31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 228 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the JAT- Yugoslav Airlines service between Australia and Belgrade is a disservice to most airline travellers because:
1 ) Persons seeking a visa to Yugoslavia are subjected to standover tactics by the staff of the Yugoslav consulates in order to induce them to fly by JAT.
JAT travel agencies are understood to function as an extension of the Yugoslav Secret Service UDBA.
On arrival in Yugoslavia tourists are questioned by authorities as to whether they flew by JAT, and if not they are met with disapproval and severe criticism.
The quality of service as offered by JAT is below international standards in all respects, and particularly as regards health standards.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government will immediately and permanently discontinue all further Yugoslav Airlines services between Australia and Yugoslavia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator Lewis I present the following petition from 66 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable, the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the level of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 52 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 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 programs 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.
The Acting Clerk- A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
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 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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Evans.
- Mr President, I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate calls upon the Treasurer to ensure that officers of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation take action under section 96 of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1959 to arrange for the permanent employment of 140 staff members who are concerned about their future.
-Is the Minister for Social Security aware that on 22 August she answered questions from Senators Harradine and Gietzelt by giving assurances that income derived from personal exertion of a child would not be included in an income test for family allowancesassurances quite unrelated to any specific amount? Does the Minister believe that she misled the Parliament when she made that statement or was she speaking with the authority of a Cabinet decision?
– I recall the previous answers that I gave to questions from several honourable senators with regard to family allowances. At that time we were talking of the Cabinet decision, as announced in the Budget, that income over $312 per annum received by children would be subjected to means testing for family allowance purposes. Both the Treasurer and I- it could have been on 22 August or close to that date- announced that that Cabinet decision was subject to review. I gave the assurance at that time that the review was being undertaken so that no unintended consequences would occur. We were speaking of the decision relating to an income of $3 12 per annum. With the authority of Cabinet, I said at that time that personal exertion income would not be included. The review that was undertaken subsequently by the Cabinet of the family allowance scheme and the means testing proposal resulted in the conclusion that a means test should be applied if income were received in excess of $20 a week or $1,040 per annum. As far as the statement that was made in August is concerned, I believe that I gave no misleading information to the Senate or to the public in general because at that time the Cabinet had decided that at the level of $3 1 2 per annum personal exertion income would be exempted. Having reviewed the decision and now having a much higher threshold at which the means testing will take place, I believe that the information I have now given is not inconsistent with the information that was given previously.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social Security, relates to the matter to which she has just been referring. I ask: How many people will be affected by this decision, that is, how many income tests will have to be carried out? Can she give an estimate as to how many additional government employees will be required to carry out this work? Will not this decision be administratively complex and costly to implement, and will not its most severe economic effects be felt by the less affluent members of the community? Is it not, therefore, an inequitable decision?
– About two million families receive family allowances and in order to apply a means or income test it will be necessary to ask all of them to return information to the department. The administrative arrangements will be taken in hand by the department, and the necessary information given, so that people will be able to return their forms to the department in time for the decision to take effect from 1 January next. It will involve the means testing of two million people so in that sense it can be regarded as complex, but I think the department is able to handle the necessary means testing arrangements. I understand that to carry out the means testing arrangements for this year, the department will require the services of about 400 additional staff for a period of about five months. As I think it is known to honourable senators and others, the administrative costs of the department represent around one per cent of the amount of funds that it disburses in pensions and benefits. I believe Senator Knight asked for my opinion as to whether it would be an inequitable arrangement. It must be borne in mind in seeking to means test the family allowance at a level of income of $1,040, that that is the level at which pensions are means tested for receipt of the full pension. We believe that to use the same level of exempt income can be accepted as appropriate in means testing for family allowances.
The department will have some difficulty in collecting information from two million people to enable means testing to take effect. At present we have no record of the income of children or of families because of the universal nature of the family allowance scheme. I am unable to give any indication as to how many families or children would be affected by the decision because, as I say, we have no knowledge of their income, but I am advised by the Treasury that on the basis of its knowledge of the income of children, from income tax returns, it estimates the savings which I reported yesterday. My department has no information on these lines concerning income of families or of children.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I ask whether the arrangements that she announced were going to apply to the previous income test will apply to this income test also? In other words, will the family allowance be withheld, or partly withheld, from mothers of those children who between June 1977 and June 1978 earned and spent income of more than $20 a week, unaware that a mother would be penalised for the whole of the next year because of what had been earned in the previous year?
– It will be necessary, when applying the means test, to use the income that was received in the previous year. It will be necessary to base it on that income so that on 1 January the means test can be applied. In the case of income received in the previous year, we would expect that parents would advise the department of it so that the means test could be applied and payments made at the appropriate level as from 1 January next.
– I ask a supplementary question. Would the Minister not agree that that is retrospective taxation?
– This is not taxation. This is means testing of a family allowance system. I would simply correct Senator Grimes’s terminology in classing it as a taxation. It is means testing and is based on the income that has been received in the previous year. How could it be based differently?
– Do not have it at all.
– That might be the point of view that Senator Georges expresses. We are talking about whether this is a retrospective application of a decision. I am simply saying that the way in which it will be means tested will be on the basis of the previous year’s income.
– I address a question to the Minister for Education. It relates to the Government’s decision to tax post-graduate awards. Can the Minister clarify whether the taxation will apply to the allowances that are attached to the awards and, specifically, the allowances for a dependent spouse or dependent children?
-In the next few days I hope to be making a detailed statement regarding this whole matter but I think that it is important to make some clarification now. Postgraduate awards, unlike allowances under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme, are not subject to a means test. The students who hold these research awards may have a wide range of incomes and, therefore, it is equitable to apply the taxation system to them as it is applied to many others. I am advised that the effect of the amendment that will be brought in to section 23 (Z) of the Income Tax Assessment Act will be to bring the allowances payable under postgraduate awards within the general assessment and deduction provisions of that Act. The Taxation Office has interpreted this to mean that living allowances, dependants’ allowances, incidentals and thesis allowances will be taxable but travelling and establishment allowances will not be taxable. I am advised that holders will be able to claim expenses incurred in their study or research both as concessional expenditure for rebate purposes up to the first $250 and as deductions on assessable income for the remainder. The Department will be making payasyouearn deductions from award holders’ entitlements in respect of living and dependants’ allowances only. Whatever tax is payable could be reduced or even eliminated where a student has substantial self-education expenses. I will be elaborating on this matter within the next few days.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. It follows questions that were asked by Senator Bishop and Senator Lewis. Having regard for the seemingly never-ending increase in our unemployment figures and the worsening of our balance of payments situation I believe it to be a rather important question. It appears from an article in the West Australian of 12 September 1978 that the specifications covering the aircraft needed for customs work are such that they preclude the use of the locally built Nomad and, no doubt, support the use of faster and more expensive imported machines. Are the specifications surrounding the hiring of these aircraft for customs work so inflexible that they cannot be amended to allow the use of a locally manufactured machine thereby helping to contain the alarming unemployment figures and, at the same time, assisting in reducing the Government’s embarrassing deficit?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and ask him to give his early attention to it and reply to Senator Mcintosh.
-Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister say what is the cost of maternity leave to the Government for
Commonwealth employees in all areas of Commonwealth employment?
-I am informed by the Public Service Board that the details of the cost of maternity leave for all areas of Commonwealth employment are not readily available. However, in respect of the Australian Public Service which, of course, represents a significant area of Commonwealth employment the estimated cost during the financial year 1977-78 was $6. lm. In view of the detailed nature of the information sought by Senator Walters, I suggest that she place her question on notice so that I can seek further information in detail.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that questions on this subject have already been placed on notice in the House of Representatives and the answers received indicated that figures were not available. It is because the legislation concerning maternity leave is about to be altered that I seek the figures on full Commonwealth payments.
-I thank Senator Walters for her additional information. I will now seek from the Public Service Board any additional information that can be made available to her and let her have it.
– I must point out that questions which are on the Notice Paper may not be asked during Question Time. The circumstances in this instance may be somewhat different, but I make that point.
- Mr President, the questions which I said I placed on notice were answered. They are not still on the Notice Paper. They were answered, but the information sought was not given in the answers.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. Firstly, does she agree with the decision that has been taken by the Government in respect of taxing incomes of children? Secondly, is she saying that two million Australian families will now be under continual scrutiny by this Government as to how much any child in a family may earn? Thirdly, what sanctions does the Government intend to use against any family that may be, or may be said to be, in breach of the new Government policy?
– The decision that I have announced on the means testing of family allowances is a Government decision. As a Minister of the Government I am bound by the
Government decision, and I make no further comment on that. It would be inappropriate for any Government Minister to have personal views or to make personal comments about Government decisions. That is not the way in which government operates. The second part of the question asked whether people will be under continual scrutiny. May I advise that there will be an annual requirement for families to advise the income that was received in the previous year? That will be an annual requirement, not a monthly requirement, or a continual requirement, as may have been implied by the question. As to the third part of the question, under the Social Services Act there are penalty provisions which apply when abuses under the Act are known. I do not expect that there will be any greater abuse under any new provision in the Act than there is under other provisions which presently exist.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. It relates to the provision of compensation for people injured while playing sport- a matter highlighted by several recent deaths and severe injuries in New South Wales. Is the Minister aware that in early 1977 the New South Wales Workers Compensation Act was amended to protect clubs from being required to pay compensation to their injured players and that the State Government is now advertising in the newspapers details of a sports insurance scheme? Has this scheme any legislative basis? If not, despite the fact that the scheme has been advertised on three separate occasions, will the Minister bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs to see if action could be taken under the Trade Practices Act against those responsible for this misleading advertisement?
– I am aware that the New South Wales Government amended its Workers Compensation Act in 1 977 to exclude liability for sporting accidents and that it is a matter about which there was some publicity. I am advised that there has been advertising of a sports insurance scheme in New South Wales, and I am further advised that there does not appear to be any legislative basis for that scheme. However, I am not in a position to say whether that means there is not a scheme or there is a scheme. It may be that some sort of scheme has been put forward by the Government of New South Wales without any legislative basis and that it is still being put into operation. I will refer the question of misleading advertising to the appropriate Minister for examination and report back to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Government noted the dramatic increase in profitability of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and the degree of success of bankcards for banking institutions generally. Is he aware that 75 per cent of people using a bankcard issued by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation are paying 1 8 per cent interest? I also refer to the question asked of the Minister by Senator Lewis last month and the Minister’s subsequent answer and ask: Is it not inappropriate that public and private banks should be charging 18 per cent when Government policy, and the policy of all responsible citizens, including economists, is to reduce interest rates as part of the antiinflation strategy? Would it not be desirable for the Government to suggest to the Commonwealth Banking Corporation that it take the initiative in the interest of free competition, to reduce interest charges?
-I will ask the Treasurer to study Senator Gietzelt ‘s question. I think it deserves study. Anything that can result in the reduction of interest rates to the community is valuable and I will see that a study is made.
– Will the Minister for Education confirm that he has received the final report on tertiary study leave? If he has, is it the intention of the Government to make this report public? If so, when will it be released by the Government?
– I recently received the report from the Tertiary Education Commission and it will be studied at an early date by the Commonwealth Government. It then will be released to the public along with the determined actions of the Government in implementing it. I hope that it will be made available to the public in the very near future.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and follows on from other questions directed to her this morning. I seek information regarding the declaration now required to be made by mothers on their children’s income earned in the 1977-78 income year. What documentation of this income will be required by the Government, bearing in mind that payments for children’s odd jobs, such as baby sitting, is typically by cash and without receipt? What will be the response of the Government to parents who have no documentation of their children’s income during this period? Will the Government be informing all families affected by this new provision of the appeal provisions which are available to them under various Acts?
– The Department will be deciding the way in which the administrative arrangements will be made for means testing and will make clear on the form the requirements regarding income that the parents will have to disclose for the appropriate period. As far as documentation is concerned, I have not had consultation with my Director-General to determine what he would require. However, I believe that this would be handled by the Department in the way in which it handles the means testing of pensions and other benefits paid through it. As a matter of practice, the Department always advises any person applying for a benefit or an allowance of his right of appeal against any decision or determination that is made by the Department. As soon as the Department has had the opportunity to work out its administrative arrangements I will see that public notice of these matters is given and that such information as is possible to be given is given by me or the Department to all those people who will be affected by the decision.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, relates to the decision of the Minister for Transport to take a hard line on the air fare increase of 7.5 per cent requested by TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia. This is something that probably affects the people of Tasmania and Western Australia more than the people of any other State.
Will the Minister ask the Minister for Transport to investigate the relationship between increases in domestic air fares and the increase in the number of Australians travelling overseas at the same time as he is deciding whether the proposed air fare is reasonable? Will the Minister ask that the investigation examine especially whether in fact every increase in domestic air fares which is being caused directly by the Government’s policy of increasing the price of fuel and increasing landing and air navigation charges results in many more people going overseas with their pockets filled with money that might otherwise be spent in Australia if tourists chose to see Australia first? In other words, will the Minister instigate an inquiry to see whether in fact the present policy of increasing costs to the airlines is actually causing a loss of money to this country instead of a gain to the Treasury? Finally, will the Minister table in the Senate details of the method of calculating domestic air fares? This is a matter about which I asked his predecessor recently.
– The honourable senator raises some very interesting matters in his question. As the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, unfortunately I am not in a position to say that I will instigate the inquiry that he has requested. However, I certainly will refer the matters that he has raised to the Minister for Transport and ask him to examine the propositions which have been put in that question by the honourable senator and seek a considered reply.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Social Security. In order to enable the Minister to exonerate herself in relation to the cruel accusations that have been made about misinforming the Parliament, I ask her to study the replies she gave on 22 August 1978 to questions asked by Senators Walters, Knight, Harradine and Gietzelt. In those replies she said that the legislation to give effect to the Government’s Budget policy on child employment was then being prepared. I ask: How is it that that legislation was being prepared when the decision as to what it should contain was not made by Cabinet until this week? What was the reason for the Minister making that statement? The Minister said that she would make a statement on the legislation then being prepared when it was completed. In answer to Senator Gietzelt she said:
However, because of the concern that has been expressed in the community the Government has reviewed the decision and will make it clear when drawing up the legislation that it does not intend to include in the means testing arrangement income which results from the personal exertion of the child concerned.
How should I interpret that statement so that it clearly refers to the figure of $3 12?
– I would advise Senator Cavanagh to interpret the latter part of his question in that way because that was the only figure about which he would have had any knowledge at that time. He would know that I was referring to the Government decision which related to means testing at the level of $3 12. 1 fail to see how he would have had any other figure in his mind because that was the only -
– Your answer was that there would be no consideration of income gained from personal exertion.
– That was at the time when we were reviewing the decision concerning the $312 level. I say to Senator Cavanagh that if the Government had decided to review the decision and to retain the means testing level at $312 that would not have included personal exertion income. That was the statement that I made and that statement related to the level of $312. As far as the reference to the legislation being prepared is concerned, all legislation relating to the Budget is being prepared. This was one piece of legislation and one decision which was subjected to a review, as the Treasurer and I announced in August. The review has taken place and the later decision of the Government has now been announced. If Senator Cavanagh has difficulty in relating that to the previous statements, I simply say to him that the previous statements related to the Budget announcement. The statements by me in August related to the Budget announcement. The statements that have been made by me now relate to a decision which was taken this week as a consequence of the review of the earlier Budget decision.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to statements by the Minister for Transport which were reported as having been made at the Transport Outlook Conference that was held here in Canberra. The remarks were reported in yesterday’s Australian and relate to railways operation. I ask: Have the Minister and the Government made any formal offers to the South Australian Government to resume control of the South Australian railways if that Government is not prepared to accept the Commonwealth’s decisions? Is the Minister aware of the community distress being caused in some areas of South Australia by the recent announcement that some lines, including those to important South Australian northern towns, would be closed? Will the Minister initiate some conference between government, railways management, unions, business and the general community to examine the total effects of cancellations? Will he further call for urgent examination of the role of public transport in the economic and social development of a country with the size and population distribution of Australia?
– It was a little difficult to hear some of Senator Davidson’s question because of the insistent demands by members of the Opposition that the Federal Government should hand over more money. That was reminiscent of the government by cheque book that was practised for three years in this country with disastrous results. Senator Davidson firstly asked whether there had been any formal offer to the South Australian Government to return the railways to that State. I think the best answer I can give is to quote what the Minister for Transport said a couple of days ago in the speech to which Senator Davidson referred. The Minister for Transport said:
Indeed I would be happy to offer the railways systems back to South Australia and Tasmania, unless they are prepared to let us get on with the job of fixing them up. In making the offer, I am quite sure they won ‘t take me up on it. But if these railway systems -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. What the Minister is using in a reply is only a flippant comment of the Minister for Transport. There is no statutory ability of the South Australian Government to take over any lines at this stage because there has to be arbitration. I suggest that the Minister answer in that context.
– I ask the Minister to continue with his reply.
– I will go back to the beginning of what Mr Nixon was saying; that he would be happy to offer the railway systems back to South Australia and Tasmania but he did not think they were likely to take up the offer. I think in the light of the losses that have been sustained the Minister’s comments were understandable. He went on to say:
But if these railway systems are to continue to nin at a heavy loss, then clearly it is unfair for taxpayers in other States to carry that loss.
As a senator from a State whose railways are not run by the Commonwealth Government I can only say that I am pleased to hear that the Minister for Transport made that remark. The second matter raised by Senator Davidson in his question is whether there are to be line closures in South Australia. The Minister for Transport has made it clear that although some limited decisions have been made on line closure he has set an inquiry in train so that the whole question can be examined. The Minister has advised me that most of the concern seems to arise from statements made by the South Australian Government. In fact, the two lines which have been recommended to be closed are the Quorn to Peterborough line and that from Gladstone to
Wilmington. The Federal Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, has given assurances that no line will be closed at least until the end of the present grain harvest season. I further understand from him that no government decision will be made with respect to any further closures until there has been a report from Australian National Railways on the long term strategies and options to reverse the trend of mounting railway losses. So there is no cause for a lot of the concern which has been expressed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and follows matters raised recently in Question Time by Senator Thomas and, I think, Senator Young, about the increased use of petrol as a result of vehicle emission controls. In view of the opinions expressed by experts attending an international conference on alcohol fuels in Sydney last month that ethanol added to petrol increases the octane rating, reduces the need for lead additives and hence may well eliminate completely the need for any vehicle emission controls, will the Minister ensure that the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council, in its current inquiry on behalf of the Government into the desirability of commencing an experimental ethanol industry in Tasmania, takes into account this most important factor of anti-pollution before the report of the Council is delivered?
– Under the new arrangements I represent the Minister for National Development. I am pleased to have a question directed to me in that capacity. It is the first one that has been directed to me and it reminded me that I represent the Minister for National Development.
– It is a change from questions about ASIO.
– I think that the question that Senator Mason has asked is a very serious one, a good deal more serious than a lot of questions which I am asked here by many honourable senators about a number of subjects. Senator Mason has raised a matter of major significance and of long term importance for Australia, namely, the best ways of achieving a reduction in the overall demand for Australia’s limited petroleum resources. The matter also involves transport costs and many other aspects. I was most interested to hear the information contained in the question. I expect that the Minister for National Development has information on the subject. I will certainly draw his attention to the question and make sure that the matters contained in it are considered. I feel sure that it is a subject which would be of great interest to the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council.
Senator Thomas having addressed a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate-
- Senator Thomas, you have couched your question in such a way that you have asked for an opinion in this matter. Also, the matter does not come within the area of responsibility of the Minister. It may be that the Minister desires to reply.
- Mr President, I am asking you to rule in all seriousness that the question is out of order. The matter has nothing to do with the responsibility of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I would think that if you were to permit this question to be answered you would be opening up Pandora’s box on a whole range of questions. If that is the way Question Time is to be run, that is the way it will have to be.
– I have always made it a practice so far as I have been able to do to allow a Minister to reply in any area, but the subject matter of this question, as has been pointed out, is well outside the area of the Minister’s responsibility. I will disallow the question in its present form.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. I refer her to the Senate Hansard of 22 August of this year and in particular to page 230 where, in answer to a question by Senator Harradine relating to the means testing of the family allowance, she said:
As I indicated earlier, the drafting of legislation is proceeding at present. 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.
I refer the Minister further to page 234 where, in answer to a question from Senator Gietzelt again on the matter of the means testing of the family allowance, she is reported as saying:
However, because of the concern that has been expressed in the community the Government has reviewed the decision and will make it clear when drawing up the legislation that it does not intend to include in the means testing arrangement income which results from the personal exertion of the child concerned.
Does the Minister not concede that that is a categorical statement that no consideration will be given to income derived by the personal exertion of children? In that statement no mention is made of any $312 per annum or of any other figure. Will the Minister have a further look at the Hansard records and reconsider the answers that she gave honourable senators earlier today?
– I am aware of the answers on these matters that were given previously. I am aware also of the fact that at the time the answers were given the Government was reviewing the decision which had been announced in the Budget- that at an income level of $3 12 per annum an income test would be applied to the family allowance. That decision, as we announced in August, was being subjected to review. As I advised in the Senate, if the income level had remained at $312 per annum personal exertion income would not have been included. In the course of the review of that decision the Government came to the decision which was announced yesterday; namely, that at an income level of $1,040 per annum, with the exclusion of those items which I mentioned for maintenance, pension payments, scholarships and income received from deceased estates of parents, income would be subjected to an income test. That is a statement of fact following the Cabinet decision of this week. The previous review was of the decision announced in the Budget, that income testing would commence at an income level of $312 per annum. On that decision and at that level I announced that personal exertion income would not be included.
-Mr President, I wish to ask the Minister for Social Security a supplementary question. Since the answer that she has given might be an unfortunate answer to have recorded as having been given by her, will she have a further look at the answers that she has given today and the answers that were given on 22 August so that she might reconsider the answer that she has just given?
– I would always be prepared to have another look at any statement that I have made. But I do ask the Senate to understand that we are talking about two separate decisions. We are talking about the Budget decision, which related to an income level of $312 per annum, in respect of which I said that the Government had decided that personal exertion income would not be included and that there would be a review of the circumstances surrounding that decision. I have now announced a later Government decision. That later Government decision is that income at the level of $ 1 ,040 per annum will be subjected to an income test. They are two separate decisions. If honourable senators opposite find it impossible to understand that, I suggest that they should have a look at the answers that were given previously and the answers that have been given today.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and refers to the very considerable problem of unemployment among partly-skilled juvenile females, who in previous times found jobs in offices of insurance companies, business houses, et cetera, as office juniors to undertake such tasks as running messages, filing, et cetera. Is it a fact that because of the clerical awards now applicable to such employees and the very narrow margin between that wage category and adult wages, most employers decline to hire such people for such relatively simple jobs which, however, do provide valuable work experience? Recognising the problems associated with awards covering this area, will the Federal Government consider giving support to, and making appropriate representations for, the adoption of a special award level of wages pitched between the rate of applicable unemployment benefit and the lowest rate applicable to employees under the clerical awards to cover the category of office juniors? Does the Minister agree that such a level of wages, which would be appropriate to the skill required, would encourage employers to hire more female juveniles?
– Yesterday I was asked, in fairly general terms, a question about the junior rates of pay and margins in this area. Senator Messner has now asked a more specific question in relation to the same matter. He does, of course, recognise that this is a matter for decision by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Of course, it is also open to the Government to make submissions in relation to this matter, as it frequently does. I will draw to the attention of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations the specific matter raised by Senator Messner. Perhaps I will include it in a question which was asked of me yesterday and which I will be drawing to his attention upon his return.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: Has any direction been given by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal under section 1 16 of the Broadcasting and Television Act forbidding the broadcasting of election matter on radio or television by the New South Wales Branch of the Liberal Party between midnight last night and polling day next Saturday for the by-election in Werriwa? If so, at what time was such a direction issued?
– I have no information on the matter raised by the honourable senator. I will seek a reply immediately from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and try to let the honourable senator have it today.
-I ask the Minister for Science whether he has seen a statement by Mr Jim Leslie, the Managing Director of Mobil Australia, in which he stated that his company had just made an exciting breakthrough which may make the coal liquefaction process much closer to being economic by using a catalyst which will convert methanol directly into 96 octane lead-free high quality gasoline and thus eliminate further processing, with a big saving in costs. I also ask the Minister whether he can say if any research in this area is being carried out in Australia. If not, will he take up this important matter, which could be of great benefit to Australia, particularly in view of our vast coal deposits, which include billions of tonnes of good quality coal in the Cooper Basin of South Australia but at great depths and at present unusable due to our limited technological knowledge at this stage?
-My understanding is that reports on the Mobil Oil Corporation’s research in America aimed at converting methanol to petrol, first appeared in technical journals some years ago. The process involves the initial production, using established technology, of crude methanol from a coal or natural gas feedstock. The crude methanol is then converted by means of a new zeolite catalyst to a product consisting of about 85 per cent of high quality gasoline, about 14 per cent of liquefied petroleum gas and one per cent of light gas. Details of the process- I think this is where the honourable senator may have noted the information- were reported by the President of the Mobil Research and Development Corporation to a conference on alcohol fuels held in Sydney in early August by the Institution of Chemical Engineers.
I understand that to date the process has been demonstrated in a four-barrel per day fluid bed pilot unit, with excellent results in terms of both unit operability and petrol yield and quality. The pilot plant began operation in September 1977 and has been tested in continuous operation for up to 75 days. Mobil is presently formulating plans for a 100-barrel per day pilot plant in order to obtain additional data for the design of a commercial scale plant. It is a very interesting study. So far as I am aware there is no organisation in Australia doing any similar type of research but I will have the matter studied further and give the honourable senator a note about it.
– I ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister what he means by have the matter studied further’. My question is: Will we see whether we also can do some coordinated research in this very important breakthrough area?
– So far as I am aware, no attempt has been made to duplicate the Mobil approach in this matter. That revolves around its discovery of this new type of catalyst. As I understand it, Mobil’s work is being funded in part by the United States Department of Energy, and I would hope that the more confidential aspects of the breakthrough would become available to Australia through the arrangements that this Government has made for the exchange of information on energy research, referred to in the Senate recently, that are being fostered by my colleague the Minister for National Development.
-Two days ago I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, to ascertain the facts regarding a discussion in Darwin about the uranium deal. The Minister said in clarification: ‘How many people were present? I do not know, I was not there, but I shall find out. What was said? I do not know; I shall find that out.’ Now that the matter has assumed urgent proportions, I ask the Minister whether he has been able to obtain for me that very important information.
– My understanding was that Mr Viner, having been a first-hand witness, had in another place and in public made statements clarifying what in fact happened. If there is any additional information, any clarification that can be given, I will seek it immediately and let Senator Keeffe know of it.
– I ask a supplementary question. The substance of my question on Tuesday was: Did the Prime Minister make the threats alleged, and what did he say? I have tried to be as nice as possible in seeking that information, and to avoid naming the Prime Minister. I am sorry that I have had to do so.
-I will direct that question to the Prime Minister specifically, and will seek a response for the honourable senator.
-Can the Minister for Education inform the Senate of the total cost of the construction of the Ryde College of Catering Studies and Hotel Administration in Sydney? Can he also inform the Senate of the contribution by the Commonwealth to that total cost, and the contribution by the New South Wales Labor Government?
– That is an appropriate question, because I understand that today the Ryde College of Catering Studies and Hotel Administration building in Sydney is to be opened by the State Premier. For the information of Senator Baume, and of the Senate generally, the total cost of the building is $1 1.1m. Of that cost, $10,769,376 has been provided by the Commonwealth Government through the Technical and Further Education Council of the Tertiary Education Commission and its forbears. The contribution of the New South Wales Government has been of the order of $331,000. Basically, buildings such as this are an instance of the success story of the development of the technical and further education area of the Commonwealth Government, through the Tertiary Education Commission. I wish the Institution well. In giving emphasis at the Commonwealth level to technical and further education we are making a significant contribution to the development of education in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and refers to the announcement of the Government in the Budget Speech to double the threshold payments required of the States to qualify for further disaster relief funding, and the matching requirements thereafter that have now been imposed. It refers also to a report yesterday that Sir Charles Court had complained about the application of this rule stating, that as a result of the change, Western Australia would receive negligible funding for damage resulting from Cyclone Alby. While I recognise, of course, that thrusting more responsibility on the States is an integral part of the Government’s new Federalism policy, of which Sir Charles approves, would the Minister agree that this decision has retrospective application insofar as it affects damage caused in the last financial year by Cyclone Alby? Will the Government consider modifying the policy, if Sir Charles Court has correctly understood it, so that payments for Cyclone Alby damage will be made under the old rule.?
– The question of FederalState funding for national disasters is one that from my recollection occupied some of the time of the recent Premiers Conference. The updating of the formula emerged at that Conference or consequently. It must be borne in mind that the ratios and threshold amounts were fixed some years ago. The change in the value of money suggested that there needed to be some updating. I think that it would be desirable if I obtained the precise details of the present funding arrangements. The honourable senator may seek them from me, and I would be happy to get them. As to the specific arrangement with regard to Cyclone Alby I am not informed at the moment. That matter would be related to discussions between the Commonwealth and the State itself. I will seek the details. I will refer Senator Walsh’s suggestion to the Prime Minister or the Treasurer and seek a response on those grounds.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the rather curious, unreal and provocative editorial statement in the Australian today which states:
The Federal Treasurer, his advisers and, presumably, the majority of Cabinet continue to supply evidence that they do not live in the real world. They are entirely out of touch with ordinary people and ordinary people’s problems.
Does the Minister refute this statement and confirm that the Cabinet has the closest concern for ordinary people and that the Budget is an honest Budget building a very real increase in the prosperity of families and the people of Australia? Is it not true that the overall impact of the Budget means a positive increase of, I think, 0.3 per cent in real incomes for the people of Australia and that this welcome situation stands in stark contrast to the increase in taxation of 20 per cent or more in one year alone of the Whitlam Labor Government?
– I take a point of order. For the instruction of new senators in this place, especially the honourable senator who has asked the question, I refer to the fact that one of the rules on the form for notice of question states:
It is not in order to ask whether certain things, such as statements made in a newspaper, are true . . .
That is exactly what the honourable senator has been doing. He read directly from the editorial of a newspaper and asked whether a statement was true.
– He asked whether it was false.
– Or false. It is contrary to the Standing Orders for him to be allowed to do so.
– I shall allow the question.
– It is to my regret that I did not read the editorial in the Australian or the Border Watch this morning so I am not informed of the specific editorial. Senator Teague asked me about the intended policies of the Government and the impact of the Government’s policies. For 20 years or more- in two decades- this Government has shown that of all governments in the world it brought full employment, no inflation and wide home ownership to the people of Australia. The Whitlam Labor Government destroyed that in a matter of three years. It is the sad duty of this Government to restore prosperity to this country from the debris of the Whitlam Government. Senator Teague asked about the real impact of the Budget. I remind the Senate that in the time of the Whitlam Government the income tax take was almost trebled, sales tax was doubled, customs and excise duty was doubled, and all States put up their taxes and charges. I remind Senator Teague and the Senate, particularly those vociferous honourable senators in the Australian Labor Party, that for three years we have been able to reduce taxes. In effect, this Budget being taken into account, there has been a total reduction of $3,000m in tax compared with what would have happened had the previous trend continued. I confirm that in fact there is a net reduction of 0.3 per cent, as Mr Howard, the Treasurer, has said in another place, compared with something of the order of a 20 per cent increase in taxes in one year under the Whitlam Government. The track performance of this Government and its predecessors of the same philosophy will speak eloquently for its performance now and in the future.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Taking another aspect of the Government’s ‘fair’
Budget, is the Minister aware that the Government’s Budget decision to tax lump sum payments for unused annual leave amounts to a retrospective tax which in effect will fine tens of thousands of Australian workers sums of the order of $1,000 or more each? Does he know that on most civil engineering projects of a major kind such as in my own State the Westgate Bridge, the Melbourne underground rail loop and the Dartmouth Dam it has been the normal practice over the years for the great majority of workers to defer and accumulate their annual leave? Is he aware that because of the comparatively short length of time of these projects those employed on them have no chance to build up long service leave entitlements and that saving annual leave is the only provision which they can make to tide them over until they can find new employment? Under these circumstances, will the Minister raise with the Treasurer the desirability of the Government reconsidering this tax, particularly because of its retrospective effect?
– The substantial part of Senator Evans’s question is whether I will raise this matter with the Treasurer. I will direct to the attention of the Treasurer the assertions and allegations of the question and the request in the last part of it, and I will seek a response.
-In view of the increasing number of passport irregularities, I ask the Attorney-General what is the extent of the co-operation between the Department of Foreign Affairs and his own Department. In the Flynn case, which is well known in the Senate, I understand that because that gentleman is facing charges in Britain we have decided not to go on with a prosecution. I understand that in another case I mentioned the other week Commonwealth Police discovered another passport irregularity. Does the Department of Foreign Affairs collate information on such cases, and does the Attorney-General determine in which cases there shall be prosecution? Is there an alarming backlog in processing these sorts of cases which justifies a bigger effort in combating white collar crime?
– I think in essence Senator Mulvihill asks for details of procedures which may exist for co-operation between the Department of Foreign Affairs and my own Department in relation to people applying for passports and concerning whom charges may be pending. I am not in a position to answer the question in detail. I will take note of the question and endeavour to obtain an early answer for Senator Mulvihill.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It follows a question by Senator Davidson which I think suggested- I do not do him any discredit or dishonour- that the financial burden of keeping certain railway lines open should be placed on the South Australian Government. Is the Minister aware that when the legislation for the transfer of country lines in South Australia to the Australian National Railways went through the Senate it was unanimously supported by his Party; that Senator Jessop was the spokesman for his Party; that I reported the legislation to the Senate, and that included in the agreement signed with South Australia were indications that there should be no closures without discussion with the State Government? Is the Minister now saying that that agreement will not be honoured and that the Federal Government and the Minister do not intend to discuss the matter with the State Government under the terms of the memorandum and then let the matter be decided by arbitration? Is the Minister aware that many cuts in staff and services already have taken place without consultation with the State Government? I refer to the reductions in country line services and the effect on employment, including the decision by the Australian National Railways to cut back apprentices, a decision which has now been modified following our deputation. I would like to know whether the Government is taking a new line by asking the State Government to take on new obligations apart from those given to it under the legislation, legislation which when it was introduced in this place was welcomed by the Minister’s own Party.
– I do not think that there is any new line being taken by the Government in this matter. One of the problems is that there is a great deal of political activity about railway lines and the South Australian Government, having entered into an agreement which makes the State railways the responsibility of the Commonwealth, is, I understand, indulging in some public activity about how these railway lines ought to be managed, whether they ought to be opened or closed, and so on. My understanding is that the Minister for Transport does not intend to have any closures without an adequate period of notice to users and without the fullest and most careful examination and consultation with regard to the arrangements that might be made. I will put the detailed matters which have been raised by Senator Bishop before the Minister for Transport and seek a reply from him.
-On 12 September Senator McAuliffe asked me a question concerning the practice to be followed by the Industries Assistance Commission in regard to the release of a draft report on its inquiry into the sugar industry and the holding of a public inquiry to discuss the draft report. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has now supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
The IAC inquiry is examining matters which are the responsibility of the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments under the Sugar Agreement of 1975. It is open to the two governments to reach agreement on the regulation of the production and marketing of sugar in Australia without the need for the matter to be examined by the IAC. However, the governments have decided upon a public inquiry which has allowed all interested parties to put their views on the matters under reference. These views will be noted by the governments when decisions are taken on the recommendations coming forward from the inquiry. In deciding upon the IAC inquiry, it was agreed between the two governments that the inquiry would be held on the basis that a draft report would not be issued and the Minister has informed the Chairman of the IAC, Mr McKinnon, of this arrangement. The Government wishes to ensure that full opportunity is made available in the inquiry to interested parties to respond as fully as possible to evidence submitted on the matters under reference, and the Minister has conveyed this view to Mr McKinnon.
– I present the following reports from the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House: A report relating to the proposed construction of a cooling tower enclosure at the rear of Parliament House; and a report relating to the installation of guard boxes at the rear of Parliament House.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of an inspector appointed pursuant to the Insurance Act 1 973 to investigate and report on certain matters concerning the Australian Motorists and General Insurance Co. Pty Ltd.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Tertiary Education Commission for the 1979-81 triennium, Volume 2, containing recommendations for 1979. Mr President, I seek leave to make a brief statement.
– This report of the Tertiary Education Commission makes recommendations for the allocation of Commonwealth funds to universities, colleges of advanced education and technical and further education institutions for 1979. The report includes the advice from the councils for the three sectors. It has been prepared in response to the Government’s guidelines which I announced in the Senate on 9 June 1978. The guidelines reflected the Government’s assessment of its budgetary situation and took into consideration an earlier report from the Commission for the 1979-81 triennium, which I tabled in April 1978. The Government is giving consideration to this report and will announce its decisions on the recommendations as soon as possible.
– Pursuant to section 122 of the Repatriation Act 1920 I present the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1 960.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
This Bill proposes a number of amendments of an administrative nature to the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1960 that have arisen from experience in its operation. Honourable senators will be aware that the regulation of weights and measures is one of the oldest responsibilities of governments. The Australian Constitution provides the Commonwealth with powers to make laws with respect to weights and measures under section 51. The Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1960 set out detailed arrangements for the regulation of weights and measures and superseded an earlier Act passed in 1948. It provided for the establishment of a National Standards Commission with the functions of advising on units for the measurement of physical quantities and approving the design or pattern of instruments that are to be used for the purposes of trade such as weighing machines, flowmeters and the like.
The Commission has always been closely associated with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and especially the National Measurement Laboratory- the NML. Indeed the latter is responsible under the Act for maintaining standards for units of measurement of physical quantities. Initially the Commission was assisted by NML staff. As a result of the 1 960 Act, however, the Commission was given power to recruit its own staff. Today it is served by a staff of 35 who are now housed at a single location in modern premises in North Ryde, New South Wales.
Honourable senators will note that clauses 1 to 5 are machinery and formal clauses only. Clauses 6 to 8 provide a revised structure for the Commission, update its constitution and methods of operation and specify procedural matters not presently covered by the Act. In essence, the clause retains the concept of a commission comprising a chairman and 4 members, all part-time, but it proposes that they be appointed by the Governor-General in Council rather than the
Minister. The proposed new sections 17(3) and (4) recognise the need for at least some of the members to have scientific and technical skills related to the techniques and problems of weights and measures. They also recognise the close relationship between the Commission and the CSIRO and the importance of advice from the latter in the selection of suitable members. I would envisage that some of the three positions would continue to be filled by working members of CSIRO such as the Director of the National Measurement Laboratory or one of his senior officers.
The proposed new section 1 8AF provides explicitly for the Commission to delegate certain of its powers to its senior permanent officers. This power had been assumed to be implicit in the present Act but, in the light of queries by the Auditor-General, it is desirable to make it explicit. Since the Commission meets only every few months it is necessary to delegate powers in regard to staff appointments, promotions, and resignations. Clause 9 brings the provisions in regard to finance and auditing into line with modern requirements for statutory authorities. Clause 10 has been included to remove beyond any doubt that the Commission is not liable to taxation.
In the Act a maximum penalty of $200 is provided for a person who falsely represents that an instrument for use in trade, for example, a weighing machine, has been given ‘pattern approval ‘, that is, has been certified by the Commission as suitable for that purpose. The maximum penalty has been increased to $2,000 in line with current values. Clause 12 provides that the Commission shall submit an annual report to the Parliament which was not required under the Act. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Science and Industry Research Act 1949.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
In a statement on 1 1 May this year, I informed the Senate of the Government’s decisions on the recommendations of the report of the independent inquiry into the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Honourable senators will also be aware of the companion statement made that same day by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in another place. The Bill that I now bring before the Senate is designed to provide the appropriate legislative authority for the reorganisation of the CSIRO and the other elements of the Government’s decisions announced at that time which require legislative action. The Bill is the result of the most comprehensive review of the Organisation’s performance and of its enabling legislation. The main thrust of the amendments it contains has three principal aims, all of which are directed towards creating an improved framework which will assist the Organisation to continue to serve the nation well in the years ahead and to optimise the benefits to the Australian people that can be derived from national government-financed scientific endeavour.
Firstly, the Bill broadens and modernises the functions of the Organisation and invests the Organisation with the powers necessary to execute these responsibilities. Secondly, provision is made for a revised management structure involving a governing body of reduced size, which will be able to concentrate on policy issues, and the establishment of up to six institutes within which the Organisation’s scientific research and other related affairs will be conducted. These institutes will be formed by aggregating the existing operational activities of the Organisation. Each institute will be under the leadership of a distinguished scientific manager. And, thirdly, it establishes enhanced statutory advisory machinery to provide the governing body with highlevel advice on national needs and priorities with respect to scientific research. The Bill maintains the Organisation as a single statutory entity which will continue to be financed, in the main, by annual parliamentary appropriations.
I come now to the specific provisions of the Bill. Clause 6 redefines the powers and functions of the Organisation although they continue to be expressed in broad terms. The main role of the CSIRO is to carry out scientific and technological research for the purpose of assisting all sectors of Australian industry, furthering the interests of the Australian community, and contributing to the achievement of Australian national objectives and to the performance of the national and international responsibilities of the Commonwealth.
This research will continue to be undertaken almost exclusively in the fields of the physical and biological sciences and will be principally longer term strategic mission-oriented research, although fundamental and tactical problemoriented research will be pursued when it is related to the Organisation’s role. The Organisation will have the power to arrange for research to be undertaken on its behalf, where the executive believes this to be appropriate. Research into economics and the other social sciences will not be undertaken but the Organisation will continue to utilise requisite expertise from these fields in program conduct, evaluation and planning. Whilst the CSIRO will continue to carry out work in fields of the physical and biological sciences that may lead to results with medical applications- for example, nutrition and cell biology- research in human medicine will not be a direct objective of the Organisation.
The CSIRO will be expected to pursue policies which will encourage and facilitate the use of the results of its research and will have powers to join in the formation of a company or partnership with commercial interests for the purpose of developing a discovery or invention. The collection, interpretation and dissemination of information drawn from world science and technology- as well as from the Organisation’s own professional officers and resources- for the benefit of scientific and technological advances in Australia, constitutes another function of the Organisation which is of fundamental importance. This is a matter to which the Government expects increasing attention to be given in future years. This latter function, although an integral part of the CSIRO ‘s role as a research organisation, will also involve collaboration and consultation with other Commonwealth agencies active in this field.
The training of research workers will remain a function of the CSIRO. The Organisation is encouraged to co-operate with tertiary education institutions in this area. It will continue to be able to award fellowships and research studentships by arrangement with relevant universities, and make funds available in aid of research, where these awards or funds will be to the benefit of its own research programs and objectives.
Other functions of the Organisation have been preserved without significant change. The CSIRO will continue to act as one means of liaison between Australia and other countries with respect to scientific research and make an important contribution to the nation’s foreign technical aid programs. It has a responsibility pursuant to the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1960 to maintain the national standards of measurement of physical quantities for which there are Commonwealth legal units of measurement. The Organisation will be required to establish and maintain standards of measurement of physical quantities beyond the present legal requirements placed on it, and to promote and participate in the development of calibration and other arrangements of benefit to Australian industry and the community at large. As in the past, scientific journals, periodicals and papers will be published by the CSIRO and the Organisation will continue to co-operate with research associations in industry and otherwise develop new liaison mechanisms, particularly in the manufacturing industry sector.
Pending the resolution by the Government of the future arrangements for funding industrial research associations, the Bill retains this responsibility as a function of the Organisation.
The Bill does not alter the Organisation’s responsibility under section 10 of the principal Act to co-operate with other organisations and authorities- both Federal and State- with a view to preventing, as far as possible, unnecessary overlapping of research programs. While the CSIRO ‘s autonomy in setting research program objectives will be maintained, the Bill preserves the authority of the Minister responsible for the CSIRO to give directions relating to the broad fields of scientific research and general policy. Such directions will be recorded in the Organisation ‘s annual report, together with any guidelines which the Minister may issue in relation to the policies of the Organisation in making available the Organisation’s industrial and intellectual property, including the formation of partnerships or companies.
Clause 7 of the Bill reconstitutes the executive which will be responsible for managing the affairs of the Organisation. A separate office of Chairman of the Organisation is created. The person appointed to this office is a member and the Chairman of the executive ex officio, as well as being the full-time chief executive. The Chairman of the Organisation and the other members of the executive will be appointed by the Governor-General. As I have already indicated, the new executive, as the governing body, will be reduced from the present nine members, five of whom are full-time, to between six and eight members, three of whom will be full-time. The part-time members, between three and five in number, will be persons appointed from outside the Organisation. I have previously announced that Dr J. P. Wild will be appointed to the position of Chairman of the Organisation. Dr N. K. Boardman will be appointed as one of the other two full-time members of the executive. The
Government is yet to decide on the remainder of the membership. While the Government believes that it would not be practicable to specify in the legislation the individual roles and responsibilities of the full-time members, it envisages that the executive will allot individual responsibilities along the lines proposed by the independent inquiry, having due regard to the personal qualifications and experience of particular members.
Proposed Parts III, IV and V in clause 7 contain, in addition to policy matters germane to the requirements of the Organisation and the Government’s decisions thereon, the usual provisions associated with statutory offices. Clause 6 of the Bill also provides for the creation by the executive of up to six institutes. The scientific research and related activities will be carried out in these institutes. Each institute will be headed by a senior scientist with the title of Director who will have responsible to him the heads of the particular research activities which will form part of each institute. The main role of the institute directors will be research management and coordination. However, they will also actively participate in the decision-making processes of the executive. The Government envisages that the titles, purposes and composition of institutes will vary from time to time and this is an aspect of policy that the executive will keep under regular review. It is for this reason that the provision for the creation of institutes is expressed in the Bill in general terms. Action to establish these institutes and to appoint directors is well advanced. Final decisions will, of course, await the appointment of the new executive.
Institute directors will be appointed by the executive for a term of up to five years with eligibility for reappointment. As officers of the Organisation, their terms and conditions of service will be determined by the executive pursuant to the proposed section 32 in clause 7.
Proposed Part VII in clause 7 of the Bill establishes enhanced advisory machinery. There will be a new Advisory Council and new State committees in each State. The Advisory Council and its attendant arrangements are seen by the Government as a linch-pin in the advisory mechanisms directed to assisting the executive in the determination of the Organisation’s research priorities. The functions of the Advisory Council will be to advise the executive on the objectives of the Organisation and the priorities to be followed to achieve those objectives; industrial and economic matters that bear on the Organisation’s work; and the identification of the interests of the Australian community that may be furthered by the Organisation. The Council will comprise a part-time Chairman and up to 24 other part-time members, including the chairmen of the six State committees. The Council will be representative of a wide range of interests and these are set out in broad terms in the Bill. It is intended that the Council would normally include persons associated with primary, secondary and tertiary industry, as well as persons drawn from relevant community interest groups, including organised labour.
The Government intends that the Council will be composed of senior and respected persons from the relevant fields. Appointments to the Council will be for a term of five years with provision for renewal for one additional term. The Government agrees with the inquiry’s recommendation that, other than in exceptional circumstances, no person should serve on the Council for more than two terms. The Australian Science and Technology Council will not be represented on the Council but proposed section 37 makes provision for this body to send an observer to Council meetings. It is envisaged that representatives of the executive would also regularly attend Council meetings as observers at the invitation of the Council. The Council will be required to meet at least three times each financial year but the Government anticipates that meetings could be more frequent than this. It is envisaged that the Advisory Council will establish working parties to examine particular areas related to the CSIRO ‘s activities and operations. The Council will be completely independent of the executive of the CSIRO and will have its own secretariat. Its staff may be appointed or seconded from Commonwealth departments and authorities, State government employment, industry, universities, or from the CSIRO itself. They will be engaged under the Science and Industry Research Act as a matter of convenience. However, clause 7 includes a provision which is designed to ensure that the staff of the Advisory Council secretariat are clearly under the direction of the Chairman of the Advisory Council. Clause 7 also provides that the Council ‘s advice, together with the executive’s comments on it, will be incorporated in the Organisation ‘s annual reports.
The committees established in each State will be representative at the State level of interest groups, organisations and associations reflected at a national level on the Advisory Council. Their membership will include, collectively, representatives from the rural industry research funds. The State committees will provide a link with industry, centres of education, and the community generally at a grass roots level. The Bill provides for representatives of State government instrumentalities to be appointed to the committees. These appointments will be made on the advice of the relevant State Premier. CSIRO officers will not be appointed to State committees as proposed by the independent inquiry. Rather it is intended that appropriate CSIRO officers will attend committee meetings as observers and act as an interface to ensure that fruitful channels of communication between committees and local divisions of the Organisation are sustained. The duration of committee appointments will be comparable to the provision that I have described for the Advisory Council. The Organisation will provide each State committee with the administrative support and assistance necessary for the successul performance of its functions. Details of meetings procedures and related matters will be prescribed in the regulations.
In keeping with the commitment given in my statement of 1 1 May, the Bill provides for the establishment of a CSIRO consultative council. The council will comprise representatives of the Executive and of staff associations representing CSIRO officers. The council will examine and report to the Executive of CSIRO on matters which generally affect, or are of broad interest to, the staff of the Organisation. Regulations will be made to prescribe the manner in which the consultative council is to be consituted and carry out its functions. These regulations will be consistent with the agreement on these matters which has been worked out between the Organisation and the relevant staff associations.
Important changes are made by clause 7 of the Bill to the annual report provision. The Organisation ‘s future reports will include statements by the Executive on the broad polices pursued by the Organisation with respect to the determination of research program priorities and objectives and other elements of the Organisation’s functions. Following an initial exposition of these broad policies, future reports will describe changes and developments in the policies. The Organisation’s reports will continue to provide a broad outline of the results and progress of research programs.
A number of other amendments of a routine nature are to be made to the principal Act. The staffing provisions of the principal Act are to be amended in accordance with the Government’s decisions on the report of the independent inquiry. The sections relating to financial matters are substituted by proposed Part VIII in clause 7 of the Bill to reflect current drafting and administrative practice. Consistent with the spirit of the freedom of information legislation which is currently before the Senate, and the Government’s policy on access to official information, the Bill repeals the official secrecy provision contained in section 3 1 of the principal Act. Clause 10 sets out transitional provisions which protect the staff of the Organisation and preserve their employment conditions.
The changes reflected in this Bill are fundamental to the reorganisation of CSIRO which the Government believes to be highly desirable. The enactment of this measure will enable the new Executive to be appointed and to embark in earnest on the major tasks ahead. The successful achievement of these goals will, I believe, ensure that the Organisation will continue to maintain in future years the prestige it has undoubtedly acquired in the past 52 years and guarantee its continued responsiveness to Australia’s needs. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Georges) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Georges moving a motion relating to the Order of Business on the Notice Paper.
Motion (by Senator Georges) agreed to:
That General Business Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in the name of Senator Keeffe be postponed until the next day of sitting.
Debate resumed from 19 September, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-We of the Opposition do not oppose this Bill, but that does not mean that we agree that the Government is doing sufficient for the homeless persons who require assistance. The purpose of this Bill is to extend for a further 12 months certain provisions of the Homeless Persons Assistance Act. I believe that there is to be further consultation with the States and the people who assist in administering this Act in relation to the assistance given to homeless people. This Act came into operation in 1974. Since then it has been of tremendous benefit to the homeless people who require assistance. In the past those people have been mainly men of approximately 45 years of age, but because of the great stress which has been placed on this community recently, especially by this Government, and the insecurity that has arisen there has been a tendency for this situation to change. The average age of those seeking assistance most certainly has been lower. As I said, in 1974 men of approximately 45 years of age were the main beneficiaries of this Act, whereas more and more young people are now becoming homeless and destitute. Women are now to be found in this category, whereas previously it was confined to men.
Senator Walters stated on Tuesday night that the problem has arisen mainly in the cities and not in the country areas. I would have to disagree with that statement. For example, great social upheavals have occurred at Whyalla because of this Government’s refusal to give assistance to the shipbuilding industry and the closing down of that industry. I have spoken about this matter to the staff of the St Vincent de Paul Society in that area. Before the closure of the Whyalla shipyards, they had quite large reserves of the furniture, bedding and equipment needed to help people in distressed circumstances. A number of people have left Whyalla and a number of homes are available in the area but, because the call for assistance is arising continually as more and more people in the area have become unemployed, the reserves of furniture, bedding and equipment have been depleted and there is virtually none available for helping people. It was put to me that the Federal Government should help in this regard by transporting furniture and goods free of cost, through the Australian National Railways, from Adelaide to Whyalla so that assistance can be extended to the people in the area who are in need. Because of government intervention and the excise duty on brandy many people in the Riverland area also feel very insecure in this regard.
In a situation where there is insecurity one gets family arguments and family problems. There is a tendency now for breakups to occur among families whose breadwinner is insecure because he does not know from one day to the next whether his livelihood is in jeopardy or whether he has a job. Alcoholism is also one of the results of insecurity in employment. I predict that, because of the excise that has been imposed and because the growers in the Riverland area cannot sell their grapes, there will be great pressures on families there and family breakups will occur.
More and more young people are homeless. I refer to children, both girls and boys, of the tender ages of 10, 11 or 12 years, who have run away from home because of the continual arguments and the tragedies that tend to occur when the breadwinner is in fear of losing his livelihood. Insecurity has created terrible upset in our community. The Federal Government is not providing sufficient funding to help these people. Often government inaction itself has brought about these situations. The help provided by various organisations, often religious, has been of tremendous benefit, but they can recover from the Government only 25c for every meal they supply and only 75c for every bed they supply. That is an intolerable situation.
Provision is made for the salary of social workers to be subsidised to the extent of 50 per cent only. This area of activity is increasing and there is a real need for more social workers to overcome the many problems that are presented. Ideally, there should not be as many homeless persons as there are, but the only way to cure that is to create security within the Australian working life. Given security, people will act responsibly.
I said earlier that we do not oppose the Bill, but I believe that further assistance should be given to people who are destitute. The church and other organisations which have assisted people in need in the community should be supported. That is the only way in which this problem will be overcome. If people were given job security- and there is no reason why in Australia they could not be- we would not have the problem that we face today. It is tragic to think that very young people, through no fault of their own but because of the great social upheaval in the community, are being forced out on to the streets. Certainly, that is no way to start a life. We should increase the degree of government help in overcoming this problem. No provision has been made to look after very young people and I believe that that aspect too should receive consideration. Also, assistance in the transportation to country areas of furniture and goods is desperately needed.
– The Senate is debating the proposed amendment to the Homeless Persons Assistance Act which, as has already been stated, extends its operation for a further year to permit consultations with the States on future arrangements to take place. This is in line with the spirit of the report of the working party on homeless men and women, which recognised the need for all levels of government to participate in a program to assist the homeless and give recognition to the services that have already been established and are being run effectively by voluntary organisations.
I pay tribute to the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden for having introduced this legislation in 1 974. It is a noteworthy measure for any Minister for Social Security to be identified with, and his introduction of this three-year program was an expression of his own sense of humanity and responsibility. I would agree with all who have said that a great deal has been accomplished under this Bill. However, I believe that a great deal more needs to be done. The fact that in this year we are extending the operation of the Bill for a further 12 months will, I hope, lead us to the establishment of a further program.
The Bill as originally introduced, contemplated a three-year program. The expenditure under that program was not as rapid as had been envisaged. For reasons that have been mentioned by Senator Grimes and others, progress was slower than expected. Local government bodies and sometimes communities, displayed some resistance to the setting up of the kind of homeless persons’ establishment that we felt might be desirable. I also place on record my appreciation of the work of the officers in the department who have dealt with this part of its responsibilities. I am pleased to hear of the recognition that has been given to the book, ‘A Place of Dignity’ which it produced. That book sets out objectives and achievements and the future responsibilities of a program of this kind.
I had the opportunity to see several of the homes that have been established, or are supported, under the program. Perhaps the first was the extension to the existing home in Hobart. I believe that through this program that organisation has now been able to develop resources which are of considerable assistance to the needy of that city. Recently in Melbourne I opened a project which is conducted by the Salvation Army and is used in conjunction with a sheltered workshop. It offers a complete rehabilitation program for persons who have sought help. Similar establishments in Melbourne and Hobart have recognised the need in the larger cities. I hope that under the program we will be able further to develop the resources around Australia to meet this very human need.
I am indebted to Senator Elstob for raising the matter relating to Whyalla. He mentioned that buildings or houses may be made available and I would seek his co-operation if he is aware of a project that could proceed. Although under the existing Act no further capital for new projects, could be made available, we would be able to assist with subsidies for accommodation and meals, as well as the other subsidies that we pay from the National Welfare Fund. I am not aware whether my Adelaide office has received an application from the city of Whyalla, or from any organisation within it. I will have that checked, but my central offices have advised me that if an appropriate application were made we would be able to give some assistance in that city.
Senator Mason raised the matter of consultation with voluntary organisations. My second reading speech emphasised that we wished to consult State governments. We shall, of course, certainly need in the coming year to consult voluntary organisations. They perform most of the work under the Act. Without their co-operation, and often their dedication, the Act would not fulfil the purpose for which it was intended. Consultation with voluntary organisations has been continuous and the establishment of homeless persons advisory committees in the various States has been of assistance to us in looking to the future of this program.
The coming year will be an important one and I would seek the co-operation of all in obtaining the guidance and information that I need to put before the Government to impress upon it the need to continue a program for homeless persons. When we see the opportunities for comfort, hope and service to be given people who have received accommodation and other help under the Act, those of us who would wish to be part of a concerned community cannot but believe that a great deal more could be done in many parts of Australia. I am aware of the fact that there are changes in social needs. Senator Elstob pointed to them when he spoke of the very young people who are homeless. He said that at present women are more predominantly homeless or that they are seeking help in greater numbers than at any other time. I draw attention to the community health program under which women’s refuges are funded through the Department of Health.
I also draw attention to the fact that I have had some study made of the needs of homeless youth. These are not necessarily for incorporation in this program; I was looking at the program that is conducted through my Office of Child Care. As we looked at what was needed for homeless youth and very young people we became aware that a great deal is being done by State governments through their providing services for these people. Again, if any entry into that field were to be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government it would certainly need to be done in consultation with State governments. Programs are springing up under their support and other community support assisted by State government and, in some cases, local government.
The other areas of homelessness which have added to what was predominantly a male need show us that in future there will be room for government consideration and consultation on these matters, certainly with State governments and also with voluntary organisations. I am pleased to hear that there is support around the Senate for the extension for a further year of this Act. During this year I will welcome any submissions from the Opposition or other parties so that as we place before the Government any future submissions we will be aware of the views of other people who have been vitally concerned, firstly, in the introduction of this Act and, secondly, in seeing whether it is meeting the need that is evidenced throughout our community. I thank the Senate for the discussion on this Bill. I thank the Opposition for its support of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 19 September, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition opposes the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Amendment Bill. The Bill was the subject of considerable debate in another place. We certainly do not wish to extend the program of the Senate unnecessarily in our opposition to the Bill in this place. Three basic reasons were given in the other place for our opposition to this Bill. Firstly, we believe that it is wrong in principle for the Government to make this move to transfer the fund raising capacities of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority to the open market before the people of the Australian Capital Territory have proper representative government and are properly responsible for their own affairs. We think that it is rushing the process to do so. We think that it may lead to complications in the control of the ACT electricity supply. The people of the ACT should have proper representation in the establishment and the functioning of this
Authority. Until they have we believe that it is only proper that the Government should continue to fund the Authority in the manner in which it has done so in the past.
Secondly, we point out that the transfer of such fund raising from the Budget to the open market is, in fact, another means of reducing the amount of government expenditure in the Budget and artificially reducing the Budget deficit. I have no wish to extend the debate; I merely express our opposition to this move.
– I have a few words to say on this Bill. For the reasons that Senator Grimes has given and those that were advanced in another place, I view with some concern the move to place the funding arrangements for the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority on to the open market. People who are interested in those reasons can perhaps look at the House of Representatives Hansard. I accept what Senator Grimes said that the people of the ACT should have some say in these matters. Perhaps they have not been fully consulted in this regard. What concerns me is that by going on to the open market it may be necessary for the ACT Electricity Authority to compete for funds at a substantial rate of interest.
Perhaps the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) can answer this question for me. After all, my view may be based on intuition. It may not be based on correct information. The Minister can, perhaps, supply me with the counter argument to my suggestion that if the ACT Electricity Authority goes on to the open market it will have to compete for funds at a rate of interest of 10 per cent, 1 1 per cent or 12 per cent in order to finance its expansion and development. Will this then lead to increased rates for electricity consumption within the Australian Capital Territory? If it does, that is all the more reason why we should consider consultation with the people of the ACT before we change the method of funding. Am I correct in my opinion that the ACT Electricity Authority is now being funded by the Government? If it is funded by the Government, can it not continue to be so funded? Why should the ACT Electricity Authority, receiving funds in this way, suddenly lose its source of funding and have to go to the expensive open market for funds for extension and development?
Of course, we are debating the second reading of this Bill. I have just received a note from my leader. Perhaps I ought to read it to the Senate but perhaps I shall refrain from doing so. Perhaps I use the word ‘perhaps’ too often. I should ask these questions at the Committee stage of the Bill but I am merely saving the time of the Chairman of Committees by asking them during the second reading debate. Perhaps the Minister can respond.
– I thank members of the Opposition for their comments on this Bill. I regret that they feel that they cannot support it. The whole basis of the Bill is to enable the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority to borrow on its own account. I note that the debate in this place has not ranged as widely as that which took place in another place. Senator Grimes, when he mentioned the three objections he has to the Bill, perhaps stated correctly those points which may be brought up in arguing this matter. He suggested that the legislation is wrong in principle; that it makes complications within the Australian Capital Territory; and that there may be some harmful effect on the constituents of the Australian Capital Territory. I take note of those points. We as a Government feel that what was said by the Opposition is not correct.
The basis of the Bill is to enable the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority to do something which other authorities around Australia have the capacity to do today. Honourable senators will know that some telephone charges are being lowered by Telecom Australia. Telecom, of course encouraged by this Government, is making very substantial reductions. Telecom, perhaps because of its ability to borrow and its business ability to be able to do so at low interest rates, has been able to effect economies. These days large borrowings are capable of being achieved overseas at rates of interest lower than those in Australia if one follows the money market very closely. Whether the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority will be able to effect such economies in its borrowings, I do not know. The point raised by Senator Georges requires evaluation. His point was whether this legislation could lead to higher electricity charges. I am advised that giving the Authority the right to borrow on its own account will have a negligible effect on charges. Honourable senators opposite may note that the borrowing costs of this Authority, well managed as it must be, have been reduced, if I noted the figures correctly, by over $ 1 m in the last years.
– Are you suggesting that electricity rates for consumers will be reduced?
-Members from all sides of this House apparently have funny ideas as to what I say. Perhaps it is best to look at the record. It is not for me to say whether charges are to be reduced. I suggest that wages and production costs will have a far greater effect on charges than will the cost of borrowing money. The cost of borrowing is not such a large impost as some would imagine. Generally, the Authority pays the long-term semi-government interest rate whether it is borrowing from the Government or borrowing privately. I thank members of the Opposition for their comments. Although they feel that they must oppose this Bill, perhaps in due course they will see the good reason why the Government has moved in this way.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 19 September, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
– I wish to take advantage of the Standing Orders which allow me to speak on any subject on the first reading of a money Bill. I give warning that I will ignore the subject of the Bills, namely, the apple and pear stabilisation scheme. Even though that subject is important to me and dear to my heart, I will leave any remarks I have to make on it to the second reading debate.
This is the first opportunity that the Opposition has had to comment on the Government’s newproposals for the family allowance. I want to make some comments, firstly, on the manner in which they were introduced and, secondly, on some of the effects that the Opposition believes will result from these changes. There are two aspects of the situation. The first relates to the answers given by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to various questions on this subject in the chamber in August and this week, and I am sure I will not be the only speaker on that subject this afternoon. The second, and equally important, matter is what will happen to the family allowance scheme when the changes are introduced.
I shall start by pointing out that the family allowance was introduced in August 1976 as a replacement for the child endowment scheme and the tax rebates which were available in respect of children. This innovation has positive advantages. The payments went to poor people who did not pay tax, whereas previously tax rebates were unavailable to them. Under any system the rebate would have been indexed and increased according to the increase in the rate of inflation, and the Opposition pointed out at the time that the family allowance similarly should be indexed and should increase at the same rate as inflation if it were to be a reasonable replacement for the tax rebate. With this proviso, the Opposition certainly did not oppose the legislation introducing these changes; we agreed with it. The child endowment and tax rebate schemes which previously existed were both a recognition of the fact that to rear a child costs money and that families with children, whether they are rich or poor families, had expenses associated with child rearing. Therefore the Government, through the Taxation Office, recognised those expenses and allowed a rebate and, through the Department of Social Security, also recognised those disadvantages and paid child endowment. That endowment had not been increased for many years and had lost much of its significance.
Another important factor is that these family allowance payments, except in the few cases where there is no mother, are paid to the mother. This is an important point. It was recognised by the Opposition and the Government at the time of the introduction of the new family allowance. Much was made in that debate of the fact that the new family allowance was a recognition of the work of the mother in the home- inadequate as that recognition may have been- and was an important part payment to a mother to assist her in rearing a child. It has never been suggested, since child endowment was introduced or since the family allowance scheme was introduced, that these payments should be considered a pension in any sense of the word and available only to those who pass a certain means test. They were payments in recognition of the fact that it costs money to rear children. In August 1976 when the family allowance scheme was introduced there was much fanfare and backslapping but we on this side of the chamber had some suspicion that it was being introduced to avoid the indexation of the tax rebates. We also had some suspicion that the family allowance would not be increased regularly. The Opposition had no suspicion that the Government would wish to modify this scheme as quickly as it has in order to cut public expenditure.
In this year’s Budget there was an extraordinary proposal- the income of the child for whose benefit the allowance was paid was to be subject to an income test. The upper limit, as honourable senators will recall, was to be $3 12 a year or $6 a week. It was quickly recognised, on both sides of the House, outside the Parliament, in the media and by various organisations- one could go on endlessly naming the organisations which recognised this fact- that this was going to be unfair and would produce the ridiculous situation whereby paper boys and kids who work in milk bars, chemist shops and so on, would be deprived of family allowances because they were earning a few dollars. The volume of the protests from within and without the Parliament was such that the Government backpedalled quickly and modified its approach. On any reading of Hansard it can be seen that the Minister gave assurances- whatever the Minister may say now- that income derived from the personal exertion of the child would not be considered part of the income test. She said it not once but several times in answer to questions asked by many honourable senators. She also said it in Press statements and in television interviews outside this Parliament. Either the Government has changed its mind or the Minister was misleading the Senate in August. I believe that this is a serious matter. The suggestion of misleading the Senate should be taken seriously. Other honourable senators will take up that matter today.
At the same time I want to concentrate on another important aspect- the injustices and the administrative difficulties which will arise following the introduction of this new family allowance scheme. One could call it the family allowances scheme mark III in view of the changes we have had to it since it was introduced in 1976. The matter of the Minister’s answers to questions asked in the Senate is important and will be taken up later, but the Government should not be allowed to cover up the fact that the family allowance scheme has lost much of its benefit and that the changes will have serious effects on those who come under this legislation. The Opposition believes that the proposals of the Government are in many cases unfair, are administratively clumsy and will cause considerable confusion. They will bring into disrepute a reasonable scheme which is of considerable benefit to the people.
I shall deal now with some of the difficulties which will arise. The first and most obvious fault in the new proposals is that they will penalise poor families the most, as do so many of this Government ‘s actions. There may not even be a large number of poor families affected but individually they will be affected and those who will be affected the most will be the poorest. In some families, particularly those on benefits or on minimum wages, the children earn their own pocket money, sometimes to the extent of $20 or $30 a week, and sometimes even $40 a week, by delivering newspapers, selling newspapers, working in shops and in part time jobs in factories, and doing various other jobs in the community. It is frequently the only way they can raise money for further study, for musical instruments, for field trips at school, for extra clothes, and for the extra things other children have. In future if they earn sufficient money they will be torn between having these little extras and taking away from their mother the family allowance money she needs to feed, shelter and clothe them and to assist in providing them with the normal necessities of life. Children of rich families do not need to work but they frequently do. Such families will not notice the drop in income which may result from this provision. But the very poor families- and there are very poor families- will notice it.
Let me give an example. A widow who has two or three children and who is receiving the widow’s pension is at present, as Professor Henderson has pointed out many times, some $20 below the poverty Une in this country. If one of her children earned $30 a week by working weekends in a supermarket, which many children do- I know children who do this- she would in fact lose her family allowance for that child, she would be forced further below the poverty line than she was before and the child’s efforts to assist his mother to achieve a more reasonable level of income would be defeated.
If the first child earns sufficient money to cause the family allowance received by his mother for him to be eliminated, it would seem from the answers given by the Minister in the past that the second child will attract a family allowance of only $3.50 a week instead of $5 a week and the family allowance for the third child will be reduced to $5 a week. Therefore, a mother of three children who has one child who becomes ineligible for the family allowance will lose not only the $3.50 a week in respect of that child but also $2.50 a week in respect of the next two children, who will become respectively the first and second children instead of the second and third children. She will forego some $6 a week in family income. This is a considerable amount of money for a woman who is already below the poverty line. It will place her further below the poverty line. That is quite unfair.
The second unfair feature of the new proposals is the fact that they are to be made retrospective. In the Minister’s own words the proposal is that the mother will lose her allowance next year- after 1 January- in respect of income which was earned by the child between July 1977 and June 1978. In other words, from July 1977 to June 1978 a child may have been earning $20, $25 or $30 a week completely unaware that in the 1978-79 Budget the Government would introduce a proposal which would deprive his mother of part or all of her family allowance in 1979, depending on what was earned from July 1977 to June 1978. That is retrospectivity. One cannot argue with it. There are difficulties which arise out of this situation- difficulties which need to be resolved and which we tried to resolve when the first proposal was brought forward in the Budget. What happens to the child who earns, say, $30 or $25 a week when he is 15 and who at the end of that year leaves school, earns an income and therefore is not eligible to attract a family allowance? Does this mean that the family of the child who is in his last year at school will get the full family allowance when he is 1 5 years of age and that the following year that family would not be affected because the child would no longer be eligible for the family allowance? If so, that child ‘s family would have a considerable advantage over the family whose child continues at school for two or more years. The possibilities of inequity and confusion in this area are quite considerable and we believe that they need to be explained.
The third difficulty is that this proposal would well force back into dependency single working parents who, without the family allowance, are better off receiving a pension. We in this community are supposed to encourage people to get away from dependency on the Government and people on both sides of the Parliament would agree with that view. It is quite wrong to deprive single parents, widows or any other low income people in the community of a family allowance on the basis of what their children earn. Payment of the family allowance is made to the mother. To deprive a family of the family allowance on the basis of what the children earn in an effort to assist that family’s income is quite wrong and may well put it back into a situation of dependency on the Government which it does not want and in which it need not be. In many cases, the drop in the family income, as I demonstrated with the case of the widow, will be such as to cause people to drop below the poverty line if they are not already there now.
For instance, a child who earned $40 or $30 a week in 1977-78 will be responsible for his mother losing in 1979 at least $3.50 a week. She will lose that if he is the first child. The child may not be able to earn the same amount of income in 1979 or he may consider it better not to do so if his mother is to lose the family allowance in 1 980 as a result of his earning income in 1979. The family may decide to forgo the family allowance because of the child ‘s income. Alternatively- this unfortunately will happen- the family may decide not to declare the child’s income. This is encouraging tax evasion and avoidance of one’s responsibilities at an earlier age than has been encouraged in this country in the past.
– We will make liars of them.
– As Senator Georges says, we are potentially going to force kids into telling lies about where their income comes from and the amount of income they have earned. We are doing this unnecessarily. We are doing this for what the Minister for Social Security claimed would be a gain of some $31m. However, she later agreed that no one really knows how much money will be saved. The Treasury claims that it will be $31m and the Department of Social Security has no idea how much the saving will be. I suppose that the Government could even be said to be discouraging children from earning money and gaining early work force experience, which is something they may well need in the future.
I think we should look at the administrative situation which will arise out of these proposals. The Minister said this morning that initially some 400 staff are expected to be put on to process the income statements received from these children. This is in addition to the 900-odd staff who have already been put on by the Department of Social Security this year. It is interesting to note that in the Budget documents an increase of only five staff was allowed in the family allowance section when the previous proposals were introduced. Those proposals involved sending income statement to just as many people in the community as will be involved under this proposal. The increased staff claimed to be needed in the Budget was five. The Minister now tells us that the number needed is 400. That is an extraordinary difference, which suggests to me and people on this side of the House that the Government had not really thought through the problems that it would be bringing upon itself when it put forward this proposal in the Budget.
Some two million people in this community will have to be contacted on behalf of some *4V** million children and they will have to answer questionnaires on how much those children earned from all sorts of sources. One may well ask how people with language difficulties or literacy difficulties will cope with these questionnaires. After all, we are told that 270,000 people in Sydney alone are functionally illiterate because they simply cannot handle the bureaucratic hassle. There are many people who fall into that category. What will happen to those people who do not reply to the questionnaire and those who never receive the questionnaire because of the ordinary administrative snafu or muckups that always happen in this sort of situation? Will they be automatically refused a family allowance?
What provision has been made for investigations to be carried out about the people who have not sent in their particulars. Are poor migrant families or poor families of any group in the community who through no fault of their own do not get their income statements in on time to be arbitrarily deprived of family allowances for which they are presently eligible? If so, what appeal provisions will be made available to them? How long will these appeals take and will the number of people on the appeals tribunals in the Department of Social Security be increased? Will the amount of money which was provided in the Budget be increased to provide for the increased number of appeals which obviously will occur? We could end up with an administrative nightmare as Senator Knight suggested in his question to the Minister for Social Security this morning.
Why is the Government taking this action? Why is it necessary? Is it really essential for the benefit of this community that an ill-conceived, ill-thought-out measure such as this be introduced to save some $30m? Will it really save $30m or, as the Minister suggested this morning, does the Government really have no idea how much will be saved? Is the Treasury just taking a guess? It is also worth mentioning in passing that the Minister gave as the reason for putting a limit of $20 a week on a child’s income before he or she will lose any family allowance that this would bring the amount into line with the limit for pensioners. A pensioner can earn $20 a week before his pension is reduced. I have pointed out, and others undoubtedly will point out, that this payment is not and never was a pension. In making this statement the Minister automatically and once again downgraded those who receive unemployment or sickness benefits who can earn only $6 a week before their benefits or pensions are reduced. We believe that this House, this Parliament and the public in general need a lot more explanation of just what is going on. We need an explanation firstly of the difference between the Minister’s answers to people such as Senator Harradine, Senator Gietzelt and Senator Wriedt and others in August of last year and what is being done now. We certainly need clear indications of just how much is really to be saved by this proposal.
It was alleged that the original proposal would save $90m in part of a year and therefore, we assumed, considerably more in a full year. We are told that this proposal will save $31m without being given any proof or indication of where that money will be saved. As the Minister said, her Department does not know. We also want to know what will happen in the real administrative jungle that will be created by this proposal. What will happen to the people who do not get their returns in, the people who have difficulties with the bureaucracy already, the people whose children earned over $30 a week in 1977-78 and then earn nothing in 1 979? Will the parents of these children really be deprived of their family allowances in 1979 on the basis of something their children earned in 1977 and 1978? It is worth realising that when earning this money these people did not know then that the Government would take this action.
As I have said, the introduction of family allowances was welcome and was not opposed by the Opposition. They were introduced as a result of a recommendation of Professor Henderson’s Commission of Inquiry into Poverty to bring more equity into the old system of tax rebates and child endowment. Their value has been eroded because they have not been increased since they were introduced. Their value will be further eroded by this proposal. The sad part of this proposal is that once again the Government’s changes will affect the poorest in the community. Although they will affect the middle income and high income earners they will not affect them to any extent that will cause them great distress. But this proposal will cause distress to some very poor families in the community. The proposal will also affect some women in the community who sometimes find that the only income or personal money they receive is the family allowance payment. If these women or poor families are to be deprived of these payments in part or whole by this proposal it is an unjust measure. We need much further explanation as to why it has been introduced than we have had from the Minister and the Government in the past.
-Far be it from me to try to improve on Senator Grimes’s criticism of the Government policy but it seems to me that there is a central issue on the subject of family allowances which is unacceptable and which he has not chosen to emphasise. He mentioned this just in passing in the last few sentences of his speech. I did not put my name on the list of speakers in this debate with an intention to speak on family allowances. We have had a long speech on it to which I have listened with some interest. Since I am now speaking and have an opinion on this subject which I intended to express in the future anyway, I want to take a couple of minutes of the Senate’s time on this subject.
The central issue of government policy on family allowances is: What is a family allowance? When family allowances were introduced by our Government they were justified as a transfer of income from husband to wife. A family allowance is the mother’s income. Tax deductions for dependent children were taken away from the breadwinner- traditionally the manand an approximately equivalent sum of money was transferred in an accounting process so that the mothers of Australia received an income which related to the fact that they were mothers looking after children. That was a decision that I, amongst many, applauded- and I applauded it in the Senate. Now to reduce the mother’s income because of the child’s income seems to be the most hopeless muddle of thinking on what a family allowance is about. I reiterate that the family allowance was income for the mother and a transfer of income from husband to wife, from father to mother.
The Government has rightly decided that it will try to do away with a tax dodge, a system of spreading family income across all members of a family, including dependent children, so that the tax that would otherwise be payable on the income, in most cases of the father, cannot be reduced by an artificial spreading of his income across his children and possibly also his wife. I agree that that little tax lurk ought to be overcome. But why do we penalise the mother? Why do we head for the weaker of the pair in terms of vulnerability for tax? If it is, as it usually is, the father’s income which is being spread, why do we pick on the mother? The family allowance is so easy to pick on because it is a government payment. But I reiterate that it is a government payment which previously would have been paid to the father in the form of a tax rebate. As I said, many of us applauded the Government’s decision to split income between the father and mother by taking away the rebate which went to the father and paying it in the form of the family allowance- not means tested- to the mother. If the Government wants to get at family income which is being artificially spread it ought to get fair dinkum about its methods. To pick on the mother’s income because it is being paid via the Government in my opinion is frankly disgraceful.
The family allowance provision, as I saw it, was a first step towards some sort of proper distribution of income in the community. The payment was a recognition of the fact that the mothers of Australia make a real contribution to the economy of the family. It made sure that the mothers got, in their own names, an income related to their family position, namely, that of being a mother. I looked forward to the next step being taken by which we would have rationalised further the concept of family income. I will not canvass the individual ways in which this can be done. There are many ways, most of which have big problems inherent in them, t applauded the first step. I looked forward to the Government’s pursuing that first step and, recognising the value of the mother to the family in Australia, taking a rational next step.
What the Government has done has completely cut across the original rationale for the family allowance. We keep on hearing- we heard it for far too long from Senator Grimes; he should not have spent so much time on it- that this matter relates to a child ‘s income. The family allowance is not income for the child. Nevertheless, we are pursuing a situation where a child ‘s income will reduce the mother’s income. There is no rationale for that. Certainly it bears no relationship at all to the original rationale for the family allowance, and that is the point that I think we have to pursue. Senator Grimes has done a lot of worthwhile work on how this decision will affect individual families and what the realities of income reduction will be, but I suggest with the greatest of respect to him that he would make a more worthwhile contribution to the debate, and certainly one which would have more relevance to the women of Australia, if he recognised that the mother’s allowance is to be penalised because of the child ‘s income.
– Will you read what I said earlier in my speech?
– I listened to the honourable senator’s speech, and I realise that he touched on that matter. Towards the end of his speech he spent a couple of minutes on it. That was useful. Nevertheless too much emphasis has been placed in this chamber on the subject of the child ‘s income. We hear the argument that because a child gets an income somewhere else, the mother has to be penalised. This is implicit in most of the questions and the debate that we have had from both sides of the House. I feel it is important, if we are to resolve the problem satisfactorily, that we get off this angle and back on to the original rationale for the family allowance and require the Government to justify its actions in the light of the original rationale for the family allowance.
As I said when I rose to speak, this was not the subject on which I intended to talk today. I would like to spend a few minutes of the Senate ‘s time on another subject. Of course we are debating the first reading of some apple and pear legislation. The first reading of a money Bill gives honourable senators the right to raise subjects which they think have some value but which are not necessarily related to the legislation before the Senate. I would like to take this opportunity to raise a subject which I have had some interest in raising in the Senate for some time. I am sure, from the number of speakers who are listed for this debate, that many subjects will be raised. I take the opportunity to raise a subject which I consider is of considerable importance.
I have spoken in the Senate on a number of occasions on issues related to education. Education is one of my main interests of government policy. One area of education has not been debated while I have been in the Senate. The fact that it has not been debated I find quite sad, because in my opinion it is one of the most pressing areas of need in education in Australia today. Probably one of the reasons it has not been debated is that we do not consider any Bills which are related to it. I refer to multi-cultural education.
I have had a lengthy and, I think I can fairly say, extensive association with education groups throughout the Australian community. I have been interested in the subject of multi-cultural education for quite some time. I have involved myself personally in discussions with quite a large number of groups on the topic. However I now discern a genuine groundswell within the Australian community on the subject of multicultural education to which all governments, State and Federal, will have to address themselves very quickly. I believe that it is a great pity that we did not take more purposeful measures in this area sooner. For the interest of the Senate,
I will outline a couple of ideas that I have on the subject which arise partly from my own thoughts and partly from the points of view put to me by a large number of people who are very interested in what happens in education in Australia today and specifically in the education of migrants.
I want to make it quite clear that when I talk about multi-cultural education I am not talking just about migrants. If we use the term we should also include our Aborigines. I think that Aboriginal culture is part of the Australian culture. The proposals for multi-cultural education are an attempt to try to bring to the attention of Australians who have been a little complacent on the subject the role that migrants play in our community today. Some 20 per cent of our present population was not born in Australia. Some 40 per cent has at least one parent who was not born in Australia. With the massive migration programs that we embarked on post-war we now have indeed a multi-cultural society. That multicultural society does not show itself in many areas. There are areas in which it could more properly show itself. There are areas where it is beginning to emerge. There is an awareness that we are now a multi-cultural society and not only the traditional Anglo-Saxon British society we once were. But the process has been slow. Nevertheless, I believe that the process is accelerating and that it will be quickly upon us.
Not all of us, but most of us in this Parliament are of traditional British descent or of the traditional Australian descent which this country has witnessed in only the last 200 years. Nevertheless, we welcome more and more people coming into the Parliament who are migrants or who are the children of people who have migrated to this country within its recent history. This process is to be welcomed. It is remarkable, in view of the statistics I cited a moment ago, that more such people are not in this place. The reasons that hold back that sort of development are holding back a parallel development in other areas of our society. But I really believe that changes will occur. The changes that have taken place in recent years have been very rapid. I believe that the changes will continue to be rapid and that in the foreseeable future we will see a very much more marked effect. Our education system does not prepare us for this at all.
The Commonwealth Government has some responsibility in migrant education but the essential responsibility lies with the States. For various reasons, the States have not succeeded in this area of responsibility as well as one might have hoped. It is my hunch- I emphasise that it is only a ‘hunch’- that if this challenge is to be taken up it probably will have to be taken up by Commonwealth governments. It would be preferable that this be not one more responsibility which is pushed off on to the Commonwealth Government by State governments, but I believe that the need to meet the challenge will become so urgent that it will have to be responded to very quickly. Frankly, I do not discern within our States a willingness to meet the challenge, with the rapidly increasing rate of expenditure that will be involved, at the rate that it must be undertaken.
Many things can be said on the general subject of multi-cultural education. I would like to refer to a couple which I consider to be important. An attitude existed in this country when we embarked on large-scale migration, particularly European non-British migration, that we would bring these people here so that they would have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of being Australians, and that our efforts in helping them to settle down would be directed towards showing them how to be good Australians- some sort of echo of the sort of people we considered ourselves to be. It would be a great pity if we persist in this point of view. I do not believe we should persist with it. We have so many different cultural, ethnic and national groups in significant numbers in our country now that we must realise that they are part of Australia. We have to shift our ground a little and look at what they have to offer the Australian culture, which ought to become part of the Australian culture.
The language and history of many of these people are rich. Their histories contain lessons that we probably need to know about. Our history in Australia has been so brief, certainly in terms of post-European settlement, that we do not have many lessons to learn from our history compared with those that many of the migrants coming here can teach us. They have a long and a written history; one of which they are conscious and one from which they seek to learn lessons in terms of past human mistakes. We could avail ourselves of those histories far more directly in our schools, learn about them and let the children who come from those cultural backgrounds understand that we are interested in them- that they have a right to be proud of the fact that they have their own individual history and culture that they bring to this country to share with us.
There has been understandable complacency in Australia. This is a wonderful country with much to offer all those people who live in it. Because our country has been so good to us, because we have enjoyed so much of its riches, we have tended to overlook the fact that there are other things in life and other things to know that we could learn from people who come from poorer circumstances and poorer countries. Indeed, there is much we need to know. It is a pity that the children of our migrants go into our schools and use and learn about only English. If they want to learn their parents’ languages they have to go somewhere else to learn them. It would be an enriching experience for the children of Australian parents to understand those other children who share classrooms with them, who have another language and a history about which those children have as much right to feel proud as the children of Australian parents. These matters do not have to dominate us, but they are something from which our children should benefit from learning.
I do not want to speak for very much longer but I want briefly to pick up a point I made at the beginning of my remarks. Much, or nearly all, of the discussion on multicultural education has turned on the subject of the children of migrants and of migrants themselves. I would like to see the term ‘multicultural education’ also include the Aboriginal culture. We in this country are now again, slowly, becoming aware of the fact that our Aborigines were not the Stone Age primitives that many Australians traditionally considered them to be. Before white man came here they had a very sophisticated culture, a very sophisticated and intricate religion, and their relationship with the land and the way they lived was a highly successful civilisation. One of the reasons their culture has been so easily damaged is that they did not have a written language. Their history was not written down in books and they moved around. They did not build cities and they did not farm. That meant that, with the intrusion of another very strong culture, it was very easy to damage that very intricate and fascinating culture.
Only within the past couple of decades in this country has much effort gone into finding out about and writing down details of the Aboriginal culture. As people have taken the trouble to look at and to learn about the Aboriginal culture they have discovered in many cases, to their amazement, that these people did have a very sophisticated and intricate culture, religion and tradition. We can learn a lot from Aboriginal culture, even that small amount of it that we know so far. We are now aware that the standards of behaviour of the Aborigines were high. Generally their culture was a gentle one; some people would call it even a Christian one; one of consideration and caring for others. I think that many aspects of Aboriginal culture are to be admired. If we lose the opportunity of teaching all our children- those children born in Australia and those children born in lands over the sea- just how interesting and valuable that culture is it will be a tragedy.
The Aborigines themselves are now struggling to discern, to define, to write down and to preserve what is left of their culture- what has not been damaged. Of course, they should be given every consideration. The biggest encouragement we can give, and the most genuine encouragement, is to take that culture into our schools. Certainly in Aboriginal schools the children should learn of their own culture. They should be aware of the fact that it is something of which they should be proud. But they will be really proud when we recognise that it is a culture of great value- of enduring value- for its own sake and that it is a culture about which we want to teach our children. In conclusion on this issue, I make the point that when we recognise, as we should, the enormous contribution that our migrants and the children of our migrants have made to our country by paying the attention we should pay to their culture and by recognising the fact that their culture is now part of ours we should recognise also that the original Australians had a culture about which we need to know, one which can most effectively be brought into our society and a knowledge of which should be spread throughout our schools.
The needs of migrants in our schools are very keen indeed. Those needs are now being detailed and are becoming more and more generally public knowledge. That I welcome. But along with other people who care about education, I am very sorry that it has taken so long for us to recognise this fact. It is very easy to go into areas of high migrant population and to see education conditions which obtain which it is difficult to believe still obtain in this country. There is an urgent need for extended facilities for the migrants in our country. With very few exceptions, I see little recognition of that fact by State governments, unfortunately presently State governments have the first responsibility in this area. The Commonwealth has taken some responsibility. But shortly, large sums of money will be required to provide just basic facilities to meet the very urgent problem which is going to force itself on us in our schools. The problem has been there for some time. It has only recently been defined; nevertheless it undoubtedly is growing and we must meet it urgently. This presents a great challenge to Australia. It is a challenge to our awareness of the value that migrants have given our country. It is a challenge to our ability to recognise that it has not been a one-way giving process. Certainly, by coming here migrants have achieved benefits for themselves, but this country has gained very big benefits also. We ought to recognise that we have benefited and show that we are really ready to take the next step which comes from our migrant programs, namely, to move towards becoming a truly multi-cultural society. It is a very exciting prospect.
– I want to say just a few words on the controversial issue of the family allowance and on the attitude of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to the whole matter. Firstly, I congratulate Senator Martin on the whole of her address, but particularly on her remarks concerning the family allowance. Although I have never accepted the payment of the family allowance as being a salary paid to the mother, nevertheless I think that Senator Martin made a good case for this being so. Recognising that the family allowance has been accepted as such by the Government, I agree that it is unfortunate that the mother should suffer because of the income received by someone else.
What I am concerned about is the way in which the Minister reported to the Senate on this matter. I take this opportunity to speak on this issue today because I am even more concerned about the fact that, whilst I was prepared to condemn the Minister, it would appear from the Minister’s reply to a question I asked this morning that she is not at fault. It seems that I have been unable to place a proper interpretation upon the words that have come from the Minister. If that is the case, I can only say that I am sorry, and endeavour to make some excuses for myself and explain that there is some justification for my inability to place a proper interpretation upon words.
Firstly, I point out that on Budget night and for the first fortnight of this session of Parliament I was not here. I missed the sittings of the Parliament during that period; therefore I did not hear what was said. But to make myself conversant with this whole matter of the family allowance, I have read every question that has been asked, every answer that has been given and every statement that has been made on the Budget. Of course, such reading is not of much use if one is not capable of proper interpretation. We have heard today that the assurance that income earned by children through personal exertion would not affect eligibility to receive the family allowance would have applied only if the income ceiling had remained at $3 12 per annum. It was said that I should have known that because it was said at the time of the Budget Speech that there would be a limit of $3 12 a year and that all the talk at that time was about the question of the $312 limit. One was therefore stupid if he did not know, without the Government’s saying that there would be a limit of $3 12, that the statement that there would be no taxation on income from personal exertion meant only if the Government’s policy was limited to $312. Naturally I missed the discussion of that matter at that time because I was not here. But the reported replies by the Minister did not relate to the question of the $3 12 limit.
If we go back further than 22 August, which is the date that has been the subject of most of the discussion, we find, firstly, that it was announced on the Tuesday night that the Budget was brought down that the Government would be taking into consideration the reduction of family allowances where the income of a child was in excess of $312 a year and that it would be done on the basis of income in the previous year. I interpreted the actual wording correctly. It meant any income of a child from whatever source it originated. There was certain dissatisfaction about this matter, especially amongst Government supporters. Senator Grimes raised the matter originally. The day following the Budget Speech he was told by the Minister:
The change that was announced by the Treasurer last night takes into account the separate net income of the child concerned. It should be recognised by honourable senators that the separate net income can arise from splitting a family income, from trust accounts, from partnership arrangements and from various other sources. Such income is different from the personal exertion income that may be gained by a child.
Here we see the Minister justifying the decision because there is that income. Although that wording may encompass income from personal exertion, the Minister was not desirous of having personal exertion as one of the income factors. The next question on the matter was asked by Senator Harradine on the same day, 16 August. In the Minister’s reply she said:
It is believed that there are many children who have income from trusts and income from other sources who could not be classed as dependent children. They would not have been included in the tax rebate which was part of the previous taxation scheme.
The whole concern of the Minister related to the income that is derived from trusts and taxes, although the unfortunate wording of the Budget included all income. It was only in reply to a supplementary question from Senator Harradine that the Minister mentioned the amount of $3 12. Therefore, it would seem that from the earliest stage there was no question of there being an altered position if the income ceiling was raised. The whole concern of the Minister was that we should take into account income received from trust accounts and splitting family incomes. Of course, as we know, the former Treasurer is still part of the Cabinet. That may have given rise to consideration being given to taking some action. On the next day of the same week Senator Hamer voiced his concern about this subject. He said:
My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, concerns the means testing of family allowances. Was the introduction of a means test on family allowances aimed principally at wealthy children who receive an unearned income through inherited property or through devices such as income splitting by trusts? Is it possible to means test these people without discouraging enterprising children, many of whom are from low income families? What would be the cost to revenue of exempting from the family allowance means test any income earned by the personal endeavour of the dependent child?
The Minister replied:
The Government introduced the means test on children’s income after reflecting on the fact that the family allowance scheme replaced the tax rebate which had previously been given to parents for a dependent child -
She said that she was unable to advise of what it would be. Senator Hamer ‘s question related to the justification of applying it to the child of a wealthy family who is receiving an income from family income splitting, from trust accounts and from investments. The Minister accepted that and went along with it as far as she possibly could. The Parliament rose on the Thursday of that week and resumed again on the following Tuesday. By the following Tuesday it was known that some reconsideration had been given to this matter. Senator Walters then asked a question on the matter. The point I am trying to make is that for the whole of the period over which the matter was discussed the Minister’s attitude was based on the knowledge that the test would apply only to income over $312 and that everyone should have read that into her subsequent replies. The discussion at that time did not relate to the ceiling. It related to whether we could separate trust income from personal exertion income. In reply to Senator Walter’s question the Minister said:
I say again, as I said last week, that, in taking this decision, the Government had in mind circumstances where, as a result of trusts and other income splitting devices, children receive separate income whilst their parents continue to receive the family allowance. The Government is concerned to ensure that the decision does not have unintended consequences -
The words ‘unintended consequences’ express the Government’s intention that the means test should not apply to incomes other than incomes received from the splitting of family incomes, trust accounts, et cetera. I return to the Minister’s reply. She said:
The Government is concerned to ensure that the decision does not have unintended consequences, particularly in cases where children receive small amounts of income as a result of pan-time jobs which they undertake. In the light of the comments and the concern which has been expressed the Government is reviewing this decision with a view to eliminating any unintended consequences whilst preserving the principal purpose behind the decision, that is with respect to those cases where children are in receipt of trust income and other income-splitting device income. Legislation is being drafted at present and in this legislation it will be clarified as to which income will be subjected to the means test. I say again that this legislation will ensure that any unintended consequences do not occur,
The Minister recognised that it covered income from personal exertion but the Government’s aim, she stated, was to cover income from family splitting arrangements and trusts; therefore instructions had been issued to draft legislation which would ensure that the Government’s intention, to take into account income from trusts or family splitting arrangements, would be carried out. The Minister was very definite on that, so one could be excused- it might not all be attributable to my stupidity- for saying that the Minister was definite on the point that income from personal exertion, irrespective of what the ceiling might be, would not be taken into account. Senator Knight, seeking clarification, noted that his question followed one asked by Senator Walters, and asked:
Can the Minister say whether a clear distinction might be drawn between earnings obtained by a child ‘s own efforts and earnings from sources which do not require direct effort on the child’s part? Is it a fact that such a distinction would ensure an equitable result in the application of the Budget announcement relating to family allowances?
As we see, Senator Knight’s question also followed that of Senator Hamer in the previous week, in reply to which the Minister had said, We do not want the legislation to have unintended consequences ‘, the consequences being to take into consideration income other than from family wage-splitting arrangements and trusts. The Minister replied to Senator Knight as follows:
As I said in response to Senator Walters, the Government does not wish the Budget decision to have unintended consequences, and when preparing the legislation it will review the decision to ensure that that does not occur. As I said earlier today and last week, some children are in receipt of a trust income, and income-splitting devices are used within families. If these devices are used the Government believes that family allowances should not be paid . . .
If these devices are used- that is the only stipulation. The Minister went on:
I would have thought- perhaps again due to my inability to interpret properly an answer- that the whole attitude of the Minister was such as to lead this Senate to the belief that under the new arrangements, when the legislation was brought down it would cover incomes in excess of $312 from the splitting of family income and from trusts. Now we come to questions, the answers to which are difficult to interpret. On the same day, 22 August, Senator Harradine asked a question which concluded as follows:
If so, 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? If the Minister cannot now give that assurance to the people of Australia, can she provide a break-up of the $90m . . .
The question was whether she will give an unqualified assurance. Senator Harradine did not limit his question to a figure of $3 12. He related it to income derived from personal exertion. The Minister replied:
As I indicated earlier, the drafting of legislation is proceeding at present. 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 . . .
After being asked for an unqualified statement that such income would not be subjected to a means test, she replied that she could give that assurance. The Minister said:
I did not wish to start enumerating areas of income that would be subjected to the means test in case I was not strictly in line with the legislation. The legislation is being drafted, and when that drafting has been finalised I will issue a statement which is in accordance with the legislation. The intention of the legislation is that income from the personal exertions of children will not be subjected to the means test.
Could one get anything more definite in reply to a request for an unqualified statement? But Senator Georges was not satisfied. He interjected:
That is a change from last week.
The Minister, responding, said:
I said earlier, senator, that the Government has reviewed the decision and has taken into account the concern that has been expressed and the inequity that I believe would have occurred if that personal exertion income had been subjected to the means test. As soon as the legislation is finally drafted I will announce publicly the areas of income which will be subjected to a means test.
There we see the Minister’s statement. Whilst the Budget did say that all income above $312 would be taxed, it would cause such hardship and inequity, and there had been such an adverse public reaction to it, that the Government had now changed its view and she could give an unqualified assurance that the legislation which she was having prepared would apply the provision to income from trust accounts and family splitting devices only. Apparently Senator Sibraa was just as backward as I was, because he too had gathered the impression that the Minister had given such an assurance. On 24 August he asked this question:
I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. In view of her answers to questions asked earlier this week, can the Minister give an estimate of the number of mothers who will not receive the family allowance next year because of their children’s separate incomes from family trusts and partnership arrangements? What percentage of children having an income would this represent?
The Minister replied:
I am not able to give any figures on the means testing of the separate income of children from family trusts or from income splitting devices that may have been established. I will seek from the Treasurer any information he may be able to give and I will see that the honourable senator is advised.
I have tried- I hope faithfully- to quote the questions, and sufficient of the answers, on this subject. We see that the Minister has been pretty straightforward and honest in her answers. The intention was to impose the tax on all incomes but, as the Minister has said, the opposition was such that the Government revised the proposal. Now the Government is saying that it will apply only to family income splitting arrangements, trust funds and other such practices. It will definitely not apply to income from personal exertion. The Minister had no hesitation in saying that. It must have been in her mind. I would have thought that she would not have said that without some suggestion by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) that that would not happen.
There has been a decision by Cabinet only this week to lift the minimum amount at which the means test will apply from $312 to $1,040. The Minister is trying to justify this decision not by saying that the Government has changed its mind but by trying to justify the answer she had given and saying that it meant something else and that we should have been able to read that into it. It would be dangerous for her to say that she had misled the Senate. One Minister said that he may have misled the Senate. When it was found that he had misled the Senate -
– What happened to him?
-As far as I know he lost his portfolio. I have not seen him again. I do not know whether he is still alive. The penalty for misleading the Senate may be greater than losing one ‘s portfolio. But the Minister for Social Security has had to justify the fact that the arrangement has been altered. At the time of the demise of the former Minister for Administrative Services it was reported in the Press that certain Ministers were not in favour with the head of the Government and were not invited to Cabinet meetings. I asked a question about this matter yesterday. Senator Guilfoyle was one of the Ministers who was not in favour with the Prime Minister. She was present at the Cabinet meeting which made the decision about family allowances because she told me so in answer to a question. I thought that she would have put to the Cabinet all the answers, commitments and assurances she had given.
This decision was made when hostility over the matter still existed. This hostility was indicated by Senator Martin today. Could there have been any purpose in the decision other than to discredit, as I have suggested, a Minister out of favour with the Prime Minister? When I asked the Minister about this she said that she did not think that the question justified a response from her. That answer is often given in reply to questions but, as Senator Harradine has pointed out to me, that is how the Minister replied. Senator Guilfoyle said that she would not talk about the double crosses and that I would have to ask elsewhere. She did not think the question justified a response from her. The Minister has been accused of misrepresenting the Senate. She can do nothing but accept the scandalous accusation and try to say that it is not true. No wonder the leading article in the Australian today was sufficient to prompt Senator Teague to ask a question. The editorial pointed out how simple it is to change the existing arrangement in order to carry out the Government’s intention. I do not think that the Australian has a monopoly on advising the Government. The editorial stated:
Only a simple change was necessary to make family allowances liable to a means test if a child or children received UNEARNED income above a certain level, as would be the case with a trust. On 22 August, Senator Guilfoyle said the Government intended to do this. But it hasn’t.
The editorial writers in the Australian are as stupid as I am. They interpreted the Minister’s reply in the same way as I did. Apparently there are a lot of stupid people in this world. I apologise for my inability to interpret the Minister’s meaning and regret any inconvenience to the Senate. But there is some answering to do. The Minister has to indicate why she made a statement that a lot of people believed meant that income from personal exertion would be exempt.
– Before I talk about a local Hobart matter I would like to say that I must agree with some of the points made by the three previous speakers. I do not think that the Government was aware of the implications of means testing family allowances when it included the provision in the Budget. Unless further action is taken by the Government, action may have to be taken when the matter comes before the Senate. I will make my position clear when that happens. The other matter I will touch on before I come to a very parochial matter is the taxing of pensions which are also means tested. On Tuesday I gave the example of an invalid pensioner who receives, I think, $53.20 a week from a pension. If he then earns more than $20 a week he loses 50c of any $1 above $20 through a means test. But the pension is also taxable. Taxation comes in when the total income is above $72 a week.
If an invalid pensioner works in, say, a sheltered workshop and earns $30 a week above his pension, of the $10 above the amount of $20 which is allowed before the means test applies $5 would effectively be taken back by the Government through the means test. The remaining $5 would attract a tax rate of about 33 per cent. This would mean that out of that $ 10 the invalid pensioner would give back to the Government $6.65- the figure may be a cent or two either way. That means effectively that the tax on that $10 is at a higher rate than that paid by the highest income earners in this country.
– I am glad you have woken up at last.
– I said this the other day. There are other pensions, apart from the invalid pension, at which I intend to look thoroughly. When I asked about invalid pensioners on 19 September, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), as reported on page 679 of Hansard, said:
We understand that about 90 per cent of invalid pensioners would not earn beyond the $20 limit. It must be realised that an invalid pension is paid to a person who is 85 per cent incapacitated. Taking these factors into account and the announcement by the Treasurer on the taxing of invalid pensions in the future, it will be seen that a relatively small number of people will be affected.
I wonder how much money the Government will receive by taxing invalid pensions.
– It does not matter whether it is a small number or a large number.
– I agree entirely. It does not matter whether it is a small number or a large number. It is the principle that the Senate has to consider when the matter comes before it. I turn now to the parochial problem to which I have referred. I hope that honourable senators who live in other areas will forgive me.
– As long as we do not have to listen.
-The honourable senator does not have to listen. He can leave whenever he likes. I refer to an area in which the
Federal Department of Transport is wasting a lot of money through the Tasmanian Government. It concerns traffic lights in Hobart.
-Is the honourable senator leaving already? I think it would be fair to say that there are more traffic lights in Hobart per head of population than in any other area, not only in Australia but also in the world. I think that Senator Harradine would probably agree. The department in charge of traffic lights in Hobart seemed to go slightly mad at about the time when the Hobart bridge fell. I suppose that was because the Federal Government was paying for all the lights that were put up. I for one hoped that it would be just a period of temporary madness and would pass away once the bridge was up again. I am sure that most of us also hoped that many of the lights that were put up would also pass away at that time, but that has not been the case. Not only have the lights that were put up in Hobart to regulate the traffic flow, which admittedly was fairly difficult at certain times after the bridge fell down, been left in place but also since the bridge has been back up many other sets of traffic lights have been installed. The number is having the effect of annoying people and I think in many cases causing them to drive in such a way as to break the law. I have known cases of people actually driving against red lights. Certainly pedestrians no longer take any notice of the ‘ Don ‘t walk ‘ signs.
So not only are the lights being installed at a rate that seems to be just to keep those associated with their installation employed but also all sorts of other pieces of madness can be seen in Hobart. For instance, I can think of two places where Stop’ signs have been installed against the direction of the majority of the traffic flow. This was done on the pretext of the planners saying: ‘We do not want cars to drive along there, so we will put in ‘Stop’ signs and hope that motorists will go through the city and clog it up even further’. Anyway, it is not working. Some people are stopping at the ‘Stop’ sign and continuing in the direction in which they are used to going. Look at the one way streets in Hobart. I ask where else in the world one would find two adjacent one-way streets running in the same direction? One certainly can in Hobart.
– Have you tried Perth lately?
-The honourable senator may have some crazy people there too, but to me common sense says that if one one-way street goes, for instance, north the ones parallel to it and on either side of it should run south, but that is not so in Hobart. It is quite difficult for people, pensioners for instance, who are trying to take a bus or taxi to see their doctor in Macquarie Street to get there. I will not go into the intricacies of how difficult it is, but I can assure honourable senators that it adds to their expense. Taxi drivers have told me that many of their customers reckon that they are being given the runaround in Hobart. I can assure honourable senators that customers of taxis are not the only ones being given the runaround.
– Come on. It is exhausting, absolutely exhausting. What are you talking about?
– If the honourable senator woke up and stayed awake he might be able to understand.
– I am awake already.
– I can hear that the honourable senator is awake now, but he might not have been a moment ago if he has to ask what I am talking about. We have three roundabouts in Hobart and one has 32 sets of traffic lights on it. I heard an English expert commenting on that, and he politely said that London has two roundabouts with lights. That is two out of some hundreds in that city. Yet we in Hobart in a small city have the stupidity of a roundabout that sometimes takes about two minutes to get around. I feel it is time the Federal Government stopped giving money to the Tasmanian Government if it is to be spent in this way. There is a need for an accurate survey of the whole traffic pattern in Hobart and probably all other major towns in Tasmania too. I believe that one is about to take place.
It is time that many of the one-way streets were altered to go the correct way, if indeed so many of them need to be one way- and I doubt that they do. Certainly the time has come to reduce the number of controlled places and intersections in the city of Hobart. Then we need to co-ordinate those traffic lights that are left in place. As a resident of Hobart, I can tell the Senate that it is infuriating to drive from one set of traffic lights to the next, particularly when for some perverse reason they seem to be red more often than green. I am quite certain that at night there is no need to have many of the lights operating at all. I do not see why we could not adopt what is done in many other cities of the world and let them become yellow flashing lights during the night.
Gradually some changes can be seen coming upon the traffic scene in Hoban. The major effect since the Tasman Bridge went back up is that all traffic seems to have slowed down with a consequent cost to the people of Hobart in petrol. One change could be allowed immediately. We could alter the laws to allow left hand turns after stopping at a red light if the way is clear of both cars and pedestrians. This system is used in many cities of the world.
– Are you talking mainly about Argyle Street?
– I am talking about any street that has a set of traffic lights.
– Do not encourage him. Let him get it over with.
-Is the honourable senator waiting to speak?
– It is not a matter of that. I want to listen to something interesting. For goodness sake, how can we be concerned about the traffic lights in Hobart for such a length of time?
-A lot of Federal money goes into the transport system in this country, and I would have thought that the honourable senator would have been interested in anything that could save money.
– Of course he should.
-Yes, of course he should. The actual cost of the lights is considerable, and I think that no more should be spent until many of them are ripped out and the rest of them synchronised. I think it is time that the second bridge across the Derwent was proceeded with. We do not know when the Tasman Bridge will fall down again or get knocked down again. If it happens to fall down before the second bridge is built anybody in the Federal Government would have a lot of explaining to do.
– I was to speak next, but Senator Townley has put most of my thoughts out of my mind. I am so confused now about the traffic system in Hobart.
– Did I put a red light up for you?
– Shall I go from the ridiculous to the sublime if I can? I wish to speak on the matter that was raised during Question Time concerning the taxing- that is the only word I can use, although it is not quite accurate- of children’s earnings from personal exertion. This matter has been dealt with in the past, when the proposition was that any income over $315 a year earned by a child by selling newspapers, collecting a few bottles, doing odd jobs at the local store or working on Saturday morning would deprive his mother from receiving in full the family allowance. The matter has been debated here in such a way that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) was forced to retreat from that position and say fairly clearly in this place that income earned from personal exertion would not be considered when assessing the family allowance and that the family allowance would remain protected from such earnings. At the time it was considered by various speakers that any attempt by the Government to place a test on income earned by children through personal exertion was mean, pennypinching and immoral in the true sense of the term. Yet in the House this morning the Minister said: ‘Yes we have decided that that was bad, but now we have lifted the amount a child may earn from $6 a week to $20 a week’. But the principle remains. Personal exertion on the part of children in order to support their families in difficult circumstances is in some way to limit the family allowance. So the meanness and the pettiness remain. The amount of $6 has been increased to $20. It is absurd, but I will not go into that.
I merely want to deal with the position in which the Minister now finds herself. It surprises me that with a Minister under attack, although it is only on the first reading of the Bill, the Government has made no attempt whatsoever to encourage the Minister concerned or the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) to come into the chamber. There is no doubt about it; the Minister has now been placed in a situation where she could be on the defensive against a motion of censure in this place. It is as serious as that. The Minister for Social Security came into this place some weeks ago and, under questioning, gave a firm assurance that the Government would not persist with taxing earnings derived by a child from personal exertion. By reason of pressure from both sides of the chamber and pressure from the community at large and through the Press, she gave that clear assurance. Today she has moved away from that assurance.
The undertaking given by the Minister was clear and she now finds herself having to defend her retreat from that position. She clearly and sincerely informed the House that the situation regarding the income derived from the personal exertion of the child would not be taken into consideration. She has now come into the chamber and said: ‘We have relaxed it somewhat; it is not going to be $6 a week, it is going to be $20 a week’. Many children participate in some activity to support the family income and $20 a week is really only a small amount. It is what children could earn quite easily on a Saturday morning by delivering newspapers or magazines, or doing a variety of jobs or messages. It is not a great amount. Nevertheless, immediately they reach this so easily attained amount they will deprive their mother of some funds.
The Minister is now under attack and it is surprising that the Government does not realise the serious position in which she has been placed through the disloyalty of her Cabinet colleagues. I charge the Leader of the Government in the Senate as being a party to that disloyalty. He should be here to answer the charge that he and the Cabinet have placed one of their colleagues in a position where she has to defend herself against the charge that she misled the Senate. That is what it amounts to. She misled the Senate. It was not done deliberately. She was forced into a position where she had to come into this place and deny her clear undertaking to us that the Government would not proceed with this legislation. She had to stand, undefended by those on her side of the Senate, for a full hour this morning endeavouring to answer questions about a situation which was not of her making.
It is quite extraordinary that the Senate should feel the full effect of an arbitrary decision by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), and it is not the first time it has occurred. Senator Withers is a classical example of what can be the result. He made an announcement here on one occasion that he may have misled the Senate. It was for Senator Withers to answer to the Senate for doing so. However, he had no opportunity to do so. He was ruthlessly exterminated by the Prime Minister who had to find a scapegoat in what has now been called the ‘Robinson affair’. Senator Withers is not with us at the moment; I do not blame him for that. He has taken four weeks leave. He is fortunate that the Opposition did not persist with a motion alleging that he misled the Senate. We believed that the treatment the Prime Minister handed out to Senator Withers was punishment enough. It was ruthless and completely unjust. It showed disloyalty on the part of the Prime Minister to one of his colleagues.
Now we have a repetition of it. The Prime Minister has shown extreme disloyalty to one of his Ministers who gave a clear assurance to the Senate that the policy of the Government was not to persist with the proposal to take into account when calculating the family allowance the earnings of children derived from their personal exertion. The Minister now is placed in a serious position and I wonder how many on the
Government side will be prepared to come to her defence. The Minister, through no fault of her own, is in a very defensive position. She is under challenge for having misled the Senate by giving a clear undertaking- as clear as that undertaking could be, as Senator Cavanagh proved when he referred to her answers to questions and to statements which she made in this place. She gave this undertaking clearly, sincerely and with the full intention of carrying it out. However, she was overruled by her Prime Minister and Cabinet and now stands accused in this place.
The Government has not had the decency to allow her to come back into this place and defend herself, nor has anyone on her side of the chamber, perhaps with the exception of Senator Martin who made a fairly clear speech on the inequity of the proposed legislation. Senator Martin implied that the Minister may not have been responsible for the change in policy. Nevertheless, as far as the Senate is concerned, the Minister gave a clear undertaking. She has moved away from it and must answer for doing so. The Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents the Prime Minister, must accept responsibility for the Minister finding herself under challenge because of the disloyalty to which he was a party. It is extraordinary that Senator Guilfoyle, who is perhaps the most effective Minister in this place and possibly one of the most effective Ministers in the Government, has been treated shabbily not only on this but also on another occasion. I refer to the reshuffle that took place at the time of the Withers affair. It is extraordinary that Senator Guilfoyle, whose position in the Cabinet is next to Senator Carrick, is not the Deputy Leader in this place. The Deputy Leader in the Senate is junior to Senator Guilfoyle in the Cabinet. What sort of discrimination is this and why is it necessary for the Opposition to take it up? Why has it not been taken up by someone on the Government side?
– No guts.
-The interjection is that they have no guts. Perhaps that is a wide statement. Perhaps one or two on the Government side will be prepared to expose the situation for what it is. One of their Ministers is being treated in a manner which is exceptional even taking into account the history of the Government in this place over the past three years. What has been done to Senator Guilfoyle is exceptional in the circumstances. Senator Webster need not smile. Although he is not a member of the Cabinet, he is one of Senator Guilfoyle ‘s colleagues. It surprises me that he is in the chamber alone when for the last two hours the Minister for
Social Security has been under attack. Let me assure the Senate that the Minister for Social Security will continue to be under attack in this place for the next few days. There will be continual questioning on this matter although we on this side know that while we are attacking the Minister for Social Security, somebody else is really responsible. I wonder whether any honourable senator opposite is prepared to get up and say that somebody else is responsible. I wonder whether he as a Minister responsible for a portfolio would like to be treated in the same way that Senator Guilfoyle has been treated. How would Senator Webster feel if he made a policy statement in this place which set out a certain proposal and the following week he was told to come into this place and say that what he said initially was not the real situation? Where would that put him? Senator Webster should visualise the situation. The whole of his credibility would be at stake. He should put himself in Senator Guilfoyle ‘s place, because all of her credibility is at stake. She has tried to defend herself by rationalising the change in the situtation. In actual fact, what she should be doing is passing the buck back to the person who deserves to take the dump. She should say: ‘There has been a change in government policy. What I stated on 22 August was the correct position, as far as I was concerned and as far as my Department was concerned ‘. That is the sort of answer which Senator Guilfoyle is justified in giving. I suppose she is more loyal than other honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber. She is bound by Cabinet loyalty but it seems that Cabinet has no loyalty to her.
What will be the result of the proposition with which she now persists? The proposition means that the youngsters who earn a few dollars at the weekend or after school will have to declare those earnings. If they do not declare them they will find themselves in the position of being the youngest tax evaders in the community. What will the Government do to children under this legislation? It will make them tax evaders, cheats, liars and deceivers. Surely they will look at the money they have earned and the manner in which they have earned it and say: ‘Why should someone take any of this away from me when the family to which I belong has a need for it?’ It is personal exertion about which we are talking. We are not talking about interest from trusts or interest from shares which may have been lodged in a child’s name for some tax evasion purpose. We are talking about money which the children physically earn themselves. It must be abhorrent to everyone in this place that the Government should attempt in some way to limit those earnings and to take some of them away from the children.
If I were a cartoonist I would depict the ‘Great Mai ‘ with a mask over his face and a gun pointed at some kid and with a caption reading ‘Hand it over! ‘ That is the real situation. It is exactly the situation and Senator Webster knows it. As far as the children who are earning a few dollars are concerned, this proposal means that some of their earnings will be taken away. It will not be taken away from them; it will be taken away from their mothers. Senator Martin outlined the position quite clearly. It is an attack on the family allowance of a mother through her child. I expect that in the next week Government members will have a chance to express their opinions. I do not doubt that they will express their opinions in the party room. I would be very much surprised if the matter were not raised in their party room for the purpose of showing how one of their Ministers has been humiliated and embarrassed. It is clear to us that she has tried as effectively as she can to avoid the thrust of the questions and that she has been loyal to those who have been disloyal to her. I cannot find sufficient words quickly enough to describe what I consider to be one of the most despicable actions that has been evident in this place.
When I started my speech I felt tempted to call for a quorum as I felt that there ought to be more people listening to what I had to say. However, had I done that I would have been accused of having the sort of vanity which sought a captive audience. What honourable senators on the Government side of the House deserve is for a quorum to be called continually. If they intend to behave in this manner they need to have lesson after lesson read to them. They will be subjected to this in the next week or so. (Quorum formed).
Perhaps the calling of a quorum would have been of more advantage to me at the beginning of my speech rather than at the end. Since Senator Guilfoyle is present in the chamber, I point out that for the past hour and a half critical comments have been made of the Government’s action which caused her to come into this place and announce the change of policy. The point that I was making was that the Cabinet was duty bound to extend to Senator Guilfoyle the same loyalty as she extended to it. Nevertheless, a quorum has now been formed. I was at the tail end of my remarks when the quorum was called. While the bells were being rung Senator Webster made all sorts of remarks about Opposition senators not being in the chamber. Let me make it quite clear to Government senators that they are responsible for maintaining a quorum in the House.
– That is very unfair.
– Let us put the matter to a test. The next time a quorum is called Government senators should stay out of the chamber and see what happens. If they think they have no responsibility for keeping a quorum in the House, I suggest that they do not come into the chamber the next time we call for a quorum. We will then see how they get out of the situation which results. I put it to honourable senators on the Government side of the House that one of their Ministers has been placed under attack here for the last hour because of the Government’s action and they have not cared very much; they have not bothered.
– We do not take very much notice of you.
-Perhaps not. I know just how Senator Sim thinks.
– Don ‘t point a finger at me!
- Senator Sim has pointed his finger at me on several occasions. He was the first person to point a finger at me in this place. That was eight years ago. Honourable senators opposite are prepared to accept the situation that has been thrust upon us in this place. A Minister has given a clear assurance to the Senate that the policy of the Government is that if it is clear that the income of children is earned by personal exertion it will not be taxed and it will not in any way affect the family allowance. That assurance was given categorically and clearly. Some weeks later, because of a decision which Cabinet made, that Minister had to come into the Senate and defend a contrary proposal. Yet honourable senators opposite consider it to be a matter of no importance. Where is the sense of loyalty of honourable senators opposite? Is the sense of loyalty of the members of the Government the same as that of members of the Cabinet, or are they prepared, within their party room, to take up the matter and clearly say that that cannot happen? We cannot have the situation of a Minister coming into this place declaring clearly what he or she intends to do and then announcing a clear reversal of that declaration because, in my view, that is getting very close to misleading the House. It surprises me that the Government should take this matter so lightly. It surprises me that Senator Webster says that it is not a matter of importance, that there ought not to be anyone listening to this criticism. Let the
Government see what it can do to brush this criticism aside during the next two or three days. Let us see what happens when the legislation is introduced and the Government has to take a vote on this change in policy which proposes that the income that a child may earn without affecting the family allowance is to be increased from $6 to $20 a week. Too often this Senate has been treated with contempt by the Executive Government. The Senator Withers affair is a classic example of that. Senator Guilfoyle, although she is senior to the Deputy Leader of the Government in this place, was not given that appointment which she deserved. Also, I think the way that Senator Guilfoyle has been thrust into this affair is a disgrace to the Government. Unfortunately the Opposition now will have to persist with the charge that she- whether it is deliberate or not- has misled the Senate. She made clear, categorical statements in answers to questions that the position was such and yet she has stated in the Senate that the position was not so.
If that is not misleading the Senate I do not know what is. If the justification is that the Cabinet changed its mind the accusation I have made that the Cabinet was disloyal to its Minister is accurate. The Cabinet must have known that she made a clear declaration to the Senate. There is no doubt that Cabinet was party to that decision. If the Executive Government is to behave in that way to one of the Ministers in this place it is a matter for censure. How can we censure the Cabinet in this place? We cannot. So we are forced to censure the Minister who is responsible for making the statement. From where I stand that is unfair. Nevertheless, we on this side will have to persist in the unfairness. I trust that someone on the Government side will come to the defence of the Minister and remind the Cabinet that it has a responsibility to the Minister just as the Minister has a responsibility to the Senate.
– This afternoon I would like to touch on a number of matters mainly affecting South Australia. Before doing that I would like to comment on a few remarks of Senator Georges to highlight the huge mountain that he is making out of a molehill in respect of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). Clearly the thrust of Senator Guilfoyle ‘s remarks in the days following the Budget in August were along the lines that the Government had no intention of catching in its net the wages and earnings of newsboys or children in that situation. That was the thrust of her argument at that time. I understood her at that time clearly to say that that being so and this being not the intention, the
Cabinet would consider the matter again. That has now happened and a report was made today to the effect that the maximum amount involved has been raised to $20 a week. The only point I am seeking to make in this regard is that if Senator Georges is seeking to cast aspersions at Senator Guilfoyle he is certainly on the wrong track. Clearly she has nothing to answer for in this regard and her statements in August followed by the one today clearly are consistent.
The other matters that I would like to touch upon are the problems which the nation faces because of the extension of technology in industry. There is a paradox in Australia’s industrial climate today. Unless it extends its technology and becomes more efficient- super efficientcompared with some of the nations of South East Asia which are expanding rapidly this country will fail, will not grow and the standards of living of its inhabitants will not improve. The paradox lies in the fact that by doing that it is possible in the short term that workers will be displaced. I stress that it is that short term aspect which is of great consideration and importance when looking at this matter. The problem that Australia faces is how to cope with that short term movement. Clearly if Australia can become super efficient and rely on heavier levels of technology than it has up to now more jobs will be created. This must follow from the extension of its export markets. If we can sell goods cheaper than other nations on world markets we must create more jobs in Australia. The question of scale is the answer to Australia ‘s problems plus the fact that technology will help us to lower our costs and so allow us to sell goods more efficiently on the world market.
It has been argued by the Opposition that the question of technological advance in industry is all one way; all that it will do is destroy jobs which will not be replaced. The reverse is the truth. In fact if Australia becomes more efficient than other nations we will be able to extend our operations on the world scene. It is interesting to note that even though in the last month the total value of exports has drawn closer to the total value of imports to Australia- in fact the gap has decreased- the proportion of exports of manufactured goods has risen. This is something that some people may have ignored. Our potential for selling manufactured goods on the world markets is rising. It will continue to rise as we beat inflation and get our cost structures back on to an even keel. We know the reasons for that and there is no need to go into that matter now.
On a narrower scale, those problems of the scale or volume of production and the application of technology have particular application to my own State of South Australia. As you would know, Mr President, the State of South Australia exists because in the past it had a cost advantage in production which could offset the cost of exporting goods from that State to markets interstate and overseas. Had that advantage not existed South Australia never would have been able to create the industries that it has. In 1970 the actual difference in the cost of production of goods in South Australia compared with goods manufactured in other States was 12 per cent. Today that difference has decreased to some 5 per cent or 6 per cent. Because of that and because freight costs represent roughly 7 to 8 per cent of the cost of production of manufactured goods, there is now no advantage in manufacturing goods in South Australia and transporting them to other States. For that reason South Australia is facing a crisis of confidence in industry. There are many reasons for that. I want to come back to those in some detail in a few moments. Clearly some people need to answer for this situation.
South Australia’s advantage in terms of costs was derived over the years from careful husbandry, particularly by the former Premier of South Australia, the Honourable Sir Thomas Playford. He was in power for 26 years in that State and created a situation based on the simple reality that one cannot sell something at a price which is more expensive than that for which somebody else can make it. Consequently he ensured that goods were made more cheaply in South Australia than in other States. This was done in a variety of ways: Firstly, by keeping the State taxation low; secondly, by ensuring that there were good industrial relations in the State. Thirdly, the wage levels which were somewhat lower than those in other States were compensated by a cost of living which was lower than that in other States. That situation existed for more than 40 years. The genius of Sir Thomas Playford in this regard was that he recognised that most of the component of the cost of living for the ordinary average family derived from the cost of housing. Consequently, by careful management of the housing market in South Australia, particularly through the activity of the South Australian Housing Trust, the codes operated by builders and the constant communication and consultation between the builders and the Government, we ensured that housing costs were kept at a low level. Furthermore, there were important extensions to the means of financing houses through the State Bank of South Australia.
These arrangements existed in our State for some 30 or 40 years. They were the idea of Sir Thomas Playford. The savings that were made in housing and food and in the cost of living generally in South Australia more than compensated the wage earner there for his average weekly earnings which were somewhat lower than those of workers in other States. That was the germ of the idea that created the industrial miracle in my State. By ensuring that the worker did not suffer and by allowing a cheaper cost of production, we ensured that South Australian industry could survive and develop.
It is clear that the advantage which prevailed before the Dunstan Government came to power in 1970 has disappeared, and clearly the State has suffered a crisis of conscience and confidence in its industrial future. I put it to the Senate that the problems of my State arise directly from the policies of the Labor Government in South Australia. I have just to refer to one or two statistics which highlight the movements that have occurred. Let us look at the consumer price index of South Australia and compare it with the consumer price index for the rest of Australia in the period 1970 to 1977. In that period the index in South Australia increased by 216 per cent; the increase for the rest of Australia was only 210 per cent. Average weekly earnings in South Australia were 209 per cent greater in 1 977 than in 1 970; the figure for the rest of Australia was only 204 per cent. Not only had wages in South Australia increased faster than wages in any other State, but also the worker in South Australia was disadvantaged to an extent greater than a worker in any other State. As a result, the worker in South Australia has not improved his position by virtue of the policies of the Labor Government at all; in fact he has suffered by them. He has been affected by the consumer price index to an extent greater than a worker in the other States.
Average weekly earnings are the key to the factors that I mentioned earlier in connection with the cost of production in South Australia. Yet, wages have risen faster in South Australia in the seven-year period of the Dunstan Government than in any other State. Honourable senators might say that 5 percentage points is a fairly marginal difference, but we are talking about marginal differences. South Australia existed because it had a marginal advantage previously, not because it had some inherent massive advantage such as being close to a market or having huge natural resources like water or minerals. It had nothing of the sort; rather it had to manufacture an advantage out of the things available to it. Consequently, the Liberal Government of South Australia, which was in power from 1938 to 1965, encouraged and developed those ideas. These marginal factors were the lifeblood of South Australia. They have been destroyed by the Dunstan Government.
Is there any wonder that there is a crisis of confidence in South Australian industry? It is pretty clear, even today, that people are thinking seriously about moving their factories away from South Australia. Clearly, with the loose statements emanating from the Premier about the introduction of industrial democracy, without giving any reasons for or background to the proposal but suggesting that all companies in South Australia will have to have one-third of their board of directors appointed by the Government, one-third appointed by the trade union, and the shareholders, if they are lucky, will get one-third representation on their own boards, is it any wonder that the owners of business are thinking about moving to other States?
It might be a little hard to blame Mr Dunstan for all this. Indeed, we cannot do that. Clearly, he is under pressure from the left wing of his own party in South Australia, and particularly from people like the Attorney-General, Mr Duncan, who has some advanced ideas on industrial development. Clearly we have to consider a few of the factors that the Premier of South Australia has promised to the people of the State and never delivered. In 1970 he said to the people of South Australia: ‘South Australia needs to broaden its industrial base. It needs to be less dependent upon the motor vehicle industry and the white goods industry. In fact, we ought to extend our industries into more broadly based technologies. We need to become more efficient than other States’. Those were very laudatory remarks. All of us at the time agreed with them. We hoped, as indeed the people of South Australia hoped, that this bright new fancy pants of a Premier would deliver the goods when he came into power. So, he was elected to government in 1970 on these promises. We have not seen any evidence of a new industry, whether of super technology, super efficiency or otherwise, being delivered to the scene in South Australia at all. In fact, the movement has been the other way.
The Dunstan Government policies on workers’ compensation, higher taxation and other areas of concern have diminished the industrial base that was strongly established in the State. The Dunstan Government has failed dismally in producing the answers to the State’s longer term industrial policies. If the Government in South Australia cannot produce the answers another party ought to be given the chance to produce them. Last February, following the Address-in-Reply Speech, I made a plea to the Dunstan Government to change its policies, to cut back on its high taxation policies, not to put so many people into the Public Service thereby imposing higher costs on the people of South Australia and to reduce the outrageously generous workers’ compensation insurance scheme that was operating in that State. Far higher costs were imposed on the business community in South Australia than in any other State in an attempt to try to awaken it to the need to change its direction so as to save South Australian industry. But nothing further has happened. Nothing has changed. The South Australian Government still goes on offering the same platitudes, believing that somehow we will save ourselves as long as we stick to socialism.
Around about that time- I think it was about the time of the 25 th anniversary in Parliament of the Premier of South Australia- he was reported as having said that we were going to move forward to become the centre of head offices for all Australian businesses; that business executives and people who run business organisations throughout Australia would want to come and live in South Australia, particularly in Adelaide, because of its magnificent climate. He said that we were going to establish a new industry based on these tertiary industries. I hasten to add that that remark received an absolute panning from the business community and from many other persons in the community at that time. In fact, I recall that Mr Allen Swinstead who is the Executive Director of the Metal Industries Association of South Australia in Adelaide, said in reply that the Premier’s aim to make South Australia a centre of tertiary industry is a politician’s dream. Mr Colin Branson, the General Manager of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry S.A. Inc., said that if the Premier wants to attract tertiary industry he should shut up about industrial democracy. Mr John Roche, an Adelaide builder, said that business leaders in other States tend to think of South Australia as a leper colony.
– Who said that?
-Mr John Roche.
– Who is he?
-He is a former Lord Mayor of Adelaide. That shows how much the honourable senator knows about Adelaide.
– Oh, that is wonderful!
-Perhaps the honourable senator does not care, but other honourable senators in this place care, including honourable senators on the other side of the chamber. Indeed, this being a States House, I believe that we have every right to discuss these matters. These sorts of problems that exist in the industrial scene of South Australia can be solved neither through radical action, nor by pulling solutions out of the sky. The whole problem of South Australia revolves around the need for us to get down to facts and to work with what we have. South Australia is short of natural resources. Therefore we need to ensure that we develop the State properly, paying careful attention to the factors in production that ensure that we can sell our goods on interstate and overseas markets in order to improve the living standards of the people who live there. Senator Ryan is not interested in the living standards of people in South Australia; no doubt she has other constituents to worry about. But, as I said, there are honourable senators on the other side of the chamber who are just as worried about this problem as I am. Indeed, from time to time they have expressed their views on this matter here and in other places.
I pass on from that point to mention one or two other problems which exist in South Australia at the moment. We know that whilst South Australia is short of natural resources, there are opportunities for development in our State. We know, for instance, that the establishment of petrochemical works at Redcliff would offer quite a real possibility for development in South Australia. We look forward to the decision of the Loan Council in this regard, which can be only a matter of weeks away. The development of this project will require the Federal Government to allow South Australia to borrow some $200m in order to provide the infrastructure in the Redcliff area around Port Augusta. A number of complex problems are associated with this project, but I shall not go into them because they have been well and truly canvassed on previous occasions by my colleagues, Senator Young and Senator Jessop. Development of this project in the north of the State will offer great opportunities for us to diversify our industrial base in South Australia and so ensure that we can attain the ideal which the Premier of South Australia advocated in the earlier part of this decade.
Another factor in the industrial development of South Australia is the huge reserves of brown coal that we know exist in several unfortunately remote parts of the State. We know of the Lake
Phillipson deposits and of the deposits near Lock. There are other brown coal deposits in the vicinity of Balaclava. Obviously, these deposits provide potential for the future development of the State. I am very interested in the possible development in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria of a German method for the liquefaction of brown coal to manufacture petrol. That seems to me to offer some opportunity for South Australia to move into the production of petrol. But I know that even more technological difficulties would be experienced in ensuring that such a project got off the ground in South Australia than would be experienced in Victoria. The main reasons for that are pretty clear. The distance involved and the delivery problems in our State are particularly difficult in comparison with the situation in Victoria.
Another potential area for natural resource development in South Australia that is of particular interest- I believe the State Government ought to take this up- is the Roxby Downs area. Roxby Downs, in the northern part of South Australia, is said to have a huge copper and uranium deposit. It is said- I believe that the people who have said this can be relied upon- that the copper ore deposits in the Roxby Downs area are as great if not greater than those at Mount Isa. The problem that the South Australian Government has in facing up to the development of such a project as this is that the copper ore is intertwined with uranium. The South Australian Government, for ideological reasons, is not prepared to consider developing such a project because it would involve mining uranium. We know that the Minister for Mines and Energy in South Australia, Mr Hugh Hudson, is on record as having said that he would like to see the project go ahead but that the uranium ore would have to be stockpiled. It is obvious, from statements that have been made by the Western Mining organisation, the operators in the area, that the project would not get off the ground simply because it would not be profitable if it relied exclusively upon the mining of copper.
– They have a mine at Kanmantoo but that has been closed down.
– It was a very small mine at Kanmantoo.
– It was a big mine with 1 50 people working there and they closed it down. You talk about mining copper. Talk sense.
– It is clear that Senator McLaren is a great expert on copper. I notice that he has not mentioned anything about the Burra mine. Clearly those two relatively small operations involve nothing like the sorts of considerations that are involved with huge development at Roxby Downs along the lines I am suggesting.
– If you cannot sell it from a small mine, how are you going to sell it at a profit from a big mine?
-That is the very reason why miners would need to sell the uranium as well as the copper ore. That is the whole point. Consequently, in this particular instance it is up to the South Australian Government to pay regard to the industrial priorities of South Australia. If the South Australian Premier is truly interested in the future development of my State and the State of other honourable senators, including honourable senators on the other side of the chamber, he will take action- soon, I hope- to ensure that the Roxby Downs development gets off the ground. There are other potential developments which, of course, are too ideologically hot for the Dunstan Government to touch as well. They are matters of sheer daytoday politics as far as that Government is concerned. For instance, the South Australian Government will not consider the development of a uranium enrichment plant in South Australia, although it talked about it in the days of the late Mr Connor. Now, purely for political reasons, it will not proceed with such a project.
– Will the Dunstan Government change its mind by next year?
– If it can win the next election, which I seriously doubt at this stage because of the lack of popularity of the Dunstan Government, it is quite possible that the uranium enrichment development will get off the ground. That may happen if the Government feels that it is politically safe for it to do so. That Government ‘s ability to jump about and change its mind on various issues has been demonstrated clearly ever since it came to power. Of course, we all remember that the Dunstan Government came to power in 1970 on the promise: ‘We will build Chowilla’.
– No, it didn’t.
-Yes, it did.
– It was Hall’s promise. I have explained it in this Parliament over and over again, including when Hall was here.
– It was not. Senator McLaren is an expert on matters connected with water, feathers and things of that sort. The point I make, and I make it simply, is that when Mr Dunstan became Premier he changed his mind overnight about whether we would have a dam at Chowilla. He accepted the recommendations which had been taken up by the Hall Government during the period from 1968 to 1970 and accepted the same recommendations to put the dam at Dartmouth. Clearly that demonstrates the flexibility of mind of that Government.
– You are reflecting on the President when you talk about Chowilla.
– I am merely stating facts.
– You are not stating facts. If you were doing that we would be happy but you are not. You are distorting the situation. I will read the terms of the agreement into Hansard.
– Order! Interjections should cease.
- Mr President, I appreciate your protection. If the Opposition gets me too excited I will not be able to speak at all. Another matter I would like to mention is the brandy excise.
– Is that good quality water?
– It is Canberra water, I believe. We well know of the Budget decision to increase the excise on brandy.
– That is when the test will come.
– Order! Senator McLaren will have his turn later to speak. Senator Messner has the call now.
– It is clear that this decision will cause severe doubt in the minds of the grape growers in the Riverland area. Consequently they will be seriously affected in terms of the intake of grapes of the 1979 vintage. This impact will have a very local effect in South Australia on three towns in particular- Berri, Renmark and Loxton. I feel that those towns will suffer, as has been demonstrated by figures submitted to us, to the extent of a reduction of about $ 1 ,000 in the income of each grape growing family. It might be said that that does not sound like a lot of money per family, but it comes after a year of reduced income arising from a surplus of grapes last year and, of course, a downturn in the wine industry that goes back to when the Whitlam Government imposed the brandy excise and removed the differential in 1973. I, along with my colleagues on this side and the other side of the chamber, have made representations to the Government in this regard. We will be looking forward with interest to the Government ‘s response. Certainly we know that the Industries Assistance Commission’s report will be handed down within a few months. I am of the view that the industry cannot wait that long and that we will need to make some other arrangements in the interim. Nevertheless we hope that the Government will respond in the very near future to these representations.
There are two other areas concerning South Australia on which I would like to touch briefly. One is the state of the building industry. The South Australian building industry is particularly depressed. That situation has been brought about by the shortage in the supply of land which occurred from 1973 onwards and which suddenly became a flood of supply when the South Australian Land Commission finally got off the ground in about 1974. That has affected the housing market dramatically insofar as speculative builders have been able to get access to land without actually having to outlay money for it and to build houses merely on a sort of contract basis. This differs from the normal process whereby speculative builders actually purchase land, build houses on it and sell the whole package. That has dramatically affected the housing market in South Australia insofar as there was a very significant attempt by many speculative builders to get into the act when the Land Commission was established in 1974. This has led to a serious oversupply from which the Adelaide metropolitan area is still suffering.
The exact number of new- previously unoccupied- houses and units unsold at the moment remains something of a mystery but it is believed to be of the order of 1,500. Of that number there are approximately 900 home units or apartments. The South Australian Housing Trust is still continuing to build units for low income families. It seems to me that there has been a misuse of resources in that if 900 apartments or other forms of low cost housing are available the Housing Trust could enter into arrangements with private developers to take over for a limited term or a definite lease period some of these properties for leasing at subsidised rentals to low income families. In other words, it could provide this accommodation to low income families on the same basis as it would otherwise build houses. I believe that that would have the support of the housing industry in South Australia. I raised this matter previously in a question to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) and I have received a reply from him to the effect that he will be taking up the matter with the South Australian Minister for Housing. I hope that we will see some fruitful results from that. Indeed, it may release from the Housing Trust funds which could be used for industrial development in South Australia. I remind the Senate that the Housing Trust in South Australia provides buildings and other capital premises on a subsidised rental basis for industry generally.
The last matter about which I wish to speak relates to the motor vehicle industry. South Australia is very heavily dependent upon the motor vehicle industry. Of course, the scale of Australia’s market for motor vehicles is relatively small. Consequently the inefficiencies in the production of Australian made vehicles is a particular problem. This has affected the demand for South Australian made vehicles and consequently, no doubt, has affected job opportunities in that State. The answer clearly is to conduct some review of the motor vehicle plan as administered by the Federal Government. We know that there is an 85 per cent Australian content motor vehicle plan in operation. However, there are no offsetting arrangements for companies such as Chyrsler Australia Ltd which are able to export engines to associated Chrysler companies in other parts of the world and to offset that with imports of other parts of motor vehicles in order to obtain efficiencies and lower costs of production for Australian made vehicles. This is called complementation.
I believe that this is a factor which ought to be made more flexible so as to enable South Australian car manufacturers and other car manufacturers in Australia to put themselves into a position where they can achieve efficiencies by dealing on larger markets overseas and at the same time lower the cost of production to the Australian consumer of motor vehicles. I was very interested to note an article in the Age of last Friday stating that support had been expressed by General Motors-Holden for this principle, which I know has been advocated in previous times by Chrysler. In fact, it seems that the motor vehicle industry in general is arriving at a clear consensus about that particular development.
– It would be of great advantage to them.
– It would be of considerable advantage both to them and to the Australian consumer. If we could achieve a greater through-put of production we would be able to lower the cost of motor vehicles and expand the Australian market. That is of fundamental importance. The expansion of the export market for
Australian made motor vehicles generally is a rather large question, because it could involve the development of export incentives for manufacturers, to an extent greater than the Government has so far provided for. This, as honourable senators will know, was prior to 1972 a big factor in Australian motor vehicle production; but the actions of the Whitlam Government during the years 1972-75 wiped it out, almost to a vehicle. I am sorry to have occupied so much time of the Senate. I did not expect to be speaking at such length, and I thank honourable senators opposite for not getting me too excited, causing me to burst into coughing.
-I am sorry to find that Senator Messner has joined that huie circle of State knockers which has recently developed. In South Australia in recent months a number of Liberal members- not allhave set out to try to damage in some way or other the image of the State Premier. They do so because both he and the State Labor Government are so effective. The only thing they can do is go into the arena where their comments may get some Press publicity and suggest that the State of South Australia is being mismanaged. The information that they give, of course, is quite incorrect. The stance that Senator Messner takes is also incorrect. He begins from the premise that the development of the industry of the State of South Australia is derived from the State’s low wage position and the fine work of the Playford Government. Certainly, Playford managed the State well, but behind him he had the Federal Labor Government. The origins of industry in South Australia are to be found in the war years and the post-war years, and the excellent relationship between Playford and the CurtinChifley Government. As a result, we were able to get in South Australia a start in many industries which have since been knocked by the Federal Government.
May I mention first, since it comes readily to mind, the situation of the Weapons Research Establishment and the defence industries which, since this Liberal Government has been in power, have been whittled down bit by bit. Staff have been sacked and they are now operating at minimal capacity, with just sufficient activity to keep them going. In the Weapons Research Establishment at Woomera more than a thousand workers have been sacked. Those who will read Senator Messner ‘s speech will not be much affected by the fact that he proposes to make representations to the Government about a number of matters. He talks about the difficulties in South Australia caused by labour, but honourable senators will notice that he refers to the increased charges that have just been imposed by his own Government. He complains about the new charges which are affecting the brandy industry. He proposes to make representations about that. How good have his representations been in the past?
Let me mention one little example, which surely he will remember quite well. I refer to the Whyalla shipyards. Honourable senators will know what happened to the shipyards. They were shut down by the Federal Government. Not only did the Australian Labor Party support the Whyalla shipyards being kept in business but also an important joint committee of this parliament, the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, decided by unanimous vote to recommend that Newcastle and Whyalla because of their defence complement should be kept going.
– It was proven uneconomic.
– In addition, senator, on your side the chairman of that Committee was Senator Hamer. I was the deputy chairman and for every good reason we made certain recommendations and put forward a plan. That having been done, the South Australian senators, both Liberal and Labor, signed a letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) representing that the plan should be pursued. What happened? The request was refused by the Prime Minister, who advanced all sorts of spurious reasons. He claimed that it was costing too much to keep the shipyards going, and was not very much concerned about defence. We brought the matter back into the Senate, but what happened when a vote was taken? Where did the South Australian Liberal senators stand? They voted against the very case that they had put up, with such great publicity, about the Whyalla shipyards.
Let me give a second example, the Stuart Highway, which he will also recall quite well. It is not two months since representatives of the Liberal Party, National Country Party and Labor Party as well as the Lord Mayor of Alice Springs and representatives of associated transport organisations, went to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), and asked unanimously that the Federal Government provide funds sufficient to ensure, because of its importance, the continued construction of the Stuart Highway. Not only would it give work and interrupt the downturn in the economy, the increase in unemployment, but also it would ensure that Australia would have this important link which is so frequently interrupted because of bad weather. After much argument, those of us on the committee said, ‘Yes, we want it’, but what has happened? The Federal Government has refused to do what we asked. No further action has been taken by the Government and we propose to bring that matter up again in the Senate very soon to see whether Liberal Party senators from South Australia will do what they ought to do.
There was a time when all South Australian senators, Labor and Liberal alike, supported that State’s claims. I remember many battles being fought in this place when we argued in favour of water and rail support by the Federal Government. With some few exceptions, we all joined in that fight. One of the issues was the one that Senator Messner raised about Chowilla- the need for water in South Australia, an important overriding concern for the country which everybody should support. I am pleased to say that the President in the Chair today is one who supported that petition. In the same way we supported the claims for standardisation, the improvement in rail works and so on. That was all possible because of our unity. Today, of course, a small Liberal group is trying to knock South Australia.
They talk about lowering costs. They are always saying, ‘You will get out of this depression if you take lower wages. You have got to make yourself poor to get rich. ‘ That is the sort of nonsense we hear- ‘Tighten up your belt and starve yourselves to make yourselves healthy’, and so on. Yet this Government, which in every Budget introduces new and heavier imposts on industry, says ‘Why should not South Australia do some of these things?’ Today Senator Davidson- I do not think I am doing him any dishonour by interpreting his remarks in this way- said that the country sections of the South Australian railway track should be the responsibility of the South Australian Government. Having made an agreement and having come into the chamber and said that it was a great idea, Liberal senators immediately turn around and say, ‘We are not going to worry about those country lines. We will let the South Australian Government do something about them.’
South Australia offers a number of important economic advantages. Senator Messner knows that well because he talked about some of them. He spoke about secondary industry, about the motor car industry. We offer those advantages because we have a stable work force and always have had. It is attributable to our origins and to the good management under Labor, that South
Australia does not have disputes although, under other conditions, they would occur. The evidence of that is in the records. Let me cite the incidence of days lost in the various States. South Australia has the best record of all. A table printed in the Age of 2 September 1977- the record is still as good- shows working days lost per 1,000 workers. Between 1972 and 1976 the number of working days lost per 1,000 workers was 4,892 in Victoria; 4,397 in New South Wales, 3,365 in Queensland, 2,649 in Tasmania, 2,206 in Western Australia and 1,827 in South Australia. Between 1972 and 1976 South Australia’s performance was tremendous. In 1976 alone the number of working days lost in Victoria was 1,073. In New South Wales it was nearly 900. In South Australia it was only 342.
South Australia has two things going for it apart from the arguments about its management. It has a very stable and highly skilled work force. As I mentioned earlier, it has the foundations of light and heavy construction machinery. It had a shipyard which, unfortunately, was let go. Now new policies and costs are being imposed by the Federal Government. The new charges will make transport dearer. There are the increases in petrol charges and taxation. There has been a reduction in Commonwealth services not only in South Australia but in all the States. I have mentioned the fact that the Weapons Research Establishment at Woomera has been allowed to run down. I have mentioned the need to build something on the highway. I have also mentioned the Labor proposal to increase the Budget deficit.
The Government has argued that inflation is the only curse in Australia. It has let unemployment grow. The markets for the factories are not now there. South Australia certainly needs such markets. There is a need to have people in work, not only in South Australia but in all States. Our whitegoods industry is a very good industry. It can produce washing machines of its own design, various household appliances and many other things. The motor car industry is fairly good. It has been demonstrated by Sweden that a country can have a high welfare system, high taxation and a very efficient economy. There is nothing to say that the only way markets can be obtained is by reducing wages.
– And it has industrial democracy.
– It has industrial democracy. The deputations on industrial democracy in South Australia have all been met by the Government. The Government has done nothing without consulting all the important people in the State. The pace of that democracy is not as fast as it is in other countries. It is certainly not as fast as it is in Germany, Sweden and all the other democratic countries which have established such a system. The Federal Government is the taxing authority. It sets the economic climate. The present Federal Government says: ‘The way to make us more prosperous is to cut down on everything’. As a result of cutting down on everything it has cut down on all Federal spending in South Australia. It has cut down on country rail services. The State is trying to cope with that but it cannot do so. The Federal Government has imposed new taxes. It has reduced consumer demand. That is not good for the economy.
asked why Dunstan does not sack some more public servants? Another bad feature of the Federal Government is that it says that Dunstan should cut down the costs of the Public Service. It already has an infamous record in its own province. It has put off 12,000 workers from the Public Service. Twelve thousand workers have been sacked from various areas of the Public Service thereby reducing services to the public. Perhaps the public has always been misguided about the Public Service. The Public Service is the instrument of social policy. The Government has cut down in many areas of social security. That has affected people’s appetite and their consumption.
– They are not taking on any apprentices either.
-That is another point. Legal aid, sheltered workshops and other areas of social security are suffering the same sorts of cutbacks.
South Australia has a rail problem. Because of the vastness of the State it needs transportation. It needs water conservation and purification. It was the Labor Government that started those programs. As everybody knows, we have had great difficulty in ensuring that this Government continues those programs. At present, there has been a stop-gap approval of funds. We want a long term scheme such as the one approved by the Labor Government. In addition, we want to make sure that our rail services are not closed down without proper consideration. Unfortunately, this Government has issued instructions to the Australian National Railways Commission to see what sort of measures it can take to cut its losses. Everybody knows that public transport whether it be rail or motorised is very costly. The Federal Minister for Transport mentioned the cost of public transport recently. But it is very necessary because it reduces the cost of the economy. A number of services have already been reduced in South Australia. This is making people lack confidence in the future. This has been caused by the Federal Government. Its increased charges have meant increased costs in transport. We have to suffer those as well as everybody else.
As honourable senators probably know, the services and the staff in some railway sections have been affected by administrative action. Arising from this a big meeting was held recently at Tailem Bend. Senator McLaren was present. A number of other important area authorities were present. The State Ministers were present. The only person who was missing was the Federal Minister.
– He never turned up.
– He did not turn up to discuss the effect of the cutbacks on the railway system. Senator McLaren represented the Labor Party because the meeting was held in his area. I was not invited. If I had been invited I would have attended. But Senator McLaren adequately represented the Labor Party.
I do not think that anybody will be very impressed with the previous speaker who is a supporter of the Government which has just imposed extra charges making living dearer and putting people out of jobs. It is causing the economic climate to falter as a result of which young people cannot find work. Employment and costs are fundamental to the economy. The course of the economy has to be changed. There has to be more construction. The Government is cutting back on Federal construction in my State and in other States. It is talking about the empty houses in South Australia. It has to put people in jobs so that they can rent those houses. Instead of complaining about houses being empty in Whyalla it has to start up the shipyards again or assist other industries in the area. It has to get the railways to order products. That is the way to get the economy going instead of knocking the South Australian Premier and saying that the Labor Government has whiskers on it.
– You haven’t even got an election on yet, have you?
-No, we have not. It is too early for the Liberals to make their run. The Liberal Party in South Australia is having great difficulty with its leader. It has never been able to produce a leader able to compete with the State Premier. A former leader of the South Australian Liberal Party entered the Senate only because he could not compete with the State Premier. I think that will happen to the present leader. I hope that in future Senator Messner will join with the traditional Labor group on this side of the House which has always supported any government which has done what has been necessary for South Australia. He talked about the representations he has made. I hope that those representations were not just letters. I hope that we can join together at a future time and demonstrate that the South Australian senators in the Parliament will demand from the Government some rectification of its mistakes.
– Because the Senate is debating the first reading of the Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill 1978 I would like to take the opportunity of speaking on a matter which has nothing really to do with apples or pears. Nevertheless, it is a matter that I believe is tremendously important. It concerns the controversy that is occurring in the Northern Territory at the moment over the Northern Land Council and the Ranger uranium mining agreement. I believe that the agreement was to be signed today but because of the controversy that has occurred the signing has been deferred. While I was chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory I had the opportunity of travelling around the Northern Territory and meeting many of the tribal elders and many people within the Northern Territory, hearing evidence concerning the land rights legislation which was introduced in this chamber some time ago. As honourable senators on both sides of the chamber will know, when that Bill was introduced into this chamber controversy was occurring throughout the length and breadth of this nation. Many people were criticising the Government for introducing that Bill. People were saying that the Government was doing too much for the Aboriginal people; that it was dividing the Northern Territory. All sorts of other accusations such as that were being made.
The Government was determined that that Bill would go through this chamber, that the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory would be given their land rights and that their claims to their traditional lands would be acceded to under that Bill. To do that the Government, in its wisdom or otherwise, felt that there was a need to set up land councils. As we know, two land councils were set up, the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council. Senator Cavanagh, who was with me on the Committee, and Senator Chaney, who is now a Minister in the Government, and a number of other honourable senators were in Darwin at the inaugural meeting of the Northern Land Council. There we met the traditional owners. We listened to them and heard their opinions on what they wanted. The first chairman of that Council was Mr Silas Roberts. Silas Roberts is an Aboriginal gentleman of the highest calibre. He is a very fine upstanding gentleman. He is a married man with a family and a man steeped in his own traditions and culture. He had the full support and confidence of the Aboriginal people with whom he was dealing under the land rights legislation.
It seems to me that what is happening now happened to some extent to my friend Silas Roberts. Because of undue pressure from various quarters Mr Roberts felt that he could not carry on as chairman of the Northern Land Council. He resigned from it and another man was appointed to that job. The man who was appointed and who is the current chairman is Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu. He was elected by his own people to do the job as chairman of that Land Council. As we know, he is another fine upstanding Aboriginal gentleman who through his own efforts and his own initiative has got where he is today. He is probably one of the most articulate Aborigines in the whole of Australia today. He is one of the most prominent Aborigines in the whole of Australia today not only because he is chairman of the Northern Land Council but also because of the way he has conducted himself, the way he has endeavoured to bring about solutions to the problems of land rights and the way he has handled the problems of his people in the Northern Territory. He is a young man- I would say that he is not even 30 years of age yet- who has had a tremendous responsibility placed on him. Pressure from all quarters has come upon this young man. There has been pressure from the Friends of the Earth, conservationists, anti-uranium groups, the Australian Labor Party, the Northern Territory Government, the Federal Government- from all quarters. How the young man has stood up to all these pressures and accepted his responsibilities are things of which we as Australians, and particularly we in this Senate, should be very proud.
I am very concerned, and I feel that every member of this chamber should be concerned. Who is trying to destroy this young man who has become the leader of Aborigines throughout this Commonwealth? He is now a figure to whom all Aborigines throughout this nation look. Aborigines in Queensland, members of the Queensland Northern Council, the people at Aurukun and Mornington Island and all the Aboriginal communities in Queensland are looking to young
Galarrwuy because he has given leadership to Aborigines throughout this nation. He is someone we can now look up to. He has done a tremendous job, but somewhere, somehow I believe there is an undercurrent against him and people are trying to destroy and to bring discredit on this young man. It is the same old tactic that has been applied in this country since 1 788- divide and conquer. If these people destroy this young man’s credibility then they will destroy the credibility of Aborigines in their fight for what I believe they are rightly and justly entitled to, and that is their land rights.
The Government introduced into this chamber land rights legislation which was supported by all people. Some people may have had misgivings, particularly some on the Opposition side of this chamber. Even I had some little misgivings concerning that legislation. However the Government introduced the legislation and got it through this chamber. Embodied within that legislation is the right for Aboriginal people, when minerals are found on their land, to negotiate not only as to how the minerals are to be taken out but also in relation to royalties and other matters.
This young man, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, has done so much and has followed the legislation right through in every sense of the word. He has been able to talk to his own people. I have sat with this young man in an office in Darwin surrounded by telephones, typists and other people working, solicitors and everybody else racing around, but I have also been able to sit with this young man in his own tribal area amongst his own tribal elders and see how he can go from one environment to another. He can be talking in his own language, steeped in his own culture, and then in a moment he can change right over and talk to the highest people in this nation. He is on first name terms with Prime Ministers, Deputy Prime Ministers, people in business and everybody else. He has been able to achieve something that very few other people from his background have been able to achieve. I believe that anything that we can say in praise of this young man is warranted.
I come back to this question: Why are people trying to destroy the credibility of this young man, and who are they? I believe the answer is that they are trying to destroy the credibility of this young man because there are people who have found at last that here is a young man who is not pliable or manoeuvrable. They cannot manipulate him. He has found his feet and he is standing up for himself. So what do these people do? They try to destroy him. If they destroy him, whom do we put in his place? Do we replace him with someone more pliable? More pliable to whom? That is the question I ask. Should he be someone more pliable to the people who are allegedly his friends, people wanting to use him for their own political purposes? I do not want to canvass the rights or the wrongs of the mining and export of uranium, but should he be someone more pliable to those who want to prevent uranium mining in the Northern Territory and those who want to destroy the credibility of Aboriginal people by saying that we cannot negotiate with the Aboriginal people because they do not understand and therefore we have to take over control and show them what is good for them?
It is the same old thing again. Someone says what we, the Aboriginal people, must do, how we must do it and what is good for us. Why can they not just for once listen and let us Aborigines say what is good for us. Let young Galarrwuy and his tribal elders say what is good for them, what they want to do and how they want things to happen in their communities. They are asking for protection for their sacred sites. They are asking that people leave them alone and let them work out their problems in their own way. I am afraid that this will not happen.
I believe that we should be looking at this situation much more closely to determine whose idea it is to discredit and destroy one of the finest Australians in Australia today, a man who has done so much to bring about a solution to the problems in the Northern Territory and at the same time protect the rights of his people and preserve their culture, which is as rich as any culture in the world. I had the opportunity today to speak by telephone to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is in Darwin, and am happy to know that he is talking to Galarrwuy. The Minister is as concerned as I am because he also believes that there are some forces at work to destroy this young man. After speaking with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for the Aboriginal Affairs today, I believe that the Government will not let this happen; it will not let this young man be destroyed. Every person in this chamber has the responsibility to ensure that that does not happen. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Excise Amendment Bill 1978.
Pig Slaughter Levy 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 Departure Tax Bill 1978 and the Departure Tax Collection Bill 1978 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.
Motion by (Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to the Middle East situation. I apologise for some delay in the circulation of the statement but, with the leave of honourable senators, I will read it. It is relatively brief.
– The statement is about the agreements reached at Camp David between Prime Minister Begin of Israel and President Sadat of Egypt. As honourable senators will know, the thirteen day long Camp David talks which concluded on 17 September resulted from the personal initiative of President Carter. The Government very much welcomed this initiative and it welcomes the promising results that have been achieved. I can mention to the Senate that President Carter was in touch with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) immediately before the talks at Camp David, and that he again wrote to the Prime Minister following the conclusion of the talks.
In his reply to the President’s latest letter, the Prime Minister conveyed to him warmest congratulations on his personal achievement in bringing the two parties to agreement on a framework for peace in the Middle East and the Australian Government’s commitment to support his untiring efforts to bridge the distance between Israeli and Egyptian standpoints. I am sure all members of this Senate would wish to join with me in congratulating the President on his initiative. I also pay tribute to the statesmanship of President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin.
All honourable senators will be fully aware of the importance of the Middle East region for world peace, and its vital significance to western interests. In the last 30 years the region has been in continual turmoil. There have been four wars between the Arabs and the Israelis. This has brought appalling suffering to the peoples of the region. The instability created by this situation has been a constant threat to world peace, and a constant invitation to unwarranted external interference.
The search for peace has been a continuing preoccupation of the United Nations and Western states throughout this period. Under successive American presidents, the United States has made strenuous efforts to promote a settlement. These efforts, however, foundered largely on the inability of the parties concerned to overcome their deep-seated mutual fear and distrust. It was not until the bold and imaginative initiative of President Sadat in going to Jerusalem in November 1977 that the hope of a breakthrough towards some sort of settlement in the Middle East seemed capable of realisation. Unfortunately, the negotiations which followed President Sadat’s visit to Israel, and Mr Begin ‘s return visit to Egypt, did not gather the necessary momentum to enable a proper framework for a settlement to be established.
It became apparent after the Leeds Castle meetings in July that if there was to be any prospect of further progress some new stimulus would be needed. President Carter took the courageous step of inviting the Egyptian and Israeli leaders to meet him at Camp David for personal discussions. President Carter wrote to the Prime Minister on 1 5 August about his reasons for initiating the Camp David talks and what he hoped to accomplish from them. In his reply the Prime Minister emphasised the Australian Government’s support for the talks and the importance we attached to them.
The outcome of the talks is known to honourable senators. In summary two agreements were signed by President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin, and witnessed by President Carter. The first agreement is entitled ‘A Framework for Peace in The Middle East’, and covers the West Bank and Gaza. It envisages a five-year transitional period during which Israeli military forces will be withdrawn to garrisons in specified locations, and the election of a self-governing authority with full autonomy. Negotiations will be held among Egypt, Israel and, if it agrees to participate, Jordan, as well as elected representatives of the Palestinians to determine the final status of the West Bank and Gaza and, it is hoped, to produce a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. During the negotiations there will be a freeze on the establishment of new Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Security arrangements may include United Nations forces, special security zones, demilitarised zones and early warning stations. There is to be an exchange of letters on the Status of East Jerusalem.
The second agreement, entitled ‘A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel’, covers the Sinai and future bilateral relations. It envisages a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel to be signed within three months; full Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai phased over no more than three years from the signing of the treaty; the handing over of Israeli airfields in the Sinai to Egyptian civilian control beginning from three to nine months after the signing; the establishment of security zones; and the establishment of normal relations between Egypt and Israel on completion of the first major Israeli withdrawal. The Australian Government believes that the two agreements provide a constructive framework for the resolution of the Middle East conflict.
President Carter’s timely initiative was clearly a vital factor in bringing the two parties to these agreements, which will surely be regarded as an historic turning point in the search for a settlement in the Middle East. We particularly welcome the agreement by the leaders of Egypt and Israel that the provisions and principles of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 will govern the negotiations for an agreed basis for a peaceful settlement between Israel and its neighbours. This is a position which the Australian Government has consistently taken. We also welcome the recognition in the Camp David agreements of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to participate in the determination of their own future. This also accords with the stated policy of the Australian Government.
A difficult road lies ahead. Other Arab States, whose support will be essential to any lasting settlement, have yet to be convinced that the Camp David framework can be an acceptable basis for future negotiations. We hope that the Middle Eastern governments, in the spirit of Camp David, will be encouraged to support this framework and to participate in future negotiations in the search for peace. It is most important that the momentum generated by the Camp David agreements be maintained. Continued diplomatic activity will be critical to the objectives of ensuring further progress in the negotiations in the months ahead. In this context, the present round of talks being undertaken by Mr Vance with key Arab leaders will be of fundamental importance.
The Australian Government stands ready to give its support to the terms of any settlement agreed upon between the parties in the Middle East. The Prime Minister has written to President Carter today to inform him that the Australian Government regards the agreements reached at Camp David as a major contribution towards a peace settlement, and that he has our full support for his efforts to bring an end to the threat of war in the Middle East. I commend the statement to the Senate.
– by leave- The Opposition welcomes the statement which has just been made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). I believe that there is little, if anything, with which we, as an Opposition, would disagree in regard to the contents of the statement. We are all aware of the complexity of the Middle East problem and the bitterness which has existed there for many years. I am sure that everyone welcomes the initiative that has been taken by the United States President, just as we welcomed at the time the initiative taken by President Sadat of Egypt. In particular, I indicate that I find it very pleasing that there is no note of sourness in that statement. I believe that a country such as Australia which is not able to influence the outcome of events in that very troubled area of the world should adopt the attitude of not in any way exacerbating the difficulties that lie ahead, as has been spelt out in the statement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. We are on common ground in this regard. It would be idle of us to imagine that difficulties do not still exist in the Middle East. That is recognised by the Government. We also recognise it. We trust that the goodwill that has been shown and the trust that apparently has been established will be a major plus in resolving what is unquestionably the most complex, the most difficult and potentially the most dangerous dispute in the world at the present time. The Labor Party’s position in relation to this matter is well known. Over the years we have supported the resolutions of the United Nations which have sought to bring about an equitable and just solution in the Middle East. I think it is a moment of great satisfaction to all of us that at last there has been a breakthrough. It appears to be a very positive step that will lead to the sort of settlement which I feel certain all of us want to see in the Middle East.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.30 to 8.35 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.
– I move:
This motion is somewhat critical of the present management of the Australian wine industry. By moving this motion I do not want to declare myself to have any expert knowledge in this field. I have taken an interest in this matter and have taken part in discussions with others who are more knowledgeable about the industry than I am. While I criticise in this motion and in this speech certain important aspects of the wine industry, at the same time I recognise that the industry has its heroes and its adventurers. It has developed many excellent wines. It is my concern that those wines are not appreciated or exploited to the extent that they ought to be. The wine industry therefore, along with other industries in this country, needs to see the result of a more positive push towards development of an export market.
I became particularly concerned with this matter when travelling with a number of Government members of this Parliament in the JanuaryFebruary period of this year. When travelling in Japan, China, Hong Kong and in similar places I discovered that the Australian wines that we know to be of good quality and which are supported in this country were rarely to be seen in those places. One wondered at this. I have come to conclusions which are put forward tonight. I hope they will lead to a debate. Whether people agree with me in the conclusions I draw is not the important aspect, but I think it is important that those who follow in this debate should contribute so that we will have in this country an improvement in the wine industry and add to the knowledge which the Australian people have of it.
The wine industry is an important primary industry, and I suppose in some ways it is also a secondary industry. It is something which ought to be important in the provision of employment and some of the prosperity which ought to come to this country.
What is the state of the industry in Australia at present? From the research which I have done I conclude that it is not in a happy state. Exports of wine and brandy form a very small proportion of our total exports, and this is decreasing in absolute terms. The situation was better; it is now worse, and I am afraid the proportion tends to be decreasing. Between the years 1939 and 1972 wine exports fell from 25 per cent of total wine production to 2.8 per cent and exports of brandy from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. I think that development is deplorable from the point of view of our overseas trade.
If one looks in detail at the history of the contraction in export sales one finds that in 1974-75 wine exports fell by 2 1 per cent on the figures for the previous year. In the following year, 1975-76, exports fell by 6 per cent on the figures for the previous year and in 1 976-77 exports fell by 1 8 per cent on the figures for the previous year. That is an alarming continued decrease. The vast majority of Australian wine is now consumed locally. In 1972-73 95.4 per cent of our wine was sold in Australia. This figure had risen to 97.4 per cent by 1976-77. As I will show, there has not been a concentration on the necessity to export or on the production of a lot of wine for successful export in recent years. In addition to this fall in export receipts the industry also is suffering from internal problems. Local wine sales are experiencing only a moderate growth. In fact specific varieties, especially dry red wines, have suffered absolute falls in sales. I believe that in the last month there has been some little improvement in the sale of good red wines which Australia produces, but that might not be continued. That has been over the period of only a month. Overall we have had difficulties in selling excellent wines that are produced in Australia.
I turn from the small proportion of exports by the industry to the position of the Australian Wine Board which is the body mostly responsible for the overall direction of this industry. The Australian Wine Board is constituted under the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-73 and is responsible for the promotion of Australian produced wines and brandies in Australia and overseas. It regulates the export of Australian wine and brandy. This body is controlled by a board which consists of ten members appointed by the Governor-General, together with one Government member. The Board is financed through the Wine Grape Charges Act 1929-73 which imposes a levy on wine makers on grapes used in the manufacture of wine. This is at present $2.40 per tonne. The failure of the Board is a direct result, I believe, of the way in which the Board is constituted. At least that is part of the problem. The means by which it is funded I think also contributes to the ineffectiveness of its work.
I turn to the actual membership of the Board and the criticism which has been made to me about it. The Board is dominated by wine makers at the expense -
– Not the producers?
– No, wine makers- the producers of wine- at the expense of the grape growers. Substantially it is the producers of wine who have the controlling interest on the Board. The net result of this, it has been put to me, is that more emphasis is placed on the short term receipts from wine sales than on the medium to long term aspects of planning for the future. There is less concentration on the development of extra production and the sale overseas of” more wine. This point is made not just by me but also was made strongly in the 1977 report of the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce. That report is entitled ‘Tax and the wine and grape industries’. That investigation was completed in August of 1977. On page 112 the report of the Committee states:
Between April and June 1974 PA Management Consultants Pty Ltd undertook a survey of members of the then Federal Wine and Brandy Producers ‘ Council of Australia- now known as the Australian Wine and Brandy Producers’ Association Incorporated to determine their views on a wideranging series of issues which were of interest to the industry.
In summary the study found widespread dissatisfaction with the way in which industry matters were being handled. At the same time, there was a widespread acceptance of the need for positive co-ordination and improved industry effectiveness. The views of industry members were that they were not effectively represented on the Wine Board and they also believed that the Board had not performed satisfactorily. Industry members saw the Federal Council as having more drive, initiative and potential and therefore perceived it to be more effective.
Therefore, the Senate Committee, after speaking to the people who were so concerned with the industry, came to that conclusion. The Committee said that the Board was not willing to participate strongly in any venture that does not show short term revenue potential. The Board does, as we know, launch some promotional campaigns but these are far too small to have a lasting effect. Overseas markets are looked upon by the Wine Board as risky and therefore are given a very low priority.
It think this fact is illustrated by looking at the total expenditure by the Board on the promotion of wine overseas. The expenditure has not been substantial nor has it risen in line with inflation in this country. The figures are: In 1972-73, $133,899; in 1973-74, $175,929; in 1974-75, $187,677; in 1975-76, $201,691; and in 1976-77, $183,485. If we take the figure overall I suppose that it shows a little increase. Obviously it is a small figure and is not one that shows very much growth. When one considers that that amount of expenditure covers the world-wide promotion I suggest that it is really just a drop in the bucket. It is true that the Australian Trade Commissioner Service offers some extra assistance to the wine industry but this is not really of a specialised nature and also it is too limited by the expenditure constraints which such government organisations have imposed on them at this time.
The Senate Committee in dealing with this matter recommended that the Wine Board should be reconstituted to overcome its inbuilt problems. It proposed that an Australian wine and grape corporation be established as a statutory authority. This would bring together the currently separate Australian Wine Board, the Australian Wine and Brandy Producers Association Inc. and the Federal Grape Growers Council of Australia. The first recommendation that appears on page 1 14 of the report of the Senate Committee which was headed by Senator Sheil, in the section dealing with the conclusions, was that the Australian Wine Board, the Australian Wine and Brandy Producers Association Inc. and the Federal Grape Growers Council of Australia should combine to form an Australian wine and grape corporation which would be elected by industry members and be completely independent of the Government. The recommendations went on to speak about the financing of the corporation, the type of promotion of the industry and its responsibility for research into other aspects. I suggest that the Committee report deserves close consideration in dealing with what seems to be a very important aspect of the present weakness of this industry.
I believe that the new corporation would need to place strong emphasis on export promotion and would therefore have to place itself above the short term interests of some of its members. Government support and indirect guidance would be of assistance here although the Government would not be represented on the corporation. The Senate Committee recommended that the new corporation should undertake detailed market forecasting. Because of the time involved in putting wine on the market, I suggest that that surely is an obvious necessity.
Let us move to the funding of the industry itself. I think that this is a substantially important matter. Even though the Senate Committee made recommendations in this area it has been criticised by some people in the industry because it was felt that the government imposts on this industry have been one of the reasons that it has had a somewhat poorer performance in recent years. The Board is funded by a levy on wine makers. It has become apparent that this levy could not be steeply increased without harming the industry. It is also apparent that the Board or the new corporation, if there is to be one, would need some funds if it were to execute an effective and prolonged promotion of our wine in international markets. The answer seems to be for direct government involvement- perhaps a dollar for dollar subsidy- in the Board’s promotional activities. Alternatively, the Government could direct more of its trade commissioners to work in the field of wine promotion. I believe that some good work has been done in this area. I believe that Senator Lajovic has had some experience in the work of the Trade Commissioner Service which I believe has a lot of capacity although perhaps it is not specialised in this area alone. For any increase in expenditure in this field to be justified it must be shown that higher export returns are possible, and that of course does not mean entering markets which have no future. It may mean, for example, that there is not a great future in the export market in the United Kingdom.
– Or Europe, but in Asia, yes.
-I thank Senator Mulvihill. I think his remarks are very much to the point. Export markets in England and Europe are not very promising at all, but in Asia and in the Pacific region- in the countries that are nearer to us- I think that there is a great deal of potential. I shall refer to this potential now.
I turn therefore to the export market. Is there in fact an opportunity there? There are differing views in the industry on this matter. I have been informed that the main difficulty in exporting Australian wine is that generally speaking, because of the high price structure of the industry here, it cannot compete in price with overseas wines. That factor is important. Other difficulties mentioned were the heavy promotion of other wine exporting countries and the restrictive attitude taken in some countries towards wine imports. I am told that now we are a net importer of wine. Though we produce a lot of wine, on a net basis we import wine. That seems an extraordinary thing in Australia which is so capable of producing wine. I consider that in spite of these difficulties, Australian wine exports could be increased.
The general increase in wine sales in Australia has resulted in makers here not placing sufficient emphasis on export. They have been accustomed to selling in this country and exports have tended to be the optional extra- the surplus to be got rid of. It is not something for which plans and preparations are made. Nevertheless, if the market here were to fall, export sales could prove a useful outlet for production as well as earning foreign currency. The establishment of a market may well pay dividends in the future. This point is made by the Senate Committee on page 1 8 of its report as follows:
In our opinion the quality of Australian wine is sufficiently high to enable more of it to be exported. It seems to us that the USA offers the most potential for increased exports. One way to increase exports there might bc to conduct a medium term promotion campaign (e.g. 3 years) in a specific area (e.g. California) stressing the quality of wine coming from Australia (rather than from a specific company). We consider that this project warrants the use of a limited amount of funds from the industry.
The comments of the Senate Committee were made after a detailed study and wide consultation. It was concluded that the overseas markets could be penetrated and that such a course was desirable for all concerned.
Let me turn to another source of discussion and to an authorative view that has been given by the South Australian Department of Agriculture in its report called ‘Rural Market Outlook’. It is true that this is dated August 1975, but I do not think very much has changed since that period. At page 8 of the report the following is stated:
The US per capita consumption rate was slightly higher than Canada, at 6.1 litres per head in 1972. This information combined with the 10-fold greater population should indicate that opportunities do exist in the US for a concerted marketing effort in the field of table wines.
The report, commenting on Australia’s wine future in the United States, says: it must be re-emphasised, that the US markets are large and quite accessible to enterprising Australian winemakers. Canada has proved to be a successful wine market and there is no reason why this situation cannot be repeated in the US. Australian wine has proved to be acceptable in many areas of the world, but as yet its penetration has been small, with the exception of the traditional British Commonwealth markets. With such an expanding market, the careful promotion of Australian wines, in particular areas of the United States, could be very successful and highly profitable.
I believe that one must realise that in the United States there is a somewhat sophisticated market and, therefore, there is a demand for different types of goods. This is reinforced by statements made in the same report by Mr G. D. McLean as to the great scope that is available. He stated:
Between 1969 and 1973 apparent consumption of table wines in the US more than doubled (from 45 per cent to 64 per cent of the total wine consumption) while consumption of all other wine types, as a percentage of total wine consumption, fell. Between 1972 and 1973, although consumption of all table wines rose by 8.7 per cent, consumption of imported table wines rose by 2 1. 1 per cent to stand at 23 per cent of the total US table wine consumption. This factor alone shows that great scope does exist for any company wishing to break into the US table wine market.
In other words, it shows that there is a great desire and demand for imported wines in the United States. I think that we should exploit this demand. From my inquiries I have found that many members of the industry seem to agree with these comments relating to the possibilities in the United States. I do not emphasise just the potential markets in the United States and Canada because it seems to me that, with our vastly growing tourist trade with countries on the other side of the Pacific, such as Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and so forth, there are great opportunities for Australia if our wine industry can get out and sell and if it can get more encouragement from the Government to do so.
Some companies have achieved very considerable success in these areas. I believe that it is only fair to recognise that this is so. I know that one such company is Thomas Hardy and Sons. In an article by Tom Connors which appeared in the Melbourne Age of 4 July, the following was stated:
Last year the Federal Department of Overseas Trade and National Resources granted the South Australian winemaker Thomas Hardy and Sons one of its prized export awards.
This followed Hardy ‘s 20 per cent boost in export earnings in 1976-77 and consistent and significant improvement over the past 10 years.
It goes on to mention Tyrell’s vineyards in the Hunter Valley, which also showed a considerable increase in their sales overseas. Obviously some companies are exploiting this opportunity and are rising to this challenge.
– They have established beachheads.
– Yes, they have established beachheads. If they are successful no doubt others will follow, but obviously there is a need for something to push them along. It is true that other companies do not sell overseas or have found it difficult to do so. I think it is only fair that I should say that as a result of giving notice of my intention to move this motion which we are debating tonight in the Senate I have received a letter from Mr K. S. Christie-Ling, the General Manager of the Australian Wine Board, which provides information on a number of issues and on the difficulties which are experienced. I think that in all fairness this letter ought to be included in the record of the Senate debate for the benefit of people who will read this speech so that they will be able to understand the way that the Australian Wine Board looks at this matter. Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard this letter dated 22 June 1978 from the Australian Wine Board.
The document read as follows-
AUSTRALIAN WINE BOARD
SS Hindmarsh Square Adelaide, South Australia S000 Telex AA82780 Cables AUSTRALIA WINE Telephone (08) 223 3594 In Reply Please Quote 265 22 June 1978
Senator A. J. Missen Commonwealth Parliament Offices 400 Flinders Street Melbourne, Vic 3000
Dear Senator Missen,
The notice of motion which you gave The Senate on 12 April 1978 concerning the marketing and promotion of Australian wine overseas was discussed at the most recent meeting of the Australian Wine Board when it was decided to provide you with background information regarding the Board ‘s activities in this area.
The general powers and functions of the Board as set down in Sections 16 and 17 of the ‘Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929’ are comprehensive but should be viewed in the context of the Board’s responsibilities both in Australia and overseas. It is noteworthy that these powers and functions were amended in 1953-54 to confirm the Board’s authority to undertake Australian promotional activity.
Enclosed are copies of the annual reports for the Board for the five year period 1972-73 to 1976-77 which detail the activities and finances of the Board and important industry statistics. The following points covered in these reports are considered noteworthy in relation to the activities of the Board:
that the levy for the 1976 vintage was maintained at $2.40 per tonne of fresh grapes used for winemaking purposes, the same level as for the three previous years; this level has also been maintained for the subsequent 1977 and 1978 vintages,
that the maximum level for the levy is set by the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929’ at $2.50 per tonne,
that the overall level of Board activity is therefore limited in accordance with the size of each particular vintage,
d ) that the Board ‘s financial responsibilities in Australia have increased in relation to funding of research and promotional activities,
that the industry requirement for additional promotional activity in Australia is related to the large proportion of the total sales of Australian wine being sold in Australia; this proportion has risen from 95.4 per cent in 1 972-73 to 97.4 per cent in 1976-77, (0 that in 1972-73 25.3 percent of total expenditure was allocated for promotion of wine overseas while in 1976-77 the figure was 17.5 percent, viz., a relatively high level of export promotion has been maintained while sales of Australia wine overseas represented a small proportion of total sales of Australian wine.
Australian wine producers have traditionally undertaken the export of their own wines. The Board has assisted through institutional promotion or activity as required and where finances permitted.
The annual reports referred to above detail the Board’s promotional activity during that five year period. In particular, the Australian Wine Centre in London has effected a continuing program of promotion of Australian wines which has seen a steady increase in the sales of bottled wine in the United Kingdom. Exports of bulk wines to this area have been severely curtailed since the United Kingdom entered the European Economic Community. This situation has also made it extremely difficult for Australia to export bottled wines to the United Kingdom. However, a sizeable amount of capital investment and promotional expenditure is involved in maintaining the Centre and it would not easily be possible to duplicate the Centre’s facilities in other markets.
In Australia’s largest overseas market, Canada, the Board has, for a number of years, encouraged the promotional activities of Australian exporters by way of brand advertising support and, in recent years, has employed a full-time Wine Advisory Officer to promote Australian wines in this market. The marketing arrangements in Canada whereby provincial liquor commissions have monopoly control has assisted larger exporting countries resulting in loss of market share for Australian exporters.
In 1973-74 and 1974-75 the Board allocated a high proportion of its funds for overseas promotion to establish Australian wine in the promising USA market through the appointment of a full-time consultant.
This move coincided, unfortunately, with a concerted move by traditional European wine producers to capture the USA market and to clear high levels of stocks and also with favourable Californian vintages. These factors discouraged Australian exporters interested in breaking into the USA market at that time.
In other areas where Australian wines are marketed the Board has allocated limited financial sums in support of institutional promotional activity, often with considerable assistance from the Australian Trade Commissioner Service, which has been most co-operative.
In general terms Australian exporters have found it difficult to compete in many overseas markets because of the level of inflation being reflected in the costs of their wines at the same time as the major competing countries in overseas markets, such as some Eastern European countries and member countries of the European Economic Community, were respectively seeking hard foreign currency or prepared to subsidise the export of domestic over-production. In the latter case, we refer particularly to the so-called ‘wine lake’ existing within the European Economic Community and enclose copies of some pertinent articles which have appeared recently in the international trade press on this subject. In addition, many wine importing countries are tightening regulations covering such aspects as labelling, description and content of imported wines. Such moves have worked against the interests of smaller exporting countries such as Australia compared with the larger European competitors in that by comparison these additional costs are incurred for smaller sales.
In the foregoing context, it is axiomatic that the larger competing exporters of wine to markets in which Australia is interested will generate greater sales revenue from which to finance more comprehensive and sophisticated promotional campaigns which have effectively guaranteed those countries increasing market shares at the expense of such countries as Australia.
We sincerely hope that the foregoing information will assist in clarifying the Board’s position in the marketing and promotion of Australian wine oveseas; however, should you require additional information, the writer would be pleased to assist.
Yours sincerely, K. S.CHRISTIE-LING General Manager
-Thank you, Mr Deputy President. The letter mentions the difficulties of promotion that arise in a number of countries and the fact that the Wine Board allocated a high proportion of its funds for overseas promotion in order to establish Australian wine in the promising United States market through the appointment of a full time consultant. That was in 1973-74 and 1974-75. But I am told that that action has not been followed up and that since then insufficient effort has been made to endeavour to keep that going. It seems that in developing the export of wine it is terribly important that the wine becomes known and appreciated by the people who consume it in a country. That means persisting for a number of years. The letter which I incorporated also mentioned the difficulties involved in competing in overseas countries because of the rate of inflation being reflected in the costs of wines. One hopes that as our rate of inflation lowers we will be in a better position to deal with that problem.
What are the ideas for the future? Whilst criticising the present lack of expoit orientation in the industry, we must look at ways in which we can improve the situation. I have spoken of reorganisation, of the need for an export oriented authority that is representative of the whole industry. I speak also of the need for better labelling of products. A number of writers have pointed out that it is necessary for consumers to get to know and to appreciate Australian wines. An Australian export label might well be developed. A specific recommendation appearing at page 22 of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce is to the effect that the industry should develop an Australian export label and should make that label known. In addition, I think it is important that the real quality of Australian wine should become recognised throughout the world.
I have a letter dated 4 May 1978 from Dr W. S. Benwell who is a noted authority on wine in this country. Among other things, when speaking of the promotion of the consumption of Australian wine in other countries, he stated:
There is not, nor has there ever been, an Australian wine for all palates. This was a prime misconception during attempts to move our wine into Europe in the early 20th century. The consequence was a very bad reputation for our wine which has, still, not yet been buried.
Therefore I would advise that some person, or persons, well versed in the nature and variety of Australian wines, should be commissioned to visit those countries where our wine could reasonably be expected to have appeal, to clearly identify the local tastes, and to relate their findings to our local products.
We must greatly improve the commercial presentation of our wine article. I refer to bottling, sealing, labelling design and typography. I have no fears for the acceptance of our wine in other countries, provided we can cultivate the marketing skills accompanied by a certain finesse in the penetration of each market with an appropriate style of wine. We have much to learn from the people from whom we import wine.
I think that the area to which Dr Benwell refers so well is an important area.
In addition to that, we have only one wine selling centre overseas and that is in London. It is probably desirable that we have a wine selling centre there because it is a certain market. But it has been pointed out by other people who have spoken to me that there are other places that we certainly should consider as possible locations for wine selling centres. I believe that in 1 973 the Australian Wine Board spent $100,000 on a marketing campaign in the United States but, as I said, it failed to follow up on the exercise. Some people have said that perhaps Japan offers the best long term prospect as a market for our wine. It has been suggested to me that whilst the London wine centre is a worthwhile establishment, it is more in the nature of a wine embassy than a marketing centre. More profitable centres could, and should, be established in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles. These could work alongside other trade houses. Others who have written to me about this matter have spoken of the fact that in their opinion our bulk wines are really better than many of the same type in Germany, France and Italy and that we ought to be able to sell them far better in those places. Another person who wrote to me said that the London wine centre is very badly positioned, being situated in Soho, which is an area that he described as lacking any real prestige. I do not know whether I agree with that. It is possible that it does not have a wine prestige.
– It is a very interesting area.
– I agree that it is a very interesting area. He pointed out that the German trade centre is located in Knightsbridge, which he described as a much better area. The London centre is a worthwhile one, but others should be established. The Wine Board discussed the idea but shelved it due to the cost involved. I have not given the names of these people but they are people who are well known in the industry and whose ideas I feel are worth considering.
One other suggestion which was made to me and which I pass on is the idea of having a label in the nature of a name like ‘Australis’ by which Australia’s wines could be made known overseas. One writer says that he especially favoured the idea of placing quality approval stamps on export wines as well as a reference to the authenticity and source of the wine. All these ideas would add to the image of Australian wine. People may not necessarily remember a name like Hardy’s or that of any of the other producers here but they may remember a name which is common to Australian export wines. Apparently a similar concept has been used with great success by the South African wine industry.
I express the view that there is a great deal to be learnt from people in the industry and that there is a great need for government support generally for this industry, which ought to be one of the successful industries of this country.
In conclusion, I refer to a speech by a Minister who I think has excellent knowledge of this area, that is, the Honourable Ian Macphee. In a speech that he made in Melbourne on 29 March of this year he had this to say about the possibility of an export market for wine:
Export markets, therefore, must be sought, as Mike Muschamp observed in his recent book Wine and Winemakers of Australia, ‘Perhaps the worst enemies of Australian wines were the exporters themselves, or the UK importing houses’. We are unlikely to be dealing with many
UK importing houses in future. Our export markets have long since spanned the globe and with more effort these markets can be greatly developed- especially in Asia and the Pacific (including Canada).
He went on to say:
While, by the early 1970s, we were exporting wine to more than 80 countries, the annual quantity exported was only half that which had been exported to the UK alone in the 1930s. It has been argued that without our sweet wine exports in the 1 930s we might not have retained a wine industry at all. Is it reasonable now to suggest that the future of the industry in its current form might rest a great deal on its capacity to export far greater volumes of the balanced range of quality wines which are now exported? Producers have, understandably, concentrated on the home market while that was growing so rapidly. Surely they must now turn their attention to export market development. If they do not, some heavy investments in the industry may be in jeopardy.
Australian wines are competitive in both price and quality and I am sure that a vigorous export policy by our more imaginative companies will ease our overproduction problem, increase the economies of scale of the successful companies and justify the installation of further expensive capital equipment to improve their productivity and make them more competitive still.
I welcome the great support of the Honourable Ian Macphee who, notably, is the Minister for Productivity. He recognises the value of showing interest in this area. If we do not make a success of the particular industries for which we have been noted in the past we are not going to be able to hold our own in the competitive field in which we find ourselves in the south east area of Asia. If all this motion does is encourage interest in the industry and bring to the Government and to members of this Senate greater concern for the development of this great industry in Australia it will have served some purpose.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– I listened with great interest to the speech by Senator Missen. I listened with extreme interest to his concluding remarks when he told the Senate that Mr Macphee, Government Minister for Productivity had expert knowledge of the problems facing the wine industry. It is a pity that Mr Sinclair, the Minister for Primary Industry, does not have concern for the people who owe their livelihood to the wine grape industry in Australia, particularly in South Australia. It is also a pity that Mr Howard does not show some concern for the grape growers, particularly those in the upper river district of South Australia. If he had he would not have increased the brandy excise to such an extent. Although we are not discussing brandy tonight, we are discussing a commodity from which brandy is derived- that is, in many cases, the surplus grapes. Of course, a lot of the grapes that were going into the making of red wine now go to the distilleries- that is, if they will take them- for the production of brandy. Because of the terrific impost that has been imposed upon the grape growing industry by the present Government, the people in the Riverland area of South Australia in particular, which produces the biggest percentage of brandy in this country, are facing a very severe time ahead.
I hope that Senator Missen, together with those of his colleagues who have expressed great concern about this impost, as have honourable Opposition senators, will take the necessary action before the Budget debate is concluded and before the votes are taken to see that the proposed impost is not levied on these people. It is all very well as we have found in this place on many occasions, for members of the LiberalCountry Party coalition to get up and express great concern for the grape growers of South Australia and the rest of the community- the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the Hunter Valley- but on every occasion when the chips are down we find that they still support the atrocious measures that have been brought in by their Government. They have the remedy in their own hands.
It was of great interest to me that Senator Missen had the courage to move such a motion. I refer firstly to paragraph 2 of the motion, which reads:
Urges the Government to take immediate action to alleviate the situation, . . .
He is talking about the problem in the wine industry -
On listening to Senator Missen ‘s remarks and reading the initial part of his motion I thought that he was being very critical of the Australian Wine Board, saying that it was not doing enough to export the very good wines that we have in this country. But, as the Wine Board points out in its annual report, it labours under some very severe restrictions. The government of the day has it in its hands to do something about that.
Not only are we in desperate trouble in Australia, with over-production and not being able to market our product overseas, but also we have the grave problem of the Government allowing in a huge quantity of wine from overseas. We have no method by which we can guarantee that it is even good quality wine. I have raised this matter in the Senate on a number of occasions this year. I have run up against a stone wall whenever I have taken the matter up with Mr Fife, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I will quote from a couple of the letters that I have received from him in relation to my questions about the importation of cheap Japanese akadama plum wine, which in my view should not be allowed into this country. As Senator Missen said, we can grow and produce in this country some of the best wines one could ever wish to drink.
The forty-ninth annual report of the Wine Board, which was for the year ended 30 June 1977 and is the latest available, had this to say concerning our export markets:
Foreign authorities, notably the EEC and Canadian Liquor Commissions, continue to grant increasing protection to their own wine and brandy industries which makes it extremely difficult for Australian exporters to retain their market share.
That is a problem that we face right from the beginning. Those countries will not allow wine in from other countries if that will affect adversely the income of their producers. However, in Australia we do not seem to have the same concern. The tables in the Wine Board’s report reveal that, year after year, imports of wine continue to grow at a rapid rate. Under the heading of ‘Trade in Australia- Wine Sales’ at page 7 of the report, the Board has this to say:
Imports of wine in the period 1970-71 to 1976-77 increased by 239.1 per cent, the bulk of which came from Italy, Germany and Portugal. This trend is continuing to concern the wine industry not only because of the possibility that some of these wines do not conform to Australian Regulations regarding additives and labelling . . .
And labelling is one thing to which Senator Missen referred at length - . . but also because of the implications for the continuing growth of Australian wine sales and the prosperity of the rural community they support.
In an attempt to ensure that imported wine is produced with the same degree of care and quality standards as Australian wines, the Wine Board has requested State Ministers of Health to take steps to have the law enforced prohibiting the sale of products which do not meet the prescribed standards for wine set out in the relevant legislation. The Board has also discussed with the appropriate Federal Government Departments the possibility of introducing a system of certification which would be policed at port of entry to ensure that imported wines comply with existing legislation. Discussions are continuing regarding this proposal.
Senator Lajovic, who seconded Senator Missen ‘s motion, was a member of the Standing
Committee on Trade and Commerce, which conducted an inquiry into the wine industry. Despite the recommendations that it made, the Government is still not prepared to act upon them. While it is not, we will continue to have this increase in wine imports, to the detriment of our own wine growers. The table at page 8 of the report- and I go back some years- shows that in 1971-72 2,530 kilolitres of wine were imported. In the next year 3,005 kilolitres were imported; in the next, 4,310; in 1974-75, 5,286 kilolitres; in 1975-76, 6,925 kilolitres: and in 1976-77 the figure was 8,098 kilolitres. Thus, one can see that between 1971-72 and 1976-77 wine imports quadrupled. The people who have suffered as a result have been not only the wine grape growers themselves but also those who live in the grape growing areas- the small business people, the people who work in the vineyards, the car salesman, the furniture salesman, all of the business people there are suffering. This is one of the causes of that suffering.
On the other hand, the figures on exports of wine to selected markets reveal a downturn because, as is pointed out earlier in the Wine Board’s report, of the severe restrictions that are imposed by importing countries. I cannot quote all of the figures because that would take up too much time. Honourable senators who are interested will, I am sure, read them in the Wine Board report. However, in 1956-57, 20 years ago, we exported 7,934 kilolitres, yet in 1976-77 it is expected that our exports will have fallen to 4,908 kilolitres of wine. So our exports have declined by some 3,000 kilolitres in the last 20 years. What is the reason for that? In my view, it is attributable to government inaction. We cannot blame only this Government. Labor was in office for three years also. During that period, the former Senator Cameron and I knocked many times on the door of Lionel Murphy, the then Minister for Customs and Excise, trying to ensure that wines of inferior quality could -not be imported; also, that we could export our own. We were told the same old story. Under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, if we do not allow a particular commodity into this country, the country concerned can in turn refuse to allow in one of our rural products.
The unfortunate fact is that while our wine imports are increasing by at least 1 ,000 kilolitres a year, our wine exports are contracting by a like amount. Governments, whatever their persuasion, must be prepared to take stern action or the people in the Riverland area of South Australia in particular- because that is where most of our produce comes from- will become dependent upon the Government for subsistence. That will simply not be good enough. They are a proud people. They are good farmers, good wine grape makers, and they deserve some consideration. We have to be prepared to do something to help them.
Honourable senators will recall that earlier this year thousands of tons of grapes in the Riverland of South Australia were left on the vine. That could only be to the detriment of the people living there. It did not happen overnight. It is not as though the powers that be were not aware that it would happen. I have with me a Press release by the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, on 6 August 1972. Honourable senators may be interested in it. It reads:
Attention was drawn by the Agricultural Council to the high level of plantings of wine grapes in Australia. The Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, said that information provided to the Council indicated that, as a consequence of plantings in recent years, there was already some 20,000 acres of specialist wine grape varieties which have yet to come into full production.
Agricultural Council noted that there would have been difficulties in the marketing of both wine grapes and grapes for drying in the current year but for fortuitous circumstances.
If the 1 972 wine grape crop had been as large as expected earlier in the year much larger difficulties would have been experienced in disposing of the crop while the disposal of the dry vine fruit crop had been greatly assisted by poor crops in other producing countries.
The Council felt that existing plantings of crops generally appear adequate to meet current and prospective demands of the various markets available to the industry,’ said the Minister.
While there could still be opportunities for additional plantings of suitable premium quality wine varieties, marketing difficulties coudl be accentuated with any indiscriminate plantings, particularly of dual purpose grape varieties.
Six years ago the Minister for Primary Industry was aware of the problems that were facing this industry yet we still find him turning a deaf ear to the pleas of the wine grape growers, and in particular the co-operatives. I have here a submission of the Wine and Brandy Co-operative Producers Association of Australia of 2 June 1978 to the Australian Government on matters of urgency concerning that industry. I shall merely quote some of the important paragraphs on page 1 of that submission. It reads:
This Association, members of which comprise all South Australian co-operative wineries, is becoming increasingly concerned at the development of a substantial grape surplus throughout the country and in particular in South Australia.
The development of the surplus is a consequence of many factors including:
A marked change in consumption patterns of Australian wines with a substantial swing towards the consumption of white wines at the expense of red material.
A similar swing away from fortified wines which have a higher grape component than table wines.
A slowing growth rate in the total consumption of wines in the Australian market.
A steadily increasing proportion of imported wines in the Australian market.
A reducing volume of wines exported from Australia.
Paragraphs 4 and 5 of that submission are the two very things which the Wine Board pointed out in its report last year. The Government should have been aware of those problems even before this submission of urgency was made to it on 2 June this year. The submission continued:
I have endeavoured to find out by questions in this House just who is importing the brandy and scotch whisky into this country. Of course the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs will not tell me. He will not even tell me who is importing the cheap Akadama plum wine. The latest letter I have received from Mr Fife was dated 31 August 1978. It states:
Dear Senator McLaren,
I refer to you letter of 7 July in which you ask me to name importers of Japanese Plum Wine, and to state the amounts that they have imported.
Although this information is held by my Department, it is held on a confidential basis. I outlined the reasons for this confidentiality in my letter to you of 24 August concerning information that you sought about importations of brandy and whiskey.
You have also asked me whether the information that you seek is available from any other Department. I do not think that any other Department would possess the information you require.
I am sorry that lam unable to assist you.
Mr Fife, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, knows who the importers of this cheap plum wine are but he says that the information is treated on a confidential basis. The Wine Board in its report tells us that each year our exports of Australian made wine are decreasing by at least 1,000 kilolitres and each year our imports are increasing by a like amount. Yet the Minister has said that he will not disclose who is importing it. Why is this Government not prepared to protect its own industry, its own people who are of vital importance, particularly in the Riverland of South Australia, the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the Hunter Valley. Surely those people should be given prior consideration to the merchants who are importing cheap wine?
I do not know what their volumes of sales are because I cannot find out. If we knew who was importing the wine and how much they were selling it might be a different story. We might get a great surprise if we really knew who was importing this cheap wine. Is it, in fact, the people who should be selling our own Australian made wine? Who is importing the brandy and the whisky? Is it the private merchants who should be handling our own product? The South Australian Minister of Agriculture has been very concerned for some time about what is going on in the industry. He put out a Press release on 9 August this year headed ‘Federal Government uses delaying tactics on winegrapes’. It stated:
The Federal Government’s decision to go ahead with an Industries Assistance Commission inquiry into the wine grape surplus is yet another well prepared delaying tactic to avoid any action to alleviate growers’ distress, according to the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Brian Chatterton.
Mr Chatterton was speaking at Agricultural Council in Sydney on Monday.
Of course there is no doubt that Mr Sinclair would have been at that meeting because he is the Chairman of the Australian Agricultural Council. The Press release continued:
He said that the lack of Federal action on the 1978 grape surplus was excused because it was claimed that a better decision would result if a Bureau of Agricultural Economics study of the industry took place before any plans were made. Earlier lack of action was excused because of delays in the tabling of the recommendations from the IAC inquiry into spirits.
Mr Chatterton said that, while the BAE study had not yet begun, the Federal Government was obviously taking no chances on being hurried into avoiding another crisis in 1979. It had already signalled its excuses by setting up yet another inquiry which would not report until July 1 979.
The Minister expressed concern that wine grapegrowers in South Australia were suffering exceedingly from the stubborn refusal of the Federal Government to take any action to deal with the problem.
The Federal Government’s prevarications and carefully prepared delays are similar to those presented again and again to the canning fruit industry when it was in a similar critical situation in 1 973-76 ‘ he said . . .
Mr Chatterton said that in the case of the wine grape industry, the South Australian Government would do all it could to help growers survive during this difficult time.
However, it is much more difficult to take unilateral action to restructure an industry that is so dependent for its balance on Federal policies concerning imports of wine and spirits, ‘he said.
The voice of the wine grapegrower simply is not heard by this Federal Government.
No matter how much growers protest and call for justice and protection from overseas interests, they cannot get any response.
This is because the vested interests of whisky and wine importers are all the present Federal Government wants to hear.’
What the South Australian Minister said about the Government using delaying tactics is borne out. I have quoted from a Press release put out by Mr Sinclair on 6 August 1972, exactly six years ago. That Press release which I read into Hansard gives conclusive proof that the present Minister for Primary Industry who was then the Minister knew at that time, six years ago, that there was a problem in the wine grape industry. He knew that it would get worse. Yet the Government is now shilly shallying about and shoving off inquiries to the Industries Assistance Commission hoping that the problem will be swept under the carpet. It will not be swept under the carpet unless the Government is prepared to take action.
Senator Missen has moved this motion calling for the Government to take action. It has been seconded by another Government member. I support them in what they have moved in this Parliament. I do not know whether Senator Missen was on the inquiry conducted by the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce but I know that Senator Lajovic was. That Committee had the opportunity of interviewing members in the industry. I also used my rights as a senator to sit in on some of the hearings and I visited the Riverland with the Committee. I live in the Riverland of South Australia and I am well aware of the problems that exist. A Government member has now been prepared to put down a motion such as this in the Senate. It has been seconded by one of his colleagues and supported by me from this side of the House. I suppose that I can speak with some small authority for the Labor Party because I am secretary of the Parliamentary Labor Party Caucus Committee on Resources which covers agriculture. We are all concerned about the industry and the business people in the Riverland. We are concerned about everybody. I conclude by saying that I wish Senator Missen every success in what he has attempted to do.
– It is with great pleasure that I second this motion and support everything that Senator Missen has said in relation to it. Before speaking to the motion I must disagree with what Senator McLaren said regarding other countries not allowing imports of foreign wines. Wherever a person goes on the Continent, in the United States of America or in Canada he will find that he is able to buy wines from different countries. In Europe and France he can buy all kinds of wines except Australian wines. It is the same in Italy and Austria and even more so in Canada. So it is not a fact, as Senator McLaren said, that other countries prohibit the importation of our wines. I must disagree on that point.
– I was quoting from the Wine Board report.
– I am afraid that I must disagree with what the Wine Board said. A year and a half ago I made a point of going overseas. I discussed the problem of the wine industry and wine imports and exports in Canada, the United States, France, Italy and Austria. I was very surprised and hurt that I was not able to buy Australian wines anywhere. In Canada, for instance, I went to a restaurant and I said: ‘I would like to have Australian wine’. The head waiter said: ‘I am sorry, sir. We have no Australian wines, but we can offer you French, Italian or South African wines’. I said: ‘May I see the wine list?’ He brought the wine list and under the section listing clarets the first wine was the brand name of an Australian wine. I said to the waiter: ‘Look, this is Australian wine and you said you have not got it’. He said: ‘I am sorry, sir. I did not know it was Australian wine’.
That is the problem. We are trying to market our wines by a brand name. We are trying to sell our products in general under a brand name. We are not selling our wines as Australian wines, or for that matter we are not selling any product as an Australian product. That is where the fault lies. It is not the fault of the countries which import our products; it is our own fault. I am not saying that the Government is at fault completely, although it is partially at fault; but mainly at fault are our exporters, because each one of them wants to sell his own particular brand of wine, brandy, spirits or whatever it is. If a person goes around the world and says that he wants Italian wine he gets it, or if he wants French wine he gets it. When he is told that the wine of these countries is available he can then choose a brand from the different brands on the market.
I think Senator Missen mentioned that the export of wines is risky. I agree with that. Any export activity is risky, but when the Australian Wine Board spent $100,000 on a promotion in 1973 and then forgot about the follow-up it is no wonder that the exercise has not had any success. It is useless to spend a certain amount of money in a year and then forget to follow it up in the second, third and fourth years. It is not easy to establish a market for something like wine when it has been known for centuries that Italy and
France and for that matter Germany are the best winemakers. It is important that Australia establish a market and establish a name for our wines. Whenever I have been able to get an Australian wine on the Continent, in the United States of America or Canada and I have had my friends present to drink it they have all admitted that it is of a superior quality to all others. Anyone who knows anything about wines will confirm that.
It is our own fault that we are not promoting our wines sufficiently. Our labels, instead of properly identifying the wines as Australian wines, have names such as moselle and burgundy on them. We cannot expect a German consumer to buy a moselle which comes from Australia, because he thinks that the moselle from Germany is the best and is the only wine which can be a real moselle. Unless and until our labelling conforms to the standards of international winemaking countries and until we establish our identity as winemakers and label our wines not as moselles, burgundies and so on but with Australian names such as Hunter red, Barossa white or Barossa red we will have no chance to penetrate foreign markets.
Europe would be a tremendous market for our fortified wines. Again our effort to sell them is absolutely nil. I have had discussions with importers of wines in Italy, and they would be quite prepared to buy our fortified wines, but nobody has offered them Australian wine. The quality of our wines can compete with any European wine. For that reason I feel it is very important that our wine industry reorganise itself along the lines suggested in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce, of which I was a member and which gives suggestions on how wine marketing should be reorganised.
I know that we are not dealing with brandy in this instance, but I would like to say that brandy consumption has fallen very considerably in Australia not because of the import of foreign brandies or cognacs but because people are not consuming brandy in the quantities they did 10 to 20 years ago. An interesting fact about the complaint that brandy is not being consumed as much as it was before is that I have heard it in France itself, the country of cognac. When I asked a gentleman from the Department of Agriculture in Paris why the consumption of cognac had fallen in France, he said: ‘Have you noticed a tremendous advertising campaign for whisky?’ I said that I had. He said: ‘That is the reason. It is not that the brandy is too dear or is no good, lt is just the better marketing by the whisky people as against the brandy people’. In
Italy I asked the same question and the same answer was given. So the falling consumption of brandy is not unique to Australia but is world wide. Again I blame our own industry. If it were as effective as the whisky promoters are in selling their product then consumption would not fall.
Before I finish I would like to make another point which I think plays a tremendous part in the decline in our exports of wine to foreign countries. Again I feel that it is our own fault. It is useless for our exporters to appoint a big importing house in a big city as their agents when the same house imports French, Italian or South African wines. If we do, we cannot expect that the representatives who are going around the traps selling wines to be able to sell an unknown Austraiian brand in competition with a known French or Italian brand. I blame our own industry for what is happening, because it does not realise that it has to appoint agents who can give their whole attention to the selling of their own brand of wine instead of selling it in competition with well-known and established lines.
In reply to what Senator McLaren said about the importation of foreign wines into Australia, I point out that the wines which we are importing are not only of a different quality but also of a different type to that which we produce ourselves. The majority of foreign wines which are imported are light quality wines, not heavy red wines of the excellent quality that we produce. Many people buy the lighter wines which are not produced in this country and this again is the fault of our industry. People in our industry do not realise that one cannot drink a heavy red wine on every occasion. It can be drunk quite often but not on every occasion. However, one can drink a light red wine at any time. This is why there has been a tremendous upsurge in the consumption of white wines. The last point I want to make regarding the consumption of foreign wines is that often it is drunk purely for snob value. We all are human and like to show off at some time or other. Usually when we want to show off it is at a dinner. People go into a restaurant and want to show that they know something about foreign wines so they order foreign wine. They have to pay three times as much for that wine as they would for a better quality Australian wine. This is something that we will never change. However, I am sure that if our industry were more efficient in promoting our wines in Europe, the United States of America and Canada there would be the same reaction and people in those countries would buy Australian wines not only because of their quality but also for the snob value. I strongly support the motion moved by Senator Missen.
-in reply- I want to say two things very briefly. In the first place I want to thank Senator Lajovic who was a member of the Senate committee from whose report I quoted extensively tonight. I appreciate the extra points that he brought into this debate. I would like also to thank Senator McLaren who, with his experience of the area from which he comes and his knowledge of the industry, put forward additional arguments. I am aware that in the middle of this year the Australian Agricultural Council asked the States whether they intended reducing the acreage of wine grapes. It seems most unfortunate that that is the direction in which we are going. Instead of building up a successful export industry we are considering retreat. I hope that this motion will be of help in encouraging a more positive look at the wine industry and further assistance to it to make it a more successful industry than it has been to date. I thank those honourable senators for their support and hope that the motion is carried.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the appropriate Minister should take urgent action to table in the Parliament a proposal for the construction of guard boxes for the shelter of Commonwealth Police patrolling Parliament House, so that Parliament may approve the proposal in accordance with section 5 o( the Parliament Act 1974.
This matter is rather more mundane than the heady and intoxicating issue with which the Senate has just dealt but it is nonetheless important to those affected. It relates to the report from the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House which you, Mr President, tabled today. On 15 August I gave notice of this motion concerning the construction of guard boxes for Commonwealth police officers patrolling Parliament House. I know that a good deal has been done about that matter since then, as is indicated in your report. However, it was pointed out in your report that such proposals have been raised on several occasions over a number of years. The fact that they had been considered over a number of years first came to my attention during the consideration by Estimates Committee A, on 2 May this year, of matters relevant to the Department of Administrative Services. I shall quote from the transcript of that hearing. I asked on officer of the Department and the then Minister for Administrative Services:
I understand there was some proposal to provide outside the Parliament- I am not quite sure of the correct term- guard boxes, particularly during the colder weather. They were portable guard boxes, as I recall. Is my recollection correct? If there was some proposal, is that being pursued?
I was told by an officer:
There has been a proposal. I think it is under consideration.
Another officer said:
I think that proposal has been around for some time and is primarily a matter initially for the Speaker and the President.
The then Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, said:
It has been around for about five years. No decision has ever been made and the policemen keep freezing to death.
Following a further question, Senator Withers suggested that the matter ought to be put to officers of the Parliament when they came before the Committee. Therefore, on 4 May I took the matter up again when you, Mr President, were before Estimates Committee A. In answers to questions you indicated your considerable concern about the matter and said that you would take action. Following that, further action was taken on the matter.
In discussing this issue I want to raise the general question of the decision making process in cases relating to Parliament House. Obviously this has some immediate and direct interest for me as it occurs in my electorate but I think it has significance for all honourable senators and for all Australians because it affects the national Parliament. Mr President, as you are well aware, it involves the Parliament Act 1974. The relevant Minister under the current Administrative Arrangements Order is the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) although there is, as I will indicate later, a direct role for the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) because of his responsibility for the National Capital Development Commission. It in turn has responsibility with respect to the national capital and the Parliament. There is also a role in such matters for the Parliament under section 5 of the Parliament Act and for at least one joint committee, as was indicated in your report today. The Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House obviously has a role in such cases.
Another committee, the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, which I chair, has a role too and only this week a report from the Committee was tabled by Senator Teague in my absence. It concerned works to be undertaken within the parliamentary zone, as it is referred to in the Parliament Act. The Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory had to be involved in that matter because of road works and variations to the plan of Canberra for which the Committee has a responsibility. So there is a range of authorities, Ministers and committees of the Parliament as well as the Parliament itself involved when such decisions have to be made. Obviously it becomes a very complex decision making process, although a very important one because it affects the environs of the national Parliament. Nevertheless, it is extraordinarily complex. That is partly reflected in the fact that the guard boxes that were to be constructed some five or six years ago are only now to be erectedtwo of them at the back of Parliament House.
I understand that in recent months- this is quite apart from what may have gone on before my direct interest was aroused by this matter during the hearings of Estimates Committee A in May of this year- the Presiding Officers have been involved in the matter and that the Joint House Department went to the National Capital Development Commission on the matter. It was then felt that the matter should go to the relevant Minister, who, as I have mentioned, under the Administrative Arrangements Order is the Prime Minister. I understand that the Presiding Officers then took the decision that they would have to go to the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. The report which you tabled today, Mr President, resulted from that. It is worth noting that that report points out as follows:
Under clause 3 of its resolution of appointment, the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House is authorised to consider and report on matters coming within the terms of section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974 as may be referred to it by the Minister responsible for administering the National Capital Development Commission Act 19S7, or by resolution of either House of Parliament.
One of the aspects that interests me about this matter is that neither of those things happened. There was no reference from the Minister and there was no reference from either House of the Parliament. The Presiding Officers themselves decided that the matter was so significant that despite the terms of reference of the Joint Committee, if I can put it that way, it should be referred to that Committee.
As I understand it, there is still a requirement, the Joint Committee having made what I think is a commendable decision, for the relevant Minister to prepare an instrument to be presented to the Houses of Parliament and for the Houses of this Parliament then to approve it. So two quite fundamental and very important steps still have to be taken following the very long and at times rather complicated process which has taken place. I assume that it is now a matter for the Prime Minister, under the terms of section 5 of the Parliament Act and as suggested in the motion which I have moved, to table in the Parliament a proposal for the construction of the guard boxes. After that is done it is then a matter for this Parliament to approve that proposal. Given the fact that your Committee has approved the proposal, Mr President, I should hope that the gaining of the approval of the Parliament would be a formality.
There are a couple of further comments I would like to make, having outlined the process involved. In doing so I pay tribute to the Presiding Officers- particularly to you, Mr Presidentfor the way in which and the speed with which the matter has been dealt with, given the time that elapsed beforehand, and the compassion that has been shown. If I may say so, it seems to me that throughout this process- I am speaking of past years and not just recent months- a good deal of attention has been given either to the security of Parliament House or the aesthetics of constructing guard boxes and perhaps too little attention has been given to the comfort of the individuals who may be providing security for those of us who work in this place and who may be just a little less concerned about the aesthetics and a little more concerned about the temperature in Canberra in June and July. Although another winter is behind us, I hope that before next winter these guard boxes will be constructed. As I have indicated in the motion which I have moved, I hope that ministerial action will be prompt. I assume that it will be, particularly now that the way has been cleared by the Presiding Officers and by the Committee of which you are joint Chairman with Mr Speaker.
Nevertheless, I think this is an instructive exercise for two reasons: Firstly, because I think it indicates that on occasions the wellbeing of individuals serving an institution may not be considered as carefully in a long and complex process as it might be and, secondly, because it illustrates that the decision-making process in relation to the construction of various works or the erection of buildings or guard boxes for Parliament House and its environs can be an extraordinarily complex and lengthy one. I just wonder whether in the future, but not too distant in the future, we will examine the whole process, together with the application of the Parliament Act. I know that many of the people with whom I was involved at different times were rather uncertain as to how particular aspects of the decision-making process applied at particular times. I hope that we can look at that matter and at the application of the Parliament Act for the purpose of seeing whether its application might be simplified and modified in the interests of all involved.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– I oppose the motion. I did not study it until tonight. I got a surprise to see it on the Notice Paper. For a short time- some six months- I was Minister for Police and Customs. I found that the main concern expressed about the policemen who had to walk around this building and to give us the protection which I think is essential and which we need was that it was not fair to expect them, as employees, to work under the conditions which prevailed. A possible solution to the problem was the erection of guard boxes. I took up the matter with Cabinet at the time to ascertain whether that was an acceptable solution. Many Labor Party members expressed extreme opposition to parading in this House under an official guard. They said that anyone who came here would see a guard box housing a uniformed policeman who was possibly armed and argued that that would have the effect of keeping the people away from the politicians, that the people would have to pass by this form of officialdom before they could see their elected member of parliament. There was extreme opposition to the proposition of placing guard boxes in a prominent position on the four corners of Parliament House.
– It does not matter about their comfort!
– If that is the only concern that Senator Walters has, I think we can accommodate her. I encountered some opposition also from members of the Police Association. They were drawing on their experience of guarding embassies in Adelaide. They do not like being shut up in little dog boxes which have no toilet facilities, no running water and so on. So, if these amenities are to be provided, the guard boxes would have to be fairly large. I raised the matter with the late Sir Alan Carmody, who at that time was the head of my department. He said that it would be a backward step and that ours would be one of the few modern parliament buildings that did not have short-circuit television. His idea was that a policeman should be located inside Parliament House monitoring television screens which showed everyone who moved within the precincts of Parliament House. By constructing guard boxes we will not be increasing security and we will not be increasing the comfort of the policeman. All that we will be doing is parading the fact that Parliament House is guarded. Nevertheless a better effect can be achieved by the use of television apparatus by a policeman operating from within Parliament House.
I regret, Mr President, that I have not read the report you presented to the Senate today. I have only just received a copy of it. I was not in the chamber when it was tabled and I do not know what is proposed in it. However, my suggestion is that the proposal outlined in the motion should not be proceeded with. The motion reads:
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the appropriate Minister should take urgent action to table in the Parliament a proposal for the construction of guard boxes for the shelter of Commonwealth Police patrolling Parliament House . . .
I suggest that it should read:
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the appropriate Minister should take into consideration the proper procedure by which to provide greater comfort and better amenities to Commonwealth Police patrolling Parliament House . . .
While I suggested short circuit television as an alternative there may be others. I do not know the power of technology. I think it is wrong to pass a motion which states that in the opinion of this House the appropriate Minister should be pinned down to erecting guard boxes outside Parliament House. While I acknowledge that the policemen are entitled to protection and better conditions than they have to put up with at present and we want the most efficient surveillance and protection of this Parliament House, I do not know whether the construction of guard boxes is the most efficient method. I think it should be left open for the Minister to consider and to take the appropriate action.
- Senator Knight has indicated that a great complex of people is involved in the matter that he has raised. My responsibility in this matter is the Commonwealth Police. I simply say at this stage that I appreciate the concern which has been expressed for the welfare of the Commonwealth Police both by Senator Knight in the view that he has put forward and by Senator Cavanagh, who notwithstanding that he put forward a different point of view, expressed the same concern for the welfare of the officers concerned. I am sure that the Commonwealth police officers will appreciate the sentiments that have been expressed.
I do not wish to give what might be regarded as any sort of definitive reply to the matters which have been raised by Senator Knight and, to some extent, opposed by Senator Cavanagh. On the other hand, I do not wish to end my speech on this matter in a way which precludes the matter being disposed of. I think the whole question needs to be examined. It is obviously unsatisfactory from the point of view of the officers concerned that the matter has gone on for some years. Mr President, I am grateful for the attention you have given to it recently. Rather than see the matter closed I shall seek leave to continue my remarks with a view to coming back with a definitive reply to the matters which have been raised by Senator Knight. That would be more helpful than simply closing the debate and passing the motion. After I seek leave Senator Knight might subsequently seek leave to make some comment, notwithstanding the adjournment of the debate. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
– I seek leave to make a brief statement.
-Is leave granted?
– If Senator Knight in his brief statement on the points I made makes a criticism I must seek to reply. Where are we going to get to?
– I do not want to be critical, I want to respond to Senator Cavanagh while the matter is being dealt with. I do not want to leave it.
– Let Senator Chaney look into it. You have an opportunity on the next occasion. I do not refuse leave.
– If I may say so, Mr President, some of the things that Senator Cavanagh said seemed to me to be directly critical of what I was doing. I in no way want to criticise what he said. I simply want to respond.
- Senator Knight, are you seeking leave to make a statement or an explanation?
– I thought I had received leave. I seek leave again.
Senator KNIGHT (Australian Capital Territory)- Senator Cavanagh made the point that he had only just received a copy of the report. It made the point that there would be only two boxes placed back up on Camp Hill in the most unobtrusive position.
– But we had a man in the bush with binoculars and he was discovered.
– I heard about that. Senator Cavanagh was highly critical of the concept of MPs having to parade past Commonwealth police in boxes.
– No, visitors to MPs.
-Or visitors, or both. As pointed out in this report, the boxes will be on Camp Hill at the southern extremities of Parliament House. That would seem to me to overcome that criticism. Senator Cavanagh may not agree when he has had a closer look at the report. He referred to four boxes. The proposal is for only two and they would be at the back on Camp Hill. I think that would overcome the criticism that people would have to be parading -
– Tell me what will happen to the policemen who have to parade at the front and the sides.
-They have access to the main entrance where they can shelter for some time. I want to go on to the matter of amenities that Senator Cavanagh raised.
– The amenities inside Parliament House are not the best.
-That is right. I agree that there is a need to improve the amenities available. I have been down to have a look at the facilities that are available to Commonwealth police. They are extraordinarily inadequate. Something certainly needs to be done to improve them. I understand that the situation is being examined. I understand that it was one of the issues being examined by the Presiding Officers along with the provision of guard boxes. Senator Cavanagh raised the question of closed circuit television. That is something I have discussed with the President. But it is not an alternative now, I understand, from the point of view of cost and the physical availability of facilities. So it seems that if we cannot have that now- the boxes have been constructed for five yearssome element of improved amenities could be provided in this way. It was for that reason that I pressed ahead with the concept of providing guard boxes on the understanding that a closed circuit television system which would provide surveillance of the whole of the outside of Parliament House could be a possibility for the future.
I agree with Senator Cavanagh ‘s criticism of people having to parade past guards at Parliament House. I think that has become necessary, but regrettably so. The sooner we can make the guarding, surveillance and security provisions in this place less obtrusive the better I think it will be for all concerned. I do not feel that the security provisions that we have are necessarily desirable in our Parliament House, but I know that most others disagree with that. I had taken into account the points raised by Senator Cavanagh. It seemed to me that in the circumstances it was desirable to press ahead and to try to get at least some improvement in conditions for the Commonwealth police in the wider context of their improved amenities in Parliament House. It was for that reason, partly out of frustration concerning my ability to penetrate the decision making process on what seemed to me to be this very simple matter which came out of the hearings of Estimates committees, that I gave notice of the motion I moved tonight. I wanted at least to try to keep the matter moving. I knew that the President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were sympathetic to the idea. We do not disagree on the points raised by Senator Cavanagh but he will understand that my purpose in pursuing the guard boxes issue was to try to take at least one step forward in improving the amenities available to Commonwealth police.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.
– Honourable senators will be aware of the incident that occurred during Question Time yesterday in the House of Representatives where pamphlets were thrown from the public gallery. As a result of this incident Mr Speaker and I have decided to implement a more thorough search procedure for persons wishing to gain admission to the public galleries. These arrangements will commence from the next day of meeting of this Senate.
– I rise to address myself to the question of public funding of political parties. I move:
I would like to commence with some explanation of the forms in which the motion is cast, the key point being, of course, the practicality of such a fund. Would people in fact contribute to it? It is of some interest that in the United States of America between 1973 and 1976 the voluntary $ 1 check-off on income tax had provided a fund of $95m. This is a mechanism wherby people in the United States of America may merely indicate that they want to have $ 1 taken from thentax and put into this fund. The Australian Democrats are not sure that Australians would be quite so ungenerous as to have only $1 assigned. It takes some time, as we know, for new ideas to catch on in Australia, and the effect of this one, I think, is not really predictable. Probably more and more people would participate as the years went on and the idea became familiar.
The mention of a maximum of 10 per cent takes this possibility into account. I would not foresee any circumstance where that would be in operation for very long. I think, in addition, that some maximum sum of money would also have to be indicated. The actual amount of money required for the purpose of funding political parties ideally and the way it should be dispersed are matters for negotiation. I have no doubt that they would prove controversial. I think that there is good reason to suppose that the amounts of money to be made available should be considerably less than the amounts now being spent at elections by political parties.
– A maximum 10 per cent of what?
– Of a person’s actual tax?
– That is right. This motion is taken pretty much from the Australian Democrats draft policy on electoral and constitutional reform. Already party members have suggested a variety of options for balloting among members in the area before our final policy is formulated. It is of some interest that that figure is a matter of discussion. The main intention of this whole provision is that it should provide adequate funds initially for the idea to proceed.
– What about tax avoidance?
– Tax avoidance is an interesting point. I do not really know what would be the situation there. I think that if tax avoiders are to avoid tax they will avoid every aspect of tax- this one and others. I think that that is the situation. I think that the honourable senator makes a valid point, that only a minority of public spirited people would contribute to this fund. Large numbers of people would probably say: ‘This is money we are paying out and we would rather not do so ‘.
Nevertheless, it is a fact that public opinion is very strongly for public funding inasmuch as it can be established. A poll was taken on this matter by Morgan Gallup in which 60 per cent of people said that it would be a good idea if some system of public funding were carried out. Some 2,153 people were first told that it had been suggested that the Federal Government provide a fixed amount of money for the election campaign of candidates for Federal Parliament and that all private contributions from other sources be prohibited. They were then asked whether they thought it was a good idea or a poor idea. According to the published report of the poll, some 60 per cent said that they thought it was a good idea, 27 per cent said that they thought it was a poor idea, and 1 3 per cent were undecided.
Not long after the formation of the Australian Democrats we made a sort of straw poll of nearly 2,000 Australians. They were not Australian Democrats. I will admit that it was not a particularly well controlled poll. Some 10 questions were put to the public on which we asked for an opinion. This was designed mainly to inform us on our initial policy forming. We were most struck by the fact that although there were questions on uranium and several other quite controversial questions, the highest response for a Yes vote was to the question whether it was thought that political parties should disclose all sources of their funding. We were intrigued by that, and subsequent inquiries by the Australian Democrats have indicated that there is a widespread feeling in the community that this question of funding should somehow be resolved, as it has been in many other countries. I will quote from an editorial in a responsible Australian publication, the Australian Financial Review of late 1977. The editorial opinion of the Financial Review then was:
No aspect of politics is shrouded in more secrecy and is more capable of breeding a corruption which could undermine our whole system than the subject of campaign funds.
Almost alone in the democratic world Australia clings to the idea that the funding of political parties is not the business of the electorate but solely the concern of the politicians and the people who run the political machines.
The editorial ends with this rather striking comment:
The system of campaign funding has a bad smell about it which, despite all the metaphorical orange sniffing our politicians indulge in will not go away.
I must say that that is an obscure reference to me. I do not quite know what orange sniffing is.
– It stops you getting the plague.
– I see, I thank the honourable senator. The editorial concludes:
The electorate has a right to know who is funding our politicians.
It is customary, when the matter of public funding of political parties arises, for there to be much talk of slush funds, dirty money and the like. I do not want to take that line tonight except to the extent that we know that that kind of talk occurs. I suggest that it will continue to occur while public funding of political parties does not exist in Australia. In other words, no matter how well intentioned a political party might be, no matter how honest and even-handed its members might be, without public funding the imputation is there that that political party, especially while in government, will in one way or another serve the interests of business organisations and others which provided it with really large sums of money, particularly at election times.
My first major point is that a great deal of the current public cynicism about politics and politicians comes from this area. I suggest that the persistence with which it is treated in the Press and the frequency with which it becomes the source of editorial comment must only confirm this in the minds of the members of the public. I believe that it is the great issue behind the problems of politics in this country where public credibility of politicians is concerned. I think that this is a serious matter for all of us in this chamber. This public cynicism especially seems to be the case when political parties for one reason or another decline to disclose their sources of major funding. I think that the imputations there are obvious. If a party discloses the sources of its funding then any connection it might have with an organisation, a company or a person is made public and it is known if there is likely to be any degree of influence or any conflict of interest in that matter.
My next major point is that the need for very heavy private funding of political parties is corrosive. It seems to me wrong that major political parties should have to vie with each other to obtain one way or another- one might almost say in any way, at any cost- millions of dollars at election time. Most of this money, as we well know, is used to buy large amounts of media advertising, including expensive television time. It is unfortunately true, based on the results of elections since television was introduced, that use of expensive television time will influence, to some extent, the electorate. I know that there is no way of proving this. I suggest, as a matter of practicality, that that is something we have to consider almost as a fact. If one major party goes for bust and literally spends huge sums of money on advertising, surely the other major party feels that it has to compete. Whether the Government parties and the Labor Party feel that they can do this without compromising their position on any issue in any way is a matter I will leave to their own reflection. Even if they can look back on this matter with absolute clarity of conscience, there is no way that they could make the same guarantees necessarily for the future. I suggest that this is quite important. The point is that while there is a very great and seemingly impelling and increasing need for large sums of money for advertising, especially at election times, there must also exist a very great amount of temptation towards some kind of arrangement with a lavish donor of funds.
I am making these statements because these are part of the conventional wisdom of this country. They are very deeply seated. We observe from experience that for some reason the parties appear to have very little difficulty in raising huge sums of money for advertising. I recall very vividly a full page advertisement which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald during the last election campaign. In fact, this was a Liberal-National Country party advertisement which featured a not very flattering photograph of Mr Gough Whitlam with only two or three words of comment, which I do not recall- they were that forgettable- but which were casting some sort of general slur on the Australian Labor Party. No attempt was made to dissect policies. No attempt was made to use this huge amount of newspaper space to inform the public of anything of any consequence. I might say that such advertising was not one sided; it was used by the Labor Party as well.
As a conservationist I resent the use of this huge amount of newsprint purely because people have money to do so. I suggest that we are not living in the kind of world in which people who merely have the money to do something should assume the divine right to waste assets and to waste commodities to the extent to which they are capable of doing so. In other words, the assumption is that the more money a person has, the more money he will spend and the more pages of newsprint he will waste. I suggest that if one would say that individuals ought not to do that, surely political parties, which I believe should give a lead to the public in matters of that kind, ought not to do so also.
While we were campaigning we questioned this matter quite closely. The Australian Democrats’ idea of things is that we should maintain contact with the electorate and with its feelings on issues. We usually invite people to attend our meetings and to comment on matters of politics or on any matter of policy that the meeting is considering. At every meeting at which this matter was raised- it was raised at very many- we inevitably got the same response, namely, that the public does not see that this huge expenditure is necessary or desirable. I suggest to honourable senators that we are even reaching the stage where such huge advertising at election time is becoming counter-productive. Increasing numbers of people are looking at such advertisements and are saying: ‘That is a big advertisement, where did the money come from?’ That is a very good question. They are not saying: ‘We agree with what this party is saying’ or ‘We think that Gough was a bad boy because of what was said in the advertisement’.
As I said, the idea that because one has the money to pay for some resource one has the automatic right also to squander it must surely go. Of course, it is right and proper that there should be election advertising. But surely it ought to be carried out under some sort of control, with impartiality, as our other election procedures are carried out. We go to the most meticulous care to ensure the secrecy of the ballot. In many respects we have a good situation, unlike the situation in Manila and places like that. We do not have peso sandwiches. I do not believe there is any corruption within the actual machinery of our election system. I think that we should rightfully be very proud of that because I am sure that we are of one of the few countries in the world where that is the case. Ideally, advertising at election time, which is right and proper since it is necessary that the public should be informed of what is going on at that election, might present to the public the actual policies of the rival parties. I admit that it is a strange idea, but perhaps we might get somewhere with it. These policies might be presented in contrast to each other and on the same page of the newspaper to allow the public to make a comparison of the policies of parties in a reasonable way. Then the judgment of people will be informed. When they vote they will know something about what is going on.
Mr President and honourable senators, I suggest that this is necessary because at election time the Press tends to regard policy from the point of view of what has news value. It is not necessarily the most important, most useful or most innovative policies of a political party that are presented in the news. Quite often members of the public do not even know about those policies. The only way they can find out about them is to write to the political parties and ask for their policies at large. Political advertising, used in the way I suggest, could be both useful and productive. I suggest that the challenge would be there for the advertising industry to present this material in a vivid, entertaining and attention getting way. That would be a worthy use of its special expertise. I suggest that we would then have a situation in which, instead of people being completely bewildered by what is going on at election time, concerned citizens could have easy and systematic access to the policies of the various parties. They could consider those policies and vote accordingly.
Security in Parliament House- Taxation: Annual and Long Service Leave- Parliamentary Library- Sir John Kerr- Trade UnionsHonours and Awards
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
- Mr President, I think that you would probably recall from debates that we have had in this place that I would defend any measures taken to have adequate security in Parliament House. However, I must admit that I was somewhat surprised by your very short statement tonight on how we are going to strengthen security in respect of people who enter the public gallery. If tonight is not the correct time for you to do so, Mr President, would you at some time outline in greater detail the measures that you and Mr Speaker intend to adopt. Then we will be able to make some judgment on those measures.
– Although a motion that the Senate take note of my short statement on security in Parliament House was not moved after I presented my statement, it can be moved next week. Honourable senators will then be able to discuss the whole matter in any way they desire. The matter is under control. Honourable senators will not be inhibited from discussing and debating my statement.
-Of course, Mr President, that matter was not my original reason for saying earlier that I would be speaking tonight on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. I will be brief in my remarks. It was mentioned in the Budget papers that taxation changes would be made with respect to lump sum payments, in particular, lump sum payments for unused annual leave and unused long service leave. It was stated in the Budget Papers that unused annual leave would be taxed as ordinary income and that unused long service leave which accrued after the date of the presentation of the Budget on 15 August would be taxed at 33!6 per cent, the standard rate of taxation. I believe from Press statements that there probably has been a change of policy in regard to the taxation of lump sum payments, but I have not heard that stated in the Parliament. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) whether he is able to indicate to the Senate this evening whether policy changes have been made and, if so, what those changes are.
– I rise this evening to raise a matter which I believe to be of great importance to all honourable senators and, indeed, to honourable members in another place. It concerns the role of the Parliamentary Library. I particularly want to ask what information, in the view of the Government, can legitimately be obtained by officers of the Library for the use of honourable senators and honourable members? There seems to me to have been a sudden and unannounced change of policy on the part of the Government in respect of the role of the Parliamentary Library. Library officers now are being denied access to factual information which in some cases has already been published and in all cases should be publicly available. I wish to make it quite clear that my remarks are in no way intended as a criticism of library officers, whom I have found- I am sure other honourable senators have found alsoalways to be competent, co-operative and highly professional. But in my experience there have been two recent incidents of denial of information which I have taken very seriously. I have no way of knowing whether other honourable senators have experienced similar difficulties.
A few days after the Howard Budget was presented I asked the Parliamentary Library for figures relating to the Government’s staff ceiling policy for this year and for the past two years. This material had been published already in such forms as annual reports of the Public Service Board. I sought from the Library a concise summary of this highly significant information. This information is particularly significant to me as the constituency which I represent has a majority of wage earners employed by the Government. I expect that this information would be of interest to all honourable senators. It is just statistical information on staff ceilings. It is the sort of information that I imagine would be easily available to parliamentary officers who sought it from the Public Service. It should be on file in the
Parliamentary Library, readily available for members and senators seeking access to it. However, when the officer of the Parliamentary Library sought this straightforward information from the Public Service Board the Parliamentary Library officer was told that the Public Service Board could not make this information available. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) to explain this evening why this was the case. Today, again at my request, an officer from the Parliamentary Library sought from the Office of Child Care figures relating to the expenditure by government on child care since 1975. 1 also sought to obtain a breakdown of this expenditure as between full day care and other forms of child care which are funded by the Federal Government. The Office of Child Care told the Parliamentary Library officer that the Office could not provide this information to the Parliamentary Library. The officer was advised that the senator or member seeking the information should ask a question in the Parliament of the Minister. Through you, Mr President, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: What is the significance of this advice being given today by the Office of Child Care to an officer of the Parliamentary Library? Why should the Parliamentary Library be denied access to straightforward information of this kind? Again I say that it is information to which many senators and members may wish to have access at short notice and which should be on file in the Parliamentary Library for this purpose.
Honourable senators will realise from repeated experiences in this chamber at Question Time that, in their responses to questions seeking detailed information about funding of particular government programs, Ministers generally advise honourable senators to place such questions on notice. If honourable senators do that, how long do they have to wait for answers? From looking at the Notice Paper for this month it is clear that many questions have been languishing on the Notice Paper unanswered for several months. At present there are unanswered questions on the Notice Paper from 28 February and 1 March. I have a question of 7 March which is still unanswered. Clearly the mechanism of placing a question on notice is quite useless if an honourable senator needs immediate information for his or her constituents or for some other proper parliamentary purpose. It is totally unsatisfactory and in my view and the view of the Opposition contrary to the interests of a democratic parliamentary system for factual information relating to government not to be readily available to members and senators in their Library. I ask the responsible Minister to explain this evening why access has been restricted in the cases I have outlined. I ask him to inform the Senate whether there has indeed been a change of policy by the Government with regard to access to information by the Library. I ask whether new instructions have been issued to public servants by Ministers in relation to these matters. Finally, I ask the Minister to state clearly what in the view of the Government is the role of the Parliamentary Library in our parliamentary system and what information the Parliamentary Library should properly and readily have accessible for members and senators.
– I desire this evening to raise two matters. I shall be very brief when speaking about the first one. It relates to the same topic raised by Senator Ryan.
– What about the second one?
– My comments on the second one will not be too brief. The first point relates to unanswered questions. When the Opposition Whip asked me tonight whether I wanted to alert the responsible Minister of my intention to speak on this matter I said that I did not as he will read in the Hansard record what I have to say. Anyway, it concerns the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney). Of course, he was not the Minister for Administrative Services when I put this question on notice on 5 April. Nearly six months have elapsed since then and I still have not received an answer to my question. It concerns one Harry M. Miller, who was the chief executive of the organisation and administration of the Silver Jubilee celebrations. Part of the question I asked was:
Now we read in the Press that the same Mr Miller is a promoter of a book which is expected to hit the bookstalls very shortly and which no doubt will be entitled ‘Kerr’s Capers’. What I want the Minister to tell me is whether he can give an assurance that the facilities provided to Mr Miller will not be used in any way to assist him in his promotion of this book, which should be entitled ‘Kerr’s Capers’? I leave the matter at that.
The other matter that I wish to raise is a matter that has caused and is still causing great concern among people who support the trade union movement. On the front page of the Daily Telegraph of today’s date is the headline ‘Court “no” to union protester’. It refers to one of the union scabs who tried to hide under the guise of being a conscientious objector and who lost his case in an industrial court yesterday. The court refused to grant him an exemption. I applaud the court for its action. What has prompted me to rise tonight is a matter that was raised on 8 September by a person who wrote to the Queanbeyan Age under the name of Keith Curry of Queanbeyan. He adopted the same tactic as many people who are opposed to trade unions. He wrote a letter which gained the heading ‘Men can be pigheaded’. Under that was the subheading ‘Trade Union Shame’. He was talking about a Miss Biggs. Of course, we all know now the history of Miss Biggs, who in the first place was defended by the great anti-unionists and who, when the truth was told, did not turn out to be such a nice lady after all.
That letter prompted a response from a man for whom I have great admiration after having read both of his letters in the Queanbeyan Age. He is well respected at Captains Flat. I am told that he is affectionately known as the Mayor of Captains Flat and has been for a long time. He wrote to the Queanbeyan Age on 1 1 September. His letter was given the heading ‘Message for Keith Curry’. He slated Mr Curry a bit because of his letter to the newspaper. Mr Curry then wrote back. I am not going to quote that letter. I was very attracted by a letter which appeared in yesterday’s edition of the Queanbeyan Age and which was signed by Mr Tom Kerr of Captains Flat, who, as I have said, is well known and affectionately known as the Mayor of Captains Flat. Since I have been a member of the Senate I have made it known to the Hansard staff that I never use any of the political titles that are given to people but I am forced to do so tonight in order to read this letter into the record in its entirety. Mr Kerr has used the title in a couple of instances but they will not be my words.
Before I quote his words I want to make the comment that for the first time in a great number of years we find that there are no knights in the Senate. I think that a good, clean brush has gone through this place. We are not bugged with them. We had three of them in the Senate before we rose in June. From some research that I have conducted I have found that there have not been many occasions when we have not had knights in this place.
– What about the bloke sitting next to me.
- Senator Baume had better listen. I am talking of people who have had titles conferred upon them for motives of which we are not aware. I am not talking of people who are born with the surname of Knight. They cannot help that. That is a name that they are given. I am talking about knighthoods that have been bestowed upon people for many and various reasons, mainly for political services to the hierarchy and the establishment. I hope that if we see any people with honours in this chamber they will be Australian honours, not knighthoods bestowed upon them for some political service that they have given to their party. I make the comment that there were no knights in the Senate between 1917 and 1919 and between 1938 and 1957. Of course, this chamber has had quite a few knights in it. Some of them were knights for a long time; some of them were not well respected knights. But now we are in the situation of having none at all and I feel that the Senate is much better for it. I hope that during the rest of my time in this chamber I will not see another knight here. I am talking about those people who become knights by kneeling in front of somebody and being tapped on the shoulder with a sword.
Having made my position clear I want to read into the Hansard record a letter to which I am attracted. I applaud the writer for his actions and I wish there were a lot more people of his type in the community. The letter appeared in yesterday’s Queanbeyan Age and was headed, Brotherhood of “Scabs”: Trade Union’. It reads:
Sir- It grieved me to read Mr Keith Curry ‘s description of the treatment meted out to non-unionists with conscientious objections to joining a union.
So much so, that I have changed my way of thinking and I am going to do something about it- like forming an organisation to be called the ‘Brotherhood of Scabs.’
Only those who work against the trade union movement will be admitted to the brotherhood. No joining fee will be required.
All financial costs incurred by the brotherhood will be paid by Malcolm Fraser’s Government in Canberra.
Sir Billy Snedden has already established the precedent for payment of costs of the brotherhood.
Sir Billy said in Parliament that the Government was paying the wages of the non-union cook in the Parliament House kitchen.
No doubt this was also the case with the tramway girl nonunionist and the third case in NSW.
Not only will the brotherhood be saving union dues, it will also not be required to make payments to any charities.
However, if any member’s conscience is so moved (which is most unlikely) then he/she can pay into a retirement benefit fund for frail aged CP or Liberal union fighters, such as Mai (practice) Fraser, Tricky Transport Nixon, or Phil (the dill) Lynch.
Now for the benefits of the brotherhood:
A 48-hour per week overtime, to be worked on a nonpayment formula.
Sick pay, holiday pay, loadings, compo, long service and superannuation will be abolished.
All amenities, such as toilet facilities, lunchroom, showers and washrooms, free soap, et cetera, will be discontinued.
Protective clothing for working in the rain will be deemed a privilege.
One of the major benefits will be that members of the brotherhood will be able to work while others are on strike.
The exclusiveness of the brotherhood will be carried through to the pubs and clubs where they will also be able to drink alone.
A funeral benefit fund will be non-contributory, as the multi-national companies and the employers’ federations will finance the fund.
The funeral benefit fund will also extend to a free tombstone with suitable inscription, such as ‘ Billy McNab, I died a scab.’ Or, ‘Here lies a body that was no shirker, who died while toiling against the worker. ‘
Interested persons, and potential members of the brotherhood, can obtain additional information from their nearest Federal Lib-CP M.P.
Yours etc., TOM KERR, Captain’s Flat.
As I said earlier the writer is affectionately known in Captains Flat as a great worker, a great trade unionist in days gone by fighting for the conditions of the working man. Because of his actions, and the great work that he has done for the underprivileged, he is well know as the mayor of Captains Flat. I want to place on record my great appreciation for a man who has the courage to write to a newspaper in condemnation of people who are not prepared to pay their union dues, but who are first in line when the pay and conditions are handed out. I hope that in the months to come when we see that more and more of these plants- and I say that the three people mentioned have been deliberately planted by people opposed to trade unionsare put into those positions, we will see more and more people with the courage of Mr Tom Kerr come forward and make their feelings known to the Press of this country so that we can do away with those types of people who have nothing better at the back of their minds than to white-ant the trade union movement of Australia.
– Unlike others, I shall be mercifully brief. Senator Colston asked whether a statement had been made about the Budget policy on annual leave. I understand that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has made a statement, which I will check, to the effect that the tax on lump sum payments of annual leave will in the year ahead be at the standard rate of 33’/4 per cent; but lest there be some special points of which I am not particularly aware, I will ask the Treasurer to amplify that statement, and make the resultant information available to the honourable senator. As to the points made by Senator Ryan, all of the information raised is quite new to me. I am quite unaware . . .
– But you are concerned about it, I trust.
-If Senator Georges had waited for a moment or two he would have heard me say that I am concerned that, as far as possible, all approaches for information by honourable senators should have an effective response. But since the question raises serious matters concerning information that perhaps can be obtained from three areas mentioned by her- the Office of Child Care, which apparently had some information and therefore it is a matter for the Department of Social Security, the Public Service Board and the Parliamentary Library itself- all that I can do is direct the attention of the appropriate authorities to those areas and see what information can be given. However, I understand that in regard to the Parliamentary Library it has the duty to provide the widest information.
I shall address myself to the first part only of Senator McLaren’s contribution. I too am concerned that there should be undue delays in answering questions. I consider it desirable that, as far as possible, they should be dealt with. I will examine the question to which he refers, as well as others that are outstanding, and endeavour to have the answers expedited. I do not think that the rhetoric involved in the remainder of the honourable senator’s speech requires a specific response.
– Unless to say ‘Good night, senator’.
-I am delighted that Senator Bishop, in an ecumenical spirit, should agree. I suggest that it is time we all went home.
-I merely want to ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) a question which may also involve you, Mr President. I was always of the opinion that when the Parliamentary Library asked for information it was the Parliament that was asking for it. For that reason I think it ought to be clarified that when the Parliamentary Library asks for information, in order to compile a brief for an honourable senator, the information is sought on behalf of the Parliament.
– It is as if the Parliament asked for it.
– Yes. I think that you, Mr President, may in some way be involved in the questions that Senator Ryan has raised. If the Parliamentary Library is to be inhibited or limited in any way in obtaining information, and an honourable senator is to be directed to ask a question, there just might also be an element of privilege involved. I therefore ask the Minister and the President to follow up this matter.
– The Minister has leave to reply.
– I confess that the honourable senator’s question is far too technical for me to answer. I do not know. I shall simply add it, if I may, to the list of questions on which we have sought response. If that journey should take me to your door, Mr President, may I consult you?
Senate adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
Does the Minister recall that the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry sent a government and private mission to Australia to inquire into Australia’s energy policy; if so, does the Government in fact have any energy policy; if so, will the Minister indicate in detail just what that policy is.
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
A high level mission from Japan visited Australia in March 1 977. The basic aims of the mission were to get an understanding of Australia’s energy resource development and to exchange views on future possible co-operation in the energy field from the long term point of view, not to inquire into Australia’s energy policy. The mission had discussions with Commonwealth and State Ministers, Departments and authorities, with the ACTU and with companies and banking institutions. In a statement issued at the conclusion of its visit, the mission stated that its purpose had been fulfilled. In a press statement, dated 2 August 1978, 1 announced details of arrangements for co-operation between Australia and Japan in the area of energy research and development and related areas.
In regard to energy policy generally, reference should be made to the statement made in Parliament by the Minister for National Resources on 7 November 1977, entitled National Energy Policy’. Reference should also be made to recent statements I have released as follows:
IS August: ‘The Implementation of the Government’s Energy Policies’ 17 August: ‘Commonwealth Grants for Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Projects’ 12 September: ‘The Government’s Energy PoliciesPetroleum Pricing’.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 4 May 1978:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 24 August 1978:
– The Minister for Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The remaining expenditure of $ 12.57m comprised purchases of furniture and fittings ($9.30m), overseas aid materials ($2. 78m), office requisites, equipment, stationery, et cetera ($0.49m).
) The percentages of the expenditure of $5 1.89m for day labour work were as follows:
and (4) The amount expended in replacing plant and equipment was $4.24m; the expenditure on purchase of additional plant and equipment was $0.32m.
The expenditures for replacement and purchase of additional tools are not recorded as separate amounts; the total for both these categories is $0.34m, mainly for replacements.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 24 August 1978:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
During my recent discussions with the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, we agreed to arrange a joint Commonwealth/State Ministerial visit to the Torres Strait for further explanation of the proposed Treaty to the Torres Strait Islanders. This will be part of the continuing process of consultation with the Islanders. The timing of the visit and the composition of the joint Ministerial party have yet to be decided upon. I look forward to participating in the visit.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 12 September 1978:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Reprocessing of Nuclear Spent Fuel
-On 30 May 1978 Senator Wriedt asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
Is the Minister aware that, on Wednesday, ten Japanese nuclear power companies entered into a contract with British Nuclear Fuels Limited worth nearly $1.5 billion to reprocess 16,000 tonnes of nuclear spent fuel? Is he aware that, under existing United States- Japanese nuclear power agreements, Washington ‘s approval is necessary for transport overseas of spent fuel from American uranium? Is the Minister aware that the Japanese power companies conceded that they had not received the Carter Administration’s sanction for the reprocessing? Will the Minister give a guarantee that the Australian Government will demand that the Japanese Government not permit any such action in respect of any Australian uranium shipments which may go to Japan?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
I am aware of reports that a contract has been entered into by Japanese and British firms for the dispatch to the United Kingdom in the period 1982 to 1990 of 1,600 tons of Japanese spent fuel for reprocessing there over a ten-year period after the new Windscale plant is completed in 1 987.
Several articles of the Japan-United States Nuclear Cooperation Agreement are relevant to these matters. In particular, Japan is required by that agreement to obtain the prior agreement of the United States to re-transfers of nuclear material supplied by the United States. As to reprocessing of irradiated fuel containing uranium received from the United States, such reprocessing may be performed in Japanese facilities upon a joint determination of the parties that the safeguards provisions may be effectively applied, or in such other facilities as may be mutually agreed. Since a joint determination cannot be made without the United Slates consent, this gives the United States a consent right for reprocessing in Japan or elsewhere.
The conclusion of the type of long-term commercial arrangement which Japanese power companies are reported to have reached with a British company would in no way lessen the treaty obligations of the Japanese Government to obtain the prior consent of the United States Government before actual retransfers or reprocessing takes place.
I also note that the contracts in question are reported to relate to the period 1982-1990, that is, after the conclusion of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation study. This study is examining, inter alia, the question of reprocessing.
As to the uranium supplied by Australia, the Prime Minister in his statement in the House on 24 May 1977 said that provision would be made in bilateral agreements with countries wishing to import Australian uranium to ensure that any nuclear material we export for peaceful purposes under new contracts can only be reprocessed if Australia is fully satisfied as to the arrangements and conditions. Thus Australia will have a right of consent over reprocessing the material we supply. This is in order to reserve effectively Australia ‘s position on the details of conditions under which we may be prepared to agree to reprocessing while current international studies, including the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation, are underway.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 September 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780921_senate_31_s78/>.