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 2,123 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we deplore the increased hardships imposed by the terms of the recent budget.
That we believe that the changes to Medibank will cause many to place their health at risk in an attempt to maintain their standard of living.
That the Government’s budgetary actions will sharply increase the economic gap between those who have and those who have not.
That the cutting back in real terms of monies allocated for pensioners will cause extra burdens to those already under great stress.
That the actions of the Government can do nothing but increase the already dangerous level of unemployment.
That we as citizens of Australia with a great love and concern for our country, fear that this budget will bring dishonour and disgrace by increasing poverty and crime and will sow the seeds of violence within our democratic community.
Your petitioners therefore respectfully ask that the Government move to lift the onerous burden placed upon them.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 2,630 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That for years senior citizens of German origin suffered considerably due to lack of concluding reciprocal agreement of social services with Germany.
Our earliest endeavours date back to 1971 when the Australian Government promised to negotiate with Germany, but to date there is no positive answer.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should request the Government to make a firm statement as to its willingness to conclude a reciprocal agreement of Social Services with the Federal Republic of Germany.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 149 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable The President and Members of The Senate in Parliament Assembled: The Humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the means test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all Aged Pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that All Australian Citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a right and not a charity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 136 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 for 1 979 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 5 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.
Radio Station 3CR, Melbourne
– I present the following petition from 96 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled, the Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That 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 call on Federal Government to legislate against incitement to racial hatred and violence.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 34 citizens of Australia:
The Honourable, the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth that the Seismic Station situated at Schwartz Crescent in Alice Springs is a United States of America Station operated by the United States of America Air Force Detachment 42 1 .
On the 28th February 1978, a Government statement issued in the Senate indicated that the Seismic Station would be partly operated by the United States of America and Australian Governments from then and would be “open” to the public.
The Station has not been opened for inspection by the general public.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should ensure that the Seismic Station is immediately opened for inspection by all citizens of Alice Springs and members of the public generally.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 10 citizens of Australia:
The Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the Victorian Federation of State School Parents ‘ Clubs respectfully showeth: -
That as citizens of Victoria and parents of State school children, we are most concerned that the quality of education available in our school 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 for 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.
– I present the following petition from 808 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 New South Wales and parents of State school children, we are most concerned that the quality of education available in our school 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 for 1 979 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 5 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.
The Acting Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows.
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 Guilfoyle, Senator Hamer and Senator Missen.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1 960.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Science and Industry Research Act 1 949.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to the fact that experimental operations involving a new communications technology called Teletext are at present being conducted by several television stations throughout Australia. As the Australian Broadcasting Commission so far has been excluded from the experimental development of Teletext, can the Minister indicate whether the Government has any intention to involve the national broadcasting service in this important new development?
– I have seen only public reports about the involvement of, I think, the Channel 7 group in developing a Teletext proposal. I have no other information on the matter but I will seek it from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and let the honourable senator have a reply.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is the James Kaldis of Kingsford, Labor candidate for election to the New South Wales Legislative Council, the James Kaldis who is active in the presentation of ethnic radio programs for the Special Broadcasting Service? Is the position of co-ordinator of an ethnic radio program one requiring impeccable neutrality? Is it appropriate for a political partisan to have unique access to ethnic radio during a political campaign in which he is a candidate? Finally, if he is elected as a Labor member of the Legislative Council will he stand down from his position as co-ordinator of Greek programs on ethnic radio in Sydney?
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I think you ruled yesterday that questions asked had to relate to matters within the portfolio of the Minister concerned. This question asks purely for an opinion- whether something is usual or whether someone should be impartial in a particular operation. I do not think that this has anything to do with the portfolio of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– Of course it has.
– It has not. The honourable senator is purely asking a Minister for an opinion in relation to an election candidate of whom the Government is scared. In order to protect the Minister from doing a disservice to the New South Wales branch of his party, I do not think he should carry the matter further by giving more publicity than has been given to the future member from Kingsford.
– Questions must relate to matters within the responsibilities of the Minister to whom they are directed. I pass this question on to the Minister, Senator Chaney, to answer as he deems fit.
– Thank you, Mr President. There are some matters of fact, as against matters of opinion, which I think could usefully be put forward in answer to this question. Officers of the Special Broadcasting Service, in common with other public sector employees, are free to seek public office on behalf of political parties if they wish to do so. But this Service applies a policy consistent with that applying to the Public Service generally which requires candidates to resign from their positions prior to an election. The advice I have received from the department is that James Kaldis, who is an Australian Labor Party candidate for the New South Wales Legislative Council, and who, until recently, has been responsible for presentation of programs on radio station 2EA, has resigned from that Service with effect from 1 7 September 1 978. So it is quite clear that he will not have any special access to any section of the media for the purpose of the campaign. On the general question of impartiality, I am advised that the Special Broadcasting Service operates under guidelines which emphasise that the station should avoid political partisanship and that wherever matters of political sensitivity are reported or discussed broadcasters must seek to ensure that the presentation is balanced.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that an Australian citizen- namely, Mr Fawzi Khalid Atatra- has been arrested by Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank area of Jordan and is currently held in prison without charge? Can the Minister indicate any reasons for Mr Atatra ‘s detention? Was there any collaboration between any Australian security agency and the Israeli organisation Mossad which may have made Mossad aware of alleged activities on the part of Mr Atatra, a Palestinian? Why was Mr Atatra ‘s brother interviewed by Commonwealth Police in
Adelaide on 14 September? For what purpose will the record of that interview be used?
-I am advised that the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv has reported that Mr Atatra was arrested by the Israeli authorities on 7 September 1978. I am further advised that Mr Atatra is being held in custody in Jenin a town in the Israeli occupied West Bank area of Jordan, on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organisation. As to the third part of the question, which concerned security involvement, in conformity with the protocol normally adopted here I make no comment. As to the fourth part of the question, I am informed that officers of the Commonwealth Police did not interview Mr Atatra ‘s brother on 14 September or at any other time.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I preface it by drawing the Minister’s attention to the composition of the touring Australian Rugby League team and the inclusion of only three Queenslanders therein, despite the closeness of the competition in the recent interstate series. I realise that unfortunately the Minister is powerless to intervene to remedy the parochial method of selection. However, I call upon him in the interest of sport throughout Australia to register his Government’s disapproval of this and other glaring examples of home town selection by the powerful sporting moguls in Sydney who seem to possess only one eye- and that eye is blue- and fail to recognise the performance of athletes in the less populous States.
– My natural sense of selfpreservation leads me to direct that question to the Minister whom I represent in this place. I merely say that, in light of the statements that Senator Bonner and other Queensland senators have made in this place about the value of Queenslanders as against people from the rest of Australia, the three Queenslanders picked in the team are worth nine players from any other State.
– I ask the Attorney-General a question the general content of which I have paid him the courtesy of giving some notice. Will the Attorney-General confirm or deny that a Soviet KGB agent penetrated the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation during the tenure of office of Mr Peter Barbour? If so, what action was taken against the agent and what steps have been taken to prevent infiltration?
- Senator Chipp was good enough to give me some indication of his intention to ask this question. I noted that the Age newspaper this morning also raised the same question. Indeed, I was asked a question yesterday in general terms about the book The Secret State which was published on Monday. First of all, I certainly would not be making any response or taking any action in regard simply to newspaper accounts of what is contained in the book. As I said yesterday, I have asked for and am expecting a brief from the Director-General of Security in relation to allegations contained in the book. Of course, allegations were made on a broad front, not just in relation to this specific matter.
The other point I make is that the alleged events occurred not during the tenure of the present Government but during the time when Mr Barbour was the Director-General. Of course, that does not mean that there is not great concern on my part or the Government’s part in relation to such allegations. The position is, therefore, that I have sought and later today or tomorrow I will be receiving a report from the Director-General of Security, Mr Justice Woodward, in relation to this matter and to other allegations contained in the book. As it happens, I have an appointment to see Mr Justice Woodward tomorrow about other matters. Naturally I will take the opportunity, when he comes tomorrow, to discuss this matter with him, but until I have done so and until I have been fully briefed on this matter I do not propose to make any further statement.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I would like to make it quite clear that I am not the slightest bit interested in the book or the Age newspaper. As I read the Minister’s answer to Senator Puplick yesterday, I was given to understand that the Minister had not then called for a brief on the question. His answer to me today indicates that a brief either has been called for or is forthcoming. Did the Minister ask for a brief? If so, when?
-Of course, I was interested in the matter when it was first raised in the newspapers and in the media on Monday evening and yesterday morning. Yesterday I took steps to inquire whether any material would be forthcoming or when it would be forthcoming. I have been speaking to the DirectorGeneral of Security today about the matter.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. The head of the Victorian arson squad, Senior Sergeant John Coffey, supported by the Australian Fire Protection Association and the Insurance Council of Australia, has highlighted the huge losses through suspicious fires. As these losses are reported to involve up to 1,000 deaths a year and to cost an estimated $5,000m this year, the costs to the insuring public are still soaring. Can the Minister ascertain the extent of Federal or State funding going into arson research and give details of any projects that are currently under investigation on ways of minimising the apparent trend towards an increase in losses of life and money through arson?
- Senator Archer’s question is an important one. As he says, it relates to a very significant loss of life and property over the year. I certainly have not the relevant information in front of me now. I will seek it and make arrangements for it to be given to him.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to a report that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development congratulated a bank for providing loans to people who have to wait until next financial year to receive their home savings grants. Is the Government actively encouraging banks to provide loans to cover the funds which, by law, the Government should provide? If so, is this a tacit admission by the Government that it is broke? Finally, does the Government intend to pay the interest charges incurred by young people who discover that they are obliged to borrow because the Government refuses to pay their home savings grants this year?
-AU the answers to Senator Colston’s questions are, of course, contained in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer. In fact, he will find that the Government has taken steps to expand the capacities of the banks, specifically the trading banks, to make loans to home owners by way of bridging finance, as in the case mentioned by the honourable senator, or by other methods. The amount involved and the delays with regard to home savings grants were also set out in the Budget. As to whether the Government is broke, the fact is that the Government is highly provident in using taxpayers’ money and will use that money with discretion, as previous governments did not do. The Government, through its providence, is reducing the rate of inflation and reducing interest rates. As it brings down both the rate of inflation and interest rates it increases the capacity of people to own their homes. Prior to the time of the Whitlam Government the average Australian could buy his own home. We hope to restore that situation in the near future.
-Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen a report in the Australian of 10 September that members of a commune in Carlton, Victoria, are investing surplus funds of $500 arising from a combined fortnightly unemployment benefit of $720 in speculative situations listed on the stock exchange, and that the group is earning spectacular profits? Would such profits be regarded as personal exertion income of the members of the group for the purposes of the Income Tax Assessment Act? Would such income classify the commune members as self-employed and accordingly ineligible for the unemployment benefit?
– I did see a report in the Press- I do not know anything of its accuracy or otherwise- as described by Senator Messner, to the effect that a commune of unemployed people had pooled their unemployment benefits and were making considerable gains by way of dividend and profit on the stock exchange. I suppose that the first comment one should make is that it is a healthy sign of a resurgence of the economy that the stock exchange should be so buoyant and increasing. Of course, that has taken the laughter away from the Opposition.
– We are absolutely stunned.
- Mr President, one understands the interjections of the Opposition. If there is one thing that Opposition members hate it is profit. If there is one thing they set out to destroy it is profit. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, they get that result. I am no tax expert; I do not know whether such profits would be considered to be a result of personal exertion. I would assume that they would be regarded as unearned income and therefore would be eligible for taxation.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. The Treasurer, at page 13 of his Budget Speech, stated that the Government had decided to assist the Primary Industry Bank of Australia by investing in it funds from the Income Equalisation Deposits Trust Account. As this statement had led to wide speculation that PIB interest rates would be in the vicinity of 9 per cent to 10 per cent, I ask the Minister Can he give a firm indication of the actual PIB interest rate? If not, what are the reasons for his being unable to do so?
– That is an important question. I do not have the details available. I will refer the question to the Treasurer and seek the information required.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and I refer to the Senate standing committee report on isolated children. Can the Minister give further information in response to recent representations in relation to this report and also in relation to recent statements in South Australia that assistance to isolated children will be reduced? Can the Minister indicate further whether additional funds are to be made available to other special or disadvantaged groups of people? Will this be extended to further groups of people, such as migrants and Aboriginal children?
- Senator Davidson in fact has asked a range of questions which are not capable of being dealt with fully at Question Time. The fact is that over the past three years the Government has extended very greatly its aid to isolated children. A total of $ 14.6m is provided in the present Budget for this purpose, representing an increase of half a million dollars on the provision in the previous year. Some 20,000 children will be assisted. Senator Davidson has been active in these matters. As promised in the 1977 policy speech, an additional $ 100 per child is payable in 1978 to families living in tax zones A and B whose children are eligible for the basic boarding allowance. An additional $100 is payable for the first child in each family qualifying for second home allowance assistance. In the Northern Territory we pay a supplementary allowance of up to $150 a year for children eligible for the basic boarding allowance, and a supplement of $50 a year for Territory children who qualify for the basic correspondence allowance.
As to help to special groups, in this Budget year a total of $66m is provided for the education of special groups. That represents an increase of 16.8 per cent over last year. For example, Aborigines will get a total of $2 8.1m, representing an increase of 1 1 per cent, and migrants will get a total of $27.8m, representing a substantial increase. So the Budget has provided very substantial increases in funds for these special groups.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, deals with the means testing of family allowances. I ask the Minister whether she recalls my question of 22 August this year in which I asked: . . Will the Minister now give an unqualified assurance to the people of Australia that family allowances will not be income tested on the basis of income derived from the personal exertions of children?
I also ask the Minister whether she recalls her clear words to the Senate as follows:
I am able to answer Senator Harradine by saying that it is intended that personal exertion income achieved by children will not be subjected to the means test.
She went on:
I undertake to make a public statement as soon as possible on the income that will be subjected to the means test. It will not include personal exertion income.
Is it a fact that just prior to lunch the Minister held a Press conference at which she indicated that subject to an increased threshold, income derived from the personal exertion of children will be subject to a means test? If so, how can she reconcile that statement with the undertaking given to the Senate less than one month ago?
– I recall that in August we discussed the income testing of family allowances on the basis of income in the hands of children. At that stage the threshold proposed in the Budget Speech was $312. The Treasurer and I both foreshadowed that the Cabinet would review that decision, and I undertook to make further statements after that review had taken place. Following our party meeting today, at the Press conference which is held subsequent to each party meeting I advised the Press that last night the Cabinet had made a decision that family allowances would be means tested on the basis of income received by children at a threshold of income in excess of $1040 a year. That is, if a child is in receipt of income of $20 per week the means test will be applied to the family allowance. The income that will be exempt from family allowance testing will be maintenance payments received on behalf of children, scholarship income including Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances, superannuation compensation, pension income, and trust income derived from deceased parents. Those areas of income are excluded.
The level of $1040 was decided upon by the Cabinet taking into account the income testing that is made on other pensions and benefits.
There is a free area of income of $20 per week on means tested pensions, and the same threshold is now to be applied to the income testing for family allowances. With the exclusions that I have mentioned, income in the hands of children will be included.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs refers to the statement made this morning by Mr Anthony that Australia was going to appeal under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade against the European Economic Community’s placing an export subsidy of $350 a ton on sugar and thereby undercutting both the Australian and world price by some $70 a ton. As the EEC has sold 3,000 tons of sugar to Papua New Guinea, out of an annual market of approximately 20,000 tons formerly supplied from Australia, would the Minister consider advising the Papua New Guinea Government that in view of the high level of Australian financial aid to Papua New Guinea, running at $233. 5m this year, it would not be too much to expect that where goods could be supplied at world pricing parity preference should be given to Australian suppliers?
– I am aware of the statement that was made by the Deputy Prime Minister regarding GATT and the EEC subsidisation of sugar and also, of course, of its discriminatory effect. The second part of Senator MacGibbon’s question is an interesting one which I cannot answer first-hand. It is a matter for my colleague, the Minister, to study and comment upon. I will bring it to the Minister’s attention and seek his comment.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and follows that asked by Senator Harradine. Why has the Government changed its mind and gone completely contrary to the plans that the Minister gave us in the Senate in August? How much money will be saved in next year’s expenditure by this new proposal?
– As I indicated to Senator Harradine, the Government undertook to review its previous decision whereby income at the level of $312 per annum was to be means tested, and when doing so took into account the basis on which other pensions and benefits are means tested, that is, that if no more than $20 a week is earned one is eligible for a full pension. I have been advised by the Treasurer that it is estimated that in 1978-79, if the new arrangement takes effect from 1 January, a saving of $ 16m will be effected, and that in a full year it is expected that the saving will be $31m. That figure is based on a threshold of $1,040 per annum and a $ 1 for $4 withdrawal rate; that is, that a first child may earn $20 a week and indeed will continue to receive some family allowance until his income has reached $34. A chart is available which shows the abatement of the family allowance on that basis of $1 for $4 withdrawal.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question to clarify the issue. Has the Minister made it clear that the income of the child only will be counted, not that of the parents, whether they are pensioners, unemployed, low income earners or anyone else; that the only income considered will be that of the child?
– I should make it quite clear that the income testing of the family allowance is to be on the bas,is of the child’s income. Honourable senators will recall that when the family allowance scheme was introduced, two factors were put together- the old child endowment scheme and the taxable rebate scheme for dependent children. The Government has taken into account the fact that there was an abatement of that rebate for dependent children when a child had income. I repeat that it is income in the hands of the child that will decide eligibility. It is not an income test on the family income.
-I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he can inform the Senate of the latest figures on Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development consumer price increases? How did consumer price increases in Australia, in the 12 months and six months to June 1978, compare with the OECD averages for the same period?
– Only in the last day or two have the figures mentioned by Senator Watson for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development been produced. They are now available. In a moment I will seek to have a relevant table incorporated in Hansard. In the 12 months to July 1978 consumer prices in the OECD area rose at a weighted average rate of 8.1 per cent, recording a slight decline from the 9.2 per cent increase in the 12 months to July 1977. In the six months to July, however, the annual rate of increase accelerated to 9.6 percent from 8.8 per cent in the six months to May. So there were adverse trends. Japan, Germany,
Austria, the Benelux countries and Switzerland continued to record price increases significantly below the OECD average in the 12 months to July. An acceleration of inflation in some of the major countries- that is, the United States of America, Canada, France and the United Kingdom- is evident from the latest six monthly figures. In June and July consumer prices in the OECD area rose by 0.7 per cent compared with an increase of 0.8 per cent in May and an average monthly increase of 0.7 per cent over the previous six months. The figure for Australia in the latest OECD release is based on the June quarter figures. The figures relating to the 12 months and six months to the June quarter were 7.9 per cent and 6.9 per cent respectively. On both these measures, Australia’s inflation rate is below the average for the OECD area as a whole. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out the OECD figures.
The table read as follows-
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware that the Trade Practices Commission has again complained, this time in its fourth annual report, that staff shortages have affected the Commission’s enforcement work in the consumer protection area and caused delays in investigating and getting matters into court? Does the Government not recognise that in one area at least excessive advertising, particularly of food items, is a matter of concern to the Trade Practices Commission but that staff ceilings have severely curtailed the capacity of that government agency to monitor food prices? Is the Senate to take it that the Government does not want the Trade Practices Commission to carry out fully its legislative functions and responsibilities?
-The answer to the latter part of the question is, of course, no. The Government is committed to the role of the Trade Practices Commission. It would take note of the report of the Trade Practices Commission in regard to any problems it may have had in this area. The question of staff ceilings spreads across the whole area of government activity. As we have said time and again, where there are particular pockets of concern or particular problems attempts have been made to alleviate them. Speaking on behalf of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, I do not know whether he has adverted as yet to this particular problem. The report of the Trade Practices Commission has only just been tabled. I will draw the Minister’s attention to the question which Senator Gietzelt has asked about the report and endeavour to obtain a more definitive answer from him.
-Has the Minister for Science seen an article concerning the work of scientists at the University of New South Wales on the breeding of a microbe which can convert mining waste into metals worth millions of dollars? Is the Minister aware that this article points out that, by using microbes to leach waste, metals can be recovered and the environment protected at hardly any cost, and that the technique can be used on most metals including, very importantly, uranium, copper, zinc and nickel? Can the Minister indicate how far the breeding of such a microbe has progressed and when, if at all, it will be brought into commercial use? Can he also tell us how efficient such a leaching process would be, particularly in terms of environmental protection?
-The leaching of metals from host rocks using microbiological action not only has been the subject of intensive research at the University of New South Wales for a number of years but also, I understand, has been applied commercially in Australia and overseas in many instances. During the 1960s, copper was biologically leached from waste rock at Rum Jungle and in the uranium area there the recovery was worth in the vicinity of $100,000 a year; so the process was a proposition in earlier times. A similar process has been used at Kambalda to recover nickel from very low-grade ore. On Bougainville Island the use of this method to recover copper from low-grade ore dumps and also as a means of reducing pollution is presently under appraisal. Therefore the matter raised by Senator Young is important and shows responsibility on his part. My understanding is that research at the University of New South Wales is not directed at breeding the bacteria since that occurs freely in the natural environment. Because complete recovery of the metal from waste ore by natural biological leaching can take 20 years or more, the university team headed by Professor
Ralph is concentrating on determining the optimum physical conditions and the management procedures which could accelerate this natural process. If there are any unanswered parts of Senator Young’s question I will attempt to obtain answers for him.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Finance been drawn to the United States Government report that solar power will be able to supply 20 per cent of America’s needs by the year 2000? Is he aware that the United States Congress is strongly backing the further development of solar energy and that the United States Government is planning to give tax credits up to $2,000 for the installation of domestic solar heating units? Would the Minister consider making similar tax deductions to Australians who are willing to incorporate solar units in their homes?
– I am unaware whether the Minister for Finance has had his attention drawn to the United States Government report on solar power or whether any consideration has been given to the matter of tax deductions for the installation of solar heating units. This is a matter that I shall refer to the Treasurer, rather than to the Minister for Finance for his consideration.
– My question which is addressed to the Attorney-General concerns the means test applied by the Australian Legal Aid Office to those people applying for legal assistance. Is the Attorney-General aware that a person with a large gross income who has been imprudent enough to incur substantial financial commitments which reduce his disposable weekly income to below $40 can receive legal aid, whilst a person whose only income consists of a pension or small maintenance benefit is excluded from receiving legal aid? Is the Attorney-General concerned that this anomaly exists and is causing an inequitable allocation of the scarce funds available for legal aid? Will the Attorney-General investigate this matter with the aim of ensuring that the Australian Legal Aid Office is able to provide legal assistance to those most in need?
– In ascertaining the disposable income for the purposes of the means/ needs test which applies in the Australian Legal
Aid Office only certain set deductions are acceptable. These are payments for income tax, superannuation contributions, rent or mortgage payments for a dwelling in which the applicant resides, half of any board paid by the applicant, municipal rates and water rates for a dwelling in which the applicant resides, maintenance payments to a spouse and any children of the applicant, payments under hire purchase agreements for household goods and furniture used by the applicant in the home and payments for health insurance to a maximum of $150 per annum for a single person or $300 for a married person. In those circumstances I cannot accept Senator Missen ‘s suggestion that by imprudence a person may be able to reduce his otherwise large income to meet the income test. However, if such a case has been drawn to Senator Missen ‘s attention, if he passes on the particulars to me I will have the matter investigated.
I might just add in relation to this question generally- I have already announced this publicly but I have not informed the Senate- that at the moment I am conducting a review of the means and needs test generally and other aspects of the administration of the legal aid scheme. I hope to be able to make a further announcement in regard to these matters in the near future.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs outline the criteria by which the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs determines the eligibility of persons to migrate to Australia as refugees? Is it true that certain nationals, such as Lebanese, are now automatically excluded from the refugee category, without regard to individual circumstances?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to obtain an answer on the matter of the criteria used for determining the eligibility of migrants, particularly those applicable to Lebanese who propose to migrate to this country.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Construction whether he is aware of a recent report from the British Building Research Establishment on pre-stressed concrete and the chemical action of calcium chloride on steel which is apparently used in reinforcing concrete as a fast setting agent. I ask whether, to the Minister’s knowledge, calcium chloride is used, or has been used, as a fast setting agent for concrete on any buildings in Australia. Are the new National Gallery and the new High Court buildings in danger of falling down? Will the Minister undertake also to investigate whether any Commonwealth buildings have been built using these methods and whether there has been any unacceptable corrosion? Will the Minister consider possibly banning the practice?
-My understanding is that the Department of Construction has been long aware of the danger of using calcium chloride in concrete and has taken action to prohibit its use. As early as 1966, apparently, the Department circulated a warning against the effects of utilising this product. In 1971 the Department circulated a document requiring specifications to prohibit the use of calcium chloride and giving details of a field test by which to check the supplies of concrete. In 1977 an updated version of that earlier document was circulated reiterating the prohibition. In September of this year new departmental standards specifications, including the prohibition, were adopted.
For the honourable senator’s benefit, I point out that since the first prohibition in 1971, no building or engineering facility designed or constructed by the Department of Construction has included calcium chloride. Further, it is believed that calcium chloride has not been used since 1966 when the warning was first given. However, there are Commonwealth buildings designed and constructed by authorities with which the Department of Construction has had no involvement and in relation to which it has no knowledge of the possible inclusion of calcium chloride. The authority of the Minister for Construction does not extend to ensuring that his Department’s standards are recognised or used by other departments or authorities. He would not be in a position to undertake an investigation in respect of buildings constructed by them, as Senator Lewis has suggested.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and I assume that on this occasion he will not have a prepared answer to read. Does he recall yesterday being asked a question by Senator Tate concerning a question on cattle disease in Tasmania that was asked on 14 September 1978 by Senator Archer? I ask the Minister whether he recalls saying on Wednesday of this week:
The Minister has received representations on this matter from Senator Archer. Undoubtedly, he is more interested in that State -
That is Tasmania- than many of the people who are involved in government there at the present time.
The question was related to the declaration of Tasmania as a cattle disease-free State. I ask the Minister: Is it correct that officials of the Australian Bureau of Animal Health have been kept informed constantly about the disease status of the Tasmanian livestock industry and the efforts which the Tasmanian Government has made in conjunction with cattle producers in Tasmania to ensure that Tasmania remains the State with the least number of cattle diseases? Is it also correct that in the national interest the Tasmanian Government has desisted from seeking any declaration as to disease status to avoid the clear implication that the mainland cattle industries were disease ridden, thereby prejudicing substantial exports of livestock from the mainland? Will the Minister withdraw the imputation against the Tasmanian Government and, in particular, will he withdraw the imputation- and what I would call the insult- in relation to the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture? The answer which Senator Webster gave us the other day obviously was based upon his ignorance of the true position.
– I have a prepared answer to this question but I will not take the opportunity to read it to the Senate. Perhaps it would be more appropriate if in this instance I alerted Senator Wriedt to the fact that today is Wednesday; it was not yesterday. That relates to the first part of his question. It is as well that the Leader of the Opposition gets up to date. He asked me five questions. I do not think it is appropriate at Question Time that even the Leader of the Opposition should be able to ask five questions in the form of one question. He asked me firstly: ‘Is it a fact?’ He then asked me: ‘Is it correct?’ He then asked me whether I would withdraw. I am unable to say whether what he quoted is a fact but I will look at Hansard to see what he said. He also asked me to verify whether something is correct. I will look at Hansard to see whether it is correct. I certainly did not wish to cast any aspersion on the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania. I think the general comments that I made were appropriate. I think the type of questions that the Leader of the Opposition asked me demonstrates how appropriate they are.
-My question to the Minister representing the Treasurer relates to the purchase of motor vehicles by people with some incapacity. Is the Minister able to say what conditions must be satisfied before a person suffering from a disabling disease such as multiple sclerosis is able to purchase a motor car without having to pay sales tax?
– I had some warning of such a question and therefore I have specific information which I would not have otherwise. I am advised that item 135A of the First Schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935 exempts from sales tax motor vehicles and parts therefor where the vehicle is used for transporting to and from gainful employment a person who has been certified by the Director-General of Social Services or his delegate to have lost the use of one or both legs to such an extent as to be permanently unable to use public transport. Whether a person suffering from multiple sclerosis would be entitled to exemption under the item is a matter for determination on the facts of the case.
-Does the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs agree that the agreement which has been reached at Camp David between the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Prime Minister of Israel offers an excellent chance for obtaining peace in the Middle East and an opportunity which should be furthered by all governments? Will the Australian Government use whatever influence it can bring to bear on the other countries within the region in order to endeavour to induce them to abide by the principle of the agreement which has been reached? Will the Government make a statement on the current situation in the Middle East as early as possible?
-I think all people of good will must be heartened by the results at Camp David and by the distance that people who seemed to have implacable differences travelled to achieve some measure of accord. All who hope for a just and dignified peace in the Middle East will hope that the efforts at Camp David will prove successful. I have no immediate brief as to the second part of Senator Wheeldon ‘s question. I am utterly sure that the Government would seek to use whatever good offices it may have to aid in achieving a just peace. I will direct the attention of the Minister concerned to the third part of the question, which asks for a statement to be made by the Government.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Social Security to that part of the Budget Speech which states:
Family allowances, orphans pensions, handicapped child’s allowance and additional pensions or benefits for a child will generally no longer be payable in respect of children who are classed as living abroad on a permanent basis.
Can the Minister say whether this will apply in any way to the children of Australian Government employees serving on long term overseas postings of two, three or more years and to the children of other Australians on long term postings overseas, such as business people, as these postings sometimes, I understand, require residence visas for the countries of posting? Can the Minister indicate the criteria that will be applied in determining those to be affected by this Budget decision?
– No change is contemplated in the conditions under which family allowances, the double orphans pension and the handicapped child’s allowance are available to people, including Australian Government employees, who are temporarily absent from Australia. As a general rule a person who intends to return to Australia within three years is regarded as being temporarily absent but a longer period may be allowed in particular circumstances. Similarly, no change in the eligibility conditions is proposed where the subject child is temporarily overseas or is awaiting migration to Australia. I should explain that the general purpose behind the proposal is to prevent the payment of family allowances, the double orphans pension or the handicapped child’s allowance and the additional pension or benefit that is paid on behalf of children who are unlikely to come to Australia, regardless of whether they have been here before. Exceptionally, additional pension or benefit will continue for a child with an Australian pension who is living overseas. Those are the criteria that will be applied. A Government employee who would be serving on a posting of two, three or even more years and who would be regarded as being temporarily absent would have no change in the conditions of payment.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, refers to funding of the Stuart Highway. The Minister will be aware, if only from questions asked in this place, of the widespread support for a continuing program to complete the Stuart Highway and the recent deputation, representing all the parties and interests in the area, to the Minister for Transport requesting special funding from the Cabinet. Although that request has not been agreed to, it is obvious now that an improved proposal from the South Australian Government is presently under consideration. Is the Minister aware that although three months of the present financial year have elapsed the Federal Minister has not yet approved the additional amount which has been put forward by the South Australian Government to ensure that the construction will be continued? Will he ask the Minister for Transport to review the position he has adopted on the provision of extra funds for this important project?
– I am not aware that the Commonwealth Minister for Transport has not approved funds which have been offered by the South Australian Government to continue work on the Stuart Highway. I will take up the matter with the Minister. I understand that the Minister has had various applications before him for a review of the Commonwealth program but these have not had any success to date. I will raise with the Minister the proposition that was referred to by the honourable senator.
-Can the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate of the latest statistics on new capital expenditure by private enterprises? Do the statistics for the June quarter show strong real growth in new capital equipment and in capital investment by industries other than the building industry?
– The statistics for the June quarter were published recently. Compared with the March quarter, new capital expenditure increased by $ 142m or 8.2 per cent in seasonally adjusted current price terms. This follows increases of 4.6 per cent in both the March and December quarters. So there has been a significant increase. The June quarter increase comprised a fall of $4m in investment in new building and structures and a rise of $ 168m- a 13.6 per cent increase- in investment in other new capital equipment. The other new capital equipment category of new investment has risen consistently and strongly throughout the last year since the June quarter of 1 977. In seasonally adjusted terms, aggregate new capital expenditure by private enterprises was $2,000m in the June quarter. That is $388m or 24.1 per cent higher than in the June quarter of 1977. For 1977-78 as a whole, total new capital expenditure rose by 18.1 per cent. These figures provide strong witness to the success of the Government’s economic policies, particularly in seeking to see that new private investment is leading to new jobs in the private sector.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate not agree that the figures he has just quoted are largely due to the fact that they relate to the last quarter in which the 40 per cent investment allowance operated? Does he expect that the next quarter, when the investment allowance will have fallen to 20 per cent, will show similar figures?
– It must have escaped the notice of Senator Wriedt that I did not relate my answer only to a quarter. I related it to whole years. I repeat that throughout the whole year progress has been made. If the Jeremiahs opposite are hoping that in the next quarter the figures will have fallen because of reduced investment allowances, let us wait until the end and as usual we will see that their predictions in gloom will be shown to be wrong.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. It is based on submissions I made during the adjournment debate a fortnight ago when I sought information on the acreage of the proposed Kakadu National Park as set out in the second report of Mr Justice Fox’s Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry as compared with the Alaskan parklands provided for in legislation of the United States of America. My question is appropriate to the current week. Have the recent adjustments to approvals for mining operations in the Ranger area in any way infringed or fudged on the original boundaries defined by Mr Justice Fox?
-Senator Mulvihill raised a series of matters in the adjournment debate on 24 August. I sought information from the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development on the points which he raised. To take the initial point that he has mentioned today, I have the figures relating to the area in Alaska and the area in the Northern Territory devoted to parks. I will make those figures available to him in detail later. I merely make the comment now that existing parks in Alaska cover 0.8 per cent of the area of that State and existing parks in the Northern Territory cover 3.8 per cent of the total area. However, there is a very big discrepancy in terms of proposed parklands, which is the point raised by Senator Mulvihill. It is proposed in Alaska that an additional 1 1.2 per cent of the area of that State be brought under parkland as against an additional one per cent of land in the Northern Territory. In regard to the second point which he raised, as to the proposals that are currently before the Government, I am not aware of any infringement of the original area as defined by Mr Justice Fox. I will have that point checked and will certainly let the honourable senator know whether my impression is incorrect. I will also let him have the other material made available by the Minister in response to the very many points he made on the adjournment.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to youth unemployment, which is the most pressing social problem we face in this country. Is the Minister aware of the unfair competition for jobs which young people now face as a result of wage differentials having been largely removed from national awards, which for many generations had the effect of allowing employers to give on a fair basis less than adult wages for work which was of less than full adult work value? Will the Government give consideration to calling for an appropriate reintroduction of wage differentials in national awards so as to give a fair go to young people by enabling them more successfully to compete with adults and experienced persons in gaining employment?
-No doubt Senator Teague is fully aware that a matter of this kind is determined by the Austraiian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in its deliberations. It is a fact that the Government makes regular submissions in relation to these matters to that Commission. I will refer the proposal that Senator Teague has made to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, who I am sure will take note of it.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Social Security. I am amazed at the reply she gave to Senator Harradine today and I want her to give some more information. Would the Minister agree that her reply was a complete contradiction of a reply she gave to Senator Harradine within the last month? Was the Minister at the Cabinet meeting that made this decision last evening? Did the Cabinet, in making the decision, know of the assurance the Minister had given the Senate? Was the Cabinet’s decision made for revenue producing purposes or for the purposes of discrediting a possibly unfavourable Minister? In view of this repudiation of an assurance given to the Senate, how can we ever accept a further assurance from the Minister, or perhaps from any other Minister?
– The statement I just made in response to a question from Senator Harradine outlined the detail of the Cabinet decision which was made last night with regard to the family allowance income test on income held in the hands of children. Previous discussion in this place in regard to family allowances occurred as a result of the statement in the Budget that an income test would be applied to family allowances at the level of an income of $3 12 per annum. The Treasurer and I both made statements to the effect that this decision would be reviewed to remove any unintended consequences that might flow from that decision. The review did take place and in response to a question from Senator Harradine I announced that the Cabinet had decided that an income testing arrangement would be introduced for family allowances, taking into account a threshold income of $1,040 per annum. I stated that that made a common level for income testing as related to other pensions. I exclude from that the benefits that are paid. There is a free area of income of $20 per week when a full pension may be received.
I could advise Senator Cavanagh, although I do not need to do so, that I did attend the Cabinet meeting at which the decision was taken last night. As for his comments about unfavourable Ministers and other things I do not believe that they require any response from me. On the matter of whether the decision will be revenue producing, in response to a question asked by Senator Grimes I did state that it is estimated that there would be a saving of some $3 lm in a full year on an income testing arrangement of this type if the family allowance were to abate on a $ 1 for $4 withdrawal over an income level of $20 per week.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. The gist of my question was whether the Minister for Social Security had previously given an assurance that the family allowance would not be subject to a means test on the basis of income earnt by children through personal exertion. Was the Minister’s statement today to the effect that now income above a certain level earnt by the personal exertion of children will be taken into consideration? If so, does the Minister not agree that this is a complete contradiction of the assurance she gave the Senate previously?
– I will explain the position again. The previous discussion related to an income threshold of $312 per annum. I said that that decision would be reviewed and that I could give an assurance that personal exertion income would not be tested at that level. I now tell the Senate that on review the Cabinet has decided that income of $20 a week or $ 1 ,040 per annum will be the level at which the family allowance will be income tested. I see no contradiction in the two statements. One relates to an income level of $312 at which level I said that any unintended consequences would be avoided. It will be recalled that much discussion was held with regard to the income level of children who have small part-time jobs which would earn them something in the region of $6 a week. Both the Treasurer and I said that we would review that level. The situation has been reviewed and $20 a week is the level at which from 1 January next year family allowances will be income tested.
-Yesterday Senator Maunsell asked a question regarding an invitation to Rhodesian people to visit America. I am informed that the Government is aware through media reports that a spokesman for Mr Smith and his three black colleagues in the Executive Council has announced that they have been invited to visit the United States of America and that the invitation has been accepted in principle. However, the invitation was made, not by the US Government but by a group of 27 senators. The decision on whether Mr Smith and his colleagues will be allowed to enter the United States will of course be for the United States Government.
Although Bishop Muzorewa and Reverend Sithole were recently in the United States the other black member of the Executive Council, Chief Chiaru, is understood to have twice been refused visas earlier this year, presumably because of his former status as Rhodesian senator and a Minister in the Smith Government which would bring him into the ambit of United Nations sanctions against those who are deemed to have furthered or encouraged the regime. This obviously applies also to Mr Smith. Realistically, there is little, if anything, the Australian Government can do to influence events in Rhodesia, but the Government has followed closely recent developments there. We have noted the harder statements now being made by both sides and we are much concerned about the increasing deterioration of the situation in Rhodesia. I also refer Senator Maunsell to a statement made by my colleague in the House of Representatives on 14 September, about the situation in Rhodesia.
– I have received a letter from Senator Walsh proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The Minister for Primary Industry’s failure to justify Government policy permitting the export of merino rams and specifically:
His misrepresentation of the 1973 Referendum result.
2 ) The internal contradiction which permits ram exports but bans exports of ewes and semen.
His assertion on 27 July that “Genetically the Australian Merino is still vastly ahead of merinos anywhere else in the world ‘ ‘. ‘
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-
-Mr President, I think it would be fair to ask why this matter is being discussed in the Senate when the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is in the House of Representatives. There are a number of answers to that question. Firstly, the time-table of the House of Representatives and the weekly scandals concerning other Ministers which have been cropping up have made it very difficult to find time to discuss the matter there. Secondly, of course, although the Minister for Primary Industry is in the House of Representatives I, as the Opposition spokesman on agricultural matters, am in the Senate. I could not win a seat in the House of Representatives, so I settled for the Senate. Therefore I am not confronting the Minister in the House of Representatives today, much as I would like to do so.
On 5 July the Minister for Primary Industry announced that the Government would permit the export of up to 300 rams in the 12 months commencing 24 July. On 14 September he stated in Parliament that bans would continue on the export of merino ewes or ram semen. So the Government has resurrected the policy which it implemented in the 1969-72 period. Indeed, its intention to do so had been evident for some time. The Government’s policy and the various apologia for it are a hotchpotch of contradiction, fraudulent argument, stupid assumption and very loose logic. The only consistent theme which emerges is that the Government will allow ram exports because a handful of politically influential large stud breeders want it to allow ram exports. Whatever contributions these studs may have made to the wool industry in the distant past, in recent times they have parasitised and retarded it. The Minister now meekly complies with their wishes, regardless of the wishes of, or the consequences for, the nation’s 90,000 wool growers.
The fundamental question which determines whether ram exports will harm the Australian wool industry is the genetic quality of Australian merinos relative to merinos overseas. If Australian merinos are genetically superior as wool producers, there is no doubt that access to their genes will induce an increase in world wool production and a fall in world wool prices. The technical reality is that nobody knows for certain whether Australian merinos are superior to overseas merinos because this has never been objectively tested. If our merinos were equal to those overseas, a gene interchange would not affect the level of world production and would have no consequences one way or the other. If that were the case, and were known to be the case, a policy permitting exports could be justified. However, that option has been closed unequivocally by the Minister himself in asserting on 27 July:
Genetically, the Australian merino is still way ahead of merinos anywhere else in the world.
He reasserted that belief last Thursday in answer to a question by Mr Hayden in the House of Representatives. In doing that, he admitted tacitly an intention to sabotage the Australian wool industry by surrendering its comparative advantage, or what could be called its patent rights to overseas competitors.
Given that Mr Sinclair’s belief coincides exactly with that expressed by the Australian Workers Union, and by a great number of wool growers, and the AWU having decided, as a result of that belief, and quite logically, to try to protect the wool industry by stopping exports, a possible alternative interpretation of Mr Sinclair’s actions is that he is acting as an agent provocateur who hopes to gain political advantage by fomenting industrial conflict- and it would not be the first time that Ministers of this Government had tried to do that.
We should, however, be grateful to the Minister for stating explicitly the Government’s belief on this crucial aspect of the question. Prior to 27 July, both this and previous Liberal and Country Party governments had advanced the proposition that Australian merinos, being derived from a gene pool which still exists around the world, could not be superior to other merinos. Simultaneously, they advanced the mutually exclusive proposition that Australian merinos were superior. Now, at least, they have come down on one side and said that they are superior, vastly superior.
The more obvious contradiction, which survives still in the Government’s policy, is the proposition that ram exports should be allowed but that ewe and semen exports should not. Regardless of what one believes about the relative genetic quality of Australian merinos, it is impossible to justify a policy which says: It is right to export rams; it is wrong to export semen and ewes. Nobody has yet attempted to justify that policy, even though it is the Government’s policy.
In a Press release of 5 July, the Minister gave multiple reasons for the Government’s decision. The first was that the move had- and I use his words- ‘widespread industry support.’ The weakness in that argument is that a two-question referendum conducted in 1973 had demonstrated that at least 58 per cent of those wool growers who voted had voted against any form of exportation. There were complications in that referendum because two different questions were asked but in no way could it be argued that less than 58 per cent of the wool growers who voted were opposed to any exportation at all. That contradicted the Minister’s claim that it had widespread industry support.
– What percentage was that?
– No less than 58 per cent, no matter how one interprets it, voted against any exports at all.
– Are you going to make an explanation of your 73 per cent?
– I have already said that there are alternative explanations. I will not be sidetracked from exposing the fraudulent arguments that have been put forward by this Government in an attempt to rationalise an unjustifiable policy. To get around the awkward fact that the Government’s policy had been clearly rejected by the growers only five years previously the Minister said that less than 50 per cent of the wool growers voted; therefore, less than one in four voted against exports; therefore, the industry approved of his policy. For that shonky argument he was properly attacked by
Malcolm Mackerras who, I understand, is a member of the Liberal Party, in the Bulletin of 8 August. Mr Mackerras said that Mr Sinclair had provided:
We will probably get some more specious examples when Government members try to defend the policy after I have finished speaking. Mr Mackerras then referred to:
I predict that we will hear it misrepresented again this afternoon. That broadside from Mr Mackerras curbed even Mr Sinclair’s audacity. In reply to Mr Hayden last Thursday- the question can be found on page 1003 of the House of Representatives Hansard- Mr Sinclair did not mention his previous specious interpretation. He admitted that the decision, like the Labor Government’s decision to introduce a levy and a reserve price in 1974, was taken:
So Mr Sinclair has recanted since 5 July. The referendum relevant to the 1974 decision to introduce a reserve price was held long before- in 1965. In any case, I and, I think, my Party believe that referendums on questions such as this can and even should be overruled by elected governments if, as in 1974, there is a compelling reason and a logical argument to justify such government action. This Government has no compelling reason and no logical argument. The Minister’s second excuse in his Press statement of 5 July was that this was a trial export which:
That claim is absurd on either of two grounds. Firstly, no such assessment is technically feasible. Secondly, even if it were how would any damage done by allowing exports be corrected? Would it be corrected by retrospectively abolishing the birth of the progeny of Australian merino rams? Is that what the Government proposes? The Minister’s third excuse was that:
That is, exports were essential to keep the studs viable. He returned to this theme with more enthusiasm last Thursday when he claimed that the move would be of assistance to the major studs which have been trying to maintain their level and quality of production. He also said: . . if they -
That is the studs- can get more for their rams there is a better chance of those major studs continuing to produce that basic genetic material which is so important in the overall quality of the Australian merino.
In those passages the Minister revealed two things, both of which are alarming when found in a Minister for Primary Industry. The first was his subservience to the parent studs and their lackeys in the Australian Wool Growers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
– Yes, lackeys. The second revelation was his ignorance of merino genetics, of the several decades of experimental breeding at Cunnamulla and Trangie, of logic and of wool production in general. The plain fact is that the genetic quality of any merino flock will automatically maintain itself. No studs and no selection for breeding are required. Under random breeding conditions- that is, when they are run as wild sheep- there will be no change in wool quality or quantity even in the long term.
– That is completely untrue. I will produce figures to prove it.
– It is not completely untrue. Reproductive performance will automatically improve.
– Ha, ha!
– If Senator Young does not understand that he does not understand arithmetic, but that would not be news to anyone in the Senate. Logic determines that no genetic change in wool quality or quantity can occur under random breeding- and I ask Senator Thomas to pay particular attention to this - unless there is a correlation between those attributes and reproductive performance. That is a mathematical tautology, too. Decades of measurement and experimental breeding have shown that no such correlation exists, with one minor exception which for the purposes of this exercise can be ignored- the association between skin wrinkle, high greasy wool production and infertility.
The experimental flocks at Cunnamulla and Trangie have produced clear evidence that mass selection of breeders by objective production measurement will provide genetic gains in wool production in excess of one per cent a year. If the parent studs, which for four decades have provided 90 per cent of the merino rams mated in Australia, had matched that rate of genetic improvement the national wool cut per head would have shown a similar improvement. The national wool cut has failed to show that rate of improvement. The hierarchical system based on parent studs, the preservation of which has been conceded by Mr Sinclair to be his primary objective in this policy, has transmitted genetic gains of, at the most, 0.3 per cent a year, or less than onethird of that which can be achieved by mass selection within closed flocks. The hierarchical structure has not only failed the wool industry but also has become an obstacle to progress, a liability. Recognition of that reality entails rejection of the sheep industry’s mythology and its conventional wisdom.
The fourth and final excuse for Government policy in the Minister’s statement of 5 July was an implicit re-endorsement of a fallacy originally concocted in the mid-1960s by the International Wool Secretariat ‘s economic quacks- the fallacy that higher wool production, induced by worldwide distribution of superior Australian merino genes, would induce higher wool prices. That fallacy was obliquely restated by the Minister on 5 July when he said:
Unless world wool supplies of the type needed were maintained, there was a very real danger that manufacturers could turn to other fibres.
Significantly, Mr Sinclair- or at least his advisers- are astute enough to avoid explicitly pinning his and the Government’s case, as the previous Liberal-Country Party Government did, on the ludicrous notion that more wool production means higher prices. Lest his supporters who will speak after me are slower learners than he, it is necessary to debunk this argument. The primary error in this argument is the belief that wool prices are determined by wool’s share of the total textile market and that there is a positive correlation between the price of wool and wool’s precentage share of the market. If any correlation exists, it is more likely to be negative.
I will take the example, cited in the Minister’s Press release of the textile factory which has been forced to use synthetic fibres because wool is physically unavailable. The mill which drops wool will, by definition, be the weakest buyer. It will be the mill willing or able to pay only the lowest price. In the pre-existing sitution all the other mills have been willing to pay a higher price. They did not have to pay the higher price because, as in any competitive market, the price is set by the weakest buyer and the weakest seller. When the weakest buyer and the weakest seller- that is, the one who has no wool to sell because it is not available- drop out of the market, all the other buyers must then pay a higher price. The more buyers who are forced to drop out of the market because of wool’s physical nonavailability, the higher the price will be. It is a pity Senator Young has just returned to the chamber. If he had been listening to this explanation he might have learned something about the process of price formation in a competitive market. From his previous remarks and the remarks which I predict he will make shortly, it seems he knows nothing about the subject.
Wool’s percentage share of the textile market is irrelevant to the individual grower and the Australian industry. All that matters is the price received for whatever wool is produced. The less wool produced in the world the higher the price will be. If anyone still prefers to believe International Wool Secretariat quackery and thereby stand common sense, pricing theory and empirical evidence upside down, I suggest that he reflect on the post- 1974 seasonal reserve price under which wool is physically withheld from mills which will not pay the reserve price. If he supports the reserve price operation- I do not know of any Government senator who does not support it at least publicly- he repudiates the fallacy that more wool will lead to higher wool prices.
A more sophisticated version of the fallacy purports to analyse the long term effect of higher wool production. It argues that wool demand is increasing. In technical jargon, the demand curve is moving upward and outward. Therefore, it is argued, small annual increments to world wool supply, such as would occur if Australian merinos were genetically superior and were made available to overseas flock owners, would not cause wool prices to fall and would not be incompatible with increasing wool prices. Although that argument is sound it has nothing to do with the issue. If demand increased, as the argument assumes, but supply did not, wool prices would be higher still. The demand for wool or anything else is not determined by the supply; it is determined by exogenous factors. This great fallacy upon which the Government’s previous export policy was built was originally concocted in the 1960s by the economic quacks in the International Wool Secretariat. It was popularised by the likes of William Gunn and William Vines, foisted by them on a gullable Australian Wool Industry Conference and swallowed by feeble-minded Liberal and National Country Party politicians. I fear it is about to be regurgitated by some of them. Those who still believe this fallacy, as Professor Alan
Lloyd succinctly noted in 1970, parade ‘a remarkable ignorance of the process of price formation’. I fear that that ignorance will be paraded again within the next hour or so.
Every argument the Minister has produced to rationalise Government policy has been shown to be either wrong or fraudulent. In one instance- the interpretation of the 1973 referendum- he has recanted. He attempts to hide a woolly and indefensible set of propositions behind a recommendation from the Australian Wool Industry Conference, a body already repudiated on this issue by the very people it purports to represent. Many people, including me, have previously stated the belief that if we exported all the stud rams in Australia it would make little, if any, difference to the wool market. That conclusion was based on the assumption- always said to be an unproven and to this stage unprovable assumption- that there was little, if any, genetic difference between the so-called top stud rams, merinos overseas or the entire Australian merino flock. The Minister, however, cannot use that argument as a defence of Government policy. He has stated and reaffirmed as recently as last Thursday a belief that genetically the Australian merino is still way ahead of merinos anywhere else in the world’. The Minister’s statement fundamentally changes the issue so far as it relates to the Government’s credibility. The Minister’s belief, if it is correct, establishes that the Government’s policy poses a real threat to the Australian wool industry. As I mentioned before, it unequivocally endorses the view held by the Australian Workers Union and the wool growers who are opposed to the Government’s policy. On the available evidence there is no doubt that most wool growers are opposed to that policy. It could be argued that the Government’s wider responsibilities justify overruling wool grower opinion, or indeed any sectional interest opinion, on vital issues. But any government which does that has a compelling obligation to present a coherent, rational explanation of its policy. The Minister and the Government have conspicuously failed to do this. Until the Government can do that, or until another referendum is held, the negative decision of the 1973 referendum should stand. Whether or not the issue per se is important, the web of chicancery spun by the Minister and the Government to rationalise their actions is a matter or grave public concern. Both the Minister and the Government richly deserve the censure of Parliament.
– When the proceedings of the
Senate are being broadcast it is quite important that people apart from honourable senators in this place should be aware of the attitude of honourable senators opposite to rural industries. Of course, we find on the day on which the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast that the Opposition usually lays its hand to a matter of public importance and cites a subject which is of great importance to the community at large. I believe that Senator Walsh has in actual fact done quite a service to the Senate in raising this matter. I believe that he has done a service to those who are listening to the debate, particularly those in rural areas who would perhaps pay close attention to some of the words that he has used in an attempt to sort out what may be the attitude of the Opposition to the Government at the present time in relation to this one issue. I think it is always important to ensure that that be noted.
For those of us who are interested in the rural industries this is a matter in relation to which we should take the view that there is some freedom in the community. One of the important points about this issue is certainly that it has to be decided whether somebody or some group which owns or controls a particular resource or asset should have the right to determine the destiny of that resource or asset. It is my belief that were the arguments that are put forward against the owners of merino rams being able to export their rams advanced in relation to various other areas of production, whether those areas happen to be involved with the production of cattle or the production of sheep, such arguments could not stand up.
It is important, as I say, that Senator Walsh lays down the attitude held by his Party. I had noted that in this place Senator Walsh was gradually coming to be one of the important leaders in the Labor Party. Today he is the Labor Party’s spokesman on rural matters. He is the one who gave the reason for this matter being raised in the Senate rather than in the House of Representatives. So it falls on me as the Minister in this chamber representing the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) to attempt to respond to the matters that the honourable senator has raised. I think that emphasises the point I made about the basic attitude of a Labor Party, a socialist party, to the affairs of primary industry throughout the country.
One would expect Senator Walsh to adopt the political attitude of saying something positive in relation to a matter such as this, thus giving some lead to the community. I did not notice anything positive in Senator Walsh’s speech. I noticed a lot of abuse of many very outstanding Australians, Australians who have throughout the country a higher reputation than does Senator Walsh. Apparently, he seeks to use words such as quacks’. He used that word several times. I noted that he read his speech. This indicated that, in actual fact, he had given consideration to the words that he used in denigrating those people who perhaps are not able to respond for themselves in this place. He mentioned the lackeys of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the lackeys of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. I do not think it does anybody in the Senate good to hear such comments made about individuals who are deeply involved with primary industry and who are attempting to do what they feel is good for the Australian industries in particular.
– He learned the technique from you.
-Senator Wriedt is now starting to interrupt. Under the Labor Government he was the Minister for Agriculture for quite a long time. Honourable senators in this place know what the attitudes of Senator Wriedt were while he was the Minister for Agriculture. In a speech to the Farm Writers and Broadcasters Society of Victoria on 30 March 1973 Senator Wriedt made this statement:
Recently I said that we don’t want the rural sector to become one vast sheltered region soaking up scarce public funds that could be better spent upgrading vital community services that benefit both country and city dwellers. This statement has been wrongly interpreted by some people as meaning that a big axe is about to be wielded to lop off all subsidies and other concessions to the rural sector. This is just not so.
The honourable senator who is interrupting is the person who made that statement. While he was the Minister for Agriculture he effected the removal of the concessional interest rates so far as -
– Did you put them back?
-He acknowledges by his interruption that while he was the Minister these subsidies and concessions were lopped off. Senator Wriedt asks whether we have done anything to bring them back. That is quite a point to make and Senator Wreidt will learn in due course what our Government does. Perhaps Senator Wreidt should adopt that as the subject of one of the Opposition’s matters of public importance. He would do that if he had sufficient interest in primary industries. When Senator Wriedt was a member of the Labor Government, he sought three currency revaluations, each of which was greatly to the disadvantage of rural people. Senator Wriedt will also recall the imposition of increased postage on rural newspapers, increased landline charges for country radio stations, and higher telephone rentals and charges. In actual fact, I wonder whether Labor Party members recall these actions which were taken against the primary industry while they were in office. I have a list which, I imagine, Senator Wreidt would be anxious that I incorporate in Hansard. I seek to have this list incorporated in Hansard so that I do not reiterate that which the rural community already knows.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
-As leave is not granted I will continue to read the list. While Senator Wriedt was Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Agriculture the Labor Government discontinued the sales tax exemption for non-alcoholic carbonated beverages, it discontinued the special basis for valuation of wine stocks, which affected South Australia, it increased the brandy excise, it recouped the cost of meat inspection and it recouped expenditure on tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication programs. The Labor Government also increased animal and plant quarantine charges and removed the butter and cheese bounties- I remember that very well. It discontinued the accelerated depreciation allowance on plant. It discontinued immediate deductibility of certain capital equipment. It discontinued the investment allowances. Senator Wriedt has not asked whether we are bringing those things back. The Labor Government also abolished the superphosphate bounty.
The terms of the matter of public importance raised today by the Opposition spokesman on primary industry suggest that we have a real national problem in relation to the export of merino rams. Do honourable senators remember that the Labor Government brought about the cessation of the provision of free milk to school children, the cancellation of airmail subsidies in isolated areas, the wholesale closure of country post offices and the elimination of the 20 per cent differential for rural electorates? Mr President, you may recall that the rate of inflation increased under Labor from 4.5 per cent a year. In one month it was as high as 28 per cent. These are some of the things that happened under Labor. I have a list of others. I know that Senator Wriedt will be anxious to get a copy from me afterwards. I was diverted by the Leader of the Opposition interrupting when I was attempting to make some points about the Opposition spokesman on rural industry who spoke today. Basically there is no substance to the matters raised for discussion. The Senate is considering this matter only because Senator Walsh and his colleagues were put up to raising it by a number of representatives of the trade union movement.
– What a lot of nonsense.
– There we hear a comment from the Opposition. The trade union movement, or perhaps it is better to say a very few elements within it, have not yet been prepared -
– Now we hear about the corns.
– Just a minute, senator. The union movement has not yet been prepared to lift the ban on the export of merino rams. We all agree that that is the case. Few people are involved and it is basically a non-issue throughout the trade union movement, as Senator Walsh said. I saw that in one of his excellent statements he said: ‘It is a matter of monumental unimportance’. He has now raised this subject for discussion as a matter of utmost importance on this day when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast. The matter is not basically a child of the parliamentary Labor Party but rather it demonstrates that the Labor Party is still subject to manipulation by elements within the trade union movement.
– Oh! I oppose that.
-You oppose that, Senator?
– I oppose that. That implication is objectionable. If Senator Webster is saying that in this place senators are subject to manipulation by outside forces that is an offensive remark to make about any senator and I take strong objection to it. Senator Webster does not want to speak on the subject under discussion; he wants to move away from it. He has done so. Throughout his speech he has not been relevant and now he is becoming insulting. Mr President, I suggest that you ask him to withdraw the serious imputation he made.
– I cannot sustain the point of order raised by Senator Georges. The remark was used in a general way. But I say to the Minister that under our Standing Orders the matter of public importance raised for discussion must be the matter discussed. Remarks must be confined strictly to that subject alone.
-Mr President, I believe you would agree that I am discussing the subject.
I am not challenging individual senators; I am challenging the Labor Party. That is acceptable in this place. We heard Senator Walsh speaking about individuals. I am not doing that; I am saying that the initiation of this discussion demonstrates that the Labor Party is still subject to manipulation by elements within the trade union movement. Indeed, the trade union movement today knows that there is no public support for the retention of the ban. Honourable senators opposite suggest I get to the point very quickly. The community is at a loss to know exactly where the Australian Labor Party stands on this matter. I have an article here containing a statement by the South Australian Minister of Agriculture, Mr Chatterton. My understanding is that he is a good Labor supporter with some responsibility within his State. The Adelaide Advertiser of 8 July this year states:
Partial lifting of the Merino ram export embargo would be of great help to many developing countries, the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Chatterton, said yesterday.
In many of these countries the owners of sheep and goat flocks are the poorest members of rural society and earn barely sufficient income to survive ‘.
– And they can’t afford to buy rams either.
-Now we hear a South Australian senator butting in. He butts in regularly. Is he in disagreement with Mr Chatterton? He is the quietest senator in this place when one asks him whether he disagrees with the Labor Minister of Agriculture. This clearly is the point. The Opposition spokesman on primary industry, Senator Walsh, backed by Senator Wriedt, his Leader in this place, says one thing and a responsible Labor Minister in South Australia says another. The point is that the community does not know which way Labor leans.
– From the way you are going on they would not know much about your attitude either.
-Senator Wriedt interjects again and attempts to divert me and to give him another dose of the medicine I gave previously. It would do him the world of good if I gave him another dose but I cannot divert from the subject under discussion. Mr President, I may have to seek your protection if this goes on much longer. There is no basis on which any logical case can be established for the maintenance of the trade union ban. That is what is being debated here today. The parliamentary action by the Labor Party today represents the belated initiative of the trade union movement, through its Senate representatives, to try to generate some opposition to the relaxation of bans. The matter under discussion has no substance. In fact it is a matter which could be resolved best not on a political level but by means of proper and appropriate discussions between representatives of the sheep industry and, if need be, the trade unionists who are responsible for the transport and the eventual delivery of the product.
This matter has a considerable history. We know that while Labor was in power it proposed a referendum. I always had great doubts about the results of the referendum. I recall that Labor decided that anybody who produced 1,400 kilograms of wool should have a vote in the referendum. This was Senator Wriedt ‘s proposition. I was involved, and still am, in a primary production business that produces mainly milk, but we produce a little wool also. So whilst this matter was of no particular relevance to our main income we had a vote, as did a producer devoted to merino wool production. That referendum produced a great error. I attempted to have Senator Walsh correct himself but he did not bother to do so. That referendum brought about one result which I hope all honourable senators have noted. Senator Wriedt said that about 80,000-odd wool growers would be entitled to vote in the referendum. Ballot papers were sent to 122,000 people; 58,000 papers were returned.
– That is not bad in a voluntary vote.
-The Labor Party says that the return was not bad. The Labor Party says that a return of half the ballot papers is pretty good. I do not think in that way. I hope that at a later stage Senator Walsh will admit that he made an inaccurate statement when being interviewed and will correct it. I refer to one of his statements about the questions which were posed by Senator Wriedt in the referendum. I will not read them in full. The first question asked whether there should be a total ban. To that question, 9,000 voters said that there should be no restriction and 46,000 voters said that there should be some restriction. The second question is the matter about which Senator Walsh made a mistake.
– I didn’t make a mistake.
-Senator Walsh says that he did not make a mistake.
– Seventy-three per cent said no to the second question.
-Senator Walsh’s economics are about as good as his address to the Senate today. The second question asked the 46,000 voters who said that there should be some restriction whether they thought that there should be some partial lifting of the ban. Of that number, 13,000 voters said that there should be a partial lifting. If one adds those 13,000 voters to the 9,000 voters who said that there should be free export one finds that in excess of 40 per cent of those who voted said that there should be a partial lifting of the ban. That is a significant percentage and ought to be taken note of, particularly in view of the fact that those who did not have control of the production- people involved in producing oil seeds, dairying and so on- were entitled to a vote on this matter if they produced 1,400 kilograms of wool. I table a statement snowing the results of the referendum. I think it would add to the debate.
– Because it is the truth.
-Senator Wriedt says that it would do so because it is the truth. Let us look at some of the matters raised by Senator Walsh. The three points put forward for discussion as a matter of public importance are quite clear. The three points are a matter for debate. Sides can be taken on them. The first point refers to misrepresentation by the Minister for Primary Industry of the 1973 referendum result. I think Senator Walsh agrees that he also misinterpreted it.
– Sinclair recanted it last Thursday.
-Senator Walsh has not recanted it but Mr Sinclair may have in some way. I am not aware of that. But I do have a note here of Senator Walsh saying that 73 per cent opposed the proposition that was put. I think that we have heard from him that that statement was incorrect. I believe that the Minister spoke quite correctly on this matter. The situation concerning misrepresentation of the 1973 referendum result can be argued in a variety of ways. The paper that I have tabled indicates that 58,000 people voted in the referendum. Not a great deal of interest was shown in the matter. The final result was that over 40 per cent -
– You would be joking, Senator.
– I am not joking when I say that only 58,000 of the 122,000 ballot papers that Senator Wriedt sent out were returned. The fact is that over 40 per cent of those who votedhonourable senators can take as a basis the percentage of those to whom ballot papers were sent- supported a relaxation of the export ban. It cannot be said that the Minister for Primary Industry misrepresented those results.
The second part of the matter of public importance submitted by Senator Walsh reads:
The internal contradiction which permits ram exports but bans exports of ewes and semen.
Again, the matter is open to argument, but basically the Government has agreed with the people who are responsible in this regard. I do not acknowledge that the Labor Party’s spokesmen are experts in this regard. I doubt that they would hold themselves out as such. In actual fact the Government agreed to the recommendations of the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the federal grower bodies. When Senator Walsh was speaking he used certain words about some of the people associated with these groups. I do not think that that is the proper thing to do. Senator Walsh, did you really mean to call them lackeys?
-Do you want that to be said of the people who represent these important industries?
– The words I used were ‘the lackeys of the stud breeders’.
– I ask Senator Webster to direct his remarks to the Chair.
– I shall do so, with due deference to you, Mr President. It worries me greatly that Senator Walsh has the habit of referring to people in this way. Honourable senators may remember his abusive remarks in this place about Sir William Vines and Sir William Gunn. Senator Walsh has called the International Wool Secretariat an economic quack. He has used words of that nature to describe certain other people and organisations. The Government feels it has endorsement for what it does if it recognises strongly those who are responsible in the community. The Australian Wool Industry Conference and the federal grower bodies have achieved what they have recommended. They certainly did not do so when the Labor Party was in government. They certainly have been branded by Opposition spokesmen. I think that that will stand greatly to the disadvantage of the Labor Party. I feel that Senator Wriedt would not have used such words if he had been speaking about this matter.
There is no desire for the export of whole studs or to see Australian merino studs set up overseas. The industry is prepared to sell only at auction. At the auctions at which these merino rams will be offered the growers in Australia, knowing the line, will have the opportunity to come along and bid if they so wish. There will be an opportunity for the producers of merino rams to overcome some of the difficulties to which I have referred and which were brought about by the Labor Party. The producers may be able to get some increase in the return to their industry. The industry is prepared only to sell rams for mating with ewes which are already in other countries in order to help to build up those local strains. Semen is not readily sold- this must be obvious to Senator Walsh- because of the difficulty of regulating exactly where the sales will go. Rams can be purchased only for export at nominated auctions, and local producers will have the opportunity to buy. The final proposition put forward by Senator Walsh concerning the Minister for Primary Industry reads:
His assertion on July 27 that ‘Genetically the Australian Merino is still vastly ahead of merinos anywhere else in the world ‘.
– Do you believe that?
– I believe it.
-That is the first good thing we have heard from Senator Walsh. If someone asked me who have been the greatest fighters in this country I would say the Anzacs during the early wars. For the benefit of manufacturers, primary or secondary, I would back any attempt to support any of the production in this country, but that is not the basis on which we should argue. The fact is that merinos are sought throughout the world for their genetic strain. Who would argue that buyers from India, China, South Africa or Russia are not coming to this country to get a strain of sheep which they cannot get elsewhere? Why would they come here otherwise? Surely it can be got into the thick heads of the Opposition’s spokesman on this subject that there is a basic reason why this occurs. The statements of the Minister for Primary Industry have been well supported in every respect. What would any Minister or what would any responsible citizen say about this product? Senator Walsh argued about the genetic strain of merinos in Australia. I believe he would know, although he did not mention it in his speech, that the genetic quality of merino rams in Australia has been built up because of the unique environment here.
– Now, now.
– There we have that honourable senator from Queensland complaining again. It is a definite fact that environmental conditions in Australia make the production of merino wool unique in Australia no matter what may take place throughout the rest of the world. If South Australian sheep are taken to Tasmania they will eventually breed a finer line of wool. If they are taken to some of the harsher conditions in Senator George’s State of Queensland they will gradually develop different characteristics. So there is no doubt that environmental conditions peculiar to Australia make the Australian breed of merinos unique. Obviously the genes that were introduced here originally are still to be found in the countries whence we imported them- South Africa and other countries. Yet we have heard ridiculous statements put forward by the Australian Labor Party, which apparently thinks it has some knowledge in this matter. I feel that bringing forward such a matter of public importance under present conditions in Australia demonstrates a great weakness on the part of the Labor Party. I think that the arguments that were put forward- and regrettably the words used by Senator Walsh- have not endorsed the proposition put forward as a matter of public importance.
-I find it rather difficult to understand why the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) and the Government generally should contradict the substance of the matter of public importance put forward by the shadow Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Walsh. In the other place on Thursday last Mr Hayden asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) a question about what Mr Sinclair is alleged to have said on the radio program AM that morning. The allegation was that Mr Sinclair had said:
Genetically the Australian merino is way ahead of merinos anywhere else in the world.
In reply to a question about that statement, Mr Sinclair said in part:
Fortunately, in just about every country in the world there are sheep breeders who look at the Australian merino as having that genetic superiority to which I have referred. So in no way do I retract from that assertion.
As I said, in the light of that assertion by the Minister I find it extremely difficult to understand why Government members should debate this matter of public importance with such vehemence.
The merino ram held pride of place on our coinage prior to decimal coinage being introduced. If I remember correctly, the wrinklyneck merino with the car tyres around its neck, about which Senator McLaren has complained frequently over the years, held pride of place on the Australian shilling. On the current $2 bill the merino ram again holds pride of place. I return to what was said in the other place when this matter was debated previously. The then honourable member for Macquarie, Mr Luchetti, put the argument very well. He said:
In this matter, as in all other major matters, the Government betrays the national interests of Australia. Whether it is in the plunder of resources in some other field or in any other respect, we can always be sure that the Government will come down on the side of foreign interests rather than protect Australian interests. With this Government, national interests are always subordinated. We can always come second or in some other place. Our special position in regard to stud merino rams and our ability to produce fine wool is being disregarded by a Government which is concerned to sell our heritage for a mess of pottage.
- Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. The honourable senator is quoting from some document what was said by another member of parliament. He must know that Labor was approving the export of 50 merino rams to China. Does the honourable senator remember when his party did that? I think that is a very important point to put into Hansard. Labor approved the export of 50 merino rams to China.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no point of order. It is a matter of interruption. I ask Senator Primmer to continue.
– I would certainly hope that there was no point of order, Mr Deputy President. Thank you for your ruling. One wonders just what level debate is reaching in this place when a Minister gets up on such a foolish point as that which was raised by Senator Webster. But when the Minister for Science is involved I suppose such action is not incomprehensible. The action of the Government in regard to the export of merino rams reminds me of something that I have not seen for a while because I have been fairly busy in this place. As an ordinary farmer in years gone by, I think that one of the delights of farmers is to visit other properties on the day of the clearing out sale. One of the very sad things about clearing sales, particularly if the sale is held at a time when the property is being disposed of, is to see all sorts of things that have been built up around a farm and a farmer’s lifetime being disposed of. The saddest thing of all is to see the faithful dog, old Rover, put under the hammer at the end of the sale. That is about what this Government is prepared to do with Australia’s heritage and Australia’s merino rams- flog them off to the highest bidder without any thought whatsoever for what they have done for this country and for what they can do in the future. This Government will just flog them off because there is a buck to be made somewhere within the system.
– Why did you send them to China? Can you answer that question?
-Senator Webster blathers on like a motherless bull calf at one of those clearing out sales I was talking about. For 10 or 15 minutes at the start of his speech he spoke about anything but bans on the export of merino rams. He talked about what the Australian Labor Party had done and what it failed to do while it was in office. It is rather interesting that he missed one point and that was what the Labor Government did for the wool industry of this country between 1973 and 1975. That is a matter that is very closely associated with the matter under debate at present. For 10 years the previous Government had done nothing other than procrastinate on the question of a reserve price plan for wool. Farmers throughout this country threw eggs, marched the streets, catcalled speakers, generally made a lot of noise and tried whatever they could to get a reserve price plan for wool from the previous Liberal and Country Party Government. They got nothing until the Labor Government came in and did just what they wanted. Quite frankly, the Labor Government did not get all that much credit for what it did. Nevertheless, had that not been done the wool industry in Australia today would not be on the relatively stable basis on which it is. So it is a pity that the Minister in his tirade against the Labor Party did not mention that one salient point which I believe did more for the wool industry in Australia than whatever the Labor Government may have taken away from primary producers.
In announcing the partial relaxation of the merino ram ban, the Minister lays stress on the fact that there have been strong representations from the Australian Wool Industry Conference. That Conference is alleged to be the parliament of the wool industry. It is rather interesting to note that on at least two occasions the Australian Wool Industry Conference and its constituent organisations have given Ministers for Primary Industry wrong advice. An article in the Bulletin dated 25 July 1 978 states:
In 1 965 the Liberal-Country Party Government held a referendum of woolgrowers to determine the wool industry’s attitude to the wool reserve prices scheme proposed by the then Australian Wool Board. The AWIC supported the proposals, the woolgrowers rejected them.
Primary Industry Minister Ian Sinclair supported the holding of the 1 965 referendum and was prepared to accept the decision.
The ALP also found difficulties in resolving woolgrowers ‘ opinions and in 1 973 held another referendum to determine if the common ban should be lifted on the export of merino rams. The AWIC supported lifting the ban- the woolgrowers did not.
Surely that is the current situation, in the light of the most recent referendum that has been held on this matter. There is little doubt that neither the Minister for Primary Industry nor the stud sheep breeders wants the matter to go to a referendum because they fear that once again the wool growers will vote against their organisations and in particular against the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Bulletin of 8 August this year carried an article on this very matter by one Malcolm Mackerras, in which he raised the specious arguments that had been used by the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, in what Mr Mackerras claimed misinterpreted the 1973 referendum result. In the article Mr Mackerras states:
A referendum was held in November 1973 to determine the attitude of woolgrowers to the export of merino rams and about 123,000 woolgrowers were eligible to vote.
I believe that Senator Webster made some reference to the figures for this referendum, but I believe also that he placed a totally different interpretation on them from the interpretation that has been placed on them by Mr Mackerras and thousands of other people in the country. Mr Mackerras went on to point out:
The first question voters were asked was: ‘Should the Australian Government permit the unrestricted export of merino rams and merino semen from Australia to countries other than New Zealand?’
A total of 55,493 formal votes were cast of which 9,477 (or 17 per cent) were ‘Yes’ and 46,016 (or 82.5 per cent) were No’.
Woolgrowers who voted ‘No’ to this question were then asked: ‘Should the Australian Government permit the export of no more than 300 merino rams in each 12-month period from Australia to countries other than New Zealand? ‘
A total of 45,656 formal votes were cast of which 13,016 (29 per cent) were ‘Yes’ and 32,640 (7 1 per cent) were ‘No’.
If we add the ‘Yes’ votes to the two questions we get 22,493 which is still 10, 1 47 less than the ‘ No ‘ vote on the second question.
It has been claimed, and it was claimed by the Minister for Science who spoke before me, that a minority of growers voted.
That is a fact. But if Senator Webster or any other honourable senator cares to look at the history of voting in municipal elections in Victoria, for example, he will see that for 20, 30 or 40 years councillors and people in the local government area have been elected to office by a minority of citizens voting at municipal elections. Certainly one does not believe that that is the way it should be, but it is another fact of life. If we accept this fact for municipal elections in Victoria, I do not see why we should knock it when it comes to wool growers right across Australia.
That is about all I want to say, except to say that whilst an alleged ban remains on the export of merino semen and merino ewes, it is commonly reported around export outlets in Australia at the present time that it is not improbable that merino ewes are being shipped out under the guise of live sheep or live wethers for the export market. One wonders whether some of those merino ewes might not finish up being segregated during the voyage or at the other end of the voyage and disposed of for breeding in some other countries rather than being slaughtered for meat.
– The so-called matter of public importance that we are debating today is concerned with the export of merino rams. I would like to quote what Senator Walsh said in a speech he made to the Senate on 1 June 1978, when he led for the Opposition in a debate. He said:
The issue, in my judgment, is of monumental unimportance.
I could not agree more. This issue is of monumental unimportance. I think it is almost criminal that the time of the Senate should be wasted- honourable senators will note that it is on a day when our proceedings are being broadcast- on a matter of such unimportance. But I will respond to some points Senator Walsh made because they were extremely inaccurate. First of all he claimed that random breeding of sheep will not alter wool weight or body weight in sheep. He quoted the results of trials at Trangie and at other research stations. I remind Senator Walsh that the sheep that were subjected to those trials were kept in a controlled environment where husbandry was of a very high order. He did qualify his statement at a later date when I challenged him. But the facts are that in any given environment merino sheep will change genetically quite substantially, particularly if that environment is a harsh one.
- Senator, you speak with some authority. Have you a background in stud breeding?
-I thank Senator Young for his interjection. Yes, I was born and raised in South Australia and I have been a stud breeder all my life. My grandfather started his merino stud in 1 9 1 9. We are not stud breeding any more, Mr President, but I have a lifetime history in stud breeding. Senator Walsh mentioned further that the relationship of wool to supply and demand is as applies in normal economics. He said this time and time again. All I would suggest is that everybody must be out of step except Senator Walsh. I take the three matters that were raised in the matter of public importance. Firstly, Senator
Walsh claimed that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) misrepresented the 1973 referendum results. We have already heard that Senator Walsh was more guilty- if there was any guilt at all- of misrepresenting those results. He claimed that 73 per cent of the people who voted voted against the proposition whereas he has finally agreed that perhaps only some 58 per cent of the people who voted might have voted against the proposition.
The second point raised by Senator Walsh in this matter which is before us today related to what he referred to as:
The internal contradiction which permits ram exports but bans exports of ewes and semen.
There is a perfectly legitimate and sensible reason for this being so. First of all, with respect to ewes, the desire is to export merino rams, not to set up stud competition within studs overseas. If we were able to export our ewes countries such as South Africa, South America and other countries could quite conceivably establish pure Australian blood studs that could create competition for those studs in Australia which wish to export. With respect to semen, I think even the Australian Labor Party would agree that the policy of requiring that each ram which is to be exported must be sold by auction is a sensible one. What possible control can there be over the export of semen? One cannot auction semen. That is the point. I think everybody in the industry agrees that if merino rams are to be exported they should be exported subject to auction to give everybody in Australia the opportunity of paying a price equal to that paid by people from overseas. That is a policy which I support and which I think the Labor Party would support. I would like to find out from Senator Walsh how he is going to control the sale of semen or ova by auction. The third point made in the debate on this matter of public importance relates to the assertion by the Minister for Primary Industry that Genetically the Australian merino is still vastly ahead of merinos anywhere else in the world ‘.
– Do you believe that?
– I do believe it. I believe it, just as Senator Walsh believes that the Labor Party is the best political party in Australia. It is sales talk, it is good sales talk, and I hope that every ambassador from Australia would say the same thing to potential overseas purchasers of merino rams.
– Nobody can claim that.
– I agree with Senator Walsh. Nobody can claim that Australia’s genetic material is superior to any other genetic material. But it is good sales talk to say so, and I support the Minister in that regard. It has been argued that if we believe- as I do- that we should export merino rams we should not restrict the number to 300. I think that there is a perfectly legitimate reason for so doing. First of all, it will minimise the present disruption of the market for merino rams in Australia. However, I believe that the number should be lifted gradually. It has been pointed out by my colleague Senator Young, by way of interjection, that it is possible in Australia to breed polwarths that look exactly like merino sheep. They are being exported now.
As I said in response to an interjection by Senator Young, I have been a stud merino sheep breeder all my life. For many years I have been supporting the argument in favour of the export of merinos. I have not done that under any parochial or personal belief. I believe that I have heard all the arguments and I have come down very strongly on the side of exporting merinos. I must confess that I am in pretty good company. The Australian Wool Industry Conference, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Stud Merino Producers Association all support that stand. A possible exception is the Western Australian Farmers Union, which has some misgivings on the issue. Senator Walsh made great play in his contribution to this debate about what he saw as a relationship between supply and demand. But the sad fact is that wool represents only 4.5 per cent of the world apparel fibre. There is no doubt in my mind that if- it is a big if- the export of merino rams can improve the quality and quantity of overseas wool production, it will be of great assistance to the Australian wool industry and not a detraction.
The main point I wish to make today relates to freedom of choice. I think that it is quite wrong for us as a government to deny one section of primary industry access to an overseas market and not deny other sections that access. The ban of the Australian Council of Trade Unions on the export of merinos is based on completely false information. As Senator Walsh has finally agreed, the referendum that was held was not as one-sided as he suggested. I point out to him that a reserve price plan for wool, which I and my Party strongly supported, was agreed to against the results of the two referendums that were held on the question some years previously. What right has a union to dictate export policy? If, as the ACTU claims, another referendum on this question should be held I ask the ACTU whether it held a referendum among its members before arriving at its decision to impose the ban.
The history of union dislocation of primary industry is very well known by most primary producers but I will give some examples to reinforce the point. I shall cite four or five examples of the tremendous disruption caused to our primary industries in Australia in the year ended June 1977, the latest period for which I have figures. Firstly, there was a stoppage- a 10-month stoppage- in the wool stores. That probably cost the wool growing industry $4m. Over those 10 months the stoppage held up about 827,000 bales of wool worth some $174m. The Australian Workers Union held a series of rolling strikes in two of Australia’s major wheat terminals. That action led to the direct cancellation of several wheat sales. The Waterside Workers Federation and the Seamen’s Union still have a ban on the sale of goods to Chile, and until recently they had a ban on the sale of wheat to Indonesia. That caused a direct loss of sales of about 150,000 tonnes of goods to those countries. The two stoppages in Sydney and Newcastle that I have mentioned held up export sales involving something like 600,000 tonnes of goods in Sydney and 230,000 tonnes of goods in Newcastle. More recently, the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union has been directly responsible for the closing of two meat plants and is threatening the closure of several more. The direct result of that union action was to put 650 unionists out of work and cause the loss of about 100,000 man days. I could give many more examples but time is against me.
One of the reasons I believe that the export of merino rams should be continued is that merino breeders in Australia are in a fair bit of trouble. In the last three years to the end of 1977 some 275 merino studs in Australia went out of business. I am sure that most of those studs would be continuing now had they been more profitable. I do not say that all of them would have survived if they had had access to ram exports but it would have meant a fair lift to their business. Senator Walsh has an enormous chip on his shoulder when it comes to stud sheep breeders. I draw his attention to the first occasion on which he and I met. It was in Geraldton in 1966 when he appeared on the same platform as me at a science and sheep breeding conference. The two main speakers at that conference were Miss Helen Newton-Turner and Dr Bob Dun. This was pretty well the start of a revolution in Western Australia in stud breeding methods. Judging from the remarks that Senator Walsh made at that conference, he certainly had that chip on his shoulder with regard to stud breeders. Is it any wonder that he should adopt the attitude that he has today and use the words that he has with regard to those people? He made a quite vitriolic attack in 1966, and he is continuing that vitriolic attack now. He criticised in those days and is still criticising the stud merino breeding industry for being old-fashioned, costly and behind the times. I point out to him now, as I pointed out to him on that day in 1966, that if the clients of stud breeders demanded any different sorts of rams or any different methods of preparation the stud breeders would certainly meet those demands. It is a completely supply and demand situation.
– There are some more enlightened ones- you and Jim Shepherd, for example.
– I certainly agree with Senator Walsh’s interjection. Since that time there has been quite a lift in the attitude of many stud sheep breeders. That would have happened sooner if the flock breeders had demanded a different state of affairs. My conscience is not troubled at all in my strongly supporting the export of merino rams. I consider that the debate on this matter of public importance has been a complete waste of time. The Senate has much more important business to debate. I place the blame completely on Senator Walsh and the Labor Party for wasting our time today.
– In speaking on the matter of public importance raised by Senator Walsh I want to refute completely the last remarks of Senator Thomas. This debate is not a complete waste of time. If the honourable senator got out and spoke to a lot of people in the wool industry of this country- he has spoken to only a few- he would learn otherwise. Senator Young gave him the opportunity to say that he was a stud breeder of some renown and had a great interest in the wool industry in this country. I too, perhaps, could claim some credibility for having some interest too. Having been a professional shearer for over 20 years and having, in that time, handled over 1.5 million sheep I also know something about the wool industry. Having shorn stud sheep for many years, at times I used to think that it would not be a bad idea if we could export some of the stud merino rams, with eight or nine tyres around their neck, that we had to shear. Rams had bred them with many wrinkles under the tail and then one had to use the mules operation to cut them off. I often used to ask stud ram breeders why they did not breed rams without wrinkles so that they would not then have to shear them off.
The question before the Senate is a very important one. The statistics for agricultural commodities indicate that, after crops, the wool industry brings in the highest gross income. For 1976-77 the gross income of the wool industry totalled $1,1 69m. So its input is not insignificant, despite the fact that Senator Webster on 3 May, in replying to questions asked by myself and by Senator Walsh, said, as reported in Hansard:
The main opposition to lifting the merino ban comes from two quarters- some wool growers and some members of the Australian Workers Union which covers the shearing industry. There are some persons who suggest that allowing increased competition at ram sales will lead to increases in the prices of merino rams for breeding.
Of course, he is quite right when he states that there are some who believe that it will lead to increased prices. But who will suffer as a result? It will be the small wool grower of this country who, because a few stud breeders will be selling off the best of their rams to the highest bidder, will have to pay a higher price for rams.
Senator Thomas said that he believed in freedom. Where is the freedom in the action that the Government has taken? We believe that when the Labor Party was in government it gave the proper emphasis to freedom by holding a referendum and allowing wool growers to make a choice. The remarks of Senator Thomas reminded me of a statement that was made by Mr De Garis when he was the Liberal Party Leader in the South Australian Legislative Council: That there was no need to elect people to the Legislative Council; that he knew the permanent will of the people. This is what Mr Sinclair and his National Country Party colleagues are saying: That they know the permanent will of the wool growers and will not allow them to have a choice. If Senator Thomas were really sincere in what he said about believing in freedom, he would advocate a complete lifting of the export ban and allowing every stud merino breeder to sell his rams to the highest bidder for export overseas. That is freedom. But no, he supports a proposition put forward by the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, that one should export only 300 rams. He claims that by doing this we will help the industry.
I had some figures taken out on the number of merino studs in this country. We find that as at 3 1 December 1976 there were in New South Wales 469 registered merino studs, in Queensland 63, in South Australia 306, in Victoria 190, in Western Australia 518 and in Tasmania eight, a total of 1,554. Senator Thomas, speaking as one who is a merino stud breeder has said that the breeders are running into financial difficulties. I am sure that he could not persuade the Senate that a trial export of 300 rams would have any significant effect on the financial problems of those 1,554 merino studs. That is only a drop in the ocean. What Senator Walsh said was quite correct: The main reason overseas buyers want to get their hands on these rams is to improve their flocks. Then we will find that the Australian wool clip will run into very severe competition from growers overseas. Either Senator Thomas or Senator Webster quoted a statement that had been made by Mr Chatterton, the South Australian Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Mr Chatterton ‘s Press release was read in such a way as to imply that he agreed with the exportation of merino rams, but the honourable senator completely misconstrued it. Mr Chatterton was putting a case for exportation to underprivileged countries which would never be in a position to compete on the open market with the Australian wool chp. He was referring to countries such as India. Indeed, that was the country he was talking about. I suppose that if today India bought 100 rams, and we agreed to let it have them, in 12 months time, as a result of drought or typhoons, we would have a job finding one still alive. That was the case that Mr Chatterton was putting, not the case for the wealthier countries which can afford to buy rams.
When manufacturing industry develops something of great value, does it sell its plans? Does it sell its methods, its know-how, to its competitors? Of course it does not; yet here we have a government which, on the one hand, makes great play concerning the money that it has provided in the Budget for wool promotion and researchplaying up to primary industry about the money that it will make available to assist the wool growers- and, on the other, wants to sell our very expertise to our competitors overseas. At page 116 of the Budget Speech we find that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) stated:
During 1977-78 the Corporation repaid the $ 100m of borrowings outstanding under the Wool Marketing (Loan) Act . . .
If we are to sell these rams so that it is seen to put money in the pockets of a few select breeders, and this goes on year after year, how long will it be before the Wool Corporation will be again in debt to the Treasury? The Treasurer says that the Corporation, because it has been able to sell its wool, has repaid the loan. If the Corporation gets strong competition from people who now buy from Australia it will find itself in serious financial trouble. The Treasurer said further: . . the Corporation is expected to el ear its indebtedness to the Commonwealth in 1978-79 by repaying the SI 3m advanced from the Australian Wool Corporation (Working Capital) Trust Fund.
The Budget Speech, under the heading ‘Research, Promotion and Other Expenditures’, states further
The Budget provides for Commonwealth contributions of $2 1.3m for wool promotion and $3.1m for payment to the Wool Research Trust Fund in 1978-79. An amount of $30.6m is expected to be contributed by the industry for wool promotion and research from the proceeds of the Wool Tax, and $5m is estimated to be available from the reserves of the Wool Research Trust Fund.
In addition to those contributions, the Commonwealth, under arrangements introduced from 1 January 1 977, is directly financing some 60 per cent of CSIRO and Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE) outlays on wool research, hitherto funded from the Wool Research Trust Fund. That direct financing (which is included in the appropriations for those organisations and hence not shown in the table above) is estimated to total $9.2m . . .
The Treasurer then added that the total outlay would be $69.2m. So here we have the Government saying on the one hand that it will spend $69m on the wool industry to help promotion and research and, on the other hand proposing, without consulting the wool growers, to lift the embargo on the exportation of merino rams- to export 300 on a trial basis.
Despite the statement of the Minister that he has consulted the industry, concern is expressed in the industry about this proposal, there are people who are concerned. In a debate such as this, apart from the two leading speakers, honourable senators have only 15 minutes in which to speak. That hardly gives one time to get wound up and put a proper case. On 13 July, shortly after the Minister made his announcement on this matter, there was in the Sydney Morning Herald a letter signed by Mr F. F. Coverntry a wool grower of ‘Lynock’, Armidale. He expressed great concern, because of the proposed partial lifting of the embargo, about the future of the merino industry. We ought also to take cognisance of the editorial in the Farmers’ Weekly of the same date. I shall refer to it briefly. The editorial was headed ‘Reason not emotion cause for union stance ‘. It said:
The Farmers’ Union appears to be out of step with other farmer organisations in opposing the lifting of the embargo on the export of Merino rams.
But, because the organistion disagrees with sister organisations in other States, it is not necessarily taking a wrong or dog in the manger’ stance on the issue . . .
Obviously the export of Merino rams is an emotive issue and on this occasion the Farmers’ Union appears to have acquired a strange bedfellow in the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Senator Webster said that we were prompted by the trade unions to put forward this matter of public importance. He forgets that some of the wool growing orgnisations called on the Australian Council of Trade Unions some years ago to support them in their ban on the export of merino rams.
– What year was that?
– It was 1973. The editorial continued:
But the Farmers ‘ Union case against lifting the embargo is not based on emotion, rather on reason.
The Union believes the Minister for Primary Industry acted in an arbitrary fashion in lifting the embargo without either consulting growers, by way of a referendum, or conducting sufficient research into the end results of such an easing.
The wool section of the union -
The editorial was referring to the Farmers’ Union- is more concerned with the welfare of the majority of Australian woolgrowers than with increased profits to studbreeders, who have always regarded themselves and been regarded as something of an elitist group.
That is the whole purpose of raising this matter of public importance today. The editorial continued:
Despite being in the minority stud-breeders have once again demonstrated that they are not short of political clout.
Whether the export of Merino rams will help or harm the Australian wool industry is still a matter of conjecture. The Farmers’ Union believes that on a matter of such great importance to Australia there should be no room at all for conjecture, only thoroughly researched fact.
The Minister for Primary Industry did not come up with any researched fact in his Press statement. Senator Webster has not come up with any researched fact today. He hardly spoke to the matter of public importance. All he did in reply was be critical of the previous Labor Government for what it did not do. One thing he did not mention was that it was a Labor government that introduced a floor price plan for the wool industry, which this Government has still maintained. It still makes great headlines out of the floor price whenever it increases it. It has increased it again by a few cents in this Budget, which is a matter to which I do not have time to refer. The Government did not scrap the system. It is a good system. The industry wanted it when the Liberal-Country Party Government was in power. That Government did not have the courage to give it to the industry. When the Labor Party came into government it gave the system to the woolgrowers. The editorial continued:
It also stresses that Australian woolgrowers who have suffered the ups and downs of the industry in the past have a right to know these facts and to decide on the rights and wrongs of the issue by a referendum.
Few reasonable men could deny that this approach to the issue is both sensible and reasonable.
– What are you reading from?
– I am reading from an editorial in the Farmers Weekly of 13 July 1978. Many wool growers subscribe to this publication. As I said -
– I think you have said too much.
– I have not. I have confined my remarks to the matter before the House. As I said, Senator Webster did not have any argument to put in rebuttal. All he talked about was the policy of the previous Labor Government and the things it did not do. He did not have the courage to tell us some of the things it did to help people in the country. He did not say that when the Labor Party came into government the health services in the country areas were at rock bottom and that it upgraded them. He did not tell us that education expenditure was at rock bottom. The amount spent was about $460m. During the Labor Party’s three years in government it lifted it by $ 1,500m, which certainly helped people in country areas.
asked me a few moments ago what year it was when some of the wool growing organisations called on the ACTU. It was after the 1973 referendum that one of the major wool growing organisations wrote to the ACTU asking it to maintain the ban and support the majority vote. Now we find that this Government, without referring it to the wool growers themselves through a referendum although it is a government which talks about freedom, is bulldozing this matter through the channels of government. It will not consult the wool growers. Quite a few wool growers with whom I was friendly when I was a shearer have come to me and said that if the Government lifts the embargo after the trial export of 300 rams they will have to pay a lot more for their merino rams. If Senator Thomas is really dinkum, if he really believes in freedom of choice, he will be advocating in his party room not that there should be just a token number of 300 rams for export but that the ban should be lifted completely and everybody should be allowed to have a fair go. All wool growers could then compete against one another, instead of the opportunity to sell being reserved for a few of the Government’s wealthy stud master mates.
– We are debating this afternoon a matter of public importance brought forward by the Australian Labor Party. The matter which it considers to be of public importance states in part:
The Minister for Primary Industry’s failure to justify Government policy permitting the export of merino rams . . .
It goes on to list specifically three points which I will not take time to read. There is no doubt that at present the Labor Party is opposed, as it has always been, to the exporting of merino rams because of pressures from sections of the community, primarily the union movement. We are still seeing today and hearing in this chamber what is the trade union attitude regarding the export of merino rams. We have also heard criticism to the effect that the Government is not prepared to have another referendum and that it was not prepared to stand by the results of a previous referendum. Whilst on this subject I challenge Senator McLaren to tell this chamber which major rural organisation went to the trade unions and said that it was opposed to the export of merino rams. Unless he is prepared to state the name of that organisation I will treat it as one to which only Senator McLaren and one or two of his friends belong.
We have heard criticism of the Government to the effect that it has not been prepared to stand by the results of a referendum or to hold another referendum. I would like to cast the minds of people in this chamber and outside back to 1 974 when the then Labor Government introduced a reserve price scheme. I have always supported that scheme. Many growers throughout Australia have supported it. It is working extremely well today. But the scheme was not supported at two referendums. In August 1951 and again in December 1965 the proposal for a reserve price plan was rejected by the wool growers of Australia. Yet the Labor Party saw fit in 1974 to introduce a reserve price scheme. Honourable senators opposite commend themselves for it and in the same breath condemn the present Government for what it has done. I refer to what Senator Walsh said on page 2248 of Hansard of 1 June 1978. He said:
Let me express a personal view on this matter. I do not necessarily accept that the only determinant of this question -
That is, the export of merino rams- should be the result of a referendum of wool growers. The responsibilities of governments extend beyond any wool growers or any other sections of the community. Governments are responsible to the whole community.
I like the language ‘any other sections of the community’. Does this mean that Senator Walsh also believes that governments should not be pushed around by trade unions and that a government is elected by the people to act for the people and not to stand aside and let others try to take over government, as some of the unions are trying to do at present regarding the export of merino rams from this country? I refer briefly to the Press statement of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) on 5 July this year. It stated:
The Minister said that strong representations had been received from the Australian Wool Industry Conference, its constituent member organisations, the Australian Wool Growers and Graziers ‘ Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers’ Federation, in addition to the unanimous views of the State member associations of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders.
I wonder whether Senator Walsh and Senator McLaren have bothered to have discussions with those organisations within the Australian Wool Industry Conference or with the Conference itself. I doubt it considering what Senator Walsh said on 1 June this year. Dealing with certain sleazy tactics with regard to the export of merino rams, he said: . . the dishonest and irrational arguments used by supporters of the relaxation of the embargo. I refer particularly to the argument of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, adopted by the previous conservative government in 1969, . . .
In that comment Senator Walsh is denigrating the Australian Wool Industry Conference so, presumably, he would not be having discussions with either the AWIC, Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council or the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. The major Australian grower organisations throughout their history have shown that they are responsible and not only this Government but also the previous Whitlam Government which brought in the reserve price scheme, accepted them as responsible organisations. While Senator Walsh may care to condemn able and conscientious men and organisations, at least governments have not shared his view and have accepted them as responsible. I would like to quote something else that Senator Walsh has said in denigration of individuals, and I refer to his comments about Sir William Vines. He said:
Sir William Vines . . . was named by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as the director of the Sir Robert Menzies trust. I believe that it is most appropriate that a man such as the Prime Minister should appoint a proven fraud and charlatan such as Sir William Vines . . .
When Senator Walsh condemns a man of the character, honesty, and drive of Sir William who has made such a contribution to the wool industry in this country, who gave up other positions where from a remunerative point of view he could have done far better and saw fit to return to Australia to take up the challenge and help the wool industry, is it any wonder that Senator Walsh turns deaf ears to responsible bodies such as the Australian Wool Industry Conference?
Let us look at the history of the Australian merino sheep. Until 1929 merino sheep were exported from Australia. In that period 22,51 1 merino sheep, not just rams, were exported. A partner in one of the famous Austraiian studs then decided to go to South Africa and took with him his share of the Australian merino sheep on that property. It was the Collinsville stud, still one of the well-known studs in Australia. We have heard today a lot of piffle from the Opposition- we have heard it on previous occasions and no doubt will hear it again- about the dangers of exporting merino sheep. The fact is that prior to 1929, more than 22,000 merino sheep were exported and in 1929 a well-known stud had half of its top sheep taken to South Africa where the stud continued to breed them. So, already merino sheep have been exported.
Let us look now at the origins of the wool industry in Australia. It was only by chance that the merino sheep came to Australia. Two sea captains called in to South Africa and attended a disposal sale at which they bought some merino sheep. These sheep were subsequently brought to Australia and sold to Macarthur- the father of the Austraiian merino- and that was the basis of our present flock. Many other strains have been introduced by other stud breeders. It is interesting to note that the merinos themselves were imported not only from South Africa but also from their countries of origin, Spain and Saxony. From 1860 onwards, Vermonts were imported from the United States of America. Merino and merino-type sheep- that is, Spanish, Germain Precos, Saxony, Rambouillet, Vermont, Stavropol and South African sheep- also were imported into Australia and these types are still freely available throughout Europe today. Yet we have heard a lot of tommyrot today from the Labor Party expressing its concern and its condemnation of the Government because the Government is prepared to export merino rams. Honourable senators on the other side have expressed concern at the great number of merino rams that would be exported.
-Who said that?
– It has been said. It is interesting to note that during the years when the ban was lifted- 1970, 1971 and 1972-in 1970 there were 222 rams bought at an auction and exported, while in 1971 and 1972 50 each year were bought and exported. Senator Primmer mentioned that one of the problems associated with exporting merino rams is that the poor countries of the world cannot afford to buy them.
– It was not I.
– It was Senator McLaren. He said India could not afford to buy merino rams. However, in 1970 India bought three merino rams at an average price of $733. In 1972 India bought 18, out of a total of 50 rams exported from Australia, at an average price of $533. I hope that the Opposition takes note of these statistics which cannot be argued. We have heard various arguments today from the Opposition why the ban should not be lifted and I would like to refer to a statement made by the late Sir Ian Clunies-Ross who not only was chairman of the International Wool Secretariat but also later became the head of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, a well-known research body in Australia, in which he said:
The embargo was imposed because of one ill founded fear and would, I am confident, have been lifted before this but for another fear no less ill founded. The first was that, by the export of Merino sheep, we should increase the volume of fine wool production outside Australia, so leading to increased and harmful competition with our own wool. The second fear is that, if the embargo were now lifted, prices of rams on the local market would rise appreciably.
He went on to refute completely all the arguments. He was a man who was closely associated with the industry and with research into the industry and who fully understood the industry. He went on to say:
As for the first of these fears, there is no evidence that the free export of Merino rams prior to 1929- that is, for a good SO years after the establishment of the Merino stud sheep industry- had been productive in any way of the consequences which the embargo was supposed to prevent.
The argument for the lifting of the ban has shown and will continue to show that there is a great need for the Australian wool industry to assist the wool industry and the wool apparel market overseas. We can understand the argument for imposing the ban in 1929 when wool stood alone without any competitor. Today we have alternative fibres; synthetics are with us. They are our major competitor in the apparel fibres of the world. There is a need for blends and among the many reasons why other countries should have the opportunity to upgrade their flocks and their wool is that wool can again become a great competitor with synthetics. These countries will need to import rams from Australia.
When a sheep is taken out of its environment it will produce a different type of wool and if the Opposition is unaware of this I suggest that it does some homework. There is need to export merino rams under the conditions laid down by this Government. I am pleased to note that the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries in South Australia, Mr Chatterton, also agrees with this view. An article which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser on 8 July 1978 reads:
Partial lifting of the merino ram export embargo would be of great help to many developing countries, the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Chatterton, said yesterday.
Mr Chatterton rejected claims that such aid would destroy the pre-eminence of the Australian wool industry.
I heartily agree with that statement of the Minister. I support the Government and the wool industry organisations in their stand for the export of merino rams from this country to help the wool industry generally.
– Pursuant to section 5 (3B) of the Statutory Rules Publication Act 1903, 1 present a statement relating to the Ombudsman (Northern Territory Self-Government) (Traditional Arrangements) Regulations- Statutory Rules No. 104 of 1978.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949, I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for the year ended 30 June 1978. 1 seek leave to make a statement relating to the report.
-The last financial year was a period of critical examination for the CSIRO. This examination was spearheaded by the independent committee of inquiry established by the Government under Professor Arthur Birch to examine the relevance of the CSIRO ‘s work to the national needs of the day and the perceived needs of tomorrow. As honourable senators would remember, the Government has accepted most of the recommendations of the inquiry and as the Chairman of the CSIRO, Mr Victor Burgmann, says in his introduction to the annual report, the major restructuring of the organisation is expected to be completed within the next 12 months. The speed of this restructuring will depend in part on amendments of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949 and I shall be introducing amending legislation to the Parliament this session.
Of course much of the re-organisational work which is not dependent upon amendments to the Act has been proceeding within the CSIRO and I have been gratified at the speed and proficiency- as well as the goodwill- with which the CSIRO officers in collaboration with others, have been undertaking this work.
This annual report, I believe, is a fitting tribute to the stewardship of the retiring Chairman of the CSIRO, Victor Burgmann, whose term of office will be completed at the end of this week. An eminent scientist who joined the organisation some 39 years ago, Mr Burgmann was appointed Chairman in March 1977 and under his leadership the organisation has continued to work on behalf of Australian industry and the community generally in a way which is probably unsurpassed by any other organisation of its nature anywhere in the world. I know honourable senators would wish to join me in expressing our gratitude to Mr Burgmann and wish him a long and happy retirement.
CSIRO ‘s new Chairman as from next Monday, 25 September, will be Dr J. Paul Wild. His term of office is for seven years and his appointment is a keystone of the wide ranging new measures being introduced in the CSIRO following the Government’s consideration of the report of the independent inquiry. Dr Wild is recognised internationally as one of Australia’s most outstanding radio astronomers and possibly the world ‘s foremost solar physicist. He was the man who led the CSIRO research team which in collaboration with the Australian Department of Transport took the InterScan microwave aircraft landing guidance system to the world aviation authority. He played a vital role in the acceptance by the International Civil Aviation Organisation of the principles embodied in InterScan as the new microwave guidance system for international civil aviation from the 1980s through into the twenty-first century.
This current annual report of the CSIRO reflects the organisation’s grasp and ready acceptance of its role for the future. The report says that the CSIRO will have to become increasingly outward looking, will require improved lines of communication and some different styles of operation, as well as acquiring additional skills and to some extent changing existing attitudes.
Some of the highlights of the work the CSIRO has conducted during 1977-78 which I would like to mention demonstrate the diversity of the Organisation’s work and re-inforce the importance of government funded scientific and industrial research. For instance, with a prospect of a much reduced supply of oil over the next decade from existing Australian fields, the CSIRO ‘s Minerals Research Laboratories have stepped up their research with emphasis being placed on the way in which oil and gas are generated from rocks and on how oil and gas subsequently migrate into natural rock traps. Coupled with this is vital research on improving exploration techniques.
Another area of importance deals with human health and this involves investigations into the influence of dietary fibre. The CSIRO ‘s research suggests that it is the type of fibre and not the quantity which is important in keeping people healthy. The agricultural area will benefit from work the Organisation conducted last year on improvements in the reproduction efficiency of livestock through improved fertility and increased survival rates of the offspring and, as well, work is continuing on increasing the efficiency of producing and using phosphorous fertilisers.
In regard to the environment the CSIRO has been looking into the effect increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may have on our climate, and it has developed a new process to remove the pollutants from wool scour effluents. In the industrial field the CSIRO has made significant contributions to the development of realistic fire hazard standards for textile products and, in collaboration with industry, has developed a portable instrument called Sirotem which is suitable for Australian conditions to detect ore bodies under the ground. I commend the 1977-78 annual report of CSIRO to the Parliament.
-by leave- I move:
I commend the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) on the statement that he has just made. It is an important statement. I suggest to him that this is the better way in which to present statements on behalf of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and that he ought to get out of the habit into which he has fallen of having put to him lead questions about the CSIRO which subsequently result in very lengthy answers being given. I hope that the Minister will take note of what I am saying. Perhaps in the future the CSIRO will provide shorter answers to the prepared question which the Minister is asked at Question Time.
Let me not divert from the very important statement that the Minister has put down. The Opposition joins with the Minister in congratulating the past Chairman of the CSIRO, Mr Burgmann, and in wishing him well. I also commend and comment on the importance of the appointment of Dr J. P. Wild as the new Chairman. The Minister is correct when he says that Dr Wild is a prominent Australian and a prominent scientist. I also commend him and the organisation which he now heads for the development of the InterScan aircraft landing system. I believe that we in this place have not given sufficient consideration to it, nor have we expressed in full our appreciation of that development. The Opposition expresses the hope that in this regard Australia will get a slice of the action in developing the market for this system. We hope that other CSIRO inventions which have been developed to benefit mankind in general are also developed in such a way that Australian industry gains some advantage from the work that the CSIRO has done.
CSIRO is to be commended for diversifying its efforts in support of industry. Previously the CSIRO appeared to be directing its attention, effectively and usefully, towards rural industries. Apparently it is now entering into a wider field and that will be to the advantage of Australian industry; it certainly will be to the advantage of the CSIRO. We on this side of the House commend that diversification. We believe that it can be made effective only by proper funding. This brings me to the blanket method by which the Government applies ceilings to enterprises such as the CSIRO. My view is that if a ceiling of this sort is to be applied on the number of people employed or the expenditure of the Organisation- I do not believe the ceiling should be applied to the number of people employed- to meet some budgetary requirement which has been dreamed up, priorities must be established, and the highest priority and support should be given to this scientific organisation.
This points to the need for CSIRO and other scientific bodies to be backed up by the willingness of Australian industry to take up developmental work. This in turn depends on adequate capital funding and a capacity to take risks. Only by such means can we get the specialised industry needed for new jobs in Australia. That leads me to the problem that we face in regard to restructuring manufacturing industry in Australia in order to move away from those heavily protected industries into other industries which, by reason of their specialisation- for instance in developing something like InterScan- with proper capital support, can take up, a new endeavour- creating new jobs. If the innovations of the CSIRO are properly supported with capital the Organisation can perhaps play an important part in restructuring manufacturing industry in Australia.
All that I have said this afternoon is in support of the proposition. It might seem strange, coming from me. It certainly appears to be strangely received by the Minister judging by the look of disbelief on his face. We seldom have an opportunity to speak on this type of organisation which, as has been said, is a credit to the Australian community. I have commended the CSIRO involvement with industry. There is a tremendous amount of expertise in the CSIRO which should be made available to industry, not only to large industry but also to the smaller levels of industry, to small businesses. I do not doubt that the Organisation can devote its attention to developing manufacturing processes which can lead to the support of small businesses and industries. Also, it may be able to direct to some small organisations some method of producing some new appliance, perhaps mechanical, which would be useful in rural industry or in some other place and which would be suitable for export. I commend the statement, the CSIRO and its officers. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 1 1 of the Life Insurance Act 1945 I present the annual report of the Life Insurance Commission for the year ended 3 1 December 1977.
– I inform the Senate that I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate requesting variations in the membership of Estimates committees A, B, C, D and E and nominating senators to be appointed members of Estimates Committee F.
- Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion relating to the membership of Estimates committees.
Estimates Committee A- Senators Douglas McClelland, Scott and Sim.
Estimates Committee B- Senators Collard, Colston, Martin, Mulvihill, Townley and Wriedt.
Estimates Committee C- Senators Messner, Ryan and Sheil.
Estimates Committee D- Senators Kilgariff and Thomas.
Estimates Committee E- Senators Coleman and Rae.
Estimates Committee A- Senators Colston, Davidson, Martin and Wriedt.
Estimates Committee B- Senators Button, Evans, Messner, Rae, Tate and Young.
Estimates Committee C- Senators Bonner, Coleman, Kilgariffand Mulvihill.
Estimates Committee D- Senators Archer and Rocher.
Estimates Committee E- Senators Elstob, MacGibbon and Townley.
Estimates Committee F- Senators Collard, Gietzelt, Ryan, Sibraa, Thomas and Watson.
A full list of proposed membership of the Committees has been circulated to honourable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following Bills notified:
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Amendment Bill 1978.
Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Amendment Bill 1978.
Bounty (Books) Amendment Bill 1978.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Wheat Tax Amendment Bill 1978 and the Wheat Research Amendment Bill 1 978 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Webster) read a first time.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria-Minister for
Science) (5.45)- I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Wheat Tax Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Wheat Tax Act 1957, as amended, to increase the maximum rate of tax for research purposes on wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board from 1 5c to 30c per tonne. The wheat research scheme which has operated since 1957 is one of a number of such national rural industry research schemes supported by the Commonwealth. On the basis of the report by the Industries Assistance Commission on the financing of rural research in Australia, the Government last year reviewed and reaffirmed its policy of continuing to provide grants to national rural industry research schemes on the basis of matching dollar for dollar expenditure from funds contributed by producers raised by a levy on a national basis.
Under the wheat research arrangements established by the Wheat Research Act 1957, the proceeds of the wheat tax which is collected on deliveries to the Australian Wheat Board are appropriated for expenditure on wheat research to the State wheat research committees in each mainland State in the proportions in which those proceeds are collected. The Commonwealth’s contribution has been appropriated annually to finance research programs that are recommended by the Wheat Industry Research Council and approved by the Minister for Primary Industry. The Wheat Industry Research Council is constituted under the Wheat Research Act, 1957. The industry participates in the allocation of funds through representation on the State committee structure and on the Wheat Industry Research Council.
The maintenance of a sound wheat research effort is important because of the productivity improvement benefits it affords to growers. It is also important to our interests as a major wheat exporter competing on the world market where quality considerations are important to buyers. Studies by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and other authorities have shown that an increase in yields is the most significant area for improving productivity gains in the wheat industry and either directly or indirectly a substantial part of the research funded by this scheme goes towards helping the grower increase his yields.
Maintaining and improving the quality of our wheat as measured by protein content and milling characteristics is important if Australia is to hold its place in the international market and compete effectively with other exporters in meeting the discriminating demands of overseas buyers. Improvement of yield absorbs the greatest amount of research funds under the scheme. Projects range from disease control especially fungal diseases, breeding for special characteristics such as climatical and disease tolerance, nutritional requirements in various wheat growing soils to weed control and assessment of yield losses arising from weeds.
Wheat quality research includes the breeding and selection of grain quality characteristics such as protein content and milling properties. In that field significant advances are being made in methods for determining quality at early stages of growth of the wheat plant. Research continues also into aspects of farm operations such as optional tillage and fertiliser practices with a view to minimising costs. Several specialised types of sowing and cultivation equipment have been developed, using funds from the research scheme, and are currently being evaluated. A considerable amount of research effort is being directed towards the safest and cheapest methods of storing harvested grain. In this area the development of methods for refrigerating bulk grain has been perhaps the most notable while more conventional fumigation methods continue to be improved.
The Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, representing the wheat industry, has requested that the maximum rate of tax specified in the Act be raised to 30c per tonne. The Act provides that the actual rate of tax is as prescribed by regulation from time to time. While asking for the maximum rate to be raised the Federation has also sought an increase in the operative tax from the present 15c to 20c per tonne. Once this amending legislation is enacted this request will be given consideration by the Government. The present maximum rate of tax of 15c per tonne was established by amendment to the Act in 1973. The operative rate has been at this maximum level since 1975. In these three years wheat research expenditure from tax proceeds and the Commonwealth’s contribution has increased from $2.53m in 1975-76 to $3.34m in 1977-78. It is estimated that expenditure in 1978-79 will total some $3. 32m. Research costs have increased along with the general level of inflation so the higher levels of expenditure since 1975 to 1977-78 do not reflect an equivalent increase in the level of real research effort.
The drought-reduced 1977-78 crop has resulted in a reduced availability of funds for research expenditure in 1978-79. A drawing down of reserves of the Wheat Industry Research Council and most State wheat research committees has been necessary to maintain the overall level of research spending in 1978-79 at approximately last year’s level. Clearly this represents a reduction in the level of real research effort this year. A viable research program is of fundamental importance to the future of our wheat industry. Increased contributions made possible by this Bill will be most helpful in sustaining the research effort of the wheat industry. I commend this Bill.
Wheat Research Amendment Bill
The amendment provides for a change in the procedures for the appropriation of the Commonwealth’s contribution to the wheat research scheme. Instead of the present procedure whereby the Commonwealth’s contribution is provided by an annual appropriation in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) the amendment provides for a special appropriation under the Wheat Research Act. This procedural change will bring the wheat research arrangements into line with the provisions in more recently established rural research schemes. The amendment ensures that moneys appropriated under the Act to meet approved expenditure do not exceed industry contributions by way of the wheat tax. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13 September, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Senate take note of the papers.
-Prior to the motion for the adjournment of the Senate being put last Wednesday night I was speaking about the soul-destroying conditions being experienced by young unemployed persons in Victoria, particularly in rural Victoria. I had outlined what I believed to be the failures by this Government not only to do anything about unemployment as such but also to do anything about or come to any realisation of the sort of souldestroying situation in which thousands of young persons in rural areas of the State that I represent are placed. I was pointing out that in fact the Government could well have taken a page from the election platform of the United Australia Party in 1943 when it was proclaiming what it would do once war ended, to wit, introduce a national insurance scheme, on a contributory basis, beginning with insurance against unemployment, immediately victory is achieved and peace returns. That statement indicates how far the UAP, the predecessor of this Government, was out of touch with the situation which would prevail at the end of the war because the country went into a situation under a Labor government of employment for all. Men brought out of the Services were immediately put to work. There was no worry about unemployment or shortage of work. It was obvious then that the UAP was completely out of touch with what was happening and what would happen in the community, just as the present Government is out of touch with the situation in Australia today.
One of the most illogical masterpieces in this whole Budget is surely to be found in the area of training programs. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) has said that experience indicates that special youth employment training programs are unduly advantaging younger age groups to the detriment of older age groups. That may well be so in some areas. Many middle-aged men and women now find it impossible to get work. Of course, they are not eligible for training programs, as are the youths of the community. But for the Government to turn round and reduce the maximum training period from six months to four months and reduce the allowance paid from $67 a week to $45 a week surely does nothing for the youths of the community. If the Government wished to do something it should have extended that type of scheme and allowed older people into retraining areas.
One of the beauties to the Government of this whole training program is the fact that it was able to keep down the registered unemployment figures by at least 1 1 1 ,000 at June last. One of the most worrisome features of this youth training program is and always has been the skulduggery that has gone on and the way in which the scheme has been used by dishonest employers. In fact, all it is in many respects is a direct subsidy to some employers. There has been a tendency in many instances for businessmen and business organisations to have the people employed under this scheme do what might be described as the low class of work. The end result for these young people is that they are sacked at the end of their six months term and the employer then puts on another young person to do exactly the same work and the young person who has been put off is in no better position to play a role in any work force in our society. These young people certainly are not trained for any type of occupation for which vacancies are available.
One of the terrible tragedies of the way in which the scheme has been utilised by the employers is the position in which thousands of young people are placed. This is applicable more to country areas where jobs are scarcer. These young people, because they are afraid of losing their jobs and because 50, 60 or perhaps 250 other young people in the district are waiting for their jobs, will work for rates of pay and conditions which, quite frankly, went out with the blades. They are fearful of approaching trade union organisers, their member of parliament and the people involved in the industry itself who are able to act as umpires on their behalf or to raise a word with their employer and bring to his notice that he is not paying the correct wages or that the young people are being employed under rather terrible conditions which remind one of the Depression of the 1 930s.
Let me quote three of the many examples that have been brought to my attention in recent weeks. The first relates to a young girl of 1 6 or 17 years who was employed by the proprietor of a restaurant as a waitress. She had to work late at night and even through to the early hours of the morning and was not being paid penalty rates. When the young woman’s father approached her employer in a civil manner for some recompense for his daughter he was abused and thrown out and his daughter likewise was abused and her employment terminated. Another case involved a young man who was placed in the motor trade. His employer adopted the attitude that the young man was lucky as he had been given a job. He was eventually sacked prior to the completion of the six months period. Yet another case involved a young man on a dairy farm who worked long hours with no payment for overtime. He worked under below award working conditions. The lad was used as a means of enabling the farmer to sleep in in the morning- the lad did the milking.
They are just three examples of the way some unscrupulous employers are using the system to get at young people. Many employers are reluctant to pay the required holiday pay at the end of six months or sick pay during the time of employment. The young people, because of their situation, do not want to appear as troublemakers and cop it sweet rather than demand their rights. As I have said, there is no incentive for the employer to keep the young person on as a permanent employee while the employer can receive a subsidy from the Government to employ a new applicant. In those circumstances what hope is there for the 200,000-odd young people who are destined to leave school at the end of this year? Wherein lies their salvation? Under this Government they can look forward only to frustration and the blight of labels being placed on them which do nothing for their hopes and aspirations. How many of them will finish up in the courts of the land charged with misdemeanours and crimes which have their cause in the situation in which young people will find themselves. It is little wonder that this Government has increased the funds for police, security and detention from $56.3m last year to $77.3m currently, an increase of $20. 7m or around 34 per cent. So to the young unemployed of Australia we can say this: ‘Beware. If the Social Security field officer does not get you there is a strong chance that the law will, and if you become politicised and show your disapproval of the way this Government is handling your life by protesting and marching there is a strong chance ASIO will have you on file. ‘
On page 56 of Budget Paper No. 1 under the heading ‘Defence Co-operation’ the Government lists expenditure of $6. 9m for assistance to Indonesia allegedly to strengthen its own and the region’s defence capabilities at a time when that country, in my opinion, is engaged in bloody warfare against indigenous people in lands acquired by dubious means in West Irian and by blatant military invasion in East Timor. Support for such a country by a government which joins in the hysteria about human rights in the Soviet Union can only be described as hypocritical in the extreme.
In agriculture the Government has taken rather than given. Now at last the farming community is seeing the falseness of Mr Fraser’s promise of three years ago about a rural bank. If primary producers are deemed eligible for a loan they will be getting back their own income equalisation deposits at over twice the interest that they are being paid for them. This is a real thimble and pea trick. The nitrogenous fertiliser bounty is down and additional levies of primary producers are being considered. Of course, increased petrol prices will hit the farming and rural community hardest of all.
Housing approvals during July last were the lowest for over 1 5 years, which is an indication of the continuing slump in this activity and a contradiction of the Liberal Party’s mouthings at election time on how it stands for the right of people to own their own homes, but of course talk is cheap. The housing vote in this year’s Budget is down by $143m on last year. Within the total allocation the advance for home savings grants is cut by almost $lm, with a consequent delay in payment to applicants so that the bulk of the expenditure will come out of the 1979-80 Budget.
To sum up, what have we got? We have increased taxes; home loan interest is no longer a tax deduction; invalid and tuberculosis pensions for persons under retiring age are to become taxable; pension increases for people over 70 are to be taxable; there is a reversion to the bad old days for the pensioners with only annual increases in their benefits; increases in unemployment benefit are not to be applicable to single persons; and the maternity allowance is to be abolished. The Budget contains a whole host of penalties for the people of Australia, and mostly for people who need government assistance most. To top it all, for anyone who may come to believe that Australia is no longer the land of milk and honey or the lucky country and who might want to leave the country to try his luck somewhere there is to be a departure tax.
Mr President, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the table to which I referred in my speech last week.
The table read as follows-
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Order! I shall call Senator Puplick. Before doing so, I point out to honourable senators that this is Senator Puplick ‘s first speech in this place. I trust that the usual courtesies will be extended to him. I have pleasure in calling Senator Puplick.
– An American commentator has recently described the three greatest lies of modern society: The first, ‘My cheque is in the mail’; the second, ‘Of course I will respect you just as much in the morning’; and the third, ‘I am from the Government- I’m here to help you’. As a young single man, part of both the credit and the sexual revolutions, I have no comment to make upon the first two propositions, let alone admit whether either of them has ever passed my lips. But I cannot let the third proposition go without comment for I would strongly want to assert that in fact there is no purpose for government other than that of helping people, protecting and encouraging individuals and creating the atmosphere within which that spark of genius, present within every man, is able to burst into flame.
I am conscious that standing here, the youngest person to address this chamber for over six decades, I do so in several capacities: Firstly, as an individual- unique I hope, and if not yet worth cloning, at least worth listening to; secondly, as a democrat who believes that to govern is to serve; thirdly, as a member of a unique chamber; and, finally, as a Liberal. I wish to comment, in the unique way which a maiden speech allows, upon how I relate each of those capacities to the endless adventure of government. As an individual I see my representative role as being exactly as described by Edmund Burke, when he wrote:
Certainly … it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the utmost unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasure, his satisfactions to theirs- and above all, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.
But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightenment and conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you or to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure- no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion . . .
As a democrat I regret the imperfections of our political system which are within our power to remedy. Despite what might be my lamentable idealism, I look forward to the days when we have public funding of political parties, disclosure of donations, some register of pecuniary interests, fair redistributions, one vote one value, a revised Federal Constitution and real popular participation in government. If we can do no more, let us at least try to put our own House in order. We, as a class of professionals, are among the most despised and distrusted in the community. I quote the opening of one of Steele Rudd’s novels:
Smith, the member for our district, died one day, and we forgot all about him the next. Not that a politician is ever remembered much after he dies, but Smith had been a blind, bigoted, old Tory, and was better dead. Politicians are mostly better dead, so far as other people and their country are concerned.
Little, I fear, has changed since 1908 and, frankly, we appear to have given little indication to our electors that it should. I only hope that I do not get the idealism beaten out of me too quickly. While speaking as a democrat, I wish to pause to comment upon the role of the Press in our system of government. I regard a free, responsible Press as the greatest guarantee of our civil liberties- a bulwark against the potential tyranny of both politicians and judges. ‘Democracy’, said Emerson, ‘becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors’. It has always been so with democracies. The politicians of Athens trembled before the pen of Aristophanes, and the anti-war plays of Euripides, Sophocles, or Aeschylus, moved governments. Parliament had no legitimacy until it had seated John Wilkes. Would not Dreyfus have perished on Devil’s Island but for the efforts of Zola through The Auroral Would not Nixon have further corrupted the White House but for the Washington Post? Would there have been a federation without the Melbourne Age or the Bulletin! Of course, our Press is sometimes sensational, sometimes inaccurate, sometimes self opinionated, sometimes downright mischievous. But before we berate the Press for that, let us recall the injunction of St Matthew to first cast out the beam out of thine own eye ‘. The media should be our ally in a service of the people of Australia. So I plead with those people in government to realise that excessive secrecy, far from advancing the democratic processes, is in fact potentially destructive of them.
As a senator I am conscious of just how unique this House of review is. In recent years, indeed in recent maiden speeches by honourable senators on both sides of this House, the role of the Senate has been analysed, either to destroy or to enhance its powers. I for one would not forgo any part of its unique character or sacrifice one iota of its inherent powers. Our Senate might never have rung with the voice of a Cicero or a Cato, nor has it produced a Cataline. It has not been moved by the oratory of a Clay or a Webster- Daniel Webster if the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) will forgive me- nor has it foundered upon the bigotry of a Calhoun, but it has done what no Roman Senate ever sought to do and what most American Senates lamentably have failed to do; it has ensured that an executive government remained responsible to the wishes of the people and the States, whose House this is, remained accountable to them and, if necessary, compelled to face their awesome judgment. To many people Parliament is a mere talking shop. I do not decry this as one of its roles. It is its original role, after all- the role of Simon de Montfort, of Pym, of Hampden, of Milton and of Mill. Change is inevitable, whatever shellback reactionaries might think, no matter how much they might regret it.
I see but three methods of change: We can be forced into violent and unpredictable change; we can drift or fall into unprepared and unordered change; or we can talk and argue ourselves into rational change. Herein is the genius of our parliamentary institutions and the genius of this House of review in particular. When talking of the Senate we must recall that it is the sine qua non of Australian federation. Its role as a States
House still has great contemporary relevance. But above all I am an Australian, like millions of other people by choice and not by birth. Whilst I will ever seek to protect the interests of my State of New South Wales, I am conscious of the fact that above all my duty is to all of the people of Australia.
At this stage I wish to pay several tributes: Firstly, Mr President, to you on your re-election to your high office. The prestige which that office gives you is exceeded far by the integrity and lustre which you impart to the office. May I also pay tribute to the officers of the Senate and to the various staffs in the parliamentary service for their kindness to me as a new senator. Secondly, I pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir Robert Cotton. Bob Cotton is a truly great Australian and a great Liberal. As a son of that Liberal bastion- Broken Hill, he rose to be a distinguised State President of my party and a Minister for Industry and Commerce who never forgot his country origins. He has left here to continue his great and distinguished public service to the nation which he already has faithfully served, both in war and in peace. Finally, I record my thanks to my political party, which has sent me here as Sir Robert Cotton’s replacement, and to the Young Liberal Movement, to which I owe so much. I shall serve them as they would expect of me.
I said that I stood here as a Liberal. There is no finer tradition in the history of mankind than the Liberal tradition. Because I believe above all in the individual, in diversity, in tolerance, and in caring about my fellow creatures, I could be only a Liberal. The Liberal tradition is long and proud. One can trace it from Aristotle. This tradition is based fundamentally on the recognition of the inherent dignity of each individual, his or her inherent value, and upon respect for the endless manifestation of human character and diversity. Liberalism asserts that solutions to human problems are within the human ken. As a Liberal I assert a faith in an optimism about our ability to survive and to progress, to build a society which in encouraging the bold, allowing the industrious to profit, rewarding the innovative and the excellent, equally manages to protect the weak, help the infirm, care for the sick and succour the needy. My philosophy recognises that the success of each individual contributes directly to the well-being of all individuals. We aim to provide a more equal society, not by penalising the successful but rather by encouraging more success in all.
I personally reject the failed dogmas of both conservatism and socialism. Conservatism must fail because it seeks to retard that most characteristic of human endeavours- the need to change, to move forward, to replace old gods with new ones and old institutions with better ones. Socialism fails because it seeks to deny an equally strong human characteristic- the need to be different, to escape from the grey uniformity of the pack and the facelessness of the mob. Its deadening hand of conformity and centralism and its insidious tools of the caucus and the closed shop always fail. Socialism abuses imagined monopolies, much like Satan rebuking sin, while attempting to impose state monopolies everywhere. In seeking to level- it never equalises, in seeking to prevent the success of the strong, it denies the chance of protection to the weak. My word need not be relied upon alone to expose the pessimism of socialism contrasted with the optimism of my Liberal philosophy. On 14 September in the other place Mr Barry Jones described the differences between our philosophies. About liberalism he said:
Optimistic about the ability of individuals to advance themselves within the . . . economic system.
Confident in the capacity of people to solve their own problems . . .
As to socialism he said:
Pessimistic about the ability of individuals to advance themselves within the . . . economic system.
Confident in the capacity of institutions and systems (especially new ones) to solve problems: pessimistic about personal capacity.
Both conservatism and socialism seek to restrain and restrict the individual, one by fossilising the artificial barriers of class, the other by erecting the artificial barriers of state-ism. My philosophy of individual capacity and enterprise is encapsulated in the words of Blake, who wrote:
Why stand we here, trembling all around, calling on God for help and not ourselves in whom God dwells.
But my tradition is not one of mere words. Let it be clearly recorded, firmly asserted and proudly boasted that it was the Liberals of their day who curbed the power of the Crown, who extended the suffrage, who freed the Press, who took the children out of the mines and who, above all, ended the trade in human slaves. The Liberal tradition has unique characteristics and achievements in Australia. To the credit of Australian Liberals belong the following firsts: National old age pension system; arbitration system; tariff protection of local industries; federal railway system; compensation legislation; Commonwealth involvement in education; votes for women and 18-year-olds; free compulsory and secular education; the free Press; the secret ballot; the opening of our land to free settlement. Above all, without Australian Liberals there would in fact have been no Australian Commonwealth. Let me pay tribute to two outstanding Australian Liberals by quoting their words with unreserved admiration. The first said:
The characteristic of the Liberal party through the century has been resistance to and destruction of class privileges. It has not yet been successful in sweeping these all away, but has limited them more narrowly where it has not removed them . . . Other great works of Liberalism have been the removal of the religious disabilities of nonconformists and Roman Catholics and the abolition of the laws against trades unionism. Equality of political rights without reference to creed, and equality of legal rights without consideration of wealth or quality, are insisted upon. In this country Liberalism has been identified with every broad movement based on similar principles. The question was whether it would stop short of female suffrage. Not only did it seem . . . that the female suffrage was a necessary corollary of . . . Liberalism, but also of one man one vote . . . The reconstructive element in Liberalism must in future come to the front. In political economy, having induced politicians to discard the old programme, the devil take the hindmost’ Liberalism would now inculcate a new teaching with regard to the poorest in the community, that all should have what was their due. By fixing a minimum rate of wages and wise factory legislation wealth would be prevented from taking unfair advantage of the needy and the latter would be saved from leading wretched and imperfect lives … It was the duty of Liberals to study such questions and to tread as ever the paths of progress. In doing so, they would make mistakes but they would leave the world on the whole a better place than they found it.
The second said: . . The real freedoms are to worship, to think, to speak, to choose, to be ambitious, to be independent, to be industrious, to acquire skill, to seek reward. These are the real freedoms, for these are of the essence of the nature of man.
In a vision of the future, therefore, I see the individual and his encouragement and recognition as the prime motive force for the building of a better world. Socialism means high costs, inefficiency, the constant intrusion of political considerations, the damping down of enterprise, the overlordship of routine. None of these elements can produce progress, and without progress security will turn out to be a delusion.
There cannot be rising living standards if all we propose to do is to redistribute what we now have. We must produce more and produce it more cheaply if we are to survive and grow.
There is no room in Australia for a party of reaction. There is no useful place for a policy of negation.
Deakin and Menzies- in what a tradition to follow. I fully recognise that my philosophy is more under challenge today than ever. It is a challenge I face with confidence. The greatest threat I see is the prospect of progressive dehumanisation of our society by new advances in technology. The process is already well advanced. Even now there are elements in Australia seeking to replace the government of men by the administration of things, a trend to which we in Parliament have contributed by unthinkingly vesting power over people in non-elected bodies and corporations and by seeking to rely upon ombudsmen and tribunals to protect the rights of individuals when in fact it is we who should be making the decisions and we who should be providing the protection.
Man has always been a technological creature from the first Neanderthal toolmaker on, and every technological device contains some inherent power to dehumanise if we let it. As a species we have always managed to cope with technological change, but today’s pace of change has accelerated beyond the pace of our comprehension. Puck promised Oberon he would put a girdle around the earth in 40 minutes. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission will do it 40 times a minute. In the 1 950s a computer to replicate the functions of the brain would have been larger than the city of London. The transistor reduced it to the size of the railway station; microelectronics to the size of a large desk. Silicon chips allow us to hold it in our hands. Tomorrow we may be able to put it in our pockets. But for all that, what computer will be moved to tears by the agony of Lear or to ecstacy by the music of Bach. And ultimately, behind the computer there must be a man.
Despite the challenges, I remain an optimist. Indeed, I fully endorse The Mikado’s condemnation of the idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone every century but this and every country but his own ‘.
Today’s age may be the most frightening but it is also the most promising. However, a belief that solutions will be found is absolutely no excuse for not acting on the immediate problems of the day. To say tomorrow, next year, whenever, will be better is of no value to the person facing problems here and now. The promises of a better tomorrow are no reason to continue with a less satisfactory today. Current problems demand current answers. Indeed, to sacrifice the people of the present upon the altar of an unknowable future is as irresponsible as sacrificing them upon the altar of an unrecallable past. The solutions, honourable senators, lie here in this Parliament with us now. It is our responsibility as elected representatives to address ourselves accordingly, to remember that we are not sent here to scratch out each other’s eyes, no matter how much we might enjoy that sort of thing, but to serve the people who sent us here. As I said, that is a job for us, not for somebody else- some committee, some interdepartmental committee, some department, some royal commission or some inquiry. Democrats throughout the history of the world have not fought, and bled and died to overthrow the divine right of kings simply to see us fall down before the divine right of experts. We as a Parliament must seek to identify problems before they arise and respond accordingly. We must do so with our focus upon what will serve each individual Australian.
The Telecom dispute need not have happened had a pigheaded management understood that there are inherent risks in putting machines before men and profits before people. What man would be a man if he did not defend himself against such a threat? But these disputes will continue and multiply until we take back some of the powers to make decisions about the future of this nation which previous parliaments have so cavalierly given away. Nevertheless it must be recognised that all the science and technology in the world will not solve the fundamental problems of our society- problems which are essentially ones of human relationships and ones which demand human solutions. It may be said that just as technology will not solve all our ills, nor will legislation. But legislation at least can be sufficiently enlightened to create or maintain a framework within which solutions can be sought and found.
I will illustrate some of the areas where, in my humble and inexperienced view, Parliament itself will need to display greater tolerance, sympathy and understanding. I believe that the recognition of the frailness of mankind is as important as the recognition of its strengths, and that a certain feeling of tenderness towards those frailties is the spirit of all great government. For instance, where the law is basically made by men, how easy it is to pass legislation about women’s issues that are not worth a tinker’s curse. How long are we going to have our heads in the sand about issues such as contraception or birth control? How much longer must we acquiesce in a situation where effective information about these matters is systematically denied to young girls by a conspiracy of silence on the part of politicians, educators and the media? How many more deaths, how many more unloved children need there be before we wake up? How little we as politicians, understand the problems of the unwanted child or the abused wife? We waste public time, for instance, abusing the women’s refuge movement instead of recognising and supporting its potential to undertake a social task the value of which is beyond measure and which cannot be fulfilled by traditional welfare bodies no matter how well intentioned they may be. Can we not respond to the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships with more intelligence? It is about time we understood the dimensions of the drug problem and the marihuana problem in particular. It is about time we woke up to what young people are telling us about their concerns. Surely it is not beyond us to develop responses that are realistic, humane and, above all, effective. We have none of these at present. It is about time that the rights and justices which we so correctly demand for the oppressed in Russia or Chile are no longer denied to our own Aboriginal people. It is about time our tolerance and maturity reached such a position that we recognised the rights of gay people or other minority groups to live their lives according to their own dictates so long as they do not trespass upon the rights of others.
Finally, it is about time we added the capacity to feel to the capacity to think as politicians. Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart;’, lamented Shakespeare’s Troilus. How right he was. Can we not recognise and respond to the fact that the Heart has reasons which Reason may not know? Not all problems require quantitative or material responses from government. In many cases just a little more humanity, just a little more tolerance, just a little more sympathy, would suffice. It is all too easy for an overwhelmingly middle-aged male, white, upper income parliament to make laws for people who have little or no direct voice here and then boast about its great deeds. How often do we consult the people for whom we make laws when they are not powerful and organised parts of society? When we congratulate ourselves upon the year’s legislative program. How much I am reminded of Romeo’s taunt: ‘He jests at scars, that never felt a wound’.
What I have said will sound naive and radical to some. Even at my tender years I am no stranger to that accusation but I maintain my position because it falls so completely within the Liberal tradition of respect for the individual in all his or her manifestations of diversity. I would be less than honest in my maiden speech, given the times, if I did not advert to one great issue facing the Government of which I am so proud to be a member.
The problem of unemployment, youth unemployment in particular, is the spectre haunting Australia. I can proffer no solutions in these few minutes. I can only commend Mr Tony Street for his airing of this problem with startling clarity and honesty. I can only re-echo the warnings of the consequences for our society should we fail to make inroads on the problem. I can only assert that what we are dealing with is no less a matter than the future of a whole generation of young
Australians and the future generations which they will produce. In short, what is at stake may well be the survival of our society and our nation as we know it. The legitimacy of this Government at the next election will rightly depend upon the success which it has demonstrated in solving this problem more than any other issue. Traditionally the Government parties have been the ones which achieve a maximum level of employment. Here is one tradition we overthrow at our peril.
In the final analysis we mere men and women can do no more than our best making way for others if our best is not good enough. Let us at least seek to make our touchstone the words of Wolsey:
Be just and fear not,
Let all the ends thou aim’st at be thy country’s,
Thy God ‘s and truth ‘s.
If we do, perhaps when future generations review what we have sought to do they will not have cause to dismiss us, like poor Smith, but rather will have some respect for what we honestly strove to achieve, and that our memories, like those of the Grecian heroes of old, may be graven not so much on stone as in the hearts of men.
- Mr President, I congratulate Senator Puplick on his maiden speech. He is a young senator and I believe he is fired with great enthusiasm. He is a young visionary. He has entertained us this evening with an excellent maiden speech. I do not want to become paternal in any way but as one who has been around this chamber for some time I want to say to him: Do not be misled by the generous kindness that is extended to you in the lobbys by members on both sides. No matter how much you are fired by great visionary ideals, you will not achieve much in this chamber. You will need your eloquence and your persuasion in your party room.
I am encouraged to think that at last the Liberals have produced somebody who might have the fortitude, the initiative and the determination to try to achieve those objectives. I did not think I would ever stand up in this place after listening to a speech in which so many illustrious people were quoted. The honourable senator’s speech reminded me of former Senator Wright for whom I had a great deal of time because of the contributions that he made in this chamber. I feel that we have in our midst a young man who, if he is encouraged by his party, can make a very worthwhile contribution to this Senate, and will enhance it.
I was interested to hear his earlier quotations of Edmund Burke and the principles that he espoused. I was reminded of the time when Edmund Burke, replying in the House of Commons to an attack upon him by Mr Fox, said: ‘I sincerely hope that no member of this House will ever barter the Constitution of his country, that eternal jewel of his soul, for a wild and visionary system which can only lead to confusion and disorder’. I hope that the honourable senator is the star on the horizon, that his star is in the ascendancy and that he can correct the misdemeanours of his colleagues and put them back on the rails. I hope that he can remind them of their performance and remind them of what, from 1972 to 1975 a popularly-elected government had to suffer at the hands of his colleagues. Towards the end of his speech he used the quotation ‘Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart’. I sincerely hope that he will not be influenced by his many colleagues who are millionaires in words but bankrupt in ideas.
I turn now to the very serious business of this country; to the Budget that we are debating this evening. It is all very well to pursue the pleasantries and niceties involved in welcoming young and new senators to this place, but all of the rhetoric does nothing to reduce the number of unemployed. It is only by the advocacy of the people ‘s representatives in this chamber, by their expressing their opinions, that we may be able to do something about it. To be very honest, I enjoyed the address by the young senator and would have liked to have sat back comfortably and listened to him for a longer period, but we must get on with the business of the day. The Government cannot dodge its responsibility.
The debate in which we are taking part this evening concerns what has been called a horror Budget. We have had horror Budgets before, but I submit that none more horrible has been presented since Federation- certainly, to come closer to home, since 1951. The members of the media have run out of adjectives to describe it. Experienced critics have been caustic in their condemnation of it. It has been referred to as a bankruptcy Budget. It has been called, although I do not know why, a bully’s Budget. It has been called ‘ Fraser ‘s revenge’. It has been called a Budget that adopts 18th century methods to deal with 20th century problems. It has been described as a dishonest and unfair Budget- unfair because its restraints are directed at those who are least capable of bearing them; unfair because its whole strategy has been directed against the poor, the sick, the elderly and the great majority of Australian families. Anybody who has taken the time to read and study the Budget Papers, if he is honest must come down on the side of those who say that the Budget has been designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Since I have made those accusations, I know that, naturally, honourable senators will expect me to support them with facts. First, let me consider the proposed increase in taxation. Not only is it to increase taxation, but also the Government has done something that very few governments since Federation, certainly none for many years, have done. It has made retrospective that increased taxation. Let us examine what the proposed taxation increase means to the average working man. A person earning less than $250 a week will pay 8 per cent more in taxation. Those who earn over $250 a week will suffer a steadily decreasing burden of additional taxation. To come closer to home and to make a more specific comparison, let me turn to the case of Mr Fraser, the Prime Minister himself. He earns $1,500 a week and will suffer a taxation increase of 5 per cent. Yet a person who earns less than $250 a week will suffer a taxation increase of 8 per cent.
The average worker, who earns $200 a week, will, as a result of the increased taxes levied in the Budget, pay an additional $1.80 a week for petrol, $2 a week for beer and cigarettes, and $ 1.50 a week for clothing and footwear. If he is buying his own home, as all working people are endeavouring to do today, he will suffer, because no longer will there be a rebate on interest payments, an additional burden of $3.50 a week. As I noted earlier, the increased taxation on his income will amount to $3.20 a week. To look at it in another way he will, because of the Budget, be taking home $ 1 2 less in his pay packet. However, he will be accorded some relief. As a result of the Fraser Government’s repudiating an election promise not to interfere with Medibank and its proceeding to dismantle it, he will save the $2 a week levy. Thus the average worker, who receives $200 a week, will be taking home in his pay packet $10 a week less than he would have if the Budget had not been introduced.
To look at his situation in yet another way, if we multiply his loss by 52, we find that this Government has cheated him of the equivalent of three weeks annual leave payment. That is what it boils down to. The Government has taken from the average worker the equivalent of three weeks annual leave with pay. Medibank, of course, has been dismantled. Not only has the worker been hit but his relatives have also been hit. People over 70 years of age will not qualify for increases in pensions unless they can meet an income test.
– The people who built the nation.
– That is right. Unless they can meet an income test they will be denied any increases in their pensions. What about the person on unemployment benefit? If he has no dependants he will not receive any increases either. The child care and pre-school allocations have been smashed to smithereens. The maternity allowances have been cancelled. It is true that as a result of a second thought by the Government the family allowances have been reconsidered but it cannot be denied by the Government that in its original Budget Speech the newsboy who was selling newspapers or the kids who were running messages and perhaps earning a few dollars a week had to fill in an income statement. Depending on the amount of money they earned by running messages or selling newspapers their mothers’ family allowances would have been reduced accordingly. It is true that the Government had a second thought on this matter but that was only due to the pressure of the Opposition and the Government members who have been left with some spark of humanitarianism.
What about the increases in pensions? Instead of pensions being increased half-yearly they will now be increased yearly. This is another attack on those people who are less able to meet it. As if the Government had not been spiteful enough against the workers- someone said that this is a Budget of revenge- 100 per cent of accrued annual leave or long service leave will be taxed in the future instead of five per cent. I am an old railway man as are my colleagues, Senator Bishop and Senator Mulvihill- the salt of the earth. There were many occasions when due to the administration of the department railwaymen were not allowed to take their annual leave on account of staff shortages or some other consideration that arose unexpectedly. These men had to forgo their annual leave. Now this greedy Government says that these people who through no fault of their own have accrued annual leave will be taxed on 100 per cent of that leave in future instead of five per cent.
I make an earnest and sincere appeal to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) who is in the chamber to use her persuasion in the party room. I think that her Government should consider exempting annual leave from that taxation provision. In most instances the leave has been accrued through no fault of the individual but through the requirements of the department. I have had letters from railway departmental heads. For the sake of security I will not say from which State they have come. These people have written to me personally knowing that in my early career I was a railway man. I know that they expect me to use whatever persuasion I have in this chamber to see whether some redress can be given or some correction made to that part of the legislation.
I said earlier that the Budget is an unfair and dishonest Budget. I know that they are strong words to describe a Budget. I said that I would produce facts to support my claims. I believe that I have already given enough instances of where the Budget is unfair and discriminatory against the poor, the sick, the elderly and the great majority of our families. Why do I say that it is dishonest? Well you may ask me that question. I say that it is dishonest because an examination of the Budget Papers clearly discloses that in many instances the Government has underestimated expenditure and has overestimated receipts. In the limited time at my disposal this evening I shall give a few brief examples. One is that in the Budget Papers unemployment benefit payments for 1978-79 are based on the 1977-78 figures when unemployment was running at 265,000 people on average a month. Yet the Treasurer, Mr Howard, two days after delivering his Budget Speech, speaking to the National Press Club said that he believed that unemployment would average about 290,000 people a month. Accepting the Treasurer’s figures that is an increase of 25,000 a month. If we multiply that figure by 12 and then multiply it by the amount of unemployment benefit payment we will see that there has been a serious underestimation in expenditure. But, of course, the Treasurer was very generous in saying that unemployment will average only 290,000 people a month.
We know from all the statistical information available to us that at the moment 400,000 people in the community are unemployed. Three hundred thousand people are registered on the dole. We know that another 250,000 people have dropped out of the work force because jobs are not there for them. One does not have to be an Einstein or a Rhodes scholar to know that with Christmas approaching a further 225,000 children will finish school without jobs. I know that some of the more intelligent people on the Government side will say that that is an exaggerated figure. It is not an exaggerated figure because children who should have left school two years ago or last year went back to school. They cannot go back any more and they are now leaving. What on earth are we going to do about these young people?
One of the saddest things about this country today is the number of decent young people who want and are prepared to work but are denied the opportunity to work. It is a very serious situation and I wish that this Government would accept the call of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Bob Hawke, for a conference on a non-party political basis so that we can get together to see what can be done for these unfortunate young people. The situation is as serious as it was in 1939 when we were talking about war councils and civil construction corporations. It is incumbent upon the Government to do something practical, and quickly, for these unfortunate young people. It was to the credit of the Whitlam Labor Government that it tackled this problem- one of the foremost tasks that confronted it- although now, I am very sorry to say, the sad story is getting sadder every day for these young people and for the Government.
There are many things that I could talk about in relation to this Budget but I hope that if I have made any pertinent point, it has been to impress upon the Government that it should do something urgently and seriously to relieve the plight of these young people who are looking for work but cannot get it. In December the Government will be confronted with another quarter of a million young people being thrown onto the unemployment market but at Question Time in this chamber one would think that everything was rosy with the Government, that everything was going according to plan and that inflation was well in hand. There seems to be no regard for unemployment but, it would appear, inflation is in hand. We are reining in the economy, holding down expenditure, stimulating the private sector and holding down the deficit. A document which all honourable senators receive was placed on my table today. It is the Niemeyer statement for August, and it shows that whilst the Budget estimate for the deficit is $2,8 12m, for the month of August alone the deficit was $5 13m. The punch line is that the deficit already for the first two months of this fiscal year is $ 1,494m, more than 50 per cent of the projected estimate for the whole of the year. Only two months have passed and already the deficit is more than 50 per cent of what we were told in the Budget Speech it would be for the entire year. Receipts are the same except that in respect of company taxation there is an increase of $5 98m, but that is explained away because this Government eliminated the quarterly payment of company tax and then reintroduced it in such a way that it is now conveniently showing up in these figures.
I will leave that matter and get on to the more important figure, the outlays. We were assured on 15 August that the Government knew what it was about and that the outlays would be contained at 7.1 per cent. Only two months have passed since the Budget was presented and on the Government’s own figures the outlays for the two months to 31 August 1978 total $4,999mnearly $5 billion- an increase of 13 per cent over the outlays for the two months to 31 August 1977. I will repeat those figures for the Minister for Social Security because I know that she will be keen to get the advice of her advisers on this matter. In the Niemeyer paper, for the two months to 3 1 August 1978 -
– Why do you call it the Niemeyer paper?
– It is a paper that was tabled in this Parliament following the Great Depression of 1932-33. Stanley Melbourne Bruce felt that we did not have the brains in this country to get ourselves out of our difficulties and invited help from the authorities in England who sent out a man from the Bank of England, Sir Otto Niemeyer. The only thing that he told the Australian people to do was to tighten their belts and cut down. However, one good thing came out of it. He said ‘You should give a profit and loss account each month’, and that has occurred ever since 1932. The practice has not altered. The Niemeyer paper shows that the outlays, without getting too technical or statistical, are running at 13 per cent higher than last year instead of the Budget estimate of 7.1 per cent. In conclusion, despite all the things I have said this evening, I wonder whether we should ask ourselves why we were not told about all these restraints in the Fraser policy speech in 1 977.
– Tonight we heard another excellent maiden speech, this time by Senator Puplick. During the course of the Budget debate we have heard quite a few honourable senators making their maiden speeches. Many of them have been oustanding speeches and it augurs well for this place as a debating chamber. Many honourable senators on both sides who showed so much ability when making their maiden speeches no doubt will make great contributions to both this chamber and the Parliament. I extend to all those honourable senators my warmest congratulations and wish them the very best while they are parliamentarians in this august Senate chamber.
Much has been said about the Budget and we have just listened to another speech about it. It is the Opposition’s right to criticise but, apart from making one or two comments, I do not intend to deal in any detail with the Budget. When the Government came to power it made it clear to the people that it would set about doing two major things: Reduce the rate of inflation and overcome the great deficit- both things we inherited from the Whitlam Government. Today the inflation rate has come down but, more than this, there are encouraging signs. We were paid a compliment by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which stated that the average inflation rate for the OECD countries is 8.8 per cent but that the inflation rate in Australia now is down to 7.9 per cent. As the OECD said, Australia is showing the way to many countries. This is most encouraging. There has been an upturn in overseas investment in Australia and an upturn in investment in industry and business generally in this country.
We have one tragedy and that is unemployment. I sympathise with those people who are unfortunate enough to be amongst those who are unemployed. I express my concern and hope that the third area of disease- inflation was the first, the deficit was the second and unemployment is the third- will soon show a turn for the better. One would anticipate that the fiscal policies adopted by this Government will eventually lead to this end.
The other comment I, as a senator from South Australia, wish to pass on the Budget, relates to my concern at the Government’s action in increasing the excise on brandy by some 83 per cent. I was very concerned to learn of this increase because I appreciate very much that some 35,000 people in the Riverlands area of my State of South Australia will be affected in many ways. There is no doubt that brandy sales will be reduced. The wine industry and the grape industry should have been encouraged to achieve increased consumption rather than decreased consumption. I say that because of the plight of the wine industry in Australia generally and in South Australia in particular at the present time. One could go on and talk about the many problems facing this industry. Some of the problems of the wine industry have been self-inflicted but other impositions do not help overcome them. I hope that the Government will give some consideration to the position of the brandy producers in this country.
Having made those comments I wish to refer to another Budget that was presented to a parliament last week- the Budget brought down by the South Austraiian Government. That Budget was brought down by a government in a State which is facing economic recession at the present time.
It is recession which, quite frankly, to a great extent is self-inflicted as a result of the policies of the South Australian Government and the spending of that Government over a number of years. One could summarise the position by saying that in the last few years it has whittled away its heritage.
Until the 1930s South Australia was primarily a rurally oriented State. Its economy depended mainly on agriculture. We in South Australia lagged very much behind the eastern States in regard to industrial development and industrial technology. Part of South Australia’s great problem was based upon the inadequacy of the supply of both electricity and water. South Australia is a very dry State. In the 1940s things changed dramatically when a man called Tom Playford became the Premier of South Australia. Sir Thomas Playford, as he is now known, has since retired from politics. He could be described as a man of vision, great integrity and total dedication. He had direction and purpose in everything that he did. Without doubt he will go down in history as one of the political greats of this country.
It was under Playford ‘s leadership that dramatic changes in production and the economic structure in South Australia took place. It was during the Playford era- an era which spanned some 26 years, from 1938 to 1965- that we saw great industrial development take place in South Australia. In this period there was an increase in almost 200 per cent in the number of factories- in fact, an increase from 2,025 to 5,887- together with an increase of 175 per cent in secondary industry employment. I emphasise that South Australia, having changed from an agriculturally oriented State to a secondary industry State, achieved a 1 75 per cent increase in industrial employment. Employment increased from approximately 42,000 to some 116,000 people. Playford primarily was responsible for all of this.
We saw also the introduction of Leigh Creek coal to South Australia. This in itself was a very courageous move because during this period South Australia was dependent upon supplies of coal from the eastern States, particularly from New South Wales. In the early post-war years, when there was industrial strife in the coal fields of New South Wales, South Australia ran into great problems because of the shortage of coal supplies, as did other States in Australia. So, Sir Thomas Playford did two things. Firstly, he set to work to develop the Leigh Creek brown coal fields in South Australia in order to give our State independence in regard to electricity. Secondly, in the short term, he introduced a system of staggered hours for industry. Rather than have people put off and stood down from their employment because of the shortage of power and the crises that came during that period as a result of the shortage of coal in South Australia- the same situation faced the other States- staggered hours were introduced in South Australia. That was the pattern followed by other States during this critical period.
On top of all this he did much more to encourage industry in South Australia. He reduced taxes, cut government charges and, above all, he preserved harmonious industrial relations with industry generally. Statistics show that during this period time lost in industrial disputes in South Australia was less than one-tenth of the average for Australia. With this industrial expansion, which was accelerating rapidly, it became apparent to industry generally that it could produce goods in South Australia on a basis which was more than comparative with other States. Hence,- we had new industries come to South Australia, not only from within Australia but also from the United Kingdom, the United States of America and other countries. I shall just mention for the record a few of these large companies that came to South Australia: Stewarts and Lloyds (Australia) Pty Ltd, Davies, Coop and Co. Ltd, the Philips electrical company, which transferred from New South Wales to South Australia, and Chrysler Australia Ltd, which set up the whole of its motor industry in the State of South Australia.
In addition, a number of local industries within South Australia expanded. I refer to such industries as Simpson Pope Ltd, which is still a big industry today, Hills Industries Ltd and Kelvinator Australia Ltd. So, South Australia finished up with a more broadly based and soundly based economy. Our population soared also. It increased from a population of some 600,000 people in 1938 to more than a million. We saw great increases in so many ways. The number of houses constructed doubled during this period.
Quite frankly, during this period the progress in South Australia became the envy of the Commonwealth. New cities were established. Elizabeth, situated within about 20 miles of Adelaide, was established as a new industrial city. We saw Salisbury, which was a rural town near Elizabeth, suddenly expand. Today Salisbury is quite a city in itself. All of this was due to the industrial expansion that took place in South Australia.
I want to refer again to the balanced economy which I mentioned earlier. The Premier of South Australia, Mr Playford, as he then was, and his Government did not overlook the rural sector of South Australia. Farms throughout the State were supplied with 240 volt power over a great number of years. Cheap power was provided in rural areas. Other forms of encouragement were given to rural industry. In the area of transportation, better roads were provided. Just to mention one area of primary production, South Australia went from an annual production of some 3.3 million bushels per annum in 1938 to some 4,632.7 million bushels in 1965, an increase of over 1,400 per cent. Let me make it clear that whilst there was emphasis upon the industrial development of South Australia and the economic stability of the State, all sectors of the community were taken into that area of development and encouraged to expand and increase their production.
On top of all this the South Australian Government provided incentives. These were accompanied by cheaper industrial costs and thus there was a cumulative effect. Therefore, industry kept being attracted to the State of South Australia. South Australia was no longer a rural based State; rather it was a State with a well balanced and sound economy. Unfortunately, in the last few years the scene has changed considerably.
Costs and taxes in South Australia have increased. We have now lost to the other States, particularly the eastern States, the cost advantage that we had for so long. Not only are many new industries not coming to South Australia but also some industries have left the State. In preference to expanding in South Australia, South Australian based industries are today expanding their subsidiaries or off-shoots in another State. I give as an example the situation concerning air conditioning firms. From discussions I have learned that some 18 firms that were engaged in manufacturing and contracting in the air conditioning field in South Australia have either ceased their operations or moved interstate. One could give many more examples.
The industrial sector has decreased in size in recent years with a consequent fall in industrial employment. As I said earlier, unemployment in this country is a great and grave problem but unemployment is an even greater problem in South Australia than it is in any other State. I refer to figures that give an indication of the proportion of unemployment among the work force in South Australia and Victoria. The figure for South
Australia is 7.34 per cent and the figure for Victoria, South Australia’s near neighbour, is only 5.78 per cent. I say ‘only’ because I am speaking on a comparative basis. I am not happy with either of those figures. I hope that there will be an upturn in the employment situation. But the figures show clearly that South Australia has the greatest problem of any State in regard to unemployment.
Whilst there has been a downturn in industrial employment generally in South Australia there has been a great upturn in the number of people who have been taken into the Public Service, which is an entirely different situation. Here we find that the numbers are increasing at what can only be described as an alarming rate. Today in South Australia there are over 130 departments within departments, if I can put it that way. Figures show that from June 1971 to April 1978, South Australia had the greatest percentage increase in the number of State government employees of any State in Australia- a rise of 47.8 per cent. This was during a time when governments were saying that we should start to ease off and put ceilings on the numbers in the Public Service. This is something that most States in Australia have done but it has been totally ignored in South Australia. In 1978, South Australia had a greater percentage of employees working for the State government than any of the mainland States in Australia- in fact some 26.2 per cent. In the period between 1971 and 1978 South Australia had a greater percentage rise- I emphasise, a greater percentage rise- in the proportion of employees working for the State Government than any of the other States, being a rise of some 33 per cent. In 1978, South Australia has proportionally the biggest number of State government employees compared with private sector employees of any mainland State. In fact, it has some 40 State government employees for every 100 private employees.
The figures compiled in a review by the Bank of New South Wales show that three in every 10 people in the work force in South Australia are employed either by the South Australian Government or within local government and that nearly half of the total South Australian Budget for 1977-78 went on salaries for government employees- some $530m out of a total Budget of $l,100m-odd. As a result of this empire building of what one could describe as a non-productive bureaucracy we find higher government charges and taxes. Since Mr Dunstan came to power State taxes have increased by over 400 per cent. The total State tax in dollars per head of population in 1976-77 was 5 per cent higher than in any other State. So honourable senators can see what I mean when I say that the cost advantages of South Australia have been gradually whittled away until it is now finding itself in a situation of disadvantage.
Over the last four years costs have risen dramatically. Electricity charges have risen by something like 1 1 per cent per annum. With regard to electricity, I shall refer to an article in the Adelaide Advertiser. Incidentally, the State Government saw fit to introduce a 37i3-hour working week for the Electricity Trust of South Australia. It was stated that this would not lead to any real increase in power costs. But in the recent South Australian Budget there was a 10 per cent increase in charges. It was the second within 14 months. The newspaper article questions how much of this increased charge is due to the fact that the 37^-hour working week is being introduced into the power supply system in South Australia. We can see what is happening with socialisation through the doctrinaire policies of the South Australian Government. As I said earlier, our heritage is being whittled away by maladministration, if I might put it that way.
Water charges have gone up by 100 per cent in the last four years. On top of this water quotas have been reduced. So there has been an increase of more than 100 per cent because people have to pay for excess water usage after a lower level of usage. There has also been a rise in vehicle and road taxes. In this regard South Australia again comes out as the dearest State in Australia. If we look at the figures about road cost outlays in dollars per head of population for 1976-77 we find that in South Australia the figure was up to $53.50. The closest figure to that is the figure for Victoria of $50.53. The figure for Queensland was $37.98. Again, transport costs are up. We know what effect transport costs have on costs within industry and within the community. One could go on about that.
I turn to what has happened in respect to housing in South Australia. We hear a great deal from the Opposition about housing. What is the position? Whilst members of the Australian Labor Party in this place stand up and express grave concern about the cost of housing to the young people of this country, South Australia leads the field in housing costs. In this regard I quote from the Housing Industry Association’s paper of April 1 978. It states:
South Australia suffered the highest percentage increases of any State or territory in Australia in the cost of finance, land and the home itself from 1971 to 1977. The cost of finance had risen 322.7 per cent, land by 233.3 per cent and homes by 160.8 percent.
Let us look now at a breakdown on a square metre basis. Over the 1972-77 period the cost per square metre for a home in Western Australia went up by 76 per cent and in South Australia, believe it or not, the cost has gone up by some 123 per cent. We have heard the Opposition talking about and expressing concern for the increased costs and prices of homes for young people. How does it feel about the young people in South Australia? As I said, the price of land in South Australia in the years 1971 to 1977 rose some 233 per cent. The total cost of land and house has gone up by 174 per cent. In Western Australia over that period the cost of land has gone up 4 1 per cent and the cost of houses and land has gone up 81 per cent. Honourable senators opposite should compare the increase in the cost of house and land in Western Australia with the increase in South Australia of 1 74 per cent.
This is the reason why tonight I am standing in this place and referring to another Budget that has been introduced into a parliament in recent times- the Budget of the Government of South Australia. Unfortunately the State is facing great economic problems- I emphasise ‘great economic problems’. Industry is tending to leave our State. Industry is concerned. It is frightened of what the Government will do next. We have seen what the Government has done over a period. I have mentioned all of the costs. The South Australian Government has proposed such things as worker participation. It has introduced and doubled payroll tax. It has brought in other laws including laws for the provision of credit. One could go on. Instead of seeing an expansion of industry in South Australia we are seeing an exodus of industry.
– When are you shifting out?
-We will change the Government, senator. The State is all right; the Administration is wrong. Nothing is wrong with our State. Tom Playford proved that. All that I have referred to has happened since Playford gave up and Dunstan came to power. He is undertaking a slow Whitlam exercise and the people of South Australia have not had a chance to wake up until now and to see what it is all about. If the honourable senator does not believe me I refer him to an article in the Australian Financial Review of 19 April this year. The article is headed: ‘Spartans are at Adelaide’s walls’. It starts:
Don Dunstan seems to think he can get by with making South Australia the cultural centre of Australia. But poetry readings and festivals aren’t going to get us out of our current problems ‘.
The speaker was one of the industrial people of South Australia.
The article continues:
Two events earlier this month publicly signalled the revisionist mood which is seeping into the attitudes of South Australia ‘s administrators.
The article then referred to land price controls. I have already cited the escalation of land prices in South Australia where land has been under Government control- socialism. The article continues:
One was the announcement that land price controls, imposed in November 1973 at the height of populist furore over land speculation, were to be dropped.
The second, a day later, was the disclosure that plans for implementation of industrial democracy in South Australia were to be quietly shelved.
South Australia was again to be the pace setter of Australia with ‘the new way’- if I can put it that way- but the tragedy was that unfortunately many of the industrialists of South Australia decided that they would go their own way. There was an exodus across the borders of South Australia into areas in which they had far more confidence in the government and knew that they would not be caught up by the socialist disease. I repeat again that bureaucracy was the popular movement and profit was a dirty word. I quote now from the Advertiser of ‘29 April 1976. Under the heading ‘Yugoslav model for South Australia worker participation’ the paper reports:
South Australia’s Industrial Democracy Unit will draw up worker participation plans based on experience with “workers councils” ‘.
– What is wrong with that?
- Senator Cavanagh says that that is all right. He should wait to hear what the people of South Australia have to say. He already knows what the industrialists in South Australia are saying and what the workers are saying. The article says that the Premier, after looking at worker participation and industrial self-management programs in Yugoslavia and Austria, chose Yugoslavia. That is not socialist. I refer now to an article in the Melbourne Age of 17 May 1978 headed: ‘Dunstan democracy scares workers’. The article states:
We have to control our destiny. Unless that happens we will be screwed by the system and all the comfortable reforms of the Dunstan Government will be to no avail ‘.
If Dunstan continues to frighten industry with talk of industrial democracy and worker control then I won ‘t be able to find a job if I’m next off ‘ at this place ‘.
– Who is the author?
– The article continues:
Comments from two Chrysler workers who survived round one of the latest sackings at Chrysler’s South Australian plant last Friday.
The article is dated 17 May 1978. If Senator Cavanagh is not happy I am quite prepared to incorporate this article. I seek leave for it to be incorporated in Hansard. If it is incorporated Senator Cavanagh will be able to ascertain the author and get his own cuttings from the library.
Leave not granted.
- Senator Cavanagh does not want the document incorporated. The truth hurts. Like many South Australians I have been concerned for a long time. Today the Press and the people generally are expressing their concern. Tragically, industry is expressing its concern in a real way. Industry today has cut back because of the lack of confidence in South Australia. In fact, industry will not have confidence in South Australia and there will not be an upturn in South Australia while we have a government like the Dunstan Government in charge. For so long Mr Dunstan has done so many things and now, because we are nearing another election perhaps in 1980 or 1981, he is starting to back away a little from industrial democracy and so many other things. But the people know that if the Dunstan Government is elected for another three years we will see industrial democracy. Industry knows these things, and that is why I repeat that South Australia will not progress again while we have a capital D as the leader of the Government in our State. It is time for change in South Australia. Industry and the populace itself can certainly make sure, when they get the opportunity, that that happens.
– I say at the outset that I have thoroughly enjoyed my short time in the Senate. It is different from the other place. Many more courtesies both to personalities and to intellect are observed. I am trying to observe them. One of the courtesies to intellect is that speakers here do not just read a prepared speech. They like to comment on the speech that immediately precedes theirs. I regret very much that I cannot do so this evening although I listened attentively to my friend Senator Young. I would have thought that about the last thing that this Parliament and the country needed at the moment, with the country in its present depressed condition would be half an hour of political point scoring, which is all that Senator Young has treated the Senate to. I say that with great respect.
Senator Young eulogised former Premier Playford. I am not aware, notwithstanding his virtues, that he was an altogether painted saint. As I understand it he showed himself to be one of the great enemies of true democracy in this country by carrying out the most outrageous gerrymander that any Premier or leader of a State has done in the history of this nation. Senator Young then denigrated totally the present Premier who again is no painted saint. One would have thought that that kind of point scoring was not to be found appropriate in a debate such as this, because this is an important debate. It is important because the Budget Papers which we are discussing affect more than 13 million Australian people in one way or another. Therefore, by definition of that very fact alone, there is not one citizen who escapes the thrust of these Budget Papers.
The debate is important. The vote is not important; the vote is a mockery. I shall say something about that later. This Budget will pass; there is no question about that. Every honourable senator on the Government side will walk into the chamber when the division bells ring and mechanically vote that the Budget be passed- not that they have been allowed to discuss it. Discussion was forbidden in the party room. I put forward one hypothetical, philosophical point perhaps for the bemusement of those listening to this debate. I do not have the slightest doubt that if this chamber could take a free vote and a secret vote on the Budget- God forbid that we ever accept the strong lobbying at present that parliamentarians ought to take a secret vote on issues- and if the vote were not along party lines these Budget Papers would not be passed in their present form.
After saying that the Budget Papers which we are debating are important, let me say in another sense that I think that we the politicians, we the Australian people, attach too much importance to Budget Papers. The Australian Democrats believe that yearly budgets are a disaster and that they are the very last thing that an economy and a society trying to look ahead to the problems that face us and the world need. It would be bad enough if once every 12 months on the second Tuesday in August there was a savage change in the direction of the economy of society. Unhappily, in recent years that is what has happened. Goodness knows how that leaves the small businessman and the consumer who want to plan ahead so that they can organise their affairs in a more orderly way.
In more recent years- I have noticed this since the retirement of Sir Robert Menzies- we do not have just an announcement on 15 August each year; we have a gradual lead-up for three to four months with calculated leaks and warnings about what the Budget will contain. So virtually between the months of June and August in latter years we have had this period of indecision in which people do not know where they are going. I am not talking only about the disgraceful leaks that come from Ministers’ offices or Public Service offices. They seem to be getting worse. I will be happy if some honourable senator will correct me if I am wrong, but I think the present Budget took the prize from any other Budget in the nation’s history. I believe that there was not a significant item in it that was not leaked to the Press before the Budget Speech was delivered on the second Tuesday in August. The leaking- or hinting, to put a more respectable name on itabout which I am talking comes from the Prime Minister himself, the Treasurer himself and senior Ministers. There seems to be a softening up process to prepare people for something tough. An even more sinister technique is to let some kite fly which frightens the hell out of everybody and later deny it and so take the heat off the actual nastiness of the items themselves. To quote a rather famous Australian’s words, I would have thought that Sir Robert Menzies would have found that sort of conduct most reprehensible.
The Victorian Employers Federation has described this one-year Budget as a ridiculous annual Budget fiasco. The Australian Democrats agree with the Victorian Employers Federation. We should look at the Canadian system. At least the Canadian Government gives an indication of what it plans for three years ahead so that everybody in the country- trade unions, consumers, workers and employers- can at least have some idea where they are going in the following three years with only moderate alterations each year. But the Democrats believe that this does not go far enough. Although the Canadian system eliminates savage changes in direction, it does not eliminate them altogether. The Australian Democrats disagree with this system and we put forward two fundamental concepts. We believe that the social and economic problems of Australia and the problems of the world cannot be solved unless there is long term indicative planning by the people who govern this country and others. We believe that unless we have indicative planning in terms of economic policies, social policies and human policies we will never solve the enormous problems ahead. We have recommended and are recommending nothing short of a permanent committee on which is represented all political parties, trade unions, employers and public servants. We recommend that all these groups should get together so they can do at least three things urgently: firstly, obtain suggestions on how to solve the most pressing problem that faces Australia today, youth unemployment; secondly, create economic and social models for the 1980s so that we know where we are going; and thirdly, receive advice from those people who regard themselves as expert- and I am now referring not only to academics in government departments or in universities but also to people outside in the heat of the kitchen- to tell us where we are going, what our problems will be and what sort of problems these economic models will create. Unless we do that sort of thing I do not believe that any of the problems are capable of solution.
What confounds me is why the Liberal Party rejects long term indicative planning. I think the very word ‘planning’ strikes an emotive chord in every Liberal breast because ‘planning’ is a word that is sometimes used by the hated socialists and therefore anything that a socialist says must necessarily be bad to a member of the conservative party opposite. I think that is an absurd posture to take. The irony is that the Liberals are the so-called self-appointed champions of private business. I ask them whether they can tell me one private businessman- small, medium or largewho will survive for five minutes unless he or she plans five or ten years ahead. Yet from a Liberal Government we have this ad hockery of changing direction once every 12 months at Budget time.
We say that the problems ahead for both Australia and the world are so big that the present systems cannot cope. There has to be a quantum leap forward in the thinking of all Australians, politicians and non-politicians, for us to cope with the problems of the advances of technology, the inequality of education, the Aboriginal problems and the surplus of teachers. If we want an example of how weak politicians have allowed strong empire-building bureaucrats to cause social and human havoc in this country let us look at what politicians of all persuasions have done to young people in the teaching profession. I know that to establish models or prognoses for the future any form of forecasting is rather difficult, but I would have thought that anyone would not need to be a genius to be able to predict roughly the number of teachers that would be needed for a certain number of children three years ahead, birth rates and attrition rates being known. I am informed that at present 4,000 teachers are unemployed in New South Wales and 1,500 in Queensland. By February 3,000 young people who have dedicated three years of their lives to becoming teachers will be unemployed. I am further informed that two out of three of those who graduate from the teaching colleges of this country this year will be unable to find teaching positions. Yet we still have illiteracy and innumeracy with something like 25 per cent of children of 14 years of age. Those are not my figures; those are the figures put to the House of Representatives Select Committee on Special Learning Difficulties. Yet we do nothing about the problem. The point the Democrats are making is that unless we have long term planning to remove party politics and point scoring from this sort of arrangement we will never solve those sorts of problems.
We believe that in Australia other events have to happen. There has to be a reform of the parliamentary political system. I compliment Senator Hamer on one of the best speeches I have heard in many years in his contribution to this debate the other night. We believe that no hope remains for Australia to solve its problems if all power remains in the Executive. We who sit here as senators should not kid ourselves. Not one honourable senator in this chamber now- I include the Attorney-General (Senator Durack)has any power whatsoever over decisions relating to Bills and other matters that come into this chamber. We stand here, we make powerful speeches. Some honourable senators other than me make eloquent speeches. But it does not matter a damn to the legislation we are debating. It will pass by the sheer weight of numbers. With the kind of talent we have in this chamber alone, I would have thought that Australia needed the contribution of every honourable senator. But when the Parliament is a total rubber stamp to the Executive that position cannot obtain. We cannot solve problems if we persist with such a system.
I support Senator Hamer in his suggestion that ministerial portfolios should be removed from this chamber. I believe that that would be a progressive step. I believe that we ought to appoint chairmen of committees. I would have thought that the chairman of a Congressional committee under the system in the United States of America has far more clout, far more authority, far more prestige and far more influence over decisions than a junior Minister has under the Australian Westminster style of government. I hope that someone will take up that suggestion. I would go further. I believe that we have reached the stage where a government under our system should not have to rely on the galaxy of talent that is thrown up by the electoral system from which to choose its Ministers. I know that I am talking about five or ten years hence, but I believe that we ought to be looking at a system under which the government of this country can recruit specialists from outside the Parliament to become Ministers. I would like to see our Constitution changed to enable Ministers to be selected from outside the Parliament. Maybe then there would be a brake on the bureaucracy. Too many Ministers are the servants of their departments. I am not suggesting that public servants are inefficient. What I am saying is that the fount of all wisdom does not rest with them. I believe that we would get better people in government and better people in this Parliament if members of the House of Representatives or the Senate knew that serving on a back bench committee or a House of Representatives or Senate committee was of some real use and that through those committees they could have some effect on systems.
Today I was appalled- I am amazed that this matter has not been raised in this place- to get from the office of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) an innocent document, printed on Government letterhead, outlining guidelines for the behaviour of public servants before committees. It virtually contains instructions for we members of parliament to act like children. We cannot ask public servants certain questions. The restrictions on us, as democratically elected people, in seeking information from Ministers and public servants are so finite as to make work on a committee almost useless. I would like to see us move to consider my suggestion at some stage.
The third change we advocate is to involve more people in the decision making process. One of my main criticisms of the Fraser Government and in particular of this Budget is that the Government seems to be moving more and more away from involving people. It is rather ironical that for years the conservative parties have accused the Australian Labor Party of being socialist, centralist and autocratic. Yet, as I said publicly when I was a shadow Minister in the other place, some of the innovations introduced by the Labor Party were exciting, progressive and led to the involvement of people.
I would like to know what involved people more than the Australian Assistance Plan. It covered women’s refuges, child care centresone could go on- and involved people in the community in looking after young children, with the Government topping up only one- fifth of the cost. Under the AAP literally thousands of people were giving hours of time in an honorary capacity and saving the Government millions of dollars. All of those programs have been dismantled or so savaged as not to be recognisable.
It worries me that this Government is going in the opposite direction under the guise of federalism. More and more power is being placed in the hands of ‘big brother’ and the ordinary decent citizen out there who wants to make a contribution to his or her country is being denied that opportunity. That is bad for our social fabric. Professor Wooten, an Australian I admire very much, said:
The Australian electorate has not been doing its job. The dolce vita of the last 20 years in this lucky country has made too many of us forget that politics are far too important to be left to politicians.
If we are insensitive to injustice and greed but responsive to bread and circuses it is inevitable that we will be governed by clowns instead of statesmen.
In pleading for new directions I would like to illustrate that we cannot afford the luxury of hoping that the present systems, attitudes and philosophies will solve our future problems. In my view, the greatest crime we can commit, as senators, as members of parliament- no, as ordinary human beings- is, when we die, through acts of omission or commission to leave this world this country, the city in which we live, a poorer, less happy or less safe place for our children. I think that that sort of philosophy sometimes escapes all of us, particularly politicians. I congratulate Senator Puplick for making a most wonderful and refreshing speech in this House tonight. Through you, Madam Acting Deputy President, I say to Senator Puplick: Please, never let the sincere but rather cynical reponse of Senator McAuliffe turn you off being idealistic. This Parliament- this nation- needs more, not less, idealism. To put into context my claim that the problems of the world and of Australia in particular cannot be solved unless we have a totally different approach- a new system- I shall quote what was said by a man whose mind I admire probably more than the mind of anyone else in the world today. I refer to Arthur Koestler, who presented a very pessimistic view of the future. He gives ten reasons for his pessimism. They are:
This, from the man with probably the greatest mind in the world today, frightens the hell out of me:
What we are saying is that unless we look in a global sense at satellites, at Concorde, at uranium, at whatever new inventions the technologists give us, we will have perpetrated the greatest crime on our children by leaving this an unhappy place, a less safe place, for them- or perhaps leave no place at all. I say again to Senator Puplick that if ever he makes statements like that and someone says: ‘It will not work; you are an idealist and idealism will not work’, do not accept it. Where would the problems of the Middle East be today if two men of good will, two idealists, had not stood up and said: ‘We will stop fighting. It will get us nowhere. We will talk.’ Where would they be if another man of good will had not joined them as the honest broker? Like many other senators, I have been to the Middle East many times. How many times have we been there in past years and heard people say that the problems are intractable, insoluble; that it will be Armageddon, the finish; that the only solution is total war? Yet this week has been a week of fresh air to those people who believe that there is still a place for good will and talk and discussion, for consultation rather than confrontation.
In Australia we have problems of the same dimensions as the ones mentioned by Koestler. In regard to unemployment of the young, 16 per cent of our children aged between 15 and 19 years are now unemployed. I refer in that context to the statement of Tony Street, a man of impeccable honesty, and, since learning that his statement was not referred to Cabinet, a man of great courage. To take extracts from his speech, he referred to the unemployment situation in these words: ‘It is a real danger to the fabric of our society’; ‘no sign of significant improvement’; ‘private employment jobs decreased last year by 48,000’; ‘a need to create 130,000 jobs a year to reduce unemployment to 4.5 per cent by 1983’; clearly unrealistic’; ‘the labour force to grow by 110,000 between now and 1985’. One million young people will come into the work force within the next seven or eight years and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has said that there is no way in which they will be able to be employed.
What is done in this Budget? The Government actually budgets for more unemployed to hit society. It is there in the figures. What the hell are we doing? We are betraying our children. There is not a responsible parent in the country who did not go to his children when they were young and say: ‘Do not leave school early. Sacrifice, study, do well, and society will reward you.’ Yet, as Professor Karmel has said, we are creating a two-class society. There are some responsible people who say that in the 1980s we will have one million unemployed. Yes, we have to cure inflation, but I am not persuaded by the obsessive logic of the academics and the Treasury who say that the only way to reduce inflation is to reduce the deficits. If they need any other evidence that that is a fallacy, a theory well-discredited over the last 10 years, let them look at last year’s Budget. We have heard from the other side of the House that the Government has brought down inflation. The Liberals say proudly: ‘We brought down inflation by 3 per cent to 4 per cent last year. ‘ I do not dispute that. They did, but during that year the deficit increased overBudget by $1.1 billion. The deficit increased by $1 billion or more, and yet the Government was able to bring down inflation. I should have thought that that in itself would be enough to nail the theory that the Government cannot increase the deficit and still bring down inflation.
The Democrats believe that inflation and unemployment can be tackled simultaneously. We want selective stimulation of industries and, as we have said before, we would select the home building industry. We believe that we have to come to our senses about the one million young people who are going to leave school in the new few years. Where are they going to get jobs? Where do the academics tell us they are going to get jobs? The academics in the Industries Assistance Commission and in the Treasury say that we cannot support inefficient and uneconomic industries. They never define what those industries are. I am not an obsessive high protectionist- in fact, I have been the opposite- but are they referring to rural industries? People in the country have been reduced from 40 per cent of our population to 8 per cent in less than 55 years. People are coming from the country to the city. It is not the rural industries to which they are referring. The mining industry, even if it booms, is capital intensive and not labour intensive. Are we going to absorb those people into the Public Service? God forbid. Are they going to be absorbed into the service industries? If so, which service industry? In my simplistic logic, there is only one thing left and that is manufacturing. I think it is time we realised that if we want to place young people in jobs we have to look after our manufacturing industry. If we want it to be viable, to export, we have to give it a home base, otherwise there is no way out of the dilemma.
In conclusion, as I said when I began, the present systems, the present ad hockery, the present point-scoring will not work. We need an on-going committee in which all political parties can participate, in which the trade unions, the workers, the consumers, the employers can get together and take evidence and find out what the solutions are to the problems ahead of us.
-Firstly, let me congratulate those honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches in the Senate since I last spoke. In particular, I refer to Senator Puplik, who made his maiden speech this evening, and to Senator Hamer and Senator Teague. We have heard some excellent maiden speeches on both sides of the chamber. This evening I want to devote my time in my speech on the Budget to the matters raised by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) in his speech in the House of Representatives last Thursday, 14 September. In the speech he opened up the subject of unemployment and said he hoped that the debate would take fire. I hope to make some contribution to that debate. I certainly do not claim to be an expert; I am not even an economist. However, the first point I make is that I recommend very serious study of the Minister’s speech to anyone who wishes to become involved in the debate. I think it is a prerequisite to the debate. I will have to presume that the people who involve themselves in the debate have read the speech, although I would like to repeat it in toto. It appears to me from what Mr Street said that the problem will be with us for a very long time regardless of what we may do. I will explain that statement in due course by referring to what has happened in the United States. To deal with the problem successfully we will need first of all to recognise that it is very complex and that, as a complex problem, it will require complex soultions, both short and long term. There is no simple answer. Until that is recognised much nonsense will be written and spoken on the subject. Further, the solutions may very well involve reconsideration of some principles, especially social principles, which many of us have held dear to our hearts as inviolable.
Unfortunately in consideration of this problem one must start with the causes. Because they relate to the years 1973 and 1974 they often drag down the debate to party rhetoric. I hope that I shall not speak party rhetoric and I hope that the Opposition will also take up the debate without getting involved in party rhetoric. Firstly, there are the historical reasons. Let me start off by admitting that, during 1973 apparently the then Government, under the leadership of Sir William McMahon, deliberately started to inflate the system. So when the Labor Party took over in December 1972 the economy was such that it might have been described as bubbling, which the Labor Government either failed to recognise or refused to acknowledge. Having said that, I hope that at least someone in the Opposition will have the courage to admit that a series of blunders occurred during 1973 and 1 974. They were: Support for a wages explosion; the 1973 revaluation; the tariff cut; support for the introduction of equal pay as soon as possible; and then the credit squeeze. Since then we have felt the effects of the world depression, which is currently described as the worst since the 1930s, but it would have to be acknowledged that the effects of that depression did not reach us until after 1975. Those factors were the causes of unemployment. I refer to them as the Australian historical reasons.
Why then has the level of unemployment increased under this Government? Firstly, I wish to acknowledge that the Government’s attack on inflation by a policy of contracting demand and restraining growth of the money supply has not assisted to create jobs. I frankly admit that these policies have in ways contributed to unemployment. I do not say that they are the major cause or even one of the major causes of unemployment but I admit that they have contributed. Nevertheless I support these policies. I believe further that the vast majority of Australians support them.
– No, they don’t.
– They certainly do. The vast majority of Australians support them because they recognise that the first step to economic recovery and ultimately to the solution of the unemployment problem must be the defeat of inflation. The Government’s policies in this area are demonstratably succeeding. We, and I believe most Australians, support them even though we, and I believe most Australians, recognise that they probably contribute to the unemployment problem. Having said that, I will move on. There are many other factors contributing to the unemployment problem. In my view they are more important factors.
Next must come structural change- changes in the demand for particular labour skills, changes in the pattern of international trade and domestic consumption, sharp increases in the prices of imported equipment and investment in labour-saving equipment, which I support. All of these changes are structural and they have and will continue to affect unemployment. Different types of skills are needed as the demand moves from manufacturing to service industries. Different retailing methods are being introduced and there is much automation with the introduction of computers.
These changes are inevitable. To try to prevent them is foolish. Strikes such as the recent Telecom employees strike would be funny if they were not so serious. I am reminded that the largest candle making company in the world at the turn of the century decided in its wisdom that it would ignore the new electric light business because it believed that most people recognised that electric lighting would be dangerous. Ultimately, of course, that company went broke. I wonder what jobs were saved as a result of that management decision to ignore the introduction of electric lighting. Further, I wonder how many people are now employed throughout the world in the electric light industry. That is the sort of structural change which takes place in an economy and which is irresistible.
Why are we not able to compete with the South Koreans in the ship building industry? Simply because our labour intensive methods are estimated to take a year to cut the amount of steel for a ship that the South Koreans are able to cut in one week with laser equipment. Our archaic methods in the shipbuilding industry have not in fact saved jobs. What has happened simply is that we have lost the industry. If” industries in a country such as Australia do not keep up with the best equipment in the world they will go out of business. That is a simple proposition which should be long remembered.
I have mentioned four of the causes of the present unemployment problem. They are the Australian historic causes of the early 1970s, the world recession which is now acknowledged to be the worst since the 1930s, government antiinflation policies and structural change. But these reasons are not sufficient to explain the growth and continuation of our present problem. There is a further major contributory factor. It is the excessive rise in real wages, which has been estimated to account for about 45 per cent- over 170,000 people- of the current unemployed. What has happened is that the burden on employers of real wages has far outstripped productivity. Between June 1973 and March 1978 average earnings have increased by almost 100 per cent. During the same period productivity rose by about 10 per cent. So the rate of increase in earnings outstripped the rate of increase in productivity ten to one. But that is not all. I have mentioned the burden of real wages to employers. Employers not only have to pay the wages of their staff but also have to cover holiday pay, together with a loading of 17V4 per cent, workers compensation and long service leave. On top of that they have to pay payroll tax. That is the total of the real wages burden on employers. Productivity simply has not risen sufficiently to meet that burden. The result is as inevitable as it is obvious. I believe that it is demonstrably the major factor in the continued unemployment prblem
I think that I have now summarised the five major reasons for the current problem. There may be other reasons. I would welcome details of them because it seems to me that the reasons must be clearly recognised before we can turn to examining solutions, which I now propose to do. I certainly acknowledge that I do not have the solutions. All I can hope to do is to mention some of those which have been proposed and comment on them. I hope that in the long run the debate will clarify the solutions. Firstly, let me deal with the simple solution. The solution is not simply a matter of the Government spending more money. The Labor Government tried that in 1975 with disastrous results. If that simple solution is an option, why is unemployment a world-wide problem? The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has publicly acknowledged that it is not a solution, and if anyone intends to enter this debate with proposals which are based fundamentally on increased government expenditure I suggest that he not bother to do so.
Secondly, may I suggest that we ignore the socalled Hayden Budget as a political strategem and not a serious contribution to the debate. Mr
Tony Thomas, in the Age, dealt with it effectively when he said that it would involve the possibility of a balance of payments crisis, a severe cut in corporate investment and profitability, a 180- degree turn in the direction of monetary policy, forced rises in interest rates, significantly faster wage growth, and adverse effects on consumer confidence. But I suppose that we have to be fair to Mr Hayden and assume that he has not yet made his contribution to the debate on this aspect which was commenced last Thursday by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations.
I should like to pay tribute to two people. The first is the Minister. Much political hogwash has been expressed about his speech of last Thursday, but so far there has been no real attempt to examine it in detail. Comment has been made about only one statement in it. As I said before, I recommend the speech to all who are interested in the problem; it should be studied in detail. Secondly, I should like to pay a tribute to Mr P. P. McGuinness, the economics editor of the Australian Financial Review who, in my view, stands out like a beacon among Australia’s economic journalists. In particular, I pay tribute to his articles in the National Times; for example, his latest, the article for the week ending 23 September, headed, ‘It’s time to face up to the issue of wage levels’. Certainly, I do not agree with everything that he says, but in my view he lays bare many of the problems, and that in a manner that the layman can understand.
I should like to put to the Senate the simple proposition that a demand increased recovery would be aborted by rising real wages, or by accelerating inflation. By that I mean that if the Government tried to prime the economy, as some of the contributors to this debate would have us do, the strength of the unions is such, and the attitude of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is such, that wages would rise almost immediately with demand and we would again have galloping inflation. Quite frankly, I think that only those who have not given the problem any serious consideration would doubt what I have just said. For some time now, Mr McGuinness has been suggesting that a temporary reduction in real wages, perhaps by a temporary abandonment of indexation accompanied by some government measures of economic stimulus, might bring about an almost immediate substantial fall in unemployment. There may be considerable merit in that suggestion, and I believe that it warrants consideration by the Government.
On the other hand, the Minister has rightly drawn our attention to the American experience, to which I referred in my opening remarks tonight. In the United States, an increase in the number of jobs available has been seen to attract to the work force people who had not previously sought employment. The consequence has been that the unemployment figures have not fallen. For example, in the past year some four million new jobs were created but unemployment fell by only one and a half million. If that were to happen in Australia the consequence of the creation of new jobs might very well be that our unemployment figures would remain static.
I turn to major structural changes in the economy which are tending to reduce the rate of growth of demand for labour in fields which in the past were important for labour. I suggest that we must be careful not to interfere too much with these changes, or the problem simply will multiply and become impossible of solution. As I have explained, it is not possible to prevent these changes, quite the contrary. Many of them, especially those which ensure that Australia is up with the latest and the best in provision of equipment, should be encouraged. What needs to be done is to ensure that the changes occur with the least harm to individuals. In this respect we need job subsidies, temporary job creation and retraining schemes. I am concerned about the difficulties which adults have in becoming qualified tradesmen. I appreciate that the crafts guard jealously their apprenticeship qualification schemes, but they need to be careful, or they may be bypassed. Despite our unemployment problems, there is still a substantial shortage of skilled tradesmen. If the crafts do not allow qualification otherwise than through the apprenticeship system they may find that the community has found a way around them. This is put not as a threat but simply as a recognition of what happens.
In particular, I believe that there is a very bright future for the young skilled tradesman who has been educated to high school certificate level, or even beyond. Once the financial advantage of being a tradesman has been recognised, many will move into that field, and why not? They will make excellent tradesmen. No doubt they will find some way of becoming qualified, or some way of acting as a qualified tradesman. I have seen it happen before, in other industries.
I turn to two ancillary matters that, even though they are not major factors in the problem, are of considerable concern. The first relates to equal pay for equal work by juniors. I can see merit in some of the claims that are made in this regard. I can understand young men claiming that they are being exploited, but at least they have a job and are learning a skill and the question of exploitation is debatable. My concern is that, if they achieve equal pay for so-called equal work, they may find themselves unemployed. I am aware of an argument, on a statistical basis, that the proportion of unemployed juniors to total unemployed has not risen substantially beyond 40 per cent. Therefore, the changes in the wages of young people, relative to adult wages, can be only a minor factor in the problem of unemployed youth. On the other hand, I am aware of an argument by Professor Max Corden of the Australian National University that the high level of wages for juniors is a major cause of their being unemployed. Frankly, I like Professor Corden ‘s suggestion that the remedy may be the abolition of a minimum wage for juniors.
Next I refer to the growth in the employment of married women in the work force. I have no objection to married women working but believe that our policies should not actively encourage married women, especially if they have young children, to work at low wage rates. It is fair enough if married women can earn wages high enough to pay for child minding services and such. That might be acceptable, but I think it is wrong for government policies to encourage married women to go out to work at the bare minimum wage. It is bad enough for its effect on the unemployment problem, but is terrible for the children and must be creating psychological problems that, in due course, we will have to pay for.
Finally, I look at the excessive wage problem. It is now commonly accepted that any increase in real wages is made at the expense of employment, yet the Minister has pointed out that from December 1975 to December 1977 the minimum weekly wage rose by no less than $31. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission sees its role as one of settling disputes, so it settles union claims by granting something less than the amount claimed, but more than nothing. There can be no doubt that this is done at the cost of the unemployed who are, of course, not represented before the Commission. So the Commission, in effect, is looking after wage earners, and wage earners are looking after themselves, at the expense of the unemployed. Effectively, the unemployed are paying for wage indexation.
At the same time, the Government is attacking inflation by employing policies which do not create a surplus of jobs. So the unemployed are, in fact, copping it both ways. But worse, the Arbitration Commission has now taken upon itself the right to interfere in the Government’s fiscal measures to control inflation without affecting unemployment. By that I mean that when, for example, the Government imposes a tax, direct or indirect, the Commission tailors its indexation decision to alter the burden of that tax. In other words, it increases the award wage at the expense of more unemployed. The Commission is interfering quite deliberately in what the Government of this country is trying to achieve. I referred earlier to an article by Mr McGuinness in the National Times. He said:
The upshot of its actions in recent years is that the Arbitration Commission is increasingly like the High Court, setting itself up as an economic legislature, with power to make arbitrary and ill considered forays into economic policy making to defeat the intentions of Government policy. But the Commission is not elected, nor is it answerable either to the Government or the electorate. This is truly power without responsibility.
The Minister has put the wages problem in very simple terms. He said:
The basic choice now, from which there is no escaping, is between higher wages for those in jobs or work for those who are not.
It is clear that there will be a long period of adjustment during which the national approach to the unemployed needs to be improved. In August this year an estimated 332,800 people were unemployed and looking for full time work. Another 63,200 were unemployed and looking for part time work. Clearly, many people are genuinely seeking employment. They need to be treated fairly by the community, not subjected to criticism or called dole bludgers. They need proper facilities and help to ensure that the psychological and sociological costs of unemployment are minimised.
We also need to recognise that it may be of advantage that so many of the young unemployed travel our country and the world and find other tasks to interest them. Perhaps they use their artistic skills to make products which they sell in unusual markets, in unusual places, at unusual times. It may very well be that the community will have to come to terms with such people and recognise that they are not bad, just different. They may even be worthy of praise for their initiative.
– The best way I can commence my speech is by paying tribute to Senator Puplick for a very fine maiden speech. He defined conservatism, liberalism and socialism. Senator Lewis started to question the role of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. He is in a dilemma as to whether the Commission is subject to the Government’s whims. Senator Lewis referred to the Whitlam Government. Early in its term of office it courageously attempted to seek a mandate from the people to control wages and prices. Prominent ministers, including the present Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, ridiculed this proposal and said that this absolute power would corrupt.
Every time honourable senators on our side have criticised certain facets of the Budget which they regard as socially unjust the Government has said that such areas have to be subordinate to the promise of full employment. History does repeat itself. I shall come later to some of the structural changes which Senator Lewis mentioned. When tracing the history of Australia the term ‘the 1929 Depression’ is often used. Australia was in a depression virtually up to World War II. There was a glimmer of improvement despite the Premiers Plan which the Government has tried to revamp in the last couple of years. Regrettably, the only way that improvement came about was through the war clouds and re-armament. Re-armament meant that there was an injection of capital into the engineering and kindred industries. The result was that money was spent. After World War II there was a great era when the United Nations was formed. The United Nations Charter included the doctrine of full employment. This was significant.
People often talk about trade unions demands and the damage they have caused. In 1947 the working week was reduced from 44 hours to 40 hours. I do not think that anyone would deny all the technological changes that have occurred since 1947. People talk about tampering with the standard working week. I think Senator Puplick mentioned our fear of changes. I want to go to the core of the argument. The re-armament at the start of World War II resulted in extra spending which took up the slack. Senator Lewis has argued that once we get the inflation rate down we can look at other things. Senator Chipp asked whether the cost was too high. Whatever doubt there was, when the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, made his momentous speech last week it took away a lot of the myths. The fact is that we are faced with technological change. I do not know that the trade union movement has any systematic Luddite policy. Every time Mr Justice Moore and his colleagues lay down what the amount of wage indexation will be, that decision is based on price rises in the previous three months. That is why I keep saying that if the Labor Government had been given control of prices as well as wages- it would not have got one without the other- it might have got somewhere. But at that time the Liberal and National Country parties sacrificed national endeavour for cheap political gain.
Does the Government think that the Labor Party and the trade union movement will say: We will have a wage freeze for 12 months’? That might work if there was a complementary price freeze. We all remember the upheaval not so long ago when that was talked about but did not come to pass. If the Government wants to hold prices it could emulate the Chifley post-war era when basic foodstuffs were subsidised. Even then there would be difficulties. The point I am trying to make is that when the Government argues about the 1.5 per cent or 2.5 per cent increase that Mr Justice Moore may grant at quarterly or half-yearly intervals it should remember that those increases are based on price fluctuations during the previous three months or six months.
I am taking some of the arguments which Senator Lewis advanced as I go along. He referred to ship building in South Korea. Leaving aside what may have been done in Australia, other countries feel that for defence purposes alone it is necessary to maintain fairly high subsidies in shipbuilding. The United States could hardly be called a socialist country. It gives a considerable amount of subsidy to its mercantile marine both in shipping operations and shipbuilding. This does not occur only in the United States. Taking the other side of the coin, Poland and Yugoslavia do the same. They believe that it is essential.
This is a Government that always prates about defence preparedness. I commend to all Government members a book by Ellen Wilkinson on pre-war Britain called ‘The Town that was Murdered ‘. It is about the shipbuilding town of Jarrow. When Hitler was on the march the Government had to go all over Britain to get shipwrights, boilermakers and fitters together to commence some sort of shipbuilding program. I am not a Jeremiah. I am not saying that there is any excessive nationalism to our near north. But I believe that we should have the nucleus of a shipbuilding program. Anybody who has read any of the recent financial journals would know that the Vickers company has complained about the lack of skilled shipbuilding personnel. This is something that no country can afford to be without- there is no question about that- and the Government cannot say: ‘Let us tighten our belts and ignore it’.
We have been talking of economic theory. My colleague, Senator Elstob, the new senator from South Australia, is a former official of the Waterside Workers’ Federation. He must have smiled, as I did, when another new senator, Senator MacGibbon, questioned the effect of Papua New Guinea’s sugar production on Queensland’s sugar production. What did the waterside workers do in the Port of Mackay? There was no Luddite attitude. The work force was drastically reduced. The price of sugar has not come down for those of us in the south. Senator MacGibbon will now tell us about the fears of Papua New Guinea in relation to its national aspirations. I would agree with him. Australia has to protect the sugar industry. It is no use arguing that the problems we face have resulted from the failure of the trade unions to face up to change. The brutal fact is that even on the waterfront there is competition for work between transport workers shore-based, waterside workers and employees of other unions with limited access. It is all very well for us to come up with formulas but workers who are taken out of the work force while in their fifties are entitled to some equity.
I turn now to consider the thesis put forward by Senator Lewis. He spoke in a grudging way about how the trade unions had obtained better long service and annual leave provisions. He then linked these things with the possible reservoir of labour for the service industries. We all know that many people in their forties, having had 15 years of employment, have long service leave entitlements but do not take that leave until they are in their fifties. Those people are the bread and butter of our tourist resorts throughout Australia. We cannot have it both ways. The attitude taken by some people- I do not include Mr Street in my remarks- that we should delete or interfere with existing penalty rates or long service leave will be counter-productive because the present arrangements produce an influx of people into tourist resorts and create greater spending. It is for that reason that the Premiers Plan will not work in the 1 970s.
It is most significant that when we had the Telecom dispute the general public did not fall for the initial criticism of the dispute by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who said, among other things, that the employees could not win. I can recall a few strikes as a result of which employees got paid after a few days for wrongful stand-downs. The people accepted this because they regarded it as a sort of red light to the Government. They felt it was time the
Government faced up to these vast changes in industrial relations. I do not deny that the problems are tremendous but I do not believe that the Government is steering things as it should. We are supposed to be in the age of the computer and the Government has backed and filled on the question of a vast computer system that would enable us to find out the labour needs all over Australia. Sweden and other Scandinavian countries seem to be able to do it.
Tonight I heard Senator Chipp refer to some of these problems. In effect, what he was saying was that we also should have these technological changes; we should be the master and not feel that such changes represent a Frankenstein monster. My own Federal member said that as a result of this Budget there would be another 80,000 jobless. I can assure honourable senators that he was not a socialist- my local member is Sir William McMahon, the right honourable member for Lowe. Honourable senators do not have to believe what I am saying; he said it. I am aware of the Prime Minister’s philosophy of toughing things out. We had to have a Second World War before we picked up the slack that was in our manufacturing and engineering industries at the time. We do not want to have to pay that high price again. Senator Scott, sitting to my left, knows that the nations comprising the European Economic Community are putting up barriers against our exports of primary products, and it is true that there are difficulties with Asian countries in relation to certain manufactured goods such as furniture, textiles and clothing. The fact is that these difficulties have to be faced up to. If we have to be more inverted in industries, then no matter what subsidies are provided at least we can tax the recipients.
Time and again there has been talk about another steel industry to rival the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. I have never been an admirer of BHP. As late as last week the extremely competent secretary of the south coast branch of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia, Mr Le 1 li pointed out that on one hand we have a surplus of doctors, but on the other hand, there are no doctors available other than between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in an industry with 24-hour operations and extreme industrial dangers. Ten years ago I went into Eastern European countries and at the mine pitheads there were far more qualified and effective medical units than we have in Australia. That was 10 years ago. This is an area in which co-ordinated plans could apply.
There has been talk about the trade unions resisting change. As a member of a committee I went to one of the Coca-Cola establishments whose representatives were able to proudly say that they had reduced their work force from 200 to 40 by the use of various mechanical appliances and that there had been no dispute about it involving the liquor trades union. Six years ago John Lysaght Australia Ltd phased out one section of its operations. Most of the workers involved were 50 years of age and over and some of them got handsome gratuities. This move by the company was not resisted by the union. Notwithstanding all this, BHP is asking for extra assistance. It may be that as an Australian company it is entitled to it.
The point I want to make is that the Government should not start crying wolf and saying that wages are too high. If the Government wants to stabilise wages I can give it the solution to the problem. National health schemes have been the thing in Europe for years. I heard Senator Baume and others talk about the excesses of the bureaucracy. The fact is that whether one has full health insurance cover or pays only a levy, the health insurance systems overseas are far different from what the Government visualises for Australia. We may pay $20 or $40 a pop for a particular medical treatment but that plays havoc with someone with a weekly budget of $200 a week. That is why we need something that will have a stabilising effect.
If the Government wants to argue that the trade union movement should stagger wage adjustments it has to consider other components such as a general food subsidy scheme for meat, butter, bread and items of that nature. This was done in the early postwar years. State governments were the most vocal, I know, in trying to have the scheme jettisoned. If we are reaching the stage where we must have a competitive wage structure we have to do two things in advance. Firstly, we have to subsidise basic foods. At the moment producers can play one State against another. There is a case for food subsidies. Many editorials have referred to the second thing that has to be done. On the one hand the Federal Government has indicated that the cost of its Medibank changes will be reflected in the next half yearly cost of living index. On the other hand, although the Government may reach agreement with the Australian Medical Association on this issue, what will happen as a result of the attitudes taken by the hospitals and their administration? These are fundamental questions.
We talk about whether the service industries will be able to take up the slack. There are many labour saving devices that are not the subject of industrial disputes which can assist industries.
This then leads us back to the dispute between the definition of ‘conservatism’, ‘liberalism’ and socialism’, and to consider how far in a democracy we can direct people. Dunlop Australia Ltd closed down a plant in metropolitan Sydney. It called together the work force of 600 people and said to them: ‘There will be jobs for most of you in Victoria’. I wonder whether in a free society we can say to a man 40 years of age with children of, say, 10 years and 14 years attending the local school, a man active in community affairs: ‘ You are going to be uprooted and sent to another State’. Maybe he could be starved into submission but I would not suggest that even to this Government. What does that man do in the situation? It would be very nice to manufacture all of one commodity in one State. All these sorts of things could be done.
It is the Government which is hesitating on these issues. When we try to co-ordinate things the Government uses the word ‘centralism’. To me that means co-ordination. Even in a Federal system we must have it but this is one of the things which the Government will not face up to. It may be that the Government is faced with the other difficult problem which I mentioned. Senator Lewis referred to the availability of skilled tradesmen. Reference has been made to the skills and capacities of our foundries. People were looking down on the heavy industries as far as industrial improvements were concerned, whereas in some of the luxury industries it was remarkable how achievements were made without a struggle. I say that strong incentives have to be given in the heavy industries if people are to be attracted back to them.
The question has been asked: What did the Labor Government do? The fact is that Clyde Cameron attempted to get a further influx of apprentices. Of course, at the other end of the scale, it is not much use having these apprentices if Australian industry has not been protected. People can talk to me until they are blue in the face but they will not convince me that in three to five years there will not be the emergence of nationalism in one of the Asian countries- I shall not stipulate a particular country- and then belatedly a powerful Defence Minister will prevail on the Government to try to pick up the pieces at Whyalla and Newcastle. Defence preparation is always costly, but facilities should not be dismantled to the extent to which the Government has done so.
Our manpower policy is not effectively coordinated. Some employers use the Commonwealth Employment Service, others have their own short list, and then there are the private employment agencies. I am prepared to say that if all of the people who are unemployed were registered on a computer we would know where we were going. I speak with quite a bit of knowhow in this regard. In metropolitan Sydney one often comes across the situation- we have all been faced with this situation- of a tourist in this country claiming that he has special trade skills and an employer wanting him on his staff. The question that then arises is whether the labour is available here. We have a co-ordinating committee that examines these matters. It is comprised of people from both the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It is not a satisfactory solution to the problem. Only last year in Sydney a genuine case arose of a Spanish stonemason wishing to come into the country because of the trend towards Spanish architecture. There is no doubt that a further seven or eight jobs would be created by that Spanish stone mason being brought here, but it takes more than six or seven months to get that person here, and that is not fast enough. The Government is not introducing quickly enough computerisation in the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. This has to be done effectively but it is not being done simply because of difficulties caused by rivalries between various employers at a lower level. Even the trade union movement has a genuine fear about who will get the work in some particular industries. As a matter of fact, I asked Senator Durack only two days ago to arbitrate in a case. I asked him what was happening in relation to a particular case involving the port of Sydney. There was a genuine difference of opinion between the State registered Transport Workers Union and the waterside workers. It was one of the birth pangs of containerisation. These sorts of differences will occur. Anyone who read the history of the Telecom dispute will realise that dealings with one union will certainly affect others.
The Government is emulating the Premiers Plan of the 1930s, which did not work. In fact, the unemployment problem would not have been solved but for World War II. Of course, for the five years following the war consumer demand was such that we had an easy ride. I repeat that the Government has to take cognisance of some of the hard facts mentioned in the Street declaration. It has to work more closely with the trade unions. It is of no use threatening them. At the very heart of most disputes today is the protection of job practices. Government senators might say to me ‘If we get a higher level of production it will be all right’, but there are not too many industries in which a guarantee can be given that, as a result of a higher level of production, jobs will be maintained. There is a case for phasing people out of the work force at 55 years of age. I hesitate to say this because of the reaction of some honourable senators, but it would be interesting to see how much would be picked up if we applied rigidly the rule that annual leave and long service leave be taken as it accrues and if we married that to the introduction of a 3 5 -hour working week. I would say that we would pick up job opportunities. We changed the working week in 1947. If anyone were to tell me that technological changes are not such that industry cannot stand another change I would not accept it.
I repeat that the time is opportune for summit talks to be held with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and all employer groups. The Government might have to offer to stabilise food prices and there might have to be a pledge from the Prime Minister that for the next six months he will not tamper with Medibank. Conversely, the Government could say to the trade union movement: ‘The people of Australia will pay a uniform levy for Medibank I and that will be it’. People will then know from week to week what their budget will be. It is true that they will have to make adjustments at the end of the financial year when filing a tax return, but it is a damn sight worse for them to find in the middle of the year that the package deal in relation to health that is contained in the Budget is to be changed. It is in that sort of situation that people find the going difficult.
We feel that the comments that have been made about certain injustices in relation to pension rates, education grants and the like are not merely carping criticism. We feel that the course being followed by the Government is one which proved to be disastrous up to World War II. We have seen the reincarnation of the Premiers Plan that failed then. It will fail again. If the Government takes heed of the Street declaration, links that with what the President of the ACTU said and keeps in mind the basic suggestions I have made, the course of the ship of state might be changed. But at this moment I can say that in six to eight months we will be in a worse position than we are in at the moment. If the Government comes up with ideas of the people having to suffer further sacrifices it cannot expect to have good relations with the trade union movement.
-Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Three times during Senator Mulvihill ‘s speech he misquoted what I said during Question Time today. For the record I state that I made no mention of, let alone cast any reflection upon, the waterside workers of Australia in relation to the sugar industry. I made no mention of, let alone cast any reflection upon, the national aspirations of Papua New Guinea. My question was concerned purely with the commercial elements involved in the sale of sugar to the European Economic Community, which was subject to an export subsidy of approximately $350 per tonne.
– I rise to speak briefly about the Budget, but before doing so I would at this late hour like to congratulate all those honourable senators who have made their maiden speech in this chamber in the course of these Budget discussions. To honourable senators on both sides of the chamber I say that we have enjoyed hearing their speeches and we look forward to their contributions to debates as time goes by.
Tonight we heard the maiden speech of Senator Puplick, who is from my State of New South Wales. I take this opportunity to congratulate Senator Puplick on the statements that he made. They are clearly in my mind. I believe that his contribution tonight was a quite learned treatise in many fields. I just hope that as time goes by he can relate those gems of thought and expression of philosophers and poets of the past 2,000 years or so to human nature and the problems that confront us in a socio-economic situation today. Indeed, I am always concerned when I listen to the wisdon of such people as were quoted by Senator Puplick tonight lest we as a people become the subjects or the slaves of somewhat ivory towered conceptions. Whilst tremendous importance is placed publicly upon pure theory, in whatever field it may be, we as democrats and free people- regrettably there are relatively few free people thoughout the world today- have to beware lest we become the slaves of some ivory towered conceptions. It is a relatively simple matter to solve problems in the circumstances of an ivory tower where one is able to cut off those influences which one does not want to consider and consequently to come to conclusions which may appear to be almost infallible, but conclusions which have not taken into account the strength and force of human nature, conclusions and theories which when they are thrown out into the world in which they must prove themselves or not often prove to be relatively ineffective.
I support these Budget Papers for a number of reasons but basically, and significantly I believe, because they are another expression of an economic and social line that has been promoted to the Australian people twice in less than three years, an economic and social line that was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Australian electorate in December of 1 975 and again as recently as December 1977. Not only have these propositions been endorsed by the Australian people twice in this time but in fact they are continually being endorsed by people within and without this country. Contrary to some suggestions that one hears from time to time in some sections of the media- and indeed from our political opponents, which is an area from which I would assume we would hear these sorts of suggestions- there is a general measure of acclaim for the Budget that has been brought down this year. I support the Budget basically on other grounds too. Not only is it a realistic assessment of the direction that this country, society and economy are travelling but it is also prepared to take, and in fact does take, a relatively hard line in certain areas. It is significant that in Australia today we have a government that is prepared to act in a manner which in the short term may cause a measure of discomfort but in the long term will prove to be able to continue the march of Australia out of the problems that were associated with a socialist experiment, with a morass into which we seemed to sink but a few years ago. It is a morass out of which it will take the efforts not only of government but also of every section of the community to lift this great society to get back on the road to this ultimate and exciting potential. It is on that ground also that I believe the Budget Papers are worthy of considerable credit.
In some areas they involve actions which perhaps are not the sorts of actions that the Liberal and National Country parties from choice would want to take. I make the point that both parties in this coalition are basically parties of low taxation, relatively small government and parties that believe that the state is here to be the servant of the people and not the master of the people. Consequently, the hard line decisions in the Budget are put there for excellent reason but obviously with a measure of regret because in the short term they are causing a number of problems that are totally alien to the philosophy that we promote, and indeed in the longer term unquestionably will implement. Because the Government has taken hard decisions I believe that the intelligent community of Australia will recognise what has been done, recognise the responsibility that the Government is assuming, as indeed it should, and will generate from that recognition a measure of determination and pride which perhaps more than anythiny else ultimately can lift this country out of the problems into which it has sunk, and can start us back to achieve the sort of potential that we have for our citizens as individuals and indeed for our country as a nation, as a total entity, as a nation amongst nations.
Over the period of some few days that this Budget discussion has been proceeding the statistical detail of the Budget has been spoken of and detailed over and over again. I shall return to discuss in brief some of the performances of this Government, often maligned, over the past three years. I shall do that not for the sake of saying ‘I told you so’ or ‘Look at this’. I shall do it because it is important that Australians wherever they may be should recognise that in fact great things are being achieved, in some areas very slowly, in some areas far more quickly, almost dramatically. It is important that Australians are aware of the performance of their Government, a government in which they showed enormous confidence at the polling booths on two recent occasions.
For the moment I turn to a more general discussion. One of the advantages of a Budget debate is that it gives us in this chamber an opportunity to examine a wide range of measures and concerns that together go to make up the total experience of a nation. It is in this sort of debate that we can divorce ourselves in some degree from the fine line of specific legislation and have a look at some of the basic principles which we seek to promote, some of the basic measures which we believe are relevant to the continuance and development of our type of society. It is indeed my conviction that most Australians believe in the system of free enterprise democracy which is based on the family unit, which admits the profit motive within the law as being satisfactory to the desires and the dictates of human nature, which admits equality of opportunity, which admits that freedom is a relatively meaningless concept unless it is experienced within a properly conceived and majority held and enforced discipline. That is the free enterprise democracy which I believe is one of the things basic to out society. We should be aware and proud of the socio-economic structure which we have developed through almost 200 years of history, a socio-economic structure which has been the product of a consistent conflict with a relatively inhospitable geographic circumstance and a changeable climate.
– It being 1 1 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Before Senator Chaney was a Minister of the Crown I recall his saying some words in this chamber about charges for car hire services. Tonight I would like to make some comments about the administrative arrangements for car hire. I am prompted to do so because of an account that I received today. It is indicated in the account that I incurred charges ranging from $2.30 for one trip to $2 1 for another. I am interested not in the charges themselves but in the way in which we receive these notices about the use of official cars. The letter covering the account was addressed to my secretary and invited her, if she wished, to certifiy the account and forward it to a certain address.
I point out that it is almost impossible for anybody in my office to certify this account for at least two reasons. Firstly, I think it would be necessary for the senator or member to keep a diary of some sort so that he, or his secretary, could check the various dates and perhaps, with some estimation, the time of the journeys. Secondly, we do not have any indication ourselves of the time charged for a journey. For instance one journey listed on the account occupied 10 minutes; another occupied 75 minutes; and so it goes on. As far as I am aware there is sometimes a variation concerning the time of commencement of the journey. Sometimes it is from the depot, and sometimes it is from the time of pick-up. It seems to me that if we are to be able to check the times on these accounts we will have to be given some sort of voucher at the end of the journey. In that way we can check the voucher with the account when it is submitted. I make the point that the whole exercise of forwarding these accounts to members and senators is probably somewhat futile. We cannot check them properly. We cannot certify them as we are invited to do. I ask the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) to have a look at this matter to see whether it is worthwhile continuing the practice or whether it should be discontinued or changed in some way so that we can actually certify the amounts which we are supposed to have incurred.
The second matter I raise relates to the provision of telephone answering equipment for senators and members. Honourable senators will be aware that the Remuneration Tribunal in its 1978 review determined that members and senators, under a certain condition, would be able to have telephone answering equipment provided in their private residences. The relevant part of the review read as follows:
The cost of installation, maintenance and rental of one home telephone answering equipment of a type to be specified by the Minister for Administrative Services, shall be at government expense.
I ask the Minister: When can senators and members expect some decision to be made on the type of telephone answering equipment that can be provided in private residences? I ask this question because almost three months have elapsed since the determination was made. I also ask whether, in the interim, it might be possible for senators and members to have some telephone answering equipment in their private residences on a temporary basis while we await a decision.
-I want to raise a matter in relation to a question I asked of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs this afternoon. Senator Carrick may remember that it was in relation to an Australian citizen of Palestinian origin who is allegedly under arrest in a gaol in Israel. In the latter part of my question I asked:
Why was Mr Khalid ‘s brother interviewed by Commonwealth Police in Adelaide on 14 September?
There would appear to be some problem in relation to the names that were used. In his reply the Minister used the name Atatra. I understand that that is a family name; so there is no question of the wrong person being talked about. I rang Mr Ali Khalid, or Mr Ali Atatra, this evening and he assured me that he was interviewed by persons whom he believed to be from the Commonwealth Police. It may well be that some persons interviewed him and told him that they were from the Commonwealth Police Force, but he certainly assured me that he was interviewed by people who he believed to be from the Commonwealth Police. I ask the Minister to check this out to see whether some mistake has been made or whether some persons are interviewing people under the guise of Commonwealth Police.
– With some knowledge that Senator Primmer was going to repeat the subject matter of a question he asked earlier today, I have checked the matter out, and I am assured that no Commonwealth policeman interviewed the gentleman concerned.
- Senator Colston raised two matters which are the concern of my Department. The first was the question of charges for car hire services. He raised various matters which may be troubling just him or perhaps also some other honourable senators. With respect to car hire services, my office certainly follows the practice of checking the forms which are sent out and on at least two occasions has found charges which are in my name and which it subsequently has been agreed should not be in my name, either because I have not been in the city concerned or because it has been discovered that the item has been wrongly booked to me. My personal experience is that this has been quite useful, notwithstanding the difficulties Senator Colston outlined. However, I will take note of the points he has raised, refer them to my Department and see whether some further refinement is possible. In general I approve of there being some form of check on the use of public facilities by members of parliament so that we can be sure that taxpayers’ money is not being wasted or abused. I am sure that Senator Colston would not disagree with that principle.
On the second matter- that of telephone answering equipment- I regret that, notwithstanding that it is three months since the Remuneration Tribunal reported, I have not yet as
Minister specified a type of equipment which can be installed. The Senate will appreciate that this matter has come under my jurisdiction only recently, but I have had discussions with officers of my Department and the current reason for delay is that there is an enormous difference in price between the various forms of answering equipment which are available. I have asked for more detailed information on these different types and it is my intention, which I have indicated to my Department, once I have a more full brief on what sort of equipment is available to have some discussions with both members of the Opposition and Government members with a view to getting some opinions before I make a final decision.
It is also in my mind that it might be useful to hold up the matter for, say, another month and to install perhaps half a dozen answering units in the homes of different senators and members with a view to getting some confirmation that the units selected are satisfactory before we go ahead and buy 150 of them, or whatever number might be required. I appreciate that senators and members would like to see this matter dealt with without delay, but there has been some experience of getting equipment which senators and members have not found satisfactory, and I would like to avoid a large expenditure of public money on equipment which is found to be unsuitable. I hope that Senator Colston and other honourable senators will bear with me in this matter. My objective is to get at the most reasonable price possible a service which is thought to be satisfactory by those who wish to use it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 16 August 1978:
What action has been taken, or is proposed, concerning the recommendations in the second report of the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped that:
an allocation of $100,000 be made to it for the 1978-79 financial year, for commissioning research projects in areas of priority concern for effective discharge of Council ‘s advisory role; and
the Australian Science and Technology Council be encouraged to institute co-ordinating arrangements which will ensure adequate attention to the needs for quality research in matters affecting handicapped people, drawing on the advice available through the Council and bodies such as the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled and the Australian Association for the Mentally Retarded.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 16 August 1978:
What action has been taken, or is proposed concerning the recommendations in the second report of the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped that:
the Conference of Health Ministers and the Standing Council of Social Welfare Ministers be asked to assist in encouraging and monitoring progress towards the establishment of appropriate advisory mechanisms on policies and services for the handicapped in each State;
as encouragement for adequate involvement of nongovernment agencies in consultations sponsored by the various State advisory bodies on the handicapped, the Commonwealth make available small grants, perhaps through the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled, towards the cost incurred by voluntary organisations in such consultation.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
While some States have established mechanisms for consultation among government departments (both State and Commonwealth) concerned with services for handicapped people, I have not been advised of the involvement as yet of non-government agencies in consultations sponsored by the State advisory bodies as proposed by NACH.
The Commonwealth Government believes that it would be premature to make allocations for the type of grants suggested in the NACH Report, but the situation will be kept under review in case there is a need for such grants at a later stage.
As the honourable senator will be aware, the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled receives a substantial grant from the Commonwealth and would be entitled to apply a portion of that grant towards the purposes envisaged by NACH.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 16 August 1978:
What action has been taken, or is proposed, in view of the statement in the second report of the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped that there is considerable scope for improving the management of sheltered employment facilities in Australia and that the general productivity and the level of wages paid to handicapped employees leave much to be desired.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
There is scope for improvement in management, productivity and wages in the sheltered employment movement throughout Australia. My department is amending its procedures to give greater emphasis to the examination of operational procedures in approved facilities, with particular regard to the management capabilities of persons employed in key positions.
It should be remembered however, that sheltered workshops, in achieving their related rehabilitation, production and social support goals, are faced with a constant problem in balancing commercial and social welfare orientations. This is undoubtedly one of the important reasons why most sheltered workshops in Australia are not fully selfsupporting.
To assist sheltered employment facilities subsidised under the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act my department operates a technical advisory service consisting of a number of sessional consultants and a departmental inspector.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 16 August 1978:
What action has been taken, or is proposed, concerning the recommendations in the second report of the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped that:
the education of handicapped children should be the responsibility of education authorities and accordingly should be funded from that source rather than through the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act;
the Schools Commission take urgent action to ascertain the number of children in State institutions where no adequate educational facilities are available; and
the Commission allocate funds in 1978 for educational programs for such children- this group including children and adolescents with severe and profound handicaps (usually including mental retardation) who are resident in hospital units, training centres and other State institutions, in the age range from birth to 18 years, and including people who have already acquired basic academic skills prior to admission to an institution.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Prime Minister also indicated that details of this major initiative would be worked out in consultation with the States, and with the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped, and this is being done.
Senator Carrick also advises that authorities in the States responsible for the administration of Schools Commission Special Education funds make allocations for services to children in hospitals. Funds have also been made available since 1 977 under the Children in Residential Institutions Program to bring life experience for children living in institutions closer to that of other children and to enable institutions to provide the support some children need in their formal education.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 22 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I am informed by my Department as follows:
1 ) Seventy-three.
Fifteen, for the reason that they failed to satisfy the means and needs test of the Australian Legal Aid Office.
In each case, aid has been limited at this stage to solicitors’ costs and disbursements pending the outcome of preliminary proceedings in the Court of Petty Sessions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 24 August 1978:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed by my Department that:
1 ) Dr Shanahan holds a standard ACT rural lease over Block 1 8 Paddys River District (on which Tidbinbilla Homestead stands). The lease permits the land to be used for grazing and agricultural purposes and is for a term expiring on 3 1 December 200S. An annual rent is payable, the rent being subject to review every 10 years.
The lease adjoins the northern boundary of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. The land held under lease contains no special kangaroo habitats but there are indications that the numbers of wallabies, wallaroos and kangaroos, particularly grey kangaroos, living in the Reserve, in nearby pine forests and adjacent bushland have increased in recent years. This has lead to Dr Shanahan and other leaseholders in the area complaining about the damage caused by kangaroos trespassing on their leases.
There are no present plans to incorporate this particular area into Tidbinbilla Reserve or to establish a separate wildlife reserve.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 24 August 1978:
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Such legislation is likely to take the form of a Commonwealth Act to apply in the ACT and Commonwealth places, to Government Departments and Authorities.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
– The Minister for Productivity has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 September 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780920_senate_31_s78/>.