31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) left Australia last Sunday for Europe to have discussions in the Multilateral Trade Negotiations and for other talks with representatives of European Economic Community member nations. He is expected to return on 26 November. During his absence the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) is acting as Minister for Special Trade Representations. The Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) is acting as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. I also inform the Senate that the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) left Australia on 12 November to attend the opening of the Centre for Animal Research and Development in Bogor, Indonesia. He is expected to return on 15 November. During his absence the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) is acting as Minister for Science.
ACT Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance
– I present the following petition from 268 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:-
That the Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance (No. 16 of 1978) has the effect of prohibiting the operation of private abortion clinics in the ACT.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Senators should vote to: -
1 ) retain this Ordinance, and
reject any move to disallow this Ordinance since its disallowance would enable private abortion clinics to operate in the ACT.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
ACT Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance
-I present the following petition from 532 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth: -
That the Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance (No. 16 of 1978) has the effect of prohibiting the operation of private abortion clinics in the A.C.T.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Senators should vote to:-
1 ) retain this Ordinance, and
reject any move to disallow this Ordinance since its disallowance would enable private abortion clinics to operate in the A.C.T.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, by Senator Sheil.
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that they think this imposition of the Government is deplorable on the subject of a Retail Turnover Tax, or Value Added Tax.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, by Senator Button.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth that:-
As electors who are deeply concerned that Australia’s Immigration policies should not markedly disfavour suitable intending white migrants, we demand that, as our Federal Representatives, you place before the Ministers for External Affairs and for Migration, our request for such immediate action as will facilitate prompt entry into this country of white Rhodesians, and such action include the waiving of financial and secured job qualifications as now in fact applies to Vietnamese and other South-East Asian migrants entering the country.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Sheil.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth: -
That item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table. by Senator Guilfoyle.
To Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the Victorian Federation of State School Parents’ Clubs respectfully showeth: -
That as citizens of Victoria and parents of State school children, we are most concerned that the quality of education available in our school be of the highest possible standard.
We believe that this can only be achieved if adequate Federal funds are provided. The recently announced policy of direct cuts to Government schools for 1979 must have an adverse effect on them.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should arrange for:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the people of Australia having taken pan in the government of Australia through universal suffrage in December 1975 and again in December 1977 and that on the basis of their expressed choice at the ballot box the people of Australia gave authority to the LiberalNational Country Party coalition to form a federal government to bring into effect specific policies promulgated throughout the length and breadth of Australia by the said Coalition and that, whereas by virtue of being elected through universal suffrage, the Government Members now sitting in the House of Representatives were authorised to implement their state objectives by legislation and that such authority did not extend to acting otherwise or to enact legislation not previously submitted to the will of the people, namely:- ° Revoking the legislation for twice-yearly pension payments. ° Imposing a freeze on the free-of-means-test pension. ° Unemployed divided into those with dependents and those without. ° Imposing income tax on pensions under age pension age- invalid and repatriation service pensions; rehabilitation allowances and incentives; sheltered employment and allowances for tuberculosis sufferers (civilian and service) and any other impositions.
Your petitioners submit that all or any of the foregoing proposed legislation of the Lower House, if implemented, will greatly disadvantage many thousands of citizens as either against their expressed will or not submitted to universal vote as the democratic right of the Australian people, therefore,
Your petitioners call on the Senate as the House of Review to take appropriate action to release these persons from burdens unfairly placed in order to finance a deficit not of their making.
And your petitioners in duty bound will every pray, by Senator Guilfoyle.
ACT Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth: -
That the Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance (No. 16 of 1978) has the effect of prohibiting the operation of private abortion clinics in the ACT.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Senators should vote to:-
Any your petitioners as in duty bound will every pray. by Senators Sibraa (2 petitions), Sheil, Chaney, Missen, Button, Coleman, Sim, Cavanagh, Carrick, Guilfoyle, Lewis and Thomas.
To the Honourable, the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Chipp, Lewis, Button, Hamer, Missen, Evans and Guilfoyle.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the Senate is of the opinion that the practice of corporal punishment should be abolished throughout the Australian education system.
Notice of Motion
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to enable a person holding an office of profit under the Crown to be chosen as a senator or as a member of the House of Representatives.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to an article in the Age newspaper of Tuesday, 7 November, alleging a critical reduction in the on-call interpreter service for migrants. I ask the Minister: Is it true that, following instructions from the Canberra central office of the Department given on 19 October 1978, a number of restrictions were placed on the interpreter services in Victoria? If such restrictions were imposed, , is the Minister, in view of the likely hardship resulting for migrant communities, prepared to guarantee that these restrictions will be reviewed or lifted immediately?
– I am not aware of the circumstances mentioned by Senator Button. I am aware of the very great service that is given by the interpreter service in each State. The Government has placed priority on the funding of this service to the extent that funding has been increased on many occasions to maintain and improve the service. I will need to refer to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to check the facts as stated by Senator Button. I will see that an early answer is given to him. I hope that because of the very great benefit that it provides the answer will be that there is a maintenance of the service.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Many representations have been made to the Minister whom Senator Chaney represents concerning the curtailment of services provided by the rural department of the Australian Broadcasting Commission which performs a vital service to farmers and rural communities. I recognise that within certain guidelines the Commission is entirely responsible for setting its own program priorities. However, will the Minister use his best endeavours to see that the regional officers of the ABC’s rural department continue to supply the services on which farmers and rural communities so heavily rely?
-The matter raised by Senator Thomas is one of considerable interest in all rural areas in Australia. In fact, on 7 November Senator Davidson asked a question similar to the one asked by Senator Thomas. I think that he is still awaiting a more detailed reply from me. In response to Senator Thomas, I confirm that there have been representations of the sort that he mentioned. I am assured by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications- I gather that he has been assured- that the rumours are in general without foundation. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is very conscious of its role in rural areas and is giving high priority to maintaining its services there. However, it is true that the rural department of the ABC is facing a critical staffing situation as it has had to make cuts in its overall staff numbers in line with cuts made in other program areas. That has meant that if one officer has to leave because of illness or anything like that it is necessary to link two areas and to provide a single program. In fact, the programming continues but there can be a loss of local news in that situation.
There will also be some more difficulties during the Christmas-New Year period as rural officers have been asked to take their recreation leave at that time. That period was selected because there is little activity in wool and stock sales during that period. Alternative arrangements have been made using part time and other ABC employees to continue to provide weather, marketing and other agricultural information for country people. There will be no cuts in general rural programs.
I am advised by the Minister that he is closely monitoring the ABC staffing situation. He has discussed the matter with the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association and last Friday he discussed it with the Commission. The only other point I would add is that the present industrial action by the New South Wales Branch of the Commission is not really being very helpful in the consideration of the case being put forward for the easing of the ABC staff ceiling.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs a question which is based on the points system for immigration which was announced in the Press this morning. In the first instance, what is going to be the situation with respect to applications for permanent entry which are in the process of being examined now? If consideration of those applications is not completed by Christmas, will they be subject to the new evaluation procedure, or what procedure will be followed? Secondly, in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning and in many other newspapers the Minister is reported to have referred to ‘pre-arranged employment’. Will this encompass also certain sectors of what I would call the ‘non-tradesmen, heavy manual work force’, such as the types of workers who meet local government demands? How would such people rate under the points system?
– The new migrant selection points system, which is named the Numerical Multi-factor Assessment System, will come into effect on 1 January 1979. People who have already been interviewed under the existing structured selection assessment system will not be re-interviewed; their applications will continue to be processed under the existing policy. However, those cases which already are in process and which would benefit from the application of the new policy and the new procedures will be given the benefit of those concessions.
On the other matter that was raised by Senator Mulvihill with regard to employment, I am advised that all applicants with pre-arranged employment will be given credit for it, whatever their occupations. Of course, this will not necessarily lead to approval. I do not know whether that answers the point raised with regard to nontradesmen. If Senator Mulvihill requires any further information I will see that he is given it. I hope that he followed the earlier part of my question which really sounded as if the people concerned would be getting the best of both worlds.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that Adelaide is the only mainland State capital without an international airport? Does this result in South Australians travelling overseas paying as much as 19 per cent more than other Australians pay for overseas air fares? If so, is this an unfair discriminatory impost on South Australians, quite contrary to the spirit of federalism? Will the Minister take up this matter with his colleague with a view to redressing the situation by establishing a fare structure which allows a greater degree of equity amongst all States?
-Senator Messner’s appeal to federalism in his question made me feel very much at home. It gave the whole question a very Western Australian ring. I am aware that the State which Senator Messner represents is the only mainland State without an international airport. There has been some recent publicity about the fact that this makes international travel for South Australians more expensive. I might say that in fact in Western Australia there are similar complaints relating to the fact that when one is travelling east there is a cost loading which is out of proportion to the overall cost of international travel.
The Government’s policy has recently been outlined. Very heavy emphasis is placed on that policy, that is, on the introduction of generally lower fares on international air routes on a nondiscriminatory basis. That policy was adopted by the Government after consideration of the report of the committee which reviewed Australia’s civil aviation policy. The committee, in its report, acknowledges that the question of gateways into Australia requires further study but it does point out the significant economies which will result to people in all States when lower fares are achieved from a number of gateways. However, I will take the specific matter of complaint raised by the honourable senator back to the Minister for Transport and seek some further information from him on it. I will ask the Minister to give the matter his attention.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Has the Government made the reduction of the deficit an absolutely essential part of its economic policy? Are the drastic and hurtful measures imposed on the community a result of the Government’s promise to reduce last year’s deficit of $3,300m? Is the Minister aware that the right of the States to borrow overseas will increase the total Australian deficit when compared with the Federal deficit? Finally, if this is so, why did the Government engage in this crude deception, designed to confuse the Federal deficit with the total deficit?
- Mr President, there does seem inherent, does there not, in the Labor Party’s questions on infrastructure financing an opposition by the Labor Party to this system of borrowing overseas which is designed so that developmental projects can be carried out in the six States of Australia? Otherwise, emotive words such as ‘deception’ would not be used or criticisms of that nature would not be made. I think that all other Australians will applaud the infrastructure borrowing through the Loan Council and the organisation of borrowing so that there can be massive development in Australia and so that there will be an infrastructure to provide for more employment in Australia in the years ahead. That, I think, is the thing that apparently Senator McAuliffe, by inference, is resisting.
It is part of the Commonwealth Government’s policies to restrain the deficit. Senator McAuliffe will know that his Government, in its last year in office, found that it was budgeting for a deficit in excess of $5,000m and said that that was not possible and that expenditure of that kind would create inflation and more unemployment. His Government made the very clear statement in its last Budget Speech that more expenditure, by expanding the deficit, would create more unemployment. I take it, by inference again, that Senator McAuliffe now disbelieves the statement of the then Treasurer, now his Leader.
It is acknowledged throughout the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and throughout authoritative economic circles that Australia is doing the correct thing to get inflation and interest rates down so that we can once again enter into world trade and once again re-employ our people. I know of nobody except members of the Labor Party who is resisting what appear to be and what are acknowledged by the Australian people to be essential national goals and developments.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware that travel agents wishing to trade in New South Wales require State registration each year? Can the Minister confirm that AUS Student Travel Service Pty Ltd applied for renewal of its registration in June, that the New South Wales Travel Agents Licensing Board objected to that renewal, that AUS Student Travel is likely to cease operations in New South Wales and that another company has sought to take over and is being challenged before the Travel Agents Licensing Board? Can the Minister assure the Senate that students on campuses in New South Wales and the travel moneys which they have invested will be protected when the commercial improprieties of AUS Student Travel finally catch up with it and drive it out of my State?
-The answer to the great bulk of the questions asked by the honourable senator is no- not in the sense that I disagree with them but in the sense that I am not aware of the particular matters which he has raised with me. Because of that I cannot give the students of New South Wales the assurance that Senator Baume seeks, but I will refer the questions he has asked to Mr Nixon and seek a reply and, in particular, the assurance that is sought for the students.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Are the new borrowing arrangements with the States announced last week part of the new federalism policies of the Government?
-To the extent that they embrace a wider co-operation between States and the Commonwealth in the Loan Council operation, the answer is yes. However, in themselves, they are policies which are regarded as major reforms by each of the six States. It is fair to say that the six Premiers, whatever their politics, are unanimous that this is a major and significant national reform. They see it as a great reform for their States and for the nation, as we do.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, concerns export licences for woodchip operations. In granting future woodchip export licences, will the Minister give consideration to more stringent requirements as to, firstly, regeneration; secondly, replanting; and, thirdly, the minimisation of Are hazards by adequate disposal of tree heads?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Trade and Resources, who I think is the Minister with jurisdiction in relation to the granting of export licences and whom I represent. I will invite the Minister to provide as early an answer as possible to Senator Watson.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. As the telephones being used at senior citizen centres are for the benefit of pensioners, will the Minister agree that the concessional rents available to individual pensioners should apply also to the telephones at these centres? If the answer is yes, will the Minister issue the necessary instructions so that this small benefit can be enjoyed by this economically depressed section of our community at the earliest possible moment?
-As I indicated to the Senate last week, the telephone concessions for pensioners are granted by the Department of Social Security which makes payments to Telecom Australia to make up for the loss of revenue. Therefore, I think this matter more properly should be referred to my colleague the Minister for Social Security. As far as I know, the matter has not been raised previously. It could have been raised previously. In any event, I will refer the matter to the appropriate Ministersperhaps two are involved- and seek a reply for the honourable senator.
– Is the Attorney-General aware of reports in some newspapers that the Government intends to introduce legislation to overcome rulings made by the High Court of Australia in the Sankey case last week in relation to Executive privilege? Can the AttorneyGeneral say what legislation the Government is contemplating?
– I have seen some reports in newspapers along the lines that Senator Lajovic mentions, but the fact is that the Government is not considering any legislation which would have the effect of reversing or modifying the decision of the High Court in relation to the Sankey case. The Government, of course, accepts and will abide by the decision of the High Court in that case. The High Court decision is of great importance to both the Government and the Parliament and it is one which my Department and I are considering carefully. The implications of it are quite considerable. But any consideration being given to it would be only in relation to any future matters which would arise under various Acts of the Parliament, and no such consideration would be referring in any way to retrospective legislation concerning the rights of people which are being litigated in the courts.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. In this morning’s Melbourne Age the Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Dr Mosley, was reported as expressing fears that the Foundation might bear the whole brunt of this year’s Budget cut in funds to voluntary conservation bodies. If that were so, it would represent a cut in its budget of $50,000 a year to $100,000 a year and would seriously prejudice important current projects of the Foundation, to say nothing of its future plans. If there are grounds for such fears, will the Government reconsider the allocations so that the Budget cut is spread equally throughout the recipient organisations?
– I have no information about the Budget cuts and how they might affect the Australian Conservation Foundation. I will seek the information for the honourable senator.
Senator Missen having addressed a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate-
– Order! Questions must be related to matters which are under the direct responsibility of a Minister. I will pass this question to the Minister to see whether he wishes to reply to it.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order if you are going to permit the question to be answered. In your own words you have indicated that the question is outside the responsibility of any Minister in this Parliament. If at Question Time we are going to permit questions of that nature then all other questions which are about ministerial responsibility will not be answered and many will be put off because we will not have the time to deal with them. I put it to you that that question should be ruled out of order.
– I speak to the point of order. True it is, I submit, that the idea that the platform of the Australian Labor Party is of no consequence to the people of Australia or the Government is attractive. The idea may be attractive but that is not really the situation. I submit that it must be of great importance to the Government of this country that there is threatened to be an Australian Labor Party which is committed to such a hard line policy.
– You have a State election coming up in Victoria and you are worried.
– I can understand the worry. I want to ask this question because I think the extent to which the Australian Labor Party is committed to such a hard line action and to the rejection of the Russian dissidents must be of concern to and must affect the Government’s policies.
– I have indicated to the honourable senator that questions must be related to matters directly concerned with the portfolio of a Minister and under his responsibility. I abide by that decision. If the honourable senator were to rephrase his question in a way which would include matters under the direct responsibility of the Minister then I would allow it.
– I rephrase the question and ask the Minister whether he sees matters concerning the responsibility of the Government arising from the decisions at the Australian Labor Party conference last weekend?
– That question is also very close to being out of order but I shall allow the Minister to answer it.
- Mr President, I rise again on a point of order. The question is about a decision by the Victorian Labor Party. The fact is that these are matters of discussion which are legitimate inside any political organisation. I suppose that if we had enough coverage of the deliberations within the closed sessions of the Liberal Party of Australia we could ask questions of a similar nature. If you permit this sort of thing to happen at Question Time I can assure the Senate that further questions of a similar nature will follow from this side of the chamber.
– As honourable senators will have noticed, I have sought at all times to allow questions on a wide scale. However, where aspects of correctness in putting questions are involved and where, as in this case, an opinion is being asked for, I do rule the question out of order on the ground that I mentioned.
– I address my question to you, Mr President. In view of the recent decision in the Sankey case in which the High Court indicated that certain documents such as Cabinet minutes or communications between heads of departments would not automatically be immune from disclosure to the Court if public interest required it, could you make available to the Senate an opinion as to the impact of this decision on the ability of honourable senators to obtain such documents either by request within this chamber or in Estimates or other committees? Can you indicate where the assumptions and procedures of this chamber might be affected by the Sankey decision? Surely this democratically elected chamber should not have restrictions placed on it from which the High Court- that non-elected bench of justices- has managed to escape. Mr President, might you yourself assume the role of deciding whether a document is entitled to privilege or confidentiality if you are requested to give a ruling?
– I shall give consideration to the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to the unjustified accusation against South African Airways which was implicit in a question asked of him last week in which it was alleged that a coloured, former South African who now resides in Tasmania was refused a package holiday deal by this company. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an interview on AM last week with a public relations executive of the airline in which the gentleman refuted the statement, which was given wide publicity, that the airline applied an apartheid policy with respect to the issue of such tickets? I ask the Minister whether he can provide any further information on this matter as I believe that the South African airline has been seriously maligned by this misrepresentation.
– I raise a point of order. I asked a question of the Minister last Wednesday and as yet there has been no reply. As my question was related to the question which Senator Jessop has asked, I feel that I am entitled to an answer from the Minister on this matter before a question from another direction is answered by the Minister representing the Minister for Transport.
- Mr President, I was going to indicate to the Senate that I am quite happy to try to answer both questions at once.
– The Minister may proceed.
– Honourable senators will remember that Senator O’Byrne did raise this matter last week. I think that at that time I indicated that the Government had made it quite clear that it did not regard the sort of facts outlined by Senator O’Byrne as being tolerable or acceptable to it. I think I said that I would refer the matter to the Minister for Transport and seek further information. That is what I in fact did. I have today received some information from the Minister which I am happy to put before the Senate now. That information is that the Minister for Transport has been assured that there is nothing in the licensing, tariff or traffic information manual used by the airline or travel industry which would preclude persons from travelling on South African Airways on grounds of race or religion.
In addition, South African Airways has notified the Department- I think that was the morning after Senator O ‘Byrne’s question-that it has never refused to carry passengers from Australia on the grounds of race. I did not hear the interview which was referred to in Senator Jessop ‘s question but- I suspect in common with all other members of this chamber-I did receive a letter from South African Airways dated 9 November which arrived in my office yesterday. I must say that I welcome the statements made by South African Airways in that letter. I am sure that other senators also welcome them. For example, the letter states:
It goes on to state:
In light of the interest which honourable senators have shown in this matter, it may be useful to incorporate the letter in Hansard, and I seek leave to do so.
The letter read as follows-
9- 1 9 Elizabeth Street, Sydney NSW Australia 2000 Tel. 233 6855, Telex AA2 12 16 Cables: ‘SAAREP’ Sydney November 9, 1978
Following widespread media coverage of alleged racial discrimination by South African Airways, we wish to draw your attention to this airline’s policy on the carriage of passengers on all our services worldwide.
The media coverage afforded the question asked in the Senate by Senator Justin O’Byrne on November 8th 1978, involving the alleged refusal of South African Airways to sell a package holiday to an unidentified Tasmanian citizen of Indian descent on the grounds of the gentleman’s colour was totally biased. Ony a few reporters bothered to contact South African Airways for comment.
South African Airways has investigated the allegations made by the unidentified Tasmanian and has been unable to secure any evidence to support these allegations.
As the allegations are contrary to South African Airways’ official policy on the carriage of passengers, we would welcome an official inquiry to establish the facts of the matter.
Despite every effort by South African Airways to establish the circumstances and details surrounding this ‘alleged incident’ South African Airways has been denied access to the following vital information:
There are only two possible reasons why a passenger would be denied a seat on a South African Airways aircraft:
We draw this information to your attention so that there should be no misunderstanding regarding South African Airways ‘ operations in Australia.
-The only additional point I would make is that I think that the Government has made it very clear that the attitude adopted by South African Airways in this letter is one which it would expect would be adopted and that it would welcome. What concerns me about the letter is that South African Airways apparently has had difficulty in establishing the circumstances and details surrounding this alleged incident, and in using the word ‘alleged’ I am quoting from the letter. It has apparently tried to find out the details but, according to the letter, has not been able to obtain them.
If honourable senators have more specific information it would be useful if they made it available to South African Airways. Further, I would direct the attention of honourable senators to the fact that there is in this country a Racial Discrimination Act. There is also a Commissioner for Community Relations and I would have thought that if the specific details were available they could usefully be referred to him.
– I ask the Minister, in view of his reply to my previous question- I thought perhaps the courtesy may have been extended to me by the Minister of replying to me directly rather than indirectly through another senator- whether he heard the broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Commission on 9 November in which Mr Kel Richards and Mr David Margen, the interrogators for the ABC, asked a third generation South African who has been living in Australia and is now an Australian citizen:
Did you make inquiries then as to why you had been excluded from the tour?
This gentleman replied:
I didn’t make any inquiries because I didn’t want to stir anything up, you know, I have relatives in South Africa and people do visit me from there and it is rather dangerous to make such inquiries but I believe that my application was turned down because my name gives me away.
I ask the Minister whether the part of the letter that he has had incorporated -
– I incorporated the whole of it.
– I ask the Minister whether he has seen paragraph 8 of the letter which he has had incorporated, which states:
I also ask the Minister whether he saw in the Australian of 1 November 1978 a letter from Mr L. Clarke of Uxbridge, United Kingdom, who is Australian in which Mr Clarke wrote:
For most of South Africa’s much-publicised beaches are whites only’, as are nearly all night clubs, cinemas, hotels, guest houses, bars and even public swimming pools.
I ask the Minister whether, as was requested by the sales manager of South African Airways, he would have an inquiry set up into the application of apartheid in South Africa on tourists of any colour or religion who take advantage of the package tours, and whether all of the facilities that are claimed by South African Airways are made available to them.
– Perhaps I should make it clear, as I did by way of interjection during the question, that I sought and have obtained the incorporation in Hansard of the whole of this letter. Of course I have read the letter which, as I indicated, I received yesterday. I did not hear the interrogation on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program which was referred to by the honourable gentleman in his question. But if the facts are as indicated by the honourable senator then that in itself, I think, ought to make any of us cautious about making allegations. If, in fact, the complainant has said that he did not make inquiries as to why he was excluded, then automatically to assume that he has been excluded on a basis of race and to make public accusations to that effect is perhaps a little unwise. I note that in the letter which has already been incorporated in Hansard there is an indication that a number of flights in December and January are fully booked and wait listed and have been since early this year. So it is possible, on the basis of the statement put forward by South African Airways, that the refusal could have nothing to do with the reason that has been assumed by the person who made a complaint to SenatorO’Byrne. But to suggest that the Government ought to proceed from this situation into some form of general inquiry into the application of apartheid in South Africa with respect to holiday tours and so on, I think is rather excessive. This Government has made its attitude to apartheid amply clear to the Australian people, and indeed to the world. I would have thought that for us to be haring off on the sort of inquiry that Senator O ‘Byrne has suggested is certainly not justified on the state of facts which have been indicated to us so far, if it is at all.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs explain the significance of the Oder-Neisse line to Australian foreign policy? Was the issue of the Oder-Neisse line effectively laid to rest by the successful Ostpolitik of Chancellor Brandt? If the Minister is unable to perceive the relevance of the Oder-Neisse line to Australia, as I am and as I am sure the majority of honourable senators are, is he able to say whether the remarks attributed to Mr Nicholas Parkinson, the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, in the latest issue of the National Times are correct, that is, that Australia’s geo-strategic interests made the Oder-Neisse line as important to us as to the Europeans and equally as important as South East Asian development. If this is a correct report are we to take these remarks as merely the ramblings of somebody in cloud cuckoo land or as the remarks of somebody who believes that the Australian Foreign Minister is the Marquess of Salisbury rather than the member for Kooyong? Or are we indeed supposed to take these remarks seriously?
– I presume that Senator Puplick is referring to an article in the National Times headed: ‘Nick Parkinson’s Own Foreign Policy’. If so, my instructions are that the document from which the writer, Mr Kelly, quotes is a report of a regular meeting which takes place with the express intention of allowing officers of the Department an opportunity to discuss policy issues on a regular and informal basis. In using extracts from the report as a basis for his article, Mr Kelly has been quite misleading. The report does not purport in any way to convey the final views of the Secretary, the Department or the Government on the matters raised. The report was produced, as is usual after these meetings, and circulated to senior officers of the Department both in Canberra and overseas to enable them to participate in the discussion of important issues. In other words, it is an internal working document and not a presentation of Government or departmental policy.
To use this report as a basis for criticism of Government policy or of the Department is therefore erroneous. There is no question of any inconsistency between the views of the Secretary or the Department and the Government. There is in particular no truth in the implication that our relations with Asia are or ought to be neglected by comparison with our links with Europe. The Government continues to place the very highest priority on its relations with its South East Asian and South Pacific neighbours. It would, however, be unrealistic to deny that Australia’s relations with Western Europe and especially members of the European Economic Community are strategically, economically and politically extremely important and demand the close scrutiny and attention which the Government has applied to them. As to the allegation in the article that the Minister is not satisfied with the performance of the Secretary of the Department, I understand that the Minister wants to emphasise that Mr
Parkinson enjoys his complete confidence and that of the Government.
1975 DOUBLE DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
– In this third anniversary week, I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister for an answer to one of those numerous unanswered questions in relation to the events of 11 November 1975. I ask him whether Mr Fraser ‘s advice in support of his request to Sir John Kerr for a double dissolution on that day was in oral or written form. If it was in written form, when will that advice be tabled in this Parliament as was done with the Prime Ministers’ advice and the Governor-Generals’ decisions respectively after the 1914, 1951 and 1974 double dissolutions?
– Since I could not possibly have the information, I ask the honourable senator to place the question on notice. I will get the information for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. No doubt he will remember that last week I asked a question relating to the possible purchase by the Government of Boeing 707 aircraft to be used on overseas trips by the Prime Minister. I now ask: Is the Minister aware that if such an aircraft were bought it would cost in excess of $3,000 an hour to operate, that it would not be able to land at all Australian airports and in many ways would be too large and too noisy? As both the Prime Minister and Senator Carrick have indicated that security is the reason why the Government is trying to find a new type of aircraft for international travel, I ask: Has the Government considered buying one of the new generation small, quiet, long-range jets, several of which- such as the 30-seat Canadair Challenger- are listed in Jane’s most recent aircraft book and also discussed in an article in the August edition of Interavia? Is the Minister aware that by purchasing a small aircraft the cost of operating it would not preclude its use within Australia and it would provide the Government with an aircraft that would remain useful for many years ahead? Finally, will the Minister guarantee the Senate that no decision on this matter will be taken while the Parliament is in recess?
– I repeat what I said last week in response to Senator Townley: The Government made up its mind that there was a necessity for a long-range aircraft to carry the
Prime Minister or senior Ministers and parties overseas. That decision was made on the advice of top level security officers. The security advice was that there would be a threat to others on commercial aircraft if a national head were to travel on that aircraft. As honourable senators would know, throughout the world the practice now is for national heads to travel separately to minimise the risk to the security of others. I think that is generally accepted. I also made the point that the Government was examining a wide number of aircraft, certainly 707s and the 727s but not exclusively. Whether particular aircraft are too noisy, not suitable or not capable of landing on particular airfields will be a matter to be considered. My understanding is that the Government also has under consideration the question of smaller and more modern aircraft which may fulfil all the requirements in that regard.
Senator Townley has referred to the cost per flying hour. The fact of the matter is that aircraft bought and put into No. 34 Squadron become part of the Royal Australian Air Force itself. As with any other RAAF aircraft, the cost per flying hour applies whether they are taking Prime Ministers or others or whether in fact they are going through the ordinary routine training flights of the pilots and air crews that fly them. One must keep in perspective the fact that any of these aircraft would be part of a total fleet. I am not able to give Senator Townley an assurance as to when a decision is likely to be made. I will direct that part of his question to the attention of the relevant Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the fact that the general public is utterly confused over the issue of socalled cheap air fares and the future of the role of the European-based carriers, will the Minister consider making a further statement on this matter to clarify the position?
– I hope that just the Opposition rather than the general public is confused. I think that the statement made by the Minister for Transport makes it clear that the fares are to be negotiated. No doubt the matter which will be most important to the public will be the actual air fares which will be available to them. Notwithstanding those comments, I will refer Senator Sibraa ‘s request to the Minister for Transport for his consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In the hope that there will be no dispute about the question I hope that you, Mr President, will listen carefully also. Is it important to the success of this Government’s economic policy that investors have confidence in both the Federal Government and also the State governments, not only current governments but also long term possible alternative governments? Is the Minister aware that, over the weekend, the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party re-adopted a policy of socialisation, a policy which it dropped some years ago? How does this decision affect the Federal Government’s concern for the confidence of investors in Australia and in Victoria in particular?
– I take a point of order. It is quite obvious that there has been liaison between Senator Lewis and Senator Missen to try to have the same question allowed. The questions which Senator Missen and Senator Lewis asked are substantially the same. I doubt very much whether even the Leader of the Government himself believes the question to be legitimate. I ask you, Mr President, again to rule it out of order.
– If the question is legitimate now, it was legitimate when Senator Missen asked it. There is no similarity in the questions. Senator Missen ‘s question asked for an opinion in relation to Australian Labor Party policy. My question asked for an opinion in relation to this Government ‘s policy.
– The question is out of order. The honourable senator is seeking an opinion.
– I apologise, Mr President. I will repeat precisely the question I asked.
– The honourable senator will rephrase his question so that it does not seek an opinion.
– Certainly. I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: How does this decision affect the Federal Government’s concern for the confidence of investors in Australia and in Victoria in particular?
– I take a point of order. Although Senator Lewis has not used the word opinion’, the question is, in fact, asking for an opinion. It does not comply with Standing Orders merely to omit a word which you, Mr President, formerly found offensive and ask the same question again. It is almost disrespectful to your ruling.
– On the point of order, Mr President, I draw your attention to the fact that at least the first part of Senator Lewis’s question must be unobjectionable. He asked what were the imperative points of policy of the Federal and State governments with regard to the attraction of overseas investors. He did not ask my opinion on the matter. He asked for information. He asked whether confidence in government policies was essential. I put it to you, Mr President, that within that framework it is quite acceptable for such a question to be asked.
– When a question seeking an opinion is ruled out of order but rephrasing of the question is allowed, that part of the question which seeks an opinion has to be obliterated. Information only may be sought. That brings the question within the parameters permitted by the Standing Orders.
– May I repeat the question?
– I have indicated that the honourable senator’s question sought an opinion as well as information. If the Minister would reply to that part of the question for which he has actual ministerial responsibility and not make his answer political by giving an opinion in a given area I would like to hear him speak now.
– I was asked whether it was important to the success of Federal and State governments in their policies for the development of Australia -
- Mr President, I take a point of order because what the Minister has overlooked is the second objection, namely, that questions should not ask for a statement of government policy. Not only did the question ask for an opinion; it also asked for a statement of government policy. The very first part of the answer was a response to a question on government policy. What the Minister is now doing is making a statement on government policy.
– He is not indicating future policy. Senator Carrick, please carry on with your reply.
– In response to Senator Lewis, it is imperative to the success of Federal and State government policies for the development of Australia and imperative to the success of such governments that there should be overseas confidence in Australia at both State and Federal levels; that there should be confidence that the developments in those States and in the Commonwealth itself should be stable and not threatened in any way; and that the States should give the freest possible rein to free enterprise. The flow of investment to Australia will be investment primarily coming to companies acting in free enterprise to develop Australia. If indeed there is not an atmosphere of free enterprise and there is an atmosphere in which rigid government controls are induced there would be a repelling of capital inflow. This would be of great concern to the long term development of Australia.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of his concern that intending investors must have the utmost confidence in this country, I ask him: As almost daily there are reports of misuse of Federal funds by the Victorian Liberal Government and as considerable sums of Federal moneys have ended up in the hands of members of the Liberal Party in Victoria and of its supporters in that State, will the Commonwealth Government take any steps to investigate the misuse of these funds by the Victorian Liberal Government? Will the Commonwealth Government institute procedures to protect the taxpayers of this country and any presumed intending overseas investors in Victoria from these fraudulent practices by the Victorian Liberals?
– Since Senator Wriedt has chosen to ask a question with such direct assertions made in the first place by him, I now invite him and the Australian Labor Party to provide to me first hand information on all or any of those allegations that he has made. In the absence of that, the question falls to the ground. I am not aware of misuse of funds. I am not aware of any misdirection of Federal funds to members of the Liberal Party at all. Now that Senator Wriedt has put up these allegations, I invite him to give the specifics. I will ensure that they are directed to the proper authorities.
Senator Wriedt proceeding to address a supplementary question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate-
– I take a point of order, Mr President. In view of the experience I have had today, I would like to know just what in the Gowans report is relevant to the Federal Government’s policy. I understood that it was a State government report. I put it to you, Mr President, that this report would have nothing whatsoever to do with the administration of any department of the Commonwealth. Consequently, the question surely must be out of order.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to that point of order and just simply indicate that I agree with everything that Senator Missen has said. I hope that you rule this question out of order as you did the previous question.
– Yes, the question will not be proceeded with.
-I ask the Minister for Education whether his attention has been drawn to letters which have been written by school councils of government schools in South Australia to senators and federal members expressing concern at the reduction in equipment grants to their various schools by the South Australian Government. Is the Minister aware that the South Australian Government has been blaming its cuts in these funds on what it calls reductions in Commonwealth funding for education in South Australia? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the facts in this case and particularly clarify which Government is responsible for cutting equipment grants to government schools in South Australia.
– I am aware of representations that have been made by various people on behalf of councils of government schools in South Australia expressing concern at reductions in equipment grants for the year 1 978-79 for that State. It ought to be made known quite clearly and without qualification that equipment grants are provided by the State government. They are not the responsibility of the Federal Government and consequently any reduction in such grants is the responsibility of the South Australian Government. I invite all honourable senators and honourable members to answer any such correspondence along those lines.
– Tell them how to make up the difference when the Federal Government makes cuts.
– An interjection has been made along the lines that this matter may relate to Commonwealth cuts. Let me give the joyous news to those who are interested. The Commonwealth’s untied general recurrent grants for government schools in South Australia in 1979, through the program of the Schools Commission, amount to $ 17.8m estimated in December 1977 prices, representing an increase over 1978 of 1.4 per cent in real terms for South
Australia compared with an overall increase of one per cent for government schools in all other States.
So clearly South Australia could use some of these funds for equipment grants if it chose to do so, in accordance with its own priorities. It has chosen not to to so. But of course the State Government could apply its own general revenues to this purpose, the Schools Commission’s general recurrent grants representing, as they do, only some 7.2 per cent of the total Commonwealth and State recurrent expenditure. Over a period all of the State governments have balanced their Budgets and have cut their taxes. If the South Australian Government, having got more money for next year than for last year from the Commonwealth Government, chooses to give less for equipment grants it must take the blame for the rain because it is causing the season.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer him to the latest issue of the Rural Industry Information papers which came out last month and which said with respect to dairy underwriting:
The quantity of butter to be underwritten for 1 978-79 will be limited to 96,000 tonnes.
I ask the Minister: If 100,000 tonnes is produced, which 4,000 tonnes will not qualify for underwriting purposes? Further, can the Minister assure the Senate that denying underwriting to any 4,000 tonnes will not breach section 5 1 (iii) of the Constitution?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Primary Industry and seek a reply for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to the report in the Australian of 1 4 October on Cis Platinum, which states:
Hospitals are paying a mulitnational drug firm $2,300 a gram for a drug which local science graduates can make for a fraction of the cost . . .
Will the Minister ascertain whether inquiries have progressed to a stage which will enable the drug to be manufactured in Australia on a wider scale so that more tests can be made in Australian hospitals at a cost less than the present exorbitant cost of the drug permits?
– I am unable to respond to that question, but I will refer the matter to the Minister for Health and seek information from him.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, relates to the announcement by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs yesterday as to the new points plan. Whilst the plan in relation to skills and occupational levels might be acceptable, I draw the Minister’s attention to the very low weighting of family unity. In a total point score of 50, family unity is given only 3 points and is mixed up with a number of other factors. One would think that the stability of the work force and of citizens would emphasise the need for a greater weighting. What consultations were held with representative ethnic groups before the points scheme was adopted? In view of the Minister’s statement that the scheme will be under review from time to time and may be amended, what sort of procedures will be adopted to incorporate an appeal system? Is that to be considered? No statement has been made available. Who would be able to assist in these appeal procedures? When will the applicants be told of their scores and what access will they have to that sort of information? Finally, is it possible to ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to consult those bodies at an early stage to ensure that this system will not be applied arbitrarily, in view of the number of clerical details that will be required during the investigations?
– I am sure that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs would be able to respond to the matters that have been raised by Senator Bishop. I have no information available to me here today. I will refer the question to the Minister and seek from him an early response on this very important question.
– In recent days Senator Wriedt has asked a series of questions regarding details of the FFGs- the frigates- on order in America. He asked whether I could expedite a reply. I give the following information: Firstly, concerning escalation in the contracts for the ships, as explained earlier, the contracts for the Royal Australian Navy FFGs are between the Australian Government and the United States Government which in turn has placed United States Navy contracts including our three ships with the shipbuilder, Todd Pacific. The contracts are of a fixed price incentive type, with a ceiling price and an agreed basis for escalation. The contracts run over many years, and escalation calculations are based on price movements in agreed indices for labour and material. Under these types of contract, escalation costs according to a formula are paid on work done and will be paid for work yet to be done.
Concerning cost estimates for the ships, the total project estimates presented to Parliament on 24 October 1978 by the Minister for Defence in his Defence Review statement were $4 14m in January 1977 prices for the first two ships and $186m in August 1977 prices for the third ship. These total project estimates were finalised in mid 1977 for the first two ships and in September 1977 for the third ship. These estimates are subject to day to day review and control by the Defence Department in Canberra and by Australian personnel who are placed in the United States Navy FFG project office in the United States. Total project cost estimates are subject to a complete review on a periodic basis. They are very complex figures to derive considering the many hundreds of inter-related estimates involved. They take many man-weeks of effort to produce. In his Defence Review statement of 24 October 1978, the Minister also said:
The cost of the three ships is subject to periodic review with the US Government in accordance with the Memorandum of Arrangements and I would expect shortly to be able to update the information to conform to any price or other changes such as stores content in the package.
As the Minister also indicated in his Statement, he expects that changes to project costs for these three ships will be contained within the increment to project costs which arises from the changed purchasing value of money. It is expected that the results of this review will be available by the end of the year.
Concerning notification of the financial situation of the shipbuilder, official advice of Todd Pacific’s present difficulties was provided by the United States Navy in a letter dated 23 March 1978. The United States Government, as a matter of routine, investigates the financial soundness of all bidders on major defence contracts and makes several such investigations of the ship builders involved when awarding FFG contracts. The Australian liaison staff has been aware since about August 1976 of the recurrent liquidity problems which Todd has faced. Project liaison staff have been watching closely the United States Government’s activities in this regard and senior departmental officers have kept the matter under review. Todd’s financial difficulties do not arise from the FFG contracts. The United States Navy has placed orders for 14 of its 26 FFGs on order with Todd. The FFG contracts over the years have been specifically structured to avoid compounding the problem.
In October 1977, with United States Government assistance, Todd restructured its organisation, including forming a subsidiary company to operate the building yards at which the United States Navy and the Royal Australian Navy work is undertaken.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Dried Vine Fruits Stabilization Amendment Bill 1978.
Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill 1978.
Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill 1978.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report entitled Foreign Investment in Australia’, together with the text of a statement by the Treasurer relating to this report.
– Pursuant to section 102 of the Postal Services Act 1975,I present the report of the Australian Postal Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Act 1962,I present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority for the year ended 30 June 1978.
-by leave-I table the additional information received by Estimates Committee C and seek leave for it to be incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
-by leave- I table the additional information received by Estimates Committee E and seek leave for it to be incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
-by leave- I table the additional information received by Estimates Committee F and seek leave for it to be incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
– by leave- On 25 May this year, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced a new Government initiative with regard to Parliamentary committee reports. Following the Prime Minister’s statement, all committee reports will receive a Government response, to be made by a Minister in Parliament within six months of the presentation of the report. I have the honour to make the first such response, on behalf of the Prime Minister. I would like to inform honourable senators of action the Government has taken in response to the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment report on annual reports referred to the Committee dated 1 March 1978. In preparing its report, the Committee examined 13 annual reports of government departments and authorities which come within its terms of reference, and commented on the Government’s performance as revealed in the annual reports.
Numerous matters were raised in the Committee’s report, and I do not propose to respond to every detail in this statement. I can assure honourable senators that all the matters raised have been brought to the attention of the departments and authorities concerned, who have given assurances that the matters will be borne in mind during the preparation of future annual reports. One matter upon which the Committee commented at some length was the need for Government bodies to report promptly to the Parliament to facilitate Parliamentary scrutiny of the Government’s activities. The Government shares the Committee’s concern, and continual efforts are being made to ensure that Government departments and statutory authorities submit reports to Parliament with the minimum of delay.
There are of course instances where reports are delayed through no fault of the author, but means of circumventing such delays are being examined. The Committee referred in particular to three annual reports which were over a year overdue when presented. These three reports were exceptional cases. For example, the Cities Commission Report fell due at a time when the department concerned- now the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development- was undergoing extensive reorganisation; and the preparation of the report was overshadowed by tasks of greater priority. In cases where annual reports cannot be finalisedfor example, where there is a delay due to a statutory requirement for the Auditor-General’s certification to appear in the report- it is sometimes possible to submit interim reports which provide the Parliament with much of the information contained in the final report and lacking only the official certification. Standing instructions require this course to be followed.
Under the heading ‘General Comments’, the Committee also made suggestions relating to the format and content of annual reports. Points raised included the desirability of appendices which could supply detailed background information about the work of the reporting body. The Committee also suggested that reports could examine the extent to which Government bodies are able to fulfil their objectives, and means of improving their performance in this area. The Government appreciates the trouble the Committee has taken to remind Departments of ways in which annual reports could better fulfil the function of reporting to the Parliament, and the relevant Departments will bear these suggestions in mind in the preparation of future reports.
The third major point raised by the Committee concerned the effects of staff ceilings. The Government’s policy is to maintain the utmost restraint on the levels of public service staffing. During 1978-79, departments and authorities will be expected to absorb new functions and workload increases within existing ceilings unless it is quite unreasonable to do so. The achievement of the ceilings will require permanent heads and Ministers to explore exhaustively the possibility of redeploying staff between functions, deferring programs or reducing the level of staff activity in some areas. I present the following paper:
Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment- Ministerial Statement, 14 November 1978.
-by leave- I move:
I congratulate the Government on the initiative it is taking in recognising the importance of Senate Standing Committee reports, whether they be on annual reports or any other matter. I believe that this is a move in the right direction. This paper indicates that the Government has paid regard to the trouble taken by members and staff of the
Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment in drawing to the Government’s attention some aspects of the 13 reports that have been referred to. We did express -
– What action is it intended to take? It is just a homily that has been offered to us. We intend the Government to do more than that. We intend it to take note of the recommendations, not to render us a lesson.
– The honourable senator may care to make a speech on this report later on. I look forward to listening to what he will say. I am sure that the Government will take some notice of what he has to say in the vain hope that something may come from him that is constructive and worthy of implementation. Referring to the last part of the paper, I note the comment that was made about staff ceilings. I would draw to the Government’s attention once again the need to pay serious attention to providing adequate staffing for organisations such as the Australian Institute of Marine Science which at present is grossly understaffed. I think the Government recognises the significance of the points that we have made and I look forward to further action in that respect. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- Last Tuesday I mentioned that the Government had a full legislative program and sought the co-operation of all honourable senators in the interests of ensuring an orderly progression of business. I acknowledge their cooperation. On the Wednesday I gave notice that I would be moving to alter the days of sittings in order to provide additional sitting days to complete the Government’s legislative program. It is still not clear, however, whether the Senate will need to sit a fourth week in this month or whether all necessary legislation can be considered by Friday, the 24th, so I ask all honourable senators to keep that week free in their diaries.
At this time, I should just like to mention that we have all seen the program of legislation intended for debate this week. It sets out the 1 8 Bills the Government wishes to have considered during the week, although some of the more significant Bills may well take up more time than indicated on the program, should honourable senators require it. For instance, last week I mentioned that it was hoped to set aside three days for debate on the Appropriation Bills. Unfortunately, however, business of the Senate occupied the whole of last Thursday.
If the program is completed this week, some 24 Bills- many of which could be taken cognately- will remain for consideration next week. This should be possible, Mr President, but may not be. We will, therefore, need to consider whether the time for General Business on Thursday may be required for legislation. However, this can be raised later this week. I simply give this as an interim report to indicate the nature of the work ahead.
-by leave- I welcome the report that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) has put down and trust that he is giving us an assurance that that is to be the program, that the Government will not suddenly introduce next week new legislation which will prolong the activity of the Parliament. I think I mentioned this previously. I take it that what he has now given us is a clear program which we can consider.
– Subject to emergencies.
– Yes, it is amazing how emergencies suddenly appear unexpectedly as a result of pressure from a particular Minister or particular department, but there is no doubt that the program he has indicated is such as can be met within the times that he has indicated, and the Opposition will co-operate accordingly.
– I seek leave to amend the notice of motion standing in my name, so that the time of resumption after lunch in the notice of motion will be altered to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
Friday, 17 November 1978-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Friday, 24 November 1978-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
This Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to amend the provisions of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973 relating to the Academic Salaries Tribunal. The Act established the Remuneration Tribunal in 1973 and was amended in 1974 to establish the Academic Salaries Tribunal. Provision was made for the chairman of the former Tribunal to constitute the latter Tribunal. Due to changed circumstances the link between the two tribunals, namely the provision for the chairman of the Remuneration Tribunal to constitute the Academic Salaries Tribunal is no longer appropriate. The Chairman of the Remuneration Tribunal, the Honourable Mr Justice W. B. Campbell, has been elected Chancellor of the University of Queensland. As a result of this closer involvement with university affairs, he has indicated to the Government that he does not consider it appropriate for him to deal further with academic salaries matters. To remedy this situation the Government has decided to make changes to the Act.
Clause 3 removes restrictions on the chairman of the Remuneration Tribunal in respect of his association with tertiary academic institutions. These restrictions are no longer required because the chairman of the Remuneration Tribunal will not in future constitute the Academic Salaries Tribunal. Clause 4 breaks the nexus between the two tribunals. Concurrently with the above changes it was thought expedient to effect, through clause 4 of the Bill, some minor consequential changes to the Act. These consist of making provision for the term of office, the qualifications, resignation and dismissal of the person occupying the Office of Academic Salaries Tribunal. Incidental changes, contained in the Schedule to the Bill, are merely those designed to bring the Act up to date in the light of changed circumstances since the original Act was passed, such as the independence of Papua New Guinea.
Clause 6 is a savings clause which provides for continuity between the former Academic Salaries Tribunal and that which will be appointed in the future by ensuring that determinations made prior to these amendments to the Act shall be deemed to have effect on and after the date of commencement of this Act. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Carrick) 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 Maternity Leave (Australian Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1978 and the Superannuation Amendment 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.
Bills (on motion by Senator Carrick) together read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the text of the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Maternity Leave (Australian Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill amends the Maternity Leave (Australian Government Employees) Act to give effect to previously announced changes which are designed to reduce the possibility of exploitation and also the overall cost to the Australian taxpayer. Honourable senators may recall that a provision for maternity leave and paid benefits for public servants was introduced by a Liberal Government in 1966. When the current Maternity Leave Act was introduced by the Labor Government in 1973, members of this Government- then in Opposition- nonetheless gave notice that the provisions of the Act would require careful examination on the basis of experience gained in its administration. This examination has now been undertaken and has also taken account of the relevant International Labour Organisation convention, community practice, particularly the situation in State Public Services, and the application of the present provisions to the particular circumstances of individual employees- for example, persons on leave without pay. The provisions of this Bill reflect the conclusions of this examination.
Before outlining the changes made by the Bill, I should make it clear that the provision of appropriate maternity leave benefits is seen by the Government as an integral part of the equal employment opportunity policy it follows in relation to its own employees. Without such provisions, a number of women with needed skills and experiences would be lost to the public sector. Proper maternity leave provisions ensure that women, in whom the Government has made a considerable investment in terms of training and development of expertise are afforded employment protection by being able to continue in Commonwealth employment while also raising a family.
With the removal of the excesses of the present provisions, the Government believes the revised maternity leave scheme implemented by this Bill to be fair and reasonable, balancing the interests of the Government as an employer against its duty to the Australian taxpayer for restraint. In this respect, I should mention that the provisions of the revised scheme will be kept continually under review to ensure that the benefits are availed of in a proper manner and that the possibility of exploitation is reduced to a minimum.
The major changes made by the Bill may be summarised as follows: Deletion of paternity leave; introduction of a qualifying period of one year before paid maternity leave is availablehowever, leave provisions, without pay, will continue to apply in the first year of service; removal of automatic access to sick leave, but sick leave to be available under normal conditions; and standardisation of the amount of payment for leave for maternity purposes at twelve weeks’ pay.
I now turn to these major changes. Clause 10 abolishes paternity leave. The Government considers that the provision of paternity leave benefits for Commonwealth employees is unnecessary. It is, furthermore, ahead of community standards. Staff who wish to take leave around the time of the birth of the child will still have available to them other forms of leave. These include access to recreation leave credits, flex-time credits and leave without pay. In clause 7, provision is made for the introduction of a 12-month qualifying period in Commonwealth employment before paid maternity leave is available. The introduction of a qualifying period is consistent with the approach taken by State Public Services and with certain other conditions of employment in the Australian Public Service. The main purpose of the qualifying period is to deny the benefits of paid leave to anyone who might seek to enter Commonwealth employment for the primary purpose of availing themselves of those benefits.
Cost savings are expected from the provision in clause 7 which removes automatic access by employees on maternity leave to their sick leave credits. The change proposed by the Government will bring the use of sick leave during a maternity leave absence into line with normal sick leave conditions. For women who do not resume duty following maternity leave, the sick leave entitlement under the existing provisions becomes a ‘retirement benefit’ not available to other employees on resignation or retirement. Although access to sick leave will become dependent on the production of a medical certificate, women on maternity leave will still be able to draw on their accrued recreation and long service leave credits during the unpaid period of their maternity leave.
Provision is also made in clause 7 to standardise the amount of payment for maternity leave at 12 weeks pay. Under the present provisions, staff can receive more than 12 weeks pay if the actual date of birth of the child is later than the expected date of birth. The proposed change will ensure that all staff, provided that they have served for 12 months, will receive a common standard of 12 weeks with pay around the time of confinement. This will remove any possibility of staff notifying an early expected date of confinement to maximise their entitlement to paid leave. I should point out that while the amount of paid leave will be standardised at 12 weeks, staff will be able to elect for an addition period of leave without pay to give a total absence of up to 52 weeks.
Consistent with the amendments I have just outlined, the Bill also makes the following changes. Maternity leave may now begin not earlier than 6 weeks before the expected date of birth. The existing provision enables maternity leave to commence up to 20 weeks before the expected date of confinement; this provision was included in the 1973 Act as an extension of the provision contained in the old section 54b of the Public Service Act and is no longer considered appropriate. Sick leave will be available should there be medical complications prior to six weeks before the expected date of birth.
Any period of maternity leave that is without pay- that is, any period of leave after the first 12 weeks paid leave- will not count as service for any purpose although it will not break continuity of employment. Under the present provision, unpaid maternity leave counts as service for all purposes. The change proposed will bring maternity leave into alignment with leave without pay for other private purposes. Provision is made in clause 7 so that employees on extended leave without pay will not be entitled to paid maternity benefits for any period during which the employee has been granted leave without pay. Clause 7 also provides that maternity leave benefits will not be available to employees who are on unauthorised absence from duty, unless the Public Service Board otherwise determines in extenuating circumstances.
In addition, the opportunity has been taken to make the present provisions more flexible by the inclusion of various other amendments. The most important of these concern, firstly, the new section 7- inserted by clause 8 of the Bill- which will enable an employee to continue to work closer than 6 weeks before the expected date of confinement provided the leave officer agrees and a medical certificate is provided; a similar provision will enable an employee to resume duty earlier than 6 weeks after the birth of the child. Secondly, provision is made so that maternity leave may be taken in broken periods, that is, maternity leave may now be interspersed with periods of duty. This change will, for example, enable a mother whose child is hospitalised after premature birth to return to work should she so desire.
I conclude with an outline of the transitional provisions included in clause 1 1 of the Bill. The amendments made by the Bill will come into operation from the date of royal assent and will apply immediately to new employees who commence duty after that date. Existing employees who have been granted maternity or paternity leave before the commencing day of the amendments, or who are absent on such leave on that day, will not be affected by the amendments. In addition, staff who are eligible for the grant of maternity or paternity leave under the existing provisions and who make application to the leave officer before 1 January 1979 will retain their eligibility for such leave. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Superannuation Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill amends the Superannuation Act 1976 consequential upon the amendments made to the maternity leave provisions by the Maternity Leave (Australian Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1978. Provision is made in clause 7 of the Maternity Leave Amendment Bill so that only the first 12 weeks of maternity leave will be with pay. Any period of maternity leave taken after the first 12 weeks will be without pay and, by virtue of a new section 7B in clause 8 of the Maternity Leave Amendment Bill, periods of unpaid maternity leave will not count as service for any purpose. Consistent with the provisions of the Maternity Leave Amendment Bill, this Bill deals with the situation of contributors under the Superannuation Act and provides the superannuation arrangements that are to apply to contributors on unpaid maternity leave. The arrangements are similar to those that already apply under the Superannuation Act to contributors on other forms of leave without pay which do not count as service for superannuation purposes.
Clauses 3 and 7 are the key provisions of this Bill. Clause 3 has the effect that any period of unpaid maternity leave will not be included as part of the period of contributory service for superannuation purposes. Clause 7 inserts a new section 51a in the Superannuation Act which provides that where a contribution day occurs during a period of unpaid maternity leave, no contributions are to be payable by the female employee on that contribution day. The new section will also enable regulations to be made so that the Superannuation Act may be modified to deal with the various situations that may arise under the new maternity leave provisions. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Durack) 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 Export Expansion Grants Bill 1978 and the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment 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.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) together read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speeches in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Export Expansion Grants Bill 1978
On 13 April the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) made a comprehensive statement to the House announcing a series of export development initiatives the Government had decided to take. These initiatives were directed towards encouraging Australian firms to more actively seek out and pursue export opportunities and to increase their export sales. The purpose of this Bill is to bring into effect one of the key measures described in the statement- namely a new export incentives scheme based on increased export performance. Its introduction now will give the trading community concrete evidence that the Government is determined to fulfil its promise to bring in the new export incentives scheme and at the same time give Parliament adequate opportunity of seeing how the Government intends the new scheme to operate.
The debate on the Bill and its enactment will take place during the current session by which time honourable senators will have had the opportunity to thoroughly consider the issues involved. Dealing with the matter in this way will not affect the entitlements under the new scheme. As previously announced grants will be payable in respect of increased exports in 1977-78 over the base period of the preceding three years.
The new scheme will be complementary to the current export market development grants scheme which has been in force for some years but which by itself does not give sufficient encouragement for increased exports. With respect to the EMDG scheme honourable senators will recall that, following the report of the Industries Assistance Commission, the Government announced that it had accepted the Commission’s recommendations and that appropriate amendments would be made to the Act. Intended amendments to the Act were set out in the Minister’s statement to the House of 13 April 1978. It should be noted that the current provisions of the Export Market Development Grants Act remain in force for the 1977-78 grant year. Applications for grants in respect of the 1 977-78 grant year should therefore be made in the normal manner and application forms will be made available shortly.
The Bill now before the Senate will provide a financial incentive by way of grants to encourage exporters to improve their export performance and more actively pursue export opportunities. This measure is in accordance with the Government’s long-term policy of providing encouragement for the development of export orientated industries. The cost of this scheme is estimated to be about $66m in the first year of its operation. It will operate until 30 June 1982 with allowance for review before this date to ascertain whether the scheme be extended or modified.
Honourable senators will note that similar administrative provisions to that of the current
Export Market Development Grants Act are proposed- The scheme will be administered by the Export Development Grants Board. There will be an additional provision to permit appeals against the Board’s decisions to be heard by an independent body- the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The Export Expansion Grants Bill provides for the payment of taxable cash grants calculated on a formula applied to the increase in exports in the grant year over the average annual exports in the three immediately preceding years. Provision is to be made by way of regulation for a variation of the base period relating to particular goods and services to take account of special situations, and for the Board to determine if it considers such action warranted the base period figure for individual claimants who have been affected by abnormal trading conditions or extraordinary circumstances.
I will now draw the attention of honourable senators to some of the particular provisions where the Bill spells out the Government’s intentions in more detail than previously given. In the case of new exporters, it will be necessary to make provision for the Board to determine a notional base so as to avoid damaging the interests of existing exporters and yet retain an incentive. Accordingly the Bill provides for new exporters to be given a notional base figure which will be equal to two-thirds of the grant year export earnings. The scheme is to cover exports of manufactured goods, some bulk farm and agricultural products, services provided overseas, value added industrial services provided in Australia performed on overseas owned items subsequently re-exported, and the sale of industrial property rights and know-how that are of substantially Australian origin.
The new scheme is designed to provide incentives to those export sectors that will be most responsive to such incentives and to distribute the funds available in an equitable manner as between small and large exporters. The Bill will therefore provide for, initially, a list of exclusions that are considered not to lend themselves to this kind of incentive. Accordingly the Government has decided to exclude certain items from the scheme at this stage. These are listed in clause 3 of the Bill. Generally speaking the items excluded relate to materials in the raw or unprocessed state with very little value added. Export earnings arising from eligible goods are to be the f.o.b. value of the goods themselves including packaging and export payment insurance premiums. In the case of supply overseas of eligible services and including internal value added industrial services such as ship and aircraft repair to foreign vessels, the export earnings will be the value of the net considerations received or receivable from the overseas party to the contract.
Entitlement to a grant is to be vested in those individuals, partnerships, companies or approved bodies who are carrying on business in Australia and who have increased their export earnings in respect of eligible goods, services and know-how. The person who will be entitled to receive a grant will be the person who is the Australian contracting party in the export transaction with the overseas buyer, and is entitled to the export earnings resulting from the contract. In short, those who have sought out the opportunities for increasing exports and who carry the responsibility to see the export transactions through, will be entitled to the grants.
As I have previously mentioned the amendments to the Export Market Development Grants Act will be introduced for passage in the current sittings. The two schemes taken together will provide a comprehensive program of incentives to underpin the Government’s long-term policy of encouraging the development of export oriented productive resources. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill proposes amendment of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act to give effect to the Government’s decision to authorise Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to provide indemnities to banks or other financial institutions which issue tender, performance or related guarantees. These guarantees are provided on behalf of Australian firms tendering for or undertaking overseas contracts involving the export of goods or services from Australia. This facility, which the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) announced in February and outlined again in his statement to Parliament in April on the Government’s new export initiatives, will greatly enhance the tender prospects of Australian exporters. The action is in line with the Government’s policy of continually reviewing the range of facilities available through EFIC in the light of changes in world trading patterns and practices. It will ensure that Australian exporters are in a position to compete on equal terms with their overseas competitors. The Bill also proposes a number of amendments of a housekeeping nature. These changes are designed to bring various provisions of the Act into line with those in recent comparable statutory authority legislation. They also cover the repeal of superannuation and judicial provisions which have been made redundant by subsequent legislation.
In recent years performance and related guarantees and bonds have become an integral part of many overseas contracts and a prerequisite to consideration of tenders, particularly in Middle East markets. The Bill does not attempt to precisely define these contractual guarantees. However, in general terms arrangements such as bid or tender bonds, performance guarantees, surety deposits, retention money gurantees and advance payment guarantees are covered. Guarantees are usually required in the form of a written undertaking provided by a bank or financial institution. They guarantee the payment of a stated sum of money should the successful tenderer fail to fulfil its contractual obligations. They are normally issued against the security of a firm’s capital base or net worth and can vary from 1 or 2 per cent to as much as 20 per cent of the value of individual contracts. As such they represent a heavy contingent liability for Australian exporters.
Many relatively lightly capitalised firms, particularly consultants and contractors, have found they do not have the asset backing to meet the present criteria for the provision of performance guarantees. They are consequently prevented from tendering for overseas contracts which require such guarantees. In some cases this situation can arise as a result of a firm’s success in obtaining business both locally and overseas and this can lead to the loss of worthwhile export opportunities to which Australia is capable of responding. The growing size of international construction projects, the increasing magnitude of individual contracts and the impact of inflation on company financial structures are further factors compounding the problems facing banks and other bonders when considering the extent of the support they are able to provide. In this climate even the more substantially capitalised firms can experience difficulties in providing the security sought by their financiers and the new facility will also help them to bid for additional overseas contracts. Given the level of expertise in the Australian consultancy and construction industries the Government considers that a greater level of export success can be achieved with improved bonding facilities.
This type of facility is not new. Governments in many overseas countries for example United Kingdom, United States of America and Japan, have recognised the limitations of the commercial sector in this area and are facilitating the provision of performance guarantees through their official export credit and financing agencies. It is in these circumstances, and in the knowledge that export success by Australian consultants and contractors can lead to follow-up orders of Australian capital equipment, that the Government has decided to introduce this facility. Although the measures proposed will have the greatest application to the consultancy and construction industries it will not be restricted to them. Exporters of products who encounter a need to provide bonds on overseas contracts, such as bid and tender bonds, will also be able to avail themselves of this new facility. It is the Government’s view that the needs of Australian exporters can best be met by EFIC indemnifying a portion of the liability involved in those instances where banks or other financial institutions are unable to accommodate the total amount of a firm’s requirements. The Australian trading banks, which presently cater for approximately 90 per cent of the guarantees provided for overseas contracts, welcome this approach.
Under the provisions of the Bill EFIC will not provide guarantees directly to Australian firms. Rather, firms seeking guarantees for overseas contracts will continue to make the initial approach to the commercial sector. If the bank or other financial institution is not in a position to provide the full amount of the guarantee, an approach can be made to EFIC for cover on the balance. EFIC will seek maximum private sector participation in each case and will require a minimum private sector participation of 5 per cent. This requirement for private sector participation is embodied in the Bill, thus ensuring that EFIC supplements, rather than supplants, existing private sector facilities. EFIC will assess each application on commercial grounds before deciding to underwrite a particular guarantee. The Corporation will continue its present practice of declining to cover commercially unacceptable risks.
In view of the risk factors associated with this type of business and with the Corporation’s risk less well secured, the Government has determined that an initial limit of $30m will be placed on the level of contingent liability in respect of performance guarantees provided by EFIC at any time. This approach is consistent with limits placed on EFIC’s other facilities and will be reviewed in the light of the Corporation ‘s experience in this new field. The Bill also provides for EFIC to refer cases which involve particularly high risks, or which it is not authorised to undertake, to the Government for consideration in the national interest. This provision is similar to those which apply to EFIC’s other facilities. Such applications will continue to require private sector participation.
The Government believes that EFIC is well equipped for this particular task. Through the operation of its present payments insurance and credit faciities it has developed skills and has acquired experience in assessing the credit worthiness and integrity of overseas buyers. It also has considerable knowledge of the ability of Australian consultants and contractors to fulfil overseas contracts. In addition EFIC has a close working relationship with the commercial and banking sectors and, as a member of the Berne Union, the international association of credit insurers, the Corporation has access to that body’s substantial repository of technical knowledge and experience in this field.
The introduction of this facility forms a part of the Government’s enlarged export development program designed to encourage Australian firms to increase their export sales and more actively pursue export opportunities. The proposal to introduce this performance guarantee facility has been enthusiastically welcomed by the Australian consultancy and construction industries. Its introduction will encourage these and other Australian export industries to tender for overseas contracts which would have been beyond their reach without this new facility. I commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Durack) 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 Bounty (MetalWorking Machine Tools) Bill 1978 and the two associated Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) together read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the second reading speeches in regard to each Bill.
The speeches read as follows-
Bounty (Metal- Working Machine Tools) Bill 1978
The purpose of the Bounty (Metal- Working Machine Tools) Bill 1978 is to give effect to the Government’s decision to provide assistance, by way of a revised bounty scheme, to the metal working machine tools industry in Australia. Honourable senators will be aware that assistance, by way of bounty, at the rate of one-third of the factory cost of the machine, is currently accorded to the manufacture in Australia of certain machine tools and drilling machines under the Metal Working Machine Tools Act 1972 and the Bounty (Drilling Machines) Act 1978.
Following advice from the Industries Assistance Commission in its report No. 155 of 23 December 1977 on metal working machine tools it has been decided that, in order to maintain at least the nucleus of a machine tool industry in Australia, the assistance currently provided is to continue and bounty assistance at the same rate is to be paid to Australian manufacturers of nonportable power operated metal working machine tools of the metal removing, forming and shearing type. It has also been decided, with a view to influencing the maintenance of design activity in Australia, that an additional bounty, at the rate of one-quarter of design costs incurred in Australia, will be paid to Australian manufacturers involved in the design of machines covered by the Bill. The revised scheme, which is to be operative as from 25 May 1978, will cease on 30 June 1984 or such later date as is fixed by proclamation.
Clause 21 of the Bill continues the Government’s policy of expanding, wherever possible, the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to administrative decisions which affect the rights or entitlements of persons under Commonwealth legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Bounty (Drilling Machines) Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of the Bounty (Drilling Machines) Amendment Bill 1978 is to make consequential amendments of a transitional nature to the Bounty (Drilling Machines) Act 1978, phasing out the bounty scheme under this Act from 25 May 1978. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of the Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Amendment Bill 1978 is to make consequential amendments, of a transitional nature, to the Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Act 1972, phasing out the bounty scheme under this Act from 25 May 1978. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this amending Bill is to permit the continuation of assistance to Tasmania up to 30 June 1980 in respect of the continued operation of the Mount Lyell mine at Queenstown. Honourable senators will recall that the principal Act provided for assistance to Tasmania for Mt Lyell for the period ending on 30 June 1978 and that the assistance was provided pending the final Industries Assistance Commission’s report on copper ores and concentrates.
The Government considered the final report and on 28 June announced that the Commonwealth would continue assistance for Mount Lyell for the three months after 1 July 1978 pending the outcome of negotiations with Tasmania and the Mount Lyell company on the question of further assistance to the company. Commonwealth assistance in relation to the period 1 July to 30 September 1978 is estimated to be of the order of $ 1 m, although the recent recovery in copper prices can be expected to have reduced the Commonwealth contribution.
On 23 August 1978 it was announced that the Commonwealth had reached agreement with the Tasmanian Government and the company to provide assistance for the operation of the Mount Lyell mine for a further 2 1 month period ending on 30 June 1980. The Bill now before the Senate would permit agreements to be made to extend assistance up to 30 June 1980. The Bill provides for a limit of $3. 8m in respect of Commonwealth assistance for the 21 months to 30 June 1980, subject to Tasmania itself bearing at least half the cost of the assistance to the company in that period.
The Government has been prepared to share the cost of assistance to Mount Lyell for the 2 1 months on a dollar for dollar basis with Tasmania because of the serious consequences which would be suffered by the long-established but isolated Queenstown community and regions should the mine close. The Government was aware of the level of private ownership of community facilities such as housing in Queenstown, which is unusually high for mining towns. It was also conscious that the company has achieved a substantial reduction in the cost of mine production and is willing to invest in new road and mine vehicles at an estimated cost of $ 1.8m over the 21 months to place the mine on a more efficient operating basis. These measures are intended to enable the mine to reach a cash break-even position by the end of the period, and so enable it to continue operations after this assistance terminates.
The Government was also mindful of the economic and social consequences for Tasmania and the people of Queenstown should the mine be forced to close down its operations at this time. Closure would involve an employment loss to Tasmania. Estimates of this loss range up to 2,000 jobs, which is between 1 per cent and 2 per cent of total employment in the State. The Commonwealth’s assistance will be by way of an interest-free section 96 grant to the Tasmanian Government, which would be repayable from future positive cash flow achieved by the Mount Lyell mine and applied to repayments to Tasmania.
Agreements between the Commonwealth and Tasmania, and between the State and the company, will be drawn up to give full effect to the arrangements agreed by the three parties. These agreements will include provisions to ensure that the Commonwealth’s interests are properly protected. There will be comprehensive auditing procedures and certification by the State Director of Mines of the necessity of the development work undertaken. Detailed requirements will be set out regarding the operation of the mine and the subsidy to be paid, including eligible costs, minimising the cash deficit, and substantial maintenance of the employment level.
Under the arrangements agreed with the State and the company, the Commonwealth contribution is estimated at about $1.6m for the 21 -month period. However, the cost could be more if copper prices do not recover to the extent expected. Accordingly the Bill proposes that there be a limit of $3.8m on the Commonwealth payments to Tasmania in relation to the period 1 October 1978 to 30 June 1980. This is the level of assistance required if the price of copper is 10 per cent less than that which has been forecast.
The three parties have agreed that if the world copper outlook deteriorates significantly, each will have the right to seek a review of the arrangements. It is of course impossible to forecast future prices with any certainty. However, it is not thought very likely that there will be substantial deterioration from present relatively low prices, and the agreements reached look rather to a degree of recovery by mid- 1980 that would allow the mine to pay its own way. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States Grants (Roads) Act 1977 by providing an additional $33m in Commonwealth grants to the
States for roadworks in both 1978-79 and 1979-80. The Bill also provides for an increase in quotas for State road expenditure from their own resources. Honourable senators will be aware that the States Grants (Roads) Act 1977 currently provides for grants totalling $475m to be made available to the States in each of the three years 1977-78 to 1979-80. In introducing the legislation in September last year, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) announced that it was the Government’s intention to adjust the grants for 1978-79 and 1979-80 so that they would be maintained at a level equivalent in real terms to the 1977-78 amount. The Bill now before the Senate will give effect to this undertaking by providing for the level of the grants for 1978-79 and 1979-80 to be increased to $508m. This is an increase of almost 7 per cent over the amount provided in 1977-78 and is based on a forecast rate of price movements in 1978-79. The Government considers that the increased level of funds for roads for which this Bill provides represents a very substantial commitment, having regard to the continuing policy of restraint in public expenditures that it has had to adopt The increase will be applied equally to all States.
Honourable senators will be aware that, in allocating its grants for 1977-78, the Government made it clear that its priorities were to ensure that the road needs of local authorities were adequately covered and that emphasis was maintained on the funding of the national road network and rural arterial roads. The additional moneys which this Bill provides have in general been allocated among road categories pro rata to the existing allocations. This will effectively ensure that the priorities inherent in those allocations are maintained. There has been a slight departure from the pro rata approach in the case of South Australia. The indexation adjustment that would normally have been added to the national commerce roads category has instead been applied to the national highways construction category. This has been done to assist the State in meeting the Commonwealth’s request that work to the value of Sim be undertaken on the Stuart Highway during 1978-79. In line with the Government’s view that road funding is a responsibility of all three levels of government, each State will be required to fund an increased quota of road expenditure from its own resources in order to qualify for Commonwealth assistance. The Government has decided that State expenditure quotas for 1978-79 should be increased by the same percentage as the Commonwealth grants. I should emphasise that the quotas represent rninimum expenditure requirements which the States are free to exceed according to the priority which they attach to their road programs.
It is pleasing to note that in recent years a number of States have exceeded their quotas by a significant amount. It is fair to say, however, that, having regard to the increases in Commonwealth general revenue assistance that have been made available in recent years, the States have been well placed to increase their own road funding efforts substantially.
The details of the legislation are quite straightforward. The Bill provides for the repeal of the schedules to the States Grants (Roads) Act 1977 and for their replacement with new schedules setting out the increased Commonwealth grants by road categories and the increased State quotas. The Bill also provides for a further minor amendment to update the reference in the principal Act to the Commonwealth transport planning and research legislation. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8 November, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When I spoke on the Appropriation Bill (No. I) 1978-79 last Wednesday, 8 November, I discussed the report of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations to the Crawford Committee on structural adjustment which was presented to Estimates Committee B of which I was a member. I outlined the important statistics which that paper revealed with regard to the very significant movements in the labour force within Australia over the last 30 years. The attendant changes in industrial structure have caused significant differences in our view as to the way industry ought to develop for the future compared to the view held 30 years ago. I referred, in particular, to the situation in various regions of the States and the Commonwealth. From the Commonwealth Government’s point of view, I tried to outline some of the problems which the Government is now facing with regard to the serious changes which have occurred in industry over the last few years. These are mainly due to the economic recession. One also has to bear in mind some of the longer term problems that industry is faced with.
Positive decisions are made by governments in seeking to encourage industrial development within States and in one State as against another. Of course, that may involve the offer of incentives by various State governments in their respective spheres and also by local government bodies. It is most important to recognise the very significant effect that the Federal Government has had in devising protectionist policies since the implementation of the White Paper on manufacturing which was first brought down, I believe, by the Curtin Government in 1945. That paper outlined, for the benefit of businessmen and industrialists in Australia, the outlook at that time. This was based on wartime experience with the near Japanese invasion of Australia and the length of time it took to deliver goods from the great manufacturing centres of Europe, in particular Britain, to Australian shores. Bearing that in mind, I suppose it was natural that those in power at the time developed manufacturing policies designed to substitute Australian made goods for imported goods. The objective was clearly to obtain self-sufficiency to an extent where our defence needs were looked after and to ensure the future employment of Australians. The labour force was built up as a result of substantial immigration at that time.
That policy has been followed substantially by all governments since then. Faith in Australia’s industrial future was not challenged until about 1976 when the Government brought down a further White Paper on manufacturing industry. That has been the subject of much discussion in the Senate on previous occasions. Suffice it to say that, during that discussion, the point was made that change in manufacturing industry in Australia was necessary, albeit on a gradual basis and after having established a firm foundation for the economy so that significant changes can occur with the least possible social and economic disruption. It seems clear to me that the Government’s action in appointing the Crawford Committee has been good. Even though we recognise that changes in industrial development will be gradual, we need to consider their very important socio-economic effects throughout Australia.
I suppose it was inevitable that since Federation, because of the nature of the compact and the outlook at the time, each State would develop its own industry base in accordance with its own facilities. Of course, that has happened to the point of disregarding many economic realities. Very little regard has been paid to the fact that some industries would have been better located in different States. They have grown unnaturally in one State or in a region of that State. We have to face the possibility that some industries may move because of natural pressures in the economy from imported goods and cheaper labour available outside Australia. Some multinational firms operate not only in this country but also overseas. They find it better and cheaper to operate factories in offshore countries rather than in Australia. As a result, significant problems are developing. This is true not only of Australia, but also Europe. For example in the Saarland in Germany, severe social dislocation is occurring because of the uneconomic nature of the German steel industry as compared with competitors in the developing nations. It is even becoming clear in the South East Asian region that nations such as Korea have a better cost structure and are more competitive. They are pushing the Japanese themselves out of the markets of the world. Australia must take note of such problems. There is no point in remaining protected behind high tariff walls without paying regard to the serious pressures which the Australian economy is under and which will continue until the 1980s. That is not to sound pessimistic. I believe that Australia is better placed than most.
– It is being realistic.
-That is correct. It is being realistic. We are facing up to the real need to alter the direction of Australia’s policies in accordance with the White Paper brought down in 1976. I refer to some of the present problem areas. It is pretty clear that Australia needs to develop more technologically efficient industries. We have spent billions of dollars on education in recent years. Australia needs to capitalise on that education expenditure. The education of the work force in Australia is far superior than is the education of the work force of any other nation in this part of the world. Obviously, the challenge is for us to make sure that we can utilise those higher skills in such a way as to develop newer industries which are far and away ahead of those of our competitors. We are thinking of the developing nations of Korea and Brazil and others with what might be called vast economic opportunities before them.
It seems to me that that must be where we start in defining our education and training directions so that we can match properly our skills with the future work force that we will need. So it becomes important for us to realise that, small individually though they might be at the start, projects such as InterScan and now Sirothem and the continuing development of organisations such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation are of the greatest future importance to Australians insofar as we can find through them new ways, new methods, new projects and new skills for the Australian work force. Certainly I believe that Australians will rise to the challenge. Indeed, we have the background required to achieve those things. Actually, I believe that that is what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was talking about in his statement last Sunday when he spoke of looking forward with optimism to the 1980s. Clearly, in some areas it is not going to be easy to face up to those challenges, but unless we do the alternative is not very nice to contemplate.
I refer now to the regional problems that we have in Australia. I mention my State of South Australia in that context because, as honourable senators would know, South Australia’s work force relies very heavily- to some extent more heavily than other States- on manufacturing as the core of its work force. We have seen that manufacturing industry develop through the positive policies of both State and Federal governments. Clearly, if there are to be changes in government policies there is a need to think through the effects of those changes and to design government policies, at both State and Federal levels, to take account of the human, social and economic problems associated with the dislocation that will occur as a result.
It is not a very nice prospect that manufacturing industry will move substantially out of South Australia, as some people have predicted, and that consequently the Federal Government will be in a position of having to take action to fund new developments or, indeed, to make very substantial contributions towards the cost of relocating people in other parts of Australia. Therefore, our policies of protection ought to be designed so that we can phase ourselves into new industries and out of others. This is happening. Indeed, in South Australia, which as honourable senators would know is very heavily involved in the white goods industry, we find that the Electrical Manufacturers Industry Advisory Council has prepared a report discussing the introduction of phased reductions in the rate of tariff applicable to white goods to make way for change. The recommendations of that body have been conveyed to the Government and incorporated in the decisions made recently in accordance with the industries Assistance Commission report. They provide for phased reductions in tariffs over the next five or 10 years to ensure that the white goods industry does change, that it does not become inefficient and, consequently, that it will meet the demands of the future.
I made an error in mentioning the word Manufacturers’ in the title of the Advisory Council to which I referred. In fact, it is not an advisory council of manufacturers at all; it is a body made up of members of the trade union movement, manufacturers, representatives of political bodies and government. The decision of that Advisory Council was taken with the consent and on the advice of all of those people sitting on the Council. It seems to me that that sort of activity indicates the direction which the Federal Government ought to take in ensuring that government policies in respect of protection- in respect of support for private enterprise throughout Australia- are aimed clearly towards developing more economic structures in our industry, towards better training of people who need to seek more skills or better skills, and to capitalise on the huge investment in education which has been made over the past 10 or 20 years in this country.
– In the course of this debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1978-79 it is important for us to remember that, following the dismissal of the former Labor Government in November 1975, under normal conditions, the Australian electorate would now be going to the polls to cast its verdict on the first three years of this Government. However, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) clearly foreseeing that the economic conditions which had deteriorated at that time would continue to do so in the course of its three years in office, decided to go to the polls a year ahead of time. There is little doubt that on the basis of the results of the by-election for Werriwa, also the New South Wales State election and, subsequently, the by-election for Ballarat, the tide is turning strongly against the Fraser Government and against its supporting governments in the States. As many of the political commentators have noted, the swing in all three elections has been uniform. It would be difficult to ascribe it merely to local circumstances.
There is an underlying belief in the electorate and amongst business that the Fraser Government’s economic policies and its style of government are heading Australia in the wrong direction. Whilst in the early years of this Government it was fashionable to speak of harsh measures as acts of courage, they are now being described as acts of desperation and, in some areas, as foolhardiness. It is appropriate that a review should be made of the first three years of Fraserism and of the effects it has had on the Australian people. Difficult as it may be, it is also appropriate to look at the future because many of the actions which have been taken in the name of Mr Fraser ‘s economic policies- in particular his federalism policy- have locked future governments, no matter what their political complexion might be, into limited courses of action.
Those people who remember the election promises of 1975 will recall that a dominant theme running throughout the Liberal-National Country Party coalition campaign was the notion of restoring confidence, of introducing stability, of conducting government with propriety and dignity and, above all and to quote the Prime Minister’s words, ‘to govern for all Australians’. Many Australians accepted that in order to fulfil those promises life would not be easy. There is no doubt from the columns of political commentators and from the recent election results that those people also expected the Government to perform and to bring about the positive changes which it claimed would be possible under the new economic management of the LiberalNational Country Party coalition.
Nobody expects any government to produce miracles. Any reasonable person recognises that international economic conditions have adversely affected the ability of Australia and of any other country to institute measures for immediate and even economic recovery. The evidence tends to show that in some areas Australia’s difficulties with industrial production and unemployment have been very similiar to those of a wide range of member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In some areas, especially those related to primary and basic metal industries, our performance has been better, whilst in other areas such as the manufacturing sector our performance has been worse, than that of other countries.
As Senator Messner noted in his comments, consideration of the international position is important. It is important, firstly, because Australia as a major trading country cannot isolate itself from the forces which are at work, especially in the major industrial countries of Japan, the United States of America and countries in Europe. Secondly, the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Country Party have now found that what the Labor Government was saying in 1974 and 1975- that is, that international economic forces are a major determinant of economic policy and conditions- in fact was correct. Thirdly, Australia can expect no rapid improvement in its domestic position if it lies around waiting for impetus from international economic recovery.
Unfortunately the responses which sections of the Government have made to the current predicament mean that Australia’s growth has been stifled, its prospects of recovery retarded rather than enhanced and immense social distress has been caused by continuing high levels of unemployment. The annual report of the Industries Assistance Commission spells out with considerable clarity that the bind in which the present Government finds itself is part of a continuing process which started in the early 1970s. Many Australians believed that we were protected from the impact of the sudden oil price rises because much of our oil was drawn from domestic sources at below world parity prices. But has anyone considered reading, for example, the figures of the Reserve Bank of Australia on price increases. They reveal that there were sudden rises in the cost of imported chemicals, manufactured products and a host of other items which were essential to our development.
The shift in oil prices also introduced an unknown degree of instability to the international money markets. Whilst I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with floating exchange rates the widespread floating of major currencies altered expectations of governments and business. Capital which was previously invested on a long-term basis started to move into shorter term investments and even short-dated government securities. The result was a greater degree of instability, as one would expect. One of the previous Government’s responses to this was greater use of the variable deposit ratio in an attempt to moderate the worst effects of some capital flow changes. This Government has had the same experiences. Last year, funds moved out in expectation of devaluation of the Australian dollar and, as the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has now found out, it is a painfully slow, arduous task to coax them back again.
Whilst it is important to remember the number of Ministers who have been removed from office under the Fraser Government and to concentrate on the broken election promises, especially about reduced taxation, stability and economic recovery, it does not solve some of the more fundamental problems which confront this country at present. It is our belief that the problems of internal party management which have bedevilled the Liberal Party are only an outward expression of inability to cope with the mandate which was given in 1975 and again in 1977. There has been no real attempt to grapple with the serious social consequences of the high rate of unemployment. There has been no real attempt to explain that the promised reductions in taxation, combined with new federalism, are a means of thrusting more and more responsibility back to the States without any commensurate compensations. There has been confrontation after confrontation, especially in industrial relations and international affairs, instead of negotiation and compromise. The result has been that very few Australians now seriously believe that the Prime Minister is governing for all Australians.
In large measure, this Government has made a rod for its own back. In the last years of the previous Labor Government, certain members of the Liberal and National Country parties relentlessly pursued often very minor matters with the sole purpose of drawing red herrings across the path and promoting maliciousness at a time when any government would have been experiencing difficulties in adjusting to rapidly deteriorating economic conditions. The most interesting exercise was that involving the proposed overseas borrowings of that Government. There is no denying that the proposals were unconventional, but many measures which were taken by governments around that time were also unconventional. The Bretton Woods Agreement had effectively been scrapped and the United States dollar was under threat and so on.
Most importantly, the Labor Government wanted to borrow the funds overseas for the purpose of developing Australia’s resources. Much of the borrowings would have been to finance the infrastructure borrowings for which the present Fraser Government has now given the States permission to borrow overseas. A greater part of the borrowings would have been used to provide loan or equity capital for a large number of mineral developments which Australian firms are now having difficulty in financing. In contrast, this Government has now borrowed more than $3,500m overseas and there is a likelihood that if there is no real recovery in the economy, that sum could become $5,000m within the next 18 months. The sole purpose of these borrowings is to prop up the Australian dollar. I make it quite clear that the Australian Labor Party would not openly canvass any course of action which would undermine Australia’s overseas trading position, but I must observe that in spite of the Government’s economic policies, concern has been expressed by organisations such as the Livestock and Grain Producers Association. That very important primary industry group had this to say at its last general council meeting on 26 September:
. this Council endorse the Economic Committee’s view that members should be aware of the possibility that inflation at the end of this year might be substantially higher than S per cent and interest rates might not fall below the current levels because of-
The resolution then went on:
The Association renew its call for the devaluation of the Australian dollar accompanied by equivalent tarin” reductions and a cessation of overseas borrowings.
I have quoted that resolution because it is amongst the first to appear since the Government brought down its 1978 Federal Budget and also because it comes from a group which certainly would not be described as antagonistic to the present Government. While the rapidly increasing overseas borrowings have not reached a dangerous proportion of our gross national product, it must be realised that they do carry interest and the greater the level of borrowings, the larger the commitments for 1980 and beyond. The loans already undertaken by the present Government create total interest and capital repayment commitments of $2, 100m for the five financial years for the period 1980 to 1985. Along with internal measures which have been taken by this Government, such large and growing commitments reduce the flexibility of future government to deal with economic problems. The whole strategy rests upon a view that the level and value of exports will increase, the value of imports will drop or rise at a slower rate than exports and the costs of invisibles which are becoming a greater drain on our resources will not rise. These are very dubious assumptions. The problems in the short run have become all the greater with the decision enforced on the trading banks to lower overdraft interest rates. Without being unduly cynical. I have to note that the Prime Minister announced the reduction of half of one per cent in interest rates on the same day that taxpayers were feeling the pinch of the five per cent increase in pay-as-you-earn deductions.
There are several problems with the Government’s interest rate policies. The first is that if the Government maintains the pressure, it will run counter to the attempts it is making to induce the investment of overseas capital in this country. In the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, which are the major suppliers of private capital to this country, interest rates are now increasing. On Friday, 3 November of this year, for example, Barclay’s Bank Ltd announced that its basic rate would rise to 11.5 per cent. This brings this major world bank’s interest rates into line with those of other major lenders in the northern hemisphere. Under these circumstances, what inducement is there for an investor or a lender placing funds in Australia, especially if there is some exchange risk associated with those loans or with the investment? Whilst the drop in interest rates is superficially attractive it may reduce the prospect of an investment-led recovery upon which this Government still appears to be relying very heavily, even though this recovery was supposed to occur from 1976 onwards.
On the domestic scene, the reduction is largely cosmetic. The banks and their finance company subsidiaries have changed the composition of lending. Less reliance is placed on overdrafts, term loans with fixed interest rates, hire purchase and lease finance, as well as unsecured personal loans and bankcard funding for consumer spending. There has been no reduction in the rates of interest applying to the major sources of short-term consumer finance. For instance, the annual bankcard rate which is around 18 per cent, is hardly an inducement for a person in an environment of high unemployment to go out and spend.
The figures prepared by the Department of Industry and Commerce show that manufacturing capacity is now running at 76 per cent utilisation and there is little doubt that selective government capital expenditure would allow that excess to be taken up, additional people to be employed and inflation still to be kept in check. There is also some necessity to assist the confidence which increased employment would bring by encouraging consumption in selected areas. Already the Government has reversed a declared policy of not reducing sales tax on motor cars and there are other areas where similar reductions could be made in the short run. There would be some loss of revenue, but I suggest that it would be partially offset by the reduction in the payment of unemployment benefits and other welfare payments which are connected with unemployment. Stimulation of investment in export oriented industries is more difficult because the lead times involved really make this a longer term proposal. However, I am conscious that many smaller and medium size firms do not have the research facilities available to assess where the investment should be made as well as to prepare submissions for raising the necessary funds. An immediate measure would be to provide these firms with expertise to undertake these assessments and to make these submissions. The Management Services Division of the Australian Industry Development Corporation could be a vehicle for this type of action.
Last year, when we reviewed the variable results of the Government’s policies, I mentioned that the time might have come for Australian governments to review seriously the possibility of a shorter working week. In part, the proposal was intended to deal with the immediate short run problems of chronic unemployment in Australia, and in the longer run to cope with the increasing technological change and the impact that will have on employment. As a nation we must not be seen to run away from this issue, although many people would claim that any cuts in working hours increase costs.
– It is over 30 years since the last change in the working week.
– That is a pertinent interjection because I was about to say that in the 1948 case before the Arbitration Court, when the unions argued for a reduction in the working week from 44 hours to 40 hours, those very arguments were put forward- that the costs would be so great that the country’s economy would be sent broke. We know from history that that did not occur and we should not be deterred by those arguments. The fact is that if a government acts responsibly it can introduce a graduated system of reduction in the working week. I think we all would accept that any rash reduction might create difficulties for us in these particular times, but that is no reason why a government should run away from the need to look very seriously at this question.
Before I close I have a few comments to make on the question of the new federalism, about which I have made considerable comment in this chamber. This is the area in which the Fraser Government is attempting to absolve the Commonwealth of responsibility for important areas, to force greater and greater responsibility on to the States and, in turn, under Stage 2 of the proposal to force the States to introduce State income taxes. Any notion that the States would be able to pay tax rebates would be farcical. More recently Sir Charles Court, the Western Australian Premier, has announced that his State has decided to defer the introduction of the legislation to establish Stage 2. That is important because Sir Charles Court was the only Premier who made any suggestion that he might be prepared to introduce the necessary legislation for a State income tax. His name is just another one that can be added to the long list of names of
Premiers who have given undertakings that they will not introduce a State income tax.
Much of the impetus for the new federalism comes from the Government’s obsession with the size of the Budget deficit. It is an obsession that results in financial cosmetic surgery by having statutory authorities, such as Telecom Australia and the Australian Wool Corporation, raise funds on the Australian market while the States have to fall back to pruning capital expenditure and competing with other bodies for funds. In spite of the misleading figures which the Leader of the Government constantly trots out, the States have received less in real terms than they did under the previous Government. That has been the case particularly in respect of payments for capital works.
Again, while the infrastructure borrowing by the State governments to which the Prime Minister (Mr Fraser) agreed at last Monday’s Loan Council meeting may be superficially attractive, it creates some very real problems. It goes back to the early 1920s when the States raised funds on their own account. There are considerable advantages in having the funds raised by the Federal Government and in those payments being made to the States to ensure that there is an even rate of economic development throughout the whole of Australia. The loans which the Commonwealth has agreed the States may arrange will be for a period of 8 years. The terms and conditions, of course, will be approved only by the Commonwealth. This is another measure which locks both the Federal and State governments into policies which may be impossible to modify effectively over the period for which approval is given. This allegedly new concept is really not new at all. It represents a reversion to the chaotic days of State income taxation and independent overseas loan raisings. It was a hard road to change that situation, but the Prime Minister seems determined on Australia returning to those pre-Depression days.
Regrettably, any review of three years of the Fraser Government is an unhappy one. The only achievement has been the reduction in the rate of inflation, but that has been achieved at tremendous cost. Unemployment is now running at over 6 per cent of the work force. Pensions are now indexed every 12 months instead of every six months. Promised tax reductions have been removed and, while claimed to be a temporary measure, probably will prove to be permanent. Full wage indexation has been dropped and tax indexation is now one-third indexation instead of full or even half indexation. The defence White
Paper has been scrapped. The manufacturing industry White Paper has been a non-event. Medibank has been pruned right back. Apart from the electoral setbacks which the Government has suffered in the two major States of Victoria and New South Wales, there is growing disenchantment with the Fraser style of government and the policies which it is administering. It is a worry that the confrontation and division which have become a hallmark of his Government are hindering a return to prosperity and making restoration of confidence a herculean task in a fragile economic climate.
– We are debating the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1978-79 and the subject matter of that Bill has already been canvassed by the people who have spoken. On this occasion I take the opportunity to speak about a number of minor matters which are related to the Appropriation Bill. I hope to talk about the role of the Estimates committees, the assistance that is given to the functioning of the committees and the contribution that is made by the departments both to the committee activity and to the work that follows the committee activity, plus one or two problems which we have found in the Estimates committees which I am a member, namely, Estimates Committee D.
When I was first elected to this Parliament some three years ago the committees were well established and, like other things that one accepts when one moves into this chamber, I accepted them as part of the procedure of the House. I did not appreciate that they had been introduced into the proceedings of the Senate only comparatively recently and that a good deal of thought had gone into setting them up and giving them the role which they were to play. Recently I did what I should have done a long time ago- namely, shortly after I was elected to this place- that is, to go back and look at the original purpose of the Senate Estimates committees to see the background which went into the setting up of those committees. For the comments that I am going to make I have drawn heavily on two excellent articles by the Deputy Clerk, Mr Bullock- one in the Parliamentarian, No. 2 of 1971, and the other in volume 40 of the Table. In all sincerity, I commend these to the newer members of the Senate- those who have come here since 1972.
In the interests of those honourable senators and perhaps one or two others, I will give a little of the background of the Estimates committees. As the older senators know, they grew out of the Clerk’s report of 17 March 1970 and are based on the Canadian system. The then Leader of the Government, Sir Kenneth Anderson, in June 1970 put forward a proposition that five committees be established. There was some discussion between the government, the Opposition and the then minority group, the Democratic Labor Party, on whether the established committees could handle the matters that were going to be put before the Estimates Committees. I will not go into the debate that ensued but simply make the comment that the decision was made at that time to establish five Estimates Committees. As to the purpose of the Committees, the Leader of the Opposition at that time, Senator Murphy, when speaking in the debate on the fifth report of the Standing Orders Committee on 28 September 1972, as recorded at page 1331 of Ilansard, had this to say:
After all, the purpose of the Estimates Committees is to examine on behalf of this chamber, in effect, the public accounting of expenditure for the previous financial year and the necessity for and details of the proposed expenditure for the current financial year.
I emphasise here the two roles to which Senator Murphy drew attention. One was the public accounting of expenditure for the previous financial year, and I will have some more words to say later about accountability and public accounting, and the other was the necessity for and the de- tails of the proposed expenditure for the current financial year. That second role breaks down into two sections- the necessity for and the details of the proposed expenditure. I think it is fair to say that the Senate Estimates Committees were well received by both the Senate and the Press at that time. At the conclusion of his report the President had this to say:
In conclusion, reference is made to the effect of operations of the committees on the Senate itself. With the specialised knowledge acquired by Senators at committee hearings, debate is noticeably more penetrating. There is a new and valuable rapport with officers of the Public Service. And with allparty goodwill, there is a recognition of the role of committees in the strengthening of the parliamentary system.
A member of the then Opposition, Senator McClelland, made some comments which were quoted by the Deputy Clerk, Mr Bullock, in one of his articles. Speaking about Senator McClelland, Mr Bullock had this to say:
He regarded the committee system as of paramount importance, not only because it would better inform Members of the Senate on administrative matters relating to the various departments but more importantly because it would maintain and assert the authority of the parliament over the executive and the bureaucracy.
That is sufficiently important for me to read again. Mr Bullock quoted Senator McClelland as having said:
The Press was equally happy about the way in which the Senate Estimates Committees were operating and an article headed ‘Revolution in the Senate ‘ in the Melbourne Sunday Observer of 25 October 1970 made the following comment:
One thing is clear. These Senate Committees are getting the work done and eliciting more worthwhile information than ever they did under the old system.
So, to sum up, I state my views, and I feel that they are shared by the members of Estimates Committees. The purpose of the Estimates Committees is to ascertain for John Citizen- perhaps we should call him Charlie Constituent in this case- or the people who provide the money through their taxes, the two things that Senator Murphy mentioned- the public accounting of expenditure for the previous financial year and the necessity for and the details of the proposed expenditure. It is given to Charlie Constituent or the elector to make his decision every three years but, let us face it, there is a long time between one election and the next, even with the present Government, so he needs a watchdog in the form of his representative over what is happening in the Estimates.
We ail know that some governments feel that an election gives them a mandate to do almost anything and I have commented on this before in this place. We know very well that few voters accept everything in any one policy; they vote for the Party which they feel gives them the most or with whose policy they agree the most. It also needs to be said that some governments do not do what they said they would do when they made their policy speech and we have an excellent example of this in the present Government which sets about breaking promises. We all know that this Budget is called the Budget of broken promises. I do not want to labour this point but I stress that the elector, the constituent, needs eternal vigilance over what is happening with the money which he gives to the Government through his taxation for the running of the country.
I repeat that the elector needs to know what the money is being spent on and why the decision was made to spend the money on a particular item and not on some other item. In other words, he needs to know the setting of the priorities. He needs to know also that his money is being well and wisely spent. I revert to the comment made in the Melbourne Sunday
Observer back in 1970 and say that we are getting more work done and eliciting more worthwhile information than we did under the old system. I think that would be generally agreed by those who were here both before and after the introduction of Estimates Commitees. Why is this so? I believe there are a number of reasons. One is the assistance given by the departments appearing before the Estimates Committees. The majority of departments- I stress that it is the majority although there are one or two that do not do all they have to do or should do- do all they can and I commend them for it. They give us an excellent presentation of explanatory material in most cases. They are prepared to comply with requests from year to year with respect to the manner of presentation and the sort of information that we would like to see in the explanatory notes. We commend them for the quality of replies they give us.
Some of the people who come before the Committees have absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of the workings of their department. I was moved to commend an officer from the Department of Construction, Mr Rodda. Despite the fact that his Department ranges all over Australia and does construction work for all the departments of Government, he was able to give full and detailed answers relating to places ranging from the Cocos Islands down to Tasmania and up to the north of Queensland. This sort of ability and the amount of background that this man has was well appreciated by the Committee. We commend officers for the open approach they bring to the Committee meetings. We expect this; nevertheless, they are to be commended. I will draw attention later to one or two instances where this did not happen, but in most cases the officers come openly and try to give as much information as they can. We commend them also for the quality of the additional material which is made available to us as a result of requests made by the Estimates Committees.
I would like to make some comment about the work of the Committee secretariat and the work done by the secretaries not only in the organisation and the setting up of the Committees but also in the giving of assistance to the Committee members during the Committee hearings. I congratulate the Government on the appointment of research staff which is an innovation of the last twelve months. It is good to see research staff being made available to the Committees- not to individual members but to the Committees- to assist in going through the explanatory material and the appropriations. I draw attention to the contribution of Ministers because I feel that they have a particularly onerous task, and I will draw attention to it later. They have to answer questions on policy and protect their officers. However, all the Ministers with whom 1 have been associated in my brief time in this place have tried hard to be as helpful as they can be to the Committee members from both sides of the chamber. I refer also to the evenhanded approach of the chairmen, or perhaps chairpersons since some of the chairmen are women, for the way in which they allow the Government and Opposition members- in fact, all members of the Committee- to put their questions and then assist them in getting the answers for which they are looking. In the final analysis the strength of the Committees lies in their members. Some of the members do a lot of homework in the preparation of their questions. They seek information in what is basically a non-partisan way. When I was talking about the Ministers I indicated that we are all agreed that questions are put to them on matters of policy and questions are put to officials on matters of details, and the officers of the various departments must be protected by their Minister.
I now draw attention to a couple of problem areas that have been identified during the recent hearings of my Committee. They perhaps extend back over a couple of years. The comments I make will be fairly general. Sometimes decisions are taken by government which are not covered by legislation and I put the question: Is it sufficient for the Minister to say in answer to a question that a decision has been taken by the Government to do such and such a thing without any reference to legislation which has been enacted? The Minister might simply say that a decision has been taken to do something and hope that the Committee, and through it the constituent, will be happy with the answer. I suggest that it is not sufficient simply to say: ‘A decision has been taken’. Surely in line with the sorts of comments that were made in the initial debates in setting up the committees, some of the comments that have been made since in the reports and even some of the comments which I have read this evening, the Minister should be prepared to give reasons why a decision was taken. No doubt there are good reasons why that decision was taken but the public is entitled to know them. Of course in the national interest some decisions may not be disclosed but I would suggest that not many decisions would fall into this category. Most of the decisions taken are able to be made public knowledge through the medium of the Estimates Committee.
This leads me to the next question: Should committee meetings be held in camera or should there be an opportunity available for a Minister or an officer to give information in camera? I will not canvass the debate that was held on this issue some years ago but I will read from the document entitled Fifth Report from the Standing Orders Committee In Camera Evidence before Estimates Committees. The chairman of that Committee, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, had this to say:
The Standing Orders Committee has considered the matter and recommends that any decision that any Estimates Committee take in camera evidence shall be made only by the Senate itself upon receiving a Special Report from that particular Committee.
That decision, after a good deal of argument, was agreed to by the Senate. So, the suggestion was made that in camera evidence is not to be given. But one should not see the Minister or the officers of the department concerned taking advantage of that decision. After all, any information which should be made available can be made available and it should not be necessary to come back to the Senate and ask that special approval be given for a committee to meet in camera.
I would like to look now at the role of the statutory bodies and ask whether they should be exempt from making evidence available. I refer the Senate to the excellent speech made by Senator Susan Ryan on Wednesday of last week in which she dealt with this matter. I will not canvass the material which she covered, but will raise a few more points. It is quite clear that these groups- these statutory bodies- should not be exempt except in quite exceptional circumstances. I can immediately see one exceptional circumstance which was brought up during our recent estimate committee hearings. The officers of the Australian National Gallery declined to say what items they were going to purchase during the next 12 months, with a fairly logical explanation that, if they nominated the purchases they wished to make, obviously such a disclosure would have an effect on the market price.
The members of Estimates Committee D were not happy about the way in which this information was given but that was probably because at that time there was a strong feeling that the National Gallery, through the Department of Home Affairs, had given very little information about its proposed activities. In fact, the Director made the extraordinary statement that we could look at the brochures which were sold at exhibitions of the Gallery if we wanted to find out what was going on. No brochures were offered to us. It was suggested that we might go out and get ourselves one of these brochures in order to find our how the National Gallery was spending the taxpayers’ money. I submit that this was certainly not good enough. The taxpayer is entitled to have such information. The questions are put to us as parliamentarians and they are quite often put in fairly blunt ways. I put this point to our estimates committee. An example of the sorts of questions that people from my Territory ask is: What is the Government wasting our money on this year?’ Perhaps that is just the manner of presentation of the question and I am not suggesting at all that money is wasted by the National Gallery.
I think the taxpayer is entitled to know what the trend is of the buying of the department. The taxpayer provides the money for these statutory bodies- the National Gallery and many othersand he is entitled to know how it is being spent and of course why it is being spent. He is entitled to know what is the philosophy of the Gallery and what we are trying to do with the quite considerable amount of money that is allocated to it each year. I notice that Senator Ryan in her contribution drew attention to the fact that in considering the estimates of the Department of Home Affairs one senator who asked questions was told that he should read the annual report. Again, I do not think that is sufficient information. I think that the information contained in the annual report ought to have been available to the senator through the officers. It is interesting to note that the National Gallery and other groups miss the opportunity of some very good public relations work which we as parliamentarians can do as we move around the country. We could say what the Gallery is trying to do and what the different other statutory bodies are trying to do, and in that way win support for the case which they might want to put forward.
The matter of a statutory body being required to give information extends to organisations funded by statutory bodies. I draw attention to bodies funded by the Australia Council. During the Estimates Committee hearings a suggestion was made that bodies funded by the Australia Council should appear before the Estimates Committee. The Minister considered this and said that he preferred the Council to handle the questions but, if the committee insisted, it could be arranged for members of these various bodies to come before it. I will read the comment made by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott). He had this to say in the body of a letter addressed to Senator Maunsell: . . expenditure by the various bodies of funds provided by the Australia Council is the responsibility of the Council.
This is the important part:
This is not in any way to suggest that the organisations have no responsibility to the Parliament for the funds which are allocated to them.
Two points arise out of that letter. Firstly, the Government suggests that, if the Committee insists, arrangements would be made for members of these bodies to come before the Committee. The second and most important point is the accountability of recipient organisations- in other words what Senator Ryan commented on; the reasons for them- this information should come to the Parliament through the Council. I realise that it throws a great deal of responsibility on the Council to be briefed on the activities of all the organisations which receive financial assistance and also to have for the benefit of members of estimates committees some indication of the reason why one organisation and not another was funded. Nevertheless, that is the role of the Council and it must be prepared to assume it at that time.
We have a somewhat different situation with a large expenditure organisation such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I am afraid this situation is a little like the Parkinson’s Law situation and the old bicycle shed. If one looks at the records of Estimates Committee D one will find that following Parkinson’s Law we spent a good deal of time considering items of several thousand dollars and unfortunately not quite so much time considering items of several million dollars. So, we ask the question here again in the same vein. Is it sufficient for the Minister or any of the officers to say: ‘The Executive has decided that . . .’ certain things should be done and give that as the only reason? Looking at the Murphy statement again, I submit that that is not sufficient.
We are being told what is being done but we are not being told why it is being done. A cynic might come along and say: ‘Perhaps you are duplicating research.’ We actually had a case of that last year which we drew to the attention of CSIRO where some research was being done in one State and was being duplicated in another State. The same cynic might say: ‘Perhaps all this research is being done only to allow officers to go off and get their PhDs ‘. I am not suggesting for a moment that I agree with this proposition but we must have the information why certain pieces of research are undertaken. An excellent document is being produced by CSIRO that shows what is being done. Now we need to have, through our estimates committees, if requested, an indication why these things are being done.
Another point to which one might draw the attention of the Committee on which I have been sitting is the discrepancy between treatment of the Territories by the Federal Government. The Government must surely give reasons why the Australian Capital Territory is given favoured treatment over the Northern Territory. The public is entitled to know why this is so, if it is so. If a question comes up as to why this apparently preferential treatment is being given, we ought to be accorded the reason. Hansard will provide clear evidence of my views on this matter. I regard the Northern Territory as being very much the poor relation, compared with the Australian Capital Territory. Nevertheless, we are entitled to ask why certain moneys are being spent. It is not sufficient to say that the Government has so decided. Reasons should be given.
I conclude by commending the Estimates committees system. Certainly, I find this a most worthwhile activity and one that I, as a comparative newcomer to this place, find extremely interesting. It allows the back bencher to make a contribution and to find out information for his electors. It gives the public information that it is entitled to have. I have already paid tribute to the majority of the departments that come before us. I consider that they make a magnificent contribution, as do the officers representing them at the hearings. I have also commended the secretariat of the committees.
I ask the Government to look at the issues that I have raised, particularly the need for Ministers to give reasons for expenditure. I ask it to look at the rather special situation of the statutory bodies, I draw attention to the following comment by Estimates Committee B in 1971-72 when referring to the Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission:
The Committee is of the opinion that whilst it may be argued that these bodies are not accountable through the responsible Minister to Parliament for day-to-day operations, statutory corporations may be called to account to Parliament itself at any time and that there are no areas of expenditure of public funds where these corporations have a discretion to withhold details or explanations from Parliament or its committees unless the Parliament has expressly provided otherwise.
I think that sums up the sort of thing for which I am looking. Certainly, if this is done we will have a situation such as that covered by these concluding remarks of the President ‘s report in 1 970:
In that favourable climate the Senate can go forward with confidence in the furthest development of its committee system.
– I have no wish to delay the passage of the Appropriation Bills and will be brief. Senator Robertson has dealt with the history and establishment of the Estimates committees, a matter to which I had intended to refer. The honourable senator also referred to the matter of taking evidence in camera. From my experience during the years that I have been a member of the Senate I know that at times we should have in camera evidence. There are aspects of the estimates of Departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence on which, if evidence is not given in camera, we will not receive the best information.
I wish to complain about the way in which this year the departments were grouped for consideration by the Estimates committees. I was a member of the old Senate Estimates Committee A, which dealt with the Departments of Administrative Services, the Parliament, Prime Minister and Cabinet, National Resources, Foreign Affairs and Defence. This year, without notice, we were told that the departments to be reviewed by Senate Estimates Committee A would now include those of the Parliament, the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Foreign Affairs, as formerly, but also those of Education and Treasury. This meant I had to make a choice between sitting on the committee which dealt with Foreign Affairs and sitting on that which dealt with Defence. Unfortunately, I had spent a great deal of time, as had my staff, in researching both departments. We then found that we were placed in this unfortunate position. I believe that Senator McLaren, another member of Senate Committee A, also had a lot of material prepared on the two departments and was placed in a similar position.
I know it can be said- some senators have already said it- that one can visit other committees, but this is not practical. When one attempts to do so one finds that the meetings clash, or one sometimes leaves one’s own committee short of a quorum. The result of all this was that I ended up on Committee F which dealt with the Departments of Defence, Business and Consumer Affairs and Finance and the Postal and Telecommunications Department. Those departments embrace authorities such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I felt that before I could inquire into the Commission I needed to undertake special research. I do not feel that there was time to do so. Perhaps over two or three years one can develop some degree of expertise, but I certainly could not do so in the time that was available this year. Previously Committee A had dealt with departments which had many similar interests, lt considered Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Administrative Services. The latter included a number of areas such as Overseas Property, which has links with both Foreign Affairs and Defence. At the moment I am on a committee that is looking into the Department of Foreign Affairs and one matter that continually arises is the role of Administrative Services and Overseas Property. Formerly, Estimates Committee A provided for a continuation of interest in all of these departments.
I hope that the regroupings this year were not deliberate. I say that because it has been said that some senators who were able to follow issues from one year to the next were delaying the work of the committees; that this could have been the reason for the regrouping. I know that Senators McLaren and Douglas McClelland and I have followed over a period of three years a number of issues which concerned the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Administrative Services, including Overseas Property, and the Parliament, as well as issues that had arisen relative to the Governor-General and the establishment of his office. We served for those three years and we found the costs recurring. We became quite expert on these subjects. This year suddenly we were asked to make a choice as to which department we were to follow. I hope that the regrouping was not deliberate. If it was it would raise a doubt as to whether the Government wants a thorough examination of the Estimates or simply wants them rubber-stamped and out of the way.
I appeal to the Government to link the consideration of departments which have similar interests, as have been indicated in some of the examples I have given. I would suggest that one Estimates committee deal with the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Administrative Services and Veterans’ Affairs, and perhaps- if that were not enough- the Department of the Special Trade Representative. Alternatively, I would ask the Government to stick with the present departmental groupings. That would enable senators to follow the activities of departments from one year to the next and develop expertise on matters of special interest. On particular subjects, such as telecommunications, it would give us an opportunity over the years to become more expert. If consideration of the Estimates is to be successful it must be treated seriously. There must be scrutiny of the best kind.
I agree with Senator Robertson that the making available to the committees of research staff has been a great success, but if one depends only on them one has to follow their line of questioning and does not have an opportunity to pursue matters from one year to the next. If honourable senators are well briefed and can carry out a thorough scrutiny, not only is the Parliament better served but so too are the people of Australia. I ask the Government to consider my remarks and hopefully implement them the next time it considers the matter of Senate Estimates committees.
– In speaking to Appropriation Bill (No. 1) I would like to begin by joining with my colleagues Senator Robertson and Senator Sibraa in congratulating the research staff of the Estimates committee with which I was associated, Committee A. I objected in the Parliament when the changes were made and certain departments were taken from that Committee and given to other Committees. I was fortunate in one respect. I had done all of my research on Administrative Services, and when that department’s Estimates were being considered Estimates Committee A was not sitting. I was able to go along to the relevant committee, but I could have been caught in a position in which, having done all of the research work on Administrative Services matters in which I was very interested, it could have gone for nought because out of the blue the consideration of that Department’s Estimates was taken away from Committee A.
I congratulate the research staff, which did a tremendous amount of work and, I understand, went back over the years examining Hansard to see the matters in which each senator had been interested. The staff was then able to undertake research work on the various departments and the various topics that we had raised. We are now faced with the situation that a staff ceiling has been placed upon the number of parliamentary officers that may be provided. Although it was agreed that we should get extra staff, up to this time that staff has not been granted. I hope that in the very near future the people who are responsible for making available sufficient staff to the Parliament have a change of heart. I hope that as quickly as possible the Parliament is provided with the staff that is required to allow it to carry out the work with which it is charged.
Senator Sibraa, in his opening remarks, said that he had no wish to delay the passage of these Appropriation Bills. I disagree with him. I express my hope that if we had the numbers in the chamber to delay the passage of these Bills, that we would force the Government to an election, to allow the people to make a judgment, as the present Government did in 1975. 1 am confident that if we had the numbers in the Senate, as the then Opposition had in order to force the Government to an election, that the judgment meted out to the Government in this year of 1 978 would be much harsher than that which was meted out to us in 1975, and goodness knows that was harsh enough. The coalition parties would come back with their numbers very sparse indeed and Bill Hayden would be the Prime Minister. Everywhere we talk to people we find that they are disenchanted, disappointed and disillusioned with this Government. They are worried about what is in store for them in the years ahead. It is unfortunate that this Government cannot be brought before the people for at least another two years unless of course there is an upheaval in the Government ranks. That is quite possible from the way back benchers are behaving at present. The people at large then might get an opportunity to change the Government or at least to express an opinion.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is so worried about what is taking place in the economy and at the way in which his back bench committees are behaving that he had to go on national television the other night to endeavour to soft soap the electors about the wonderful job this Government is doing. When we look at the writings of some of the economic experts in the daily and weekly Press we find that what the Prime Minister is saying is completely opposite to what the economic experts and business people are saying. I have a transcript of the speech of the Prime Minister given on television the other night. I shall refer to one or two of the statements he made. He is on record as saying that business confidence is returning. I would say that that television speech surely must have been taped before last Friday. Otherwise the Prime Minister would not have made such a bland statement about business confidence returning. On Friday of last week building industry executives from all over Australia assembled here in Canberra and they had a discussion with officials of the Government and of the Department of the Treasury. They painted a very gloomy picture. I had the opportunity to talk to some of these business people on Friday night while we were waiting at Canberra Airport to leave on an aircraft. They were most critical of the way in which the Government has cut down on public expenditure and is crippling the building industry in Australia. I am sure that in Canberra on Friday of last week the Prime Minister and his Treasury officials were made well aware of that situation. Yet the Prime Minister on Sunday night made the bland statement that business confidence is returning. I am sure that we will get the feedback as to what the business people really think about that statement. Business is in a very sad state of affairs at present. The Prime Minister on Sunday night asked this question:
How many of you know that Australian companies are exporting furniture to Sweden, and colour television sets are being exported into the toughest market in the world- to Hong Kong- against Japanese competition?
But he did not give us any figures. How much furniture is being manufactured in Australia and exported to Sweden and how many jobs is that export creating in Australia? He quickly pushed over that statement. He did not tell us. I will be very interested to hear him say just how many jobs have been created in Australia by the export of furniture to Sweden, and likewise colour television sets. We all know that most of the component parts of television sets, particularly colour television sets, are imported from Japan. Yet the Prime Minister appeared on television on Sunday night and said that Australia is exporting these television sets to Hong Kong against our tough Japanese competitors. But did not tell us how many were exported or how many people were employed in the assembly of these colour television sets. They are the things that the electors of this country want to know. They will not be fooled by a statement such as that because the Prime Minister so many times has made statements which we have found have no substance. He has broken election promises about which all members of the Opposition have spoken on many occasions in the Parliament. Yet he goes on television with the soft sell.
No doubt his speech was written by Mr Tony Eggleton who the Liberal Party brought back from London a few years ago to write the policy speech and to soft sell the Australian electors to elect the Fraser Government. He wrote the speech. It stands out a mile. It is Mr Tony Eggleton all the way. The electors want to know how many extra jobs are being created by the export of furniture to Sweden. How many extra jobs are being created by the export of- as he said- colour television sets to Hong Kong? The Prime Minister went on to say that all this is possible and there is an uplift in the Australian economy because inflation is down, costs have stabilised and Australian manufacturing industry is more competitive in our own market and in export markets. But he did not give us any details. I refer to an article written by Mr Brian Hale in the Adelaide Advertiser on 1 3 July of this year which states:
Government’s Policy May Halt Recovery’- Bank warns on economy. The National Bank has warned that a continuation of the Federal Government’s tight monetary policy may bring any recovery in economic activity to a halt.
That is just what the building and construction industry was saying in Canberra on Friday. The economic policies of this Government are strangling the country. Representatives of the building and construction industry told me that in person. So the Government cannot say that it was not warned. Let us have a look at what other people are saying. When I went home at the weekend I picked up the local paper, the Murray Valley Standard which is printed in Murray Bridge where I live. It has never been sympathetic to the Labor movement.
– It is not a leftist publication, is it?
– One would have thought so when one read the editorial in the newspaper last Thursday. I want to get the article on the record because I am sure it portrays a complete change of heart in the provincial Press in South Australia. The Murray Valley Standard is one of the leading country newspapers in my State. On 9 November 1978 under the heading Bite Season the Murray Valley Standard stated:
If there was a Federal election tomorrow then the Labor Party would win by the proverbial mile.
Those words are similar to the words which I used in my opening remarks. If the Opposition were in a position to reject or to delay these Appropriation Bills, as the Government did when it was in Opposition, and if we had an election of course we would win by the proverbial mile. There is no doubt about that. The Murray Valley Standard went on to state:
It would not be a tribute to the ALP but rather a lesson for the Liberal-Country Party Coalition whose finance planning disarray has become evident to most of us in recent weeks. The last Budget was bad enough in that the Treasurer had to back down rapidly on some taxes which caused immediate uproar.
The Opposition has spoken of all the changes the Government has made to the Budget often enough since it was brought down.
Now we have our delayed tax grab effective, and we find we’re paying extra as well, pensioners are unhappy with the reason, and just how many ordinary people really know how best they should act over health insurance?
If anything has ever created any confusion in the minds of Australians it is the monkeying around with Medibank and the health insurance scheme. We have people ringing up. I suppose it would amount to half a dozen telephone calls every hour in the electorate office. We have people coming into the office wanting to know what it all means. We are not in a position to tell them.
Even the doctors are confused. I had a letter today from a local doctor complaining that the Federal Government had broken a contract so far as the local hospital was concerned. I understand there will be articles in the South Australian provincial Press this week about the matter. I shall refer to the articles when I receive copies of the newspapers. The Murray Valley Standard further states:
The inflation rate might be a bit lower now but not so much lower that the Government can bite directly into pay envelopes without making enemies.
In the face of such lack of (Public Relations) Prime Minister Fraser must be supremely confident his Government will run a full term.
Perhaps the editor who wrote that triggered off Mr Fraser ‘s television episode on Sunday night. Perhaps he rang the Prime Minister and told him he ought to do something about his public relations because Mr Fraser came out on Sunday night in his television appearance and endeavoured to convince the people of Australia that everything in the garden was nice and rosy and that they have no need to worry. Yet, we find a newspaper which in the past has not seen fit to criticise a Federal Liberal governmentalthough in years gone by it did plenty to criticise the Whitlam Labor Government- now coming out and criticising Fraser. I think he might have taken a warning from that. That is not the only ciriticism we find. If we look at the Australian Financial Review of Friday of last week, what do we find is the big headline in it? It is: ‘Record trade deficit’. An article by Greg Hywood states:
Australia chalked up a record current account deficit in October.
The $368.2m deficit was marginally higher than $368. lm struck in March last year, the previous monthly record.
Here we have the Prime Minister saying that business confidence is returning and local and overseas investment is increasing yet the deficit is $100,000 worse than it was in March last year. He goes on record trying to fool the people that this Government has got the economy back on the rails. I can assure Senator Lajovic, who is grinning, that he will not have a grin on his face the next time the electors get the opportunity to go to the ballot box. It has been proven -
– You said that last time, too.
– Yes, but there have been results since. There has been a Werriwa byelection which was a record victory for the Labor Party. There has been a New South Wales State election at which the party that you support, Senator Lajovic, was slaughtered. We have had the Ballarat by-election where a seat which has not been held by the Labor Party I suppose for about 25 years was won by the Labor Party with a 9 per cent swing. We have a by-election coming in Queensland very soon but because of the awful gerrymander there we probably will not win it but I am sure that we will see a big swing away from the coalition. The writing is on the wall for the Government. That is why I said in my opening remarks that whilst this Government has two years to run if it can see the distance- it may not be able to see the distance because the back benchers are getting itchy because if there is a swing of 1 per cent to 5 per cent a lot of them might lose their seats- I prophesy that within 12 months we will see a new leader of the Liberal Party. I have asked the Government in this chamber on more than one occasion since the Budget was brought down and I will ask it again: Do not unload Fraser too soon because he is such an asset to the opposition.
– Can you not say anything better than this?
– Hang on to him. I ask honourable senators opposite to curb their desire to get a new leader. I will make some remarks about new leaders in the Liberal Party in my own State and I will refer to an article that appears in today’s Adelaide Advertiser. It is not only in the Federal sphere that the Liberal Party has problems with leadership. It had to find a new leader in New South Wales because its leader Mr Coleman was unceremoniously dumped by the electors.
– The next bloke will lose his seat, too.
– That is quite possible. The next bloke, the country man, will lose his seat. He is not performing too well at present. The Liberal Party is in trouble in South Australia. It is in enormous trouble in Victoria because of the goings on there and the handling of public moneys. I am sure that we cannot blame the result in the Ballarat by-election entirely on Fraser although he must take a lot of the blame for what has happened in New South Wales. He cannot take the blame entirely for what happened in Victoria, so Mr Hamer will be gone this time next year. These are all the things that are cropping up. What did Greg Hywood have to say about the deficit in the Australian Financial Review last Friday? He said:
This gives no comfort to the Federal Government which in the Budget was forecasting a $3,000 million current account shortfall for 1978-79.
While the first four months of the financial year show the current account deficit running at an annual rate of $4,000 million, Government officials were yesterday sticking by the $3,000 million forecast in the belief that improved international economic conditions later in the year would provide a better market for exports.
These are the comments of economic experts, yet the Prime Minister is coming out and saying the very opposite. Greg Hywood ‘s statement is based on fact and on figures which are available for every person in the country to see. Yet the Prime Minister comes out and says that business confidence is returning. He is not going to fool anyone. Then, of course, he claimed some credit for the wonderful and bountiful season that the farmers are experiencing. In his television program, he said:
Farmers right across Australia are facing one of the best seasons they have had in many years.
But of course, they are not facing the best season they have had in many years because of good government. The Prime Minister cannot claim credit for that. I would say -
– He did not turn on the lights.
– No, he did not turn them on and he did not turn on the rain either. This Government is really scraping the bottom of the barrel when the Prime Minister has to go on television and say to the electorate at large that because of the bountiful rain the farmers will have a good season, as though he brought it about.
– He thinks he did, though.
– Well he might think that, but people who think like that are in for a hard fall. What I am saying, Senator McClelland, is that the Liberal Party is scraping the bottom of the barrel for excuses to put to the people to convince the electors that everything is all right. It is not all right. The Prime Minister went on further to say:
All of this points to a more prosperous future.
He is talking about all the things that have happened- in actual fact he is talking about nothing- and he continues:
If Australians are prepared to get up and have a go, we can realise that future, and take on the challenge of the 1980s.
There are 400,000 workers in this country prepared to get up and have a go if this Government will only release the purse strings and create some jobs for them to have a go. How are they going to have a go when they cannot get a job? During the course of the Estimates hearings when the Australian Bureau of Statistics was before us we found that the way in which it ascertained how many people are unemployed was by a random sample survey. It admitted that there could be an inaccuracy of up to 4,000 people. Why on earth did the Government get away from the actual factual figures which were compiled by the Commonwealth Employment Service? It knew how many were unemployed right to the man, woman and child over 16 years of age. The CES had the actual figures available. But the Government dispensed with that because the CES was not bringing forth the result that the Government wanted to put across.
The Government then went to the ABS for the unemployment statistics but that is not even helping the Government now because the unemployment figures are still rising month by month. The other revealing thing that came out of our inquiry was that the ABS has been instructed, not directly but because of staff ceilings imposed by this Government, that it is no longer to carry out surveys on job vacancies. Those surveys are not conducted now because the job vacancies are shrinking on the one hand and the number of unemployed is increasing. The Government does not have that survey now because it paints a very sorry picture for this Government. That is the problem with which we are faced. Let us look at one of the most important things Mr Fraser said in his statement the other night. He said:
Your Federal Government has always been committed to working in co-operation with the States-
He is talking about the decision of the Loan Council. Let us have a look at what the potential leader of the coalition in Queensland said about the Federal Government. What did he say in Alice Springs on Sunday? Mr Hinze will be interviewed this Saturday night on Four Corners. We will see what the people of Queensland will be faced with if his dream comes true to replace Bjelke-Petersen as leader. He was reported as saying:
The Queensland Minister for Local Government and Main Roads, Mr Hinze, made his point with less finesse but more gusto.
He was backing up Mr Court, the Leader of the Government in Western Australia, who was criticising this Government. The Press report continues:
In Queensland we’ve had a gutful of this Federal Government’, he said. ‘They take from us and they give nothing back. We ‘re not going to stand for too much more ‘.
The Prime Minister last Sunday night, the same day as Mr Hinze made this statement in Alice Springs, said that harmony exists between all the governments and himself. Who is right and who is wrong? I take the view that I would not believe either of them. There we have it. The potential Queensland Premier is coming out and saying that he has had a gutful of Mr Fraser. But Mr Hinze said more, and this is a most important comment about what Mr Hinze thinks because we have already had Bjelke-Petersen saying on many occasions that Queensland should secede from the Commonwealth. Mr Hinze might be the new leader of the coalition in Queensland. There must be some move to unload Bjelke. Mr Hinze is reported as saying:
We should shift the nation’s capital to the centre of Australia- Alice Springs’,-
This is what he said. That is a wonderful thought, is it not? In the most important part of his statement, he said:
Let me say this: The Fraser Government is on the skids. I’d hate to see a socialist Government in power again, but the Prime Minister has got to wake up to himself and stop thieving from the States.
Yet I have just quoted two or three instances of the Prime Minister saying on Sunday night in a nationwide telecast that he is working in close harmony with the States. I ask you, Mr President; Whom do we believe? Do we believe Mr Hinze and Mr Court, both of whom have said that the Prime Minister is not working in harmony with them or do we believe the present Prime Minister who has broken so many promises since the last election? Both Mr Court and Mr Hinze were backed up by the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. The article states:
The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Mr Everingham, said he was grateful for ‘the hand of friendship’.
The hand of friendship came from Mr Court and Mr Hinze. The article continues:
The Northern Territory had achieved little under Commonwealth administration and ‘the dead hand of the Federal bureaucracy’.
I hope that Mr Everingham was referring to the present Liberal Government when he said that the Northern Territory has received very little from the Commonwealth. If he was not, he has a very short memory. When the Whitlam Government was in office, I was part of a joint parliamentary committee which undertook an inquiry into constitutional reform for the Northern Territory. We decided- the Government accepted our report- that there should be constitutional reform in the Northern Territory. It was the Labor Government that gave the Northern Territory a fully elected Legislative Assembly. If we had not done that, Mr Everingham would not now be the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. He would not be in a position to make utterances about welcoming the hand of friendship. Mr Everingham also conveniently forgot that there would have been no Northern
Territory or Australian Capital Territory senators in this chamber if it had not been for the Labor Government. I well recall when the legislation was being debated the comments that were made by the present Government supporters who then sat in opposition. They were opposed to giving the Northern Territory Senate representation. I am very pleased to see Senator Jessop come into the chamber. He went on record as saying that, if we gave Senate representation to the people of the Northern Territory the penguins on Macquarie Island would then want representation. He is recorded in Hansard as saying that. That is how much opposed members of the present Government were to giving any form of democracy to the Northern Territory. That is what Senator Jessop thinks of his colleagues from the Northern Territory. I hope that he does not regard Senator Kilgariff as a penguin. That is the type of argument we got from members of the Opposition when we were in government. They did not want to give people in the Northern Territory any form of democracy. It took a Labor Government to do it.
One of the most important points that Mr Everingham completely forgot to mention was that we were in government when the devastating Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin. We immediately made money and materials available to rebuild Darwin. Mr Everingham must have been living there at the time. He does not give the Federal Government- it was a Labor Government at the time- any credit. Senator Douglas McClelland was a Minister at the time. He played a big part in what we did to rehabilitate Darwin and the people who lived there. It cost an enormous amount of money but we did not quibble over it. Yet we have been accused by the people who sit opposite of squandering money. Whenever we spent money whilst we were in government it was in areas of dire need. We were not backward in making it available. This Government is penny-pinching. One has only to look at the last Budget. It was going to tax the blind pensioners. It was going to take a little pin money away from the newsboys and the babysitters. It was going to do these things to get a few bob. What would the people in Darwin get from this Government if there were another cyclone of the magnitude of Tracy tomorrow? They would get nothing except promises that the Government would never fulfil. Those are some of the matters of which we must take cognisance. I turn back to the great splurge made by the Prime Minister about how he is working in collaboration with other governments -
- Senator Lajovic cannot stand it. He does not like the truth. That is one thing about Government members. They can dish it out but they cannot take it. They cannot listen to facts. I now refer to the magnificent gesture of the Prime Minister. He claims in his Press statements and as good as claimed on Sunday night that he instructed the Loan Council to make available the money for which the States had asked. Now he is patting himself on the back and saying that he has done a wonderful job. What did he say in Western Australia? What he said about making money available in the Loan Council is reported in the West Australian of 23 October. The article states:
Mr Fraser said that the proposal Tor State borrowings overseas to support resource projects was particularly attractive to the Commonwealth because it would have no impact on the Federal deficit.
Of course he was happy to unload his responsibilities on to the States. He set out in his statement why he agreed to make the money available. People watching him on TV on Sunday night or reading the statement he put out would have the opposite view. They would think that he is magnificent in his gesture. He gave the reason why he agreed to the States’ requests. He said that they would have no effect on the Federal deficit. That is what he is trying to project all the time. He says that he is bringing down inflation and that he has the deficit under control but as Mr Greg Hywood, whom I have quoted, has pointed out, the deficit is not under control. If it keeps going the way it is now, it will be 25 per cent larger than proposed in the Budget. This happened last year. Yet the Prime Minister appears on TV and tries to hoodwink the electors of this country into believing that he is their fairy godfather and that everything he has done has been good for them. He should talk to the unemployed and see how they are going.
I now refer to the financial page of the SunHerald of 12 November. An article by the Finance Editor is headed ‘Bad Debts Mounting’. This Government says that it has the business sector back on the rails and that it has restored confidence. Yet the Finance Editor of the SunHerald has said that bad debts are mounting. The article states in part:
The results coming in from the big finance companies confirm a trend on bad debts which was highlighted in the Sun-Herald on October 29. Bad debts are becoming a major problem for the industry and could lead to a reappraisal of lending activities.
So it goes on infinitum. The business sector has no confidence.
– Ad infinitum.
-Well, ad infinitum. The honourable senator went to a better school than I did. I had to leave school at 14 and go to work. We were just getting out of a depression. Many school children are doing the same today. They will be faced with the same problem as I had. But it did not drag me down. I had no secondary education. 1 never had the opportunity to go on to university. Perhaps if I had done so, I would not be standing here today. I might be in a higher position in the country, but I am not growling about it. Many hundreds of thousands of kids were in the same unfortunate situation as I was. Their fathers could not get a job. We could turn the wheel back now. Hundreds of thousands of kids are in the same situation today as I was when I left school in the early 1930s. There are no prospects and no future for them. How will they face it? Why is this Government not doing something?
As has been pointed out by many financial experts, money has to be injected into the economy for public works. I will say again, even though I have said it every time I have spoken in this place since this Government has been in office, that the Government cannot solve the economic ills of this country while it tightens the purse strings on public expenditure. Governments do not manufacture anything. Everything private enterprise manufactures has to be bought by governments, whether State or Federal, to construct hospitals, schools, roads, railways, water storages, et cetera. Governments do not manufacture those commodities. They have to be purchased from private enterprise. Whilst the Government is prepared to cut back public expenditure as people from the building industry told me last Friday, it will not get the economy back on the rails. It will not create jobs. It is time that Government members had a good look at themselves and did something about these problems. Some of the actions that the Prime Minister takes also concern me. I refer to the Rugby League Grand Final in Sydney some months ago.
– Oh, no!
– It is all very well for Senator Lajovic to shake his head. There were many Press reports about the fact that the Prime Minister could not get a seat. A Minister in the New South Wales Government, Mr Hills, decided that his wife in all charity would give up her seat so that Mr Fraser could attend the grand final. That took Mr Fraser to the point when he had to put out a Press statement on the matter. I will not read it all but at the end of the statement which he put out on 1 5 September he said:
However, since I understand my Parliamentary Gold Pass entitles me to attend the Match and since I had arranged to be in Sydney specifically for the Match, I am intending to go with one of my colleagues, and I look forward to seeing the game.
The Prime Minister is on one of the highest salaries in the land. Instead of paying at the gate as an ordinary working man would have to do if he wanted to see that Grand Final, he was going to flash his gold pass. That prompted me to put a question on the Notice Paper. I wanted to know what benefits were gained from a gold pass. It was question No. 846.
– What a waste of public money.
– It was not a waste of time. I was concerned that a Prime Minister, who does not care how much of the public money he spends upon himself and his family, was prepared to use his gold pass to get into a football match. In my question I asked:
What are the entitlements of all holders of parliamentary gold passes, in view of the Prime Minister’s statement that he intended to use his gold pass to gain entry to a rugby league final in Sydney.
The answer I got back was that I should refer to clause 6 of a Remuneration Tribunal determination. What are the determinations? They do not mention gold passes, which every member of Parliament carries around with him. There is no mention in that Tribunal ‘s report about what one gets with a gold pass. We know that one Liberal member hangs one around his neck on a chain. Every day he has it all polished up so that people can see that he is a member of parliament.
The point is this: When I got the answer back from the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) in which he referred me to clause 6 of a Remuneration Tribunal determination I found that all that clause related to was life gold passes, which are held by people who have retired from the Parliament. So I still have not got an answer from the Minister for Administrative Services or from the Prime Minister as to what entitlements every member of parliament has with the gold pass which is issued to him. The only use I have ever been able to make of it was to identify myself when I wanted to draw some money out of the Commonwealth Bank when I was a long way away from home. It was used as a form of identification when I wanted to cash a cheque. I found out afterwards that under a regulation or instruction issued I think back in John Curtin ‘s day every Federal member of Parliament is entitled to cash a cheque anywhere at all without being required to identify himself.
– Is that so?
– That is so. I might have looked a bit suspicious that day. I had been working hard on a committee and had rushed into the bank just before it closed. The teller wanted to identify me, so I identified myself with a gold pass. I would never attempt to use it to save myself a few dollars to get into a football match, as the Prime Minister did. Those are not my remarks; in a Press statement by this Prime Minister he said that he was going to use his gold pass to get into a football match. How niggardly can one get? Here we have this man, talking about getting a fleet of special aircraft to fly him around the world, yet he cannot pay two bucks to get in to see the Sydney Grand Final rugby league football match this year.
I want to make some mention of the further miserableness of this Government, that is, what it is doing to pensioners. When we spoke in this Parliament before on the rights of pensioners I warned, and I warn the people again, about this Government. During the life of the earlier Liberal-Country Party coalition Government before 1972 pensioners received very small increases in their pensions. If we look at the situation in 1964 we see that the pensioners got an increase of 50c. There was no increase in 1 965. In 1966 the pensioners were given an increase of a dollar. They got no increase in 1967. In 1968 they were given another dollar. In 1969 they got another dollar. In the next year, 1970, they were given an increase of 50c. In June 1971 they were given an increase of 50c and in December they were given an increase of $1.25. In June 1972 they got an increase of a dollar.
Then we came into office and immediately gave the pensioners an increase of $3.25. The next year, in December 1973, we gave them an increase of $1.50. In June 1974 we gave them an increase of $3 and in September of that year we gave them an increase of $5. That is, we gave them an increase of $8 in one year. If we count up all the increases the pensioners received during the term of office of the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government from 1964 to 1972 we cannot get anywhere near eight bucks. Yet we gave that amount to the pensioners in one year. In June 1975 we gave the pensioners another $5 and they would have got another good increase- it was included in the Budget- to make the increase for that year about eight bucks, but we went out of office.
What the pensioners have to be warned about with this Government is the way that it has proved to the pensioners in this Budget that it is prepared to go to any length to take away their benefits. The pensioners only have to look at history to see what they were given during the term of office of the coalition Government before Labor was in office. They were given miserable pittances of increases of 50c a year. Some years they were given no increases. In election years the coalition Government probably gave them $ 1 or $ 1 .2 5 in an attempt to buy their votes. That is on record. We in the Australian Labor Party are criticised and told that we try to buy votes from the pensioners. Last week the ex-Minister for Social Security, Senator Chipp, placed on record in this Parliament that the coalition Government did buy the votes of the pensioners. He was a Minister at the time, yet he criticised the Government for doing it. He is now having second thoughts; attempts should not be made to buy the votes of pensioners. The pensioners are entitled to justice and they are not getting it from this Government. This is the unfortunate thing about this Budget and these Appropriation Bills that we are debating today-. I think we should look at a couple of statements that were made by the next Prime Minister some weeks ago. In an article appearing in the Australian, for which he writes every few weeks, he stated, under the heading’ Fraser ‘s mandate to govern is invalid’:
Twelve months ago, the Prime Minister called a general election a year early on the pretext that he needed a renewed mandate to deal effectively with the major issues facing this Government.
– Who said that?
- Mr Hayden, the next Prime Minister, said that. As I pointed out when I first spoke, if the Government will give us the opportunity now Mr Hayden will be the Prime Minister and he will get this country back on the rails. Fraser has proved that he cannot govern the country. We know that from the way that his back benchers are yapping at him and causing him sleepless nights. If we ever wanted any proof that he is in dire trouble, we had it when he came out with his statement on Sunday night. When one analyses his statement, as I have endeavoured to do in the time I have had available today, one finds that it falls to the ground. There is nothing in it but a lot of platitudes.
I am very pleased that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in its wisdom, has given similar time to Mr Hayden to answer Mr Fraser next Sunday night. Honourable senators opposite cannot complain about that because, as those of them who have been in politics for some time will recall, when we were in government and Mr Whitlam made a statement on the ABC or the other national channels Mr Snedden, who was then Leader of the Opposition, demanded equal time and got it. Of course he was going so well in the eyes of certain people in the Liberal Party that they had to unload him. They got rid of him and they now have the present incumbent. I do not know whether he will stop there for much longer.
On 9 November the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the other place, Mr Lionel Bowen, who will be the Deputy Prime Minister as soon as we get an opportunity to go to the polls, wrote an article which appeared in the Australian under the heading: ‘ Fraser ‘s record a year of disaster’. Yet on 12 November we found Mr Fraser endeavouring to persuade us that everything in the garden was lovely. Mr Bowen had this to say in the article:
The Federal Parliament has begun its final session with the Fraser Government in retreat after a disastrous year.
If we need any confirmation of that statement by Mr Bowen we have only to look at the program for the sittings of the Parliament for this session. The Parliament was scheduled to sit until 30 November. All of a sudden, because of public criticism, because of the problems the Government is having with some of its Ministers and more so with its back benchers, the Government has shortened the sittings of the Parliament by a week. It has done this because it does not want to be under public scrutiny. It does not want the public at large to find out why it is being criticised. Once it closes this place it will have the field to itself. Its Ministers will issue Press statements and that is all that will be reported in the media. That is unfortunate for the electors. After another fortnight the people will have the Christmas period to think about what the Government has done to them. In February we will come back here and I am sure that we will see a different set of circumstances. The Government probably will have more worried back benchers. The Senate might even come back with a new leader, as it did after the winter recess. Liberal Party members of Parliament might even come back with a new leader. Time has run out, Mr Deputy President. I say again that I wish only that we on this side of the Parliament had the numbers, as honourable members on the other side of the chamber had in 1975, to defeat these Appropriation Bills and to allow the electorate at large to pass judgment on the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
Department of Education
Proposed expenditure, $492,632,000.
– I had a couple of questions on this Department for which I have not received answers from the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). The Minister was going to seek some information for me from the Department on the meaning of Biosphere Reserves and acquaint the Committee with it. I do not think that an answer on that has come back as yet. This item appears on page 19 of the explanatory notes. I am sorry I cannot give any more details. It is division 270, subdivision 3, item 03.
– I am not in a position to know whether that information has been made available or is immediately available, but I will undertake to get that information and let Senator McLaren have it. I have taken a note of the matter and he can be assured that I will let him have the information.
– During the proceedings of Estimates Committee A, I asked a question in relation to advertising at the Australian National University. I made some comments about advertising which was carried out when Mr Whitlam wished to advertise for a research assistant. It was stated in an answer that advertising for Mr Whitlam ‘s research assistant was limited to the Canberra Times to ensure that the cost of filling the post was kept within the total sum allocated for Mr Whitlam ‘s fellowship. Could I find out at this stage what the total sum was for Mr Whitlam ‘s fellowship and whether any foresight had been used in relation to the fact that advertising was probably required for a position. Could I also be told whether a sum had been set aside within that fellowship for advertising?
– We do not have the information immediately available. I am aware of the question asked by Senator Colston during the Estimates Committee hearings. May I simply seek the information in detail for him and let him have it in due course.
– I have one other question to which I have not received an answer. It relates to an increase of 20 per cent in salaries as set out in the Special Appropriation on page 224 of the explanatory notes. I said:
I want to find out whether you made a submission and, if so, whether that submission was to the effect that you were opposing or the Government was opposing the full CPI increase?
Mr Allen said in reply:
The Depanment of Education certainly made no such submission. It is beyond our competence to make such a submission. It is a government decision rather than a departmental one.
Thank you. I would be happy if you could find me some information.
The Minister said:
We will try to do that. It is really a Public Service or a government approach.
I now ask the Minister if he has any details on that matter.
– I am advised by Mr Allen that there has been a response to the Committee by way of written information. My advice is that of course we confirm that the Department made no submission but that the Government did and that the Government indicated that in terms of its policies of restraint, there should be no increase.
– I wish to make just one more comment and then follow that up with a question. During the course of the Committee proceedings, a number of questions were asked by members and we were advised that answers would be forthcoming. I notice from the transcript of proceedings that a number of questions that I asked have not yet received answers. Could we be assured that the answers will be forthcoming?
– I think honourable senators will recall that during the actual Estimates Committee hearings we indicated that of necessity, some answers would not be able to be made available because of the time needed to get the information prior to this point of time. We indicated that we would undertake to get answers to all questions and I repeat that undertaking.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 5,549,000.
– I rise to speak on divisions 101 to 109 of the estimates for the Parliament for which an amount of $15,549,000 is involved. In so doing I particularly wish to refer to and comment upon the report of Senate Estimates Committee A. I congratulate the members of that Committee for the excellent report they have tendered to this Committee of the Whole after consideration of the estimates for the Parliament. I refer to pages 3 and 4 of the report of Senate Estimates Committee A, but more particularly to page 4 at which the Committee dealt with the right of Parliament to set its own appropriation. I shall read that section of the report. It states:
The Committee was pleased to note that the Presiding Officers are currently making strenuous efforts to give the legislature, particularly the Presiding Officers and private members, greater control over the expenditure of the Parliament.
The Committee regards this matter as being at least of equal importance to the Government-imposed staff ceilings and we therefore look forward to when the President is able to make a further statement on the progress made.
However, it is considered that it would be appropriate for any examination as suggested in section (c) of this report to also include the extent and method of Parliament’s control of its own appropriations.
Section (c) of the report, to which I have already alluded, states.
The situation now facing the President -
The person elected by this Senate to be the President of this Senate- is that the Public Service Board has concurred in his view that 10 new positions should be created to cope with the new functions and extra work load of the Senate, but that these positions must be staffed from within the staff ceiling imposed by the Government in June.
I think it is a scandalous situation when this House of the Parliament is elected by the people to represent the States, all of us elected by the people within the States come to this Parliament and elect a President to be the custodian of the Senate ‘s rights, he goes cap in hand to the Executive Government in a bid to carry out the administrative functions, roles and procedures of Parliament, and the Executive Government or the President- whichever one it may be- goes to the Public Service Board for an increase in staff so that the Parliament, but particularly the Senate, may carry out its work effectively, and we are told that because of Government policy, because of staff ceilings imposed by the Government in June, this Senate, this House of the Parliament of Australia, is deprived of proper staff representation. I suggest that this is treating the Parliament with complete and utter contempt.
One only has to look at the Notice Paper published for today. On page 1912, the first page of questions on notice, there is a question dated 1 March, there is another question dated 7 March, another one dated 8 March, and so they run on. There are 10 or a dozen questions which were asked in the last session of the Parliament and to which no reply has been given by the Executive Government.
– They are in the too-hard basket.
– If they are in the too-hard basket, perhaps the Executive Government at least could acknowledge that they are in the too-hard basket; but it conveniently chooses to ignore them. Then, because this Parliament is deprived of sufficient staff, the right to have the staff that has been determined by the Executive of this Parliament, we are at a loss to carry out our responsibilities. Is it any wonder that the younger generation of this community is regarding this place as a bit of a farce?
It is about time the members of the present Government realised that they have to give this Parliament, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives some autonomy in determining the Budget appropriation for this Parliament. If the Parliament is to be completely independent from the Executive it must have at its disposal the financial resources and staff that it requires to enable it to meet its own needs and to ensure its freedom of operation. In this country the Parliament’s budget as well as the matters relating to staff, as I have instanced and as Senate Estimates Committee A has instanced in its report- the amount of overtime worked by the staff and the number of Hansard reporters to be employed- are all subject to modification by the Executive or to the whim of the Public Service Board.
I was one of the members of this Parliament who were chosen to represent it at the recent meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Bonn in West Germany. There I learned of a number of parliaments that have responsibility for their own financial arrangements. I recommend to the members of the Senate a reference compendium of parliaments of the world which has been edited by the InterParliamentary Union and which can be found in the Parliamentary Library. In that publication one will see listed the countries which have parliaments that are completely independent of their executive so far as financial autonomy is concerned. They include Canada, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, the Ivory Coast, Jordan, Malawi, Monaco, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, the Republic of Vietnam, Romania, Spain, Sweden and, as from 1 January 1979, the United Kingdom. I suggest that it is about time this Parliament saw to it that it is given its own responsibilities in this regard.
I have noted that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Right Honourable Sir Billy Snedden, in a paper that was circulated during the August conference in Canberra of Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers, outlined the subjugation of the Parliament in Australia by the Executive. In the presentation of that paper Sir Billy Snedden called for change. I compliment him and the President of this chamber, the Honourable Condor Laucke, on the efforts they are making in this regard, but I suggest that they need the support of every member of the House of Representatives and every member of this Senate to ensure that the Parliament is not dependent upon the Executive for the amount of money or the staffing positions that it requires. On page 9 of his paper, Sir Billy Snedden said this:
Strenuous efforts are currently being made by the Presiding Officers to give the legislature, particularly the Presiding Officers and private members, greater control over the budget for the Parliament. This is an issue of fundamental importance. Not only does the Executive presently determine the aggregate allocation of funds to the legislature, but it also has day-to-day control of much of those funds, as a large proportion of the moneys relating to the functioning of the Parliament is contained in the votes of Executive departments. For example, the vote for expenditure on visits abroad by parliamentary delegations is under Executive Control.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation to Bonn, of which I was a member and which consisted of 10 or 12 members of this Parliament elected by the Parliament to represent the Australian Parliament at Bonn, was subject to a budgetary allocation by the Executivesomething that was determined by the Executive. I shall not go into the difficulties that were involved; but, whilst the average expenditure in Bonn in those days was $70 or $80 a day, the Department of Administrative Services was playing round with an estimate of about $40 a day. The Speaker went on to say:
It is ironic that the Parliament, whose primary function has traditionally been to control the flow of public moneys to and from the Executive, should take the attitude that the Executive knows best what funds should be allocated to the Parliament and, in large measure, how they should be spent.
The Parliament must control its own affairs. While the Executive continues to control the funds available to the Parliament the capacity of the latter to discharge its responsibilities is likely to be limited for it will continue to be starved of essential resources. It would be a rare Executive indeed which would look at the legislature’s needs from the legislature ‘s point of view.
We have the glaring and anomalous situation where last June the Remuneration Tribunal determined that all members of the shadow Cabinet were entitled to an additional staff member. I think that this involved an additional 15 staff members. I always had been under the impression that the Remuneration Tribunal’s determination, unless disagreed with by the Parliament, became the determination of this Parliament. However, what did we see? Instead of some 15 staff members being appointed to the staffs of shadow Ministers for the handling of the Opposition Executive’s case, the Executive Government in consideration of the Remuneration Tribunal’s determination decided that not 15 members would be appointed, as determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, but only a mere 10 members.
What is the situation of the Senate staff? The President himself went along to the Senate Estimates Committee and told our representatives on that Committee that he had applied for an additional 10 staff members to serve the Committees and members of the Senate but had been told, either by the Executive Government or by the Public Service Board, that we, the members of this Parliament who are charged with the overall responsibility of accepting or rejecting the Government’s appropriations, cannot have that staff. I suggest that something of a serious nature has to be done, and I know that the President and the Speaker are doing whatever they can. I have mentioned already that as from 1 January 1979 a different system is to exist in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom Parliament passed the House of Commons Administration Act this year which enables a House of Commons commission to approve that Parliament’s budget and I would suggest that all members of this Parliament, and particularly of the Senate, should take cognisance of the report of Senate Estimates Committee A in this regard. I regard it as being of prime importance for us to assert the supremacy of Parliament over the role of the Executive and I believe that we should keep a continuing vigilance over this situation to see that eventually the Parliament gets control of its own destiny both financially and in relation to staff numbers.
– I express to Senator Douglas McClelland my appreciation of the points he has raised tonight about parliamentary requirements. I have made very strong representations about staff ceilings in the knowledge of what the Senate structure requires in order to do those things that the Parliament or the Senate feels are necessary. Bearing in mind the high importance of having a situation where the Parliament is able to function as a parliament so that we can do that which we were elected to do, to the best of our ability, I made very strong representations for increases in staff ceilings. I mentioned this in our previous discussions in the Estimates Committee. In respect to the funding of parliaments for parliamentary purposes I must say, as Senator Douglas McClelland has pointed out, that many parliaments based on our Westminster system are moving in the direction of greater autonomy within their spending capacities, under strict accountability of course. We here are seeking similar power. I believe that there is a common recognition that a responsible balance must be established between the undoubted financial prerogative of the Executive Government and the clear and honest preservation of that independence of parliament, which is so vital to the Westminster system, whereby parliament manages and is seen to manage its own affairs. That sums up the attitude which Mr Speaker and I are adopting bearing in mind the parameters imposed on us at present. I can assure Senator Douglas McClelland and the Senate that Mr Speaker and I are most conscious of the need for betterment in this area and I appreciate the contributions made by honourable senators in the Estimates Committees and in the Committee of the Whole, as we are now, pointing out the basic requirement for this Parliament to have the ability to function as it should and to serve with the greatest effectiveness the people who elect us. I thank the honourable senator for what he said.
– I will be brief. I can assure the Senate that this Government is second to none in appreciating the importance of the relationship between the Parliament itself and the Executive. The Executive certainly has no desire to inhibit in any way the responsibilities that are rightly those of the Parliament. Nevertheless, I think that I am right in saying that the procedures now adopted with regard to the Appropriation Bill are the procedures which have existed throughout time.
– That does not make them right, though, does it? It is the old Chinese argument.
-Whether it is the Chinese argument or not, I am simply indicating that until now no government from either side of the Parliament has made reforms in that regard. My understanding is that in the Estimates Committee ‘s report to the Senate it is indicated that the Presiding Officers already have approached the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) with proposals for a parliamentary budget which, if agreed to, would be determined by parliamentary committees on which Ministers could be in the minority. However, I am advised that the proposals are still under consideration, so it is not possible for us to comment on them further at this stage. I will take the comments of Senator Douglas McClelland and Mr President to the Executive and ensure that they are understood.
– The Estimates debate which takes place in the Committee of the Whole is always stimulating because it brings forward points which we miss when the Estimates Committees are meeting separately, possibly because honourable senators are not able to attend all the meetings of the Estimates Committees. Adding to what Senator Douglas McClelland said about the importance of preventing the Executive from controlling the Parliament, in Queensland this situation has been taken to a very dangerous extreme and there the Executive does control the Parliament. It traditionally has done so but it has come to the point where the Executive is endeavouring to assert control to the disadvantage of the Speaker and of the Parliament.
I make a brief plea in support of the Whips in this place. For some reason or other the staff of the Whips, especially on the Opposition side, is supplied at the whim of the Prime Minister of the day. It is fortunate that the Opposition has accepted that its Whip’s office should be staffed according to its proper requirements and at the level set down for the Government Whip ‘s office. However, that is so only because of the attitude that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) has taken. However, if the direction of Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) were to be followed, it would mean that the Opposition Whip would have no establishment staff as such. The Prime Minister for some reason or other has determined also that the staff of the Whips shall be based in Canberra. In other words he has imposed a limitation on the staff of the Whips which ought not to be imposed by him but which ought to be considered by the President of the Senate.
I take it that the President accepts that the two Whips’ offices are annexes to this very chamber itself and need to be manned in the highest capacity. Not only that, but also the Whips themselves, because of the amount of work they have to face when the Parliament is in session, neglect considerably the work of their electoral offices while they are engaged on what is very much a fulltime occupation in this place. The work of the offices tends to fall behind when the Parliament is sitting yet the Prime Minister has dictated that not only should the staff of the Whips be Canberra based but also they should not be allocated any facility for travel in order that the Whips during the recess may take their staff back to their electoral office to do their work and to reduce the amount of work that has accumulated. The Whip is not able to do that. He is not able to use his staff to the best advantage. It seems to me to be a rather arbitrary action on the part of the Prime Minister and on the part of the Executive so to determine.
I would have thought that the important office of Whip and the staffing of the Whips’ offices should be a matter for the President of the Senate and not a matter for the Prime Minister. The President would be in a better position to assess whether the Whips should be given some facilities and whether their staff should be given at least the same entitlements that are given to staff members of other senators. I believe that at present all senators receive six travel entitlements a year for their staff to enable research assistants and electoral assistants to come to Canberra. But for some reason or other the staff of the Whips are not included. It seems to me most necessary that the Whips should be able to use their clerks to the best advantage. That is not the case. I wonder whether the President or the Minister can express a view on that matter. Why is it that the Prime Minister has taken such a stand? Why is it that he has limited the ability of the Whips to use their staff to the best advantage? It seems to me to be an extraordinary example of what Senator Douglas McClelland has pointed out; the Executive has intruded into an area where it should not intrude. For that reason I express again what I have expressed before- the need for the President to look very closely at the staffing position in which the Whips, especially the Opposition Whip, find themselves.
Senator MacGibbon has just come into the chamber. He might be encouraged to tell the
Senate exactly what his position as a senator isfinding himself without suitable premises in his electorate for a period of six months. He may not want to put that case at present but it seems to me extraordinary that a new senator should find himself unable to operate to the greatest efficiency because of some limitation placed upon him which should not be placed upon him.
– It has happened to the honourable member for Parramatta in the House of Representatives.
– I have no complaint in that regard because the office I occupy at present is well equipped. It is equipped as well as the office of any senator in this Parliament. But I might say that I had to wait four months before I achieved this. I thought that that might have been just an odd-one-out situation. But I believe that my experience not only has been matched; but also has been exceeded by Senator MacGibbon. The senator’s office is very much a part of this Parliament. At present that matter comes within the responsibilities of the Department of Administrative Services. No matter how well the staff at the Department of Administrative Services endeavour to work on behalf of the member they find themselves under severe budgetary restrictions. Senator MacGibbon has an old table, I am told, and a couple of old chairs.
– I do not have that.
– I am told that one honourable senator does not have a table at all. It is an extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves. Having been elected to the Parliament, we then have to wait for a considerable period before we receive the facilities that are necessary for us to do our jobs correctly. Again, the President may say that that does not come within his area of responsibility but rather within the area of responsibilities of the Department of Administrative Services. Again, we extend Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s argument that even that area should be a matter for the Parliament itself and not for the Public Service Board or the Executive Government of the day. I put those points forward.
– May I say that in the evolution of the greater protection of the rights of Parliament there are various areas which, whilst they do not come within the immediate jurisdiction of the Presiding Officers, it is good to hear discussed by honourable senators. I emphasise the word evolution. I must say that I am very appreciative of the co-operation that I have received from the
Government. I would be boorish if I were not to acknowledge that. Recently in the other place the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in reply to a question by Mr Clyde Cameron from South Australia assured him that the rights of the Parliament have been protected very effectively by Mr Speaker and me over the last couple of years. I think this is a recognition of the desires of Executive Government to do those things which we as parliamentarians in our own rights as distinct from the rights of Executive Government are seeking to attain. I appreciated the points raised while I was sitting at the table when the Estimates for the Parliament were being discussed. They all add up to an understanding and appreciation of need and, in certain areas, a background for action. But again I would stress that there is a quite large degree of evolution in the process of attaining those things which will ensure the betterment to which as parliamentarians we all aspire.
– I am indebted to Senator Georges for his contribution to the debate. I personally was not aware of individual difficulties that might have arisen, particularly in relation to the staffing of Whips’ offices. I will have those matters looked at and drawn to the attention of the appropriate authorities. I acknowledge on behalf of the Government and certainly on behalf of all honourable senators in this chamber, the fact that it is through the arrangement, however informal of the Whips’ offices on both sides of this chamber, that so much of the smooth functioning of this chamber and of the Parliament can take place. I would like personally to record our tribute, particularly to the staff, who are not seen, who do the work and who do it very efficiently. If there is any way in which the Government can help to improve this situation, we will take up the matter. I have taken note of the other matters raised and will pass them on.
– Before I refer to a matter which I consider important may I take the opportunity of saying that the Senate staff, the pay staff in particular, is very courteous and prompt, but I agree with what Senator Georges said concerning a newly-elected senator. It is important that he gets a bit of pay in his pocket as soon as he is elected. He is entitled to it. I might mention that in my case it was a couple of months after I was elected that I got my first pay cheque. Upon being elected I went into my office and received a large number of telephone calls from the heads of this and that department in Canberra offering courtesies and services, for which I was very grateful, but the phone call did not come for quite a period of time in fact, until some time in February. By then my bank manager was saying: ‘How about it Harradine; when are you going to fix it up?’ Some time in February I did get that telephone call. The office girl said: ‘It is another one of these fellows from Canberra’. I said: ‘Who is it this time?’ She said ‘The Senate pay section’. I said: ‘Put him on’.
The gentleman, whose name I cannot remember- it may have been Jones- gave his name and said that he was from the pay section, adding: ‘We would like your bank account number.’ I said: ‘My bank account number is my own business. What do you want the number for?’ He said: ‘We pay senators monthly by cheque.’ I said ‘ I have fought for years for the worker to receive his pay weekly in cash, and that is how I will have it’. There was silence for about 20 seconds and then the gentleman concerned floored me by saying: ‘That is an unusual and indeed unique request, senator. We will see what we can do but, of course, as with any other worker, you will have to come to your place of employment and pick it up every week’. No doubt that person has since been promoted, but may I just make that point on behalf of senators who will be elected in the future.
The real reason that I got to my feet was to say that it is difficult for me to raise these sorts of questions in the committees because I do not have the virtue of bi-location or tri-location when two or three committees are meeting at once. I raise the real question of the practical ability of senators to attend Senate committees. I know that the Standing Orders provide that a senator may attend a Senate committee, that he has the power to speak but not vote, but in my case I am physically precluded from doing so because I must fund the cost of my attending. I take this opportunity of raising again that issue before the Committee of the Whole.
– I would like to add briefly to the point made by Senator Harradine concerning senators-elect. It is very important. Unlike Senator Harradine, senators-elect in this Parliament had to wait six or seven months before being paid, during which time they were regarded by the public as being people who had been elected to the Senate and were servants of the public and were there to do things. That is the time, perhaps more than any other, when a senator is required to smarten up and do things for people. He has been in the public eye, has been elected and such matters come forward.
– It is like being in suspended animation.
– It is not a matter of suspended animation; it is a matter of suspended finance. A point worth making is that senatorselect have to make all their own telephone calls, type all their own letters, reply to voluminous mail, and send telegrams during a period of six or seven months, during which time they receive absolutely no support whatever. The public does not understand this; it simply cannot see why it happens. We all have our differences with the Constitution, but it contains a provision that senators may not take up their positions until the end of the June following their election. This is a matter which, for the sake of senators-elect in the future, this Parliament should consider seriously; that they should be given at least some secretarial assistance, some assistance with their travel, telephone and postage expenses.
– I wish to raise one or two matters which follow that which has been raised by Senator Georges, who has lodged with the Committee of the Whole a complaint about the travel facilities for his staff and for the staff of the Government Whip. The matter I wish to raise refers to travel facilities during the recess for the staff of ordinary senators. During Estimates Committee A’s discussions I raised this matter several times, and raised it with the Public Service Board. I refer to the provision of travel facilities quite apart from the 2 1 days to which each member of our staff is entitled in travelling to and from Canberra, I believe on three occasions each year. Upon raising the matter of the provision of staff for the Independent senator, as well as for members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, the answer I got was that apart from their entitlement to two staff members, they were entitled also to travel -
– The Democratic Labor Party staff?
– I am not concerned about them; I am concerned about what back benchers do not get. If honourable senators opposite hear me out they will probably agree with me. The answer I got was that the Independent senator and the Australian Democrats -
– I thought you meant the Australian Democrats.
– Yes, the Australian Democrats. I do not know whether they are democrats, but that is another point. Unlimited travel facilities are extended to one member of their staff during the recess. That is a facility that back bench members of the major parties do not get, whether they be members of the Opposition or of the Government. I claim that if an Independent or a member of the Australian Democrats is entitled to travel facilities which permit his staff to go anywhere in Australia during the recess, back benchers on both sides should be entitled to the same facilities. Many of us serve on or are secretaries of party committees. We have to travel all over Australia during recesses for discussions, in my case with people in primary industry; yet we have no travel facilities which enable us to take one of our staff to record the proceedings of meetings. As far as that is concerned, we are completely ostracised. Senator Harradine, who represents Tasmania, is entitled to travel facilities that permit one member of his staff to go anywhere in Australia during parliamentary recesses. If it is good enough for one Independent, and two others who are members of a small party, to have those travel facilities I claim that it is good enough for back benchers on both sides of the chamber.
I raised this matter with the Public Service Board and, in reply, Mr McLeod said that it probably would come to a certain degree within the Board’s jurisdiction. I hope that when the Board looks at the matter it will be able to remedy it and see that people who really need this extra travel assistance get it so that they may be successful politicians and carry out the duties for which they have been elected. If certain senators are entitled to those facilities so too are we. I hope that the Minister in charge of Estimates Committee A can give us an undertaking that in the very near future those facilities will be provided to us also.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I like to live by the doctrine of ‘don’t complain and don’t explain’, but something that Senator Georges said provokes me at the moment. What he said was substantially correct. Yesterday, as the sun was setting, two gentlemen arrived in my office with three chairs, my typist’s desks and a small occasional table- out of an entitlement of about three desks and two tables. I am very grateful to have them after 4Vi months. I would hope that by Christmas time I would have the whole of my office entitlement. I thank honourable senators very much.
– The contribution of Senator McLaren urges me to respond. The position of an Independent senator is most difficult. I do not have a great deal of difficulty within my own caucus, although I have some difficulty in obtaining a seconder now and again. The decision that was made in my case, as I understand it, was the same as the decision that had been made in previous cases, and that was that an additional staff member should be located in Canberra to assist me, particularly in the analysis of legislation that was coming forward. I, and no doubt the Australian Democrats, do not have the facilities that both major parties have. They have their committees to which they refer legislation. Of course that benefit is not available to me as an Independent senator, nor to the members of the Australian Democrats. So I think it is only fair, in the interests of mature consideration of legislation which comes before the Parliament, for the Government to make available, in my case a public servant, to analyse legislation and to present me with that analysis upon which I then can make a judgment in the interests of the people of my State and, of course, the people of Australia generally. I am not terribly familiar with the types of arrangements that are entered into with the Public Service Board. We decide issues in this chamber which affect the whole of Australia. I suppose that if there is a situation with a particular piece of legislation or a particular government policy which requires my staff member in Canberra- or the Australian Democrats’ staff member in Canberra- to investigate in, say, Perth because the legislation affects Perth, then I would rather see him go there than me, not that I have anything against Perth. But I have my function to perform within my own State. I know that the staff of the leaders of the Government and the Opposition have those travel facilities as well, and so they ought to, because we are considering matters concerning not only our own States but also the whole of Australia.
- Senator Harradine has raised a matter completely different from the one about which I was talking and I am now concerned with the matters raised in his remarks. He said that he has been provided with extra staff to help him with legislation. I am not arguing against that. The proposition I put to the Senate was that we ought to be entitled to the same recognition as he is during recesses. Senator Harradine surely is not going to claim that he needs that staff to look at legislation during a recess because no legislation is passed during a recess. The whole thrust of my argument is that if Senator Harradine and the Australian Democrats are entitled to travel facilities throughout Australia for one of each of their staffs during recesses so too are back bench members of the Opposition and the Government.
– I would send you to Antarctica.
– The honourable senator might. I am talking about our being enabled to carry out our jobs. If the Government recognises that those three people are entitled to two staff between them- that is one for Senator Harradine and one for the two Australian Democrats senators- and they are entitled to travel facilities during recesses, why cannot the back bench members also be entitled to those facilities for their staff? I am not asking for extra staff, although those who looked at the Remuneration Tribunal’s report will recall that its recommendation was that as soon as accommodation was available in Parliament House back bench members be given an extra staff member to do the work. The fact is that there is no accommodation here for such staff and that is one of the Tribunal’s recommendations that has not been enforced. The matter I raised is completely different from the matter raised by Senator Harradine. The way I read the answer received from the Minister by way of letter is that those honourable senators have travel facilities for one of their staff anywhere in Australia during recesses. All I am asking is: Why cannot other members of the Parliament be provided with the same facilities? We too have to look at many things that affect the whole of Australia. We have to travel around Australia. Surely if they are entitled to those facilities so are we. That is the proposition I put to the Senate.
– I wish to deal very briefly with a different matter altogether. We have been through the exercise of indicating how much we need by way of better conditions and I concur with all that has been said. It has been said many times over the years in this place- I have certainly said it- that where additional and better facilities are required in this place they should be provided. The matter to which I refer is one that I feel quite strongly about. I do so to place it on the record. During hearings of Senate Estimates Committee A we were advised that the dining room facilities in the Parliament- that is the dining room and the bar- will be subsidised this year to the extent of nearly half a million dollars. I know that I do not win any popularity contest by raising this matter and it will probably set the cat among the pigeons for the rest of the evening. I hope I am not doing that.
It seems to me to be a gross injustice that half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money has to be forked out every year- it is an increasing amount as we all know- in order to provide food and drink for what is in fact the highest paid group of people who work together and use the one eating facility in this country. If there is any qualification to that statement it could only be in relation to some other State Parliament. I read recently in the Press that the Queensland Parliament took the great step of increasing its costs of meals to members by 10 per cent to overcome a deficit, I think, in excess of $120,000. We are in that league. We are probably in a worse situation. I feel that collectively we ought to examine our right to enjoy the privilege that we do. I know that there is a counter argument inasmuch as we are compelled to eat here because of the nature of our work. But in my view that does not justify the fact that we are getting meals, as every one of us knows, at prices which are out of all proportion to the prices paid for meals anywhere else. For the sake of inviting comment or simply drawing the situation to the attention of the Parliament I say that we ought to ask ourselves whether we have a right to expect other people in circumstances entirely different from us and who literally battle for what they get, either in the way of income or for that matter food, to subsidise us. Here we are, accepting this year after year as though it has become some right to which we are entitled. I suggest that we are not entitled to this. Even in the estimates hearings the officer concerned, Mr Hillyer, when referring to the deficit stated:
The Committee at its last meeting took an action that will improve the loss situation and eliminate it, one hopes, in this current financial year.
There is no way it will be eliminated in this financial year. But at least we ought to make some sort of decent gesture so that we are paying reasonable prices for things that we are getting.
-The Committee stage of the Appropriation Bills gives us an opportunity every year to draw attention to many of the anomalies and shortcomings that exist in the administration of Parliament under headings relating to salaries and the general administration of the Parliament. I draw attention to another very important matter that is confronting the Parliament at present, namely, the timing of the decision that has to be made between now and the end of this year on the new and permanent parliament house. The matter of office accommodation for senators is a hardy annual. There is no doubt about it. The accommodation provided for senators and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament House from my experience compares most unfavourably with any parliament that I have visited in the British Commonwealth.
It is, of course, a reflection on us all that the accommodation facilities here are at such a level. It is quite easy to give an explanation. This Parliament House was constructed as a temporary building for a parliament in which, at the time, there were six senators from each State- a total of 36 senators- and twice that number of members in the House of Representatives, 72 in total. Even though it was a temporary building, since that time the need has constantly arisen for more accommodation. Through expediency and through improvisation, wings were added and extensions were provided wherever possible. This Parliament House has been well described as the greatest rabbit warren in the country and possibly in the world. Those who have had any experience of rabbit warrens would know that the way rabbit colonies extend is by seeking new areas to burrow in when they reach the end of the original burrow. It is a continuing process.
We hear continual complaints from honourable senators about staff and the inadequacy of the back-up assistance that is becoming more and more a requirement to enable honourable senators to fulfil their jobs as representatives of the people. The reason for this situation is that physically extra staff cannot be accommodated in this Parliament House. It is not possible to accommodate extra staff, but instead of blaming the administration we should blame ourselves because over a period of years we have had the responsibility of providing for the future but we have not measured up to it. But now we have reached a situation where a representative committee of dedicated members of this Parliament has been meeting regularly. The Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House has worked longer and harder than most other committees. I have been associated with committees on the new and permanent parliament house over a period of, I suppose, 25 years. But I have been encouraged to think that this Committee will be the one that will have the great honour and great responsibility of making the final decision.
The background work that has been done by officers of the National Capital Development Commission is deserving of the highest praise. There is no doubting that. It is an inspiration to see the degree of dedication and the conscientious work of these people. I feel that the work of that Committee and of the members of the NCDC deserves a decision. A decision has to be made and I hope it will be favourable. I take the opportunity tonight to use whatever persuasion I can to ask honourable senators who will attend their party meetings tomorrow morning to try to influence their colleagues, who have perhaps not given sufficient thought to the importance in every way of alleviating the inadequacies of this Parliament House, to agree to the building of a structure that will be a credit to this generation- a structure that will create employment and will overcome the hardy annuals that are discussed year after year at the time of appropriations when honourable senators talk about the shortcomings of this place. We should get on with the job of building the new and permanent parliament house.
– Who is on the Committee?
– My good friend, Senator Reginald Bishop has asked me to name the members of the Committee. I will do so. The Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House was formed on 7 March 1 978 and its members are: The President, Mr Speaker, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott), Senator Evans, Senator Maunsell, Senator Melzer, Senator Missen, Senator Young, Mr Haslem, Mr Innes, Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Keating, Mr Lloyd, Mr Simon and myself. I must say that the members of the Committee have applied themselves very conscientiously to their part of this job. Each and every one of them has high hopes that we can make the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Australia in 10 years’ time,. in 1988, the time when all Australians can participate in the great event of the opening of a new and permanent parliament house in which the people of this country will be represented on a site which is second to none in the Commonwealth- that is, on Capital Hill.
The long debate that has taken place to decide finally on the site has resulted in a decision that the new and permanent parliament house be built on Capital Hill. The next decision, the vital decision, is to get the project off the ground. Tomorrow at these important and vital party meetings members will be given the opportunity democratically to make the decision on this controversial matter which has been discussed at the very highest level. Even though I disagree on many occasions with back bench supporters and Ministers of the Government, I feel it in my bones that for once their better judgment will prevail tomorrow and they will reach a decision of which all Australians will have every reason to be proud.
– With all respect to the New and Permanent Parliament House Committee I would like to support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). I would hope that at the party meetings tomorrow members will, as a matter of common honesty and integrity in view of the state of this country, consider that it is no longer proper or decent that our meals and drinks should be subsidised to the extent that they are subsidised. I would prefer that we were at least honest about that matter and stayed in this Parliament House rather than have a new Parliament House and continue to bludge on the community.
-I am prompted to take part in this debate briefly. I speak as one with 12 years experience in a hotel of my own on the Gold Coast. For some time I have been looking at the estimates of the House Committee. The emphasis has been on subsidised meals and subsidised liquor, but I do not think any of us should be misled by that claim because that situation is not brought about by the members of Parliament or senators. In this place staff and their friends use these facilities. When we go home, they are still using them and using them much more extensively and extravagantly than any of us ever use them. I do not want to make that my main point. I do not know where Senator Mason got his information but I am reliably informed that top prices are being charged in the bar.
– Tell me where the subsidy is.
– The main cost component is hidden in the staffing of these ventures. I do not know who has the responsibility for rostering the staff but whoever it is acts with no experience. One sees three or four staff members standing behind a bar wanting to serve one or two people. That state of affairs would not be tolerated for half an hour in any decent hotel. If the standard of the management is reflected in the way this place is run, those people responsible in the Joint House Department should be sent away to a hotel management course to learn how to cater and run bar facilities. If they were taught management costing, the Government subsidy of $500,000 which is described by public servants as a handout to parliamentarians would be considerably reduced. If a person who has had experience at hotel management on the catering and liquor side were appointed to supervise activities in Parliament House, there would be a dramatic change overnight.
– Do you want a job, Ron?
– No, if I wanted to do it, I would retire from the Senate and go back into the hotel business. Why should I do it here for nothing? I repeat that the people in the Joint House Department who are responsible for running the bar and catering facilities in this place have no experience or special training in hotel management. The facilities under which the bar staff and kitchen staff have to work are deplorable. They would not be tolerated by the health department of any State or local authority in Australia. If these premises were not within the confines of the building that houses the national Parliament, they would fail dismally to meet the requirements of any local authority or State health department officer who inspected them. I have taken time off to inspect the facilities behind the members’ bar to see where the glass washing machines are. They would be condemned if ever a health inspector were called in to find out whether they came up to requirements. The same applies to the facilities with which the kitchen staff have to work. How on earth can the management cope with the modern hotel management accountancy methods today when the staff are using equipment that was modern in the nineteenth century?
– Or in comparison with other States.
– Yes. I cannot let the point go that parliamentarians are being subsidised by $500,000. We should take stock of ourselves. When we look thoroughly at the statistics we will find that the Joint House Department is top heavy with administration. Many people other than parliamentarians are using the facilities of the bar and kitchen. To give one example, I would like to look at the florist account that comes into the Joint House Department. I am reliably told that the account is debited to the members’ and members’ dining rooms. We never see a great display of flowers in either of those dining rooms except at a State function but when one walks into the Speaker’s office or the President’s office one sees a great floral display. The charges for those flowers are debited against the members’ dining rooms. Before we have any soul-searching in this place about the perks accruing to members of Parliament, we should thoroughly examine these aspects. Before we make half-cocked criticisms we should bring in some hotel management experts to look at the place. We should bring in some health department experts and other people who have some experience in this field. Let them give an independent report on just what is wrong with the Joint House Department at which my criticism is directed. How can we expect the Joint House Department to run a firstrate show economically, professionally and decently when those who are in charge have had no experience or training in the matters in which they are supposed to be versed?
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure- $48,666,000- agreed to.
Department of the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $253,067,000.
– I refer to Division 678, subdivision 2, item 06 relating to computer services for the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I note that this financial year an amount of $2,065,000 is set aside for the provision of computer services. We know what happened earlier this year in relation to the decision by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to cancel the arrangements that had been made for the calling of tenders for computer services for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and I think also for the Department of Trade and Resources. I have looked at this matter and given it some consideration. I have noticed the annual report of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council which was established as a result of the passage of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975. It consists of a large cross-section of people from various walks of life to give advice to the Australian Bureau of Statistics on the collection, presentation, compilation and desirability of obtaining certain statistics in Australia. On page 3 of the annual report of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council for 1977-78- that is, the report presented to Parliament last June- the Council examined the proposed Australian Bureau of Statistics work program for 1978-79 to 1980-81. It was informed of the expected effects of the delay in the acquisition of new computer equipment. If the Australian Statistics Advisory Council can be informed of the expected effects of the delay in the acquisition of new computer equipment, I suggest that members of this chamber as the Committee of the Whole should also be entitled to be informed of those effects before we give our approval to the Government’s spending $2,065,000 this financial year for the provision of computer services.
Obviously this problem is causing great difficulties in the successful operation of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. One need only refer to the annual report of the Australian Bureau of Statistics itself. Section 5 of the report relates to other activities. On page 1 5 it is stated:
Two major developmental undertakings- computer reequipment and data management- required the investment of a great deal of effort and skilled manpower during 1977-78 . . . The present computing equipment operated by the ABS comprises thirteen medium to large machines and six smaller ones, located in Canberra and the State capitals. All except two of the larger machines are old (some have been operating three shifts a day for fourteen years), inflexible and expensive to maintain and to operate.
At the time of last year’s annual report, evaluation of tenders invited in October 1976 -
That is over two years ago: . . for new equipment was nearing completion. Recommendations as to the tenders which should be accepted were endorsed by the Interdepartmental Committee on ADP in October 1977 and submitted to the Government.
In February 1978 the Government decided that new tenders should be called.
As we know, that was the subject of a prime ministerial determination and a matter of debate and censure in the House of Representatives. The report went on to state:
A review was then made of ABS requirements and developments in computer technology in the period since the previous specification was written. The specification was revised also in the light of experience gained in the evaluation of the previous tenders and comments made by the independent assessor appointed by the Government in May. These revised specifications were endorsed by the IDC in June.
That is last June, some five months ago. The report continued:
At the time of writing -
That is, the time of writing this report- new tenders have not yet been called.
I draw the attention of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and of the Committee to the following paragraph in the report:
In addition to the cost to the ABS of the wasted effort of the past two years, the two years’ delay (if tenders are invited scon) in replacing the equipment means perpetuation for that period of high operating and maintenance costs and involves a risk of a major equipment breakdown.
I noticed only yesterday, in an article in theAustralian Financial Review, the following statement:
The Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Chaney, has announced that tender documents for replacement computer equipment for the Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Trade and Resources will be released on November 20.
That is some five months after the interdepartmental committee presented its report last June. The article continued:
The closing date for tenders is March 20, 1 979.
That is, some five months from now. The article continued:
The Minister’s announcement gives effect to a Government decision earlier this year that new tenders would be invited for these computer requirements.
It is as plain as night follows day that, because of prime ministerial intervention, because of government inefficiency and incompetence, the work of the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been considerably interfered with and impeded. Indeed, as is stated in the report, there has been wasted effort in the past two years and if something is not done very shortly there is likely to be additional high operating and maintenance costs and there could be a risk of a major equipment breakdown. I think that we are entitled to know what the Australian Statistics Advisory Council was advised, so far as the expected effects of the delay in the acquisition of new computer equipment are concerned, before we pass this appropriation.
As I have said, obviously the Bureau’s work is being impeded. Its work is being affected and has had to be adjusted. A survey was taken, I think, in 1975 or 1976. The summation of that workthe collation of that census- is still going on. Yet another census is to be taken either in 1980 or 1981. We are now reaching the situation where, because of the Government’s direct intervention in this matter, by the time of the taking of that census the Bureau of Statistics is not likely to be equipped with the essential computer equipment that it will need effectively to carry out the job. Therefore, I think that this chamber is entitled to hear from the Minister the answers to the questions I have posed.
– I want to raise a matter arising out of the estimates for the Department of the Treasury. During Estimates Committee A’s investigations of the Treasury estimates it was revealed that Treasury had to find $300,000 for an advertising campaign advising people of the lower rate of tax they had to pay after the Government’s decision in January and February. At the time of questioning I understood from the Treasury officer concerned that this was the first time ever that Treasury had been called upon to conduct an advertising campaign in the media to acquaint people with their reductions in taxation because of the Government’s action. What I am concerned about is that the Government did not conduct a similar advertising campaign after the presentation of the Budget to acquaint people with the extra amount of tax that they would have to pay as a result.
The Government took it upon itself to spend $300,000 of the taxpayers’ money on a publicity gimmick to tell the people how much they were saving because of government action, yet now we find that no such campaign is being conducted by the Treasury through advertising in the media to acquaint the people of this measure. Certainly the Australian Taxation Office has put out schedules which are available at the taxation offices, but no advertising campaign has been conducted to advise the people that in fact they are paying extra taxation because of Budget measures. This is of great concern because we find that quite a few Press releases are being put out by Ministers to the effect that people are still saving in regard to taxation. That is not correct.
I think that the Government should be taken to task for expending in the early part of this year $300,000 of the taxpayers’ money to tell people that they will save in regard to taxation and not undertaking the same exercise to advise everybody that they are paying extra taxation now because of budgetary measures. Whereas the Budget claimed that an extra 1V4 per cent tax would be imposed for a temporary period, we find that most people, even those on the lowest incomes, are paying about 8 ‘A per cent more tax than they were paying. In some cases the additional tax is costing wage earners in the vicinity of $7.50 a week. At a certain level taxpayers will be that much worse off. Yet people at a higher level will pay less tax, comparatively speaking, than people at a lower level will pay.
I am not blaming departmental officers for this because they have to do what the Government tells them to do. I was most surprised to be told that this was the first time ever that the Treasury has had to undertake an exercise of this nature. I hope that it does not happen again. On all matters relating to taxation it should be left to the Taxation Office to advise people of changes in procedures. It ought to be left to the government parties to find an amount of $300,000 if they want to conduct an advertising campaign to tell people what a great body of men they are in the Government and how they are reducing taxation. I hope that this will be the last time ever that we will see an expenditure such as this by the Treasury on a political exercise.
– I would like to extend a little further the matter raised by Senator McLaren relating to the publicity campaign that was conducted by Treasury.
As he has pointed out already, it is estimated that $300,000 was spent on this campaign. It is accepted that if one side of a story is told the other side should also be told. To counteract this campaign, Treasury should undertake the responsibility of advising the Australian people in just the same way that as a result of the Budget a man earning the average wage, which is in the vicinity of $200 a week, will have to pay an extra $ 1.80 a week for the petrol he uses in his car to take him to and from work. Not only does he have to pay this $1.80 a week extra; he also has to pay other increased charges. I understand that in the Australian Capital Territory third party insurance for car owners is to be increased to $130 a year. This all adds to the cost of living. It is an imposition that is indirectly caused by Government policy. The people of Australia should be advised of such impositions by the Treasury which, in the final analysis, will collect the various direct and indirect taxes.
Earlier we were talking about the cost of liquor and other commodities, such as tobacco and food, in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms and bars. The average man in the street is paying about the same price, perhaps a little less, as members of parliament are paying for these items in the parliamentary bar. So people who patronise the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms and bars and who buy their cigarettes there receive no concessions at all. However, the average working man will pay $2 a week extra for the cigarettes and the drinks that he buys. I hope that Treasury will give equal time and space to telling the Australian worker that as a result of this Government’s policy, it will be obliged to collect an extra $2 a week from the average worker for his cigarettes and his drink. Then there are the costs of clothing and footwear that the average working man is obliged to purchase to be able to carry on his job. They will cost an extra $ 1 .50 a week for the worker on the average weekly wage. Furthermore to the person buying his own home, the cost of losing the taxation deduction for mortgage repayments will be $3.50 a week while increased taxation will cost him an extra $3.20 a week.
I remember very well the amount of money that was spent in government circles to entice the unsuspecting voter to vote for a particular party. An advertisement, depicting a fistful of notes, in effect stated: ‘This is the amount of money you are going to get if you vote for the Liberal Party’. It amounted to blatant bribery. It was a gimmick. I think the Government will rue the day it ever used that type of propaganda. I think that such an attempt by a government to persuade people to vote for it in this fashion, by using the television media for the first time, depicting a fistful of dollars is reaching rock bottom. People of conscience will react against the party that used those tactics. The allocation for publicity and for advertising that assisted the Government to sell its policy, through the Treasury, should be used equally in reverse to tell the people how much they have been disadvantaged by the Budget. A great deal of publicity was given to the off-setting reduction of $2 a week for the health fund contribution. But no guarantee has been given that the 40 per cent rebate on doctors’ fees will continue. I think some publicity should be given to this matter to warn people that they will need to cut their budgets and to cut their economic cloth to provide for this extra imposition that will inevitably come. It has been said that prices will continue to rise. Even the adulated Mr Friedman, the new apostle of modern economics who is supposed to be leading this Government out of the economic wilderness and who is taking it into the greatest economic jungle it has ever known is anticipating a further recession. He predicts the impossibility of this Government, or of the United States Government for that matter, finding a way in the foreseeable future out of the economic morass into which the system is leading them.
The whole thing boils down to the fact that in November of last year, just 12 months ago, we were given promises as to what the Government was going to do. There was advertising by Treasury of the advantages that would accrue from government policy. In such a short period the situation has been completely reversed and most of the promises made have been dishonoured. I think the point made by Senator McLaren is well taken. He said that a similar amount of funds should be made available to the Treasury to be able to point out how well and truly the wool has been pulled over the eyes of the Australian working people. The costs of living are spiralling continually and receipts to the Treasury are spiralling. As a consequence, the great promises that were made just 12 short months ago have turned sour. I would like to see the truth being told to people by the Treasury in a way similar to the way in which it used funds to advertise government policy just a short time ago.
– I follow the comments of Senator McLaren and Senator O’Byrne in relation to the funds that were used by this Government to advertise its tax changes earlier this year. On 7 November I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) this question:
I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether taxpayers’ funds were used to mount a publicity campaign earlier this year to explain income tax reductions. If taxpayers’ funds were so used, does the Government plan to employ public funds to outline to the Australian people how it has now increased income tax rates?
Senator Carrick, in his reply, said in part:
With regard to the first matter which Senator Colston raised, I remind him that he received full and detailed explanations on that matter. If he needs to have his mind refreshed, I draw his attention to the Hansard record of Estimates Committee A of which he was a member.
Of course I was well aware, when I asked the question, what was in the records of Estimates Committee A. But the Minister decided not to include the particular figures in his answer. So I want to put the record straight with regard to the amount of money that was used by this Government to publicise its campaign to explain income tax reductions earlier this year. They were public funds that it used. Senator McLaren mentioned a figure of about $300,000. That $300,000 that he mentioned was made up of direct advertising and the cost of pamphlets and other publicity material. I wish to refer only to the direct advertising. During the course of the Estimates Committee proceedings, I sought a full list of the actual newspapers that ran the advertisements, the cost of each of the advertisements, the actual television and radio stations that ran the advertisements and the cost for each. This material has now been supplied to me. The total cost of the advertising, which used public funds to outline the Government’s income tax reductions came to $236,148.25. So almost a quarter of a million dollars was used.
It is interesting to look at the actual amounts spent with each of the newspapers throughout Australia. Honourable senators who decide to study the amounts will find it interesting as regards the particular area they represent. I should imagine that members of the House of Representatives would be interested in particular newspapers in their electorates. Let me just mention some of the costs- these are only some of the costs- in the area I represent which is in Queensland. On 31 January 1978, an advertisement appeared in the Courier-Mail in Brisbane. The cost of this was $1,111.32. In the Brisbane Sunday Mail on 29 January 1 978 there appeared an advertisement, the cost of which was $1,353.24. This is the type of money which was spent out of taxpayers’ funds to publicise the income tax reductions.
-Did the Government publicise the income tax increases?
-The Government has not publicised those. I shall come to that point shortly. There were further insertions in the Courier-Mail, which cost an extra $1,534. The insertions in the Brisbane Telegraph cost $1,2 14. There was another one in the Sunday Mail, which must have been a rather small one as the cost was $171
I now turn to the provincial Press in Queensland. There we see that there were insertions- and therefore costs- in the Bundaberg News-Mail, the Cairns Post, the Queensland Times at Ipswich, the Mackay Daily Mercury, and so we could go on. I have not counted them, but there must be about 20 provincial papers in Queensland in which there were insertions and therefore costs. There are pages and pages more of them, which I am sure will interest honourable senators from other States and also members of the House of Representatives when they see the money that was expended in their areas. Those who are interested could see how much was expended on radio in their areas.
– Seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
-I had thought that I would seek leave to incorporate it, but I shall not do so because I presume that these documents are incorporated in the proceedings of the Estimates Committee as they were given to me as replies. So they are public documents at the moment and therefore honourable senators will be able to refer to them, as will members of the House of Representatives.
– Nobody reads those documents; everyone reads Hansard.
- Senator McLaren says that nobody reads them.
– They are not available to the general public.
-One of the reasons why the public does not see them is that these sorts of things are not brought to the attention of the public. One of the reasons why I am relating this tonight is so that it is brought to the attention of honourable senators, members of the House of Representatives and the general public that over $250,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent. That is the answer to the first part of the question that I asked. I did not receive a proper answer from the Minister. I am answering to the Senate tonight on his behalf, to illustrate how much money was spent.
Honourable senators may remember that I asked a second question. This was alluded to by Senator Douglas McClelland a short time ago. The second question was: If taxpayers’ funds were so used- and they were- does the Government plan to employ public funds to outline to the Australian people how it has now increased income tax rates? If we look at the reply Senator Carrick gave to me, we see that there is no reply to that second question, which indicates quite clearly that taxpayers’ funds are not going to be used. This is a double standard. If we employ taxpayers’ funds to show how income tax rates have been reduced, surely the same sort of thing must happen when income tax rates are increased. They have been increased as from this month. I would rather have seen what has happened now happen last February, with the Government being honest and using its own funds to publicise what it thought were income tax reductions. However, seeing that the Government did use public funds then, it should use them now. It is for this reason that I outlined why I think it was important for Senator McLaren and Senator O’Byrne to outline the points that they outlined. The fact is that over $250,000 was spent in February; but suddenly everything becomes very quiet when income tax rates are increased and not one cent will be spent to outline the fact that this Government has increased income tax rates in this Budget.
– I wish to raise another matter under the estimates for the Treasury. It relates to the method employed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in determining the number of unemployed people in the community. I spoke about this fairly extensively in the Estimates Committee and I think the daily Hansard of the Senate should record the way that the ABS goes about its work, on the instructions of the Government no doubt. We all know that the Government by its own decision ceased to use the figures provided by the Commonwealth Employment Service as a factual record of the number of unemployed. The Government would rather rely on the random sample surveys done by the ABS.
This matter involved some questioning in the Estimates Committee. When I asked the officer in charge- I want it to be understood right now that in no way am I blaming the personnel of the ABS; they are operating under the instructions of the Government and we were told that, in the main, these random sample tests are carried out by middle-aged married women who they claim have certain expertise- did the ABS ever recruit for their surveys any of the people whom they found to be unemployed and single people, I was told that the ABS would sooner have people with a certain expertise. I was told further that, when the people who were termed ‘agents’ were recruited to do the surveys, they were given an intensive instruction course of about eight weeks so that the ABS could be assured that they had the necessary expertise. My argument is: If these people can acquire the expertise in eight weeks of intensive instruction, why is it that the unemployed people they turn up in their surveys are not given the necessary training? The ABS could perhaps find single people or even married men who are unemployed. Why are they not recruited, instead of middle-aged married women, to do this work?
In these surveys there is a certain degree or error- up to one per cent- which in actual figures is about 4,000 people. Yet the Government is content to use these surveys to ascertain, in its view, how many people are out of work. I claim that that is not a proper and factual way to ascertain how many people are out of work. We should go back to using the figures of the CES, where people are actually going into offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service and being recorded as people out of work, rather than have these random sample surveys. I know, as I have been told by many people, that if somebody doing a random sample survey knocks on the door he will be given any sort of answer. The other problem is that if the same person was doing the survey in the same area for a certain period of time he would become known to many of the people whom he was questioning. The people being questioned certainly are not going to divulge their private affairs to that person. I claim that it is a very unsatisfactory way of ascertaining how many people are unemployed.
One of the other important matters that came out of the questioning of the ABS was the fact that it no longer carries out a study on vacancies; thus we do not know how many vacancies there are. The random sample tests that were being done are not being done now. So, on the one hand we have unemployment figures increasing rapidly and they are being ascertained by random sample tests, and on the other hand we have vacancies which are shrinking rapidly and no surveys at all are being carried out. The gap is widening. This is being done to satisfy the Government, just as in the case of the matter about which we have been talking and which I raised, followed up by Senator O’Byrne and Senator Colston, namely, how the Government expended money to advertise what it was doing in the field of taxation reductions.
We now find that it is using the ploy of having the ABS find out how many unemployed there are. I think it is wrong and the Government should not be doing it. It ought to stop this and go back to ascertaining the factual situation. If the Government keeps it up much longer it will catch up with the Government, as I said when it first brought this in. It worked only for a while to change from one set of figures to the other. What I am mainly concerned about is the fact that this is not a true reflection of the number of people unemployed and it ought to be done away with. We ought to go back to using factual figures provided from every office of the Commonwealth Employment Service where people go in to register for jobs- jobs that are becoming fewer and fewer every month that this Government remains in office.
- Senator McLaren mentioned the possibility of a one per cent error in some employment statistics. I am beginning to wonder whether this error could not be even higher than one per cent. During the meeting of the Estimates Committee I asked some questions in relation to the 1976 census of population and housing. It is well known now that all the forms that were filled out might not have been considered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics when the compilation of that census was being carried out because apparently only a sample of those forms was considered. During the meeting of the Estimates Committee I asked what sort of error there would be if only a sample were considered and part of the information that was given to me in relation to sampling errors stated:
The huge sample size (in excess of 6.5 million persons) used to derive figures for the 1976 Census ensures an adequate representation of all components of the Australian population and guarantees the production of reliable estimates for the many minority groups of interest to users. For example, given an estimate of 1,000 persons aged 15-64 years in a particular area there is a 95 per cent chance that the actual number is within the range 950-1050.
It seems to me that this indicates the possibility of an error of at least 5 per cent even though there were 6.5 million persons in the sample size. I wonder whether the -
– That is plus or minus 5 per cent.
– Plus or minus 5 per cent which is the same as saying that there is a possibility of a 5 per cent error- either way. I am wondering whether in fact the money that was saved, in comparison with the money that already had been spent on the 1976 census, was worth while saving when we take into account this possible error of 5 per cent. Of course, this provides a 95 per cent surety, and if one wanted to bring it up to 99 per cent which is, I presume, another benchmark that one can use in statistics, the error could be greater. However, let us leave it at a 5 per cent error and look at the amount of money that was saved. The total expenditure attributable to the 1976 census was $14.8m. Collection took $8.2m, processing took $6.1m and other expenditure, including publicity, took $0.5m, giving a total of $ 14.8m. Only in respect of processing was there a saving and it was brought about by the sampling technique that was used. The savings brought about by processing only 50 per cent of schedules was approximately $2m, which is about 12 per cent of what the total cost would have been if all the information had been processed.
Sometimes one wonders whether savings that are made in this way are really worth while and I am wondering whether this saving was worth while in this situation. The saving of $2m when $ 14.8m was spent has resulted in our not having accurate statistics from this census. The information that was given to me in response to the question which I asked about this matter contained the following sentence:
The ABS has released a detailed technical information paper SAMPLING ERRORS ASSOCIATED WITH CENSUS ESTIMATES (Catalogue No. 2129.0) for users of census data (copy attached).
I point out that the copy was not attached to the information that was given to me.
– Most of the matters which have been raised tonight were raised in the Estimates Committee hearings but there are a couple of matters on which I wish to comment. It seems to me that honourable senators opposite have extremely poor memories and when they regale the Senate with their complaints about Government advertising I simply remind them of their own brief period in office when there was a considerable amount of government advertising, some of which I recall featured a photograph of the then Leader of the Government in the Senate. There was some debate at that time about whether or not that advertising should occur. My recollection is that that advertising tended to relate to the benefits which the Labor Government, in its view, was bringing to the population and matters which it thought should properly be brought to the attention of the Australian population.
The advertising conducted in February this year followed a complete change in the system of tax imposition with the introduction of standard rate taxation. It was the judgment of the Government that that was a matter properly to be brought to the attention of the populace. The experience of honourable senators opposite ought to indicate to them that when they imposed any penalties on the Australian community in the form of increased charges and so on the news tended to get around without the need for any paid advertising. I suggest that honourable senators opposite ponder on their experience. They might be prepared then to conclude that the temporary tax surcharge of Vh per cent which was introduced in this year’s Budget but which is to be cut off on 30 June next year is news which, I suspect, has found its way into the minds of the Australian taxpaying public without any assistance from this Government. I thought that there was a certain lack of sincerity in the call for the Government to advertise to make that matter plain to the Australian taxpayer. I would be very surprised if honourable senators could go out into the electorate and find a sample of people who were not aware of the imposition of the temporary surcharge. However, they might conclude at the end of their interviews with the electors that the Government would be justified in advertising the fact that under this BUI the surcharge is imposed for only 12 months. I suspect that the populace, whilst it is aware that there has been an increase in taxation, is probably not 100 per cent aware that it is only a temporary increase although that has been explained in the Budget.
Senator Douglas McClelland, at the time I came into the chamber to take up duty, was talking about the delay in re-calling tenders for the Australian Bureau of Statistics computer. I did not hear all that he had to say but I think he posed a number of questions. One of the questions related to the delay from about February through to the present time. I can only say in answer to that question that following the decision of the Government to re-call tenders because of the doubts which had been cast on the process that had previously occurred- I think that is a matter which is well known to all honourable senators and which received a lot of publicity at the time- there was an obvious desire on the part of the Government to make sure that the procedures followed this time carried no risk of criticism or suggestion that the tender procedures were not fair to all parties concerned. It ought to be known to honourable senators that as part of the process of re-calling tenders, an independent consultant who was engaged advised the Government that the tender documents were in proper order and so on, and, indeed, there was an extremely meticulous and time-consuming process adopted for reexamining what was to be done before tenders were re-called.
I suppose I have to bear some of the blame for the delay. Undoubtedly, the change of Ministers in the portfolio which I now hold would have contributed to the delay to some extent. I had to become familiar with the matter when I took over the portfolio so there was probably some additional time lag because of that fact. It has now been announced that tenders are to be recalled. Honourable senators should not be surprised that the tender process is fairly time consuming. It is an extremely complex tender and I think that the time which has been allowed is simply an acknowledgment of the fact that tenderers wil need time to prepare their tenders and consider the requirements. Once tenders are closed there will be a further period in which tenders Will have to be considered. I emphasise to the Senate that buying a computer system is not like buying a typewriter. It is a rather more complicated procedure. Therefore, one cannot simply call tenders, close tenders and buy something immediately off the shelf. It is not quite as simple as that.
The only other matter on which I wanted to comment was the matter raised by Senator McLaren. Effectively, he was simply repeating comments which are implicit in questions he asked at the Estimates committee hearing. I do not think that one can seriously suggest that the process of sampling unemployment by the Australian Bureau of Statistics ought to be accompanied by a simultaneous recruitment campaign of those who were discovered in the survey process to be amongst the unemployed. Who is trained and used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics is a matter which is no doubt within the discretion of the Australian Bureau of Statistics in which it is guided by its experience in this area. I agree that the ABS is an extremely experienced gatherer of statistics. If its experience is that women of the type described in the Estimates committee do provide the service which is required by the Bureau, I think it would be an extremely odd thing if the Government intervened and told the Bureau that it should use these people to find pockets of unemployment that could be relieved and to get rid of its existing staff. I suspect that those constituents of Senator McLaren who perform this work would be extremely unimpressed by his advice to the Government. I must say that I do not regard his suggestion as a very practical one. It is a suggestion, however, which is on the record and it no doubt will be considered. But I would not hold out any great hopes that it is in fact a practical suggestion which would be adopted by the Government.
– The Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) spoke in terms of honesty and awareness. In light of that fact, I remind him that he spoke of a surcharge of 1.5 per cent. It is my understanding that the surcharge was 1 . 5 cents in the dollar on every rate of income tax. This means a greater rate in terms of percentages than 1.5 per cent. It depended greatly on the number of deductions a person had, the size of his income, the size of his family and so on. I have seen increases in tax ranging up to 10 per cent. The mean increase seems to be somewhere about 4 per cent. Let us just set the record straight. It is not a 1.5 per cent increase; it was an increase of 1.5 cents on every rate of tax that was applicable before the surcharge was introduced.
– Just so the record will be straight, if there was any misunderstanding of what I said I would like to make it clear that there is no argument about the fact that the increase over the year is a 1.5 cent increase in the standard rate of tax. So it is true that it is greater than a 1.5 per cent increase in the amount of taxation that is paid. I think the standard rate was 32c in the dollar. For incomes up to $16,000 the rate will be 33.5 per cent for the financial year 1978-79.
– I would like to follow up further the matter I raised earlier about the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Senator Chaney in reply said that he thought the officers of that Department might not take too kindly to my remarks. When Senator Chaney reads the Hansard report he will see that at no stage did I actually criticise officers of the Department. I think I am on record as saying that I do not blame them; I blame the Government. The Minister said that I had been repeating what took place in the Estimates Committee. In a debate such as this in the Committee of the Whole one has to refer to these things to put them into proper perspective. I want to point out that as recorded on page 1073 of the Hansard report of Estimates Committee A on 26 October I posed the following question to Mr Bagnall:
Would it be fair to say that it was at the direction of the Government that you discontinued the survey of job vacancies.
Mr Bagnall said in reply:
No, it was a consideration of our overall work program, ministerial comment and our own statistical and professional judgment as to the areas in which we should make the cuts in our statistical program.
Mr Bagnall admitted there that ministerial comment was considered when the Department made its decision. It was not a decision made entirely by the Bureau. The Minister was involved. I do not know what the Minister said because I did not ask Mr Bagnall nor did he volunteer the information. Later in the examination of that Department, I asked:
Is the Bureau still carrying out foreign participation studies?
Mr Howell was the officer who replied. He said:
We are still continuing those studies, but they will terminate at the end of 1 978. We are continuing with the studies we had in hand. No further studies will be carried out after the end of this year.
Then I asked:
Was the decision to discontinue the studies taken by the Bureau or was it taken because of an instruction by the Government?
Mr Howell said in reply:
The decision was taken by very much the same process as Mr Bagnall outlined a short while ago for the job vacancy survey.
Then I asked:
Was it taken in consultation with the Government?
Mr Howell replied:
It was done in the same way as Mr Bagnall outlined. We looked at the question of our resources and our work program. Essentially it came back to a judgment of priorities by us after consulting the Minister on the various possibilities.
So on two occasions in the answers given it was revealed that the Minister did have consultation with the officers of this Department. So it cannot be said that the Bureau used its own judgment entirely when it cut out some of the surveys that were being taken. The purpose of my question was to find out whether the cuts were made because of the staff ceilings. That is when the officer said: ‘We have to look at our priorities’. Of course the Department had to look at its priorities because of the staff ceilings. But it was after consultation with the Minister that the decisions were taken that these jobs would be struck off their list of priorities.
That is what I was complaining about right through both in the the Estimates committee inquiry and it is what I am complaining about now in the Committee of the Whole. I am complaining that the Bureau was under some instruction from the Minister. If it was not, why did it consult him or why did he consult the Department? Of course, it is of great concern to people that foreign participation studies are not being carried out. How is the public at large to know which foreign countries are participating in the economies of this country? Where are they going to find this information when the ABS is to discontinue these studies this year? It must have been at the direction of the Government because the officer said that it was in consultation with the Minister. I would like the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) to say why these studies have been discontinued. The public at large wants to know what foreign participation we have in Australia. For many years it has been said that our natural resources are being sold out to overseas interests.
– They have been given away.
-As Senator Elstob says- he is much nearer the mark than I wasthey have been given away. We want to knowthe public wants to know- what foreign participation we have in this country whether in mining or other business. It was after consultation with the Minister that the ABS made a decision that it would not have any further studies in that regard. Even if the Minister did not say in so many words: ‘You have to curtail these studies’, another simple way of doing it is to apply a staff ceiling. The Bureau then has to make the decision itself. If it has not enough staff to do the work it has to look at the list of priorities. This is done after consultation with the Minister. I would hope that Senator Chaney can throw some further light on whether the Minister did instruct the ABS to do the things that it has done or whether because of staff ceilings it had to take the action that was taken.
– I wish to add some remarks to those that have been made by my colleague Senator McLaren. They relate to the reply that was given to me earlier by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) in response to earlier references that I had made to the substantial delays that were now involved in the provision of new computer equipment for the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Whilst the Minister gave me the reasons for the delay in calling tenders, and explained those reasons fully, he did not give what I had requested earlierprobably before he arrived in the chamberinformation concerning the expected effects of the delay in the acquisition of new computer equipment.
Obviously, as I mentioned earlier, when one reads the annual report of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council in combination with that of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one sees that the Bureau is much impeded in effectively conducting its work and carrying out its surveys because of the unavailability of new computer equipment, plus the staff ceilings that have been imposed on it by the Government. As the Bureau rightly points out in its annual report, not only has it a responsibility to compile and provide statistics for the Commonwealth Government, but as a statutory authority set up by Act of this Parliament it also has a responsibility to meet the statistical needs of State governments. In addition, business, industry, trade unions and other non-governmental bodies and a large number of individuals ask for details that should be available to it, to enable them to plan their activities and carry out their various functions.
I note from the annual report of the Bureau that staff has been reduced by some %Vi per cent as a result of the government-imposed ceilings; that it had been intended to conduct a wholesale trade census in respect of 1977-78; that in March 1977 this had to be abandoned because of financial stringency and continuing reductions in staff ceilings; that the development of a construction census had begun in 1974, at the time of the Whitlam Labor Government; and that it had to be deferred in early 1976 shortly after the advent of the Fraser Government because of resources constraints. The report goes on to state that the project was reinstated as part of the forward work program for the period 1977-78 to 1979-80, but that collection of the data would not commence until July of next year; and the first summary results were not expected to be published until July 1980.
In the annual report of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council reference is made to the deletion of a household expenditure survey. The council considered that the deletion of the survey from the work program of the Bureau was particularly unfortunate because its omission would leave a major gap in the provisions of statistical information required for government and business decision making and for social and economic planning and research. One finds in both reports reference after reference to proposed surveys, contemplated surveys or intended surveys having to be completely cut out, having to be reduced, having to be diminished, having to be in some cases, unfortunately, discarded. Not only is the Bureau being impeded in the proper and effective collection of statistical information by the imposition of staff ceilings, but also, as I have mentioned, by the failure of the Government to provide the computer equipment that is obviously so urgently needed by it. Therefore, as I mentioned, because the Australian Statistics Advisory Council- it is merely an advisory body to the Australian Bureau of Statistics- has been informed of the expected effects of the delay in the acquisition of new computer equipment, I suggest that members of this Parliament are equally entitled to be appraised of the expected effects on the Bureau and on its work.
– I am not able to answer in detail now the matter which has just been referred to by Senator Douglas McClelland. I will make an inquiry and see whether some material can be made available to the Committee of the Whole on that aspect. However, I must say, with respect to the effect of the delay in procuring a new computer, that obviously the Australian Bureau of Statistics will have to go on using its existing computer services. In the case of the Department of Trade and Resources, which is associated with the procurement of new equipment, there will be an extension of the leasing of equipment which is servicing that Department at present. Undoubtedly, to some extent that will restrict the ability of the Australian Bureau of Statistics to achieve that statistical output that both it and the Government might desire. It would be footling to suggest that the delays would have no effect. They must, of course, have some effect.
The overall effect of that, and of staff ceilings, is to ensure that resources are rationed. There has to be a sorting out of priorities. Senator McLaren has addressed the Committee on that matter on a couple of occasions this evening. The fact that resources and effort have had to be rationed is not peculiar to this Department. Throughout the consideration of the Estimates, as there was during the work of the Estimates committees, reference will be made to the fact that staff ceilings have been imposed. In many cases that means some restriction on the activities of departments. That would seem to me to be like night following day. This Government has made it quite clear that it regards the holding down of government expenditure as a matter of considerable importance- in fact, it is fundamental to its economic policy. Therefore, the Government does not apologise for the fact that this and other departments must ration the effort they make, and decide what priorities should be followed.
Although that might be quite irksome to those honourable senators opposite who lived through a period of government in which expenditure was regarded as a blessing and something which could be entered upon without a great deal of consideration- we had a massive increase in government expenditure and the activities of departments under Labor- this Government has chosen to move in a different direction. It has done so quite openly. It has made it clear to the Australian electorate that that is its course and I do not think that a great deal is served by drawing attention over and over again to the obvious. Having said that, I will endeavour to obtain a response on the point that has been raised by Senator Douglas McClelland. Probably there is available material which can answer the question that he has asked.
– I asked the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) whether he could enlighten the Committee as to the form of consultation that took place between the Minister and the officers of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, but he has not given me that information. It is not as though this question was popped on him tonight unawares. He was the responsible Minister at the Senate Estimates committee concerned when we were discussing this matter. I did not go over all of the discussion that took place, but I think I am forced to do so because of the answers that were given to me by the officer at the time, in relation particularly to foreign participation studies. That is of great concern to many people. I asked the officer
In what order of priorities were the foreign participation studies? How important were they?
In reply Mr Bagnall said:
The studies commenced some rive years ago. We have undertaken reviews in a number of economic areas. The last studies to come out of our project relate to the registered financial corporations for 1976, the mining industry for 1976-77, large enterprise groups in manufacturing for 1975-76 and research and development for 1976-77. The work that we have undertaken over the last five years has contributed significantly to the knowledge of foreign participation. To maintain these surveys on an annual basis may not be the best deployment of our statistical resources. This is not to say that we will not, in three or five years time, undertake further surveys in respect of foreign participation in various sectors of our economy.
Then I asked:
Is there any other avenue through which the Australian public can find documentary evidence about foreign participation now that your work is winding down?
In reply Mr Bagnall said:
It is my understanding that official statistics on foreign participation were the authentic analysis of that area of economic activity.
In effect Australian citizens will not now be able to find out the level of foreign participation in Australia.
Mr Bagnall said:
At this point of time, yes. This is not to say that we will not be introducing further studies into our work program in future.
Then I went on to say:
You mentioned three to live years. Such a span will leave a big gap in the information available to Australian citizens about foreign participation in this country.
Mr Howell said:
We will still have information on foreign investment in Australia in total, but the abondonment for the moment of the foreign participation studies will mean that we do not have more detailed information on particular sectors of the Australian economy. We will still have total figures for Australia as a whole.
How much use has been made of your studies by the financial institutions in Australia? Has there been a great demand?
Mr Bagnall said: 1 cannot quantify the answer. We are very much aware from inquiries we received that the statistics were of value to users who had a need for the data.
When I proceeded a bit further the chairman said:
You will get plenty of opportunity to say that in the Committee of the Whole.
I was making comment there and I said:
I propose to devote a bit of time to the matter in the Committee of the Whole.
So Senator Chaney was forewarned that this was a matter of great importance to me in particular. That is why I asked the questions and why I ask them again. What instructions did the Minister give the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in consultation, that these studies should be discontinued, particularly in respect to foreign participation? The officer in his answer which I have read to the Senate from the Hansard report said that they were of great importance to certain people in the community. They are of great importance to many electors who want to know what foreign countries and companies are investing in Australia, particularly in the mining industry. If those studies are going to cease in 1978 how then will we ascertain what foreign investment we have in Australia? The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) went on record on Sunday night as saying that the business community is completely satisfied with what the Government is doing with the economy. How will we be able to make a comparison of whether Australia has been sold out, as a portion of Queensland has been sold out, to a Japanese enterprise if these surveys are discontinued? I would like the Minister to give the Senate an answer as to what instructions were given to the ABS in consultation, why this sevice should be discontinued this year, and what is the reason for it. Perhaps I should wait until I get an answer before making further comment.
– I make no comment.
– The Minister is not going to make any comment. In my opinion and in the opinion of many people the real purpose for not carrying out these surveys is that the Government is trying to cover up, from Australia at large, what countries and companies are investing in Australia and buying our natural resources which, in whole truth, belong to Australian citizens. How are we going to find out? The Minister says that there is no answer so we just have to assume that the reason for not getting an answer to this is that the present Australian Government does not want the Australian citizen to know what countries are investing in this country and to what extent.
– I doubt that the Australian population shares the view that has been put by Senator McLaren and I suspect that massive foreign investment forthwith would please the great bulk of Australians enormously. In any event, I refer Senator McLaren to the transcript of the Estimates Committee hearing to which he has been referring. If he looks at the section relating to his questions about job surveys and the suggestions that he put that it was at the direction of government that the Australian Bureau of Statistics discontinued job vacancies surveys he will see that Mr Bagnall replied:
No, it was a consideration of our overall work program, ministerial comment and our own statistical and professional judgment as to the areas in which we should make the cuts in our statistical program.
Later, as recorded at page 1075, in response to Senator McLaren Mr Bagnall said:
It was considered, in our judgment, to be an area where we could reduce our staff allocations to optimise the value of statistics overall.
The fact of the matter is that the Government has made a decision as to the funds which will be available to the Australian Bureau of Statistics as it has made decisions as to the funds which will be available to other sections of Government. Those decisions have been related to the views of the Government as to total government expenditure in Australia. That is a matter on which we have made our position amply clear to the Australian electorate. No matter how much Senator McLaren likes to complain about the fact that this sort of financial restraint is placed on government departments, it is the fact. That is a matter for which the Government cannot escape responsibility and for which it does not seek to escape responsibility. It is a government decision related to our approach to the whole of the Australian economy. I think singling out this particular point really takes us no further along that track.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $525,985,000.
– I take this opportunity to refer to the vigilance or otherwise of the Department of Foreign Affairs in relation to Australian nationals who become foreign mercenaries. The situation has been brought to light by an unfortunate incident. I refer to a man who had a good record in the Australian forces. It was reported in the Press that he fiddled around with Australian medals at the Australian War Memorial. I approach this matter on two plains. In one Press article it was indicated that during various leave periods this man served in various forces in parts of the world where Australia had no involvement whatsoever. I summarise my remarks in this way: Legislation was enacted by the Parliament to discourage or to curb Australians from getting Australia into wars in which it has no interest. This man has passed from our world. What vigilance do we maintain to see that even anyone who is in the Australian armed Services does not take any sort of furlough and then become a mercenary in some other part of the world? I think this is an important question.
My second point is much more delicate. I do not want to talk ill of the dead but I have received letters, and so has my colleague Senator Bishop, about the matter of Australian war medals and certain ringing of changes that occurred. I suppose one cannot pursue this matter very far but I hope the Minister responsible can give me an answer so that I can retail to certain ex-servicemen’s associations what we have done. Have we discovered how many ring-in medals there have been? In relation to the estate of this man, have we endeavoured to retrieve some of these medals?
– What about the men of the Krait who did not get medals?
-Senator Sibraa has made a very timely interjection which I am sure the Minister has taken up. Some people may have seen the film The Wild Goose. It is a romantic film with a star studded cast. Australians serving as mercenaries could put this country into an invidious position, as former Foreign Affairs officers such as Senator Knight would agree. Senator Knight is showing his agreement by nodding. I hope the Minister will be able to give me specific answers to the two questions I have asked.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m. under the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Chairman having reported accordingly-
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 24 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The substance of the opinion was that paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 9.6 of Determination No. 1978-9 in relation to the salaries of the electorate secretaries and the assistants referred to therein were legally ineffective, as the staff concerned were engaged under the Public Service Act and their salaries and other terms and conditions of employment fell to be determined under that Act and not by the Remuneration Tribunal.
An opinion was also sought from the Solictor-General who agreed that the Determination did not have the effect in law of fixing the salaries of assistants of Members of the Parliament. In light of the foregoing advice, the matter of classification of electorate staff was referred to the Public Service Board for Determination and on 8 August the Board issued a Determination providing new salary rates for such staff. In respect of the Tribunal’s determination to make available additional staff to Shadow Ministers, there was consultation with the Attorney-General’s Department and advice was prepared by the Solicitor-General.
I assure the honourable senator that the Government decisions in these matter, conveyed to the Acting Leader of the Opposition by the Prime Minister in a letter of 30 June 1 978, were consistent with the advice that was given.
Teaching of Rehabilitation Medicine and Geriatrics (Question No. 712) rk Senator Knight asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 24 August 1978:
What action has been taken, or is proposed, concerning the recommendations in the Second Report of the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped that: (a) notwithstanding the Council’s preference for the establishment of Chairs of Rehabilitation Medicine in lieu of Co-ordinators of Rehabilitation Studies, ‘the Tertiary Education Commission be enabled to implement, as a matter of high priority the recommendations of the Working Party on Rehabilitation Medicine and Geriatrics, in order to promote the teaching of rehabilitation medicine and geriatrics within university medical schools’: (b) ‘the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training (Williams) take special account of the need to analyse rehabilitation tasks, and to assess manpower requirements accordingly, in its examination of the requirements of special groups such as handicapped people ‘.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Committee is expected to present its report to the Government before the end of the year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
Senator DURACK-The Minister for National Development has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) (a) Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation;
The requirements of the authorities to present annual audited accounts to the Minister for presentation to Parliament are prescribed in legislation as follows:
(a) 16 October 1978.
(a) 17 October 1978. An interim report of the AlburyWodonga Development Corporation was tabled on 30 May 1978.
(a) Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation.
The factors, which vary as between the authorities, include.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister fro Education, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
Have funds been withdrawn from the Aboriginal Adult Education Program so that no part-time instructors employed under the program are now working in Alice Springs or Amoonguna; if so, will the program again be funded.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
There has not been a withdrawal of funds from my Department’s Aboriginal Adult Education Program. The funds provided for the program in the 1 978-79 Budget allow for employment of pan-time instructors at the same level as in 1977-78, but they are not sufficient to meet all demands for courses. My Department, therefore, has had to set priorities for the use of the funds, giving first preference to courses designed to assist Aboriginal people to acquire community management skills. As a result, support for some other courses, such as those at Alice Springs, has been discontinued for the time being.
My Department is keenly aware of the educational needs of Aboriginal communities and its Northern Territory Division is at present closely examining its operating costs to see whether savings can be made to permit the employment of more part-time instructors. The needs of the Aboriginal communities at Alice Springs and Amoonguna are kept under continuing review.
It should be noted that the Alice Springs Community College has conducted a number of vocational courses for Aborigines in the Alice Springs area during 1978 and continues to do so. The subjects covered include welding, motor car maintenance, woodwork, crafts, typing, literacy and job skills.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 14 September 1978:
On what volume of (a) diesel fuel; (b) aviation gasoline; (c) motor spirit; and (d) aviation turbine fuel: (i) was excise paid from 1968-69 to 1977-78; and (ii) is excise expected to be paid in 1978-79.
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 26 September 1978:
Will the Report of the Ord River Review Committee be tabled in Parliament; if so, when.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The review of the Ord River Irrigation Area is a joint Commonwealth-State project. The question of handling the report will be considered by the Commonwealth and West Australian Governments, after it has been received.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 27 September 1978:
What are the latest available figures relating to funds invested by the superannuation funds of the Life Insurance Companies in: (a) Commonwealth securities; (b) shares in public companies; (c) housing mortgages; (d) commercial mortgages; (e) freehold property; (f) joint venture investments; and (g) other.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The information sought is not available as most superannuation business carried on by life offices is included in statutory funds (established by companies under the Life Insurance Act 1 945 ) which also include ordinary and industrial business. Details of the total assets in Australia of life insurance statutory funds relating to all classes of life insurance business (including superannuation business) as at 30 June 1978 are set out in the table below.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 28 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
Has the Minister had any investigations made of complaints in the Sunday Mail of I October 1978, by residents near the Archerfield airport of ‘planes flying too low and too late in the evening, and about the dangers of formation flying’.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No specific investigation has been made of the complaints in the Sunday Mail of 1 October 1978 because of the broad nature of those complaints.
Notwithstanding the fact that no specific investigation has been made I have had the matter looked at from an overall point of view and I would like to comment on the general points raised.
Archerfield is a training aerodrome and as such carries a great deal of circuit traffic. These circuits, apart from the take-off and landing phases, are carried out at the normal height of 1, 000 feet.
With regard to late operations, training flights do not extend beyond 9.00 p.m. and normally conclude at 8.00 p.m. There is a small number of itinerant operations after 9.00 p.m.
In regard to formation flying this type of operation is carried out at Archerfield only with the approval of Air Traffic Control and is subject to satisfactory arrangements being made between the formation leader and Air Traffic Control on the sequences to be flown.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 1 1 October 1978:
Did a group of 22 young Queensland people undergo psychological tests at Canungra as pan of a selection procedure for ‘Operation Drake’ as outlined in the Sunday Sun of 1 October 1978; if so, were any Army personnel involved in the selection procedure and for what reason was the Canungra Army Training Centre used for the selection.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: 22 applicants did undergo psychological and physical tests on Army premises on 23/24 September 1978, as pan of a selection procedure for ‘Operation Drake ‘.
The staff of ‘Operation Drake’ conducted all assessments. Army provided the venue and advice on the use of Army facilities, as appropriate. Psychological testing was carried out at the Enoggera Army camp and physical testing at the Land Warfare Centre training area and confidence course location, Canungra.
The Canungra Army Training Centre was chosen because of the facilities it provided for physical testing.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 12 October 1978:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The current composition and weighting pattern of the CPI is largely based on the results of the household expenditure survey carried out by the ABS in 1 974-75. The next review of the index will be based on estimated expenditures of households in 1979-80. Sources of data for this reweighting will be limited for many areas of consumption expenditure, especially for service items, and considerable research and investigation by the ABS will be needed to obtain the necessary information. Overall, the sources of data used will be less satisfactory than if the results of a household expenditure survey were available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 17 October 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Dr Howard Ohr who is the leader of the research project on black streak, has stated that the disorder has not been transmitted through seed or fresh fruit. In addition, black streak has not been detected in the particular grove from which exports to Australia originate.
My Department’s policy is based on exclusion of avocado fruit except that derived from trees established from virus tested sources where complex virus indexing techniques have been used to assess these sources as free of virus. In the past year import of avocado fruit has been refused from Fiji,
South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Israel.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 24 October 1978:
Has Qantas made any approaches to carry internal passengers from Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne to either Darwin or Perth.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Domestic Air Transport Policy Review Committee examined the possible use of international airlines to provide some capacity for domestic use and concluded that it could be advantageous for some consumers and result in better utilisation of resources if TAA and Ansett Airlines of Australia were able to enter into arrangements with Qantas for utilisation of that airline ‘s spare capacity over Australia ‘s domestic routes. Following release of the Committee’s report discussions have been initiated with the domestic airlines and Qantas on this and related recommendations, these discussions are continuing.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 24 October 1978:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 25 October 1 978:
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Embassies are permitted to import a reasonable number of vehicles for official use, and individuals, one vehicle per eligible person each two years.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 8 November, 1978:
Did the Minister hire cars in the name of the Right Honourable J. D. Anthony for use in his own electorate between 2 December 1972 and 11 November 1975: if so: (a) did the Right Honourable J. D. Anthony approve of this practice: (i) in advance: (ii) in each individual case: or (iii) in retrospect; (b) did the Minister for Services and Property ask him to cease this practice; if so, when; (c) did the Government ask the Minister to pay any accounts received for cars hired in this way; and (d) did the Government seek reimbursement for any accounts incurred in this way which had already been inadvertently paid by the Government.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has forwarded me the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Where cars were used on behalf of the Leader of the National Country Party in the period mentioned they were ordered and charged with his approval in his name.
Responsibility for some accounts in the Minister’s name were disputed by the Minister for Services and Property. These were settled personally by the Minister.
National Anthems Played on Official Occasions
-On 25 October 1978 (Hansard, page 1565) Senator Bonner asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question, without notice, concerning the nonplaying of the Australian anthem during the recent visit to Parliament House by His Excellency Mr Walter Scheel, President of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Prime Minister has supplied the following information as answer to the honourable senator’s question:
When a visiting Head of State has been received in King’s Hall with a musical honour it has been the practice by way of a courtesy to the Guest of Honour to play the National Anthem of his country.
The above courtesy is in harmony with the military ceremonial prescribed for Royal Salutes when Guards of Honour are mounted for Heads of State.
At the Parliamentary luncheon in honour of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Toasts to The Queen and to the President were exchanged after the main course.
Allegations against Minister for Primary Industry
-On 25 October 1978 (Hansard, page 1573), Senator Wriedt asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question, without notice, concerning allegations against the Minister for Primary Industry. The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I do not wish to add to what I told the House on 24 and 25 October 1978 (House of Representatives Hansard, pages 2 174-6 and 2261).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 November 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19781114_senate_31_s79/>.