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Thursday, 24 August 1972
Page: 428

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I begin by commenting on the final remark made by Senator Jessop. I believe an amazing trend has developed in this matter. All Ministers keep talking about the prospect if and when a Federal Labor Government takes office. The prospect must be worrying them for this syndrome to have developed - and I get a lot of satisfaction from it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Willesee) moved last night a very adequate amendment in these terms:

.   . but the Senate condemns the Budget because it fails to define adequate economic and social goals. . . .

That is the text that I take up and, with my Deputy Leader, 1 support the amendment. When I read the document that was presented by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson on behalf of the Government and the sequence which it follows, I start with the economy. Trade is emphasised as a vital ingredient of the economy. The 'Canberra Times' of 22nd August published a scathing indictment of certain government policies, criticised 'Australian Foreign Policy', a Liberal publication, 1972 edition, and then made reference to Australia's nonrecognition of China and its effect on our wheat exports. In the 6 years that I have been a senator, I have been amazed at the change that has come over this Government. I have commended the Government for having widened its relations with eastern Europe - though I am aware that our relations with eastern Europe have brought tremendous problems with the Ustasha and people like them. But we must be ambivalent.

Still, I am amazed that this Government, particularly the Country Party segment of the coalition, has marked time while the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr Trudeau, seems to have beaten it hands down in the field of exports. I do not think that any honourable senator would imply that Mr Trudeau is a pinko or that he is subject to Moscow. You and I know that this is not so: He is the Canadian Prime Minister. All Ministers of this Government, including Senator Wright of course, paid due homage to Mr Trudeau when he was in this country. I should like to tell the Senate a peculiar story. When I listen to the strictures and the hard-hitting comments against Senator Keeffe from the gentlemen on the other side, I think how amazing it is what some people will do as political gimmicks. It happens that I live in the electorate of the Australian Prime Minister; and it so happened when Mr Trudeau was in Australia, he journeyed up the Parramatta River to meet our Prime Minister at a function arranged by a local government council to commemorate a 100-year- old memorial to Canadian political prisoners who were confined for a time in Concord. Of course, the Prime Minister could not get there, and rather than have a socialist senator intervene and be there to receive Mr Trudeau, Mr Bury had to be brought back all the way from the Philippines. Mr Bury was a bit sleepy, but he did the job. But the fact of the matter is that the Government was mean and contemptible in playing politics this way. Let us be honest about it: If honourable senators opposite squeal about our dishing it out, we know of instances where these sorts of things have happened. I am not indicting Senate Ministers, but I am indicting the Prime Minister.

Having got that off my chest, I want to deal with one or 2 other matters. Senator Jessop went to great lengths in talking about taxation adjustments. I suppose that if you refer to what David Solomon said you would get the idea that a wage earner with a wife and 2 children, who receives $67 a week, is getting the magnificent weekly feed-back of $1.20. We of the Labor Party have been arguing that there are 2 great impositions on the average wage earner. The first is the failure effectively to assist State railway systems, which in turn results in the usual biennial increase in fares and freights. What it means to Mr Average Australian is that he does not merely get the first effects of increased fares and freights when he pays for his weekly fares. He then finds that the prices of a multitude of commodities are increased because of the increased rail freights. This is the point that I want to take up particularly with Senator Jessop who is messiah in the transport field.

Some time ago I asked question No. 1805 of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon). I asked for a breakdown of the amount of money that has been fed into the Commonwealth aid road grants scheme in the last 5 years. I do not quarrel with the amount of money that is provided for that purpose, but I wanted to relate it to what had happened to the request to inject financial aid into the State railway systems. 1 found that $800m had been fed into road construction and that only $6Om had been provided for railway projects. The point I am making is that when we entered the diesel era it was quite obvious that loan expenditure would be directed towards meeting heavy repayments. We are probably the only nation in which the Government adopts a Pontius Pilate attitude towards its responsibilities in regard to rail transport.

Even the country that is supposed to be the paragon of private enterprise - and .1 refer to the United States of America - has had to concede that mergers, amalgamations and the creation of transport corporations are necessary in order to carry the load and to ease the burden on railway commuters. That has been done in the United States. I suppose that if one probed the position in Canada and looked at the history of the Canadian Pacific Railways one would find that the Government in Ottawa has played a very effective role in adapting and assisting the railways when they have reached these financial shoals. The point I am making is that as soon as rail charges are increased, the SI. 20 which honourable senators opposite say will be fed back into the weekly pay packet of the average Australian worker is more than obliterated. 1 will take it a little further in this transport field because we are talking about unemployment and job opportunities - those golden phrases which are used by honourable senators opposite. One of my criticisms in this matter has been the slowness of Ministers to act. It may be that I was not helped sufficiently, but I had 6 metal trades union officials with me when 1 met the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony), who in turn was to pass on our remarks to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon). Perhaps if I had had a battery of Liberal senators with me, who knows, with an election coming on we might have won the day. But we did not do so. The point I am making is that this delegation made a simple request to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Firstly, the members of the delegation claimed that if, through the efforts of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, there was a feed in and a systematic co-ordination of railway rolling stock orders - whether they be orders placed with the Tullochs rolling stock manufacturing firm in New South Wales, or with its counterpart in Victoria or South Australia, or even possibly with Walkers Ltd in Queensland - there would not be this ebb and flow in employment opportunities.

That was a simple request. We went even a little further. We suggested that the Minister for Trade and Industry could add to the $17m that was given as a special grant to Sir Robert Askin. The Country Party Minister and Deputy Prime Minister very clearly said: 'We gave the New South Wales Liberal Premier Si 7m, and that is enough'. We said: 'All right, if it is enough, why cannot you get all the State Transport Ministers under the chairmanship of Mr Nixon to co-ordinate their activities and spend this money?' That meeting took place in about June, and nothing has happened since.

A very important point is involved here. I know that Senator Wright takes a deep interest in industrial matters. I do not think that he and 1 reach the same conclusions on industrial matters but, as the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch), he espouses the rule of law and the necessity for adopting a reasonable attitude in industrial relations. I will tell Senator Wright what happened on this occasion. After the 6 metal trades union representatives met the Minister for Trade and Industry they came out and said: 'What are the prospects?' I said: 'Look, the dialogue, the communication between Commonwealth Ministers can be very slow. But I think you will help things by agreeing to a reasonable bit of give and take in the industrial field'. I said: T know you have been under provocation at Tullochs works'. They said: 'There is no overtime ban, but we do resent the fact that overtime has been worked rather than spreading the work over the existing work force'. There were no overtime bans, there was nothing. What was the pay-off? The work force at Tullochs is 300 fewer now than it was 12 months ago. When you talk about industrial harmony, and trade union leaders try to accept what you claim they should accept, you find that at times you are left in the situation: The answer is a lemon - nothing happens. These sorts of things make the trade union movement very doubtful at times about some of these promises. The Government promises that it will do this and that, but unless these promises are met people get very browned off.

I refer again to this industrial syndrome. I have repeated this many times. Honourable senators opposite have argued about the recent agreement concerning the Waterside Workers Federation. They say that waterside workers are getting a snorter working week. Senator Wright refers to increased freight rates. I can give it to him in reverse. I ask him to look at the vast diminution in the waterfront work force in the port of Mackay which handles sugar. The number has dropped from 400 to about 40. But the person buying a couple of pounds of sugar in Sydney or Melbourne does not get sugar any cheaper. This is what mystifies me and a lot of people when we get all this folklore about productivity. Increased productivity does not manifest itself in a reduction in the retail prices of various items. It may well be that under the capitalist economy about which honourable senators opposite talk there should be a curb on the vast expenditure on these stupid advertisements on television which say: 'If you do not have this variety of soap or if you do not eat these breakfast foods there is something wrong with you'. The average person in a suburb of Sydney or Melbourne sees an agreement made by the trade union movement to contract the work force, but he still sees no reduction in retail prices.

My father worked all his working life at the Mortlake gas works. At one time there was a work force of over 8,000 at the Mortlake gas works. It is now down to 1,000. But despite the use of oil instead of coal, a cubic foot of gas is no cheaper. The onus is on the Government. I do not believe in this system, but the Government does. Perhaps some economists opposite will give an answer to this argument. Unfortunately, Senator Webster is not present in the chamber. This is the sort of situation which we are continually facing. We are getting tired of hearing all these lectures.

I want to go a further stage in relation to this syndrome about an increase of $1.20 for the average worker. From listening to honourable senators opposite, from Senator Drake-Brockman down - he having led for the Government in this debate - one gets the impression that this $1.20 is a sort of an increase in the basic wage; that an extra $52 or more a year being given to workers without going through all the paraphenalia associated with national wage cases. The point which concerns us is that in addition to the incessant increases in fares, there is the other situation concerning hospital and medical contributions.

Yesterday some representatives of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union came to Canberra to see me. I can assure honourable senators opposite that they can rest content - it was not the top echelon of the union. I was not brain-washed by Brother Halfpenny or Brother Carmichael, or even the top echelon of Brother Garland and Brother Devereaux. I met the people in the middle echelon, the people who go out to the work force on a cold winter's morning and deal with the day to day disputes. The first thing they said was: 'Of course, you know that a lot of what is defined as militancy is caused because- the era of unlimited overtime has gone'.

I believe that overtime in many instances was a palliative. Often, it dulled people's industrial senses. However, it was there. The fact of the matter is that, with the limitation of overtime, the employee is far more interested in what he gets in his pay packet for the minimum 40-hour week. Do not run away with the idea that unlimited overtime is the order of the day. It is not. As a matter of fact, the self-same metal trade workers in the railway rolling stock area are the very victims of the situation that I am talking about which concerns the failure of our much-vaunted Minister for Shipping and Transport to coordinate the order capacity of the various Railway Commissioners.

I return to the matter of the $1.20 increase which I have been discussing. We claim that in addition to these violent fluctuations in public transport fares a situation is arising nationally similar to that which occurred in the hospital and medical benefits contributions funds. I know that complementary legislation has been introduced concerning the use of some of the reserves of these funds for nursing home services. The first thing that amazes me about the situation is: How long will the funds continue to live off their alleged fat? I am referring here specifically to the Hospitals Contribution Fund and the Medical Benefits Fund. I believe that the funds in the next breath, within 6 months, will boost their reserves by increasing contributions. The Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) will come in here and say that the funds have spent all their reserves helping to subsidise people in nursing homes. I will limit my remarks on this matter on this occasion because Senator Douglas McClelland will speak on this subject. But I hope to deal with one other aspect of it when the legislation is before this chamber.

We have no assurance in the way that the funds are operated that there will not be another increase in contributions. It may be 70c a week. Do not forget that that is 70c out of the $1.20 that we are talking about. The reason why I and other members of the Opposition have no confidence is that when we turn to the detailed inquiry that was conducted by Mr Justice Nimmo we find that among his recommendations was the proposal that the whole concept of health insurance should be transferred from the Commonwealth Department of Health to a national health insurance commission of 5 members. I notice that one of those 5 members is to represent the interests of contributors and patients'. This is not the only thing that browns people off. Let us take the case of a boilermaker in a shipyard who has a son. That boy in bis earlier years is subject to a number of illnesses. The situation may arise in which the boy goes into hospital for what is initially said to be an appendecitis operation and then something which is different from an appendecitis - perhaps a hernia - but which is not covered by a fund provision is discovered. The secondary effect when the father discovers this is that he himself may continue to put up with some ailment because he does not wish to meet the added costs involved.

Let us be perfectly clear about this. Honourable senators and I probably can sit on our buttocks in this place when we have some ailment, but the person who has to swing a hammer or use some other heavy tool in industry is in a different situation altogether. The problems faced by people of this type are not always recognised. I have pleaded repeatedly with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson and asked when he is going to bring democracy into the operations of these massive fund organisations. Let me give the Senate an illustration. The Government has this law and order syndrome. It talks about defiance and asks why this should be condoned. One of the greatest acts of defiance is to be found in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. As much as I dislike the funds they, together with Senator Anderson, say that if a person goes into a private hospital the day on which he enters and the day on which he is discharged are counted as one day. But not on your sweet life! The hospitals do not accept that proposition. They charge a day's fees for the day of admission and for the day of discharge. But Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson will reply to me on this aspect: 'You know, morally we are right'.

The meek do not inherit the earth. That is a fact of life. I do not mind governments ruling by using the big stick. What I resent is that it is used one way. We are always hearing arguments from the Government about the actions of people on building sites striking who rightly complain that some feature is unsafe. They are the people who must do the work. They are the people who must bow to the decisions of a few smooth talking directors of these funds. When their wives being hospitalised are charged fees for extra days, mark you, the operation of these nursing homes and hospitals is a far cry from the days when they were run by 'nurse so and so' in a suburb or a country town. Half a dozen people with hot money are directors of these homes and hospitals. They are the people who determine the policy This is the situation that exists and that is what we should consider when the Government talks about this new order, this new era and this feedback of massive reserves.

What we claim in respect of transport applies equally to hospital charges. In 6 months' time with fund increases these reserves will become massive again. I have been a senator for about 6 years and every time a Minister has introduced new contribution schedules they are treated as though they represent the millenium. We are told that they will meet all requirements. But then erosion occurs. It will happen again. This is the reason why my Deputy Leader in the Senate, Senator Willesee, last night used - the term 'adequate economic and social goals.'

The Government speaks of a phased-in abolition of the means test. We are talking about what is happening in the national health field. The Labor Party's attitude on national health is that a percentage of wages should be contributed to meet these needs. If somebody is covered by medical and hospital insurance from the cradle to the grave, he is far better off. I would remind honourable senators of an article that they may have seen recently in the Sydney Morning Herald' which was entitled 'The Pensioners Uncommon Market'. Let me select a country at random. In France, after 30 years' work, a pensioner will receive a pension equivalent to 40 per cent of the basic monthly wage. Other figures are detailed. Probably the situation in West Germany is better.

It amazes me that the Government can talk about these things when in 1939 a man who later became Prime Minister resigned from the Government over the concept of national insurance being rejected. National insurance was not a socialist proposal. I know of the Beveridge scheme and the versions of national insurance in operation in Britain and New Zealand. All of these schemes are more comprehensive and more equitable than what the Government proposes now. The Government's action is geared to the requirements of the Budget of a specific year. If the Government introduced a clear-cut national health scheme, the people would not find themselves in no-man's land now because they have insufficient coverage under the present national health scheme. If more was paid in one year, it would be geared to the years when overtime had been worked.

Many Australian people in their early physical prime - I instance Senator Cavanagh and others - follow pretty hard and tough work. When they reach the age of 45 they want work that is a little bit easier with not so much overtime. This can be the time when illness strikes and when the scars of industrial injuries catch up with them. This is the theme that we hammer and hammer. If honourable senators opposite say that this is socialism, are they saying also that Mr Justice Nimmo is a socialist? Are they saying that one of his recommendations was developed in a Marxian mind? Of course not. If the Government refuses to implement this recommendation, this will mean that it is beholden to the bureaucrats of the HCF and the MBF.

The Government talks about people holding society to ransom. I asked Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson on another occasion a question about the HCF in Sydney acquiring a building worth -$4m. That move was never put to the members of the fund for approval. The government talks about rank and file consultation and trade union decisions. There is no difference in my book between democracy in the board rooms, democracy for stock . holders or democracy in the trade union movement. We should have uniformity but the Government has not achieved it. It has been tottering on the brink for a long, long while. At the risk of my colleagues rending me limb from limb, I must say this: Senator Greenwood may have been in a bad temper one day for, as I read it, he became most angry with the hospital benefit funds. Perhaps that is why he was shifted to another portfolio shortly afterwards. I only wish that some of the militancy that he demonstrates against the trade union movement had been turned loose some 6 months ago on the hospital benefit funds. It would have been very interesting. Perhaps in 20 years' time he will write his memoirs and make a quite interesting revelation in this respect.

The point that I am making is that if we talk about law and order and social justice what we propose should be what law and order and social justice are meant to be. Let us deal with the inadequacies with the hospital contributions and medical benefit funds. Let us deal with so many of these situations that I have discussed. Let us have a better deal for the various State transport systems.

J turn to the remarks by Senator Jessop on the proposed South Australian railway link. I welcome this action. I make the point that this is the sole reference to railway transport in this year's Budget. We could talk about bulk haulage. It is obvious that the railways have a major role to play. The Government cannot have it both ways. It has criticised my Leader and the future Prime Minister, Mr Gough Whitlam, about his proposal for a more centralised control of the State railway systems. The Government says that his proposal is wrong. But the onus is on the Government to make available adequate finance to the various State railway systems to meet their interest payments. This problem has been compounded by the fact that we have accepted the dieselisation scheme. No doubt in the near future there will be a conflict with the trade union movement over the role of firemen - or observers, to use the American term - in diesel locomotives. Whatever comes from that, the fact of the matter is that the argument advanced was that when we got diesel traction all problems would be solved. The Country Party is not completely blameless in this matter. It loves the railways when it can get freight concessions but it is not so loyal to them when road transport skims off the cream. These are some of the problems.

I am not treating these things in a direct party political fashion because I know that there have been some Liberal State Transport Ministers who share my views and have told me so privately. But I believe that in this Senate we should not hold things back. This is where we should bellow out what we believe that what we say, should be done. However, we are facing some involved problems and probably at a later stage Senator Gair might have something to say on this matter.

I want to deal with 2 other matters. Senator Jessop again referred to tourism. I wonder whether he realises the potential of the tourist industry. I wonder whether he realises how much it expanded when workers were granted more annual leave and more long service leave. The mathematicians on the Government benches say that it will cost the country $Xm for more long service leave and annual leave but I wonder whether they realise that that money is channelled into the tourist industry and that it creates more jobs in the service industries? This is one of the economic facts that should be self evident. One reads the submissions presented by the Australian Tourist Commission about how much more money it wants but the plain fact of the matter is that a lot of the market will develop only when more and more industries get a 35-hour week. The much criticised President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Bob Hawke, has pointed out to the Government the capacity of industries to pay and all the other situations that can and will arise.

I want to move on to the law and order syndrome. In the 6 years that I have been a member of the Senate I often have pointed out what is happening as educational standards rise. Mr Albert Monk and other leaders in the trade union movement had very illustrious careers but the day has gone when a union leader can go out and meet 500 men and dominate them intellectually and physically. I am sure that many of my colleagues, including Senator Cavanagh, would agree with me. I think it would be a bad thing if people got the idea that we belonged here and they belonged there and that we should not meet. When you go to any workshop site today and try to sell an idea to the men, whether it be the acceptance of a log of claims or anything else, it is pretty hard work.

Honourable senators can talk until they are blue in the face about the oil industry dispute. I invite them to read an article written by Fred Brenchley which appeared in the 'Australian Financial Review'. The Government has not denied that this was one dispute in which the average person realised that the big American oil companies were adopting a form of neocolonialism. Whether the Government liked it or not, the people knew that the companies had the capacity to pay. Government supporters talk about trade union violence but it does not matter what one does, decisions rest with the rank and file individuals, and they must be present and must participate in making those decisions.

There is another angle to this question of law and order, and it does not matter whether one is in the trade union move.ment or is a senator. I am not one of those people who believe that if someone offends me I have to call the police. I prefer to dish it back, insult for insult. Too many people today in all political parties are telling the Press that they have been threatened. Like everyone else, I have received a few insulting telephone calls but I have given the caller a more insulting reply. Everyone can do the same thing. There are plenty of people and Ministers who do not need escorts. When President de Gaulle went to Algeria he did not need an armed escort to deal with the people there. This has happened on . many occasions. I will give another example When the former British Home Secretary, Mr Jim Callaghan, went to Belfast he did not want people from MI5 with him. Some people talk about threats in order to get a little bit of publicity when they find that their case is not as strong as it should be.

I want to refer again to the matter involving Mr John Ducker and Mr Bob Hawke. I thought the Government would canonise both of them for saying that the trade union movement believes, as it always has, that there should be law and order within the unions. During the oil industry dispute Sir Robert Askin did not do a service to democracy by demeaning John Ducker but now, for cheap, snivelling political purposes, Government supporters suddenly put him and Bob Hawke up as paragons of virtue. The plain fact is that their reputations are placed on the line in many disputes. Government supporters should not think that union leaders can go back to the unions they represent and say that they cannot get anything.

The Government's chickens are coming home to roost. It talks about public interest. It intervened in the national wage case and in the 35-hour week case. If the Government does not intervene directly in such disputes it gets Mr Lynch, the Minister for

Labour and Industry, to make some prophesy of doom. Senator Wright, the Minister for Works, echoes him in this chamber. The Government insists in buying into these disputes and on occasions does gain a short term victory. However, Mr Bob Hawke has to convince a group of unions that he thinks he can get something for them in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission despite the fact that the Government is trying to nobble him. What other avenue is open to the unions, and how much harder does the Government make it for Mr Hawke to negotiate?

I see by most of the faces of honourable senators on the Government side that they remain unmoved by what I have been saying. I wonder about the double standards that the Government adopts. We read some of the dialogue between Mr Snedden, the Treasurer, and Mr McMahon, the Prime Minister, with Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. They said that they regretted the increase in steel prices and that there was a misunderstanding but nothing happened. Nobody talked about- dealing : with BHP. Government supporters might say to me that it is not a registered trade union. I know that. But do they realise that similar situations have occurred in the United States of America? American President, like Mr Harry Truman, put the troops into a steel works to force them, to open so that the employees could get back to work. I have checked the history of BHP and on only one occasion was the State apparatus used against it. This is one of the blemishes on its history about which BHP never speaks. In 1943 it had a dispute with the Federal Ironworkers Association which could have been confined to. one shift but it closed down the blast furnace. It was to the credit of the wartime Labor Prime Minister, Mr John Curtin, that he invoked the National Security Regulations. I invite honourable senators on the Government side to read some of the submissions put to the Industrial Commission in New South Wales, particularly the damaging admissions by Mr Butler and some of the other paragons who received knighthoods and other awards.

We of the Australian' Labor Party make no apology about unity of purpose, equality and all the other terms used in the amendment moved to the motion for the

Senate to take note of the Budget papers. I say to the Government, on the grounds that I mentioned, that it never dealt with BHP as it did with the trade union movement's claims on the ground of conflict of public interest. As for the famous $1.20 Which is mentioned in the Budget, I will wait to see the findings of Mr Justice Nimmo which at least will be a halfway house towards getting social justice in the area of medical and hospital coverage.

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