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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 3093

PRIME MINISTER'S PRESS CONFERENCE, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 1973

Photo of Whitlam, Gough

Whitlam, Gough

Period of Service: 05/12/1972 to 11/11/1975

More information about Whitlam, Gough on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 04/12/1973

Release Type: Press Conference

Transcript ID: 3093

PRIME MINISTER'S PRESS CONFERENCE
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 1973
QUESTION: Prime Minister, the Director of General Motors yesterday
said that his company believed that Australian equity in General
Motors Australia would reduce the quality of its product. Would you
agree that this policy of not allowing Australian equity conflicts
with the thrust of the Government's policy. Why have previous
Governments refused General Motors Corporation of America permission
to sell shares in Australia? Will you reverse this policy if equity
in General Motors Australia is not forthcoming and do you agree
that there should be only three car makers in Australia?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm not responsible for the policy of previous
Governments. The Australian Government has asked the Tariff Board
to report on the general overall position of the motor car industry.
General Motors will be one of the companies, the present ones, giving
evidence before the Tariff Board. I think one can well wait until
the Tariff Board report comes to hand about all these features.
PRIME MINISTER: Ladies and gentlemen: There are a few things that
perhaps I should say myself first.
You will already have been told, I believe, that the
Federal German Chancellor, Herr Willy Brandt, has accepted our
invitation to visit Australia. The date of the visit will be decided
next year. I have a press statement on this subject. This is the
most significant visit from Europe since President Saragat visited
us in September 1967. It is of very great gratification and
significance to this country and our region.
There were quite a number of decisions that the Cabinet
made yesterday. We have decided to appoint a Committee of Inquiry on
Retraining. The terms of reference will be into the role that
training should play in an active manpower policy, the extent to which
opportunities for training and retraining should be provided or
improved, the broad methods of training and retraining that should
be used, the methods of selecting respective trainees and of
allocating trainees to prospective employers, the rationalisation
of existing schemes of training and retraining and the level of
allowances that should be paid to trainees, and the question of
taxation in relation to such allowances. The Chairman of the committee
will be Professor Donald Cochrane of Monash and the other members
will be Mr Pat Clancy, Secretary of the Building Workers! Industrial
Union, and Mr E. Donoghue, Proprietor of Donoghub Furniture Pty Ltd.
Mr Jock Nelson has been appointed Administrator of the Northern
Territory. Mr William Worth has been appointed as the Australian
Commissioner-General for the International Exposition on the
Environment which, as I told you a week ago, we have decided to
participate in at Spokane in Washington State between May and
October next year. Mr Worth has already been Deputy Commissioner-
General at Expo ' 67 in Montreal and Expo ' 70 in Osaka.

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Then there are some decisions concerning tertiary education.
We have approved the establishment of a university at Campbelltown
and a university at Albury-Wodonga. The Minister for Education is
arranging for the Universities Commission to undertake discussions
with the appropriate authorities in New South Wales with a view to
determining the way in which these universities might be constituted
and with the Victorian authorities also as regarding Albury-Wodonga
and developing proposals for special funds being made available during
the remainder of this triennium should that prove necessary.
The Government has decided to provide a new medical school
at the University of Newcastle and another at the James Cook
University of North Queensland and to expand a number of existing
medical schools as recommended in the report of the Committee
on Medical Schools. The position of a medical school at Wollongong
University and at the A. N. U. in Canberra is still being discussed.
The Government has decided to provide funds to support
departments of or courses in community practice in medical schools
of universities seeking to establish such programs in conjunction
with community health centres supported or approved by the Interim
Committee of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission. The funds
for these departments or courses in community practice will be of
the order of $ 35,000 in the first year of operation and $ 75,000 in
the second and subsequent years and $ 50,000 to provide teaching
accommodation in each community health centre where such a centre
is to be used in conjunction with a medical school. Also on hospitals,
we have included in the 1973/ 74 Civil Works program proposals for
Concord Repatriation Hospital. We have also approved the construction
of a new hospital at Tennant Creek at a preliminary estimated cost
of million. Then there are some matters concerning Canberra. We have
considered the joint planning study carried out by officers of the
Australian and New South Wales Governments about the growth of
Canberra and the lands adjacent to the present borders of the
Aiustralian Capital Territory. The Government has authorised
Miv Uren, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development and
Mr Bryant, the Minister for the Capital Territory to enter into further
discussions with the New South Wales Government. These discussions
could explore the basis on which agreement may be reached on land
acquisition and development for urban and associated purposes, for
lanid acquisition for environmental protection purposes, including
appropriate funding and cost recovery arrangements.
The Government has decided to call tenders for the
consjtruction of the Googong Dam to supply water for the Australian
Capita. Territory and Queanbeyan. The Minister for Urban and Regional
Development is to confer with the New South Wales Government about
the pollution of all waters downstream from Captains Flat and is
arranging a meeting with the New South Wales representative.

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Then about turtles. On 24 August I asked Senator Willesee,
who was then the Special Minister of State, to arrange for expert
studies into ecological and commercial aspects of the turtle farming
projects being conducted in Northern Australia in Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Island communities. Reports by Professors A. F. Carr
and A. R. Main and Mr L. F. Smart have been presented and it is
proposed to table them probably tomorrow, I thought they would be
tabled today but we have been unable to get the reports to the
Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia in time, so we expect
they will be tabled tomorrow. I have, however, telegraphed our
decision to the Premiers so I can now read it to you. As a matter
of fact, a great number of the decisions I have been reading to you
have concerned the States and I had to wait until we telegraphed
those decisions to the Premiers who will have them by now. The
Government has approved continuation of the turtle industry as a pilot
experimental project in which research is emphasised. as recommended
by Professors Carr and Main, to determine the feasibility of
developing the industry on the lines described by Mr Smart.
The Government has authorised the Attorney-. General,
Senator Murphy, to introduce a Family Law Bill. As with the
Matrimonial Causes Bill 1959, it has been decided that this bill will
be dealt with as a Government measure for the procedural purpose only
of bringing the measure to a vote. All Government members will be
entitled to a free vote and to move such amendments as they see fit.
The bill will deal not only with matters upon which the Australian
Parliament has already made laws but it will also deal with matters
which under the Constitution can be the subject of legislation passed
by the Australian Parliament but which hitherto has been dealt with
by State Parliaments. In particular deserted wives and children's
legislation and married women's property legislation. The legislation,
of course, will be sent to the Premiers as I have telegraphed them.
Now, some matters of meat and drink. We have directed the
Bureau of Agricultural Economics to investigate the costs involved
in the marketing of cattle, sheep and pig meat with special reference
to the composition of the margin between the prices paid to primary
producers for animals slaughtered and the retail prices paid by
consumers for their meat products. The wholesale prices of meat have
been dropping but the retail prices don't(-seem to have been dropping
proportionately, so the BAE is to inquire in~ to the situation.
Then, brandy. I expect that this week we will be tabling
-the Tariff Board report on brandy. The Minister for Primary Industry
and the Minister for Secondary Industry will establish a body to
report to them on means of absorbing grape surpluses arising before
any longer term restructuring or adjustment programs can be implemented.
We expect this body to submit its first report by the middle of
February. The new harvest, of course, is due ifi March. The whole
difficulty of the brandy industry is that we produce more grapes for
this purpose than we can absorb in thE -rocessed form.

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Mr Hayden, the Minister for Social Security, will be giving
you a statement about Social Services legislation. There is another
item which I might mention. Pending legislation being introduced
and passed the Government has approved pensions being paid as an
act uf grace to people overseas who are in extreme hardship and who
have lived 30 years in Australia and have left Australia after reaching
age pension age or were within five years of reaching age pension
age at the time of departure. These resident's requirements will be
waived where permanent incapacity or widowhood occurred in Australia.
Following on the decisions we announced a week ago concerning
the mining licences and leases in the Northern Territory, the
Government has decided to create a National Park in the Northern
Territory to be called the Kakadu National Park. It will comprise
1450 square miles; it is to be gazetted along the original boundaries
suggested by the Planning Committee for it. The position of uranium
mining interests inside the Park will be reviewed in the light of this
decision. This represents a major breakthrough in conservation in
Australia. The park is one of truly international significance. It
will become one of the great National Parks of the world. The Government
will also be considering making further additions to it. It is as an
important part of the National Estate as the Great Barrier Reef and
Ayers Rock; it contains a wide diversity of important parts of the
National Estate including sites of great importance to the Aboriginal
I-eople and some significant wetlands. Conservation interests regard
Kakadu National Park as of importance at least equal to that of
La1 e Pedder. In this case, only the Australian Government is involved.
B3y acting irt this way the Australian Government is demonstrating to
t~ e Australian people that within its own territories, within its own
jurisdiction, it is taking its responsibilities in conservation
sQriously. The Government agreed to amend the Navigation Act to require
ships to lodge voyage plans and subsequent position reports.
Are there any questions.
QUESTION: This morning Senator Cavanagh announced tbat he decided
tO dismiss Senator Georges from the Board of the main turtle compan~ y.
14ere you consulted in..
PRIME MINISTER: Senator Cavanagh is responsible here, he was asked a
quiestion and he answered it. I was asked a question and I answered
16 too. I have no further matters to say on this. It is the Minister's
responsibility. QUESTION: I understand the Director of the Rhodesian Information
Centie, Mr Bradley, expected to leave Australia around December 13.
Does the Australian Government intend to allow a new director to
enter Australia to replace him?
PRIME MINISTER: Allow me to consider the situation when I see the
passport. Quite clearly, I would think, the Australian Government
would do nothing to promote this illegal activity.
QUESTION: Can I clear up one point on the turtles. Was it a Cabinet
decision to reinstate Dr Bustard on the project?

PRIME MINISTER: Dr Bustard has never been mentioned in Cabinet.
QUESTION: Was it a Cabinet decision
PRIME MINISTER: Now Senator Cavanagh has answered questions on this
matter. He has answered all these questions.
QUESTION: Was it his decision?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course, it is his responsibility and he is well
able to fulfil it.
QUESTION: When you spoke of the Northern Territory uranium leases, he
mentioned a decision a week ago on mining leases in the Northern
Territory. I may have forgotten it, but I don't remember any decision
that you publicly made on it.
PRIME MINISTER: I thought that Dr Patterson had made an announcement
later.
QUESTION: No sir.
PRIME MINISTER: Oh well, I thank you for correcting me.
QUESTION: Can I now ask....
PRIME MINISTER: Well, no leave I will not be making any
statement on it.
QUESTION: It has been reported that the South Australian Branch of
the A. L. P. is doing nothing and the W. A. Branch is doing virtually
nothing in support of the prices and incomes referendum, and if
this is so, do you think they are acting contrary to the decision
of the Federal Executive and do you think their reported lack of
action would seriously jeopardise a successful YES vote on Saturday?
PRIME MINISTER: I only go on what is in the newspapers here. I am
surprised if the reports are true because I believe they would be
going against the letter and certainly the spirit of the Federal
Executive decision on this matter. The Federal members in South
Australia are, I know, taking steps themselves to see that the case
for a YES vote in both the prices referendum and the incomes referendum
is put properly to the people of South Australia. I, myself, have
been in touch at first hand, as you know, in the last few days with
both the Queensland Branch and the New South Wales Branch of the Labor
Party and both are pursuing an active campaign in support of both
the prices referendum and the incomes referendum. I haven't been
in direct touch with the other branches for some time. I am visiting
Perth next Friday.
QUESTION: Would the Government suppor't an amendment moved by the
Liberal Party in the Senate to the State Grants ( Schools) Bill which
added $ 5 million to the Government's projected 694 million dollars
cost in order to continue per capita grants to those schools which
will lose out on the present needs policy which the Government is
proposing?

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PRIME MINISTER: There has been no -amendment moved by any of the
Opposition parties in the Senate to the State Grants ( Schools) Bill
which was passed by the House of Representatives a week ago. The bill
will come up for debate in the Senate I suspect this week. Obviously
the Government will consider any amendment or amendments which any
Opposition party or parties move in the Senate when it or they is
or are moved. I only have to go on the newspapers as to who speaks
on behalf of the opposition in these matters. I gather that there
is some dispute as to whether Senator Rae is the Opposition spokesman
on education or the Liberal Party spokesman on education and whether
he is the spokesman in the whole Parliament or just in the Senate.
I don't know whether Mr Malcolm Fraser is the spokesman for the
Liberal Party in the whole Parliament or in the House of Representatives
alone. He assumes many mantles and going by what you gentlemen
report, his activities as self-appointed spokesman at least in
education and labour and foreign policy has cuased some distress to
his colleagues who have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition
or have nominated themselves to these respective posts. It is all too
confusing. I have no doubt a personal explanation will be sought
tomorrow.
QUESTION: Do you personally support the Karmel Committee's
recommendation that per capita grants to A, B and C category schools
shoiuld be phased out over two years?
PATME MINISTER: I support the Government's decision on this matter.
Thc Karmel Committee unanimously recommended a program for upgrading
Schools on the basis of needs by grants by the Australian Parliament
for the scholastic years 1974 and 1975. It had this to say about
Category A schools: " Category A schools' . or perhaps I suppose
you will recall that the general objective of the Karmel Committee
wa 5 to sac that all schools in Australia should, in six years, by
1970, achieve a minimum standard of instruction and accommodation
and equipment that is by 1979 and it set targets for that purpose
fLor the Government schools and the non-government schools and it
cat. Qqorized the non-government schools A to H. It had this to
" Category A schools already use a volume of resources that well
Qxceeds tL-he 1979 targets; and the Committee believes that Government
assistance to these schools cannot be justified." I would agree as
an individual with that finding and the Governmenit agrees with that
f~ ndilc. The Committee proceeded: " However all schools are presently
recevingc $ 62 per annum per primary pupil and $ 104 per annum per
secondary pupil. The Committee feels that the sudden termination of
financial aid on six months' notice could place some schools within
c~ tegory A in temporary difficult-,". I interpose there because you
w ilt remiember that tche report of the Committee was made at the end
o~ f last-may. " Hfence the gradual phasing out of assistance over 1974
and 1.975 is recoiainded, This implies that in 1976 schools whose
resource falls in category A should receive no general recurrent
assistance". Now the Government believes that in view of the findings
of the 1Yarmel Commaittee the unanimous finding of the Karmel
Cenw'iittee, this committee drawn from all types of schools in Australia
that Government assistance to category A schools cannot be justified.
Trhe Government believes that in view of that finding by the Committee,
we-didn't believe that we could justify the additional expenditure
involved in paying these category A schools these amounts during
1974 and 1975. You will notice that this finding was made the
sudden termination of financial aid on six months' notice is it
was, in fact, a bit more than six montbs' notice.

COMMENT: Seven months.
PRIME MINISTER: Yes but the schools don't open until February do
they? It would have been eight months'notice really wouldn't it?..
" Could place some schools within category A in temporary difficulties.
There has been quite a deal of reassessment by the Karmel Committee
of the schools which it originally placed in category A. A great
number of those schools have now been placed in lowerly categories
and accordingly would continue under the Government's decision to
receive the amounts that the Karmel Committee unanimously recommended.
Now I would imagine that now there would be no schools which, in the
Karmel Committee's view, would be in temporary difficulty if they
did not receive those amounts in 1974 and 1975.
QUESTION: Is your rejection of that recommendation quite irreversible?
PRIME MINISTER: I have already answered a question about this on
the basis that there might be amendments moved in the Senate.
QUESTION: Is it irreversible?
PRIME MINISTER: I said that we would consider any amendm ents moved
in the Senate when they are moved.
QUESTION: Your announcement of the appointment of an Administrator
to the Northern Territory after such a long time without one where
there was a fairly easy devolution of power to the Secretary of the
Department of the Northern Territory which you created. In view of
the fact that there is no longer a Northern Territory administration,
what was the need to complicate the administration of the territory
by appointing Mr Nelson to this largely redundant and archaic post
up there?
PRIME MINISTER: The position is not archaic or redundant until some
of the Acts covering the Northern Territory are amended. The Government
is committed to proposing some form augmented form of self-government
for the Northern Territory before the end of 1974. You will remember
that the Party discussed this at the Federal Conference in Surfers
Paradise in July. I haven't got the platform with me but I am pretty
sure I correctly state it that the Government is committed to
introduce a form of augmented self-government in the Northern Territory
by the end of 1974. Until the amendments have been made to the Act
covering the Northern Territory there are still responsibilities falling
to the Administrator. He is named in those Acts, and there can be
something inappropriate or embarrassing in the Secretary of the
Department of the Northern Territory purporting to disallow or suggest
amendments to ordinances passed by the Legislative Council of the
Northern Territory. Furthermore, it wouldn't bq proper to reserve all
ordinances to the Governor-General. We could use that device, but it
is more appropriate to have an Administrator performing the functions
which the statutes still impose on a p :-son holding such a position.
I would expect that Mr Nelson will hold the position until the end of
next year.
QUESTION: Does the Government intend to bring the States Grants
( Schools) Bill to a vzt*-c in the Senate this session of Parliament?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes, certainly.

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QUESTION: If the Senate votes to defeat Clause 66 in the Bill, will
the Government then reconsider the Bill in the House of
Representatives during this session of Parliament?
PRIME MINISTER: I would expect the Government would not accept the
continuation of the 1972 legislation. Clause 66 of the States Grants
( Schools) Bill 1973 repeals the operation of the States Grants ( Schools)
Bill 1972 in respect of the next four scholastic years 1974, 1975,
1976 and 1977. In the House of Representatives you will remember
that Mr Malcolm Fraser, the only Opposition member to speak on the
clause, urged the defeat of that repealing clause in the Bill and all
the members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives at
the time voted to defeat to delete Clause 66. Obviously the
effect would have been and Mr Fraser expressed the objective of
retaining the 1972 legislation. Now the 1972 legislation proceeds on
a completely different basis and philosphy to the 1973 legislation.
The 1972 legislation made no provision for Government schools and it
made the same provision per pupil of all non-government schools whether
they were in category A, B, C, D, E, F, G. or H. The 1973 bill which
the Government introduced and which the House of Representatives
passed and which the Senate is to consider this week, makes provision
for Government schools; it makes varied provision graduated provision
for non-government schools according to their needs. The total
provision in the 1973 Bill is three times that in the 1972 Bill.
The Government quite clearly would not accept the continuation of the
1972 Act. However, the Senate would have to agree to the repeal of
tile 1972 Act. The Government would not accept the 1973 Bill without
thQ repeal the deletion of the 1972 Act.
QULESTION: There would be no point in taking it back to the Reps
thiS session if the Senate did not agree to vote for Clause 66?
F2i'E MINISTER: It would depend, of course, on the form in which the
dealt with the Bill. It might move amendments or purport to.
There is, of course, clearly the question whether the Senate could
ca. a-ry an amendment which increased expenditure because expenditure
cannot be above the amount which the Governor-General asks by his
snessage to each House. The Senate might, however, make a request.
NDcbviously, one waits to see what form any motion in the Senate takes,
QUJESTION: If the Senate rejects Clause 66, that's it for this session
' ariiament, is it?
PRIME MINISTER: Well there again one has to wait to see if there are
any other motions that the Senate carries in respect to the StateF
GF6. nts ( Schools Bill 1973. But even if the only thing it does is to
doiete Clause 66, i. e. continue the 1972 Act, even if that is all it
dioes, it will have to come back to the House of * Representatives to
see if the House accepted the Bill as so amended.
QUESTION: This session or next session?
PRIME MINISTER: Well it depends on what days we are sitting. I would
expect the Senate would decide that matter this week, and in those
circuinstances, the House of Representatives can consider it this
week or next.
QUESTION: If the Senate makes a request for an amendment will you
consider that well let's put it this way: Before you consider it will
they have to repeal Section 66 of the present Schools Bill?

A -9-
PRIME MINISTER: It is not for me to suggest amendments or requests in
the Senate. It is really up to the various personalities in the
Liberal Party and each House and various opposition parties to sort
this matter out for themselves. But it would be quite easy, I image,
for the Senate to carry motions or requests quite irrespective of
Clause 66. Clause 66, may I repeat, deletes or repeals last year's
Act in its operation for the next four scholastic years.
QUESTION: What I am asking is will you consider.... is it a proposition,
a condition, to consider any request that they pass Section 66 for the
repeal of the existing legislation. Is that a pre-condition before
you will consider any request from the Senate?
PRIME MINISTER: I think I have made it quite clear on this. I don't
believe the Government would accept the continuation of the per capita
grants the same payment per pupil for the richest, best endowed,
best staffed, best equipped, best housed schools in-Australia as for
the poorest. I don't believe that we would accept such a proposition.
I don't believe the Australian people would accept such a proposition.
After all, the proposal that Australian Government assistance for
non-government schools should be allocated on the basis of needs as
examined and recommended by an expert body was put to the people at
the House of Representatives elections in 1969 and again at the
House of Representatives elections in 1972. There can not have been
a more thoroughly discussed proposal by any Government.
QUESTION: It was reported this week that an English predecessor
of yours is now on a Government pension of $ 23 a week. Do you see any
inconsistency in the policy of your Government in gradually
alleviating the means test on pensions but now applying it to school
students? PRIME MINISTER: There is this is one of the oldest furphies
and cliches in controversy, the idea that there is now some parallel
between the grants which the Australian Government makes to assist
s.; iools and the payments it makes to retired people. Now there is no
similarity between I mean you are a newcomer to these conferences
but I don't think anybody has put this up at such a gathering for
years there is no means test applied to the parents of school pupils;
there is, in fact, an assessment of the school itself. What services,
what facilities does the school provide, and that is capable of
computation and a highly skilled committee has made a computation
of this before the end of last May and nobody has cavilled at their
computation. The people have done their suu.. s afresh, they have
looked at it afresh. Now, you do mention the case of a former
Prime Minister, who has sought and receiv-d. the * age pension. * He~ is
perfectly entitled to do so and retired Prime Ministers in Britain
and Canada have received age pensions for years.
QUESTION: I don't quarrel with that case, but it just seems to me
that there are two cases of means tes' Policy.
PRIME MINISTER: I still can't see the comparison.
Laurie Oakes from the Sun, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: I have been waiting and this is the last.
OAK( ES: I am not going to ask whether you have read any good books
lately. Mr Hamer....

PRIME MINISTER: I have read books on excellent subjects.
QUESTION: Mr Hamer said today that he would like a national conference
on the energy crisis. Could we have your reaction to that suggestion?
PRIME MINISTER: The matter is well in hand. I have mentioned this
before and Mr Connor has answered questions on it already. My
ministers and I have the whole question under constant surveillance
and if there is any matter where the State Governments need to assist,
and there might be such matters in the field of distribution, then
we would very promptly do so. We would welcome their co-operation in
any such matters. But the question of importation of oil and petrol
is not a matter for State Governments it never has been it is
a matter for the Australian Government and I would take the opportunity
to repeat that Australia is more fortunately situated than most
countries in respect to energy resources and also the importation of
those resources where we are not self-sufficient.
QUESTION: In the light of the reported threats against Mr Hawke and
his family, has any Commonwealth authority been instructed to
investigate and report the existence of Arab activeness in Australia
and the degree of their activities?
PRIME MINISTER: The usual procedures are in operation and have been
both before and after the reports which you have quoted. Gentlemen,
i don't encourage questions on these matters as you know. Every
body in public life is aware of these matters and deprecates the
dScussicn of them. My predecessors did, I shall.

Transcript 3093