals and trustees, will put into effect the new personal income tax system that is a central feature of this year’s Budget. When the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) presented the Budget, he outlined main features of the new system. He said then, and I repeat, that the system is revolutionary, it is simple and, above all, by its reductions in tax at all levels of income, it goes a long way towards restoring incentive ibr individuals to work, to take on added responsibility or to become qualified for a more skilled job. The new standard rate system removes, once and for all, the unjust and crippling regime of personal income tax imposed on the community by the former Government.
We embarked on a program of fundamental tax reform in the first year of our current term of office, when we introduced full automatic indexation of the personal tax system. That step alone reduced revenues- and put money back in people’s pockets- by about $1,000m in 1976-77 and another $l,000m in 1977-78. Now the new personal tax system will, in annual terms, add approximately $ 1,000m to these benefits for taxpayers.
It is not just the size of these reductions that is important, it is also the way in which they are structured to provide tax relief to Australiansall individual taxpayers- from the excessive level of personal taxation under the previous Government. Effective from 1 February 1978, there will be no tax levied on the first $3,750 of taxable income of individuals. In other words, the first $3,750 of everyone’s income will be tax free. In the case of a taxpayer with a wholly dependent spouse, the first $5,484 of income wil be tax free because the dependent spouse rebate is maintained under the new system.
About 225,000 taxpayers, many of them pensioners, will thus be made tax free. This feature of the new system is a social reform that significantly improves the position of lower income groups in the community.
For those who remain taxable there is to be the one standard rate of tax, 32 per cent, applying only to the part of taxable income above $3,750. Ninety per cent of taxpayers will pay tax at no more than that standard rate. For those who do pay at higher rates, and these are people with taxable income above $16,000, the rates of surcharge are structured in keeping with the Government’s decision that all taxpayers will have the benefit of substantial reductions in tax.
The structure of a zero rate, a standard rate and surcharges that is introduced by this Bill will mean that there is no tax on the first $3,750 of taxable income, 32 per cent on the part from $3,751 to $16,000, 46 per cent from there to $32,000 and 60 per cent, the new top rate, on the excess over $32,000.
Dependant rebates, having been indexed upwards last July, are retained in the new system. And, as I shall explain when introducing an associated Bill, taxpayers will in 1977-78 be able to qualify for rebate when their concessional expenditure exceeds $1,590 rather than the pre- Budget level of $1,690. This means that rebates are being made available to more taxpayers, particularly as the new amount will not be indexed in future years.
As I have said, the new system is to operate from 1 February 1978 and, from that date, PAYE deductions from salaries and wages will be reduced accordingly. Provisional taxpayers, whose provisional tax for 1977-78 notified on notices of assessment is based on 1976-77 income levels, will be called on to pay provisional tax for 1977-78 at 1976-77 rates of income tax. By ‘self-assessment’ procedures, however, the provisional tax may be recalculated by taxpayers so as to reflect the application of 1977-78 rates properly to estimated taxable income for 1977-78.
When tax for 1977-78 is assessed, it will, for each taxpayer, in basic principle represent seventwelfths of the tax that would be payable for the year under the pre-Budget system and fivetwelfths of the tax that would have been levied if the new system had been in force for the whole year, instead of from 1 February 1978 only. In applying this principle, we have set the tax threshold for 1977-78 at $3,403 which is fivetwelfths of the way between the pre-Budget tax threshold of $3,154 and the threshold of $3,751 under the new system when it is operative for a full year. The Bill declares the rates of tax applicable under the new system as they will apply, subject to indexation, in 1978-79. For convenience of application, it declares the 1977-78 rates in composite schedules that give a fivetwelfths weighting to the rates under the new system and a seven-twelfths weighting to the pre- Budget rates.
In its review of the personal tax system, the Government has paid particular attention to the special circumstances of primary producers. This Bill introduces the new system of averaging for primary producers that we have formulated and announced. Previously, the averaging system provided some moderation of tax liability when incomes were rising, but increased tax above normal levels when incomes were on the decline. Under the new system, the first of these features will be continued, but the second will not. Previously, there was a limit of $16,000 on the income that could qualify for the benefits of averaging, but under the new system there will be no such limit.
In short, the new averaging system will mean that, when taxable income of a primary producer is higher than his or her average income, the tax on taxable income will be calculated at the rate obtained by dividing tax on average income- ascertained by applying the new rate structure- by the amount of average income. Where taxable income is lower than average income, averaging would be to the detriment of the taxpayer and will not be applied. As will be the case for taxpayers generally, the tax payable by primary producers for 1977-78 will be seven-twelfths of the tax under pre-Budget averaging arrangements and five-twelfths of the tax under the new averaging system.
Another Bill- the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill- makes some associated amendments to the averaging provisions of the income tax law. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer referred to some specific changes in the rules for taxation of trustees that are consequential on the new system of personal taxation. This Bill will implement these changes as well as some connected amendments introduced pursuant to our policy of acting against tax avoidance schemes and arrangements. The high tax threshold of $3,750 under the new system, while right and proper for individual taxpayers, would, if applied in assessments of trustees generally, provide an undue incentive for the formation of trusts for purposes of tax avoidance. On the other hand, the Government does not wish to impose tax on trusts not set up for purposes of tax avoidance where the income of the trusts is relatively small.
The solution that we have arrived at is to allow the zero rate to some trusts and not to others, but to free from tax those trusts not entitled to the zero rate where the income is relatively small. The zero rate is generally not to apply in respect of income to which no beneficiary is presently entitled, or to income of a trust set up during the lifetime of the settlor where an infant child under 16 years of age is presently entitled to the income. In these two situations, there will be no tax if the income concerned is less than $417 and $1,041, respectively, and there will be associated shading-in’ provisions to prevent abrupt transition from a non-taxable to a taxable situation. The $1,041 minimum taxable income for trusts for infants will be related to the aggregate income of such trusts for each infant, in order to prevent avoidance through multiple trusts of this kind. The Commissioner of Taxation will, however, have authority to vary this rule where that is appropriate in the circumstances.
This relieving power will ensure that ordinary trusts for children under 16 years of age will not be called on to pay tax where the income is under $1,041. Trustees who are taxed on other income to which a beneficiary is presently entitled will be allowed the zero rate- for example, a trustee of a deceased estate for an infant child. We are also preparing to allow the zero rate to the trustee of a deceased estate who is taxed under section 99 of the Assessment Act in respect of income received in the income year of death and the two following years. This is a new concession.
Before I leave the subject of trusts I mention that in association with the maximum marginal rate of tax of 60 per cent under the new personal tax system, the Government proposes to bring the rate of tax on trust income that is taxed under section 99a of the Assessment Act up to that level. As many honourable senators will know, section 99a, which was introduced with other anti-avoidance measures in 1964, relates to trusts which are never more than tax avoidance arrangements pure and simple. I note further that we are now proposing, by amendment of the Assessment Act, to broaden the scope of the section in a way that I will outline when introducing that amendment.
I referred at the beginning of this speech to tax indexation, a major reform initiated by this Government. Tax indexation is to continue, but for 1978-79, in the light of our introduction of the new personal tax system during the course of 1 977-78, the Bill provides for the indexation of the new rate structure to be, at base, one-half of what it would otherwise be. The Bill also, however, contains provision for the 1978-79 indexation adjustment to be fixed as a greater proportion than one-half of the ordinary adjustment, should that be found appropriate when the time arrives.
Mr President, that completes a broad exposition of the main features of this Bill. Detailed explanations of it are contained in an explanatory memorandum that is being made available to honourable senators. The Bill is more lengthy than is usual for Bills of this kind, but that is largely attributable to the need to make additional provision for the transitional year, 1977-78, the income of which will in effect be taxed according to both the pre-Budget and new systems. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977
This Bill deals with a number of matters associated with the new standard rate system of personal income tax, with the Budget proposal to increase the Australian tax of film royalties being paid overseas and with two of the measures announced in the general statement dealing with the North West Shelf natural gas project. It also provides for a start to be made on our program to counter tax avoidance schemes and arrangements.
Mr President, under the preBudget system introduced by our predecessors the practical situation, despite appearances to the contrary, was that taxpayers did not really get any rebate for certain expenditures- superannuation, municipal rates, education expenses and the like- unless their total expenditure exceeded $1,690. The rebate, at the rate of 40 percent, applied effectively only to the excess over $1,690. 1 say ‘effectively’, because the general concessional rebate of $676, which was allowed to taxpayers whether or not they spent anything, was so structured as, in a practical sense, to absorb the first $ 1,690 of rebatable expenditure.
Under the new personal tax system, we are replacing the general rebate by the more generous zero rate on the first $3,750 of taxable income. But in doing that, the Government is, by the Bill, reducing by $ 100, to $ 1 ,590, the amount of rebatable expenditure that a taxpayer must incur before being eligible for rebate. Consonant with the system of a standard tax rate of 32 per cent the rebate rate on expenditure in excess of $1,590 will be 32 per cent. These changes have effect for the whole of 1977-78 and for subsequent years the $1,590 ceiling will not be subject to indexation.
Replacement of the general rebate by the zero rate necessitates technical adjustments in relation to superannuation contributions in excess of the $1,200 limit set by the law for rebate purposes. At present, contributions in excess of $1,200 may be carried forward so as to reduce the taxable part of a superannuation pension when the person concerned retires and commences to draw it. The Bill will ensure that this right of carry forward is retained.
In introducing the legislation to declare rates of personal tax I referred to our new arrangements for averaging for primary producers. This Bill contains ancillary provisions. These will give primary producers who have withdrawn from the averaging system the right, if they so wish, to return to the system for the current year, 1977-78. Because the new averaging arrangements applicable under the new personal tax system will, for 1978-79 and subsequent years, always be of benefit to primary producers, the Bill also provides that all primary producers, including those who have elected to withdraw from the averaging system, will automatically have averaging applied for those years when it is to their advantage for that to be done.
Another provision of the Bill deals with the health insurance levy. For 1977-78 and subsequent income years it is proposed to free trustees of deceased estates from the levy in respect of income to which no beneficiary is presently entitled. The Government recently announced its decision to give taxation concessions which would be of benefit to the North West Shelf natural gas project. The main feature is to be a rebate for shareholders in respect of capital that they subscribe to companies holding valid licences or permits under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act and that is employed by those companies in off-shore petroleum exploration or development. The extensive and complicated legislation for this rebate is in course of preparation, and will be introduced as soon as practicable.
The Bill does, however, contain two of the concessions I referred to a moment ago, one of which will also have beneficial effects outside the mining industry. This general concession extends by two years, from 30 June 1983 to 30 June 1985, the date by which plant must be ordered or construction commenced to qualify for the 20 per cent phase of the investment allowance. The other measure includes within the range of allowable capital expenditures of a petroleum mining company the cost of a liquefaction plant for use in processing natural gas. This measure will be of particular assistance to the North West Shelf project and reflects the desire of the Government to get important resource projects off the ground.
Film and video tape royalties paid abroad after Budget day are the subject of another part of the Bill. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced in the Budget Speech that, in broad terms, the Government proposed to increase the Australian tax on such royalties from 4.6 per cent to 10 per cent. The Government came to the conclusion in its Budget deliberations, and has on subsequent review confirmed, that Australia collects an unreasonably low tax on such payments. The tax of 10 per cent, which we think to be appropriate, will be formally declared in another Bill, to be introduced shortly, according to basic conditions of liability set out in this Bill.
Other parts of the Bill deal with measures to counter tax avoidance, some of which are closely connected with the fundamental changes in the personal tax system that we are proposing. One measure will give effect to the decision announced on 29 June 1977 to legislate against arrangements by which some private companies have been able to acquire technical public company status for income tax purposes by giving formal control of the companies on the last day of the year of income to a public hospital or other public body. The amendment will not, however, affect the public status of any company in which a controlling interest is genuinely and effectively held by a public body.
The Treasurer referred in his Budget Speech to the Government’s firm resolve to crack down on tax avoidance schemes and arrangements. Since Budget day, Ministers have looked at a number of schemes and arrangements at present in operation and have taken decisions to introduce remedial legislation. That legislation is in course of preparation and will be introduced at the earliest opportunity.
Our decisions in one area- trusts- are connected closely with Budget measures and they are thus contained in the legislation now being introduced. When in 1964 the Government of the day brought in extensive anti-avoidance legislation, it introduced a special rate of tax- 50 per cent- on some trust income to which no beneficiary is presently entitled. Under section 99A of the Income Tax Assessment Act, that tax applies where the trust is clearly for tax avoidance purposes and, under the 1964 legislation, deceased estates were excluded from it. Unfortunately, that exclusion has given rise to tax avoidance by most unpleasant means. Some family groups, few in number I am pleased to say, have arranged for unrelated aged people who are expected not to live for any length of time, and who have little in the way of assets of their own, to set up multiple ‘shell’ trusts under a will for the benefit of members of the sponsor family.
On the death of the aged person, the family channels income into these trusts which, because they qualify as deceased estates, are outside the scope of the special rate of tax under section 99a. Effective for the 1977-78 and subsequent years such trusts will be dealt with by bringing deceased estates within the scope of section 99a. However, I emphasise that deceased estates of the ordinary and traditional kind will continue to be assessed by the Commissioner of Taxation under section 99 of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
I mentioned in my earlier speech that the rate of tax under section 99a is, in future, to be the maximum rate of personal tax, 60 per cent. We have also decided to withdraw the advantage of one-year’s deferral of tax that, through their exemption from liability to provisional tax, is now available to section 99a trusts. For the 1978-79 and subsequent years trustees of these trusts will be liable to pay provisional tax. Again, details of all the measures in this Bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum that is being circulated. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Bill 1977
This Bill will impose income tax for 1977-78 on the 1976-77 incomes of companies and the 1977-78 incomes of superannuation funds. The rates of company tax declared by this Bill give effect to the Vh per cent increase that -the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced in the Budget. He pointed out then that the increase was a necessary part of the overall Budget arrangements and was set against the background of the very substantial tax savings that the corporate sector is enjoying as a consequence of the investment allowance and the trading stock valuation adjustment.
As is usual, the rate of 46 per cent that is to apply to company incomes is also to be levied on superannuation funds that are taxable only because of a failure to observe the 30/20 investment rule.
The rate of tax applicable to friendly society dispensaries- previously 37V4 per cent- is to become 41 per cent. For superannuation funds for which tax relief of one kind of another is provided in the law the rate is to remain unchanged at 50 per cent for any income of the fund that may be subject to tax.
However, in line with the proposal to increase above 50 per cent the rate of tax on accumulating trust income that is taxed under section 99a of the Income Tax Assessment Act, there is to be a corresponding increase in the rate of tax payable by a trust that, under the income tax law, technically qualifies as a superannuation fund because benefits it provides accrue on retirement. I stress that this increase in rate will not apply to superannuation funds for which the income tax law provides special treatment of one kind or another. The rate of additional tax payable by private companies that do not make a sufficient distribution of profits is not being changed.
The Bill also contains provisions which will enable the collection of company tax by instalments in the 1978-79 financial year, on the basis set down in the Income Tax Assessment Act. Notes on the Bill are included in an explanatory memorandum being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Health Insurance Levy Bill 1977
This Bill, an annual measure, formally declares the rate of health insurance levy payable for 1977-78 in those situations where the general levy law requires that the levy be paid. The rate of levy remains at 2.5 per cent of taxable income, subject to unchanged ceiling amounts of $300 for taxpayers with dependants and $150 for those without dependants. As a result of an amendment proposed by the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977 the levy will not be payable on the income of a deceased estate to which no beneficiary in the estate has a present entitlement.
The new system of personal income tax means that liability to income tax will begin at a higher income level than hitherto. Correspondingly the amount of income at which liability for levy begins will become higher and the Bill makes technical provision to this effect. For example, a person without dependants was exempt from tax under per-Budget rules where his or her taxable income was less than $3,154 and from levy where the taxable income was less than $2,887. Under the new system, under which the tax threshold will be $3,751, the point at which levy commences to be payable will be taxable income of $3,479. For 1977-78, the fivetwelfths/seventwelfths transitional arrangements will result in tax and levy thresholds of $3,403 and $3,114 respectively. Of course, if a person has a dependent spouse, the tax and levy thresholds will be greater again. To illustrate, under the new system a man with a wholly dependent wife will not pay any levy unless his taxable income is $5,087 or more. Technical changes in the law are explained in the explanatory memorandum and I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Income Tax (Film Royalties) Bill 1977
This Bill will declare and impose a rate of tax of 10 per cent on film and video tape royalties paid from Australia after Budget say to residents of other countries. Liability to this tax is to be created under the Income Tax Assessment Act and, in introducing amendments to that Act, I spoke about the proposed arrangements which are explained in more detail in the explanatory memorandum that is being circulated. I think that I need therefore do no more at this stage than commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1977
This Bill proposes an amendment to the income tax law to provide for the reinstatement of an income tax exemption for income derived by bona fide prospectors from the sale, transfer or assignment of rights to mine for gold or any other metal or mineral that is prescribed for the purposes of the exemption. Our decision to reintroduce this exemption was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in Kalgoorlie on 7 October and this amending Bill was foreshadowed in the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) on the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977. Until it was repealed in 1973 by the former Government, this exemption had been part of the income tax law for a great many years.
A consequence of the repeal was that prospectors in the mineral fields of Western Australia and other parts of Australia were denied the special incentive they had enjoyed for so long in recognition of their special position in the search for and development of the mineral wealth of the nation.
This Government believes that it is important to encourage the search for minerals which today form such an important part of the Australian economy. It also recognises that many prospectors are forced, for economic reasons, to transfer the right to mine minerals discovered by them to companies with both the finance and the knowhow to develop a large scale mining corporation.
Prospectors are encouraged to look for minerals they cannot hope to mme themselves if they know that any income that they will receive from transferring rights to mine their discoveries is not going to be reduced by taxation. An explanatory memorandum that is being circulated gives details of the amendments contained in this Bill, and I commend it to the Senate.
Income Tax (International Agreements) Amendment Bill 1977
This Bill will provide legislative authority for two double taxation agreements entered into with other countries. One is with Greece and applies only to profits derived from international air transport. The other is with Belgium and deals with all substantial forms of income flowing between Australia and Belgium. Neither of the agreements can enter into force until all necessary legislative processes have been completed by both Australia and the other country.
The limited agreement with Greece is of a now familiar kind and provides that each country is to exempt from its tax profits derived from international air transport by the other country’s international airline. In effect, each country will have the sole right to tax profits from international traffic derived by its international airline in the other country.
The agreement with Belgium was signed by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) last month and is along the lines of Australia’s modern agreements, that is, those seven agreements negotiated or re-negotiated since 1967. That being so, I think that I need not detain honourable senators with an exposition of the purposes that are served by comprehensive double taxation agreements. Suffice it to say that the agreements provide in ordered ways for the two contracting countries to share in the revenue that is generated from income flowing between them. Under the agreement with Belgium, Australia is to reduce its withholding tax on dividends flowing to Belgian residents from 30 per cent to 15 per cent of the dividends. Conversely, Belgium is to reduce its rate of withholding tax on dividends- currently 20 per cent- to 1 5 per cent.
I mention that profits out of which dividends are distributed by Australian companies to foreign shareholders now bear a company tax rate of 46 per cent so that, with withholding tax at the rate of 15 per cent, the total Australian tax on each $ 100 of distributed profits is a not insubstantial $54. 10. The agreement specifies a limit of 10 per cent on each country’s tax on interest and royalties flowing to the other. For Australia this will mean no reduction in our interest withholding tax of 10 per cent. For royalties flowing to Belgium, the Australian tax limit of 10 per cent of gross payments may operate to reduce the ordinary tax at general rates on net royalties. Belgium will reduce its withholding tax rate on interest and royalties from 20 per cent to 10 per cent.
The agreement contains measures for the formal relief by the country of residence of double taxation of income that would otherwise be taxed by both countries. These measures supplement the relief that is available under the ordinary domestic law of each country. Generally, income which is taxed in full in the country of source will be exempt from tax by the country of residence while, in the case of income that is taxed at reduced rates in the country of sourcedividends, interest and royalties- the country of residence will tax the income and allow credit for the tax of the country of source.
Apart from the provisions I have mentioned, the agreement with Belgium contains the usual provisions- common to double taxation agreements- relating to the taxation of business profits, visiting businessmen and employees, public entertainers, students and pensioners and so on. These and other aspects of the arrangements with Belgium are explained in an explanatory memorandum that is being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Durack)- by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill 1977 and six associated Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speeches read as follows-
Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill 1977
This Bill is part of a parcel of legislation designed to enable the introduction of new administrative, financial and industrial arrangements for the stevedoring industry. These arrangements were foreshadowed in the second reading speech of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) to Parliament on 1 June this year when he introduced a Bill to extend until the end of this year the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act. The Bills that I am now introducing give precise expression to the decisions of principle which the Minister indicated the Government would translate into legislation during this session of Parliament.
Before proceeding to deal with the particular Bills I want to provide a brief outline of how the proposed new arrangements have been developed and what they involve. It will be recalled that up until 1967 the nature of the waterside employment was almost exclusively casual. This resulted in a situation whereby the absence of employer-employee relationships which existed in most other industries adversely affected the performance of this industry. In 1965 the Government established a major industry conference under the Chairmanship of Mr A. E. Woodward Q.C., with the objective of achieving long term improvement in the industry. In 1967 the Government introduced enabling legislation to permit the scheme of employment that emerged from the Conference to operate on a trial basis. Significant changes brought about by the Woodward Conference included the move from casual employment to a system of employment on weekly hire in the major ports; the introduction of pension and past service benefit schemes; and a significant reduction in the functions of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority in the major ports.
The Woodward Conference Scheme was to have had a trial period of 2Vi years. However the temporary arrangements were allowed to continue and they in fact are still operative. Since the introduction of that scheme successive governments have given consideration to what further steps need to be taken to effect improvements in this industry. Late in 1975 the then Minister for Labor and Immigration, Senator James Mcclelland, requested Mr R. M. Northrop Q.C.- as he then was- to report on the views of the parties to the industry as to what they saw as the problems associated with the existing arrangements and the action they considered appropriate for the Government to take as to future arrangements. Mr Justice Northrop reported to the Minister early in 1 976. Mr Justice Northrop ‘s report indicated that while all of the organisations and parties who made submissions to him agreed that the existing arrangements should not be allowed to continue, there was a sharp division between those who proposed that the Government should take a more direct role in the industry and those who believed the Government should seek to withdraw from its already limited regulatory role to enable the parties in the industry to assume more responsibility.
Following detailed consultations with the industry parties and other interested organisations the Government determined that the time had been reached when everything should be done to ensure that this industry moves towards a situation where the relationships within the industry were as normal as possible and where the employers and employees should accept greater responsibility for the affairs of the industry. At the same time it was accepted that in those circumstances the role of the Authority in the industry would be discontinued. The Government considered this general approach was consistent with the steps first proposed by the Woodward Conference. This attitude of the Government on the future of the industry was made clear in the Parliament in May last year.
The Northrop report highlighted many of the problems that have existed in the industry. It became clear that any new arrangements for the industry would need to provide for the following: Continued efforts to reduce the existing size of the work force; satisfactory means of providing additional waterside workers to cope with fluctuating requirements as to labour needs; evidence of an adequate method of labour allocation; means of securing improved industrial relations; effective consultative arrangements to allow user interests and others to have an effective voice in the industry; and satisfactory funding arrangements including measures to recover the deficit accumulated by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The industry parties and other interested bodies were then consulted in detail on the requirements as to each of these problems and in November the Parliament was advised on the steps to be taken to effect the necessary changes in this industry.
The first step was to act in respect of the problem of surplus labour. Late last year, at the invitation of the Minister Mr Justice Robinson of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission brought the industry parties into conference to consider ways of meeting this problem. Arising from those proceedings a special redundancy program was developed which was to apply for a limited period. Under that program special benefits accrued to waterside workers who were prepared to leave the industry by the end of March this year. This program had the immediate effect of some 900 men being induced to leave their employment. I might point out that since June 1975 the workforce has been reduced by almost 3,000. The total industry workforce has declined since 1966 from 21,000 men to a position where today there are slightly more than 10,000 waterside workers. The cost of removing men from the industry has not been light. There was, however, an acceptance by those in the industry that the level of the labour force had to be reduced and I would point out that this reduction was achieved without disruption of any kind.
Other major problems identified by Mr Justice Northrop were referred to the National Stevedoring Industry Conference which was convened under the Chairmanship of Sir Richard Kirby in December last. Sir Richard brought the parties together and the Conference considered how a framework might be developed within which the problems could be dealt with and the overall performance of the industry improved. The Conference was attended by the stevedoring employers, the Waterside Workers’ Federation, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. As well all other interested organisations were invited to make submissions to the Conference and join with the Conference in considering particular problem areas. A detailed report of the Conference was presented to the Minister on 5 April this year. The report set out what the Conference agreed as the best means of improving aspects such as flexibility of labour, consultative arrangements, industrial relations and the position of small ports. The Government has broadly endorsed the findings of the report as part of a total package which is to constitute the new industry framework. There is no doubt that the Conference was successful in coming to grips with many complex problems and in proposing practical and detailed measures to bring about improvements.
While the National Stevedoring Industry Conference was proceeding, Mr Neil Stevens, a financial consultant, expert in matters associated with stevedoring industry funding, prepared for the Department a detailed report on the financial affairs of the industry. His report dealt with proposed means of providing central funding arrangements for on-going commitments in the industry as well as recovery of the industry deficit and his report has enabled particular attention to be paid to the position of the smaller regional ports. The Government also endorsed in principle Mr Stevens’ recommendations. I now wish to provide a brief outline of some of the features of the new arrangements and how it is proposed they will operate:
Improved Utilisation of the Labour Force: The report of the National Stevedoring Industry Conference provides means whereby labour currently held in various pool situations will be distributed to operational employers. Procedures have been agreed also to review and redistribute labour on a regular basis. The parties also recognised that additional measures are required to meet the fluctuating labour needs of the industry without resort to recruitment on every occasion. Accordingly, the new arrangements will involve the provision of supplementary labour unitsthese units will comprise workers to be employed on a casual basis and they will be utilised to complement the existing base labour force in the major ports.
As well, when operational needs demand it, additional working time of the base labour force will be available to the extent of an additional shift per week and the extension of all shifts to complete a vessel which is to finish and sail. These measures together with the use of the supplementary labour force represent a valuable increase in the available hours of work at times when they are most needed.
In the new arrangements all surplus labour of any employer shall be made available for use by all other employers in the port. This is a new concept which nas the full support of all parties. It represents a gain of some magnitude and will result in substantial savings in the industry.
If operated efficiently the transfer of labour arrangements between companies will enable the elimination of locked up idle time; more efficient and productive use of the labour; and reduce the turn around time of vessels in port.
These arrangements will be implemented under the surveillance of co-ordinating committees established at both the port and federal level. These committees will comprise representatives of the relevant employers and the Federation and other interested parties such as the relevant port authorities will join with these Committees in consideration of matters of concern to them.
Improved Industrial Relations: Mr Justice Robinson and Commissioner Neil of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission were involved with the National Stevedoring Industry Conference in considering ways of bringing about improvements in industrial relations in this industry. The industry parties accepted that the high incidence of disputes at the job level was a reflection on the efficiency of the existing dispute settlement procedures. A major deficiency was identified as being the lack of job conciliators to speedily convene meetings of the parties when disputes arose. The existing procedures for some time have provided for the use of job conciliators but until the Conference no agreement could be reached as to their appointment.
In the National Stevedoring Industry Conference report the parties reaffirmed the need for conciliators to be appointed and further agreed that where the parties themselves were in dispute on this matter those appointments would be made through the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Mr Justice Robinson has since held aperies of conferences with the parties and agreement has now been reached in respect of persons nominated as port conciliators. When the legislation comes into force these appointments will be made and the conciliators will be available to work with the parties in preventing and settling disputes and providing assistance to the Commission where this is needed.
Consultative Arrangements: The National Stevedoring Industry Conference report proposes the establishment of a Stevedoring Industry Consultative Council. The Council is to be comprised of representatives of the major industry parties and significant other interest groups concerned with industry, overseas trade and cargo handling. The Department of Transport and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations will be represented on the Council and the Chairman of the Council will be appointed by the Government. The Council’s objectives will be to provide a forum for discussion and an opportunity for communication between governments, the industry parties and other community interests. Through the Chairman of the Council all concerned will be able to bring to the attention of the Government or other Council members any matter aimed at bringing about improvements m the industry.
The Interests of Smaller Ports: It has always been the concern of the Government that in any new arrangements proposed for the industry the special interests of the smaller ports should not be subjugated to the needs of the major ports. Under the new arrangements there will be an opportunity for port authorities to join with the direct industry parties in considering matters of concern to them. The Association of Port and Marine Authorities advised the National Conference of its wish to do this and since then the Association has met with the employers and the Federation and there is now a very clear understanding that at both the Federal and the port level there will be a continuing involvement of the port authorities in the affairs of the industry where their interests are concerned.
Most importantly measures have been taken to protect the interests of the smaller ports through the proposed new funding arrangements. Because of the nature of the smaller ports, their location and methods of operation, it has been seen as desirable that the central funding arrangements should continue to apply in much the same way as is presently the case. The new funding arrangements will ensure that the costs for the smaller ports are retained at very much the same level as they are now.
Recovering the Deficit: The accumulated deficit of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, in the main, relates to the future long service leave entitlements for waterside workers. It has been recognised that the most appropriate means of ensuring that funds are collected so that these entitlements can be met is through a statutorily backed levy. That levy will be imposed in respect of tonnage of cargo handled by waterside workers and special provisions have been made to ensure that local cargo and cargo of a bulk nature will be subject to lesser amounts of levy. These are other funding proposals are in accordance with the report made by Mr Stevens.
The new arrangements now proposed for the industry are not merely a series of measures aimed at overcoming some of the industry’s problems; rather they represent a total framework within which new problems can be faced and genuine improvement in the industry’s performance brought about. That framework includes the agreement that has emerged from the National Stevedoring Industry Conference, the new funding arrangements and the increased involvement of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The way has also been opened for the many other interests in the community who are concerned with developments on the waterfront to exercise an influence on the course of events. The new arrangements envisage the industry parties assuming more direct responsibility and at the same time the Government itself will maintain an influence on what happens in the industry.
The Government’s influence is designed to be a positive one and the potential for that influence can be seen in the following elements. The National Stevedoring Industry Consultative Council will be under the chairmanship of a government appointee; it will report to the Government on developments in the industry and the Government will be represented on the Council. The funding arrangements for the industry will be the responsibility of the proposed Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee. That Committee will also be chaired by a government appointee. The level of industry charges will be subject to the approval of Government and the financial accounting of the Committee will be in accordance with the requirements of the Auditor-General. Reports of the activities of the Committee will be available to Parliament.
The increased involvement of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will assist in ensuring that industrial relations in the industry can improve and the widening of the jurisdiction of the Commission will allow it to be involved in matters such as port quotas, supplementary labour and other matters which were formerly associated with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. It is proposed also that when the new arrangements have been operating for a reasonable time they will be subject to a review which will enable the Government to determine how effective the changed administrative, financial and industrial relations arrangements have been. The Minister envisages that this review should take place in approximately 12 months time.
I now propose to discuss each of the Bills so that members will have the opportunity to identify how the proposed package of legislation relates to the totality of the new arrangements. Mr President, I will now deal with each of the Bills.
The Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill
This is a Bill designed to provide a smooth and efficient transition from the present system regulated by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. To achieve this the Bill provides for a transitional period to commence on a date to be proclaimed and to terminate on a day fixed by notice in the Gazette. On proclamation the other Bills associated with this Bill will also commence to operate. At the commencement of the transitional period most of the responsibilities and functions will be transferred from the Authority. During the transitional period however, the Authority will continue to exist to carry out certain limited functions and so much of the current stevedoring industry legislation is continued as will enable the Authority to carry out those functions.
The Bill provides that at the end of the transitional period all assets and liabilities of the Authority will be vested in the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee established by the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Bill. The Bill also provides for the preparation by the Authority of reports on its operations up to the end of the transitional period.
Stevedoring Industry Charge (Termination) Bill 1977
The amendment to the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act contained in this Bill ensures that the operation of the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act ceases before the Stevedoring Industry Levy Act commences to operate. The Bill further provides that the requirement that employers furnish returns under the Act will no longer apply in respect of a period for which the Charge is not payable.
Stevedoring Industry Levy Bill 1977
This Bill establishes a system of levies on employers of waterside workers consistent with new arrangements of which I have spoken earlier which are to be introduced in this industry. There has been for many years a stevedoring industry charge established by legislation. It has imposed a charge on each manhour of employment of registered waterside workers with two prime purposes- to provide funds for the operation of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and to make payments to waterside workers which largely derive from awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
The Stevedoring Industry Levy Bill will continue that concept though in somewhat more limited fashion. The industry will be responsible largely for its own funding arrangements in the future, however, there has emerged in recent years what has been termed the industry deficit and that has to be funded. Thus, the Bill makes provision for special levies to be imposed in respect of the employment of waterside workers in the loading and unloading of cargo. A reduced rate will apply to the loading of local cargo and in the case of bulk cargo handled by waterside workers a surcharge will be imposed on the manhours worked. These levies will produce funds to defray the so-called industry deficit.
I would draw to the attention of the Senate that it is intended that these levies designed to defray the industry deficit will have a limited life. By clause 10 of the Bill they will cease to operate when the Minister notifies their cessation in the Gazette. These levies have been fixed in the expectation that they will last for a period of about six years. In addition to the special levies this Bill deals with general levies which will be imposed on employers to cover their contribution to the Stevedoring Employees Retirement Fund and enable specified payments to be made in respect of the employment of waterside workers in the small ports. Like the existing statutory charge these levies will be based on manhours worked.
The levy in respect of waterside workers on weekly hire, that is, those generally employed in the major ports, is set at $1. This means that apart from obligations in respect of the employees retirement fund and certain miscellaneous matters the employers in the major ports will be required in future to provide their own funding outside the statutory levy. As to waterside workers not on weekly hire, that is, those generally employed in the smaller ports, the levy is set at $4.85. This retains the arrangement that presently exists whereby the major obligations of employers in the smaller ports are to be met from central funding arrangements through the statutory levy. This is a practical way of providing assistance to the employers in the smaller ports and aims to ensure that the cost structure in these ports is not adversely affected. The amounts of l evies that are to apply in the industry on the introduction of the new arrangements are fixed in the Bill now before the Senate. It will be a responsibility of the proposed Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee to review the level of those levies from time to time and to make recommendations. Changes to the levies cannot be made without the approval of the Minister.
Stevedoring Industry Levy Collection Bill 1977
This Bill should be read in conjunction with the Levy Bill. It provides that the machinery by which the levies set out in that Bill are to be collected. In many respects the provisions of the Bill are very similar to those of the existing Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act which has operated since 1 947. However, it has been cast so that in addition to levies on manhours worked there will now be a surcharge on bulk cargo and levies on tonnage of cargo where handled by waterside workers.
The essential framework of the Bill centres around returns which must be furnished to the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations at regular intervals by employers of waterside workers and on which payment of the levy is based. The employers who will be liable for levies will be restricted to those who participate in the scheme of the new arrangements which has emerged out of the National Stevedoring Industry Conference and who employ waterside workers whose names are on a register maintained by the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee.
Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Bill 1977
The main purpose of establishing the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee is to ensure public scrutiny of the large sums of money that will be forthcoming from the employers by way of levies to be imposed. I should emphasise that the Committee will not be a body with an administrative back up of its own. It is intended that the day to day administration of its responsibilities will be carried out on behalf of the Committee by the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour. The Committee will be a part time body consisting of representatives of the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Australian Shipping Commission and the Waterside Workers’ Federation. Its chairman will be appointed by the Government and the Minister will be announcing this appointment shortly.
The functions of the Committee will be to make payments, for example, to the Stevedoring Employees Retirement Fund; payments in respect of providing amenities to waterside workers; payments to the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour as to costs that it will have to bear in connection with the organisation of performance of stevedoring operations and payments arising out of award obligations on employers as to waterside workers. It will reimburse the Commonwealth for expenditure incurred in payments to the port conciliators who are to be appointed under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration (Amendment) Bill.
Beyond this, Mr President, there are the usual provisions one would expect to find in a Bill of this kind. For instance, the Committee will be given the power to borrow but only with the approval of the Treasurer. It will be able to keep accounts subject to the scrutiny of the AuditorGeneral. There is also a provision requiring the Committee to furnish to the Minister such relevant information as is required. The Committee will be required to produce an annual report which will be tabled before Parliament.
The Conciliation and Arbitration (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1977
Save for one small amendment all the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to be effected by this Bill are to Division 4 Part III of the Act. This Division was inserted in the Act in 1956 and provides the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission with its jurisdiction for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes and industrial questions involving that area of the waterfront in which work is performed by members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia. The Division does not cover operations in the stevedoring industry outside of the regulatory scheme set up by the existing legislation and there will be no change to this concept as a result of the Bill which I am now introducing. Thus, the Bill contains provisions perpetuating definitions of certain terms which now appear in the principal Act by reference to the stevedoring industry legislation. The fact that Division 4 of Part III of the Act now applies to the traditional area of work of the Waterside Workers’ Federation is being confirmed two ways- by changing the title of the Division and by inserting a new Section 8 lA.
A most significant provision of the Bill is that it will widen the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to enable the Commission to deal with such matters as the question of quotes for waterside workers, the employment of a supplementary labour force and recruitment of waterside workers. The Bill also makes provision for the appointment of port conciliators. It is particularly pleasing to see this provision there for it marks out that parties have accepted the idea that the Commission may appoint these officials whose functions will be to attempt to reconcile the parties to the industry in on the job dispute situations that might arise.
The Bill also makes provision for the establishment of Federal and Port Co-ordinating Committees as envisaged by the National Stevedoring Industry Conference Report. The membership of these committees will be appointed by a person to be designated by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The primary responsibility of these Committees will be to monitor day to day matters such as transfer of labour, supplementary labour units et cetera. They will have power to co-opt outside interests from time to time and as indicated earlier it is expected that they will pay particular attention to the need for consultation with and the involvement of the various port authorities around the Australian coast.
I said earlier that we were ensuring that Division 4 of Part III of the principal Act remains the area from which the Commission draws its jurisdiction as to disputes involving the traditional area of work of the Waterside Workers’ Federation. Thus, the bulk handling operations which were never within the regulatory scheme established by the 1956 legislation and which have never been involved in Division 4 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act will still be excluded from that area of the Act’s operation.
The industries within which the bulk handling operations take place are of enormous significance to the Australian economy. These operations now account for 70 per cent of all Australian cargoes. Over the years these operations have been carried out largely free from industrial disruption. The companies concerned with these bulk handling operations have placed great emphasis on the contribution that the existing working arrangements within their establishments has made to their ability to function efficiently and to meet contract deadlines. The Government believes it would be undesirable to alter the factual situation now obtaining. The Government wants these operations to proceed free from the fear of industrial disruption and in the most efficient manner possible. It will therefore maintain the closest surveillance of the working operations of these industries to ensure that their efficiency is not impeded.
Port Statistics Bill 1977
The purpose of the Bill is to authorise the Secretary of the Department of Transport to collect stevedoring and related port statistics. Honourable senators may be aware that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority currently collects a wide range of statistics on cargo movements, labour associated with loading and unloading cargo and vessel movements. As well as being used by the Authority, these statistics are also used by the stevedoring industry at large, Commonwealth departments and a variety of commercial and research organisations. The Commonwealth Department with the major interest in the retention of these statistics is the Department of Transport. Accordingly, the Government has decided that when the new arrangements come into effect, the Department of Transport will take over responsibility for collection of stevedoring and related port statistics. This requires legislative powers to collect statistics to replace those powers currently contained in the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956. The Port Statistics Bill provides suitable statutory backing to enable continued collection of the statistics now available to Government through the Authority.
A careful reading of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956 will reveal that there are few limitations on the Authority’s powers to obtain or disclose information. The Government considers that such wide powers are not appropriate under the new arrangements. Consequently, much of the Bill is concerned with defining the limits of powers which had been left undefined in the existing arrangements. At present there is some duplication between statistics collected by State port authorities and the Commonwealth. In recognition of this, my colleague the Minister for Transport has had discussions with State Ministers, meeting as the Marine and Ports Council of Australia, on the possibility of rationalising statistics collections. A Marine and Ports Council Working Party is investigating this matter. The Bill provides a basis for the exchange of information between the Commonwealth and the States in anticipation of reaching suitable arrangements.
In essence, the Bill seeks to transfer statistics collection powers from the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to the Department of Transport. At the same time the opportunity is being taken to introduce appropriate constraints on the use of these powers.
Finally, Mr President, there is one additional matter on which I wish to comment. The staff of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority have always carried out their duties in a most responsible fashion. In earlier speeches to the Parliament the Minister has referred to the contribution made by the staff of the Authority and I want to place on record the Government’s appreciation of what has been done by them particularly during the last 18 months. During that time when the new arrangements for the stevedoring industry have been developed the task of the staff has been a most difficult one. Nevertheless they have acted to ensure that their responsibilities have been carried out with the maximum efficiency and co-operation. As well the staff have provided valuable technical assistance and advice on the operation of the new arrangements. Their efforts are indeed commendable. The pivotal Bill in the package of legislation which will allow the introduction of the new arrangements is of course the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Stevedoring Industry Charge (Termination) Bill 1977
The essential purpose of this Bill is to simply ensure that the existing statutory charge applying in the industry is discontinued before the new statutory levy to which I referred in my second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill commences to operate. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Stevedoring Industry Levy Bill 1977
This Bill establishes a system of levies to be imposed on employers of waterside workers as part of the proposed new arrangements for the stevedoring industry to which I referred in my second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Stevedoring Industry Levy Collection Bill 1977
This Bill should be read in conjunction with the Stevedoring Industry Levy Bill which I have just introduced. It provides the machinery by which the levies set out in that Bill are to be collected. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Bill 1977
This Bill establishes a Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee which will be responsible for the disbursement of funds collected through the Stevedoring Industry Levy as I outlined in my second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
The Conciliation and Arbitration (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1977
This Bill makes a number of amendments to Division 4 of Part III of the Act necessary to achieve the Government’s objectives associated with proposed new arrangements for the stevedoring industry as outlined in my second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Port Statistics Bill 1977
As I outlined in my second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Act, this Bill makes provisions for the collection of stevedoring and related port statistics. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
-by leave- I table the written answer to a question asked during the consideration of the particulars of proposed expenditure in Senate Estimates Committee D which has been received since the report of the Committee was tabled on 13 October 1977.
– I am prompted to use the first reading stage of this money Bill to draw to the attention of the Senate a matter which is causing grave concern to many Queenslanders, particularly to shareholders of the Queensland Permanent Building Society but also to borrowers of that building society, which recently was forced to close its doors after a run had been made on it. By way of preamble I say that in 1974 the Whitlam Labor Government introduced into this Parliament the Financial Corporations Bill, the main purpose of which was to regulate the activities of non-bank financial institutions. This was done in the interests of effective management of the economy. We know that one of the most important sections of the non-bank financial institutions are the permanent building societies. Specific provisions were written into the legislation under Part IV to regulate the financial activities of these societies. Mr Deputy President, you will recall that since the last World War there has been a proliferation of non-bank financial institutions. It was necessary that the Government endeavour to legislate to bring them under some form of regulation. As I said earlier, the building societies were a very important part of this set up.
I am a great admirer of building societies. They afford to young married people and working class people the opportunity to buy a home of their own under much more generous conditions than those offered by the banking institutions. I do not want what I have to say in this address to be misconstrued as an attack on the permanent building societies generally. I want it to be construed as highlighting what can happen within building societies if there is not careful supervision and regulation of their activities. I referred earlier to the Financial Corporations Bill 1974. Unfortunately, the Bill was never proclaimed. Apart from paying lip service to the Bill when it was in opposition the present Government has not lifted a finger to have the Bill proclaimed. I submit to the Senate that if ever there was a need for a financial corporations commission to be established it is now, particularly when one learns of the experience of the mismanagement of the Queensland Permanent Building Society.
For months the activities of the Queensland Permanent Building Society have been widely publicised. There have been allegations of mismanagement. Most importantly there have been very strong allegations of discrepancies in the accounts of the Society ranging from amounts of $1,500,000 to $2m. There have been innumerable requests to the Queensland Government for an inquiry into the Society’s affairs or an explanation of some sort. These requests have initiated from such prestigious organisations as the Law Council of Queensland and chartered accountants’ organisations, not to mention the many heavy requests that have been made by the general public. But the Government has attempted to sweep the whole matter under the carpet by refusing an inquiry and saying that the Queensland Permanent Building Society was capably managed and that the discrepancy was due to a computer error.
We in Queensland know that a team of chartered accountants has been going through the accounts of the Queensland Permanent Building Society with a fine toothcomb. We are told that they have been unable to pinpoint from where the discrepancies sprung. Some weeks ago there was a run on the Queensland Permanent Building Society and it was forced to close its doors. I did not appreciate that. It meant that many young working class people were denied further the opportunity of owning a home of their own. At the time of the run the Queensland Government and the Premier of Queensland endeavoured to blame the collapse of the Society on Mr Kevin Hooper, the Labor member for Archerfield and the shadow Treasurer in the Queensland Parliament. Mr Kevin Hooper had exposed the Society’s activities in the Parliament around that time.
-He started the run.
– I am told that he started the run. I am not sucked in easily on these matters. I believe that Mr Kevin Hooper acted responsibly and properly as a member of parliament in bringing the matter before the Queensland Legislative Assembly. It is utter nonsense for the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Government and honourable senators who sit on the government benches in this chamber and support them in this claim to endeavour to pass the buck to Mr Hooper for the Queensland Permanent Building Society having to close its doors.
Allow me to make a comparison. There were two runs on the Metropolitan Permanent Building Society of Queensland at the same time as there was a run on the Queensland Permanent Building Society. But the Metropolitan Permanent Building Society was able to withstand both of them. I ask commonsense honourable senators: Why was that Society able to withstand them? It must be obvious that the Metropolitan Permanent Building Society was an efficiently managed Society. Apparently, the Reserve Bank of Australia agrees whole-heartedly with this contention. It disagrees with the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Government. The Reserve Bank refused to come to the aid of the Queensland Permanent Building Society in any rescue operation. It said that quite emphatically. At the same time, through the voice of the Acting Treasurer, Mr Eric Robinson, the Reserve Bank said that it would guarantee any permanent building society whose affairs were well managed. It said that it had no hesitation whatsoever in guaranteeing the operations and wholeheartedly supporting the activities of the Metropolitan Permanent Building Society. Am I correct in drawing the inference from that that the Reserve Bank said on the one hand that the Queensland Permanent Building Society was mismanaged and that it would get no help whereas on the other hand the Metropolitan Permanent Building Society was well managed and th Bank would have no hesitation in guaranteeing its shareholders’ money?
– Not necessarily.
– I am told that that is not necessarily so. Both societies had the same ratio of borrowings and adhered to the same requirements of the State Government regarding their deposits yet the Reserve Bank said no to one and yes to the other. Do not let us delude ourselves. The Reserve Bank said that it would wholeheartedly guarantee the Metropolitan Permanent Building Society. I can well understand why it would want to do that. It is a very efficiently managed and highly respected institution. There can be no denying that the Reserve
Bank said that it would not touch the Queensland Permanent Building Society with a 40 foot pole. Yet, in the face of this, the Queensland Government still claims that the Queensland Permanent Building Society is capably managed. It refuses an inquiry into its activities. I ask the Queensland Premier and his Government: How can the Queensland Permanent Building Society be capably managed when inside administrative decisions are being made, lurks and perks are given to the people running the Society and favoured situations are offered to its friends? I inform the Senate this afternoon of a rent free home and an executive motor car being provided to Mr Lloyd Price, the General Manager.
– That is not Pagan, is it? That is Price?
– That is Lloyd Price. Thirty cars were provided for members of the staff of the Queensland Permanent Building Society. I am not naive enough to think that this does not go on in big business; but ohe would hardly expect it to go on in an organisation that has been established primarily to provide homes for people at the lowest possible interest ratenot as an investment company for those who are favoured enough to be around the honey pot. I repeat that 30 cars were provided for members of the staff of the Queensland Permanent Building Society. On top of that, 50 car allowances were provided other members of the staff. But honourable senators have not heard anything yet. Superannuation was provided at the rate of 10 per cent on a non-contributory basis. The rates of interest on loans to employees of the Society were at their lowest at the highest managerial level and increased on a sliding scale in relation to the seniority of the employees down the ladder.
Those of us who are proud to be Queenslanders know that when the Queensland Permanent Building Society closed its doors it was taken over by government direction by the State Government Insurance Office Building Society. I should imagine that members of the Senate would be surprised to hear me say this afternoon that the State Government Insurance Office Building Society refused to take over a $lm loan which was granted to a favoured person at an interest rate of 1 1% per cent. The State Government Insurance Office Building Society refused to take over the loan not only because it was granted at such a favourable interest rate but also because the loan was badly in arrears. The State Government Insurance Office Building Society also refused to take over a further $12m worth of loans because they were also in arrears and because the conditions under which the loans were granted were too favourable for any business proposition to be able to run them successfully.
I think the State Government Insurance Office Building Society should be congratulated for pulling a society of over 100,000 investors out of financial no-man’s land. I am not condemning the State Government Insurance Office Building Society because it would not take over loans that were in arrears; rather I congratulate it on its business acumen. I also congratulate it for coming in and rescuing the life savings of, in many instances, pensioners. The whole of their savings throughout their lifetime had been invested in the Queensland Permanent Building Society and it was only through the generosity- if I may use that word- of the State Government Insurance Office Building Society in taking over the now defunct Queensland Permanent Building Society that the life savings of over 100,000 investors were rescued. Rumours are still floating, around in Brisbane that, a couple of days before the doors of the Queensland Permanent Building Society were finally closed and it went into liquidation, the General Manager’s rent free home concession was converted to an interest free loan.
I could go on endlessly this afternoon with examples of mismanagement in this Society. I shall take one at random. I refer to a loan that was granted on a $1,270 deposit. That deposit amounted to only 3.3 per cent of the value of the home, whereas under the regulations or the conditions under which these societies normally work the deposit is 10 per cent. One of the most despicable things of all is that the buildings held by the Society under mortgage were over valued to offset discrepancies in the balance sheet. The Society had been employing its own valuers and, to cover up discrepancies in its balance sheet, it over valued the buildings that it had on mortgage. If that is not enough to show that an inquiry into the affairs of the Queensland Permanent Building Society is warranted I do not know what is. I also believe that an inquiry into its affairs is warranted to protect the good name of the permanent building societies that are as capably managed and are running as efficiently as the one I mentioned earlier- the Metropolitan Building Society of Queensland. Even for the sake of clearing the good name of permanent building societies, the Premier of Queensland and his Government should institute an inquiry.
I touch briefly on one other matter before I resume my seat. I said earlier that for months and months before the doors of the Queensland
Permanent Building Society were closed there was widespread Press publicity and there were allegations about a discrepancy of some millions of dollars in the accounts of the Society. The people of Queensland, including Mr Kevin Hooper and myself, want to know what has happened to bring about this discrepancy. When the administration of the Queensland Permanent Building Society was taken over by the State Government Insurance Office Building Society, did that Society take over the discrepancy? I would not think so. I think the Chairman of the Board- Mr Eric Riding- would be too hardheaded for that. As I said earlier, he would not want to touch it with a 40-foot pole. So, if the discrepancy has been discounted, how has it been discounted? Has it been paid out of the contingency fund to which all building societies contribute a portion of their earnings?
If it has been paid out of the contingency fund, surely that is a frank admission by the Premier and the Queensland Government that there has been mismanagement and that this discrepancy was not a computer error. Mismanagement having been acknowledged by the Premier and the Queensland Government by discounting the discrepancy out of the contingency fund, has not the case for mismanagement been firmly established and should not the people who have been responsible and who have mishandled the life savings of others in the manner in which they have be exposed to all and sundry? Whilst I have made all those points about administrative decisions within the Queensland Permanent Building Society, to my mind the question which remains unanswered and which is deserving of an answer is: What has happened to the discrepancy? Where did it come from and how has it been discounted?
As a final comment I say that I believe that the Queensland Government has been given the wrong advice in this matter. I find it extraordinary indeed that despite the overwhelming evidence against the Queensland Permanent Building Society the Premier still flatly refuses to have an inquiry. He does this despite the fact that he must be aware- and he is an astute politicianthat public sentiment is running very strongly against him and his Government over this matter. He cannot attempt any longer to sweep it under the carpet and blame Mr Hooper because people will not fall for that trick. I hope that the Premier will think about what I have said in the Senate this afternoon. I suggest to him that he should not only look at the Gold Coast Building Society but also at the Sun State Building Society which used to operate on the Gold Coast and which was taken over in the amalgamation of the Queensland Permanent Building Society. I think that if he puts his thinking cap on and has a look at that organisation he might change his mind about a few things.
I sincerely appeal to the Premier of Queensland and his Government to explain to the shareholders, the borrowers and the people of Queensland where the discrepancy of some millions of dollars has been accounted for. That is the big question. It is a matter that is creating doubt in the public mind and the sooner it is cleared up the better it will be for all concerned.
– During the debate on the motion for the first reading of this money Bill I want to say a few brief words about one of the great problems in Australian national politics today, and that is to find out who and what is the alternative to the present Government. This question has a sense of urgency about it because of the impending election. My mind is drawn to the many contradictions that exist in the ranks of the Opposition. Firstly, who is their leader over any period of time; secondly, and more importantly, who speaks for them in the financial sense and what policy do they present as a party in relation to the guidance of the economy and the effect it has on all Australians? In studying these questions recently and in perusing the reports and statements of the Australian Labor Party in the media, I have been confused, as have been all Australians who take any notice of the statements that come from that party. I want to draw the attention of the Senate to these discrepancies and the divisions within the Labor Party as to where it stands on the important economic issues that are facing Australia.
I want to quote from a transcript of a television interview given by Mr E. G. Whitlam and Mr Hayden when they outlined Labor’s economic plan on 1 1 August this year. A very illuminating view- it was illuminating then- was presented by Mr Whitlam and Mr Hayden when they faced Australia, through the media, on that day. Those two gentlemen then gave a most consolidated view to Australia. I would like to quote what these two gentlemen had to say to Mr Negus, an interviewer from the television program ‘This Day Tonight’, as he brought out their various responses to his questions. The transcript, in part, reads as follows:
Negus: Do you two enjoy this situation, this Hayden/Whitlam team?
Mr Whitlam: Yes.
Mr Hayden: I think it is a good team.
Mr Whitlam: My word.
Mr Hayden: We will go a long way together. So will the country with us.
Mr Whitlam: And the public will accept that too.
Negus: Is this a team you might have liked to have had before?
Mr Whitlam: Well it’s working very well as you can see.
Negus: Do you see Mr Hayden as your heir apparent still?
Mr Hayden: Oh, no favourites in my presence! Modesty is always a problem, and I can ‘t handle it.
Mr Whitlam: I give the same answer there as I have for some time. Yes, I do.
Negus: Do you see that this sort of thing, Whitlam and Hayden and together is going to be something well see for the rest of the year with an election in the year?
Mr Whitlam: This isn’t the first time that we’ve . . . we were doing this in the run up to the ‘72 elections. You remember Bill and I were appearing on sessions such as this on the run up to there. It worked there, it will work in ‘78 or in ‘77 when the next elections come.
Mr Hayden: I agree. Gough and I have got more in common than we have got cause to disagree about. I would think I would have more in common with Gough than most people in the Caucus. There are other people who would have as much in common with him and accordingly by implication I have as much in common with them as 1 have with Gough but we have a very similar attitude in so many of these things.
The most recent amplification of this has been the fact that Mr Whitlam, a few weeks after this statement was made to the people of Australia, said in response to a question put innocently to him by the media: ‘Oh, no, Mr Hayden will not be the Treasurer- he will be the Minister for Foreign Affairs’. Mr Hayden will be completely removed from this partnership which he so fervently adopted in the interview of 1 1 August. What an astonishing thing it was to all Australians for Mr Hayden to be relegated from the economic sphere in which he had been placed by self chosen interest and by Mr Whitlam in adopting him as heir apparent. It was astonishing that he should be banished from the economic sphere in which he apparently had expertise. It was a very confusing thing to all Australians.
I want to quote now from an article headed Hurford, Hayden clash on tax plan’ which appeared in the Melbourne Age of 19 August. The report carried the dateline Canberra and stated:
Labor’s two economic spokesmen yesterday contradicted each other over the party ‘s commitment to indexation of personal income tax.
– Tell us about the HallWithers clash.
-Mr President, I do not intend to be distracted by Senator McLaren who apparently seems to be so irate because I am nominating for the seat of Hawker. I invite Senator McLaren to come to the Hawker electorate. I am willing to slug it out with him in that electorate any time he likes. I am willing to face him individually on any platform and discuss with him why Labor’s policies are of no use in Hawker. The article continued:
It was one of several examples of confusion and contradiction at a Press conference called by the Opposition Leader, Mr Whitlam, the spokesman on economic management, Mr Hayden, and the shadow Treasurer, Mr Hurford, yesterday.
Mr Hayden said the Party had made ‘no commitment’ on personal tax indexation at this stage.
We don’t intend to- we’re the Opposition not the Government. I don’t believe that this is the time for us to be making firm commitments’, Mr Hayden said.
But Mr Hurford admitted in answer to a later question that the Party’s national conference last month had endorsed personal tax indexation.
Questioned about the discrepancy, Mr Hayden said that the policy did indicate indexation, but the exact program could be spelled out later.
The article further stated:
Mr Hayden told the Press conference the ALP would not give any commitment on what a Labor Government would do with the new tax scheme until it had thoroughly analysed the effects.
He said these decisions had to go through the party’s committees and Caucus.
We know what Caucus has done previously about financial commitments. We know that Mr Crean had to stride into the House of Representatives with a document that had been prepared for some time but which had been cut to pieces a few minutes before he gave his speech. We know what Caucus can do, and has done, about commitments by the Labor Party. The quote continues:
Mr Hurford appeared to rule out the scheme entirely. He said there was ‘no way we’d be adopting the picture shown by further analysis of this Budget- namely that family people are taking the cost of some alleviation from tax given to single people and high income earners’. Mr Hayden and Mr Hurford also disputed whether certain figures could be calculated.
That was indeed a picture of sorry disarray in the Labor Party on 19 August 1977. A further report appeared in the Melbourne Sun on 20 August, the next day. A number of statements in that report are indicative of the confusion and dispute within the Labor Party in relation to economic management. In that article Mr Laurie Oakes, the Canberra correspondent for the Sun stated:
The Federal Opposition Leader, Mr Whitlam, his Shadow Treasurer, Mr Hurford, and the Opposition spokesman on economic management, Mr Hayden, held a Press conference on Thursday.
Mr Whitlam told the Press conference that he had pointed out the inconsistencies in the Lynch figures to Sydney radio man John Laws at 9.30 a.m., on Wednesday.
Further on Mr Oakes stated:
The print media was excluded where possible … Mr Whitlam has reached this juvenile level- or so it appeared from his arrogant dismissal of newspaper political journalists.
Messrs Whitlam, Hayden and Hurford resembled, not so much the three wise monkeys as Donald Duck’s nephewsHuey, Louie and Dewey.
They gave conflicting answers on such subjects as the ALP’s tax policy, and its ability to produce a definitive table on the effect of tax changes.
More seriously, Mr Hurford chose to advocate a snap electionin contradiction of the line being followed by Labor’s national secretary, Mr David Coombe.
Mr Oakes ended his column by saying:
But it is a safe bet that the Labor Party will never again organise a Press conference with three leading’ lights- unless the invitations are clearly marked, ‘Disc jockeys only’.
I suppose that ended a very sorry episode. Those three gentelmen, purportedly representing the Labor Party in Australia, the alternative to the Government, appeared in the media and disagreed vehemently before members of the media and the Australian people to whom they spoke. Further references were made in subsequent media, one in an article headed ‘Hayden wants $3.5 billion deficit’, and another in an article in which the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, clearly answered this disarray by saying: the Australian Labor Party economic proposals, released yesterday in Sydney, would trigger off a new wave of inflation and push the economy back into the depression created by the Labor Government.
He said yesterday ‘s proposals were no different to the previous plan put forward by the Australian Labor Party that Mr Hurford had warned would lead ‘ to further prolonging of inflation’.
The key point in Mr Lynch ‘s statement was this:
The inevitable result would be higher not lower interest rates.
If one thinks for a short while about this matter one will realise that the parliamentary leader of the Labor Party some few weeks ago adopted Mr Hayden as his heir apparent and his financial expert and adviser. Last week that leader dismissed him from the financial position and relegated him to the more distant field of foreign affairs, which is quite foreign to the previous experience of Mr Hayden in parliamentary activities. In so doing he proved that the Labor Party’s disarray of August clearly still exists. He isolated Mr Hurford as the one person who is to speak for the Labor Party in financial matters. However, under the very great pressure that arose from within his party because of the effect his action was having electorally, Mr Whitlam contrived to create a position of economic development in order to regain some of the enormous ground that had been lost by that dismissal of Mr Hayden. He brought in Mr Hayden, in parallel with Mr Hurford, as some sort of supremo of economic development. Yet still Mr Hayden and Mr Hurford continue to hold the views that they held in August, which are so discordant in relation to what the Labor Party really believes in the area of Australia ‘s economic management.
I believe that it is a matter of very serious note that any alternative to this Government is marked by disagreement in the economic sense, which is the prime one in the management of government affairs. We are to have an alternative Treasurer who holds views different from those of the proposed Minister for economic development. I believe that when Australians consider that in relation to the previous record of Labor, they will know that they cannot afford to have division in economic affairs in Australia today. First of all, they cannot risk not knowing who will lead Labor in office, if that should occur, a few weeks or a few months after it achieves office. They cannot know which financial policy Labor would follow, the Hayden line or the Hurford Une. I believe that gives cause for very great disquiet in the argument which is proceeding today, and I put it to the Senate that it is a matter of great importance indeed as we spend these last few days before going out into the electorate. It is up to Labor in this place, as it is in the other place, to clarify its policy and to say clearly whether it is going to follow Mr Hurford or Mr Hayden, because the views that they have placed before the public in recent weeks are irreconcilable. One or the other must speak for Labor, but not both. I put it to Labor today that it must clear up this position before it can begin to have a coherent debate about the election. I say to Senator McLaren, who becomes so moved about this, that I will invite him to the district of Hawker at any time he likes to come to debate either the Hayden plan or the Hurford plan, both of which I believe are faulty for Australia.
– To try to some extent to win back his position, when he was an important South Australian individual, a leader of the Liberal Party, which could not compete with the then leader of the Labor Party, Don Dunstan -
– Have you ever been Premier?
– Let me continue, and you listen. We heard today Senator Hall, an exPremier, making an appeal to an Australian electorate because he is unable to win a position in the Senate team. Why? Because his new found
Liberal colleagues will not make way for him. He is standing against a very reliable and steady South Australian, Ralph Jacobi, who, he admits, is an outstanding member of the Labor Party. Senator Hall wants to pose in two positions. The Advertiser has given Senator Hall the label of a rebel. How much of a rebel is he? He has been a member of four parties in two years. He could not suffer the competition of Don Dunstan, who defeated him because he was too alert, too intelligent, too conscientious. He could not put up with the Liberal Movement, which dissolved itself. Then for a time he was an independent. Now he has become a sturdy Liberal. Or is he a sturdy Liberal? Senator Hall wants to be in two camps. Is he going to be a reliable Liberal defending the Fraser policies or is he going to be a so-called rebel, a reputation that he tried to build up in South Australia but failed to achieve? Senator Hall has to choose because he is standing in Hawker against a very important South Australian, a man with a great reputation in the industrial movement.
-Of course Senator Hall is trying to advertise himself, and the joke is that Senator Withers is now supporting him. But what did he say about Senator Withers a little while ago?
– He said that you killed Christmas.
-Yes, I know. This is what Senator Withers does not like. This is what Senator Hall said about Senator Withers on 30 October 1975:
Senator Withers has not earned any benefit of doubt about this matter. In my 18 months here I have heard him make scoundrels of people who want fair redistribution proposals for the nation.
Senator Withers wants to make scoundrels of people. That is what Senator Hall thinks about is leader in the Senate. The honourable senator continued:
In recent times I have heard him make scoundrels of those people who have supported the contention that governments are made and broken only in the lower House, and I have heard the many other twists of the truth in which Senator Withers has been involved. On his track record I must disbelieve him.
We have heard what Senator Hall has said about Senator Withers. I repeat that he stated:
If Senator Hall said that in the hearing of our present President that remark would certainly be ruled as being offensive. But what did Senator Hall say about his leader Mr Fraser? Is he going to support Mr Fraser or is he a rebel? That is what the South Australian people would like to know. On 6 November 1975 Senator Hall stated:
I suggest that the Opposition -
Of course, it was led by his now leader Senator Withers- without a lot of fanfare, ought to prepare itself to take the action which is inevitable. Every communication coming through to me -
This was to Senator Hall- or nearly everyone, certainly 95 per cent-says that it is inevitable. A letter which I had here the other day was typical of the hundreds of letters that I and I am sure all members of parliament have received -
This is Senator Hall speaking-
On behalf of myself and my family, we thank you for your condemnation of Mr Fraser for his attempt to overthrow our elected government.
Having said all those things Senator Hall is now a great friend and supporter of Senator Withers and also of Mr Fraser. But, in fact, is he? As I said when.I commenced my early remarks, during the days of the Australian Labor Party Government we were accustomed to the actions of Senator Hall. I was often charged with having a third party assisting the Labor Party. Honourable senators on both sides of the chamber will remember that on a number of important occasions Senator Hall supported the Labor Party. In particular he supported a Bill for which I had some responsibility. That was the defence reorganisation Bill which Senator Withers said he would amend. He is very apt at talking about changes being made. He got up and said: ‘We will amend this Bill when we get to power’. But Senator Hall helped us. In those days there was always great by-play between Senator Hall, Senator Young and Senator Jessop. Many of those things are recorded in Hansard. I think they have been mentioned by my colleague Senator McLaren. It was not infrequently that these things took place. In a contribution by Senator Hall on 5 October, which is found at page 1 1 79 of Hansard, in rebuttal of something which Senator Young said, Senator Hall stated:
Obviously, Senator Young is worried about his position. He is worried about his Party in our State. May I say that he has every reason to be worried because at the last State election I think that there was about seven or eight per cent difference between us in the vote. Given the rate of increase in votes for our Party at each election I expect that Senator Young’s Party will some day be in the minority position in that State.
Senator Hall was in a different party then and he was talking differently. He had a different leader. Now he has another leader. I could go on with his quotations. Everybody knows that Senator
Hall has become a twister. He has twisted from his first affirmation of policy.
– Order! Senator Bishop, watch your language, please.
-Mr President, I mentioned the reference which my friend Senator Hall made about his present leader, Senator Withers. I thought that those quotations would have been stretched to the point where they were offensive. But I say that he has twisted from his original prescription. In fact, he has done that four times. I am sure people who are listening to Senator Hall will decide after looking at the very glossy bit of paper which he has sent out to the electorate -
– You have read it? I am glad you have done that.
-Senator Withers did not write it and I am quite sure he will not support it. I am saying that serious people will want to know whether Senator Hall is still the rebel he was for many years or whether he will change his allegiance and say that the Prime Minister of Australia is not the man he described, in the Senate, as irresponsible. Senator Hall talks about the leaders of the Australian Labor Party as though the Labor Party is the only party which has made changes in policy. I ask Government senators to tell us what preceded the election of Mr Fraser as leader of the Liberal Party. Is this the same person Senator Hall is now supporting; the man who said that he would not run against Mr Snedden. Tell us how they disposed of John Gorton and then of Mr Snedden. Finally, Mr Fraser became the leader of a government.
– And a good one.
- Senator Archer says that it is a good government. The records show otherwise. Thousands of young people cannot get jobs. That is a matter which the Government is trying to confound by not answering questions. The objectives of honourable senators on the Government side at Question Time and at other times are to create confusion. The whole aim of the Government’s industrial legislation has been to create confusion. On the hustings the Government parties said that they would establish good relations with the unions. But what have they done? They have established repressive laws. Every time there has been a national dispute the person who has solved that dispute has always been the leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a Labor Party man. No constructive actions have ever been taken by the Government to alleviate the problems of industrial trouble.
I rose to hopefully put on record some of the matters which, no doubt, people will be wondering about when they hear that Senator Hall is unable to secure a position on the Liberal Party Senate team. He has now become a great friend of Senator Jessop who is hastily scribbling notes and of Senator Young. They used to be quite unruly during my time as a Minister. Now we have our old friend the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) helping Senator Hall. Is Senator Withers cheering on Senator Hall so that he will lose his position in the Parliament. If Senator Withers wanted to support Senator Hall he would have seen that Senator Hall was given a position in the Senate team. But Senator Withers has been unable to do that. Senator Hall has been defeated by an almost unknown quantity. That is the situation which South Australian electors will notice.
Senator STEELE HALL (South Australia) Mr President, I raise a point of order. Under Standing Order 410 I claim to have been misunderstood.
– That is not a point of order. It is a misrepresentation. Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I shall explain the position in relation to two points. Firstly, it has been said that in previous activities in the Senate I have supported the Australian Labor Party. That, of course, is quite incorrect. As honourable senators who have been here through that time will know I have not supported that Labor Party and I have, in fact, always sat opposite that Party in this chamber.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order, if I may. I do not think we have misunderstood anything Senator Hall has said. I think he is merely using this device to say something more. Everything he said was perfectly clear to us. I do not think he needs to make a further explanation.
- Senator Georges, your point of order has no substance. Senator Hall, you have claimed misrepresentation and you are making the points in respect of which you have been misrepresented.
– Yes. I do not claim misrepresentation by Senator Georges. I distinctly confine my remarks to Senator Bishop who apparently has not properly studied the background of this matter or is unaware of the previous position in this place. I was about to say that one significancy in support of a government in this chamber is where one sits. I point out to Senator Bishop that I have always sat opposite the Government. The fact that I have in the past supported individual items of legislation has no connection with the position generally in the Senate of being government or anti-government. I was always anti-government, as I was electorally. As I said previously, every time a preference was given from my party at that time it was given against the Australian Labor Party. The position was quite clear. Either Senator Bishop is ignorant of it or he chooses to misrepresent it.
The second point is that Senator Bishop said I have belonged to four parties in the last two years. That is patently incorrect. I have tried to think of the four parties to which I could possibly have belonged. It is not possible. What Senator Bishop asserted simply is not so and he would know that. I think that is a serious misrepresentation and I would have expected Senator Bishop to correct it. The only additional party I intend to be involved in is one to which I invite Senator Bishop, and that is the victory party in Hawker on 1 1 December.
– Regardless of whether Senator Hall was a Liberal two years ago, whether he is now, or whatever he was two years ago and may have been in between, he has not explained whether he still disbelieves the man who is now his leader and of whom he said just over two years ago: ‘I have heard the many other twists of the truth in which Senators has been involved. On his track record I must disbelieve him’. I would like Senator Hall to say whether he still disbelieves the man who is now his leader in this chamber if he claims to be a loyal member of the Liberal Party. If he does still disbelieve Senator Withers, I invite him to say so and, if he does not, I invite him to stop posturing as something other than another Liberal Party toady and machine man. Senator Hall also expressed some interest in definitive statements of policy from parties. If he really is interested in definitive statements of party policy, perhaps he can extract from Senator Withers the information which I could not extract from him with two questions two hours ago, that is, whether Mr Anthony or Mr Fraser speaks for the Government on the question of petrol price equalisation. We have had Mr Anthony running around every bush town in the last month promising that the Government will introduce a petrol price equalisation scheme, but we have yet to hear the definitive statement of Government policy on this matter. If Senator Hall is genuinely interested in definitive statements of policy, I invite him to attempt to extract from Senator Withers the information which I could not extract from him in two very pointed and succinct questions this afternoon, both of which Senator Withers dodged. If Senator Withers wants an opportunity to answer those questions, he will have it in this first reading debate after I and perhaps one or two other honourable senators have spoken.
I point out, whilst speaking of the fuel price equalisation scheme as proposed by Mr Anthony, that nobody knows whether it is supported by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), whether the Prime Minister supports his Deputy or whether anyone on the Government side of the chamber supports the policy of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) which, so he says, is to equalise petrol prices and to cover freight costs to the country by imposing a levy on sales. As he was reported -
– Do you think it is a good idea?
– Does Senator Archer think it is a good idea? Does he support Mr Anthony’s statement? Can he guarantee that the Prime Minister supports the Deputy Prime Minister’s statement?
– You are the bloke with all the wisdom.
– Can Senator Archer guarantee that the Prime Minister supports Mr Anthony’s statement? Senator Archer is unable to guarantee that the Prime Minister supports Mr Anthony’s statement. He is unable to state whether he himself supports it because Mr Fraser has not yet told Senator Archer what Senator Archer believes, and after he has told him that I suppose Senator Archer will be good enough to pass that information on to the rest of us.
As was explained by the Deputy Prime Minister, his policy-we do not know whether it is Government policy but apparently the Deputy Prime Minister does not necessarily have anything to do with the Government- is that freight charges will be picked up by a levy on sales in metropolitan areas and that levy, in his definitive statement of policy, will be one-quarter or onehalf of a cent per litre. It is magnificently precise costing for a man who is Deputy Prime Minister and has the resources of government at his disposal to be able to cost his policies within a margin of plus or minus 33-1/3 per cent. Precision in costing surely can advance no further. Of course, his figures were wrong anyway. If it costs $100m a year, as other Government spokesmen, including the Prime Minister, have stated, the levy required on all sales, not just metropolitan sales, to raise $100m a year will be 0.75c per litre.
My main reason for speaking on this Bill was to draw attention once again to the audacity of the Prime Minister when he pulled this premature election in claiming that it was necessary to have an election to remove the instability which had been generated by constant talk of a premature election. There is a story which I have heard before and which one of the newspapers published last week. Mr Fraser ‘s actions can be neatly described by a Yiddish word ‘chudzpah’. It has no precise English translation but it has been likened to a person who murdered both his parents and then threw himself on the mercy of the court on the ground that he was an orphan. The Prime Minister’s posturing about an early election, his attempt to justify his action, his cynical political opportunism, on the ground that it was necessary to remove the uncertainty that he himself had generated, is precisely comparable with the actions of the legendary double murderer who was guilty of both patricide and matricide and threw himself on the mercy of the court because he was an orphan.
– Who do you think will be the Labor Treasurer- Hurford or Hayden?
-Senator Hall still wants to talk so perhaps he will tell us whether he still believes that Senator Withers twists the truth and, because of Senator Withers’ track record, still disbelieves him. The question of economic instability and uncertainty was taken up in a very good article in today’s Melbourne Age by its economic editor, Kenneth Davidson. He does not present any information which is not already known by any moderately well-informed person who has access to material other than that provided in the daily Press. That category of moderately well-informed people on this subject excludes almost all members of the Liberal and National Country Parties in this Parliament and, unfortunately, most people throughout the electorate because they do not have access to the information. Only a few qualify newspapers such as the Melbourne Age and the Australian Financial Review published this sort of factual material. I would be astounded if the West Australian, the worst capital city newspaper in Australia, ever published factual material such as this. It certainly has not done so to date. Kenneth Davidson said in the context of the Prime Minister’s professed concern for economic uncertainty:
But the blockage of Supply, and some of the extreme statements about the nature of the economic crisis . . .
That is in 1975 - were scarcely appropriate to economic stability or even to reality.
For instance, Mr Fraser stated that under Labor’s policies . . .
This is still in 1975 - unemployment would reach 480,000 . . .
At the time the unemployment forecast was outlandish, as was shown by the slight fall in unemployment immediately after the election.
Davidson went on to comment on the Prime Minister’s most significant contribution to the wellbeing of economic illiteracy in this country when he said:
At one stage during the 197S election campaign, Mr Fraser said that in two years Australia would spend $6,500m more than we have- over $500 for every Australian.
The fact is that the excess of Commonwealth spending over receipts in the three Whitlam Government Budgets totalled $6,300m.
These matters are all on the public record; it is just that rarely does a newspaper publish them. He continued:
In the two Budgets the Fraser Government has been responsible for the deficit of spending over receipts is estimated in the August Budget documents as $6,000m . . .
That is in two years - and undoubtedly, by the time the year is out, other supplementary budgetary measures will be introduced so that the two-year deficit of the Fraser Government will be greater than the three-year deficit of the Whitlam Government.
One of those appropriations, if we can believe the Deputy Prime Minister, presumably would be for the fuel price equalisation scheme and the unplanned expenditure of $ 100m entailed in that proposal would boost the deficit. Davidson continues:
But it is unlikely that the electorate will hear anything about the $500 debt for each Australian from the Labor Government being transferred by the Fraser Government into a $ 1 ,000 debt for each Australian.
Of course, this sort of stuff is economic nonsense. No Australian has to reduce his living standard by $500 or by $1,000 to pay himself back. Davidson also states:
Government debt is only a net burden to the Australian community when it is owed overseas. During the period of the Whitlam Government overseas debt was reduced by net repayment of loans. But official borrowings by the Fraser Government will reach close to $3,000m by the end of the financial year.
Of course, nothing that Davidson has written is unknown to anyone who is moderately literate in these matters and has access to information unfortunately not available through the daily Press. If we are really worried about having to pay back money that the Government has spent, we should bear in mind that Australia must pay back $3 billion which the Fraser Government has borrowed overseas and spent, whereas the Whitlam Government had a net repayment of overseas debt. This conceptual ignorance of these matters obviously extends well beyond the Prime Minister and the Government. Senator Carrick during Question Time today spoke of a type of Government spending which increases the money supply and pushes up interest rates. Obviously, Senator Carrick is unaware of the fact that the two phenomena which he said would follow simultaneously are mutually exclusive. Government spending which increases the money supply is spending financed by an unfunded budget deficit which has no effect on interest rates. On the other hand, if government expenditure is financed by borrowings this will push up interest rates but it will not increase the money supply. So the conceptual ignorance about these very elementary principles of the subject obviously extends well beyond the Prime Minister. Mr Fraser, having pulled this premature election because he knows very well that the economy is sliding rapidly further Unto recession, pretends that the Government is optimistic, that the economic depression has bottomed and that we are rapidly moving into an era of new prosperity. Such statements by our Prime Minister are by no means unprecedented. For example, on 1 3 August last year he said:
There is growing evidence that the Government’s policies are working. Business spending on plant and equipment has picked up substantially. National production, measured by gross domestic product, is now rising.
Some seven months later on 23 March this year he said:
Confidence has returned to important sections of industry. Investment in plant and equipment by private enterprise increased by over 3 1 per cent last year. Dwelling approvals, registration of new motor vehicles, real private consumption and new capital raisings by listed companies all markedly improved last year.
That is what the Prime Minister said was going on. That is what he still claims. Now let us look at the facts. I will deal firstly with capital raisings by private companies from the June quarter of 1976 onwards. The sums raised during those five quarters were as follows: $534m, $399m, 682m, $284m and $3 17m. The amount raised in the June quarter, the latest quarter for which figures are available, is the second lowest amount of the last five quarters and is some 50 per cent below the average amount for those five quarters.
Another major economic indicator is gross capital expenditure by private business. For the same five quarters from June 1976 onwards, the capital expenditure by private business was as follows: $l,271m, $l,235m, $1,31 lm, $l,281m and $1,2 13m. The figures are seasonally adjusted. For the latest quarter for which figures are available gross capital expenditure by private companies is the lowest it has been for the last five quarters. I now turn to the number of new dwellings approved. For the 1 7 months ending November 1976, an average of 12,430 dwellings were constructed. That figure steadily declined for the next 10 months to a near record low of 9,400 dwellings in the most recent month for which figures are available. In December 1976 construction of residential dwellings went into a slide from which it has not recovered and, on the most recently available figures, into which it continues to slide further.
Private final consumption expenditure is one of the areas that both the Prime Minister and his Treasurer claim is a major indicator of the state of the economy. In the last three quarters from December 1976, private final consumption expenditure was: $5, 601m, $5, 505m and $5,50 lm. It is going down. All the statistics I have cited come from the September issue of the Australian Bureau of Statistics publication Business Statistics. Another major economic indicator is the index of factory production published by the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group. Let me cite the seasonally adjusted index figures over the last eight months from January 1977: January $165m, February $165m, March $164m, April $162m, May $16 lm, June $160m, July $161m and August $160m. The figures show a clear downward trend from the position at the beginning of this year.
In the face of all this objective evidence and all the statistical proof the Prime Minister has the audacity to claim that the economy is recovering. If the Prime Minister really believed that the economy was recovering we would be having an election next year and not this year. I will now deal with the rural sector. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has forecast that real farm income will fall by 16 per cent in this financial year. According to the Treasurer just over a year ago, the farm sector was in a state of collapse. Farm income has fallen in both the years since the Treasurer made that statement. The forecast for this year is for a 16 per cent fall in real farm income. Again, the Prime Minister is getting in to hold an election early hoping that he can fool the electorate before the people become fully conscious of the economic disaster into which he and his policies have led the country.
Last Friday in a display of grandstanding he telexed all the State Premiers asking them to use their powers in respect of the auction laws to eliminate collusive buying in cattle saleyards which apparently Mr Fraser believes is occurring. I do not know whether it is occurring. But if the Government had any genuine interest in the position of primary producers and if it believed that there was collusion in saleyards and that monopolistic practices were depressing prices received by producers, why did it not give the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation full trading powers in its own right? The Bill to establish the Corporation was passed this year by the Parliament. If the Government believes that sort of malpractice exists in the saleyards why does it not give the Meat and Livestock Corporation the power to break that monopolistic malpractice by giving it full trading rights? One can judge the degree of genuine concern of this Government in the matter by examining the appointee to the position of chairman of the Corporation. It is a Mr Jones who said a fortnight ago that the new Meat and Livestock Corporation, although it had a different name, was really no different to the old Australian Meat Board and it would not do anything which the old Meat Board did not do. I hope that all meat producers- the beef producers in particular- are aware of the fact that this is what the Government appointed chairman of the Meat and Livestock Corporation has said. He said that the Corporation will not do anything that the old Meat Board did not do. The judgment of the overwhelming majority of producers was that the old Meat Board was inadequate. Indeed, I suggest that if this Government had any concern for this area of policy it would promptly remove the man who made that statement from the position of chairman.
Mr Fraser promised the establishment of a rural bank in his policy speech of November 1975. As recently as 11 September this year he committed the Government to the establishment of a statutory corporation which Senator Cotton endorsed in the Senate a couple of week ago. It now appears from rumours that the bank will be nothing but a consortium of private banks. So the rural bank will be nothing but an on-lending institution. It will not be a statutory corporation. It will make some funds available to private banks to lend on to farmers. Essentially, the crippling lender of last resort restrictions not only will remain in force but also the bank is unlikely to have direct dealings with farmers at all. So in those two instances, as we have always known, when the interests of farmers are in conflict with big business, the Liberal Party always lets the farmers down. In the face of this incompetence, this rapidly deteriorating economic situation, it is useful to look back on the excuse this Government used when it came into power, the excuse it used for blocking Appropriation Bills two years ago. It was the alleged mismanagement of the economy by the then Labor Government. Since then the economy has become much worse: 62,000 more people are unemployed. By the middle of next year that figure will have increased to at least 100,000. All of the major economic indicators show that the economy is sliding deeper into a recession.
It is also interesting to reflect that the Governor-General, who granted this election, said in February 1975, that the only justification for granting a premature election would be that the Parliament was unworkable. He explicitly stated that an election should not be granted just because the Prime Minister of the day found it convenient to hold it prematurely at that particular time. One must wonder why, since the Governor-General himself created the precedent in November 1975 of issuing a statement explaining his reason for taking a particular course of action- he has not on this occasion issued a statement explaining why he has contradicted his own view, stated less than three years ago.
Now, anyone who saw the broadcast from Flemington yesterday would not need to have very much imagination to deduce a probable reason why the Governor-General granted the dissolution to Mr Fraser, which he himself had said less than three years ago ought not to be granted. Any public servant who appeared, in discharging his duties in public, drunk would face disciplinary action . . .
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order!
– I wish to know what will happen to the Governor-General because of his disgusting drunken performance at Flemington yesterday.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Walsh -
– You rat!
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You will sit down when the occupant of the chair stands. You will now withdraw those remarks that you made.
-Mr Deputy President, the test of acceptability in this chamber is the Standing Orders. I wish it were the truth. Six million
Australians who saw the Governor-General on television yesterday know what I stated was true.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Walsh, you will withdraw the remarks that you made about the Governor-General. Senator Walsh, I call on you to withdraw those remarks.
– In deference to the Chair, Mr Deputy President, I will withdraw the remark.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- It is not in deference to the Chair at all. You will withdraw the remarks.
– The remarks I believe- I know the remarks were true, Mr Deputy President. I would withdraw them in deference to you but I will not retract what I know to be true.
– You rat!
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am still not satisfied with your withdrawal, Senator Walsh, and I ask you to withdraw those remarks wholeheartedly.
- Mr Deputy President, if I may intrude- I have to give Senator Walsh time to consider- I may say that I did not hear the remarks in question. Upon coming into the chamber I have merely heard what has occurred over the last two or three minutes, and have listened to your request that the honourable senator withdraw the remarks concerning the Governor-General. We on this side of the House have been under considerable stress over a period of time. I think you can understand that it goes back to a period in late 1975. However, I think we have shown considerable restraint and have not in any way disregarded the direction of the Chair. We believe that the direction of the Chair is governed by the fact that no one should make disparaging remarks about, not so much the person himself, but the position of GovernorGeneral. I think that is the basis of the rulings which have come from the Chair-that it is not so much the person but the position of GovernorGeneral itself. Now, what I think has moved Senator Walsh to make those remarks is not so much the Opposition’s disregard for the high position of Governor-General but the behaviour ofthe incumbent at the present time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I have let you go far enough. I am going to call on Senator Walsh to withdraw the remarks that he made about the Governor-General.
– Am I to be seated?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes, please sit down, Senator, until I have dealt with this matter.
– Then I will get the opportunity to complete my remarks?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I have a list of speakers in front of me. I let you go on because there was a certain situation that developed in the Senate. I think we have gone far enough now and that Senator Walsh should do what I asked him to do.
– I would not like to see Senator Walsh treated unjustly.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You are disagreeing with my ruling. Will you please sit down. I call on Senator Walsh.
– Out of deference to you, Mr Deputy President, I will withdraw the remarks and I shall leave it to six million Australians to reach their own conclusion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! You cannot say ‘in deference to the Chair’. You made some remarks which I think were very disparaging to the Governor-General and I now ask you to withdraw them.
-I will withdraw the remarks, Mr Deputy President, and six million Australians saw the incident on television. I also request that you ask Senator Archer -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! You will withdraw the remarks and refrain from making any other statement about the Governor-General.
-I will withdraw the remarks, and the only statement I made was that probably six million people were watching the Melbourne Cup broadcast.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I am going to sit you down. I have asked you to do certain things, and I am going to call the next speaker.
– Before you do, Mr Deputy President, may I put it to you that Senator Walsh has indicated his preparedness to withdraw the remark that he made. I would ask you also to consider that you requested him not to make any further references to the Governor-General. I would, with respect, say to you that that is a fairly all-embracing request that you have made of him. We know that in this chamber there have been many references not only to the GovernorGeneral but to many other people outside this Parliament, who would have the respect of the community and about whom cert am remarks and comments have been made, but I would put it to you that, it is the normal practice that Presidents accept a withdrawal made out of respect to the occupant of the chair who is seeking that withdrawal. I put it to you that Senator Walsh is doing.that. I would ask you to perhaps reconsider your suggestion that he not be allowed to make further references to the Governor-General. I feel certain that Senator Walsh, having accepted your wish for him to withdraw, is not going to refer to those matters on a second occasion.
- Mr Deputy President, on the point of order, I think you are entitled to say to Senator Walsh that the original remark was disparaging, and I take it your ruling is that Senator Walsh is to withdraw unconditionally and not make further direct or indirect disparaging remarks about the Governor-General. I think it is quite clear.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- On the point of order taken by the Leader of the Opposition, I think most persons occupying the chair have let the name of the Governor-General be mentioned. Indeed a good illustration of that was the reference in the debate to what took place in 197S, but if any senator in this place makes such disparaging remarks about the GovernorGeneral such remarks must be withdrawn unconditionally, Senator Walsh. I do not uphold the point of order taken by the Leader of the Opposition.
-Out of respect to you, Mr Deputy President, I withdraw the remarks. I might also mention that Senator Archer -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Walsh, I must point out to you that the Chair has asked you to withdraw the remarks unconditionally. I want no statements such as ‘out of respect to you’ or anything else.
-I withdraw the remark, Mr Deputy President, and continuing my speech, on the matter of television ratings I suppose, I think about six million people would have been watching the Melbourne Cup.
– I wish to raise another point of order, Mr Deputy President. During the altercation which we have just witnessed Senator Archer was heard to have called Senator Walsh a rat. I ask you to ask Senator Archer to withdraw that disparaging remark about Senator Walsh.
– Is that all I called him?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman)-Order! I did not hear it.
-I heard it and he just added to it by saying: ‘Is that all I called him?’. I again ask you, Mr Deputy President, to ask Senator Archer to withdraw that remark.
– I am delighted to do so.
– I raise a point of order -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Sit down please, Senator Georges. I call Senator Jessop.
-Mr Deputy President -
- Mr Deputy President, I am rising to request that Senator Archer be asked to withdraw his remark unconditionally.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! If you want to dispute my ruling, do so.
-I am not going to that extent. I would not do that.
-I regret very much that the Senate has witnessed that speech from a senator from Western Australia. I do not think that that speech dignified the Senate in any way at all.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Jessop. Do not canvass my decision.
-I listened with some interest to the speech made by Senator Walsh. It seemed to me that he was setting himself up as yet another shadow economic Minister- perhaps a shadow Minister for economic miracles. I could not quite follow his economic theory, but it seems to me that he demonstrates some interest in the economy on occasions. I enter this debate simply because I heard a speech by Senator Bishop which indicated to me that the Labor Party is running scared as far as the electorate of Hawker is concerned because inevitably when that matter is raised honourable senators opposite resort to making personal attacks on people. They know very well that the seat of the present honourable member for Hawker, Mr Jacobi, will be lost to the Labor Party and they know very well that Senator Hall will be an opponent who can deal devastatingly with any candidate they can produce in Australia.
I heard Senator Bishop claim that while Senator Hall was in the State Parliament he was no match for Mr Dunstan. That, of course, is a complete and utter distortion of the facts. I have seen and heard Senator Hall on many occasions deal very severely with Mr Dunstan and defeat him. On two major issues which I can recall- the Dartmouth Dam issue and the Johnston,Q.G, issue- Senator Hall absolutely devastated Mr Dunstan. Of course, the Labor Party was upset about what Senator Hall said about its economic confusion. It knows very well that its economic plan is a two-headed monster, with one head bearing the face of our friend, the honourable member for Oxley, Mr Hayden, and the other head bearing the face ofthe honourable member for Adelaide, Mr Hurford. Never the twain shall meet, which is one ofthe reasons that the Labor Party is being torn to shreds and will never be a credible alternative government.
I heard also Senator Walsh’s remarks with respect to petrol equalisation in which he suggested that the Liberal Party always disregards the welfare of the farming community. I remind the people of Australia that it was the Labor Party which removed the petrol equalisation plan. Senator Walsh referred also to the rural bank. The rural Bank will be, if it is not already, a fact. I understand that the legislation for the establishment of the rural bank will be introduced into the Parliament either today or tomorrow. That certainly will assist the farming community in overcoming its serious hardships at this time by providing a refinancing instrument to help the farming community through its financial problems.
– At what rate of interest?
– The honourable senator should wait until the Bill is introduced. He will then find out all about it. But honourable senators opposite do not like the fact that we have done something about this matter- something which the Labor Party would not ever even contemplate. I believe that the present Government’s economic policies are showing the people of Australia that there is a Government in Canberra which is capable of economic management. Our inflation rate at the present time is of the order of 8 per cent. The Labor Party can boast the highest inflation rate Australia has ever experienced- something like 17 per cent or 18 per cent. Honourable senators opposite do not like my mentioning that because the realise that they are guilty of ruining the country economically and they will do all they can to frustrate our attempts to deal with the serious position which exists in Australia.
– Once again today we saw Senator Hall come out from hibernation because our proceedings are being broadcast. As I said in my speech last week on the Oilseeds Levy Collection and Research Bill 1977, Senator Hall has come to light and emerged from hibernation now only because he is seeking re-election as a Liberal member. I wish to quote some statements which Senator Hall has made over the years in which he made very derogatory remarks about the very Party he has now come back to. Today in launching his tirade against the Labor Party he tried to ridicule the incoming Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide, Mr Hurford, and said that we had plucked Mr Hurford out of the air to be the Treasurer in the incoming Government. As Senator Hall quoted from a lot of documents today, I remind him to look at the transcript of the Monday Conference program of Monday, 1 November 1 976. On that program a Mr Evans was interviewing the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, and asked:
How do you think your Shadow Ministry’s performing? They seem to be fairly low profile, if anything, but are they mustering policy . . .
Mr Whitlam replied: 1 1 of them have not been Ministers before and some of those youngest ones have been given key portfolios like Chris Hurford for Treasury . . .
So as long ago as 1 November 1976 Mr Whitlam is on record to have said that about Mr Hurford. It is there for all and sundry to see. Senator Hall, being the great researcher he is, should have taken note of that statement. On 1 November 1976 and even before then Mr Whitlam said that Mr Hurford was going to be the Treasurer in the incoming Labor government. That knocks the argument of Mr Hall- as he will be this time next week- into a cocked hat. He will not be able to use that argument in Hawker. Senator Hall has invited me to come down to Hawker. If I were to do so I would relate from the public hustings to the electors there some of the things which I chronologically mentioned here last week concerning the arguments which went to and fro, both in the South Australian Parliament when Senator Hall was a member and in this Parliament while he has been a member here as the socalled leader of the one-man Party in Canberrathe famous Liberal Movement. He had arguments with the one remaining member of that Party, who has since abdicated from that Party and has joined the Democrats Party under the leadership of the honourable member for Hotham, Mr Chipp. No doubt if Mr Hall- as he will be this time next week- fails in his bid to win the seat of Hawker he will join Mr Chipp and some of the others, including his colleague of long gone by Mr Millhouse, to form another party. As my colleague Senator Bishop pointed out, Senator Hall, like many other people, is known to flit from party to party when he loses favour with the party of which he is a member.
I want to relate to the Senate some of the statements which have been made by Senator Hall about the very Party which he is now promoting and which he is trying to hoodwink the people in Hawker in South Australia into believing is a great Party. The Advertiser of Monday 2 April 1973, carries an article which was written by Mr
Hall, as he then was. Under the heading ‘Upper House siege “will be effective” he stated:
The old negative attitude of the Liberal and Country League are still present in that organisation. It responds to the challenge of our society with a paternalism that nas long been rejected by the electors.
How true that was. That was one of the reasons that he got out of the Liberal and Country League and formed another party. He could see that the way the League was going it was on a losing banner. In the previous month, on 18 March 1973, under the heading ‘Becker fed up with LM row’, the following appeared in the Adelaide Mail:
The LCL member for Hanson, Mr Becker, admitted yesterday his relationship with the Leader of the LM, Mr Hall, was ‘a bit strained’.
He believed this was because Mr Hall saw him as a likely defector from the LM.
Mr Becker’s job was in jeopardy because Mr Hall saw Mr Becker as a likely defector of the Liberal Movement. Mr Becker got back into the Liberal Party. A few years later, the very man of whom Mr Becker was afraid has wormed his way back into the LCL himself. The Adelaide News of 24 March 1973 contains the headline: ‘Hall: 111 Quit LCL’. He gave many of the reasons. The article states:
I will resign from the LCL’, Liberal Movement leader, Mr Hall, said today.
I will choose my own time to resign- but it won’t be a longtime.’
The article went on to deal with other matters. One of the most enlightening statements he made is recorded in the Advertiser of the same date under the heading ‘LM’s future in doubt after ruling’. He was reported leaving the big meeting of 500 people, many of whom were members of the LCL and were looking for something new under his guidance. The article states:
Emerging from the State Council meeting, Mr Hall said: They have voted to cut us adrift.
They did not include the Country Party or the League of Rights . . .
Senator Hall as he now is;he will be Mr Hall at the end of next week- was complaining because he and some of his colleagues had been cut adrift from the Party of which he was proud to be Premier. The Party did not see fit to cut adrift the League of Rights and the Country Party which he also made some disparaging remarks about which I shall quote later. Senator Hall went on to say:
It is a victory for the conservative group, which is in the hands of a wealthy elite based on widespread prejudice within the party.
It means the LCL is conservative and hopelessly irreparable.’
This is the man who stood up in this chamber today, using the Senate as a public platform, seeking the support of the electors of Hawker to elect him to the House of Representatives as a member of the LCL after he made these disparaging remarks about the very Party he now wants to represent in the other place. What has happened to change his mind? Has the policy of that Party changed? I am sure that the electors of Hawker know that it has not changed. If we apply the voting figures for the State election on 17 March to the boundaries of Hawker, we will see that Mr Hall, as he will be when he contests that seat, is in for a rude shock. He will probably have to go back to his farm for a little while. In the Advertiser of 3 1 March 1 973, there is a headline ‘LM votes for new party’. Two people who, I suppose, had a premonition of what was going to happen to Senator Hall’s Party got back into the LCL much sooner than he did. The article in the Advertiser states:
Liberal Movement delegates on Saturday overwhelmingly rejected the lead of most of their MPs and decided to form a new political party.
So far only two LM parliamentarians, former Premier Mr Hall and Mr Cameron MLC, have decided to leave the LCL.
Mr Cameron was a senator in this chamber at one time. My esteemed friend, Senator Donald Cameron, soon ousted him the first time he had to go to an election. He was appointed and then six months later, I think, when he went on the hustings at a by-election, my great friend, Senator Donald Cameron, gave him a whacking of a hiding at the polls. But he also got back into the LCL. Senator Hall is the last one in the line to crawl back into the Party. The article states further:
During the afternoon Mr Wilson, MHR . . .
He is one of the people who formed the LM. From my reading of the policy years ago he did so to try to get over the crisis that was abroad in the LCL. He is now the incumbent for Sturt. The article continues:
As I have said, all those people have now got back into the LCL. The article also states:
Mr Hall said a new Liberal party would succeed because the LCL was finished.
They were Mr Hall’s remarks at that time. The wheel has gone the full circle. He found out that the Party he and Mr Millhouse formed was finished. Now he has got back into the Liberal Party. He went on to say:
The strength has gone from the LCL. It has been handed back to the Right wing conservatives who now possess it fully . . .
There has been no change in the policy of the South Australian Liberal Party and very little change in the officers. Senator Hall is on record as claiming those things against the very Party for which he now wants to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives. How will he explain his statements of that time to the people he wants to vote for him at the coming election on 10 December? In the Advertiser of Thursday 15 April 1976, there is a photo of Senator Hall and Mr Cameron, MLC arriving at an LM meeting. The headline states: ‘LM chiefs clash over merger plan. ‘ The article states:
Senator Hall and the State Liberal Movement Leader (Mr Millhouse) clashed openly last night over proposed terms for a merger with the Liberal Party.
I am referring to the clashes they had on the proposed terms to form the LM when they defected from the Liberal Party. Now things are all right for Senator Hall. He can see the writing on the wall. He will now fly under another flag, the one under which he originally entered Parliament. Because he was losing support in South Australia he decided to have a go at the Senate. When he got into the Senate, we witnessed week after week that he thought he held the balance of power. He was always in the news. The Press were running after him day and night. What happened after the 1975 elections? He became dormant. As I said, the only time he comes out of hibernation is when we are on air on Wednesday. He is now on the political stump trying to woo the people in Hawker to vote for him at the next election. I shall quote again some of the matters to which I referred last week. People like to be reminded of them. I refer to some of the things he said about the present members he claims as his colleagues and some of the things those people said about him in days gone by. I turn to the Senate Hansard of 75 February 1975 when we were debating the Privy Council Appeals Abolition Bill. What did Senator Baume say about Senator Hall? He said:
You are sanctimonious.
What did Senator Hall say in reply? He said:
I do not care whether I am labelled sanctimonious or not. I am rather tired as are so many of Senator Baume ‘s supporters in New South Wales at a very high level, of the duplicity ofthe Opposition in this House . . .
He was talking about the very people he now claims as his colleagues in the Liberal Party. At page 154 of Senate Hansard of 16 July 1974, when we were debating the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, Senator Hall referred to Senator Jessop. He said:
I am sure that Senator Jessop has not heard of it. He does not see anything but a little narrow path ahead of him which leads to the Liberal-Country League.
Senator Jessop must have taken Senator Hall by the hand in recent months and led him back along that little narrow path into the LiberalCountry League in South Australia, so much so that he has received the endorsement of that Party to oppose the fine and diligent honourable member for Hawker, Ralph Jacobi. He will still be the honourable member for Hawker after 10 December.
– What name?
- Mr Ralph Jacobi. I am pleased that Senator Missen asked me. I cannot give Mr Ralph Jacobi too much publicity. He will again be the incumbent of the seat after the election on 10 December. At page 16 of Hansard of the Joint Sitting of 6 August 1974- the debate was on the Commonwealth Electoral Act (No. 2 )- Senator Hall said:
I have seen in my State a so-called non Labor party destroy itself because it claimed it was anti-Labor by saying that it had, in effect, the divine right to govern.
Yet Senator Hall now wants to represent that Party which he said claimed to have the divine right to govern. Irrespective of what the electorate might think, he now believes that what he was criticising those people for is correct. He has again embraced that Party.
– Good stuff.
– There is some more good stuff to come, Senator Missen. I shall repeat what Senator Hall had to say about Senator Withers and vice versa. As reported at page 494 of Senate Hansard of 76 February 1975, Senator Young said:
We have just listened to a highly emotional speech from Senator Hall who has accused the Opposition of turning things upside down.
Unfortunately, for the last 10 minutes there has been a tirade of abuse and personal vendettas against individual senators on thus side of the chamber.
Of course, Senator Hall was directing those personal vendettas against the members of the party of which he is now pleased to be a member. Senator Young went on to say:
In my short dme in the Senate this was a rarity until recent dmes. I regret very much that debate in the Senate has been lowered to that level.
That is what Senator Young thought about a person who is now his colleague. I hope that Senator Young will not be remiss during the Senate election campaign to remind the electors of Hawker just what type of person he thought Senator Hall was when he made those remarks. If he does not do that it will mean that he did not believe what he was saying then. If he does not go out and repeat those remarks it will mean that he is trying to cover up for Senator Hall and trying to win him a few votes. Let us look at the debate on the electoral redistribution for the State of South Australia, as recorded on page 1739 of the Senate Hansard of 22 May 1975. In speaking about that subject, Senator Hall had something to say about Senator Withers. He said:
Those of us who want equality shudder at the type of speech that Senator Withers has made to the Senate.
Of course, Senator Hall now sits behind Senator Withers, who is his leader in this chamber. I refer now to page 2409 of the Senate Hansard of 10 June 1975, which refers to a debate on the Constitution Alteration (Elections) Bill 1975. 1 again quote what Senator Hall had to say about Senator Withers. He said:
Senator Withers never fails to repeat his performance, and never disappoints if one is expecting to find the lowest of all approaches to the electoral question. He simply approaches the question by asking: ‘Who’s gonna win?’ That is all that worries Senator Withers. He does not worry about any principle; he does not worry about the principle of where the Australian people stand on this matter.
What is Senator Hall going to say about Senator Withers? I am sure that he will not be asking Senator Withers to introduce him on the platform when he opens his election campaign in Hawker. If he does, I feel very confident that quite a few electors in Hawker will promptly remind both Senator Withers and Senator Hall of the things that Senator Hall has said about Senator Withers in this chamber and in the other place when the Joint Sitting was held. I go futher and look at page 2438 of the Senate Hansard of 10 June 1975, when the Senate was discussing the Electoral Redistribution (South Australia) Bill 1975. Again talking about Senator Withers, Senator Hall said:
One wishes at dmes that Senator Withers would revise his speech. He seems to use the same copy but adds a few words each dme a redistribution proposal comes into the House. However, one thing was clearer in his speech tonight and that is that Senator Withers had very seriously charged senior public servants across Australia. He said tonight that the redistribution proposal we have before us is a fiddle, a gerrymander, a fraud and it is deceitful.
Senator Hall was showing up Senator Withers because at that time, I think, Senator Withers had said that if the Liberal Party scrutineers in a particular seat in Western Australia had not been vigilant the Liberal Party would not have won the seat- it would have been won by the Labor Party. He made very disparaging remarks about the person in charge of the poll. Senator Hall picked them up and made that statement in the Parliament. Further on in that debate, as recorded on page 2439 of Hansard of the same date, one finds Senator Jessop having a few words to say about Senator Hall. Yet Senator
Jessop stood up in this chamber a little while ago, following a speech by my colleague Senator Bishop, and did his best to defend Senator Hall. Senator Jessop is another honourable senator who has changed his mind in recent months about the qualities and abilities of Senator Hall. I shall quote what he had to say, as recorded on that page of the Senate Hansard. Senator Jessop accused Senator Hall of being a Judas. He said:
You are a Judas. The country people in South Australia sayyouarea Judas.
Senator Jessop said those words. They are recorded in Hansard.
– When did he say that?
-He said that on 10 June of last year. He accused Senator Hall of being a Judas. Yet today we found him doing his best in this chamber-I must admit that it was not very good- to defend Senator Hall. In reply to Senator Jessop ‘s earlier remarks, Senator Hall said:
Senator Jessop says that I am a Judas -
Following that a very remarkable statement was made by Senator Jessop. He said:
I did not say that.
Yet he is recorded in Hansard as saying that Senator Hall is a Judas. What did Senator Hall say in reply to that? He said:
So Senator Jessop mouths other people’s words, like Senator Withers, in this House.
He was again getting into the person who is now his leader in this chamber. Senator Hall went on to say:
He disgracefully mouths insulting words. Of course, he can produce no evidence to back the use of those words. Senator J essop knows the results that will ensue in South Australia. As the last senator on the ticket for the Liberal Party, he has a very limited life in this House, thank goodness.
They are now real mates again. Each one is trying to help the other. Unfortunately for the people of South Australia, Senator Hall was wrong when he said that Senator Jessop had a limited life in this chamber. We know that he is one of the long term senators. I refer now to the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1 975-76, as recorded on page 1 1 75 of the Senate Hansard of 15 October 1975, and in particular to Senator Hall’s remarks about the Country Party. I related to the Senate a while ago how he had voiced very strong objections to the actions of the Liberal Party in ousting the Liberal Movement from under the cover of the Liberal Party but left the League of Rights embraced with the Country Party. He still has a grouch against the Country Party; yet he will be campaigning in the forthcoming election in an endeavour to come back to this Parliament as a member of a coalition government in which the Country Party will be propping up the Liberal Party-that is, if the coalition parties return to office. As I have said, there is no chance of that happening. We will be returned to office on 10 December. Senator Steele Hall had this to say:
Mr Anthony’s Party is strongest in Queensland. Today Her Majesty’s representative aligned himself with one section of the community against another section. This is what the action of Senator Wright in this chamber and of his leader, Mr Fraser, has brought Australia to within the first day of this most divisive action which anyone can take in this Parliament. When we need, above all in Australia, a unifying consensus of thought we have a political leader who will snatch power and divide the country irrevocably in so doing.
About whom was he talking? He was talking about Senator Withers and Mr Fraser. Senator Young then made an accusation against Senator Hall by way of an interjection. He said:
What did the honourable senator do in his State- the great Messiah!
Of course, it is impossible for Hansard to record the sarcastic way in which Senator Young said that. But I happened to be in the chamber that day and I witnessed it. Senator Steele Hall, in coming back at Senator Young, had this to say:
This division is not made in a very pleasant fashion, because every time that Senator Young walks across this floor he takes a dead man’s vote with him in his pocket. Today this Opposition -
He was referring to the present Government- which aspires to lead this country with the great principles about which it prates won a vote in the Senate and was able to have its will to move an amendment to a loan Bill which is the lifeblood of many Australians. The Bill was defeated in that fashion only by the vote of a dead man which the Opposition has, contrary to the convention of this country.
That is what Senator Hall thought then about his present colleagues. What change has occurred in their party to cause him to come back and join the fold? Nothing at all has changed in the policies or attitudes of that party. It would do the same thing again if it had the opportunity. Yet, for political expediency and no doubt in an endeavour to ensure his political survival, Senator Hall has got back into that party. Despite all the things that he has said in South Australia about the party of which he is now a member, and despite all the things that he has said about the leader whom he sits behind and the people who sit on either side of him and despite all the things that they have said about him, he now gets up in this chamber and says that he is a better candidate for the seat of Hawker than the present encumbent.
– Every party he has been associated with has lost elections.
-That is so. Let me go on a little further. Senator Hall will be interested to hear what I am about to say. I refer now to his remarks in a later debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1), as recorded on page 1237 of the Senate Hansard of 16 October 1975. He made accusations against his present leader, whom no doubt he is going to ask to come to South Australia and support him in his campaign for the seat of Hawker. He said:
Mr Fraser will be the first political leader in Australia to go down as the leader who tried to cancel Christmas.
Of course, that is what Mr Fraser did try to do. He is again trying to do it now, with the rapid increase in unemployment figures in Australia. He is doing his darndest to cancel Christmas for many of the people in the lower wage structure in this community. Let us look at what he had to say later in the same debate, as recorded on page 1560 of the Senate Hansard of 19 October 1975. There was another altercation between Senator Jessop and Senator Hall. Senator Young was not in the chamber a few months ago when Senator Jessop was really bending over backwards to try to defend Senator Hall. Senator Jessop interjected while Senator Hall was speaking in the debate, saying:
What about the advice you gave us in July?
Senator Hall said:
If Senator Jessop reads the statements that the leaders of his party have made, including those that are contained in the transcripts of broadcasts, he will find that two words run continually through those statements. They are: ‘We want’.
What did they want? They wanted government at any price. As Senator Withers told us here again today, every day they were in opposition they were calling for an election. They wanted to get in to solve the economic problems of this country. They got their wish. They got in, but of course they did so by very devious means. We know that a car was planted behind a certain establishment so that the Press could not see what was going on. We know about the moonlight flits and the clandestine meetings. Senator Hall was awake then to what the Government parties wanted. He knew that they wanted government. But having become the Government, what have the coalition parties done? They have got Australia into one holy mess.
What did Senator Jessop say in reply to Senator Hall’s comment about the words ‘we want*? He said:
You are a political acrobat.
That is the very thing Senator Bishop and I have been pointing out today. Of course he is a political acrobat. He is running with the tide; he is running with whatever party which he thinks will help him consolidate his seat. What was the reaction of Senator Hall? He said:
If Senator Jessop likes to go on a bit I can enlarge upon his part in this matter. 1 have been very kind to Senator Jessop so far.
In the same way that Senator Jessop was trying to be kind to Senator Hall earlier today. Senator Jessop said:
I have been very kind to you.
Senator Hall then said:
Let me say that Senator Jessop has a bit to answer for in the community.
Of course we will never know what Senator Hall meant because he would not now want to expose what Senator Jessop has to answer for. But who knows- in time, after Senator Hall’s defeat on 10 December in his bid for the seat of Hawker, he might form another party and then, in order to enlarge or to better his chances, he may see fit to divulge to the public at large just what he knows about Senator Jessop and what Senator Jessop has done in the community.
I would like to refer to what Senator Hall had to say during the adjournment debate on 30 October 1975. This extract is recorded at page 1659 of Hansard. Senator Hall was talking about Senator Withers, his leader in this chamber, and he said:
Senator Withers has not earned any benefit of doubt about this matter. In my 18 months here I have heard him make scoundrels of people who want fair redistribution proposals for this nation. In recent dmes I have heard him make scoundrels of those people who have supported the contention that governments are made and broken only in the lower House, and I have heard the many other twists of the truth in which Senator Withers has been involved. On his track record I must disbelieve him.
I wish to ask a question of Senator Hall. I know he does not have the opportunity of reply in this debate but he might do so when we are debating the appropriation Bills. I ask: In view of the fact that Senator Hall is on record as saying that on Senator Wither ‘s track record he must disbelieve him, what has happened to make Senator Hall change his mind to the extent that he now believes Senator Withers and is prepared to sit behind him in the Senate as a supporter of the Government? Senator Hall is prepared to go to the people of South Australia and contest the seat of Hawker as a member of the Liberal Party even though he is on record as saying that his leader in the Senate is a person he cannot believe because of his track record.
– But he never said he believed him now. You are unfair.
-I know that the honourable senator will not answer my question, but the people of Hawker will be wanting to know. In the few moments left to me I want to quote from page 1829 of Hansard of 6 November 1975. In this case Senator Hall had an altercation with Senator Wood. I do not think there is a member on that side of the chamber that Senator Hall has not had an argument with at some time or other. Senator Withers, speaking on appropriation legislation, was referring to Mr Playford, a former Premier of South Australia, and he said:
All I can say as to Sir Thomas is that he has most likely been in some sort of decline ever since he chose his successor who certainly sent a government and a party which had been in power for 24 years or 25 years into Opposition.
So his choice at that stage in politics was not so good. Of course, he was tallong about Senator Hall who now wants to win Hawker. That was Senator Wither ‘s appreciation of Senator Hall. Senator Wood asked:
Who was his successor? What did Senator Withers say? He said:
I have forgotten- some insignificant bloke who had an election 12 months early on a non-issue and lost, and wondered why.
That is the support Senator Hall will get from Senator Withers, Senator Jessop and Senator Young, and Senator Baume if he goes to South Australia. If he takes that young senator, Senator Wood, with him he will have a group of people who have said some very awful things about him in this Senate supporting him on the hustings in South Australia. I do not know how Senator Hall will get out of that argument. He will have a lot of explaining to do. He will not have time to conduct a campaign on Liberal Party policies. He will be too busy explaining away the arguments and the things he has said about those senators who sit with him in this place and the members -
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-During the course of my few remarks on the first reading of this legislation I hope to say something constructive about the future of the Australian nation. However, I think I ought to say at once that we have just heard from Senator McLaren who lives in the past. I do not know whether the people who listened to what he said appreciated his rehash of what was recorded in Hansard. I would have thought that as honourable senators from both sides of the Senate are to face the people on 10 December he might have spent more of his time talking about what Labor proposes to do. The honourable senator is obviously a nervous Nelly in respect of the prospect of his party winning the seat of Hawker. He probably shares the view held by most honourable senators on this side of the House, that the slogan Hall for Hawker’ has a considerable amount of merit. We will see those words come to reality on 10 December.
I want to say something about problems which affect the people in the great country areas of Australia. I want to touch briefly on about five matters which I think are of concern to all people living outside capital cities, people in the farming and grazing communities of Australia. The first matter is Federal estate duty. This is not a new subject to be raised in this chamber and this is certainly not the first time I have spoken on the necessity for the abolition of Federal estate duty. The State of Queensland has abolished State estate duty and the Victorian Government has foreshadowed its abolition in that State. Last year the Victorian Government provided for exemption in respect of an estate passing between spouses and from 1 January 1978 estates which pass to children will be exempt. So virtually there is complete exemption to two States. I understand that Western Australia is contemplating something along the same lines if it has not already reached that position.
We must remember that the cost of the collection of Federal estate duty is high and that this cost has been made higher by the vacation of the two States I have mentioned from the field. The administrative costs of collecting estate duty are largely taken up by those State governments in which there is estate duty. They check valuations and so on. The Federal Government has to set up its own administrative machinery in the two States that have vacated the field. It is important to note that this tax represents only one-third of 1 per cent of the total revenue collected by the Commonwealth. Therefore, the abolition of estate duty would not greatly inconvenience the revenue but it would materially assist people who own land in country areas. We should also bear in mind that inflation has not been applied to the level at which exemption from this duty is fixed. That level was determined prior to the present inflated values of land and this means that people are paying more duty.
The second matter I want to refer to very briefly is a very important one, It was mentioned by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) when he opened the federal conference of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council last weekend. Because of the high price of oil and the fact that oil supplies are diminishing, it is important to restore to country people the benefit of fuel equalisation. This benefit was introduced by a Liberal-Country Party government some years ago but was removed by the Labor Government There is grave need for its restoration on a number of grounds. Country people de- pend almost exclusively on fossil fuels to get f rom place to place. City people have the advantage of subsidised public transport and gas and electricity supplies which provide very much cheaper sources of energy than oil. Country people are heavily dependent on that source of energy for cars, tractors and pumps and for power generally. The price of oil will continue to rise, and I think it is only fair that country people should not be asked to shoulder a heavier burden than they now carry. I am reliably informed that this reform could be introduced by a rise of 0.7c in the price of petrol throughout Australia and would enable justice to be restored to the people in country areas.
– What is that per gallon?
-I cannot convert to gallons. It is 0.7c a litre, I think. I will have to get Senator Wood or one of the metric experts to come to my assistance.
– It is approximately 3c a gallon.
-That may well be. The other matter I wish to raise on that same plane relates to the charges made by Telecom, which mitigate against decentralisation. People who arein business outside the great capital cities have to make a large number of trunk calls, for which they pay very dearly. My colleague Senator Lewis has proposed a scheme, which I think has a great deal of merit, that all calls, including local calls, should be charged on a time basis. Alternatively, we could have local call access for all people. With the setting up of automatic exchanges in country areas, in many cases people have to make a trunk line call to their main business town because of the draining of the concentric circles which seem to be the order of the day when Telecom fixes the charges. If people are to be retained in the country areas of Australia, if production in the vast hinterland is to be maintained, some justice is necessary for them.
The third matter to which I want to refer briefly is the establishment of the Rural Bank. One of the few constructive things Senator Walsh had to say was in relation to the Rural Bank. I can assure him that the legislation will be introduced by the Government and it will be passed.
-I understand that it is to be introduced today in the other place, although I am not sure of that. Certainly it will be introduced and passed, we hope with the assistance of the Labor Party, before the Senate rises next week. The establishment of the Rural Bank is a very worthwhile reform in the interests of country areas and of primary producers generally, who have been facing very depressed times. It will be of great assistance not only to people in existing areas of primary production but also in the development of new areas, where new people are coming in. The form of the legislation will become known when the Bill is before the Senate, and all I want to say at this stage is that it is a worthwhile reform and is yet another election promise which our Government has redeemed. I am sure that the people of Australia, particularly those in the country areas, will welcome the legislation. The fourth matter with which I wish to deal relates to dairy underwriting. I am happy to say that the dairy industry is now in a better position, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania, which have different problems from those of the other States. It is vital that the dairy underwriting scheme, which the Minister promised would operate until 30 June 1978, be continued beyond that point.
Finally, I want to make a very brief reference to the problem of water resources in Australia on a national scale. I refer again to my own area and to the problems of the Murray Basin, the summer problems of the Barmah Choke, which affect b oth Victoria and New South Wales, and the completion of the Dartmouth Dam. The River Murray will take the Dartmouth waters and is being used as an irrigation canal rather than a natural river. There are also problems involving drainage and salinity on the Victorian side of the Murray River. Those are a few of the problems which are of great concern to the country people of Australia. As I have said, some of them have been grappled with and taken up by the Government. I acknowledge all that the Government has done for the country people in its two years in office, but I am using this debate as an opportunity to highlight some of the problems of the people who live outside the heavily populated areas of Sydney, Melbourne and the other capital cities. Those people are very great citizens of this nation. They are worthy of support, and I trust that the matters I have mentioned will be considered when we return to government after 10 December.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– My first assignment tonight is to right a wrong. I refer to a question which was asked by Senator Chaney this afternoon. He implied that the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia had, in its rules, objections to anybody of Asian origin being a member. I was surprised when the question was asked. I have evidence which I intend having incorporated in Hansard. Anybody who has been to the outports of Western Australia and Northern Australia- Senator Chaney has certainly been to those ports in Western Australia- should be aware from practical examples that the policy does not apply. However, I contacted the general secretary ofthe Waterside Workers Federation. I proposed to outline the history of events and then have a telex incorporated in Hansard. I shall then make a few general comments before I proceed to other matters.
Senator Chaney ‘s evidence comes from a rather dubious source, that is, the Farmers Union of Western Australia (Inc.). His claim is that the Waterside Workers Federation rules deny membership to persons of Asian origin. We have to go back a long way into the history ofthe early days of Australia. It is true that at the turn of the century certain protective devices were introduced by various groups, including trade unions, because of employment trends of those times. I say to Senator Chaney, first of all, that in 1954, 23 years ago, the rules of the Waterside Workers FederatIon were changed. When I used the word changed’, I point out that the Federation applied to the Industrial Registrar in 1954 and assumed that the necessary adjustments would be made. I emphasise, of course, that if we look at the union membership we will find that over the years people of a variety of racial origins have served in various positions from sub-branch secretary or the equivalent of job delegate to national officers of the Federation.
Following the 1954 application for rule changes which emanated from the union, some years afterwards it was discovered that due to a clerical error in the office ofthe Industrial Registrar the rule changes had not been entered in the Registrar’s record book. Consequently, in 1967 the Federation drew the attention of the Registrar to his error- I emphasise his error. When the rule book of the Waterside Workers Federation was printed in 1954, the change of rules was included. There was a virtual openhanded approach to membership. There was no racialism practiced in relation to qualifications to join the Federation. The Federation made a request to the Registrar that he correct his mistake. The Registrar advised that that was not possible, So, in effect, the Federation had to go back to square one and make an application for a rule change to correct a situation which was the result of, to say the least, inept housekeeping by the Industrial Registrar. Of course, that does not surprise me because I can remember in the early 1950s- my early trade union days-one gentleman, Murray Stewart, in order to last the day had to have three or four scotches before 1 1 a.m. When there are people like that, error frequency is very prevalent. The point I make is that all these bureaucratic bungles were made by the authorities.
It is rather remarkable that this question was asked at a time when we talk about the Government, the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, the Attorney-General’s Department, or the Industrial Registrar, having more involvement in trade union operations. This is a classic illustration of ineptness when such employees are asked to do a simple thing. However, the Waterside Workers Federation persisted in its endeavours from 1968. 1 am sure many people know how often a log of claims can remain awaiting attention. A decision was given on 6 July 1973; it was No. 153 of 1968. In other words, this action had remained in the custody of the Registrar for five years. Broadly, that is the history of the change of rules which started in 1954. I emphasise that, while the supposed change of rule in 1954 may have had that objective, it is quite obvious that we can go back 30 years or more and that change was certainly never implemented.
I say very definitely that we have come to believe that Senator Chaney is one ofthe Liberals with a small ‘L a man who believes in fair play. It is obvious that he was certainly sold a pup by this organisation, the Farmers Union of Western Australia. Anybody who reads the Maritime Worker and sees the union ballot results from outports or from anywhere else, will notice that there is certainly a cross fertilisation of names of various national origins. If the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Charlie Fitzgibbon, were here instead of myself, he would say the same. The Federation fights hard for conditions in which it believes. One of the most moving experiences I had was in the port of Darwin when my colleague, Senator Ted Robertson, early in one of his campaigns, was addressing members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Anybody who had any racial hangups would certainly have been disabused of them if he had seen that gathering.
I say with all the eloquence I command that I expect a number of things. I expect the Government Whip either now or later to apologise to the Waterside Workers Federation. Perhaps he feels he wants to reflect on the matter tonight. Knowing the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), I am sure that if he looks into the matter he will come up with the history which I have given. In case people want to meditate on the matter and study Hansard, I ask for permission to have incorporated in Hansard a telex which was sent from the office of the Waterside Workers Federation to Senator Wriedt and which embodies the history of this rule change.
– I think the Whip should apologise. Do you?
-I ask that this document, a copy of a telex from Mr Fitzgibbon, the Federal secretary of the Federation, to Senator Wriedt be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Has it been shown to the Minister? Have the normal rules been followed?
– Can we have a look at it?
– Yes. I have a copy of it here. I shall refer to two other matters. I say quite simply that this attitude of hit and run against trade unions causes the polarisation which many of us on this side of the chamber have objected to strongly. As I said before Senator Chaney came into the chamber, I have always had a very poor opinion of many of our industrial registrars because of their ineptness. I make the point, as a member of Estimates Committee F under the chairmanship of Senator Rae, that over the last couple of years I have seen a considerable improvement in the calibre of people who give evidence. I say very definitely that this union tried 23 years ago to adjust something which was a technicality and which did not apply in the practical application of that policy. What Senator Chaney has done is a serious injustice to the Waterside Workers Federation.
The Federation is proud of its internationalism. I can do no better than tell a story to illustrate my point. I shall not mention the name, but I know at least one honourable senator here will have a shrewd idea of the person of whom I am speaking. This is a case which happened in 1956 or thereabouts. A young migrant had membership of the Waterside Workers Federation. He was misled to the extent that he joined under an Anglo-Saxon name which was not his. He became an Australian citizen. Six months afterwards he was called up for Army service. Let us say he went in under the name of ‘X’ and came out about 1 8 months after under the name of ‘ Y’. The then general secretary, Jim Healy with whom I crossed swords on a number of occasions on trade union policy, heard about this matter. He knew I knew the person involved. He said: Tony, if he has gone into the Army as X he will come out of the Army as Y When the boy came out he sent for him and said to him: ‘You have a proud name, irrespective of where you were born. I hope you live up to it’. That was the attitude of Jim Healy and I can assure whoever has a different view in the back of his mind that that chap matured into a man with very strong views on Polictics which were rather middle of the road. He respected Jim Healy as a trade unionist who also met his responsibilities as a citizen. So I want to give the lie direct to the allegation that the Waterside Workers Federation has been guilty of any racism in relation to the background of people who join the Federation.
Now that Senator Chaney is here let me say that I was most surprised to hear this allegation because when I have visited the ports of northern Australia as a member of Senate committees I did not have to be a Perry Mason to know that certain members, even job delegates, of the Waterside Workers Federation had an Asian background. I do not want to emphasise the point. I think the telex which I referred to disproves the allegation and I have no doubt that tomorrow morning when we get the results of Senator Durack ‘s research we will also get some action. The reason I had to take such prompt action on this allegation is that I am not always happy with the feed back we get from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). The Senate will be aware that about 12 days ago, as I had done previously, I raised the matter of the merger of the Federated Ironworkers Association and the Australian Society of Engineers. On the last occasion I pointed out to Senator Durack that the Federal Secretary of the Australasian Society of Engineers had informed me that he had had an interview with Mr Street and had made certain suggestions designed to avoid the rather rigid application of the rule which requires over 50 per cent member participation in a ballot. The fact is that the composition of most unions includes people with nomadic work habits. They move from job to job and it is therefore impossible to keep union records up to date.
He made a suggestion concerning what we deem to be unfinancial members. At present all members, including those I referred to earlier, are included in the total membership for the purpose of determining whether there has been more than 50 per cent participation. Mr Street is very vocal at times about trying to meet the unions halfway. I do not think anyone would deny that most mergers mean that unions can cut costs and give a better service. That is why I have linked the ASE and FIA merger with the delay in obtaining feed back from the Minister and is a reason for my having to chastise Senator Chaney tonight for his unfair imputation against a union whose internationalism is a by-word.
I turn now to a second matter. This Government says that it believes in law and order and in applying the law but I have in my possession a letter from the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland Inc. concerning Australian fauna. It is a copy of a letter which was sent to Mr Howard, the Minister responsible for customs matters and it states:
On December 13th 1976 our committee received a reply from you concerning a case of smuggling Australian birds out of the country. We refer to three Australians who were arrested and charged and found guilty by Judge Albert Stephens in a San Francisco Court- Brian Pelling, horse trainer, Coomera, Queensland, Gregory Rogers and Brian Visscher (Sydney). Pelling and Rogers were fined and placed on S years probation, Visscher the same we hear.
Your reply to our President stated ‘Action had been taken to obtain necessary evidence to institute legal proceedings against the persons in this particular case, and you may rest assured that this will be pursued to finality’.
The letter went on to say that Gregory Rogers had returned to Australia and questioned whether, as Pelling had left by aeroplane, Pelling had a permit to export Australian marsupials. The letter makes other suggestions. It seems to me that our law enforcement agencies are remarkably slow in getting results on white collar criminals. At a later stage when we deal with the estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs I intend to name a Sydney solicitor, but he is not the one named by the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) as being the man involved in one or two cases of misleading migrants into believing that they could get permanent residence when their grounds were extremely slender. It amazes me that there is not enough effective liaison between the customs authorities, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Senator Withers knows that I have persistently argued that it is all very well to talk about moving quickly with the law when there is a trade union dispute but that the authorities never seem to have the same fire in their bellies when they are going after white collar criminals, whether they be bird smugglers or the Bartons. I have argued that again and again and some of us are sick and tired of this situation. We produce evidence to Federal authorities but do not get action quickly enough. It amazes me that the Minister wrote to this Society on 13 December 1976 at which time he had all the records from the United States.
We have a consul-general in San Francisco and if he was earning his money he would have sent the court transcripts over to Australia. So the idea that some of us in the trade union movement have that the law is an ass is taken a step further.
I was recently in the Triglav Club in Canberra talking to a chap who had worked on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. To most of us these days it is no longer the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme but the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation which shows how time has passed. This chap has been waiting for settlement of a compensation claim since 1966. The guilty party in this situation, and this is where I mention our extradition laws, is a man named Jerry Bielski. The Australian Workers Union, through Mr Oliver, had to hoist him out because he was involved in a nefarious activity in Sydney. He was running some migrant organisation where he would get compensation cases because he was an obviously capable linguist and he would hawk these cases around solicitors. It is now 1977 and this former Snowy Mountains Authority worker is still waiting for a measly $2,500. 1 will not name the solicitor to whom I have spoken on three occasions in the last month because I was assured today that the $2,500 will be posted to this man in a few days. However, if that cheque does not arrive within a week I will get up on the adjournment and name the solicitor. I am not blaming the solicitor or even the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) for the delay in the initial stages but I would like to know now when the extradition order was made against Jerry Bielski, where he is now and whether we have tried to get him back. He is the type of person who does so much harm.
Referring now to Western Australia, I want to serve up to Senator Chaney the matter of Sir Charles Court’s appeasement policy towards renegade mining companies. This matter again has a migrant connotation and concerns a person in the Yugoslav community in Canberra. I have told part of this story before. There was a case involving the famous VC mining company which had sent 1 5 men to remove overburden at a possible nickel mining project. The company got involved in a maze of sub-contractors. Friends of mine were in Yugoslavia a month ago and one of them was asked: ‘What do you remember about Australia?’ He said: ‘I like Sydney ‘-that will suit Senator Cotton and me- ‘but as far as Western Australia is concerned I will never forget that man who swindled us’. I use the word ‘swindle’ without any disrespect to you, Mr President, for whom I have respect. I rang this mining magnate who has a nice penthouse at Cottesloe Beach and asked him why he did not get back on a jack hammer to pay his creditors. He laughed over the telephone and said: ‘lt is not my worry, chum’ and hung up. I have no way of getting to this man but sometimes I would like to be a layman attorney-general because I would send the G-men over there to get action.
I do not say this in a vicious way. The Government is harping about law and order and people demonstrating in the streets but these are the things which become legends and are carried down through the ages. I could not resist tonight ventilating these matters because if we are trying to build a better society we have to deal with the wrongdoers who get away after having done the wrong thing by thousands of people like the former Snowy Mountains Authority worker about whom I have been talking. This man has an impaired wrist and thumb, and like a lot of other people, when he gets into his forties, because he does not have clerical aptitude he will probably find it difficult to get a job paying the wages he used to get.
I want to conclude my remarks with an inspiration to Senator Webster who has some claim to being a Minister. I want to make a plea for the people who I call the pedestrians of the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. When I went past the construction site for the High Court building recently, I noticed what I hope were only temporary car parking facilities. I suppose that I must be very careful what I say about the law. However, I would hate to believe that car parking facilities will encroach upon the foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin, whether these facilities are being provided for the judges or the lowest court orderlies. I would like it to be very clear that I believe that if car parking facilities are to be provided they should be provided underground and that those of us who on occasions may meditate by walking around the shores of Lake Burley Griffin will not have our rights impaired.
Pedestrians, as a group of people, are not always well organised. I was walking around the shores of the lake the other day with a few people from the media who were also trying to get the cobwebs of national politics out of their brains. It would be a shame if the car parking facilities were to encroach upon this area. I say that with some feeling because it is possible to conjure up a certain vision of Lake Burley Griffin. I am sure that at times honourable senators have read of the famous statesmen walking around the shores of Lake Geneva. If we take the matter a little further, we will recall that when some of the big decisions of World War II had to be made, John Curtin went walking along Cottesloe Beach. I think that the three matters I have raised deserve attention. I have made certain suggestions to Senator Chaney in regard to the first one. I can assure him that tomorrow I will await with interest the response I receive from Senator Durack.
– This afternoon we listened again to a tirade of abuse from Senator McLaren upon Senator Hall. Whilst one does not accept this, one tends to some extent to become accustomed to expecting it. But the point that fascinates me is that these exercises have taken place only since Senator Hall decided to stand as the candidate for the South Australian seat of Hawker. No doubt between now and the time the Parliament, rises we can expect further tirades upon Senator Hall. It leads me to the conclusion that the Australian Labor Party is very fearful that Senator Hall will win the seat of Hawker. I leave people to draw their own conclusions about the exercise that is being conducted at the present time against Senator Hall as the candidate for the seat of Hawker
I want to deal briefly tonight with one of the problems that is affecting the major cities in most countries. I refer to pollution and particularly to traffic pollution which is caused by the density of motor vehicle traffic today. Australia has not escaped this problem. The Government has seen fit to introduce legislation to enforce exhaust emission control on motor vehicles to reduce motor vehicle exhaust pollution. Of course, one of the problems we face in this respect is that whilst we obtain efficiency in regard to pollution control, we finish up with a great loss of efficiency in the motor vehicle engine. This loss of efficiency through exhaust emission control now being made compulsory has been estimated to be in the order of 5 per cent. Of course, this adds further to fuel consumption at a time when we are trying to conserve fuel. In addition, suggestions have been made that further environmental control should be introduced by reducing the lead content in petrol. In discussions I have had with the representatives of various companies I have been told that it could cost as much as Se a gallon of petrol if the lead content in petrol today were reduced. The companies themselves would be required to invest about $500m to modify their refineries to increase the quality or the octane rating of petrol as a counter to the reduction in lead content which, of course, leads to improved efficiency in the firing of the fuel. We face a problem in this area.
I am very interested also to read that in Europe experiments are now taking place- we do not know whether they will reach a successful conclusion at this stage- in which it is hoped eventually to control exhaust emission of motor cars by the precipitation ofthe lead itself from the petrol. If those experiments were successful, it would be possible to use lead additives in petrol and not have the problem of polluting the atmosphere which concerns so many people today. We know that if we continue with our present rate of consumption of petroleum products, our indigenous crude oil supply will meet only between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of our requirements by the year 1985. Perhaps many people are not aware of the great volume of petrol that is used each day. Approximately eight million gallons of petrol- I am referring specifically to petrol in this case- is used each day in Australia. This is a terrific amount of fuel. One can see that there is a need to try to conserve our fuel supplies and our crude oil supplies in this country.
I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to encouraging motorists to use liquid petroleum gas. Firstly, LPG is pollution free. Secondly, it has another great attribute of being far cleaner in engines than petrol. There is not the dilution problem or the problem of foreign matter getting into the oil. Therefore, the engine lubricating oil can last much longer. In addition, on a miles per gallon basis, the cost of petrol is about 40 per cent more expensive than the cost of liquid petroleum gas. Many problems exist in this area. At the present time, liquid petroleum gas is taxed. If the tax were removed, this could reduce the costs even further in the use of LPG. One of the great problems is the very small number of distribution points for LPG throughout major cities in Australia. No doubt, if demand increased, the service facilities also would increase. It costs between $500 and $600 today to convert a motor vehicle for the use of LPG. This is a great deal of money to convert one motor vehicle. I notice that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, is in the Senate chamber tonight. I suggest that the Government should give serious consideration to reducing the sales tax on the equipment that is required to convert a motor for the use of LPG. Any such actions will give encouragement to motorists to conserve our very scarce- I use that word deliberately- petrol supplies in Australia today. Whilst we appear to have plenty of petrol today we know that unless we find more we will face, like the rest of the world, a critical shortage of crude oil within the next 30 years.
I wish to move on now to the overall world energy shortage which we face and which countries throughout the world are facing. They are very conscious of the energy shortage. We notice that some 46 countries today are turning or have turned to nuclear power generation. Already some 180 nuclear reactors are operating in the world and hundreds are in the development or planning stage. In Australia there is a great deal of controversy on the issue of uranium. It is not the question of whether Australia will mine uranium that will decide what will happen in the world. On the contrary; the world has made up its mind that nuclear power generation is a reality and a necessity. These countries have made then- decision that today it is a nuclear reactor world.
A few weeks ago I had the very pleasant experience, along with some of my colleagues, of having discussions with some European parliamentarians in Luxemburg. We sat down for an afternoon in a working session. One of the major issues under discussion was naturally that of uranium and the energy shortage. There was a complete mixture of politics amongst those parliamentarians from the various countries of Europe. They ranged from extreme socialists to right wingers, and even included communists. This is because some of the European parliaments have communist parliamentary representatives. But what fascinated me in these discussions on uranium and particularly upon the question as to whether Australia would sell uranium was that only two of the people in this group were anti-uranium. I will not mention the countries from which they came. One was a communist and the other one I could describe only as an extreme radical socialist. It fascinated me that a communist was opposed to nuclear energy. If we look at the situation in Europe today we find that countries such as East Germany have nuclear reactors. We know that Russia has numerous nuclear reactors. Yugoslavia has one under construction at the present time, and so on. But the thing that really came through loudly and clearly was the great and grave concern of the Europeans that there was an energy gap which had to be filled; that the only way in which that could be done in the interim, before fusion, solar energy or some other form of energy became available, was by developing nuclear generation. 1 was also very interested last week to have discussions with Dr Mabon, the British Minister of State for Energy, in the Labour Government of the United Kingdom, who came to Australia for the prime purpose of having discussions and endeavouring to get a guarantee that England will have available continuing supplies of uranium. In fact, as he has stated publicly, what England would like is a contract with Australia for 1,000 tonnes of uranium per annum during the years 1982 to 1997. When we work this out we see that England requires a terrific amount of uranium. The present Labour Government has sent its Minister out for discussions with our Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) and, more importantly, with its counterpart in the Australian political arena, the Australian Labor Party, to see what can be done.
I should like to quote some of the statements of Dr Mabon, a fascinating personality, a very genuine and highly intelligent person who has a great concern for his country and the problems that will arise if it cannot obtain a secure supply of uranium- something for which it is looking to Australia. He is reported in the Press as follows:
At a Press conference on Thursday he said that Britain would be a very poor country by the end of this century without continuing nuclear power. Britain would like to buy 1,000 tonnes of uranium a year from Australia from 1982, when its present stocks ran out, until about 1 997.
I quote further from the Press report:
Dr Dickson Mabon said on Friday that he thought the local party -
This is the Australian Labor Party- would see the light and reverse its policy of barring uranium sales if it won office. He said that continued supplies of uranium from Australia were vital to Britain’s future.
I think that is the important part. This is backed by the United Kingdom union congress itself, the members of which I understand are 10 to one in favour of importing uranium and recently urged their Government to expand its nuclear program in order to avoid an energy crisis. If I could quote Dr Mabon a little further, he was reported as stating in AM on 28 October:
What I said was that the Government’s requests to us are perfectly fair and we can meet them on safeguards and nonproliferation and so on and we would therefore hope that we would be able to get a sustained contract, and as for the Labor Party and the trade unions, we would hope that they would see reason on this. If we could meet them then we would hope they would do the same as the Liberal Party in power. What I am trying to say to our- particularly our trade unionist friends in Australia, is they really must understand that uranium for us is extremely critical for the well-being of the working people in Great Britain.
I emphasise that Dr Mabon said ‘uranium for us is extremely critical for the well-being of the working people in Great Britain’. One can see the great need in the United Kingdom for uranium when one realises that the Labour Party Government in office in that country has sent its senior Minister in the energy field to us to plead not only for a sufficient supply, but also for the support of its counterpart, the Australian Labor
Party, and the trade union movement of Australia.
It is fascinating to see the turnaround that has taken place in a very short period of time in the attitude of the Australian Labor Party. To quote from Hansard of February 1975, at page 63, the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam said:
In Brussels, London, The Hague, Paris, Rome and Bonn, as well as in Moscow, I consistently asserted Australia’s wish to develop her own enrichment capabilities so that as much uranium as possible should be exported in an enriched form.
This was what Mr Whitlam was saying in 1975: He was not merely supporting the rnining and exportation of uranium but was going further and was wanting to establish an enrichment plant in Australia. Of course, we know the history of that. We know that the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, was having, and is now having, feasibility studies made in the hope that he can get such a plant for his State. Suddenly, Sir, these gentlemen have changed their minds. The reason is not in doubt. They had a 45-minute talk on the subject this year at their Federal conference and the left wing turned them completely around and changed their minds for them. I refer to the Leader of the organisational side of the Austraiian Labor Party, the Federal President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke. At a fund raising lunch in Perth just prior to the ALP Federal Conference he said:
I am not convinced as a matter of intellectual integrity of the arguments for leaving uranium in the ground.
If we leave it in the ground we have done nothing about the dangers, the disposal of nuclear waste, about terrorists acquiring weapons, nothing about people occupied in the generating plants in West Germany, Japan and the United States.
We have done nothing about that, except make it more expensive, and in the process, it seems to me what we have done is to forgo the opportunity as Australians to have a voice in safeguarding the world in the processes of the utilisation of uranium.
Those were good words, powerful words, words that I support.
– Who said that?
– They were words that were spoken by Mr Bob Hawke. That shows clearly what were the views of these men, who went so far in supporting uranium mining. Suddenly they have turned right around.
I wish also to refer briefly to a Memorandum of Agreement that was signed by Mr Whitlam and the Government’s partners on the Ranger project, Peko and EZ, in October 1975. There is not time to read all of it. However, there are a few salient points to which I would like to refer, to give the people some idea of what the attitude of the then Whitlam Labor Government was as late as October 1 975, and its views and intentions regarding the mining, exporting and even enrichment of uranium. Clause 2 of that Memorandum reads, in part, as follows:
Australia, Peko and EZ shall do all things necessary to establish the objects of the joint venture to be achieved. The Ranger Project shall continue in force during the econoomic life ofthe uranium ore deposits in the project area.
I emphasise the words ‘economic life’ because the then Labor Government was giving full and total support to the mining and exporting of uranium.
– Did Mr Whitlam sign that?
– This was signed by Mr
Whitlam. I quote further:
There will be no royalties imposed in respect of the Ranger Project of a kind similar to the royalty that would have been imposed under a mining title granted under the Northern Territory Mining Ordinance.
In other words, the Labor Government was giving them economic assistance, so keen was it to get the project established. I give it full marks for that. But suddenly there was a great turn around in the Labor Party. Clause 4 ofthe document is interesting also. It states:
There shall be a Ranger Project Committee consisting of four members. Two members shall be appointed by the Commission -
They would be the government members- and one member shall be appointed by each of Peko and EZ. This committee shall be responsible for making certain fundamental policy decisions such as cessation, curtailment or suspension of construction or operation of the Project and major expansion of treatment plant capacity.
I repeat the words: ‘expansion of treatment plant capacity’. But these are the operative words:
The decision of the committee shall require a unanimous vote.
I stress the words ‘unanimous vote’. Where does that attitude stand with the Labor Party today? These are the questions which we must pose and which fascinate me and many people like me. Clause 5 (a) states:
The treatment plant shall:
be promptly constructed near the Ranger Number One ore body -
I emphasise the words ‘shall be promptly constructed’. Later paragraph (iii) of clause 5 (a) states that the treatment plant shall: be operated at optimum capacity consistent with good engineering practice and with sound commercial practice.
Clause 5 continues:
When commercially practicable the annual capacity shall be increased to 6,600 short tons of U,0
– Is that per annum?
– Yes, it is per annum. Further on, in clause 6, the following is stated:
The relevant proportions of contributions of capital from time to time including working capital shall be:
The Commission- 12Vi percent Peko- 13% percent EZ-13J4 percent
The following appears also:
There shall be no interest charges . . .
How is that for encouragement, taking this with the collective basket of what I have previously quoted from this agreement indicating the encouragement that the then Labor Government was giving to this Ranger group to become established and to get the mining of uranium under way? Further on, clause 6 states: . . Peko and EZ shall each -
I stress the word ‘each’- be entitled to receive the net annual proceeds of the sale of 25 per cent of the uranium concentrate produced by the Ranger Project.
This means that whilst the Commission- in other words, the Government- was to hold Vi per cent of the shares, the Government was prepared to give the companies 50 per cent of the net proceeds. I am not being critical of this. What I am trying to point out is how keen the then Labor Government was to get this project off the ground and established. This is what fascinates me. A compensation clause, which gives further guarantees to the companies, was included in clause 8. Sub-clause (d) of that clause states:
In the event that in the national interest Australia withholds from sale uranium concentrate produced by the Ranger Project, an arbitrator shall be appointed to decide what compensation, if any, but not exceeding world market price, should be given by Australia to offset the adverse financial effect on Peko and EZ resulting from this action.
I stress the words ‘compensation … to offset the adverse financial effect’. Here again we see the then Government was doing all it possibly could to give encouragement and assistance to those companies to get the Ranger uranium project off the ground and under way. The then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, had made it clear and is on record in Hansard as saying that he had had discussions with other countries and had spelt out very clearly that the then Government’s intention then was to have a uranium enrichment plant in Australia. He had discussions also with the French and the Japanese to see about participation in the establishment of that enrichment plant. That Government as late as October 1975 was saying these things and doing these things. The Dunstan Government in South Australia later than 1975-in fact, early in 1977- was still having discussions with the Department of Minerals and Energy in Canberra with regard to the feasibility of the establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in South Australia.
I pose the question to the Senate and to the people of Australia: Why has a Party which, when in government, was so actively involved in uranium mining, which conceded so much and gave so much assistance, encouragement and guarantee to companies which were prepared to mine and were desirous of mining uranium in Australia, suddenly turned around and taken a completely reverse stand following a 45 -minute debate in its Federal conference? There is no doubt about who twisted the tiger’s tail, and it was twisted to the left. I hope the people of Australia will realise what the true situation is and the reasons why the Labor Party, when in government, did so much to encourage the mining of uranium when today it is opposed to it. Today we have the Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons and guidelines have been set down by the Fraser Government. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and so many other countries are having serious discussions about the establishment of world banks. Yet the Labor Party today is opposed to the mining and export of uranium.
What the Labor Party is doing in trying to block- it will not succeed in blocking-the mining and export of uranium from Australia is hastening the day of the fast breeder and the plutonium era. All I can say is that, if the Labor Party wants to bring tragedy upon the world, it can go its hardest, but I will not support its encouragement for fast breeders. Even Russia, a country which will not be a signatory to the nonproliferation treaty, is doing all it can as a nation in support of the establishment of world banks to handle plutonium from fast breeders because it is concerned that this is the material from which atomic bombs are built. Fast breeders breed plutonium; that is why they are called fast breeders.
If we do not sell uranium, we will encourage the development of fast breeders in the world. The British Minister for Energy has made it clear, as have the Germans, the French and the Japanese, that they are concerned that there could be a uranium shortage. They are concerned that Australia might not export uranium and, if this were the case, they would have no alternative but to continue the search for methods to establish fast breeder reactors. All I can say is: Shame on the Labor Party if it wants the proliferation of plutonium in the world because that is the deadly weapon. We must avoid any such proliferation.
– I congratulate Senator Young. He has a hard struggle. With a loyalty which only he could possess, how well he presents the disastrous policies of this Government. I commend him for his courageous effort tonight to try to sell the Government’s uranium policy and to discredit the Labor Party’s uranium policy. Senator Young spoke on two matters. The first he described as a tirade of abuse by Senator McLaren on Senator Steele Hall today and the second concerned uranium. Dealing with the first matter, again I sympathise with mm because I have never seen more derogatory statements made against any honourable senator than Senator McLaren made today against Senator Hall. What Senator McLaren did was to read earlier statements made by Senator Hall. I do not know how one could say anything more derogatory about Senator Hall than to read his previous statements. It was not a tirade of abuse; it was the reading of statements made earlier by Senator Hall and statements which other members of the Liberal Party had made against Senator Hall.
The situation is disastrous for poor, outcast Senator Hall. He never belonged to a Party for long, before that party was defeated while he belonged to it. He was given the Premiership of South Australia and at the first election he was defeated by Don Dunstan. Then he joined the Liberal Movement and in a burst of glory got into the Senate for six years. But double dissolutions shortened that term. In the last Senate election he scraped through. Knowing that he would be defeated in the next Senate election he scrapped his Party- sacrificed the loyalty of his comrades- and went back to the Liberal Party. He now seeks somewhere to hang his hat. After the redistribution, all seats in South Australia which there was a possibility of Liberal success were strongly contested in the pre-selection of the Liberal Party. The Liberals have contested the seat of Hawker at every election. Once the contestant was a prominent builder who spent many thousands of dollars in the electorate unsuccessfully. The seat has been only slightly altered in the redistribution. The Liberal Party has given it on a plate to Senator Hall who is running a big election campaign. Part of that campaign is to speak in this chamber every Wednesday in the belief that every elector in Hawker is listening to his words which will convince them to vote for him.
Senator McLaren has replied to Senator Hall on each occasion he has spoken. Notably, Senator Hall has a listening public in South Australia. He has become known as the Wednesday clown.
We have been encouraging South Australians to listen to Senator Hall on Wednesdays. The proceedings of the Senate are broadcast on Wednesdays. Therefore, Senator Hall speaks every Wednesday thinking that he is winning over the electors of Hawker. The only people he has to support him are Senator Jessop and Senator Young. They do so because they are from South Australia. Their own seats could be in jeopardy one day and they hope for support. None of the heavies from the Government come into the chamber to support Senator Hall. Senator Hall said that he could never believe Senator Withers on his track record. I believe that Senator McLaren was in error by suggesting that Senator Hall believes him today. Obviously Senator Withers does not see fit to support Senator Hall in his Wednesday campaign for the seat of Hawker
Australians generally do not like the deserter from their own political party, especially the deserter who betrays the party, leaves it and then returns for opportunism. I do not think that there is any difference in the electors of Hawker. That puts Senator Hall far behind previous contestants for this seat. He has a great job to win the seat. If he has only Senator Young and Senator Jessop to support him there is not much hope for him in the future. His determination to finish up as some political figure possibly endangers everyone in the Liberal Party in South Australia, unless he can see no future in that Party and forms another party which might get him back into the Senate on another occasion. I shall leave Senator Hall until the next time that the proceedings of the Senate are broadcast when he again will be on the air. I turn to the other remarks made by Senator Young concerning Labor’s policy on uranium.
– Which one?
-I am coming to that. It has been obvious since the date of the election was announced that with the Liberals asking Dorothy Dix questions and the propaganda replies of the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers) in an attempt to discredit the Leader of the Labor Party uranium will be a major issue in the election campaign. The Liberals are using the uranium issue to take the minds of the electors off the economy and unemployment. Senator Chaney just asked: Which policy?1 We agree with Senator Young that there has been no change in policy. We agree that many countries need energy. Because of the commercial benefits of Australia’s uranium the Labor Party would be anxious to mine it if it was possible. When Mr Whitlam signed the agreement with Peko Mines Ltd it was subject to the findings of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and the Joint Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory. The agreement even provided for suitable compensation if, as a result of these findings, it became necessary to cancel uranium contracts.
We were anxious to mine and export uranium at that time. Mr Dunstan in South Australia was anxious to mine and export uranium both for the commercial benefits of uranium and to meet the needs of the energy starved world which would require it in the future. Then came the Fox report. It said that there were no recognised safeguards for the disposal of nuclear waste. Mr Fraser has announced some guidelines which Japan will not accept for the conditions under which he will export uranium. If there is a possibility of Australian uranium endangering human life anywhere in the world the Labor Party will sacrifice what Australia may have gained through commercial interests for the sake of protecting human life. At the Federal Conference of the Labor Party Mr Dunstan stated that he had discussed with Mr Connor the possibility of the establishment of a treatment plant in South Australia. Mr Dunstan was anxious to mine uranium. There are deposits in the Roxby Downs in South Australia. He set up his own committee to inquire into the mining and export of uranium. The committee reported that there were no known safeguards against the dangers of nuclear waste. Mr Dunstan was enough of a statesman to say that until such time as we have the knowledge to dispose of nuclear waste without danger to human life South Australia will not export uranium.
South Australia has decided to use fossilised fuel to generate energy when possibly it would have done better with uranium but because of the sincerity and the statesmanlike attitude of the Premier of South Australia he is now condemned as a turncoat because of his change of policy. Mr Whitlam was prepared and anxious to mine and export uranium but after intensive investigation Mr Justice Fox could not guarantee that there was no danger to human life. Mr Whitlam had enough statesmanship and the Labor Party was fair and decent enough and had sufficient interest in worldwide humanity to say that there will be no export of uranium until the safeguards are ensured. Labor’s policy is not that it will not mine and export uranium. It will not mine and export uranium until international safeguards are guaranteed. They are not guaranteed at present.
In his report Mr Justice Fox said that the safeguards against nuclear weapons proliferation are inadequate at present. Yet we have an irresponsible Government which is prepared to mine and export uranium. It wants to use it as an election issue for the purpose of attracting votes in spite of the possible sacrifice of human life, the possibility of nuclear weapons proliferation and the possibility of terrorist control of nuclear material. It is unconcerned as long as Australia gets the dollars. The Australian Labor Party will not run away from the uranium issue. The uranium issue looked on the results of earlier gallup polls to be a good issue for the Government to campaign on, but the situation is such today as to make one feel that the support for and against the export of nuclear material is very close to evenly divided. There is insufficient variation in the difference of opinion in the issue for the Government to win or lose the election on it. It is not an issue that will take the place of the state of the economy and the unemployment situation in the forthcoming election.
The Government is trying to make out that the leader of the Labor Parry made a false statement to someone on television or radio when he said that he never signed an agreement in Western Australia in 1968. He was asked whether he signed one in Western Australia and he answered that he could not remember signing such an agreement.
– It goes beyond that.
– He never signed one. No agreement was signed in Western Australia. His answer was truthful. It was a lot more truthful than the one that we received from a Minister in this House as to whether that Minister had received a document. There has been no condemnation of that Minister by the Government on that subject. Day after day we have had honourable senators opposite harp about and chew over the uranium issue. We have had Dorothy Dix questions from supporters of the Government who think that they are doing a service to their party by asking such questions. They are being answered by a Minister who has no greater ability than to think that he is capturing the interest of the nation by giving propaganda answers to those questions. Those people have a lot to understand and will understand on 10 December.
Let me just say that Senator Hall will be replied to every time he seeks to use this venue for the purpose of political propaganda for his campaign in relation to the seat of Hawker and the Government will be replied to on every occasion that it distorts the Labor Party’s attitude to uranium mining, which is the most commendable, the most desirable and the most consistent on uranium mining, for the purpose of gaining advantage in the forthcoming election campaign.
– This debate has been the usual debate on the motion for the first reading of a money Bill in that it has embraced a miscellany of odd items, but there has been one consistent thread through many of the speeches that have been made in the chamber this afternoon and this evening. That consistent thread has been supplied mainly by South Australian senators from the Australian Labor Party, who have endeavoured to discredit Senator Steele Hall. I think the enthusiasm with which they have tried to do that indicates the very great fear that they have of him as a candidate for the seat of Hawker. I have no doubt that over the next three or four days that remain in the sittings before we rise for the election they will keep up that effort and that the strength of the effort will simply mirror their own fears in relation to the seat of Hawker.
Honourable senators opposite have derived a great deal of glee in the expressions and quotations that they have used, which have gone back to 1975. We have heard a whole series of quotations in which Senator Steele Hall was critical of the then Opposition and the then Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers. Honourable senators opposite have relished using those quotations. They have done so in a way that has suggested that that sort of criticism is something that would emanate only from Senator Steele Hall or someone on this side of the chamber. How conveniently they have forgotten the comments of their own leader, Gough Whitlam, about one year ago in a program which received a great deal of publicity throughout Australia and in which he referred to a number of honourable senators opposite, including, I think, the last speaker- Senator Cavanagh. I refer to the A Current Affair program of 25 October 1976 when Mike Carlton said to Mr Whitiam:
Would some members of your parliamentary party believe you to be a handicap?
Mr Whitlam replied:
Some would but not the coming ones. The ‘has-beens’ say that. They like to blame me for their own failures as well as I suppose my own.
When Mike Carlton pressed Mr Whitlam and asked him:
Who are the has-beens- Cairns?
Mr Whitlam very discreetly said:
I will not specify them.
But he did get a bit more specific a little later in the interview. Perhaps a couple of the honourable senators opposite who fit this description will squirm in their seats. Mike Carlton went on to say:
You are not going to name names obviously but are there too many of yesterday’s men still in the Parliamentary Labor Party.
Mr Whitlam said:
There is too big a percentage maybe but let me point out that the ones who are on the executive now are not only younger on average than the present Ministers, and they are able people.
So Mr Whitlam very carefully distinguished between the present front bench members of the Labor Party and the past ones. Therefore I congratulate Senator Button for presumably escaping the condemnation of Mr Whitlam. Unfortunately his condemnation would seem to take in people like Senator Cavanagh and Senator Bishop, who have been so vocal this afternoon in condemning Senator Steele Hall. When the people who have been branded by their parliamentary leader as yesterday’s men- people who are regularly reported in the newspapers as leading revolts against their parliamentary leader and as being desperately anxious to depose him -get up and go back to Senator Steele Hall’s comments of November 1 975, 1 for one laugh.
It is an absolutely pathetic effort for them to paper over the cracks in their own creaking organisation and to cover up the panic that they feel at facing the people yet again. I would say that the members of the public of Australia who wanted to hear a group of desperate men in action had only to tune into the radio this afternoon and hear yesterday’s men damning one of tomorrow’s men- Senator Steele Hall. I look forward to the incisive contributions that Senate Steele Hall has made in this chamber being made in another place next year, to the great discomfort of the Labor Party. I know that the electors of Hawker will relish having a good, independent minded South Australian representing them in that seat. As we have been touching upon the uranium debate, I should think also that the electors of Hawker who might carefully have read some of Mr Jacobi ‘s speeches on uranium and seen the quite sensible views that he has expressed on that topic- sensible views that he cannot support in a vote because of the attitude of the Labor Caucus to the mining of uranium- would realise that it would be better to be represented by a man who can vote where his mind is rather than by a man who is forced by the rules of the Labor Caucus to vote with the majority of his colleagues.
I entered into this debate because an honourable senator opposite rose to refute allegations that he claimed that I had made about the Waterside Workers Federation. I would like to put the record straight. I did not make allegations about the Waterside Workers Federation. This afternoon during Question Time I asked a question about the Waterside Workers Federation. I was careful to give the basis on which my question was asked. My question quite clearly sought information and did not make allegations. I will read the question that I asked. Honourable senators might ask why there is this interest in the Waterside Workers Federation, particularly by the Farmers Union of Western Australia, which is the source of my information. I would therefore remind the Senate that it is the Waterside Workers Federation that, in a highly moralistic way, is refusing to export wheat to Indonesia because the Western Australian branch of the Waterside Workers Federation apparently has determined that we should not export foodstuffs to that country because the Waterside Workers Federation disagrees with certain aspects of Indonesia’s foreign policy. I shall repeat the question that I asked this afternoon. I shall read from the pinks that were delivered to me by Hansard, which are the Hansard record to date. I said:
My question is directed to the Attorney-General in both that capacity and as Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to a complaint that I received by telegram from the Farmers Union of western Australia, that the constitution and rules of the Waterside Workers Federation expressly exclude Asiatics from membership of that union.
Having said that that was the information I had received I went on to say:
Will the Minister investigate that matter and ascertain, firstly, whether the Constitution and rules do so provide; secondly, whether such a provision is in accordance with industrial law in this country; and, thirdly, if it is -
And by ‘ if it is ‘ I meant, and I think it is clear, if it is in the constitution-
I make no apology for raising that question in the Senate. The matter is one of public importance. It is a matter which I think is properly brought before the Government. I am fascinated by the telex which has been sent by Mr Fitzgibbon, the General Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation. Let me say immediately that I welcome the denial of Mr Fitzgibbon that that is still in the rules. I welcome the fact that in 1954, according to this telex, that particular rule, which until that time apparently was part of the constitution and rules of the Waterside Workers Federation -
– What year was that?
-It was 1954. We are told by Mr Fitzgibbon that it was removed in 1954. However, with extraordinary efficiency, I find from this telex that while a certificate of change was forwarded by the Industrial Registrar, due to an error in the Industrial Registrar’s Department the rule was not changed. The error was npt brought to attention until 1967. So apparently it was a mere 13 years before the error was discovered. We are told that the Federation rule books carried the amended rule and when the error was discovered a request was made by the Federation for the Registrar to correct the error. The Federation made application to the Registrar for a rule change and this was done as recently as 6 July 1973.
So it would seem that this obnoxious rule which prohibited Asiatics from membership of the Waterside Workers Federation was changed formally on 6 July 1 973. It would also appear from the telegram I have received from the Farmers Union of Western Australia that the deletion of that obnoxious rule has yet to appear in the registry in Perth. Apparently a search has revealed that it is still shown as a rule ofthe Federation in that State.
I would like to make it quite clear to the Senate that I in no way apologise for raising the matter here. I welcome the fact, if it is a fact- at the moment I accept the telex on its face value- that this obnoxious rule has been removed. I would simply say that in this area, as in any other, I will continue to be extremely hostile about any evidence of racial discrimination in our country which contains a large multi-racial element.
While I am on my feet I would like to raise a couple of other matters. The first is the recent Premiers Conference. The Premiers Conference held in the week before last is a classic illustration of why this country ought to proceed, and will proceed, under a Liberal and National Country Party Government in Canberra and why it would be an utter disaster if we were to get another Labor Government. I draw the attention of the Senate to the accord which was evident in the Premiers Conference in Canberra. As a Western Australia senator I welcome the fact that in one of the most vexed and difficult areas of Commonwealth-State relations, namely the question of off-shore jurisdiction, the Commonwealth and the States have at last agreed on a procedure which will ensure that off-shore development can proceed in Australia without the bitterness and disputation that marked the period of the Labor Government. I think there would be very few in this Senate who have forgotten the fact or who would be prepared to ignore the fact that one of the major developments which could have kept this country at a high tempo of economic progress, namely, the development of off-shore gas facilities off the north-west coast of Western Australia, was brought to complete halt by the inanity and stupidity ofthe previous Government. Who will forget the decision that gas would be purchased at well head by the government at a price not nominated? Who will forget the fact that exploration in the off-shore areas totally ceased? Who in this place would not welcome the fact that at last the Commonwealth and the States have been able to agree on an co-operative basis for a continuation of development? After the Premiers Conference was concluded the announcement was made that the Commonwealth and the States would proceed on the basis of joint administration which will leave the day to day administration in the hands of the State authorities. This is something which I, as a senator from Western Australia, warmly welcome.
I use this occasion to remind the people of Australia that if we want Australia to develop economically we will have to depend upon resource development in the next 10 years. Resource development will simply not occur if we still have the Labor Party making threatening noises about voiding State granted leases and taking action which would prevent investors from proceeding with these great developments. I think we have reached a point in Australia’s economic recovery where it is quite clear that the continuation of the present Government’s policies with respect to the States will enable us to move on to a far better plateau of economic activity whereas a return to a Labor government almost certainly will reduce us to the stage of confusion and doubt which existed in 1974 and 1975, to our continuing economic cost.
I would like to touch on one very small matter before I refer to something that I wish to urge upon the Government. I would like to say something about Senator Cavanagh ‘s attempted explanation of Mr E. G. Whitlam ‘s behaviour on a This Day Tonight program on 26 October. This matter has been raised in the Senate on a number of occasions during Question Time. It was explained away by Senator Cavanagh on the basis that Mr Whitlam was simply denying that he had signed a statement in Perth. I am prepared to agree that Mr Whitlam did not sign a statement in Perth because I do not think Mr Whitlam visited Perth more than about twice. As I recall, he was run out of town on one of those two occasions. But in any event, what Mr Whitlam said in response to that question was not that he had not signed an agreement in Perth. Oh no, he went well beyond that. He said:
No. I have never said anything of the sort. What I have said on uranium has been said in the Parliament’ . . .
He went on to say:
But I have never signed a statement like that. What I have done in the Parliament of course and as Prime Minister, was to persuade Mr Justice Fox to chair an inquiry . . .
Of course, that is clear deception. What has been shown in this Senate over the past week is that Mr Whitlam actively pursued the development of uranium mining. The agreement he signed has been produced in the Senate. The Press release he issued as Prime Minister has been produced. The list of projects that his Government was to spend all those borrowings on, including uranium milling and mining plants, has been produced. I am sick to death of the arrant nonsense put forward in this chamber in explanation of Mr Whitlam ‘s statement the other night. It is quite clear that the Labor Party has done a complete about face on this matter. It has turned from the view which is held by the trade union movement in the United Kingdom, the view which is held by the United Kingdom Government, the view which is held by this Government and the view which it held two years ago. It is seeking to run a scare campaign on uranium and that is simply pathetic. The best illustration of how pathetic it is, is for honourable senators to bear in mind the sort of countries that are seeking to buy our uranium. They are not countries that are in any way inferior to Australia. They are the most technologically developed and sophisticated countries in the world, countries which have made the independent decision that they require nuclear power for their welfare and the welfare of their people, their workers and their industry. It is pathetic that the Labor Party should take the view that it can be the judge of what is good for Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and Sweden. I think that the amount of cant that is spoken on this issue has to be heard to be believed.
I turn from berating the Labor Party to urging some action by my own Government. In July I spent some time in the pastoral areas of Western Australia which at present are stricken by drought. That drought is having a severe effect on those engaged in the pastoral industry not only as principals but as employees. The particular concern that I have following my visit to that area, and following conversations with pastoralists and their wives, both personally and on the radio, is that the Aboriginal community which is presently engaged in that industry is suffering very badly from the economic effects of the drought. I would like to quote from a letter which I received from a Mrs S. L. Senior who is on a station out of Sandstone, Western Australia, which is in a very remote part of that State. She originally raised the question of Aboriginal employment with me on radio on 1 5 July. I should like to quote parts of her letter, in which she points out:
Due to less available finance, there is and will be less money available to pay employees on drought affected stations, therefore some will be, or have been, put off.
To remain efficient, regardless of seasonal conditions, general maintenance must be carried out on fencing, watering facilities and machinery.
Good white station hands are rare jewels and therefore retained as long as financially possible, so the first to go are the Aboriginals.
Work is always available, but not so money. If money is available, capable experienced station hands are first to get the available jobs, especially in drought times, when work done for money paid out is of prime importance, and as damage done to machinery and weak stock can be extreme in the hands of inexperienced labour, even when supervised, and cheaper. Thus it is unlikely that properties will employ new men under the current financially assisted plan for the unemployed.
Aboriginal families on stations are generally housed more hygienically and have a better and more nourishing diet than when out of work and living in local towns.
I interpolate that, from my visits to those local towns, I would agree with that statement. Mrs Senior continues: . . thus they remain healthier in the bush, thus relieving the medical services of the area of much expense.
My suggestion is that the Federal Government make some financial arrangements whereby these worthwhile members of the work force can be retained in their present jobs, and not sent to join the lengthening list of unemployed on social security payments. These people would prefer to work for the money they receive, and do not want to lose their homes, security and dignity.
In my view, that last sentence contains some very important points. The Aborigines, who have worked for a long time on these stations and who are on award wages, find in their work not only their salaries but also their homes and, I believe, their security and their dignity. I think it is common knowledge that in those areas of Western Australia the Aborigines who have left the stations and are not able to find employment in the towns very quickly lose their dignity. Living on social services, they seek solace in drink and very soon become absolutely wasted members of the community, both to themselves and to anybody else.
The fact of the matter is that at the moment there are people who are still in employment but whose employers simply are not able to continue that employment. I have made a request to the Government, as I know that various pastoralists also have made submissions to the Government, that some scheme be devised to assist those who are presently in employment to remain in employment during the difficult times of drought. I know that this matter has been examined by the Government and that it is concerned at the potential breadth of any program that might be undertaken in this field. The Government is concerned about the possibilities of any scheme that related only to Aborigines, and I understand that concern. There are problems of discrimination, the white backlash and so on, which are already quite evident in those area. I understand that one could not geographically restrict a scheme of this sort to the State of Western Australia. It would be quite improper for a national government to do that. I know that it would be difficult to slot in this sort of scheme with the other manpower programs the Government has undertaken. But I say very seriously to the Government that this problem requires attention. I believe that the people involved differ from others who face unemployment due to difficulties in the rural or other industries because it is unlikely that they will be able to make the adjustment into some other industry, as those others might be able to do. I spoke only today to somebody with a lot of experience in this area. He said that the problem with Europeans was very limited because the displaced employees were generally very resourceful types who would find it relatively easy to fit into another occupation, be it in the city or in another rural area. The problem is quite different for the Aboriginal population, who do not wish to go to the city and are likely merely to drift into the regional centres, where the only outlet for their energies is likely to be in the bars of the hotels.
As I understand it, if a scheme was introduced which applied to taxation zones A and B, an estimated 1,000 Aboriginal employees would be involved. A scheme that paid employers a supplement equal to the unemployed single rate benefit would cost no more than about $2.Sm in a full year. I suspect that the payout would be considerably less than that because some of the Aborigines are already employed on Aboriginalowned properties, which are subject to certain government subsidies or support schemes in any event. The difficulty arises when one extends the scheme to non-Aborigines. The estimates there indicate that some 10,000 people would be involved and hence the cost would go to approximately $2 5 m if the scheme were restricted to the pastoral industry. If it were extended to the whole of primary industry, 20,000 people would be involved at a cost of approximately $50m. If it dealt with all workers, believe it or not, about one million people would be involved and the scheme would obviously become quite impossible. I put it to the Government that, in the light of the peculiar problems faced by the people about whom I am concerned and about whom I have spoken, a scheme could be devised on which limits could be placed, although not on a racial basis, which would prevent it from being too large but which would meet the particular problems.
I offer as suggestions the following limitations: Firstly, the scheme should be limited to taxation zones A and B; secondly, the scheme should be limited to areas which are declared as drought affected; thirdly, it should apply only to people who are already in employment and who have a steady history of employment. In other words, they are not casuals just for the moment but are employed in what might be regarded as a permanent way in that industry. Next, the people should be subjected to the test that it is unlikely that they would be employed in another industry. I think that would be a sensible non-racial discrimination to impose. It would be a test which would tend to pick up more Aborigines than whites, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Essentially, the test would be: What are the prospects of these people being successfully placed elsewhere. Next, it should be a requirement that their employment is threatened by drought, by some external economic circumstance, and not merely that the whole operation is non-viable in any event. Lastly, the program should be limited in time. It could be applied for perhaps 12 calendar months, firstly, to see whether it is effective and, secondly, because the continuance of the drought beyond 12 months might well mean that the industry is going to fall to the ground anyway.
I put forward that suggestion in this first reading debate when the opportunity is given to us to speak on any subject. I put it forward now because the suggestion I am talking about has been floating around since July. Mrs Senior states in her letter, and of course this may be the end of the whole matter I am putting forward:
This is a matter of some urgency, such as now, not three months hence when it will be too late.
It is now three months hence, but I believe from my inquiries that there are still people who would be saved from going on the scrap heap if a scheme such as this were instituted. I urge the Government not to pay too much heed to the difficulties which exist in the way of implementing a program of this sort but to bend its attentions to finding means to meet the needs of a group of Australians. Those people either will go on being contributing, sensible and good members of the Australian community or, if they are cast aside, will simply become derelicts who will be pan of the shame that we have for the failures we have experienced with our Aboriginal people.
– When Senator Mulvihill was speaking earlier in the debate he sought leave to have certain material incorporated in Hansard. The question then arose whether the material had been properly processed. That was done, but the formality of seeking leave was not attended to. I now ask whether there is any objection to the material sought to be incorporated by Senator Mulvihill being so incorporated? If there is no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
SENALP AA62659 WATFED AA25645
4.20 PM November 2nd 1977 JM ATT Senator Wriedt
Re question raised in Senate re Federation rules old federation rule prohibiting Asiatics from joining union was changed in 1954 and certificate of change forwarded to federation by industrial registrar however due to error in industrial registrars department rule change was not entered into registrars record book. Error was not brought to attention until 1967. All federation rule books had carried amended rule. When error discovered request made by federation for registrar to correct their error registrar advised not possible and federation then made immediate application to the registrar for a rule change to correct the erroneous situation which had arisen as a result of industrial registrars department error.
In decision 6 July 1973 R No. 153 of 1968 registrar granted rule change sought. Note application for the rule change had been filed on 12 September 1968. Since 1954 many residents of Australia of Asian extraction have been admitted to membership and continued as members of waterside workers federation.
Fitzgibbon General Secretary
– Firstly, I ask that the document from which Senator Chaney quoted in respect of an alleged statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in another place be tabled.
– Is it the television program transcript from which I quoted that you want tabled?
-Yes. I ask that that be tabled.
– I am quite happy to do that. I table the document.
-Senator Chaney ranged over a number of subjects, but it was not until he raised the last subject that I felt he was making any substantive contribution to the debate. I agree with the matters he raised concerning the problems of people in the rural areas of Western Australia and that the suggestion he made which obviously require study, were worth while. I regret that it was not until he got on to the very last part of those several subjects which he raised that he in fact found himself talking about things which really interest the Australian people and which are matters of some concern. I find it unfortunate that he devoted so much of his time to personal attacks on the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, that is in line with so much of the procedures about which we are hearing in both chambers at the present time.
I was also glad to hear him admit that the innuendo and the smear that was implicit in his question this morning which was directed against the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, was incorrect. On receipt of the correct information from that body he was prepared to concede that the innuendo was incorrect. I say to him that in view of his opposition to any form of racial discrimination, I hope he will use his good intentions with some of his colleagues in his State who trooped north during the last Western Australian election to confuse the minds of so many Aborigines in the north of Western Australia over their rights to vote. It would be as well if he were to bring his legal contacts to better use by persuading his colleagues not to use those practices in future. Nevertheless that is a matter to be determined in a Western Australian court.
The main reason I rise is to talk about the significance of this Government’s financial policies in respect of the States. The new federalism policy of the Liberal Government is something which is not very clearly understood throughout Australia. It seems that one thing is clearly understood and that is that it is a policy which means more power to Canberra and less money to the States. The majority of Australians realise that that is what the Liberal Party’s new federalism policy is about. It is also important that the people understand the implications of that policy. I wish to spend a minute or so going over the background of this policy. In 1975 the then Liberal Party Opposition made accusations about power being concentrated in Canberra. As a result, it issued a policy document called the Federalism Policy, dated September 1975. That policy claimed that the federalism policy ofthe Liberal Party, if implemented, would prevent dangerous concentration of power in a few hands.
The Liberal Party went on to argue that under such a policy the position of the various States would be advantaged and that they would be given greater rights while the States, of course, would be fully protected. The document went on to say that a Liberal Government would not relinquish any ofthe Commonwealth’s authority over economic management. In other words, the Liberal Party was saying: ‘We might make it sound good, but really we will remain the boss’. In the two years which have intervened we have seen this new federalism policy at work. We have not seen one power transferred to the States under this policy. There is as much power in Canberra now as there was under those terrible centralist years of the Australian Labor Party Government, with one exception. I shall come to that exception in a few minutes.
Any Federal Government makes payments to the States for a whole range of matters such as hospitals, housing and education. The payments are broadly divided into three sections. The first category is known as general revenue grants. They are grants which are made to the States and which the States can spend virtually as they wish. There is also a group of payments known as specific purpose payments. That is where the Commonwealth says to the States that a certain undertaking is to be carried out and that it will finance that undertaking or part finance it by a grant or loan depending on the arrangements. That is a separate category again. The third category, of course, is the loan arrangementsthe amounts the States can borrow by agreement with the Commonwealth.
It is important that we understand that there are three distinct divisions because we have been told over the past 12 or 18 months particularly by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) who is Minister in Charge of Federal Affairs and also by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) that the States have never had a better deal than they are getting now under the new federalism policy. Government supporters will tell us how the rates of payment have increased by as much as 15 per cent and 18 per cent over the amount the States were getting last year. What is not understood is that those supporters are referring only to one of these three avenues of payments. It is true- we would be the first to concede it- that the rate of increase of general revenue grants has been maintained under this policy at a level which would have been maintained under the formula which was being used by the previous Government.
In relation to the other two areas we find a very different picture. This is not what we are told about by the Government, but it is essential that the Australian public realises this because it will get a lot more of this after 10 December if this Government is returned to power. Part of the specific purpose payments- that is for hospitals, schools, roads, dams and all those other things which have to be done in the States- are for capital purposes, that is construction. We are all aware that the economy is stagnant. The private sector has not come back to the position which the Government said it would.
I do not want to raise this as a matter of debate but simply to point out what I think everybody knows to be statements of fact. Unemployment has gone up by 80,000 over last year. The prospects are that next year that figure will be somewhere around 450,000. People cannot get work. The younger people especially are not finding job opportunities. Despite any claims of assistance to the private sector or the dropping of interest rates or the lowering of inflation, the Government’s economic policy is not working and everybody knows it is not working. There is one important reason why it is not working and that is that the States are being starved of money for capital purposes, especially in the construction area. That is one of the main reasons why the building industry all around the country is depressed.
To give some evidence of what I am saying I shall ate some figures in relation to each of the States so that we can see one of the hidden areas in which the States are being starved of capital funds. I take these figures from current Budget Paper No. 7. 1 shall deal with New South Wales first and in each case I shall give the figures for 1975-76 and then the figures for the current year 1977-78. In 1975-76 in New South Wales the Federal Labor Government made available to that State a total of $594m for capital purposes. Two years later that figure had dropped to $509m. If the amount had been maintained to account for inflation it would have been $7 12m. In other words, in real terms, New South Wales is down $200m on its capital works program, which it is paid by the Commonwealth Government, as a result of that reduction in payment.
Let us look at Victoria. In 1975-76 the Victorian Government received from the Commonwealth for capital purposes the sum of $457m.
This year it has dropped to $374m. I have not calculated that forward to allow for the inflation rate but it involves a loss to Victoria of approximately $ 1 50m. Queensland in 1 975-76, the last year of the Labor Government, received $307m. This year it receives $258m, which again is a very big drop. In 1975-76 South Australia received $205m, and this year it will receive $176m. Western Australia is in the same boat. In 1975-76 it received $183m, and this year it will receive $161m. I happen to have indexed that figure forward out of interest, and Western Australia would have received $240m this year if the amount it will receive had been indexed against inflation. That is a drop to Western Australia of $80m. In 1975-76 Tasmania received $88m, and this year it will receive $71m. This is the picture which has emerged under the new federalism policy. In all areas- it does not matter which State we take or whether we deal with the total amount- assistance to the States has declined in the last two years.
I will not quote the percentage increases in the first two years of this Government’s federalism policy, a policy which it is claimed will give a better deal to the States. In the last year of the Labor Government we increased total payments to New South Wales by 33 per cent. In the first year of the new Liberal federalism policy total payments to that State were increased by only 6 per cent, or half the inflation rate. This year they will be increased by 12 per cent. In the last year of the Labor Government total payments to Victoria were increased by 32 per cent. In the first year of the Liberal Government they were increased by 5 per cent, and this year they will be increased by 1 1 per cent. In 1975-76, the last year of that terrible Labor Government which allegedly starved the States of funds, we increased total payments to Queensland by 27 per cent. That increase in the first year of the new Liberal federalism policy dropped to 1 1 per cent, and this year it is down to 10 per cent. So Queensland is going backwards and is the only State which is worse off this year than it was last year. Total payments to South Australia were increased by 24 per cent in 1975-76 but this increase dropped to 6 per cent in the first year of the Liberal Government, and the increase will be 1 1 per cent in the current year. Total payments to Western Australia increased by 32 per cent in the last year of the previous Government. The increase in the first year of this Government was 9 per cent, and it will by 13 per cent in the currnt year. In the last year of the Labor Government total payments to Tasmania increased by 23 per cent. In the first year of this Government they increased by 3 per cent- 3 per cent, mind you- and they will increase by 10 per cent this year. That is the pattern of what has emerged under this much vaunted new federalism of the present Government.
All I have stated so far are facts. I have quoted from the Budget documents and I do not think therefore that anyone could reasonably argue with the figures that I have quoted. The reason I have spoken on this matter tonight is to put to the Senate what this means for the future. The original policy document made no bones about the fact that the federalism policy would be introduced in two stages. Stage one would consist of an agreement under which the States would receive a percentage of personal income tax collected by the Commonwealth, as I explained earlier, in the form of general revenue grants. We have no argument that those grants have been maintained at the same levels as they sould have been under our formula. However, the second stage is where the Commonwealth has run into trouble. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was able to sell to the Premiers last year, although they were alerted to the fact that they were being told a furphy, the concept that this was a good deal. To some extent they went along with it but it did not take them long to realise that they were not getting enough. Of course they were not and it was not intended that they should. So they started to complain to the Commonwealth that they wanted more. They wanted the percentage lifted above 33.6 per cent of total personal income tax collections. Now it appears that the Prime Minister has agreed to lift it to 39 per cent. This does not affect the figures which I quoted earlier for capital payments for specific purposes.
It is stage two of the original policy which becomes the crunch issue because it is at this stage that the States will have to introduce income tax. In other words, there will be a Commonwealth income tax and a State income tax. Up till now all the States have jacked up because obviously no Premier is game to introduce a State income tax, no matter what his politics are. The only way it will be introduced is when the States are on their knees economically and have no option but to introduce a State income tax. The benefit of these much vaunted taxation reductions which have taken place under this Government in its first Budget and again in the last Budget, the most recent reforms to apply from 1 February next year, will be taken away by the States. They will have to do it because unless they do they will not be able to provide services such as hospitals, schools and roads. They will have to increase their revenue to make up for the revenue which the Commonwealth has taken from them.
So what we see is not only an interesting stage but also a critical stage because if this Government is returned on 10 December it will be a clear signal to Mr Fraser to continue putting the screws on the States and making it more difficult all the time for them to finance their activities. Consequently I believe that they will be forced, not by the Commonwealth but out of sheer necessity, to collectively agree to the imposition of State income tax and all the States will find themselves in that position. So the Australian people in all States will find that any benefits they may derive from the taxation concessions granted by this Government will be taken away by the additional taxes that will be imposed by the State governments. This is exactly where we are heading and I hope that the Australian people at large realise the implications of it. It means that we will gradually disintegrate as a nation. We escaped from this situation many years ago when some very wise people realised that we ought to be a nation, but we will gradually disintegrate to a stage where the States will be forced into competing quite ruthlessly with each other for every possible resource they can obtain, whether the resources are obtained in this country or overseas. That would be a tragedy for this country.
I hope that in my remarks tonight I have been able to draw to the attention of the Senate something that is of fundamental importance not only to this national Parliament but also to every Australian. I do not know why so much ofthe time in the Senate is devoted to some of the issues that have been raised, especially at Question Time, when personal attacks are made on Mr Whitlam about whether he is alleged to have said something or not said something. I wish that honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber would spend some time considering the long term implications of some of the Government’s policies-the matters of substance that concern the people of this country. The matters that concern the people include where they will get jobs in the future and how this country as a whole will develop in the years ahead. We will get no guidance from a government that organises its own supporters to spend their time in personal denigration of their opponents.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech redd as follows-
This Bill is an annual measure. Principally, it has the short, simple, purpose of formally imposing tax for 1977-78 at the rates to be declared in the Income Tax (Rates) Act. It also has another transition-year purpose connected with the introduction of the new system of personal taxation at it applies to primary producers taxed under the averaging provisions of the income tax law. Tax rates for 1977-78 that are being declared are an amalgam of those applicable under the pre-budget system, with a weighting of 7/12, and those under the different system applicable from 1 February 1978, with a weighting of 5/12.
For taxpayers generally, the 1977-78 rate schedule is so constructed as to give them the benefit of the rebate of $676 proportionate to the period of seven months for which the pre-budget system applies. However, to maintain this effect for primary producers it is technically necessary to provide a special transition-year rebate and the Bill does this. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 1 November, on the following proposed expenditures:
Department of Administrative Services
Proposed Expenditure, $273,383,000.
Proposed Expenditure, $34,100,000.
Acquisition of Sites and Buildings (Defence)
Proposed Expenditure, $6,4 10,000.
Furniture and Fittings (Defence)
Proposed Expenditure, $5,600,000.
Proposed Expenditure, $ 14,922,000.
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed Expenditure, $93,308,000.
Department of National Resources
Proposed Expenditure, $52,01 1,000.
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed Expenditure, $463,874,000.
Department of Defence
Proposed Expenditure, $1,985,091,000. and on motion by Senator Sim:
That the Committee, having considered the Report of Estimates Committee A-
– I stated last night that many issues must be considered when we are debating the Estimates for the departments included in group A. The group covers many departments. I will content myself for the time being by referring to the Department of Administrative Services which is the first Department in that group. The Committee engaged in a general, discussion last evening. I do not want to carry on that general discussion. I want only to remark upon those matters it was said I said during the discussion and to reply to the interpretation that was placed upon what I said. The three subjects referred to were the increase in the size of the Public Service, election issues, and the Constitution and the granting of appropriations contained in money Bills.
Senator Douglas McClelland raised the question of the necessity to increase the size of the Public Service and the complaint about the present staff ceilings. We received a reply on that matter. I think it was admitted generally by Senator Withers, the Minister for Administrative Services, that we could all do with some more and that there is a need for an increase in staff. But he asked: Who is going to pay? He asked us whether we were prepared to go to the electors and say that we believed in this increase in staff and that the people must pay greater taxes. Of course, the Auditor-General’s report showed that that may not be a necessity. It shows that the loss of Government funds through incorrect payments made by the Department of Social Security runs into millions of dollars. This is caused through the inability to check and process claims thus resulting in payments that should not have been made. Through the Government’s desire to create a pool of unemployed, it has deprived the Commonwealth of funds rather than pay the increased amount that would be necessary to maintain full employment.
I turn to deal with the very difficult question of what system of elections Australia should have. I think that all political parties when in power support the system of election that most suits them. The party in power will support the election system which it thinks will give it an advantage, whether that be the preferential voting system or optional preference voting. Just as one can depend upon the party in power to favour the system of election must suitable to it one can depend upon the opposition party to oppose the election proposals of the party in power. While I cannot solve this problem of whether we should change the voting system I think, as Senator Sibraa pointed out, that we must recognise the difficulties that exist when a voter is called upon to vote for 73 candidates on a ballot paper, as was the case in New South Wales. The ballot paper becomes informal if a voter does not mark 25’ or ‘26’ on the ballot paper. Such difficulty with the ballot paper for example disenfranchises many of the less literate voters in our society.
I commend to those people considering electoral systems which do not favour one party more than another, the fact that over 80 per cent of electors vote in accordance with a party ticket. They enter the voting booth with the howtovote card and try to copy the order of candidates shown on that card on to their ballot paper. The intention of such voters when they enter the booth is to vote in accordance with the party ticket, whether it be the ticket of the Labor Party, the Liberal Party or one of the other parties. In the United States of America it is possible for a voter to vote by making cross marks to indicate that he is voting in accordance with a party ticket. If such a course were followed in Australia, it would solve immediately the long delays in election counting. It would permit 80 per cent of the counting to be conducted in accordance with the pattern shown on the party ticket. This voting system could solve all the problems of those people who are less capable of understanding the voting system.
The only other question I wish to raise is in respect of the Constitution and money Bills. At no time did I wish to convey the impression, as has been inferred from my remarks, that I was opposed to the Senate having powers to reject a money Bill or to request an amendment to a money Bill. I think that this is a power the Senate has and it is a power that the Senate should retain. It was stated by Senator Withers that at one time the Labor Opposition voted against a taxation BUI. I think this is a power that the Senate should retain. If a tax is bad, the Senate, as a House of review, should decide this and vote against it. My remarks were directed to the denigration of this chamber which results from its ability to defeat a government which was elected by the people, as was demonstrated and put into operation in November and December 1975. If Supply Bills are not passed and this results in the inability of the government of the day to carry on with the funding of the Public Service, the only known solution under the interpretation of our authority is for the Governor-General to dismiss the government and to submit it to the people for re-election. I disagree that such a power should be retained in the Constitution.
I cannot accept the proposals suggested by Senator Withers to the Constitutional Convention. He argued that if this chamber opposed a money Bill and could not agree upon the matter there should be an election of both Houses. I think that such a proposal would break the continuity of this House. Such a situation would arise so frequently that there would be more elections than occur presently. I am not opposed to the ability of the Senate to oppose or request an amendment to a money Bill. It is up to the government to decide then whether it accepts or rejects the Senate’s request. But on no account if the Senate rejects a money Bill should a government be forced to retire. But if it is ruled that the only alternative to the defeat of certain Bills in this chamber is the resignation of the government, this places the Senate in the position of a superior force over the people of Australia and is a denial of democracy m Australia. That should be examined in a constitutional way and perhaps given more consideration, to ascertain whether a correct, legal interpretation of section 57 was made, or whether the Governor-General perhaps had an alternative course of action available to him in December 1975.
Turning to the Budget provision for the Department of Administrative Services to which, in view ofthe limited time available, I shall restrict my remarks, I refer first to division 130, much of which is devoted to payment for inquiries that have been set up for various reasons. I ask whether, if no one takes notice of the results of the inquiry, such expenditure is warranted. We have a committee which examines the experts on a particular subject and although bi-party in nature, usually reaches a unanimous decision based on that evidence, and brings down certain recommendations to solve a problem that the Government apparently thought existed- only to find that those recommendations are never enacted.
In sub-division 3, item 14, reference is made to a number of inquiries one of which is the Royal Commission on Aboriginal/Police incidents in Western Australia which I was responsible for establishing. Last year there was, I note, an expenditure for the Commission of $11,272. That, of course, is not the full expenditure involved. This was a joint Royal Commission set up by the Western Australian Government and the Federal Government. Because it was joint we agreed to meet half of the cost although, in fact, it was set up under the Patents Act of the State Government, which was insisted upon so that that Government could select two members of the commission and the Federal Government only one.
An accusation had been made of police wrongdoing at a place called Skull Creek and the Deputy Commissioner of police had been sent to investigate it. He came back with a report that found nothing which justified disciplinary action being taken. Not being satisfied, I insisted on a Royal Commission, and the Western Australian Government, perhaps wanting to support the decision of the Deputy Commissioner, apparently did not want the Royal Commission stacked with Federal officials who might make a finding that was different. The State Government thereupon appointed two commissioners who were, I believe, Mr Justice Clarkson, Visiting Lecturer of the University of Western Australia and Mr Bridge, who is now disputing the election results in the Kimberleys. The Commonwealth chose Mr Elliott Johnston to sit as a Royal Commissioner.
The finding of the Commission was that the police had arrested some 56 Aboriginals, had locked them up, that a court hearing had been held, and that court costs of $1.10 had been awarded against them- even though they had not broken the law and were bound on a peaceful mission, to attend a ceremony at Warburton. They were arrested immediately they arrived in the town and, since the charges could not be made to stick, the police set about drawing up false charges and altering the record sheets so they would have a case. This came to the knowledge of the officials of the Police Department. There has never been a more blatantly wrongful action than that of the police in arresting and imprisoning these Aboriginals overnight, their brutal handling of them on some occasions, and the subsequent fine being recorded against innocent people who had not committed a breach of the law. That was the finding of the Commission, which also made certain recommendations. Of the two policemen who had falsified charge sheets and altered the list in the police station, one was given a promotion in the Western Australian Police Force and the promotion of the other was deferred until the next time around. That was the reward given them after the Commission had made a finding of wrongdoing on their part.
The Commission also recommended that action be taken to amend Commonwealth legislation as to communications and the method of travel of Aboriginals in back areas. None of those recommendations has been put into operation. What is the value of expending $ 1 1 ,000 in one year alone, when the recommendations of the Commission are not acted upon and, to the contrary, wrongdoers in the service of a State are subsequently promoted? I do not know whether the Department of Administrative Services has the responsibility for implementing the decisions of royal commissions but at least the Government has a responsibility to see that such expenditure is not wasted. The fact that nothing is done is not of itself a reason not to have an inquiry to uncover wrongdoing but, having had one, the Aboriginal people, indeed all law-abiding people of this country, should receive the protection that the inquiry finds they have been denied.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) May I just remind honourable senators of the motion that is immediately before the Senate. Last night Senator Sim had moved:
That the Committee, having considered the report of Estimates Committee A-
1 ) Requests the Government to give an undertaking to table departmental explanatory notes on the day immediately following the presentation of the Budget Papers or Appropriation Bills to the Parliament.
Recommends that the Department of Finance, after reviewing reports of Estimates committees over recent years, submit to a meeting of Estimates committee chairmen a style of explanatory notes, embracing both form and content, to be used as a model by all departments and statutory authorities.
I think honourable senators departed a little from that question last night. However, they are free to discuss the various divisions embodied in Group A.
– I rise to speak to the motion that has just been cited by the Chairman. I was a little disturbed not by the motion itself but by the way in which Senator Sim spoke in moving it. I may say that I had preceded him and, in referring to the report of Estimates Committee A, had emphasised the necessity to upgrade the car parking facilities in the premises known as the Old John Bull Hotel in Currie Street, Adelaide. I had joined by deputy leader, Senator McClelland, in congratulating the honourable senator on the way in which he had chaired that Committee, but his remarks about myself in particular were most uncomplimentary, indeed quite untrue. He had this to say in his opening remarks, as reported at page 1894 of Hansard:
I always admire my socialist friends for their ability to travel by car, even if they sometimes plunge up to their knees in water upon alighting. As a capitalist I always travel to my office by bus.
I have no objection to Senator Sim publicly admitting that he is a capitalist and I do not take any offence at his saying that I am a socialist. I am very proud indeed to be a socialist because the socialist philosophy is wherever possible to help those people in need. We endeavour to do that. The capitalist philosophy is to help the wealthy at all times and be damned with those in need. To go a bit further on philosophy- with no detrimental remarks directed to you, Mr Chairman, because of your Party- the National Country Party’s philosophy has always been to socialise its losses and to capitalise its profits. I have mentioned that here many times. That Party has a dual philosophy and puts it into operation at whatever time it considers it is appropriate to do so. But what really did disturb me was an interjection made by Senator Davidson when he said:
That is right, I go by public transport.
Both these gentlemen implied that I as a socialist do not travel by public transport but travel to my office by car. On many occasions I have seen Senator Davidson enter the car park in Adelaide. He has driven his car there.
– And his wife.
– As Senator Cavanagh said, he has driven there with his wife too. Senator Davidson was not being too untruthful when he said that he travels by public transport because in the years I have been in this Parliament he has used public transport quite a lot- he has many flits around the world on public transport, mainly at the taxpayers’ expense. Senator Sim went on to say:
It is only the socialists who travel in Mercedes-Benz and Rolls Royce cars to their offices.
I am one who has to use my car to travel to my office because there is no public transport from my home to my office in a country town. If I want to go to Adelaide to carry out my duties as a parliamentarian- I do not go there all that often- I have to travel nearly 60 miles. I leave home very early in the morning and go to the car park which is provided for members of Parliament to park my car. I was arguing that some measures ought to be taken to upgrade the surface of that car park. I complained about the great pools of water there. But of course Senator Sim, backed up by Senator Davidson, tried to ridicule me for not using public transport. I am not one of those senators who lives within a stone ‘s throw of my office.
– Do you drive a Mercedes?
– No, I do not drive a Mercedes and I intend to make some remarks about that. I live in the country and represent a lot of people who live and work in the country, unlike Senator Sim and Senator Davidson who apparently neither live in the country nor have an office in the country. They do not get any further away from the General Post Office clock than when it is still in sight. I am pleased that Senator Sim has given me an opportunity to let the people of Western Australia know that he is domiciled in the metropolitan area and can go into his office every day by public transport. I cannot do that. One of my colleagues in South Australia, the honourable member for Grey, Laurie Wallis, has his office in the country. We are the only two Federal members of Parliament in South Australia who both live in the country and have an office in the country for the benefit of country people. But what really riles me is that Senator Sim went further to state:
There is no one who enjoys life more than the socialist with his whisky and French champagne and cigars.
When he made those remarks there was no doubt that he was levelling those criticisms at me. I inform the Senate and Senator Sim also, if he is listening, that I do not smoke cigars- I am a non-smoker- I have never tasted whisky and I very very seldom drink champagne. I suppose I might have one or two drinks of champagne a year. So Senator Sim is quite off beam when he tries to imply and to have it put into the record of this Parliament that socialists do all of those things. Most socialists cannot afford to do those things because, as I said earlier, if they have any surplus funds they use them to help the underprivileged people in the community, unlike the capitalists, which Senator Sim made great play of being. These are the comments which come from Senator Sim. I think that on reflection he might regret having made them. He might have been very surprised when he read them in Hansard this morning that he had uttered those remarks.
Another matter I wish to raise in this debate on the estimates dealt with by Estimates Committee A is a matter which I raised during the hearings of that Estimates Committee. There was some discussion here today by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) about this matter also. I refer to the rights of electorate secretaries. During the hearings of the Estimates Committee I asked Senator Withers:
In view of the determination of the Remuneration Tribunal that members are entitled to bring their electorate secretaries to Canberra for a maximum period of 28 days will we be provided with a relief electorate secretary to man the office or does the office have to be closed. I am more concerned about members like myself who have an office in the country where there is no other Federal member that constitutents can approach if the office is closed.
Senator Withers replied:
It has always been the custom that members get a relief secretary while their electorate secretaries are on recreation leave or are ill. I am considering whether they should be provided in other circumstances. I am somewhat reluctant to move otherwise people will bring their electorate secretaries to Canberra and have relief secretaries full time. This should not be used as a back door method by some people to get extra staff.
I did not mean that at all in my question. There was no rhyme or reason for Senator Withers answering to the effect that some members would bring their electorate secretaries to Canberra and have relief secretaries all the time if he were to do as I asked. All I asked him was whether we would be provided with a relief secretary to man our offices in those circumstances, particularly in the case of a member of Parliament who has a country office and there is no alternative person a constituent can go to if the members’ office is closed because his electorate secretary is in Canberra doing work which has been recognised by the Remuneration Tribunal. I received a memorandum dated 12 October 1977 from the Department of Administrative Services, which was headed: ‘Members of Parliament Entitlements and Facilities.’ No doubt this letter was authorised by the Minister. The letter talks about the pool of relief electorate secretaries and the pertinent point is the following:
Relief secretaries will not be made available to provide relief for electorate assistant positions, or for electorate secretaries absent on duty, e.g. visiting Canberra.
What the Minister is now saying is that when country members of this Parliament bring their electorate secretaries to Canberra, as they are entitled to do under the Remuneration Tribunal’s determination, they will have to close their offices because no relief secretaries will be made available. Under the terms of the Remuneration Tribunal’s determination a member can only have his electorate secretary in Canberra for 28 days and the secretary be entitled to an allowance for his or her costs while here. So if a member, because of the workload or the other factor of trying to familiarise his electorate secretary with the functions of this Parliament and with the duties which have to be carried out here so that the secretary will have a better insight into the type of work the secretary will be required to do while running the member’s office while he is absent on parliamentary business, brings his electorate secretary to Canberra, We are now told that he will not be provided with relief staff to man his office.
I should like the country people in Australia to know that whilst this Government has made great play of being very concerned about the welfare and interests of country dwellers, it is now saying that when those members of the Parliament who in their wisdom are trying to give a service to country people- those of us who have an office in the country- bring their electorate secretaries to Canberra they are going to have to shut the doors of their offices and there will be no office open to which those people can take their problems and have them attended to. In view of what I have said, I hope that the Minister will have second thoughts about that and make some provision for this occurrence. It is not as bad for the members, about whom I spoke earlier, who never go outside the metropolitan area, particularly those members in South Australia, many of whom were elected when they lived in the country and soon shifted to Adelaide and became domiciled in the metropolitan area with an office in the metropolitan area. If their electorate secretaries are over here, there are other members in the same building to whom people can go with their problems. But country people have no one else to whom they can go. They are going to be deprived of a service to which they are justly entitled.
In the couple of minutes I have available to me I wish to raise another matter which I raised during the hearings of the Estimates Committee. It deals with the report of the Commonwealth Police Commissioner, which revealed that there has been an astronomical increase in Commonwealth police work in South Australia and in the Northern Territory. It is unfortunate that even though the Northern Territory now has some form of self-government, all its statistics, whether they be for Commonwealth Police work or unemployment benefit, are lumped together with those of South Australia. The Federal Liberal Government uses those figures, in particular unemployment figures, to give an inflated impression of the situation in South Australia under a Labor Government when, in fact, a lot of the figures are applicable to the Northern Territory which for at least three years has been under the control of the Country Liberal Party, I think it is called.
I raised the fact that there was an enormous increase in offences. The answer I was given was that the 7,329 offences received for investigation or discovered in the South Australian or Northern Territory districts during 1976-77 included 3,767 offences, or S 1 per cent, against Medibank for which three legally qualified medical practitioners were convicted. We hear a lot in the Parliament from honourable senators opposite criticising many people because they break the law. I have not heard anyone in the Parliament criticising these members of the medical profession who have broken the law in respect of Medibank and ripped off the country for a great amount of money. The answer I was given appears on page 300 of the Senate Estimates Committees Hansard of 12 September. I will not mention the officer’s name. He said:
Appendix F that you are referring to under South AustraliaNorthern Territory district refers to 7,329 offences reported and received by the Commonwealth Police for investigation. A fair percentage of those-I would think 75 per cent- would refer to a specific instance of crimes against Medibank.
In surprise I said:
Crimes against Medibank?
The officer answered:
Yes, by a medical practitioner.
Is there any way that we could get some further explanation of that?
The officer said:
Yes, that is readily available. I do not have it at the moment, but I can get it for you.
That seems an astronomical increase- 75 per cent against the medical profession.
The officer said:
Basically $750,000 is involved.
I do not make a blanket statement against the medical profession but in South Australia, 3,767 offences were committed by three medical practitioners. Yet medical practitioners are held up by many people in the community as people who are honourable and would not do a thing wrong. The Commonwealth Police had to waste its time and the taxpayers’ money investigating these claims. I am happy to say that some of these people have been fined but unlike many other criminals who are charged on minor offences and have to pay the penalty of either a fine or a term in gaol, all that is being asked of the medical practitioners who have offended against Medibank is to pay back the amounts of money which they have misappropriated.
-I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator McLaren. It is a great pity that he did not do some homework. If he had he would have known that I use public transport almost as much as I use my own car. Senator McLaren has not done his homework. He does not know that I live in the suburb of Glenelg. I am very well served by an electric tram. I use that tram much more often than I use my car to go to the city. If Senator McLaren had any brains he would also know that I take advantage of what the Labor Government in South Australia has done by providing a bus service in King William Street. I can get from my home to my office by public transport quicker than I can by my own private car. Senator McLaren does not have enough brains to do his homework to find out what I do, where I go and how I travel. He made a stupid comment. He ought to know better if he claims to represent South Australia than to make some absolutely riduculous statement that I use my own car and not public transport. I claim to use public transport more than any other honourable senator in South Australia. It was a stupid remark; he ought to know better. I further claim to have been misrepresented by the unfair, unwarranted, unkind and unjust reference to Mrs Gordon Davidson, my wife, who also used public transport.
– I did not say that.
– The honourable senator did. I heard him. There was an interjection and his wife’. He repeated it. Mrs Gordon Davidson uses public transport from Glenelg to the city very often. We have only the one car, unlike most Labor senators who have two or three cars. We have no boat and no yacht. We have one small car. Both of us use public transport a great deal. Why should we not? We are very well served by public transport. I claim to have been misrepresented thirdly and finally. Senator McLaren referred to my overseas trips. I have travelled abroad very well in the last two years as the representative of the Parliament on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. But I have not had as many overseas trips at public expense as the Hon. Gough Whitlam, one time Prime Minister for Australia. I have not had as many trips overseas at public expense as Labor senators and members. I have been misrepresented. Senator McLaren who claims to represent South Australia does not have enough brains to do his homework.
– It is surprising that Senator Davidson who is generally placid and calm got so heated. One would think he protests too much. Obviously Senator McLaren has hit on a sore point. Senator McLaren is not completely brainless. He has half a brain because he was half right. It now appears that Senator Davidson uses public transport as much as he uses his car. It would be wrong to say that he never uses a car park. I made the interjection about Mrs Davidson. On many occasions I have walked from the car park with Mrs Davidson. I have enjoyed her company. I think she is a very nice woman and a great conversationalist. Even a capitalist uses the car park although sometimes he rides in public transport.
– You are a capitalist, are you not?
-No, the capitalists are on the honourable senator’s side.
– You are one of the biggest capitalists I have ever seen.
– I take as my authority Senator Sim, if Senator Jessop wants to disagree. The socialists are on this side, the capitalists are on the other side. My only occupation is that of a senator. I do not carry on a professional practice as some honourable senators do. Possibly I could not afford to pay Senator Jessop ‘s costs. I wonder whether they are covered by Medibank and whether his practice is one of the operations in South Australia that the Commonwealth Police had to investigate. With regard to whether Senator Davidson has had more overseas trips than the Labor Prime Minister, I am trying to sort out how many overseas trips the Labor Prime Minister and the present Prime Minister have had and the cost of them to the taxpayer. I find it difficult to read the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1977-78 in relation to trips overseas by various Ministers. I am referring to division 140, subdivision 4. That subdivision concerns visits abroad of Ministers, including personal staff, and others, for which $650,000 is being appropriated this year. The appropriation for this subdivision last year, if I am reading the Bill correctly, was $716,000. There is a note in relation to the subdivision which reads:
Expenditure $701,038 dissected below.
Rather than give just the total expenditure the Bill sets out what each Minister has spent, which comes to the grand total of $701,038. Making up that expenditure of $701,038 is an unusual reference to expenditure on the Prime Minister in 1973, 1975, 1976 and 1977. 1 do not know why that has been included in the reference to the expenditure last year. I do not know whether it refers to moneys outstanding in relation to the visits of 1973, 1975 or 1976 that were paid last year. I do not know why that reference has been included. I also do not know whether the then Prime Minister stopped at home in 1974 to let Senator Davidson go away as we could not afford to send both of them away; but, according to the Bill there was no expenditure in this regard in 1974.
I also ask whether, in relation to the present method of using commercial aircraft on overseas visits, the Prime Minister charges his expenditure and that of his miniserial advisers and personal staff to the Department of Administrative Services and other Ministers and staff accompanying him in a delegation have their expenditure booked to the Department for which each Minister is responsible and to which the staff belong. Is the expenditure that is claimed for last year the total expenditure on overseas travel or only a portion of it? Is there another item of expenditure concerning overseas travel that is not shown in this appropriation? If the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) can give me replies to those questions, I would be most appreciative.
I am concerned also about division 150, which relates to furniture and fittings that are supplied by the Department of Administrative Services. I have noted that $85,268 was spent in 1976-77 on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The furniture and fittings set-up there was not bad when I last saw it. After the expenditure of $85,000 in 1976-77, I should think that it would be a lot better now. Yet this year we are appropriating another $215,000 for this item. Is the intention to improve furniture and fittings in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in other than the elaborate office and Cabinet room there at the present time?
The next matter I wish to raise concerns subdivision 4 of division 150, which relates to Northen Territory services. I refer in particular to the appropriation of $40,000 last year to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I take it that this is again for furniture and fittings. Only $16,117 of that appropriation was spent. I ask: What was the reason for the under-expenditure? Was it because the Department requested too much or was granted too much? Was it due to a curtailment of expenditure by the Govenment? There are many items of expenditure in relation to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in relation to which it is claimed that the actual appropriation this year is not such a great reduction on last year’s appropriation whereas the actual appropriation last year was not expended and the money was returned to Consolidated Revenue or never came out of Consolidated Revenue. Last year the Department was appropriated $40,000 and this year it is being appropriated only $15,000. What is the reason for that? Why is it that the Department could not spend ail the money appropriated to it last year and’ now wants another $15,000 this year? Answers to those questions would be very much appreciated.
– I draw the Committee’s attention to the subject of the amount of space allocated in Parliament House to senators and members. I have a document before me that indicates that no less than 21,158 square feet of space is available to senators and members. I am a bit disturbed to note that ministerial suites occupy 27,426 square feet of space. I realise that Minister’s require more space than members and senators, but it disturbs me that I do not have enough space in my room to enable me to accommodate a research assistant. I have noted that the Remuneration Tribunal has recognised that back bench members of parliament require such extra help and has said that as soon as sufficient space is available it would be prepared to provide that sort of assistance. In my view that assistance is essential to back bench members and senators at this time when our work load is increasing. Without permanent assistance in Canberra, where the work load is probably as heavy as it is anywhere else, we just cannot cope effectively with the demand upon our time.
I notice that the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) is making a few notes. It has occurred to me that ministerial suites are available in the respective departments. I ask the Minister to convey my concern in this regard to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Government so that the problems that we are having as back bench members of parliament may be recognised. I believed that the Ministers could use the ministerial suites in their departments more frequently and reduce the amount of space that they require in Parliament House. I can see no reason why the efficiency of the ministerial offices would be reduced in any way as a result of that happening. I ask the Minister to examine the proposal I have put forward that Ministers should make more use of the space available within their departments and restructure their staff situation in Parliament House in such a way as would enable the back bench members of parliament to have the additional space that would permit them to be provided with additional research assistance in Canberra.
– It was quite surprising to see Senator Davidson come in as he did. He was most hostile. I have never seen him act like that before. Of course, he brought on his own shoulders the remarks I made. I was replying to what Senator Sim had said. I shall quote once again Senator Sim’s words. Senator Sim said: ‘As a capitalist, I always travel to my office by bus’. To back him up, Senator Davidson interjected, as I have quoted, and said: ‘That is right. I go by public transport’. In fact, he was implying that he always travelled by public transport. When he rose to his feet and claimed that I had misrepresented him, he had to admit that he does not always travel by public transport. To use his own words, he said: ‘I travel by public transport as much as I travel in my own car’. Therefore, Senator Davidson has been caught out.
I remind Senator Davidson that I never rise in this place unless it is to defend myself and I have to do so because some honourable senators opposite come up with the sorts of remarks that need to be replied to. I rose tonight because of the derogatory remarks made by Senator Sim last night in falsely claiming that I smoke cigars, that I drank whisky and champagne and that I drove a Mercedes Benz. Of course Senator Davidson, in his wisdom, supported Senator Sim’s remarks about public transport. If the honourable senator was caught out it serves him right. I do not retract anything I said because when the honourable senator reads Hansard tomorrow he will see that some of the words he uttered tonight were not correct.
Reference was made to my remarks about overseas travel. I think that Senator Cavanagh has answered quite fully what has been said in this respect. I think that Senator Davidson, in trying to back up some of his travels, said that he did not travel as much as the previous Prime Minister. I interjected that the honourable senator was not the Prime Minister and that I did not think he ever would be although he may like to be.
I would like to get back to the discussion on the appropriations, the matter which is before the Committee. I think that both Senator Cavanagh and I have fully answered Senator Davidson. If he does not think we have perhaps we can have another go at a later stage. I might add that Senator Davidson implied that possibly honourable senators on this side of the chamberand he must have been referring to South Australian senators- owned yachts and that he did not have one. Perhaps the honourable senator does not know- and he should know- that one of his very close colleagues has a yacht which he anchors at Kangaroo Island and I do not think that he gets over to it every weekend by rowing a boat. It might be interesting for Senator Davidson to tell the Senate how that gentleman gets to Kangaroo Island, whether it is under his own steam or whether it is at the expense of the taxpayers of this country. I will elaborate on this matter if the honourable senator wants me to. I ask him not to provoke me any further on this matter or on some other matters. I would say to Senator Davidson and to some of his colleagues who live in glass houses that they should never throw stones.
I want to refer to a statement made by Mr McLeay, the present Minister for Construction from South Australia. I refer to an article headed McLeay hits at South Australian laws’ which appeared in the Advertiser of 22 October 1977. The article stated:
The Federal Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) yesterday attacked the Dunstan Government’s policies on law and order, particularly violent crime.
That is what brings me to the annual report of the Commonwealth Commissioner of Police. As I have pointed out, Mr McLeay attacked the Dunstan Labor Government over violent crime in that State. He could not put forward very much to prove his statement. However, he has been very silent about the annual report of the Commonwealth Police Commissioner which points out that three doctors in South Australia, as I pointed out earlier in my remarks, are responsible for 3,767 offences against Medibank, or 5 1 per cent of the offences committed within the Commonwealth. But did Mr McLeay get up and criticise these people for their offences against society and against the taxpayers of this country? According to information I received from a Senate Estimates committee, they defrauded the Australian people of $750,000. Where was Mr McLeay then? These people who are so righteous get up on their hind quarters and accuse the Dunstan Government of not being able to control the criminal element in its State. Perhaps Mr McLeay should be reminded of what is happening in respect of the Medibank frauds. Senator Davidson might care to show him the report of the Commonwealth Commissioner of Police so that he can get up in public and make a statement about these people. I am sure he will not do so.
Honourable senators from other States might be interested to know the results of the Commonwealth Police Force investigations into similar cases in other States. It was found that one doctor in the Australian Capital Territory was involved in 86 offences against Medibank. This work was done by the Commonwealth Police and the details are in the report. In New South Wales 15 doctors were involved in 1 ,000 offences against Medibank and 12 of those matters are proceeding. In Victoria three doctors were involved in 106 offences; in Queensland one doctor was involved in 206 offences; in South Australia and the Northern Territory 3 doctors were involved in 3,767 offences; in Western Australia the total was nil; and in Tasmania one doctor was involved in 13 offences. So let honourable senators opposite, when they get up in public as Mr McLeay has done and criticise a Labor government because of its policies in respect of criminal laws, make some reference to these charges against the hierarchy of society who put themselves up on a very high plane. As I said earlier in my remarks, I am not making a blanket statement. The people I am criticising are those who in my opinion are white collar criminals, and who are not looked down upon by society. It has been proved that all this Government is insisting upon is that they refund the money they misappropriated from Medibank. Why does not the Government make the same charges and impose the same penalties as it would in the case of an ordinary person who commits a crime. The Government should put them in the college for a while and let them repent at its leisure because they have offended against society. Let Mr McLeay make some comments about that. I am sure he will remain silent. We never hear members, of the Government criticising people who are in the high society of this country.
I wish to bring to the attention of the Senate a matter that has caused my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland grave concern. He raised it and it is unfortunate that he is not here tonight to speak about it. I raise it for him because, as I have said, it has caused him and other members of the Labor Party grave concern. It relates to accusations about what happened when we were in government. This matter comes under the administration of Senator Withers. On 26 February 1976 Senator Douglas McClelland asked the following question:
I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. I remind him that last Tuesday I directed a question to him about ministerial Press releases and that he said he hoped to be able to make a statement on the matter or about the new method of distribution of Press releases within a day or two.
Senator Withers said in reply:
The cost savings will be quite significant. I am trying to recall the figures. I think the new service will be run at less than a quarter of the cost of the previous service.
He was referring to the Whitlam Government. Incidentally, Senator Douglas McClelland was the Minister in charge of the Department of the Media when this service was in operation. Senator Withers went on to say:
Literally thousands of people were on various lists . . . There was a propensity for the previous Government to build up a media propaganda machine, which was costing an enormous sum of money, basically to promote the Government’s activities at the taxpayers’ expense.
This charge was levelled by Senator Withers. On 3 June last year Senator Withers answered another question asked by Senator Douglas McClelland in respect of the Commonwealth Record. In talking about the new service that the Government had put out Senator Withers said:
This compilation will be known as the Commonwealth Record- not the Federal Record- as the article claims.
Senator Douglas McClelland was referring to a newspaper article. Senator Withers went on to say:
It will be available to all interested groups at a subscription rate sufficient to cover its costs. It is not planned to be an attempt to publicise the Government because the Government does not believe in misusing public funds in the way that the Labor Government misused funds to publicise itself. The former Government Digest was a deliberate attempt to propagandise Labor’s so-called achievements.
He went on to say:
Thousands upon thousands of free copies of the publication will not be scattered willy-nilly around the country.
He further went on to say:
That has not been accurately costed but it is anticipated that with the cost of postage included the subscription will be in excess of $60 a year.
That is for each subscription. On 15 October 1974 Senator Douglas McClelland, who was then a member of the Labor Government, raised the cost of this publication at a sitting of Estimates Committee C. The answer he received was a complete denial of the false statements made by the present Minister. Mr Nott, the officer who gave evidence to the Estimates Committee concerned in reply to Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s query about the cost of distribution of the issues, said:
The free issue of the ‘Digest’ is extremely limited. It does not go beyond about 250 copies.
Yet we have Senator Withers saying that thousands and thousands of free copies were being distributed. Mr Nott went on to say:
We have managed to achieve a subscription list of about 6,000 subscribers who are prepared to pay just a little under $20 a year for four quarterly issues that come out each year.
He went on to say:
The cost of producing it, and setting it up, is probably- I haven ‘t got the precise figures with me- between $5,000 and $10,000.
That is quite the opposite of what Senator Withers said. He said that it was costing the taxpayer thousands and thousands of dollars. Mr Nott went on to say:
On this basis, we are certainly covering not only printing costs but also costs of distribution and some of our retail shop overheads. Our bookshop overheads are being well covered by the money from the sales. From the Publishing Service point of view there is no liability involved in this. It pays its way.
Yet Seantor Withers has claimed that it did not pay its way. Let us look at what is revealed at page 15 of the Hansard record of Estimates Committee A of 6 September this year. Senator Douglas McClelland requested that the Committee be supplied with a breakdown of the total cost of production and distribution of the Commonwealth Record, and the following answer was subsequently supplied:
The breakdown of anticipated costs for 1977-78 is as follows:
An amount of $258,430 was expended by this Government to get its message across to the electors at large. That is a massive amount more than it cost the Labor Government when it was in office. We were breaking even, but it is costing this Government over a quarter of a million dollars more to publicise itself. If we look at the item relating to national publicity materials and the amount of money that this Government is expending to publicise Australia overseas, we find that in relation to information activities an amount of $275,457 was expended in 1976-77 and the estimated expenditure for this financial year is $250,000. This Government is expending less money on publicising Australia overseas to try to gain trade for this country than it is expending on the Commonwealth Record, which consists mainly of Ministers’ Press statements. I have said before and I will say again that it is costing the Australian taxpayer $258,430 in comparison with the cost of the same publication, although under a different name, that we put out when we were in government. As Mr Nott said in answer to a question from Senator Douglas
McClelland, we were breaking even. It was not costing the taxpayer anything simply because of good management. So there we have the point. Senator Withers has again misled the public and tried to denigrate the Labor Government, as he always does. In hard cold words in Hansard and in the answer provided to Senator Douglas McClelland is the conclusive proof that it is Senator Withers ‘ Government that is wasting the taxpayers’ money in trying to publicise itself, distributing the Press statements of its Ministers willy-nilly around the countryside. Yet Senator Withers said that that is what we did. I should like the Minister to come back with some comment on that because Senator Douglas McClelland will be very interested to hear the answer.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I listened to Senator McLaren saying that he wanted the Minister to come back with something. I respond very briefly by saying that I do not carry around bags full of goods to dispense like Father Christmas. There are a couple of things I should like to say that I think might be helpful. As you will be aware, Mr Chairman, the comments that have been made do not relate to my area of responsibility, but I will try to deal with them as briefly as I can in the time that remains. Senator Jessop made some remarks about the space in Parliament House. Although he is not here at the moment, I acknowledge fis comments. The allocation of space in Parliament House is a matter for the President and the Speaker. It is true that in most of the offices of the departments in Canberra space is allocated for the Minister. I should like the Committee to know that in my Department no such space is allocated, so at least I have that to my credit in respect of public expenditure. But that is not the real problem. The real problem is that the Ministers in any government in this Parliament are in constant demand by the Cabinet and their colleagues. They are also required to vote in divisions which come up from time to time quite unexpectedly. With a three-minute bell call for a division, if the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) could gallop over from Russell in that time he is a better man than I am. That is part of the problem, and I suggest that honourable senators think about it.
– He has been a jackeroo and you have not.
– I was never a jackeroo but I did work on a cattle station when I was young so at least I know something about bull. The other factor that I should mention is that it is also to my eternal credit that I was the first senator to make a great row about the allocation of space in Parliament House. The figures are most interesting, and I point out that it is not only Ministers who cause trouble in the matter of space. I recommend to those who can find them the diagrams of the three floors of Parliament House showing how the space is taken up. What Senator Jessop said was interesting and true. Not a lot of space is taken up by members and senators, and I commend to those of you who are interested that you look at some of the diagrams.
Senator McLaren was very concerned about some of the doctors who are doing the wrong thing. I am quite sure that he did not wish to attack the whole of the medical profession but only those doctors that he felt were doing the wrong thing, and I think that is a fair comment to make. However, I was also thinking about other things as Senator McLaren was speaking, and I will come back to the matter of doctors a little later on. Senator McLaren was concerned about his electorate office being closed when he is in Canberra and brings his electorate secretary or research assistant with him. Under the new ar- rangements two staff members are allocated to each member and senator, and I imagine that that provides some facility to have at least one person keeping the office open, or I hope that it would. Senator Cavanagh talked about Public Service ceilings and the cost of excess payments made through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of Social Security being greater than the money saved. I understand that the Department of Social Security had an increase in its staff ceiling some months ago. However, I should point out that some of these comments I have picked up on the run. Senator McLaren was concerned about law and order in South Australia, the Commonwealth Police, and the very few people who have not done the right thing in the medical profession. He was also concerned about Senator Douglas McClelland and his time as Minister for the Media and the associations between that and what Senator Withers is now doing in the Australian Government Publishing Service. I believe that Senator Withers has made substantial economies and has improved the operation of the Service, at least as I have seen it in the time that I have been watching, as a back bench senator, a Minister, an Opposition senator and now as a Minister once again.
I wish to make some observations about the general operation of the committee system as it affects the Estimates. I was a back bench senator when we were dealing with Estimates in the Committee of the Whole, and it was not a very impressive exercise. It tended to be a vehicle for people to ride hobby horses in all directions without much co-ordination in relation to where they were trying to end up. Out of that we developed- and developed very well indeed, to the Senate’s credit- a system of committees to handle the estimates for the various departments and to do that extremely thoroughly. We produced a very good system to try to analyse some of the expenditure, bearing in mind that we examine expenditure proposals and not policy matters, which is sometimes forgotten. Through the committee system of examining the Estimates, the Senate has evolved a very well run operation for getting figures put together, having explanatory data provided by the departments and questioning the officers of the departments in Estimates Committee hearings. One only has to look at the system today and compare it with the system that operated from about 1 965 up to 1968 or 1969 to see that it is really a very great improvement, in respect of control, knowledge, understanding, and accountability. When the system was introduced I remember that the departments said that it would be a very difficult exercise and cause a lot of trouble. However, the departments with which I have been associated, and I have been associated with a few in my time, have come to recognise that the examination of their expenditure by Senate Estimates committees, if they service the committee properly with information and if the operation is conducted sensibly and properly, is a valuable exercise to the department. That has proved to be the case in all the departments with which I have been involved. However, I believe that we are now repeating in the Committee of the Whole of the operations that were conducted in the first place in the Estimates Committee hearings.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! It being 1 1 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Chairman having reported accordingly-
-Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 16 March 1977:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources* upon notice, on 27 April 1977:
-The Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Professor Bockris to The Australian, Tuesday, April 12.
Sir-Recent displays of progress in Australian solar energy research make it important to recognise the big picture in this area.
We are, worldwide, probably at a turning point in energy development. There has been a sufficient spread of realisation of the downturn in the hopes for atomic energy, and at the same time the hopes for solar energy look much greater than they were. The fact that Australia has, along with only two other areas of the world, very great resources of solar energy, puts us (potentially) in an advantageous position. The export of solar energy, in the form of hydrogen, would have an economic potential for the future of the Australian people far greater than that of minerals or wool: and it could not run out.
These prospects, and progress made in convening solar energy to usable fuel, make desk- able a statement of three caveats:
The sociological consequences of this tremendous rebuilding program wil have to be faced by the present generation.
I am sorry to tell you that, in contrast to all the ‘up ‘-talk about the solar prospects from recent reports I have had recent letters from Mr Anthony and Mr Nixon, both vigorously denying the need for the development at this dme of solar energy conversion, and stating that there will be no energy problem in Australia!
Let us realise that the Manhattan Project- or the moon mission- is the image before us. But let us realise, too, that this could be Australia’s chance for a world accomplishment greater in importance than either of the two foregoing great efforts of man. We have the vital resource. Is it not up to us to develop it- not to allow ourselves once more to be outdistanced by the more eager foreign exploiter?- J. O’M. Bockris
Mr Anthony to Professor Bockris 24 June 1 976.
Dear Professor Bockris- Thank you for your letter of 24 March 1976, concerning the future development of Australia’s energy resources. I read your views on this matter with much interest.
As I have made clear on a number of occasions, it is the policy of the Commonwealth Government to support the development of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and tidal power. I believe, however, that as far as Australia is concerned your letter overemphasises the difficulties which might arise in the future in relation to supplies of ‘conventional’ energy sources. Australia is one of the few energy-rich industrialised countries, and our approach to the development of renewable energy sources must take this fact into account.
Present indications are that the Bass Strait fields alone will be supplying something like half of Australia’s crude oil requirements in 1 980 and of the order of 30 per cent in 1 98S. Furthermore, while production from the Bass Strait fields may perhaps reach its peak in the period 1976-80, in the absence of further large discoveries, the decline in production levels thereafter will be slow. It may be anticipated that this source will continue to contribute significantly to Australia’s crude oil requirements as far into the future as the year 2000.
This contribution would be supplemented by any future discoveries of crude oil in other areas of Australia. Hydrocarbon liquids associated with ‘wet’ natural gas reserves will also supplement our crude oil reserves. Presently known reserves of these liquids amount to over 1,400 million barrels.
In addition to its reserves of liquid hydrocarbons, Australia is fortunate in having large supplies of three alternative energy sources- natural gas, coal and uranium. Natural gas is of course a premium fuel which poses less of a pollution problem than most energy sources. At current, or even greatly expanded, rates of production, including production for export, Australia’s reserves of black and brown coal would be adequate for several centuries. I am sure that, with all due allowance for the growth of the Australian economy, these gas and coal sources will together provide Australia’s energy requirements for well beyond a 50-year period and that future technological developments will enable us to keep pollution from these sources down to an acceptable level. I cannot accept, therefore, that there is any question concerning the value of developing Australia’s coal resources as a major contributor to our energy needs for a longtime to come.
Australia’s most obvious need in the energy field is to develop a means of supplementing our reserves of liquid hydrocarbons which, while significant, are certainly limited. For this reason, we place a high priority upon the development of suitable technologies for the production of synthetic liquid fuels from coal.
Given this substantial base of energy resources, and having regard to the most serious area of deficiency, I must say that while I attach importance to the development of solar energy and other renewable energy sources, I see them as potential soultions to our longer term energy requirements.
I might add that I doubt the feasibility of Australia taking the lead over countries such as the United States in the development of solar energy. To illustrate the point, the solar energy research expenditure of the United States Energy Research and Development Administration alone is of the order of $US100m per annum. Australia cannot hope to match this scale of effort. The only sensible course is to continue our research efforts on a scale commensurate with our financial resources, with the objectives both of making a contribution to the worldwide research and development effort and of maintaining the capacity to utilise the results of research conducted in other countries- J. D. Anthony ‘.
Mr Nixon to Professor Bockris 28 January 1977.
Dear Professor Bockris-I refer to your letter to Mr Anthony of 2 July 1 976 on the subject of solar energy.
I note your comments on Mr Anthony’s letter of 24 July. The Government, of course, agrees that solar energy research should be encouraged and, as you are no doubt aware, this is the stated policy of the Government. I nevertheless adhere to the view that, given Australia’s relatively favourable energy situation regarding conventional fuels with the notable exception of crude oil, the possibilities for solar energy should be kept in perspective.
I can assure you that in developing a national energy policy for Australia the Government will give full consideration to the potential contribution of each energy source.-P. J. Nixon’.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice, on 2 5 May:
Are there any statutory authorities responsible to the Minister; if so, (a) what are they, (b) who are the bankers for each authority, and (c) which, if any, of the authorities may be termed “statutory authorities of a business nature”.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Development Assistance Agency (Repeal) Act 1977 came into effect on 1 July 1977, and since that date there have been no statutory authorities responsible to me.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 24 May 1977:
Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a Queensland Fisheries Department report, reference to which was made in the Brisbane Sunday Mail dated 8 May 1977, which apparently claims that Taiwanese poachers have destroyed most of the giant clam population on a section of the Great Barrier Reef; if so, (a) what are the details of the damage concerned and (b) what action, if any, does the Minister intend taking over this matter.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am aware of the report. Last year the Queensland Fisheries Service initiated a research program on the biology and ecology of giant clams and the impact of foreign fishing vessels on stocks of giant clams on the Great Barrier Reef. A permanent study area has been established near Cairns to determine aspects of the biology and ecology of the exploited species. Surveys are also being conducted of reefs where foreign fishing vessels have been apprehended and examinations are being made of clam catches on board.
Surveillance ofthe Great Barrier Reef area is already carried out as part of the overall national coastal surveillance task which is co-ordinated by the Department of Transport. Any specific requirements, such as additional monitoring of the activity of Taiwanese clam fishermen, would need to be considered in relation to the total national task and the resources available. However, the Government is keeping the situation under review.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 25 August 1977:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer provided by the Acting Treasurer to question No. 1272 (Senate Hansard, 11 October 1977, page 1276-7).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 21 September 1977:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
This assistance takes the following form:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 1 1 October 1977:
– The Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 11 October 1977:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 13 October:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 2 1 October 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
1 ) The following organisations in the La Trobe electorate have been provided with funds under the Handicapped Persons Welfare Program, since 1969.
2 ) The following table sets out the locations and the types of services provided by each organisation.
Vegetable Imports from New Zealand
-On 13 September 1977 Senator Archer asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade, the following question without notice:
In the publication Foodweek of 23 August, 1977, the chief executive of Edgells, a Petersville company, was reported as saying:
We’ll be supplying our Australian needs mainly from our new Petersville International plant at Blenheim.
He went on to say:
Our new plant will be ready in November-it has to be. We’ve already planted the crops, mainly peas, corn and mixed vegetables for Australia.
In view of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement arrangements for orderly trade, can the Minister advise whether he nas taken steps to prevent the Australian industry being undermined by these highly padded imports? Can the Australian vegetable industry be assured of such necessary government action as would give reasonable long term security against these practices?
The Minister for Overseas Trade has provided the following additional information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The report concerning the operation of the Petersville factory in New Zealand, which appeared in the publication Foodweek on 23 August, was modified by a further statement in Foodweek on 6 September indicating that the Petersville plant at Blenheim, New Zealand, is intended largely to supply the domestic New Zealand market, . . . with only very small quantities, such as some corn, coming to Australia, to back-up local production.
An aspect of the Petersville program, which will be of benefit to the Australian vegetable industry, is the company’s plans for supplementing the output of its Blenheim plant by exporting to New Zealand a wide range of frozen vegetables from its Australian processing facilities. A considerable proportion of these exports is expected to be made up of chipped potatoes, brussels sprouts and cauliflower from Tasmania, although baby carrots and broccoli from Queensland and New South Wales are also to be exported.
Vegetable Imports from New Zealand
-On 21 September 1977 Senator Archer asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade, the following question without notice:
Can the Minister advise whether the arrangements under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which covers the incorporation of New Zealand imports into global quotas and the SO per cent local content rule, could and would be implemented to cover both New Zealand grown vegetables and vegetables grown overseas and processed or part-processed in New Zealand where such exports to Australia threaten either the present NAFTA arrangements, where applicable, or other vegetables not covered under the present arrangements?
The Minister for Overseas Trade has provided the following additional information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
On 8 August, 1977 the Minister for Industry and Commerce and I announced that, where in future the Australian Government finds it necessary to introduce global import licensing or tariff quota measures to protect Australian industry, New Zealand goods will be subject to such measures in the same way as those from other sources unless the goods concerned are covered by mutually acceptable arrangements under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
The ‘SO per cent local content rule’ relates to the rules of origin for admission into Australia or New Zealand, under preferential tariff arrangements, of goods produced or manufactured in the other country. Full details of these rules of origin are contained in Section 1 5 1 of the Customs Act 1901-1976.
The above principles relating to treatment of New Zealand goods subject to global import licensing or tariff quota measures, and the rules of origin, apply to all products including vegetables.
Shipment of Australian Cattle to East Timor
-On 13 October 1977 Senator Primmer asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
Has the Minister seen reports that Australian cattle are being shipped from Darwin to East Timor to feed Indonesian troops in that country? Is the Minister able to confirm or deny such reports?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There are no shipments of Australian cattle to East Timor. I have not seen any reports claiming this. I am aware of a report by a French journalist, Denis Reichle, who claimed that some Australians were helping Indonesia put down the rebellion (in East Timor) with shipments of live Australian beef to the troops garrisoned at Atambua. (The Australian, 8 October 1977.) Atambua is in the Indonesian Province of West Timor.
Shipments of Australian cattle to West Timor have taken place from time to time. I am advised that all have been breeding cattle for use in herd improvement in that Province, and have been shipped from Queensland ports. These shipments constitute part of Australia’s regular trading arrangements with Indonesia.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 November 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19771102_senate_30_s75/>.