Saturday, 16 September 2017

A few words from Barrie Cassidy on the wisdom of attacking AGL

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The old boy is back and he's cross - a little song as Howard slams Turnbull



The politically correct with no sense of humour and some political news and views

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Are Sir Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor to blame? And some other suggested political reads for the day


  • In London's Financial Times Senior Tories play blame game over general election disaster has the Australian duo of Sir Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor on centre stage.  
  • As there are increasing calls for Australia to take in Rohingya refugees there s a cautionary snippet, again in the FT, saying that the Indian government believes Rohingya Muslims are "a potential security threat" after the emergence last year of a trained and well funded group of Rohingya militants led by Saudi-based émigrés.
  • And an election update from Russia provided by Reuters, At a Russian polling station, phantom voters cast ballots for the 'Tsar'. "At polling station no. 333 in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz, Reuters reporters only counted 256 voters casting their ballots in a regional election on Sunday. People were voting across Russia in what is seen as a dress rehearsal for next year’s presidential vote. Kremlin candidates for regional parliaments and governorships performed strongly nationwide.When the official results for polling station no. 333 were declared, the turnout was first given as 1,331 before being revised up to 1,867 on Tuesday.... - with 73 percent of the votes going to United Russia, the party of President Vladimir Putin."
  • Carmakers face electric reality as combustion engine outlook dims FRANKFURT (Reuters) - European car bosses are beginning to address the realities of mass vehicle electrification, and its consequences for jobs and profit, their minds focused by government pledges to outlaw the combustion engine.
  • A note on the ethics of the pharmaceutical industry - Drug maker ducks patent law by pretending its drugs belong to Mohawk tribe
  • Trump review leans toward proposing mini-nuke - Politico reports that the Trump administration is considering proposing smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs — a move that would give military commanders more options but could also make the use of atomic arms more likely.
  • China-born New Zealand MP probed by spy agency

Michelle Grattan on the Government and AGL

Treating AGL with public contempt seems hardly the way to get the best outcome




File 20170912 19534 vz4e8d

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg accused AGL of wanting to have its cake and eat it too.
Mick Tsikas/AAP



Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

If anyone thinks the government isn’t behaving in a extraordinary manner in its onslaught against AGL over the future of the Liddell power station, just consider what the Coalition would say if a Labor government acted like this.

It would go beserk.

After hauling in AGL chief executive Andy Vesey on Monday, the government took its roughing up of the company to new levels on Tuesday.

Malcolm Turnbull accused AGL of not knowing what alternative it has to closing Liddell, despite the company previously flagging a plan.

Barnaby Joyce suggested its reluctance to sell Liddell was a case of “shorting the market”.

Following the report from the Australian Energy Market Operator of an expected electricity shortfall over coming years, the government is pressing AGL to keep the coal-fired Liddell station going for at least five years beyond its scheduled 2022 closure, or to sell it.

At Monday’s meeting with Turnbull and ministers, Vesey said the company would come back within 90 days with an alternative plan.

Vesey did agree, obviously reluctantly, to take the government’s options to its board. But that night he told the ABC’s Lateline: “I think that we are committed to finding the best solution for the market. We believe that we can deliver that without having to consider the extension or sell the plant. And that is what we are going to work on.”

Turnbull on Tuesday said the company had not articulated an alternative so the government did not know what it was. “And frankly, I don’t think they do either, by the way. If they had a plan, they’d be able to put it on the table now.”

Yet Vesey’s post-meeting statement had noted AGL had “previously advised the market that replacement of capacity will likely be provided by a mix of load shaping and firming from gas peaking plant, demand response, pumped hydro and batteries”. The company had canvassed the plan in its August report to the ASX.

Joyce didn’t mince words when he addressed Tuesday’s Coalition partyroom meeting. “AGL’s refusal to sell Liddell shows they are shorting the market. They will probably make more money out of having one operating coal-fired power station than two,” he said. AGL also has the Bayswater power station in New South Wales, which is near Liddell (as well as Loy Yang in Victoria).

Asked later on Sky about his comment, Joyce was reluctant to be so explicit. “I could never affirm to that otherwise I’d be off to court,” he said. “What I can say is this question has not been reasonably answered: why? Why pull a power plant to pieces if there are people out there who want to buy it?” He said he knew of two entities interested in buying Liddell.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg accused the company of wanting to have its cake and eat it too – promote its exit from coal while staying in coal for decades to come. He and Joel Fitzgibbon, in whose Hunter electorate Liddell is situated, had a very public face-off in the press gallery corridor.

In Question Time, Turnbull accused Fitzgibbon and another Labor MP of being collaborators with and apologists for Vesey and AGL.

The bashing of AGL – accompanied of course by a blame game against past Labor policies for high energy prices – sounded desperate.

If the government were serious about trying to persuade AGL to sell Liddell, wouldn’t some lower-key negotiation be the better way to go?

And if AGL, which has given years of notice of the close of Liddell, believes the shortfall can effectively be dealt with by other ways, surely it is premature to be so dismissive of what it is saying?

Treating the company and its chief executive with public contempt seems hardly the way to get the best outcome.

But the government is heavily driven by a combination of policy paralysis, electoral fear, and perception of a political opportunity.

An Essential poll published on Tuesday shows it has an uphill battle in front of it to persuade voters it is on top of the energy challenge. When people were asked which party they thought would be more likely to deliver lower energy prices, 28% said a Labor government, compared with 19% who said a Coalition government, while 35% believed there would be no difference.

The government is riven by division over the path ahead for its long-term policy, with those who give coal a high priority recently gaining increasing sway, and hauling Turnbull in their direction.

Meanwhile the government is trying to escape the odium of soaring power prices. Apart from hanging them on Labor, one way is to exploit the fact that, like the banks, power companies are villains in the public mind. So the government is painting the one in its immediate sights as grasping and gouging for profits.

But there is no guarantee the approach will succeed and it could backfire. What if, as appears most likely at the moment, AGL decides to resist the thuggery and persist with its plan? The government can’t force the company to bend to its wishes. In those circumstances, it would have to hope the AGL plan was sound or find other sources of supply.

Meanwhile the messages the government is sending are likely to raise concerns in business generally. Its conduct is going beyond its demonstrated willingness, on a range of fronts, to intervene in a very active way on energy.

The ConversationIt is unedifying bullying, in which some might even see echoes of Malcolm Turnbull’s former corporate days.



Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Only one minor election example but a pox on all your parties

Just over the border from Canberra they went to the polls on Saturday to elect the Queanbeyan Palerang council. I don't want to make too much of the result but there is one little warning to the three major parties. Labor, Liberal and Green parties managed just under 30% of the vote between them.


Party % share
Labor 13.55
Liberal 9.13
Green 6.45
Other 70.87

Comparison with earlier council polls in this section of NSW (that's part of the federal electorate of Eden Monaro) are made difficult by a recent amalgamation of the Queanbeyan and Palerang Councils. Back in 2012 the Labor vote in Queanbeyan was 18.3% and 15.7% in Palerang. The Liberals did not have a ticket in either election back then but the Green voter in Queanbeyan was 5.4%

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Memories of a bygone era when at question time members asked questions and ministers tried to answer them

As I muddle along looking back at my 50 or so years in Canberra I had occasion today to look at an old House of Representatives Hansard. What a contrast it provided to the circus I watch these days where no one asks for or gets information. You will see what I mean in the proceedings of 1 September 1966. The Acting Prime Minister, John McEwen, got more questions than other ministers but he by no means dominated proceedings and government members were not confined to asking Dorothy Dixers. Nor did Opposition Leader Arthur Calwell and his deputy Gough Whitlam prevent their colleagues from having a say.

QUESTION

FISHING

Mr WEBB:
STIRLING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
– I preface a question to the Minister for Primary Industry by drawing attention to a reply given recently by the Minister in which he said that he was anxious to conserve fishing resources in waters adjacent to Australia. When is action likely to be taken to extend Australia’s fishing zone from three miles to twelve miles7 When the zone is extended what means will be used to protect it, bearing in mind Australia’s extensive coastline?
Mr ADERMANN:
Minister for Primary Industry · FISHER, QUEENSLAND · CP
– We are continually conferring with the responsible Ministers in Western Australia and other States on this matter. As the honorable member has asked a question with legal implications I will refer it to the Attorney-General for a reply.
page 657

QUESTION

CIVIL AVIATION

Mr STOKES:
MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. After discussions last June with the Director-General and other senior officers of the Department of Civil Aviation, kindly arranged by the Minister, I wrote to the honorable gentleman requesting an examination of the possibility of insulating those homes, schools and other buildings that are most seriously affected by aircraft noise. I referred also to the possible establishment of a fund to meet claims for damages arising from the effects of vibration caused by low flying aircraft. T referred to similar action taken by the United Kingdom Government. I now ask the Minister whether the inquiries which he promised to make overseas have been completed and whether he is in a position to give a decision in this matter.
Mr SWARTZ:
Minister for Civil Aviation · DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · LP
– The honorable member has written to me on a number of occasions about this matter as it affects Essendon airport. I arranged for the honorable member to discuss the matter with officers of my Department. At the moment, I have no information that I could provide which would be more up to date than the information I provided in my last letter. However, considerable inquiries have been made overseas in relation to the problem in
Sydney and Melbourne. I assure the honorable member that very careful consideration is being given to his suggestion. I should refer to another point which I have mentioned previously in the House. A conference is to be held next month in the United Kingdom on the subject of noise associated with airports. Australia will be represented at the conference. From that conference we hope to obtain a lot of information that will be of value in assessing the position at Australian airports. Secondly, the situation at Essendon will be greatly improved when the new Melbourne airport at Tullamarine is opened. At Tullamarine wo have been fortunate in obtaining sufficient land around the airport to provide a buffer. The diversion of a large amount of traffic from Essendon to the new airport will relieve the situation at Essendon.
page 658

QUESTION

NORTHERN TERRITORY

Mr NELSON:
NORTHERN TERRITORY, NORTHERN TERRITORY
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories. Will he tell the House whether the Government has intervened, or intends to intervene, in the present wage dispute between Aboriginal station hands and pastoralists in the Northern Territory? As the dispute has its origin in a decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to delay the granting of full award rates to these people, will the Minister take the initiative and immediately call a conference, if he has not already done so, so that a just settlement can be worked out between the parties?
Mr BARNES:
Minister for Territories · MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND · CP
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory is referring to the recent hearing of an industrial case concerning the cattle industry award in the Northern Territory. The award will now embrace Aboriginal employees. The judgment of the Commission was delivered some time ago - I think in June. The Commission decided that Aboriginal stockmen were to be paid full award wages by December 1968 and suggested that, in the interim, the parties should try to agree on a method of phasing in that would enable the employers to adjust to the increased wages they must pay and the employees to become accustomed to handling the extra money. Negotiations are proceeding between the employers, my Department and the union, but so far no agreement has been reached. I do not see that any intervention in the negotiations is necessary at present.
page 658

QUESTION

SNOWY MOUNTAINS SCHEME

Mr WENTWORTH:
MACKELLAR, NEW SOUTH WALES
– I direct my question to the Minister for National Development. By way of explanation, may I say that the official reports give the cost of peak hour electric power sold in bulk by the Snowy Mountains Authority to New South Wales and Victoria as an average of .93d. per unit and that the forecast future average cost is Id. I ask the Minister: Would not a large nuclear reactor, constructed in the Cooma area as part of the Snowy scheme and linked to a system of pumped storage, enable additional peak hour power to be sold to New South Wales and Victoria at a price less than that quoted above and still show a profit after meeting all charges for interest and depreciation? Would not such a plan implemented over five years provide useful employment in the Cooma area for some part of both design and construction staffs of the Snowy Mountains Authority?
Mr FAIRBAIRN:
Minister for National Development · FARRER, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP
– The decision as to where any nuclear power station is to be placed, or indeed even whether there is to be a nuclear power station, in New South Wales is entirely a matter for the Electricity Commission of New South Wales. Nevertheless, the proposal put by the honorable member is most interesting and I will see that it is fully investigated. The honorable member will realise that pumped storage is planned for Tumut 3. The water is to be caught in a small dam below the main dam and pumped back with off peak power to enable the production of larger quantities of peak power. During my recent trip overseas, I was agreeably surprised to learn that the cost of nuclear power is coming down, particularly where it is used for large units. 1 understand that authorities in the United States have already under construction or are committed to construct an amount of nuclear power equivalent to three times the entire power at present generated in Australia. Even the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is probably the biggest water authority in the world, has now planned to put a large nuclear power station in the middle of its area.
page 659

QUESTION

PAPUA AND NEW GUINEA

Mr COURTNAY:
DAREBIN, VICTORIA
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the fact that Australia is paying S70 million a year to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, could not some effort be made to persuade the European section of the community in the Territory that Australian cars and other goods are at least the equal of cars and goods from other countries? Are not Australian table wines, for instance, among the world’s best and are they not good enough for officials in the Territory who, after all, enjoy our bounty?
Mr McEWEN:
Minister for Trade and Industry · MURRAY, VICTORIA · CP
– I can understand the reasonableness of the proposition inherent in the question. I point out, however, that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is a Trust Territory held under trust from the United Nations. It would be contrary to the terms of the trust on which we hold the Territory to attempt to establish some form of preference for Australia in the administration of the Territory.
Mr Clyde Cameron:
– That does not apply to Papua, does it?
Mr McEWEN:
– I would not like to think that we treated Papua differently from New Guinea.
page 659

QUESTION

NITROGENOUS FERTILISERS

Mr TURNBULL:
MALLEE, VICTORIA
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, relates to the payment of the bounty on nitrogenous fertilisers which came into operation on 17th August. I ask: What is the position of resellers who, on 17th August, had stocks of this fertiliser on hand? As an instance, I refer to dried fruits packing houses with stocks of this fertiliser which will be sold to primary producers who should receive the benefit of the bounty.
Mr ADERMANN:
CP
– Many distributors normally distributing to various producers, as well as the dried fruits organisations that the honorable member has mentioned, had stocks of the fertiliser on hand. The administration of the relevant legislation, when it is passed by the Parliament, will be undertaken by the Department of Customs and Excise, but officers of my Department will work with customs officials in trying to sort out the situation. The Department of Customs and Excise has invited all holders of stocks to advise that Department so that it may make a complete assessment of the position. I think that it would be necessary to cover the stocks held by distributors as well as those held by manufacturers.
page 659

QUESTION

MOTOR VEHICLE INDUSTRY

Mr HAYDEN:
OXLEY, QUEENSLAND
– I would like to ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question that relates to the opinions expressed recently by the Prime Minister, and confirmed by the Minister for Territories in this House last night, concerning the recessionary problem with which the motor vehicle manufacturing industry, as a large scale user of labour, finds itself confronted. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Territories, in voicing their sympathy, pointed out that the present situation is necessary because of over expansion in the industry. I ask: If the Government seriously wished to cut back this over expansion, why did it not act earlier and prevent the present situation, with its harshly punitive effects, from arising in thu industry? Why has the Government in fact encouraged further investment recently by announcing a 10 per cent, tariff supercharge applicable to numerous imports of motor vehicles? Finally, is not the real reason for the present situation in the industry the Government’s desire to apply the crunch to private investment in order to make possible public expenditure on the scale proposed?
Mr McEWEN:
CP
– The whole history of the Government’s fostering of the automobile manufacturing industry in Australia is based on support for the industry and promotion of its strength throughout. I am sure that the honorable member knows of the proposals which the Government brought forward a couple of years ago and which were designed to induce as many manufacturers as possible to produce at least 95 per cent, of the components of each vehicle in Australia as distinct from the previous practice of importing very substantial proportions of each vehicle. Even in respect of a vehicle whose volume of production here does not warrant so large a proportion of Australian content, an inducement is offered to encourage the manufacturers to produce more than 50 per cent, of the components of the vehicle in Australia. despite the low throughput. The recent imposition of an additional 10 per cent, duty on vehicles imported wholly built up is the outcome of a Tariff Board recommendation made after a thorough investigation of the industry. The additional duty clearly is designed to foster the production of vehicles wholly built in Australia and to protect them against competition by vehicles the manufacture of which provides employment in other countries and which are brought into this country wholly built up.
page 660

QUESTION

VIETNAM

Mr HUGHES:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Can the honorable gentleman give the House any information as to the composition and equipment of the Vietcong forces against which elements of the Australian task force fought so successfully near Baria?
Mr Uren:
– Mr. Speaker. 1 rise to order. This question is on the notice paper.
Mr HUGHES:
– What is the number?
Mr SPEAKER:
– Order! The honorable member has raised a point of order. He should be fully equipped to indicate the number of the particular question.
Mr Uren:
– I refer to Questions Nos. 1962 and 2027.
Mr SPEAKER:
– Order! I point out to to the honorable member for Parkes that the information he now seeks can be obtained as a result of the questions which appear on the notice paper. The honorable member who placed the questions on the notice paper did so in the full exercise of his rights, which must be preserved.
Mr HUGHES:
- Mr. Speaker, I asked the Minister not only about equipment but also about the composition of the forces.
Mr SPEAKER:
– Order! I call the honorable member for Bonython.
page 660

QUESTION

COMMONWEALTH ELECTIONS

Mr NICHOLLS:
BONYTHON, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
– My question to the Minister for the Army refers to the question which I asked him on Tuesday of this week. Is it a fact that an inter-departmental committee has recommended to the Government the establishment of a special committee to be set up within the Army to screen regular sol diers and conscripts who want to stand for election to the Parliament at the forthcoming general election? If this is correct, will the Minister explain his reply to my previous question? In any case, what justification can exist for screening candidates for Parliament, whether they are servicemen or civilians, and why the distinction between servicemen and civilians?
Mr Malcolm Fraser:
WANNON, VICTORIA · LP
– The reply that I gave the honorable member previously was correct and I have nothing to add to it at this point of time.
page 660

QUESTION

SATELLITE COMMUNICATION STATIONS

Mr HAWORTH:
ISAACS, VICTORIA
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question regarding satellite communication stations. Can the Minister tell the House what progress has been made in Australia in the building of satellite communication stations and the associated equipment which will enable Australian telephone subscribers to make calls direct through the international telephone network? Is Australian progress in this sphere developing at the same rate as progress in other countries?
Mr HULME:
Postmaster-General · PETRIE, QUEENSLAND · LP
– I believe that most honorable members would be interested in this subject. More time than should be given at question time would be required to deal with this subject adequately. When the House resumes I shall, having prepared a statement, ask the House for permission to make a statement about this matter.
page 660

QUESTION

AUSTRALIAN MUTUAL PROVIDENT SOCIETY

Mr CALWELL:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA
– -Is it possible for the Attorney-General to furnish a statement showing the names of the companies in which the Australian Mutual Provident Society has purchased debentures and the value of the investments in each of these companies?
Mr SNEDDEN:
Attorney-General · BRUCE, VICTORIA · LP
– I shall make inquiries to ascertain what information can be provided. It occurs to me at the first hearing of the question that it might be a matter which is within the control of the State authorities. However, I shall make inquiries and see what information can be provided.
page 661

QUESTION

SOCIAL SERVICES

Mr KING:
WIMMERA, VICTORIA
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Services who is do doubt well aware that through the courtesy of his Department certain types of pensioners receive reduced television and radio licence fees. I ask: In view of the clause whereby those in receipt of a certain rate of income automatically miss out on such reduction, will he ensure that the upper limit today is increased so that as a result of the proposed increases in the base rate pension these people will not miss out on the reduced rates?
Mr Barnard:
– Particularly war widows.
Mr KING:
– This should also include war widows.
Mr SINCLAIR:
Minister for Social Services · NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP
– I can assure the honorable member that I will examine the problem he has raised. These licence fee concessions are to help pensioners who for various reasons are unable to pay the full amount of the fee. Consequently, any extension of pension benefits is normally intended to cover not only the pensions themselves but also the ancillary benefits. I will look into the substance of the honorable member’s question and I can assure him it will receive sympathetic consideration.
page 661

QUESTION

NATIONAL SERVICE TRAINING

Mr JAMES:
HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the reported serious shortage of police personnel, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, and I ask whether the Minister has received any request from the police authorities in those States to exempt 20-year old police employees from call up for national service.
Mr BURY:
Minister for Labour and National Service · WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP
– ]f there were to be any representations at all they would hardly come from the police associations themselves. T presume that those bodies would raise the matter with their State Governments.
Mr Calwell:
– He said “ police authorities “.
Mr James:
– Administrations.
Mr BURY:
– Well, it does not matter in any case, because that would make it even more likely that the representations would come from the State authorities themselves.
Mr Calwell:
– Has the Minister had any requests?
Mr BURY:
– I have not received any such requests and I should point out that a basic principle of the national service scheme is that everyone in Australia who is liable for service shall be treated on precisely the same footing, whatever his circumstances and occupation.
page 661

QUESTION

QUESTIONS

Dr MACKAY:
EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES
– I would like to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware that the notice paper contains up to 40 questions placed there on the one day by some honorable members opposite? Will you consider the desirability of action to limit the number and wide reference of questions placed on the notice paper, so that question time may not be deliberately obstructed?
Mr SPEAKER:
– I point out to the honorable member for Evans that it is the right of any honorable member to place a question on the notice paper, and I hope that the last thing a presiding officer will do will be to interfere with the rights of honorable members. As a hint to the honorable member I may say that there is a Standing Order about this matter.
page 661

QUESTION

POST OFFICE

Mr WHITLAM:
WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. The honorable member will have noticed an announcement by the British Postmaster-General four weeks ago that the Post Office in Britain is to become a public corporation, the members of which will be appointed by and responsible to a Minister. As the Australian Post Office is closely related in its history and organisation to the British Post Office and is now the largest enterprise in the southern hemisphere, has the honorable gentleman considered, or is he considering, whether it would now be appropriate to adopt this kind of structure, which the Commonwealth has most successfully adopted in respect of airlines, shipping, banking and insurance?
Mr HULME:
LP
– I have followed with some interest changes which have taken place in the British Post Office over the last two or three years. The first of these changes was a determination to cause the British Post Office to look after its own finances to a greater extent than it had in the past; that is, to release to some degree from Treasury control the supply of funds. To this end it was determined that there should be a profit rate of about 8 per cent, earned by the British Post Office, first for the payment of interest on the total assets which are used by the Post Office; secondly, to cover supplementary depreciation - that is depreciation over and above normal rates having regard to the cost of replacement of assets - and thirdly, to provide a sum of money which could be used for capital purposes.
I do not know that this has been successful other than in the Post Office providing some of its own capital resources, ft is still substantially dependent on the British Treasury. On the latest proposal of the British PostmasterGeneral for the Post Office to cease to be a department of state and become a corporation, the statement of Mr. Short in the British Parliament was itself very short, lt was a brief statement which did not give a great deal of information. It indicated that the Nationalised Industries Committee was investigating the situation and that it would produce as a result of this investigation a White Paper, probably at the end of this year or early next year, and that the change would take place in about three years’ time. He did say that the Parliament could not expect the Post Office to be tied to its apron strings indefinitely.
I do not quite know what this expression means - for instance, whether it means that members of Parliament will not have the right to ask questions about the activities of the Post Office. Certainly he indicated that no longer would the British Post Office employees be civil servants, but he added that that was a matter he would have to work out. I am not satisfied at the moment that there is sufficient evidence on which I could make a judgment about whether this would be an appropriate move in Australia, but I believe that we should study what happens in the British Post Office, and if we believe we can achieve some good result from following the example then perhaps we should do so. However, this will be a matter for submission to the Government and for the Government’s determination later.
page 662

QUESTION

COLOMBO PLAN

Mr WHITTORN:
BALACLAVA, VICTORIA
– I address a question to the Acting Prime Minister. Although we are increasing our aid to South East Asian countries and other countries through the Colombo Plan, would it be possible for Australia to accept responsibility for a specific major project in this area? I have in mind the rehabilitation and, if need be, the rebuilding of the shipping port at Djarkata.
Mr McEWEN:
CP
– I suppose all such things are possible, but it is a matter of fitting within the total programme of our obligations whatever is thought desirable in a number of countries. I note the suggestion of the honorable member.
page 662

QUESTION

SOCIAL SERVICES

Mr HANSEN:
WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services and ask: Is it correct that his Department refuses to recognise as dependants children born out of wedlock to widowed pensioners? ls this not a severe punishment for indiscretion? Will he consider recognising such children as pensioner dependants in cases where efforts to have the father maintain the child have failed?
Mr SINCLAIR:
CP
– I do not quite follow the honorable member’s question, because my Department does not fail to recognise the dependants of widow pensioners in the circumstances to which I understand the honorable member refers. In fact any person who has the care, custody and control of a child or children within Australia is entitled to receive child endowment. This applies whether or not, for example, a person is a naturalised Australian. It applies to a migrant who comes to this country and it applies to children who are in institutions. Each of the organisations and individuals concerned is entitled to child endowment. If the honorable member is talking about the child allowance which is supplemental to the pension, then in these circumstances also the children of widows are normally granted the additional 15s. a week. I will look into the circumstances of the honorable member’s question but I do not think the difficulty he sees as existing really exists.
page 663

QUESTION

TELEPHONE SERVICES

Mr TURNBULL:
– Does the PostmasterGeneral know that in certain districts of Victoria where it has become necessary for farmers to bring their telephone lines up to the required standard owing to the introduction of State Electricity Commission services, the Postmaster-General’s Department is asking as much as $700 a mile to do the work said to be necessary? Is this charge in accord with Post Office policy? Is it Government policy? Will the PostmasterGeneral investigate this matter with a view to giving some practical interpretation of the oft heard call for decentralisation?
Mr HULME:
LP
– I cannot be certain of the amount of $700 a mile mentioned by the honorable member but I do know that the Post Office has certain requirements relating to the provision by individuals of telephone lines beyond a certain point. That is to say, the Post Office does not accept responsibility for the unlimited outlay of money for the provision of private telephones. Let me illustrate this by mentioning one area where a telephone was demanded and it was discovered that the cost of installation would be between £6,000 and £7,000. whereas the revenue received from this service would be between £15 and £20 a year. In that instance the Post Office was not prepared to accept the responsibility for the outlay of the amount involved.
The Post Office has the right to determine the limit of the expenditure it will incur in relation to individual lines. Beyond that point the responsibility rests with the persons concerned. If there is an improvement in the service - this happens when a service is changed from a manual to an automatic exchange with subscriber trunk dialling - it is necessary generally for an uplift in the standard of the privately erected section of the line. The responsibility for meeting the cost involved beyond the point to which the Post Office takes its installation rests with the private individual.
page 663

QUESTION

DEFENCE

Mr UREN:
– I preface my question to the Acting Prime Minister by saying that before leaving Australia on Monday night last the Prime Minister said that Australia was likely to be engaged in many more wars in Asia in the next few years. When does the Government intend to issue a detailed statement showing where and when these wars are to be fought? How many hundreds of thousands of Australian youths are to be conscripted to serve in these Asian wars?
Mr McEWEN:
CP
– I am not familiar with what the Prime Minister said and I do not necessarily accept the honorable member’s version as the correct one although I am not challenging it. What I say now is that one would be bold indeed if he were to assume that we had reached the point in time at which we would never again be involved in something relating to the security and defence of our country. So far as this Government is concerned, the security of Australia is our first consideration.
page 663

QUESTION

VIETNAM

Mr HUGHES:
– Has the Minister for the Army any information which indicates that North Vietnamese regular forces are operating in the vicinity of the Australian task force?
Mr Malcolm Fraser:
WANNON, VICTORIA · LP
– Only recently, some information was released in Saigon, I think through American sources, which indicated that about one half the people operating against the Australian task force element a few days ago-
Mr Uren:
– Mr. Speaker, I raise a point of order. This information was sought by me in a question on the notice paper. That question has not yet been answered. Now the Minister is providing the information in reply to a question by an honorable member on the Government side.
Mr SPEAKER:
– Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honorable member. The Minister may answer the question in any way he likes. May I add that I think the question has been rather skilfully framed. The honorable member will resume his seat.
Mr Uren:
– Why is the Government so dishonest.
Mr SPEAKER:
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
Mr Uren:
– It is not even a question on notice and he has a prepared answer there.
Mr SPEAKER:
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat, or he will be dealt with. He will control himself.
Mr Bryant:
– Mr. Speaker, on the point of order-
Mr SPEAKER:
– Order! There is no point of order.
Mr Bryant:
– Have you ruled-
Mr SPEAKER:
– Order! There is no ruling. The honorable member is out of order. He will resume his seat.
Mr Malcolm Fraser:
WANNON, VICTORIA · LP
– Information has recently been released from Saigon that about half the forces operating against elements of our Task Force in the major battle that took place a few days ago, were comprised of North Vietnamese regular troops. It has also been released from Saigon that the total forces operating against our troops in that conflict numbered approximately 1,500. Most of the weapons that were left behind when the Vietcong and North Vietnamese troops retreated at the end of the conflict were made in Communist China.
page 664

QUESTION

QUESTIONS

Mr CLYDE CAMERON:
– I. would like to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question. Has the right honorable gentleman had time to have a look at the notice paper-
Mr McEwen:
– No.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON:
– Perhaps I can help the right honorable gentleman. If he will have a look at questions Nos. 796 and 797 on the notice paper he will see that both were asked by me on 10th November 1964. They were directed to the Minister for Territories. They have not yet been answered. I would like the right honorable gentleman to state whether he will have a talk with his Minister who, I think, has been rather neglectful of his duties to the Parliament and also direspectful-
Mr SPEAKER:
– Order!
Mr CLYDE CAMERON:
– If the Minister is overworked, will the Acting Prime Minister consider apportioning part of his duties to some other Minister?
Mr McEWEN:
CP
– We have never had the advantage of a better Minister for Territories than we have at present. This is widely recognised and I am completely content to leave him deal with his own business.
page 664

QUESTION

TAXATION

Mr CLEAVER:
SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
– I address a question to the Treasurer. I refer to question No. 1823 on the notice paper in my name. It has been there since 13th May and deals with friendly society dispensaries. Knowing the Minister not to be inflexible or rigid in his attitude, may I ask the right honorable gentleman whether a helpful and early answer to the points raised can be supplied?
Mr McMAHON:
Treasurer · LOWE, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP
– I will see that an early answer is given to the honorable gentleman’s question.
page 664

QUESTION

VIETNAM

Mr FAIRHALL:
Minister for Defence · PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP
– I think it will bc appreciated that before answering a question of this kind some inquiries in Vietnam are necessary. These are under way. An answer to the honorable gentleman’s question will be given as fully as possible as quickly as possible.
page 664

QUESTION

POULTRY INDUSTRY

Mr TURNBULL:
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Are operations under the Poultry Industry Assistance Act proceeding satisfactorily? Why are certain amendments to this Act and the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Act necessary? Does the poultry industry generally support these amendments?
Mr ADERMANN:
CP
– After questions are concluded today I intend to present the first annual report on the operations of the Poultry Industry Act which will reveal a very satisfactory year for the whole industry. Indeed, the industry had hoped to receive an average return of 3s. 3d. a dozen throughout Australia, but finished with a return of almost 3s. lOd. a dozen and so is very happy. But some small amendments are necessary. I have indicated the reasons ibr (hem in the second reading speech of the Bill that has been presented, and the amendments will be discussed when the debate on the legislation is resumed. Experience of the operation of the Act shows that we need to correct these anomalies.
page 665

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

Mr CALWELL:
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question without any reference to politics or anything of that sort. Will he assist honorable members who have put questions on notice - and some of them have been on the notice paper a very long time - by having them supplied with answers as soon as possible? It may be possible to prepare and provide these answers during the week or so that the House is in recess. I think it is important that some of these questions should be answered. I am not accusing anybody of refusing to answer questions or of hiding anything, but some questions have been unanswered for far too long.
Mr McEWEN:
CP
– I shall ask Ministers to examine questions on the notice paper to see how expeditiously they can be answered, but in saying that may I observe that from my own experience over the years many questions are put on the notice paper which require an extravagant and a costly amount of research by departments to obtain the material on which to base answers. I think that honorable members, who are legitimately entitled to ask questions, might bear in mind the drain on the resources of departments in conducting this research.