31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 29 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
On 14 February, 1975, the then Australian Government deprived the Officers and men of the Australian Citizen Naval Military and Air Forces of the distinctive and historic Decorations and Medals for long service and good conduct, namely the Reserve Decoration, the Efficiency Decoration, the Air Efficiency Award, the Efficiency Medal and Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, awarded for long and meritorious voluntary service in the citizen forces:
The proposed substitution of the National Medal for these Decorations and Medals varies the principle of selective recognition of efficient voluntary service in the citizen forces in that it recognizes the period of service only and embraces also full time service as well in the defence forces as in the police, fire brigade and ambulance services:
This deprivation caused and is continuing to cause serious discontent amongst personnel of the Citizens Forces who willingly and cheerfully give of their spare time outside their normal full time civilian careers, to serve Her Majesty and Australia:
The Reserve Forces of Australia have been recognized by the present Government as a valuable- and costeffective component of the Defence Forces. Anomalously whilst the Government is actually supporting recruiting for these Forces it has imposed and continued this deprivation which as foresaid has depressed the morale of the Citizen Forces:
Her Majesty has not cancelled the said Decorations and Medals.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (C.M.F.) and the R.A.A.F. Citizens Air Force.
– I present the following petition from 284 citizens of Australia:
The Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That as citizens of N.S.W and parents of State school children, we are most concerned that the quality of education available in our schools be of the highest possible standard.
We believe that this can only be achieved if adequate Federal funds are provided. The recently announced policy of direct cuts to Government schools in 1979 must have an adverse effect on them.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should arrange for:
Withdrawal of the Guidelines to the Schools Commission for 1979 and acceptance of its recommendations for Government schools.
An increase of a minimum of S per cent in real terms on base level programmes for 1979.
Restoration of the $8 million cut from the Capital Grants for Government Schools.
Increased recurrent and capital funding to Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 5 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully say that we are concerned about the discrimination which exists against the children of those parents who are in receipt of the Supporting Parents Benefit in comparison with children of Single Parents who receive the Widows Pension. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to ensure that this year’s budget allow for Lone Parents to be given the right to receive a pension with the same benefits as are given with the Widows Pension, and we also request that Parliament take immediate action to instigate one ( I ) category of Lone Parent Pension to eliminate the discrimination currently experienced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1,005 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable President of the Australian Senate and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we beseech the Australian Government to condemn the unjust persecution of human rights compaigners in the USSR, and that we bring to your attention the inhuman treatment of the prominent member of the Ukrainian group monitoring the implementation of the Helsinki Agreement, Lev Lukyanenko who was released in 1 976 after serving 1 S years of imprisonment and now has received a repeated sentence for his support of human rights in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Your petitioners humbly implore the Government of Australia to do all within its power to help this prominent Ukrainian lawyer.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 866 citizens of” Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That we are totally opposed to any reduction to the Family Allowance now being paid to parents.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will request the Government to maintain the Family Allowance in its present form.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 3 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 54 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the majority of Australian citizens formerly of Yugoslavia are greatly disturbed by the much talked about proposal of terminating landing rights in Australia for the Yugoslav airline J.A.T. which would, if eventuated, greatly disturb present convenient and easy travel between Australia and Yugoslavia. This would at the same time present a hardship for many of our citizens as described above, as thousands of them, through no fault of their own cannot speak English and therefore find flying by Yugoslav airlines an ideal way to travel. Furthermore, we would find such a restriction placed upon J.A.T. as being inconsistent with our free enterprise policy and damaging to the good relations between our new and old countries.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled should ensure:
That the Australian Government consults with the Government of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and arranges an agreement between Qantas and J.A.T. which will, as at present, not be to the detriment of the Australian airline and will further assist Australian citizens of Yugoslav origin in retaining a direct air link between Australia and the country of their origin.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
Radio Station 3CR, Melbourne
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That Radio 3CR Melbourne, be made to adhere to the required standards of broadcasting, as laid down for all other radio stations.
The petitioners request that the Federal Government and Broadcasting Tribunal should enforce the required standard of Broadcasting, as laid down for all other stations, on community Radio 3CR, and call on the Federal Government to legislate against incitement of racial hatred and violence.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Chipp.
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Tasmania showeth that your petitioners are concerned at the erosion in the living standards of pensioners, particularly by the failure to index pensions on a quarterly basis and by the failure to index the dependant child allowance and your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
The quarterly indexation of pension introduced by the Whitlam Government will be reinstituted, and the value of the dependant child allowance will be increased by an amount which will ensure that its real value is the same now as when it was introduced and that it will be indexed along with the general pension rate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Wriedt.
To The Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. A Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That in view of the Government’s policy to provide more effective methods of disseminating family planning information (Hon. Ralph Hunt, Minister for Health- March 1976) any limiting of funding for the Family Planning Association of New South Wales would adversely affect this essential community health service and increase the number of unwanted pregnancies.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Under no circumstances reduce or limit the level of Government funding.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Scott.
To the Honourable, the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60.000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Hamer and Senator Missen.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Scott.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (CMF) and the RAAF Citizens Air Force. by Senator Hamer.
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully say that we are concerned about the discrimination which exists against the children of those parents who are in receipt of the Supporting Parents Benefit in comparison with children of Single Parents who receive the Widows Pension. Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to ensure that this year’s budget allow for Lone Parents to be given the right to receive a pension with the same benefits as are given with the Widows Pension, and we also request that Parliament take immediate steps to instigate one (1 ) category of Lone Parent Pensions to eliminate the discrimination currently experienced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Peter Baume.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer him to his response on 16 August to a question from Senator Georges concerning the February investigation of the Queensland redistribution by the AttorneyGeneral and the Solicitor-General in which he said:
The position was that Mr Cameron had made allegations of various kinds and that Mr Byers and I were simply asked to look at them, to discuss them with Mr Cameron and to ascertain whether he had any material . . . which . . would justify any type of formal investigation, . . The whole object of the exercise was simply for us to see, really, (a) what Mr Cameron was alleging specifically and (b) whether he had anything to produce.
I ask the Minister whether he can point to anything in his advice dated 9 February which would indicate that the advice was limited to allegations made by Mr Cameron.
-Although obviously Senator Button, his helpers and others must be poring over everything that was said yesterday, the day before and the day before that, I have not looked for some time at the opinion that Mr Byers and 1 gave. Anything I say in answer to this question is subject to that qualification. As my attention has been drawn to it again, if I have time, amongst other matters, I will look at it again. I think that the actual opinion did not indicate that the investigation was confined to Mr Cameron’s allegations, but I can assure the
Senate and Senator Button that that precisely was what the exercise was all about.
-I wish to ask the Attorney-General a supplementary question. In view of the fact that he has not looked at his opinion for a long time, why was he able to give such a precise answer about the contents of his opinion on 16 August?
– Because I have a pretty good memory and I am saying even today that I think the honourable senator is probably correct in what he is saying but I would just like to look at it again to check it.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware that the present system of calculating air fares involving a flag fall of some $13 in each fare causes air fares on short hauls, such as between Hobart and Launceston or perhaps between Devonport or Wynyard and Melbourne, to be relatively high and to a lot of people prohibitively high. Secondly, is the Minister aware that this practice makes it impossible, without paying $ 13 extra, to change air lines at an intermediate point, for instance at Melbourne, when flying between Hobart and Sydney? Thirdly, is the Minister aware that it adds considerably to the cost for those who need to stay overnight at some intermediate point? I also ask whether the Minister will table in the Senate the method of calculating air fares in Australia? Will he ask the Minister for Transport to request the airlines to reconsider basing air fares purely on distance of flight rather than including a flag fall?
– I have no immediate first-hand information on the method of calculating air fares. I have an untutored view that one of the main costs in any flight is the expenditure of fuel in take-off in particular and landing. Therefore one could not simply work out a rate per mile in that regard. But, as I say, that is an untutored view. I will bring to the attention of my colleague in the other place the request for the information that Senator Townley has sought.
– My question, which I address to the Minister for Science, concerns an item in the Australian Broadcasting Commission program AM this morning that thallium 201, essential for diagnosing heart disease, can now be produced in Australia at the Australian National University. Is it true that the ANU can produce this substance at between $5 and $20 per dose as against the imported price of $100 per dose? Has the Australian Atomic Energy Commission refused to back this project which could save Australia up to $ 1 m per year in terms of balance of payments? If it has refused to back the project, can I ask the Minister why?
-The question actually falls within another Department, not my own. If I were to respond to a question about the Australian Atomic Energy Commission I would do so on behalf of the Minister for National Development. However, the point has been raised about research in relation to certain drugs and the possibility of their being produced from a particular university. I understand that there is quite a possibility that companies or researchers will be able to produce drugs- be the drug thallium or be it any other substance- at a very low figure. However, the original research that is involved, the propriety of the production of the drug and the maintenance of standards which are associated with that production are a very wide subject. Also, the cost associated with the production of a particular drug does not relate purely to the on-spot production of it and the costs associated therewith. I think that this is a matter that has been concerning the Department of Health for some time. Perhaps it would be proper for that question to be directed to the Minister for Health.
– My question which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications may be of historic interest only because it relates to telephone services. I refer to reports of last July that Telecom planners are considering a scheme to give more country diallers the right to call the nearest town for no more than a 9c local charge even if the town is 100 kilometres away. Can the Minister say what progress, if any, has been made on plans to bring this about?
– My understanding is that representations have been received from many areas concerning local call access for rural subscribers to the nearest major population centre. Charges for telephone calls are based on the group charging system under which local call access is available between exchanges in the same or adjoining zones. At present the economic limit for calls requiring interconnection of exchanges is about 30 kilometres. To provide local call access to a main business centre, irrespective of location, could mean allowing local calls for distances of up to 150 kilometres radially.
My understanding of the present position is that in November 1977 the Government asked Telecom to review local call areas. This study includes the extension of local call areas in remoter rural districts as well as growth centres and areas adjacent to metropolitan areas. In July 1978, following a tour of western Queensland, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications noted that many rural subscribers do not have meaningful local call access to a population centre.
The review being undertaken by Telecom is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 1979. In the meantime rural subscribers will receive substantial benefits from subscriber trunk dialling and trunk charge reductions to take effect from 1 November 1978. Calls in the range of 50 kilometres to 85 kilometres will be reduced by 20 per cent and those between 85 kilometres and 165 kilometres will be reduced by 10 per cent. I think they are meaningful savings.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Its subject is proposed bauxite mining in Western Australia. In view of the concern expressed by the public and conservation organisations over aspects of the Wagerup and Worsley alumina projects, especially their impact on water resources in south-western Australia, is the Government considering the institution of a public inquiry into these environmental aspects in accordance with paragraph 7 of the administrative procedures under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974?
– I have some information regarding the Western Australian bauxite projects. My advice is that in accordance with the provisions of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, public comment is being sought on both proposals in the West. In relation to Wagerup, Alcoa of Australia (WA) Ltd proposes to mine and refine bauxite. Commonwealth export approvals are required. Environmental assessment is being carried out under agreed arrangements with Western Australian authorities. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development directed the preparation of an environmental impact statement in relation to this proposal. The draft impact statement was released for public review between 27 May and 22 July, and Alcoa is preparing a final impact statement taking into account the public comment.
In relation to Worsley, Alwest Pty Ltd and Dampier Mining Co. Ltd, in association with Reynolds (Australia) Alumina Ltd, propose to mine and refine bauxite. Again, Commonwealth export and foreign exchange approvals are required, and environmental assessment is being carried out under agreed arrangements with Western Austraiian authorities. The Minister concerned has directed the preparation of an environmental impact statement in relation to the export proposal. The draft impact statement was released for public review on 22 August for a 56-day period jointly under Commonwealth and State procedures. Forest resources, water quality and waste disposal aspects of these proposals are sensitive and will be closely examined as part of the environmental assessment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Science in his capacity as Minister for Science and Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. I refer to reports that the Government proposes to sell Vietnamese refugee boats moored in Darwin harbour. Has the Minister seen a statement by the Mayor of Darwin, Dr Ella Stack, claiming that these boats should be burned because of evidence of infestation of a highly active and destructive type of termite previously unknown in Australia, which may have disastrous effects on our timber industry? Has the Minister received a report on this matter? If not, will he request his Department and the Department of the Northern Territory to advise appropriate action?
– I will see that the information and the question go to the Minister whom I represent. The basis of the question is of national importance, I believe. Indeed, when I was in Darwin within the last few months, I took the opportunity to take a boat and visit all ,ne Vietnamese vessels in Darwin harbour. I was very interested to note whether there was the possibility of some infestation being brought in. I noted that on boats that were moored in the harbour there were crates which had obviously carried chickens or birds of some type, and the possibility existed that some termite could be within the structure. On making personal inquiries about this, I was assured that the Bureau of Customs had taken very close note of each vessel to see what was carried on board the vessel and had not only seen to its destruction or fumigation, but had also seen to the quarantine of animals that had been brought in and the structures of the boats, particularly those which were made of wood. The question is particularly important and I will see that it is referred to the Minister for the Northern Territory.
– I refer to my question addressed to Senator Durack three minutes ago. I trust that at this stage he recalls the question and the answer that he gave. In regard to the advice which he gave on 9 February, which he recalled so vividly a week ago but does not recall today, may I refresh his memory and ask him: Did the advice refer to statements of Mr Kevin Cairns, Senator Georges and Senator Withers, as well as statements made by Mr Cameron? Did that advice conclude that those persons who had made allegations had made them in good faith but they were unfounded?
– It seems that I am being put through some oral examination, and I suppose I must give Senator Button full marks for that. The question that I answered last week was concerned with the basis on which Mr Byers and I were asked to advise the Prime Minister and what we were asked to do. I explained the purpose of that first exercise. I think it has been fully explained in the answer which I gave Senator Georges and to which Senator Button has referred. The purpose was to hear what Mr Cameron had to say and to see whether he had anything to produce. That is what the exercise was all about, and that is really all that I have to say about it.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. What progress has been made in examining any legal constraints in the Australian Capital Territory which may limit the availability of kidneys and other organs for transplantation? Has any action been taken towards the development of any new systems, such as a contracting out system, or has any move been made to include a space on drivers’ licences where people may indicate whether they would be happy for certain organs to be used for human transplantation procedures?
– I am advised that the Australian Law Reform Commission has examined legal constraints which limit the availability of kidneys and other organs for transplant, with particular reference to the Australian Capital Territory. The report of the Commission on this matter contained a suggested draft transplantation and anatomy ordinance for the Australian Capital Territory. The Minister for Health received a copy of the report from the AttorneyGeneral on 14 July 1977. Since that time substantial progress has been made in the preparation of a Bill for referral to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. It is expected that the Bill will be referred to the Assembly before the end of this year. In general terms the Bill will provide for a contracting-out system for transplants from corpses, subject in some instances to a veto by the next of kin. As yet no move has been made to include a space on drivers’ licences where people may indicate whether they would be happy for certain organs to be used for human transplant procedures. When the Australian Capital Territory transplantation and anatomy ordinance is introduced it will take cognisance of any expression of intent or consent a deceased person has made during his lifetime and has not revoked. It will therefore be open for any responsible organisation to arrange consent schemes such as attachments to drivers ‘licences.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. As a result of discussions the Attorney-General had with Senator Withers, the Prime Minister and other Ministers on 17 and 23 April did he personally obtain any additional information of a material kind dealing with Senator Withers ‘ involvement in the change of name of an electorate over and above that obtained in the letter dated 2 1 April? If so, will the Attorney-General advise the Senate what was the additional information?
-The Prime Minister has made the sequence of events quite clear. I first became aware of Senator Withers’ phone call to Mr Pearson and the general discussion about the change of name on 13 or 14 April. I spoke to Senator Withers about the matter on 16 April. I got a verbal statement from him which, as I have already said, was the material incorporated in the letter he ultimately wrote to me on 2 1 April. In any discussions that took place about this matter much the same sort of information was being conveyed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is the Minister aware that the telephone district of Rockingham is deemed by Telecom Australia to be a subscriber trunk dialling area although for many other practical purposes it comes within the boundaries of metropolitan Perth? Will he take early steps to have Telecom regulate for the incorporation of the telephone district of Rockingham into the locality of Perth, thereby offering relief to Rockingham telephone subscribers from STD premiums? Will he ask Telecom to take into consideration the fact that Rockingham is similar in terms of population and distance to outer metropolitan areas in other capital cities where subscribers do not have to pay STD charges?
– Rockingham is one of a number of areas adjacent to major capital cities currently not included in metropolitan telephone districts. That, of course, is the substance of the three parts of the honourable senator’s question. Numerous representations have been received on this matter and also in relation to other centres such as Campbelltown and Penrith in my own State of New South Wales, Mornington Peninsula in Victoria and the Gold Coast near Brisbane. I am informed that it was announced in November 1977 that the Government had asked Telecom to review local call areas and examine factors involved in reducing charges. Complex technical questions relating to numbering and switching must be considered in any extension of metropolitan telephone districts. I am advised that other factors involved in the major review being undertaken by Telecom include the extension of local call areas in more remote rural districts, growth centres and decentralised industrial areas. The review is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 1 979. Because of the interest of the honourable senator in this area I will ensure that the Minister in another place is acquainted with the details of his question.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General and I ask: In view of the answer he just gave to Senator Gietzelt, in which he said that the information he received from Senator Withers was much the same, to use his words, as the information contained in Senator Withers ‘ letter of 2 1 April, does he agree that the term ‘much the same’ also means ‘not the same’? Now that he has conceded that it is not the same information, will he tell the Senate what was the other information given to him by Senator Withers?
– What real strains the Opposition is now under. It is really straining for every possible little thing it can get. I am asked what ‘much the same’ means. I should have thought that any man with any common sense -
– They have not got it.
-No, they have not got it. When you have a conversation with somebody and he gives you some information you do not recall it word for word, detail by detail. What I am saying, what I have always said- and it is the absolute truth- is that the statement in the letter from Senator Withers was the account that he gave of his phone call and discussions with Pearson about the change of name, what Mr Pearson could do, and so on. Those matters were the same, apart from verbal differences or small details. Despite my reasonable memory, I do not have instant recall of every word that was said to me on 14 April, or whatever it was. That is all I meant by saying ‘much the same ‘.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport been drawn to an article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald about a $lm promotional campaign undertaken by Qantas in Great Britain which shows, I understand, a photograph of a baldheaded, broken-nosed wrestler in a convict jacket holding a tray on which stand a can of Fosters lager and two glasses? Above the picture the heading reads: ‘Can you identify an Australian steward by his uniform?’ Another advertisement in the series features a jumbo jet constructed with a beer can fuselage and yet another advertisement shows a flock of sheep being loaded into a Qantas jumbo. I ask the Minister: Does he not feel that Qantas has some obligation to its shareholders, the people of Australia, to portray us to the rest of the world in a slightly more civilised light?
-I do not know whether Victorians would regard it as uncivilised to drink Fosters, and I hesitate to look across the chamber and talk about Castlemaine XXXX. I have to confess to an abstention from reading this morning because my Sydney Morning Herald was not delivered to me. As to the first part of Senator Puplick ‘s question, I have not seen the advertisement but I will look at it. All of us who have had any dealings with public relations people and public relations agencies marvel at their fertile minds and creativity. I am no expert, but I agree that it is a desirable thing that Australia should be projected in a happy and imaginative way. Whether the all-in wrestler in convict garb is good or bad advertising I cannot say. However, I will bring it to the attention of my colleague in another place and ensure that, in future anyhow, they put a Sydney beer in the advertisement as well.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. In view of the humorous, lighthearted manner in which the AttorneyGeneral brushed off the earlier question, I take it that the Attorney-General is confirming that there was no substantive difference in the information he had at the time over and above that contained in the letter of 2 1 April to Senator Withers. That being on the record, I now ask him: Did he seek any further information over and above that contained in that letter concerning Senator Withers’ reasons or his purpose or his motive in approaching the Chief Electoral Officer?
– In addition to the information provided by Senator Withers, of course there was the information that Mr Pearson had provided to Mr Byers and which was subsequently incorporated also in his letter of 24 April. The short answer to Senator Wriedt ‘s question is: No, I entirely accepted the word of my then colleague, Senator Withers.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, concerns tax avoidance schemes. I ask the Minister whether he can confirm that cheques for very substantial sums- literally tens of millions of dollars- are circulating between banks for tax avoidance purposes on a very substantial scale, despite the abolition of Currantype schemes. Can the Minister confirm that the Government believes that other tax avoidance schemes are rife and that they involve many millions of dollars? I also ask the Minister whether an adequate number of tax officers is available to check these practices and laundering operations. Finally, I ask whether Reserve Bank of Australia regulations might be used to prevent the transfer of funds overseas for off-shore avoidance schemes?
-I have not had brought to my notice the particular kind of tax avoidance scheme that Senator Lewis has described. I will ask my colleague, the Treasurer. I will seek information whether he is aware of such schemes and the magnitude of them. I think we would all agree that while man exists with a fertile mind he will play a constant game of attempting tax avoidance. In fact I think that is why the French went from direct taxation to indirect taxation, or to the use of socks under the bed.
The fact is that this Government is determined that the ordinary wage and salary earner shall not be the sole person to carry the honest burden of taxation and that there should be a pursuit of significant tax avoiders wherever we can find the method so to do. Without being vexatious, one should see that people pay a proper price for the money that accrues to them. My understanding is that there is an adequate number of taxation officers, but that is a relative term because I suppose we could put to use as many as we could find. But in terms of the results achieved, I understand that some hundreds were employed last year or some months ago. I am not aware of what Reserve Bank conditions exist to stop transfers of money off-shore. I will look at that matter too and let Senator Lewis know.
– My question is again addressed to the Attorney-General. I ask: Does the Attorney-General expect the Senate to believe that even though on 23 April the Government settled terms of reference for the Royal Commission and heard advice from him about the legality of Senator Withers’ action, he, the Attorney-General, neither sought nor obtained any information about Senator Withers’ involvement over and above that contained in the letter of 21 April?
– The information about Senator Withers’ involvement was supplied through Mr Pearson to Mr Byers and then by Senator Withers to me. We had a fairly general but sufficiently clear picture of just what Senator Withers had done, and the matter of any real concern to me was the legality of the action. That had cropped up in the discussion, of course, and it occurred to Senator Withers and Mr Pearson. I was fairly familiar with the provisions of the Electoral Act as a result of the opinion that Mr Byers and I had given- it was very much in my mind- and that was the subject with which I was principally concerned and on which I gave advice to the Government.
-Obviously the AttorneyGeneral is not answering the question. I ask it again. The Government settled on the terms of reference for the Royal Commission on 23 April. I am asking whether it is true that the AttorneyGeneral neither sought nor obtained any information about Senator Withers ‘ involvement over and above what was contained in his letter of 2 1 April.
– I am finding it extremely difficult to understand really what Senator Wriedt is getting at. The fact is that we set up a Royal Commission to ascertain all the facts. That is what we did; we set up a Royal Commission. We made it perfectly plain in the terms of reference of the Royal Commission- I do not know how many more times I have to say this-that all the facts in relation to Senator Withers’ involvement in the change of name would be brought out in the evidence before the Royal Commission. I sent the material to the Royal Commission, and the officers of the Royal Commission investigated it. A purpose of a royal commission is to ascertain the facts, to call witnesses and so on. That is what the Royal Commission was going to pursue.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It follows a question relating to emission control asked by Senator Young yesterday. Can the Minister confirm that each State can set its own emission standards with regard to motor vehicles? Would the Minister relay to the Minister he represents the suggestion that because of the recommendations contained in the first report of the Energy Advisory Committee he investigate the practicability of the different parts of Australia adopting different emission standards?
-To reply to Senator Thomas I think it is significant to give the background of what happened, and that background commenced in February 1973 when the Australian Transport Advisory Council- ATAC- on the advice of one of its advisory committees, the Committee on Motor Vehicle Emissions, agreed to the introduction of Australian Design Rule 27A to limit emissions in respect of passenger cars and derivatives manufactured after 1 July 1976. In addition to controls of fuel evaporative emissions ADR 27a limits the emission of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen.
The basic system is that State and Territory registration authorities require new motor vehicles to comply with relevant Australian design rules with regard to vehicle emissions as they are registered. However, some States have added additional requirements with regard to emission standards, generally under environment protection legislation. For example, in New South
Wales the Clean Air Act requires compliance with ADR 27a emissions at the time of sale, whereas ADR 27a allows for a period of stabilisation. In February of this year ATAC agreed to defer the introduction of the third stage of ADR 27a until January 1 98 1 to enable a more detailed examination of emission control systems and effects on fuel consumption. This matter will be considered again by ATAC in February 1979 following the completion of a number of important studies and reviews associated with emission rules.
In addition to ATAC, the Australian Environment Council has a direct interest in motor vehicle emissions as they affect the environment. The question of working relationships between these bodies is under continuing consideration. With regard to the second part of the question, I have relayed to the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, that consideration be given to the practicability of different parts of Australia adopting different emission standards. He has assured me that this matter is currently under review by the Committee on Motor Vehicle Emissions.
– I again direct a question to the Attorney-General. He was aware on 10 April that the change of name of the electorate from Gold Coast to McPherson was a most serious allegation made in respect of the Queensland electoral redistribution. As a prudent Attorney-General, did he not realise immediately that that information disclosed to him by the Solicitor-General had serious implications for the Government and warranted his further inquiry?
-I think that Senator Wriedt is getting his chronology of events mixed up. He referred to the date of 10 April. In fact, Mr Cameron read his statutory declarations in the House of Representatives on 7 April. I think I first learnt of Senator Withers’ involvement on 14 April. In fact, as is quite apparent from the opinion that we gave on 9 February, Mr Byers and I were aware that Mr Cameron was making complaints about the change of electorate name. All that happened on 7 April was that Mr Cameron produced some evidence. He had not produced any evidence before that date. The matter was then referred back to Mr Byers and me to consider what should be done and to advise the Government. Of course, the statutory declarations that Mr Cameron produced did not deal only with the naming of the electorate. They also indicated or alleged- one could quite clearly draw the inference from them- that Mr Robinson may have known a good deal more about the redistribution than simply the change of name. The issues were always much wider than just the change of the name. The issues were much wider, so far as Mr Cameron was concerned in the first place, and the statutory declarations were continuing to indicate that wider issues were involved.
Concerning the significance of the change of name, when I heard about Senator Withers’ involvement and the probable explanation that was conveyed by that, I considered that that information was very relevant to the opinion which Mr Byers and I had given, and it was relevant to some of Mr Cameron’s allegations. That is why we provided very clearly in the terms of reference of the McGregor Royal Commission that all the facts should be brought out.
– I direct a supplementary question to the Attorney-General. I ask the Minister again to answer the last part of my question. Why did this not warrant his further inquiry?
-I am still having difficulty understanding what the further inquiry was that we were supposed to be undertaking. I have already dealt with the nature of the first inquiry made by Mr Byers and me. The second time the matter was referred to us we were asked to provide advice to the Government in general terms. It soon became clear from the statutory declarations and other statements from people that were being sent to us that it was not the sort of inquiry that law officers could resolve. As law officers, we are not policemen, we are not judges and we are not commissioners of inquiry. We are advisers to the Government on what, in our view, are the correct legal steps that should be taken. That was the advice that we gave ultimately. We said the matter could be solved only by a judicial inquiry.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, follows a question I asked yesterday concerning emission controls. Is the Minister aware that taking new motor vehicles registered in the last two years as a base- incidentally, this would be a conservative figure- and projecting this average over the next five years, it is estimated that an extra 265 million gallons of petrol will be consumed or wasted due to emission controls compulsorily fitted on motor vehicles under the Australian Design Rule 2 7 A? Basing petrol prices on those stated in this
Budget, is the Minister also aware that it is estimated that over this five-year period, which again is conservative, this could cost an extra $300m to the Australian motorist or Australia for the extra fuel used? As emission control is so costly in monetary terms as well as in fuel wastage at a time when we are trying to conserve energy in this area, will the Government have discussions with the States to see whether this costly and what I consider wasteful scheme can be abandoned by the States or at least limited in some way?
– Dollars before health for the Liberals every time.
– Despite the interjection from the Opposition, Senator Young raised a very important question for all those who are concerned to use our scarce fossil fuels to the best possible economic effect. Senator Young is right in pointing out the contending struggle between the introduction of more and more vehicle regulatory processes, such as emission controls, and the greater consumption of fuel. It is quite clear that this is not a question of polarisation. It is a question of finding a proper balance between the environmental impact of fuel emission and vaporisation and, of course, a need to conserve our fossil fuels. I am not aware of the figures that Senator Young provided but it would not surprise me if figures of that magnitude were relevant. The Government itself in its Budget has tried to draw the attention of the people of Australia to the urgent need over the years to preserve and to use our fossil fuels more economically. Senator Young asked me to invite my colleague, the Minister for Transport, to talk to the States to see whether we can come to a better and a more efficient arrangement. I will bring that request to the attention of the Minister for Transport.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. If we appear to pursue him, may I advise him that the matter is serious? Evidence of that is Senator Withers sitting in his place at the moment. I again ask the Minister the question I asked him on 7 June. I asked:
If he knew between 10 April and 23 April of Senator Withers’ involvement, why did he not broaden the Commission’s terms of reference then?
I also asked the Attorney-General whether he was allowing himself to become enmeshed in the errors of others. I now ask him to deny that his advice on 23 April was made in such a way as to ensure that no reference to Senator Withers was made public at that stage, in spite of the fact that he knew of it. I now ask: Was this pan of an arrangement to misdirect the Royal Commission?
– Order ! There is an implication in the words ‘misdirect the Royal Commission’ that is not in order. An honourable senator must not make such an implication about a Minister.
- Mr President, it is a direct reference to that. The matter is serious.
– An honourable senator must not cast aspersions on the integrity of a Minister. That is my point.
– With respect, Mr President, if I -
– Order! Senator Georges, I ask you to recast your question.
-Mr President, I will recast my question. Will the Minister deny that his advice on 23 April was written in such a way as to ensure that no reference to Senator Withers was made public at that stage in spite of the fact that the Minister knew of his involvement as he declared not only on 7 June but today also? Would not the Minister accept that as a result of this the Royal Commission may have been misdirected.
– The answer to the last question is most certainly no. There is a limit to the number of times one has to repeat something, even for the Opposition. I think that probably everybody else in Australia today, except members of the Opposition in this place, knows and understands the facts about this matter. Opposition senators keep on asking the same questions over and over again. The fact of the matter is that the terms of the Royal Commission were drawn up specifically in such a way that the facts relating to Senator Withers’ and Mr Pearson’s involvement in the matter with the Distribution Commissioners were to be brought out and had to be brought out. I ensured that this was brought out by the actions that I have taken which I have described.
– My question which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Health refers to children who suffer from brain damage. Mr President, I seek your indulgence to give some information to make the question clear as the question is rather important. Is the Minister aware of an intensive physical exercise aimed at stimulating the undamaged areas of the brain to take over the function of those areas which have been damaged? Is the Minister also aware that this program was designed many years ago by Glen Doman, an American physiotherapist? I understand that this program offers the only hope of complete recovery and many of its ‘graduates’ are completely indistinguishable from their peers. Some even have graduated from universities. For many years the program was available only to those Australians who could afford to take their children to the United States of America or to Britain. Now ACBIC has been established in Melbourne which reduces the cost of treatment as the American experts now are flown out here. But the cost is still prohibitive. It costs $1,800 a year plus air fares and accommodation for those who come from interstate. Also, there is no tax deduction allowed for this expense or refund from health insurance. In view of those factors, I ask the Minister: As the United Nations prepares to focus the world’s attention on the rights of children with the International Year of the Child, what is Australia doing to ensure that its brain damaged children are given every opportunity to full recovery?
– I am aware of some treatment which would fit within the category described by Senator Bonner. I will have referred to the Minister for Health the question that he has raised. As far as the International Year of the Child and the focus on handicapped children and their treatment are concerned, I am able to say that, under our handicapped persons’ assistance program and under our Office of Child Care program, some projects are able to be funded in this year which will have special significance as a celebration of the International Year of the Child. I will have subjected to study the matter that has been raised by Senator Bonner to see whether it is a program that would be considered and that could be funded. I will see also whether any further information can be developed between the Department of Health and my own Department in connection with this treatment. I will see what status this treatment is given by our advisers. As far as the general question about focussing the world’s attention on handicapped children in the International Year of the Child is concerned, I will certainly do what I am able to do to see that this is brought into focus but that it goes further and that there are projects which have support from State and Federal government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. It refers to the proposed means test for pensioners over 70 years of age. The Minister may recall answering a question recently and stating that the proposal was pure speculation. Is the Minister able to explain why the Government decided to adopt such a retrograde policy? I also ask whether the Minister can inform the Senate of the estimated number of pensioners affected and the probable revenue from the new policy.
– In the pre-Budget period considerable speculation was engaged in by members of the Opposition and others on almost every pension or benefit payable by my Department. The standard answer to such speculation was that I was unable to comment on the speculation. I think that this is a practice that has been adopted by all governments, whether they be Labor or Liberal. The introduction of the means test for the increases in the age pension for those aged 70 years and over is one feature of this Budget. It has been introduced because of the growing number of people in this country who now qualify for age pensions and the consequent growth in our social welfare responsibility.
It has been decided that there will be a standard rate of pension for all people aged 70 years and over. This rate has been set at the level of $5 1.45, which is the present rate for a single person of that age. If people wish to apply for increases to that pension they may be means tested. The means test will be the same means test as that applied at the age of 65 years or, in the case of women, at the age of 60 years. I am unable to say how many people will qualify for a full pension- that is, the increases- because in the case of many pensioners aged 70 years and over, we have no knowledge at present of their means. Some of them advise us of their means so that they may qualify for fringe benefits, but there are many people over the age of 70 years who receive a free of means test pension and who have not advised us of their means because they do not require to be considered for the fringe benefits.
We understand that over 500,000 pensioners aged 70 years and above will qualify for the full pension increase in November. A further 50,000 will receive partial increases. These estimates are based on knowledge that we have, but they could be incomplete because, as I said, in the past not all people over 70 years have advised us of their means.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. Bearing in mind the fact that Canberra is at present held virtually incommunicado by telephone as a result of the operations of the new Luddites, I am almost tempted, as we are on the air, to take the opportunity to send a cheerio. I will refrain from doing that and ask a question. Can the Minister indicate the general state of progress with regard to the Maritime College, particularly in relation to progress on the appointment of the permanent council and the purchase of the proposed training ship, Wyuna?
– I am sorry that Senator Rae has to communicate with his island State by way of the radio ether. To Senator Georges, who is interjecting, I say that a member of the party which he supports once sent a message to his dentist this way. We, I think, refrain from doing so. In fact, Mr President, if Senator Georges has such a message, no doubt you will allow him indulgence. I am happy to say that very considerable progress has been made with regard to the Maritime College. We have moved from the stage of an interim council to the permanent council. That is in the process of assembly.
Progress has been made in defining and acquiring the site alongside the Launceston College of Advanced Education, the Newnham campus. Progress has been made with the site downstream of Beauty Point, and money has been allocated already for providing wharf facilities. There are still discussions in progress with regard to the acquisition of the vessel. Because I do not have immediate up-to-date information on that aspect I will seek it and let the honourable senator know. I think it is very desirable that we should hasten the purchase of the vessel.
-When did the Minister for Social Security first realise that the tax to be imposed on a child’s income in excess of $312, which was announced in the Budget last week, would affect families other than those whose children’s incomes are derived from family trusts, partnerships, et cetera? Why did the Minister wait until after the Budget was announced to express her concern when the obvious place to express it was in the Cabinet room before the Budget was presented?
– I do not talk about discussions that were held in the Cabinet room prior to the announcement of the Budget. When the Budget is announced, it binds all members of the Government together. Until such time as the Government decides that a review of any of those decisions is required, no separate comment is made on these matters by any Minister. I have been asked what contribution I made to the Budget discussions. I quite categorically refuse to enter into any such discussion in this place.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate concerning section 23 of the Ombudsman Act. I refer to the second reading speech of the then Attorney-General on 4 June 1976, in which it was stated:
A deputy ombudsman is to be designated to act in relation to . . . the Australian Capital Territory . . .
In view of the fact that a deputy ombudsman for the ACT has not been appointed, can the Minister say whether consideration is being given to the appointment of a deputy ombudsman for the Capital Territory and, if so, when such an appointment might be announced?
– The Ombudsman Act 1976 allowed the Minister responsible for the Act to designate a deputy ombudsman as Deputy Ombudsman for the Australian Capital Territory and a deputy ombudsman as Deputy Ombudsman for the Northern Territory. A deputy ombudsman, if so designated, could exercise all the powers of the Commonwealth Ombudsman in relation to official action taken in the relevant Territory, except the power to report to the Parliament. Although it was contemplated in the original legislation that each of the two deputies would be designated for the ACT and the NT, it was considered that the appropriate arrangement should be examined in the light of experience. Subsequently, legislative changes were made to reflect the appointment of the Northern Territory Ombudsman in connection with that Territory’s movement to selfgovernment. Since the Commonwealth Ombudsman commenced operations in July 1977, complaints arising in the ACT have been handled by his central office located in Canberra as part of its general business by maintaining a counter service which is available to all persons in the Capital Territory. I am told that the Ombudsman is satisfied that to date this system has worked effectively for Capital Territory residents.
In the office’s first year of operation, 264 persons resident in the ACT lodged complaints with the Commonwealth Ombudsman. These complaints have been dealt with by the Ombudsman and the two deputies, the first of whom took up duty in September 1977 and the second in April 1978. In view of Senator Knight’s question and his obvious concern, I would undertake to arrange for the Government to examine the existing arrangements with a view to determining whether it would be appropriate at this stage for one of the two deputies to be designated as Deputy Ombudsman for the ACT. This examination would comprehend questions of demand and resources. The advice of the Administrative Review Council on relevant aspects will be sought.
– I have received a letter from Senator Wriedt proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The depressed state of the Australian housing industry.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– The Opposition proposes the discussion of this matter of public importance because, if only one industry has spelled the failure of 2Vi years of Malcolm Fraser’s Government and its associated economic policies, it is the housing industry. All the indications show that the industry is operating at the lowest level since 1966-67. Let us look at the headlines which have appeared lately in the Australian Press. Unfortunately they do not express much enthusiasm or hope. For example, the Melbourne Age on 12 June stated: ‘Even Worse Prospects for Building’. The Sydney Morning Herald on 3 August stated: ‘Value of Building Projects Falls’. Again, the Melbourne Age on 19 July stated: Little Housing Cheer’. The Canberra Times on 24 July stated: ‘Housing- Continuing Decline’. The Australian on 9 August stated: ‘Worst Housing- a Year Forecast’. These headlines are some examples but they are not exceptions. Every newspaper in Australia carries a similar tale of declining new approvals, declining new constructions, declining completions and a prospect of worse to come. Unhappily, at the same time, the demand for housing goes largely unsatisfied. The Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry in a report which was tabled in the Parliament last year claimed that the desirable levels of new housing completions should be 154,000 in 1977-78 and 158,000 in 1978-79. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard page 6 of that report which indicates the figures to which I have been referring.
The report read as follows- 2.7 Desirable Levels
The desirable levels of dwelling construction for each State and Territory are given in Table 2. The figures for Australia are obtained by summing those for the States and Territories. So that the modifications made to last year’s estimates can be easily seen, the desirable levels recommended in the Council ‘s 1 976 Report are also shown.
– What have been the results in that period? In 1976-77 the housing industry built 3,900 fewer dwellings than the desirable level set by the Council in 1977-78. It appears that completions will fall short of the Council’s desirable level by at least 16,000 new houses. Unless some prompt, substantial action is taken the shortfall in 1978-79 will be even larger. The seriousness of this allegation is verified by statistics. The Australian and New Zealand Banking Groups Ltd index of quantity of factory productions shows that the index for building and construction materials has fallen from 182 points in November 1976 to 151 points in April of this year. The deterioration has continued. Preliminary building statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that new dwellings commenced in the June quarter of 1978 were 30,650 compared with 33,850 for the same period last year. The number of housing completions was 126,330 for 1977-78, compared with 144,790 in the previous year. The number of new dwellings under construction in the June quarter of 1978 was 59,880 compared with 70,090 in the same quarter in the preceding year.
From peaks reached during the period of the previous Government the general trends are down. The number of new dwellings commenced has declined; new private dwellings commenced have declined; total new dwellings commenced have declined; and new dwellings completed have declined. New private dwellings completed in all categories have declined according to figures provided by the Commonwealth Statistician. It is also extremely significant that housing finance, provided by both the trading banks and the permanent building societies, for the purchase of owner occupation and for the purchase of newly erected dwellings has declined. Housing finance for owner occupation provided by the trading banks was nearly $9,000m in the June-September period in 1973. In the June-September period in 1977 the figure was about $5,400m which is a remarkable drop of no less than $3,600m. Importantly the seasonally adjusted figures are the ones which show the declining trend. With these alarming figures it is no wonder that the Director of the Housing Industry Association, on 1 5 August this year, stated:
The Federal Government has chosen to totally ignore industry advice and has effectively withdrawn from the commitment to providing the vast majority of Australians with home ownership opportunity.
Mr KirkbyJones went on to say:
The analysis of the housing sector this year was as bad, if not worse, than that offered in the Budget Papers last year. For example, last year the Treasury forecast a ‘return to the high levels achieved during mid 1976’- in the event housing activity fell to the lowest level for ten years and is now described as a ‘sizeable fall ‘.
So much for the Treasury’s estimates and the Government’s acceptance of them. On the basis of the indications from within the housing industry, the activity in the building industry will be
even worse this financial year. But what is the present Government doing about this very serious problem in an industry that is so important for the Australian economy? Nothing, or even worse than nothing. It is forcing up unemployment of skilled and unskilled labour and the closure of many small building firms and contractors. The total funds provided by the Australian Government for housing over a range of programs have been cut back savagely. This is a trend that has occurred over the past two years, and of course there have been actions and repercussions throughout the entire economy. In 1976-77 total funds provided for housing were $548m. This was cut to $506m in the following year, 1977-78, and will be cut by $143m for 1978-79.
The buliding industry employs on sites around Australia about 1.5 per cent of the work force. A further 6 per cent to 6.5 per cent of the work force is employed in the renovations market and the expenditure in this area runs to over $600 m annually. Most significantly, a further 25 per cent of the work force is directly employed in industries servicing the building and- construction industry. The cutbacks and restraints of this Government have reduced employment in those industries. This will affect the future adversely because builders are not taking on new apprentices. Skilled tradesmen are drifting away from the industry, either because there is no employment or because they are under-employed. The makers of ancillary equipment- valves, taps, framing, glass, stoves, sinks, cupboards, and so on- are all feeling the chill winds of Mr Fraser ‘s cutbacks.
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has as little regard for the problems in the industry as he has for many other groups in Australia. Philip Sharpnet, the prominent Sydney consulting economist, advised the Government when addressing a recent Housing Industry Association conference. He said that ‘ unless the powers that be learned nothing from their experience of 1 977 and decide to intervene again to bring activity back to their own forecasts’, the outlook for the industry would not fulfil the optimistic long-term projections. Unfortunately, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) has been and is still adopting a studied and prolonged ostrich pose towards the housing industry. On 2 1 March this year Mr Groom said:
While the housing sector is still experiencing some difficulties, the indicators are now more encouraging for both the industry and new home buyers.
Those were the words of the Minister. I defy the Government and the Minister to produce any evidence to support that contention. All the indicators were down. Construction and lending figures were also down. The reduction in the bond rate engineered by the Government did not reflect market realities. Fewer loans became available and the waiting time between approvals of loans and supply has increased from an average of three months to six months. Because the Government does not have any control over the interest rates charged by finance companies and fringe financial institutions, the effect of engineering a fall in interest rates caused depositors to switch funds from building societies to the finance companies to obtain higher interest rates. As an indicator, loan approvals are running at about 700 less a month than during the same period last year. The cosmetic operation in respect of interest rates has been counter-productive for home buyers in the housing and construction industry. The Government has created a two-tiered interest rate structure and funds will continue to flow into building society deposits at a slower rate than into finance companies and other areas. As the building societies lend about 35 per cent of the funds for housing purchases, the impact will be to slow down further the building industry.
The facts of the situation, which the Government consistently chooses to ignore, make a mockery of the assertion on 26 June of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, Mr Groom. He said then:
He went on to say:
The Government is committed to ensure that adequate housing finance is available in the coming months.
Perhaps Mr Groom, along with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), and in common with many others we have heard of in the last couple of weeks, is developing amnesia about those commitments.
It is abundantly clear that immediate stimulatory action is needed. There is widespread agreement in the industry that funds injected at this stage would not have an inflationary effect because of the immense under-capacity in the industry. In addition, there is substantial demand for new housing which exceeds the current rate of construction. As the July issue of the Rydge’s journal pointed out clearly:
The housing industry has been the springboard governments use to inject quick, efficient and non-inflationary life into a depressed economy- but today this arm of economic management is being allowed to wither.
Of course the multiplier effect in the building and construction industry is large and the time lag is pretty small. An injection of a minimum of $200m or $300m immediately would help employment, builders, contractors and a wide range of manufacturers.
It is not as if I am basing my arguments on trendy ideas. Many people who are complaining about the Fraser Government’s lack of action are traditional supporters of the Liberal Party. In May of this year, even the Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, who is probably no longer a great supporter of Mr Fraser, but who nevertheless is a staunch Liberal argued that: $400m should be injected into the housing industry.
Government supporters will largely argue that labour problems and costs are hindering recovery. If they read widely on the problems of the industry, they will find almost universally that the housing industry sheets home the blame to Mr Fraser ‘s lack of stimulus.
There is an urgent need. It must be met by Federal action. If there is no action, thousands of jobs and hundreds of small businesses will haunt this failing, confused and what I would describe as inhuman Government.
Last night in the House of Representatives, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, put forward a realistic, practical plan to boost not only the economy generally, but also specifically the housing industry, the building industry. It is up to this Government to come up with new ideas and show that it is concerned about the depression in the housing industry, the increasing unemployment in the industry and the continuing failure of building firms. Unless it is prepared to do that, it is not a government worthy of support.
– The provision of adequate housing accommodation and indeed the adequate choice of accommodation to all Australians, irrespective of their means- and this includes the poor, the pensioners and others- is of course a vital matter and one to which government must give high priority. Let me simply say that governments of Liberal faith have given this matter very high priority.
Let the record speak for itself. For two decades- the 1950s and the 1960s- in Australia, the main domestic program of Federal Liberal governments was an assurance to the average wage earner that that person could buy a home using only one-quarter of the wage of the working spouse. Let me say that again: The quartering principle was the principle which in fact governed the domestic ability of people to buy houses in the 1950s and the 1960s. It was a principle which gave Australian people the highest percentage of home ownership in the world, and this happened under governments of Liberal faith. That principle was that at most one-quarter of the wage of a wage earner on average weekly earnings would be sufficient to service a loan to buy a house. That happened throughout the 1950s and 1 960s and into the 1970s.
I do not propose to direct myself to Senator Wriedt’s arguments except now to record what happened from 1972 onwards and to let the record speak for itself. Of course, one would believe that that record would be of a Federal Labor government which set itself deliberately to increase the amount of housing available to Australians. Otherwise why the righteous indignation today? Let us look at the facts because it is terribly important to see who are the people who produce homes and who are the people who talk. In the last Budget of the previous Federal Liberal-National Country Party Government, that is, for the year 1972-73, 150,610 dwellings, government and private put together, were completed in Australia. In the first year of the incoming Labor Government, that is, in the year 1973-74, that figure fell to 150,028-a drop of 600. In the second year, 1974-75, it fell to 141,095-a drop of 9,000. In the third and final year, mercifully, of that Government, 1 975-76, it fell to 132,026. That means that one has to go back to the year 1968-69 to find an output equivalent to the output in the last year of the Whitlam Government. Yet that is a record that the Leader of the Opposition, by implication, defends. If the Whitlam Government had maintained the output in the final year, 1972-73, of the previous Federal Liberal-National Country Party Government it would have built 28,681 more houses. In other words, those years of the Labor Government robbed the Australian people of nearly 29,000 new houses. This is what we are invited to emulate. This is like saying: ‘Do not do as 1 do but do as I say’. I simply repeat that the record speaks for itself.
It is significant that in the following year, the first year of our return to office, the figure rose from 132,026 to 144,788. It dipped the following year. That is the background against which this debate has been initiated. Indeed, it has seen the Leader of the Opposition in retreat from the Chamber. I apologise; he is in retreat from his seat.
– You are carried away with your own rhetoric, senator.
-No. I thought the Leader of the Opposition had been carried away, but he was not; he was in another seat. Against that background also and because the housing industry is so sensitive to economics I remind the Senate that when the previous Federal LiberalNational Country Party Government left office at the end of 1972 the inflation rate was a little over 4 per cent. In the last quarter of the Whitlam Labor Government it was running at 18 per cent and rising. If anyone wants to look at why the housing and construction industries were brought into disarray one must look at what happened to inflation and interest rates during that time. As everyone knows, those industries are the first to suffer in a boom and among the last to recover in a recession. It has one of the longest periods of self-cleansing after being wounded by rising costs.
I repeat that the record of the Labor Government at which the Leader of the Opposition now asks us to look shows an inflation rate of 1 8 per cent, soaring interest rates and flat interest rates of 16 per cent to 1 8 per cent- unheard of interest rates. Some three years ago Mr Hayden, who was then Treasurer, in his Budget took the view- a view which he no longer takes- that the only way to tackle the problem was to tackle inflation because until the inflation rate was reduced nothing else would follow. This was his primary premise. He said that if inflation was not tackled and if the amount of money flowing into the community was increased, inflation and unemployment would increase. It is strange that last night Mr Hayden and today Senator Wriedt should have forgotten the premise of the Labor Treasurer some three years ago.
It is not a bad thing to be able to say to the Australian people that, the Labor Government of the day having robbed them by way of inflation and interest rates, the latest consumer price index figures show that interest rates are running below 8 per cent, with the Budget projecting that they will go down through 7 per cent and 6 per cent to a prospect of their being 5 per cent in the middle of next year. At that time we will have virtually restored the inflation rate to its former level and will be able to say quite proudly by the end of this year that our inflation rate is below that of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and by the middle of next year or earlier that it is below the inflation rate of Western countries, except West Germany and Japan.
Lest anyone should look at what has happened in this situation, I remind the Senate that I spoke about the quartering principle whereby a working spouse on an average wage could buy a home. That principle was completely destroyed under the Whitlam Government. Indeed, it took joint spouse effort to purchase a home. Let me demonstrate the effect of interest rates. In another place the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development referred to what happens when interest rates are lowered. He took as an example an average person securing perhaps from a building society a loan of $25,000 over 25 years and referred to what would happen if there were a fall of one-half of a per cent in the interest rate, which has happened, and beyond. He pointed out that if that happened there would be a saving by way of repayment of about $9 a month, with a total saving over the period of the loan of $2,600. He went on to say that if there were a reduction of 1 per cent- that is well within our basic reach- there would be a saving of $ 1 8 a month, and a total saving over the period of the loan of $5,300. The real way to help a home purchaser to pay off a loan to buy a home is to reduce inflation and interest rates. As has been demonstrated, a drop of one per cent is as good as giving a gift of some $5,300 to the average home purchaser. We are pegging away at the reduction of interest rates.
The fact is that the housing industry is showing some interesting signs at the moment. In the past there was a downturn in home building activity. This has been arrested. The gross fixed capital expenditure on private dwellings rose to $747m in the June 1 978 quarter. That is a rise of 7V4 per cent on the revised March quarter figure of $694m. Although preliminary estimates need to be interpreted with caution, the latest statistics are encouraging. There are signs of expansion in this regard. Dwelling commencements increased by 10 per cent in the June quarter of 1978. Private dwelling commencements rose by 9 per cent and government commencements rose by 24 per cent. Dwelling commencements rose in all States except Western Australia. The greatest increases were in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Commencements on both private houses and private other dwellings- that is, flats and town houses- increased and dwelling approvals, which are a very reliable forward indicator, rose by 4 per cent in June 1978. This gloom that has been projected by the Opposition really has no basis. It must have escaped Senator Wriedt ‘s notice that in the Budget the Government has provided a means whereby there can be a considerable increase in the volume of money available to home purchasers. I will read what is stated in the Budget Speech:
The banks and building societies are being reminded of the Government’s desire that they lend to homeseekers to the maximum extent.
In addition, to facilitate the provision of housing finance, the regulations relating to savings banks subject to the Banking Act are under urgent review.
To expand savings banks’ capacity to lend for housing in 1978-79, the proportion of savings bank deposits required to be held in public securities and liquid assets will be reduced from 45 to 40 per cent.
As a longer term measure, the present method of controlling the investment of savings banks’ funds is being reviewed with the intention of giving them more flexibility in determining the composition of their assets.
Lending levels will, of course, remain subject to lenders’ own commercial judgments.
These actions should make it easier for homeseekers to obtain finance.
This is a very significant situation. Already there are signs of a modest increase in the money provided for housing from the savings banks and a significant increase in the outflow of money through trading banks revealing a basic movement towards the restoration of the capacity of the Australian family to purchase a home. The first aim is to reduce inflation so that it will not add to building costs, send builders bankrupt and deprive people of the ability to purchase a home. There is a desire to lower interest rates so that the end cost of financing a home shall be reduced. We are interested in giving tax relief to people, and we talk about $3 to $4 a week reduction in tax. However, a one per cent decline in interest rates on home loans can achieve that on its own. It can produce a saving of $ 1 8 to $20 a month and, happily, that is the trend.
– But it has not happened.
-I remind Senator Georges- he really needs reminding and has our fullest sympathy- that, in fact, interest rates are falling. For example, the long-term bond rate has fallen. The Australian Labor Party is happy only in misery. If ever there was a total tribute to the Budget strategy of this Government in recent days, it was yesterday’s announcement of the record over-subscription of the Government loan program. What a joy it must be to members of Parliament and to all thinking Australians- this is an all time record- that the loan is oversubscribed by 100 per cent or more. This shows that the people of Australia have confidence in their Government, confidence in the future and confidence in the level of interest rates. It also shows to anyone who understands the position- we are saving our prayers and sympathy for Senator Georges, who needs themthat interest rates are on their way down further.
– They have not come down.
– That is clearly the situation. I remind Senator Georges that the longterm bond rate has dropped by one per cent and more in our time in office. In addition, there are signs that interest rates on home loans are being reduced. Fundamentally, the central theme of our strategy has been to provide once again a climate in which people are able to own their own homes. We are creating a climate in which, by reducing costs, it is within the reach of their pocket to own a home. We have reduced inflation from the 1 8 per cent level of the Labor Government to below 8 per cent now and, in the future, it will be reduced to 6 per cent and 5 per cent. This is reducing interest rates. As honourable senators who seek to know the position will be aware, building costs have stabilised and are showing remarkably moderate increases. This is a healthy state of affairs. The brain fevered birds who come from Queensland are an extraordinary group. One can hear them making funny little noises, and wonders at their absence of any intellectual input whatsoever. A number of new trends are developing in the demand for home ownership. For example, the members of the public are responding to the demographic slowdown in population growth. This is resulting in a lower total demand for housing because there are fewer people now than in the 1950s and 1960s. The marriage rates have dropped significantly over the last few years, resulting in a drop in the number of newly married couples seeking their first home. There has been a drop in fertility rates and, therefore, less need for accommodation. The recently announced target of 70,000 migrants should add to the demand for housing. We will be looking to the report of the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry to give us some ideas.
Let me summarise the position. My simple recitation of what happened in the years between 1 972 and 1 975 tells the story. There is no need to remind ourselves of anything other than the sad fact that in those three wasted years approximately 29,000 houses that were not built ought to have been built. That caused the shortfall in housing. If the level of home construction had remained at the 1972-73 level there would not have been a shortage. But that was not the case and the level of home construction dropped year after year throughout the period of the Whitlam Government. We also saw the destruction of the cost fabric of housing. We will restore, and we are on the way to restoring, the capacity of the Australian family on the average weekly wage to own a home. That is our goal and that is what we will do.
– The Senate is debating problems associated with the building industry in this country. I think that those people listening to the debate, particularly those associated with the building industry, would have been very pleased to hear the contribution to the debate, by Senator Carrick. Firstly, he returned to the old rhetoric which has been a part of his spiel for the last half dozen years. Secondly, he is still relying on what he claims to be some of the deficiencies of the 1972-75 period. Thirdly, he is ignoring, of course, the very real crisis that exists in the Australian building industry. He is ignoring all of the spokesmen who have expressed themselves about this problem. I am sure the sort of climate that he believes should be created would be quickly dispelled by his complacency in relation to this very important matter.
Perhaps in no other industry have the severely restrictive monetary and fiscal policies of this Government had such a damaging effect as the building industry. It is indeed unfortunate that this should be the case, given the vital importance of the building industry to the rest of the Australian economy. I should like to deal with three or four statements in this regard. Mr Bill Kirkby- Jones, the National Executive Director of the Housing Industry Association, said yesterday:
The housing and construction industry will remain severely depressed this financial year.
The Managing Director of the Metropolitan Permanent Building Society, Mr Steel, said:
The housing industry would be more active and provide more jobs if the Federal Government relaxed its controls over money supply.
Mr Carlton, Executive Director of the Permanent Building Societies Association, a well-known spokesman for the industry, said:
The building industry is the largest consumer industry in Australia . . . and one of the largest employers of labour, lt just doesn’t start and end with building homes. House have to go on land which has to be kerbed, sealed and serviced; houses have to be filled with furniture, curtains, carpets and stoves.
The ramifications are enormous. When things are slow in the industry, they’re slow for everybody.
The Acting President of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, Mr Hickson, is reported as saying:
The Federal Cabinet and some government departments appear to be completely out of touch with community housing needs . . .
An article which appeared in the Australian Financial Review a week or so ago stated:
Activity in the housing industry fell sharply in 1977-78 and savings bank house lending barely kept pace with inflation.
So much for the defensive approach the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) took in this debate. Of course, he had the temerity to suggest that the Labor Government’s record in housing left much to be desired. I should like to refer to page 204 of Budget Paper No. 1 which shows the amount of money that was made available by the Labor Government in the three years in which it was in office. In the last Liberal Budget which the Minister spoke about, the one before the 1972 elections, only 0.8 per cent of total Budget outlays was allocated by the Liberal Government to housing. That was increased in the first year of the Labor Government to 2.8 per cent, the following year to 3.9 per cent and the next year to 2.6 per cent. That represented, in the first year, an increase of $77m to $337m for housing. What does this Budget provide for housing? It provides 1.3 per cent of total Budget outlays, which means a reduction of some $970m down to $47 1 m in the current Budget. So much for the statements of Senator Carrick.
One should not underestimate the importance of the building and housing industry to the overall economic health of this nation. There is abundant evidence in submissions made to this Government by the building industry, employers, employees and those associated with the lending authorities that the building industry is a cornerstone of economic revival in this country. But this Government has failed to recognise these basic facts. I do not think the Senate needs to be reminded that the state of the building industry is crucially important for many related industries and, in turn, for industries related to them. One needs to talk only of bricks, tiles, asbestos cement, earthenware and other prime cost items that necessarily go to build a home and to provide accommodation for our people.
It can be argued without any question that the building and housing industry is one of the most important industries for Australia. What is good for building is good for the Australian economy. Yet what do we find the building industry facing today? It can be summed up simply. The building industry is on its knees. It is in a state of near bankruptcy. Mr Jennings, Australia’s largest house builder, in a statement which appeared in a newspaper yesterday said that Jennings Industries Ltd revealed for the first time in 30 years that it did not have a single house under construction in the Australian Capital Territory for the Australian Government. Yet a Minister, the Leader of the Government in this House, is seeking to defend the policies of the Government which has allowed this vital industry to run down to its lowest level for a decade.
Let us examine what has been said about dwellings. The number of new dwellings approved for the 12 months to June 1978 fell by 12 per cent from 141,000 to 123,000. That is a decrease of 1 8,000 dwellings in one year. Yet the Minister attempted to criticise the fact that housing approvals fell some 29,000 in the three years of a Labor Administration when in one year the number of dwellings approved has fallen by 18,000. In 1977-78 the number of new dwellings commenced was estimated at some 177,000. This is the lowest figure since 1966-67. In 1 977-78 the number of new dwellings completed was the lowest since 1967-68. For the June quarter 1 978 the number of new dwellings under construction was the lowest since the March quarter of 1968. That is the lowest figure for 10 years.
So, leaving aside the three years of the Labor Government, in seven years of Liberal and National Country Party Administration, we have seen a disastrous fall in building construction so far as the home industry is concerned. In the year 1977-78 the total value of building projects completed in Sydney and the South Coast areas of my State fell by 17 per cent in one year. In another State, Tasmania, building approvals for the financial year 1977-78 were down 8 per cent on the previous year.
– Yes, but we have a Labor Government.
– These statistics show clearly the extent of the decline of the building industry. Well, who is responsible? Is it the Commonwealth or the State? Make up your mind, Senator Archer. Even more sobering are the ramifications of this decline for people involved in the industry itself. Since the peak of the building industry in Australia in May 1975 in a period of Labor Government- one has to look only at the statistics supplied by the Bureau of Statistics to ascertain this- employment in the building and construction industry has fallen by 60,200 people.
The Commonwealth Employment Service statistics show that unemployment in the ranks of skilled building and construction workers has risen by 56 per cent in the last 12 months to March this year. As many as 10,000 skilled tradesmen left the building industry last year. That figure is confirmed in yesterday’s Sydney
Morning Herald by Mr Kirkby- Jones from the Housing Industry Association. Unemployment in the building and construction industry has been above that for all occupations in the last three to four years. Evidence is mounting of plant and outlet enclosures; that is, industries associated with the building industry in the provision of raw materials. It was claimed last month that in Tasmania small businesses were going to the wall at the rate of ten a month due to the depression in the building industry. Further problems arising out of this depression, unemployment and closure are in evidence. For those who remain in the industry, there are pressures to have their wages and living standards reduced. Only last month the Master Builders Association moved to reduce wages paid to apprentices by between $30 to $50 a week. There could well be a rundown in productivity in supporting trades.
The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations has warned the Government- its own department- that the exodus of skilled tradesmen from the industry and the fall-off in the rate of new apprenticeships could lead to the possibility of skilled labour shortages in the future, assuming that there is some possibility of a recovery in the future. Inflationary bottlenecks therefore would result from a rundown in the industry, yet that rundown actually is taking place. Perhaps more importantly, one of the great tragedies of our society is that people cannot get adequate shelter. The waiting lists for State housing commission homes exceed 100,000 families and are now growing at the rate of 50,000 a year. There are few indications that the problems can be resolved in the immediate future. Because of the way in which the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) has expressed his views and because of the views expressed by Senator Carrick today, one can feel nothing but gloom about where the building industry is headed. Without a significant overall increase in the flow of funds for building, expecially housing, there is little prospect of recovery.
Mr Nichols, the Executive Director of the Master Builders Association of Tasmania said only last month that the situation would not change within the next year unless there was a reversal in Federal Government policy and that there was no indication of upturn at the moment. Here in Canberra the outlook is similarly bleak. A representative of the Australian Building Construction Employees and Builders Labourers Federation said:
We’re looking forward to fairly hard times in the industry … a substantial rise in unemployment among building workers.
When the Belconnen Mall is finished at the end of November what will happen to the 400 or 500 men currently employed there? So it does not matter whether we are talking about Tasmania with a Labor Government or the Australian Capital Territory with a Liberal Government. We are faced with exactly the same sort of problem and the problem flows from the inadequate understanding of this Government about the importance of the building industry.
The manpower programs section of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations has described the outlook for the building and construction industry as ‘bleak’. These considerations lead us inevitably to ask: What is the cause of this crisis? With tens of thousands of families on the waiting list for housing commission homes and with the shortage of fundsand there is evidence that the amount of lending by the building authorities is only keeping up with the rate of inflation- it is evident that the problem is not one merely of lack of nominal demand, at least not in the housing sector. Nor is it true that there is a lack of nominal demand in the government sector. There is plenty of evidence to show that whatever actions may be taken by the States- by the Tasmanian Government, the Victorian Government, the West Australian Government- to try to make money available to the building societies a redirection of policies is required at the national level to get the building industry back on to its feet. There is no evidence that the Federal Government even recognises this need. In fact after hearing the speech given today by Senator Carrick one can conclude only that the Government has set out on a very deliberate policy of reducing activity in the building industry in the forlorn belief that this will have something to do with lowering interest rates and lowering the rate of inflation.
The Government’s severely restrictive fiscal policies are at the heart of the problem with which we are concerned. The Government is to blame for the inadequate recognition of the importance of the building industry and the need to develop some regenerative processes in the Australian economy. I think the initiative of the Labor Party to put this item before the Senate for its consideration has flushed out the attitude and the indifference of this Government. The Government’s pathetic defence of its policy suggests that, sometime in the years ahead, we are likely to see some revival in the building industry. That is not adequate or sufficient in the circumstances of today’s economy. It is not adequate or sufficient so far as the building industry is concerned. It is to be hoped that public opinion will bring pressure to bear upon this Government and cause a change in its economic strategy and a recognition that the building industry is in fact one of the most important sectors of the Australian economy.
– Naturally, the Government is concerned at the plight of the building industry. It was quick to recognise that that important sector of the community which employs over 500,000 people needed to be dealt with in a responsible way. That is exactly what the Government’s efforts were devoted to immediately it gained office at the end of 1975. The general thrust of our economic policy, of course, has been directed towards the reduction of the incredibly high inflation rate that we inherited at that time. Senator Carrick pointed to the fact that, during the last year of the Labor Party Administration in Canberra, the inflation rate went up to about 1 9 per cent. At the end of last year the inflation rate was 9.3 per cent. In the last quarter it came down to 7.9 per cent. The building industry itself recognises the importance of a continuing economic policy aimed at reducing that inflation rate even further. We hope sincerely that, as a result of these responsible economic policies which are being followed in the current Budget, the interest rate will come down to five per cent or six per cent next year.
– But it hasn ‘t.
-Well, the building industry acknowledges that the Government’s policies are directed in a proper and responsible way. It acknowledges and applauds the Government’s intention to reduce further the inflation rate to five per cent. It is also our intention to monitor carefully monetary growth from six per cent to eight per cent. The building industry also draws attention to the cost pressures that have been evident in the industry. The Master Builders Federation of Australia in a Press release stated: . . since its return to office the Government’s policies have led to a significant stabilisation in cost pressures in the industry. In the 12 months to July 1978 building materials costs rose 7.9 per cent and that of other than house building 6.6 per cent. The rates contrast with increases in excess of 20 per cent in 1974-75. Wages rates have increased by some eight per cent over the year and represents a substantial easing in the rate as compared with a rate well over 20 per cent in 1974-75.
The Federation also drew attention to the attitude of the building unions. It stated:
However, the attitude of building unions to wage indexation has had a profoundly adverse effect in building performance and as a consequence has weakened confidence in investment in building and construction.
I think everyone associated with the industry has to recognise that they have a responsibility as well.
There are, of course, other factors which have been responsible for an oversupply of houses over the years. We can go back to the boom in 1976 which obviously encouraged peoplespeculative builders in particular- to increase their rate of construction in anticipation of even higher sales As a result of this -
– There is not an oversupply of houses. Where did you get that information?
– I am just reflecting back to 1976 because problems were created at that time. I am suggesting that in South Australia there was a large number of unsold houses at that time. At the present time the stocks of unsold dwellings are reducing. During 1977 and this year they have come down close to normal levels. I believe that this is encouraging not only for the Government but also certainly for the building industry. During the last quarter private dwelling approvals were up two per cent and government approvals were up 16 per cent. I believe that this trend, which is a healthy sign, will continue.
There are other factors as well that perhaps have had an influence on the demand for houses. For example, demographic factors have contributed to a reduction in demand. First marriage rates have dropped significantly over the last few years indicating a drop in the number of newly marrieds who seek their first home. Fertility is continuing to decline largely due to deferment of first births. These factors have an influence as well. I believe there are other elements that will help the building industry. For example, the recently announced target of 70,000 migrants coming to Australia should provide a significant boost to demand.
The Government in its Budget recognises that other measures besides the reduction of inflation and interest rates, which have been brought into question by the Opposition, are required to assist the building industry. I refer to interest rates. Earlier this year interest rates on most bank and permanent building society loans were reduced by one half of one per cent. Banks now charge rates on loans for owner-occupied housing of between 8% per cent and 10 per cent. Permanent building society rates are of the order of 1016 per cent to 1 1 per cent. The one half per cent reduction in interest rates has brought a significant saving to the house buyer. For example, the repayments on a $25,000 loan over 25 years are reduced by 4 per cent. That means a saving of about $9 per month. As the Government has stated in the Budget Papers, the balance of factors in the supply and demand for funds during the present financial year is conducive to a continuing decline in interest rates. This will mean further savings to the house buyer.
I point also to other benefits for the industry that will emerge as a result of the Budget. The greatest benefits will, of course, come from reduced mortgage interest rates. A welfare housing allocation of $3 16m brings a new approach to housing authority activities. More autonomy and flexibility have been provided to the States in allocating funds. Rental income of authorities will reflect tenants’ capacity to pay. That also will be of assistance. Matching capital funds will be provided by the States for new works. All of those things will, I think, have a profound effect on the industry over the next 12 months. The Government has also provided an increased grant of $ 14m for pensioner housing. This demonstrates the Government’s concern for those people in need. The Home Savings Grant Scheme has been retained. An amount of $20m is to be provided for that purpose. That will certainly provide further stimulus to the building industry. The Government’s policies are directed quite responsibly to reducing interest rates and inflation, and I think that is to be applauded. Certainly the building industry had already made such a statement. I believe that the people employed in this very important industry will continue to benefit from the responsible economic policies of this Government.
– I commend the Australian Labor Party for bringing forward this extremely important issue as a matter of public importance. I am grateful for an opportunity to speak briefly on it. I have listened carefully to the debate, and I was rather disappointed with the speech of Senator Carrick. There was not very much with which I disagreed in terms of accuracy, but I wonder whether what happened in 1 972 or 1 973 or what the Labor Party did or did not do while in office is in any way applicable to this very serious problem we have today. We have a building industry running at approximately 40 per cent under capacity. We have the incredibly stupid situation in a so-called civilised country of hundreds of thousands of young couples wanting to build homes, with thousands of men and women who can build homes unemployed or being diverted to other industries, and all we can do is to go back to 1972 or 1973 to what the Labor Government did. So far as I can see, whilst that point might read well in Hansard, it does not make any contribution to the problem before the Senate today.
There is no question that the building industry is at a crisis stage. The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently announced that last year we had the lowest rate of commencements in home building since 1966-67. The rate of commencements last year was the lowest for 10 years. I would like to cite figures from the Shrapnel report, one of the most respectable economic analyses that come out monthly. In its May report on the home building industry the Shrapnel report gave the frightening figures that dwelling commencements in the 12 months to last December were 10 per cent down on the figure for the previous year. In Victoria, the State I represent here, private dwellings approved at the end of May 1978- that is just a few months ago- were 23.4 per cent down on the figure for the year before. I would have thought that those figures alone would give some cause for worry. I am obliged to refer to a letter I received from Brick and Pipe Industries Ltd, which is probably the biggest supplier to the home building industry in Australia, giving figures of men employed in the industry in the last three years. In 1 975 the firm employed 1,725 men in the production of clay bricks, clay sewerage pipes and clay roofing tiles and in sand excavation. Today it employs 966 men, which is almost half the number of human beings employed in that industry in Victoria.
I commend the Australian Labor Party for bringing on this matter today, but I wish that while its members are performing a service like this they would also use whatever influence they have over the trade unions with whom they are clearly identified. For example, the building industry in South Australia is probably the most devastated in the country. Yet the Australian Workers Union, not a militant left wing commo union but a very responsible union, has now made the most absurd log of claims on the home building industry in South Australia which, I am told, will virtually bring it to its knees. I wish the Labor Party would have a word to people like Don Dunstan.
– That is only an ambit claim. The union has put in for more than it really expects.
– I concede the point, Senator Georges, but I would have thought that at a time in South Australia when the industry is on its knees, consultation between the two- employers and employees- and not an absurd log of claims was the way to solve a dispute. I also wish that the Labor Party would have a word to its very popular Premier, Mr Dunstan, who has acceded, I understand, to the wishes of the trade unions which want to get their sticky fingers into the home building industry. To my knowledge, South Australia is the only State where subcontractors are virtually forced to join a trade union. That would seem to have the blessing of the State Labor Government. I would have thought that a responsible Premier like Mr Dunstan would see the dangers in that course of action.
I commend the Government for its attack on inflation, but it seems to me that there has been an obsession to reduce inflation at all costs. A massive sociological cost is now being paid by young people in the community as a result of this madness of the monetarists who seem to have influenced the Government into believing that the only goal in sight is to reduce inflation, with no worry as to the cost. I divert for just one moment for the benefit of those who use the term dole bludger’ too often. Recently I advertised for a research officer. As honourable senators know, the salary is not the greatest in the world- I think it is $8,900 or something like that. I had 75 young people apply for that position, all of whom had degrees, all of whom were young and all of whom had been applying twice a week for the last six to nine months for a job. What are we doing to these young people? As parents we are trying to act responsibly and are saying: Look, do not leave school at 15 and wash bottles in a factory. Sacrifice and try to help yourself and the community by doing some sort of study after you leave school’. They have accepted our advice, but what have they got in return? They now have the feeling that society has betrayed them.
I wonder whether one of the reasons for the lack of building approvals is that the fashion of wanting to own one’s own home, which is something which I think sent a strand of greatness through the Australian nation is now going out of fashion. Young people feel that their governments and their politicians have betrayed them and are doing nothing about it. I would agree with the Government that deficit financing cannot be carried on responsibly forever; clearly the country will go broke. But what is happening with the present economic policies of the Government? The Government came to office on the basis of the assertion: ‘We are better than the Labor Party; we are sound economic managers’. The Liberal or conservative side of politics in
Australian history has shown that record, but last year the Government was $ 1,000m out in its budgeting.
– Fifty per cent more than it estimated.
-The deficit fifty per cent more than it estimated; and it will be $ 1,000m out this year. The reason it was out last year is that it overestimated receipts because its policies are turning down the economy, which means that fewer and fewer people are paying tax and, secondly, its policies -
– We are too successful. The inflation rate dropped faster than we expected.
-I really hope that the honourable senator does not believe that. On the other side of the equation, so many people were thrown out of work that they were not paying taxes but were receiving unemployment benefit. That is the main reason why the Budget was $ 1,000m out.
– That is crazy.
-If it is crazy, Mr Deputy President, I look forward with relish to the honourable senator, when he rises, telling me why the Budget was $ 1,000m out and whether that is sound economic management. The Government’s obsession in reducing the deficit is being pursued at massive cost to human beings. The economic theory of the monetarists, the quantity of money theory, which is still to some extent valid in our time, applies when demand equals supply. Can any honourable senator here today tell me of any industry in which the demand for goods and services equals the supply? Manufacturing industry is working 30 per cent under capacity, the building industry is working 40 per cent under capacity, and six per cent of our human resources is unemployed.
What I am putting to the Government is that a lot of leeway can be made up by the stimulation of industry. What we in the Australian Democrats have been saying for 1 2 or 1 8 months is that the home building industry is the classic industry to stimulate for this reason: It is notoriously quick to respond to stimulus; after the injection of money at the right interest rates, it responds very quickly. No trade unions involved in the home building industry are like those associated with commercial building, where the Gallaghers and other people put their sticky fingers in all the time. The home building industry is essentially an industry of subcontractors. So there would be no problems in that regard. If the home building industry is stimulated, every supply industry is immediately stimulated. Shopping centres in areas where home building is being stimulated get a lift. Furniture, furnishings and a whole range of other industries, all of which are labour intensive, are stimulated. We believe that the home building industry must be stimulated. Our policy and this matter of public importance which has been raised by the Labor Party today were vindicated in February this year when the Victorian Premier made available $25m at Vh per cent interest -
– That’s talking; when it is 7V4 percent.
– That is the point that I am getting at; the interest rate has to be subsidised. That amount of $25m was taken up in five days. We praised the move at the time. It indicates the tremendous demand for housing which today cannot be met. Most of that amount was spent on simply buying up stock homes- homes that had already been built on spec or whatever the term is- and therefore it did not lift the building industry per se. What we are advocating is that a large sum of money should be injected each month through the private sector into the home building industry at a reduced rate of interest. Let me illustrate that. This Budget allows the banks to expand their activities in financing home building. In my view, that will not make one bit of difference.
The Housing Industry Association has given me the following figures. For a young couple today to contemplate building a 1016 square house- that is not a big house- in Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide, it would cost them a minimum of $60 to $65 a week in loan repayments and interest. In this situation we would use the 4: 1 ratio; that is, a young couple could afford one quarter of gross weekly earnings to pay rent or make repayments of loan principal and interest. That would mean that their average weekly earnings would have to be between $240 and $260 a week. We know that average weekly earnings are $205 or $210 a week. That means that hundreds of thousands of young Australians are disqualified from even contemplating building a home. The Minister, Senator Carrick, gave excellent figures to show what a one per cent drop in the interest rate would mean in repayments of principal and interest. What we are advocating is that funds should be invested in the building industry at a subsidised interest rate of at least two per cent so that young couples can contemplate taking on the responsibility of making the repayments. I am told that it cannot be done. It has been done with war service home loans for the last 50 or 60 years. It is done under the Commonwealth-State housing agreement through permanent building societies. It is done constantly with devastatingly successful results in the terminating building societies. It is done; it is being done. I am not persuaded by the argument that interest rates cannot be subsidised.
Another criticism of our policy is that it would increase the deficit and that the deficit cannot be increased at this stage. I have figures that indicate that if $40m a month was injected into the housing industry, after the lapse of three or four months, because of the repayment of principal, interest, increased taxes, the addition to gross domestic product using the multiplier effect, the Federal Government would receive $48m a month for that outlay of $40m a month. I do not have time to elaborate on those figures. Even the argument that the injection of money into the home building industry will increase the deficit, and therefore is irresponsible, falls to the ground.
In conclusion, I suggest that the Budget for this year will be out by as much as it was last year. I plead with the Government to introduce selective stimulation to the economy, which is essential for it to move again not only from the humanitarian aspect but also from a sound economic point of view.
– I am very pleased to be able to speak in this debate today and pleased that the matter is being aired. I do not approach this debate with the depression with which the speakers before me have. Nor do I see the future as being bleak. As the other speakers have done, I will endeavour to illustrate the story with figures and facts. I believe that some of the figures that have been mentioned today are strangely amiss. The Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, when he introduced this debate, said that the scheme of all national newspapers was that there was bleakness and despair within the home building industry. Yet not all newspapers adopt that theme. I draw to the attention of the Senate a different type of report in the Courier-Mail on 1 1 August, a few days ago, which is headed: ‘A revival home building industry is tipped’. The report states:
A revival in Australia ‘s home building industry is tipped as stocks of unsold homes run down over the next few months.
The brighter outlook is forecast in the Indicative Planning Council ‘s interim report for 1 978-79.
The council said excess stocks seemed to be depressing new activity in most States.
These stocks for at least some time were expected to satisfy part of the demand for new housing.
The council said it expected the stocks of unsold dwellings to decline over the early part of this financial year.
The rate of decline, however, would vary from region to region.
This is part of the problem. Perhaps I am not correct in what I believe Senator Chipp said but I thought he said that he wondered what inflation over the last few years had to do with the housing situation today. For some 13 years I was part of the Housing Commission in the Northern Territory. I found the housing industry to be one of the most sensitive industries in Australia. It is sensitive to change and to costs. This was seen in the mid- 1 970s when there was a large injection of funds into the home building industry which resulted in a lack of tenderers for contracts. With this lack of competition prices rose. There was a shortage of sub-contractors and there was competition for those tradesmen and so the price of houses rose. Costs rose dramatically.
One root of the problem was that inflation went up to 18 per cent. Honourable senators will remember that interest rates rose. The dramatically increased cost of houses and the interest rate which increased brought about a situation for the ordinary people in the street and for young married couples which made it difficult for them to borrow money to buy their home and to service the debt. Of course the indicators were such that many people did not realise that there was a growing stock of houses on the market. These houses were not being rented or, more particularly, purchased. Speculators were behind the times. The result was that suddenly it was found that in most States there was a huge stock of houses on the market but there was no demand for them. I say there was no demand because of the huge inflation rate and because of the lack of ability in young people to service the loan on their houses.
– Would that be the Northern Territory you are talking about?
– Even now there are stocks of houses in the southern States which are still waiting to be used. Because the building industry was sensitive to this sort of situation there was a general collapse in the home building industry. With the inflation rate and over-demand the industry outpriced itself. This is the problem that Australia faces today with its products. It has outpriced itself. Its products are too dear. There is only one answer to this problem. Senator Chipp touched on it to a degree when he talked about the interest rate. He said that the Victorian Government put some $25m on the market at an interest rate of Th per cent and that it went very quickly. I expect that the answer to the problem of the home building industry and of the whole situation in Australia will come about in the next few months. I think we have seen the commencement of that situation now. I am referring to stable economic conditions with building costs becoming much more stable. I think that building costs may have risen some 6 per cent in the last year. With the interest rate beginning to drop- it has dropped in some places by half a per cent to one per cent- I think we can very optimistically expect that in this next year we will see it continue to fall.
This drop in the interest rate will stimulate young persons to build or buy their homes and, more importantly, it will enable them to finance the purchase and service the loan. Through this move we will see extra demand and the home building industry will once again get on its feet. But it can only remain on its feet in a stable situation such as when we have economic stability. Unfortunately, over the last few years we have not had that. We have had cost increases which, as I said before, have outpriced the person in the street. Senator Gietzelt gave various examples. I understood him to say that A. V. Jennings Industries Ltd, which is one of the biggest home builders in Australia, at the moment does not have one house being built for the market in Canberra. Is this not indicative of the situation? The company is not building because there is no demand. There is no demand by young people because the price and the interest rate are too high. If there were stability in the industry in Canberra- that is, cost stability and lower interest rates- I assure Senator Gietzelt that, even though I have not spoken to a member of the company, it would be one of the first to commence home building in Canberra. This will happen when there is demand and stability in the industry and low rental costs.
I am very sympathetic to the building industry and to the problems that it faces today. I believe there is only one way it will get back on its feet. I have indicated that. Just pouring money into the building industry at the moment will not cure the ills. The cure is demand. As I have said before, most people cannot foot the bill. It has been said that there is no money in the market place for the purchase of homes. I have made it my business in the last few months in wandering around Australia, particularly in the last week, to investigate this claim although I did not anticipate that this matter would be debated today. In Perth I found that the banks had money to lend. They were looking for customers. However, the building societies were more than competitive with the banks. It appeared that the building societies were outstripping the banks in their activities. Nevertheless there was money available. It was my understanding that if a young person or if any person wished to buy a house today and if he had the ability to service the rather huge debt at a high interest rate he would find the money readily available. But who wants young people or single people with families- this is a situation which is growing now- as Australian citizens to pay for the sins of the last few years when inflation got out of control to such an extent that it was one of the highest rates in the developed countries. Why should they have to pay for that?
The only way this problem can be overcome is to continue in the direction we are going now, and to bring the inflation rate down, hopefully in this next year, to 5 per cent or 6 per cent. This would bring our inflation rate down so that it would be one of the lowest in the developed countries. With this economic stability we will find that home buyers, whether they be single persons, families, or pensioners, will be in a much better situation to get a house.
Various provisions in the Budget will be of considerable assistance to people. The welfare housing allocation of $3 16m ushers in a new approach to the activities of housing authorities. More autonomy is to be given to the States in the allocation of funds and the rental income of authorities will reflect the capacity of tenants to pay. The number of new dwellings to be built is expected to be the same as for 1 977-78 and the pensioner housing scheme is to be increased considerably. I do not support the theme of this debate. I believe that it is far too gloomy and that times are changing. The indicators prove that the home building industry in Australia is on the up and up, and the people of Australia will benefit from these improvements in the months to come.
-I rise in this debate somewhat at a loss to understand some of the remarks made by my colleagues on the other side. It seems that we live in two different worlds. To a great number of people in Australia the Government appears to be hellbent on bringing the housing industry to its knees. Yet we are told continually by honourable senators opposite that the Government is doing everything it can to stimulate the housing industry and that it is on the up and up. I am sure that the people in the housing industry and related industries who are out of work will be very pleased to know that the housing industry is being stimulated. That does not appear to have come within their ken, nor have they got their jobs back. While members on the other side tell us that the housing industry is starting to rise, we find master builders, State governments, federal departments, suppliers of material and technical schools all telling us that the industry is being beaten to a pulp and pointing out the dangers associated with the housing industry being reduced to such an extent.
At a time when there is an enormous amount of unemployment, when the whole economy needs stimulation, when more than 100,000 Australians are looking for government housing and more than twice that number would like to build their own houses but do not have the wherewithal to do it, this Government is doing nothing to stimulate the industry. In fact, in the Budget the Government has reduced the amount of money available for public housing. It has done nothing in the Budget to lift the private sector, and housing expenditure has been slashed by one-third in the Howard Budget. How then can Government senators continue to say that the Government is doing what it can to bring the housing industry up to the level of some years ago so that it can do the job that we know needs doing in Australia at the moment?
The Government admits that the housing industry is important to the economy, yet the industry is at its lowest ebb since 1967 and the Government is going to do nothing about it. Housing funds have dried up and so has the ability of people to repay the loans they need to buy homes, something that seems to escape the attention of Government senators. Funds to the States have been cut back and so there is a drop in public sector building. The housing allowance voucher experiment, which was to have supplied information on the housing rental market and on the quantity and quality of houses that might be needed, has been eliminated after two years planning and a cost of $ 1 m. Evidently we are no longer interested in the sort of rental accommodation that people need, or is it that because there are so many people now who need to rent rather than buy and there are a number of houses and flats on the market that nobody can let because people do not have the money, we no longer need to find out about the quantity and quality of accommodation needed by people who normally rent housing? The home savings grants scheme has been eliminated. It was not a tremendous scheme for helping people to buy houses but it was of some help and it has been eliminated. The Government has not told us what will happen to the people already in the pipeline who had applied for the grant and had saved their money and now evidently are to be left without any assistance whatsoever. They were dependent on that money to finalise the purchase of their homes. They will now be without the money and so fewer homes will be sold, more homes will be put on the market, and fewer building workers will be employed.
In other areas the Government has been less than responsible about the money that is supposed to be spent in the housing field. This Federal Government makes money available to State governments for Aboriginal housing. The money is supposed to provide houses for Aboriginal people, and there are hundreds of Aboriginal people who need houses. In this day and age people in Victoria are sleeping in humpies on river banks because they cannot get houses or cannot afford the only houses that might be available to them in that area. This Government has not said to the Government of Victoria: ‘Stop spending the money we give you for Aboriginal housing on useless wasteful things such as carports for people who have not got houses or even a licence to drive, on painting the outside of houses that do not need painting, on pulling down fences that do not need pulling down and putting up wire fences’. Instead of demanding that houses be built for people who need them, the Government has allowed the money to be frittered away on all sorts of useless maintenance of houses. It has allowed State governments to buy houses and then spend extraordinary amounts of money on maintaining them or bringing them up to a stage where people can decently live in them.
Even in areas where the Government could be putting money into the building of houses for people who need them it has done nothing about its obligations. There are people who do not want handouts for housing. The women who served in the defence forces in the last war so far have been denied Defence Force loans to build houses, and I emphasise the word ‘loans’. They have not asked to be given money, they have asked for loans which they will repay, loans that would enable them to build houses and live decently and comfortably in their old age. But this Government says: ‘We cannot afford to do that’. So another area of great need which would provide some sort of stimulation for the building industry is ignored by the Government. In its Budget the Government has abandoned aged persons housing projects and the hundreds and hundreds of aged people in Australia who desperately need decent accommodation in which to grow old are not going to get it. The Government is not going to supply the funds to assist in the building of the houses and flats that aged people need and so another area of great need in the community which would provide a stimulus to the building industry is being ignored. The Government is turning its back on it entirely.
The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said that the building industry is in disarray. The industry is in disarray, but what this Government has to remember is that it has been in office now for nearly three years and when it first came into Government it said that it wanted three clear years in which to get things back to normal, to get industry moving. How much longer does it need to do something about the building industry? How many more indications does it need that the building industry requires stimulus or the country is going to fall in a heap? We are told by one of our colleagues on the other side that the Government’s plan to increase the intake of migrants will help to swell demand and so stimulate the building industry. Would he mind telling me, in the light of the amount of unemployment in the country at the moment, where these people are going to get the money to buy houses? If the Government is not going to provide the money to build houses for them in the public sector, in what are they going to live? It is very easy to say: We are going to bring out more migrants and supply more needs’, but people need to have money in their hands to buy houses- and they have not that money.
What will people in Australia use for money as unemployment rises? The circumstances become a vicious circle. We have more unemployed so there is less money with which to buy houses. There is less money to buy houses, so there is less money to spend on materials. There is less sale of houses and there is less sale of materials, so there is more unemployment; as a result there is less money to spend on houses and less money to put into industry and so forth and so on. If we go on that way the industry will vanish.
The Minister spoke about the fact that for a long time now in Australia it has been a joint spouse income that has purchased houses. We have spoken of that before and it is true. It is true in lots of ways, one being not, as the Government says, that wages have been so high, but because wages have been so low. So people have needed two incomes to live as they want to live. The Government may say that perhaps the standard of living of the Australian people is too high, but I am not going out to the Australian people to say that the standard of living that they set for themselves is too high. For many years now- and unions should have looked at this matter too when they were looking at wage claims- it has taken two incomes to buy a house. Women have not gone to work to express themselves: They have gone to work to provide the money to buy the house. Rising unemployment- especially in the areas in which women work- and so many women being out of jobs, mean that the family income has been cut in half. This in turn means that people who now have houses are terribly worried whether they will be able to go on paying for them. People who want houses have not anything like the income needed to buy those houses, which means that there will be even less work in industry generally, even less work in the housing industry. So there will be even less money and fewer jobs with which to purchase these houses. The only body that can do something about that horrific situation is a government- a responsible government. It is no good citing the number of unsold houses. It is no good talking about the lowering of interest rates. If people have not the money- and they do not have the money if they are unemployed- it does not matter how many houses are on the market or how low the interest rates are because they will not be able to do anything about the situation.
The Minister says that banks and housing societies are being encouraged to extend their home loans. I repeat: If there are no jobs, it does not matter how far the banks and housing societies extend their terms; people will not be able to take up that offer. The fact that people are not going to be able to take up the offer and the fact that they cannot affordhouses is shown in so many different publications today. I have here a copy of the quarterly Survey of Manufacturing Activity which shows just how much these varying industries are being depressed. It states:
. textile fibres, yarns and fabrics . . .
While sales in both current and price adjusted terms decreased during the March quarter . . .
Wood, Wood Products and Furniture
Overall sales for the March quarter decreased substantially . .
Paper and Paper Products, Printing and Publishing
The overall level of sales for the group declined marginally during the March quarter . . .
Chemicals, Petroleum and Coal Products
The overall level of sales in the March quarter fell by 12 percent.
Glass, Clay and Other Non-Metallic Mineral Products
There was an overall decline in sales in this industry in the March quarter . . .
Basic Metal Products
Sales for the March quarter fell in both constant and price adjusted terms . . .
Fabricated Metal Products
The fabricated metal products group recorded a significant decrease in sales during the quarter ended March.
The significant overall decrease in sales during the March quarter . . .
Other Machinery and Equipment
In the March quarter sales in this industry fell by 13 per cent . . .
Leather, Rubber and Plastic Products and Manufacturing
Overall sales in the industry fell by 10 per cent in the March quarter . . .
Of course they fell; nobody has the money to buy the products and nobody has the money to buy the houses in which to put the products. Unless this Government does something about unemployment, it might as well stop talking about the economy being lifted because there is no way in which it can be.
The Government has a mania about not entering into the private sector, yet we know that all these products are produced in the private sector. Large construction firms like Jennings Industries Ltd in Victoria are at their lowest ebb for 25 years. That firm said that if something is not done it will go out of existence altogether. Public works in Victoria have been cut by 25 per cent. For each vacancy in the building industry in Victoria, 24 unemployed skilled tradesmen apply. In the apprenticeship area, for every one vacancy for every apprenticeship, there are 166 applicants. This means we are not only losing employment in that area, we are losing skill. If this Government does not look at the difficulties squarely, it will put Australia into an intolerable position. The Government admits that the housing industry is a sensitive industry. It is a basic principle that in a country as rich and as prosperous as Australia can be, everybody should have decent housing. If this Government does not put the stimulus into that area and supply the people of Australia with decent housing, the industry will degenerate. We will lose employment; there will be no stimulus whatsoever to growth and the stimulus to that economy that is so essential to Australia’s future will not eventuate.
– I find it a pleasure to be involved in the discussion of this matter of public importance. But, as a matter of public importance, I find that it is little more than an item of absolute rubbish. To say that this discussion is a matter of public importance at this stage is just so totally incorrect. I would say that, for the first time since coming into this chamber Vh years ago, I really feel that the housing industry looks like being able to start to get somewhere. I think the very question of bringing up this matter at this time reflects an absolutely abysmal lack of understanding of what the position really is and how the housing industry really operates.
I have heard the housing industry confused with various aspects of the construction industry with which it has absolutely no connection. I am quite amazed as to how we can talk about the two elements at once. The housing industry is not buoyant. But how great and how real is this decline that we are talking about? We have to consider what the figures are down from. Are we talking about the figures coming down from a boom peak that was artificially created, or are we talking about their being slightly less than what would be a reasonable anticipated requirement at this time? The big peak of 1972-74 collapsed in 1975-76 but it came again strongly, by artificial means, in 1976-77. This caused an oversupply situation and, therefore, obviously a decline in the following year. I am sorry if other speakers on this matter who are not in the chamber at the moment could say that there was no relevance in discussing what happened in previous years with what the problem is now. That is the whole story of the housing industry. It is very much a long-term business. It takes a long time to see what is going to happen. The actions that are taken now will last for years. I think we have to look back a little further to see the sorts of figures with which we should be dealing. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard figures for the last 1 2 years, that is from 1 966-67, setting out the number of dwellings completed.
The table read as follows-
– There were all sorts of factors which went towards the boom period of 1972-73 and 1973-74. This was the time when the equal pay question arose. This was the time when we had high juvenile rates of pay and when there was a general change in life styles.
People were working shorter hours. They enjoyed far greater affluence than they had ever enjoyed before. There was increased mobility and small families. There were consumer preferences that had never been seen before in many locations. There were also the questions of repairs and maintenance really coming into their own. All those factors created a situation which tended to pass over a little bit later.
Historically, of course, Australia has always had a very high rate of home ownership. In the 1970s the rate of occupancy per house tended to decline also so that we had a very high rate of building and a very low level of occupancy. This had a blotting paper effect which many people are not able to understand. We went through a patch when a tremendous number of people owned second houses. Many of these second houses, which even now I believe represent 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the total housing in Australia, are currently unoccupied. Not only did that happen but also many juveniles left home and rented flats. Some of them stayed there, some went back home. We had this fluctuating situation. We found that in many cases the second home was then either sold or let. The figure which was taken by people who kept statistics to be a firm trend figure was a totally artificial figure which could never have lasted. Even the Indicative Planning Council, for which I have a lot of regard, I think, made some fundamental errors in its early days with regard to the figures from which it started to work.
There has not been a massive decline to the extent that has been intimated. We are over the peak. The figures are less than they should be but are not by any means at the disaster level. As a result of the huge rises in costs flats turned out to be unprofitable. Tenants could not pay the rents. Owners changed their flats to stratum titles. All this cushioned what otherwise would have been the normal market. We have to consider that we went through a two-year period from 1973-74 to 1975-76 when the public sector exerted a tremendous influence on the market then and for the future. Not only did this frighten a great many private builders but also it changed the whole swing at the time. In 1973-74 138,612 private dwellings and 11,416 government houses were built. By 1975-76, to compensate for the government figure going up by nearly double, the private sector figure contracted to 19,726 houses. This created quite a change. It also padded the market artificially at a time when it would have been better to let it go a little. Only now with the new States housing grants are we in a position to try to retrieve the situation in some way.
The States ignored their basic responsibilities. The Federal and State departments blossomed, fattened and forgot what their job was, namely, the supply of welfare housing for the people who needed it. At the last count I made of the various avenues of assistance I found that there are 1 8 different ways in which this Federal Government provides money for housing of one sort or another. They are all expensive. I suggest that at least 10 of them could be disbanded and disposed of, usually by putting them into the States grants system and leaving the States to fund them. Canberra cannot and will never be able to do it all, and I would not want it to. Canberra ‘s job is to create the climate and set the scene, and it is up to the States to implement the schemes and see that they get the best value. I have found that the States are deliberately jeopardising their opportunities by empire building. They too want the biggest and best department they can possibly get, and they get very touchy about the situation too. The Federal Government’s responsibility is to ensure that we get the best use of housing money, and I am a long way from being satisfied that we are getting that in either the private or public sectors.
Recently I suggested to one of the State housing departments that there were four ways in which it could improve the housing situation, and all I got was a tirade of abuse from a Minister who knows very little about the situation. The four methods I proposed were, firstly, that all public sector rental housing should be based on market oriented rentals with means tests wherever they are desirable; secondly, we should produce inducements, if necessary, and encouragements at least for all occupants to consider purchasing their houses; thirdly, we should inject more money into the terminating building societies from the home builders’ account so that 50 per cent more houses are built with the same amount of money; and, fourthly, we should dispose into the public sector of some of the very extensive land bank that seems to have accumulated and convert it to housing. All those things would assist in providing housing. I get a bit sick of people whingeing about the shortage when they will do nothing about it themselves. I do not want to penalise by any means people who are waiting for housing, but I think we may have to see what we can do about bringing some of the State departments into line if they refuse to co-operate.
This Government already provides home savings grants to assist with the deposit gap. It also provides the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation to insure up to 100 per cent of value, if purchasers so wish. The structure for doing these things is there, and we have to consider why it is not operating as we would like it to operate. The reasons are twofold: Sometimes there are shortages of money, and sometimes people are unable to pay the price. For years and years people worked for a few years to save the deposit to buy a house. Over the last few years the faster they saved the further they got behind. Inflation was leaving them behind all the time. They were never going to get into a position to buy a house. We have to try to reverse this trend, which is one of the things that this Budget will achieve. Rental accommodation is still short because of the cost of building and because people are unable to pay the rents involved.
I believe that it is possible to get more money into the housing industry, and I have made submissions to the relevant sources in the hope that we will be able to achieve some changes. We have to consider the sort of figure at which we are looking. What do we expect this mystical figure of the number of new houses built per year to be? That seems to be the basis on which we operate, although I cannot agree that this is the only item which we should consider. It would appear to me that a figure of about 125,000 to 130,000 is far more realistic than the figures I heard earlier. I would not wish us under any circumstances to try to build 150,000 houses this year. If we tried we would add 20 per cent to the price of every house and would create the greatest shortage of labour and materials we ever had. Whatever increase there is to be will have to take place gently and steadily. In many places in Australia it is impossible now to obtain skilled tradesmen for many jobs. I do not think that we are having a building depression as much as we are having a non-realised over-anticipation. I think that there is a lot of difference between those two situations and that we should recognise that there is a difference. None of us want to see a boom with all the problems we had previously.
I would like to see a word of real praise given to the industry at this stage. The industry is very efficient. It has done a very valuable job over a long period. It is coping with changes far better than most other industries that are subject to the same sorts of changes which historically affect them. It is also coping with the changes at least as well if not better than Federal, State and local governments. The industry has to cope with absolutely ridiculous and conflicting standards all over the place. It is suffering from a general overspecification which is increasing costs. It is having all sorts of trouble with zoning and planning which makes for disastrous delays and an increase in costs. Its costs are very well controlled, h has shown considerable development over the last few years. It has shown a great power for innovation and resourcefulness. There is a big trend to new materials and methods. By the same token, never again will housing require the same amount of labour per house as has been the case in the past. Whole trades have been eliminated in the changes in the industry in the last few years in an effort to keep viable. Of course, the industry’s weakness is the same as that of many other industries in that it is unable to keep abreast of the full market forces. This has created problems such as the one we are nearly out of, but it will not prevent it happening again.
In conclusion, I say that the housing industry will revive. Inflation is getting back to the levels at which we left it in 1972. Interest rates will return to those levels also. It should not be forgotten that a one per cent reduction in interest rates represents a $5,000 reduction in the payback price of a house. The figures that I have differ substantially from those that have been cited in the debate. They show that the gross fixed capital expenditure on private dwellings rose to $747m in the June quarter of 1978, a rise of 7.5 per cent compared with the revised March quarter figure. Dwelling commencements increased by 10 per cent in the June quarter in 1 978. The number of private dwellings commenced rose by 9 per cent and Government building commencements rose by 24 per cent. Indeed, commencements rose in all States except Western Australia. The greatest increases were in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. In addition, the prices of new contract homes increased by only six per cent in 1977-78 and the wholesale price of building materials rose by only 5.8 per cent. Why then are people talking about a housing depression? We are now out of trouble and well on the road to recovery. I commend the policy of the Government at this stage and support what it is doing for the people of Australia in housing.
– On behalf of Senator Carrick, the Minister for Education, and pursuant to section 35 of the Student Assistance Act 1973, 1 present the report of the operation of that Act in 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 1 1 of the Commonwealth Police Act 1957, 1 present the report of the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police Force for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– I present the first report of the Parole Board of the Australian Capital Territory and seek leave to make a short statement in relation to it.
-I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the Parole Board of the Australian Capital Territory was not obliged by the Parole Ordinance 1976 to make an annual report to me. It is usual for legislation to impose such an obligation on a parole board and I am giving consideration to an amendment of the Ordinance for that purpose. In the event the Parole Board of the Australian Capital Territory considered it appropriate to submit a report to me for my information and to include in it a recommendation that an obligation to report be imposed upon it.
Although the number of prisoners considered by the Board is small in comparison with the figures usual in the various States, the Board’s procedure has some novel features, and I have no doubt that honourable senators will find the report of interest. For myself, I should like to express my appreciation to the Board for its consideration of several difficult cases that were referred to it for an advisory recommendation.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, 1 present the report relating to the following proposed work:
National Acoustics Laboratory and Ultrasonics Institute, Chatswood, New South Wales.
– by leave- I wish to make a statement to inform the Senate of recent developments regarding Namibia. Honourable senators will be aware of Press reports that Australia has been asked to provide a contribution to the proposed United Nations peacekeeping force in Namibia. The precise size and structure of the peacekeeping force- to be known as the United Nations Transition Assistance Group, which has been given the inevitable abbreviation of UNTAG- has yet to be decided by the United Nations. However, informal soundings have been made as to whether Australia might be able to contribute to the force. Similar approaches have also been made to other countries. I would like to make it quite clear that so far no formal approach has been made to Australia. Nor, contrary to some Press reports, has Australia made any offer of a contribution to the United Nations.
I am not seeking today to make a definitive statement on all the issues involved in this important question. My statement today should be seen as a preamble to the Government’s detailed consideration of it. I see it as most important that the Parliament and the public have the fullest possible comprehension of this matter, and it is with this in mind that I now wish to examine the considerations on both sides of the case.
It is unlikely that Australia will be asked to provide combatant forces, but we could be asked to supply military personnel as part of an integrated logistics element involving a transport and supply unit, a communications unit, and some ancillary staff which would help backup the main United Nations contingent. These items have been mentioned to us as possibly coming from Australia. But I would stress again that there has been no formal request. As is normally the case with United Nations peacekeeping operations, a force for Namibia would be set up pursuant to a resolution of the United Nations Security Council, which would provide it with a specific mandate spelling out its role and charter of operations. The force would be under a commander appointed by and responsible to the United Nations Secretary-General.
It is expected that the Security Council will meet towards the end of this month or the beginning of September to consider a report from the Secretary-General on the proposed operation of the force and to decide on its establishment. The Secretary-General’s report will be heavily influenced by the finding of his Special Representative, Mr Ahtisaari of Finland, who is currently in Namibia to assess the political situation on the ground and the prospects for an orderly transition to independence. As part of his investigation Mr Ahtisaari will investigate in detail aspects of the establishment and practical operations of the proposed peacekeeping force. It will not be until this investigation is concluded and its recommendations adopted by the Security Council that more will be known of the tasks the force will have to perform, the extent and type of units likely to be required, the command arrangements and the difficulties likely to be met in carrying out the UN mandate.
By way of background I should explain that the adoption by the Security Council of the proposals of the five Western members of the Council for a peaceful , settlement in Namibia represents the first major success for Western diplomacy in southern Africa. Agreement in principle has been reached with South Africa and the major Namibian nationalist group, the South West Africa Peoples OrganisationSWAPO on the broad basis of settlement proposals for Namibia, although there remain differences in interpretation. This follows some 15 months of painstaking negotiations. The future of the South African enclave of Walvis Bay, not specifically addressed in the proposals, remains an important obstacle to an internationally acceptable settlement.
In the proposals of the ‘five’, the central task of the UN force would be to ensure that conditions are established to allow an impartial electoral process leading to free and fair elections and independence. During the interim period both South Africa and SWAPO forces will be required progressively to withdraw to camps under UN supervision. The existing South African police will retain primary responsibility for maintaining law and order in accordance with arrangements to be agreed with and supervised by the UN Special Representative. The UN force will be required to assist the police in this role and to ‘guarantee against the possibility of intimidation and interference with the electoral process from whatever quarter’. The UN force would also assume the task of the South African military forces in maintaining border surveillance to prevent infiltration. A civilian component of UNTAG is expected to assist with the administration of the elections. Under the agreed proposals a ceasefire is to be in effect prior to the arrival of the peacekeeping force. It is not intended that the United Nations would be expected to impose a ceasefire or a settlement but its position could be difficult if the ceasefire initially established were to break down after its arrival.
Over the years, the United Nations work in international peacekeeping has become one of the best known and most successful of its activities.
There are at present United Nations peacekeeping forces operating in three regions: The Middle East, Cyprus and Kashmir, and Australians are involved in all three. There is thus already a substantial contribution by Australia to United Nations peacekeeping operations. This has demonstrated our continuing support for the aims and objectives of the United Nations Chaner; most importantly, the maintenance of international peace and security. Successive Australian governments have been firmly committed to these aims.
Namibia is a country about the size of New South Wales and with a population of just under one million people. It is rich in minerals, including uranium. It was for many years administered by South Africa under a mandate granted by the League of Nations, which was changed to a trusteeship when the United Nations superseded the League. South Africa, however, refused to continue the trusteeship mandate, claiming that the territory had been fully integrated with South Africa. In 1966 the United Nations resolved that South Africa’s continuing administration was illegal, a decision upheld by the International Court of Justice. In recent years a continuous but low level guerrilla campaign has been carried on by the Namibian nationalists, led by the South West Africa Peoples Organisation, against the military forces of the South African Administration, numbering some 13,000, and the supporters of South Africa in the territory. This campaign has involved sporadic acts of terrorism, minor sabotage and some border incidents. The level of guerrilla activity has been on a very much lower scale than is currently the case in Rhodesia.
In the light of this developing conflict, the five Western members of the Security Council last year instituted talks with all interested parties, including South Africa and SWAPO. These talks were aimed at achieving an early and peaceful transition from colonial status to majority rule and independence, through free elections under UN supervision.
We in Australia have not been used to thinking of Africa as an area of particular concern to us. The primary focus of Australian defence planning is, of necessity, Australia’s own region, although we have wider strategic interests elsewhere. The question therefore arises whether Namibia is an appropriate place for Australia to contemplate a significant military involvement. On the other hand, in an increasingly interdependent world the problems of southern Africa are important and we have consistently supported the need to find peaceful and negotiated solutions to them. Basic questions of human rights and majority rule are involved. Continuing instability resulting from conflicts which stem from racial inequality creates the very conditions in which extremist influences can thrive. The only beneficiary of such instability can be forces hostile to the West. It is in the West’s interests for there to be a peaceful settlement in Namibia, the consequence of which would extend far beyond Namibia’s borders. It would not of itself resolve the other problems of southern Africa but it would help to arrest the growing trend towards military solutions.
In Namibia, through an initiative inspired and carried through by the Western powers, and sub: stantially assisted by the Presidents of the socalled front line states- Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Botswana- the situation has reached the stage where there is now a real opportunity to reach a satisfactory and internationally acceptable transition to independence and majority rule. It could well be that as a result of elections under United Nations auspices, SWAPO gains power in Namibia. SWAPO, as I have already noted, is the major Namibian nationalist group. It espouses a socialist philosophy and much of its rhetoric is based on Marxism. But its program calls for a Westernstyle parliamentary system, guarantees of civil liberty and an equitable distribution of wealth. It has a maximum of some 4,000 guerrillas at all stages of training and proficiency, of whom some 200 are based in Namibia, with the remainder across the border in Angola and Zambia. SWAPO, like most similar nationalist movements, is divided. There are differences between its internal and external wings and between moderates and those who take a harder line. It is possible that if SWAPO were to split on ideological grounds or, if it seemed likely that it might not win the elections, there could be an upsurge in guerrilla activity.
There can be little doubt that the proposed United Nations operation will be an extremely difficult and delicate one. The Western proposals contain a number of ambiguities and imprecisions, which could become the subject of contention between the parties themselves or one or other of them and the United Nations Special Representative. The physical difficulties attendant upon the introduction and establishment of the UN force will be considerable. Even when the force is in place there will remain the risk of a breakdown of the agreement and of disorder and violence. However, the situation the UN force would face in Namibia is one where it would be in the interests of all the parties that the settlement succeed and disorder be avoided. Nevertheless, the possibility of attacks on and casualties for a UN force in such a highly charged political situation cannot be ruled out. An Australian logistic force could be vulnerable to such attacks.
There is also a potential for differences of opinion within the mixed UN force in the highly volatile political environment in which it will be placed. These could adversely affect its operation, especially in any combat situation, and have implications for its security. The SecretaryGeneral’s Special Representative’s visit to Namibia will no doubt shed additional light on these matters and assist us towards judgments on the sort of role, if any, Australia might be able to play. The effect of an Australian contribution would also need to be considered in the light of our own defence capabilities and the consequences for our military effectiveness if our limited military resources were to be depleted by a decision to contribute a key if limited element to a force in Namibia.
The whole question of contributing to a peacekeeping force for Namibia will require the closest examination by the Government. We shall have to consider the value of an Australian contribution to the United Nations effort, and how our own national and foreign policy interests would be served thereby. There could be substantial costs, at a time when our fiscal policies require tight budgetary restraint on defence as well as other areas of government expenditure. There is also the basic question of whether, having regard to the fact that Australia is already contributing to United Nations peacekeeping forces in three other areas, Australia should wish or feel obliged to contribute in Namibia as well. In considering these questions, the Government will of course be in close consultation with the United Nations and other potential contributors. Until further information is available, detailed consideration of all the relevant issues is not possible. For example before the Government could make a decision it would require further information on such matters as what other countries are likely to contribute, what will be the size and capabilities of their contingents and what would be the likely dangers to the force should one of the parties repudiate the agreement, which includes a ceasefire. SWAPO has said that it will not observe a ceasefire until South African troops are confined to base. South Africa maintains that it will not confine its troops to base until a ceasefire is in operation. Some elements within the South
African Government are not reconciled to the settlement proposals.
As well we would need to be assured that an Australian contribution would not be openended, and that the task given to the Australian contingent would be within its capabilities. Should there be delay in the electoral program or a deterioration in the general security situation, the UN force may well be required to stay on. While it is always theoretically open to a country to withdraw from a UN force, it is in practice difficult to do so. This could raise very serious practical difficulties for us. We shall need to examine carefully what other possible options are open to us.
For all these reasons, the Government is not in a position to respond to the informal UN soundings at this stage. The Government will, however, keep the matter under the closest review in order to be able to make an early decision should a definite request be received from the United Nations. I shall keep the Senate informed. I move:
– I should like to comment only briefly on the statement that has just been made. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) is to be commended for bringing the attention of the Parliament to the fact that informal overtures have been made to the Australian Government for a possible commitment of forces to Namibia. I would add only that I am pleased that the Government has not undertaken to make any commitment. Obviously, it would not consider such a commitment until such time as a formal request was made. In view of the seriousness of such a commitment it is apparent that the Government at least should give preliminary consideration to it and certainly should advise the Parliament. Such a commitment, of course, would not be made lightly and certainly it would not be made without knowing the implications of Australian forces being stationed for any purpose.
The Opposition makes it clear, of course, that it supports decisions of the United Nations but I would think that no government or opposition would give a blanket assurance of support for such a commitment. Despite the support in principle of the United Nations decision to establish a peacekeeping force, we would not give an open cheque to any commitment or to any decision that was made by the United Nations or by any other group of nations. We share the view that we need to know the details of what was required of us and we would need to know the implications for Australia. I presume, as the Minister has said, that if any further requests are made of the Australian Government, particularly formal requests, the Parliament will be advised accordingly. The Opposition, of course, will await that advice.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 15 August, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Senate take note of the papers.
– Governments are elected to serve the whole community. They are not elected to pursue a narrow political line designed to serve only a section of the community. Because Mr Malcolm Fraser has followed the latter course in his two and a half years as Prime Minister, he now has nowhere to go- not only nowhere to go, but no coherent policy, no credibility and probably no friends either. It has taken two and a half years for the true nature of the man to be revealed. If there is one thing Australians look for in a Prime Minister, it is the capacity to trust him. How many among the Australian community can now trust Mr Fraser?
This Budget painfully reminds us of commitments that were made, not only during the last election campaign, but also throughout the past two and a half years: Commitments of jobs for all; a commitment of a revitalised economy which would give the business community hope to plan for the future; a commitment of no more expensive overseas trips; a commitment to give the States a better deal; a commitment to reduce income tax; and, most important of all, a commitment to work in the interests of the total Australian community. What is left of this charade of concern for Australia and Australians? Instead, we have 150,000 more Australians unemployed since Malcolm Fraser came to office; the business community bewildered by a Government that refuses to accept any role to get the economy moving again; overseas trips at $600 a night in plush New York hotels; State governments starved of funds for vitally needed capital works programs; a* massive increase in taxes- both direct and indirect; and, finally, an Australian community disillusioned and confused as to where this Government is taking the country.
The Australian community is looking for strong leadership. It is also looking for integrity and commitment in government. Mr Fraser is not a man capable of providing those qualities. Strength and leadership do not mean the capacity to stand over one’s fellow citizens, nor to stand over one’s Cabinet colleagues. It does not mean talking about integrity when one is not demonstrating integrity, nor does it mean forcing the community and the economy to fit into a pattern that reflects the narrow political philosophy of one man. It is important that these basic factors be realised in order that we can understand the nature of this Budget and the reasons why Mr Fraser is becoming increasingly isolated, not only in the Australian community generally, but also within the ranks of his own Party.
Most significantly, the 1978 Budget spells the end- or at least a long halt- to the introduction of Mr Fraser ‘s new federalism policy which is a central issue in the whole of his philosophy. It is a Budget which will cause State governments to stop, and even those which might have contemplated co-operating in the introduction of the second stage of the new federalism plan which relates to State income tax will have to wait. We have been told time and time again by Senator Carrick, who is the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, that stage two would be introduced and that the States would have the option open to them to introduce a State income tax or to provide tax rebates. Contrary to what Senator Carrick says, there is no prospect now of any of the States ever having anything to do with this concept. The farcical situation was brought home over the announcement by the Government to introduce a l.Sc in the dollar income tax surcharge. We were told in this chamber by the Minister that the States would not share in the benefits of that increased taxation. Then Senator Carrick quite commendably admitted he was wrong, but it illustrates very clearly that the right and left hands of this Government are not quite sure what they are doing.
I now bring honourable senators to the main part of the Budget proposals. Before I do so, I remind every senator of the promises which the Liberal and National Country parties made prior to the last election. Every newspaper, every television commercial was dominated by the theme of tax reductions. Pictures of fistfuls of notes featured prominently and there is no doubt that many people voted for Mr Fraser in the belief that they would receive effective tax reductions. How deluding were the promises. How tricked was the electorate. How improper was that advertising. How demoralising are the results. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) claims:
Since the last Budget, the Australian people have overwhelmingly endorsed the Government’s economic policies and objectives.
The polls now show that belief to be mistaken. The people voted for promises which were dressed up to be attractive. Mr Howard is doing no more than pose as the wolf which ate Little Red Riding Hood. If the Fraser Government went to the polls at the moment there would be no endorsement of its policies- they would be rejected decisively.
When the Fraser Government came to power it promised that the economy would improve and it was argued that tax reductions were needed to initiate a consumer-led recovery. That promise failed, and all that happened was for hundreds of thousands of consumers to be thrown on the unemployed list. After that failure the Prime Minister, with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), heralded an investment-led recovery which, of course, was the 40 per cent investment allowance. This allowance was meant to stimulate the economy. The nation was told- and we all remember this- of $6,000m worth of projects which were in the pipeline and whose commencement would filter through to stimulate demand. We were told that all that was needed was the re-election of the Fraser Government to set the whole thing in motion. That promise also failed and many of the projects which Mr Anthony listed are far from a commercial reality.
Now the Prime Minister is relying on an overseas-based investment boom. This is the third version. Unlike most other national leaders, he sees international recovery around the corner and believes that the moment it comes Australia will benefit immediately. It seems he understands little about the international economic scene and how much his own Government’s actions limit the scope for Australia to benefit from any recovery in the Northern Hemisphere. The Treasurer, in his Budget Speech, said:
Externally, our export growth will be constrained by the continuing moderate growth of the world economy in 1978-79.
Further, he said: . . from the point of view of the current account balance and the domestic incomes, the sluggishness in export volumes is likely to be offset by a significant improvement in the terms of trade.
If the Treasurer really means what he says, I must assume that he does not understand the implications for Australia flowing from such things as the rapid and serious decline in the value of the United States dollar. Member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development and other independent economic organisations have been revising downwards the anticipated rates of economic growth for the leading Western industrial nations in 1978-79. The most serious revision is that of Japan with a reduction in the rate of growth from 7 per cent to 4 per cent.
The re-appearance of inflationary pressures in the United States of America and the weakening of that country’s balance of payments is more likely to mean that world trade will contract. Importantly for Australia, the rise of the value of the yen relative to the United States dollar means that Japanese exports to the United States have been declining rapidly. The shipbuilding, motor vehicle and iron and steel industries are all feeling the pinch of the change in exchange rate relativities. Contracts with Australia for the purchase of iron ore, coking coal and sugar have already been pruned back in terms of both quantity and price and further cutbacks are imminent. If the dollar continues to slide, the same reactions will come from important customers for Australian raw materials such as South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan.
No major Australian raw material supplier has any realistic prospect of increasing sales or prices for exported goods in the next 12 months. It is fruitless to argue that as the Australian dollar moves down in sympathy with the United States dollar, the Japanese will hold larger stocks of Australian materials. There is a physical limit to what any country, including Japan, can or is willing to hold in stocks and there is no suggestion that the Japanese are about to embark on a buying spree. Under these circumstances, the assumptions of the Prime Minister of even moderate improvement in our external balance are dubious, and if, as I suspect, they are proved wrong, Australia will be out borrowing even larger sums to prop up its own dollar. It is now quite conceivable that by the end of this financial year Australia could have borrowed up to $5,000m abroad for that purpose.
When the Australian Labor Party was in government the then Opposition frequently claimed that we could not blame overseas events for our problems. It seems now that the boot is on the other foot. The simple fact is that any Australian government must face the reality that any international recovery is at least 12 months away and probably longer, and for Australia to obtain any benefit there will be a further delay of at least another nine months. Under these conditions, no government can allow unemployment to keep rising or industrial manufacturing capacity to remain at 75 per cent and possibly lower or for the community not to be provided with essentia] services. In these conditions government policy must achieve a balance between keeping inflation down, which we accept, and maintaining, as near as possible, full employment. It must ensure that the State governments, which are large employers, and local government, which is capable of administering stimulatory programs, receive an adequate flow of funds.
It is pertinent to remind the Senate of the Prime Minister’s words when talking about the three years to the end of 1 975. He said:
The last three years have hurt many people. Those who are worse off are the weak and the unorganised, the poor, the retired, the small businessman and the farmer, the school leaver and the family man. . . .
Let us look at the position we now face as a result of the Budget introduced by the Government. Full tax indexation has not been introduced as promised. Income tax has been increased by 1 lAc in the dollar which, for many income earners on average wages or salaries, is an effective increase of 4 per cent and, in some cases, higher. An equivalent amount of about $12 a week has been taken away from the average wage earner.
The Budget deficit, which has previously been so sacred to the Fraser Government, has blown out by 50 per cent above last year because of the then Treasurer’s rubbery figures. Farmers will be slugged an additional $160m a year for fuel which is four times the amount the Government pays out on the superphosphate bounty. Unemployment stands at the highest level since the depression with the prospect of 500,000 people being unemployed by Christmas. Medibank has virtually gone. The public sector has been cut without resort to rational reorganisation. Pensions are now to be indexed annually. The Primary Industry Bank, which the Prime Minister promised primary producers would provide funds at concessional interest rates, provides no concessional interest rates. The promises will be broken again. The list is larger and indicates just how willing the Prime Minister is to break promises on which he was elected to power. What has he achieved? On the positive side there has been a reduction in inflation. But at what cost? We now have a stagnant economy, massive unemployment and an increasingly divided Australia.
The Prime Minister has claimed that the Liberal Party is concerned with the preservation of the family, but the actions of this Budget are contrary to that statement. It seems that he has a restricted view of economics and is obsessed beyond reason with inflation, the size of the deficit and the size of the public sector. Frequently he uses the analogy of the family budget and talks about balancing it. What he seems to forget is that most people in Australia do not have a Nareen’, and instead have a first and often a second mortgage. The family budget is rarely balanced because of massive commitments, and for most people the Fraser analogy is quite meaningless. The deficit figures have become almost meaningless, if for no other reason than that the figures are subjected to cosmetic surgery which disguises the fact that the correct figure is probably more like $4,000m. Yet, at the same time, there is still massive unemployment and business stagnation.
The OECD has shown that Australia has one of the smallest public sectors among OECD members and that the Fraser vendetta against what he calls ‘big government’ is mistaken. As many businessmen will quickly say, about 40 per cent of their contracts depend upon Federal or State Government work. When that work shrinks they are in difficulty. It is mistaken also for the Government to claim that the stock market has signalled approval of the Budget. It may have done so in the first day or two but, like other Australians, it is realising what further problems the economy of this country will be finding in the future. Already this week the initial euphoria has subsided and stock market indices are dropping to the pre-Budget levels. The business sector is beginning to understand that the Government’s estimate of 4 per cent rate of non-farm growth in the current financial year is quite unrealistic. Nobody really believes it will be achieved. At best it may be 3 per cent and, if predictions about the state of the international economy are correct, it is highly unlikely that it will reach 3 per cent.
The Fraser Government is expecting the private sector to initiate recovery. On what basis should the private sector start? Demand is slack and will lessen after November when the pay as you earn deductions reflect the tax increase. The outlook for exports is poor and the Government is doing little effectively to assist export industries. Unemployment creates a psychology of holding onto what cash you have rather than spending. The cut in sales tax on motor cars, apart from being inconsistent with Mr Fraser ‘s frequent criticism of the proposal when put forward by the ALP, is offset by other restrictive measures. There will be a temporary surge, but after that a return to pre-Budget listlessness. Under this Budget it is impossible to see where the private sector can increase its rate of growth from 1.1 per cent to 6 per cent. There will be no chance of initiating measures from public sector expenditure because of the cutbacks in that area. All in all, this is a budget of misconceived strategies and continuing recession. Unless there is an economic miracle, the present Government will cause Australia to move deeper and deeper into a serious economic recession.
The great misfortune is that solutions are available which will not cause the hardship and divisions of the present Budget. The Labor Party has an alternative. It was outlined last night by our leader, Mr Bill Hayden. It would work and, unlike the Prime Minister, the Labor Party has the sense to be looking to do the best for all the people of Australia. It does not hold the grudges and prejudices which are so much a part of Mr Fraser ‘s thinking. Let us consider the main points of that alternative Budget. That Budget would be looking to modest expansion and a reduction in unemployment. The reduction in unemployment would increase consumer spending, help restore confidence and, most importantly, bring dignity to the many people now forced onto the dole queues. On the revenue side, most of the tax increases which Mr Howard introduced would be scrapped by a Labor Government. The rate of income tax has gone up by about 5 per cent on a full year, while the increase in indirect taxes is about 15 per cent. We would retain the measures to tighten self assessment for income tax and restrictions to income averaging provisions for non-farm income of primary producers. All the other tax increases would be abandoned.
We would substitute an auction system for the 12.5 per cent tariff increase on imports subject to quota. This system has already been the subject of abuses, and Australia’s contradictory stance on protection has earned criticism from our ASEAN neighbours and our major trading partner, Japan. The auctioning of the quota system would lessen the chance of the tariff increase being passed on to consumers. The excise on beer, cigarettes and spirits would be removed. Apart from the impact on consumers, the industry involved with the distribution of these products is a large employer of labour and any cutback in sales could cause more unemployment. The increase in the price of crude oil not covered by import parity arrangements would be removed.
The increased costs flowing from the Government’s new petrol tax are quite enormous. I can remember Senator Withers in this chamber on 27 August 1975 saying that there would be an increased excise on petrol, which he said would add about 10 cents a gallon to the price of fuel. It is a wonder the Government did not take heed of
Senator Withers’ warning. I am also surprised that the Country Party has blithely accepted it. It will add $950 a year to the costs of an average sugar farmer and over $1200 a year to the costs of an average wheat grower. The higher fuel prices, together with the increased income tax and other charges, creates a severe cost disadvantage for all farmers. These are the people who produce 40 per cent of our exports and who are supposed to be more competitive as a result of this Budget. Together with other broken promises and increased costs, this is a budget which the National Country Party should reject.
Most importantly, the Labor Party would drop the income tax surcharge. It means a tax increase ranging from 4 per cent to 8 per cent for most taxpayers and has the effect of reducing disposable incomes, lowering demand and thus reducing production and jobs. Ironically, for someone as highly paid as the Prime Minister, the income tax surcharge means an increase of only 5 per cent. We would maintain the drop in sales taxation, although we have reservations about its effectiveness due to the other contractionary effects of this Budget. On the income side there would be two new taxes. Neither of these taxes would have any impact on the average wage and salary earners, and even people with moderate assets would not be slugged as they are being slugged by the present Government. There would be a resources tax and a capital gains tax. Neither of these taxes are new to countries similar to Australia. The effect of both taxes would be to reverse the inequitable impact of the February tax changes, which gave the top 2.5 per cent of taxpayers handouts of $200m- about 1 5 per cent of the total savings.
The resource tax would be implemented to cream off some of the excessive profits of mining companies which are exploiting a natural resource which belongs to Australians- a fact which is recognised even by the Queensland Government in its taxing of mining company arrangements. Utah’s profit rose last year by $22m. The return on its working capital is about 60 per cent, and this is very much above the average return to Australian industry as a whole. The initial revenue proceeds of the resources tax would be about $ 150m. When combined with the windfall profits which this Government gave to the overseas oil companies, there is scope for further funds to remain in Australia for the benefit of all Australians. Instead of taxing the unused leave and lump sum payments made to retiring persons, the ALP would be looking to tax areas of unearned income. This is not revolutionary. It is a system which operates already in the United
States of America, and even in Australia, if the Commissioner of Taxation decides to tax capital profits made in less than 12 months, under the existing income tax provisions, he may do so. I make it quite clear that it would not include normal family possessions such as the home, motor car, and so on. It would cut in at around $200,000 and would have exactly the same effect as the United States capital gains tax. There are eminent people in the tax accounting industry and private industry generally who would prefer the certainty of a capital gains tax to the uncertainty of the present measures. It also distributes the tax burden more equitably, and would yield approximately $300m.
We would also terminate the investment allowance introduced by this Government. It has not fostered economic growth; rather the contrary. It has put pressure on the balance of payments and has served little purpose. We would act positively against the use of family trusts as devices for tax avoidance. We would tackle the trust problem directly, difficult though it is. The Asprey Taxation Review Committee recommended that all investment income of minor children be taxed at the rate applied to the parent. A simpler measure would be a straight out penal tax rate on trusts to end their use as tax avoidance devices. The net impact of the changes we propose would be to reduce revenue by about $470m. The overall effect in fact is expansionary. The ALP would not proceed with the proposal in the Government’s Budget for the expenditure of $20m on the development of the Ranger uranium project.
It is fundamental that the greater growth in education outlays should be in the areas of greater need. We would ensure that that would be done. We would remove the means test on the family allowance, a measure which was in line with our pre-Budget predictions that the Government proposed to tamper with the family allowance. As I indicated earlier today during the debate on the matter of public importance, we would inject moneys into the housing industry to ensure that the catalogue of unemployment and depressed orders would be overcome. A stimulus of this size would create about 40,000 jobs- 20,000 in the building and construction industry, and another 20,000 in the associated support industries. The net increase in outlays from these changes would be of the order of $530m.
Our alternative would provide a growth in employment of about three per cent, or about 160,000 jobs. Not only would this absorb the natural increase in the work force- about 1 10,000- but also we could expect to see unemployment reduced by 50,000. The important point is that a start must be made. We cannot allow this Government to continue with its present attitude that it does not have the responsibility of taking the initiative to reactivate the economy. It has tried several methods, in every case throwing the responsibility on to some section of the community but not on to itself.
The Government’s Budget is one of rubbery figures, of mistaken assumptions and false hopes. It continues the Fraser approach of take all and give little. It is another part of the litany of broken promises and has very little support from the Australian community. In conclusion may I say that under different circumstances one could have some sympathy for Mr Fraser’s problems. But now after nearly three years of his Government those problems are clearly of his own making and he is accountable for them. It is for him and his Government to justify them.
– It gives me great pleasure tonight to support the Budget which was brought down last Tuesday night in this place as well as in the House of Representatives. I believe that it is a document which sets out the future development of Australia because it attacks the real problems of Australia. As the Opposition has put forward in its alternative Budget, it does not attack some sort of artificial set of circumstances which Opposition members say are afflicting the Australian economy. The facts are that the basic issues have to be attacked, and that is what this Budget has set about to do. I am very impressed with the way in which the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has drawn up the document in order to provide long-term, sustainable recovery in areas of vital importance to the economy. It is amazing that the Opposition continually misses the point about what is wrong with the Australian economy.
Let us look at just a few of the current issues. The Opposition misses the point that the opportunity to create new jobs in this community will result only from the ability of this nation to be able to develop its technology, its skills and a future for its products. Certain industries, well known to Opposition senators and honourable senators on this side, have been destroyed by the activities of the Opposition when it was in government in seeking to achieve higher levels of costs to the community by encouraging wage increases beyond those which the community could stand, by imposing higher taxation levels and by ensuring that the wrong sort of emphasis was given to the development of certain programs in the economy.
Let us look at some of the real issues which the nation faces at the moment. Let us look at the fundamental issue of unemployment. How did the present unemployment come about? We know that in 1973 and 1974 there was a virtual encouragement by the Whitlam Government to increase cost levels through increasing the level of wages paid in the community. The trade union movement was encouraged to seek wage increases outside the levels which might otherwise have been reasonable. We know that this situation was encouraged through positive policies in the Public Service. We know that these attitudes have flowed on into the various sectors of the community. How is it that the Opposition can stand here tonight and make the point that the only way to achieve new jobs is to adopt those same policies? Tonight the Leader of the Opposition has put forward the views that we should be increasing the level of real wages in the community and that we should be increasing the levels of payments via the taxation system or the Federal Government in order to achieve more activity in the community. Through 1974 and 1975 those policies were seen to fail. There is absolutely no doubt about that.
We have evidence of this from the 1975 Budget. Mr Hayden, the then Treasurer, who delivered the Budget in that year referred specifically to the problem of inflation. He made the point that there was no way to economic recovery through increased Government spending, or by encouraging increased wages in the community or by imposing increased costs on the business community. In the Budget Speech in 1975 he stated:
We are no longer operating in that simple Keynesian world in which some reduction in unemployment could, apparently, always be purchased at the cost of some more inflation. Today, it is inflation itself which is the central policy problem. More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
That is the issue which is before the Government today and which has been before it for the last three years, that is since it came to office in December 1975. The consistency of the Fraser Government’s policy in attacking inflation has been remarkable. Today the commentators in the community who can be most believed and those who have a full appreciation of the real nature of the problem have appreciated that situation and they have said so.
– Who are they?
– Syntec Economic Services Pty Ltd for one and Philip Shrapnel and
Co. Pty Ltd for another. Let us look at the interrelationship between this basic problem of inflation, the rest of the economy and the way in which it operates. Let us have regard to the key issues. We know that at the moment interest rates are too high. We know that that situation has been induced because of inflation which has been brought about by profligate policies over the last three years of the Australian Labor Party Government. We know that monetary policy needs to be expanded. But how can that happen when we have such a high level of interests rates within the economy? We have a situation where inflation is automatically a factor in keeping interest rates high. We know that interest rates are falling in line with the fall in the rate of inflation.
We had an example before us yesterday when the Commonwealth issue of bonds brought in some $76m indicating that the community which invests in these things is aware of the fact that interest rates are on the way down. Quite clearly people are getting in now while government bond levels are around 8.8 per cent or 9 per cent which is already some 1.5 per cent or 1.7 per cent below the Commonwealth bond rate which applied some two to three years ago. So we have an indication that the bond rate is about to fall further. That will have a widespread effect throughout the rest of the community. In recent weeks we have seen the huge inflow of capital into building societies. This is a further indication that interest rates are on the way down. We are about to see increasing activity in the housing area. Of course, this is a matter about which the Australian Labor Party- out of time and out of step as usual- this afternoon challenged by its matter of public importance.
Let us have a look at the way in which inflation affects our position overseas. We know that Australia’s policies in developing the resources and in establishing new industries in this country rely very heavily on capital formation and technological know-how brought in from overseas and then developed to Australian conditions. We know that at the present time a policy of the Government is to borrow overseas in order to meet the deficit on the current account in regard to the balance of payments. That has been an issue of very great consequence in the past in order to ensure that the rate of the Australian dollar vis-a-vis overseas currencies is kept highly viable and kept up. Now we have a situation developing because of the lack of overseas activity in the markets. Senator Wriedt alluded to a possibility that there will be less demand for Australian goods developing overseas. That is perfectly feasible in the light of the fact- as he said- that Japan has cut back on its development projects and its use of imported materials. We have also seen the possibility that the United States may have some cut backs in its usage of imported materials.
But this issue really overrides the major point and it is one which Senator Wriedt completely overrode, namely, that tied to the question of whether there will be increased volume of materials, resources and goods from this country sold to Japan, to the United States or to other countries is the fact that there is a rising trend in the prices which we gain for these goods. We can see rising trends in beef prices, in wool prices and in other items like that. The matter of the rise in our balance of trade will tend to offset the disadvantage of decreased volume in overseas trade. That is brought about because inflation in this country is falling. In fact, it becomes more profitable for Australian manufacturers and Australian resource exporters to export. Consequently we are finding markets which were not otherwise available. This is encouraged by the Government’s policy of the overseas export grants. That policy was announced some three or four months ago. We look to further developments in that respect.
I make the point that the likelihood of this country developing further markets is very pronounced in that we have the terms of trade continuing to run in our favour. We have decreased inflation in this country relative to the rest of the world so that our manufactured products will be able to find markets which were not otherwise available. This will offset the decreasing demand from overseas countries for Australian products in terms of volume. I am afraid that the Opposition fails to understand those things. It fails to study these basic issues which are before us. These, of course, have been the basic issues which the Government has addressed itself to over the last two and a half years since coming to office. The Government has sought to achieve the reduction of inflation in this country so as to put Australia into a position where it can export goods, where it can achieve new markets and where it can establish a new basis for prosperity. That happens to be the way of the future for Australia’s industrial development.
Australia’s market is basically very small. We have a market of some 14 million people and a considerable industrial base to support. The future of that industrial base depends very much on the development of the export markets and our ability to sell goods, whether they be motor vehicles, white goods, other manufactured goods or goods of very high technology, on other markets. It is those things which need to be developed by future government policies. It is those things towards which this Government has pointed itself. Money is being spent through this Budget on overseas grants for exports. As one senator on this side of the chamber, I wholeheartedly encourage that development. I hope that with that money, together with other research and development moneys that are being spent in this Budget, we will achieve new product developments and new ideas to sell on the world markets.
Let us look a little further at the potential of the Australian economy to overcome the difficulties that have been imposed upon it by virtue of those years of misrule by the Labor Government. Let us also consider a little further the problem of interest rates. We know that the economy is basically dependent upon the ability of private entrepreneurs, private industry, being able to obtain funds cheaply in order to spend on new developments.
– What has happened to private employment in the last three years? It has gone down by 80,000.
-If Senator Walsh would care to listen for a little while he might hear a little more about that problem. As he well knows, 120,000 jobs were destroyed by the Whitlam Government in the textile industry, the footwear industry, the motor vehicle industry- you name it- by virtue of policies which produced high cost inputs in industry and consequently developed policies quite opposed to the future of this country. All attempts by the then Opposition to encourage the Labor Government to change direction were without success until Mr Hayden became the Treasurer in 1975. In his statement, which I read earlier, he acknowledged that the Keynesian type policies the Labor Government had been advocating were no longer relevant. I come now to the speech made last night by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place in which he put forward an alternative Budget. An alternative Budget- I ask you! First of all, we are going to develop new ideas in the direction of expenditure and, under his policy, we are going to direct some $450m into housing. One thing that is certain is that people will not buy houses unless interest rates are low enough for them to be able to afford to do so, and the interest rates which the housing buyer suffers today have been brought about by the positive policies of the previous Labor Government. Fed through the inflationary policies of three years of Labor Government, those policies created the sort of situation which is now successfully being wound down by the Fraser Government.
– You have not reduced them, Senator.
-Bond rates are falling. In fact, they have fallen by nearly two per cent.
– Tell us about building society interest rates.
-Senator Walsh is one of those people who always has a crystal ball in front of him. He speaks in terms that sound as though he has all the answers. The fact is that I am not able to predict the exact trend of interest rates tomorrow. What I do know is that interest rates generally will fall as a result of government policy. It is quite clear that building societies are being more heavily funded and will have more money available for housing in the not too distant future. That is clearly evident from the inflow over the last couple of months since the tax season that applied during the 1978 financial year.
Let us look at some of the points raised last night by Mr Hayden. Senator Wriedt referred to the rubbery figures in the 1977-78 Budget. If they were rubbery, I would say that the figures in Mr Hayden ‘s alternative Budget have the consistency of chewing gum. We have this sort of thing: A resources tax is to be imposed that will yield $150m. Where are the supporting documents for that? Who is to have this tax imposed upon them? How is it to be imposed? Is it to be imposed on resource bodies only or is it to be determined by virtue of some sort of esoteric calculation of what is a decent return on capital for all sorts of enterprises- large enterprises in the manufacturing sphere, small manufacturing businesses, small retail or commercial organisations? What are we talking about? It is said that it is a resource rental tax. What does that mean? Where is the documentation to back it up? Where is it spelt out? How could anybody in the business community have any faith in the approach of the Labor Opposition when it presents that sort of viewpoint? A resources tax- what on earth does it mean? If the Labor executive has some sort of approach to this I would appreciate hearing about it, as I am sure would members of the business community. They would like to know how they are to be ripped off for $ 1 50m without the Opposition spelling it out in any way.
A capital gains tax is to be levied and an amount of $300m raised. We heard this evening from Senator Wriedt that this is to be raised by virtue of a tax- he did not spell it out in any way; we do not know in what way it is to be levied- on people with estates, I think it is, over $200,000. Is it a capital tax on gains realised or it it a levy on wealth? Are they going to run around with their little note books every 12 months and tot up the wealth of everybody and assess it as a levy? They will raise $300m. I do not know on what basis the Opposition intends to apply the tax and at what rate it intends to apply it, but let us assume it is a 20 per cent tax. That represents gains in the community of some $ 1,500m, a very considerable sum which would have capital gains tax attracted to it. It is very interesting, but I cannot help feeling that the figures have been pulled out of the blue merely to set up some sort of alternative which the public, uninformed as to detail because the Opposition is not providing any detail, might accept and which uninformed journalists might see as being in some way equitable; in fact it is in no way equitable at all.
Let us look at another figure which has a very chewing gum type consistency. We see an investment allowance at $400m, and yet the Budget provides less than $300m for expenditure on the investment allowance. Somehow the Opposition is going to find $400m- another $ 100m- in order to achieve that objective. In my book it is an amazing piece of arithmetic. Nevertheless, I am afraid it is par for the course as far as the Opposition is concerned. It looks at the question of family trusts and thinks that somehow it is an outrageous rip-off on the community. They do not appreciate that it is merely a vehicle to achieve some sort of equity in the taxation system and that in fact many people organise their affairs in that way in order to protect their family interests in the long run. It is a vital element in preserving the free enterprise economy by virtue of businesses being able to preserve capital within the family. This is a vital element in terms of the development of the free enterprise economy and especially in light of what occurred during the period of the Labor Government- high rates of inflation and rip-offs in taxation generally.
Let us just look at some of the inconsistencies that the Opposition has in this regard. We note that Senator Wriedt was saying that a Labor Government would wipe out the means test on family allowances. Apparently this is going to be a very popular action. The point about this is that the Government has said already that the means test in respect of children’s income for family allowance purposes will not apply to children ‘s income by virtue of the moneys that they earn from newspaper selling and so on. This has been spelled out in answers to questions over the last few days- and answered quite satisfactorily. The very thrust of this son of legislation that will be included in the Budget is to stop any abuses in respect of family trusts and family allowances. Yet the Opposition wants those people who are abusing the system to get away with it. There is a total inconsistency on the part of the Opposition in terms of its approach to the problem of family trusts. Yet it wants us to believe and it wants the people who are listening to the broadcast of the Senate tonight to believe that it has the concern of the little man only at heart. But in fact here the Opposition is adopting a double standard by trying to let off the hook the person who is abusing the family trust system. That is an amazing set of double standards, but again it is consistent with the Opposition ‘s approach, with its chewing gum figures set out in Hayden ‘s alternative Budget, which are designed merely to attract some headlines in some newspaper, to present some alternative which does not exist.
I shall conclude by addressing myself to the more fundamental issues of the Budget. The Budget is well recognised now by the community and is well accepted by the community. Members of the Opposition must have got hives last Wednesday morning when they read the newspapers and found that by far the majority of newspaper editorials supported the Budget and its general thrust. Of course that is one of the things to which we on this side of the chamber are totally dedicated. We find a consistency in this Budget that has been with us since the election of the Fraser Government and which Mr Hayden as Treasurer in 1975 acknowledged in the statement that I read out to honourable senators earlier.
– You are showing a little bit of fire for a change.
-Then perhaps I had better have some water. I reiterate the general basic thrust of the policy of this Budget- that is, to achieve lower inflation. By virtue of achieving lower costs in the Australian community, by virtue of achieving a lower cost of production, we will be able to sell our goods on the open market, on the world market, better than any other nation. That in itself, by virtue of the improvement in terms of trade that are evident in various products I have outlined previously, will produce a better balance of payments situation, which will in turn improve the value of the Australian dollar versus the rest of the world’s currencies, which in turn will improve the capital inflow into this country, which will in turn help to reduce interest rates, which will lower costs to the business community and which will obviously bring about the recovery that we seek. The only way in which we can achieve the ultimate recovery in this economy is by achieving a lower cost structure- lower than that of other nations- not through the alternative strategy that the Labor Party offers. If the Labor Party’s offering is anything, it is a burnt offering because it would be a disaster to the Australian community. In fact it has been seen as such. The Australian community, as evidenced by the newspaper editorials and by statements made to me have been quite clearly in support of this Budget. People in Australia recognise the fact that there is still some pain to be borne in this community by virtue of tax increases to put the Australian economy back on to a better basis. That is the only way in which Australia will achieve sound and sustainable development, for the future.
– Order! I am about to call Senator Tate. I wish to point out that the speech about to be delivered by the honourable senator is his initial participation in debate in this place. I trust the courtesies traditionally extended to honourable senators on these occasions will be accorded to him. I now call Senator Tate.
-Thank you, Mr President. I rise to speak with a very acute sense of the honour and the responsibility which the electors of Tasmania have entrusted to me. I hope to serve them well from this chamber within which, Mr President, I look to the guidance, proper to your high office. I offer my congratulations to you on your election to this high office. I seek the indulgence of honourable senators to speak in general terms, as is permitted in a maiden speech.
I believe a widespread apathy, mixed with restlessness pervades the whole of Australian society. Uncertainty as to the future grips our national life. Senator Mason spoke yesterday of a deep malaise. I believe it is partly due to the lack of national common goals and aspirations to which we could commit ourselves to give social meaning to our daily life. Certainly the dull and technical language of our Constitution conveys no sense of national purpose. I am not so presumptuous as to suggest a set of national goals: Other matters need attention first. Amongst them is the need to subject fundamental areas of our society to the scrutiny of imperatives which alone can ensure that our organisations and expenditures do serve the full human development of every person in Australia.
I should like to indicate two areas where I believe this scrutiny ought to be undertaken- the use of armed force and the organisation of the economy. But may I in a preliminary way indicate my conviction that it is in this Parliament that such significant matters require to be resolved. We are the elected representatives of the Australian people and ought not to permit to other bodies the resolution of complex questions of our social arrangements. It is not for others to decide whether by our default or our permission- a default which allows elitist groups, whether in board rooms or in political cells to manipulate society- or a permission, or perhaps submission, which allows a non-elected bench of High Court justices to put parameters on our society. It is for us to decide and then submit ourselves to the electorate. To do otherwise is to evidence lack of nerve but what is worse to subject Australians to decision-makers against whom they have no political redress.
As a senator I am conscious of being a custodian of a very unusual and vulnerable arrangement in human affairs. At the present moment it is unusual to have a system of government in the world which embraces the idea of a loyal Opposition- a system whereby the majority has the power to make the laws, but recognises the rights of minorities to dissent in practical ways which do not involve violence. Within such a system we may hope to come to a common understanding, not an imposed understanding, of our national destiny as Australians. It is an understanding which I believe is desperately needed if Australians are to see through successfully the construction of a society which will not be dependent on the earning of a wage or salary to secure the goods and services we can so abundantly make available.
The two areas which I will indicate briefly as crying out for scrutiny are, firstly, the arms trade and the use of armed force and, secondly, the organisation of our trading and commercial life. As to the arms trade, Australia is involved both as a procurer and supplier in an arms trade which diverts resources on a massive scale from the relief of suffering. The arms trade kills the poor by causing them to starve. These are hard words but incontestably accurate. Confronted with unfulfilled basic needs of simple shelter, healthgiving food and clean water the nations spent billions of dollars on armament programs. In the face of such human need the arms trade is fundamentally unjust. It is a scandal that technology and manpower management can be coordinated on an unprecedented scale with the aim of killing other human beings. Yet a lifegiving program on an equivalent scale such as would use precisely the same skilled manpower seems beyond our imagination even before the question of political will arises.
Would it not be likely to engage the support of the Australian people with all their skills and good will to embark on a clean water program for the countries of the developing world? As a Tasmanian, I am fully aware of the world leadership of Australian hydro engineers, but they are only one segment of the resources of this nation which could be harnessed to such a lifeenhancing project.
To make clear my position, I am not advocating in this chamber unilateral disarmament in order to serve mankind by the diversion of resources to life-enhancing projects. My personal position is that the destruction of any human life is utterly forbidden. I intend to vote in this chamber in accordance with the tenets of the just war which permit armed collective resistance to unjust aggression- the so-called just defensive war. It is therefore incumbent on me to pursue, as I will in my term here, the answers to the question: What range of armed conflict is the Australian Government prepared to engage in either directly through its own armed forces or in participation with its allies and how do these preparations square with the rules of the just war?
One of the most fundamental rules is that civilian populations are inviolable. On the small scale the principle is constantly violated by those terrorists who kill civilians in pursuit of a political purpose, and every honourable senator would condemn such terrorism. On the large scale it is violated by preparations for a form of warfare aimed at the destruction of entire cities along with their populations, or perhaps now with the neutron bomb, the preservation of entire cities with the destruction only of their inhabitants. Every honourable senator should condemn such terrorism by nation states. I believe that Australia should play no part in any strategy of nuclear warfare which encompasses such a possibility, and I intend determining while here whether we are currently so participating.
One of the most disturbing features of our statute book with regard to this matter is the failure of the National Service Act to protect the conscience formed by the rules of the just war. The Act provides that the total pacifist, whose conscientious beliefs do not allow him to engage in any form of military service at any time, need not render such service. But the ordinary person, whose conscience distinguishes the unjust from the just use of armed force, is given no such relief- he must serve. Nor is adequate provision made for training in non-combatant resistance to agression.
I believe that this chamber should be encouraging the exercise of moral discernment in the use of force and should provide for it. It will not be easy. Some will view as anarchic the proposal that a citizen could conscientiously disagree with his government’s conduct of an armed conflict and be relieved from participating in it.
This point may seem remote and not grounded in any crisis presently facing Australia, but I believe that not to act now, in this chamber, in a time of relative tranquility without an atmosphere of hysteria, will be to condemn future generations of Australians to cultural genocide, such that acting on individual conscience, the most potent insight of our Judao-Christian and Western tradition, will be as remote a possibility as it is in most of the world.
Conscientious dissent from the program of one’s government is described as ‘sluggish schizophrenia’ by the Institute of Psychiatry of the Soviet Academy of Medical Sciences, one of the symptoms being a paranoid delusion about reforming society. Conscience, I hope, will never be regarded as a disease in Australia. Rather we as legislators ought to be reinforcing the individual conscience as that which culturally makes us what we are- a society where the common good cannot be secured by means which destroy the individual personality.
The second major area which should be subjected to imperatives of social significance is the organisation of our trading and commercial life. At the moment its only subjection seems to be to the idol of efficiency judged in international competitive terms and, like any false god, it is claiming its victims. The human sacrifice in my State of Tasmania is appalling in its dimensions, and I should say now in this chamber, which symbolises the federal element in our political structures, that failure to devise national policies to deal with this human tragedy will inflame the embers of secession.
Tasmanians have been prepared for variousreasons to contribute massively to the economic health of this nation for small return. For example, the value of our overseas exports in the year ended 30 June 1977 was $828 per head of population. This compares with a mere $55 1 per head for New South Wales and $589 per head for Victoria. The total value of our overseas and interstate exports in the same period was approximately $860m while imports were $690m, a difference in favour of exports of $ 1 70m.
We in Tasmania are producers not consumers of wealth. Tasmania was never a mendicant State for any reason to do with our work, productivity and enterprise. Tasmania has also contributed in a substantial way to overcoming the energy crisis in industrialised society. In fact we export energy in refined products. To give honourable senators some idea of the scale, the energy consumed in the refining or production of aluminium and zinc in Tasmania is slightly more than that consumed in the whole of Perth and its suburbs in any one year. With all that massive contribution our income per head of population, as shown in the national accounts for 1976-77, was approximately $4,700 which is about $450 less than the average per capita income in New South Wales and Victoria.
Tasmanians are not envious. As a result of living in decentralised areas of small population with easy access to an unsurpassed natural environment we have not been angered by the unjust concentration of sumptuary incomes and wealth in the south-east mainland. What is intolerable is that we are part of a federal nation which appears incapable of devising policies which could harness our resources, technology and manpower to relieve the suffering of unemployment. A total of 6.9 per cent of our Tasmanian labour force, over 12,000 persons, are seeking work, and the average duration of their unemployment is 6 months. In Burnie on the north-west coast almost half of those unemployed, 758 out of 1,540, are under 21 years of age, and there are only 34 registered junior vacancies.
The figures are stark enough. They indicate the human tragedy involved. The false god claims its victims as the social costs of unemployment are seen, particularly in the demoralising impact on our young people who become listless and less and less able to offer skills in the work place. I do not pretend to know the total solution. If the whole of the Tasmanian pulp paper and printing industries were duplicated tomorrow, 6,500 people would still be out of work.
I am convinced that this national Parliament needs to be possessed of adequate power to deal with interstate trade and commerce and with the business organisations engaged in all aspects of our economic life. We have been fettered and hindered in the task of developing forms of commercial life appropriate to the critical needs of the Australian community by the non-elected Bench of High Court justices, particularly in the period immediately after the Second World War. They have deigned in recent times to allow us to control some trading activities of corporations, but in the absence of reasonable judicial interpretation this national Parliament should be freed by referendum in order to subject our economic life to the common good. I do not mean that we should exert totalitarian control; far from it. I believe that a mixed economy is essential. Complete state collectivism is incompatible with democratic socialism.
Let me indicate my thought with an example. I applaud the Government’s decision to form a joint development and marketing partnership with two private firms to exploit InterScan, the aircraft landing system known to honourable senators and developed in the radio physics division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. This type of cooperation should be the pattern of the future.
It is not good enough for the nation merely to tax profitable enterprises, although it ought to do that, especially by a resources levy when great natural energy resources are being exploited for extraordinary profits. This is instanced by Utah earning $91m in a recent six-month period from Australian coal resources or Esso-BHP being guaranteed a windfall profit of over $300m this financial year solely because of a Government decision that it may charge import parity prices for 20 per cent of its oil production. That ought to be done. But in order to ensure that the community is well served by these firms the nation should be taking the further step of participating in the ownership and management of these enterprises, whether they are dealing with our natural resources or those resources which simply flow from our community expenditure on education, research and technology, as with
The community is well served when jobs are created or at least preserved. However, a business organisation at the moment is not required to make decisions in the light of the impact it may have on its employees. The business merely has to be conducted honestly in the interests of its owners.
At present, on the west coast of Tasmania a highly skilled labour force which has mined copper without a major industrial dispute in 60 years is in jeopardy. Within the community of Queenstown and dependent services and industries on the north-west coast at least 2,000 jobs are at stake. More than that, the entire region may be devastated if the mine is closed. I intend to say nothing at this point about the corporations involved because this might prejudice the outcome of Federal Cabinet’s decision on assistance to this industry. I look forward to an early and just decision to maintain assistance.
My point is that this Parliament expressly requires the Industries Assistance Commission to have regard to the regional, economic and social consequences, especially the unemployment consequences, of any report it hands down. No private corporation ought to be able to do less when making a decision as to the best use of shareholders’ funds. This chamber should be investigating ways of making that social dimension an operative part of directors’ obligations. Unless steps such as these are taken to humanise our trading and commercial life then I see no point in Tasmania remaining part of the Federation to the economic prosperity of which Tasmania contributes so much.
Mr President, I have touched upon some of the issues which I believe this Parliament should tackle. In particular, I consider that the Senate has a special role to play because the committee system enable it to reflect in a non-partisan way on such fundamental matters.
I hope I am not naive, but I do insist on the right of all young men to dream dreams. I believe that if we take up the challenge we will help lay the foundations for the creation of a national spirit which may bind us as Australians and enable us to contribute creatively and justly to the history of our region.
– I congratulate Senator Tate on making his maiden speech in the Senate. It does him great credit. I am sure that he will be a worthy colleague of ours in Tasmania. It certainly sounds as though he will support the State in every way possible and that he will be a worthy colleague in the Senate.
I support what Senator Messner said in his speech on the Budget. The Government has brought down a very responsible Budget. Try and all as it may, the Australian Labor Party cannot induce the people to go beyond a few demonstrations outside Parliament House. Those demonstrations were conducted by the members of some selfish groups in the community who cannot see past their own pockets and who have no thought for Australia’s good. Since the presentation of the Budget, I have asked many people in the community what they thought of it. It has affected quite a number of people. I was talking to a cigarette manufacturer, who said: ‘Well, it certainly does not help me. It will present me with some difficulties. But, my goodness, if you had not introduced such a Budget, then you really would have been squibbing the whole position’. The members of the Australian community knew what had to be done. They knew the country was heavily in debt and that the last of the big spenders, Mr Whitlam, had gone. They knew that we had to tighten our belts. Everyone knew that somehow or somewhere he or she would feel the pinch in the Budget. I believe that the Australian people have accepted this philosophically and told themselves that it had to be done.
There is one area on which I would like to concentrate. It is a particular interest of mine. The Government has implemented one of the recommendations in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare which dealt with drug problems in Australia. I was delighted to see this recommendation covered in the Budget. The recommendation followed by the Government reads as follows:
That Government imposts on all alcohol beverages be adjusted annually so that real prices of the beverages remain constant.
The Government has increased the excise on beer as a result of this recommendation.
– Do you mean to tell us that that is why the Government did it?
– Not to increase revenue?
-The Government has increased the excise on beer and I believe that the prime reason for doing this was the recommendation of the Committee of which both Senator Grimes and I were members. The excise was increased by 3.5c a glass.
- Senator Baume would have a part to play, wouldn’t he?
-Senator Baume was chairman of that Committee. He had a part to play, and quite rightly so. Senator Grimes was also a member of the Committee. I believe that the Committee’s recommendation has been responsible for this action. I do not deny for one minute that this excise will assist the Government’s financial position. But, at the same time I believe that this was a responsible action because, whilst assisting with the nation’s financial position, it carried out one of the recommendations which Senator Grimes asked for when the report was presented. The Government has also increased the excise on spirits by 10c a nip. I think that the Government took cognisance of the Committee’s recommendations which pressed for the price of alcohol beverages to remain constant. Over the years more alcohol was being drunk at a lower cost to the community. In 1970-71, alcohol consumption represented 6.53 per cent of personal consumption expenditure. This class of expenditure covers a range of items such as food, drink and clothing. It then went down until the lowest level of alcohol consumption was 5.9 per cent in 1974-75. The percentage then increased to 6.4 per cent in 1 975-76 because of an obvious increase in excise. It then began to decline, until in 1976-77 it was 6.2 per cent, and in 1977-78 it was 6.14 percent. The Government has increased the excise on alcohol once again and this will continue in an effort to keep the cost of alcohol beverages constant.
I am not, at any stage, saying that the increased excise is not going to be of financial benefit to the Government. It will be of financial benefit to the Government. But it is a responsible method because it will result hopefully, as we have recommended in our drug report, in containing the consumption of alcohol. The same thing can be seen in the area of cigarettes and tobacco. The excise has increased by 10 cents for a packet of 20 cigarettes. Again it will help with our finance. Hopefully it will reduce the consumption of cigarettes. It was also one of the recommendations that Senator Grimes, at that stage, was very happy to have included in our report even though he may be sarcastic about it now. I should like to refer to one of the recommendations contained in that report at page 7. We recommended that the excise policy be one of the tools used to reduce the consumption of tobacco. I admit that the Government is making money out of it, but it is still acting in a responsible fashion.
There is one recommendation of personal interest to me that has not been taken note of, as yet. That recommendation is that all drug education programs be evaluated. I believe that this is of prime importance. Something has to be done about cigarettes; something has to be done about alcohol. They are both drugs of addiction. Very serious problems have arisen in our country because of their use. I should like to examine how disastrous the use of these drugs has been to our country. I should like to indicate a few of the dimensions of the disaster. Alcohol has been a major factor in causing the deaths of over 30,000 Australians in the last 10 years. Deaths from sclerosis of the liver have risen 75 per cent in that time. In the same period the per capita increase in consumption of beer has been 27 per cent, wine 122 per cent and spirits 50 per cent. Over a quarter of a million Australians can be classified as alcoholics. One in every five of our hospital beds is occupied by a person suffering from the adverse effects of alcohol. Alcoholism among the young is increasing dramatically. About 10 per cent of school children between the ages of 12 and 17 get very drunk at least once a month. Would we really tolerate these sorts of figures in any other disease in our country? We certainly would not. We would go screaming to the medical profession to find a cure if we were attributing those deaths to any other disease.
Let us have a look at the results of tobacco use. The report states that cigarettes contribute each year to the death of approximately 8,000 Australians from either heart disease or lung cancer. By the age of 24, 49 per cent of males and 38 per cent of females smoke. Would we tolerate any other disease causing so many deaths? This is self-inflicted and for some reason or other we seem to tolerate a self-inflicted disease while we will not tolerate a disease that is not self-inflicted. The report says that some children begin to smoke at the age of five. It has been found that about one-third of adult regular smokers began smoking before they were nine. About 80 per cent of children who smoke regularly continue to do so when they grow up. The earlier in life a person starts to smoke regularly the greater is his risk of an early death. Why Australians tolerate this is quite beyond my imagination, but tolerate it we do. We find that governments, people and committees do not seem to know what to do about it.
– We know what to do about it but the Government will not act.
-We have raised the excise to try to stop it, but what happens, Senator Georges? We get Senator Grimes roaring his head off and saying: ‘All you want is finance’. I know that finance is one aspect of the matter but I believe the tax has been imposed in a responsible way and in an area that the Government believes will help the health of the society.
– But the breweries believe it too. The breweries think the same.
– I believe that too. We find that the media does not seem to help. Some witnesses who appeared before the Committee, particularly police witnesses, said that if the media did not explain so clearly what happens to children when they sniff glue or use hallucinogenic mushrooms, perhaps these practices would not be so widespread. Every time such occurrences are described in detail in the media, a spate seems to follow. One of the other recommendations which Senator Baume has just reminded me about is that we suggested a lower alcoholic content in beer. A number of representations were made by the breweries in this regard. They decided that they could sell beer with a lower alcoholic content if the excise on such beer was lowered. The Government has not increased the excise on beer with a lower alcohol content. It is not popular at the moment because Australians feel they are not getting their money’s worth if they do not get the higher alcohol content. But if they could buy it at a lower cost the breweries believe it would be saleable. So, what are we going to do about it? Governments have great consciences about this matter and they always have had. They say: ‘All right we will spend more on education’. They think that education will solve the problem. They think that we should get the teachers in the schools to teach the children how bad the use of these drugs is. They think that television and the other media should cover the problems associated with the use of such drugs, in order to get the details and the knowledge across to the people. It is held that if we do that, the people will not consume these drugs. I am referring not only to alcohol and cigarettes but also to other drugs. The principle applies to any other moral issue. Governments and people involved in the social welfare field say that the only answer is education.
Let us have a look at education. What is educational about science and why do we teach it? Why do we teach history? Basic education in the schools is aimed at making children interested, at getting them to experiment a little and to encourage them to read more. This is the basis of education. Why do we expect moral education to be different? Yet we do. Education in this field takes place but not evaluation of drug programs. We expect children to be knowledgeable about drugs and to be interested in drugs because we give them this education, but we do not expect them to experiment. But heavens, if we did that perhaps we would realise that our education system is not working. I should like to refer to a few of the reports that I have received from overseas because in Australia we have done very little evaluation of this education. We have spent a lot of money on drug education. New South Wales alone has allotted $800,000 for drug education alone during 1978-79. Not one penny of that money was for an evaluation of the drug program; it was all for drug education.
That State thinks that education is the answer. We think education is the answer because everybody in Australia has said that education is the answer. People say: ‘We will leave it to the teachers to teach it’. For heavens sake, before any more money is thrown down the drain, let us have a look to see what other countries which are doing a bit of evaluation work on this subject have to say. I quote what Richard Stuart of the University of Michigan claimed in the Journal of Education Psychology. He said that there has been a widespread increase in reliance upon drug education as a preventative measure. He went on to say that drug education may not impede the use of drugs and may actually exacerbate drug use.
– What would happen with the cold turkey treatment? It would not cost anything.
– Let me have a go, Senator. He also said that in an effort to measure the effects of drug education upon the uses of drugs and attributed related uses as well as evaluating the effects of differing and structural patterns 935 seventh and ninth grade students in suburban junior high schools were randomly assigned to either experimental drug education or control groups. He pointed out that the results of that evaluation indicated that relative to control groups- that is, the groups without any drug education- those students who had drug education significantly increased their knowledge about drugs but also increased their use of alcohol, marihuana and LSD. He also said that education increased their desire to push drugs but that their worry about drugs decreased. That is just one evaluation. Another evaluation was made by Mr Lane in an article he wrote in the Journal of the National Foundation for Education Research. Mr Lane who is from Britain quotes a study in the United Kingdom carried out by the National Association of Youth Clubs which indicates that the information given in present drug education lessons incites many people who might otherwise not have done so to want to try drugs. These are the sorts of results that we are getting from overseas.
Another study was carried out by Dr Richard de Lone who is Assistant Commissioner for Education and Training in New York city’s Addiction Services Agency. He said:
Why drug education may increase drug use (and recent studies have indicated this) is a . . . difficult question to answer. Perhaps instruction stimulates rebellion, or simply raises curiosity. Perhaps honestly factual presentations about illicit drugs . . . convince students that there is little to worry about . . .
He expressed the view that they thought they could kick the habit.
Dr Guy Wrigley, the medical adviser to the Greater Council and Inner London Education Authority said:
George Birdwood ‘s comment that ‘only education enjoys the dubious privilege of having the power to make matters worse ‘ is not just a smart quip, but the plain truth.
– That is why you want the cold turkey treatment. It is the only effective one. You won’t face up to it.
– All I am saying is that there is so much proof from overseas that education in this area is just not working. The way we are approaching this problem is just not working. Yet we are spending hundreds and thousands of dollars in this area and still pushing the same old line that education is the be-all and end-all while overseas experiments prove that this approach is not working.
The Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare received evidence in respect of an experiment carried out in Canberra schools. Dr Irwin said that the results of that experiment also proved exactly the same thing- that is, that drug education can be counter-productive. A moment ago I quoted a reference to Dr George Birdwood who is the Honorary Chairman of the London Region of the Association for the Prevention of Addiction. He asked:
Can we be sure that our intervention will not do more harm that good?
He goes on to say that he believes that it cannot. He points out that supposedly preventive education about sex in Britain and about alcoholism in Sweden seems to have done much to popularise these ‘products’ and has done little to counterbalance abuse. As I have said, governments have felt a guilty conscience about these matters and therefore they have been prepared to spend more money on them. A large amount of money was recently spent on an inquiry conducted by the Human Relations Commission. That Commission came out with exactly the same old solution, namely, that education will cure our social ills. The answer is that we must educate children in sexual responsibility and on human relation responsibility.
Perhaps we can study what has happened in Sweden to gain a little advice because compulsory education on human relationships has been provided in that country for at least the last 10 years. Let us have a look at what this education has done for human relations. The divorce rate in that 10-year period went from 12.3 for every 10,000 people to 31.4 for every 10,000 people. The number of children born out of wedlock- no one suggests that this is good standard; surely two parents are better than one- expressed as a percentage of all live births rose in that period from 13.8 per cent to 32.4 per cent. This calculation, of course, does not include abortions. This has occurred in the period in which the study of human relationships has been taught in Sweden on a compulsory basis. There were similar rises in Australia in that same period. Our divorce rate has gone from 7.5 per cent in 10 years to 1 7.9 per cent. I might add that these figures relate to the period before the family law legislation came into operation. I do not think that it would be fair to make a comparison with figures collected after that date. The number of children born out of wedlock expressed in terms of live births increased from 6.97 per cent to 10.17 per cent. Again this figure does not take into account the number of abortions that we know are carried out in this country. The number of people who contracted venereal disease in this country increased by 4,844 in that period. These are the results education is producing in this country and overseas.
The Government has just spent $1.4m on the Social Education Materials Projects, which is know as SEMP. But not one cent of that amount of $ 1.4m has been set aside for evaluation. When I was critical about this fact in my home State of Tasmania the State education department said: Well, we have had human relations for some time and we have done our evaluation on it in a report entitled “The Effects and Effectiveness of the Social Sciences, Personal Relationships Subunit in Trial Schools During 1973”.’ This was quoted to me as evaluation. I am talking about real evaluation. I am not talking about this sort of evaluation in which pupils were asked such questions as: ‘Well, did you enjoy the course? Was it good? Did you think it was necessary?’ The Curriculum Centre of the Education Department of Tasmania in its report on the effects and effectiveness of the social sciences stated:
In 1973 a sub-unit of the Social Sciences program was introduced into a number of Grade 9 classes . . .
The Centre concluded:
This Personal Relationships sub-unit dealt with aspects of sex, drugs, the media and personal relationship generally.
It further said that the results of the investigations were very favourable to the course. The pupils did increase their knowledge and understanding of the topics. The teachers approved of it and the children approved of it. They wanted the course. They thought that it had done them a lot of good. They felt freer to talk to people as a result of the course. This is hardly evaluation because nothing happened, nothing was sought and nothing came out of it to see whether they became more responsible children, whether they took more drugs.
– Come on, Senator, you are driving us up the wall.
– For the information of Senator Georges, evaluation is not whether the children thought the course was good. I bring to the attention of the Senate a survey that was done in America a short time ago by Joan McCord
– What are her credentials?
-Joan McCord is from the University of Drexell in the United States of America. It is a very interesting survey, and I am sure that Senator Mulvihill will be interested in it. It was a survey of 500 men 30 years after they had received five years treatment for being delinquents. They had received five years counselling and treatment for delinquency. This was followed up 30 years later. This is real evaluation. Joan McCord found that a control group of similar men who had not received counselling and treatment but who had committed the same type of delinquent acts had committed fewer major crimes than the group which had received the counselling. In the control group there had been fewer broken marriages. Men in the control group had more job stability and satisfaction, higher employment achievement and were less prone to nervous disorders and illnesses. They had died at an older age than those who had received the counselling. Altogether the survey was of the opinion that whilst it was not conclusive, there was certainly a great need for caution and that those who had received counselling over a period of five years could develop a dependence on their counsellor so that when counselling was finally withdrawn, they could be left floundering and unable to cope on their own, with the result that 30 years later they had unhappier and unhealthier lives than those who had not been interfered with in any way. I am not suggesting that we should interfere with drug education. I am merely saying that we should evaluate.
– I shall now call Senator Gareth Evans. Before doing so I point out, as I did earlier in respect of Senator Tate, that this is the honourable senator’s first speech in this chamber. I trust that the traditional courtesies will be extended to him. I call Senator Evans.
-It is with no little trepidation that I rise for the first time to address this House, given the frequency and vigour with which in the past, wearing a variety of academic and lawyerly hats, 1 have expressed my views as to its undemocratic character, its irresponsible conduct and its insupportable delusions of constitutional grandeur. Indeed I have the feeling that, as pleasant and polite as my reception on the face of it may have been, there are a number of honourable senators, not to mention officers of this place, who would really only be satisfied if I were required to walk the corridors like a medieval leper armed with a little hand bell calling out before me as I went: ‘Unclean, unclean’.
It would perhaps be as well if I left to another occasion any further thoughts I may have to offer on the uses and abuses of Senate power. A maiden speech should, after all, be just that, as I have been reminded often enough in the past few days. It should be a demure, modest, genuinely maiden affair, perhaps like a speech by Senator Walters, neither brazen nor provocative.
This may not be a proper occasion for impertinence, nor is it one for penitence. I take this opportunity to place on record my unshakeable determination- along with that of my Labor Party colleagues- to ensure that the constitutional outrages of 1974 and 1975 are never again repeated. If this House does have a useful role to play in the legislative process, it does not lie in menacing or threatening a properly elected government with the power of life or death based on some spurious conception of the Senate’s position as a defender of States’ rights or federalism or the more recently fashionable notion that it is a last resort defender of the national interest against the Huns and Visigoths of the lower House. Rather it lies in the careful and effective scrutiny, analysis, testing and review of the legislative and executive initiatives of the government of the day, and occasionally in the initiation of reforming legislative proposals of its own. There are ample precedents in recent years for constructive and helpful work of this kind. I look forward to participating in it and wish only that the Senate would get on with it.
Mr President, I have no doubt that should honourable senators be minded to get on with the job, they will be much assisted in that process by your own courtly presence in the chair, and I join with other senators in congratulating you on your re-election to that high office. May I also add my voice to those of the several senators who spoke at the end of the last session to pay tribute to Senator Bill Brown, my predecessor. Over the years Bill Brown has maintained an unwavering commitment to the democratic socialist goal of a just and equal society in this country. His qualities not only as a man of principle but also as a gentleman of unfailing courtesy and tolerance in dealing with the idiosyncrasies of his fellows were widely recognised during his time in this place and nowhere more so than in his appointment as Chairman of the Labor Party Caucus, the first non-leader of the party to be so honoured.
Just as this House has much to do by its own good works to restore its credibility and moral authority with the Australian community, so too has this Government. Whatever might be the case with respect to the Senate, in the case of the Government I doubt very much indeed whether any kind of redemption is now possible. Things have gone too far; the malaise has cut too deep; and this Budget now confirms it. There can be few governments since Federation which have managed to demonstrate in so short a time in office so many unpleasant characteristics unaccompanied by any redeeming constructive contribution to the life of the nation. Let me concentrate for present purposes on just three of those characteristics, each of which is revealed with remarkable clarity in the Budget Papers which are now before this House. I refer to the Government’s congenital incapacity to tell the truth or keep its word; its insensitivity to the point of inhumanity in dealing with the less fortunate members of the community; and its complete incompetence to manage the affairs, in particular the economic affairs, of this nation.
The essential dishonesty of this Government becomes evident, if it were not already, in the latest breathtaking additions to the list of broken electoral promises of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Taxes were to come down, and so they did for a few months until the election was over. Now income taxes are back to where they were before for the majority of earners. Indirect taxes, of course, have taken off through the roof.
Medibank was to be retained, but now it has disappeared entirely to be replaced by a pale, sickly creature of a subsidy system, neither flesh nor fowl, which even the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) concedes probably will not see out the year in its present form. On pensions, it was promised that the means test would be abolished and that the real value of pensions would be maintained. Now we have the restoration of an incomes or means test for pensioners over 70 years of age, the retreat to annual indexation for pensioners generally and the abolition of indexation entirely for pensioners without dependants. Not even the most gullible souls in our community, not even the most innocent sideline spectators of the Australian political process, could now believe anything that is said by any Minister in this Government, including the beleaguered rump that now purports to represent it in this chamber.
This Government’s cavalier disregard of the truth extends not only to the promises blatantly broken in this Budget but also to the very basis on which it is constructed, and in particular the way in which the deficit has been calculated. At least last year the then Treasurer had the decency to signal his alarm with the fiddling of the figures by saying that some of them were rubbery’- that now famous expression. This year the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has been unable to come up with any euphemism at all, salacious or otherwise, to dress up the reality that some of the key figures in this Budget are just plain rigged. I will take just one small examplethe estimate for unemployment benefits, which is down from last year, although the Treasurer has already conceded that unemployment will rise by at least 25,000 this year, and of course that is a wildly optimistic figure.
The stock markets and their investors have reacted in the last week like a collection of giggling schoolgirls to the promise of a moderate deficit and the holding down of interest rates which this implies. But it will be only a matter of time before they discover that this year’s calculations will be as wildly astray as last year’s that the deficit has blown out again; and that they, no less than the rest of the community, have been seduced only to be abandoned by this congenitally dishonest Government.
Of course some very large groups in the community have been abandoned even more directly and mercilessly than anyone in the business sector. This is evidence, if any more is needed, of the all-pervasive inhumanity which has so characterised every action of this Government. It has aimed this Budget at the people least able to help themselves. Those people who can least afford it will be worst hit by the new or increased regressive taxes, by the crippling new charges on lump sum leave payments, by the abolition of the maternity allowance, by the destruction of the concept of universal health insurance, by the massive reductions in welfare housing and by the niggling and mean-spirited changes to social service benefits to people such as accident victims undergoing rehabilitation and even tuberculosis sufferers.
But more important than any of these measures in demonstrating the sheer inhuman callousness of this Government is of course its attitude to unemployment. Senator Chaney may well shudder in his chair as he is doing at the moment, when he contemplates these figures. If one gives the Government the benefit of every conceivable statistical doubt, the reality still is that for every single day that this Government has been in office another 75 Australians have joined the official dole queue, that is, one person for every 15 to 20 minutes of every hour of every day. For every unfilled vacancy there are now 22 registered unemployed competing for that job. Countless others who would work if they could, particularly to supplement the declining real income of the main family breadwinner, have simply been forced to give up the task as hopeless and to join the ranks of the hidden unemployed. It is not just the young people who are affected, although everyone knows that unquestionably they are the worst hit. Job security for the middle-aged worker is now a thing of the past. The tension of waiting for the axe to fall is almost as hard to bear as the pain when it does fall. The cost to everyone concerned and to the community at large is devastating.
The answer given by the present Government to this situation is absolutely and unequivocally clear: The unemployed are in that position either because they do not want to work or they just represent the price which has to be paid in order to get inflation down. The thought that every last one of those people out of work is not just a statistic but a human being- depressed, despairing and fast losing any shred of dignity and confidence that he once might have had in himselfnever seems to have occurred to those who look out upon the world from the broad acres of the Western District of Victoria.
There may be some hardened souls left who would be prepared to forgive this Government its cynicism, hypocrisy, dishonesty and inhumanity if they could be persuaded that all this harsh medicine was really necessary to turn the Australian economy around. But is there anyone left who can believe this story any longer? Inflation has been falling rapidly in the last year or so, as the Prime Minister has been telling us with nauseating repetitiveness. That is not altogether surprising when it is contemplated that the economy as a whole has almost ground to a halt. But accompanying this decline in inflation has been no sign whatever of the promised pick-up in economic activity. With the help of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which must be wondering what on earth it has done to justify all the abuse which this Government is continually heaping upon it, real wages have been declining over an even longer period- not spectacularly but certainly significantly. Even if there is a degree of so-called ‘real wage overhang’ still existing- the country’s most credible economists all now deny it- everyone agrees, right across the spectrum, that this phenomenon has been at least significantly reduced.
Again there is no sign whatsoever of that being accompanied by increased economic activity. It is not even as though this Budget, when it is examined closely, is clearly following a single, coherent economic strategy. Many of the measures in the Budget will in fact contribute directly to that very inflation which it is supposed to be the overriding objective of the Budget as a whole to avoid. Perhaps the largest single inflationary impact will come from the massive increase in petrol prices, the effect of which will very quickly be felt not only by the individual motorist, particularly the rural motorist but in the price of every transported product. Where was the National Country Party when this Budget was being drafted? The flow-through effects of this increase just do not appear to have been seriously considered or quantified in any way in the Budget Papers. What might have been a rational and defensible increase if it had been phased in over a substantial period becomes quite irrational and indefensible- except to Esso-BHP, which stands to make a massive windfall gain by it- when it is introduced, as it was, overnight.
If the Government thinks that Australian workers will stand idly by and allow their wages to be eroded again to the extent that is contemplated in this Budget, then it has another think coming, particularly when there is no evidence whatsoever that it has any considered long term solutions to the country’s economic problems and when it is clear that all it is really doing is thrashing around aimlessly, blaming everyone but itself for the difficulties that we are in.
Indeed the most depressing single aspect of this whole Budget for anyone concerned, as all Australians must be, with the whole future structure, operation and prosperity of the national economy, is what it reveals about the Government’s response to the striking and enormously far-reaching changes which have been occurring in very recent years in both the domestic and international market places, all of which have direct and immediate implications for the kind of economic strategy that the Government ought to be pursuing. The catalogue of those changes is familiar enough and I do not need to labour or elaborate them. Internationally speaking, the key changes have been the explosion of productive capacity in the Third World countries, particularly in our own region, aided and abetted and usually indeed dominated by multinationals responsible only to themselves; the rapid development of regional trading communities, conspicuously the European Economic Community, which has created brand new barriers to entry by outsiders, even by those countries with long traditions of access; and the escalating instability in the international monetary system brought on by a chain of events associated primarily with the exploitation of the world wide energy shortage by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Within Australia we have been witnessing the steady contraction, erosion and progression toward total collapse of large sections of manufacturing industry, particularly those importcompeting industries which have long been the most heavily protected. We have been witnessing the arrival on our shores of the technological revolution, particularly now in communications and information processing, and the accelerating replacement of men and women with machines and integrated circuits at a hitherto undreamed of pace and scale. And we have been witnessing, largely associated with that, the conspicuous decline in the ability of an already overcrowded tertiary sector to accommodate, as it always has in the past and as in orthodox theory it is supposed to, the drift of employment away from the primary and particularly the secondary sectors. I do not know whether it is the product of ignorance or indifference or, indeed, which of the two is worse, but the present Government seems to be reacting to these developments with all the alert and sophisticated understanding of moo-cows in a paddock gazing at the passing traffic.
The present Government seems to be so ideologically eggbound- to vary the metaphor for a moment- so obsessed with its conception of the function of government as being just to hold the ring while free market forces do their best or worst, that it seems to have failed utterly to appreciate that the old Tory verities just will not work any more, if they ever did. What is needed so far from government retreating from the field is for it to play a more central, leading, guiding and dominant role than ever before. Of course, what matters is not government intervention in the economy for its own sake, but rather the nature and quality of that intervention. If the techniques employed are those of the present Government- savage general deflation, massive doses of induced unemployment, authoritarian suppression of legitimately reacting trade unions, the simultaneous feather-bedding of selected industries- then none of this sort of reaction will stop the all too visible decline towards us becoming, as someone recently predicted, the Uruguay of the South Pacific: a country where both rural and manufacturing industries have collapsed, leaving no jobs at all for most of the work force, and where the sole real wealth lies in capitalintensive low employment mining owned and exploited by foreigners.
What is needed is an approach to our problems reflected not just in the Budget but across the whole spectrum of government activity, which embodies a new set of priorities and perspectives, and which is built, at the very least, around the following general strategies. First, a willingness to accept that significant public expenditure- and, better still, as Senator Tate said, direct government participation in productive activity- is a crucially necessary element in any systematic program of economic recovery. The notion that the public sector is competing with the private sector for scarce resources which the private sector is only too anxious to mobilise, if only the public sector would get out of its hair, is palpably absurd. I suggest that for a start we just ask anyone in the building industry, perhaps commencing with Senator Rocher who is another new arrival in this chamber. I suspect he knows a good deal more about this matter than anyone on the Government side.
Secondly, Government and business have to operate on a much more closely integrated basis than they have in the past. I do not mean by that the informal old-boy backslapping which is the most characteristic feature of this Government’s relations with business. If we are ever to stop just talking about structural adjustment and to start actually doing something, for example, towards making manufacturing more competitive, diversified and export oriented, then we will have to move not only in the direction of specific initiatives such as major government support for research and development or export incentivesneither of which, incidentally, despite what Senator Messner had to say earlier, received more than token support in the Budget- but also to something like full scale indicative planning on the European model.
Thirdly, the trade union movement has to be brought into this kind of exercise as a full partner. It will have to be consulted, informed and encouraged to co-operate in policy development on fully equal terms. But as long as the unions are kicked, gouged, bullied and blamed for all the ills of the economy, which overwhelmingly are not of their own making, and as long as they are completely ignored by organisations like
Telecom Australia when massive manpower replacement programs are set in train, then they need apologise to no one for vigorously fighting back to protect the interests of their members, of the ordinary working men and women of the community. Fourthly, a great deal more attention has to be given to interaction between economic and social policy and the trade-offs which it might be possible to strike between them if the right atmosphere of candour and co-operation can be reached between the relevant parties.
Fifthly, there will have to be a readiness on all sides, which is quite lacking at the moment to contemplate such heresies as job-sharing, shorter working hours, longer holidays, earlier retirement and a whole variety of other means for improving access to the labour market and achieving the more equal distribution of employment opportunities.
Finally, whatever else happens there must be major public resources devoted to improving the education and skill levels of youngsters leaving school and the counselling and job-placement help which they can get while still there, and also to on-the-job and off-the-job training and retraining programs. This should all go without saying, but it needs to be said in the light of the omissions and the extraordinary expenditure cuts which appear in this area of the Budget. Programs of this kind will not, of course, in themselves guarantee everyone jobs but the alternative is to condemn many people out of hand to a lifetime on the scrap heap.
These are the kinds of strategies and programs with which my Party, the Australian Labor Party, is presently grappling and trying to think its way through. They are totally ignored in the Budget and in everything else that this Government is doing. Whilst I am confident that we can identify and solve the fundamental problems which afflict the Australian economy, and do so far more effectively than the present Government, I certainly do not suggest that we have all the answers now. Even more, I certainly do not suggest that the answers which we as a party may have offered in the past are necessarily all still relevant. Certainly, the problems now crying out for attention can not be solved by tub thumping fundamentalism. Nor can we fall back any longer on easy assumptions about continued growth of the gross domestic product, of incomes and of taxation revenue of the kind which underlay our welfare distributionist program in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Times have changed and our policies and programs must change with them.
What will always remain constant about the Labor movement,” however, is that unlike the Government which has no discernible commitment to any ideals at all, we do have an underlying set of values which give force, vitality and coherence to everything that we do and stand for, to every attitude that we strike and to every policy and program that we initiate. As democratic socialists- we bear the label proudly- we stand for the values of equality, liberty and democracy: greater real equality in the distribution of wealth, income, power and status in the community; full respect for the personal freedom and dignity of the individual; the fullest possible opportunity for democratic participation by every individual in all the major decisions that affect his or her life in the work place and in the local community as much as in the larger political sphere. We believe that these are values which are shared by the great mass of the Australian people, but they are not values which are shared or even understood by the present Government.
We believe that guided and moved by these values we can not only identify, confront and solve the problems that afflict the Australian economy, but also we can do it in a way which is not an affront to the decency, humanity or dignity of the ordinary Australian citizen. On the evidence of the Government’s performance to date and particularly on the evidence of this Budget, this is not something which can be said of the Fraser Government.
Debate (on motion by Senator Webster) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to validate payments of salaries and allowances made to members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 1 July 1978 under Determination No. 10 of 1978 by the Remuneration Tribunal. The measure is introduced at the specific request of the Northern Territory and is necessary to remove doubt as to the position of members of the Legislative Assembly. Section 65 of the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act provides, as a transitional arrangement, for the payment of remuneration and allowances under the relevant determination by the Remuneration Tribunal in force as at 30 June 1978. Although Determination No. 10 of 1978 was made on 19 June 1978, payments made under that Determination had effect from 1 July 1978.
It could be argued, therefore, that section 65 did not authorise the Northern Territory to make the payments prescribed by Determination No. 10 of 1978 and that such payments are illegal. As a consequence of this, the view could be taken that all members of the Legislative Assembly have vacated their offices by virtue of section 21 (2) (e) of the Northern Territory (SelfGovernment) Act. That section provides, among other things, that a member vacates his office if he takes any remuneration or allowance otherwise than in accordance with a Northern Territory law providing for such payments. The object of this Bill is simply to remove all possible doubt as to the validity of payments of remuneration and allowances made to members of the Legislative Assembly since 1 July. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
- Mr President, the Opposition does not oppose the measure, and I remind honourable senators that it was Labor which introduced sufficient salaries for members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to enable the man in the street to move into the Assembly and take his place. Because of the contribution that has been made by people in the Northern Territory, on both sides of the House, might I say that it is good to see that the salaries are sufficient to enable people to come in and take their places and make their contribution. It is unfortunate that in the early days it was only the nominated member who made his contribution and then the official members who made their contributions. It was quite some time before independent members were able to move in and take their places. I also make the point that Labor supports the proposition that salaries ought to be set by the Remuneration Tribunal and that we should then stand back from them and allow the Tribunal’s findings to take their place. I should like to have said more but at this stage the preparation is not sufficient and I simply say that the Opposition does not oppose the legislation.
– in reply- I thank Senator Robertson for his contribution and the Opposition for its support of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I take this opportunity to convey to the Government that the expeditious way in which the Opposition has supported the Bill is a token of our co-operation for this day and perhaps for this day alone.
– You are always cooperative.
-Not always. I rose tonight only because I do not want the Government to be misled. I also point out that we have expedited someone else’s salaries and not our own.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a first time.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria-Minister for
Science) ( 10.18)- I move:
With the concurrence of the Opposition, I suggest that the second reading speech be incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to provide legislative authority needed to meet the prospective deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 1978-79. At the same time it will, together with authorities expected to be available under other legislation, provide the borrowing authority needed to finance the estimated overall Budget deficit for the financial year to be undertaken. Honourable senators will be aware that, for many years, there has been legislation for these purposes in the legislative programs of successive governments. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) announced in his Budget Speech that the prospective overall Budget deficit for 1978-79 is estimated to be $2,8 13m. Except in so far as funds are available from accumulated cash balances or other miscellaneous financing transactions, this deficit must be financed by net borrowings. Such net borrowings must, of course, be within proper authority from the Parliament. The overall Budget deficit takes into account all relevant transactions of the three separate funds used to record the Commonwealth’s receipts and expenditures.
These funds are the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the Loan Fund and the Trust Fund. The amounts which may be paid from each fund are limited to the amounts legally available to it. Underlying the overall deficit estimated for 1978-79 is an estimated deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of $1,903. 5 m. Details of the current estimate of the Consolidated Revenue Fund transactions are set out, for the information of honourable senators, in table 3 of Budget Paper No. 4- Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30 June 1979. As payment from the Consolidated Revenue Fund cannot exceed moneys available in it, it is necessary either to reduce payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund by charging to Loan Fund some expenditures normally met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, or alternatively, to supplement the receipts of the Consolidated Revenue Fund from some other source. Appropriate legislative authority is needed for such transfers. The simplest and traditional means of providing appropriate legislative authority is a Loan Bill of the type I am now presenting.
This Bill will authorise borrowings for defence purposes in order that defence expenditure, which would normally be met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, may instead be met from the Loan Fund. The Bill authorises borrowing for defence purposes, but it does not authorise any defence expenditures additional to those which have already been authorised by Parliament in Supply Act (No. 1) 1978-79 or which will subsequently be authorised in appropriation Acts for this financial year. It will simply allow reallocations between the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the Loan Fund of defence expenditures to be made during the remainder of the financial year, following the enactment of this legislation. In this regard I draw senators’ attention to clause 8 of the recently introduced Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1978-79, which makes that
Bill subject to the provisions of the proposed Loan Act. I should also mention that, as borrowings under this legislation will be for the purpose of financing defence expenditure, those borrowings will not require approval from the Australian Loan Council.
However, the Bill includes a specific limit to the amount of such borrowings that may be undertaken; this limit is directly related to the level of defence expenditure which is expected to be made from the date of enactment of the Bill to 30 June 1979. Honourable senators will be well aware that, at this early stage, the estimate of the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit is inevitably a qualified one. The actual figure for the year will be affected by presently unforeseen developments during the year which could cause departures from current estimates of receipts and payments of the fund. In setting a limit on borrowings for inclusion in the Bill these inherent uncertainties need to be recognised. The limit that has been included is $2,000m. This provides a relatively small margin over the estimated Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit of $ 1,903.5m. Borrowings under this proposed legislation will be undertaken within the framework of the monetary policy objectives to which the Treasurer referred in his Budget Speech. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– Firstly, I congratulate you, Mr President, on again becoming the President of the Senate. I look forward to serving under your guidance. Secondly, I wish to congratulate the new senators, Senator Tate and Senator Evans, on their maiden speeches. I remember well how I felt when I was preparing for that task. I must again say how much I appreciated their first speeches. I am looking forward to further speeches from them.
This Budget has been described by people who claim to have a monopoly on humanity and on morality as inhuman, immoral and violent. Yet these are the same people who incited people to acts such as we saw perpetrated in Sydney recently. These socialists have again changed their title. They are now calling themselves democratic socialists because somebody in Sydney- I believe it was Mr Ducker- found out that socialism as such is a discredited ideology. So, once again, we see this typical change of front by a major political party- from Labor to socialist to democratic socialist- in a very brief time. I wonder how the Labor Party will be described next.
Short mention of an alternative Budget was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). Senator Evans, who preceded me in this debate, had all the problems solved in 20 minutes flat. Not only was he able to solve them, but apparently he reckons that he is an expert on everything. I do not say that I know how to solve all the problems. Therefore, I divert the attention of this Senate to a section of the Budget which I feel is of vital importance to this country. I refer to ‘Manufacturing and Other Industry Assistance’ set out on page 13 of the Budget Speech. Under that heading it is stated:
The policies of this Government have been of major assistance to Australian manufacturing industry.
We have reduced inflation substantially and started to reduce interest rates- developments critical to industry confidence and prospects.
Our new export incentives scheme has been announced and this Budget provides a total of $58m by way of direct assistance to exporters, $27m more than last year.
Despite the difficult budgetry position, $24m is being provided for industrial research and development grants in 1978-79; $ 1 Om more than last year.
This increase will support important new initiatives and is designed to improve the efficiency and international competitiveness of Australian industry.
In addition, over $ 1 m will be provided to support productivity improvement programs in industry.
So it goes on. This Budget confirms our Government’s policy which has always been that it is the private sector wherein the major part of the nation’s wealth is to be found, wherein the majority of employment opportunities lies and wherein the future prosperity of this country resides. The Government has always attempted to create an environment in which to promote private sector confidence and profitability. The basis of this policy has been the reduction of inflation, the reduction of interest rates and the strict control of the Budget deficit. This Budget maintains this general policy thrust. The Government achieved a substantial reduction in the deficit on last year’s outcome and managed to reduce substantially the rate of inflation. The fact that this Government has reduced inflation in a short period has been noted by economists not only in this country but throughout the rest of the Western world. The Government has also begun to reduce the prevailing rate of interest. Estimates for the next financial year show that if all goes according to plan, inflation will be down to five per cent by mid 1979. That certainly is a tremendous achievement in a short period and under difficult conditions.
The general strategy of this Budget should be of considerable benefit to industries. We all know that Australian manufacturing industries are having problems which are not limited only to Australia but are being experienced worldwide, particularly in Western democracies. Apart from these overall measures contained in the Budget, the Budget also continues support for many measures which are specifically designed to assist industry. As well as giving financial endorsement to new proposals, the Government is giving continued support to the trading stock valuation adjustment scheme and to the investment allowance. Both these schemes are of considerable assistance to industry. They will encourage industry to adopt new technology, new measures, to acquire new machinery, which will result in an improved productivity growth rate, which will definitely be reflected in higher wages, higher profits and the general wealth of the Australian population. The measures I have outlined, taken together with the trading stock valuation scheme, have meant that more than $820m has been forgone in taxation in 1 977-78. That, we must admit, is a substantial subsidy.
The Budget contains an increased commitment to industrial research and development. Indeed, the Government allocation has increased from $ 13.5m to $24m in 1978-79. This follows the stated policy of the Government in this field. Government support has been spread over specific purpose grants, commencement grants and direct Government financial assistance for major industrial research projects. All this assistance will further promote innovation within Australian industry which is so necessary to its survival. This is a natural compliment to the new export incentives scheme afforded by this Budget. These measures will encourage growth in and into competitive areas of manufacturing industry. The aim of the export incentives scheme is mainly to encourage Australian firms to increase their export drive- more actively pursue export opportunities- and sales. All this is in accordance with the Government’s longstanding policy of developing an internationally competitive, export oriented and efficient Australian industry.
The Budget provides a package which includes financial provision for a wide range of export development activities. I will enumerate them now and then deal separately with each one of them: Firstly, export incentives; secondly, export promotion programs both for the manufacturing and rural sectors; thirdly, the Australian Trade Commissioner Service; fourthly, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation; fifthly, the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation; sixthly, the promotion of Australian consulting and construction contracting services overseas; and finally the export of Australian technology. I deal firstly with the export incentives grant scheme. This is a new scheme which will provide for the payment of taxable cash grants to exporters. Payments will be based in general on increases in the value of exports of eligible goods and services in the grant year over the average value for the previous three years. The major feature of this new export incentives grant scheme is a formula which is both cumulative and based on a sliding scale. That means that the rate of payment has been scaled down for larger increases in exports and is based on increases in export earnings. This has two favourable effects. Firstly, it should favour smaller exporters over larger exporters.
At this point I would like to refer to the Industries Assistance Committee report on export incentives which stated that evidence indicated that about 60 per cent of the grants paid in the 1974-75 grant year were for amounts below $5,000 and that only six per cent were for amounts over $50,000. This would suggest that the largest number of grants went to small firms. As the report also said, it is very important that we remember that the benefit of these grants goes to smaller exporters. It stated:
EMD grants received by smaller exporters were generally a greater proportion of the value of their exports than grants received by the larger exporters . . . The data suggest that the importance of grants to smaller exporters was greater, relative to export returns, than to larger exporters.
The scheme means that a small increase in exports does not necessarily imply that the company obtaining this result is a small company but that a small company is unlikely to obtain a very large increase in exports. Therefore, small companies are more likely than large companies to receive benefits from the new scheme at a high rate of grant for small increases in exports. This is a very important factor.
The IAC report also mentioned that evidence revealed a considerable reluctance by many small and medium sized firms to undertake the risk involved in exporting or attempting to break into export and overseas markets. The risk to the small firm is much greater than that for a larger firm, which is quite logical, and this aspect of this new scheme is very favourable to a small exporter. Further, an incentive tied only to increases in exports also restricts the cost to the taxpayers. There was some criticism that these grants should not be made and that the cost of these grants should not be borne by the taxpayers. The scheme is designed to provide incentives to those export sectors that will be most responsive to such incentives. It does not waste money on exports which are relatively unresponsive to price increases or in situations where our ability to supply more of a product is limited. For instance, the exclusion from this scheme of minerals, wheat, sugar and so on sold to the United States of America and Canada under quota is likely to occur for this reason. The incentives are to be paid to the actual exporter. If the firm which produced the goods is not the actual exporter it will gain the advantage of increased production. But the financial advantages of the scheme will accrue to the firm which actually found the markets to sustain this increased production. Some criticism has been expressed in relation to that aspect, and I intend to deal with it in detail later.
Fiscal stringency in relation to this scheme has been achieved, firstly, by tying incentive payments only to the increase in export receipts over and above the average export receipts for the base period rather than to the total export receipts; secondly, by scaling down the rate of payment for larger increases in exports; and, further, by making the grants taxable. Such a subsidy will compensate exporters for the high tariff structure. The later has resulted in export manufacturers buying their inputs at prices above those on the world market and then having to sell their products at world market prices. The Industries Assistance Commission estimated these extra costs to our export market producers at $130m for the manufacturing industries alone.
Unlike more explicit export subsidy schemes, this scheme does not provoke retaliation in trade, as would countervailing duties or quotas. But there are some problems with this scheme. One of them is that the effectiveness of this scheme, which is based on increases in exports, will depend greatly on the world’s trading climate. When exporters are faced with a slackening in growth in world trade, this type of incentive will not ensure the survival of more marginal exports. For instance, in cases where the survival of exports- or even their maintenance at current levels, let alone their expansion- is at stake, this type of export incentive will do nothing to assist exporters. This scheme, for instance, does not contain provision for changes in export prices and exchange rates. Changes in the latter do not truly reflect real changes in exports and thus do not indicate increased export effort- that which it is the aim to reward. One of the main criticisms of this scheme is that there appears to be no local content criteria, except in relation to value added industrial services which are provided in Australia and which are performed on imported goods subsequently exported. Export sales do not indicate local content; yet it is local content which indicates the size of increases in employment and in foreign exchange which we gain.
The Australian Overseas Projects Corporation is a new corporation. The Bill to establish the Corporation was introduced in the Senate on 1 7 August. The Corporation has been established to assist Australian industry to compete for large scale developments overseas. It will be a small specialist organisation which will be initially financed by the Federal Government. A massive expansion in investment in large scale development projects in developing countries during the last 10 years has influenced the Government to establish this Corporation. No single firm in Australia would be large enough or diversified enough to be able to compete against huge overseas concerns which have the full support of their governments. This Corporation will encompass a range of activities from design to construction and purchase of equipment.
It is stated by the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) in his second reading speech on the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Bill that the Corporation will have the following functions: It will provide information to Australian firms of opportunities overseas. It will assist to negotiate with foreign governments or organisations. It will provide a special expertise available to the Government and it will be able to carry out the whole or part of an overseas development project at the request of Australian private organisations. The actual work would be carried out on behalf of the Corporation by Australian private organisations.
I turn to the section of the Budget which deals with the Australian Trade Commissioner Service. I feel that the Australian Trade Commissioner Service can be rated as one of the best in the world. We have proof of that. Many foreign governments have asked our Trade Commissioner Service to advise them on its composition and role. The Government has acknowledged in the Budget that the Trade Commissioner Service is a vital link in our export drive. The Government has therefore given the Service the financial endorsement which will give it more scope and more possibility for expansion and activity in promoting overseas trade. The objective of the Trade Commissioner Service is to develop and strengthen Australian bilateral trade and economic relations with host countries and to maintain Australian multilateral trading relationships. It achieves this objective by fostering valuable relationships with Australian exporters and prospective importers.
We must make sure that the trade commissioners who are posted overseas have two qualities: The first is a deep knowledge of Australian business and marketing problems. The second, which I rate even higher, is a knowledge of the country to which they are posted. It is quite incomprehensible to me how someone goes to a foreign country with a different language, cultural background and history can, in the absence of a deep knowledge of that country, understand it and negotiate on behalf of Australian exporters.
It is also vitally important that the term of the trade commissioner at each post be not less than three years. I would advocate a minimum of five years. I have participated in many arguments on that point, but I believe that no one can understand in the brief period of two or three years the character of a foreign country, a different culture, or how such a community thinks and negotiates. It is a waste of manpower that some of our expert trade commissioners should learn the language of an area, find out how the people think and then be transferred to a completely opposite kind of country with completely different attitudes, language, customs and culture. This is a point which we should keep in mind.
I deal next with the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation. Through this facility the Government, using funds derived from trading banks at commercial interest rates, provides loans on internationally competitive terms in support of exports of machinery and capital equipment. Since its introduction the facility has supported the winning of contracts valued at some $ 130m.
The Budget also provides support for productivity improvement programs in industry. This whole package, with the Government’s policy of promoting wider consultation with industry, wider recognition of its problems, and a wider understanding of the direction of its development and growth, represents the major aspects of a broad-ranging support aimed at promoting the development of export-oriented industries by assisting manufacturers and producers to seek overseas opportunities.
It is an impressive list of measures. It is a Budget of reality. It is a Budget of economic responsibility. I feel that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in framing these decisions has been guided by the desire that burdens be shared fairly throughout the Australian community. I support it and commend it to the Senate.
– Before I make my contribution to the Budget debate I would like to congratulate you, Mr President, on your re-election to your high office. I said some two and a half years ago when I first did this that I looked forward to the day when I saw again in the Senate a President from the Australian Labor Party. I think you would understand that I could say that without any ill feeling towards you. I still look forward to that day with optimism, but in the meantime equally look forward to serving under your presidency.
In those two and a half years it has been only rarely that you have had to call me to order during a debate. That is somewhat remarkable, because you had to call me to order during my maiden speech. On that subject, I would like to extend my congratulations to my two colleagues who made their maiden speeches this evening. I am sure that the contributions made by Senators Tate and Evans are evidence of the fact that we will hear significant contributions from them in the debates of this Senate. I again congratulate them and I wish them well.
I now tum to some comments about the Budget itself. As Australians listened to the Budget Speech when it was being broadcast, as they read about it in the newspapers the following day and realised in the days that followed the significance of what the Budget meant for them, they were reminded of Mr Fraser’s oft quoted statement that life was not meant to be easy. They saw the Budget for what it is: It is dishonest; it is brutal; it is a Budget of broken promises. I would like to examine how a worker on $200 a week would view the Budget when looking at it, after having read about it clearly. He would say to himself: ‘Well, I am going to pay $1,80 extra a week for petrol’. He would say: ‘I am going to pay $2 a week more for my cigarettes’. He might say: ‘I have to give up smoking’. He will see that eventually he will have to pay $1.50 a week extra for clothing and footwear.
If he is buying his own home and it is his first home, he will realise that he will virtually be paying an extra $3.50 a week because he will have lost his mortgage repayments as a taxation deduction. His increased tax will cost him about $3.20 a week. When he gets around to adding all that up, he will find that it will cost him a total of $12 a week. Granted, that $12 a week will be offset to some extent. There will be a reduction of about $2 a week for his health insurance, but I wonder whether this will be a short-lived reduction. When we view the arrangements that have been made for Medibank and for health insurance and how they have been changed in the last three years, with all these changes we sometimes wonder what will happen next year. Hopefully, this $2 a week reduction will stay but I think that the worker might have some misgivings about that.
As the worker delved more deeply into the Budget, certainly until a couple of days ago, he would have thought that his wife’s family allowance could have been reduced because some of his children earn money through part time work. Over recent days, statements have been made here in the Senate by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and statements have been made in the House of Representatives that some changes will be made in the means test for children’s earnings in relation to the family allowance. Until this happens, until a clear statement is made, he will have some misgivings in this area too. He will have a look at his parents ‘ income- I am speaking about a worker earning $200 a week and I am viewing what the Budget means to him- and he will find that they will have a reduction in their living standards. Their age pension in future will be indexed yearly in contrast to the twice yearly indexation policy so vigorously championed by the Minister for Social Security. And so it goes on.
He looks further to other aspects which may not concern him but which might concern some of his friends or relatives. He finds that maternity allowances have been eliminated. He is quite interested in the fact that these allowances are going to be eliminated so he obtains a copy of the Budget to see why this is so. He sees that the explanation is as follows:
The Government believes that maternity allowances have been superseded by health care and family allowance arrangements and has therefore decided to abolish this benefit for births occurring after 3 1 October 1978.
I wonder how anyone expects to be able to obtain from the health care arrangements that we have all the items that are needed after a birth in a family. Surely the family allowance arrangements that we had were to provide for something far different from the actual birth because we had maternity allowances for so long. But the health care arrangements too are going to be changed. So I wonder whether the explanation given in the Budget still holds.
The prospects of higher unemployment too are worrying this worker who looks at the consequences of the Budget. He sees greater prospects of unemployment making life difficult for him as the breadwinner of a family, and for his children too as they approach the time to leave school. When he looks at all these factors and at some other factors in the Budget which I shall mention at a later stage he sits and ponders and says to himself: ‘Where was all this in Mr Fraser ‘s election policy speech, made just under eight short months ago? ‘ He realises, like many other people in the community, that these things were not in the election policy speech of the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser. I dare to say that if they had been Mr Fraser would not be in the position he is in now and it is possible that we could have had a different government.
I would like to examine some of the broken promises. I mentioned earlier that this was a Budget of broken promises, so let us look at a few of them. I shall not mention them in detail because of the limitation of time on speeches in this Senate. Let us look at pensions for a start. On 5 April last year Mr Fraser made the statement that there would not be a means test for pensioners over the age of 70 years. I shall quote some of the statements made in an article in the Australian. It states:
The Federal Government will continue to exempt pensioners over 70 from any means test.
Announcing this yesterday, the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, ended speculation on the reintroduction of a means test for all pensioners in the August Budget.
The article continued:
During an hour-long session with announcer Vincent Smith, Mr Fraser said he was disturbed at speculation that a pre-Budget examination of welfare spending would mean an end to means-test exemption for pensioners over 70.
The article went on and quoted Mr Fraser as having said:
I don’t think we can really get back to the situation where the pension is means-tested over 70. I think it would be difficult.
This was last year- in 1977. In 1978 it is obvious that Mr Fraser has found a way to do this. The Budget states that in future pension increases for persons aged over 70 years will be subject to an income test. I think that this is the thin edge of the wedge. It seems to me that pensioners of that age will no longer be receiving any increases and that as time goes on the pension they have will lose considerable value in comparison with the full pensions that are paid to people who are not subject to the income test for pensions. Mr President, it seems that I am destined to speak at times when we are going to be interrupted by the putting of the motion for the adjournment.
– The honourable senator is about to be interrupted again. It being 1 1 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn
– Moving in at 11 o’clock on these raids becomes a habit with me sometimes. As the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), who is at the table, knows, the theme of my discourse is the need for an evenhanded approach to extending clemency in respect of certain immigration matters. Let me outline the basis of the litmus test I wish to see applied in this respect.
Recently, I took a delegation from the Latin American community to see the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr MacKellar, in Sydney. Speaking about the difficulties of balancing legitimate claims of various political refugees, supported by my Latin-American colleagues, I said to the Minister that I believed that he was probably a little over-kind at times to all Vietnamese ‘refugees’, no matter how they reached Australia. His rejoinder was: ‘Well, there are 12 of them in the Fannie Bay gaol. They have not been released. We are having a good hard look at their case. ‘ I am fortified in my argument by a joint statement from Mr MacKellar and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, which appeared several days ago in the Sydney Morning Herald. The Ministers said that the 1 2 Vietnamese refugees who took over a vessel by force to sail to Australia had been given the benefit of the doubt; they could remain here. I do not argue with that decision. However, I say that if the Government acts in that way it should be prepared to look at the claims of other groups.
I do not know what the Minister for Social Security has in her dossier on the case on which I now make a plea. The New South Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union approached me in relation to a number of Lebanese who unquestionably made false statements which assisted them to get out of Beirut, that unhappy city where bullets were flying thick and fast. They came to Australia as single men. The case I wish to raise concerns Mohamad Moussa of Arncliffe, whose file number is 77/5251 1, who now seeks to bring his wife and children to Australia. I have seen a letter from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs which points out, loud and clear, that a false statement had been made by this man to gain exist from Beirut. I must say that it is often par for the course for a person who leaves his family overseas to disown them and to disappear. That is the end of the matter. Probably it can be claimed that this gentleman had no obligations to come clean about the fact that he was married. He made this admission voluntarily.
I was approached by Mr Maddox, the State Secretary of the union and a shop steward. I questioned him. Mohamad Moussa does not deny that he made a false statement. The claim may be made with respect to people from South East Asia who take a chance, overpower the crew of a ship, and successfully sail to Australia- and Senator Rae who is sitting on my left has more knowledge of the nautical aspects of such action than I- that justification exists for giving them the opportunity to start a new life. I do not argue that point. However, I point out that Mohamad Moussa, a member of the Australian Railways Union, is not and will not be a charge on the state. He is working in industry. Probably for the next 30 years of his life he will be a work force statistic- an employee who will have a very uninteresting job to perform. Nevertheless, he is playing his part, I suppose, in Australian productivity.
Perhaps the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has made his point to warn people against making false statements. I point out that Mohamad Moussa is employed as a tradesman’s assistant. He is not receiving a princely salary. If he is prepared to come clean about the existence of his wife and children, I think that his family should be admitted to Australia.
Some arguments may be raised in respect to some of the screening procedures that we have carried out. I heard the Minister say as late as last Saturday that he had bent the rules with respect to many people who were part of the exodus from Beirut. People are accepted from areas which are pressure points and where political turmoil exists. The present Government has done this; the Labor Government also did it. Sometimes after that action, the turmoil in the area has quietened. There is nothing to indicate that the continuing war that has involved as many as three or four rival factions in Beirut will fall into that category. One only has to read the last issue of Time magazine to know that what I am saying is true.
On behalf of the Australian Railways Union, I ask that clemency be extended to this member who did err by denying that he had a wife and children. But he came clean about it. I know enough about the problems concerning South East Asia. I was with the Mayor of Darwin and the Minister last Saturday. It may be an unusual circumstance. The Minister told my LatinAmerican colleague that his clemency would be even-handed. I will await with interest what Senator Guilfoyle has to say on this case. Honourable senators will note that I have referred to only one case. I picked the best of the three from the Austraiian Railways Union. I am not a lawyer but I picked my brief and said: ‘I will try this one ‘. I will leave it at that.
– I had knowledge that Senator Mulvihill wished to raise this matter this evening and I have been advised by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) in regard to it. The Minister has informed me that he has received advice from the Committee on the Determination of Refugee Status, which advises him on applications from people in Australia claiming to be refugees, that the 12 Indo-Chinese people who were referred to by Senator Mulvihill should be granted refugee status. The Minister has received that recommendation from the Committee. On the basis of that advice he has decided that further consideration should be given to their request to stay in Australia.
Senator Mulvihill has put forward the point of view that there ought to be clemency with regard to a member of the Australian Railways Union, Mr Moussa. I am-led to understand by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that Mr Moussa ‘s application for the entry of his family has been refused because of the deception he practised in gaining entry to Australia. Deceptions which constitute an evasion of the established screening procedures for persons seeking residence in Australia are viewed most seriously. Recognising that compassionate circumstances exist in Mr Moussa ‘s case, the Minister is not prepared to condone what he has done and set a precedent for more than 100 similar cases which have come to light in recent months. The information I have from the Minister quotes the history of the applications that were made by Mr Moussa for entry, and declarations he made with regard to his single status and his subsequent application with regard to his family. The Minister said that Mr Moussa made false statements regarding his marital status on arrival in Australia and committed a breach of section 3 1 ( 1 ) (d) of the Migration Act, which states:
A person shall not, in connection with the entry, or proposed entry, of an immigrant (including that person himself) into Australia-deliver to an officer, or otherwise furnish for official purposes of the Commonwealth a document containing a statement or information that is false or misleading in a material particular.
The Minister has reviewed the case following the representations of Senator Mulvihill but, because of the nature of the application and the deception that has been practised, he still does not feel prepared to condone what has been done, one reason being that this would set a precedent for about 100 similar cases. I know that the advocacy of Senator Mulvihill is most persuasive and that it has been put forward sincerely on behalf of the union member concerned. I regret that the response from the Minister has been that in this case he is unable to condone the breach of the Act that occurred when information was given incorrectly to the Department in the forms. I am sorry that the information Senator Mulvihill may have hoped would come forward from the Minister has not come forward in this instance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator ‘s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 29 May 1978:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The two transmitters originally purchased for the inland service have been diverted for use at Shepparton, where they will be used to upgrade Radio Australia transmissions pending completion of the work at Cox Peninsula. They will be replaced when plans for introduction of the Inland Service are able to proceed.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 7 June 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable Senator’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 August 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780823_senate_31_s78/>.