Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck Opens The 28th Parliament

The Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck opened the 28th Parliament on February 27, 1973.

Hasluck presided over the first Parliament since 1949 with a Labor government. The Governor-General’s speech contained a number of historic announcements of legislative programs from the Whitlam government.

The announcements included the abolition of university fees, the introduction of universal health insurance, the lowering of the voting age to 18, independence for Papua New Guinea, the introduction of the Schools Commission and federal responsibility for Aboriginal disadvantage.

Hasluck was a former minister in the Liberal-Country Party government that Whitlam defeated.

  • Listen to highlights of Hasluck’s speech (5m – full text below)


Hansard transcript of Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck’s speech opening the 28th Parliament.

Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives:

Following the clear decision of the people of Australia at the elections for the House of Representatives on 2nd December 1972 and acting upon advice, I commissioned the Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party to form a new Government on 5th December 1972. My new advisers have proceeded with all possible speed to act upon the mandate for change which they are firmly convinced was bestowed upon them by the people of Australia in the House of Representatives elections. My advisers will now ask this Parliament – itself the fundamental means by which the will of the people can be expressed – to pass legislation embodying the central parts of the program which the people have instructed them to implement.

The program which my new Government proposes is designed to achieve basic changes in the administration and structure of Australian society in the lifetime of this Parliament. It is in essence a 3-year program. In the first sittings you will be asked to give priority to legislation affecting the immediate welfare of the people, and to matters in which my advisers believe delay would mean damage to the nation or unwarranted neglect of the people’s wishes and mandate.

My advisers believe that there are 4 principal grounds upon which they should base their program for change:

First, the manifest desire of large sections of the Australian community, particularly the youthful majority, for a more tolerant, more open, more humane, more equal, yet more diverse society.

Second, the clear failure of existing social and economic structures to meet the needs of modern society, particularly in relation to education, social security, health, industrial relations and urban and regional development.

Third, the need for government, and principally the national Government, to have available machinery and advice to plan for the inevitable and accelerating change now occuring in all modern communities.

Fourth, recognition of new and momentous directions in the pattern of international relations, particularly in the region in which Australia’s future lies.

These are the 4 main grounds upon which my advisers have so far acted and propose to act in the future and in pursuit of which they will be seeking the concurrence and cooperation of this Parliament.

My advisers are determined that the new spirit and new opportunities which they perceive emerging for Australia at home and abroad in 1973 shall not be lost.

They believe that in no area is this more important or more opportune than in the field of Australia’s future relations with her neighbours and with the wider region. My Government warmly welcomed President Nixon’s announcement of the cease-fire in Vietnam. It also welcomes the cease-fire in Laos. It is determined to do all in its power to ensure that the opportunity is not lost to bring about a lasting settlement in Indo-China as. it believes, it was needlessly and tragically lost in 1954. It welcomes and supports initiatives for an international endeavour in the economic and social rehabilitation of Indo-China. My Government supports the proposal by members of the Association of South East Asian Nations for a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality in South East Asia, and will encourage other nations involved in the region to support the concept. My Government will honour the terms of the Five Power Arrangements, but looks forward to the achievement of a neutral zone in South East Asia ultimately involving the phasing out of present military arrangements such as the Five Power Arrangements. My Government will continue to co-operate with all other parties in such arrangements to advance the concept known as the ‘Guam Doctrine’ designed by President Nixon to help all countries in our region to develop their own defence capabilities.

My Government has already begun exploratory discussions with Australia’s neighbours, friends and allies on ways of developing new arrangements for regional co-operation free of military or ideological overtones. My Government believes that our close relations with the United States, our growing partnership with Japan and the speedy and successful normalisation of relations with the People’s Republic of China provide a realistic and fruitful basis for such an Australian initiative.

The primary importance my advisers attach to Australia’s relations with Indonesia and the nations of the South Pacific has been symbolised by the early visits the Prime Minister has already made to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

My Government will move with all due speed towards the creation of an independent, united Papua New Guinea, lt proposes to achieve this in the closest consultation with the Government and House of Assembly of Papua New Guinea within the life of this Parliament. My Government is deeply committed, by the clearest pledges, to continue substantial economic aid to an independent Papua New Guinea. My Government has given the Papua New Guinea Government an assurance of continuing aid over the period of the 3-year Improvement Program beginning 1974-75.

Legislation will be introduced to provide for self-government on 1st December 1973, or as soon as practicable therafter. in providing for the transfer of further powers and functions to the House of Assembly, including control of the Public Service of Papua New Guinea, my Government will legislate to protect employment security of overseas officers who were appointed by the Australian Government.

My Government attaches great importance to the Commonwealth of Nations as an active instrument for justice and peace and for political, social and economic advancement throughout our region and also in Africa and the Caribbean. The Prime Minister intends to attend the meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government planned for August next.

Under my Government, Australia has now ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Treaty prohibiting the placement of nuclear weapons on or under the seabed.

My advisers believe that the newly emerging situation in our region involves fundamental changes in the nature and purpose of Australia’s defence forces. For this reason, but also for social, moral and economic reasons at the heart of my advisers’ view of Australian society, they have already suspended the operation of the National Service Act, and, acting upon their advice, I have used my prerogative to release those persons imprisoned for breaches of the Act, while pending prosecutions under it have been withdrawn.

To ensure the successful restoration of strong, highly professional all-volunteer armed forces, new standing machinery will be established to keep pay and conditions in step with civilian standards. Legislation will be introduced to implement the Report of the Joint Select Parliamentary Committee on retirement benefits; to provide improved re-settlement benefits; and to appoint an Ombudsman for the Defence Forces.

The Government has undertaken a reorganisation and modernisation of the administration of the Defence Group of Departments. A major review is under way on the future size and shape of the Australian Regular Army, and a committee will be appointed to review completely the role of the Citizen Military Forces and the service conditions of its members. In defence procurement, emphasis will be given to placing orders with Australian industries.

Determined as they are to maintain strong defence forces, my advisers are deeply aware that the basic strength and welfare of the nation depends on Australia’s ability to develop the skills and talents of her people.

My Government will accordingly give preeminent importance to the reform of Australian education and the care of Australian children. In this, my advisers will seek the closest co-operation with the State Governments and authorities representing the nongovernment schools. An interim committee has already been appointed to inquire into and report upon the urgent needs of all schools and to recommend appropriate means of providing for those needs. Legislation will be introduced to establish a Schools Commission and a Pre-School Commission. Discussions will be held with the States to enable the Australian Government to assume responsibility for fully financing tertiary education, including post-graduate study and research. Fees at tertiary institutions will be abolished from the beginning of 1974. The great objective which my Government has set for itself is to ensure genuine equality of opportunity for all children now embarking upon their education.

My advisers attach great importance to education measures as part of their endeavour to reduce further and future growth of inequality in the Australian community. They are deeply disturbed, however, by the presence of great inequalities and injustices, by the existence of real poverty in the midst of plenty, and by the inadequacies of existing machinery to prevent injustices and to promote equality.

My Government has already announced, in accordance with its election program, a wideranging series of measures to improve Australia’s social security system. It will propose a number of measures by which: the means test will be ended during the current Parliament; all Australians entitled to social security payments may receive them wherever they choose to live without the need for reciprocal agreements with other countries; and by which there will be twice-yearly increases of $1.50 each in the basic rate of pensions until they reach 25 per cent of average weekly earnings.

A committee of inquiry will be set up to investigate and recommend a scheme for national superannuation.

A committee of inquiry has been set up under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Woodhouse of the New Zealand Supreme Court to recommend a national scheme for compensation and rehabilitation for personal injury.

Meanwhile the Government will legislate to amend the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act to provide payment of full wages during incapacity, lump sum compensation and lifetime compensation for widows.

An Australian Assistance Plan will be set up to develop and co-ordinate welfare services provided by government and private agencies.

A National Commission on Social Welfare will be set up to advise the Government on all aspects of social welfare, integrate national programs and to evaluate the success of programs.

Wide-ranging improvement and significant reforms in social service and repatriation benefits have already been announced by my advisers.

Universal health insurance will be introduced and a planning committee will now work on the details for its introduction. My Ministers are anxious to co-operate fully with the medical profession in implementing the clear instruction of the Australian people. They will insist, however, that the over-riding consideration must be the welfare of the patient and are determined that the mandate given to them will be carried out.

A National Hospitals and Health Services Commission will be established to survey and develop regional co-ordination of health care delivery.

The Government proposes to legislate to permit the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to engage in production of non-biological pharmaceutical products. The Government may acquire for the Commonwealth a private pharmaceutical manufacturing firm which will work with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to provide new technical, management and marketing skills and methods.

My Government acknowledges the generosity of the New Zealand Government in helping the first steps towards establishing a School Dental Service by providing places for the training of dental therapists in New Zealand.

My Government recognises that the worst social inequalities, the worst poverty and the worst health problems bear upon the Australian Aboriginal people. In attempting to remove this national shame, my advisers seek the co-operation of the State Governments. They will not, however, permit any State Government or State agency to frustrate the clear will of the Australian people recorded so overwhelmingly in the 1967 Referendum that the national Government should assume constitutional responsibility for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. My advisers will not hesitate to use these full constitutional powers granted by the Australian people in asserting and establishing the national will on this matter.

Among many measures already announced, my Government will give priority to establishing Aboriginal land rights and to ensuring that Aborigines are truly equal before the law.

The welfare of migrants to Australia will receive the closest attention. The emphasis of my Government’s immigration policy will be on the reunion of families and the welfare of migrants already in Australia. A higher priority will be given to retaining migrants than to recruiting them.

My Government believes that measures to improve the welfare of deprived sections of the Australian community, or to promote equality within the whole community, however far-reaching and valuable in themselves, will ultimately fail unless basic and urgent attention is directed to the places where the people live and must live. My advisers are convinced that in this, one of the world’s most urbanised nations, the national Government must now accept a great and growing share of responsibility for the nation’s cities – those that are, and those that are to be.

To signify that their determination is conceived in a spirit of true and co-operative federalism, and is not limited to Australia’s great capitals, the Prime Minister and the Minister for the newly-created Department of Urban and Regional Development met the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria at Albury and Wodonga on 25th January to set the framework for accelerated development of a major city in the Albury-Wodonga area. Reciprocal legislation with New South Wales and Victoria will be introduced in the 3 Parliaments to establish a Development Corporation for this new concept in regional development.

It is proposed that a statutory corporation – the Cities Commission – will be established to replace the existing National Urban and Regional Development Authority.

My Government aims to make local government a genuine partner in the Federal system. To promote financial equality between regions the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act will be amended to authorise the Commission to inquire into and report upon applications made for grants for local government purposes. Discussions will be held with the States aimed at providing local government in each State with a voice and vole in the deliberations of the Loan Council.

The national Government acknowledges its special and inescapable responsibility for the national capital, lt intends nonetheless to examine urgently various proposals to provide for self-government in the Australian Capital Territory. The Minister for the Capital. Territory will also give high priority to a review of the land tenure system, housing policies, consumer protection and community facilities and the public transport system in the national capital.

It is the intention of my Government to introduce legislation establishing CommonwealthState Land Commissions to acquire and develop residential land. These Commissions will co-operate with -State and local government authorities in achieving a more rational and economic form of urban development and will help combat rising land prices.

My Government has offered immediate (financial assistance to the Slates to increase the number of dwellings under construction for letting to needy families. Legislation will be introduced to provide the States with repayable advances up to some $6m at a concessional rate of interest for expenditure by State Housing Authorities in this financial year on dwellings that would not otherwise have been commenced before 30th June next.

My Government is negotiating with the States a new Housing Agreement to operate for 5 years from 1st July 1973. Its aim will be to increase the stock of dwellings available for letting to needy families at rents they can afford to pay, and so to reduce the time an applicant must wait before a government dwellling may be provided. It will seek an Agreement which will also provide for high standards of amenities and an improvement in the environmental character of housing estates.

Legislation will be introduced to confirm the new Agreement.

Legislation will also be introduced to reform the system of War Service Homes, which will be known henceforth as Defence Service Homes.

Legislation will be introduced to remove limits on Commonwealth Savings Bank credit foncier housing loans.

The Government intends to provide valuable assistance to home-owners by reducing interest payment burdens.

A modern and efficient national transport system is basic to the economic and social wellbeing of Australia. The Government will be taking action to implement in co-operation with the States a major program to improve public transport systems on the basis of socially and economically desirable projects.

My advisers will discuss with the States the terms on which their railway systems can be acquired by the Australian Government.

The Government proposes to restore the Inter-State Commission to plan and provide modern means of communications between the States.

The extensive program of educational, welfare and urban and public transport reform and renewal planned by my Government can only be achieved on the basis of sound economic growth. My Government will promote such growth by wide-ranging and flexible policies based on co-operative forward planning, full employment, containment of price inflation and industrial co-operation.

As part of a continuing and comprehensive fight against inflation, the Government will establish prices justification machinery, involve the national Government in the field of consumer protection, establish a Parliamentary Standing Committee to review prices in key sectors, and strengthen the laws against restrictive trade practices.

In the view of the Government urgent action was needed to achieve an early alleviation of unemployment. The Government has agreed to make available to the States additional financial assistance totalling almost $50m for expenditure in the period to 30th June 1973 or employment-creating activities in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas which could be quickly and usefully undertaken. Of this assistance Si 8m will be provided under existing legislation. Legislative authority for the remainder will be sought during the present Parliamentary sittings.

The Government will be seeking legislative authority for the payment of a special loan of $15m to New South Wales for budgetary assistance in accordance with an undertaking given to the State by the late Government and announced in the previous Parliament.

The Government will bring in early legislation to curb tax avoidance. The Government’s intentions have already been announced with respect to misuse of life insurance premiums and superannuation contributions, the purchase of company shells, capital subscribed to mining companies and the status of Norfolk Island.

The Government intends to develop a positive program of policy measures to promote more vigorous growth of efficient, competitive Australian manufacturing industry. A basic objective will be to reduce uncertainty and to create a sense of national purpose within which investment and in turn employment decisions in industry can be made confidently.

My Government believes that industrial confidence requires industrial co-operation. It will take steps to promote co-operation and reduce confrontation in industry. My Government is determined that the men and women of the Australian workforce will share fairly and fully in the nation’s prosperity and productivity.

Legislation will be introduced to repeal needlessly provocative penal sanctions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Amalgamation of trade unions will be facilitated. A committee of inquiry will undertake a thorough investigation of all aspects of industrial relations.

The Government is conscious of its primary responsibility to its public servants and legislation will be introduced for wide-ranging reforms in their employment conditions. The Government will appoint a Royal Commission under Sir James Vernon to inquire into and report upon the operations and structure of the Post Office, Australia’s largest single employer.

In developing the Australian economy my advisers will be seeking close participation by all sections of the community. Opportunities will be provided for co-operation and consultation between government and industry, trade unions, and other groups in the development and implementation of forward plans for industrial development.

The Government proposes to establish a Protection Commission to advise on assistance for both primary and secondary industries.

Legislation will be introduced to expand the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation to equip it for the task of assisting the Government in its objective of achieving sound industrial and resource development with maximum Australian ownership and control.

In pursuit of its policy for maximising Australian ownership, control, use and development of Australian resources, my Government will introduce legislation to establish a National Pipeline Authority. The Authority will construct and maintain a natural gas pipeline system throughout Australia to ensure continuity of supplies and uniformity of price.

My Government has decided that all minerals will be subject to export control. The Government’s objectives are to ensure that Australia’s export prices should be at a reasonable level in relation to export prices from other countries and also that a balanced development of Australian mineral resources be pursued so that production for exports should serve the best interests of Australia.

You will be asked to assert and establish the sovereign rights of the national Parliament to pass laws on the resources of the Australian seabed from the low-water mark to the outer limits of the Continental Shelf. This will be done by legislation combining broadly the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill introduced in 1970 with a Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill setting out a mining code covering minerals other than petroleum in offshore areas.

A Department of Northern Development with particular responsibility for the use and development of resources north of the 26th Parallel has been created. This Department will work in close co-operation with the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia and the Department of the Northern Territory with particular emphasis on the use and development of Australian land and resources by Australians for the benefit of all Australians.

The increasing importance to Australia’s growth of new mineral development, particularly in the north and west, does not blind my advisers to the continuing importance of Australia’s traditional primary industries.

The Australian Wool Corporation, which became operational on 1st January this year, is presently investigating wool marketing including the proposal for acquisition of the clip. The report will receive the prompt attention of the Government.

The Australian Wool Industry Conference has endorsed proposals for financing research and promotion programs in the industry for the next triennium commencing in July. This matter is under consideration by the Government.

My Government will initiate fishery resources surveys and exploratory fishing operations and assist in the provision of equipment and facilities required to develop fisheries based on these resources.

As announced, adjustment assistance will be given to those rural industries which were already facing difficulties and problems of adjustment to changed circumstances and would find it particularly difficult to bear the consequences of the exchange rate appreciation of last December or the subsequent devaluation of the United States dollar.

Australia intends to take an energetic part in the forthcoming major round of international trade negotiations due to open later this year under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In these negotiations particular emphasis is to be placed on meeting the trading problems of the developing countries. My Government regards these negotiations as providing important opportunities for an expansion and liberalisation of world trade. My advisers will place particular emphasis on trying to improve conditions of international trade in primary commodities. International commodity agreements are an important means of achieving this end and my Government will be actively seeking renewal, on satisfactory terms, of the International Sugar Agreement which expires at the end of this year and the International Wheat Agreement which expires in 1974.

My Government believes that its economic, trade, development and industrial policies provide a basis for strong and continuing growth of Australian prosperity. It is, however, deeply conscious that economic growth and material well-being no longer reflect the whole aspirations and expectations of the Australian community, and that prosperity alone is no longer exactly equated with true progress.

The Department of the Environment and Conservation proposes to develop a ‘human progress’ index to reflect the new and emerging human and social values in a modern society.

In planning for this generation, my Government intends to protect the rights and national inheritance of future generations of Australians. The Government will institute a program requiring environment impact statements for all major projects involving national funds and national constitutional powers. From 1st January 1974, public hearings will be held before the writing of an environment impact statement.

The Government recognises that the use of leisure in a modern society presents problems and opportunities involving profound questions of the relations between man and his community and man and his environment. The new Departments of Urban and Regional Development, Environment and Conservation, Tourism and Recreation, the Media and of Science, together with the Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Special Minister of State, Health and of Education will be working in close and continuing co-operation to develop national programs to preserve and promote Australian recreation resources, Australians’ access to them, and Australians’ ability to use and enjoy them. These include plans for community centres based upon the schools, and youth leadership courses.

In addition to these programs, legislation will be introduced for an Australian Council of the Arts, the Australian National Gallery, the Australian Film and Television School and a Science Council. Legislation is being prepared to implement my Government’s declared policy to encourage and increase the creative participation by Australians in the production of films and television programs shown in Australia and overseas.

My Government recognises the enduring relation between the quality of life and equality before the law. My advisers are preparing major reforms to remove injustices, to reduce costs and to ensure equal rights under the law for all Australians. Legislation will be introduced to give citizens access to an Ombudsman under Australian law and in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

My Government intends to ratify the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination and other international agreements dealing with human rights. These include the 1LO Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948; the ILO Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949; the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951; the ILO Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966). Where necessary, the concurrence of the States will be sought prior to ratification.

A Superior Court will be established. Capital punishment under Australian law and in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory will be abolished. Amendments to the Matrimonial Causes Act will be sought following a review of the Act.

In pursuit of its determination to make government in Australia more open and less secret, and to involve the people in the decision-making processes, a Freedom of Information Bill will be introduced.

This Parliament is the true foundation of the Australian law and the Australian democracy. My Government intends to place that democracy on a wider, fairer and firmer basis by granting the vote to men and women at 18 and by removing malapportionment of the electorates for the House of Representatives.

My Government presents for your approval the most comprehensive program of legislation in the history of the Australian Parliament. The circumstances which led to the forming of the new Government, the nature of recent events in our region, the opportunities and responsibilities of the national Government in these times of great change all combine to make the Twenty-eighth Parliament one of the most momentous in Australian history. 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.

(His Excellency the Governor-General and members of the House of Representatives retired.)

Sitting suspended from 3.49 to 5.04 p.m.

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