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Tuesday, 12 November 1974
Page: 2235

Senator MISSEN (VICTORIA) -I hope that Senator Poyser's wife is talking to him about the subject, and I hope that it has had some effect. This organisation has written to the Treasurer again and again in an endeavour to obtain some assurance or some determination, because it says: 'Take away the tax deductions from our donations and half of our donations will go. '

Senator McLaren - That has been denied, and you know it.

Senator MISSEN -I ask Senator McLaren to listen to what has been stated by the Brotherhood of St Laurence in a circular which no doubt he has received, because I think that all honourable senators have received it. In this circular the Brotherhood says that on 9 July last the Australian Council of Social Service worried about this rumour- if this was all it was- wrote to the Treasurer requesting full consultation with the agencies likely to be affected. The Brotherhood points out that the Treasurer replied on 23 July. Did he say: 'Nothing like this is going to happen '? No. This is what he said:

I will bear in mind your Council 's offer to undertake discussions concerning the likely result of curtailing the tax concessions. However, you will understand that normal budgetary restraints will not permit me to indicate at this time whether or not the Government may be likely to review the scope of the present concessions.

If that is anything, it is certainly not no. If the Treasurer had no such suggestion in mind, and if the matter is so ridiculous, as Senator Wriedt suggested this morning, then surely that would have been the time to deny it. But no, the question was left open in that phrase which the Treasurer used. The Brotherhood drew attention to the fact that no undertaking was given that there would be any prior consultations. So on 3 September Mr David Scott, President of the Australian Council of Social Service, wrote again to the Treasurer seeking assurances. On 2 October the Minister assisting the Treasurer replied that the Government 'shall keep in mind the suggestion of prior discussions with representatives of voluntary organisations such as yours'. Not satisfied with that the Australian Council of Social Service wrote to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in order to ascertain whether he had any idea on the matter. His reply was:

No such policy was implemented in either of our 2 Budgets and I am not aware of any intention to introduce it in a future Budget.

In all of that correspondence over many months, nowhere is the assurance given that this very excellent concession will not be abolished. I believe that its abolition would be worth only about $13m to the Government. In considering the tremendous importance of the excellent charitable intentions which individuals have and of the value of these deductions to the organisations themselves, the easiest thing in the world was for the Government to say: 'No, this income tax deductibility on donations to charitable organisations is not to be abolished'. But no was not said. I say to the Minister for Agriculture, who this morning pushed this suggestion aside as not being a possibility and as being no more than a rumour, that the truth must be found in the activities of the Government. It may not be a fact that this income tax deductibility on donations to charitable organisations is to be abolished. I hope that it is not a fact; I hope that it will not be done by the Government. But I suggest that it is something which was very much in mind. It is something which is deplorable even if it was only in contemplation because these donations are among the most desirable things in this community.

I will take another example of the deceptive way in which the Government has operated in carrying out its promises to the people. I will take its promises to the small businesses in the community. A year or so ago Mr Enderby said:

The small business program as envisaged would be comprehensive and balanced and designed to have a favourable impact on the long-term viability of the small business sector . . .

He then detailed a number of things that he would do. He stated that he would be:

Raising efficiency and profitability, strengthening the competitive position of small business firms in relation to the large and including overseas owned. Enabling small firms to cope better with structural changes in the economy. Improving industrial relations and the welfare of the workforce involved.

Obviously, that last aim has fallen completely by the wayside. Apart from that, what is the position a year later? What has happened to this program which surely is a highly desirable program? If we bear in mind the current requirements which small businesses face- the tax collecting system, the tax recording system, payroll tax, income tax deductions, sales tax returns, paper work and all the other things they are called upon to do- we would expect that by now, in this period in which small businesses more than any other businesses are suffering from the effects of inflation and are naturally having to discharge workers, the Government would be evolving an excellent scheme. But what is the position? An article in the 'Bulletin' magazine of 26 October records the following as being the present situation. It states:

A year later all that's to be shown of the National Small Business Bureau is a pamphlet from the Department of Secondary Industry on the speeches made at the seminar, a telephone number in Canberra, a recently appointed director, Mr Brian Hegarty, and a staff to be counted on the fingers. They will have to spread themselves a long way.

One of my colleagues in the other place recently took it upon himself to make some inquiries to find out how well known and how active this National Small Business Bureau was. He rang the Department of Secondary Industry and was given a telephone number to ring. He rang that telephone number and found that it was the wrong number. So he rang again and this time he received the correct telephone number. He then asked for Mr Hegarty and found that he was overseas. He then asked for Miss Ritchie and was informed that she was away. Finally, he got in contact with a- junior in the Department- the only person he could speak to- and was informed that. apparently there is an approved complement of twenty, said to be twelve, but upon making inquiries was informed that there is no real staff operating in this area. To be included in the category of small business which, of course, should be a very big and comprehensive group in the community, a business has to have fewer than 100 employees with less than 2 people in a managerial position. It has to be a very small business indeed. Of course, at the moment such businesses are receiving practically no assistance at the time of their greatest need. So I say that in this second instance here is something which should have been done by the Government. It was a matter of urgency last year when this grandiose announcement was made. So far, the Government has produced practically nothing to assist at the time when small businesses are in greatest need.

The third delusion which I say is created by the Government is in relation to unemployment. Many people have spoken about that. Honourable senators will recall a question that I asked a few days ago. It elicited the answer that when a person is approved for the NEAT scheme- that is, the National Employment and Training scheme- the names of such people are taken off the unemployment list. And apparently this applies also in relation to the RED scheme- the Regional Employment Development scheme. I would very much like to know how many people would be included in this category today. We are given the figures in relation to unemployment. We know that unemployment is extraordinarily bad and we know that unfortunately it will become extraordinarily worse. But I would like to know what are the real figures. How many people now have been added to this list- this sort of halfway house between heaven and hell- who are being trained and apparently being paid a very good salary? I would like to know how many people are in that category and therefore what are the real unemployment figures at the present time. We do not have these figures. We ought to have them. Members ofthe community ought not to be suffering under some delusion.

Honourable senators who listened to a radio broadcast last night- I think it was the PM news commentary program- would have heard reporters inquiring of people who were approaching the Commonwealth Employment Service for a job as to whether they had heard anything about this scheme. Such people were asking whether they had been told about this scheme because the Government has made great play over many months about the importance of the NEAT scheme and what it would do for the community. But person after person who came to that employment agency seeking work stated that he or she was told nothing about the scheme.

Senator Durack - The capacity of the scheme is about 8,500 people this year.

Senator MISSEN -Is that the capacity?

Senator Durack - Yes.

Senator MISSEN - That is only scratching at the problems. Even so, we ought to have the figures. We ought to know how many people are actually engaged in this scheme at the present time and how many names of people are being taken off the unemployment lists. We ought to know the real situation in this country.

I say that these are just examples of the deception which the Government has played at the present time. No doubt, we will hear a more grand deception tonight. Perhaps I am just speaking of the fringes of the problems. But they all amount to this: A Government that cannot be honest with the people ought not to keep putting itself before the people as a government that is capable of solving the problems. It cannot solve the problems. It is not trying and it is deceiving the people by not telling them what the problems really are.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)-I call Senator Webster.

Senator McAuliffe - Mr Acting Deputy President,I rise on a point of order. I inform you that Senator Webster has spoken already in this debate. He rose in his place this morning and addressed the Chair. The Chair gave a ruling and the honourable senator continued his remarks and then sat down. The honourable senator stated that he would direct his remarks to the motion that the Bill be read a second time. I submit that Senator Webster has made a contribution in the debate this morning and that this is his second attempt to take part in the debate.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The point of order is upheld. The only way Senator Webster can speak at this stage is by leave of the Senate.

Senator Webster - Mr Acting Deputy President,may I speak to the point of order?


Senator Webster - I do not do so to question your ruling, but I rose this morning -

Senator McAuliffe - The Acting Deputy President has upheld the point of order. You are protesting about it.

Senator Webster - Mr Acting Deputy President,if you have been advised that I spoke this morning on the motion before the Chair, you have been advised incorrectly. Senate Hansard will show that tomorrow. I take note of the point. I take note of your ruling. Your ruling that I spoke in this debate this morning is entirely wrong. I will be seeking an apology at a later time.


Before we proceed any further, I state that I am acting on the advice of the Clerk.

Senator Webster - The Clerk has advised you incorrectly on this matter because I did not speak this morning in this debate.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I can understand the position insofar as Senator Webster is concerned. The fact is that technically he had the call and apparently he chose to speak during the first reading stage. So in those circumstances I think it should be ruled that he had the opportunity to speak, he did speak and therefore he has spoken in this debate. Senator Laucke, do you wish to say something?

Senator Laucke - Mr Acting Deputy President,with every deference to you and to the advice you have received in respect of this matter, I feel that when Senator Webster spoke this morning it was more or less to obtain information as to whether he could proceed at that point or should speak at a later stage. He was then told that it would be appropriate for him to speak at a later time. I think that that was the interpretation placed on this matter by Senator Webster. Certainly, it was my assessment of the matter at that time.

Senator Poyser - Mr Acting Deputy President,do I understand that this point of order is still being debated or have you ruled on the point?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- I have given a ruling that the point of order is upheld.

Senator Poyser - In that case, I cannot understand why Senator Laucke was allowed to speak to the point of order.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You will realise, Senator Poyser, that I was not in the Senate chamber when this happened this morning. I was advised by the Clerk. In those circumstances, I want to be quite fair about the position. I think that the solution to Senator Webster's problem would lie in his seeking leave of the

Senate to make a statement. He would then be able to speak now.

Senator Webster - Mr Acting Deputy President,I would seek leave of the Senate to speak. I would do so on the basis that when I rose this morning, although I would not be positive ofthe first two or three words that I used, they were in relation to the report of Senate Estimates Committee D.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted for Senator Webster to speak?

Senator Poyser - Leave is not granted.

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