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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 3696

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Labour) - The rather dramatic motion that has been appearing on the notice paper for a few days reads:

That this House requires an explanation and apology from the Minister for Labour for his conduct in misleading it on 16 October as recorded in Hansard at pages 2134-2135. in that he falsely reported the advice tendered by an officer of of his Department.

I first learnt of this notice from my private secretary, Mr Milton Cockburn, who came rushing into my office to say: 'Have you just heard what has come over the blower?' The blower' is what we call the loudspeaker system that transmits into the offices what is said in the Parliament. I said: 'No. What has happened?' He said: 'Mr Wentworth has given notice that he will move a motion'. I have just read the terms of the motion. I went on writing. He said: 'Excuse me, Minister. Did you hear what has just come over the blower?' I said: 'Yes, I have heard you*. He said: 'But it is requiring you to apologise and explain'. I said: 'Yes, I know; but you said it was Mr Wentworth, didn't you?' He said: 'Yes, that is right'. I said: 'In that case, don't bother me.

Let me go on with my work'. He said: 'Aren't you concerned?' I said: 'Not the slightest, firstly, because it is Mr Wentworth, and secondly, because the content of the motion is so palpably silly and so easily answered that I would just like to be allowed to continue undisturbed with my reading and my writing, if you don't mind*.

He retired and excused himself, looking rather embarrassed as, I suppose, on reflection he now realises he had every cause to be for disturbing me when I was engaged in some casual reading just to tell me that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) required me to offer an explanation to the Parliament and to apologise for saying something that was perfectly true.

Mr James - You thought it was so frivolous?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -It was frivolous, but it is not the first time that frivolous motions have been moved by the honourable gentleman in this Parliament. The last motion, which he moved this morning, was very good. I admired him, and I thought that he might maintain in speaking to his second motion the high standard he displayed in moving the first motion. But I was too disappointed really. I did not expect that he would be able to maintain that kind of standard in the second one, because he is not so good. It is just not possible to do it.

Will I offer an explanation to the House? Of course I will. I will always give an explanation to the House of anything I do. In this case, will I make an apology? No. By all means I will make an apology when I am wrong but certainly never when I am right, and this happens to be one of the numerous occasions when I am right in what I say. I am sorry that the honourable gentleman wasted his money in putting silly little advertisements in the daily Press.

Mr James - He might have got them for nothing. You never know.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He could have got them for nothing. That is a possibility. It may be that he was being used as a fall guy for somebody else and that it did not cost him anything. But let us assume, 'as I am always prepared to do - let us be charitable about these things - that the honourable gentleman did pay and paid the full rates. I can only say that on that assumption it was a waste of money. He did not get his money's worth. He did not convince anyone, because un fortunately for him the advertisement itself prompted one of my more alert followers on this side of the House to ask a question the very next day. The honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls), who is always alert to the misrepresentations that are so frequent in the daily Press, asked me whether I knew about the advertisement. I anticipated a question coming from the other side of the House, and so I had armed myself before I came into the Parliament with the relevant reply and information that devastated the advertisements and made the honourable member for Mackellar behave in such a way that the House very properly expelled him from this chamber for a period of 24 hours - a punishment which he justly deserved and which, except for the fact that the standing orders limited his suspension to 24 hours, should have been for a much longer period for the disgraceful performance he put on on that occasion.

The honourable gentleman was very good in one way about the case this morning, because he tried to give me an out by saying: ^Perhaps he did not know what was going on inside his Department. Perhaps he did it in ignorance. Knowing the honourable gentleman as I do, I am pretty certain that he would not do what he did deliberately; so if he will just say that he was ignorant of the whole facts and that this is the reason why he misled the House I think the House will accept his apology and explanation'. First of all, of course I do not know of everything that is going on in my Department. I wish I did. There are 4,000 officers employed there. No Minister can be au fait with everything that is happening in his Department, no matter how good he is. I do not know everything that happened in relation to the document referred to but I know more about it than the honourable gentleman, and particularly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) would like me to know. I will say something about this in a moment. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may leave his pencil alone until I get to him, because it does not suit me to do so now.

Of course, the honourable member for Mackellar is right when he says that a Minister who lies is not fit to hold his portfolio. That is quite right. We thought that ourselves in the last Parliament and in the one before that. We often said it but nobody took any notice of it then. We often caught Ministers from the Liberal-Country Party Government of the day lying and we proved they were lying. We asserted that they were lying. But the rules were different then. The honourable gentleman opposite who now says that a Minister who lies is not fit to hold his portfolio then thought it was perfectly in order for a liar to hold his portfolio. Well, I have not changed my mind. I still believe that a person who lies is not entitled to hold his portfolio. A lie is knowingly to tell an untruth. A person can tell an untruth without knowing that it is an untruth, but if he knows that it is an untruth he is lying and he has no right to hold his position as a Minister.

The honourable gentleman then complained that the figures which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) quoted in this House to show that there had been a decline in labour's share of the gross national product since 1948-49 were being used by him as a foundation for the Prime Minister's referendum case. He stumbled upon something which, by coincidence, happens to be a very important fact - that the whole argument in which we are now engaged is really whether we should take 1948-49 as the base year for calculations, taking it up to 1968-69, or whether our 20-year calculations should commence from 1953-54 and end at 1973-74- or from 1952-53 and end at 1972-73. It is a notorious fact that if the 1948-49 figures are taken one gets a different result from that achieved by taking the 1953-54 figures.

The economists explain that this is due to the fact that in 1948-49 we were still benefiting from price control, that therefore it is unfair to take as a starting point a year which fell within the beneficial results of price control, and that we ought to move on to 1953-54 when the evil effects of having no price control began to manifest themselves. The economists say that, by doing so, the comparison becomes economically more accurate. I am concerned not only with the economics but also with the political facts of life. The Prime Minister unwittingly - intelligent though he is - was making a much more powerful point for price control than even he realised, in drawing attention to the fact - again by accident - that the result obtained for a 20-year comparison starting at 1948-49 when price control effects were still manifest is different from that obtained by drawing a comparison with later years when the benefits of price control had passed away.

I was amused to hear the honourable gentleman talk about his poverty and say that he had to draw on his own limited financial resources to carry out his own inquiries and to put this series of advertisements in the newspaper. No one in this Parliament is as wealthy as the honourable gentleman. If his great-grandfather went down to the South Coast and pinched all the good land, good luck to him. I know that the honourable gentleman - this poor man - has such a fabulous property in Sydney and the grounds are so large that he must be the only person with grounds large to run his own kookaburras. How do I know that he has kookaburras in his extensive gardens? I read it in the newspaper. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) was addressing some ladies at a strawberry fete there not so long ago. He had said that the Opposition is now picking up ground politically. At that point the kookaburra burst out laughing. Is it any wonder? Of course it had to burst out laughing. The point I am making is not that the kookaburra woke up to the Leader of the Opposition, as most other people have already done, but that the honourable gentleman's elaborate and expansive private grounds are such that they are able to provide shelter for kookaburras. The honourable gentleman talks about twisting the Prime Minister's tail. It was the most amusing part of the whole speech. I thought it was excellent. I congratulate him on it. He ought to be on the stage. He would make a first class comedian. I think he is to be complimented on it.

Let me move on to the gravamen of the complaint - Mr James of the Australian National University. It is very significant to me that the study of Mr James made was published in the journal of the Australian Industry Development Association, which is an employers' organisation. So can anyone suggest that this is not in some way biased? Of course it is. Research into labour's share of the gross national product was commenced initially in early 1970. The draft report on this initial work was subsequently expanded in the June quarter of 1971. The matter then lapsed until February 1972 when a decision was taken to update and expand research and to hasten its conclusion, with a view to publication later in the year in the Department's Labour Market Study series. However, it was subsequently decided, on the instructions of the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition who was then the Minister for Labour and National Service - now he may start making notes - that the publication would be deferred. Why did the then Minister decide to defer it?

The reason is that the results were not giving the answer that he wanted.

Mr Lynch - That is a lie. I will deal with you in a moment.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - All right. I am telling the honourable gentleman that he asked for this report to be expedited. It was expedited. I am saying that he asked for it not to bc published. I am further asserting that he did that because he did not like the conclusions. In March of this year a slightly amended version of the draft prepared in 1972 was forwarded to the Minister's office. In April copies were forwarded to a number of academic economists for comments. A copy was forwarded to Dr Hall of the Australian National University and this copy was apparently passed to Mr James. Since then the draft has been revised to take into account the comments received from the academics, to incorporate the latest national earnings data including minor revisions in concept and methodology, and to include the results of further research into labour's share movements in the early post-war period.

One of the officers involved in the research has been a Mr Tilling. As a result of some early work, Mr Tilling, with the approval of my Department, commenced in 1972 a minor masters thesis at Monash University in the area of functional income distribution. (Extension of time granted). As part of the candidature, Mr Tilling gave a seminar in July 1972. The report of Mr Till ing's seminar was tabled recently in the Parliament. The results of Mr Tilling's seminar and the Department's various draft reports indicate that since 1948-49 the more appropriate measures of labour's share show a clear and unmistakable downward trend but this decline is concentrated in the 1948-49 to 1953-54 period when the benefits of price control were starting to taper off. As a consequence the various measures show that labour's share has remained reasonably constant since 1953-54, but the fact remains that there has been a fall - I repeat the words 'a fall'; I wish the honourable member for Wentworth would stop interrupting my attack and listen to what I am saying - from 1948-49 to the 1970-71 period as a whole.

As I said earlier, the starting point is the contentious issue. The present thinking by officers of my Department is that 1948-49 is the more appropriate starting point. It is also, by coincidence, the starting point which the honourable member for Mackellar used in his calculations. I might further add that my Department is presently finalising a comprehensive and detailed report of the share of labour in Australia in the post-war period which will be published in the Department's Labour Market Studies' series. I suggest that further discussion on this matter might therefore be postponed until the Department's paper is available in the final form for every interested person to read. In deference to the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), I will not read the rest of the other documents I have here in support of my earlier contention of 16 October when I said, quite properly and quite rightly, that labour's share of the gross national product since 1948-49 has fallen and that the Prime Minister was perfectly correct in putting the figures that he did to the Parliament.

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