Governor-General’s Speech Opening Parliament: 1983

The Hawke Labor Government was elected in March 1983, the first victory for the ALP since the Whitlam dismissal and electoral defeat in 1975.

The Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen, opened the 33rd Parliament on April 21, 1983.

Govenor-General Sir Ninian Stephen’s Address to Open the 33rd Parliament.

Honourable Members of the Parliament of Australia here assembled:

At the elections for both Houses of Parliament on 5 March 1983, the people of Australia declared firmly for a change of government and for a change of national direction.

You have been called together to consider a wide-ranging program of legislation designed to give effect to the mandate of the people.

The new Government has assumed office at a time of Australia’s gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression fifty years ago.

In the twelve months from March 1982, unemployment grew from 6.6 per cent to 10 .4 per cent of the workforce. Unemployment among fifteen to nineteen year olds in the workforce rose above 29 per cent. It is estimated some two million of our fellow Australians are now living in poverty.

Accordingly, my new advisers will give the highest priority to the task of restoring sustained growth to the Australian economy, now in deep recession.

The Government, however, is deeply committed to the need for social, economic, legal and Parliamentary reform.

The work of reform, to create a more equal and a more just society, must continue side by side with the urgent task of removing the acute injustice and deprivation caused by Australia’s present massive unemployment.

The Economy

In fulfilment of an important undertaking given during the recent elections, my Government invited representatives of the governments, business and industrial unions of Australia to assemble in the national capital for a National Economic Summit Conference.

My advisers are confident that this historic Conference has achieved wider community understanding of the nature of the economic problems facing Australia and broad agreement upon a national effort to attack those problems.

The agreement reached at the Conference contains the basic framework and approach to enable Australia to begin to arrest the serious economic decline and place the economy on a path of sustained, non-inflationary growth. My advisers have assured the participants at the Summit and their representative organisations of the Government’s support and assistance in building upon the foundations laid so successfully at the Conference. An essential ingredient to the success of the Conference was the dissemination of information to an extent not previously attempted in Australia. My advisers have undertaken that this process of information-sharing, which they believe essential to the making of sound economic decisions, will continue.

Certain matters arising from the Conference will require legislative action which you will be asked to consider during this Session.

The Government will establish an Economic Planning Advisory Council, representing governments, business, unions, farmers and community groups, to advise on economic developments and provide a forum for community consultation on national economic and social strategies.

The Government will establish a price surveillance mechanism to assess pricing decisions made by the strategic price setters, in both the private and public sectors. The Government will also review the structure and operation of the Petroleum Products Pricing Authority to ensure adequate supervision of petroleum prices.

My new Government has inherited a budgetary deficit problem of an unprecedented magnitude. A comprehensive review of budgetary commitments, both in terms of outlays and taxation expenditures, has been set in train.

Nevertheless, within the severe budgetary constraints it has inherited, the Government will give the highest priority to measures to create jobs and restore economic growth.

My Government will give high priority to combating tax avoidance and evasion. Legislation on this and other taxation matters will be introduced during the present Session.

Employment and Industrial Relations

A Community Works Program will be established. This Program, including Jobs on Local Roads, will be designed to provide jobs on projects of lasting benefit to the community which would not otherwise have been commenced.

A new Private Sector Assistance Program will be introduced to co-ordinate and enhance the value of existing programs. This program will give special emphasis to the needs of the young unemployed.

An Australian Labour Office will be established to develop a comprehensive work force strategy.

My advisers believe that better industrial relations are essential in the achievement of national economic recovery.

To this end the National Labour Consultative Council will be developed as the major forum for consultation on industrial relations matters and a tripartite review of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act will be conducted.

Legislation will be introduced this Session to abolish the Industrial Relations Bureau and to facilitate trade union amalgamation.

Measures will be taken to improve the working environment by programs to enhance the standard of occupational health and safety and by encouraging the expansion of industrial democracy.

Secondary Industry

The development of a strong, competitive manufacturing industry will be of crucial importance to my Government’s efforts towards national recovery and reconstruction. The Government will develop a program of industrial regeneration to revitalise existing industries and seek new opportunities for growth in areas of high technology. The Australian Industry Development Corporation will be given an enhanced status and provided with adequate funds to promote industrial reconstruction and develop new industries.

The Government intends to preserve a viable and efficient steel industry and is engaged in consultation with a view to formulating a long-term development plan.

The technological capability of Australian industry will be improved by incentive measures to stimulate research and development.

The role of the Industries Assistance Commission will be reviewed to ensure that its operations are directed towards the development and extension of industry. Temporary assistance and anti-dumping procedures are being reviewed as a matter of urgency.

It is my Government’s policy not to reduce existing protection programs in current conditions of high unemployment. Legislation will be introduced to give effect to the accelerated depreciation allowance on plant and machinery, together with 2 1/2 per cent depreciation allowance on non-residential income- producing buildings.

Parliament will be asked to consider a proposal for a Buy Australian Act.

Small Business

My Government recognises the vital contribution of the small business sector to the Australian economy. A National Small Business Action Program will be developed, designed to improve access to finance, to ease the tax burden as budgetary circumstances permit and to improve managerial skills.

Housing and Construction

In its efforts towards national recovery, my Government will give the highest priority to the revitalisation of the Australian housing industry. This priority reflects the social as well as the economic goals of my Government.

A range of policies will be implemented to increase access to housing. The Government’s objectives are to increase significantly the availability of public housing and other low-cost rental accommodation, provide assistance in bridging the deposit gap, and ensure adequate funds are available for housing.

Trade

As a major world trading nation, Australia’s economic strengths must depend on the strength of our export industries. Multilateral and bilateral trade policies will be pursued to ensure that markets for Australian exports are made secure and develop to their full potential.

The supporting services available to Australian companies will be improved. The Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation and the Trade Commissioner Service will be reviewed with a view to improving their effectiveness.

Primary Industry

The rural sector remains of fundamental importance to Australia’s export earning capacity. My Government is committed to progressive long term policies designed to ensure a strong rural sector. Although recent widespread rainfall has reduced the extent of the drought over Eastern Australia, a large area is still classed as rain-deficient.

Measures to ensure equitable treatment for farmers during the drought and beyond will continue to be given high priority.

The role and function of statutory marketing authorities will be reviewed.

A national soil conservation program will be introduced.

Legislation of significance to the rural sector will include reform of the administration of the meat and livestock industry, and a new wheat marketing plan to apply from the 1984-85 season.

Resources

In consultation with the States, my Government will review the Study on the Perspective on Water Resources to the Year 2000 as a basis for determining national water resource priorities. The Government will consider the establishment of an institute of freshwater studies to investigate water quality , and, as a matter of priority, advise on the equitable and effective management of the River Murray system.

The Government will promote the pursuit of comprehensive knowledge of the oceans in the 200-mile exclusive economic zone around Australia.

The Government is reviewing the operation of the Commonwealth and State legislation covering off-shore petroleum and mining activities.

The Australian coal mining industry is experiencing severe problems, largely created by depressed international prices. An Australian Coal Consultative Council has been established so that governments, industry and unions can co- operate in the task of maintaining the strength and stability of the industry.

The task of national reconstruction calls for a major national effort to improve the efficiency of the basic economic infrastructure.

Transport

An Inter-State Commission will be established to develop a balanced national transport framework.

There will be a national inquiry into the road freight industry to undertake, in co-operation with the States, a wide-ranging examination of the problems currently facing the industry.

The Australian Bicentennial Road Development Program will continue, in addition to other road programs.

Measures will be taken in co-operation with the States, within current budgetary restrictions, to improve the efficiency of national rail services and to upgrade designated railway routes of national importance, including port and rail facilities for exports.

The Government is considering steps which might be taken to place the Australian Shipping Commission and the Australian National Railways Commission on an improved commercial basis. Legislation will be introduced to provide financial incentives for the expansion of Australia’s shipping industry.

Australia intends to become a party to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973 and the Protocol of 1978 which amends that Convention.

My Government recognises the importance of the aviation industry to the Australian economy and the Australian quality of life.

The national airline, TAA, will remain in full public ownership. Consideration will be given to the capital needs of both TAA and Qantas and steps will be taken to place them on an improved commercial basis.

My Government is considering the establishment of an airports authority to plan , develop and operate the major airports.

The Government will promote participation by the community, the users and industry employees in decision-making on aviation issues, especially the provision of airports.

My Government is mindful of the significance of the general aviation sector and will ensure that it is fully consulted on its regulation and levels of costs attributed to it.

Communications

You will be asked to consider legislation to establish the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to give the ABC a clear charter, a modern structure and effective, businesslike management.

The Broadcasting and Television Act will be amended to remove the ban on political news and comment applying to radio and television stations in the three days before Federal and State elections.

To stimulate innovation and expansion in the area of radio- communications and to control interference in the radio frequency spectrum, a radiocommunications bill will be introduced this Session.

My Government’s efforts in the communications area will form a significant Australian contribution to the World Communications Year of 1983.

Science and Technology

My Government will use the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Scheme to encourage the development of new high technology industries in Australia, with particular emphasis on biotechnology.

Australia will increase the level of its scientific work in Antarctica and provide more effective transport links including landing strips.

My Government will work to decrease Australia’s technological dependence and raise levels of community understanding in science and technology.

Recognising the impact of technological change on educational and employment opportunities, the Government will allocate funds to provide secondary schools, including needy non-government schools, with computers. It is intended eventually to extend this program to primary schools.

Education and Youth Affairs

In recognition of its pre-eminent concern to meet the needs of our young people , the new Government has established the Ministry of Education and Youth Affairs .

The Government is determined to restore the confidence of the community in the nation’s public education system while at the same time assisting in the operation of non-government schools.

My Government is firmly committed to the principle of genuine equality of educational opportunity and the elimination of disadvantage and discrimination.

A major effort will be applied to increasing the numbers of young people who complete their secondary education and to increasing the numbers who continue into tertiary education.

The education assistance schemes will be progressively improved as budgetary circumstances permit.

In consultation with the States, my Government seeks to expand training opportunities in educational institutions for young people and adults affected by technological change and unemployment.

In response to social and economic changes affecting work patterns and the availability of work, the Government will encourage developments designed to equip young people to engage in innovative enterprises.

While current unemployment falls with particular severity on young people, the problem of the demand for jobs concerns the whole community. At the Economic Summit Conference, my advi

Social Security

The deep economic recession has exposed serious inequalities in Australian society.

My Government is deeply committed to the elimination of poverty and gross inequality and a wide range of policies will be progressively implemented towards that goal.

My advisers note with deep satisfaction the centrality given to the need for reform in the welfare area during the recent Economic Summit Conference and in its communique.

The highest priority has been given to assistance to the unemployed and legislation will be introduced immediately to increase the single adult rate of unemployment benefit.

Further initiatives will be taken in the areas of child care, lone parents, the aged, widowed, invalid and the disabled and the sick.

Health

My Government will proceed to fulfil its undertaking with regard to the proposed Medicare arrangements, to ensure that the costs of health care in Australia are fairly shared and that proper health care is available to all.

My Government will end the existing fragmentation of policies and funding for the aged through the creation of an Office of Aged Care. The Government proposes to modify the present over-emphasis on nursing home care for the aged and improve the availability of hostels and community care services.

Veterans’ Affairs

A Royal Commission will be established to inquire into the effects of herbicides and pesticides on veterans of the Vietnam war.

The Government will proceed to modernise the Repatriation Act, including the Appeals system, to remove existing anomalies.

Sport, Recreation and Tourism

The great cost to this nation of avoidable ill-health was a significant factor in my Government’s decision to establish a Ministry of Sport, Recreation and Tourism.

My Government will move to increase the availability of sport, physical fitness and recreation facilities throughout the Australian community.

My Government fully recognises the importance of tourism to the Australian economy. The role of the Australian Tourist Commission will be strengthened. Emphasis will be given to the promotion overseas of Australia’s tourist potential and to measures to encourage domestic tourism.

The Arts

My Government places great importance on the role of the arts in the development of the national character and identity. Support for the arts will be aimed at widening the access to, and participation in, the arts by all sections of the community.

The development of the Australian film industry will be encouraged by amendment to the legislation providing taxation incentives for the production of Australian films.

The Environment

My new Government has been elected with a very clear mandate from the people of Australia to protect the Australian environment.

My Government is convinced that it would be a gross dereliction of its Constitutional responsibility were it to fail to carry out the clear wishes of the overwhelming majority of the Australian people.

The national Government is obliged to protect Australia’s natural and cultural heritage, including the South-West Tasmanian wilderness.

Legislation will be introduced this day to protect areas identified as being of World Heritage status.

My Government is also committed to investigating possibilities for alternative hydro electricity schemes and employment-generating activities in Tasmania.

The Government will move to include the whole of the Great Barrier Reef in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

My Government will improve the measures to protect Australia’s fauna and flora, including the introduction of a national kangaroo monitoring group.

Aboriginals

My Government is deeply committed to the discharge of its Constitutional responsibility towards the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.

My Government seeks a national approach to the rights, status and living standards of these most disadvantaged of our fellow Australians. Discussion will be undertaken with the States and Territories to establish a consistent national approach to Aboriginal land rights. At all stages, there will be full consultation with the Aboriginal people.

Parliamentary, Legal and Constitutional Reform

A wide range of proposals and legislation designed to enhance the quality of government in Australia and to strengthen the foundations of Parliamentary democracy will be submitted for your consideration.

My advisers deeply believe that public confidence in the effectiveness and integrity of our parliamentary institution must be strengthened.

Legislation will be introduced to ensure that the principle of one vote-one value is clearly established.

My Government will introduce public funding of election campaigns and measures to reduce the incidence of informal voting through simpler voting procedures.

The Parliamentary Committee system of the national Parliament will be strengthened to give Members of Parliament a more effective role and participation in the great affairs of this nation.

My Government proposes to amend the Parliamentary contributory superannuation scheme in line with the general agreement that restraint should be shared by all sections of the community.

My Government proposes to place before you a Bill for a referendum on Fixed Term Parliaments, involving the setting of a fixed date for general elections to provide greater stability in the Australian political system.

My Government will be supporting a systematic review of the Constitution with a view to developing a consensus on modernisation of the Australian Constitution by the Bicentennial year of 1988.

It is also proposed to develop, in consultation with the States and the Judiciary, a Constitutional amendment to provide for a single national courts system.

My Government is committed to bringing self-government to the Australian Capital Territory. As a first step, a broad range of local government powers will be transferred to the House of Assembly.

For the first time in the nation’s history, a Commonwealth Department has been created with specific responsibility for local government.

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 will be amended to broaden and make more effective its operation. Complementary legislation will be introduced to provide a legislative basis for the management of all government records and archives.

The Family Law Amendment Bill will be re-introduced, with further amendments to give effect to recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee.

My advisers are considering the establishment of a National Maintenance Collection and Enforcement Agency and ways of improving the delivery of legal aid services.

Bills will be introduced so as to abolish the residual and anachronistic Constitutional links with the United Kingdom, but not affecting the Constitutional position of Her Majesty the Queen of Australia.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act of 1979 will be amended to define more precisely the Organization’s jurisdiction and to ensure its private and public accountability.

A comprehensive review of company and securities law will be undertaken by the Company and Securities Law Review Committee; and the Trade Practices Act and the operations of the Trade Practices Commission will also be reviewed.

The proposal for a National Crimes Commission will be reviewed. My advisers are considering a revised Criminal Investigation Bill.

A Directorate of Public Prosecutions for the Commonwealth is under active consideration.

My advisers are considering a number of initiatives relating to human rights, especially in regard to the elimination of all forms of discrimination on the grounds of sex or race and the enactment of an Australian Bill of Rights.

Status of Women

Legislation will be introduced dealing with discrimination on the basis of sex or marital status.

My Government will ensure that women are appointed to key government advisory bodies.

Mechanisms will be established for consultation with women throughout the community. Australia will ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Through the Office of the Status of Women, within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, my Government is determined to ensure that the concerns of women are made an integral part of all government policies and programs.

In co-operation with the States and community groups, my Government will co- ordinate the provision of emergency services for women and children in need of crisis care.

My advisers place great significance on the fact that the agreed Communique of the Economic Summit Conference stresses that the basic rights of women should be recognised and protected and that the move towards greater equality and independence for women should be encouraged.

Migrants

Migrants have contributed significantly to Australia’s national interest.

My Government will give special consideration to Family Reunion Programs and will continue to recognise United Nations and humanitarian obligations in respect to refugees.

The services available to migrants to facilitate their settlement into the Australian community will be co-ordinated and upgraded.

The Citizenship Act will be amended to remove anomalies and discrimination. The Migration Act will be amended to remove discrimination between Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth citizens.

Australian Public Service

My Government recognises that an effective public service is an integral part of an effective democracy.

My Government will strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of the Australian Public Service. The Public Service Board will be expected to promote efficiency, with particular attention to the impact of new technology in Government departments.

The Board will be asked to establish a special unit to develop more participatory forms of management within the service.

My advisers are currently considering the creation of a special division of senior officers appointed by the Governor-General in Council with a view to creating a more open and responsive service, and to making more effective use of talents and skills outside the service.

The present staff ceiling system is being reviewed to remove the justifiable dissatisfaction about its operation.

The British subject requirement for permanent employment in the Public Service will be replaced with an Australian citizenship requirement.

Repressive legislation which unfairly restricts the freedom of Commonwealth employees to exercise their basic industrial rights will be repealed.

The Ombudsman Act is being reviewed to develop the Ombudsman role. An Office of Defence Force Ombudsman is to be created and vested in the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

A Defence Force pay-fixing tribunal will be established.

Defence and Foreign Affairs

The defence and security of Australia and the integrity of her territory is the fundamental obligation of the Government of Australia.

My Government will continue programs now underway and review the content and priorities of defence forward planning. Despite the economic constraints, my Government will make a significant investment of the nation’s resources in defence preparedness, maximising defence procurement in Australia.

My Government will seek to develop close working relations with our neighbours in South-East Asia and the South Pacific to contribute to the stability and security of our region.

My advisers seek to ensure that relations with the member nations of ASEAN are placed on the firmest possible footing through closer and more frequent consultations at the highest level.

The Fourteenth South Pacific Forum bringing together Heads of Government of the region will be held in Australia later this year.

My Government will maintain its close and wide-ranging relations with Japan, and continue to broaden relations with the People’s Republic of China.

Our close relationship with the United States, built up over many decades within the framework of the ANZUS Treaty, will be maintained.

My advisers propose to have discussions with the United States administration at the highest level to ensure that the interpretation and application of the provisions of the ANZUS Treaty are mutually consistent.

Normal relations are being re-established with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Particular emphasis will be given to support for bilateral and multilateral arms control arrangements.

In general, the conduct of Australia’s international relations is presently characterised by a high degree of consensus and continuity. In all aspects of our international relationship my Government will be using Australia’s influence to try to ensure as far as possible that the conditions for an internationally peaceful world are strengthened.

Senators and Members of the House of Representatives:

My new Government has pledged itself to the pursuit of national reconciliation, national recovery and national reconstruction.

The spirit of co-operation which marked the National Economic Summit Conference last week has, my advisers believe, laid good foundations for a renewed national effort to enable Australia and its people to surmount the present grave crisis and indeed emerge from it a more united, stronger, and better nation.

The comprehensive program I have outlined is designed to further the great national goals of reconciliation, recovery and reconstruction.

There can be no doubt that the gravity of Australia’s present crisis imposes on this Parliament a burden and a responsibility as challenging as that faced by any of its predecessors since Federation.

The people of Australia have placed upon you, as their representatives, a trust and a duty of the highest order.

With confidence that you will fulfil to the utmost of your abilities the deep responsibility the Australian people have placed upon you, I leave you to carry out your high and important duties.

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