27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth: That the undersigned believe . . .
That hunger, illiteracy, abject poverty and injustice are intolerable anywhere in the world.
That the knowledge, skills and resources to change these unjust conditions now exist.
That to obtain justice among peoples, world financial and trading systems can and must be changed.
That Australia has the capacity to play a more significant part in enabling the developing countries to achieve improved social conditions for all their people.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that . . .
Australia’s Official Development Assistance in 1972-73 be increased to at least $240 million.
Australia’s aid policies be reviewed so that aid given provides maximum benefit to the peoples of developing countries.
Australia’s trade policies be reviewed to provide more favourable conditions for developing countries. by Mr Gorton, Mr Keating and Mr Reid.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Membersof the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will lake immediate steps to ensure that finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Beazley, Mr Bennett and Mr Berinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors in the State of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
Internal and external painting of all woodwork. Lighting in school to be brought up to modern standards. Consolidation of buildings to include additional stairway, increased storage, sick room and staff amenities.
Your petitioners therefore respectfully pray that your Honourable House will (i) make immediately a substantial Federal emergency grant to all State Governments for education services and (ii) carry out a public national survey to determine needs of the States after 1975.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors in the State of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, we, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia, residents in the State of Western Australia do humbly petition and pray that all levels of Government responsible in Australia will take note of the wishes of we, the citizens, in so far as we request:
That the Commonwealth Government give urgent consideration to granting taxation concessions to those mothers who are forced to pay fees to have their children retained in Day Care and Family Care Centres.
That these mothers and children are being disadvantaged by the economic circumstances where no concession is made for the changes which must be paid to have their children so looked after. In fact it means that a single parent is working for a subsistence wage and receiving a lower income that many who are living on Social Service at a cost to the community.
That these mothers’ efforts to maintain themselves and their families should be rewarded by taxation concessions for fees paid in recognition to their initiative and diligence by not placing their burden upon the community and so allow them to retain their dignity and standing in the community.
That single and married mothers are contributing to the community by the establishment of their home, the cost of which has become affected by inflation and so must continue to work to make the future for the children who are so cared for.
Therefore we ask that all these aspects be taken into urgent consideration and that taxation concessions for all child minding fees be granted to ease the burden.
We, the petitioners humbly pray that the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled would take immediate steps to ensure provision of this taxation concession and your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bennett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned employees of the Australian Aircraft Industry in New South Wales and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
That the government’s policy of producing components in Australia for Aircraft purchased overseas for our Civil and Defence requirements, does not fulfill the needs of industry to ensure:
That the purchasing of aircraft from overseas does not entirely meet the Australian requirements and conditions, but have to be accepted due to the lack of a long range plan for defence requirements and associated specifications necessary for the Australian Industry to produce aircraft to meet these requirements.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Federal Government in order to provide employment for the technical, design and manufacturing teams of the New South Wales section of the Australian Aircraft Industry, take immediate action to ensure the re-equipment of the armed forces with Australian designed and produced aircraft and assessories by:
Whilst fufilment of the above would provide a solid foundation for the distant future, an immediate necessity exists to provide work in the factories now and to this end, offset manufacturing is the probable immediate answer, although from our experience the policy of producing parts against offset orders, does not provide work for technical and design teams, but only provides production work for the workshops of parts which are pre-designed and pre-tooled by the originating overseas manufacturers.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of interested citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will at once, in the public interest, take steps to dedicate as a National Park an area of at least 1,436 square miles as recommended by the Northern Territory Reserves Board. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bryant.
Advertising in Telephone Directories
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we, the undersigned, protest against the action of the Commonwealth Government in letting the contract for the advertising rights for the Victorian Pink Pages Telephone Directories to an American company, General Telephone and Electronics Corp., U.S.A., trading in Australia as Directories (Aust.) Pty Ltd.
That this will mean that the American company now controls the telephone directory advertising in all but one state of the Commonwealth.
We respectfully request that this contract be revoked in the national interest, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bryant.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of the Division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That the National Capital Development Commission have advised us of their intention to develop the entire western side of Melrose Drive with flats and town houses.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the aforesaid strip of land on the whole western side of Melrose Drive be reserved for development as parkland. Your petitioners are concerned that such a development will place an excessive strain on the schools of the area, and will result in a diminution of the land available for recreational purposes, and will create traffic hazards. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby. Petition received.
Education: Pre-school and After-school Centres
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Pre-school and after-school education facilities are in urgent need within the Australian community. The shortage has become more acute as more mothers join the work force.
In advanced countries pre-school and afterschool education are recognised as essential aspects of education for all children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to provide the necessary finance to enable state education departments and local government authorities to establish:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Klugman. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will restore to the Australian people true religious freedom, which can exist only when Church and State are legally separated both in form and substance.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Solomon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
We believe that we are beneficiaries of the expropriation without treaty or compensation of this continent from the Australian Aborigines.
We believe that all possible steps must now be taken both to prevent any further erosion of remaining Aboriginal land and also to make adequate reparation for the grievous wrong suffered over 200 years by a cultural minority group in our community.
We believe that the Aboriginal people are now rapidly reaching a crisis of their own identity. For them, as has been well said, ‘land and identity are synonymous’.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this House urge the Government in consultation with the Aborigines themselves to grant land rights to Aborigines taking into account the following matters:
– Did the Prime Minister say recently on television that he made the important decisions in his Government and that recently the Government had been faced with the question whether or not there should be an acquisition scheme for wool and that he made the decision on that? Did he take the decision that the Government’s policy was against acquisition and a single national marketing authority for the entire wool clip? Has he noticed that the Minister for Primary Industry stated on the weekend that the Government already knows what the new Wool Corporation would recommend for its investigation of acquisition and is he aware that the Minister is now pledging the Government to a policy of acquisition? I ask: Who makes the decisions and what decision has been made?
– The honourable gentleman is. as usual, under a complete and mischievous misapprehension and does not understand what my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, has said.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Interior and concerns the reception given by the Australian Capital
Territory Advisory Council to the local government representatives visiting Canberra for their current conference. Was the cost of this reception, which some have described as very lavish, borne by the Australian Capital Territory councillors, the ratepayers of Canberra or the taxpayers of Australia? Has he been informed that this occasion was used for a very blatant attack made in the very worst of taste on the Federal Government by the Chairman of the Australian Capital Territory Council? Was the Minister also informed that the conference itself was subsequently addressed and that everything that delegates could be promised was promised to the delegates without regard to the cost or the practical difficulties involved by the Leader of the Opposition who, during his discussion, displayed -
-Order! The first part of the honourable gentleman’s question is in order but he is now referring to matters which are not under the control of the Minister for the Interior. I will allow the Minister for the Interior to answer only the first part of the question.
– It is true that the Government provided the finance that was necessary to provide a banquet or a function for the local government representatives who came to Canberra for their conference. We make no apology for having done so because I believe that the conference that was held here by the Local Government Association was an outstanding success. I am sure that all the delegates who came to Canberra enjoyed the national capital and the Government’s hospitality and are going away quite confident that this Government is not going to overlook the needs of local governments.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the right honourable gentleman’s recent statement that a new Commonwealth initiative would be made with respect to Commonwealth support for urban public transport, I ask whether he will release the report on capital investment in urban public transport which the Bureau of Transport Economics completed last June and which the Australian
Transport Advisory Council has since twice considered. I point out that, as distinct from the case of the Commonwealth-State Officials’ Committee on Decentralisation when he was first asked to table the report of that body, the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics is already in print and its publication is the responsibility of the Commonwealth alone and the States want it to be published. May I also ask whether the Prime Minister has now decided to table the Commonwealth’s evaluation analysis of the Eton water conservation project for which the Commonwealth has refused to provide funds and about which the honourable member for Dawson asked him early last week?
-Order! There are 2 questions involved in this matter but as they ate somewhat related I will permit them to be answered.
– The somewhat long and tedious speech made by the Leader of the Opposition deserves some examination by me as I have not seen either report personally. I will discuss the matter with my relevant colleagues and see whether the reports are proper subjects for release in accordance with normal parliamentary practice. As to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question, 1 assure him that my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, has submitted to me several very valuable and informative statements with recommendations, relating to the urban transport systems of this country. I will be giving these very careful attention. Not only do I regard the papers as of great importance but I think my colleague has gone to considerable trouble to present papers to me that I think indicate a proper attitude by the Commonwealth Government to this difficult problem.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Industry give the House any information on recent trends in the rice industry and on the outlook for world trade in this commodity in the coming months?
– The rice industry has been fairly sluggish in recent years because of world overproduction and large stocks being held by many of the principal pro ducers, but this year there has been a reversal of circumstances in the rice industry as there has been in nearly every other primary industry. There have been poor seasons in two of the principal Asian producing countries. Stocks are now low and world prices have risen by about 25 per cent. The outlook for the next year or so is very optimistic. I am only sad that Australia is not able to take full advantage of the marketing situation because our crop last year was below average. But in the forthcoming season I think there will be some increase in Australian production. We have, of course, one of the most efficient rice producing industries in the world. It is highly mechanised. It has a reliable source of water and its yields are amongst the highest of any country. So it is good to observe yet another primary industry seeing the future more optimistically than it has in the past.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer to an answer given by the Minister for Shipping’ and Transport last week in which he blamed the South Australian Government for .the delay in the finalisation of the agreement for the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway. Did the South Australian Premier write to the Prime Minister on 27th September 1972 in connection with the Alice Springs-Tarcoola railway, agreeing to a grant of Crown land for the railway without reservations concerning mineral rights and requesting the Commonwealth to keep the existing line from Port Augusta to Marree open whilst necessary for the general welfare of the State of South Australia, subject to arbitration if a dispute arose as to economic viability? Is it true that South Australia raised no objection to the removal of certain sections of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910-1952 provided that South Australia was not disadvantaged by freight rates? Is it a fact that no reply has been received from the Commonwealth?
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s question is far too long.
– As a consequence, is it a fact that the Commonwealth itself is to blame for the delay in the finalisation of the agreement on this railway and not the South Australian Premier as claimed by the Minister for Shipping and Transport?
-I call the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
– What I said is true and remains true. The simple facts of life are that the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway agreement could have been before this Parliament had the South Australian Premier not been difficult on minor issues. Let me recount the facts to the House. The Prime Minister forwarded a draft agreement to the South Australian Premier on 22nd May, and I think it was in the last week in September that the Premier responded to that agreement. He raised matters that had not been raised in all the discussions between the officials in the intervening period. They were matters of minor significance in the total terms, having regard to the importance to the nation of the whole project. They could have been easily discussed by officials separately from the signing of the agreement. That is the first point I make.
Secondly, I draw attention to the 2 points of disagreement which the South Australian Premier has raised. He seeks a special arbitration arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State if the Commonwealth decides to close the line to Marree. The Commonwealth Government already has agreed to consult with the South Australian Government on this matter so the Premier really is raising red herrings. His approach assumes that the Commonwealth would arbitrarily close the railway line. I think it fair to say that in respect of South Australia of all States the Commonwealth Railways has been sympathetic and considerate in its handling of railway problems especially as the Commonwealth Railways operates throughout much of that State. This sort of request by the Premier apparently carries an implication against the Commonwealth Railways. As the responsible Minister I do not like this. I regard it as an insult to the employees of the Commonwealth Railways. The Premier claims that we would not continue to operate the line despite significant operating losses and would not recognise the value of community services. These are the very things we do recognise.
The Premier also is concerned that the Commonwealth Railways does not charge higher freight rates for any commodity than does the South Australian Railways. What he is saying implicitly is that one transport authority is not able to set its own charges and that an outside authority - the Commonwealth Railways - which services South Australia must be guided by the South Australian Railways Commission. These are the 2 matters the Premier has raised at this late stage. They could have been discussed in the intervening period and were not discussed. The Premier’s action has prevented the introduction of a Bill into this Parliament for ratification of the agreement. My charge remains true.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise been drawn to a decision by the Queensland Court of Criminal Appeal to reduce, a Hong Kong heroin pusher’s gaol term from 5 to 3 years? Is the Minister aware that the Queensland Chief Justice considered that the quantity of heroin involved was one reason why the sentence should be reduced? Will the Minister tell the House how many doses can be made from 5 ounces of heroin? Finally, will the Minister seek the co-operation of all States in order to have a teach-in for some members of the so-called learned judiciary so that they, too, might learn of the destructive qualities of a narcotic such as heroin?
– -Last night I did notice the report to which the honourable gentleman has referred. I cannot comment at length on it because I do not have the details at my fingertips. What the honourable gentleman suggests is true - a person who was convicted for importing a quantity of heroin was sentenced to a 5-year gaol term but this was reduced to 3 years. As I understand it, if the quantity involved were mixed with other material and injected it would be approximately 2,000 doses of heroin. I have not read the reasons for the judgment but, as I have said previously, every parliament in Australia, whether it is Liberal or Labor controlled, is unanimous that the maximum sentence for a drug pusher should be 10 years’ gaol. I am not speaking now of user-pushers who are to be pitied in some circumstances but of the person who imports this sort of killer drug for the purpose of selling it. Why any court in Australia should impose a sentence less than that which all the parliaments prescribe passes my comprehension.
– My question to the Prime Minister is supplementary to the question asked of him by the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister will recall that last Tuesday week in answer to a question by the honourable member for Dawson he informed the honourable member that although he would not make available to the Parliament the Commonwealth evaluation report on which he rejected the Queensland Government’s request for assistance for the urgently required Eton water conservation project in North Queensland he would, however, consider giving the report to the honourable member for Dawson on a confidential basis. As this area is in the grip of a severe drought, has he made up his mind yet, after 9 days, whether he is prepared to let the honourable member for Dawson see the report and the reason for the rejection of this important project?
– I think the honourable member for Dawson should be well capable of looking after himself, without the help of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Should the honourable member for Dawson want to see that report he can get in touch with me.
– J have done so.
– Since then?
– I have written a letter to to you.
– Well I have not received it yet.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry advise the House of the present position regarding the setting up of facilities to provide long term loans for primary producers? Is the Government aware that many primary producers have not qualified for rural reconstruction finance only because of great personal sacrifice on their part and on the part of their families, and that they now need and deserve long term finance to enable them to take advantage of the present favourable prices for many rural products? Finally, is the Government aware that provision of long term finance could avert the need for greater rural reconstruction finance in the future and at the same time benefit rural towns and communities?
– The Government does recognise a need for long term rural finance. Indeed, as a result of a study undertaken by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics a specific allocation of $20m was included in the Budget to enable the creation of a facility for this purpose. The report of the BAE was published some weeks ago and is available to honourable members. I expect that the Government will be making a detailed statement on this matter shortly.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. Is it a fact that the Minister proposes an incursion into the Shortland electorate later this week where he is to be the guest of the Dudley pensioners? If so, ‘ will he, when addressing the assembly, justify his Department’s consistent refusal to feed certain categories of deserted wives and their children or, alternatively, explain ‘ why he refuses to ascertain from the New South Wales Social Welfare Department why that Department refuses to succour deserted wives at least to the extent provided by law? Finally, when can I expect a reply in the Winkler representations? Will he also table the papers in the Duff case so that the Parliament may be in a position to judge the merits of what constitutes lawful desertion in the Government’s view so far as hundreds of married women are concerned?
– Answering the latter part of the honourable member’s question first, I have not in my mind details of the Duff case which he mentions. I will certainly examine the matter in accordance with his request and will give him an answer as soon as I have had an opportunity to look at the papers. In regard to the earlier part of his question, I am hoping to visit the Shortland area in the next day or so. It depends a little on the programme in this House. I hope very much to have an opportunity to address the pensioners in his electorate and to let them know the immense improvements which are in this year’s Budget and the way in which the Government has provided a comprehensive programme for the help of the ailing aged which will make our system not merely a good one but the best in the world. I look forward very much to stating these facts to the pensioners at Dudley, or to pensioners in any part of Australia whom I may have an opportunity of addressing.
In regard to the care of deserted wives, the honourable member may recall that this is a State and not a Commonwealth function. Some time ago I brought in a Bill in which the Commonwealth Government undertook to pay to the States one half of the costs that they incurred in this field. I do not know whether the Commonwealth should take over this function from the States or not. I know that honourable members opposite feel that the Commonwealth should take over all functions from the States and effectively abolish the States. I know that that is their policy. As I understand it, it is not the policy of the Liberal Party. This is one of the distinct differences between our parties. However, I have under consideration at the present time the possibility of reducing from 6 months to 3 months the period following desertion before a wife qualifies for a pension. This is a human problem which we are looking at with the benefit of experience which has been gained from New Zealand and other places.
– While you look at it the women and their babies are starving.
– Well, in most cases of desertion, I am glad to say, the husband does return and until there is some clarification and crystallisation of the position it is in the interests of the families concerned that the administration be done at the grass roots level. The States have the machinery to do this; the Commonwealth has not. I do not want to set up a large organisation which duplicates the machinery of the States.
– The Minister for Defence will recall that some time ago 1 asked him about the possibility of introducing an efficiency or long service decoration for members of the regular Services. I think the Minister promised to look into this matter. Has any progress been made in respect of this?
– I am not exactly certain of the situation at the present time. I know that quite an amount of work has been done on this matter but it is extremely difficult to standardise the number of awards that are available in this field. I will look this up as soon as question time is over and I will get in touch with the honourable member and see that he gets a reply.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question concerning the Moomba-Sydney gas pipline. Will the cost of rust proofing, coating and laying this pipeline greatly exceed the price for supply and delivery? As the Japanese are making the pipes and a West German shipping company was yesterday awarded the contract to transport them, can an assurance be given that Australia’s interests will be recognised by requiring contracts for rust proofing, coating and laying be awarded to Australian firms?
– I cannot inform the honourable member as to the facts because I am not aware of them. But I would like to say that negotiations are continuing between the Australian Gas Light Co. and Australian manufacturers of gas piping. I am hopeful that an agreement will be reached whereby part of the contract can go to Australian manufacturers.
– In reply to that interjection, I do not think there is any disagreement at all about part of the contract going to overseas firms because in view of its capacity it is impossible for Australian industry to fulfil the whole contract within a reasonable period of time. Nobody is arguing about that. The argument has revolved around whether part of the contract might be taken up by Australian manufacturers and I have stated on behalf of the Government -
– Are you talking about supply, shipping, laying or rust proofing?
– 1 am talking about the supply of piping necessary for the line. Negotiations are continuing. I am very hopeful that an arrangement will be made with Australian industry to supply part of the piping.
– Can you not be more positive than hopeful?
– I am very interested to hear the honourable member for Lalor interject and ask whether I can be more positive than hopeful. I certainly know how the Labor Party would handle the matter. It would intervene and say: ‘This is what you have to have. This is the difference between the way in which we administer the private sector of the economy and the way in which the Labor Party would administer it. The Labor Party has no reservations about a massive bureaucracy intervening into business and telling it what it should produce and how much it should produce. (Opposition members interjecting)-
– Order! This is probably the last question time of this Parliament and I do not want to be forced to do something that might upset an honourable member. What has been happening this morning should not happen in the national Parliament. There have been far too many interjections and far too much laughter while the Minister has been seeking to answer a question. As I said yesterday, I think all honourable members believe in giving people a fair go.
– The Labor Party plays down its socialist beliefs, but it is not until you get a positive example like this that it demonstrates that it is socialist at heart, that Australian industry will do what it says, and that economic factors will not come into play. The people who will suffer most severely will be the consumers of Australia.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is not getting anywhere near to answering the question I asked which was: Will Australian firms be allowed to lay the pipes?
-Order! There is no point of order. If the Minister had been given a fair go he could have answered the question more quickly. There have been many interjections and the Minister has exercised his discretion in answering some of them. If honourable members were not to interject when Ministers are anwering questions we would be able to deal with more questions at question time.
– I did say that I am hopeful that a satisfactory arrangement will be made with Australian industry to supply part of the pipeline, and I hope that Australian industry will play a very significant part in supplying the ancillary facilities that are necessary for this pipeline and, of course, that Australian labour will be used in laying the pipeline and in the construction of it, which will account for a major part of the cost of it. But the Labor Party would want to go in and bulldoze its way around and tell business what to do. I think that we in our soft approach, by co-operation and-
Opposition Members - A soft approach!
– It is a soft approach. It is an approach of co-operation between all the parties to come to’ a sensible agreement. I would hope that we can get a sensible agreement whereby Australian industry is given a chance to supply part of the contract. But we would not get any sensible agreement if politicians or bureaucrats were to start making the commercial judgments as to what is good for Australian business.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you take steps to see, as a matter of privilege, that the Minister does not alter the text of Hansard in reference to his soft approach?
-Order! There is no point of order. The matter will be handled by Hansard in the usual manner!
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the industrial dispute in connection with the construction of the alumina refinery at Gladstone. When will the men who went on strike on 18th October last and were dismissed on 19th October become eligible for the unemployment benefit?
– Only yesterday this matter was taken up with me by the Minister for Social Services. The matter is being given very careful consideration. As soon as a decision is made it will be announced either in the House or, if that is not practicable, outside the House.
– With the approval of the Leader of the Opposition I should now like to clarify an answer that I gave to the questions asked by him and by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I have been informed that my Department has received a letter from the honourable member for Dawson, but has not yet passed it to me. My Department is examining the matter with some degree of urgency and hopes to be able to let me have an answer to that letter today. I should mention also that the Minister for National Development has just informed me that there was a question on notice from the honourable member for Dawson requesting that certain papers be given tohim. Because of the nature of the documents - they are as between governments - the Minister has decided that they should not be supplied to the honourable member for Dawson.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. When he represented Australia at the United Nations this year, did he and the representatives of any other countries have discussions on agreements for reciprocal pension payments between Australia and those countries? How soon does he expect that any agreements will be concluded under the legislation passed 5 months ago? With which countries does he expect that the first agreements will be concluded?
– This was not a topic discussed with other Foreign Ministers in New York. However, to some degree I have been concerned with the question of agreements between Australia and other countries. Under this highly beneficial legislation the Minister for Social Services has been negotiating the terms of agreement because there is an element of reciprocal rights. In a number of countries - the Minister for Social Services would have to supply the list of countries involved - agreements in draft form have been arrived at. These are in process of being dealt with by the legal officials, as I understand the matter.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Ser vice. By way of brief preface I observe that I have been informed that an allowance is paid under a scheme to retrain housewives and to encourage them back into the workforce. I am further informed that the Queensland Government has increased the rents of housewives living in housing commission homes pursuant to the allowance granted. Will the Minister have inquiries made to see whether this information is well founded? If it is, will he seek to encourage the Queensland Government to moderate its policy?
– The answer to the question posed by the honourable gentleman is yes, I will make the inquiry.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services: With which countries have draft agreements been made for reciprocal pension payments? How soon does he expect that the agreements will be concluded?
– I think a total of 37 countries have been approached in this regard. I hope that agreement will be concluded shortly at least with Malta, Greece and Italy, as I understand the situation. I think there may be one or 2 other countries, but certainly in the case of those countries the substantial points have been agreed and the matter is, as my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs said, now in the hands of the legal draftmen for finalisation.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services concerning the administration of the unemployment benefit. By way of preamble I advise the Minister that I have received submissions from people living in the Warburton area of Victoria - a semi-rural area. They are forest workers. Their unemployment benefit has been terminated because they have not taken reasonable steps to obtain employment. The reasonable step not taken seems to have been a refusal to take work in the metropolitan area. I ask the Minister: What are the criteria of reasonableness adopted by his Department in determining the eligibility to continue to receive the unemployment benefit of people living in one area and offered work in another area?
– The criteria depend partly on the family circumstances and partly on the availability of work and it is not possible to lay down hard and fast rules in regard to them. The view is generally taken that where a man has family commitments he should not be asked to take work in another area before a reasonable time has elapsed. This is generally regarded very liberally by my Department in accordance with the family circumstances. Regard is also had to the distance of travel required and similar circumstances. However, for a single man the criteria are imposed with much less flexibility. If the honourable member will be good enough to give me details of the Warburton Cases he has in mind I will certainly have a look at them to see whether I can help.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Government has considered enabling local government authorities to have access to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. What would be the practicalities of such a proposal?
– There has been no consideration which would lead us to the conclusion that it would be a proper course of action. I think there are over 900,000 local government bodies in Australia.
– What do you find wrong about that?
– Perhaps I could assist. There are 900 local government bodies and 80 semi-government bodies.
– If I said other than 900 I apologise.
– You said 900,000.
– If I said that, I apologise. My intention was to say that there are over 900 such bodies.
– All the promises are in millions, you know.
– Exactly. All the promises are in millions and that is the sort of promise which is likely to come from the Opposition at any moment. The Grants Commission was set up to consider the claims of the claimant States. The proposal that we equate local government bodies to the States can be seen to put upon the Grants Commission an extraordinarily heavy burden in going through the claims of all the local government bodies and semi-government authorities. The Grants Commission adopts a standard. It is that of 2 States - not three or any other number. The Commission then sees what the claimant States ought to do to bring their services to approximately the level of the 2 standard States; in other words, to put an equality test. The sort of problems that would be involved in an equality test for 900 local government bodies in Australia, which would involve going into their finances - and, as I understand from what is proposed this would be an examination of capital issues as well as current account issues - would make the task of the Grants Commission difficult beyond comprehension. Not only would it be necessary to look at the equality issue but first it would be necessary to adopt the standard by which the equality could be tested. The criteria would have to be determined. Even if all of these tasks could be overcome, attractive as it may seem at first sight, such a proposal really brings one back to the basic fundamental requirement - that is, if one is to do something about it one needs to find the money to do it. There is little point in saying that we will do all of these grand things without explaining where the money will come from for the purpose.
-I call the right honourable member for Melbourne.
Honourable Members - Hear, hear.
– I thank honourable members for their kindness. I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. This is the last question that I will ever be able to ask in this House and it concerns peace - peace in Indo-China. I ask the right honourable gentleman: Are his relations with President Nixon so friendly and complete - and I hope they are - as to encourage him to believe that a negotiated peace settlement is likely to be achieved in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia at any early date?
– I can assure the House, that the relationship between the President and myself, and for that matter between his Administration and the Australian Government, could not be better. I am sure that he trusts this country and this Government and has complete confidence in us, particularly in the fact that we can be trusted when information is confided to us by him. I can state, also in answer to the right honourable gentleman that I believe that the President and his emissary, Dr Kissinger, are making an enormous effort to achieve peace in IndoChina on terms that can be regarded as satisfactory to the governments of those 3 countries and also to ensure that the people in those 3 countries will have the. right to self determination and the right to live in peace and freedom, free from aggression from outside. I believe that that answers in full, or very nearly in full, the question asked by the right honourable gentleman. I am very glad that he has asked this question as his last question because I know how much he has dedicated himself to the ideals of peace and the ideals of justice in this area.
May I complete my answer on another note. I believe that the people of this country are becoming sick and tired of people who run around the country defaming others and engaging in campaigns of denigration of individuals. I congratulate the right honourable member on the award of $18,000 he received yesterday from the court. My only sorrow is that it was not ever so much greater.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen Press reports of the statement made by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that the Government’s policy on the 35-hour week is designed to set Australian against Australian and that the Government has tried to make this a divisive issue? Will the Minister make clear to the House that the introduction of a 35-hour week at this time would have a disastrous effect upon the economy, particularly the rural economy?
– I do recall Press reports of the type to which the honourable member has referred. If those reports are correct I can only describe the comments made by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions as a sham and political nonsense. The simple fact is that the 35- hour week is an issue in the Australian community simply because the unions have made it an issue by including it in their log of claims against certain industries.
The second fact which is also undeniable is that the gallup polls which have been taken in the community on this question of substance indicate full well that the position which has been taken by the Government is supported by the overwhelming majority of Australians. But in terms of the concept, as alleged by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, of seeking division in the community, there is no doubt that the policy which is offered by the Australian Labor Party is, in fact, divisive because that policy seeks to set Australian against Australian and seeks to confer on some a benefit which at the. same time it would deny to others. This policy is contrary to the egalitarian trend of industrial relations in this country, is discriminatory in the context in which I have mentioned before in this House and, finally, is totally naive because it ignores the whole concept of flow-on throughout the genera] community, about which concept, of course, the honourable gentleman who asked the question is vitally concerned because, as he indicated, such a flow-on would have disastrous effects on the rural community, the export industries and on those groups in the community least able to protect themselves, namely, the pensioners, the superannuitants, those on fixed incomes and, of course, the men and women on the land. The policy of this Government is one which is well supported in the Australian community.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, on 2 counts by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). Firstly, the Prime Minister said, referring to a question addressed to him by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), that I should have been able to ask the question myself. As he well knows, we get the opportunity to ask only one question every 3 weeks if we are lucky.
– Where is the misrepresentation?
– The misrepresentation is this: The Prime Minister said that I had not got in touch with him regarding my request to see, on a confidential basis, the Commonwealth’s evaluation report. That was in direct response to the question which he answered, only hours before I wrote the letter, in which he promised to give consideration to my request to see the documents on a confidential basis. The Prime Minister stated that he had not received the letter. On 17th October I wrote to the Prime Minister and asked whether, in view of the fact that this was a drought area, he could consider my request as urgently as practicable. I wrote to the Prime Minister and, Mr Speaker, I have here the Prime Minister’s reply, lt is a letter of 18th October signed by I. F. Grigg, principal private secretary. The letter states:
I acknowledge receipt by the Prime Minister of your letter dated 17th October 1972.
– But I am making a persona) explanation, Mr Speaker.
– Well, the Prime Minister has raised a point of order on you.
– The honourable member for Dawson was out of the chamber when I gave a supplementary answer indicating that the letter had been received in my Department but had not been received by me. If the honourable member had been here, he would not be making the mistake now of referring to this letter.
– The letter states: ‘I acknowledge receipt by the Prime Minister’. I did not write to the Department; I wrote to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister acknowledged that letter. Those are the facts. It is quite clear that the Prime Minister had not seen the letter; I accept that. But I would think that 9 days after giving me an answer in the Parliament he would have seen the letter. Somebody on his staff or in his Department obviously is lying.
– That is contemptible. I ask that that . . .
-Order! The honourable member for Dawson will explain where he has been misrepresented. I will not allow him to debate the question.
– I will explain again if you did not quite catch what I said, Mr Speaker.
– Only a coward would attack a man who cannot defend himself.
– Pipe down.
-I suggest that the honourable member get on with his personal explanation.
– What about the Minister interjecting? Did you not hear what he said?
– No, I did not hear what he said. I was too intent on listening to you.
– The crux of the matter is that the Prime Minister suggested that I did not write to him. I wrote to him and I have the acknowledgement.
– I did not say that.
– He did say it.
– I said that I had not received it.
– The second misrepresentation is that in the supplementary answer he stated that I had put a question on notice to the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) asking that the evaluation report be made available to me. That is incorrect. What I asked was whether the Minister for National Development would make this evaluation available to the Parliament. The only person I asked about the confidential nature of it after the Prime Minister refused to make it available was the Prime Minister. He got my letter and he acknowledged the letter. I would think and hope that I might get a reply to it, because a lot of people are affected in this drought area.
– I seek to make a personal explanation because, without mentioning me, the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) did in fact misrepresent me.
-Order! I think a personal explanation should be made only to show where an honourable member has been personally misrepresented.
– Will you hear me, Mr Speaker?
– Yes, I will hear you.
– The Treasurer was asked a question clearly based on a Press report of an address I gave to a local government conference in Canberra yesterday and he made comments based upon that report. Those comments misrepresent what I said. There is no doubt that the timing and the subject of the question and the answer-
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will not debate the subject or take political points. I suggest that he show where he has been misrepresented. It is a dubious personal explanation in any case, as far as Standing Orders are concerned. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition should not take advantage of the privileges that he gets from time to time. I suggest that he explain where he has been personally misrepresented.
– The gist of it was that there would be applications from 900 different bodies. I think I am entitled to let the House know what in fact I said.
-Order! I cannot remember the question or the answer. If, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, the answer referred to a speech he made about the Commonwealth Grants Commission and he was misrepresented, he is entitled to make a personal explanation but he is not entitled to debate the issue.
– There are 2 sentences only I wish to quote. They are:
A Labor government will amend the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act to authorise the Commission to inquire into and report upon applications for Commonwealth grants by any semi-government or local government authority or group of authorities, preferably on a regional or district basis. The Commission will determine the amount of Commonwealth help found necessary for that authority or group of authorities by reasonable effort to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other authorities or groups of authorities.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has claimed that I misrepresented him.
-Order! Does the Treasurer claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim that I have been misrepresented by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition said that I misrepresented him by drawing attention to the 900 local government bodies. What the honourable gentleman now says is that lie was not, in fact, talking about the 900 but about regions. This is very much part of the problem that I was setting out in answer to the question. It is a misrepresentation to say that I said there would be 900 applications. I pointed to the fact that there were 900 bodies and the obvious conclusion that is left is that there are either 900 or a compulsory consolidation of local government bodies in order to reach dissection.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by no less an authoritative journal than the. ‘Sydney Morning Herald’.
– Another writ?
– Yes, another writ. This was in an advertisement inserted by (he Liberal Party or its propaganda machine. The advertisement enumerates all the benefits that are provided in. the Budget and expands upon them all but the heading to the advertisement is ‘This is a Wonderful Budget’.
– It is.
– I said “ that. In the advertisement the words ‘This is a Wonderful Budget’ are attributed to Mr Arthur Calwell, former Leader of the Opposition. I was misrepresented in that portion only of what 1 said appeared. What I said was: This is a wonderful Budget. How could it be otherwise because everything that is good in it has been stolen from the Labor Party’.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said that, as usual, I was under a complete and mischievous misapprehension and did not know what the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) had said. I know that the Minister for Primary Industry said what I said he had said. I said that the Minister for Primary Industry knows what the outcome of the Wool Corporation’s investigation into acquisition will be and that that investigation will be favourable towards acquisition and that the Minister for Primary Industry is pledging his Government to a policy of acquisition. If that is not what the Minister for Primary Industry is saying, the Minister for Primary Industry plus the Prime Minister should make a clarifying statement right now.
– (New England - Minister for Primary Industry) - Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable, member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) seems to have the belief that I have foreknowledge of a report that has not been made by a body that has not yet been created. This ls utter nonsense. In my speech in Western Australia I pointed out to the fact that the Australian Wool Commission will have a responsibility to inquire into the techniques of marketing and that the Government saw this is an early responsibility of the Corporation. It was in the context of the requirement that the Australian Wool Commission be looked at as the body which would be the catalyst for a change in marketing and handling techniques in the wool industry that I made my remarks, not in the context of what the conclusions themselves would be.
Pursuant to section 35 of the Wool (Deficiency Payments) Act 1971, I present the report of the operation of the Act during the year ended 30th June 1972.
– Pursuant to section 11 of the Commonwealth Police Act 1957-1966, I present the annual report of the Commissioner of Police on the opera tion of the Commonwealth Police Force and summary of its activities for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– Pursuant to section 314 of the Bankruptcy Act 1966- 1970, I present the fifth annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1972. I am unable to provide honourable members with printed copies of the report as these have not yet been received from the Printer. However, I shall make copies available as soon as possible. In the meantime, for the convenience of honourable members, I have furnished a copy of the report to the Principal Librarian, Legislative Reference Service, in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a financial and statistical bulletin on the activities of the Australian Post Office for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– For the information of honourable members I present a statement in relation to the conventions and recommendations adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 52nd Session in 1968 and Fifty-third Session in 1969.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Australian Delegation to the International Labour Conference Fifty-fourth session, 1970.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report of Commonwealth financial assistance given under the 1964, 1965 and 1968 Technical Training Acta.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the States Grants (Teachers Colleges) Acts 1967 and 1970, I present a statement setting out the payments that have been authorised under this Act during the financial year 1971-72 and specifying the projects in relation to which the payments have been so authorised.
– Pursuant to Section 5 of the States Grants (Technical Training) Act 1971, I present a statement setting out the payments that have been authorised under this Act during the financial year 1971-72.
– Pursuant to section 5 of the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Act 1971, I present a statement of schools assisted under the Act for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– Pursuant to Section 6 of the National Fitness Act 1941, I present the annual report on national fitness activities for the year ended 31st December 1971.
– Pursuant to section 12b of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1972 I present a Tariff Board report on parts for ball point pens - by-law.
– Pursuant to section 13 of the Aboriginal Enterprises (Assistance) Act 1968, I present the fourth annual report by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs on the administration and operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1972.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Services Trust Fund Act 1947-1950 I present the annual reports of the Australian Military Forces Relief Trust Fund, The Royal Australian Navy Relief Trust Fund and the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with the reports of the Auditor-General on the books and accounts of the funds.
– by leave - I table a paper on parliamentary committees. The paper I have just tabled has been prepared by the 2 chief law officers of the Crown - the AttorneyGeneral and the Solicitor-General. It is entitled ‘Powers Over and Protection Offered to Witnesses before Parliamentary Committees’. In May 1971, at a time of great public interest in the subject, I requested the Attorney-Genera! (Mr Snedden) to prepare a paper on the parliamentary committee system which would give particular attention to the constitutional position and the provision of guidelines for the protection of witnesses. The comprehensive paper I have just tabled was prepared by the Attorney-General in collaboration with the Solicitor-General. Its purpose is to discuss the power of inquiry of committees appointed by Houses of the Parliament and the rights and duties of witnesses appearing before those committees.
The paper also considers whether there are any additional steps which might be taken to safeguard the interests of witnesses and of persons named in evidence before the committees. The Government has not yet had an opportunity to consider the position as disclosed by the paper or the suggestions made for possible changes. However, in view of the great importance of the subject, the Government has decided that the paper should be tabled so that it can be studied by members of the Parliament and by the public. In conclusion I express to the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General and, if I may, to my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) who initiated at least one part of this report, my appreciation, which I am sure will be shared by all who read the paper, of the comprehensiveness of the paper and of the very considerable amount of time, effort, skill and learning which has gone into its preparation.
– by leave - I am now able to inform the House of the outcome of the Government’s consideration of the report of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation tabled in the House on 18th May 1972 by the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). Honourable members will recall that the Committee was formed in September 1970. It quickly embarked on a wide-ranging inquiry in the course of which it recieved 459 written submissions from individuals, departments and organisations and heard evidence from 65 witnesses, in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. The main recommendation of the Committee was the introduction of a completely new scheme to replace the existing pre-1959 and post-1959 DFRB schemes. The DFRB scheme has now been in existence for 24 years. It commenced in 1948 after an inquiry by an interdepartmental committee under the chairmanship of the Honourable J. J. Dedman, then Minister for Defence.
The original scheme, which had much in common with the Commonwealth superannuation scheme, proved to be very inflexible in operation and in 1957 a committee chaired by Sir John Allison was appointed to renew it. The result was the establishment in 1959 of a new and quite different type of scheme to apply to future members. This is the new scheme now known as the post- 1959 scheme. Existing members were not transferred on to the new basis. Instead special arrangements were made that preserved for them their accrued rights and established a basis for them to contribute for additional benefits as they arose. These arrangements, which were significantly modified in 1965 to permit members to limit their contributions, are now known as the pre-1959 scheme. The pre-1959 scheme is most complex and has attracted a great deal of criticism.
About 12,000 of the present DFRB membership of around 80,000 still contribute on this basis and the present majority of present pensioners were pre-1959 members, The pre-1959 element of the DFRB Fund is, however, in a most bouyant position. The report of the Commonwealth Actuary on his fourth quinquennial investigation, which the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) received from the DFRB Board earlier this week discloses that on the basis of the DFRB scheme continuing in its present form, and I emphasise that proviso, there was an available surplus of $14.9m as at 30th June 1969 in respect of around 19,000 pre-1959 contributors and pensioners. The post- 1959 element of the fund, on the other hand, was approximately in balance, there being a small deficiency of little importance in actuarial terms. The Treasurer will table the reports of the Actuary and the DFRB Board on the fourth quinquennial investigation later today.
The post-1959 scheme is simpler than the very complex pre-1959 scheme, but the Jess Committee concluded that it is still unnecessarily complex. It has two distinct parts, one covering other rank members, the other officer members. Each contributor pays throughout his service a fixed percentage rate of contribution which varies with his age and rank at entry. The percentage rates range from 4.75 per cent for entry at 15 or less to a maximum of 6 per cent for other rank members entering at age 30 or more. Only service from age 20 onwards counts for pension purposes but both officer and other rank members who enter before that age pay lower rates of contribution. The difference between the maximum contribution rates for other ranks and officers reflects the different basis on which other rank and officer pensions are assessed. The other rank pension is determined by length of service while the officer pension is determined by age at retirement, the maximum in both instances being a pension approximately 70 per cent of final pay, although the maximum tapers down to around 60 per cent for the most Senior officers as in the superannuation scheme.
Both the pre-1959 and post-1959 schemes are actuarially based and members’ contributions are retained in an invested fund. The earning rate of this fund has increased rapidly in recent years. The estimated earning rate for the year ended 30th June 1972 is 6.58 per cent, which would be an increase of 0.24 per cent over the rate for 1970-71. The Jess Committee recommended that the present fund be transferred to the Commonwealth, that members’ contributions in future be paid to consolidated revenue and that the Commonwealth guarantee the benefits provided and meet all costs not covered by members’ contributions. In the new scheme recommended by the Committee, the contribution rate would be a flat 5.5 per cent of pay for all members and the level of pensions would be determined for both officers and other ranks by length of service.
All service, including service before age 20, would count for pension purposes and pensions would range from 35 per cent of final pay after 20 years’ service to 76.5 per cent of pay after 40 years. Officers, like other rank members, would be entitled to a pension on completion of 20 years’ service, but a pension reduction penalty of 5 per cent would apply for each uncompleted year of service if an officer were retired at his own request before he reached his retiring age for rank or an other rank member before the end of his engagement. The Committee also recommended that, after retirement, the whole of a member’s pension be adjusted annually to maintain relativity with average weekly earnings. The Committee said that a possible method of achieving this would be to maintain the relativity of benefits to current pay for the rank held on retirement. Other recommendations include desirable extensions and improvements to provisions that exist in the present scheme.
The Jess Committee was rightly concerned to seek to avoid complexions in the future operations of the DFRB scheme. For this reason the Committee concluded that all present contributors should be compulsorily transferred to the new scheme and that they should not be offered a choice of remaining in their present scheme. The Government is attracted to the concept of a simple, comprehensible scheme as outlined by the Jess Committee, but, in a letter to the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbarn), the Committee expressed the strong opinion that if any of the Committee’s recommendations were detrimental to any section of existing contributors, special short term arrangements should be made to ensure that no detriment occurred. The Government accepted this view and on 20th September last the Minister for Defence announced that no-one would be disadvantaged by participating in the new scheme, that everybody would have a right by election to ensure that by participating he would not be disadvantaged. This inevitably raised the question whether it would be possible to make this assurance effective without introducing a third DFRB scheme to supplement the pre-1959 and post-1959 scheme. The Government has no desire to do so.
There have been strong representations on behalf of post-1959 late entrant officers. There have also been representations on behalf of those pre-1959 contributors who have taken the opportunity available to them of limiting their contributions and receiving, without increasing the level of their contributions further, the Commonwealth element of future accruing pension entitlements. The crucial point, therefore, is whether it is practicable to transfer in an equitable way the pre-1959 and post-1959 contributors to such a new scheme, without detriment to any one of them. We shall have an independent expert examination of this problem.
One supplementary suggestion from the Jess Committee related to late entry officers. The number involved are significant. At 30th June 1972 there were 3,516 officer members who entered at age 23 or later, 773 officers entered at age 33 or later. Because of the change in the basis for officers’ pension to length of service in the Jess Committee scheme, many of these late entrant officers would have a lower pension entitlement. The Jess Committee in a letter to the Minister for Defence recommended that these officers, in addition to receiving the surplus of their contributions above 5i per cent of salary, should be allowed to purchase back notional service to bring the pension they would be contributing for under the Jess scheme up to the level for which they were contributing under the post-1959 scheme. This proposal is being actively investigated now.
The Government, like the Jess Committee, is attracted to the concept of a simple, comprehensible scheme provided it is possible to transfer the existing pre-1959 and post 1959 contributors to the new scheme without detriment. This is strongly favoured by the Services. But if the Government’s assurance of transfer without detriment should prove to be impracticable, the Government has decided that it would instead incorporate many of the recommendations of the Jess Committee in an improved version of the post- 1 959 scheme to which pre- 1959 contributors would be given the opportunity of transfer on an equitable basis. In any event, the following 7 specific recommendations of the Committee have been accepted by the Government:
Marriages of pensioners before age 60 will be recognised for widows’ pension purposes;
A dependent spouse of a female member or pensioner will be entitled to pension on her death;
Subject to conditions yet to be determined, de facto spouses and illegitimate children will be recognised for pension purposes;
Children’s benefits payable to students will be continued until age 25;
There will be payable to the estate of a contributor or pensioner, who dies without leaving dependants entitled to pension, an amount equal to one and one half times his contributions less, in the case of a pensioner, any pension or other benefits received;
The tapering of the entitlements of more senior officers will be eliminated;
A retiring member will not be penalised by reason of his refusing to sign on to a reserve force.
The Government has also adopted in a modified form 6 other recommendations of the Jess Committee:
An officer will be able to retire on pension before reaching his designated retiring age on completion of 20 years service for DFRB purposes;
The present category structure will be eliminated. Contribution rates will be expressed as a percentage of pay for DFRB purposes and pensions as a percentage of final pay;
For members who enter at age 20, retirement pensions will range from 35 per cent of final page at age 40 to 70 per cent at age 57 or later;
A retired member will have an unfettered right within a specified period of retirement, say, 12 months, to commute up to the existing one-third of his pension, other than an invalidity pension. The amount of the commuted sum will be determined on an appropriate annuity basis;
Appropriate provision will be made for the purchase of past non-contributory service by present serving members including those members who in 1948 elected to remain on deferred pay rather than enter the DFRB scheme;
The concept of an appeals tribunal has been accepted.
As I have earlier explained, the Jess Committee recommended that DFRB pensions be adjusted annually after retirement to maintain relativity with average weekly earnings and mentioned a possible method of doing this. We have concluded that the issue of post-retirement pension adjustments cannot be dealt with in the DFRB context alone. In the past DFRB pensions have been adjusted at the same time and on the same basis as Commonwealth superannuation pensions and similar adjustment principles have been applied to other Commonwealth superannuation-type pensions. The House will recall that last year the Treasurer in his Budget Speech announced that the Government was investigating alternative methods of adjusting DFRB and superannuation pensions.
We have now decided to refer this important issue to independent expert investigation. This investigation will be called upon to report on various methods of adjusting pensions for which the Commonwealth is responsible and the interrelationships of the various schemes and how they might be affected by the various adjustment methods. Additionally, the investigation will report on the economic and financial effects of the various methods considered. The personnel members of the Navy, Army and Air boards have all agreed that it is premature at this stage to press for an annual updating of DFRB pensions in the light of the other schemes needing similar consideration. Children’s and orphans’ pensions in both the DFRB and superannuation schemes are expressed as fixed amounts, although there is an alternative basis for assessing orphans’ pensions. The manner of determining children’s and orphans’ pensions in the DFRB and superannuation schemes is at present under consideration and any decisions taken will be incorporated in whatever scheme emerges.
We have also given careful consideration to the Committee’s recommendation that the DFRB scheme be administered by the Department of Defence and that the Minister for Defence should be the responsible Minister. The Government is satisfied that the present arrangement of the one organisation - the office of the superannuation and DFRB boards - servicing both the DFRB and superannuation schemes, is effective and results in significant economies through the common use of highly specialised staff and facilities. There is also a clear need for co-ordination of policy in relation to the main Commonwealth contributory superannuation schemes, namely, the DFRB scheme, the superannuation scheme, the schemes of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and the Reserve Bank and the parliamentary and ministerial retiring allowances schemes. In the Government’s view, this is at present facilitated by one Minister, the Treasurer, having responsibilities in relation to all 6 schemes.
Another important recommendation of the Jess Committee was that the present invested fund of members’ contributions, which stood at $154m at 30th June 1972, be transferred to the Commonwealth and contributions of members in future be paid to Consolidated Revenue. I referred earlier to the improvement in the earning rate of the DFRB Fund. An invested fund is likely in the long term to return earnings at a level that enables members’ contributions to provide greater support for benefits than would otherwise be the case. Accordingly, the DFRB Fund will be retained, The Government has, however, decided that the investment powers relating to this fund and the superannuation fund should be widened so that up to 25 per cent of each fund can be invested in shares, debentures, real property, and in loans to building societies. The Government proposes also to establish an investment trust to handle the investment of the 2 funds. The Government is working towards the necessary amending legislation being ready for introduction in the Autumn sitting next year. As already announced, the legislation will operate from 1st October 1972. We believe that the improvements that will be effected by the legislation will simplify the present arrangements and result in a very much better DFRB scheme.
Before I commend this paper to the House, may I refer in particular to the dedicated and excellent work that has been done by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett). I have read the Committee’s report and I have listened to the arguments that those honourable member’s put to me. I have had to accept that there is no monopoly of wisdom in any official group or - perhaps I could put it this way - in any Ministerial group. These honourable members have made a notable contribution. They have persuaded me that some of the amend’ ments which they have suggested are worth while and in the interests of the. active and the retired servicemen. I believe they make a notable contribution to the DFRB scheme. I congratulate those honourable members because I think they have done an immensely important job on behalf of the servicemen of this country. I now commend this paper to the House. I present the following paper:
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits - ‘Ministerial statement, 26th October 1972.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– Probably the most remarkable statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) relating to a remarkable chain of events was the one upon which he concluded when he referred to 3 honourable members on the Government side, ignoring completely the fact that the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation was an all-party committee, a joint select committee of the Parliament of which my distinguished colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) was Deputy Chairman. But no-one would expect that the Prime Minister, having dealt with the Jess Committee’s report in the way he did during the Cabinet deliberations, would be prepared to concede that there were other members on this Committee, that this Committee was constituted in such a way that it was representative of every Party in this Parliament and, indeed, that the Committee brought down a unanimous recommendation. As I said, after a remarkable chain of events which led to the complete rejection of the Jess Committee’s report by the Cabinet, the Prime Minister has the temerity to single out 3 of the members of that Committee purely for political purposes. I believe he confirmed his own smallness in relation to these matters. Let the people of Australia and the 80,000 servicemen in this country judge whether the Prime Minister’s attitude and whether the Cabinet’s attitude in relation to the DFRB Committee was the correct approach. Honourable members on his own side of the House do not accept this proposition.
I referred to the chain of events. The assumption may have been conveyed to some people in this country that the Prime Minister made a statement in this Parliament this morning as a result of attitudes expressed and actions taken by some members on his own side. Let me confirm for the servicemen of this country that that statement would not have been made this morning had I not directed 2 questions to the Prime Minister yesterday, both of which he evaded. I knew that the day before Cabinet had rejected the Jess Committee’s recommendations in relation to the DFRB scheme. The Prime Minister evaded the issue. One could almost say that he set out deliberately to give a false impression as to what had happened in relation to that report. Subsequently I was forced to move in this House for the suspension of Standing Orders. That action brought this issue before the Parliament. I say quite frankly that had it not been for the attitude I adopted in this House this matter would have been stood over and servicemen in this country would not have been informed of the situation and no statement would have been made to this Parliament. There would have been a clear misunderstanding in relation to the attitude of the Government to the DFRB Committee.
The Prime Minister’s statement swaps the fruits of the Jess Committee’s report for 2 new independent examinations. What this boils down to is a deliberately engineered delay in the introduction of a new pensions scheme for servicemen. The best that the Government members have been able to do is to stave off the complete scuttling of the scheme proposed by the Joint Committee. I do not make this comment in a critical sense. Obviously it takes considerable political courage to force a confrontation with Cabinet at such a crucial political time. But for the resistance of this small group of members, all but comparatively minor recommendations of the Committee would have been abandoned. At least the Prime Minister, the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) have caved in to a remarkable extent. The compromise reached is in every way a most unsatisfactory one but it has the cardinal virtue of leaving some room for manoeuvre. It may yet be possible to get the principal recommendations of the Jess Committee incorporated in . a new scheme, but such a course is hedged with difficulties. I would like to remind the House of the first and principal recommendation of the Committee, which reads as follows:
That the present Defence Forces Retirement Benefits legislation (referred to hereafter as the DFRB legislation) be repealed and a new scheme introduced without delay. The Committee has examined the post- 1959 scheme closely to seo whether this scheme, as it stands or with modifications, would be suitable as the sole future scheme, and is unanimous that it has many, defects, of which the most critical are its lack of simplicity amd comprehensibility to servicemen and, therefore, should be replaced by the scheme proposed in this report.
This is the hard core of the Jess Corntee’s report. Quite obviously this is the crucial issue because what the Government has tried to do is duck this recommendation. It wants to shore up the present unsatisfactory structure, incorporating some of the recommendations of the Committee into a scheme which is basically unchanged. This is completely contrary to the recommendations of the Committee which decided after very thorough examination that it just was not possible to prop up the existing unwieldy and much despised structure. There is no feature of Service life and administration so thoroughly unpopular as this scheme. Loathing and abhorrence of the present scheme transcend Service boundaries. I have never met a serving member of the forces prepared to say that he understands the scheme or that it has any worthwhile features. It has been the major gripe of servicemen overseas and in Service posts throughout Australia.
This is the context in which the Jess Committee operated and rightly it decided that the DFRB scheme should be swept away and . replaced with a simpler and much more lucid scheme. This had been done in 1959 and the result was virtually the adoption of 2 schemes which have become known as the pre-1959 scheme and the post-1959 scheme. It would be tragic if the only result of this re-examination of the structure was the introduction of a third scheme, and the Prime Minister correctly pointed this out. We would wind up with the ridiculous model of .a pre-1959 scheme, a 1959-1972 scheme and a post- 1972 scheme. Obviously the only equitable solution was to dismantle the existing structure and start again with a new scheme in which all servicemen could participate without detriment. This is what the Jess Committee tried to do and I am satisfied that the draft proposal went a long way to achieve this objective.
As I have said on many occasions, there were flaws and anomalies in the scheme but they were capable of elimination or correction. Perhaps the main area of concern was the treatment of late entrants in certain specific areas of the services. I think parts of the Royal Australian Air Force posed important problems here. Another contentious part of the scheme was the provision that a pension reduction penalty of 5 per cent a year would be imposed for each uncompleted year if a participant finished his service early at his own request. There was a general feeling that although some penalty was necessary the loss of 5 per cent entitlement a year was a bit steep. In many cases it would have obliterated most or even all of his pension entitlement. This was obviously an area where anomalies could occur and which needed careful examination and some degree of reassessment.
It was possible to make this sort of criticism about the scheme, but in the main it was acceptable to servicemen and I am convinced it was a viable scheme. This was the scheme which the House was given to understand would be introduced with some modification along the lines I have indicated. There has never been any suggestion until this week that the existing legislation would not be repealed and replaced by a scheme based on the broad principles of the Jess recommendations. It is true that there were rumours of some rumblings in the Treasury about the scheme but the impression was conveyed that these had been overcome. Then it was revealed yesterday following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that it was not intended to go ahead with the scheme but instead to patch up the existing structure.
The most remarkable feature of this meeting appears to have been a monumental climb-down by the Minister for Defence. As I pointed out yesterday, the Minister for Defence gave a clear commitment in the Parliament on 20th September to introduce what he described as the Jess scheme and make it retrospective to 1st October. The whole emphasis of this statement was on the introduction of the Jess scheme which can only be interpreted to mean the recommendations of the Jess Committee. By no stretch of the imagination can the Jess scheme be taken to mean the post-1959 scheme with a few of the Jess proposals tacked on to it. Yet when it came to the crunch, the Minister for Defence engaged in what can only be described as a sell-out of Australia’s 80,000 servicemen. In the process it appears that he ruthlessly dumped his colleagues, the 3 Service Ministers who, 1 understand, strongly supported the scheme.
Servicemen will be able to draw their own conclusions about the peculiar behaviour of the Minister for Defence and assess the genuineness of his commitment to improving the conditions of service. This hybrid scheme would have been accepted by the Government and in all probability shoved quickly through the Parliament before the Services realised they had been deceived. The strong reaction of Committee members has deferred this course of action, although it is not certain how permanent this will be. The Prime Minister has emerged with a compromise which shows all the evidence of haste and strain. Apparently this is acceptable to the Committee members who jacked up on the Cabinet edict, and I accept their decision. However, I feel they must be warned that there are grave doubts about the future of the Jess scheme emerging from the Prime Minister’s statement.
The overwhelming impression of the statement is that the main recommendation - the repealing of the present legislation and the introduction of a completely new scheme - will not be adopted. The Prime Minister’s remarks on the acceptance of the Committee’s recommendations and the format to be adopted are very highly qualified. All that the Prime Minister has clearly committed the Government to is an obvious decision not to introduce a third DFRB scheme to supplement the pre-1959 and post- 1959 schemes. The Prime Minister says that the crucial point is whether it is possible to transfer in an equitable way the pre-1959 and post-1959 contributors to a new scheme without detriment. Accordingly he has decided that an independent examination of this problem will be made. In effect, what the Prime Minister is saying is that we will have an independent investigation to see whether the Jess scheme would work.
The Select Committee spent 18 months of analysis to reach the conclusion that such a scheme was feasible and that it should be introduced to replace the present structure The Jess Committee represents the 4 major political parties and a wide range of practical experience. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) was chairman. His commitment to improving conditions of service and his knowledge of the Services are beyond question. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who has a very extensive knowledge of pension and actuarial techniques, was deputy chairman. Apart from the wealth of experience of the Services possessed by members, the Committee also had the benefit of assistance from Mr Phil Stokes, an experienced politician and a man with an intimate knowledge of conditions of service.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Fairbairn) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Deputy Leader of the Opposition concluding his speech without limitation of time.
– I thank the House and the Minister for Defence. I have referred to the fact that Mr Phil Stokes gave some assistance to the Committee during the whole period of its deliberations. It was the unanimous conclusion of this Committee that there should be a new scheme and that the present scheme should be wiped off the statute book. Now, after the wealth of evidence sifted and evaluated by the Jess Committee in reaching its unanimous conclusion, an independent investigator is to be appointed to see whether a new scheme is practicable. Whatever interpretation can be placed on this decision, it is a calculated insult to the Committee and in particular to its chairman.
As I said earlier, the honourable member for La Trobe was in an invidious position. He had to get some measure of commitment to his scheme without rocking the boat too much in the last days before an election. To a degree he has succeeded, but the measure of his success . must inevitably be a further delay - perhaps a lengthy delay - in reforming the DFRB structure. On the evidence of both the Jess Committee and the Allison Committee looking at the DFRB in any depth is a daunting and in many ways thankless task. I doubt whether even the most competent independent investigator could do an adequate job in less than 6 months. In the meantime, servicemen will just have to wait with the assurance that whatever emerges they will get its benefits back to 1st October this year. This is hardly a satisfactory solution. There is a strong suspicion that a powerful section of the Government wants to do a hatchet job on the Jess recommendations and produce a watered-down version which will satisfy no one. If the independent investigator produces an unfavourable report on the Jess scheme, there is no doubt that this Government will scrub it and there will not be much the honourable member for La Trobe and his colleagues can do about it.
In summary, the crux of this issue is the apparent rejection of the important principle established by the Jess Committee that the existing legislation should be repealed and a new scheme, established. This effectively demolishes the recommendations of the Committee even if some of its provisions are ultimately included in the existing scheme by amending legislation. I oan assure the Government that this will not satisfy servicemen who have suffered from the complexity and often downright cussedness of the existing scheme. Many of these men have already been 2-time losers under the scheme; now there is every chance that the Government will make them 3-time losers. It is quite plain that an independent investigator will not come up with a better scheme. He can accept the feasability of the Jess proposals, which I submit is the reasonable course based on the exhaustive analysis conducted by the Select Committee. Alternatively, he can reject the scheme, most probably on strict actuarial grounds or on the basis of false economies. Without wishing to prejudge the issue or to reflect on the integrity of the investigator, I have grave fears that the investigation is designed as a prelude to adoption of the decision reached by the Cabinet on Tuesday.
I would like to refer to the history of the investigation of the Joint Select Committee of this Parliament into the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. The Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister may like to claim that they are responsible for solving the problem but there is a repetition of the crisis that developed in this Parliament as far back as 1970. The honourable member for La Trobe and the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) will recall the Minister for Defence was not interested in the proposal at that time - that in 1970 in reply to a statement on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund I moved a motion in this House to set up a joint select committee of the Parliament to investigate the Fund. Why was this necessary? As the shadow Minister for Defence in this Parliament I had accepted the responsibility of talking to servicemen throughout the length and breadth of the country. It was clear to me that not only were there anomalies in the scheme but there was also grave dissatisfaction.
I had already submitted that in this country there ought to be an all-volunteer
Army and all-volunteer defence forces. To achieve that end it was necessary to do something about the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. When I moved my motion it was not accpted by the Government but some Government supporters had the courage to stand up and say that they agreed with the proposition being put forward by the Opposition. As a result, the Government brought in its own motion. Quite clearly it had the same intention to set up a joint select committee of this Parliament. It does the Prime Minister no credit that this morning he came into the chamber and by inference rubbished the members of the Committee who do not belong to the Government parties. I repeat that it does the Prime Minister no credit.
I turn to the history of the matter. The Committee was established in September 1970. As the Prime Minister admitted this morning, it deliberated for about 18 months. It received representations and submissions from a great many servicemen throughout this country. It encountered problems in the way of expressed opposition. That opposition from the Commonwealth Actuary and the Department of the Treasury came from people who may have believed that they were acting in the best interests of their departments and of this country. In the face of all this opposition the Committee was determined that its final recommendations were in the best interests of our servicemen. We have since awaited a decision by the Government.
I would be the first to admit that the present Liberal-Country Party Government, led by the present Prime Minister, should not be regarded as a government that acts swiftly. I simply remind honourable members of what happened to the proposal of the Opposition that there ought to be a uniform legal code governing servicemen in this country. We have waited 8 years for it. I have reached the stage where I feel I can no longer put proposals on this issue to the Government because I know that nothing is likely to be done. In the light of the speed with which the Government has acted in that area it is understandable that it has taken all this time to make a decision about the DFRB scheme. And what is the decision? It is an ignominous decision of the Cabinet to reject out of hand the Jess
Committee’s report. I repeat what I said a few moments ago. The decision is not only a great disservice to the servicemen of this country - about 80,000 of them - who have accepted the proposition, with some minor amendments to which I have referred, but it is also an insult to the Committee and particularly to its Chairman.
This morning the Prime Minister made a statement which in my opinion confirms that while this Government remains in power the Jess Committee report will never be implemented. It will be watered down. The opposition that has been expressed to it by people unable to see its advantages for our servicemen was obviously maintained and directed towards exerting pressure on the Cabinet. But there is always a silver lining. 1 want to say now quite clearly and unequivocally to the servicemen of this country that I confidently believe that the Minister for Defence will not have an opportunity to introduce legislation on this matter into the Parliament. I give an unequivocal assurance to our servicemen and to the people of Australia that the Jess Committee’s report will be given effect in this Parliament by a Labor government. I could conclude on no better note.
We are not satisfied with the performance of this Government. I believe that it has done a disservice to our servicemen. It is the expressed opinion of servicemen as well as members of the Opposition. As an instruction to the Government that it should move immediately to accept the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation I move:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House is of the opinion that all the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation should be adopted but that accrued rights should be preserved where they are more advantageous than the recommendations of the Committee.
We of the Opposition agree with the Prime Minister’s reference this morning to the people he believed had made a significant contribution to the Jess Committee report. We believe that every member of the Committee acted sincerely in arriving at a decision that would benefit our servicemen through a better scheme than the one which had been foisted on them by the present Government. The motion I have moved will give honourable members opposite an opportunity to acknowledge that situation. If they believe that the recommendations of the Jess Committee are correct they will support the motion which I have moved on behalf of the Opposition.
Mr DEPUTY SYEAKER (Mr Corbett)
Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak to it.
– It has been interesting to hear what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has had to say in reply to the statement that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). I want to start by saying that 1 am sure that the Prime Minister did not in any way intend to reflect on the members of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation whom he did not mention. I am sure that what he was referring to were the events of yesterday. Let me say that I concur with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in what he said about every member who served on that Committee from whatever Party or from whatever House he came. The Committee sat with one intention in mind - to obtain for the servicemen and ex-servicemen of this country benefits that we thought were their right, whatever else was propounded to us in respect of the situation of other people. I think all of us felt that the servicemen of this country and their dependants had rights that perhaps were not the same as the rights enjoyed by staff members of the Commonwealth Bank, members of the civil service and so on.
Let me say this: It is not my intention, nor am I sure is it the intention of my colleagues, to take any credit or to say ‘Look what I did’ in respect to anything. I regret that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has to make out that if it was not for the Labor Party doing this, that and the other the 80,000 servicemen of this country would have got nothing. I point out to the honourable member that members of the Committee from both sides of the House have asked questions demanding that a statement be made before the House rises because we know that there could be pressures in certain areas to preclude a statement being made or that a statement might be made outside of the House after the
House rose. We did not want this because I am aware, and my colleagues are aware, that statements made outside this House cannot be debated by members of Parliament and that action that perhaps may be necessary cannot be taken.
I give credit to the Prune Minister and to the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) for having agreed that a statement would be made.
– Under pressure.
– Under pressure or not. I have never seen any pressure on the honourable member’s side of the House ever being exerted. As far as I am concerned, I do not retract one statement of the report of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation. I support it emphatically. I give credit to the Government and I hail its decision on what it now has agreed to do. The main point on which a decision has been reached is that an investigation is to be carried out by an independent actuary into the effects of transferring the pre-fifty-niners and the post-fifty-niners into the present scheme so that their equity will be retained. I accept that. The Government does not propose, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made out - and I do not think that he fully understood the Prime Minister’s statement - to make an investigation of the whole scheme.
I think that the Committee is right in what it proposed. I am not an actuary and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not an actuary. All members of the Committee were members of Parliament who were interested in the Services. But I accept that perhaps, as the Treasury has not been able to come up with a definite ruling as to whether there will be detriment in regard to transferring these people, an independent decision should be given from outside. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, the scheme will be retrospective to 1st October. Therefore all of the recommendations of the Committee will be applicable and I am confident that they will be accepted. I am not particularly impressed when I hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in my opinion, playing politics. I am concerned with the question that has now come up - the suggestion to move as a right the pension of the existing pensioner, or the existing retiree as we prefer to call him, in accordance with the annual weekly wage movements each year. It is said, and the Prime Minister has agreed, that this proposal is being assessed at the moment, and the independant investigator also will look at it and the effects that it would have on the superannuation fund and other pension funds. In my opinion this is an essential factor and it must be done. It is all very well for the Treasury to say that such a proposal will affect the superannuation schemes of bank boards and everyone else. But the Committee was asked to investigate the position regarding the Services, and this was our recommendation. Indeed, if this recommendation flows on to other people in the community I do not think that will do any harm whatsoever.
A committee was set up in 1967 within the Treasury to see how the pre-fifty-niners could be brought into the post-59 scheme. During the whole of our inquiry we could not find why that committee had not been able ever to produce a paper. This is now 1972. I think that this is a reflection on the Treasury. I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister has said that an independent person will be appointed. This person will not check the whole scheme; he will check whether the recommendations of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation Committee can be carried out without detriment to the servicemen involved. We were told in the Budget of last year that the Treasury or someone was looking at how an annual review could be carried out in relation to pension increases and how this could be done in a more effective way than has been done in the past where a review has been carried out every 5 years after which the Government, if it’s mood is good, has decided to raise pensions. It is almost November 1972, and it does not seem to me that much has been done as yet.
I am glad that the job of looking at this matter is to be. given to someone from outside the Treasury because, with respect to the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) I feel that the hand of the Treasury has been over the DFRB legislation for too long. I disagree that this legislation should remain in Treasury hands. I disagree that there is a need for a DFRB board and I do not agree that it would be economic to retain such a board. 1 believe that DFRB matters should be in the hands of the Department of Defence. I think that Defence would handle it capably and to the benefit of the servicemen I would like to make some comment on other factors. The Committee suggested in Its scheme that those with A and B classifications of invalid benefit should not be subject to a means test. The Prime Minister said in his statement that in the broad and in principle the Government accepts most of the Committee’s report. I hope that this recommendation also will be one that the Government will accept. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have said that this will be looked at. But in my opinion, if a man is invalided in his service to the Commonwealth in the defence forces and is in receipt of such a benefit, he should not be subjected to a means test.
As Chairman of the Committee and as a Government supporter I am not impressed one iota with the support that this scheme has been given by the Department of Defence whose, job it is to stand and speak on behalf of the defence forces. In my opinion, in any Cabinet discussions or any meetings with Treasury officials, representatives of the Department of Defence, are there to represent the views of the services and of the soldiery from wherever they come. 1 have been amazed in respect to the negotiations in which I have been involved - and this is my opinion and I am subject to correction - as to what appeal’s to be the little stand that they have made on many of these points. I should like to suggest that we should and will expect in the future a much stronger stand by the Defence Minister on behalf of the servicemen when it comes to a fight with the Department of the Treasury or whatever other factors may be involved. The Services themselves must and will demand this.
In regard to the Treasury, all I can say is that when we introduced our interim report last December we stated that we could and wished to introduce our full report but that we had not been able to obtain the figures or the facts that were necessary for that report. When we introduced the final report in May we said that we had endeavoured to obtain costings and financial information from the Treasury but that we had been unable to obtain satisfactory material. Indeed, I question what the Departments of Defence and Treasury have been doing in respect to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund over the period from May, when we introduced our final report until now, when it is almost November. It is my opinion that until the action of the last 2 or 3 weeks very little was done.
I conclude my remarks by saying that I am grateful to the Prime Minister because when we approached the Prime Minister on this matter he agreed with us and took the whole matter into his hands. In my opinion, he finished up doing a very good job. 1 would like to see the Committee’s recommendations accepted in their entirety. It would be the easy thing to do. It would be flattering. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said I should be insulted. I am not insulted because I think the Government has accepted the main factors and purposes of the Committee’s report. An independent investigation will be conducted into the 2 matters that I have raised. 1 welcome this decision because I think that it is stupid in politics for us as laymen to say what can be done in a highly technical, actuarial field. I think that we are right but it is reasonable that there should be an actuarial check conducted on these figures to ascertain whether there could be any disadvantages in what we have proposed, and in this way I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision.
I will state - and 1 do not say this for political purposes because honestly, when 1 hear some of the things which are said in this House I wonder whether it is all worth while - that it is not too late for the Government to introduce legislation in a form acceptable to me and to other honourable members. The Government knows where we stand on this matter. I am grateful for what has been done. In my opinion, servicemen will not be disadvantaged. This means a great deal to servicemen and anybody who wants to make political capital out of it is kicking a rather weak ball at this time. I congratulate the members of the Committee from the Australian Labor Party, the Democratic Labor Party and the Australian Country Party. I think it was one of the best committees that I have seen. I think that the result of the Committee’s deliberations was good and I congratulate and agree with the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition that at no time was politics played within the Committee. It was purely and solely for the benefit of servicemen and I am sure that all of us will continue with that outlook.
– I wish to speak in support of the amendment which I have already seconded. It is a deplorable thing that this matter should become a subject of controversy on the last day on which this Parliament will be sitting. The Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation was set up by a resolution of the House on 2nd September 1970. The Committee’s report was tabled on 18th May last. In all the subsequent 5 months there has never been any criticism by any member of the House of Representatives or of the Senate of the terms of that report. It was a unanimous report. Now, on the last day of the Parliament, we find that it comes up for debate or, in effect, for shelving because of a dispute within the Government Parties.
Since the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) has mentioned some political aspects related to this matter, let me recall to honourable gentlemen that this Committee would never have been established at all had my Deputy, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), not moved on 9th June 1970 as an amendment to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill then being debated in the House that: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House is of opinion that a Joint Committee of senators and members of the House of Representatives should be appointed to investigate and report on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund.
The amendment was defeated on Party lines. However, an undertaking had been given to the dissident members of the Liberal Party that such a committee would be set up and, as I previously said, it was established as a result of the resolution moved on 2nd September 1970.
The honourable member for LaTrobe may be suffering the same frustration and souring that were suffered by a very distinguished, highly decorated member of the House 20 years ago - Bill Falkinder - who never made any headway in the Liberal Party because he stuck to the principles of the War Service Homes Act. When the Menzies Government in 1951 restricted the operations and the benefits of the war service homes scheme - those restrictions are still contained in the Act and further restrictions were introduced in 1961 - Mr Falkinder made his opinions well known. He was regarded as a malcontent and a dissident and he never made further headway in his Party. In view of the political comments that the honourable member for LaTrobe has made, he knows that the same fate befalls him under any Liberal government because he has spoken in favour of existing and former members of the Forces and their benefits under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act.
The Australian Labor Party took this Committee seriously. We moved an amendment to the Defence Forces. Retirement Benefits Bill in June 1970. Members of the public find it very difficult to believe that the House does not debate or resolve on certain matters. The fact is that a private member - and every member of an opposition is a private member - can never bring any matter to a vote. He can bring up something on a general business day on Thursday morning but a government only has to talk the matter out and it then remains on the notice paper unless or until a Minister brings it up for debate and decision. It is only when the Government brings in a motion or a Bill that any private member, including any member of the Opposition, can move an amendment and secure a vote on that amendment. This Committee was set up only because the Government introduced a Bill which it wanted to pass. The Opposition was therefore entitled to move an amendment to that Bill and the Government was able to retain its supporters only by giving an undertaking to set up this Committee. 1 said that the Labor Party took th:.s Committee seriously. Not only did we move to establish the Committee in such a way that the Government could not stall it any longer but had to give an undertaking to its dissident members that such a committee would be established and they then acquiesced in regard to the Bill going through. The Opposition appointed to the Committee its Deputy Leader, the honourable member for Bass, who will be the next Minister for Defence, and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who will be the next Treasurer. These were clearly the members of the Committee who had the longest and the most distinguished experience in these matters - men who knew something about the Services and about finances in general. Without any dispute whatever in the Parliament by Ministers or private members since the Committee’s report was tabled over 5 months ago, we find that there is another controversy in the Government ranks on this matter. Of course, the whole exercise of the midnight Cabinet meetings and so on have been devoted to trying to get the dissident Government supporters not to put their votes where their mouths have so often been.
I represent more servicemen than anybody else in this Parliament. I represent the whole of the Holdsworth)’ and Ingleburn areas. There can be no doubt about the deep resentment of members of the forces at the DFRB scheme. It is an extraordinarily complex piece of legislation. Only the income tax legislation is more complicated than the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act is usually amended right at the end of a session when it is impossible for honourable members to read the amendments and understand what differences they make to the legislation or to consult people outside the Parliament in the Services or in the Public Service. The excuse now accepted by the honourable member for La Trobe, and apparently by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), for going along with the Government’s further deferment of this matter is that we now want a report from the Commonwealth Actuary. The Committee got a report from the Commonwealth Actuary. It was received in May last year, it takes up 13 pages in the Committee’s report. It is an extraordinary afterthought to say that the Commonwealth Actuary must now be asked to provide another report. What has the Government done about getting this report in the 5 months that have elapsed since the Committee’s report was tabled?
If honourable members are worried about the expenditure of any amounts in the DFRB scheme let me put a couple of facts to them. On Tuesday the Minister for Defence gave me a reply to an annual question I have been putting on the notice paper about the number of resignations from the various armed forces. Last year there were 80 resignations of officers from the Army alone. It takes $66,500 to train an officer at Duntroon. Therefore if we are to get 80 officers from Duntroon to make up for the resignations during the last financial year we would be involved in an expenditure of $5,320,000. Last year 49 male officers in the Air Force and 24 male officers in the Navy resigned. The cost of training an officer in the Navy varies between $30,500 and $57,500. The cost of training an officer in the Air Force varies between $36,000 and $92,000. Millions of dollars are required to train replacements for officers whose resignations were accepted last financial year.
Then there is the question of other ranks re-engaging after an initial term. I have been waiting for an answer to my annual question on this matter since 15th August. Therefore I can only give the answer that was given last year. In 1970-71 there were 917 re-engagements in the Army. Since it costs more than $4,000 to train a recruit in the Army to the stage where he can join his unit, one can see that a very considerable saving is achieved if soldiers re-engage. Only 40 per cent re-engage at this stage, but if there was a 100 per cent re-engagement it will be seen that we would in fact save more than $5m. So it is shortsighted in the extreme to begrudge one of those things which will encourage other ranks to reengage and which will deter officers from resigning. Improvements in the DFRB scheme would be a very good investment in financial terms.
There are 2 inhibiting factors as regards the DFRB scheme. One is the old idea Which still pervades the repatriation system and the armed forces themselves to a certain extent, and that is that the country should be generous only to those members of the forces who during a time of hostilities have engaged in overseas service for the duration. The whole of the schemes of war service homes and the Repatriation Department are geared to overseas active service for the duration of a war. There are not likely to be any further wars in the lifetime of any members of the armed forces now. There is not likely to be any overseas active service for any members of the present armed forces in Australia.
Therefore we can envisage that the Repatriation Departments activities - all its skills - will gradually wither. Already the repatriation hospitals are substantially geriatric centres. What we ought to do is to see that all the health and welfare facilities of the Repatriation Department and the facilities of the War Service Homes Division are made available for people who are already serving, and they should be made available at least to those who have received an honourable discharge.
The other inhibiting factor is that the Public Service, particularly the Treasury, persists in equating the peacetime Army to the Commonwealth Public Service. The great difference is that public servants serve until they are 65 or, if they wish, they can get out without loss of benefits at 60. There are very few people indeed in the armed forces who can serve until they are 60. It is only 3 star men who can serve until then. Most men get out when they are in the 30s at the latest. Some stay on to the 40s, a very few senior men in the 50s. Therefore people in the armed forces serve for a very much shorter period than the period people will serve in the Public Service. If we are to get people to serve in an essential occupation like the armed Services during peacetime we must ensure that at the time they go back to civilian life and set up a new career they will not be disadvantaged compared with their contemporaries in age. One of the means by which we can ensure that they are not disadvantaged is by the DFRB scheme. If we equate the DFRB scheme to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund or Provident Fund we are disadvantaging the armed forces as a whole; we are losing the investment that the country puts into the armed forces. I am putting it purely in material terms.
We must consider also that we are unfair to the men and their families who choose to serve voluntarily during some of their prime years of life in this essential occupation. There are very great disadvantages for people in the armed forces, particularly for their families, and we should not be grudging in seeing that our Commonwealth institutions, schemes and funds are promptly adapted to encourage people to enlist and to re-engage and to serve in the armed forces. The DFRB scheme has been the subject of investigation by one of the most high powered joint committees that this Parliament has ever set up, and now on thelast day of the Parliament we find that its unanimous report, which has never been criticised in the Parliament, is to be shelved once again.
Motion (by Mr Giles) put:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr Barmaid ; Mr Deputy Speaker, may I ask the Minister for Defence a question on a point of procedure? I ask him: Is this a clumsy attempt to ensure that this debate will not come on again and, secondly, is it a clumsy attempt to avoid a vote on pensions?
– by leave - For the information of honourable members I present a report on the fourth quinquennial investigation as at 30th June 1969 into the state of sufficiency of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund.
As announced by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in his statement on defence forces retirement benefits, I have received from the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board, in accordance with section 22(4) of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act, a report on the results of the fourth quinquirnial Investigation of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund for the period 1st July 1964 to 30th June 1969. The Board forwarded with its report the related report by the Commonwealth Actuary submitted to the Board in terms of section 22(3) of the Act.
Briefly, the investigation disclosed that, in respect of pre-1959 entrants - that is, those members who commenced contributing on a unit of pension basis before 14th December 1959 - there was an available surplus as at 30th June 1969 of approximately $ 14.9m of which $3.1m is attributable to pensioners and $ 11.8m attributable to contributors. It also discloses that the rates of contribution for additional benefits arising after 30th June 1969 could be reduced for this group of contributors. On the other hand, the investigation disclosed that, in respect of post- 1959 entrants - that is, those members who commenced contributing on or after 14th December 1959 - there was at 30th June 1969 a small deficiency of $544,000. No change in contribution rates of post- 1959 members has been recommended.
In its report to me, the Board has emphasised that the results disclosed by the investigation, the availability of surplus assets and the order of any deficiency are only valid while the DFRB scheme continues in its present form. This is because the valuation is on the basis of the details of contributors and pensioners at 30th June 1969 and according to the rates of contribution and benefits which applied at the time of the investigation. Thus, the surplus of $ 14.9m and the deficiency of $544,000 depend on the continuation into the future of the existing scheme. It follows, therefore, that if any of the conditions and assumptions taken into account by the Actual y are varied, the conclusions he has reached as to the liabilities and assets of the Fund would need to be revised.
The changes in the DFRB scheme that the Prime Minister has announced will operate from 1st October 1972 could affect the outcome of the investigation. In the circumstances I am asking the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board to take into account the changed situation and submit a further report.
– by leave - I thank the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) for the cooperation he has extended to me in allowing me to make this statement. Yesterday I said that I was examining the question whether the Insurance Bill and its companion, the Insurance (Deposits) Bill, should be brought on for debate with a view to their passage during the present session. I have come to the conclusion that it would not be proper to rush these Bills through Parliament. I am satisfied that there has not been sufficient time since the Bills were introduced on 28th September for honourable members and the public to give them the mature consideration which they deserve.
The Insurance Bill contains 119 tightly drafted clauses and 2 schedules, the second of which contains more than 6 pages of fine print. The subject matter is very technical and the layman needs expert commercial and legal advice to understand the meaning and the implications of the provisions. The Bill contains many new legal obligations to be placed on all general insurance companies. It is long-term legislation which will govern the conduct of general insurance companies for many years to come - indeed, as far into the future as one can see. In ordinary circumstances there would be no question that this legislation should lie on the Table at least for several months before it was put to debate. On the other hand, there are good reasons for wanting to have the legislation enacted as soon as possible. There is strong public and insurance industry support for bringing general insurance companies under supervision, and enactment of the Bills would allow the early appointment of an insurance commissioner who could get on with the task of setting up the organisation which will be needed to administer the legislation. Even that would take some period of time to be put into effect. It could not be done within a matter of weeks. It would take much longer than that.
In order to form a view on the proper course to take, I invited senior representatives of the insurance industry to Canberra yesterday for discussions. My purpose in the discussions was to test the practicability of several courses which might be taken - for example, to pass the legislation now with the omission of one or two sections or to pass the legislation now on the understanding that some parts or sections of it would not be brought into force until there had been an opportunity to give full consideration to suggested amendments. The representatives who took part in the discussions explained that although they had not had time to consult all the members of their organisations they believed - and I accept that - that their views are shared by their members. The member companies are companies of all sizes, large, medium and small, belonging to the main insurance organisations in Australia. Most importantly from my point of view, the representatives who took part in the discussions are among the few people apart from my officers who, as yet, have been able to study and comprehend the contents of the Bill.
There is a possible risk that, if some of the suggested amendments were not adopted, the legislation would bear more heavily on the medium and small companies than on the large insurance companies.
So far no comments have been received from those outside the insurance organisations who could have interests, such as legal bodies, accountants, insurers not members of the established organisations, and members of the public at large. Considering the length and complexity of the legislation, the number of questions raised so far is remarkably small. This may, however, be due to the expectation of many people that there would be more time in which to put forward their points than there would be if we went on with the Bill now.
After talking to the insurance industry representatives I have concluded that there are several matters which should have further consideration and that this could not be done quickly. I am also satisfied that it would not be possible to overcome the problems by alternative methods such as those I have mentioned, of passing part only of the Bill, because it is sp inextricably interrelated in its drafting. For those reasons, unfortunately, I cannot recommend to the House that we go on with the debate with a view to passing the legislation. This matter has caused me very great concern, but I believe that 2 public interests are involved. On balance, I have been forced to the conclusion that it would be better to defer this legislation.
I present the following paper:
General Insurance Legislation - Ministerial Statement, 26 October 1972.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed: That the House take note of the paper. Mr JACOBI (Hawker) (12.45) - I am very grateful to the shadow Treasurer, the honourable senator for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), and to the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp), for giving me the opportunity to reply briefly to the statement. I deplore the failure of the Government to give policy holders in particular and the industry generally the protection that they deserve. The failure of the Government to act is totally inexcusable. I raised this matter 2i years ago. I have relentlessly pursued the issue ever since. Eighteen months ago the Government received a working paper from the Australian Insurance Association Which was an analysis or a summary of what the insurance industry wanted in terms of regulations. As I understand it, the. analysis was based on surveys that were carried out throughout the world.
Seven months ago the Government seconded a Miss Rowena Armstrong from Melbourne as a parliamentary counsel. She is one of the best in Australia and the most competent person on company law legislation. That was 7 months ago. In the intervening period numerous discussions have taken place between officials of the Department of the Treasury and representatives of the AJA. In my view, there was no excuse at all for this delay. It is true, as the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) said, that we were given the opportunity of discussing the complexities of this Bill a week ago. My analysis - I am not breaking any confidences at all - is that there were several provisions of this Bill about which the Australian Insurance Association was concerned. I raised one of these matters. I have come to the conclusion that, even with amendments, the Bill could have passed through this House.
In my view, insurance companies are notorious for wanting to act free of any regulation at all. I will venture to suggest that, despite what any government does, they will continually try to ward off this legislation. Nobody will convince me that the woman seconded by this Parliament did not go through the ramifications of the Bill with representatives of either the Treasurer or the insurance industry. Let me give a classic example to the Minister of exactly what happens in the insurance field. I want to quote from the ‘Sunday Times’ of 7th March 1971. An article headed The Watchdogs that didn’t Bark’ read as follows:
The Board of Trade’s position-
It is now the Department of Trade and Industry - has been unhappy throughout. Basically, the department has been defeated 3 times: By the British Insurance Association, by the 1967 Companies Act, and by its own senior civil servants.
As a regulatory body, the Board of Trade always left much to be desired. In July, 1966 for instance - at the time of Emil Savundra’s great Fire, Auto and Marine crash - the relevant section of the Ministry, the Insurance and Companies Department, had just 17 people, some of these part-time, to oversee the whole insurance industry Their powers, too were strictly limited.
The 1967 Companies Act, with its special section on insurance, was presented as a partial remedy. In fact, in the year’s negotiations which led up to the Act, the civil servants were outmanoeuvred by the industry. The BIA, fighting the 1967 Act the whole way, rejected the compromise proposal put forward by the Board of Trade.
The civil servants wanted spcial companies to be set up to handle all British consumer insurance. These alone would be subject to rigorous inspections. The rest of the industry - international business, for example- could go scot free. The BIA rejecting such tight control, shrewdly opted for looser sanctions over the whole industry.
I venture to suggest that we will face exactly the same situation. If there is one thing which this Government has it is the constitutional power to act in this field. What the public wants and what I am equally interested in is protection of the policy holders and the public interest. If this Government fails to act decisively, as it ought to have done, more policy holders will suffer untold hardship and up to date tens of thousands have been involved.
I just want to pass one more simple observation. I think the whole of the provisions of the legislation at the moment are built around the question of solvency, as they ought to be, and this is where the danger Jay in respect of the last 14 companies which went into liquidation. But there are several anomalies in this current legislation. Certainly this Government will not act but after the election, when there is a change in government, we certainly will. Despite what the insurance companies may think the following provisions, in my view, ought to go into the Bill: Firstly, there ought to be notifications to the Commissioner of changes in directors. There ought to be a tribunal set up to test the competence of directors, as is provided in the United Kingdom Act. There is no such provision in this Bill, and I believe it would be unacceptable to insurance companies. Let me quote an instance which points to the need for such a tribunal. The inquiry held in Melbourne by Mr Dawson, Q.C., into East Australian Insurance Co. Ltd proved beyond doubt, in my view, that the directors of that company should never ever be given the right to sit as a board of directors. Another provision of importance to the people of this country is inclusion in the Bill of pro forma schedules which would give basic minimum rights to policy holders.
Another provision of importance would be to have some regulatory powers, which insurance brokers want, because recently in Sydney a large company dismissed over 20 insurance brokers on the grounds that they misled people who wanted to get insurance. As far as I personally am concerned, and I think as far as my Party is concerned, I can only condemn the Government for waiting 2i years and until the last 23 hours of this Parliament to make a decision - which it will fail to act upon - to give to the policy holders of this country, in the interests of the public and the insurance industry generally, the protection that they deserve and are entitled to under the Constitution.
– I would like to say a few words on the subject of this legislation. Firstly, I would like to echo the expressions of concern that have been uttered by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) who has by his consistent efforts over many years tried to remind the Government of its duty to the Australian public in the field of insurance law. I think it is fair to say that Great Britain has had legislation of this kind since about 1877. Certainly there was a consolidated Act in about 1909. Britain had no more difficulties in producing that sort of legislation as a solution to the problems than we have. It is worth saying because it is a reminder to the Australian people of the sloth, the inertia, the apathy and the couldn’t care less attitude of this Government to issues of this sort. Insurance companies come and go. They fail and the policy holder is left high and dry to carry the burden. On the eve of the election the Government says: ‘This is what we propose to do. We are a bit too busy to do it now. It is a bit too hard for us.’ It brings legislation into the Parliament in the hope that it will fool the people and does not proceed with it. That is what it really boils down to; so I echo what the honourable member for Hawker said.
But even within its limited framework, this legislation it does not go far enough. It is restricted to the solvency problem, the security problem of insurance companies. Surely it is time that the problem was taken further. It is a myth, a fiction, to say that there is freedom of contract between the person who fills out a proposal form for the purpose of taking out insurance and the insurance company. This has been stated by academics and by writers on the subject for many years but apparently this Government does not know about it. Even the insurance company representative who fills in the proposal form is deemed by fiction to be the person’s representative and not the company’s representative. From the use of this standard form which the companies employ and which does not give equality of bargaining power between the company and the individual all sorts of unfair situations result.
Anyone who has had experience of the courts will know that if there is a dispute between an insurance company and a policy holder the policy holder is required virtually by what is called a Scot and Avery clause to submit the matter to arbitration first. He cannot get to the courts because he has to go through arbitration. He is required to do so and this is insisted upon by the company. This causes delay and puts him to expense. AH too often, in fact frequently, he is denied this opportunity because he cannot really afford to go through the arbitration process. Surely it is time that we gave serious consideration to making the Scot and Avery clause invalid and not permissible to be put into insurance policies. 1 also want to echo what the honourable member for Hawker touched on when he said that some minimum standard terms should be written into all policies to take account of the fact that at the moment they are unfair. There should be a schedule which ensures that in every policy there are minimum terms which ensure fairness between the policy holder and the company and neither can contract out of them. For example, if a person drives a vehicle that is so-called unroadworthy he can often be denied his right to insurance moneys as a result of an accident claim. I know of cases where a car said to have had smooth tyres was involved in an accident which took place during dry weather and although the existence, of the smooth tyres had nothing whatever to do with the accident the insurance company said: ‘Ah, ha - smooth tyres.’ Although the smooth tyres had nothing to do with the cause of the accident because the vehicle had been run into by another car, the. company said: We will deny liability.’ It paid nothing. That sort of situation should not be permitted. Another example that one could give is the case of a person involved in an accident and it may be said that although it was not his fault he was under the. influence of intoxicating liquor. I know it
Is an emotional term but there are situations in which a driver under the influence of intoxicating liquor when driving a car can properly be the subject of action under the criminal law, even though he did not cause the accident the insurance company will repudiate liability. That sort of situation should not be permitted to exist. Cases involving unroadworthy vehicles and drivers under the influence of liquor should properly be a matter for the. criminal law. They should not be allowed to have a place so that insurance companies can repudiate liability when these things do not contribute to damage at all.
One could go on and give plenty of excuses which are used by insurance companies. But the reality of it is this: If the Government suggests that there is a mutual meeting of minds between the person who fills in the proposal form and the insurance company, then I suggest that this theory went out virtually in the. 18th century.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement arising from an answer I gave to a question asked this morning.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Perhaps this would be a convenient time to suspend the sitting. I could make the statement when it is resumed.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) at question time this morning asked me a question regarding unemployment benefit for certain people at Warburton. Subsequently he was good enough to supply me with the names of the persons he had in mind. I looked into the matter and I now have the departmental file with me. I find that the action taken by my Department in this case was quite reasonable. The people concerned were living in a group of approximately 12 persons under the control of a married couple. I must say that the departmental note in regard to their living conditions is that the place was well run. There is no complaint in that regard. The members of the group were interviewed and the report of that interview reads:
Each member of the group expressed the same ideals, i.e. communal living and assisting the group as a whole, together with a desire to escape our type of existence and establish cottage industries in a rural setting.
A perusal of the benefit papers would seem to indicate that most of these people are either voluntarily unemployed or unemployed through misconduct. The report continues:
Indeed, they could be accepted as having deliberately placed themselves in a situation where they would be unlikely to obtain work. It is felt that a group of people having no means of transport who move into a remote ama where there is little chance of employment in order to set up their own community could hardly be accepted as having taken reasonable steps to obtain work.
These people are not long term residents of the area. They are people who went into that isolated area voluntarily. I am not in any way trying to criticise their decision to do this. They have a perfect right to do this if they feel so inclined but, having done this, they do not have a right to claim the unemployment benefit. I think my Department is perfectly right in refusing them the unemployment benefit under these circumstances. They were not taking reasonable steps to obtain work. I am not trying to pass any judgment on their decision to retire from the normal life of the community and to try to set up on their own outside that normal life. That is their decision. They are perfectly entitled to make that decision. But having made that decision, they are not entitled to ask the remainder of the community to assist them with the unemployment benefit. In my view the honourable member for Melbourne Ports - I was about to say that I am perfectly certain, but I am not - would not have taken up this case had he been aware of the circumstances, because I do not think he would irresponsibly want to advocate this kind of case where the advocacy can only have the result of prejudicing people who are properly eligible for the unemployment benefit and who may need it. My Department endeavours to be flexible and humane in the administration of the Act, but when people endeavour to do things which are obviously outside the ambit of the Act and which make them ineligible for the benefit and then find members of the Opposition in this House can take up their cause, it prejudices the position of those who are genuinely entitled to the benefit and whom we want to help.
Leaving that matter aside, I would like to make a remark or two about the case brought to my notice this morning by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths). I would not do this if it were not the last sitting day of this House. When I resume my seat I will be very happy to show the honourable member the relevant file so that he may peruse it with me. I think that in this case also the decision of my Department was the correct one. I do not want to ventilate in this House more than necessary the private affairs of pensioners or applicants for a pension. I think all members of the House would agree with me that it would be wrong to do this. It is true that in the case to which the honourable member referred there was a divorce subsequent to a separation. When the divorce took place the lady in question became eligible for benefits, and benefits are being paid to her. From a perusal of the paper, which I would like to make available to the honourable member if he would like to see them with me, I am by no means certain that the desertion was without cause. In fact, I think rather the opposite is the case.
I feel that in this case the decision of my Department was the correct one. I do stress that at the present moment the lady in question is receiving a widow’s pension. I know that the honourable member for Shortland is a man of humane attitudes. I think all honourable members in this house regret that by his own decision he is shortly to leave us. I know that his attitude in regard to these matters stands out in advance of the attitudes of some of the other members of his Party who endeavour to use the pensioner issue purely for party political reasons. For example, I cannot help remembering the incident when the honourable member for Shortland had the courage to stand up in this House and say that his Leader had referred to kindness to pensioners as feather bedding. My Depart ment and I do not talk about feather bedding pensioners. We try to give every pensioner what he is entitled to. I know that the honourable member for Shortland, who shortly, I regret, will be leaving us, by his attitude and his remarks in this House, has shown himself to be of a humane disposition. I acknowledge this and I will be very pleased to discuss with him the file in question at a later hour this day.
– by leave - I wish to make a short statement on the same matter. In the outer areas of Melbourne where the metropolis merges or submerges pretty easily into the countryside, there is the suggestion that people cannot find employment. I am not confining this remark only to those people whose names I gave to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) but also to those who are given to understand that they could find work if they were to shift their place of residence into another area. I hope that that suggestion is not being made in any sense. It is always hard even to make social and moral judgments in relation to how people want to live, where they want to live, and whether their circumstances are different if they are single or married. People are glibly talking about decentralisation, job opportunities and so on, but the fact that a person may be able to get a job at Ringwood, let us say, but cannot get a job at Warburton seems to highlight the very real difficulty. One of these areas is rural and the other one really is metropolitan now. Whether a person can obtain a job depends on his talents and his capacities. If a person was a timber worker in one area he does not want to be a retail shop assistant in another. All I hope is that at least sympathetic interpretation is given to the word reasonable’.
– by leave - I thank the Minister for the promptness with which he has brought this matter to the House. I sought the tabling of the papers in this case only because all through my parliamentary career I have met with the type of case which is under discussion. The fact that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), by his own statement, has confirmed the correctness of the attitude of his Department, highlights, I feel, the very question that I had raised.
I am aware that Commonwealth legislation does not provide for the payment of pensions to a deserted wife with children before 6 months has elapsed from the time of desertion. I am also aware that the New South Wales Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare relentlessly has opposed the granting of maintenance payments to widows who have received consent orders from a court. Barristers, solicitors and legal fraternity, say what one may, have the habit of adjourning cases to prolong the hearing of applications for maintenance and orders, especially for desertion. While all this goes on, women with their small babies are left to starve.
The other case I mentioned in my question was that of a woman who had a 2 year old baby and was 8 months pregnant when she came to my office a fortnight ago and begged for something to be done. She now has a baby one week old as well as the other child 2 years old. She is receiving $42 a fortnight from the State Welfare Department because of the desertion. The States Grants (Deserted Wives) Act 1968, I thought, was designed to help this type of case. But New South Wales in particular stands adamantly opposed to helping this type of woman. There are literally hundreds of cases of this kind.
I realise that until the Commonwealth Government accepts responsibility for this type of case and dismisses the States from interference nothing will be done. I am seeking the tabling of those papers in order to let the Parliament see the Government’s attitude towards consent awards. The lady of whom the Minister spoke lived with her husband for 3 years and had one child. Her husband virtually would not go to work. He would not get out of bed. Somebody offered the excuse that he had lost his mother and it had affected him. Nevertheless, his wife is only 22. She has had a baby and has had to live on only what her own parents gave her. The State would not give her anything.
The Minister and all of us in this Parliament are culpable in relation to this type of case because while we spend hundred of millions of dollars to bring migrants here we refuse to look after the babies born of our own women. I want this problem resolved. This woman received a consent order No. D270 for maintenance. It was confirmed in her divorce on the grounds of cruelty. The case was decided by a magistrate at Newcastle. The terms of the order required her husband to pay SIO a week for her and $6 a week for the child. But he paid nothing then and is still not paying anything. It is true that a pension was awarded to her from September this year, but she had to live for more than 12 months before this without anything. I maintain that she was entitled to something.
I do not want to weary or detain the House, but I should like to have incorporated in Hansard a letter to me from James Grahame and Mitchell, solicitors, dated 4th August 1972; a letter from those solicitors to the Registrar of the Department of Social Services in Newcastle, dated 17th July 1972, and 2 letters from Department of Social Services in Newcastle dated 6th July 1972 and 18th August 1972 refusing a pension to this lady who now has 2 babies. I asked the Minister’s secretary about this matter 3 weeks ago. James Grahame and Mitchell are pressing me now for a further reply. The letter from James Grahame and Mitchell to the Registrar of the Department of Social Services in Newcastle reads in part:
As to the aspect of desertion, it would have been alleged by Mrs X, had the matter been contested, that her husband’s conduct was such that she was forced to leave the matrimonial home on 19th January 1972, he having assaulted her on several occasions and ill-treated during the course of the marriage. We are satisfied that the allegations that Mrs X made if accepted by the court would have been sufficient to ground an Order. As it was, there was an admission by the defendant that he had given the complainant good cause to leave him.
In those circumstances we invite yoU to reconsider Mrs X’s application.
But the Department of Social Services again refused it and the matter is now in the Minister’s hands. I appeal to him to do something about the Act in general and to take away from the New South Wales Department of Social Welfare the handling of this type of case. It was an officer of the State Department who asked me to handle this case in the first place, because he was not getting anywhere with it from the point of view of the Department. Mr Speaker, I ask for leave for these letters to be incorporated in Hansard.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) -
Commonwealth Department of Social Services, D4/5 HH: 526 Hunter Street, Newcastle West 2302, Telephone 261155-213.
Please address any correspondence to the above address and quote the following reference number W.914. 18th August 1972
Mrs X 327 Turton Road., New Lambton 2305.
Your application for Widow’s Pension has been considered but a approval for payment cannot be given because-it has not been established that your husband deserted you without just cause.
In the event of a material change in your circumstances, or if there is an amendment to Social Services Legislation, you should again test your eligibilityfor pension.
Please disregard the notices on the back of this advice.
Yours faithfully, (W. J. BEASLEY) Registrar
SA 100 Mar 71
Commonwealth Department of Social Services 526 Hunter Street, Newcastle West
P.O. Box 5156B, Newcastle West. 2302. 6 July, 1972.
Please address any correspondence to the above address and quote the following reference number W914.
Mrs X, 327 Turton Road, New Lambton 2305.
Your application for widows pension has been consideredbut approval for payment cannot be given becauseit has not been established that you are deserted without just cause.
Please disregard the back of this advice.
Yours faithfully, W. J. Beasley, Registrar of Social Services. 17th July, 1972.
Department of Social Services, P.O. Box 5156B, Newcastle West 2302.
Dear Sir, re Mrs X
We act for Mrs X and she had handed to us your communication dated 6th July in which you inform her that her application for pension has been considered, but approval for payment cannot be given because it has not been established that she was deserted without just cause.
We appeared for Mrs X before Mr Radford S.M. at Newcastle Court of Petty Sessions on the 2nd May 1972, when Mrs X’s application for maintenance was disposed of by way of a Consent
Order. Such Order was grounded on the admission by the husband that he had left his wife without adequate means of support.
As to the aspect of desertion, it would have been alleged by Mrs X, had the matter been contested, that her husband’s conduct was such that she was forced to leave the matrimonial home on the 19th January 1972, he having assaulted her on several occasions and ill-treated her during the course of the marriage. We are satisfied that the allegations that Mrs X made if accepted bythe Court would have been sufficient to ground an Order. As it was, there was an admission bythe defendant that he had given the complainant good cause to leave him.
In those circumstances we invite you to reconsider Mrs X’s application.
Yours faithfully, James Grahame & Mitchell. 4th August 1972
The Honourable C. Griffiths, Member for Shortland,
Hunter Street, Newcastle 2300
Dear Sir, re: Mrs X Application for Deserted Wife’s Pension
We act for Mrs X and on her behalf we obtained a Consent Order against her husband for maintenance at Newcastle Children’s Court on 2nd May 1972. The grounds upon which Mrs X made her application for maintenance were that her husband’s conduct was such that she was unable to continue to live with him and when the matter came on for hearing the Defendant admitted that this was so thus grounding an Order.
We understand that the Department of Social Welfare refuses to accept that the husband’s liability has been established and has asked Mrs X to obtain independent evidence. Mrs X is unable to do this and we are satisfied on the instructions given to us that although this is a case in which, in the nature of things, corroboration of the allegations made by Mrs X would be very difficult to obtain the Court would nevertheless make the order in her favour.
We enclose a statement made by Mrs X at our request setting out in detail the allegations against her husband. The red underlining and the notations in black ink were made by us in the preparation of the case for hearing. We also enclose for your information a copy of a letter we wrote to the Registrar of Social Services on the 17th July in support of her application for a pension.
The Department has informed Mrs X that it requires her to obtain evidence from three people corroborating her allegations against her husband. In other words, the Department now seeks to try an issue which has already been determined by a Court of Law in Mrs X’s favour, and apart from the impropriety of such action Mrs X is unable to obtain that evidence without resorting to fabrication and such evidence would in our view not be required by a Court of Law if such Court was called upon to determine the issue between Mrs X and her husband. In other words, corroboration would not be fatal to a claim in the Courts for maintenance.
Would you please make representations on behalf of Mrs X for a reconsideration on her behalf having in mind the matters we have raised.
Yours faithfully, JAMES GRAHAME & MITCHELL
– I thank the House.I leave the matter at that because I feel that the Minister will handle it in the way in which it should be handled.
– I shall be very happy to do so.
– I present the following report by the Tariff Board:
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave - Pursuant to sub-section (4.) of section 24 of the Metric Conversion Act 1970-1971, I present the second report of the Metric Conversion Board in respect of the operation of the Board from 1st luly 1971 to 30th June 1972. I also present a report by the Minister as required by the Act. I should like to take this opportunity to say something about a booklet which the Metric Conversion Board will distribute shortly to every household in Australia. I should also like to say something about the progress towards conversion which has been made so far. The House will doubtless recall that the aim of the Metric Conversion Act 1970 is ‘to bring about progressively the use of the metric system of measurement in Australia as the sole system of measurement of physical quantities’. The Metric Conversion Board appointed under this Act was concerned initially with planning conversion of the various sectors of the community and creating a general awareness of conversion. This phase is largely complete and the implementation of the conversion programmes is beginning.
As conversion begins to affect more and more aspects of everyday life, the Board believes that it is now opportune to provide key information about the change to the general public. The Board has prepared a 16 page booklet entitled ‘Metric Conversion and You’ which it will issue shortly. It will be delivered to every letter box in Australia. The booklet contains sections devoted to every facet of life such as Shopping, In the Kitchen, In the Nursery, etc. It also provides basic information about everyday units. It contains simple charts showing the conversion from imperial to metric units together with tables to allow easy comparisons between prices for goods sold in imperial or metric quantities. It is hoped that initial distribution of the 4.3 million copies will start within a few days. However, it may not be possible to complete deliveries before the Christmas rush taxes the mail services.I believe the booklet will do much to explain the reasons for the conversion. It should dispel any uncertainty and apprehension about the change. It is a booklet to be read for present information and to be kept for future use. I have arranged that each honourable member receive an advance copy. The House will recall that the decision that Australia should convert to the metric system was made in 1970 following a very thorough inquiry by a select committee of the Senate. That committee reported a world-wide move towards the adoption of the metric system and in particular to the streamlined system known as the International System of Units. This move has continued and the present situation is that less than 10 nations in the world remain uncommitted. In the United States, a government inquiry recently recommended conversion over a 10-year period. Bills to give effect to this have been introduced in both Houses. The United States Senate, without dissent, has approved a Bill to establish a National Metric Conversion Board charged with preparing a conversion programme. It seems that within this decade the whole world will be metric or committed to the change.
The Metric Conversion Board started by establishing a committee structure which has now been in operation for about 18 months. The committees have made excellent progress in developing programmes for conversion. These committees comprise nominees by leading associations and organisations in the country. It is pleasing to see the vigour with which they have approached their task. I am sure this House appreciates the dedicated and enthusiastic service being given by these people - nearly 1,000 of them. Their wholehearted support in this operation augurs well for its overall success. After closely examining what metric conversion implies for their sectors, the committees have concluded, almost without exception, that the optimum approach is to convert as soon as possible. In this way it is hoped to minimise costs and gain more quickly the benefits available from conversion. One of the most significant of these benefits is the opportunity for increased efficiency through rationalisation of products and procedures. Only in special cases, for instance, where obsolescence is the controlling factor, have the committees proposed changes extending beyond about 1976; in the main they provide for conversion in the period 1973 to 1975.
Many programmes are now coming forward. When they have national significance or involve Commonwealth or State government departments these programmes are submitted to me by the Board for my approval before they are finally promulgated. When they are of direct relevance only to the sectors of industry or commerce by which and for which they have been prepared, the Board approves of them and notifies me to that effect. A typical conversion programme covers the building and construction industry. This industry is one of the largest in Australia. Its conversion will add significant impetus to the whole programme by generating a demand for materials In metric sizes. In all some 30 programmes have been completed and promulgated. Other major programmes which have been approved and promulgated include land surveys and titles; transport and storage; electricity supply and distribution; and education, primary and secondary.
Members will have noted that a number of significant changes have occurred already. These include wool sales in August 1971; State packaging legislation from 1st January 1972; tariff schedules on 1st July 1972; horse racing on 1st August; and meteorological temperatures and pressures on 1st September. These changes have been quickly accepted and assimilated. The Board’s overall plan has been to create an awareness of metric conversion and then, step by step, to involve the whole com munity in it. By their impact on the public, several of the programmes have helped that plan.
I believe it is important to recognise that metric conversion means, as the Act states, the use of the metric system as the sole system of measurement of physical quantities. It would be a mistake to convert only those areas yielding obvious economic benefits, as in many branches of engineering and the building industry. To retain imperial units in other areas where there are no obvious direct benefits, such as in the replacement of mile posts, would leave Australia with an even more complex system of units than we have now. It would withhold from future generations the simplicity and efficiency of teaching and working wholly in the best system of measurement yet devised.
The last session of Parliament saw the introduction of amendments to convert some existing legislation to metric units. I refer to the customs-excise tariff. Similar amendments to some 110 Acts are required and will be introduced in step with the conversion programmes during the next few years. The Metric Conversion Act provides for the making of regulations necessary to give effect to the Act. So far, there has been no necessity to make any such regulations. I table the reports.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– by leave - When dealing with the Tariff Bills yesterday I referred to the difficulties associated with metric conversion. I compared the situation, in a sense, with the conversion from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency. In that instance at least the units of conversion were relatively simple, but in converting pounds to kilogrammes, yards to metres, or gallons to litres there is no exact conversion. I hope that one matter which will receive more attention than it has received is consumer protection in respect of the packaging of liquids and solids. I have in mind what are said to be equivalent packages but which in a sense no longer can be such. A lady mentioned to me recently that she had paid a certain price for a pre-metric weight packet of goods. A fortnight later she made her next purchase of the goods and this time the weight of the packet was expressed metrically. When she did the conversion work she was able to do she found that she was really paying 2c more for the same quantity of goods. How the public is to be protected against that kind of thing is a very serious matter.
I suppose that we accept the inevitability of the change and realise how foolish we would be if we were to remain the only country in the world using the old system. I must confess that 35 degrees to 40 degrees Celsius does not sound very hot to me although it is in the range of 95 degrees to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Many of us, in the face of the new measures, for a long time will make calculations to convert to the old systems. Yesterday we rather faceiously referred to the Caulfield Cup being described in terms of thousands of metres, and kicks in a football final covering a certain number of metres instead of yards. What people who go to hotels and ask for a pint of beer will do, I do not know. But if there is no exact weight conversion or quantity conversion there is no exact monetary conversion either. The usual practice is to regard the nearest half cent as lc. I hope that these matters will be taken into account by people who have the interests of the consuming public at heart.
– On behalf of the Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation I present the report of the Committee together with minutes of the proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The report of the Wildlife Conservation Committee which I have just tabled is the second presented by the Committee in the life of this Parliament and represents the culmination of over 2 years intensive work by the Committee. The Committee was established on 14th May 1970 following the presentation of a great number of petitions to the House calling for a halt to the commercial exploitation of kangaroos. Since the Committee’s establishment it has met 130 times, held public hearings on 50 days and taken almost 7,000 pages of evidence. It has undertaken extensive on-site inspections in all States, the Northern Territory, Papua New Guinea and Norfolk Island, during which a great deal of unsworn evidence and information was provided to the Committee.
During the inquiry the Committee met a certain amount of criticism of its terms of reference which, it was suggested, were not wide enough since they confined consideration to birds, mammals and reptiles. Suggestions were made that fish and invertebrates, for example, should be considered, or that rather than looking at individual species an overall ecological approach should have been adopted. The Committee accepted that these views have validity, but limited itself strictly to the terms of reference although it did recognise that wildlife conservation has to be discussed in the context of the habitat which supports it. The Committee was conscious that in the time available to it a number of areas relevant to the inquiry could not be investigated. The Committee believed, however, that on balance: it was desirable to report now on matters on which final views were held, rather than delay presentation of a report until the new Parliament.
At this point I would like to express the appreciation of the Committee for the technical assistance given during the early part of the inquiry by the late Dr F. N. Ratcliffe, O.B.E., a former chief of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Division of Wildlife Research, and to Dr J. G. Mosley, Assistant Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, who has provided assistance on national park matters. 1 would also like to thank all those individuals and organisations who provided information, evidence, and other forms of assistance to the Committee.
The Committee recognises the primacy of the States in many of the matters being inquired into and this fact is recognised either explicitly or implicitly in the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations. I would, however, suggest that fauna and flora should be regarded as national assets rather than those of a particular area or State and consequently I am strongly in favour of closer co-operation between the Commonwealth, the State and local governments and the development of a national consciousness in relation to conservation generally. All State governments offered their assistance to the Committee and subsequently nominated State officers who provided us with evidence and guidance. I would like to record the appreciation of the Committee to all State governments for the excellent assistance provided.
I think that this also would be an appropriate occasion for me to record the appreciation of the Committee of the 3 secretaries who have served the Committee - Mr Barlin, Mr Gale and Mr Richmondand their staff. I would like to include in that tribute the Hansard repesentative, Mr Bernie Harris, who was with us on all the occasions on which we met and took evidence. I would also like to extend pur thanks to the transport officer, Mr Pike, who was of great assistance to the Committee. I would like to extend my personal thanks to my colleagues on the Committee who came from both sides of the House and who proved themselves to be men who were dedicated to the cause of conservation. It has been a very excellent Committee and I am very grateful for the assistance and co-operation that they gave to me.
In November 1971 the Committee presented an interim report to the Parliament dealing with conservation and exploitation of kangaroos. The decision by the Committee to present an interim report was prompted by the emphasis given in evidence to the urgency of the kangaroo situation and suggestions that the larger species of kangaroos faced extinction. The Committee concluded in its interim report that none of the larger kangaroo species subjected to commercial exploitation is in fact under threat, although serious depletion has occurred in some areas. The evidence indicated that the development of pastoral and grazing activities and associated land clearing and the provision of water points had created an area of habitat suitable to the larger kangaroo species much greater than existed before European settlement. The Committee concluded that at some times and in some places kangaroos require protection, in others they reach unacceptably high numbers and need to be reduced. The Committee believed that a properly controlled industry was the best means of achieving reduction.
In other words, a policy aimed at making the industry a tool of conservation management was recommended.
In the interim report the Committee made a series of recommendations relating to measures of control of the kangaroo industry and suggestions for reserves and greater research efforts. No information has been provided to the Committee since its interim report was published that would lead it to amend the recommendations made at that time although the Committee regrets that so few tangible results have flowed from the report to date. In relation to other aspects of the inquiry, the Committee has made a great number of recommendations which it believes will, in combination, have a profound beneficial effect on wildlife conservation and hopefully on other aspects of environmental protection as well.
I would like at this point to refer to some of the more significant, findings and recommendations of the Committee. The Committee has been made aware and was somewhat surprised to find , that very little detailed information exists about most Australian species of wildlife and thus of the optimum means to conserve them. In this regard the Committee, throughout its report! has stressed the ‘ need for intensification of research efforts.
Perhaps the Committee’s most significant recommendation is that the. Commonwealth establish a wildlife . conservation authority which, in co-operation with the States, would provide a wide range of functions. The Committee has recommended that within the Commonwealth wildlife conservation authority should exist a biological survey to carry out toxicological and collecting work, and that the CSIRO Division of Wildlife Research should also be incorporated in the new body. The functions of the proposed authority would include: Responsibility for national parks and for wildlife conservation policy in Commonwealth territories; and administration of international agreements on migratory and endangered species.
In co-operation with the States the authority would be responsible for: Initiating and sponsoring national and regional surveys of national park requirements and wildlife populations; undertaking research into major problems of conservation which are beyond State resources; establishing guidelines for a co-ordinated approach to conservation, bearing in mind the impact resulting from the usage of natural resources; developing uniform policies towards the commercial exploitation of wildlife; monitoring the status of endangered species; and collating financial requirements of the Commonwealth and the States, and making recommendations to the Commonwealth Government on the optimum levels of financial allocations for conservation.
The Committee, recognising the importance oi setting aside adequate and secure national parks as a wildlife conservation measure, has recommended a national policy aimed at preservation of all habitat types and emphasised the need for the Commonwealth to take action in this regard in its own territories. The Committee believes that the provision of adequate parks and reserves would be assisted if each State and Territory had an overall land use authority. Such an authority would objectively consider the potential of land for competing, purposes. The Committee, therefore, has recommended the establishment of land use authorities where these are not in existence. During the inquiry particular concern was expressed at the loss of rainforest habitat through clearing for primary production and of waterfowl habitat through swamp drainage and flood mitigation programmes. The Committee has recommended retention of the remaining areas.
The Committee has recommended that the Great Barrier Reef be set aside as a marine national park and made secure against mineral exploration or exploitation. Restrictions have been suggested for development of tourist facilities in this area. In order to reduce the alienation of wildlife habitat for agricultural development the Committee has suggested that the Income Tax Assessment Act be amended. In relation to the contentious issue of the effects of pesticides on wildlife the Committee has accepted the view that there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to indicate that persistent and non-specific toxic pesticides may have adverse effects. It has therefore recommended the phasing out of persistent and non-specific pesticides and limitations on the use of DDT similar to those applying in the United States. In relation to commercial exploitation of fauna an outline of proposed measures relating to kangaroos has already been made. Other exploited species include the saltwater and freshwater crocodiles and a number of parrot and other bird species. The. Committee has recommended control measures for both these groups. To indicate Australia’s international concern in conservation matters the Committee has recommended international agreements with Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Japan concerned with migratory birds, and has recommended the introduction of legislation prohibiting the importation into this country of any threatened wildlife species or products made from them:
The Committee has recognised that wildlife conservation is only a part of a much larger issue of conservation, and the environment and that retention of our environment is essential to man’s survival, not only that of wildlife. I believe, it essential that we preserve for future generations our unique flora and fauna and also that we must be prepared to pay for it. The greatest threat to wildlife conservation is undoubtedly the destruction of its habitat for development of all kinds. Population increase and development are not necessarily incompatible with conservation but it is clear that much greater care should be. exercised in allocating land for particular uses than is the case at present. During its inquiry the Committee became: aware of the very great concern of a large number of individuals about a wide range of environmental and conservation matters, many of them outside the scope of this Committee. I therefore support the creation of a standing committee of this House to inquire into and report on matters of conservation and the environment referred to ir by the House. I would see this committee as a valuable asset to both State and Federal governments to which conservation issues could be referred to for reports and recommendations. 1 commend the report to the House.
– by leave- The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) has just given some account of the recommendations of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation.
At the beginning of my remarks I should like to express the great deal of satisfaction that I, and, I am sure, the other members of the Committee have had in serving on the Committee. One of the highlights of my membership of the Victorian State Parliament was my membership of the Statute Law Revision Committee and certainly one of the highlights of my first term in this Parliament will be my membership of the Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation. I think it is fitting that, initially, I should join with the honourable member for Henty, who was the Chairman of the Committee, in thanking the other members of the Committee for the work that was put in and not always in comfortable circumstances because there were a number of problems which required on-site inspection for us to really know what the problems were. The good humour and the real interest that was shown in these matters made the Committee a very effective one.
Mention was made of the Committee’s expression of thanks to various members of the staff - to our 3 successive secretaries, our Hansard staff, our transport officer, our advisers and so on - who made our task much easier. The assistance given us by Commonwealth departments, State governments and Territories administrations in our investigations should also be noted. They were all most co-operative. The witnesses who appeared before the Committee, whether they were academically trained or visitors from overseas or from a number of voluntary bodies, all tried to express their views with clarity before the Committee. Many members of Parliament, both State and Federal, assisted the. Committee at on-site inspections and in explaining particular problems. One of the very valuable submissions to the Committee was made by Senator Mulvihill who put forward a substantial submission on the subject of kangaroos.
However, I think it would be fair to say that most members of the Committee have an uneasy feeling of dissatisfaction with the report, not because of the work done or the recommendations made but because of a feeling that the report is as yet not complete. Originally, we had hoped that our report would give forceful guidelines for many years into the future but, due to a number of factors, we were not able to attain this objective in the report which has just been presented. I believe that we should mention a number of the factors that prevented us from attaining what we had sought so that the report can be read with this in view. One of the great difficulties confronting us was the complexity of Commonwealth-States-Territories relationships. I include the Territories advisedly because they were in our terms of reference. As a result of this, it was necessary for the Committee to tread very carefully in the investigations that it made and in the recommendations that were put forward, lest States or Territories, jealous of their own . powers and privileges, be offended. If this matter was to be effectively dealt with under the existing circumstances, a large degree of co-operation was necessary.
For example, amongst the Territories we visited were Norfolk Island and Papua New Guinea. In Papua New, Guinea we found that wildlife conservation amongst the indigenous people was a very important requirement and that we, as the Commonwealth, may have to provide them with a great deal of aid in the future. There was also a lack of comprehensive expertise in this field of wildlife conservation. We had many experts before the Committee but of necessity they were experts in restricted fields, and in the overall field of ecology no-one could give us the comprehensive expertise that we sought.
I feel that the. actual, name of the Committee was in some sense misleading in that a select committee on wildlife conservation allowed a number of our fellow members, departmental officials and a number of the general public to feel that many things would be pushed aside, when in fact what this committee was dealing with was the relationship of man to his natural environment. I think members of the Committee, appreciated this and the recommendations they have made have been made in this sense. However, the recommendations require a great deal of expansion. The problem of land use will be found to be particularly emphasised in the report. This problem must be faced by both Commonwealth and State authorities. At the moment, land use authorities are. in an early stage of development from the point of view of conservation measures. I emphasise that this question of land use is one of the very important factors revealed in the report.
As has been mentioned, there were some defects in our terms of reference. Witnesses pointed out to us that we were dealing with fauna and not flora and it might have been as well if flora had been included in the terms of reference. The Committee, to the extent that it had to deal with the habitat of wildlife, was able to make some comment on this. But a number of submissions were made by witnesses dealing with the conservation of flora which, because they were specifically related to that, could not effectively become part of the report. 1 refer for example to a couple of submissions we received in Western Australia on the question of the unique wild flowers in that State. These were powerful submissions on which we would have liked to be able to make some recommendations. But because of the restricted terms of reference, we were not able to do so.
It has been mentioned that a recommendation of the Committee referred to the Great Barrier Reef and suggested that it should be declared a marine national park and remain inviolate. Of course, the terms of reference really restricted our comment on the question of the marine environment and marine national parks. This was another limiting factor in our discussions. We were precluded from going further down the chain into the question of invertebrates and so on, which are very important biologically. I feel that we suffered somewhat oy the inclusion of the term of reference with regard to pesticides - I think this is being wise with hindsight - because the whole problem of pesticides, once opened, became an overwhelming one.
Another factor, or course, was the lack of time for the Committee in having to cover this vast task in a period of just over 2 years between other parliamentary duties. There was some lack of opportunity in certain areas we should have investigated. We were informed, for example, that the type of mining on Christmas Island is endangering the survival of 2 species of birds. We were unable to make on site inspections of this. We believe that this should be of some concern to the Commonwealth and that further investigations should be made and action taken.
National parks and their management was another problem that was put to us. We found that while the consciousness of the proper ecological management of national parks is improving in Australia and there is a great deal of pride growing in the men who are employed in the national parks services, there is still a lot to be learnt and a lot of training to be done. A number of witnesses recommended that the Committee should journey to other countries where national park management programmes are well established. It was unfortunate that we were unable to do this. We were informed that there were experts in Australia on these matters. Unfortunately the names we were given were those of experts who had already been interviewed and who admitted their own limitations in this respect. I believe it is most important in matters of this nature that parliamentarians, who eventually have to assist in making the decisions and bear the responsibility, should be fully informed on these matters. Therefore I think a great deal of emphasis should be placed on the Committee’s recommendation that a standing committee of the House of Representatives should be established in the new Parliament to inquire into matters of environmental and conservation concern referred to it by the House. In this way the members of the House will be kept continually informed on these problems. It may be that the members of the House, for example, would have been better informed of the problems of Lake Pedder if such a standing committee had existed and had been able to investigate the matter. There was also some lack of communication with government departments. It appeared that a number of departments were involved in conferences with other countries on matters of conservation which, while referred to in some reports of those departments, were never in fact referred to the Committee.
I come specifically to the recommendation. I intend to deal with these only briefly. One of the recommendations is for a biological survey. With the present state of knowledge of the fauna of Australia, a biological survey is of the utmost urgency. Information that is obtainable about Australian wildlife is scattered throughout universities, museums, institutes, zoological gardens, libraries and so on, and there is no collation. There seems to be no system or attmept comprehensively to cover the field. We have had very strong recommendations that a biological survey should be earned out. It will take a number of years to cover the defects in knowledge. If this is to be used effectively there must also be a central system of data storage and retrieval for use by these institutions. That is another recommendation that goes along with the biological survey. Of course with this must go a Commonwealth wildlife authority. When one speaks of a Commonwealth wildlife authority it is suggested that we will have a bureaucratic, centralised structure that will be of little use. Of course such an authority which is able to co-operate with the States and the voluntary organisations and institutions that already exist will be able to help us know more about this country we live in and the wildlife that exists here. It is not a task that will take 12 months to perform. It is a task that will last for many decades.
With regard to the kangaroo problem, I think the Chairman of the Committee has adequately summed up the Committee’s feelings. I believe that tribute should be paid to those members of the public who agitated so strongly with regard to the kangaroo problem 1 believe they were alive to a developing problem. That the Committee in its decisions found that in fact the largest species of kangaroos were not at the present time in danger of extinction does not in any way underestimate the value of these people in calling public attention to the problem. I believe that the interim report of the Committee on kangaroos has served as a timely warning and has set down guidelines which can prevent a real problem occurring. What we wish to see is some action on that report.
With regard to national parks, there is too much tendency to talk in percentages of land areas. The areas for our national parks should be selected because of the characteristics of the habitat and the wildlife that live there,’ not just because of availability of land. We would reject the idea that land that was found to be useless for anything else should be set aside as national parks just for the sake of having large areas set aside. This sort of attitude to national parks would of course demand finance. It would demand co-operation between the Commonwealth and States. It will depend largely on the type of biological and ecological survey that is held.
Another term of reference dealt with domestic animals gone wild and their effect on wildlife. Here again the knowledge of their effect is minimal. Everyone has a subjective feeling that perhaps he is damaging our national wildlife. Here again is a great source for investigation. Not only are we dealing with land use and with man and his relationship to his natural environment but we are dealing also with some of the aesthetic values for tourism, recreation and enjoyment of life. So if we try to look at the complete picture I am sure that the House will realise the urgency for action on the recommendations of the Committee. There is a real urgency that these recommendations be looked at and acted on as quickly as possible; that we decide that members of Parliament shall no longer be divorced from and kept ill-informed on such important matters as these but that ‘ they are very much within the province of Parliament and that we can become involved by the type of standing committee that has been recommended. I hope that the outcome of the report will be a better understanding by the Parliament and the country of the relations of man and the environment in which he lives. I believe it is’ an effective report. I regret that the restrictions and so on that I mentioned did not enable our Committee, which was willing to do so, to present the guidelines which would have served for decades to come. But perhaps a standing committee in future years will be able to rectify that. Finally I congratulate the honourable member for Henty for the part he played in initiating this Committee and for the effective chairmanship and leadership he gave to the members of that Committee.
– On behalf of the Joint Committee on Publications I bring up the Committee’s report relating to departmental publishing activities together with extracts from the minutes of the proceedings of the Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Following the completion of its inquiry into the distribution and pricing of Parliamentary publications late last year, the Joint Committee on Publications, having power to initiate its own inquiries within its general terms of reference, decided to investigate the publishing operations of government departments. In undertaking this task the Joint Committee has been carrying out its important responsibility of conducting a continuing Parliamentary review of the Commonwealth’s printing and publishing arrangements.
Initially, the Committee requested written submissions from seven departments which were selected as being representative of a wide range of Commonwealth publishing operations. These departments were External Territories, Immigration, Interior, Labour and National Service, National Development, Trade and Industry and the Treasury. The departments were requested to supply information about their printing and publishing arrangements and to explain such matters as distribution and pricing. Later, the Committee requested and obtained similar information from certain statutory authorities responsible to the Ministers of several of these departments. Witnesses representing the seven departments, several statutory authorities and the Australian Government Publishing Service were called and examined.
From the written submissions and the evidence heard the Committee built up a comprehensive knowledge and appreciation of departmental printing and publishing. A number of problems and issues emerged which were common to the departments investigated. The Committee found that most departments experienced production problems, mainly delays, early in the establishment of the Australian Government Publishing Service in 1970. But the Committee is satisfied that these early problems, which were mainly due to initial inadequate staffing and other developmental difficulties, now have largely been resolved.
The Committee found a wide variation of distribution policies between the departments examined resulting from differing objectives of their publishing policies: Some departments issue purely promotional material which must be distributed free, whilst other departments produce publications for more specialised or restricted audiences. The Committee noted that these latter publications whilst placed on sale also have free distribution lists, in some cases quite substantial ones. It appeared to the Committee that a uniform or rigid distribution policy applying to all departments would be impracticable. But the Committee has recommended that all departments conduct continuous research into their free distribution programmes with a view to ensuring that wastage is minimised. The Committee found that the AGPS pricing formula for publications did not appear to be applied in all cases. The Committee has recommended that the AGPS pricing formula of 3 times run-on cost be applied uniformly to all departmental publications, except in special cases, such as maps.
The Committee found widely differing arrangements for the printing of material for overseas distribution. The Department of Immigration has centralised its overseas printing in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom; the Department of Trade and Industry arranges its overseas printing in all continents; while the Australian News and Information Bureau has its printing for overseas distribution done mainly in Australia. Whilst each department gave apparent good reasons for the particular publishing arrangements adopted, nonetheless, the Committee noted differences of opinion about the advantages and disadvantages of printing in Australia those publications intended for overseas distribution. The Committee has recommended that AGPS undertake an in-depth investigation of the overall question of overseas printing with a view to reaching a consistent Government policy on favouring printing in Australia except where special circumstances make it advantageous to Australia’s interest to do otherwise.
The Committee heard evidence from some departments that the Treasury prescribed rules for the letting of contracts to printers other than the Commonwealth and State Government Printers, were unduly restrictive and a hindrance. The Committee has recommended that the Treasury contractual regulations be revised with a view to raising the cost barriers governing quotations and calling tenders.
On behalf of the Committee, I thank those departments and statutory authorities who supplied submissions and information to the Committee, some of whom went to considerable effort to present very detailed and well-documented submissions. I also thank the witnesses who appeared before the Committee for their co-operation and assistance. The Committee is indebted par.tieularly to Mr P. A. Nott, Controller, AGPS, and Mr B. P. Shurman, Director of Publishing, AGPS, whose evidence was especially important and whose knowledge and assistance were invaluable to the Committee. As Chairman, I desire to thank the other members of the Committee for the work they have put into this inquiry, which has fulfilled the need for Parliamentary scrutiny and oversight of the Commonwealth’s printing and publishing arrangements.
– by leave - I join in the tributes paid to the departmental officers especially for the manner in which they serviced the Joint Committee on Publications. The Committee has done what many people would regard as innocuous work. It is not the most demonstrative activity of the Parliament, nevertheless it is an essential service that the Committee has rendered. I regard the work that has been done in reviewing the lists of free publications as of significance. Regrettably it has been necessary to recommend increased prices in some cases, particularly for the Hansard service. In my mind one matter stands out. During the year the Committee has been most diligent in its endeavours to ensure that parliamentary publications are made available freely to the educational institutions. I was especially pleased to note that the institutes of technology and the colleges of advanced education were to receive treatment by way of supply of literature similar to the treatment universities enjoy.
I entered the chamber during the presentation of the report by the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin). It is apparent, as the Committee has mentioned in its report, that it will be necessary to ensure that stronger efforts are made to print more material in Australia than has been the case up to the present, particularly by several departments which I need not enumerate. Occasionally the Australian printing industry experiences difficulties and it is inexcusable that so much work has been printed in other parts of the world. The Committee has recommended that those departments which have been responsible for having material printed overseas should make every possible effort to serve Australia’s best interests - I think that was the terminology used in the report - by having this work done in Australia.
At the last meeting of the Committee today I told the Chairman that he had found his right niche in his parliamentary life as Chairman of the Committee. If he returns after the election it is quite likely that he will not be able to occupy the position as Chairman, that position usually being occupied by a member of the Government, but I have no doubt that in the event of his being returned to the Parliament he will continue as an effective member of the Committee making a worthwhile contribution to its work.
– On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I bring up the following reports:
Report- on proposals for variations of the plan of layout of the city of Canberra and its environs (5 1st series).
Report that the Committee is unable to complete its inquiries into State and Municipal Costs and Revenues in the Australian Capital Territory, and, Aspects of a Statutory Authority to administer education in the Australian Capital Territory.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I ask leave to make a short statement in connection with the. reports.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The reports I have just , presented from the Joint Committee on the j Australian Capital Territory refer to the proposals for fifty-first series of variations to the plan of lay-out of the city of Canberra referred to the Committee by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) on 20th September 1972, and a report from the Committee that it is unable to complete its inquiry into State and municipal costs and revenues in the Australian Capital Territory or its inquiry into aspects of a statutory authority to administer education in the Australian Capital Territory.
In relation to the first of these reports, that relating to the 5 1st series of variations, the House will be well aware of the arrangement whereby the Committee, under paragraph 1 (a) of its resolution of appointment, examines and reports to the House on proposals for modification or variation to the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra. During the present session, the Committee has presented a number of reports on proposals for variations to the city plan. The report I have just tabled, which is the 51st series of variations to Burley-Griffin’s original plan as gazetted in 1925, deals with 12 proposals for variation or modification emanating from the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Interior. The Committee has examined each of these proposals which are described in the report and recommends to the House that lt agree to the variations proposed. I should point out that the plan which accompanies the report refers to a 13th variation. This relates to an earlier proposal already agreed to by the Committee which was inadvertently omitted from the plan accompanying the 50th series of variations already approved by the Committee.
It would be appropriate at this stage to pay tribute to the officers of the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Interior who are available to assist the Committee when it is performing this very important function of examining proposed variations. The Committee has followed a practice over a number of years of convening for the purposes of receiving a detailed briefing on the technical aspects involved in proposals submitted to the Committee. These sessions provide an opportunity to question the departments in detail and to obtain such further information as it regards as necessary. In particular, some mention should be made of Mr Westerman and Mr Price of the National Capital Development Commission who are the officers chiefly responsible for briefing the
Committee, for their co-operativeness and the lucidity of their presentation.
The second report I have tabled is a report that the Committee is unable to complete its inquiry into 2 matters referred by the Minister for the Interior. The report also makes reference to 3 other matters referred as subjects for inquiry upon which the Committee has completed its deliberations and reported. Currently, the Committee is engaged in a very important inquiry into the proportion of municipal and State-type costs which should be met by the Australian Capital Territory community. Although it has made some progress with this matter, the Committee’s inquiry is by no means complete. Secondly, the Committee has had referred to it for inquiry the matter of a statutory authority to administer education in the Australian Capital Territory. Again this is a matter of great importance for the future of the Australian Capital Territory.
In recommending to the House that the Committee be re-appointed in the next Parliament, we have been mindful of the important work of the Committee during this and previous Parliaments. It is also our considered view that the 2 inquiries currently in progress should be completed and, in order to facilitate this and to enable any future Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory to take advantage of the work already done, we would recommend that the resolution of appointment provide - as does the resolution of the present Committee - that the Committee have power to consider and make use of the minutes of evidence and records of the present Committee relating to those uncompleted inquiries. I commend both reports to the House.
– I present a report, together with minutes of proceedings, from the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety, being a report that the Committee has been unable to complete its inquiry.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The report I have just tabled is that of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety which was created in April 1972 with the terms of reference set out in the report. Since the commencement of the Committee’s inquiry in May 1972 a large volume of evidence has been received and it is expected that more will be received. Invitations were sent to many groups and individuals whose evidence it was believed would assist the Committee in its inquiry. Many of these have already given evidence and/or provided submissions, whilst others have promised to prepare submissions. There was also a good response to public advertisements calling for interested persons and organisations to lodge submissions.
The report I have just tabled is to advise the House that the Committee has been unable to complete its inquiry, and to recommend that a new committee be appointed in the 28th Parliament with the power to use the records of the present Committee in conducting its inquiry. I feel obliged to mention in passing the Report of the Expert Group on Road Safety tabled by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) last week. This is a very extensive outline of the problems of road safety and I expect that the new committee will find both the report and its supporting documents of great assistance.
– As ViceChairman and Acting Chairman I present the 141st and 142nd reports of the Public Accounts Committee.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I seek leave to make a short statement about these reports.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable members will recall that on 28th September the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham), tabled the 140th report which relates to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer for the financial year 1971-72. The 141st report which I am tabling today relates to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for that year and covers the remaining items included in the Committee’s annual examination of the expenditure results of departments. The 142nd report relates to the Treasury minute on the Committee’s 124th report which dealt with expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the year 1969-70.
In examining expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund each year, the Committee seeks to ascertain whether or not the principles relating to the formulation of estimates have been adopted by departments. These principles, which are included in Treasury Direction 16/9, have been set out in chapter 1 of the 141st report which I am tabling today. For many years the Committee has paid particular attention to the estimates and related expenditure of departments. As a poor standard of estimating has wide ramifications, the Committee has concerned itself not only with excess expenditure charged to the Advance to the Treasurer, but also with the over-provision of funds. The Committee has made it clear that such overprovisions are undesirable, misleading and perhaps unfair to other departments whose financial needs might not have been satisfied.
At the same time, the Committee has emphasised that it does not regard the total expenditure of available funds under a particular appropriation item as an objective to be sought without regard to other important considerations. Indeed, undue emphasis on the need to match expenditure and available funds can give rise to unnecessary and uneconomic expenditure and can result in the distortion of administrative practices. In this regard the Committee has on previous occasions criticised departments that have accelerated payments in order to prevent an appropriation from lapsing. As this and previous reports relating to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund show, there are explanations for expenditure variations from the estimates which are acceptable to the Committee. In this report, however, the Committee has also found evidence of the need for greater care in the formulation of estimates.
In addition, misunderstandings between departments, errors arising from misinterpretation of information, clerical errors and administrative delays in the placing of orders have contributed to shortfalls in expenditure and reduced levels of efficiency in administration. The evidence also shows cases where failures have occurred in the observance of Treasury Regulations and Directions. Attention has been drawn to all of these administrative inadequacies where they have arisen.
In connection with the one hundred and forty-second report the Committee has found it necessary to make observations in relation to 3 matters, the details of which are set out in chapter 3 of the report. One of these matters - the Bellenden Ker project - has caused the Department of the Treasury to comment that the approach suggested by the Committee would be contrary to the principle of estimating which the Committee has endorsed in the past. The principle involved states that each individual estimate in the Budget Estimates should be a realistic assessment of the sum expected to be spent having regard to the information available to the Department at the time of preparation. The Committee recognises that the formulation of estimates is, in large part, a matter of judgment, in which opinions may vary. In view of the information evidently available to the Department of Works when it formulated its estimates for 1969-70, the Committee felt, as a matter of opinion, that in the case of the Bellenden Ker project, the Department might well have deferred its request for funds. It does not appear to the Committee, however, that the difference in view which it holds with the Department of Works on this matter represents an approach by the Committee contrary to the principle of estimating adopted in the past.
As this is the last occasion during this Parliament on which a report from the Public Accounts Committee will be brought up I should like to take the opportunity of paying a tribute to Mr David Reid, the Secretary to the Committee, and to the very strong and hard working staff of this Committee. I should like also to thank the observers who have attended the public hearings of the Committee and who have helped us so much with our work. You know, Mr
Deputy Speaker, because you are a member of this Committee, that we are greatly indebted to the observers from the AuditorGeneral’s Department, the Department of the Treasury and the Public Service Board. As the Acting Chairman of the Committee I would like also to pay a tribute to my colleagues on this Committee which is an all-Party Committee of the Parliament. I emphasise that it is a Committee which consists not only of members of the House of Representatives but members of the Senate as well. As I have said on previous occasions, the work of the Parliament is like an iceberg; two-thirds of it goes on beneath the surface and this Committee is part of that two-thirds. It is a pleasure to be able to say something in the Parliament about the non-political nature of this work which is undertaken on behalf of the people of this country in relation to public expenditure by Government departments. With those few words I commend the reports to honourable members.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In the absence of the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham), 1 should like to associate the Government members of this Committee with the non-partisan remarks which have been made by the Acting Chairman, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). Since I became a member of this Committee in this 27th Parliament we have had 2 chairmen. One was the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie), who is at present in the House sitting close to me and whose services as Chairman of She Committee unfortunately were lost because he took up very distinguished service as Assistant Minister assisting the Prime Minister. He has been much missed on the Committee. The honourable member for North Sydney was appointed in his place. Wo have had from the honourable member for North Sydney very excellent service as our Chairman as you, Mr Deputy Speaker, would agree. One cannot forget the excellent work done by our Acting Chairman, the honourable member for Adelaide, during the absence overseas at present of the Chairman, who is representing Australia at a Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
I did not realise that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, would be occupying the chair when I was making these remarks. I think it would be very remiss of me if I did not mention the distinguished service which you have given over a very long period from 1956 to 1972 as a member of this Committee. As a member of the Committee for only some 3 years, I appreciate very greatly listening to your experience, your wisdom and your judgment on this Committee. I think we should also pay tribute to a former very valuable member of the Committee who is no longer a member of this Parliament I refer to Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood, of Victoria, whom I have known since I was a Young Liberal many years ago. Dame Ivy was a member of the Public Accounts Committee from 1954 until 1971. I think Dame Ivy was one who, when I first came on to the Committee, made me very much aware of the extent to which the Public Accounts Committee was the watchdog of public expenditure.
I think that one of the things that impresses one about a Committee such as the Public Accounts Committee is that one realises after one leaves this place, where we have our parries and our thrusts, which of course is quite right in a democracy, and where we put forward our different points of view, that irrespective of which Party we belong to we know we are all there to do a joh. I suppose that the listening public who hear us speak in debates in this place on occasions may wonder how we can all work so harmoniously together on a committee such as the Public Accounts Committee for the good of the community. But this is so. I think it is one of the great things about democracy and about our parliamentary system that this occurs.
It only remains for me to express my thanks and the thanks of the Government members on this Committee to the Secretary of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr David Reid, and his staff and to associate myself with the remarks made by the honourable member for Adelaide about the work which has been done and the assistance which has been given to the Com mittee by the observers who regularly come to Committee hearings. I thank all those people for making the Committee work so harmoniously. I have enjoyed contributing in what little way I could to this Committee. I feel it does a wonderful job. I repeat that we are all very grateful for the work done by the Secretary, Mr David Reid, and his staff.
– I seek leave to make a short statement to the House.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– As the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee during the first half of this Parliament I, too, would like to join in the tributes that have been paid by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman). I should like to reemphasise to the House, which is the master of this Committee, that I would like to see in the future, as we have mentioned before, greater debates on reports that come forward from the Committee and a greater awareness on the part of this House of the financial matters that are discussed by the Committee. I hope that is something that we will see in the next Parliament. You, Mr Deputy Chairman, have occupied the position of Deputy Chairman of this Committee. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who is at present in the House, is one of the most distinguished past members of the Committee. I hope that, with all the other reports that have come before the House today from parliamentary committees the reports of the Public Accounts Committee will not just be debated for the sake of debate but rather that there will be a growing awareness by individual members of what public finance is all about. Far too often do we hear criticism that the Parliament does not take any interest in the financial administration of the country. I regret to say that this is all too true.
The tributes that have been paid to the staff are well deserved. The tributes that have been paid to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, are very well deserved. But I should like to say, in view of the criticisms and comments made by this Committee over the years, that it would be unfair if we did not also emphasise that one of the things that comes to the minds of all members of the Public Accounts Committee is the growing professionalism, the amazing dedication, of members of the Commonwealth Public Service. On some committees we tend to examine closely and to criticise, but let us not forget that underlying all this is a huge body of professional men and women who are serving this country very well. I commend the reports. I congratulate the members of the Committee for the excellent standard of their reports. I hope that in future the Public Accounts Committee will not be swamped by the proliferation of other committees of this House and that we will come to the stage where there is intelligent and continued non-partisan debate on the subject to be examined.
– As it is now past the time provided for the grievance debate, Order of the Day No. 1 will not be called on.
– I move:
I would like to mention that I have moved this motion to suit the convenience of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) which we are pleased to do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill and the 2 associated extradition Bills, in relation to which I will be moving a motion shortly, together constitute the third significant legislative step taken by the Commonwealth in furtherance of its endeavours to combat an essentially modern problem, namely, the disruption of aviation by hijacking - or air piracy as it is sometimes called - and the acts of violence that accompany the commission of that offence. Honourable members will recall that the first step was taken in 1963 with the passage of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act. That Act created the Commonwealth offence of hi jacking in respect of aircraft engaged in interstate flights, aircraft, including defence aircraft, owned by the Commonwealth and foreign aircraft that were engaged in a flight ending in or commencing in Australia. The Act also dealt with crimes committed on board aircraft engaged in interstate flights, in flights to and from overseas and, in respect of Australian registered aircraft and Commonwealth owned aircraft, crimes committed on such aircraft even if they were engaged in flights outside Australia. The law to be applied in respect of such crimes was the criminal law of. the Australian Capital Territory. In effect, the Act made aircraft to which it applied Austraiian territory for the purpose of the application of criminal law, the particular law to be applied being, as I have said, that of the Australian Capital Territory.
The second major step was taken in 1970 when this Parliament enacted the Civil Aviation (Offenders on International Aircraft) Act. That Act gave effect to the Tokyo Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts committed on board aircraft. The Convention established that, as for ships, the law primarily applicable to aircraft was the law of the State in which the aircraft was registered - a flag law. The Convention conferred upon an aircraft commander power to impose restraint in cases where the action was necessary for the protection of the aircraft or persons or property on board. It provided for the delivery of the persons who had been restrained by the commander of the aircraft to the responsible authorities at the place where the aircraft landed. The Convention imposed upon its contracting parties obligations to exercise jurisdiction over offences committed on board aircraft, the primary responsibility being placed on the State of registration of the aircraft. Machinery was provided by the legislation for the holding in custody and extradition of offenders. There was power also to return an offender to his home State or to the Territory in which he had begun his journey.
Neither the Convention nor the Act created any new offence. Rather the intention was to ensure the expeditious dealing with offenders under law. Like all conventions on this subject the Tokyo Convent, >n applied only to international civil aviation. Military, customs or police aircraft were excluded from its operation. The third step is the acceptance of The Hague Convention. This Convention was made at The Hague in December 1970 and is entitled ‘Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft’. The English text of the Convention is set out in the schedule to the Bill. From it honourable members can see that the Convention takes the unusual course of creating in Article 1 by, so to speak, international legislation the offence of hijacking. The offence is committed when a person who, being on board an aircraft in flight unlawfully by force, threat or any other form of intimidation, seizes or exercises control of the aircraft or attempts to perform any such act. An accomplice on board such aircraft also commits the offence. Hijacking is generally accepted as a word descriptive of the offence. By Article 2 each contracting State is obliged to make the offence punishable by severe penalties.
As befits its standing as one of the world’s principal aviation nations Australia took part in the formation of The Hague Convention. It was signed on behalf of Australia in June of this year. The Convention came into force on 14th October 1971 following ratification by the tenth signatory state, the United States of America. The main purposes of this Bill are to approve accession by Australia to the Convention, to create the offence of hijacking in cases to which the Convention is applicable and to provide the necessary procedures with respect to the taking of offenders into custody and their detention in custody pending a decision whether to try them or extradite them. There is also provision for the holding of a preliminary inquiry into the facts of a hijacking, as provided for by the Convention, the findings of which are, under the Convention, to be reported to other interested countries.
The opportunity has also been taken, however, to extend the ambit of Commonwealth law in respect of aircraft crimes to some categories of offences with which the Convention does not deal. Honourable members will note that the offence of hijacking is committed in a number of circumstances which are set out in clause 8 of the Bill. The first circumstance is the offence to which the Convention directly applies and which Australia, pursuant to the Convention, is required to make punish able. The remaining circumstances are not wholly covered by the Convention but, in the view of the Government, are cases to which this legislation should apply. These other circumstances are: (a) the hijacking of an aircraft on a flight in the course of trade and commerce with other countries or among the States or on a flight within a territory, between two territories or between a State and a territory; (b) the hijacking of a Commonwealth aircraft, including a defence aircraft; (c) the hijacking of an aircraft of the government of a foreign country in Australia or on a flight commencing or ending in Australia; and (d) the hijacking of an aircraft outside Australia by an Australian citizen.
Cases falling within paragraph (a) above would mostly come within the Convention with the important exception of a flight between places in Australia, such as interstate, by an aircraft registered in Australia. Cases falling within paragraph (d) would also be mostly covered by the Convention but the Convention would not cover the hijacking by an Australian citizen of a foreign aircraft in flight between 2 places both within the country of registration of the aircraft. The other provisions ensure that in conjunction with the Crimes (Aircraft) Act of 1963 the offence of hijacking is comprehensively covered. The Bill provides that the maximum punishment for hijacking is imprisonment for life. The Convention also requires its contracting States to establish their jurisdiction over any other act of violence’ against passengers or crew committed by the alleged hijacker in connection with hijacking.
Clause 9 of the Bill therefore provides for the creation of offences arising from acts of violence committed on board an aircraft against the passengers or crew. The circumstances in which those offences are punishable are substantially the same as those in which hijacking is made punishable by clause 8. The clause therefore is not confined only to those acts of violence occurring in connection with a hijacking. It covers all acts of violence committed on an aircraft for which there may be no Australian law currently applicable. As in the case of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963 the law that is made applicable to such offences is that of the Australian Capital Territory which has been selected as it is an area of general criminal law over which this Parliament has control.
Clause 10 of the Bill embodies the obligation imposed by the Convention upon Australia to take the proper measures to restore control to the commander of an aircraft on which a hijacking has been committed or attempted. The remaining clauses of the Bill provide appropriate machinery for dealing with occurrences of hijacking and persons who have committed offences against the Act. Honourable members will observe that there is substantial similarity between those provisions and the corresponding provisions of the 1970 Act. Provision is made to ensure that any hijacked aircraft is restored to the control of its lawful commander and for the taking of alleged offenders into custody or for their arrest. Where it is necessary for the facts of an alleged offence to bs inquired into a magistrate is authorised to hold an inquiry and the Bill details the requirements to be observed and procedures to be followed in the holding of an inquiry.
Finally 1 refer to the 2 associated Extradition Bills. The primary purpose of the Hague Convention is to ensure that hijackers are punished, lt provides therefore that the State in which a hijacker is found shall either extradite the offender or itself consider the prosecution of that offender. The offence of hijacking does not fall precisely within the category of extraditable crimes in our present extradition legislation. The 2 Extradition Bills which I will be moving shortly are designed to remedy that position. With the passage of these 3 Bills Australia will be able to fulfil its obligations under The Hague Convention and play its full part in the attempted resolution of a world wide problem. There is a fourth international convention relating to the safety of civil aviation, namely, the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation. This Convention was made in Montreal last year and was signed by Australia on the 12th of this month. Legislation to enable the Convention to be ratified will be introduced as soon as possible. I commend the Bills to the House.
This Bill, the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Bill 1972 and the Extra dition (Foreign States) Bill 1972 are cognate measures. May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure. Before debate ensues on the Crimes (Hijacking of Aircraft) Bill it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 Bills. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you might permit this course to be followed.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The purpose of the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Bill 1972 has been indicated in my second reading speech on the Bill relating to the accession to The Hague Convention. This Bill will make the offence of hijacking an extradition crime for the purposes of the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966-1968 and I commend this Bill to the House.
The purpose of the Extradition (Foreign States) Bill 1972 is to amend the extradition (Foreign States) Act 1966-1968 in the same way as- the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act was amended by the Bill just considered. The amendment arises from the obligations imposed by The Hague Convention and the purpose of the Bill was explained in the second reading speech on the Bill relating to accession to that Convention. I commend the Bill to the House.
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
– The 3 Bills before the House have just been outlined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen). The first one is the principal Act to approve the accession by Australia to the convention relating to the suppression of unlawful seizure of aircraft, to give effect to that convention and to provide for punishment for the unlawful seizure of aircraft and acts of violence on aircraft in certain circumstances in which that convention does not apply. The other 2 Bills are the Extradition (Foreign- States) Bill 1972 and the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Bill 1972. I do not propose to go through the whole of the legislation, it already having been dealt with by the Minister for
Foreign Affairs. I propose at this stage to content myself with stating a brief history of hijacking and hijacking legislation, and mentioning some suggestions I should like to make at a later stage in my contribution to this debate.
The Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963 dealt with interstate nights, aircraft owned by the Commonwealth, foreign aircraft on interstate flights and on flights to and from Australia, and crimes on Australian aircraft on flights outside of Australia. That was basically the outline of the first move in the direction of preventing hijacking. The next Act was the Civil Aviation (Offenders on International Aircraft) Act 1970 which ratified the 1963 Tokyo Convention which was adopted on 14th September 1563. That Convention dealt with offences and certain other acts committed on aircraft. It dealt indirectly with hijacking problems. It was not a specific antihijacking measure. It imposed on contracting States an obligation to establish within existing individual municipal legal framework, jurisdiction to deal with certain inflight offences and offenders. Although it dealt with the return of hijacked aircraft it did not provide for the return of alleged hijackers. There was no separate provision making hijacking an offence.
I now deal with the Bills before the House, which are related to The Hague Convention of 16th December 1970. This Convention represents the first specific anti-hijacking measure. It creates a new hijacking offence on a national basis and is based on the desire of contracting States to assure certain prosecution and punishment of hijackers at a time when hijacking is increasing alarmingly and when some hijackers seize aircraft and cause them to be flown to places where, for many and varied reasons, they believe they are likely to be immune from prosecution and extradition. 1 hope that the terms of the Convention will be adopted and acted upon by all the countries of the world. Close to the time of the Hague Convention there was also the Montreal Convention of 23rd December 1970, which was a further attempt to guarantee prosecution and punishment of specified in-flight offenders. Hov ever, as in the case of The Hague Convention there are still many difficulties in constructing an effective deterrent and preventive structure because of the diverse motives of individual hijackers, among them being the mentally deranged criminals in flight from justice who use passengers as hostages to demand money, and political escapees. These measures are some of the attempts that are being made to overcome this serious problem of hijacking.
At this point I should like to draw the attention of honourable members to the number of hijackings which have taken place during this year alone. Up to about September 25 aircraft have been successfully hijacked. Since January of this year there have been 26 unsuccessful hijackings. All told, 140 passengers and crew have been killed and 97 people have been wounded. On these figures alone there is sufficient justification and grounds for strong legislation to be introduced by not only this Government but also by the governments of the world to try to combat this menace that exists in the world today. Until such times as governments are prepared to take strong and positive action we will continue to be subjected to hijackings by people who think they can get away with the offence by using the passengers on board as hostages to obtain money. If those people can be convinced that they cannot get away with it that will be the best result. I do not think penalties will deter them.
I want also to draw attention to the hesitancy of the Government in ratifying agreements. The Tokyo Convention was made on 14th September 1963 but was not ratified by the Government until 22nd June 1970. The Hague Convention, with which we are now dealing, was agreed to on 16th December 1970 but only today are we debating the legislation in connection with its ratification. It was certainly signed on 15th June 1971 but it is the ratification which is the important part and that will not go through until this Bill is dealt with today. It will be almost 2 years since the Convention agreed to the terms that have been circulated and that we are asked today to ratify. It is just not good enough.
The Montreal Convention was agreed to on 23rd September 1970 but it was not until 12th October, a few weeks ago, that the Government saw fit to sign it. At this point, on the last day of this Parliament, still no legislation has been brought forward to ratify that Convention. Why could not the Government have brought both Bills in at the one time? Just as we are supporting the Hague Convention we on this side would support the terms of the Montreal Convention or of any other convention instituting positive action to combat hijacking. In order to elaborate on this point I would like the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), who is at the table, to allow me to incorporate in Han sard a table made available to me this morning by Sir Donald Anderson, the Director-General of Civil Aviation. I did not have a chance to show it to the Minuter beforehand. It lists the signatories or parties to the Tokyo, Hague and Montreal conventions as at 11th September 1972. 1 ask for leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the Minister and the House. The table should give honourable members a valuable comparison between the attitude of the Australian Government to conventions and that of other governments in a similar category. I refer, for example, to Canada, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States. The comparison could also take in Sweden and similar countries. Canada has already signed and ratified the 3 agreements to which I have referred. I do not agree with the racial policies of South Africa but at least it has not been dilatory about the signing of conventions. South Africa also has signed the Hague and Montreal conventions, and most important of all, it has ratified the 3 conventions. Panama and other small countries also have signed and ratified the conventions.
The United Kingdom and the United States have signed and ratified the Tokyo and Hague conventions and have signed the Montreal Convention. The important point about the signing and ratification of the Hague and Montreal conventions is that both the United Kingdom and United States signed them in 1970 and both ratified them in 1971. Both the United States and United Kingdom signed the Montreal Convention in 1971, over 12 months earlier than this Government saw fit to do so. In previous years with previous conventions there has always been a feeling that the Communist controlled countries have been reluctant to be parties to those conventions. However, it is obvious from a list of Communist countries which have signed the agreements that the Soviet Union, Poland, Romania, Hungary and countries like that are just as concerned about hijacking as we are. It is obvious to me that they have co-operated by signing and ratifying the various agreements. That should indicate to the Western countries that at least they are prepared to cooperate.
On one point we should give assurances. People who hijack aircraft for political reasons and endanger the lives of passengers on those aircraft must know that when they are caught they will have to return to the countries from which they came. That is my attitude. I do not care whether they come from fascist countries like Portugal, Spain and Greece or from communist countries. Although Cuba is not a party to the agreements at least it is now more co-operative than it has been in the past. No longer can hijackers direct captains of aircraft to fly to Cuba with complete immunity. In the past hijackers have received some protection in Cuba, but those hijackers who receive protection there today are so glad to get out of Cuba and go back to face up to their responsibilities that they look forward to being deported. Whilst Cuba does not sign and ratify the agreements it makes things so difficult for hijackers when they get there that they are only too glad to get out of the country.
I refer to an American aircraft which was hijacked in the middle of this year and flown to Algeria. The Algerian Government immediately returned the Sim ransom. I am not in a position to say what happened to the hijackers. They may still be in Algeria as free people, they may have been imprisoned, or they may have been confined in a political compound. At least an indication has been given to hijackers in the future that Algeria is not a haven to which they can fly their aircraft. I hope the incentive can be removed so that hijackers will not direct aircraft to particular countries. I think the havens of refuge are getting fewer each month. More countries are realising that it is a case of You today and me tomorrow’, and for that reason they are not acting as havens.
At the moment the Middle East is not only a real trouble spot for the hijackers of the aircraft and saboteurs but also it has ground problems. I hope in the not too distant future the Middle East will be able to solve its basic problems. It will not be easy but then a way may be found of solving the problems of hijacking of aircraft in that area. That is what we have to look forward to, although I do not think much can be done at this stage with the countries of the Middle East. I believe that taken overall we have to adopt a practical and realistic approach to the problem, even if it means that somewhere along the line we have to think in terms of the United Nations imposing sanctions against countries which are not prepared to return hijackers to the scene of their crime.
I think the returning of the money is one deterrent - as was done by Algeria - but the main thing is to return the hijackers to the country of their crime. If that step is too strong to be covered by the sanctions of the United Nations I believe the airlines of the countries that are prepared to participate in these conventions and to ratify the agreements should at least discontinue air services to the countries that are not prepared to co-operate. I feel that is one other way of solving the problem. We in this country have been fortunate up to date and I hope that that state of affairs continues. We had a false alarm just recently in the case of an Olympic Airways aircraft which was on its way to Greece. I wonder whether this was a false alarm or whether something did happen on that aircraft. There are very strong stories to the effect that something did happen on it.
– Like the story that Harold Holt is still alive?
– That is right. It could well be. But at the same time, people in the Greek community are concerned that there was an incident on that aircraft, and they would know more about that than the honourable member or I would know about it. All that people outside the Greek community can do is to take note of what happened and ask themselves whether the rumours are true or false. At least I hope that they are false. But if they are true we should ask what action we are going to take in the future to make sure that incidents such as this one which was alleged to have happened do not happen again. I feel that we can possibly take some action at our end to ensure that people are not forcibly taken out of this country on foreign aircraft by people associated with the country which operates that aircraft. This is a matter which the Minister for Foreign Affairs would know more about. The truth about this incident is probably in his little book of secrets which he will continue to keep to himself. If the rumours are true I hope that the Minister will be prepared to act. I am certain that the Minister, like honourable members on this side of the House, does not approve of what could possibly have happened on that occasion.
The other incident I want to deal with concerns the ‘Mr Brown’-Qantas affair. To me this was a serious offence. I would like to quote from a Press cutting of the ‘Sydney
Morning Herald’ of Friday 28th January 1972 which states:
Peter Pasquale Macari ‘Mr Brown’ in the Qantas $300,000 extortion case - was sentenced to 13 years gaol yesterday by a judge who said that the penalty for the principal offence ‘was fixed long ago and is totally inadequate*.
Raymond James Poynting, who stood with Macari in the dock, was sentenced to 7 years.
Judge Staunton said he was satisfied that Marcari had control of the disposal of the unrecovered $220,000 of the half million.
I want to point out to honourable members that the judge has drawn attention to the inadequacy of the sentence. ‘Mr Brown’ was sentenced to 15 years with a 9-year non-parole period and his accomplice was sentenced to 7 years wilh a 4- year non-parole period. What it amounts to is this: If these blokes are shrewd, and most criminals are, they will play it safe and calm while they are in prison. ‘Mr Brown’ will be loose once again in the community in a minimum time of 9 years and his accomplice in 4 years, and they will be free to do what they did on the previous occasion. 1 believe that the Government should be entering into negotiations with the State governments, if it has not already done so, to set down more stringent penalties than those which were set down on this occasion. I have been on aircraft on 3 occasions when, because of mechanical difficulties, the aircraft have had to return to an airport. On one occasion I was in a 2-engine plane which had engine failure in one of the engines and the pilot had to put down immediately. Fortunately we had just taken off and the pilot was able to put the plane down. I know that some honourable members opposite would have hoped that the plane would not get down, but I point out that there were other people on the plane besides myself. On 2 other occasions I was on 4-engine aircraft which had engine failure in one of their engines. Whilst I had no fear on any of these occasions, one is still glad to feel the wheels touch down on the strip. There is very little risk involved in a 4-engine plane flying on 3 engines on a perfectly clear and calm day. But, as I say, one is still glad when the wheels touch the strip. So I can understand the feeling of those people who were up in the Qantas aircraft which had to circle round with an alleged altimeter bomb on board which could have gone off at a certain level below which the aircraft flew. It must have been hell for these people. As far as I am concerned it should now be hell for ‘Mr Brown’ and his accomplice. But I do not think that the sentence impoed by the court is doing this. It is obvious to me that the learned judge gave the 2 men the maximum penalty that he could impose. We, the legislators, whether it be in this Parliament or in the State parliaments, should take appropriate action to increase the penalties and so provide a greater deterrent to the people who have this kind of thing in mind.
It is pretty apparent that the Qantas incident resulted from the story contained in a book and film produced some time ago. Whilst I do not agree with everything that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) does, I think that he, his Department and the Austraiian Federation of Airline Pilots made a wise decision recently in connection with banning a film which concerned hijacking and which some of us who were interested saw at a special screening at the National Library. I do not think that the opportunity should be given to people to form ideas of this kind and maybe commit these offences. We should not allow people of ‘Mr Brown’s’ calibre to get their ideas from these sources and commit crimes and offences against the community. I think that the Minister is to be commended for the action he took in banning that film from being shown in Australia.
So much for the principal Bill. We on this side of the House support it. The Opposition likewise supports the 2 complementary Bills which deal with the extradition of people involved in hijacking because it would not be much use putting through the principal Bill without also going along with the complementary legislation. I would like to say on behalf of the Opposition that we support the measure.
– I would like to take a couple of minutes to raise a point that worries me. I am one of those who, unlike the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) who has on 3 occasions been on aircraft which have been forced to land and who has told us that he did not have any fear, has never been on a plane that has been in trouble. But I am always pleased when the plane on which I am travelling puts down. Having said that - and having established my credentials as a coward - 1 should like to raise the broad question of balancing the proposition of hijacking against the proposition of giving refuge to political refugees in the case of countries from which it is impossible for these people to leave without committing some crime against that country, by the definition in that country’s criminal code or method of enforcing its criminal code.
There is no doubt about how we should regard the hijacking of planes for the purposes of extorting money or for any of the other purposes that have been raised by honourable members from both sides of the House today; but I can see the proposition that people might try to leave the Soviet Union, East Germany or other countries such as these when there is no legal way in which they can do so. I am not an expert on enumerating all of the countries which fall into that category. But let us face it: There are many countries in the world today in which there is no freedom of travel or no freedom to leave the country. If a person who considers himself to be a political refugee has to take the step of hijacking a plane - let us say a plane going from Moscow to Warsaw - because he feels that this is the only way in which he can get out of the Soviet Union, and uses what we would all agree to be extremely unpleasant methods to force the pilot to fly that plane to Bonn, or some other city in West Germany or the nearest airport in a free country, are we prepared to say that that person is to be returned to that country? He has committed no other crime - and I emphasise the words ‘no other crime’ - and his basic crime, I think we would all agree, so far as his own country is concerned, is that he wants to leave that country without having permission from the state, which does not consider the right to leave the country to be a right of its citizens. I have grave doubts about this. I do not think the issue is as nicely black and white as people might consider it when they talk about somebody trying to hijack a plane and making threats. This often occurs with planes flying over the United States, which country a person is perfectly free to leave if he wishes to do so. In fact, as I understand it, the United States provides free transport for anybody who wants to leave and go to Cuba, provided he does so on a permanent basis. In those circumstances, if a person hijacks a United States plane and insists on being paid a ransom and so on, obviously that person commits a crime. The same situation would apply the other way around if the authorities in Cuba allow their people to leave that country. I am not quite sure what the position is at present but I remember that some time ago Cubans were able to leave Cuba for the United States provided the United States paid what I will call a ransom payment to the Cuban Government. But the position is different in some countries.
It is easy for us to pass this legislation because it really has no application in Australia. It is unlikely that any plane coming from a country where those sorts of conditions exist would land her. I just wanted to draw the attention of the House to the fact that I, for one, have some doubts in my mind when I hear countries which have a complete disregard for the freedom of the individual, such as the so-called Iron Curtain countries, making pious statements about signing conventions on the extradition of hijackers. As far as I see it, the proposition is a one way affair because there will be no political refugees who will find it necessary to hijack planes to leave countries outside the Iron Curtain to get inside the Iron Curtain, but there will be people who consider that to be a necessary means of getting out from behind the Iron Curtain.
I felt that I should make that point this afternoon in order to indicate that not every honourable member in this House is in complete agreement with the proposition that if people leave some of those countries and find it necessary to use illegal means to do so - and, after all, whatever means they use to leave those countries will be illegal - they should not necessarily be treated as criminals and returned to their country of origin to be dealt with there. We must remember that they will be dealt with there not only because they hijacked a plane but alos - and mainly - because they completely disagree with the political set-up in that country.
– in reply - Referring to the remarks of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), I think there is a very broad band of agreement between us on the desirability of this Bill and of what is being done. However, the honourable member for Newcastle did make some criticisms relating to the time that he said has been taken by the Government in ratifying some of the conventions. 1 thought I should make some comment about that. He referred to the Tokyo Convention of 1963 and to the fact that the Government had ratified that Convention on 22nd June 1970. I think that it is necessary to add that the Tokyo Convention did not come into force until the end of 1969 and, by world standards, our ratification was a reasonably prompt one in that case. In the meantime, of course, we had passed our 1963 Act which covered the domestic position. So, it was not as though we had left people unprotected while we looked at the Tokyo Convention and did not ratify it. That would not be a correct picture at all. We passed an Act in 1963 creating the offences and protecting the people. When the time came and the Tokyo Convention came into force at the end of 1969, we then moved to ratify it.
In other cases, too, we have moved in this international atmosphere reasonably quickly. Australia is a country which does not just sign a thing in international affairs unless it is in a position to make its signing effective by ratification and legislation. I know that many countries do not observe this approach to conventions and though they can be found listed among the early signatories, the conventions are not always found to be reflected in their laws. Australia believes that the actual protection of the people is the important thing and in this field our law has in fact substantially covered the field. What is happening with this Bill, in which we are putting into effect the Hague Convention, is that we are slightly extending the ambit of our existing’ law. True, that is an improvement, but even before this the area has not been merely a vacant area in which people were unprotected. We are simply improving the position and I think this should be put into perspective.
The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) referred to a particular case. Let me say first of all that it is difficult to make exceptions because this whole problem not only relates to the violent acts, damage to property and injuries to people that occur in relation to hijacking; around the world, hijacking has now reached proportions which present a serious threat to innocent people travelling by air. Air travel around the world is now a very common and widely accepted method of travelling and this whole method of travelling will be under threat unless the nations of the world, acting strongly together - it will require action by all of them - prevent this from occurring so that hijackers will see the virtual certainty of their apprehension and punishment and so that there will be no refuge anywhere for the man who commits such interference. Therefore, it is a very dangerous principle to start suggesting that there should be exceptions
WhileI appreciate the points which the honourable member for Prospect put forward.I think that they are better dealt with in the way in which we can deal with them in this country, namely, by the nonreturn of an offender in particular cases. Our extradition laws, which would be the laws applied to the return of an offender to his country of origin, do leave some discretion with the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood). Particular circumstances, especially the case of a political refugee or something of that kind, could well be taken into account by the Attorney-General in exercising the element of discretion that is left to him in giving effect to the extradition section of the legislation.I think that is probably the better way to leave it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr N. H. Bowen) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr N. H. Bowen) agreed to:
That the Bill be now read a second time
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr N. H. Bowen) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr N. H. Bowen) agreed to:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr N. H. Bowen) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent notices Nos 1 to 12 Government business being called upon and moved together and one question being put in relation to the 12 motions.
– I move:
Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of a new runway and associated works at Port Moresby Airport.
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Airport development works at Nadzab - Lae, Papua New Guinea.
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: New out-patients clinic at Greenslopes Repatriation General Hospital, Queensland.
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of patients and staff accommodation at Kingsholme Rehabilitation Centre, Taringa, Queensland.
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Proposed Rehabilitation Centre - Camperdown, New South Wales.
That, in accordance wilh the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of Commonwealth office block at Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Development of a jungle training centre at Canungra, Queensland.
That, In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of a telephone exchange at Sydney East.
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of a telephone exchange at Woolloongabba, Queensland.
The proposal for the development of a Royal Australian Air Force base at Amberley, Queensland involves the construction of support facilities for a helicopter squadron, new maintenance hangars and technical support facilities. The estimated cost of the proposed work is Si 4.2m. The Committee concluded that there is a need for the works and recommends that it proceed to construction.
The proposal for the development of RAAF base at Townsville, Queensland involves the construction of new buildings and services and extension of a number of existing facilities to provide for the permanent location at the base of an RAAF utility helicopter squadron, the replacement of unsatisfactory technical and base support facilities, and expansion generally. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $8m. The Committee concluded there is a need for the works and recommends thai it proceed to construction.
The next proposal relates to the construction of Commonwealth Offices at Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. The proposed work is for the erection of a 12 storey office building of reinforced concrete construction, and incorporating air conditioning and external in situ concrete sunhoods. The estimated cost of the proposed work is SI. 65m. The Committee concluded that there was a need for the work in this reference and that the re-use of the basic design of ANG House was appropriate. The Committee also concluded that the site was suitable subject to the terms of the lease of the site to the Commonwealth being finalised. This is being negotiated now with the Lands Board in Port Moresby. The Committee recommended that the work proceed to construction in this instance subject to satisfactory finalisation of the lease.
I refer next to the construction of a new runway and associated works at Port Moresby Airport in Papua New Guinea. The proposal involves the construction of a new runway and associated taxiways, extensions and strengthening of existing aprons and taxiways, and provision of associated engineering services. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $7.5rn. The Committee concluded that there was a need for the work at Port Moresby and recommended its construction subject to satisfactory arrangements being made for the purchase or acquisition of the land required for the development. The Papua New Guinea authorities have already initiated action with a view to meeting this condition. The Committee also recommended that the land usage patterns in the vicinity of the airport should be controlled so that environmental problems associated with the airport development and use do not arise. Likewise action has been taken to ensure compatibility of aircraft operations and nearby land use. This is reflected in the latest town plan.
The proposed airport development works at Nadzab, Lae, Papua New Guinea involves the strengthening and reshaping of the existing runway, construction of taxiways, and construction of new terminal complex, associated buildings and a maintenance complex. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $3.85m. The Committee concluded that there was a need for the Lae Airport to be relocated and that Nadzab is a suitable site for the establishment of the proposed airport, subject to satisfactory arrangements being made for the purchase or acquisition of the customary land required. The Papua New Guinea authorities have already initiated action with a view to meeting this condition. In recommending that construction proceed, the Committee also recommended that land usage patterns in the vicinity of the airport be controlled so that environmental problems associated with the airport development and use do not arise. Likewise action has been initiated to ensure compatibility of aircraft operations and nearby land use.
The new out-patients clinic at Greenslopes Repatriation General Hospital, Queensland involves extensions to the existing multi-storey administration building to expand the radiology and pathology departments and provision of a new single storey wing for the out-patients clinic. The estimated cost of the proposed work is SI. 7m. The Committee concluded that there was a need for the proposed work and recommended that the works proceed to construction in this instance. 1 refer now to the construction of patients and staff accommodation at Kingsholme Rehabilitation Centre at Taringa in Queensland. The proposal involves the construction of a 5 storey patient residential building and a 2 storey building built over the lower floor structure of an existing quarters to accommodate live-in staff. The estimated cost of the proposed work is Sl.75m. The Committee concluded that there was a need for these buildings and recommended that the work proceed to construction in this instance.
The proposal for a Rehabilitation Centre at Camperdown, New South Wales involves construction of a 5 storeyed building with facilities for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, medical attention, vocational and recreational activities, administration and vehicle parking. The estimated cost of the proposed work is 53,365,000. The Committee concluded that there was a need for the work and the site is suitable. The Committee recommended that the proposal proceed to construction at the estimated cost of $3,365,000. The Committee indicated that works should not be referred for parliamentary examination prior to cost limits being agreed and that stringent cost procedures should be applied to all Commonwealth projects. The Government has noted these observations of the Committee.
The next proposal is for the construction of Commonwealth office block at Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. The proposal involves construction of a reinforced concrete structure with load bearing concrete masonry block external walls. Air conditioning is provided and design of the building was influenced by the need to control sun penetration. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $ 1.25m. The Committee concluded that there was a need for the work, that the site selected was suitable, and recommended that the work proceed to construction in this instance.
I turn now to the development of a jungle training centre at Canungra, Queensland. The proposal involves the construction of new buildings to replace temporary buildings and older, obsolete buildings now uneconomic to maintain, the provision of new facilities; and extensions and alterations to some existing facilities. The estimated cost of the proposed work as submitted to the Committee was $6.3m. In reporting favourably on the need and acceptability in general of the proposal, the Committee recommended that motel-style accommodation be provided for officers and senior non-commissioned officers at an additional estimated cost of $60,000. It is proposed to accept this recommendation.
The next proposal concerns the construction of a telephone exchange at Sydney East, New South Wales. The proposal is for the erection of a self-contained building comprising a basement, ground floor and 9 upper floors to cater for expected growth by local subscribers, long line equipment, and facilities for the eastern suburbs tandem exchange area to the year 1997. The estimated cost of the proposed work is S3.5m. The Committee concluded that there was a need for the new facilities, that the site was suitable, and recommended that the work proceed to construction in this instance.
Regarding the construction of a telephone exchange at Woolloongabba, Queensland, the proposed work is for the erection of a self-contained building comprising a basement, ground floor, and 15 upper floors to cater for expected subscriber growth and other telecommunications equipment up to the year 2000. The estimated cost of the proposed work is Si 0.2m. The Committee concluded that there was a need for the new building and concurred with the decision to establish the centre adjacent to the existing exchange, that the proposals to meet the long term needs of the expanding network are soundly based, and recommended that the work proceed to construction in this instance. The Committee also recommended that the Post Office should acquire additional land adjacent to the near complex to improve the setting of the building and the amenity of its immediate environment, including car parking. The Post Office has indicated that it intends to acquire this land when it becomes available.
Any member of the Parliament or any member of the public would recognise, from listening to me for the last 10 minutes, the gigantic task that has been performed by the Public Works Committee. Its members are dedicated and at times they work on this Committee at their own personal inconvenience. All members of the Parliament owe them a debt of gratitude.
– I endorse the remarks of the Minister for
Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) concerning the work of the Public Works Committee. I intend to speak briefly to the project relating to the development of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Townsville in Queensland. By resolution of 17th August 1972 the Senate referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation this project at Townsville. It is now only October and when one considers the tremendous amount of work facing members of the Public Works Committee as members of that Committee, quite apart from the work involved in looking after their own electorates, it is somewhat amazing that they have been able to achieve the results they have achieved. It is, of course, necessary that they do their work as members of that Committee otherwise they will be criticised in the Parliament not only by members of the Opposition but also by Government supporters for not getting on with the job of investigating urgent projects. It is clear to everybody that this is one of if not the hardest working committees of the Parliament.
The proposal for development of the RAAF base at Townsville involves the construction of new buildings and services and extensions to a number of existing facilities. The work will provide for the permanent location at this base of a RAAF utility helicopter squadron, the replacement of unsatisfactory technical and base support facilities and for expansion generally. The work is necessary. It provides for an extension of an armed forces base and facilities at Townsville in that part of Australia which is vital to our defence. I am pleased that the helicopter squadron is being moved to Townsville where it should have been located years ago.
The Air Force base is not a modern base in terms of time or of standards. The Army first became involved in it about 35 years ago when the Citizens Air Force was concerned with the promotion of aircraft activities. During the war, from 1940 onwards, when the Commonwealth became closely associated with Townsville, that centre was one of the most active areas in Australia in terms of attack and defence. It had one of Australia’s biggest Air Force bases and it had the biggest concentration of American and allied soldiers and of small ships operating from that area. For this reason, of course, the Japanese attempted to bomb Townsville.
The establishment of the helicopter squadron in Townsville will be not only a great asset to the Army and its work but also of advantage to the people who live in northern Queensland because a significant part of its work is in connection with emergencies which occur in civilian life from time to time. Speaking from personal experience I express my gratitude on behalf of the people whom I represent in northern Queensland for the work that the helicopter squadron did during 2 recent cyclones in northern Queensland - the cyclone that bashed and belted the islands off the coast of Proserpine, Bowen and Mackay and wrecked parts of Proserpine, and the cyclone that devastated areas of Townsville. During these disasters the helicopter service performed magnificently. Recently a little girl, who resided within a mile of where I live outside of Mackay, disappeared. She still has not been found. One of the most intensive searches ever undertaken took place. Thousands of people tried to locate this little girl and in the forefront of the search was an Army helicopter piloted by Lieutenant Peter Simpson who must have worked 20 hours a day flying his helicopter and servicing it. The people of the area owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to this man, who, at all times, did exactly what the police and the residents asked him to do. He never flinched. This is the type of dedication that one respects greatly in members of the armed Services.
One must levy criticism at the Government for not doing something earlier about the state of the buildings at the base. Many of these buildings were constructed prior to and during the war. In many cases nothing has been done to them since, except for a few minor repairs. They are the old type of Army building. In fact, the area had been permitted to stagnate to the stage when it was becoming a disgrace and a blot. The effect of the proposed work will be to upgrade not only the base but also the whole general area of the Townsville airport. I think that in time this airport will be utilised as an international airport. Certainly north Queensland needs one, and Townsville is without doubt one of the areas that could support an inter national airport because of its facilities and its location with respect to the needs of the north and with respect to the air routes from Europe, the United States of America and associated areas.
However, I believe that the Commonwealth must give consideration, in development programmes such as this and when transferring people from one area to another, to the indirect and direct effects on services in the area to which the squadron - in this case - is transferred. There is already a very grave shortage of housing in the Townsville area. Rents and the price of land are at record levels. Not enough thought is given in the planning to the effects of transferring a lar-e body of men into an area. It is not jus! a question of Army or Air Force facilities; it is a question also of the effects which those additional families will have on the city or town. I ask the Government in this case to give special consideration to the people of Townsville who have been adversely affected in one way or another when looking for houses and flats, because of the programme of development. 1 completely endorse the development. I completely endorse the establishment of the Army and Air Force base in Townsville. 1 believe that is where it ought to be. But, on the other hand, more consideration must be given to the effects that the introduction of thousands of extra men in the Army and Air Force will have on the ordinary civilian services of the area, lt is also having some effect on telephone installations. All of these things are ancillary to the problem. I am pleased to see that the Public Works Committee supports the plans for upgrading the Air Force base. This can only do good. In fact it will lead to bigger and better things for (he Air Force in Townsviile and 1 am certain that, with the helicopter base being transferred there, the whole of north Queensland will benefit. The tragedy of the matter is that it was not done years ago.
– I move:
I have not come to this decision lightly because I recognise fully that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is faced with the problem of having this huge new complex completed by 1975. However, let us turn our minds back 2 or 3 weeks and recall the words of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) when he spoke in this House on 11th October during the debate on the National Urban and Regional Development Authority Bill. He said: lt is the geographical distribution of population and industry rather than total scale which calls for our attention.
Of course, he was speaking in a national sense, but I believe the same principle applies to a city.
This new building which is to be constructed on the corner of Linton and Main Streets, Woolloongabba, will have a basement, a ground floor and 15 upper floors. Each of the 15 above ground floors will have a ceiling height of 15 feet 9 inches, and this will make the building at least 240 feet above the ground. From an examination of the Committee’s report and of the evidence one can see that, in the construction of a building costing well over SI Om, the Department has been more fortunate than the average home buyer today because the outlay on land is well under 1 per cent of the total cost of the building, being some $75,000. As is shown in the report, the area in which this building is proposed to be erected is zoned in the Brisbane Town Plan as ‘residential’. I know that those who oppose my thinking on this subject will point out to the Parliament that, on the lower side of Vulture Street, the area contains mainly light industry, shopping complexes and what was once a railway yard which has now been cleared for redevelopment. But there is no getting away from the fact that the rest of the area around the proposed building is residential.
The Brisbane City Council - the Labor City Council - has to share the blame in this matter because the Council’s Planning Advisory Committee has given the project its full blessing. The building is to have a total duty staff of about 1,115 people, with anything up to 750 people being there at the maximum. The amendment I have moved makes reference to my opposition on the grounds of the inadequate parking provision. A perusal of the report shows that parking will be provided for only 40 vehicles on the site. If we speak in terms of present values without taking inflation into consideration, by the year 2000 the Postmaster-General’s Department will have spent approximately $60m on the building and equipment. The revenue from local calls and trunk line calls in the year 1990, taken on present values, will be well over $100m. Yet the Postmaster-General’s Department - I say this with great reluctance - is so tightfisted that it appears unprepared to take a proper stand in endeavouring to obtain more land which would be more suitable for this building.
I point out to the House that, to a person living in the suburb of Kenmore, suburbs like Woolloongabba or East Brisbane are hardly worth consideration. But the people who live in those suburbs and who will live there have every right of call on their environmental surroundings. In the 1970s and in the latter part of the 1960s there has been an increase in the number of people who care about and look around at what is being done to the environment in which they live. Yet we are discussing here today a preparedness by the Public Works Committee to sanction the construction of a building that will go nearly 100 yards into the sky and that will be plonked on the south side of Brisbane where there is no other building of its type. All through the evidence - I would like to call the report the ‘document of doubt’ - one finds that members of the Committee from all parties expressed doubts as to exactly what is being done. Senator Webster from another place said:
It appears regrettable that in a residential area the Council has approved a 15-storey building.
The whole document is filled with expressions of doubt as to what the Committee was about to sanction.
The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) went to great lengths to crossexamine, as did other members of the committee, on the question of parking facilities, which are the subject of part of my amendment. I suggest that if the building were to be erected in the inner areas of the city of Sydney or Brisbane or Melbourne or Perth the parking would not be a governmental responsibility. But this i building is to be erected 1 miles to li miles, Jas the crow flies, from the city of Brisbane. Here is an opportunity to do something about parking facilities because with the proposed City Council plans to construct modern units the streets of East Brisbane will be clogged up by motor vehicles owned by the people who will work in the new building. If you live on the other side of Brisbane or in the outer suburbs this is not a problem; but in this part of Brisbane there is an opportunity to make a contribution to the quality of the environment by ensuring that conditions will be satisfactory not only for the people who will work in this new building but also for those who have to live near this proposed new building, and it is on their behalf that I speak today.
There are some passages of humour in the evidence presented to the Committee. One environmental conscious member of the Committee cross-examined one of the witnesses in regard to recreational facilities for the 1,100 people who will work in this building. He asked: ‘Are there any parks or the like?’ The departmental officer answered: ‘Most certainly, yes; down the road and around the corner there is a little park’. I point out to the House that this site is located on the corner of Stanley Street and Main Street I am told that policemen on point duty opposite that little park are not allowed to spend too much tam there because of the danger of contamination by smog and the fumes of passing cars. Yet that is the type of answer that the Committee was given in Canberra by one of the witnesses. Obviously the Labor controlled Council in Brisbane and the Government together are to blame for what is being proposed. I fully recognise that some form of building must go up but I think it is a fair question to ask: ‘How can these problems which I have outlined be eliminated?’ I believe that a greater effort should be made to acquire more of the surrounding land. The Minister will probably point out to the House that already 3 blocks of land have been acquired, 2 of which have been purchased from the German Club, and that the Club is reluctant to move from this area and that a doctor who owns a big property next to the site also is reluctant to sell.
The people of Woolloongabba and tha Griffith electorate are used to land resumptions. The resumption of property has been a feature of this area in recent years. The State Government resumed hundreds of homes to enable the construction of the new south-eastern freeway yet this Government seems to be reluctant to consider any sort of resumption in this area. This policy will mean a long term loss for the people on the south side of Brisbane. I would like to know the exact amount of money which was offered to the doctor and to the German Club for their properties, because everybody has his price. To take that a ster] further, I do not think that our cost of $75,000 for land on which to erect a building which will cost well over $10m is excessive. We should be prepared to offer more if we are frightened to tackle the question of resumption.
I notice that in the evidence one person made reference to ‘dear old ladies’. No doubt this is an emotional point, because the only properties under consideration are those owned by the doctor who has indicated his willingness to sell - apparently at the right price - and the German Club, which I feel quite confident if offered a very good price would get out and build nearby. The crunch is that one of the departmental officers has admitted in the evidence that if more land were available the building would be very much different to what is proposed. He even suggested that it would be lower. The only hope of unclogging the streets after 1975 is if the Methodist Church is prepared to sell some property nearby and which, in the words in the report, we are endeavouring to purchase. If that does not come to fruition by 1975 we will have a building housing over 1,000 people, but admittedly no more than 750 at the one time, located opposite a cricket ground where Test matches and Sheffield Shield cricket matches are played which in themselves contribute to a great influx of vehicles at the time the matches are played. We will have a situation in which cars will push back right throughout the area. It is all right for people who live outside this area. But if the council proposes units of good style for this area surely the people who buy them have a right to expect that the streets will not be turned into parking lots because the Commonwealth Government and the Labor Brisbane City Council sanctioned the erection of a Post Office building on the corner of Linton and Main streets in Brisbane. I sincerely hope, without wishing to stop progress because I realise that we have to get on with this building, that we will have an assurance that something will be done. That is why I have moved an amendment to the proposal.
Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– The House is dealing with 12 reports presented by the Public Works Committee. The one referred to by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) is No. 12 on the Daily Programme. 1 think I should make some comment before 1 refer to it. When these 12 reports are disposed of only 2 reports will remain to be presented to the Parliament. One concerns the Commonwealth office block to be erected in Woolloomooloo, and I hope that report will never be brought before the Parliament. The other one concerns the Palmerston Freeway in Darwin, which is a matter of very serious concern. 1 just want to take this opportunity to say that it is my belief that in respect of that bit of unfinished business the Parliament and the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) might be well advised to have another good look at it from the standpoint of possibly reopening the inquiry, because it so happens that the land which will be affected is owned by people who had no idea that they were likely to be affected. I know that today a representative of the people of Darwin who are concerned about this matter is here in Canberra, and 1 hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) will be able to see him for a few minutes to hear the views of these people because, as I say, there is widespread concern - in my view it is justifiable concern - to such an extent that the reopening of that inquiry is justified.
The matters referred to by the honourable member for Griffith concern the Woolloongabba Telephone Exchange. The project is a major augmentation of Brisbane’s telecommunication facilities. The existing facilities are fast approaching full utilisation. It is true, as the honourable gentleman has said, that this is a very large scale project, ft is an extremely costly one. Of course, the capital cost of the building is one matter: the cost of the equipment is another. I cannot recall the cost of the equipment which will be going into this building, but sometimes the equipment in a telephone exchange can have a ratio to the cost of the building of 6 to 1 or 7 to I.
– Generally 3 to 1 .
– The Minister informs me that it is generally 3 to 1. But we know that there have been occasions when the ratio has been a lot higher. So we have a very expensive project on hand. I agree with a great deal of what the honourable member for Griffith said. I am not prepared to recommend to the Opposition, if my recommendation counts for anything, that we should support him in his amendment because 1 think there is a bit of political play in the matter. I think that the Committee already has effectively made the points that it has been necessary to make. In any case. 1 think the situation in the Brisbane area will become quite serious soon and I would not want to be a party to contributing to the delay in the augmentation of that telephone service, lt is not just a matter of local reticulation. This is the tandem system; it involves facilitation of the STD process and trunk call systems between the Stale of Queensland and other parts of Australia. So it is a very important matter with which the honourable member is trifling. I hope that he has taken proper account of what 1 regard to be the diligent approach on the part of the Public Works Committee. Just to put my own situation beyond the bounds of ambiguity, 1 will read part of the evidence given to the Committee on this matter. When the Post Office representative was before the Committee and we were talking about the need to acquire additional land I said to Mr Barwick:
Quite frankly, I find the proposition completely appalling, and at the present stage, if we were taking decisions on this, I would be inclined to recommend that more land should be made available for these 2 purposes. Would you like to disabuse me of the prejudices I have in this regard? Or can any evidence be brought to bear that the experts have considered this and have established that my misgivings are unfounded, and that they are not concerned about it?
He went on at some length but started by saying:
I could not say that we are not concerned.
There are pages and pages of evidence devoted to this matter. It is evidence which was sought, I think, by each of the members of the Committee. In the report specific mention was made of the need for additional land. In one of its recommendations the Committee said:
We were informed that as the opportunity occurs the Post Office intends to purchase adjoining property to improve the site amenity, and to augment the car parking area. Because the Committee believed that it is important to improve the setting of the building and the amenity of its immediate environment, including car parking, we recommend that a more positive approach be adopted and that the Post Office acquire additional land adjacent to the new complex for these purposes.
More precise mention was made about this matter in the recommendations. Recommendation No. 6 states:
The Post Office should acquire additional land adjacent to the new complex to improve the setting of the building and the amenity of its immediate environment, including car parking.
If the honourable member for Griffith is at all fair dinkum about this I think he would readily concede that the Committee was more than conscientious in its application to the problem. Let me tell him that if he thinks that the role of the Public Works Committee is to knock back every project which features some conceptual vacuum on the part of the Government, we would never build anything. There are very many occasions on which I disagree with the Government’s approach to matters. Many of the 12 matters which are now before us, in my view, should not have come to the Committee in the form that they have. But I cannot spend my time as a member of the Public Works Committee knocking back everything the Government puts up. The project under consideration might be a rehabilitation centre, an Air Force base or an airport somewhere. We would have no rehabilitation centres, no civil airports or Air Force bases and all the rest of it if we knocked back everything that was not properly approached by the Government. I am very concerned that so many proposals are half baked and lack modern contemporary attitudes and thinking.
So far as the Woolloongabba Telephone Exchange is concerned, it is absurd to have a IS storey building on such a miserable piece of land. The Commonwealth has a responsibility to set an example in relation to these matters, and it has not done it. Should the Public Works Committee cause great delays in telephone traffic in the State of Queensland because of that? [ think all that we can do in sweet reason is to say: We regard the site as insufficient and you ought to get more land.’ This is precisely what we have done. After all, 1,100 officers will occupy this site.
– If you knocked back a couple perhaps they might think a bit more before they came up with half baked proposals.
– The Committee knocked back one proposal - the Woolloomooloo Commonwealth offices which was worth about $55m. That was another example of governmental stupidity. The Government intended to crowd into a little peninsula of land some 15,000 employees, which was the height of absurdity and the antithesis of decentralisation and all of the things we have been talking about. But how many proposals can a committee of this kind knock back? We do not want to cause the public undue inconvenience, and the public would be inconvenienced if we knocked back this telephone exchange proposal. It would be delayed for many months. The honourable member for Griffith would probably be the first to stand up in this Parliament - assuming that he will be back in the next Parliament - asking for some acceleration of the programme so that the people he represents can have telephone services. So that is the problem. I do not want the honourable member to feel that the Committee has failed to face up to its responsibilities in relation to it. The Government has failed to face up to its responsibilities. But this point has been made in the recommendations of the Committee, and that is why it is not necessary for us to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Griffith.
It is true that land is available from the Methodist Church and the doctor’s property. We were told that the Commonwealth has no inclination to acquire compulsorily any person’s land, and that is a worthy objective. Nevertheless, I think all honourable members will readily concede that the public interest is paramount. There have been many occasions when all of us have stood for the acquisition of privately held land because of this. I think the doctor has been there for a long time. Maybe the Methodist Church property and the German Club property are involved. A telephone exchange cannot be put up on any site. Regard must be had to the expensive cabling and copper centre, whatever that is. A telephone exchange has to go in a particular place, and this one had to go on this particular site. In the public interest we ought to acquire additional land, and the Committee has made recommendations towards that end.
I want to talk on a number of these proposals. I would like to make some reference to the Royal Australian Air Force base at Amberley. I do not have to say very much about it because the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has covered a lot of the ground. Sufficient for me to say that it is a very important Air Force base. Nevertheless, there are a few matters that deserve some attention. I think the point made by the honourable member for Dawson was that in addition to provision being made to accommodate the new helicopter squadron which will be based there, it is intended to replace the Phantom squadron with the F111C strike aircraft which at last is coming to Australia. I think it was ordered about 10 years ago and is now many years late.
– It was 1963.
– The planes are to come in 1973 - at great expense. They will now cost us about $300m for the squadron of 24 - close to $13m each. The price started at about SI. 5m each. This purchase is called, is it not, Australia’s flying opera house? However, the planes are coming and we are making provision for them, which is a very good thing. We were told that the Phantom, which the Fill is to replace, has been accommodated at Amberley in hangars which are of the igloo type, built during World War 2. Phantoms are very expensive - about $4m each. The evidence before the Committee was to the effect that these hangars were unsafe in winds stronger than 45 miles an hour. We were told also that on a number of occasions the base has recorded winds up to 65 knots. It is true that when these winds exceed 45 miles an hour the aircraft are taken out of the hangars.
This is very relevant, because we are proposing to build new hangars to replace the igloo type hangars. That point becomes more important as I go on. They are so inadequate now that the Phantoms, costing $4m each, are wheeled out into the open when they should be under shelter. They are put out in the wind and tied to the ground with sandbags attached to stop them blowing away. All of this is in the official evidence. We propose to provide hangars for the Fill aircraft which are worth about $13m each, but the regrettable part is that we are to supply the hangars terribly late. For a long time there will be no hangars at Amberley capable of protecting the Fill aircraft. We will have 24 of them, but they are not all put under shelter. As all honourable members would understand, these aircraft have to be serviced from time to time. They do not have the best of safety records up to now and they need a lot of attention and overhaul. When they are wheeled into these igloo hangars they will be subjected to extreme danger - $13m aircraft in shelters that could be blown over in a 45 mile an hour wind.
We are told that the hangars will come in the second phase of the programme. The Fills are to come in the middle of next year and the hangars are to come in stage 2 of the programme. It will be a total of 40 months before this phase is completed, so it will be close to 3i years before the Fill strike aircraft will have any adequate shelter at Amberley. I regard this as an indication of lack of planning on the Government’s part. It is another major blunder associated with the Fill aircraft. The aircraft were ordered on the eve of an election campaign and now, on the eve of another election campaign, we are proposing to build shelters for them. But the shelters will come more than 3 years later than they should. I believe that this represents very serious irresponsibility on the part of the Government.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. (Extension of time granted)
– I appreciate the Minister’s action in granting me an extension of time. I must not labour the point but I think that the Minister will concede that it is a good point that these $300m aircraft should be adequately housed. I think the people of Australia will be alarmed that for 3i years the aircraft will be without shelter or put in hangars which we know can be blown over in a wind stronger than 45 miles an hour. I will not press that matter further.
The work on the Townsville Royal Air Force Base involves a complex of developmental proposals. At this base some 695 officers and 34 civilians are working on a site covering 420 acres. We propose to add to that another 340 acres. Townsville is an interesting situation in that it is a joint user aerodrome for both the RAAF and the Department of Civil Aviation. The proposals involve $8m. Generally, they incorporate the provision of new aprons, parking, refuelling and telecommunications facilities, ground equipment maintenance facilities, a new motor transport section and lots of other very significant matters associated with the running of this air base. I have little quibble with this proposal except that it seems to me that there should be more co-operation on the part of the Commonwealth Government - this was revealed in the evidence given to the Committee - about noise abatement and examination into the effect that extensions to this airport will have on the Townsville community. It is back to front that the Committee should get a proposal about the extension of any airport without having the benefit of advice from a noise abatement committee. We were told that this committee, which involves the co-operation of the Commonwealth, has not yet gone into operation.
The second matter that gives concern is that through lack of foresight and planning a sewage treatment plant built at Townsville just 3 years ago - it is not yet in commission and is worth $lm - will have to be resited. As I understand it, 3 years ago the Commonwealth had a long range objective to implement improvements to the Townsville Air Force Base. I know I will ne corrected if I am wrong, and I see the Chairman of the Public Works Committee now shaking his head. The sewage treatment plant was built 3 years ago at a cost of Sim, and planning should have been sufficiently far sighted to have prevented the wasting of $lm.
I refer now to the Port Moresby Commonwealth offices. The proposal to build the offices at a cost of S 1.65m was the subject of a very interesting inquiry. It will accommodate a number of government departments. Papua New Guinea shortly will become a sovereign State and obtain independence. In that country, as in all others. Australia will need to have a chancery. Again, this matter could involve wholesale wasting of public money because of the lack of anticipation on the Commonwealth Government’s part. The taxpayers will be up for only Si. 65m. We are to build this particularly large scale building of 3 podium levels and 9 upper floors containing 41,400 square feet of space. But this is not the chancery Australia will need to have eventually. The proposal is for a temporary chancery. We are in such a rush, because of our lack of anticipation, that we plan to copy a building which is already in Port Moresby - the ANG building. We had to seek approval from the owners and designers of that building to emulate the design for our temporary building so that we can be one of the first countries to have a chancery in Port Moresby. We will then hope to high Heaven that when the time comes to get rid of the temporary chancery, which is to cost Si. 65m, we will be able to find a buyer for it. There is speculation among members of the Committee that it could become the first substantial white elephant and perhaps the greatest white elephant in the h:story of Papua New Guinea. It is quite conceivable that there will be no buyer for the temporary building we are erecting.
Why has the Government failed to anticipate the independence of Papua New Guinea? We should have been at work designing a building for Papua New Guinea several years ago. There was no lack of anticipation by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) about the coming independence. There was none on the part of the Labor Opposition. If there had been a Labor Government we would not be putting up a temporary building in Port Moresby now.
We would be providing a permanent chancery. 1 express regret at another manifestation of the Government’s inadequacy on a very important matter. The Port Moresby airport is another matter and so is the airport at Nadzab for Lae. The main point I want to make is that a lot of land has to be acquired. In the case of Port Moresby it is 1,170 acres. It has to be acquired from native ownership and it seems to me that we are not going about it in an intelligent way and we are not consulting the people properly.
I wanted to talk about the repatriation hospital at Brisbane and the Kingsholme and Camperdown rehabilitation centres. In my view, in each case the Government is doing the wrong thing. The Committee has recommended approval but the Government should accept the advice of expert committees on the location of rehabilitation centres in regional hospitals around Australia instead of establishing opera house type buildings in the capital cities. A rehabilitation centre in Brisbane is not much good for you if you live in Townsville or Mount Isa. A Senate committee has recommended that the centres should be dispersed around the country in regional hospitals. Why is it that the Government refuses to heed the expert advice of the committees it has appointed to inquire into such important matters?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to enter the debate because of the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). I do not see the amendment merely as a motion for a re-reference to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The Parliament will be dissolved next week and I do not suppose that another Public Works Committee will be appointed until the end of February or during March. This would involve a delay of 6 months before consideration by the Committee. As I understand the honourable member, that is not what he wants. Having regard to his comments it seems that he wants the Public Works Committee to reconsider it and come back with a recommendation that the work should not be proceeded with. He is favouring the purchase of a good deal more land and the re-designing of a building for the area. One could see that the time which would elapse would mean a delay until the time that the exchange equipment is required for service. 1 have in mind 3 or 4 years.
I point out to honourable members that in my view there is no justification for supporting the amendment. As the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) said, it is a matter of urgency. The Post Office had to deal with circumstances which existed when the plans were put down. It is not something to be considered in terms of requiring more land. In 1955 the first additional property was purchased by the Post Office with a view to future requirements. Moving to the southern end of the land, at present owned by the Post Office, there is the German Club. There was great resistance from the German Club when we sought to take even part of its land, but we came to an arrangement with the Club. Further south again is a Methodist Church which operates a rehabilitation of prisoners service. This is not something to be treated lightly by a government, Commonwealth or State. It is a matter of great social importance within the community and one towards which the community would not accept a willy nilly approach, an approach to get rid of the operation at any cost to acquire more land for another purpose.
On the other side is a medical practitioner. He is located on the northern side of the property. It is very easy to say that you should not worry about a medical practitioner but if as the honourable member for Griffith said, it is a substantial residential area, 1 submit to the House that a medical practitioner is a very important person there. Where is he to go? Where is he to find a new place?
– He is quite prepared to sell.
– Is he? I will come to that. He has given an indication to the Post Office that over his working life there is a revenue of Sim available to him in terms of services rendered and fees to be collected. I am not making a judgment on that. I am merely indicating what he said.
What is the situation in respect of his displacement from his normal occupation? Of course, courts take into consideration the disturbances created by displacement. What is the price to be paid? He will sell at any price he determines.
The honourable member for Griffith does not take into consideration that an excessive payment by the Commonwealth for land will be used by the ValuerGeneral as the basis on which he values all the property in the area for rating purposes Whom are we protecting? Are we protecting the environment by purchasing this land? Are we protecting the residents of this area in this way? On the other hand, are we dissociating ourselves from the public interest, the residential interest, because of the higher values and the higher rates which the residents will be called upon to pay once we pay an extreme price over and above the market price of the land?
I suggest to the honourable member that he is not really serving the best interests of his constituents by making this purely a constituency matter.
There is no doubt that we do not have sufficient land for our purposes. A 17- storey building is planned, 14 storeys above ground and 3 storeys underground. If the building was erected on one floor, I am informed that it would occupy 5.2 acres. Taking the whole block concerned there would not be that acreage. I believe there would not be more than 2 acres in the whole area. The Post Office has a fraction less than I acre in the area. Other considerations are involved. A building for a telephone exchange over a big area is not the most suitable establishment. In the first place, there are questions of security. Surely no honourable member will suggest that security in relation to a telephone exchange is unimportant. The bigger the area, the greater the access and exit areas and the greater is the danger. These days I think most honourable members expect that the utmost security will be preserved. With a high rise building this aspect can be contained much more satisfactorily than in a broader one. The cost in relation to equipment must also be taken into consideration. A telephone exchange requires, as a very basic essential, substantia] cable. It is much cheaper for the Post Office to send cable up the wall on to the next floor than it is to distribute substantial cable over big floor areas on the one floor.
The next point concerns air conditioning. If the equipment in telephone exchanges is to work properly the exchanges need to be air conditioned. I am sure that most honourable members and members of the Public Works Committee will appreciate that if we are to air condition a very large area we have problems in terms of the size of the ducting that is necessary. It may be that instead of one air conditioning plant we may have to have 2 or 3 plants associated with the operation of air conditioning. Therefore I say to the honourable member for Griffith and the House that a high rise building for a trunk telephone exchange of this type is much more suitable than is an exchange which is built on only 2 or 3 floors. I say this although we could accept a situation that with more land we could go perhaps to 7 or 8 floors to make the building suitable.
– That is all I am asking for.
– It is not all that the honourable member is asking for, if I might answer his interjection. I think that the honourable member was really asking a question which relates to my first comment on the delay which would result. This delay is totally unacceptable from the point of view of the Post Office. The Post Office is a public utility. The decision to build this telephone exchange is not just a Government decision; this is a matter of tremendous interest to the public of that area.
I have had some confrontations with the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and the Brisbane City Council in relation to some of our buildings. But the proposal before us has the complete acceptance of the Lord Mayor. He accepts the quality and the situation of the building in relation to the development of that area of the city of Brisbane. So I believe that there is reasonable acceptance of the proposal before the House. The honourable member mentioned the environmental concept. I quite accept that we would prefer to have a much larger area. The building will be set back at least 20 feet from the street. This gives us the opportunity to give some consideration to the environment. I know that there is insufficient car parking space. But I want to make it quite plain that the Post Office, as is the case with other Commonwealth departments, is required by the policies determined so far by the Government to observe certain standards. Car parking is a modern concept of town planning. I believe it is one which will require great expenditures by the Commonwealth and perhaps a new policy if we are to make provision of parking for customers - not that there are many customers with a telephone exchange; but certainly there is a big requirement for car parking for the 600 or 700 people who may be working in the building. The Post Office is prepared to consider environmental problems, but we have planned this building in accordance with the broad policies which have been laid down.
I would like to refer to one other matter. As I mentioned, the Post Office commenced to purchase additional properties in 1955. The honourable member for Griffith has represented his electorate for the last 6 years. As far as I can recollect I did not receive until the last day or so any representation by him in relation to this matter. The Brisbane records in the Post Office reveal only that the honourable member made a telephone call on one occasion in relation to it. I suggest that it is unfortunate that the honourable member did not take advantage of the opportunity available to him to attend the meeting of the Public Works Committee, not when it met in Canberra, but when it went to Brisbane to look at this area. On that occasion the Committee looked at our central trunk exchange and also at another site on the northern side of Brisbane for future exchange purposes. I would like to say to the honourable member that I believe that, having regard to the delay, not through a re-reference to the Public Works Committee, but the impossibility of meeting a time scale in terms of 1975-76, he might see his way clear, and bearing in mind that this matter has had an airing, to withdraw the amendment that he has moved. I understand that the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) does not intend to encourage the Opposition to vote in favour of the amendment.
– I just want to make one very small point that I think should be made. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), mentioned that the Townsville sewage plant, which has just recently been completed, will have to be shifted when work on the RAAF base at Townsville is completed. I have no complaint with the honourable member for not being able to remember all the details of a great many hearings that have been through the mill recently. In actual fact the sewage plant will have to be shifted if and when a new cross-runway is built. That is not associated with the work under consideration at the moment. I think that I ought to make that clear so that the Air Force does not have to carry unwarranted criticism which I know has been made in error by the honourable member for Hughes.
– I commend the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) for his interest in his area and, while the ideas that he has put forward have been answered by the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme), I am glad to see that he has taken this interest. Perhaps the honourable member did not know about the Public Works Committee meeting on this reference as early as he would have liked to. Perhaps he did not have the means of knowing that this reference was coming forward. We have the opportunity in this House of knowing what references are to be considered, but I believe that it would be desirable for the Federal member of the area in which the Public Works Committee is to examine a reference to be notified as early as possible of that examination. I think that this improvement should be made to the way in which we publicise our hearings at the moment.
As the Postmaster-General pointed out, alternative sites for the exchange were looked at. It was not just decided to construct the telephone exchange in that area without due consideration. The Public Works Committee always endeavours to try to find the best solution in siting a work. The Committee does not have the opportunity to undertake an examination of alternative sites unless this is provided to us. If alternative sites are there, the Committee looks at them. But we are reluctant to delay a provision of any public need.
This exchange quite clearly will be required by the time it can reasonably be expected to be completed. I do not want to repeat what the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) has already said. But I want to make one point about his criticism that was made about the construction of Commonwealth Offices in New Guinea. The honourable member for Hughes asked why the Government had not moved earlier and done something sooner. Well, the building that we are undertaking could easily be quite a reasonable business proposition. I recall the scream that went up, when the Government was buying in wool, about all the money that this would cost the community. The taxpayers at large finished up showing a profit of $10m. Because of the progress and development which is occurring in that area I would not be surprised if there were a profit, or at least not a loss, from this building. Now that it is known that it must be built, the final result might be that the building is more appropriately suited to its function than if something had been built without knowing exactly when it was to be used. From this angle, I believe that the proposal will prove in the end to be a reasonably satisfactory one. The question of the Post Office has been fairly well covered but I want to repeat that I think the honourable member for Griffith entered into this discussion with the idea of trying to put the views of the people he represents in this area, which views have no doubt been put to him, and from that angle I feel he is to be commended.
Mr DONALD CAMERON (Griffith) - I seek leave to make a short speech.
-Is leave granted? Th-re being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the House. The Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) made reference to the fact that there was a certain degree of urgency about this building and that was one of the reasons why I should withdraw my opposition to it. I would appreciate it if somebody would explain to me why, if something had been planned back in 1955, it was referred to the Public Works Committee only at the end of August and why there is so much urgency about it. Perhaps if we could have foreseen that there could have been some problems, the Parliament might have been given much more opportunity to examine the plans as they stood. The system of notifications to members representing the various electorates was referred to by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). I state here and now that with all the paper work that members of this Parliament receive and the various things which happen in this House from time to time it is almost impossible to keep up with what is going on. Private members, unlike Ministers, do not have staff to assist them in the administration of their duties in this Parliament. I very much regret that, after so many years of knowing the Postmaster-General, we had to end his last day in this Parliament on such a note. But I assure the Postmaster-General that this will not be my last day in Parliament and I will be watching his Department much more carefully in the future.
Amendment (Mr Donald Cameron’s) negatived.
Original questions resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959-1969, I present the thirteenth annual statement of the operation of the Act and the payment of subsidy during the year to 30th June 1972.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I present the report by the Tariff Board on the following subject:
Magnet winding wire.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a statement by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) in connection with this report.
– is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) - The Government has decided not to accept recommendations made by the Board in relation to magnet winding wire, firstly in the report just tabled and secondly in subsequent correspondence between the Chairman of the Board and the Minister for Trade and Industry. A copy of this correspondence is tabled with the report itself. Test applications of the duty formula recommended by the Board in its report resulted, in several instances, in negative duties and in other cases duties of a very low order. The recommendations therefore did not offer a practical means of providing protection for the industry and the Minister for Trade and Industry asked the Board to recommend an alternative duty formula.
In the event these alternative recommendations have also presented difficulties in that further test calculations showed variations in the impact of the duties proposed in the Board’s initial and alternative recommendations. In considering possible courses of action the Government has borne in mind the problems outlined above and, as noted by the Chairman of the Board in the correspondence, the fact that the information already available to the Board is now some 3 years out of date. In the circumstances the Government has decided not to accept the Board’s recommendations but to retain the existing duties, and refer magnet winding wire back to the Board for a new inquiry and report. An appropriate reference will be sent to the Board in the near future.
Debate resumed from 17 October (vide page 2700), on motion by Mr Holten:
That the Bill he now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I should like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Repatriation (Torres Strait Islanders) Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, that you per mit the subject matter of the 2 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House that this procedure be adopted? There being no objection, I will permit that course to be followed.
– The Opposition endorses these Bills which remove the last vestiges of discrimination on racial grounds from the operation of the legislation giving benefits to exservicemen. The key section of the Repatriation (Torres Strait Islanders) Bill is clause 5 which reads as follows:
For avoidance of doubt, it is by this Act declared that consequent upon the enactment of the Native Members of the Forces Benefit Act 1972, the laws of the Commonwealth providing for benefits, advantages and assistance in respect of members of the Defence Forces who served during the war apply, according to their tenor, in relation to Torres Strait Island members.
In effect this clause declares that the repatriation laws are to apply without regard to racial differences to Torres Strait veterans of the armed forces.
Part III of the Bill also extends from 3 months to 6 months each of the appeal time limits as applied to residents of the Tories Strait Islands. The legislation gives these ex-servicemen full appeal rights under the repatriation structure. Although it is a new Bill it is in effect an amendment of the Repatriation Act. Discriminations which formerly applied to the islanders have been wiped out and I am sure the House will agree that this is a notable improvement. I have been informed by the Repatriation Department that 91 Islanders get war pensions; including wives and dependants the number affected by repatriation legislation for war pension purposes is 310.
There are also 138 service pensioners among the Islanders; with dependants the total is 294. This is a fairly substantial percentage of Island people and it is essential that they be treated equally before the law with all other repatriation pensioners. Apart from the repatriation legislation a considerable improvement has been made by giving these servicemen access to the war service homes legislation. Under the previous legislation these men had no entitlement to war service homes. This discrimination has been removed and a number of the Islanders will benefit. Apparently those members who served only on Thursday Island are not entitled to assistance because they were not enlisted from overseas service. However, some, for one reason or another, did serve overseas, for example on small ships. It is appropriate that these men should be allowed assistance under this legislation. As a matter of interest I got the War Memorial Library to hunt up some information about the Torres Strait Light Infantry Forces. A unit of company strength was formed in 1941 to assist in guarding the airfield on Thursday Island. These men were drawn from various islands including Murray. Banks and Prince of Wales. The unit was officered by members of the Australian Army, mostly from Queensland, and was called the Torres Strait Infantry Company. Two other small units, the Torres Strait Employment Company and the Islander Labour Company were subsequently formed. AN units were amalgamated into the Torres Strait Light Infantry Company in March 1943. When the war ended 700 Island veterans of this company were rehabilitated in the pearling industry by the Queensland Government. As I indicated to the House, there were 700 members who served at some time in this Company. That is not an insignificant number. As I said at the outset - I suppose one can always learn something new in this Parliament - I had no knowledge of the discrimination that applied in relation to those from this area served in the armed forces during the Second World War, But at least the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) and the Government have now accepted that there should not be any racial discrimination and the Bill which we now have before us provides for this. 1 am sure that all Australians would accept the principle that laws should not be enacted on the basis of discrimination one way or the other. So, the Government has decided to apply this principle. I have studied the Act very carefully and I have received an assurance that, when the Minister talks about appeals and when his Department refers to appeals, they agree that the benefits of the entire processes of the Repatriation Act will apply to those who are now being considered under the terms of this legislation. I found it very difficult to determine what was intended by the legislation, because while it contains a reference to a right of appeal to the Repatriation Commission I can see no reference to a right of appeal to an entitlement tribunal. However, I accept the assurance that there will be a right of appeal to an entitlement tribunal. I make it quite clear to the Minister that if this was not the situation it would be one further example of discrimination being perpetuated. I have said in this House on a number of occasions before the present Minister held the Repatriation portfolio that I do not accept the principle that we cannot give ex-seamen the right of appeal to a higher tribunal. I can never accept the discrimination in this respect. It is not racial discrimination but discrimination in relation to what is availale to ex-servicemen in the form of an appeal and what is available to ex-seamen in the form of an appeal. However, that matter can be corrected, and I hope it will be corrected at a later date. But I accept the assurance that there will be a right of appeal to an entitlement tribunal.
The other point I raise is that the principal Act will still apply, although of course amended. I find it very difficult to understand why the Government intends to have 2 separate Acts - an Act that will apply to Torres Strait Islanders and an Act that applies to all other servicemen in this country. The Bill provides that the Repatriation Act will apply to Torres Strait Islanders. But why is it necessary to continue with 2 Acts? Could these people not have been just as easily incorporated under the Repatriation Act? There may be some administrative problem in doing this. If so, no doubt the Minister will indicate what that problem is.
Since the benefits of the war service homes legislation have also been extended to these people I believe that I ought to conclude by making 1 or 2 references to the problems of Torres Strait Islanders in obtaining war service homes. I suppose the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns), who is sitting in the House, will be fully aware of the problems existing in that area, and he will know that the homes built in those islands have normally been built by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. That
Department has accepted responsibility for the provision of homes, and most of the homes that have been built have been built for a cost of $800 to $2,000. There has been some variation, but that is generally the level of the cost of building on these islands. The Minister is well aware, as are all other members in this House, that the maximum loan for a successful applicant under the war service homes legislation today stands at $9,000. If the Department of Housing applies the same principles as it applies elsewhere in Australia and demands the level of accommodation that exists elsewhere, a home could not be built in this area for less than $20,000. If the Department of Housing demands that the same standards be applied in relation to the homes on Torres Strait Island and a home is to cost $20,000, it is quite clear that those who may qualify under the terms of this legislation will not be able to take advantage of the benefit which the Minister for Repatriation has outlined.
Either the Minister for Housing or the Minister for Repatriation may be able to advise me whether the Department of Housing, which is the department responsible for war service homes, will demand that homes built in this area be of the same standard as homes it builds elsewhere. If it does I suggest to the Minister that very few people will be able to take advantage of the housing provisions of the legislation since, as I have pointed out, the average cost of a home in this area would be close to $20,000, leaving of course a difference of $11,000 to be found by those who qualify under the terms of the legislation.
I have made only 2 points in relation to this legislation. I offer no criticism. The Bill is certainly an improvement and therefore, as I have indicated, the Opposition does not oppose it. I believe there ought to be an explanation of the 2 points I have raised. I believe there should be an explanation in relation to the continuation of a situation in which there will be 2 separate Acts - one applying to the Islanders and one applying to ex-servicemen generally. Secondly I believe there ought to be a full explanation from the Minister for Housing concerning the other problem I raised, which I believe is one of very great importance. He should say whether special consideration will be given under the terms of the war service homes legislation to those who will want to make application for a housing loan because they are now eligible for a war service home but who, under normal circumstances, would not be in a position to meet the conditions that are normally set by the War Service Homes Division.
– I shall deal with the question which was posed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). The provision applying to those Torres Strait Islanders who, as a result of this Bill, will become eligible applicants for war service homes is that an advance will be made on a property judged to be an appropriate security for the period of time during which the finance is to be made available. Judgments will be made on whether the building or dwelling given as security is a building or dwelling appropriate to the area. The standards of a building required in the Torres Strait Island, of course, will be different from those which apply in Launceston, Toorak or wherever else one may like to go. A judgment appropriate to the region will be made as long as an appropriate security is given.
– in reply - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) asked why it was necessary to have a second Act to provide repatriation benefits to Torres Strait Islanders and conceded that there may be some technical or administrative reason. The simplest explanation I can give him at the moment briefly - if he wants any amplification of the answer I will give it to him in writing - is that the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Bill takes the Torres Strait Islanders out of that legislation, under which they have been for many years, and the Repatriation (Torres Strait Islanders) Bill provides for the transfer of these ex-servicemen to the Repatriation Act. It also provides protection for their existing rights. In the future all Torres Strait Island members of the forces will look to the Repatriation Act. I appreciate the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in support of the Bill. I echo the sentiments he expressed when he said: T am sure that all Australians will appreciate the changes that are brought in by these 2 Bills’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by MrHolten) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 17 October (vide page 2702), on motion by MrHolten:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Holten) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 8 p.m.
– I present the twenty-second report of the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from 28 September (vide page 2177), on the following papers presented by Sir Reginald Swartz.:
Australia’s Natural Resources: Minerals, Forests, Water and Energy - Ministerial Statement, 28th September 1972 and associated documents - and on the motion by Mr Katter:
That the House take note of the papers.
The motion before the House concerns the statement made by the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) on Australia’s natural resources - minerals, forests, water and energy. This is one of the most comprehensive statements that has been made in this Parliament on this subject for a long time. It is a valuable statement which supplies much valuable information of a technical and administrative nature and in respect of marketing which will be of interest not only to the Parliament but to people throughout Australia who are concerned with the development of natural resources. In many respects the statement reveals some of the shortcomings and some of the future policies of the Government in respect of the development of natural resources.
I take the opportunity of paying a tribute to the Minister for National Development. As is well known, rarely do I pay tribute to any member of the Government side. I do not know whether the Minister will go down in history as a great Minister - only time will tell - but he is a man who is held in respect by members of all parties. His door has always been open to me and I am quite certain to other members of the Opposition. Although the Opposition does not agree with many of the Government’s policies on resources development nevertheless I believe the Parliament will be much poorer when the Minister retires at the end of the year.It is only 7 or 8 years ago that the Australian Government was considering policy steps to rectify serious defficiencies in our balance of payment position. In 1965 and 1966 many documents - from Treasury and elsewhere - where in the possession of the Government. These documents warned of problems with our balance of payments position. On the horizon, however, there was the known possibility of a great expansion in our mineral exports. One needs only examine figures for the last 10 years to see what has happened. In 1951 mining exports were valued at $83m whereas in 1971-72 they were almost$1, 300m, so there has been a dramatic change in the direction of our exports. In 1951, 92 per cent of our total exports were of rural origin and 4 per cent of mining origin. In 1971-72 rural exports represented 50 per cent and mining exports 31 per cent. A dramatic change in direction is evident in these 2 great industries. Unfortunately this dramatic increase in mineral development has been achieved at the expense of ownership and control of a great proportion of Australia. For quite a number of reasons including State and Commonwealth policies, there has been what one might call a mad race to develop many of our mineral fields. One can understand why the States want development at all costs. The States are not too concerned about foreign ownership because if the State can persuade someone to develop a mineral field the quicker it is developed the more revenue the State earns in royalties, in rail freights and indirectly, in land tax and other forms of taxation. A State is not particularly concerned with the export price of a commodity, but this is an important matter.
I am pleased to see that in his statement the Minister for National Development several times sounded the warning that in future the Government will not accept the formula of costs of production plus profits as being the equivalent of the export price. It must be a price closely associated with the world parity price. This is what it should be and should have been for the last decade. The Commonwealth, of course, is concerned with export incomes and with capital inflow to develop works. It is concerned also with resultant income tax and revenues arising from the development of natural resources. However, without question there has been a lack of planning in many of the fields of resources development. I do not suggest that the Labor Party is opposed to foreign investment - far from it. I know of the benefit to north Queensland of the development at Mount Isa not only to the town of Mount Isa but also to Townsville, but I can quote many examples of foreign exploitation of Australian resources over the years. The exploitation of land in the Northern Territory is almost a scandal. Such exploitation resulted in erosion problems and the virtual raping of native pastures. Problems occurred in catchment areas and on river frontages. We hope this is all in the past and that the Government has at last awakened to environmental problems and the problems of development. There must be rational development.
The Labor Party is aware of the fact that development means decentralisation. In north Queensland, new towns have been developed at Moranbah, Blackwater, Moura and now Dysart. The same situation applies in Western Australia and in the Northern Territory. This is decentralisation based on the development of natural resources but we should remember that minerals are an exhaustible asset. Once a mineral is taken from the ground and exported it is gone for ever, unlike water and land. It should be our policy to gain as much control as possible of our mineral resources. There is no question that the Labor Party will take a much harder line with foreign companies than has been the case with the Government. It is well known that the Japanese have a mighty and increasing grip on Australia’s economy because of our dependence on Japan for export outlets. However, one consolation in this problem is this: I firmly believe that Japan needs Australia’s raw materials more than Australia needs Japan. We have diversified outlets for our exports, if necessary. Japan needs raw materials and has to buy from us.
There are 5 basic principles which I believe should be followed as regards the development of resources by foreign companies. I call them common sense principles. The first principle is that first priority should be given to bona fide Australian companies and Australians in the development of all our resources. However, we know that a great risk is involved in the exploration and development of natural resources, particularly minerals, fuel and energy. In the event of foreign companies wishing to develop a lease on which they have found oil, natural gas or minerals, and in the event of their owning and controlling this lease, they should offer to bona fide Australian institutions, companies and people a share in the partnership, either through the share market or through direct participation. That is the second principle.
The third principle is that in the event ot the Australian people, institutions or companies not having sufficient capital to develop that resource in partnership with the foreign company, the Australian Government should consider entering into partnership with that foreign company in the development of that resource. The fourth principle is that if the Australian Government believes that the risk is too great and it is not prepared to risk Australian money, the green light should be given to that foreign company to go ahead and develop that resource at its risk. But that should be done only after those other principles have been applied. The fifth principle is that in no circumstances should a government - and no Labor government would - allow the development of a basic natural Australian resource if it meant that this would not be in the best interests of Australia. I refer to such things as the development of many of our beach sand areas where erosion is rife, and the development of the marginal areas of our pastoral lands. These could cause problems.
I note the Minister’s declaration regarding the price of exports. This must bear a closer relationship to the world parity price. We should abandon this outmoded, uneconomic and wrong formula of cost of production plus profit. As Australian assets are involved we expect the Commonwealth Government to obtain for Australia the best possible price on world markets. I believe that in the future we will see a greater role played in the Australian economy by our northern resources. Eighty per cent of Australia’s bauxite and 60 per cent of its alumina are produced in the north. Already the huge deposits of black coal in north Queensland are responsible for 47 per cent of total production in Australia. Seventytwo per cent of Australia’s production of concentrated copper and 93 per cent of refined copper comes from the northern parts. The vast deposits of iron ore in the northern part of Western Australia are responsible for 70 per cent of Australia’s total production. Almost all of Australia’s bullion lead, salt and manganese are produced in the north. In addition, as will be stated later by other speakers, a great proportion of the vast deposits of natural gas that we have in Australia is located in the northern half of Australia.
While southern Australia is quickly running out of water, in the north we have tremendous reserves of surface and underground water. A great proportion of our water, minerals and energy is in northern Australia. I believe in the future we will see a much greater contribution to the economy being made by northern resources than we have seen in the past. It is to be hoped that the Government of the day will give recognition to the resources of the north and not pay lip service to them, as has often been the case up to the present time. Despite the tremendous contribution which the resources of northern Australia are making to the economy of Australia, too frequently the great profits from these resources are milked away into southern areas or to overseas countries.
I believe it should be mandatory that a proportion of the profits, or a proportion of the value of production taken out of the area once and for all - the exhaustible assets - should stay in the area for basic development. Let me give one example. At Weipa is one of the world’s richest deposits of bauxite. Yet Cape York Peninsula is one of the poorest areas in Australia in terms of basic development in roads, ports, power and so on. I believe that a proportion of the value of products removed should stay in the area to help the local authorities, just as a proportion should remain in other areas fortunate enough to have very valuable resources in their own backyards. Unfortunately, what is happening today is that most of the profits are going out of the area into other parts of Australia and, m many cases, to other parts of the world.
In conclusion let me say this: I firmly believe that a body along the lines of the Vernon Committee should bc formed in Australia as a special projects committee to analyse progressively various alternatives for the development of natural resources - land, water, minerals, energy, forests, fisheries or whatever they might be - and to report consistently and factually to the ministry of the day, free of politics and free of inerdepartmental committees. It should be able to put forward the facts as they appear to a completely independent committee on the development of natural resources in Australia. In this way we will achieve planning and an orderly development of natural resources.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– There is one thing certain tonight and that is that I am not going to make a political speech. We have heard a modest political speech just now. When I get over this point I want to say a few things about the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) and about minerals and other resources. There is no guarantee or indication that the Opposition would do better than the present Government has done in developing or conserving our resources. In this Parliament I have always dealt with policies, not personalities, and on this, the last night I will be in this Parliament, I am not going to change my policy. I want to say - this is as far as I will go with politics - that in the past the Australian Labor Party has never been in office long enough to do anything, except during the war period. It has been in office for less than 17 years in the 72 years since Federation. Tt did not stay long on any occasion it was elected. One can take off the 3 or 4 years the Labor Party was in office in each war and one sees that Labor has never remained long in office. It has been like a man in the sea and just about drowned, who had to be pulled on to the beach and resuscitated. A Liberal-Country Party government, or one of a similar political complexion, always had to come in and resuscitate the economy.
Let me get away from politics altogether. I compliment the Minister for quite a lot of things he has done. Ever since he came into Parliament he has been a tremendously likeable fellow, not only in this Parliament but also when he went into the electorate to meet the people. On several occasions he has come into the electorate I represent. The people liked him immediately. They liked him very much. I have found that the longer one knows him the better one likes him. That is the sort of person we need to have here. The issue before the Chair concerns such things as what happened in relation to the Dartmouth Dam. I have asked in this House on several occasions how the building of the proposed Dartmouth Dam was proceeding. The Minister has always given me details of what was happening. I appreciated his handling of the Dartmouth Dam and the Chowilla Dam projects, when honourable members on one side of the House wanted to have something done and honourable members on the other side wanted something else. I will not go into detail on that. The people who were in the House at the time know what happened. The Minister played a mighty part in this House and he played it most impartially, because he supported the experts. There were men in this House who said that the Chowilla Dam should be built, but the men who really knew - the experts on the job - said that Dartmouth Dam would give better, clearer and more water more cheaply. Somebody said that at the very outset I supported the Chowilla Dam. That was true too, because the experts thought that was the best. But on a more detailed investigation it was found that Dartmouth was better and I supported that. I did not change my mind. I was not being inconsistent. To be consistent is not in keeping to one opinion but in being willing to change your mind if you see reason to do so. Surely the reason was good enough because the experts were saying that the Dartmouth Dam would give Adelaide sufficient water. But some people did not want water for Adelaide; they wanted to get a Premier in and they got him in.
I wish to refer to water conservation which is a matter very dear to the heart of the Minister. I have always said in this House that we must have priorities. Most honourable members agree with that but some of their priorities are not the same as mine. 1 have said that the first priority in this nation is defence. It is of no use having Dartmouth or Chowilla Dam or a democratic government or all those amenities which people long to have if we cannot protect them. If an invader came to this country we could fall at his feet and become slaves to a foreign power. Not many people have seen a nation take over another nation but 1 have and so has the Minister. My No. 1 priority is defence.
My No. 2 priority is primary industry, asociated in many cases with water conservation. People say: ‘What about education and other amenities?’ Education is made possible by money that a nation can make from its exports and other avenues. The greatest export factor in this country has been our primary industry. If we have the money we can make possible the provision of education and all those things which build nations. Therefore we should have water conservation combined with primary industry as a top priority. Although minerals did seem to move ahead for a while primary industry is back on its pedestal. Primary industry has been the greatest factor in the building of this nation. I believe it is still the greatest factor in maintaining the stability of our economy in these days.
I have continually advocated the piping of water. Only recently the Minister visited
Mildura, the nearby Millawa district and west of Red Cliffs where I would say the first reasonably big project for the conservation of water by piping is under way. It has been said by Mr East, who was head of the State Rivers and Water Commission in Victoria, that in certain parts of the Mallee electorate which I represent 95 per cent of the water was lost after it left the storage and before it reached the consumer through seepage and evaporation. Mr Fast is a man whose word you can take on this subject because he is an expert and :s not prone to giving the wrong information. I am putting this to the House at this late stage of my time in this Parliament. 1 believe that we must have water conservation by piping it. 1 have not heard many people advocating this system. I have had a pretty lonely job in this respect.
Water is an essential item in this country, as everybody knows. It is advantageous to build a dam like the Dartmouth Dam because certain water would drain into it from certain sources and we can make use of it. But if you cannot fill these dams with water what will happen? What we should do is to have a system whereby we can make the best use of the water that we can conserve. You cannot conserve water in a dry year. In a wet year you do not need to conserve it as much as you do in a dry year. Everybody knows that. 1 represent 70 per cent of the dried fruits industry, and the citrus industry. All these industries require water to bring about prolific growth. We do not only need to have prolific growth. The man on the land must have security and he will never get it in this country unless we have water piped. This would enable water to be taken to irrigated pastures and not just for domestic vise. A pipeline could take the water to the pastures. I believe that this Government, the next government or any other government must push for the piping of water if we are to get the best out of this naturally endowed country.
I say to the Minister in closing: ‘congratulations on the work you have done for this nation in this Parliament’.
– He is your brother-in-law. Why would you not congratulate him? No wonder you are telling us what a good bloke he is.
– 1 will not answer the interjection because if I do it will appear in Hansard.
– Are you suggesting that Hansard should not note it?
– If an honourable member does not answer an interjection it does not appear in Hansard.
– But you are answering it now.
– What has been said may be taken by some people as being the truth but I treat it with the contempt that it deserves. I say to the Minister: May you have a very happy reirement although I cannot see you retiring. I think you will be doing something, because you are too active and you are a comparatively young man. I wish you every good fortune in the future. I extend to you goodwill as you have extended it to me and to other members of this Parliament.’ I was about to wish the Minister good luck. I believe it is not a matter of luck but a matter of work. As Rudyard Kipling said: ‘If any nation builds up to a great height of excellence, it is not because of the individual or the Army as a whole; it is because of the everlasting teamwork of every bloomin’ soul.’ The Minister is a leader. I wish him good fortune and good health.
– I join with the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in paying a tribute to the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz). I have always respected him as a man and particularly as a Minister. 1 wish him all the best for the future. Now that the Minister has had the sugar we will rub in the salt. On behalf of the Opposition I move the following amendment to the motion:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House condemns the Government for its failure to prepare and publish plans to
ensure world prices for exports of natural resources,
promote processing industries located and controlled in Australia, and
protect the environment from damage as a result of resource developments’.
Further to what the honourable member for Dawson said in relation to Australia being an attractive market for resources, I think it ought to be understood that by 1985 Japan intends to appropriate some $27i billion, half of which will go to importing the raw materials required to meet its urgent needs. I join with the honourable member for Dawson in saying that this national Government has a responsibility to ensure that our non-renewable resources are maintained at a level to ensure that we have maximum Australian equity, participation and control. If one looks at the Minister’s statement it will be seen that the very first objective of Government policy is as follows:
Firstly, we should aim to bring into use the natural resources of our country as fully as our powers, energies and abilities permit for the benefit of ali Australians generally;
I for one categorically state that the policies of this Government and the policies of State governments of similar political ilk, more particularly the Country-Liberal Party coalition in Queensland, are directed towards the exploitation of mineral resources are not in the national interest. In fact, in most instances the position is the very reverse. The Minister knows my interest in the North West shelf. I have placed on the notice paper some 16 detailed questions which date as far back as 23rd May - 5 months ago. I am still waiting for replies. The questions are penetrating and ask just what is the level of Australia’s equity as against overseas equity in this, one of the largest and I believe the richest hydrocarbon basins in the world. It is far larger than the resources of the United Kingdom in the North Sea or the entire concessions on the Gulf of Mexico.
Let me put to the Minister my analysis of the situation. The overseas share in discoveries of natural gas on the North West shelf is approximately 85.7 per cent. Half of the lease is owned in equal parts by the international oil companies - BP, Shell and California Asiatic (Caltex). The other half of the lease is owned by Woodside-Burmah NL. Burmah (UK) owns approximately 54.5 per cent of Woodside-Burmah. It is reported that possibly a further 20 per cent is held by overseas interests, indicating a total overseas share in WoodsideBurmah of approximately 75 per cent. So this leaves Australia’s equity at approximately 12.3 per cent. Let us remember that a conservative estimate of the reserve is approxi mately 45 trillion cubic feet and it has a value of $16.5 billion, which would be equal to another 50 per cent being added to our entire national budget. Why has the Minister failed to answer my questions which I asked some 5 months ago? Is it that he cannot get the information? Is it that the Woodside-Burmah group refuses to furnish him with it? Is it that he has no power to get the information? Is it that he simply refuses to take action which would be in Australia’s interests but which would be in direct opposition to Burmah Oil of London which controls this vast hydrocarbon basin? These questions ought to be answered in the national interest. In addition to those questions, I ask the Minister the following series of questions about this matter.
– You will not get an answer to those either.
– Obviously not. Why did Mr Rees B. Withers retire as managing director of Woodside Burmah last Thursday? I believe his salary as managing director was $25,000 per annum. Was it because there exists a bitter division between board members as to the important question of the disclosure to the public of the estimates of the North West shelf natural gas reserves? Is it a fact that the Burmah (UK) group which holds the numbers flatly refused to disclose the depth of the reserves? Is it a fact that Mr Withers and a small group claim that they ought to be disclosed in the national interest? Is it a fact that informal sources claim that the reserves are at least 60 trillion cubic feet of deliverable gas and more than 100 trillion cubic feet gross apart from condensate? Is it a fact that Burmah (UK) placed an advertisement earlier this year in a London newspaper indicating that reserves were at 45 trillion cubic feet?
Is it a fact that Woodside Burmah shares have declined recently and are passing rapidly from Australian ownership at depressed prices? Is it a fact that heavy overseas scrip has taken place during this period because of the information that has been denied to Australian investors? Is it a fact that the Bureau of Mineral Resources has carried out investigations and in fact knows the depth of the reserves in the area? If so, why has the Minister failed to make a statement in this House? Does the
Minister agree that a disclosure would inject the inducement necessary to attract Australian investors? What is the extent of Woodside-Burmah share drainage away from Australian ownership by way of nominee buying? Will the Minister take immediate steps to protect the national interest by conducting an immediate investigation? Has the Government the power to enforce the provisions contained in the Bill introduced into this House yesterday on foreign takeovers, if in fact they do apply, to cite the quantum of overseas plunder by way of nominee buying? Further I ask the Minister whether the Act will have retrospective power to enable the recovery of Australian control of this major natural gas deposit?
Did he note the statement of Mr A. Lumsden, Chairman of Burmah (U.K.) last Thursday to the effect: ‘Burmah was not worried about rising Australian nationalism - an emotion to which it was no stranger in other parts of the world. All signs are that the Government will be realistic’? What precisely did Mr Lumsden mean when he spoke about this Government being realistic? Let the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) speak for the Government on this question. In answer to a question relating to the failure of this Government to act in the national interest in dealing with an overseas steel pipe contract, he said categorically that the Government’s approach when dealing with overseas corporations was in fact a soft one. Surely in terms of our vast nonrenewable fuel and energy resources this is not very satisfactory. There is a world fuel and energy crisis developing, particularly in the developed countries of the world. The honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) talked about defence. The United States has something like 20 years supply of indigenous fuel and natural gas. If a country does not have fuel, it has no defence.
If we turn to the question of nonrenewable fuel and energy resources, in my view a national government must act within the parameters of nationalism. It has the responsibility in fact to pursue a hard line to ensure maximum Australian equity, participation and control. These resources certainly are the most valuable and strategic in terms of national interest. This Government stands condemned for its failure to exercise its powers, its energies and its abilities. Because of its soft line it has permitted the exploitation, the control and the profit in relation to these resources to be determined in a board room in London.
It has been estimated by a company which has compared the hydrocarbon deposits on the North West shelf with those in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Middle East that there are almost 9,000 million barrels of crude oil on the shelf. This gives a revenue factor of something like $2.6 billion. But if we take the figure of 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, we find that these vast deposits are more than enough to support a major liquefied natural gas or methanol export project and the Pilbara steel mineral development and leave enough for general use elsewhere in Australia. These assets, which are the envy of the developed countries of the world, could not be more effectively or efficiently plundered if this country were a vassal of a conquering foreign army. The reason for it is that this Government, after 23 years, takes a soft approach to multi-national corporations. These vast gas reserves are capable of providing, and should provide, an essential underwriting of this country’s future, whether it be in terms of energy or in terms of decentralisation. This Government lacks completely a nationalfuel and energy policy and a comprehensive and balanced plan for the efficient exploitation of our vast mineral resources. I suggest to the Minister and to the Government that it is high time that the Government threw into the wastepaper basket 2 of the pillars of Liberal philosophy: One is its colonial mentality, and the other is its soft approach to multi-national corporations. The Government should purchase a ‘do it yourself’ kit.
– Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi). The amendment reads:
That all words after’ That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House condemns the Government for its failure to prepare and publish plans to
ensure world prices for exports of natural resources,
promote processing industries located and controlled in Australia, and
protect the environment from damage as a result of resource development’.
First of all, I think the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) deserves congratulations for the very comprehensive and informative statement and background paper that he presented to the Parliament. I know that the Minister is on the verge of retirement. In presenting this statement and background paper he performed a service to Australia and to the Parliament. I wish him well in his retirement. He has been one of the few Ministers on the other side of the House whom I have never quite understood but when I think about it I can appreciate why. He spent a number of years as a prisoner of war; he has been a member of the Liberal Party for a long time, a member of this Parliament for a long time, a Minister for a long time. If all of those things do not make one tough I do not know what does. I only wish that occasionally he would have shown some signs of emotion, particularly when I thought I asked him a very clever question. Mr Deputy Speaker, through you I convey the sentiments of the Labor Opposition, and certainly my own in wishing the Minister for National Development a long, healthy, happy retirement.
I am afraid that from here in I have to become political. All members of the Opposition aTe greatly dissatisfied with the failure of this Government to spell out precisely and clearly a national fuel and energy policy. This Government has been in office for 23 years. In his statement the Minister showed that he is aware of the predictions that have been made by people in many other countries, namely, that the world is likely to face an energy crisis before the year 2000. The Minister stressed the fact that the total world demand for energy doubled over the last 15 years and that Australia’s demand for energy had doubled over the last 12 years. 1 am brash enough to suggest that in the next decade or two, particularly under a Labor government, the development and expansion of Australia will continue at a much more rapid rate than has been occurring in the last 23 years. Therefore, it is essential that the use of our energy resources - coal, oil, natural gas, uranium - be planned. They should be planned to be used economically and efficiently.
One has only to look at the example of the United States of America. That country had a vast amount of primary energy resources and it used them as swiftly and as easily as it could. It used its cheapest, most accessible and most convenient energy supplies. Because the United States has a penchant for unrestricted commercial competition it allowed a haphazard, wasteful and uneconomic use of its fuels. The United States of America is now at a stage where the eastern part, in particular, faces yearly electric power shortages which have led to brown-outs in New York and other areas. It now has a shortage of natural gas and oil supplies. Its electric power and fuel costs are rising throughout the country. Experts estimate that within a few years America could be in trouble with its fuel resources.
An estimate by the Energy Economic Division of the Chase Manhattan Bank indicated that by 1985 the United States will have a deficit in natural gas of 47 billion cubic feet per day. In oil it will have a daily deficit of 15.2 million barrels. Three-quarters of the energy in the United States is provided by petroleum products, so by 1985 it will have to be supplied by foreign sources. This places the United States of America in a position of constant weakness. It will always be vulnerable to having a major part of its oil supply cut off. In addition, it also faces a monumental balance of payments problem. On the estimated figures which I have just cited, the requirements of foreign natural gas and oil imports to the United States of America will cost $30 billion per year.
Because Australia appears to have ample supplies of primary energy resources for the foreseeable future we cannot be complacent. We need now to take example from the United States and preserve our resources, and use them in the interests of Australia and of countries near to us which may need primary energy resources. Our indigenous oil resources at present satisfy only 67 per cent of our local requirements, which means that we are already importing 33 per cent of our oil requirements. In Australia petroleum products other than natural gas provide one half of our total energy requirements. If we do not find any new oilfields in Australia within 10 years, instead of providing 67 per cent of our requirements from our own oilfields we will be providing only 30 per cent. That means that as half of our energy requirements are provided by petroleum products excluding natural gas, 10 years from now we will be importing, unless new fields are found, 66 per cent of our requirements.
A changing pattern of energy requirements has developed in Australia. It is not unusual, because in line with other developed countries coal’s share of the total energy market has been declining steadily in recent years due to the increasing use of petroleum products. In 1959-60 coal supplied 54 per cent of Australia’s primary energy. Petroleum products provided 37.7 per cent, wood and bagasse 7.1 per cent, and water power 1.2 per cent. In 1969-70 the corresponding figures were coal 43.3 per cent, petroleum products 48.9 per cent, wood and bagasse 3.7 per cent, natural gas - appearing for the first time - 1.8 per cent and water power 2 per cent. It has been estimated that by 1975-76 coal’s share will fall to 40 per cent and petroleum’s share will rise to 50 per cent. Natural gas - and these are figures cited by the Minister for National Development in his statement - will increase to 10 per cent of the market by 1979-80. Australia is in the fortunate position of having a fairly good idea at the moment of our primary energy resources, but I have not seen in one statement that has been made by this Government what the potential use of our primary energy resources will be by say, 2000. I cannot even be certain of Australia’s population in that year. Unless we plan the use of our resources, unless we have a national fuel and energy policy, we can use our resources uneconomicallly and wastefully or we can export them without due consideration of our own requirements.
I gave the example of the United States of America. We do not want to follow that example. We have our warning and we have the resources. I note that the Minister tor the Navy (Dr Mackay) is at the table. I heard the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) refer earlier to defence. Primary energy resources are necessary to develop our country, to provide our manufactured goods and to supply our defence forces. If in 30 or 40 years time we have used our energy resources to the same extent as the United States has done we will be in a similar position. We are in a fortunate position in Australia in that we are an island continent with neighbouring countries that are looking to us for assistance and support. So we must look at the need for a national fuel and energy policy to be laid out precisely and clearly. After 23 years of this Government it still has not been laid out. 1 commenced my speech by congratulating the Minister for National Development on his statement. A few weeks ago 1 made a speech about the need for information to be given to our generating authorities, industries and State parliaments.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Dorothea Mackellar, an Australian poet of outstanding merit whose love for Australia was tellingly expressed in her stirring verse, wrote of this country as a wilful lavish land. Our natural resources are immense and we are blessed with reserves of coal, iron and bauxite in great and wonderful supply. The words of Dorothea Mackellar are undoubtedly true; this is a wilful, lavish land. Whilst we have uranium, nickel, metals and minerals of almost every description we have been content to permit the careless plunder of our resources disregarding the responsibilities of nation building and the establishment of a country that will live through the centuries and emerge in the Pacific and Indian oceans region as one of the great nations of all time. Our untapped wealth of petroleum products is only now being revealed. With all of these resources we have been content, unfortunately and regretfully, to behave as economic colonials, content with the exportation of our great wealth, disregarding almost entirely the need for using our resources in the development of this nation and its population. We should build a way of life in this country which will be second to none in the world, a type of life which will give leadership to people throughout the world so that we might be able, because of our economic strength and our technical knowhow, to assist other nations in the forward march to a better life and better living conditions.
Instead of purposefully developing our resources in building this nation we have been content to go along in the ways of the early settlers of this country when Australia, and New South Wales in the first instance, was merely a colonial possession. When we think of the immensity of our resources and the opportunities that are given to us for the development of Australia I deplore the fact that we have no plans for the purpose of developing our country and for the harnessing of our resources. I heard the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) speak this evening of the development of northern Australia. In recent times northern Australia has been virtually forgotten when this Parliament has been discussing development. We hear about it when it comes to the plunder of our resources - the quarrying of our iron ore, the open cut process of obtaining our rich coals for export to the markets of the world, the export of bauxite from the Gulf country and so on. But as for thoughtfulness about the development of this country through the processing of our own raw materials, little has been said and precious little has been done. 1 applaud what the honourable member for Dawson had to say. I would like to think that an overall pattern of development for this nation would emerge so that we would take into consideration all of the factors necessary for the development of our country. It is the popular thing these days to criticise the Ord River scheme as if a vast sum of money is being wasted and lost to the country. I disagree entirely with this criticism. The conservation of water in this country is of tremendous importance and is necessary for the development of Australia. But side by side with the conservation of water there should be other planned development. I am particularly pleased to know that the Government of Western Australia is certainly looking further afield than the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia is and has a plan for the Pilbara region of Western Australia. This is a plan that the Commonwealth should readily support for the future development of our nation. The Pilbara is an area which is very rich in resources, but if it is to be developed substantial sums will be required.
Instead of vast sums of money being poured into our great capital cities for the building of skyscrapers and so on, we want to see more activity in the country and, in my opinion, in north Australia. If we are to develop the north it is imperative in a sense that the Minister for National Development in the Commonwealth sphere should work in close understanding with the Minister for Shipping and Transport for the completion of the north-south standard gauge railway line. This line should be completed without delay. I would also like to suggest that a further transcontinental railway should be built from east to west, from the Pacific in Queensland - from somewhere around Mackay, Townsville or thereabouts - along a line to be surveyed across Australia to Onslow, Port Hedland or somewhere in Western Australia. Such a transport system would give the north of Australia the opportunity to progress and develop.
Whilst these are perhaps visionary thoughts today, we must remember that those who advocated the transcontinental railway line in the first place were opposed, criticised and condemned. This railway line was started by a Labor government. It was an outstanding achievement of Labor in government just as the Snowy Mountains scheme was an outstanding contribution to nation building. The Bell Bay project in Tasmania also was a hallmark in national development. I put it to the House this evening that we have to look at the north as we have looked at the south, not for the purpose of evacuation and retreat but for the purpose of development so that we in this country will be able to fulfil our destiny in a thorough way. Not only are overseas companies plundering our resources, but it is easy to understand that they have been encouraged by their control of our resources. Overseas companies controlled 53 per cent of our metal production in 1964 and 69 per cent in 1968; in fuel they controlled 18 per cent in 1964 and 40 per cent in 1968; in other forms of energy and resources they controlled 20 per cent in 1964 and 29 per cent in 1968. The degree of foreign control in the Australian mining industry rose from 39 per cent in 1964 to 58 per cent in 1968. This clearly indicates how overseas companies are becoming involved in the ownership and the actual control of this country. These figures show how much easier it is becoming for them to plunder and win great wealth from this country. It should be a condition that those who are given the right to mine and quarry must also process here and manufacture here. This should be a basic consideration.
I join this evening in the words of appreciation uttered by other honourable members for the contribution made by the Minister for National Development. The Minister has applied himself diligently. He has produced some great documents to indicate the work of his Department. For my own part I should like to say, ‘Thank you’ to him for the numerous reports that I have received, reports from the Bureau of Mineral Resources, from the Division of National Mapping and other areas of government. All of these have been of great value indeed. I wish the Minister well in his retirement. He has been a Minister of, I believe in the main, sound judgment. Whilst his thoughts, or the thoughts of his Government, differ fundamentally from those on this side of the House, I believe the Minister has applied himself in a very useful way in the affairs of this nation. I personalty thank him for at least the courtesies that he has extended to honourable members and to myself.
Looking through the Minister’s report on natural resources and development objectives I would like to say that if these objectives were to be translated into legislative effect and were to become actualities and facts of life, how we could applaud and sing the praises of the Minister. The first objective is as follows:
We should aim to bring into use natural resources of our country as fully as our powers, energies and abilities permit for the benefit of Australians generally.
We are not doing that. Today our emphasis is on the big cities and the coastal strip of New South Wales and Victoria. It is not in the development of our resources in the broad sense. The second objective is stated as:
We are bound to think not only of Australians of the present generation but also the future generation.
If we were thinking of Australia and the future generation we would have greater concern for the conservation of our resources. We would be thinking of this country for hundreds and for thousands of years in advance. We would be thinking of an Australia going far into the distance. We are not doing that today. Those who come here and plunder our resources very quickly are granted a franchise to export what they can take. The third objective reads:
We should aim to ensure that Australians participate effectively both in the equity capital of natural resource projects and in their management.
I have already quoted figures showing how overseas control is increasing in this country. The fourth objective is stated as:
We should pursue energetically our endeavours to discover what our natural resources are, and to research into how they can and should best be used.
Of course we should do that. But compared with many of the smaller countries, Holland for argument’s sake, we are certainly dragging our feet and are not nearly as effective as we should be. These are the glorious views which are put forward by the Minister. Perhaps these are his dearest thoughts, but they are not the thoughts and they are not the intentions of the Government of this country. That is to be deplored. I think that the ideas themselves are quite worth while.
I support the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) and the other honourable members who have spoken . of the need of a national energy policy in respect of our enormous supplies of coal, bauxite, water resources and fuel of various kinds and natural gas and oil that can be harnessed by schemes such as the Snowy Mountains scheme. There should be a plan to harness all of these resources in the production of power for the development of this country. A plan of this kind has not emerged from this Government. In 23 years of anti-Labor government nothing of the kind has been produced. The Joint Coal Board emerged in the days of Labor government and played a significant part in building up coal production in Australia. Another scheme for national energy usage could emerge, joining all the forces of energy in an overall Australian plan for the development of this nation. If we were to evolve such a plan, the coal that we might sell on the world market could be sold at a better price. There would be less plunder of our resources in this country merely to satisfy the exporter or the importer whether he be in Japan or some other part of the world.
These are factors that should be given careful and sound consideration. I can only hope that a plan for Australia will emerge one day, not from this Government but from a Labor government in the future, which will show to the world what this nation can do as we have done in the past with the Snowy Mountains Authority and the trans-continental railway. We will build this nation in such a fashion that we will be the envy of the world. But in building this nation we will make a contribution which will help the less fortunate people in this world and bring health, happiness and satisfaction to the people of our country. This is a great country. It needs great people to lead it. It needs good and patriotic people to lead it. It needs good Australians. I believe that the time will soon emerge when we will have the type of leadership given by Ben Chifley, John Curtin, Andy Fisher and others, and this will not only set an example for all Australians so that Australians will rally and support them but will also be an inspiration to others.
Order! The honourable members time has expired.
– As this will be the last debate in which I will be participating in this House I would like to establish a record by speaking for only a few brief minutes. On an occasion such as this, of course, obviously I could not be unkind to anyone, least of all the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) who has just finished his remarks. I do very much appreciate the comments that have been made by the speakers in this debate tonight. The honourable members for Dawson (Dr Patterson), Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull), Hawker (Mr Jacobi). Lang (Mr Stewart) and Macquarie all made personal references of a kindly type which I know in this House makes quite a distinct change.
In view of the circumstances, I should like not only to thank those honourable members but also to indicate that the statement we have been debating is rather a unique one. To the best of my knowledge it is the first of its type produced by any developed country in the world. I know this from my knowledge of discussions with officials in Canada and the United States of America where they are prepar ing a similar document. I think that Australia was the first in that field. Therefore, I think it is a very important basic document and one on which we can build for the future. No doubt, many of the points that were mentioned tonight will be taken into consideration when any amendments are being considered to this document in future years.
Finally, I should like to pay a tribute to the people who actually prepared this document - the officers of my Department. Over the last 2 years or so they have spent many a long hour on the preparation of material and, prior to the introduction of the statement into this House, they spent many all night sittings getting the final preparation completed. I am sure that our thanks as members of this House go to those dedicated public servants who did a tremendous service to us all. I pay a tribute to them on this occasion. I conclude by again thanking all those who took part in this debate for their comments and I indicate that the thoughts that are expressed in this document are those that have been emphasised to some degree by speakers on the Opposition side but are a blueprint for action by the Government in the future.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Wool Industry Bill 1972.
Wool (Deficiency Payments) Bill 1972.
States Grants (Fruit Growing Reconstruction) Bill 1972.
Apple and Pear Stabilization Bill 1972.
Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Bill 1972.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) agreed to:
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
MrCHIPP (Hotham - Minister for Customs and Excise) (9.17) - I move:
That theHouse do now adjourn.
Mr Speaker, as the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and other speakers will be wishing to speak on important matters at this time, mayI ask your indulgence to ring the bells for a period of about one minute?
– Yes, I would agree to that quite readily. (The bells having been rung) -
– The formal motion of adjournment which closes yet another session and another parliamentary year has an added depth of meaning on this occasion. It signifies also the dissolution of the twenty-seventh Parliament and the fact that, shortly, most of us will be entering the hustings where our fate will be decided by the master we all serve, the Australian nation and people. However, there are some who will be with us here today for the last time. They will be going from the Parliament into a retirement of their own choosing,I refer in particular to 2 ministerial colleagues and friends, the Minister for National Development, Sir Reginald Swartz, and the Postmaster-General, Sir Alan Hulme. Both have been members of this House since 1949, Sir Alan having broken his continuity for 3 years between 1961 and 1963. Each has a long and distinguished ministerial career - Sir Reginald since 1961 and Sir Alan having received his first portfolio in 1958.
We are also farewelling 3 former Ministers -the right honourable member for Fisher, Sir Charles Adermann, and the honourable members for McPherson, the Hon. C. E. Barnes, and the honourable member for Berowra, the Hon. T. E. F. Hughes, as well as the Country Party Whip since 1956, Sir Winton Turnbull. On the opposite side of the House, former Leader of the Opposition, the Right Honourable Arthur Calwell will be taking his departure. His record of service since 1940 confers on him the distinction of being ‘father’ of the House. He can also claim to be the only Privy Councillor and former Minister among the Labor Party ranks. As a liberal democrat, I can assure him that we will all miss him. I can assure him that as the first Minister for Immigration and the one who laid the foundations ofour immigration programme we have to thank him for initiating the programme and for ensuring that it has been successful up to the present time. We are also saying farewell to the honourable members for Eden Monaro, Mr Allan Fraser; Shortland, Mr Griffiths; and Gellibrand, Mr McIvor. Mr Fraser shares with Sir Charles Adermann a long parliamentary career extending back to 1943. We wish them all a long and happy life in their retirement.
As is customary at this time, I would like to convey an appreciation to all those who help to make this institution of Parliament work. To you, Mr Speaker, we owe a debt of gratitude for the manner in which you have handled your arduous duties with dignity and courtesy. Your impartiality and tolerance has been tempered with the right degree of reproof necessary to sustain the atmosphere of decorum as befits the national Parliament. In achieving this you have been ably assisted by the Chairman of Committees. This is the first year of duty for the Clerk of the House and I would like to commend him for maintaining the high standards of that office. Every member of the Parliament owes a debt of gratitude both to him and to the other 2 sentinels of the table for the valuable assistance which they render. Our thanks also go to the Leader of the House, Mr Chipp. In all the years I have been here I have not known the business of the House conducted with such despatch and efficiency. We also offer our thanks to his predecessor, Sir Reginald Swartz, whom I mentioned earlier. Special mention should also be made of the Whips, both Government and Opposition, whose strenuous endeavours bear fruit in the good attendance record of members.
Although I and the other members of the coalition will shortly be joined in combat with the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition and their supporters, I am sure there is mutual goodwill on both sides in a personal sense. We are mindful of our duties and responsibilities as the elected representatives of the Australian people and strive faithfully to interpret their wishes. We may engage in heated debate at times and we have our moments of strife but above all there is respect for the institution as the safeguard of the freedom of the people and of our democratic way of life. This has been a strenuous year as is testified by the number of Bills which have been passed - 64 in the Autumn sittings and some 80-odd in the current Budget sittings.
Today it is fitting that we in this Parliament should pay a special tribute to the man on whom we have relied to produce these Bills in the technical sense, the First Parliamentary Counsel, Mr J. Q. Ewens. Mr Ewens will be retiring shortly after a long and honoured career of service to the Parliament. He became the Commonwealth Parliamentary Draftsman in 1949 and took the title of First Parliamentary Counsel when the separate office of Parliamentary Counsel was established in 1970. During this lengthy period in charge of the preparation of legislation, Mr Ewens has always set the highest standard of personal and professional integrity and his wisdom and experience will be greatly missed. In wishing him a long and happy retirement we also extend a welcome to Mr C. K. Comans, who will be his successor.
Our thanks are also due to the many other members of the parliamentary staff who work behind the scenes with efficiency and dedication. I would particularly like to mention the reference section of the Parliamentary Library which provides an invaluable research service and keeps us well informed with a constant flow of uptodate factual information. The Hansard staff in their usual smooth and highly competent fashion ensure that our words are immortalised, sometimes making us, particularly me, read rather better than we might have sounded at the time. The members of the fourth estate, the Press, have perhaps redressed the balance by presenting us sometimes in rather more controversial context but nevertheless always performing a most necessary and valuable democratic function.
I would like to add a special word of thanks to those loyal and dedicated members of the ministerial staffs who do so much to help lighten the burden of Government Ministers and Opposition leaders alike. 1 know, too, you would all like me to acknowledge the courtesy and attention we receive from the attendants, the people in the refreshment rooms, the telephonists and all the rest of the general staff who help keep the Parliament functioning in cheerful and competent fashion. Finally, I- would like to thank all members on both sides of ;he House for their co-operation. I am sure each one of us is proud of having been able to give some service to the nation and to the people he represents. Although Christmas greetings are inappropriate, I would like to wish all honourable members well in the season ahead even ‘ though I cannot extend that to include ‘many happy returns’.
- Mr Speaker, I support the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in the subject and the nature of his remarks. Firstly, I refer to your own. consistently onerous role. I suppose, Sir, that, you would be the first to admit that Standing Orders make it easier for you to discipline those who ask questions on your left than these who ask them on your right, and you are confined to the invidious role for a parliamentarian of being unable to initiate comments yourself. You can speak only when you are sufficiently provoked. I also join in the Prime Minister’s references to those of our colleagues on both sides who have announced that they will not be nominating for election to the next Parliament. There are 10 of them. Between them, they have served more than 220 years in the natioual Parliament. Eight of them have never been defeated. Two of them are. Privy Councillors. There are among them 3 Knights Commander, 1 Commander and 1 Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. There is 1 Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great who, it is appropriate in the circumstances to remark, was the first to extol the angelic qualities of English migrants.
The Prime Minister has paid very proper tribute to his colleagues, the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) and the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) who are 2 of the only 4 Ministers who hold the same portfolio at the end of the present Parliament as they held at the end of the previous Parliament. We do not sufficiently realise the burdensome nature of ministerial office in this Parliament. Since the corresponding occasion 3 years ago there have been 2 changes in the positions of Treasurer, Attorney-General and Ministers of Health, Labour and National Service, Immigration, Navy and Army and 3 changes in the portfolios of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Education and Science. We must all acknowledge that all the distinguished gentlemen who held this array of portfolios did their very best to remain in those portfolios.
Among the 10 members who have announced that they will not be nominating for election to the next House one is retiring from public life at a much earlier age than honourable members ordinarily choose. No party can lightly suffer a loss such as the departure of the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes). I am sure that his service in this Parliament has in no way diminished his forensic future or disqualified him from judicial office.
I join with the Prime Minister in his tribute to the retiring First Parliamentary Counsel and to the newly appointed First Parliamentary Counsel. I might, in normal circumstances, think it inappropriate that in the last hours of a Parliament there should be appointments to any major office of this character. This, however, is a parliamentary office. It is proper that it should not remain vacant, because I should imagine that well before Christmas it will happen that no incumbent of that office will ever have been kept so fully employed. Might I say, partly in a personal capacity but also more particularly in an inherited capacity, that 1 have had some association for well over 30 years with both these learned gentlemen. I believe the Parliament of the Commonwealth is fortunate to attract men of such dedication and distinction. I would hope that it would soon become possible for qualified persons to find it attractive to become what we have always hitherto called parliamentary draftsmen. It is essential that the people who make the laws in a parliament should be able to make laws with sufficient clarity and dispatch for the public to understand and observe those laws. We do not sufficiently acknowledge that the law is just as importantly served by those who draft the laws as it is by those who make them and interpret them.
I support the Prime Minister also in his references to the Hansard staff. Most members of this chamber will envy them, because they are much better remunerated than honourable members themselves. I join the Prime Minister, too, in his tribute to all those men and women who make it possible for this Parliament to function at all - those concerned with the comings and goings of members to and from the city and to and from the House; those concerned with the replenishment, the refreshment, the encouragement and the inspiration that honourable members have to call upon. A very great number - hundreds of men and women - provide these services. There are some people who probably have been kept more busy in this Parliament than ever before. In the last Parliament 2,725 questions were placed on notice; in this Parliament there have been 6,577. It must be very difficult to answer them, because some hundreds still remain unanswered.
In paying a tribute to the ten of our brethren who are retiring from public life I should like to acknowledge the support that they have received from their wives. Whatever asperities there may be - these are only spasmodic whatever the public may think - between honourable members, I believe that these men have been fortunate indeed in their wives. A parliamentarian’s wife is in a very real sense called on to serve his constituents. Very few men can successfully conduct a public life without the support of their wives. To the men retiring one cannot wish better than that they should have in their retirement health and happiness for themselves and for their wives as well.
I suppose that all of us will have a pretty strenuous few weeks ahead of us. I suppose there is not a great percentage of the population which really would stand the pace of parliamentary life or would seek it, but nobody who has ever undertaken it willingly relinquishes it. Whatever the ardours may be of the next few weeks there can be little doubt that we shall all enjoy them and, whatever the result, we shall enjoy to the full the Christmas period which will elapse before the twenty-eighth Parliament assembles.
Mr Speaker, in a personal sense I think we can all sincerely and genuinely wish each other happiness with our families after the ardours of the next few weeks. I conclude as I commenced, by acknowledging the very onerous job that you, Mr Speaker, have had to discharge. I think I can say without prejudice that you have discharged it with distinction.
– I join with the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in expressing appreciation to the many people who have made this session of Parliament a successful one. I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on the manner in which you have carried out your job as Speaker of this House. I think you have done so with great impartiality and with distinction to yourself. On many occasions your patience has been really tested but you have come through and shown great wisdom and kept order in this House. I thank you for the job you have done.
Parliament depends on the services of many people; they have been mentioned by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. They range from the attendants to the people in the dining rooms, to officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Parliamentary Library and Hansard and to the drivers. All help this place to continue to function. It is hard really to put one’s finger on where responsibility starts and finishes. It is the combined support of everybody in this place that really makes it work. I would particularly like to pay a tribute in this last session of the Parliament to the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) and to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) for the way in which they have been able to co-ordinate the work of the Parliament and for the way in which this session has concluded. It has ended in probably the most sensible and orderly fashion that I have seen in my 15 years experience.
I would like to pay tribute to the many honourable members - 10 in all - who will be retiring. I think it is the most distinguished and probably the most unusual group of members who have retired from this Parliament since Federation. Firstly I would like to mention the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), who is the father of the House. I think he holds the love and affection of all members of this Parliament for his dedication to the parliamentary system and for his devotion to public life and to the Parliament over a long period of time. I have a particular affection for him. It is a family affection. My father was in this Parliament for many years with the right honourable member and they had a very deep personal association although they were pretty good warriors, apparently, on their respective sides of the Parliament. We will miss the right honourable gentleman. He is a great personality and a great character. He will be remembered by all of us who have shared a period of parliamentary life with him.
It would not be fair to go through the list of all the other honourable members who are retiring but I would mention 3 members of my own Party. They are Sir Charles Adermann, Sir Winton Turnbull and Mr Ceb Barnes. They have given great service with distinction to the Country Party. On behalf of my parliamentary colleagues I would like to thank them particularly. J would especially like to mention the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) who has a distinction which I doubt will be equalled in our lifetime. He has spent 26 years in this Parliament and has not missed a day’s sitting. That is an outstanding record. I think it is a record in British parliamentary history. I congratulate my colleague on his wonderful example. I doubt whether any of us will ever be able to emulate it. .
Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have mentioned the services of Mr John Ewens, the retiring Parliamentary Counsel, who for a long time has been responsible for drawing up legislation to be presented in this Parliament. In recent years the Office of Parliamentary Counsel has been formed to service this Parliament. As the Leader of the Opposition said, it is important that legislation be drafted as clearly as possible so that members of Parliament can understand it and, more importantly, so that the courts of the country can interpret the law as we wish to see it interpreted. These people do a very important job and we thank them for it. Many of them have to work long hours and at weekends to ensure that the legislation is brought before the House on time.
The Leader of the Opposition also said that few members of the Opposition acknowledged the difficulty of being a Minister and carrying out ministerial duties. Equally, I might say that few of us on this side of the House have an appreciation of the duties of the Leader of the Opposition and his senior colleagues in attacking the Government and being able to expose its weaknesses or its failures. I hope it is an experience that we do not have. If it is au onerous task, we feel sorry for the members of the Opposition and we hope they keep doing it for a long time. The Leader of the Opposition also mentioned the pressures that are placed on our wives and families. 1 join with him in those remarks. I think they are very apt. Tho total responsibility that we have to our electorates, to the Parliament, to committees and what have you, does not leave much time for family life.
We have an election before us. We must go before the people and present ourselves for examination. We must explain to the people our behaviour and the way we have performed if we are to warrant their support in the new Parliament. Only the people will be able to make the judgment. For the next few weeks we will all have to be fairly humble in seeking their support. I think we need to be humble as members of Parliament and realise that we do not make the decision. The decision is made by the people in our electorates. They are the ones who make the judgment. Anything we do in the next 2 or 3 weeks will not really be the determining factor. The most important factor of all is how we have behaved as individuals or as parties during a period of 3 years. One cannot change one’s performance over a short period of time. Most honourable members who come into this House come with a sense of purpose, to do the best job they possibly can for the people they represent and for Australia, but we will now have to answer to those people. I hope that all honourable members can be successful so that the members in the new Parliament will be exactly the same as in this one.
– I am sorry that I have to be honest and say a few things that represent more realism than some of the remarks we have heard from the other side of the House so far have shown. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) intrigued me when he talked about his great respect for the institution of Parliament. I have never heard such balderdash in all my life.
– Sit down.
– Never mind about sitting down. The honourable member will have to listen to it. I am going to repeat some of the words the honourable member himself has uttered in this place before I sit down. Hundreds of questions have not been answered - so much for respect for the institution. Thousands of questions have been answered only after months of delay. Reports have been withheld from the Parliament. Reports that have been submitted by committees of the Parliament have been withheld from Parliament and have been emasculated, like the Jess report. Information has been suppressed so that the Parliament could not learn the facts. Debates have been conducted without honourable members knowing what the facts were, because of the Government’s lack of respect for the institution of Parliament. The executive has constantly used the Parliament as a mere rubber stamp for decisions it had already made - so much for the Prime Minister’s alleged respect for the institution of Parliament. Important Bills have been brought down at the eleventh hour without honourable members on either side having had a proper opportunity to consider them - so much for the Prime Minister’s alleged respect for the institution of Parliament. Public servants have been directed to refuse to answer questions before parliamentary committees - so much for the Prime Minister’s pretended respect for the institution of Parliament.
Having said that, I want to dissociate myself completely from any good wishes that might have been extended’ to the Prime Minister and to the other people who have spent so much of their time during the last 23 years preventing the people of Australia from getting the kind of legislation they have long been hungering for. I think the pensioners have no reason to thank the Government and the Ministers who sit behind it for the miserable mean handout which they got. The workers who are trying to live on $51.80 a week have nothing to thank the Prime Minister and his Government for, because that was the amount, which members of the Government actually opposed as being too much while they put their posteriors on the back seats of black limousines and drove around in receipt of ministerial salaries and earning almost as much in one day from away from home expenses as some people are expected to live on and to keep their family for a whole week.
I want to say something about draftsmen. The Government is at fault - perhaps it is your fault, Mr Speaker; I do not know - or somebody is at fault in advertising for draftsmen who are already well experienced. You will never get enough draftsmen unless you decide to bring in cadets and train them in the numbers that you need. You will not get experienced men to come in as draftsmen. I want to say, on a more friendly note, that I agree with all that has been said about the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp). At least we have had a well run Parliament since he became the Leader of the House. I think of the days of the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin).
– You are a contemptible creature.
– Will you keep quiet?
– You are showing yourself in your true colours.
– Do not talk to me like that. You make me sick every time I look at you. Fortunately I will not have to look at you in the next Parliament.
– You are showing exactly what you are.
– I wish you would not drink so much on the last night. Try to behave yourself. Try to remember that temporarily you are a Minister of the Crown.
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will resume his seat. Gentlemen, this is an occasion - I thought rather an historic occasion - to farewell some of our colleagues and friends. The honourable member for Hindmarsh has the opportunity to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House in any way that he thinks fit but I would suggest that in view of the spirit of the speeches which preceded his what he is saying is rather incongruous. I would also suggest when it somes to a question of interjecting from the Government side of the House, under some provocation, that the debate be kept on a level which is in keeping with the occasion when honourable members who have given years and years of service to this House also want to makes speeches but in a different vein.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I do join with all those who have wished honourable members who are leaving the best of good health during the years that they will be in requirement. Among them - I will not mention them - are men of great distinction. Unfortunately there are better men going out of the Parliament than some of those who are staying in. That is the tragedy. The Parliament will bc the poorer for their leaving and I am sure that some of the more objectionable members on the other side of the Parliament unfortunately will not be here after the election. So that is one consolation we have. Mr Speaker, to you I say that occasionally I have noticed that you have indicated some semblance of being impartial and I congratulate you for the effort that you were able to make on those odd occasions.
– The traditions of this Parliament are very important to us. The traditions are important to every member of this House. They are especially important to those who have served this Parliament and the nation for very many years and who are going out of the Parliament. I regret that the members who have served this Parliament and are going out of it will go out with the recollection that on the last night of this Parliament in which they have served those traditions were so sorely bruised. I would hope that we will not have in the lifetime of any member of this Parliament an experience similar to the one we have had tonight. We will say no more about it. We would hope that the Hansard record in relation to the last few minutes could be expunged.
This is a very important night to those members who are departing. I would like to join in the compliments that have been paid to them and the service they have given in the interests of the democracy of our nation. One of the things which we come close to tonight is the operation of the democratic system in a few weeks time and what has been said by those who have just spoken or will be said by those who are about to speak tonight will not change that democratic process. There are some people who are leaving wittingly and I congratulate them on the sound commonsense which they are showing in doing so. There are those who will leave unwittingly. I regret that we will be deprived of their friendship which does exist despite the Tough and tumble of debate.
I particularly thank all those persons who have made the conduct of the Parliament in this session an especially easily managed programme. There are 3 members of my own Party who are leaving and to whom I would like to pay my own tribute. They are Sir Reginald Swartz, Sir Alan Hulme and Tom Hughes. Reg Swartz, who had a particularly difficult period during the 1940s and carries the effects of that, has steadfastly refused to allow it at any time to interfere with his good humour. I have never known another man who could stand up in this House and bring a turbulent situation into one of calm and reason as Reg Swartz could. I compliment Sir Alan Hulme, a man who has had respect for his strict compliance at all times with the decencies of public life and his presentation of the truth at all times in the Parliament. I have enjoyed him as a colleague and a friend. Tom Hughes was spoken of, 1 think, very adequately by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and for the tribute paid to Tom Hughes I thank the Leader of the Opposition. I think it is a great pity that we will be deprived of his services. But there are other people who play an important role in this House. 1 refer to the 2 Whips, the Leader of the House and his consultant, Sir Reginald Swartz, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They do a job. The Clerks do a job. But I pay particular tribute to the Whips who have unfailingly kept the House running and have made sure that we won every division, just as I am sure that when we are in government after the next election Maxie Fox will make sure that we win them all.
– I thank the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) for their very generous remarks about my service in the Parliament. If I might speak on behalf of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Allan Fraser), I thank them also for their remarks about his fine contributions to the debates and deliberations of this Parliament. I thank them all for remembering that I have been here for 32 years. I came here as the third member for Melbourne. I succeeded the late Dr William Robert Nuttall Maloney who held the, seat of Melbourne for 36 years. I have held it for 32 years. Two men have held the one seat for 68 years. It has never happened before; it will never happen again. In all the time that I have been privileged to serve I have done my best. No man can say more. I have had my failures; I have had my successes; I have had a lot of disappointments.
In a democracy it is the people who really govern. Democracy rests on majority rule. There is nothing sacred about majority rule. It is a principle of order but not necessarily of justice. We, depend upon the commonsense of the people. In other words, in a democracy the people have the right to go wrong - and that is a sobering thought. It is very sobering for me because the people have been going wrong in Australia for 23 years. But be that as it may. That is all a matter of history. I have been privileged to serve in many capacities. I have a record of which I am very proud. I sat on the ministerial bench and the front Opposition bench for 23 years continuously. Although that has happened before, I do not think it will happen again.
Governments come and governments go, or so the saying runs in English parlance. We have not really reached the standard that has been achieved in England where they change the government at every election or every second election. The Leader of the Opposition was on very dangerous ground when he quoted Pope Gregory the Great. The Leader of the Opposition said that Gregory, who had seen a lot of children in Rome, said in Latin:
Non Angli sed angeli.
In these ecumenical times the Leader of the Opposition might be trying to make those words mean: Not Anglicans but angels. The weakness of that argument is that Gregory the Great lived several hundred years before the Reformation.
I am most touched by all that has been said tonight. I join with everybody else in wishing all of those retiring members of this Parliament who have served this country to the best of their ability length of days and a long life in retirement. As far as I am concerned, in my retirement I shall try to write books. I might even become a legal adviser on libel law. I am quite qualified. I am an Honorary Doctor of Laws. I was appointed, on the nomination of Sir Robert Menzies as Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, a very great seat of learning. I have sought no honours. I have appreciated any honours that have ever been given to me, but I never wanted any of them. I am proud to have them. I know I did not deserve them. As I have, said, I never sought them but I feel greatly honoured by whatever body in Australia has seen fit to say something kind about me and to give me some decoration. I esteem very greatly the fact that I am a member of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council and one. of the Queen’s advisers. I am proud of the fact also that my church has given me a decoration which 1 did not deserve and which I did not desire but which I greatly esteem.
I have listened to the tributes that have been paid to you, Mr Speaker. I think you have been too tolerant. There have been times when I yearned for the days of Mr Speaker Rosevear and Mr Speaker Cameron. There was not much argument then; you were named promptly. Whether or not there was justification for it, there was never any weakening on the part of the Speaker. With due respect to you, Mr Speaker, I think this House could do with a little more discipline. If you were to be here during the next Parliament I would hope that you would enforce it. I would like to join with other honourable members in paying a tribute to Mr Ewens. I think the laws of the Commonwealth of Australia are the best written laws in all Australia. They stand pre-eminent. We must have other men like Mr Ewens and those who write our laws so that judges can understand them. I have no complaint about judges - so far, at any rate. Nor do I have any complaint about juries. I think that we ought to build our institution to a greater eminence. This is the supreme elective body in the whole nation. We must maintain its prestige and its respect among all the people throughout Australia, and there must never be any attempt by any pressure group outside this Parliament to try to run the Parliament or to denigrate members of the Parliament who have served this country with great sacrifice to themselves and to their wives and children by their repeated absence from their homes.
I thank the Leader of the Country Party for his references to my family relationship with his family. I remember his dear mother very well and I remember mourning with others her early death. I saw this young man grow from boyhood. I compliment him on the stature which he has attained, and I wish him well. To all of those other honourable members who have expressed goodwill to me I say: Thank you very much. I have not always been as kind and as generous as I should have been. I concede that half of the problems and the difficulties I have met in life I created for myself. I do not think I should make any further concessions to my political opponents and my critics than that. I will settle for half. When I leave these halls I will leave with the MacArthur thought: T shall return’. I shall have to come back again and see the Parliament in action. I think it will be a better Parliament after I have left it, not because of my absence but because I feel that the great majority of the Australian people are becoming more civic minded and more determined to maintain the prestige of this country and to do everything to ensure its success.
The first and only time that we ever became a nation in reality was when our forces were assembled for service in World War I. That is the only time that the people of Australia ever fought under one flag. Australians have fought with distinction on many battlefields.
I conclude by saying that I hope the world is moving towards peace. Peace is everything. Let us have a world of peace. Let us have SO years of peace. Let us have 50 years of just laws, then wars and all the ravages that come from wars and all the other evils that we see in the world will vanish. I wish everybody a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I shall watch events as they unfold and on the night of the election I will be totting up the results too. When the results come out and not until then, I shall make a few sapient remarks.
– I should like to say a few brief words in my capacity as Leader of the House. Before I acknowledge those people who have been helpful to me in this capacity I shall make one or two philosophical observations. I apologise for introducing a relatively sour note into this debate but I believe this is an opportunity to mention this matter. In tonight’s Sydney’s ‘Sun’ appears an editorial headed Down to it - after 3 years’. The editorial continues:
The usual last minute rush of legislation before an election is taking place in Canberra.
Yesterday, the Government pushed through 25 Bills like so much mincemeat.
The editorial goes on to demean the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and the Government. I will not comment on that. I regard that first sentence, not as demeaning the Government but as deliberately demeaning this institution. In this journal and in one or two others, this happens consistently. The man who wrote that editorial that the Government pushed through 25 Bills yesterday knew he was telling an untruth, obviously concocted for the sole purpose not of scoring a political point against the Government, but of trying to demean this Parliament. As it happens, for the week the Parliament passed 25 Bills. Nine Bills were passed yesterday. In the event that people might be charitable and believe that the writer of this editorial mistook a day for a week, I point out that in the next sentence of that editorial he goes on to say:
That’s about 6 times the normal daily rate.
As Leader of the House I make an appeal, if that is possible, to the person who wrote that editorial and the people who support that sort of thing, to consider what good national purpose they are serving by demeaning this, the greatest institution in this nation.
The second thing I want to say as Leader of the House - I thank the Prime Minister for giving me the great honour of being able to take part in the greatest exercise in human relations by appointing me as Leader of the House - is that I have been impressed by the enormous legislative programme with which this House copes. 1 have taken some figures out and, although it is very difficult to be conclusive about this matter, it seems that per head of population or by whatever comparison one makes, this Parliament passes more Bills than do most of the democratic parliaments in the world. When one is Leader of the House seeking the co-operation of members and trying to get through the legislative programme, one is very conscious that in so doing one is. precluding some honourable members from talking about national issues.
I make the personal plea that 1 would like to see this place fulfil its other function and, rather than be just a legislative chamber be a national forum where debates of national importance can be conducted by men of different political and philosophical persuasions. One of the difficulties that I have found is that, always with the help of my friend,, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), one is always trying to influence members on both sides of the House) - 1 am not speaking so much of legislation - so that we get through the legislative programme. When a statement of great national importance is made by a Minister the tendency is to think in terms of how many from each side can take part in the debate. Will it be two or three? I think that for this place to fulfil its function we should give greater emphasis to its being a national forum.
Mr Speaker, I too would like to compliment you on your speakership. For me as Leader of the House ever to have, approached you asking for some mild favour for myself or the Government would have been an act of impropriety, most improper. For that reason I would not do it, but even if that sort of temptation did occur to me I know that approaching you for this purpose would be a completely worthless exercise because that sort of proposition would be offensive to the impartiality you have, shown. I pay tribute too to your deputies and to the Whips. I mention one person in particular my friend the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) who, I think, spends 95 per cent of the parliamentary week in his seat. I acknowledge the chief Whips, the, honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), and the deputy Whips the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) and of course the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull), but especially the honourable member for Angas because he is my liaison. I thank him for it. I thank also my close friend the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) for his guidance to me in the time that 1 have been Leader of the House. I thank the Clerks also. I am sure that all honourable members would acknowledge their help on doubtful points when members of Parliament are not au fait with matters of detail.
Finally, I thank very sincerely the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who, in fact, is my counterpart in ensuring that the business of the House runs smoothly. I could not have wanted more co-operation from him than 1 got. It was always given in the spirit of frankness and friendliness. That is not to say that if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or myself could see a political point that could be gained by playing the political game hard, we would not take it, but where civilised conduct and conversation ensured smoothness in the running of the House both of us accepted each other’s point of view. In fact, such is the co-operation I have received from the honourable gentleman that when my friend the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) suggested at tennis today that I might ask for leave for him to sing, in the adjournment debate, that extract from ‘White Horse Inn’ . . and now I go to fight a savage foe’ I thought that would not have been an impossible request to put to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– But he might have had trouble with me.
– The mind boggles at it, Mr Speaker. I wish all members good health and a happy Christmas with their families.
– I join with other members on both sides of the House who have spoken in this valedictory address. I point out that this is the first occasion, certainly in my memory as a member of the Federal Parliament, when the valedictory addresses have been delivered at this hour. I presume that this is due to a number of reasons. I do not want to enter into the controversy that may have been raised by one of the newspapers, which was dealt with by the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp). At this stage I do not want to deal with the question of politics as such because in the next 5 weeks we will be dealing with politics. I have no doubt that after these addresses have been concluded we may even engage in a political contest again, and if that is necessary the Opposition will be happy to do so.
I believe that this is an opportunity to pay a tribute to those who make this Parliament work. While honourable members may feel that they are here to contribute, as I am sure they are, to the debates and indeed to the development of this country, the plain fact is that the Parliament would not be able to work unless it had the cooperation of the many people in this Parliament - the Hansard staff, the attendants, the Clerks particularly, who make a notable contribution to the smooth running of this institution.
I am very grateful to the Leader of the House for the tribute he paid me and I believe one can be generous enough to reciprocate. Since I have had the opportunity to work with the Leader of the House it has always been on the basis of complete understanding. There has never been an occasion when I have not been able to accept his word or to appreciate that any decision or agreement that has been made will be honoured. This is not always fully understood by members on this side of the House, or I am sure by members who sit behind the Leader of the House. As a result of our mutual understanding and co-operation the business of the House has proceeded very smoothly.
I wish to thank also the predecessors of the present Leader of the House. Since it has been my responsibility to act in this capacity on behalf of the Opposition I have had the privilege of working together with the Treasurer and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party (Mr Snedden) and the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz). Whatever compliments I may pay with respect to the progress of the business of the House and the understanding that has existed apply equally to the Minister for National Development and his predecessor. I join with honourable members who have paid a tribute to those who will be leaving this Parliament at the end of this session. I refer first to the honourable member for Fisher (Sir Charles Adermann), because I remember that back in 1954 when I delivered my maiden speech in the Parliament he followed me in the debate. He wished me a very happy but a very short stay in the Federal Parliament. I am very happy to say that I will still be here after he retires. I believe that he has made a very significant contribution not only to his Party but also to the nation as a whole.
The honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Barnes) and the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes) are also leaving. The honourable member for Berowra is not in the chamber at the moment, but I would like to pay a special tribute to him. I had an opportunity to listen to the honourable member for Berowra when he served this Parliament and the country as the Attorney-General. I believe that he made a very significant contribution indeed. This Parliament will be the poorer for his passing from parliamentary service. The honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) also is leaving. I sat alongside him for many years and argued across the aisle with him as I believe he now argues with the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster). I was very happy to be associated with him. His contribution to his Party, the Parliament and the country has been notable and significant.
I come now to the honourable members on my own side of the Parliament who are retiring. The right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) has been a member of this Parliament since 1940 and has served this country with great distinction. On 2 recent occasions I have referred to his career in greater detail. I can pay him no greater compliment than to say that I hope I will be able to emulate such a distinguished career in the Federal Parliament and in the service of this country. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) and the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) will be leaving at the end of this Parliament. They will be retiring as a result of their own decisions. They too have made notable contributions to the Parliament. I should include in those who are leaving us the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Allan Fraser).
Turning to you, Mr Speaker, I suggest that probably 1 have been the least of your troubles in this Parliament. You have handled a very difficult position in the same way that your predecessors handled that very responsible office. Every member of this House would pay a tribute to you in that respect. I join with those who have taken the opportunity to extend congratulations and good wishes to all the people associated with the Parliament and who have contributed to the smooth running of the business of the House in what has been a very notable session.
I want now to pay a well deserved tribute to one who has worked very closely with my staff. I refer to him as Giff because I have become so accustomed to referring to him in that way. He works very closely with the Leader of the House and with my staff. I have found him to be very loyal, conscientious and helpful not only to the Leader of the House but also to me. I pay a tribute to one who has worked very closely with him. I refer to my private secretary, Brian Toohey. Through mutual co-operation has come very satisfactory management of the business of this House. 1 conclude by extending, as others who have preceded me have done, good wishes to all those who are leaving this Parliament. I look forward to what I suppose will be an ardous period in the next five or six weeks. I know that 1 shall return. My final tribute is to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who has the respect of every member on this side of the House. In many ways he has made a significant contribution to this House and will make a further significant contribution when we return to govern this country.
– I have a strange feeling that for the second time in one night I will make a short speech, but I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that its brevity is not an indication of the significance of the occasion. I want to express my personal feelings for the friendship that has been extended to me by members on both sides of this House over a period of 23 years. I am sure that I have just as many friends on the Opposition side as I have on the Government side. That has been clearly indicated over the years. I would like also to join in the expression of thanks conveyed to you, Sir, the Clerks and Hansard staff and all those associated with the workings of this House, either inside the chamber or in other parts of the building. I would also like to thank the various staffs that work for us - the ministerial staffs and those who work in any administrative capacity in other fields - all of whom have helped to make this Parliament work successfully. I would even like to extend my thanks tonight to the members of the Press gallery for the kindness that they have shown to me over many years. In conclusion 1 would again extend my best wishes to those of my colleagues who are leaving in a voluntary capacity tonight and to extend my sincere best wishes to all those members who serve in this House in the future.
– I should like to pay my respects to the retiring members, firstly to my own colleague, Arthur Calwell, with whom I have served in the last 17i years in this Parliament for many years of which he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition and also Leader of the Australian Labor Party. I know that Arthur has a very good name. I challenge anyone to say outside that he has a bad name because they would be very much down on their bankbooks if they did. Hee Mclvor, another colleague of mine, has been a very good Labor man as well as a very good friend of mine. Speaking as one back bencher to another, Hee, we do appreciate what you have done for us and what you have done for the Australian Labor Party. You have represented you constituents sincerely and conscientiously.
Charlie Griffiths is another colleague of mine who is retiring. Charlie has been a friend of mine for many many years since I have been here. On any occasions when there has been an election or by-election up Newcastle way Charlie’s home has always been open to any Labor members who went up to Newcastle. On those occasions his wife has always made us very comfortable and we have been welcome at any time. I wish Charlie and his wife, and Hee and his wife, many years of retirement and good health. As to the other side of the House, I served with Alan Hulme on the Public Accounts Committee for several years. I found him to be a man of integrity. He always called a spade a spade and 1 always appreciated his views. I understand that he is going into cattle raising now. He is going from one line of bull into another line of bull.
– As long as he gets the right male.
– That is right. I think that Reg Swartz too is one of the best Ministers for Civil Aviation we have ever had. He is the man who first allowed air hostesses to wear mini-skirts. We appreciated that very much. It is the biggest innovation since falsies were introduced in the late 1920s. At one time many members of the House used to ask for window seats in planes. They all go for aisle seats now, I do not know why. But thanks very much, Reg. We appreciated that from you when you were Minister for Civil Aviation.
I wish Winton Turnbull, Charlie Adermann and ‘Ceb’ Barnes many many years of happy retirement and good health. I also wish Tom Hughes the best. Tom Hughes is a genial fellow who has always had a nice ‘good morning’ to say and a little chat outside in the lobby. I have always appreciated the fact that we are here to represent our parties and I do not carry any grudge outside of the House. I realise that honourable members are expressing their views inside of the House. But outside the House I try to say ‘Goodday’ and be friends with everybody, as I think we all should be. I can remember when Winton Turnbull was very much embarrassed when some Spanish fruit pickers first came to Australia and picked fruit in the nude. Winton was caught peeping through the bush at them one day. This story about the Spanish fruit pickers appeared in the ‘Sunraysia Daily’. But Winton, half your luck - I wish I had been with you.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to say farewell to my friends Arthur Calwell and others. We will meet again on many occasions in the future. To Mr and Mrs Calwell, Mr and Mrs Griffiths, Mr and Mrs Mclvor and all of those people on the other side, good luck and good health for the future.
– The eulogies are flowing thick and fast tonight. I want to say that it has been a great experience to serve my country in the national Parliament for so long a period. All of the eulogies which are flowing on this occasion of the demise of a Parliament remind me of the verse that is used when someone dies and everyone says good things about them. The verse is:
It is the roses of life that make us feel great, The ones on the grave, I am afraid they’re too late.
We ought to be more appreciative of one another’s efforts as we go through life together. I had 6 years experience of being in opposition when I first came into Parliament. I was able to pick all the faults of the Labor Government at that time. I was able to show where it was deficient as the Labor Party for 23 years now has been trying to show where the present Government is deficient. That is Parliament. I had the experience that you had, Mr Speaker, for a period when the late Mr Archie Cameron was sick. I occupied the chair on that occasion for 5£ months. I will not dare to compare your leniency or otherwise with my own, because I suppose that honourable members thought badly enough of how I tried to handle the House.
For 9 years I was Chairman of Commitees. I think at that time it was an advantage to have standing order 303 under which the Chairman could put a member out if he behaved in an unruly manner and then let him back when he calmed off. I remember that we had a social evening on one occasion and the then Government Whip, who ought to have been cooperating with me, provoked me. So I ordered him out. The Leader of the Opposition stood at full height and laughed at him and I said: ‘You go with him’. I am sure that the House enjoyed that occasion and came to appreciate that I tried to be fair by putting one out from each side. I served as Chairman of Committees and
Speaker for a time and then for 9 years as a Minuter. It is a great honour to be in a national Parliament and to accept responsibility. I think that today people are claiming too many rights and are not accepting enough responsibilities. I think that today people seek to be served by, rather than seek to serve, their country. These are some of the problems that are arising. People are not facing up to what they ought to accept as their part in life.
Whatever deficiencies I have had, all I can say is, like the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), I have done my best. Tensions are severe when one is a member of Cabinet. One is never at ease because one’s mind is going all the time. I suppose it was a good thing when J retired from the Ministry, because tension left me within 6 months and I was able to get back to a normal life. I want to agree with what the Leader of the Opposition said when he referred to one’s partner in life. I never could have been a member of Parliament to the degree and extent that I have been without the partner that I have in life. She has just been wonderful in every way. The public does not appreciate the loss of home life that one suffers as a member of Parliament. People outside do not realise the calls that are made on a Minister or a member of this House - the lack of home life and all of the responsibility that are ours.
I conclude by saying, as I join in thanking all officers of the House for helping to keep the Parliament going, that honourable members want to beware that we do not lose the democracy that we have in our Parliaments in this country. When the Press or other media or any person denigrates Parliament or when members of Parliament act with less dignity than they should act as members of Parliament something is taken away from that right which is ours in a democracy to accept the rule of the people through Parliament and so give a fair, equitable and just decision of law. I hope that all members of Parliament will respect the dignity and the responsibility that is associated with Parliament.
So I conclude 29 years and 3 months in this House, having been in Opposition, in the Chair, in Cabinet and now on the back bench. But I say this: We all ought to have that love of country that Sir Walter Scott spoke about in his poem when he wrote:
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead.
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
I have been proud of my land and I have tried to work for it.
Mr MclVOR (Gellibrand) (10.42)- I want to support the remarks that have been made this evening concerning the officers and the attendants of Parliament House, and also the remarks of appreciation that have been made to you, Mr Speaker, and to your Deputy Speaker, Mr Lucock. I fully support those remarks. But I should like to make one other observation as one who has held for 17 years what probably is the safest seat in Australia and as one who was born in the electorate of Gellibrand and who served the City of Footscray for nearly 20 years as a councillor and in many other capacities in that city. I did not realise until I was elected to Parliament the immense job I had taken on in representing the Federal electorate of Gellibrand as I wanted it represented, that is conscientiously. To the men and women in the Commonwealth departments of Australia I pay my thanks and appreciation, for without their help and advice I could never have coped with the amount of work that went through my office.
I was once accused of directing a Dorothy Dixer to the then Minister for Social Services. After many attempts to get an office of the Department of Social Services established in my electorate I asked a question one morning of the Minister and he knocked me down by saying that his Department had already obtained the premises for a local office and they were about to open it. The Minister gave me the privilege of opening it. A name I should mention in this connection is that of Maurie Cronin, the Assistant Director of the Department of Social Services in Victoria. Maurie Cronin always used to call me his best customer. After that office was opened, there is no doubt that the load on my shoulders was reduced considerably. In fact, it now is necessary for me only to pick up the telephone and address Mr Jock Webb, the man in charge of that Department in Footscray, and the problems I have in regard to social services are taken off my hands.
Having said that, on behalf of the. honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) I want to say that we appreciate the remarks that have been made about our goods ladies - the political widows, as I call them. I am sure that neither Mr Griffiths nor I would have been able to fulfil our duties capably and efficiently in this Parliament had it not been for the help of our wives. I know that I have been a crusty old curse at times, but nevertheless I want to say to my wife who is in this chamber tonight that I appreciate all that she has done for me. I know that Mr Griffiths wishes me to express also his appreciation to Mrs Griffiths.
I have been asked on a number of occasions, now that I am wending my way out of the Parliament, what have been my impressions and what are some thoughts that I have had since I have been in this Parliament. Firstly, I want to say that it has been a great privilege to serve the national Parliament of Australia and I know it has been a great privilege also for Mr Griffiths to serve it. Secondly, I want to say that, since I have been in this Parliament, I have seen 4 Prime Ministers in this place and I have served under 3 leaders of the opposition. I know that I will be forgiven for saying that the Leader of the Opposition that I have loved and respected, perhaps even more than 1 have the late Dr Evatt and Gough Whitlam, with all due respects to both men, has been the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). I have known Arthur Calwell for many years and I have grown up with deep affection for him and deep respect for his views and I am very appreciative of the advice he has given me over the years.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the 17 years I have been in this Parliament have probably been the most momentous years in Australia’s history. I remember the first discovery of uranium in Australia and the effect it had on the nation, particularly the north. I remember my visit to Rum Jungle and Mary Kathleen.
– In June 1956.
– That is right; the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was with me on that occasion. I remember the sputniks and the resentment that I had towards the sputniks. I used to be able to tell my children and my grandchildren: ‘Look at the man in the moon’. But from the sputniks came the man who walked on the moon and. as far as the children were concerned it was no longer a fairy tale. But I always called the sputniks great spy stations, and now from those sputniks that are revolving around the Earth have come tremendous advances in the world of television. All these things have been of great moment to the world and to Australia.
I remember too when I first visited Canberra. It was not in a parliamentary capacity but in an official capacity. I was trying to get the Leader of the Government, the late Mr Chifley, to lift petrol rationing. I practically wore a track between Melbourne and Canberra in my efforts to induce Mr Chifley to do that. I remember flying up from Melbourne in the old DC3’s. Great strides have been made in the field of air travel. One can now travel from Canberra to Sydney in half an hour and from Canberra to Melbourne in about three-quarters of an hour. In those days, we never dreamed that this was possible. Of course, before aeroplanes we had only trains by which to travel. Then I recall the introduction of the European Common Market and the impact it had on this country and, of course, on other parts of the world. Then there were the great discoveries of iron ore, bauxite, nickel, oil and natural gas. All these things have been of great interest and value to the country and I do not think we should end any Parliament without referring to them. I remember the unfortunate assassinations that occurred in the United States of America and which made a great impact on the politics of the world. I recall the Korean war, the Vietnam war, the emergence of mainland China, the closure of the Suez Canal and the Middle East situation.
So, with those few words, I should like to say that I feel I have been privileged to serve in this Parliament. Having been elected as I was on the Australian Labor Party ticket I took it that I was sent here to do a job and I have taken my position as a job. I want to say very sincerely to each and every officer, attendant and those in the refreshment rooms that I have not regarded myself as a VIP. I have never looked for kudos. I did not look for the honour that was awarded to me. I am grateful to those people who held me in such high respect as to recommend me for it. I have regarded each and every one of these people in this House as my work mate. I have regarded my position as the Federal member for Gellibrand as a job. I was elected on a ticket, and having been elected I was there to give the greatest attention and help I could to each and every one of my constituents, irrespective of their political ideology, their religion, their nationality and their station in life. This I have done.
I have never tried to harm anyone, but plenty of people have tried to harm me. I go out as I came into this place. I have never tried to make an enemy. I do not think I have an enemy. I hope I have not. I try to treat other people as I would like to be treated. So I go out with no regrets, with no apologies and with a clear conscience. As I said before, I have done the right thing by everybody. On behalf of my wife, Mr and Mrs Griffiths and myself, I wish all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Naturally I would like to see a Labor government returned, but may I say in conclusion: Happy returns to all.
– I suppose that when one stands to say a few words as his swan song in the national Parliament his mind goes back over the years that he has been a member of it, and therefore he could speak for a long while of the experiences that he has had. I will not allow myself to be tempted too far into that area. Before I speak in terms of ones own membership and other members of the Parliament, could I join with those who said Thank you’ to yourself, Mr Speaker, and, if I might use the all inclusive expression, to all officers associated with the Parliament who have made our task so much easier over the years. I do it in that way in the interests of brevity.
I say ‘Thank you* to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) and those other honourable members who tonight have expressed their kind sentiments to me and others who are leaving the Parliament after many years of service in it. I am afraid that in my case it was a situation of apprenticeship within the organisation of the Liberal Party. I could only say that I commend to any aspirant for political honours that in that area he or she would gain an experience which I believe would make him or her better fitted to come into this place to make a contribution. I think it gives such a person an understanding of the people within an area rather than merely the association with constituents who have problems or the association that we have together in this place. Because of my appenticeship in the organisation it is now 29 years since I became associated with politics, and for the last 23 years I have been closely associated with this Parliament. It has been my privilege to have been a Minister or a member of Cabinet for some 12 years out of those 23 years. I think that apart from the Prime Minister and the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), that is as long service as any other Minister has given. I am not quite sure how the Prime Minister has stood up to 21 years. I find 12 quite sufficient and I am prepared to take my departure.
I say thank you to those who have expressed feelings of generosity and appreciation. I want to say thank you also to all the members of the Parliament for the friendship which they have given to me. I am inclined to a view at the end of 9 years as Postmaster-General that I have not had the easiest of portfolios, particularly if one remembers that with it is associated the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Before I came into the Parliament I remember William Morris Hughes teaching me a political lesson. Before I was a member we were having a discussion on a policy matter. We discussed it, I suppose, for 6 or 7 hours. He had not been present at the discussion, but he walked in just before the vote was to be taken and, as was his usual custom, he cupped his ear with his hands and asked for a repeat, merely in the interests of giving him a little more time to think of the appropriate reply. The right honourable member for Melbourne will remember the habit. Having a repeat of the motion he said simply: ‘Not sufficiently ambiguous’. I have a feeling that a lot of people who listen to the debate from both sides of this House find that we are sufficiently ambiguous to confuse them as to what is the content of the matter that has been under discussion. 1 offer my very best wishes to every member of the Parliament. I have seen many come and I have seen many go, and one naturally has an interest in the individual. But like the honourable member for Gellibrand, I have not made many enemies in this place over the period I have been here. I wish the very best to each and every member in the future, hoping of course that the majority after 2nd December stays on this side of the Parliament.
There is one additional thing 1 would like to say. As Minister for Supply I was in charge of the second largest department of the Commonwealth, and as PostmasterGeneral I was in charge of the largest department of the Commonwealth. I therefore believe that I am in a position to offer a view as to the quality of service of people who work in Commonwealth departments. In my experience I could not have expected to find a group of people more conscientious than those in the departments with which I have been associated. Naturally one comes into close association with many other public servants over a period of 20-odd years in this place. I believe that they are all high quality, very conscientious people, and I am always sorry when I hear criticism of them. I say ‘Thank you’ not only to the people in those departments I have been in charge of but also to my personal staff. My secretary in the Post Office has been my secretary for 9 years. I am pleased to know that she became a Member of the British Empire following last New Year’s honours awards. I believe that she justly deserved it because of the service she has given to every member of this Parliament. To other members of my staff I also say ‘Thank you’. Again my very best wishes go out to each and every one of you.
– I would like to say Thank you’ to all those people I have come in contact with since I have been a member over 26 years and 8 months. I will not mention any names. I do not think this is right. I thank all those people for the goodwill they have extended to me and for the friendship and consideration - consideration is one thing I want a lot of - they have shown. I want to thank them also for their co-operation. I appreciate it from every member. There is a thing called life’s greatest gift. Did anyone ever think about what life’s greatest gift is?
– Raisins and currants.
– Let me rephrase the question. What is life’s greatest gift? Somebody said good health. In Pentridge Gaol and gaols all over the country are men whom no-one can fault for their physical condition; but they are no good to this country or to any country. I have asked what is life’s greatest gift and some have said: ‘To be a great singer’. I discarded that suggestion. All manner of things were suggested but I did not get the correct answer until I spoke to a certain gentleman who said: ‘Look, Winton, you should know what life’s greatest gift is. It ls the will to serve, not the capacity’. We do not all have the same capacity but the will to serve, I believe, is life’s greatest gift.
A certain lady came to me one day and said that a certain gentleman in the Parliament should be Prime Minister. I knew that thai member did not have my chance of being Prime Minister. If a list had been made of all members this member - a nice gentleman who is not here now - would have been near the bottom of it. But this lady thought he was a great man who should be Prime Minister so to console honourable members I put it that so far as they arc concerned:
Someone thinks that you are great, Lasting spur to conquer fate.
I think that all honourable members would agree with the following lines:
We’d like to think ere life is done
That we have filled a needed post
That here and there we’ve paid our fare
With more than idle talk and boasts
That wc have taken gifts divine
The breath of life and manhood fine
And t, ied to use them now and then
In service to our fellow men.
- Mr Speaker, 1 will occupy only a few moments. I will not soliloquise. I naturally join with all the remarks that have been said by other speakers concerning the attendants and everybody else who serves us in this Parliament. From this side of the House we have heard speeches from Ministers and from Whips but, as a peren nial and born backbencher, I should like to say to those honourable members who are retiring that it has been a pleasure to serve with them. They are men of great honour and great distinction. Those of us who occupy the back benches have enjoyed our moments with them. They have been an inspiration to us. I would point out to any potential Minister, however, that being a Minister depends on the backbenchers behind him. It is a good thing always to remember this.
The honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) has already said this, but I should like to address a few words to the honourable members for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) and Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) who are retiring as back bench members of the Labor Party. I assure them that they take from this side of the House the greatest affection as well as the greatest respect for the job that they have done whilst they have been members. Members on this side, in common with members opposite, make their assessments of the people opposed to them. 1 am sure all members will endorse my remarks concerning these honourable members. I have travelled abroad with the honourable member for Gellibrand. I have had discussions with him. We have agreed and disagreed on many occasions. He is a man of honour - a man who has served his country with distinction. He has not had the opportunity to sit on the front bench of the Parliament but I rate him second to none - certainly second to none of those who do sit on the front bench. I believe the same thing may be said by other honourable members from this side about the honourable member for Shortland. He is a man of honour, a man of distinction and a man who knows his views and is prepared to back them.
I conclude by referring to the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). When I came into this House I did not agree with his politics. In many things I did agree with him, but in the main I did not. When I came into this place Sir Alan Hulme was Postmaster-General and at that time it was proposed to increase the price of postage stamps to the soldiery. I nearly had a fit. I got up and down in this House like a yo-yo. From the other side, Arthur Calwell kept waving his hands. I could not understand him. I had been a member for only a month. Later I encountered him on the front steps of Parliament House. 1 said to him: ‘Arthur, for Pete’s sake what were you doing?’ He said: ‘I was telling you to sit down. I do not agree with a chap who opposes what is being put forward by his own Party’. I am sorry, Arthur, but I have not yet got the message. However, I can assure you that you have been an inspiration to me and 1 support unanimously and enthusiastically everything that has been said about you.
– This afternoon I told the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) that I would have a look, with him, at a file concerning a Mrs Duff. The arguments he put to me were of such a character that he convinced me and I have changed the decision on this matter. However, I am sorry that I cannot agree that another thing that he started has been as satisfactorily concluded. I refer to what he said in this House on 24th May, which still remains unresolved. Honourable members will recall that on that occasion ne spoke of certain Labor organisations not simply in terms of intrigue and graft but in terms of fraud, blackmail, conspiracy and forgery. These are felonies, but they were his words. He said also that the Federal Executive of the Labor Party must have known of the discrepancies, of the manipulation of the statutory declarations and of the forgery and blackmail. He said:
As I see it, any prolonged continuation of that silence in itself condemns the Executive members as being persons unfit to hold public office.
On Tuesday I received a copy of a letter sent to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) by a Mr Johnson who is or who was - I am not certain which - President of the Tingira Heights Branch of the Labor Party. He asked me to bring this letter before the House and I propose to do so, because he says:
I firmly believe that some effort will be made to ‘hush’ up the irregularities that occurred in this electorate, and that those that broke the law will be allowed to go unpunished.
He then details a lot of voluminous material which I will not have time to read out. However, he speaks of false statutory declarations and says:
The same officer of the Court was offered an alleged ‘bribe’ of $500 by one of the candidates, Mr P. Morris, and has signed a Statutory Declaration to this effect.
He goes on to speak of a lot of other irregularities. They may be crimes or they may be irregularities, but he speaks of a number of them and he attaches a number of documents to his letter.
– Mr Deputy Speaker I rise to a point of order. In order to facilitate the debate I ask that the documents referred to be incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKERLea ve is not granted.
– May I ask that the documents be laid on the table in accordance with standing order 321?
– I lay that on the table. With this letter he sent me a number of other documents which I will not read out. However, I will read from a photostat copy of the Statutory declaration which he made. It bears the name of Sydney Michael Johnson and reads:
I am President of Tingira HM Branch of the Australian Labor Party and one night before the Preselection for Shortland Mr Morris approached me to make a Statutory Declaration to the effect that certain members of the above Branch had not been present at meetings as shown in the ALP attendance book. Mr Morris said there would be a re-Ballot.
Mr Morris offered me $500 to swear this false information in Statutory Declaration form. Mr Morris also told me I would receive help from other members of Tingira Hts Branch and others outside the Branch and the money, would be a great help as both my wife and I are Invalid Pensioners.
After Mr Morris and myself finished the discussion I refused, because all signatures in the attendance book as far as I was concerned are true and correct and had attended as the attendance book shows.
The next day I informed the Secretary of the Branch and when we talked it over it was decided to make a Statutory Declaration on this matter.
This happened at the Community Hall after a meeting held in December 1971. I heard of the re-Ballot at 11.30 p.m. this night. Mr Morris referred to in this Declaration is one of the Candidates in the Preselection Ballot for Shortland.
There is another declaration which I will not read in full. It is from a Mr Parsons and is in statutory form. It also refers to attempts at false swearing. Apparently these matters were brought before the Australian Labor Party, because I have here a copy of a letter which Mr Johnson sent to the State President of the Australian Labor Party (New South Wales Branch), Sussex Street, Sydney, on 8th March 1972. It is a letter to Mr Ducker. He says:
Members of this Branch have been threatened, several have been alleged to have accepted bribes, others intimidated by Union officials, in an effort to have us annihilated.
He mentions a statutory declaration which, I imagine, is the same one I have already read, although of course I cannot guarantee that. On 10th March 1972 a letter was written by Mr Ron Jones, the secretary of the Tingira Heights Branch of the Australian Labor Party to Mr Westerway. That letter also alleges some serious matters. I will not go into them. Names are mentioned. But it is quite obvious that the New South Wales Executive of the Australian Labor Party - I am not talking about a little branch but about the main executive of the Australian Labor Party - knew what was going on.
Subsequently a broadcast was made in which Mr Donnelly took part. I have here what I am told is a transcript of it. I cannot vouch for this because I did not hear the broadcast. The interviewer, a Mr Tony Joyce, said:
I have been told by one Labor official that there is a pile of statutory declarations concerning Shortland about this high. We have in our possession photostat documents which purport to be part of this alleged pile. This one claims, for example: ‘Mr X offered $500 to swear this false information.’ This one says: ‘I was informed that I would be rewarded if I signed a document in relation to falsifying records.’
Mr Donnelly said:
Well, this has been going on - innumerable statutory declarations. It is coming to the stage where statutory declarations are not worth the paper they are written on, because you have one by one particular candidate or his supporters and one by other candidates countermanding that particular statutory declaration.
There are other matters in this which I will not go into, but there are allegations of Communist Party infiltration in this matter. Of course, I cannot guarantee this but I think it is worth investigating. The documents will be on the table of the House and honourable members will be able to see for themselves the details.
– You are as big a ratbag as the man who wrote this.
– Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw that remark.
– May I second the motion? He is a ratbag.
– Order! Do not let us get into difficulties at this hour of the Parliament. I ask the honourable member to withdraw the remark.
– Only a person like the Minister for Social Services would raise this kind of issue at this time. He is a ratbag.
– Do not add to the difficulties at this stage.
– In regard to the word ‘rat’, I withdraw it.
– I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to withdraw his remark.
– My Speaker, I withdraw it in deference to you.
– Let me say in conclusion that I did not initiate this matter. It was initiated by the honourable member for Shortland to whom tributes have been paid tonight and who is himself a member of the Labor Party. Honourable members opposite may call him what they like, but these are not the words they were using a few moments ago. The Mr Donnelly I spoke of must be all right, because I have here a copy of a telegram which the Leader of the Opposition sent him. It reads:
Congratulations on your selection.
He was subsequently unseated, as honourable members will remember-
Am looking forward to your arrival in the Parliament.
It was signed ‘Gough Whitlam’. I now lay the papers on the table.
– Before I call the honourable member for Riverina I would like to come back to the early spirit of this adjournment debate and say, on behalf of the staff of Hansard, the Clerks, and the staff of the House of Representatives Department and the Joint House Committee, thank you to those honourable members who tonight have shown their appreciation of the services these people have given to the Parliament. I feel sure that tonight many of us are saddened by the fact that many of our colleagues are leaving the Parliament on this occasion. I would also like to thank the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and others for the remarks they have passed about me. There is only one thing I can say about this: When Parliament resumes and I again occupy this Chair I will endeavour to carry out the duties of Speaker with the same impartiality and with the same leniency I have extended to honourable members from time to time which, I believe, is in the best interests of the workings of this Parliament.
– I have a gentle proposition to put before the House, but before I do so let me say that I do not intend to follow the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in his late night fishing expendition in search of smelly red herrings. Like Queen Victoria, I do not think the House is amused. I would like to add to the valedictory in one of the languages spoken by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). He boasts 4 of them - English, Irish, Chinese and Italian. To all of those who are retiring let me say in one of the right honourable member’s languages apart from English: ‘Buona fortuna. Lunga vita e prosperita’.
– Grazie tante.
– As a gentle postscript to the adjournment debate tonight I want to refer, on behalf of 12,249 Australian children, to a petition to the Government which they have written and prepared with great skill and dedication. I would like the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) to look at it when it is presented by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy). These children have written and asked that the television programmes that are offered to them in our country should be suitable for them and should be Australian in content, so that they are not chained to the watching of overseas programmes of doubtful standard. Out of a total of 400 viewing hours every week, 40 channels in Australia are screening only 16 hours of locally produced children’s material. As can be seen from the lists of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, most of the channels are operating their quota quickies in obscure time slots.
But 12,249 Australian children have responded to one of the programmes, ‘Ad venture Island’. They said: These are the things that we Australian children like to see. They will help us along in our formative years’. A small committee comprising the honourable member for Bendigo, Mr Race Matthews who was formerly on the staff of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), and me, got together the views of a large number of children. These letters - these original documents - from more than 12,000 children are a testimony to their native talents and their native abilities which will be extirpated as far as Australia is concerned if the present trends in television are maintained. The honourable member for Bendigo will present tonight in his argument to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) the results of a great deal of native’ talent. I would hope that because of the children’s pleas, not because of the plea of the committee of 3 to which I referred, there might be second thoughts about a further step in extirpating Australian television. I hope that the Minister will look at the letters and drawings and will enjoy them. They are well done. In the dying hours of this Parliament I hope that the voices of 12,000 Australian children will be heard.
– I would like to follow up a few of the comments made by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) and express my outrage at the proposal to eliminate the television programme ‘Adventure Island’ and also to request that this programme not only be continued but that all children’s programmes in this country receive extra financial support from the Commonwealth Government. One of the interesting things about the campaign that our committee has noticed is the tremendous enthusiasm that children have for this show. I should like to quote a few of the things that some of the children have said. They show a terrific commitment by the children. Here is a lovely letter by a young child. It is addressed to ‘Dear Diddlidumdidlis’. It reads:
Please keep on going with Adventure Island. My brothers Ben and Hugo and Myself all want you to keep on going. We all like Liza, Clown, Percy and Flower and Sam, chy, Troll and Sue Miser Meany and all the badies.
– Do you like them?
– I do, indeed. It is firstclass television. I have 2 daughters; one is 3 years old and the other is 5 years old. I will not ask for permission to table these drawings and letters but they are works of art that I keep in my office here.
– I can see the resemblance.
– This one is a very flattering portrait of some members on the other side of the House. These are a good reminder to me of my children while I am in this place and they are an indication of the sort of artistic enthusiasm which this programme ‘Adventure Island’ brings out in children. One of the drawings depicts Flowerpot’ . Another is a drawing of Betty and it is beautifuL These letters and drawings tell the message better than generalisations about television. These show how enthusiastic children are about this splendid show on the ABC. Here is another letter:
Please do not stop Adventure Island. We enjoy it very much and there are very little Australian programmes. 1 am nine years old.
Here is another one with a picture. It reads:
To Diddley dam diddley, please I do not want Adventure Island taken ofl because its so much fun and Joy please write back.
I do not know whether Diddley dum diddley did write back. That letter continues:
I want yon back because I hate Sesame Street Love from Sally Bray.
Here is another letter addressed to Sue:
I’m sad that Adventure Island has to go off ABC TV. I love Lisa and her voice and Clown when he always forgets, Flowerpot and her little shop, Percy and his strongest Love.
Another one reads:
I am very sad because Adventure Island is going to finish. 1 like all the characters especially clown in his floppy costume. Liza has got good brains because when Cedric Sneak is up to mischief Liza always thinks of a Way to trick him. Flower Pots shop is very pretty tOO. Sometimes Clown says to Percy Panda My head is made from sawdust and that’s why my memory is funny. If you leave it on I will be so happy that I will send you some drawings.
Love from- .
The letter gave the name of the sender. There is a whole series of letters. The honourable member for Riverina has received 200 letters similar to these in 2 weeks and the committee he referred to has received hundreds of them. Here is a sweet one:
Please Mr Kennedy, keep Adventure Island on the T.V. I am sick and I like it
Here is another one from a young child: . . Even my Nanna and Grandpa watch it on their TV, they are over 70 years old.
Here is another one from somebody who signs himself as being ‘Fed Up’. It is from a parent. It reads:
I strongly object to mine and all other Australian children being fed American television programmes regardless of our preference.
Once again I blush with shame to read of yet another instance where Australian talent is to be passed over for the high sell slick so-called Yanky Fun. I think the time has come for me to sell my TV set.
This one is from a woman of 71 years:
I am no chicken being 71 years of age, but t do not hesitate to say that ‘Adventure Island’ will hold its own with any production the ABC cares to put on.
Another writer comments:
How much nicer than the rubbishy and violent cartoons where cats mangle mice and vice versa.
The writer was referring to ‘Adventure Island’. There is a whole series of these letters. They are extremely interesting because they reveal that in many Australian parents there is a very deep concern about the way in which our children are being developed under commercial television. They are all concerned at the predominantly commercial approach that is being taken by commercial television. There is very little children’s television. Adventure Island’ is certainly the finest children’s television programme in Australia. All of the letters reflect a concern at the predominance of American and other foreign imported rubbish and junk. The parents do not want their children being brought up as cheap replicas of a society that is quite different from ours.
– That is correct. The parents want their children to grow in imagination and to have spiritual, mental, aesthetic, social and moral development. They are suggesting in the letters to us that it is only such a programme that is capable of creating this sort of ethos by which children can be influenced. They suggest, and I agree, that the product is one which will produce good young Australians. The parents and the children who have, written have expressed concern that what commercial television is producing are ‘basically passive consumers who are being bombarded with advertising and dull, stupid, unimaginative, boring, repetitive and in many cases American imported cartoons and films that are 20 to 30 years old. One cannot help but look with dismay at such programmes as ‘Kattanooga Kats’. Such programmes are quite unimaginative for children and they are stupefying and evoke no response or development in the child whatever. I think that the decision by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which so far has not been explained, to abolish this programme is a bad one. From the response that I have seen, I would regard it as being a tragedy for the young children of this country. One of the basic reasons why this programme has been dropped is that the ABC is not receiving the funds it needs. Rather than cutting back on current affairs programmes it is cutting back on children’s programmes. I repeat that I have the fullest admiration for this programme. 1 think that has an artistry and an integrity not matched by any other children’s programme in Australia. It should not be abolished. It should be continued and strengthened.
– In these dying moments of the 27th Parliament I know that many of us think of the honourable members from both sides of the House who are leaving the Parliament. On this side of the House they include honourable members such as the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) and the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths). I have had a long association with these members. I know that they must be gravely concerned about leaving this Parliament. One has a certain sorrow when one has to make a decision to end one’s public representation. Those 3 men stood for something for which members on the other side of the House have not stood, but that has not been mentioned tonight. I refer to the question of our involvement in the war in Vietnam. This matter has not been discussed to any great extent in this country because we have not a great involvement in Vietnam at this period, although one must recognise that we still have some commitment in that country.
We first became involved in the Vietnam conflict in 1962 when we sent military advisers to that country. We sent full military forces in May 1965. In this day and age of 1972 we still have military commitments in that country. There has not been even a recognition by this righteous Government of those people in Vietnam against whom it has committed crimes year after year. Not one representative of the Australian Government has given recognition to these people, with the exception of the late Senator Hannaford. Only on one occasion did the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), who is at the table, ever question the policy of his Government. He did so when he was out of the Ministry writing an article for the Melbourne Herald’. With those exceptions, not one member of this Government in the Federal Parliament - either from the Senate or from the House of Representatives - and not one member of any Liberal State Government in either the Upper or the Lower House has ever questioned whether Australia’s policies in relation to Vietnam have been wrong.
Yet during that period of time the United States Senate - both the Republicans and the Democrats - voted by an overwhelming majority that the policies of the United States Government in Vietnam were wrong and that their troops should be withdrawn. They determined that they wanted to end that conflict. But never has this Government had the moral courage even to try to do so, because it was the moral decay of this Government that caused it to take this immoral action in the first place. The Government involved itself in this war as a cheap insurance policy because it thought that if we involved ourselves and later were threatened the United States in turn would come to our aid. That was the cynicism behind the Government’s policy. Even though there were men of military age on the Government side of the Parliament it continued to conscript young men to the forces in Vietnam. The result was that some 500 young men died, 250 or approximately 50 per cent of whom were conscripts.
The United States is trying to save face and is trying to bring about a peace settlement. In fact, it was revealed on the news tonight that North Vietnam has met and agreed with the United States that there would be a ceasefire, but those elements who represent the Government in South Vietnam were not prepared to meet the conditions set down by the United States. The United States could have put forward the same sort of proposals back in 1968. Although it has done so now, it is 50,000 United States lives too late, at least 1 million Vietnamese lives too late, and nearly 500 young Australian lives too late. This shows the hypocrisy of this Government. In this Government moral decay has set in. This is why there will be a change of Government. It was because this Government had been representing the Australian people for so long and had been so devoid of any real positive policies and of any real human understanding that it made its immoral decision to go into the war in Vietnam. It was an incorrect decision to make geographically. It was an incorrect decision to make historically, and of course this Government will pay for it. These smug members of the Government parties will pay for these crimes against humanity. I only hope that many honourable members opposite will in fact suffer by losing their seats at the forthcoming election.
Many of these young men I will remember for the rest of my days, until honourable members opposite have the moral courage to stand up and say in public the things that they say in private - that they were wrong to go into the war in Vietnam and that they should never have become involved in the war in Vietnam. They should have the moral strength to stand on their feet and say: ‘We had no moral right to go into the war in Vietnam. We were wrong. We should not have inflicted our views on the people in Vietnam. The problems of Vietnam can be solved only by the Vietnamese people and not by pitting the might of one nation against another nation’. They cannot bomb people back into the Stone Age as some of them wanted to do. Some of these young Ministers are smug. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) and Minister for External Territories (Mr Peacock) look at me with smugness on their faces. As long as they sit in this Parliament I will remind them of the immoral crimes that they have supported over those years. They know that if President Nixon could save face now and make terms with North Vietnam to get out of Vietnam, he would do so. But the fact is he has gained nothing He could have settled. He could have made peace agreements-
– A point of order. Even at this late hour it makes me feel very uncomfortable-
– What is his point of order? Sit him down.
-Order! I am dealing with a point of order.
– You have been one-eyed for too long.
-Order! The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat while the point of order is being taken.
– What is his point of order?
-If you let him tell me you will save your own time.
– The point of order is that it makes me very upset to see the honourable member for Reid pointing at the 2 Ministers and not addressing the Chair.
– The honourable member for Reid will address the Chair.
– The Speaker knows that there is no point of order. So far as I am concerned, the Ministers and the Speaker himself will pay for some of the crimes committed in Vietnam. In fact every member on the Government side will pay for their negativeness and for their commitment because they have really achieved nothing. They have on their hands the blood of 500 young Australians as well as the blood of the Vietnamese, and it is to the utter disgrace of the Parliament that not one of them has had the courage to say publicly what he has been, saying privately. They were wrong to send troops to Vietnam.
– I propose to speak for only one minute, and I thank the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) for giving me one minute to make my point. Earlier this evening we heard a speech by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) concerning the pre-selection ballot in the electorate of Shortland. He tabled certain documents from a Mr Johnson. The honourable member for Mackellar spoke and tabled the letters for one purpose only - to discredit Alderman Peter Morris, the selected and endorsed Labor candiate for the seat of Shortland at the forthcoming Federal election. Mr Morris is a most honourable man. I have known him for many years - I would say for the best part of 20 years. In that time I have never seen him do one dishonest thing. He is a well respected alderman of the Newcastle City Council and a well respected businessman in Hamilton. His parents, his brothers and his sisters all bold very responsible positions in the community. One of them is a doctor. These letters were tabled to villify this man, in an attempt to discredit him on the eve of an election. I can get proof to show that this man Johnson, who is a justice of the peace, knowingly witnessed a false statutory declaration by a person whom he personally knew. It was not like somebody coming off the street and saying: ‘Would you witness my signature? I want to make a statutory declaration; I would like you to witness it as a justice of the peace’. He personally knew the person who allegedly signed the document. This fa the type of man for whom papers are being tabled here in an attempt to villify Alderman Peter Morris, the selected and endorsed Labor candidate.
I made an arrangement with the Minister. I thank him for the couple of minutes I have had. I should have liked to take the whole file apart and explain to honourable members just how rotten this man is. If anyone should be prosecuted, it is Johnson for having breached his responsibility as a justice of the peace. I notice a Labor senator’s name mentioned in the file. He has a writ against the Australian Broadcasting Commission and I am confident that when the matter is heard it will put him on the retired list for the rest of time.
Mouse adjourned at 11.42 p.m. until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr Speaker as determined by resolution of the House.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Westmead Teaching Hospital (Question No. 5568)
Dt Klugman asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
Will he bring up to date the answer on consultation with the Australian Universities Commission over the proposed teaching hospital at Westmead which he gave me on 13th October 1971 (Hansard, page 2326).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Paragraph 8.35 of the Fifth Report of the Australian Universities Commission, which I tabled in the House on 22nd August 1972, comments on the Westmead Teaching Hospital proposal and indicates that the State Government has advised that funds for teaching facilities will not be required before the 1976-78 triennium. However, I expect further advice in relation to the Westmead Teaching Hospital to become available on completion of the enquiry which the Commission’s Committee on Medical Schools is currently conducting into the future needs for new or expanded medical schools in Australia.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The solid radioactive waste has consisted mainly of paper, cardboard, plastic sheeting and laboratory glassware, which was sealed in fibre drums or fibre-reinforced bitumen impregnated kraft paper bags. The remainder consisted of bulky metal or plastic items, which were wrapped in plastic sheeting, and sludges from the liquid waste treatment plant, which were scaled in steel drums. All the above wastes were slightly contaminated with a mixture of radioisotopes, consisting mainly of fission products, natural uranium and a very small amount of actinide elements. The total amount of low level solid radioactive wastes buried has been 1,670m9, containing the small total of 4.2 curies of radioactivity.
The liquid radioactivity wastes disposed of are initially treated to reduce radioactive and other contaminants to extremely low levels. The treated wastes are carefully monitored and then discharged via a pipeline to an underwater outlet in the upper tidal reaches of the Woronora River. In all cases, the discharges have been well below the requirements of a radioactivity discharge authorisation granted by New South Wales authorities, and which is based on the recommendations of the International Commission for Radiation Protection. Audited discharge data is regularly reported to the appropriate State authorities.
Gaseous waste disposed of from the Commission’s Research Establishment has consisted of ventilating air contaminated with radioactive gases or particulate materials. This air is first filtered through high efficiency filters and then discharged to the atmosphere through stacks. Each stack is fitted wilh a radiation monitor and is the subject of a separate discharge authorisation given by the New South Wales Department of Health. The authorisations specify the amounts of radioactivity which may be discharged in 1 13-week period and the Commission reports the monitor results accordingly. Discharges in each 13-week period, since the authorisations were issued in 1969, have contained amounts of radioactivity representing only small fractions of those permitted.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
On what occasions and with what outcome have consultations taken place with the States, other than at the Fisheries Council (Hansard, 16th September (1970, page 1256 and 31st May 1972 1972, page 3391), concerning the proposed use of nuclear power in harbour construction.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Consultations (other than at the Fisheries Council) concerning the possible use of nuclear explosions for harbour construction have occurred on three occasions. All occasions related to the possible provision of ports to serve iron ore developments in the Pilbara area of Western Australia.
The dates, sites affected and the outcomes were:
April 1965-February 1966; several sites between Onslow and Cape Preston: discussions lapsed following alterations in the plans of the companies developing the iron ore resources. <b) December 1968-February 1969: Cape Keraudren to serve the Nimingarra deposits: the company did not proceed wilh the Nimingarra project
May-July 1969: Cape Preston to serve the Robe River deposits: alternative arrangements for development of the ore reserves led to the discarding of plans for a port at Cape Preston.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1 and 2) Following negotiations between the Governments of Australia and Indonesia in early October, an agreement establishing seabed boundaries in the area of the Timor and Arafura Seas, was signed in Djakarta on 9th October 1972. The text of the Agreement, and a map showing the agreed boundaries were tabled by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the House of Representatives on 10th October 1972.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Has Queensland requested financial assistance for the Ross River Dam under the National Water Resources Development Fund. (Hansard, 16th August 1972, page 278).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Queensland Government has sought advice from the Commonwealth Government on whether the Ross River Dam would be eligible for consideration for financial assistance under the National Water Resources Development Programme.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
How many telephone applications are outstanding, within the provisions of the Government’s 15- mile telephone policy, in each of the rural electoral divisions in Australia.
– The number of applications deferred in each Federal electorate is as follows:
Under Over 15 miles 15 miles
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
On what date did the Premier of Queensland submit a request to the Commonwealth for financial assistance for the construction of a water conservation project in the Eton district to minimise the losses caused by drought to sugar production.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Eton-Mackay scheme was submitted to the Commonwealth by the Premier of Queensland for consideration under the National Water Resources Development Programme on 27th April 1971.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Is it a fact that the Commonwealth’s evaluation of the Eton water conservation project was completed 7 months ago; if so, will he make this evaluation available to the Parliament.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Reports containing the results of a departmental study of projects submitted by the States for consideration under the National Water Resources Development Programme are submitted to the Government, and are regarded as confidential documents.
Housing in Canberra: Members of Parliament (Question No. 6469) Mr Les Johnson asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Over the last 5 years one Member of Parliament the Honourable P. J. Nixon, has purchased a Government house in Canberra:
The Honourable A. S. Peacock.
The Honourable R. McN. Holten. (al Northbourne Flats, Braddon.
The Honourable L. H. E. Bury.
Mr E. G. Whitlam (a) Stuart Flats, Griffith.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
Why have he and his predecessors not required the Australian Universities Commission to furnish to them a report on a university at Albury which has been proposed over a number of years. (Hansard, 5th May 1970, page 1564; 17th August 1971, page 154 and 13th September 1972, page 1366).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
When a proposal for the establishment of a university in a State is made by a State Government, the advice of the Australian Universities Commission is sought in connection with the proposal. However, there is no proposal before either the Commonwealth Government or the Australian Universities Commission by any State Government or Governments regarding the establishment of a university at Albury or Wodonga.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Have the further submissions of the South Australian Government to the Commonwealth for assistance in financing the Lock-Kimba Pipeline on Eyre Peninsula been examined by his Department; if so, when is it anticipated that (he South Australian Government will be informed of Ihe decision.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Further submissions concerning Commonwealth financial assistance for the Lock-Kimba Pipeline
Scheme on the Eyre Peninsula have been received from the South Australian Government. These are currently under examination and I anticipate that a decision will be made by the Commonwealth Government concerning this project in the near future.
asked the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice.
As the Commonwealth Government has finalised plans for the purchase of Everard Park in South Australia for Aboriginal purposes, what plans nave been formulated to develop this property lor the benefit of the Aboriginal people in the area.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The purchase of the Everard Park station in South Australia by the Commonwealth Government has been completed. The Aboriginal people associated with Everard Park have indicated that they wish to continue to operate the property as a pastoral undertaking. For this purpose it is contemplated that an Aboriginal operating company will be formed, but details are to be worked out in consultation with the Aboriginal community and the South Australian authorities. The Aboriginal community will be assisted in the undertaking by an Adelaide-based firm of pastoral consultants, which has prepared a development plan.
To make possible the continued operation of the property as a pastoral undertaking, I have approved the provision of loan finance from the Capita] Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises and more finance will’ be provided for additional stock, equipment and improvements in accordance with the recommended programme for the development of the property.
Brisbane Airport: Re-siting Proposal (Question No. 6535)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Those studies are well under way; some have been completed. Prompt consideration will be given to the proposal as a whole immediately the results of all these supplementary studies and other technical reviews are available.
All alternatives considered have been north of the Brisbane River and do not involve significant noise nuisance in the Electorate of Bowman.
Brisbane Airport: Re-siting Proposal (Question No. 6536) Mr Keogh asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the. following answer to the honourable member’s question:
That paper is now being discussed.
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
– At Question Time on 29th August 1972, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) asked for information related to the investment of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. On the following day I provided certain answers which led to a further statement and additional inquiries by the honourable member. I undertook to examine the request of the honourable member that details of mortgage investments by the board should be tabled in the House; this inquiry was broadened to cover 2 other aspects of his question - the possibility of low interest loans by the board and financial support which may be given to housing and related services.
The matter of tabling of details of mortgage loans by the Superannuation Board has been raised on a number of occasions. As a statutory corporation the board enters into its commercial transactions on a confidential investor-client basis. To table the details of mortgage loans, as suggested, would not only be a serious breach of confidentiality in respect of past transactions and contrary to an established practice of lending institutions but must prejudice the board in future lending activities. As to the question of low interest rates, the President has confirmed that the board does not invest in commercial loans at low interest rates. The established policy is to achieve the best available rates at a particular time; this has been reflected in consistent improvement in earning rates of the Fund in recent years as will be seen from the following table:
I refer now to investment in housing. It is not the current policy of the board to enter into direct housing loans with individual home-owners but rather to lend to institutions which specialise in detailed housing loan administration. The board has invested some $16m at semi-government private loan rates with housing authorities of the Commonwealth and States, while $166m have been lent to governmental authorities for such services as water, sewerage, drainage, gas and electricity. These investments constitute a significant contribution to improved housing facilities in the States and Territories of the Commonwealth.
I should add, for the purposes of the record, that the amount of $3 6.5m mentioned by the honourable member on 30th August 1972 (Hansard, page 880) was the amount of the total of first mortgages in New South Wales and not ‘other than mortgages on land’, as stated. It is also necessary to state that mortgage investments by the board are secured by specific changes in the form of first legal mortgages over commercial property; they do not take the form of an equitable mortgage, by way of a floating charge over the assets of the borrowers, which the honourable member was apparently led to believe.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The relevant information for most of the stations concerned is set out in the table hereunder. The details are based on the transmitting sites which have been determined, some quite recently, for each station. In order to take advantage of elevated sites, many of the transmitting stations are located at various distances, up to 10 miles, outside the main centres of population which they will serve.
As indicated in the table, final operating conditions have yet to be determined for the stations at Moora, Carnamah, Mingenew and Three Springs in Western Australia, and also in respect of stations at Katherine and Tennant Creek, Northern Territory which are two of the three additional areas approved for inclusion in the seventh stage of development (see note e). The information in relation to these stations will be notified to the honourable member as soon as possible.
In relation to the question of the provision of high powered stations, it is to be noted that, if high-powered stations were provided for each site, the cost of the seventh stage of development would increase from an estimated $5m to $24.6m. Quite clearly, the considerable additional capital costs involved would be prohibitive having regard to the small additional population which, would be served. A further important consideration is that there is a limited number of television channels available and it would be technically impracticable for most of the stations included in the seventh stage of television development to operate on high power without interference being caused to reception of other stations, not only, in relation to the seventh stage stations but also in relation to existing television stations serving areas of earlier television development. The power used by each station, up to an effective radiated power of 2,000 watts, has been adjusted to most effectively serve the areas concerned. It is considered that a large number of the population not served by the proposed stations could eventually be served more economically and more effectively by translator stations or other means than by high powered stations.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The matters referred to, except where students are assisted or sponsored by the Papua New Guinea Public Service Board, now fall within the authority of the Ministers for Education, Health, Forests, and Agriculture Stock and Fisheries in the House of Assembly for Papua New Guinea. The Administrator, on the advice of the Ministers mentioned and the Chairman of the Papua New Guinea Public Service Board, has provided the following information:
395,645 102,500 1.845* 137,000 224.080 288,395 87,000 171,000
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 October 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19721026_reps_27_hor81/>.