28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) 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 respectfully showeth:
That grave concern is felt at the imminent introduction into the Commonwealth Parliament of legislation to permit abortion on demand.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land a principle which violates a fundamental right, the right to life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McMahon, Mr Corbett, Mr Malcolm Fraser, Mr McVeigh, Mr Wallis and Mr Whan.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land a principle which violates a fundamental right, the right to life. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Fisher, Mr Malcolm Fraser, Mr Thorburn, Mr Wallis and Mr Whan.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned - Division of Calare- respectfully showeth:
That grave concern is felt at the imminent introduction into the Commonwealth Parliament of legislation to permit abortion on demand. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the laws of this land a principle which violates a fundamental right - the right to life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr England.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray thatthe honourable House will not extend the laws governing abortion and will uphold the right to life of the unborn child.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McMahon.
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,
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should maintain the existing laws covering abortion and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Snedden.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. When in Opposition the Labor Party strongly argued for an inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service. Both Senators Murphy and Willesee put motions before the Senate seeking inquiry by Senate committees into the structure, recruitment and management of the Public Service. It is reported that the Chairman of the Public Service Board now requests an inquiry. I ask the honourable gentleman: Will he appoint a full ranging inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service? If he is unwilling to do so, will he state the reasons?
– The Government has appointed a royal commission to deal with half the Public Service, namely, that half which is employed in the Australian Post Office. I hesitate to say what the Chairman of the Public Service Board has suggested. He has in fact suggested inquiries into two particular aspects arising from the creation of additional departments and the desirable amalgamation, accordingly, of others. I ask the right honourable gentleman to wait until the Cabinet considers this matter. The papers have been circulated. I would hope that we would get down to it on Monday. I do not feel I can say any more at this stage. Half the Public Service is the subject of a wide ranging royal commission. There are two other particular aspects, which the Chairman has recommended at my instigation.
– I direct my question to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence. Has HMAS ‘Supply’ been ordered to sail to the French nuclear test zone? Does the fact that the ship is in dry dock raise any problems in carrying out this instruction? If the ship does sail to the zone, can the Minister give an assurance that the men who volunteered to make the trip will be fully protected against the dangers of radiation and its consequences?
– 1 did have discussions with the Prime Minister of New Zealand who, as the right honourable gentleman will be aware, had already indicated that, as a part of his Government’s protest against the French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, New Zealand would be sending a frigate to the area. He asked for Australia’s co-operation in providing refuelling facilities for that vessel. We as a government adopt the same attitude as that taken by the Government of New Zealand. During my discussions with the New Zealand Prime Minister, I indicated that Australia would be prepared to provide whatever support was possible. At that time, I indicated that it would be possible to provide HMAS ‘Supply’ which could carry out the refuelling requirements that would be necessary. It is true that ‘Supply’ is now in dry dock but, if ‘Supply’ is not available, another vessel will be made available and Australia will honour its obligations in this respect.
Finally, I want to say to the right honourable gentleman that I made it perfectly clear to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, as I make it clear to this Parliament, that the Australian participation would be to the extent that the vessel would be outside the fallout area, that the exercise would be regarded as a naval exercise and that those who sailed on the ship - that is, the members of the crew - if necessary, would be given the opportunity to opt out. There would be no question of volunteers; it would be a normal naval exercise. But anyone on the ship who, for political or for any other reasons, felt that he should not be a member of the crew would have the opportunity to opt out. We as a government believe that we have a responsibility not only to fulfil our obligations in cooperating with New Zealand but also to ensure that we make whatever protests are available and within the capacity of this Government. To that extent, whether ‘Supply’ is available or not, Australia will be co-operating with New Zealand by providing another ship, if it is necessary.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Northern Development. I refer to the income tax zone allowances which, not having been adjusted for a number of years, are gradually losing value in relation to their purpose. Is it correct that any attempt to increase those allownaces would endanger their retention in the Act? If so, does that danger not exist irrespective of whether they are increased or not? Would the termination of the allowances or a substantial loss in value seriously affect northern development, particularly with regard to attracting and retaining an adequate work force? If this is so, has any consideration been given to preparing some other form of legislation which could not be challenged but which would serve the same purpose as the zone allowances, thereby assisting and encouraging further development and population in northern areas?
– The policy of the Australian Labor Party in this respect is quite clear. A review will be made of existing zonal boundaries which are predominantly in northern Australia - I refer to zones A and B - and at the same time there will be a revision of the basic allowances for those zones, having regard to living conditions, income tax deductions and social services. The honourable member will know that the zonal system has been in operation since 1945. Its introduction was a recognition by the Chifley Labor Government of the severe economic disabilities suffered by people working and living in northern Australia. These boundaries were reviewed and altered in 1956 by the Menzies Government. The basic allowances pertaining to the zones have not been altered since 1958-59. So it is clear that there is some need for a review of the boundaries.
In recent years there has been a change in the economic structure of people living in northern Australia, in terms of the development of townships, and today there are some very serious anomalies For example, some of the new mining towns in north Queensland, despite the fact that they are in remote areas, are outside Zone B. Obviously this is causing some problems to people living there, in terms of justification of the present zoning. I cannot offer any comment on whether a move such as that suggested by the honourable member would be challenged in the courts. All I can say is that the zone allowances system has been in operation for 28 years and is designed to correct an obvious disability of people living in remote areas where living and other costs are well ahead of those people living in the capital cities. Whether any alternative system is available would be, of course, a matter for the Government and particularly the Treasurer.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister in his capacity of Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer him to a number of resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 14 December 1972, dealing with decolonisation and racial discrimination, which Australia supported and voted for. I refer him specifically to resolution No. 2984 (xxvii) which, among other things, called for a time-table to be established for the self-determination and independence of the Cocos Islands. Australia, of course, did not vote in favour of a similar resolution in 1971. The support of this specific resolution represents a drastic change in attitude and policy. Therefore, I ask the Prime Minister: Was the Government aware of what it was doing regarding this resolution, and when is it now planned for the Cocos Islands to be independent?
– It is true, and it has been noted throughout the world, that the Australian Government which took office just before the last fortnight of the General Assembly meeting took a different attitude on all colonisation and colour questions from that taken by its predecessor. This resolution was supported by the present Government; it had been opposed by the previous Government. Of course, there are in all these resolutions which are quite long and detailed, some aspects which would be impractical or irrelevant. One looks at the overall effect of them. No consideration has been given to independence for the Cocos Islands. I do not think anybody seriously believes that independence would be appropriate-
– But you voted for it.
– If a resolution is 90 per cent acceptable, one votes for it. It does not mean that one votes for every individual aspect of it. The previous Government painted itself into a jam by objecting even to a time-table for Papua New Guinea and a specific resolution about which we now have no doubts at all. The honourable gentleman was embarrassed by his predecessors’ constant assertion that there could not be selfgovernment in New Guinea even in the 1980s. This was a specific question; they were wrong, be was right. We endorsed what he achieved. The Cocos Islands were in the list of a string of non-self-governing territories contained in the resolutions. There are some other territories we might think should be added to the list and which are much more relevant, such as the French territories in the South Pacific. The inclusion of the Cocos Islands was one aspect of the motion. There were some aspects about, for instance, Rhodesia and Portuguese colonies in South Africa which we would not have thought entirely practical or urgent. Nevertheless, the overall intention of these resolutions was one which Australia should support as all her neighbours do and as the great majority of the countries of the world do.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. Having regard to the confusion that now exists in Victoria regarding the State Government’s attitude to the proposed housing agreement, can the Minister inform the House whether he has any information regarding any proposed rent increases for housing commission homes in the near future - that is if the Victorian State Government has a future after Saturday next?
– The Victorian Housing Minister has not indicated enthusiasm about the proposed housing agreement.
– That is a classic understatement.
– It could be, but it is still a fair expression of the situation. He has made it clear that the Government of Victoria has no intention of increasing rents before the election. To be more precise, he has said - this is borne out in a transcript of the proceedings of the Housing Ministers Conference - that, the Victorian Government has decided that in this financial year there will be no increase in rental charges. He stated that in July 1973 the Victorian Gov-, ern ment will, however, be making a review of all rentals. I am not prepared to overstate and say that it is inevitable that rental increases will follow, but I think it is implied because the Victorian Government, like other State governments, often, delays the review of rents until after elections and too frequently rental reviews are conducted triennially rather than annually. The Commonwealth has advocated that there should be periodical and annual reviews of rents in order that people may be spared the disadvantage of suffering a large increase from time to time.
I should like to inform the honourable member that if the Housing Agreement Bill which is at present before the House receives the approval of the Victorian Government it is likely that substantial increases in rents which would otherwise take place may be avoided. If finance is provided at 4 per cent per annum interest rather than one per cent below the bond rate and provided over 53 years, it obviously provides the means by which rental or repayment costs on houses can be kept to a minimum. It may be of interest for honourable members to know that later today, after question time, I shall be tabling documents relating to the negotiations associated with the proposed CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. There has never been any indication on the part of the Commonwealth that it stands for increases in rents. Conversely, there has been a clear implication in what I have read to the House, which is an account of what the Victorian Housing Minister has said, that the Victorian Government will be contemplating such an increase after the State election. I should take the opportunity of correcting another incorrect impression which has been conveyed throughout Victoria. It is to the effect that this Government stands to evict people who are tenants of housing commission homes when they become more affluent. The documents I table today will demonstrate that there has never been a Commonwealth intention along those lines.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I preface the question by referring to the Prime Minister’s answer to a question put by the honourable member for Darling Downs on 8th May. This question related to the Australian Labor Party’s proposed policy on rural finance, as contained in the booklet ‘Its Time - Rural’. The Prime Minister’s full answer was:
The question of long term finance is still before the Cabinet. It has not been determined as quickly as I had hoped, because as honourable members will know, the Minister for Primary Industry has had to attend overseas conferences.
In the light of this answer, I ask: Does such an important field of policy for rural Australia depend to this extent on the Minister for Primary Industry and, if so, how many days has the Minister spent overseas? Does the Prime Minister consider these conferences worth while if they lead to serious neglect of this Minister’s responsibility at home? Can the Prime Minister see that this Minister gives higher priority to considerations of long term finance at low interest rates for rural Australia as promised?
– This matter has been determined by the Cabinet. It was determined last Monday. I might add that the Cabinet’s submission was a joint one by the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry. There were occasions when one or other of those gentlemen was away, and there was therefore some delay in dealing with this submission. Both the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry had important ministerial conferences to attend overseas. It was essential in the country’s interest that they should attend those conferences. Their predecessors used to attend those conferences.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Is there any likelihood of the Government introducing legislation this session dealing with the control of monopolies and the many types of restrictive trade practices? If not, can he inform the House what stage has been reached in the preparation of any such legislation?
– The matter has not been considered by Cabinet yet. The AttorneyGeneral is, of course, overseas. It is my understanding that he is hopeful of having legislation introduced into the Senate soon after his return. He is hoping, and I am hoping, that it will be considered by Cabinet in time for that to be done.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to a report attributing to the Minister for Primary Industry a statement that the present wheat stabilisation scheme will be extended for another year. The report also indicated that while the guaranteed price would rise by 3c to 160c per bushel the domestic price would remain at 170c per bushel. Is the Minister aware that the present price is 184.06c per bushel, and will he clarify whether this indicates an intention of the Government to reduce drastically the home consumption price?
– The Press communique which the honourable member read from must have been incorrect. A decision has been taken - I understand it has been announced and will be discussed - that the Government will carry out a comprehensive review of the wheat stabilisation scheme. There is no doubt whatsoever about where we stand on this issue. We support wheat stabilisation. As I have indicated before, it was a Labor government that introduced the wheat stabilisation scheme in Australia. There is no conflict at all within the Labor Party as regards the principles of wheat stabilisation. The principles which have been followed by the Labor Party over the years are shown in our platform and are accepted by the Labor Government. The Minister for Primary Industry will be negotiating with the Ministers who constitute the Australian Agricultural Council tomorrow - the Standing Committee on Agriculture meets today - on current issues with respect to wheat stabilisation.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. As a preface, I refer him to his Press conference of 8th May at which, in reply to the question ‘Have you had any response from the Chinese Government on your protest note on the nuclear testing?’, he said: ‘The protest to China was oral, so there would be no written response’. 1 also refer him to an answer to a question on notice reported in the Senate Hansard of 15th May in which Senator Murphy, in reply to a question asked by Senator Webster, said that the Prime Minister had furnished the following answer:
The protest took the form of a letter from the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Chi Peng-fei. The letter was banded to the Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister … by the Australian Charge d’Affaires in Peking.
Was the Prime Minister’s answer at his Press conference on 8th May incorrect or was the Prime Minister’s answer provided for Senator Murphy incorrect? Finally, precisely what form did the Australian protest to China take? If it was a written protest, does the Prime Minister expect a response?
– ‘Both answers were correct. The Charge d’Affaires handed a letter to Mr Chi Peng-fei and then there was a conversation explaining the points of view of both governments.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: In his constructive and humanitarian consideration of social security benefits, will he give special consideration to needy people living in remote places who are denied the advantages of trained nursing services? Will he consider the special aptitude and capabilities of people who help the aged and the sick and thus provide to them a benefit which at present they are denied?
– I know that the honourable member, too, is motivated by humane considerations and no doubt that is why he raised the question. As I indicated in the House yesterday and also last week, my Department currently is investigating this area. It is an area not without problems. Until that investigation is concluded, I am afraid I can say nothing concrete, except that I hope that in the total conspectus of what we are trying to achieve in the field of social welfare this will be one of the areas where we will provide adequate responses to the clear needs in the community.
– As the Prime Minister has agreed that he is not happy with his practice of spelling out policies to Press conferences rather than to the Parliament, will he tell the House why he continues this practice? Does he feel the lure of television cameras too much of a temptation to address a much bigger audience? Does he realise that his answers to the pressmen before television cameras appear to be factual and courteous, whereas in this House his answers to questions asked by honourable members are sometimes derisive and sometimes, we regret to say, in our opinion, fail to give the facts? If the proceedings of the House of Representatives were televised does he hope that he then would be able to answer the questions of honourable members in a forthright manner?
– I appreciate this maiden question. I am not alone in believing that questions asked by the Press are better put than those by the Opposition.
– My question to the Minister for Transport refers to the announcement made by the Minister last January in which he instructed the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Railways to re-call tenders for the supply of sleepers, both concrete and timber, for use by the Commonwealth Railways in the construction of and maintenance work on the Commonwealth Railways system. Will the Minister state whether tenders have now closed? If so, when can we expect an announcement to be made as to whether concrete or timber sleepers will be used on that system?
– It is true that I rescinded the previous Government’s decision on the use of concrete and timber sleepers because I considered it to be a most political decision - indeed, a biased one. I will just give the honourable member some information. The Commonwealth Railways has called for tenders for sleepers, both concrete and timber, for the section of the railway line between Port Pirie and Port Augusta and on the trans-continential section adjacent to Port Augusta. Tenders will close on 5 June, at which time the Bureau of Transport Economics will take into consideration the prices tendered by the manufacturers of concrete sleepers and the suppliers of timber sleepers. The price and the technical properties of both types of sleeper will be taken into consideration. Honourable members should bear in mind that both industries involved are Australian industries employing Australian labour. The industry which is considered to produce the most economic, and able to supply the best form of sleeper will be the one chosen to fulfil the order.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a copy of an article over the name ‘Elizabeth Reid’ circulated to honourable members and printed in the Australian National University paper of 13 April 1973, a few days after her appointment to the Prime Minister’s specialist staff as an adviser on womens’ affairs? Will the Prime Minister study the paper closely and assure me that he is satisfied that M/s Reid’s advice to him represents the views and attitudes of womanhood in this country?
– This sort of question is typical of the man who asked it. I have not seen this article. I am aware that this young woman is subject to a great number of imputations and that some very discreditable innuendoes are being spread by people in the Senate. I can only say that she was the most accomplished of the hundreds of applicants for this position. A very considerable number of senior public servants are seeking her advice and welcoming it.
– I ask the Minister for Services and Property a question. Last night’s Melbourne ‘Herald’ carried the headline: Government gets Report of Fake Vote Plot’. In the story that followed the Chief Secretary in Victoria, Mr Meagher, is quoted as saying: I have received information that some people have falsely claimed enrolment for areas in which they do not live.’ In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Electoral Office handles all enrolments, has Mr Meagher been in touch with the Minister? In addition, has the Minister received any other information regarding this matter and what action does he propose to take?
– The matter mentioned has not been brought to my attention. The first knowledge that I have had of it is the question just asked by the honourable gentleman. But if it is brought to my attention I shall institute immediate inquiries in line with what the honourable member has indicated in order to see what the real position is. If this is done, of course, action will be taken appropriate to the case.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether there is any truth in a statement which was made in the news this morning that it is possible that the Citizen Military Forces will be disbanded.
– The honourable member is well aware, of course, that I have initiated a committee of inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces of this country. This is an inquiry which I believe was sought by some of my predecessors but upon which there could never be agreement by the previous Government. So the committee has been established by this Government. This highly competent committee has very wide terms of reference and is headed by, I believe, a very distinguished Australian who is competent to investigate the whole of the ramifications of the CMF. The statement that appeared in the Press this morning was issued by Dr Millar, the Chairman of the committee. The statement was shown to me by the Chairman before he made it available to the Press of this country. It is quite clear that, within the terms of reference, he wants everyone in this country who has some interest in the CMF - those who are connected with the Australian forces in any way at all, whether in a military capacity or a civilian capacity - to have the opportunity to express freely his views concerning the future of the CMF. In this context I believe that the Chairman was quite correct when he indicated that there undoubtedly would be put to him some propositions or indications by some people that it may not be necessary to have a CMF in Australia at all, and that in line with all other submissions this would have to be considered on its merits.
It is quite clear from the terms of reference - and I am sure that I am able to speak for the committee as a whole at this stage - that there would be no intention to disband the CMF since it is the policy of this Government to build up in Australia a Citizen Military Force that will be efficient and that will provide support for the Australian regular forces. But the Chairman of the committee, in the context that people are entitled to make a submission to him, naturally would consider a submission which suggested that the CMF should be disbanded. This submission would be taken into consideration along with all other submissions. I am satisfied that as a result of the deliberations of the committee and the report that will eventually be made available to this Parliament the Citizen Military Forces in Australia will be given the status which I believe it ought to have in this country in terms of our defence requirements for the 1970s, the 1980s and beyond.
– Is the Minister for Urban and Regional Development aware of a report that the Minister for State Development and Decentralisation in Victoria has accused the Postmaster-General of telling lies in relation to his statement that the Victorian Government had not approached the Commonwealth seeking that Ballarat be designated as a development centre? Is he also aware that Mr Byrne has publicly stated that the reply he received from the Minister for Urban and Regional Development contained no information other than acknowledgement of receipt of a letter? Is Mr Byrne correct in saying that the Minister gave no information in his reply?
– I am aware of the statement made by the Victorian Minister for State Development and Decentralisation. There has been correspondence between Mr Byrne and me. Mr Byrne did suggest certain areas that could be considered for study - I stress the word ‘study’ - for possible development as growth centres. I notice that Mr Byrne’s letter to me was published in full. Mr Byrne did not seek my permission to make it public. It is not my intention to disclose my reply to Mr Byrne without consultation with him because I feel if we are to get any real co-operation between Commonwealth and State Ministers, State Ministers have certain responsibilities as do Commonwealth Ministers. I regret that the statement was made. At no time has there been agreement between the Commonwealth and the State on any regional area in Victoria to be nominated as a growth area with the exception of Wodonga. It was agreed that no announcement would be made on any other area during the Victorian election campaign because the Australian Government should not be used in the politics of that State’s elections. The Australian Government wants to work out scientifically what is in the best interests of Victoria and the nation as a whole in determining new growth centres.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. In view of the Government’s stated intention to provide stated maximum housing assistance to those on low incomes, will the Government agree to a proposal by the Association of Permanent Building Societies to make their liquid reserves available for lower interest lending? The Association has estimated that it has $125m which can be made available at a lending rate of 6 per cent. Is the Government prepared to provide the guarantees sought by the Association to undertake the scheme which seems to accord closely with the Treasurer’s own housing priorities?
– I think the whole question of the role of the permanent building societies and others with respect to the provision of credit for housing needs to be re-examined. I do not think the permanent building societies, in particular, are in any position to dictate the circumstances. I believe that they have been more favoured borrowers than have some other areas of credit extension in the past. This has had the unfortunate effect of forcing up the lending rate generally. What has happened is that funds that formerly resided in the State savings banks and, to some extent, in the trading banks and to which an interest rate of about 4 to 5 per cent applied, have now been encouraged by, in my view, too blatant advertising programs into organisations offering to the lender something like 61 per cent interest. If that is the borrowing rate, obviously the lending rate to the purchaser of houses has to be at least in excess of 61 per cent.
The permanent building societies up to date have not had any liquidity arrangements placed upon them. They are not like the insurance companies which have to pay a certain proportion of their funds into government securities. They are not like the trading banks which are subject to liquid assets and government securities, statutory reserve deposits and other kinds of arrangements and limitations on borrowings. I believe that the permanent building societies have mushroomed far too fast for the general welfare of housing in Australia. They are the kinds of organisation that cut across all the canons of prudent finance; that is, they borrow short and lend long. For those reasons I do not want to say too much about the situation at the moment. It would be highly unfortunate if anything in the nature of a run were to take place against the permanent building societies. I hope that for their own sake, as well as for the good of the people they claim to serve, something will be done about restraining the rate at which they lend and also the excessive, in my view, advertising campaigns that they conduct.
– I asked you about the interest rate.
– I know, but I am not giving any answer separately about this point. All I am saying is that I do not think the permanent building societies are in any position to call the terms. I have said before in this House that we are giving serious consideration to putting upon other lending institutions, including the permanent building societies, some of the controls on lending policy that already exist in respect of life insurance and the banking system generally. When I am in a position to make a statement I will-
– You have said that twice. You are just occupying question time with tedious repetition. Resume your seat.
– I hear a lot of tedious repetition from the other side. I have been rather surprised since I became Treasurer. I do not think I have been asked one substantia] question by the Opposition since I came to office. I regard it as a tribute to the way that I am doing the job.
(Mr Whan having addressed a question to the Minister for Health) -
– I have seen reports of the statement by Professor Pauling referred to by the honourable member. In fact, I raised the subject with him this morning. The Professor has agreed with me that although nuclear tests as a whole have been about as dangerous as chest X-rays in certain respects - I should not really use the word dangerous’; I should say that the tests have done as much harm as X-rays in certain respects - nevertheless, with the precautions and techniques that have been developed here the damage to future generations is approximately one-sixtieth as much from the chest X-rays done in Australia as the damage from the French nuclear tests and other nuclear tests in the atmosphere. This comes mainly of course from French tests as far as Australians are concerned.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask that the papers from which the Minister is quoting be tabled under the Standing Orders for the benefit of all honourable members.
– Unless it is classified information the Minister must table them. Does the Minister claim that it is classified information?
– 1 am quoting from a personal letter but I will be perfectly willing to table the technical data which I am about to quote. I have not yet quoted any of it.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, under the Standing Orders the Minister must claim that the papers are confidential and classified. If he does not make that claim, he is required to table the papers.
-I did not know that it is a personal letter. The Standing Orders do not apply to persona] letters.
– In that case I will be able to quote from the letter, but I am quite happy to give the answer without quoting from anything. The only figures which I propose to cite show that the maximum numbers of cases of cancer expected to arise from X- rays of 75,000 people - ‘the estimated number in the Australian Capital Territory - are as follows: Lung cancer, 0.069; leukaemia, which is caused by bone marrow irradiation, 0.039; thyroid cancers, an average of 0.018; female breast cancers, 0.005; all other body organs, 0.072. In the same survey of 75,000 people it could be expected that the number of deaths or disabilities due to genetic effects on later generations would average, in males, 0.0004 and in females, 0.005.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Standing order 321 states:
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister or an Assistant Minister, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by address, shall, if required by any member, be laid on the Table.
The standing order does not exclude a private letter of any kind.
– It is a confidential letter.
– The Minister has not declared it to be a confidential document.
– In these circumstances, I declare this letter to be confidential.
-Order! I inform the honourable member for Wannon that May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ states:
The rule for the laying of cited documents cannot be held to apply to private letters or memoranda.
– Mr Speaker I raise a point of order. The Minister is giving information which he has failed to give me in answer to a question I placed on notice on this subject. I cannot find the question quickly among the many questions that are on the notice paper, but it is on the notice paper.
– There is no substance in the point of order. I could not be expected to be able to keep in my head all of the things that are asked in questions on notice.
– In other words, the total number of cancers and disabilities in later generations revealed by such a survey is estimated to be 0.21. As against this, the benefits that will be obtained by the survey are estimated to be the detection of 15 new cases of unsuspected active tuberculosis, 125 cases of inactive tuberculosis and 400 other significant conditions which require investigation such as cancer, heart complaints and emphysema. When I quoted those figures to Professor Pauling, he conceded that they were far in excess of the tuberculosis and other diseases detected in the California surveys. The important point is that the California surveys to which he referred and which he was successful in stopping, because they were-
– Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to Question No. 443-
– Do you want anybody to suffer from tuberculosis?
– I wish you would help the Minister answer the question. Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to Question No. 443 on the notice paper.
– I think the question asked by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro does bear similarity to Question No. 443. Despite the fact that the Minister has answered most of the question, I think it is still out of order.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the meeting between Australian and French scientists on 7th, 8th and 9th May at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra on biological effects of nuclear explosion fall-out. The report is in 2 sections. Section A is common to the Australian and French reports. In section B separate reports are submitted by the Australian scientists and the French scientists.
Ordered that the paper be printed.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. I am forced to raise a point of order because I wish to have incorporated in Hansard, with the leave of the House, the resolution to which I referred at question time. I believe that I am duty bound to seek to do this as soon as possible after question time. I was not able to get the call from you, Mr Speaker, although I was on my feet. I now seek leave to have resolution No. 2984 (XXVII), to which I referred in my question, incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Distr. GENERAL A/RES/2984 (XXVII) 8 January 1973
Twenty-seventh session Agenda item 22
ton the report of the Fourth Committee (A/8955) ] 2984 (XXVII). Question of American Samoa, Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Guam, Montscrrat, New Hebrides, Pitcairn, St Helena, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands and United States Virgin Islands
Having considered the question of American Samoa, Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Guam, Montserral. New Hebrides, Pitcairn, St Helena, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands and United States Virgin Islands,
Having examined the relevant chapters of the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples,’
Recalling its resolution 1514 (XV) of 14th December 1960, containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and its resolution 2621 (XXV) of 12th October 1970, containing the program of action for the full implementation of the Declaration,
Recalling its previous resolutions relating to those Territories, in particular resolution 2869 (XXVI) of 20 December 1971,
Deploring the intransigent attitude of the Governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and France, in contravention of the provisions of the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, and their persistence in refusing to co-operate with the Special Committee in its examination of the Territories under their administration,
Deeply deploring the policy of those administering Powers which continue to maintain military bases in some of the Territories under their administration, in contravention of the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly,
Deeply deploring also the attitudes of those administering Powers which continue to refuse to allow United Nations missions to visit the Territories under their administration,
Bearing in mind in particular the positive results achieved as a consequence of the visits by United Nations missions to other colonial Territories and reiterating its conviction that the dispatch of visiting missions to the abovementioned Territories is indispensable for securing adequate and first-hand information in regard to political, economic and social conditions in the Territories and to the views, wishes and aspirations of the peoples therein.
Deeply concerned about the adverse effects of contined nuclear atmospheric testing in the South Pacific on the life, welfare and environment of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories situated therein,
A/8723/Add.4 (Part I), chap. XI; A8723/Add.5, chaps. XV, XVII, XVIII, XX and XXI; and A/8723/ Add.6 (Part I), chaps. XXII and XXIII. and affirming that those peoples have the right to be free of the hazards to their lives, welfare and environment caused by such tests,
Mindful that the Territories listed above require the continued attention and assistance of the United Nations in the achievement by their peoples of the objectives embodied in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Declaration of the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples,
Aware of the special circumstances of the geographical location and the economic conditions of those Territories,
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the inquiry into academic salaries dated 16th May 1973. My thanks go to Mr Justice Campbell, who is the author of this report.
– For the information of honourable members, I present transcripts of the proceedings of the conferences between Commonwealth and State Ministers for Housing held at Canberra on Friday, 23rd March 1973, and at Adelaide on Thursday, 5th April 1973.
– I present the summary report of the Australian delegation to the plenipotentiary conference to conclude an international convention on trade in certain species of wildlife held in Washington DC from 12th February to 2nd March 1973. I also present some explanatory notes on the conference and the report.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House that Mr Justice Hope of the Court of Appeal Division of the Supreme Court of New South Wales has agreed to act as chairman of the Government’s proposed task force on the national estate. It is expected that the work of the task force will be conducted by a committee of 7, with a permanent secretariat supplied by the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the Department of the Environment and Conservation. The Committee will advertise for submissions and hold public hearings in the States. The work of the Committee is expected to take several months. The Government has begun discussions with several prominent people with varying talents suitable for the work of the inquiry. The Government expects to be able to announce full details early next week- probably on Tuesday afternoon. In Mr Justice Hope we shall have a chairman of great capacity and experience and with a sympathetic understanding of the problems the task force will face.
The task force is needed because increasing numbers of Australians are concerned to preserve for the enjoyment of future generations the best buildings of our past and the best features of our natural environment. This concern is shared by governments. The Australian Government is committed to the preservation and enhancement of the national estate. The concept of the national estate embraces such things as historic buildings and towns, buildings of architectural merit, major parks, nature reserves, urban parks, scenic reserves, areas along the coastline and so on. The task force will be asked to advise the Australian Government on any additional measures and policies which should be applied to preserve and enhance the national estate and the role the Australian Government can play in assisting the implementation of these measures and policies.
I take this opportunity publicly to thank the Premier of New South Wales, his AttorneyGeneral and the Chief Justice of New South Wales for agreeing so readily to make available to the Australian Government the services of yet another distinguished member of the New South Wales Bench. I remind the House that there are now no fewer than 5 Supreme Court Justices assisting this Government in various important inquiries. Mr Justice Asprey is inquiring into taxation matters; Mr Justice Toose is examining the repatriation system; Mr Justice Else-Mitchell is looking into the system of land tenure in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory; Mr Justice Meares, as I informed the House in a ministerial statement 2 months ago, is sitting with Mr Justice Woodhouse on the national pension inquiry; and finally, as I have menttioned, Mr Justice Hope will be assisting the Government with this inquiry.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During the Pipeline Authority Bill debate yesterday the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) said that the Government will build the pipeline to Wagga and Albury despite the honourable member for Farrer. The Minister and the public would know that when the Eastern Australia Pipeline Corporation was given a licence some years ago to supply Gidgealpa gas to Sydney one of the conditions imposed by the former government was that it build a spur line to Wagga and Albury. This condition was inserted after discussion between the New South Wales Minister for Mines, Mr Fife and myself, some years before the Government of which the Minister for Minerals and Energy is a member came to power. The Minister has attempted to suggest that I have not been one of those chiefly responsible for the decision to connect Wagga and Albury with a natural gas supply or that I was in some way seeking to prevent it. This is not true and it is politically dishonest.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.
– ils it a personal explanation?
– It will be only one sentence. I had no prior knowledge of the subject of the personal explanation of the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn). I should explain that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) is not in the House today because he is engaged in negotiations with Japanese customers in his field. I therefore regret that he is not in a position to make any comments in defence of himself in answer to what the honourable gentleman has said by leave.
– Mr Speaker, may I have a short opportunity to answer the statement of the Prime Minister?
-Order! I think the best way to settle the question is to wait until the Minister for Minerals and Energy can read in Hansard what was said. Then if he has any response to make he may do so.
– I believe that his first duty is to be in the House and not seeing someone else.
– Reference was made to his being politically dishonest. No leave would have been given to the honourable member for Farrer to make such a statement in the absence of the Minister for Minerals and Energy. The Minister is absent for a very good reason.
-I would just like to claim the indulgence of the House to add to the answer to a question I gave to the honourable member for Diamond Valley. Serious allegations were made by Mr Meagher, the Chief Secretary, regarding certain aspects of the Electoral Act. My staff has brought the matter to my attention and it is usual-
– 1 rise on a point of order. Is the Minister for Services and Property making a statement by leave?
– No, I am only asking your indulgence to say that I have asked for a full investigation and if Mr Meagher gives me full details of his allegations they will be investigated.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During question time I asked a very serious question of the Prime Minister concerning a document that has been circulated to honourable members and which I think deserves the Prime Minister’s consideration.
-Order! You have not been misrepresented.
– As a result of my question the Prime Minister made an attack upon me and I should like him to consider the document and offer me an apology for the attack.
-I have not seen a copy of the document. I do not know whether it has been circulated. But if honourable members are going to make allegations against named persons in questions without notice I will insist on the questions being put on notice. The Standing Orders in fact state that questions should not contain statements of facts or names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render a question intelligible and the particulars in the question can be authenticated. It would have been perfectly possible to direct a question on this matter without naming anyone.
– I lay on the table the document that has been circulated.
-Order! The honourable member does not have leave to do that.
– Well, I will give it to the Prime Minister.
-The honourable member cannot lay the document on the table. If the Prime Minister wishes to accept it that is his business, but it is not the practice for any member of the Parliament to lay on the table notifications of such a nature. Did the Leader of the Opposition wish to make a statement?
– I was waiting for all this plethora to pass.
Government Foreign Policy - Terrorist Activities - Health Services - The Parliament - Pike Creek Dam - Commonwealth-State RelationsConservation and the Environment - Motor Vehicle Windscreens - Abortion Law Reform Debate - Fourth University for VictoriaContraceptives.
Question proposed: That grievances be noted.
– It looks as though the Parliament will not have the opportunity to debate foreign affairs, for very good reasons. I wish to enter this debate to draw attention to aspects of the Government’s foreign affairs and internal affairs policies which I think should be drawn to the attention of the Australian public. I make the point that since this Government has been in office there has been a quite dramatic change of emphasis in our relations with other countries. When the previous Government was in power we were endeavouring to arrange an accommodation with the communist countries, slowly but surely, while still retaining our friendship with countries like the United States of America. Since the Whitlam Government has been in power the reverse has since been the case. It has gone out of its way to curry favour with the communist countries and to insult some of our former - and indeed present - allies.
I am thinking in particular of the way in which 3 of the Ministers in the Whitlam Government deliberately insulted the President of the United States and the way that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) himself deliberately insulted Thailand. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Thailand responded and told him, I think in so many words, to mind his own bloody business. I think also of the way the Prime Minister insulted the Indonesian Government and was rebuked by Dr Malik; of the way that he and his deputy, the Minister for Defence, (Mr Barnard) managed to insult the Prime Minister of Singapore over the socalled ‘spy-unit’; of the way that his Ministers, I think 10 of them, and 25 private members of the Australian Labor Party have finally and totally insulted everyone who has ever served in Vietnam by their entertainment of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, even in the parliamentary dining room. I think also of the way the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has managed to put the heavy hand on Mr Somare, the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea and the way that the Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr Cairns) is at this very moment insulting the people of Cambodia by spending a lot of time with and currying favour with Prince Sihanouk and some of his entourage.
I make the point that the foreign affairs policy of this Government is one of poking its nose into other people’s business and doing its best to curry favour with communist countries. I say that the Government is moving too fast and that it takes time and understanding to negotiate with communist countries. People like the Prime Minister have allowed the adulation of sections of the Press and other media to go to their heads. The Prime Minister overlooks the fact-
– He is getting a pretty free run.
– Yes, he is getting a pretty free run by most sections of the media. The tragic part is that he is blundering in and making mistakes which some time in the future governments probably of our persuasion will have to remedy. He overlooks the fact, when dealing with the regime in Communist China, that there are no real freedoms in China. The regime there does not even speak for the population. There are no elections in communist China. The number of people who try to leave that country would indicate that it is not the best place in the world to live.
A point I should like specifically to mention today arose from the visit of the President of Yugoslavia to Australia a few weeks ago. He was formerly and probably still is the chief of the Yugoslav secret police. While he was being entertained by the Australian Prime
Minister he knew all the time that 3 Australian citizens had been murdered in Yugoslavia. The Prime Minister shows naivete in taking for granted everything that the communist leaders tell him. I wish to bring to the notice of this House and to the Australian electorate what the Prime Minister said at a dinner to the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia on 21st March. I have been trying to obtain information from the Prime Minister on this. But like others on this side of the House, I have difficulty in getting even questions on notice, let alone questions without notice, answered. At a dinner in Canberra on 21st March 1973 the Prime Minister said, amongst many other things, as reported in the ‘Canberra Times* of 22nd March:
Yet I have to state as a cold fact that every known act of grave violence on political grounds perpetrated in Australia in recent years has come from the extremist Right
The Prime Minister is talking to one of his Ministers on the front bench and making out that he is not listening to what I have to say. I trust that he will do me the courtesy of at least reading my speech in Hansard and giving me some replies. Old fashioned courtesy is something which he obviously has forgotten. As he turns his back in majesty and walks out of the chamber at this moment, let us not forget that he is not really trained in the old fashioned courtesies.
I have 58 examples of political violence in this country which I ask the Prime Minister to study and indicate which right wing groups are the perpetrators. There is no time to read them into Hansard, and unfortunately it is not possible under the Standing Orders to get them into the questions without notice. For example, on 4th July 1969 a dozen or so youths in 3 cars broke 18 windows of the United States Consulate-General in Melbourne. Anonymous callers to radio stations claimed responsibility on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army. The damage was assessed at $500. I would like to know which right wing organisation perpetrated that attack.
In August 1969 the car belonging to the honourable member for Boothby was severely damaged in the grounds of the University of Adelaide while he was addressing a meeting there. The people responsible telephoned him and claimed responsibility on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army. The damage was $300. I would like the Prime Minister to tell us which right wing group was responsible for that. Does he mean that it is the right wing which is responsible when I am being attacked? It is a crazy situation. No one in this country has ever suggested that I am a left winger. On 8th October 1969 a small bomb was thrown on to the verandah of the residence of Mr Andrew Jones who was then the member for Adelaide in the House of Representatives. I do not think anyone would ever suggest that Mr Jones is a left winger. In fact, Mr Jones was subjected to this sort of vilification and terrorism for some time just before the last election.
On 12th November 1969 bricks were thrown through the windows of the Reserve Bank of Australia and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd in Melbourne. Responsibility was claimed on behalf of the Australian Liberation Army. Damage was over S3.000. This pattern goes all the way through the 58 examples that I have. In May 1970 windows at Honeywell Pty Ltd and the windows of the headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation were broken. I do not know whether that could have been an earlier attack by Senator Murphy on ASIO. In May 1970 there was a violent and destructive raid by vigilantes from the Builders Labourers Federation. Mr Mundey is Secretary of that union, as we all know. I do not really think that we can describe it as an extreme right wing organisation. Mr Mundey is Federal Secretary and a member of the national committee of the Communist Party. Of course, we cannot mention Communists around here. In July 1970 Molotov cocktails were thrown into the Melbourne premises of Australian General Electric Pty Ltd. Damages amounting to $10,000 were caused, and responsibility was claimed by the People’s Liberation Army.
About a fortnight before the last election the electorate office of the honourable member for Boothby was attacked by the People’s Liberation Army. Rocks were thrown into his office and obscene messages scrawled all over those windows which survived the raid. Once again, I do not think one can really describe the honourable member for Boothby as being a leftist. Mr Speaker, what I think the Party, of which you unfortunately are a member, should do is have a look at its constitution and rules and in particular the section which contains a repudiation of the Communist Party. I note that that section of the general policy decision of the Australian Labor Party has not been altered since the 1948 conference. It has been reaffirmed every year by the Party. The
Platform, Constitution and Rules’ of the Australian Labor Party states:
Conference reaffirms its repudiation of the methods and principles of the Communist Party and the decisions of previous Conferences that between the Communist Party and the Labor Party there is such basic hostility-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I enter the debate this morning to speak on some matters of health, particularly as they affect my home State of Victoria. I am stimulated to do so by a letter I received from the Liberal Party of Victoria on Monday, which reads:
Dear Dr Jenkins,
The importance of the State Election, to be held on the 19th May, to the people of Victoria, and indeed the whole of Australia cannot be over estimated.
Australia is a federation and the states have the responsibility for most of the activities which are closest to the lives of people - Education, Health, Housing, Conservation and a wide range of others. Federal aid is welcome in all fields, and through our taxation system is essential. But it should not be used as a blunt instrument to dictate policy, or more especially, a centralised socialist doctrine.
In no field is this dictatorship more obvious than in Health Services. A victory for the Hamer Government in May will serve notice on the Federal Labor Government that the people of Victoria do not want dictatorship from Canberra.
Our fully researched, professional campaign is now in motion and we know that Liberal voters all over Victoria are prepared to give us their financial backing. We need $200,000 to promote the ideal that What really matters is people and that what has to be done is to safeguard the freedom of the individual’.
Will you help us Doctor Jenkins? Please fill in the enclosed card and send us your donation.
It was signed by the State President and State Treasurer. For a fully researched, professional campaign it is a particularly inept letter. Because of the matters contained in it, it is obviously a misrepresentation of the relationship that occurs between the Australian Parliament and the State Parliaments. It is misrepresentative in the sense that while it admits that the States have a responsibility in those activities which are closest to the lives of the people - it names education, health, housing and conservation - it does not mention that these are fields in which the Victorian Parliament would have one of the worst records in Australia.
To me the letter was offensive personally. In fact, only my natural courtesy prevented me from sending the appropriate answer in the envelope that was enclosed. I served for nearly 9 years in the Victorian Parliament, and it was the failure of the Victorian Government do deal with activities concerning the people of Victoria that led me to believe that only in the national Parliament could one achieve some benefit. If the tone of this letter is correct, does it mean that the Premier of Victoria will reject any of the help which Victoria would receive through the operations of the national health insurance scheme or through the Australian Hospitals Commission that has been set up? Will he refuse to receive finance to prop up the sagging hospital services and health services in Victoria? For years it was pointed out to the Liberal Government in Victoria how poor Victoria’s general hospital system was, with overcrowded casualty departments with long waiting times and manned by the most junior of medical officers, and a lack of beds in areas of acute need. This applies to the very densely populated areas such as the western suburbs of Melbourne. The Victorian Government’s record is disgraceful in this respect. Seven or eight years ago when I talked in the Victorian Parliament of rehabilitatory services the then Government laughed about such services and did nothing about them. Now suddenly at election time it has started what I think is called a Sir Henry Bolte rehabilitation wing at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne. I hope that the Victorian people will support that rehabilitation wing, because after all it might rehabilitate some of the health services that Sir Henry Bolte, as Premier of Victoria, allowed to run down so sadly.
An announcement was made about mental health. These promises are made at State election after State election in Victoria. The Victorian Government always says that more will be provided in the mental health field. Promises, promises! In the last 3 election campaigns the Colac residential training centre for the mentally retarded has been mentioned. Only a few weeks ago the Premier of Victoria laid the foundation stone for that institution in Colac after so many years of promises. I understand that it was a symbolic foundation stone which was placed in a symbolic wall, and that it has been stored away in a suitable shed to be reinserted when the building commences properly. In Victoria there is a waiting list of 2,000 for residential places for mentally retarded children. Five hundred of these cases are considered most urgent. Despite the warnings and the arguments that have been put forward not only in the Victor ian Parliament but also by people interested in this field, this list has grown and grown. How can one expect anyone associated with health services to support a government that has made so many promises yet has done so little?
There is a great lag even in the provision of day centres for the mentally retarded. Parents, who are already financially and economically deprived, have to work to make their large donations not only towards the construction costs of these day centres but also towards the day to day costs. The waiting list for beds in geriatric hospitals has grown and grown and the waiting time is now 3i to 4 years. The waiting list contains more individuals than there are beds for such patients in that State. This is the record of health services that I was asked, in this letter, to support. As I said, I found it personally offensive on the ground that, after battling for many years in that State to see these matters rectified, so little action has been taken except for making vague and empty promises at the time of each election. Now they are being repeated again. The 5-year program for the mentally retarded that will give an extra 846 places will not even touch the present needs, let alone cope with the growth in population.
I believe that the people of Victoria will see through these promises after such a long time and will reject this type of fallacious argument that is being put up. If Mr Hamer does not intend to accept this type of assistance, it would be better if he were at least honest and said that he will not accept that type of assistance. Only through proper and professionally researched examination of health services can we expect to see well financed health services in Victoria. Unless there is to be a fully researched and professional approach, as the campaign committee and authors of this letter suggest, the program certainly will not produce health services of the standard that is required. I felt that I should bring this matter to the notice of the Australian Parliament because it is a reflection on the very forward thinking that is being done in the Australian Parliament at present in the field of health.
– I suppose that, with the Victorian election to take place on Saturday, we must expect Labor members from Victoria to make speeches of the character of the speech made by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins).
None of it warrants answering and I certainly do not propose to answer it. The Grievance Day debate represents one of the few occasions when private members have an opportunity to speak on any subject. I take this opportunity to accuse the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), as Leader of this Government, of debasing this parliamentary institution. I recognise the gravity of that charge, but I believe that it is warranted by the evidence which I shall now produce. 1 mention, firstly, the need in a representative parliamentary democracy of this character, which this Parliament represents in Australia, to keep it the major forum for political debate and discussion in this country. Indeed, this Parliament, with all its imperfections, is the major expression of democracy in Australia. With all its faults, it certainly is the greatest forum in this country. When it meets it is the centre and the forum of expression of opinion on all the great matters facing the Australian people.
We have already seen this Government, which claimed that it would bring in a procedure of open government, in a very short space of time - it is only 5 months since the election - even give up defending its position in that respect. It does not bother any more to claim that it has open government.
Before the election honourable members opposite promoted that whole principle with great vigour. I can understand that a new government of this kind will have great new policies, with which not all will agree. Honourable members opposite may wish to be vigorous. But this is our democratic system. It is our procedure. There are many procedures and forms of this House which, if used properly, safeguard the people of this country and provide an opportunity for proper criticism, examination and debate. These forms and procedures must be respected if we are not to lose, one by one, the rights and freedoms which have been built up in this country and if we are not to see them whittled away. For instance, this Government talks about having received a mandate. I say, briefly, that there is no such thing as a mandate for specific policies. In spite of all the talk we have heard, I challenge any member of this House to point to one constitutional authority who will give him support for that principle.
I come now to my specific charges. The Prime Minister has circumvented the forms and traditions of this House by the use of Press conferences. He holds them frequently.
I do not mind that. But he uses them as the occasion to make the first announcements of Government appointments and policies. Those who have seen him on television know that he treats the questions he is asked relatively seriously - not without some evasion, but relatively seriously. He gives the journalists an opportunity to follow up their questions. They are in a position to examine him and to take up his evasions. But when this House is sitting he evades questions as much as he can. He uses his type of wit. It is hardly humour; it is more a scathing approach. He avoids one question after another.
He has not instituted one debate on foreign affairs, yet he is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He has taken on this double task which, as we know, is too great for any man - even the present Prime Minister. He claims to be discharging that task properly. We know that many changes have been made in the foreign policies of this country - when that was stated the other day Government supporters cheered - and yet he will not allow debate, discussion and criticism of those great matters in this place. He controls the business of the House through the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). The Leader of the House is a harsh man. He is known in this place for being very tough about the proceedings and for always talking about members. We have before us at this time many Bills of great policy significance and of great importance to the people of Australia. Inadequate time is being provided to debate them. This has been mentioned several times in this House. However, much bluff, and perhaps counter-bluff, is involved, I believe that much more time ought to be made available to debate these great matters and great policy initiatives brought forward by this Government. If necessary, let the House have more sitting days. 1 know that the Leader of the House is likely to say, either to my comment or to some of the others that have been made: ‘Oh, they do not really mean it.’ Speaking only for myself, I say that I do mean it. I ask anybody in this House who thinks he has something more important to do than to stay in this place and debate these great issues to stand up in this place and tell this Parliament and the people of Australia what it is that is more important than debating great issues such as the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Pipeline Authority Bill, the Australian National Airlines Bill, the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill and the Prices Justification Bill. A number of other important ones have been introduced, but I have singled out what 1 think are the most serious.
A method of debasing the influence of this democratic Parliament is the use of the Press conferences, which would circumvent much of the decision making and discussion on public issues that affect this country. I refer to the lack of introduction of matters. I have already mentioned foreign affairs which, of course, covers a wide range. There are many others, but these are the major specific matters.
And look at the way in which the Prime Minister fails to answer questions asked without notice during question time by members of this House. Honourable members should read the quality of the answers to questions placed on the notice paper. The Prime Minister has had weeks to answer and to think up answers to those questions. Read the quality of answer that comes forward from him and his Ministers. Although he is inclined at times to say ‘That is not my responsibility; address this question to the Minister concerned’, as Prime Minister he is the head of the Government. He is responsible for the behaviour of his Ministers, both in public and in private. As Prime Minister he is responsible to answer for them. These great matters have been raised by various members of the Opposition, including my colleague the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke), but the Prime Minister just evades the whole question.
It is all right for Government supporters to interject. They know very well that I have only 10 minutes in this debate so I cannot spend time, as I would like to do, replying to interjections. But I believe that some Government supporters themselves are concerned about the issues that I have raised. I believe that every honourable member should be deeply concerned about what is going on in this place. It may well be said that former governments have done this, that and the other. All right, use that cheap jibe if you want to, but I am saying to this House - and it is going into the record - that I do not support the Government’s actions. I believe that large matters of policy and great new matters are being introduced - I do not think any Government supporter will try to tell me differently - which are worthy of greater debate than ever before. We should remember that there are more Bills coming before this Parliament and that every session there are more than ever before. We simply have to sit longer or think of a better way in which to have debates. Let not the answer of the Prime Minister and this Government be: ‘Oh well, we will dampen it down as much as possible because of the criticism that might ensue.’ That is no way to conduct the affairs of this country. I conclude my remarks on the note that as far as I am concerned, in the proceedings which will take place in the years to come, I am for a more open government. I am for a fuller debate of the great issues that face the people of this country.
-Order! In regard to the opening remarks of the honourable member for Curtin, I did not take much notice at the time but, on consideration, I feel that the honourable member cast personal reflections on and imputations against the Prime Minister. Whether they be cast against a Prime Minister or a backbencher, this is not permitted. So I warn the honourable member that in future, should he make such reflections, he may have to apologise.
– I raise a point of order. I believe that I have given evidence for what I have said. I have said it seriously and deliberately and if you, Mr Speaker, want to make a speech on the subject in a debate I suggest you should stand on the floor of the House and give it.
-Order! No point of order is involved. The Chair is in complete charge of the proceedings of this House. I am warning the honourable member that in future this will not be tolerated.
-! shall take up the time of the House for a few minutes only to answer a few of the false assertions which have been made by the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland). The honourable member made certain comments in regard to the manner in which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) answers questions. Honourable members opposite might well realise that asking the Prime Minister questions is like bowling to Don Bradman - he is unbowlable. What is happening on the other side of the House is that-
– I raise a point of order. Is the Minister a new speaker on the list of new speakers for this debate?
– Order! No point of order is involved.
– What is annoying the Opposition is that the Prime Minister’s answers are so superb that honourable members opposite do not get the answer they want. Instead, they get the correct answer. As the Prime Minister said today, he gets more intelligent questions from the Press than he does from anybody opposite. Do not honourable members opposite want the Prime Minister to give to the Press information in regard to parliamentary affairs and other matters? This is a part of open government which the enemy opposite never gave when they were in office. The hardest thing to find when the Liberals were in office was a Prime Minister who would meet the Press at any time let alone once a week. Therefore, if the criticism is made that the Prime Minister is giving this information to the nation it is made on false grounds. It is quite obvious that honourable members opposite are green with envy because they do not have anyone who can equal the Prime Minister in answering questions. The fact that very important matters have not been mentioned during question time by honourable members opposite indicates that they are not even doing their homework on the questions that they do ask.
Let me answer the honourable member for Curtin who made some allegations about how this Parliament is being conducted. I just want to put it on the record for all to see. The honourable member said that the House should sit longer, but the other day he was one of those who voted against an extension of the sitting times by an hour in the morning and by taking a little time off the dinner break. The very gentleman who said that we should sit longer was one of those who voted with all those who sit opposite against extending by an hour or so a week the sitting time of this Parliament. Since this Parliament opened for this current session it has not sat after 11 o’clock at night. Every night there is an adjournment debate, which was not possible under the previous Government. Every General Business day has taken place, which is contrary to what was done by honourable members opposite when they were in office, and a vote has been taken on every General Business day. In addition, we have had at least 45 minutes for question time every day. In every way we have given to private members of this Parliament opportunities which they were denied for 20 years. As a private member in Opposition I introduced on one occasion an Electoral Bill. I introduced it but it disappeared following the dissolution of the Parliament about 2 years later because the then Government would not debate it. The situation is that no members of an opposition have had more time than those who are now opposite to put their points of view to a government.
It was said that Bills are not getting sufficient time for debate. The honourable member for Curtin said that we were not giving sufficient time to debate Bills. The Hansard of 4th May 1971 at page 2504 shows a list of 17 Bills which went through this Parliament in 21 hours. As I mentioned yesterday, half of them were given 5 minutes. For example, for all stages of the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Bill 1971 the time was 5 minutes. The cockies did not get much consideration that day, did they? The Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Bill 1971 was telescoped through in 5 minutes. Seventeen Bills were put through in 21 hours. Do honourable members know who voted for those Bills, The honourable member for Curtin is listed among those who put 17 Bills through this Parliament in 21 hours. What humbug it is to talk about this kind of thing when that sort of thing was done by those opposite when they were in office. The honourable member for Curtin said that he wants more time allotted for the sitting of the Parliament. There will be adequate time for him to get over that as time goes on because we intend to see that the Bills are debated.
– Ha, hal
– The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has been very silent. He also was one who voted for those 17 Bills which went through in 21 hours. He is the greatest time waster in the history of this Parliament. He is one of the reasons why Bills are not debated properly. Only yesterday he was left stranded and he had to make-
– I raise a point of order. Whilst we know that the joker from Grayndler carries on in this way every day-
Order! What is the point of order?
– I ask him to withdraw the statement that I am the greatest time waster that this Parliament has seen. He knows that he is.
– I said no such thing. I was referring to the honourable gentleman who sits behind him, who nodded assent when I mentioned that he was.
– Fair go, Freddie; fair go.
– I do not want to take up the time of the Parliament. However, I just wanted to put those facts on record. If honourable members opposite persist in wasting the time of this Parliament with frivolous motions of dissent and things of that kind there are 2 ways in which the Government can retaliate. Firstly, the Government can take the time wasted out of private members time or secondly, it can take the time available to the Opposition in other ways. I do not intend to interfere with the rights of private members having been one for so very long. But if honourable members opposite persist in wasting time they cannot complain when time is taken out or Bills are restricted in order to make up the leeway. It is quite impracticable for every honourable member to participate in every debate in this Parliament. I mention that every time we have asked for a list of speakers from the other side of the House we have been given the name of practically every member, particularly of the Liberal Party. Opposition members who do not get the opportunity to speak rush back to their electorates and say that they have not had the time to talk knowing full well that in most cases about two-thirds of them did not have anything to say at any stage of the Bill that was being discussed. I mention this in order to show that honourable members should concentrate on the matters that are of importance.
A period of 12 hours has been allocated for the 3 Bills that are to be discussed today. Yesterday the honourable member who rose a few moments ago and vehemently denied that he was a time waster, wasted the best part of an hour and a half of the invaluable time of this Parliament which could have been taken up on those important matters. Anybody who likes to study the record of the previous Government over a long period of time will see that members’ rights were restricted, that there was no such thing as open government and that there was no chance of private members getting a go. This Government has remedied most of those faults. In addition we have never sat into the early hours of the morning as was constantly the case with the previous Government when we had to debate important legislation at 2, 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning.
I agree with honourable members opposite that the Standing Orders of this Parliament will have to be reviewed because I believe in these modern times no doubt we will have to sit for longer periods. Probably we will have to provide under the Standing Orders for better methods of presentation of debates. But for honourable members opposite to say that they are not getting a fair go and that adequate time is not being given for discussion is something that cannot be substantiated. Quite frankly, if any record is necessary I refer honourable members to that historic debate which appears in the Hansard report of 4th May 1971, when the Liberal Party put through 17 Bills in 19 hours. In order that honourable members might see what was done by the Liberal Party in comparison with what has been done by our Government, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard some extracts from the ‘Votes and Proceedings’ of the House of Representatives for 4th May 1971.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Allotment of time: Mr Swartz then moved - That the time allotted in connection with the Bills be as follows:
Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 19-71 -
For the second reading, 1 hour;
For the remaining stages, 1 hour.
United States Naval Communication Station (Civilian Employees) Bill 1971- For all stages of the Bill, 5 minutes.
Air Accidents (Commonwealth Liability) Bill 1971 - For all stages of the Bill, 5 minutes.
Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Bill 1971 - For all stages of the Bill, 5 minutes.
Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1971 - For all stages of the Bill, 5 minutes.
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1971-
For the second reading, 1 hour;
For the remaining stages, 30 minutes. f
Income Tax (Withholding Tax Recoupment) Bill 1971- For all stages of the Bill,5 minutes.
Income Tax (Bearer Debentures) Bill 1971-For all stages of the Bill, 5 minutes.
States Grants (Rural Reconstruction) Bill 1971-
For the second reading, 4 hours;
For the remaining stages,5 minutes.
Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Bill 1971- For all stages of the Bill, 5 minutes.
Papua and New Guinea Bill 1971-
For the second reading, 30 minutes;
For the remaining stages,5 minutes.
Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1971-
For the second reading, 40 minutes;
For the remaining stages,5 minutes.
Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill 1971- For all stages of the Bill, 5 minutes.
Superannuation Bill 1970 -
For the second reading, 1 hour;
For the remaining stages, 1? hours.
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill (No. 2) 1970-
For the second reading, 30 minutes;
For the remaining stages, 5 minutes.
Trade Practices Bill 1971-
For the second reading, 2? hours;
For the remaining stages, 1? hours.
Wool Industry Bill 1971-
For the second reading, 2 hours;
For the remaining stages, 30 minutes.
Mr Giles addressing the House
Closure of Member moved: Mr Cope moved - That the honourable Member be not further heard.
Question - put.
The House divided (the Speaker, Sir William Aston, in the Chair) -
And so it was negatived.
The time allowed by standing order 92 for the discussion of the motion for the allotment of time having expired -
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided (the Speaker, Sir William Aston, in the Chair) -
– I thank the House. I will conclude by saying that the record of the present Government in respect of private members and the conduct of the business of the House will bear more than favourable comparison with the record of any government of our time.
– I rise this morning to refer to a matter on which I have spoken previously, that is, the agreement by the States of New South Wales and Queensland with the Commonwealth Government to construct what is known as the Pike Creek Dam. The latest information that I have had from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is that he expects that this matter will be coming before Cabinet. But we have heard nothing more from him on that matter. A report which appeared in a Sydney newspaper under the heading ‘State Talks on New Dam’, stated:
New South Wales Minister for Conservation Mr G. F. Freudenstein said he was prepared to fly to Queensland to discuss proposals that the 2 States go ahead with a new border dam.
He said that if the Commonwealth failed to meet one-third of the cost of the new dam at Pike Creek, he would take up the matter with his Queensland counterpart in an attempt to go ahead with the plan.
We cannot afford to delay commencement of Pike Creek dam, recognised by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics as virtually guaranteeing the border region’s economic security,’ he said.
The fact is that the State Governments and the previous Government agreed to build the dam, a tender was approved and work should have started on 2nd April,’ Mr Freudenstein said.
This is a matter of very great concern to the people of the area. I rise again to urge this Government to make a decision on the project and to honour the undertaking that was given by the previous Government in that regard. I feel that the delay in this matter is something that every honourable member on both sides of the House must regard as being contrary to the best interests of the people in both States, and particularly, of course, the people of the border area.
This matter was fully investigated by both States. Indeed, a delay was occasioned by the previous Commonwealth Government which wanted to make a further investigation before it would agree to the project. Therefore I urge the present Government not to go back on that agreement, but to honour the agreement which was given, to allow the work to proceed and not to throw the whole weight of this project on the shoulders of 2 State governments. The Commonwealth Government is not adopting this line of thinking with the Dartmouth Dam or with the works on the Murray River. But, of course, it is a different matter in the case of Queensland and northern New South Wales. I am gravely concerned that the Commonwealth will back out of this agreement. If the Commonwealth does not intend to honour the agreement I think it is up to it to say what it is going to do because, as was mentioned by the New South Wales Minister for Conservation, it is time that the work was proceeded with.
I have received telegrams and representations from people in the border area saying how vital it is that work should proceed because this is the time of the year in which it is most advantageous to do the work. Work done on the Condamine River in Queensland by the Chinchilla Shire Council during spring which was thought to be a good time of the year was damaged seriously by floods. The Pike Creek dam project will not cost the Commonwealth Government very much in comparison to its commitments to other projects because the cost will be shared with 2 State governments. We should not let the Pike Creek dam project fail because this Government is too miserly to come into a water conservation project which, as I say, has been approved not by one, not by 2, but by 3 governments.
I want to use the Pike Creek dam project as an example of what is happening in Queensland as far as the Commonwealth
Government is concerned. Queensland is not getting a reasonable deal from the Commonwealth Government and I can give plenty of examples of this. One instance is Queensland’s international airport. Every person in Queensland I believe feels very sincerely that this Government intends to delay that projectOther States have their international airports, but not Queensland. Is this because the Premier of Queensland has been a very good Queenslander and has stood up for the rights of that State against this Government despite the intimidation that has been thrown against him by this Government? He has stood his ground and I give him credit for it.
– Hear, hear!
– I agree with my friend, the honourable member for Calare. The Premier of Queensland deserves that credit. I have been surprised and very disappointed that Queensland members in this House have been prepared to take him to task for defending the State rights of Queensland. He has now shown that his stand has been a correct one because the Premiers of all States are now recognising the disadvantage they are suffering under this Government and that Queensland is not the only State that is being affected. The lead that has been given by a very great Queenslander in Jo Bjelke-Petersen has been taken up by the other Premiers. 1 would now like to refer to the kangaroo industry in Queensland and the benefits that the State derives from that industry. 1 want to emphasise at the outset that 1 am a believer in sensible conservation. A House of Representatives select committee made up of members from both sides of this House which was chaired by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) who demonstrated to the Parliament his concern about the need to make sure that the kangaroo population is maintained, has investigated this matter. The fauna conservation authorities in Queensland whose job it is to make sure that the kangaroo population is maintained in that State and which would have no axe to grind, have estimated that we could harvest up to one million kangaroos in that State without jeopardising the maintenance of our kangaroo population. At the moment the number harvested! is something like 600,000.
Action taken by Ministers of this Government in regard to the kangaroo industry demonstrates that they are prepared 13369/73 - il - 187) to take action which will be to the disadvantage of Queensland. People in the areas where this industry is operating have experienced one of the severest droughts on record with consequent low wool prices. The people whom this Government supposedly represents who are working in the industry are being swept aside because someone who calls himself a conservationist feels he knows more about this matter than do those who gave evidence to the House of Representatives Select Committee. Evidence was given to that Committee by officers of the Wildlife Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and many others, but there is a continual scream about the conservation of kangaroos.
Regional development is proposed on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, but what about regional development in Queensland? Words alone are all that Queensland gets. There is no indication that there will ever be a start on regional development in that State. Last, but not least, I refer to the desertion by the Commonwealth Government of Queenslanders and Queensland territory in the Torres Strait Islands north of Queensland. The Queensland Premier again is winning a lone-handed battle. He has been denigrated by supporters of the Government who try to suggest that he does not know his job, but the Torres Strait Islanders know and only the day before yesterday in Brisbane they demonstrated their support of what the Premier is doing. But what of the Commonwealth Government? It was prepared, beyond any doubt in my opinion, to allow these islands to be taken from the Commonwealth of Australia and from the State of Queensland. If it had not been for the courageous efforts of Jo Petersen I believe that would have happened already.
So we find that continuously Queensland is suffering severely under this Commonwealth Government. There is severe discrimination against Queensland. In fact there is what I might describe as a peacetime Brisbane line, even though the benefits of the proposed Pikes Creek dam would flow beyond the State boundary. That dam would be of great advantage to the area. I pay a tribute to Jo Petersen for the way in which he has stood up for the rights of Queensland and for State rights generally against a centralist government which is prepared constantly to defer - I use that word because it cannot be said that it will not do anything - work on this important project. However, the stage at which that work will proceed is not known. Queensland is suffering severely from what I would regard as discrimination against worthwhile projects in that State and the sooner the Commonwealth Government is defeated to allow the State to make the progress it can make, and is entitled to make, the better it will be for everyone in Queensland.
– Yesterday the Newcastle ‘Morning Herald’ carried a headline extending over 4 columns, ‘Blackbutt Road Favoured - Bombshell Vote in Council’. The Newcastle City Council voted to allow the construction of a 6-lane highway through the Blackbutt Reserve - a beautiful reserve of natural bushland occupying more than 400 acres close to the inner area of Newcastle. The mover of the motion to approve this development said:
We are obliged to do that which we consider to be in the best interests of this city and its people.
He added further that many workers would be able to save 20 minutes going to and from work because of the free traffic flow. This event - an event which is becoming common these days in our cities - is symbolic of the decline in the environmental quality of the major cities of Australia. We have a narrowminded State authority with a brief to build roads only and not to consider any aspects of the environmental or social impact of the development of roads. We have a local council, of which a number think that the building of such a road will really solve traffic congestion. We all know that it will simply generate more urban expansion and more motor cars and thus more traffic congestion leading to yet more pressure to build more roads and so on around the more roads, more suburbs, more cars, more roads spiral.
Apparently the Council was influenced by fear of losing Department of Main Roads funds to some other city or municipality in New South Wales, thus it acted in haste after recommending the previous week to let the matter stand over for 4 months pending conferences between the New South Wales Environmental and Local Government Departments and various conservation groups, the New South Wales Department of Main Roads, the Newcastle City Council and residents likely to be affected. All this was pushed aside by the juggernaut of progress. There was no further discussion of alternative means of moving people, no further discussion with affected people and no appreciation of the fact that the highway approach to city transport problems is failing everywhere in the world and that our love affair with the motor car in the city might be ending. There was no further discusion of the value of a nature reserve to people. It is always the park which loses out to the ever-expanding paving of our cities. No doubt people again will try barehanded to stop the bulldozers to save their reserve from a development which would enable the so-called majority to exercise the right to drive cars through the reserve to work, as happened in a similar incident in Newcastle recently. At this time we recognise that every time somebody enforces his right to drive his car through the city the rights of all others are diminished a little. This is what Garrett Hardin called ‘the tragedy of the commons’ - more noise, fewer parks, dirtier air and less money for public transport because of the pressure for more roads helped by agencies such as the National Roads and Motorists Association which originally were set up to protect people when motorists were a minority. So the city loses a little more character and individuality.
Everywhere the city Is in crisis. The Australian Government, the New South Wales Government and the local council can act to prevent a lot of problems by the allocation of more money for public transport and the development of better planning of human settlement. However, the real issue is one of individual rights - whether we will continue to let the demands made on the urban system by the motor car continue to ride rough-shod over the lives of people and the quality of the human settlement of which they are a part. The Australian Government must give the lead here to get good planning from bureaucracies, such as the Department of Main Roads, by the provision of adequate environmental impact statements; to ensure that the State Government of New South Wales does likewise; and by giving more money to the States under section 96 of the Constitution rather than by general loan funds to ensure that environmentally and socially equitable and sensible transport systems are developed in our cities. We cannot let the free ride of the motor car and road crush all the livability out of our cities. If we do nothing, the combined pressures of motor car manufacturers, oil companies, main roads departments, citizen organisations such as the NRMA and some parts of local councils will continue bit by bit to tear to shreds any human surroundings which still persist in our cities and make them places where living is more than just existing.
I know that in recent weeks organisations interested in protecting the environment have contacted the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) regarding the need for a proper environmental impact study to be made of the proposed motorway through Blackbutt Reserve. Alternative road systems, not alternative routes, need to be looked at. Origin and destination surveys need to be undertaken. A complete regional transport survey of the whole area should be undertaken and a fresh look should be had at all factors involved. It is not simply a matter of pinching a bit more parkland in the name of so-called progress. The gun should not be held at the heads of councils by State governments threatening to allocate funds elsewhere to force the councils to agree with recommendations of the New South Wales Department of Main Roads. That, I understand, is what the New South Wales Minister for Local Government did a few weeks ago. For 7 years people of all shades of political opinion, of no particular ideology and no particular station, have gradually come together into a public movement to preserve Blackbutt Reserve from the road builders. I ask the Minister for the Environment and Conservation to take a good look at the representations he has received concerning this beautiful reserve. I ask him to consider the potential loss to future citizens of the Newcastle region if the Blackbutt Reserve is to be despoiled, as despoiled it will be if the motorway proceeds. I ask him to consider referring the whole subject of Blackbutt Reserve and proposed Motorway 23 to the joint parliamentary committee on environment and conservation which is to be formed shortly. I want to see Blackbutt Reserve preserved intact for the benefit of generations to come. 1 turn now to another matter - the potential of the Hunter region as a growth centre, an existing growth centre. The population of the area is looking to the Government to raise the quality of living to a standard commensurate with the riches taken out of the region. With the unencumbered sites at Kooragang, wilh deep water access and the extensive areas available throughout the hinterland, those people responsible for planning for the State and Federal governments must come to appreciate that this region demands examination in the most positive terms. Much has been heard in recent times from governments of all colours and complexions about proposed new growth centres. If the premise is accepted that the purpose of growth centres is to stop the drift to the cities, to provide a better living environment, and to prevent despoliation of the countryside, the Hunter region is a prime zone which meets these requirements.
The 5 local government areas surrounding the port of Newcastle in a radius of 30 miles could well be the nucleus of a Hunter regional growth zone. Already those 5 councils act in co-operation in a number of activities such as abattoirs, libraries, planning and local government associations. They act very successfully. Industrial leaders, planners and the people of the countryside and of the Newcastle and Hunter region generally are looking to the Australian Government for long term guidelines for the Newcastle region as a region, not just Newcastle as a city. The heavy public and private investment in capital equipment and plant and in terms of the skilled work force ought to be properly and efficiently utilised before looking elsewhere for other development.
– I join with the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) and the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) today in somewhat regretfully drawing to the attention of this House and of the Australian people the paucity of performance that has characterised the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) since his elevation to that office. I was somewhat surprised when I heard the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) earlier today seek to defend the Prime Minister. He compared him with Don Bradman. I think Sir Donald Bradman should consider taking out a writ for defamation. The Minister said that we were frightened to ask the Prime Minister questions because we always knew that we would get the correct answers. That is just not so.
I want to draw to the attention of the Minister for Services and Property and of the House some of the occasions on which the Prime Minister has let himself and this Parliament down very badly by providing what can perhaps kindly be described as inaccurate answers. Only yesterday we heard the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) having to make a personal explanation because the Prime Minister had said in this House in answer to a question from another honourable member that he had no knowledge that Mr K. T. Li was Minister for Finance for Taiwan when the honourable member for New England originally asked a question about Mr Li’s admission to Australia. This subsequently was pointed out by the honourable member for New England to be totally false. When the honourable member for New England framed the question on page 1647 in Hansard, he specifically mentioned Mr Li’s official position in the Government of Taiwan. Yet some days later the Prime Minister in answering another question in this House said that he did not know Mr Li’s position. Today I asked the Prime Minister about the Chinese protest note. The Prime Minister’s answer has been shown to be grievously wrong. He was wrong not only in answering the question in this House but also in the substitute Parliament, the Prime Ministerial Press conference.
Today I asked about the fact that the Prime Minister had stated that the protest note was oral. He had said that on 8th May at his Press conference. Yet in supplying an answer to a question on notice to the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) for inclusion in the Senate Hansard he stated that the protest took the form of a letter. That hardly supports the assertion of the Minister for Services and Property that the Prime Minister always gives correct answers.
I also asked the Prime Minister about the effect of nuclear fallout from Chinese atomic tests in the atmosphere. In answering me in this House he said that it was oneten tb of total fallout recorded. Yet in response to a question on notice in the Senate he provided another answer. He said that it was one-sixth. Even then he sought to obfuscate the truth by giving the impression that the effect of the Chinese nuclear fallout in Australia was one-sixth of that provided by fallout from French tests. In fact it is onesixth of the total nuclear fallout on Australia. The French nuclear tests make up some other proportion of it. The honourable member for Boothby referred earlier today to incidents of violence and I want to add to that list. In the Prime Minister’s speech in Canberra on 21st March last, at a dinner in honour of Mr Bijedic at the Lodge, he made a statement which has already been quoted but I think it is important enough to repeat. The Prime Minister said:
Yet I have to state as a cold fact that every known act of grave violence on political grounds perpetrated in Australia in recent years has come from the extreme right.
Let us test the validity of that statement. The honourable member for Boothby has said that he has a list of 58 acts of political violence which can hardly be said to have come from the extreme Right. 1 would like to add some more. For instance, on 14th August 1969, 2 plate glass windows were broken at Australia House, which houses the Department of External Territories. An anonymous caller to the mass media claimed responsibility on behalf of the Brisbane branch of the People’s Liberation Army. Everybody would agree that that is an extreme right wing organisation! Damage was assessed at $2,000. On 19th December 1969, 6 large windows were broken at the Commonwealth Centre in Melbourne. Again responsibility was claimed by the People’s Liberation Army. Damage was estimated at $3,000. On 2nd March 1970 a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the United States Consulate-General in Melbourne. Fire broke out in the premises of the AustralianAmerican Association causing damage estimated at $7,000. Does the Prime Minister suggest that these acts of political violence were perpetrated by right wing extremists?
On 3rd May 1970 windows were broken at Honeywell Pty Ltd and the headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation by a breakaway group of May Day marchers. Three people were arrested. Are May Day marchers extreme right wingers? On 7th May 1970 a home made bomb was used in an attempt to damage the United States Consulate-General in Melbourne. In May 1970 violent and destructive raids were carried out by vigilantes from the Builders Labourers Federation in Sydney. In the ‘Australia Left Review’ of August 1970 Mr J. Mundey, the Federation’s Secretary and member of the National Committee of the Australian Communist Party, is reported to have said:
The Communist Party of Australia pre-Congress and Congress discussions and decisions certainly stimulated me and encouraged the style of offensive strike weapons developed in our struggle.
Would anybody suggest - even a person so misinformed as the Prime Minister - that the Australia Left Review’ is a publication which espouses extreme right wing views? On 2nd July 1970 - the honourable member for
Boothby has already mentioned this incident - 2 Molotov cocktails were thrown into the Melbourne premises of Australian General Electric. Again responsibility was claimed by the People’s Liberation Army. Damage was estimated at $10,000. On 5th July 1970 bricks and Molotov cocktails were thrown into the electoral office of the Prime Minister in Melbourne. Again responsibility was claimed by the People’s Liberation Army. Was that an act by extreme right wing groups?
On 6th July 1970 a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the premises of Keep Bros and Wood in Melbourne. Again responsibility was claimed by the People’s Liberation Army. Damage was estimated at $300,000. On 15th July 1970 an envelope bomb containing phosphorus exploded when opened at the Adelaide office of the Department of Labour and National Service. Luckily for the people involved, when the envelope was opened no injuries were caused but they very easily could have been caused. A second bomb was found and the letter was safely opened. Were these acts of right wing extremists?
On 12th May 1972 an anti-war demonstration took place in Sydney. Student groups attacked the Pan Am building. Smoke bombs were thrown and bottles and steel cubes were aimed at police. As a result 57 people were arrested. The United States Consulate-General and the Pan Am building in Melbourne were attacked. Windows were broken and police were attacked with bolts, nuts, rocks, poles, flares and crackers. Were these right wing extremists? On 21st August 1972 the Assistant Secretary of the New South Wales State Labor Council was threatened and kicked by left wing members of the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union of Australia in what he called one of the worst displays of union violence he had seen. That was hardly right wing extremism. Mr R. J. Hawke was reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 23rd August 1972 as saying that these tactics were part of the strategy of the Communist Party of Australia. These are hardly acts of right wing extremists and yet the Prime Minister of this country was reported as saying:
Yet I have to state as a cold fact that every known act of grave violence on political grounds perpetrated in Australia in recent years has come from the extremist Right.
What absolute nonsense. We have heard a lot about the Prime Minister’s staff. They are serving him very badly. All they have served up so far has been puerile or pornographic. He deserves more and the Australian public deserves more.
– lt is amazing that the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) should run through such a long list of actions which he claims have been perpetrated over the past few years. I believe it is important that I draw the attention of the House to the fact that, despite this list of actions, no prosecutions by the Government of which he was a member or by the State Liberal governments of New South Wales and Victoria have been initiated. This fact stands undenied.
Before raising the matter on which 1 intend to speak during the Grievance Day debate, I should like to reply to some issues that were raised by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). He made loose accusations that Queensland was being discriminated against by this Government. When the statements the honourable member made are analysed, they can be seen to have no basis in fact. The honourable member for Maranoa said that it is rumoured that Queensland will be denied an international airport. The facts are that already this Government has established a committee which has joined in investigations into the proposed new airport and has allocated sums of money to be made available for the acquisition of land for extensions to the Brisbane Airport and for the improvement of runways at that airport as well as for the purchase of land not only for the existing airport but also for a future airport in the vicinity of Brisbane. The Government has also sent a ministerial committee to Townsville to investigate the possibility of constructing an international airport there.
The honourable member for Maranoa also referred to the conservation of kangaroos. He pleaded that, whilst he is basically a conservationist, he believes that conservation should be carried out in a planned manner. The facts are that an embargo has been placed on the export from Australia of kangaroo products. The embargo was imposed by this Government so that it could ascertain the facts relating to kangaroos. On 9th March of this year, Ministers representing the Commonwealth Government and the 6 State governments met in Melbourne for discussions on wildlife conservation. I refer honourable members to a
Press statement which was released after the meeting and which states:
The Ministers agreed as follows:
The meeting is opposed to uncontrolled harvesting of kangaroos and related species.
Recognises that for conservation purposes selective culling or harvesting of certain species . . . may be a legitimate management practice.
Agreed that a scientifically acceptable range of data gathering and control measures be drawn up to regulate culling or harvesting throughout Australia in the interests of conservation of the species and the general environment.
The Ministers decided to set up a working party of officers of the relevant departments who were to meet before the end of May. I understand that a preliminary meeting has already been held and they are to meet again before the end of May and draw up a report for presentation to the Ministers. A decision will then be made by the Government on the whole issue involved and not on one particular area in regard to the ban on the export of kangaroo products and to the harvesting of kangaroos. I am not certain whether the honourable member for Maranoa knows this. The honourable member mentioned that the income of some people has been affected by the ban; perhaps there has been some additional breeding of kangaroos within this area. But I believe that the Ministers of this Government have acted in a responsible manner and in the interest of the people and a decision shortly should be made that, I feel, will be acceptable to the majority of the people of Australia.
The matter which I intended to raise this afternoon relates to the type of glass that is being sold for use in motor vehicle windscreens, more particularly in Queensland because that seems to be the only State where any complaint has arisen. I raised this matter almost 12 months ago with the then Minister for Shipping and Transport, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) and with members of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety. I provided both the Committee and the then Minister with samples of the type of glass that was being used in windscreens. This glass, instead of crystallising when struck and broken, shattered into splinters. I asked what action could be taken. This glass was imported from Belgium and was being distributed to repairers of windscreens throughout Queensland. One such man drew my attention to the glass. He had a number of windscreens made of this glass in stock, but has refused to use them any longer He drew my attention to the glass and I, in turn, notified the then Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Committee.
The then Minister wrote to me on 6 July last year and informed me that while Queensland traffic regulations specified that replacement windscreens should be made from non.shatterable transparent material, it is in fact the practice of the administering authority to require the use of safety glass which conforms to current accepted standards. He stated: . . while the glass sample you provided has been through a heat treatment process akin to that required to meet safety glass specifications, it does not meet United States, British or Australian standards for wind screen safety glass. Vehicles manufactured after 1st July 1971 are subject to Australian Design Rule No. 8 for safety glass. This provides for the use of either laminated or toughened glass and requires that glass should fracture into much smaller particles than the sample you have provided.
He then suggested that I should take the matter up with the Queensland authorities. Since I raised this matter, the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland has complained about the glass. Apparently no other similar body throughout Australia has made such a complaint, so the only conclusion to which I can arrive is that perhaps Queensland again is being discriminated against in that glass that cannot be sold in other States is being sent to Queensland.
The point on which I should like to make my protest is that, while it is not an offence to sell this type of glass for use in windscreens, nor is it an offence to sell faulty safety helmets, seat belts or mag wheels, it is an offence for a person to fit them and to use them. I believe that the law relating to these matters requires changing. Australia has a Standards Association and I understand that, while the Association can list approved brands, it is not allowed to list those which do not meet up to its required standards. This glass is being imported into Australia. In the past, there have been embargos for health reasons on, for instance, toys that had a high lead content in the paint that was applied to them. These toys have been withdrawn from the market at the request of the Department of Health. About 12 months ago a type of air gun toy which made a very resounding noise was withdrawn because it was felt that it could cause deafness to children if it was used in a certain manner.
I have taken this matter up with the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) and I am pleased to note that yesterday he sent an officer of his Department to Brisbane to confer with the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland about this glass and to arrange for tests to be conducted. If Queensland is the only State concerned, it seems to me that the distributors and importers of this glass have found some fault in Queensland legislation and therefore are distributing it in that State only. This seems hardly likely. 1 would like to see some uniform legislation in respect of not only the glass provided in new vehicles but also the glass provided for replacement purposes. I would like to see some legislation to the effect that imported glass should meet certain standards-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think this is the first time 1 have spoken in the Grievance Day debate in 11 years in this Parliament. I am impelled to do so to grieve over the way in which the question of abortion law reform has been treated in this Parliament and outside this Parliament. I am conscious of Standing Orders and therefore will not refer to the debate itself of last week. Firstly, I grieve about the way in which the debate was allowed to be conducted. As I have said before, a matter which at some time or other impacts itself upon every family in this nation was allowed 3i hoars of debate. I was one of many members who wished to speak on this important subject but were gagged by the Government. Perhaps that is not important. What is important is the way in which the matter was put to a vote. One had to vote either yes or no to a Bill, without being given the opportunity of explaining one’s attitude.
– Or moving an amendment.
– Or moving further amendments. There were 2 other amendments, to my knowledge, which were circulated and which had a particular appeal to some honourable members but which were not allowed even to be referred to in the debate.
I am impelled to speak today because of an article by a so-called well informed, objective, unbiased journalist, David Solomon, which appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’ on Tuesday last. One wonders about his objectivity, because since the election his pen has not been seen to have raised one criticism of the way in which the Labor Party is running this
House, of the evasive way in which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is answering questions or of anything like that. Every time his pen takes to paper it seems to be in criticism of a Liberal or Liberals. Without me or my friend, the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), being allowed to speak in the debate, this man, without coming to see us or soliciting our attitudes, wrote:
Mr Chipp and Mr Peacock meantime have cut themselves off from those in the Liberal Party who looked to them for a lead in liberal attitudes.
Then came this contemptible allegation:
They would not risk antagonising their more conservative colleagues, but they have gained nothing by doing so.
What impertinence for a man to write that and to ascribe those motivations to my friend the honourable member for Kooyong, and me without paying us the courtesy of asking us What are your views on abortion?’ when, because of the way the debate was gagged in this House, neither of us had an opportunity to put our views. I take this opportunity to put them.
I am for abortion law reform, but I was opposed to the Bill as it was presented here last Thursday. That was the dilemma in which I and many other members of this House found ourselves.
– You did vote for the royal commission.
– Yes, 1 did. Some of the reasons why I was opposed to the Bill were stated during the debate. For example, the Bill did not provide for, say, a 13-year-old child who is pregnant to have reference to her parents before an abortion is carried out. That palpably was a weakness in the Bill. The Bill made no provision whatever for a husband to be consulted on the matter of his wife having an abortion. I am not suggesting that a husband has paramount rights; but I would have thought that in many circumstances equity would have screamed out for consultation with the husband. Even though, as a liberal, one could get oneself to the view that a woman has every right to do with her body as she pleases - that could be a liberal view - once one overcomes, if one can, the hurdle that a foetus has a right to life, I was finally persuaded by a report by Dr and Mrs Wynn who had some evidence that once a woman had had 3 or 4 abortions and then decided to have a child the chances of that child suffering some serious pre-natal or perinatal handicap were increased considerably. As a liberal who cares for human beings, if this evidence is right and I do not know whether it is, I must be concerned that there is a possibility, where there is abortion on request or demand, of a child being born seriously handicapped. These considerations bothered me and that is why I could not vote for the Bill as it was.
I was confused by so much of this socalled evidence that the Right to Life Association sent me with the accompanying statement of Sir John Peel, the Queen’s gynaecologist, describing the Wynn report as a very valuable piece of research. I do not know how valuable the piece of research was. For all I know, Sir John Peel might have gone on to say that although it was a good piece of research he did not agree with the conclusions. So, what I and my friend, the honourable member for Kooyong, and other honourable members wanted was an inquiry to ascertain more facts about this question. This brings me to the point of why I am speaking today. The Right to Life Association mounted the most cohesive organised pressure campaign that it has been my experience to see since I came into this Parliament. I do not object to that. I encourage pressure groups to put their views to members of Parliament. Those people who believe that abortion is bad had every right to try to get the Bill killed. I admire people who enter into the public controversial arena to put their views to Parliament or to members of Parliament.
However, I regard it as the height of impertinence that, once the word got out that the Bill had no chance - that was about Monday of last week - from information fed by members of this Parliament to the Right to Life Association, that was not enough for it. lt then had to kill the royal commission. What that means in simple language is that the Association will forbid this Parliament and members of this Parliament spoiling a good argument by the addition of a few facts. If we have reached the stage where members of this Parliament are pressured not to inquire into these tremendous social problems by a pressure group which is entirely opposed to any reform, we have reached a very sorry state in the affairs of this nation. On Wednesday and Thursday 2,500 telegrams were deliv ered to members of this Parliament - paid for by God knows who, but somebody out there had plenty of money. Those telegrams were not directed to asking members not to vote for the Bill; they said: ‘No Bill; demand you vote against the amendment’.
– Any amendment.
– Any amendment. The amendment that was before the House said, in effect: ‘Let us get some more facts’. I, like every other member of this House, have gone through the agony of the question: What is the right thing to do about abortion reform? I do not know. I had to come to the view that the Bill, as it was, was not the right thing, although I pay a compliment to the proposer of the Bill, the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie), and the seconder, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb), for the splendid way in which they presented the Bill. I thought it was wise and proper to raise this objection on Grievance Day. I give notice - and I have the permission of my friend and colleague the honourable member for Kooyong to join him with me - that I will not be daunted by a pressure group such as this which says to me Chipp, you must not have any more facts’ on an important social question. I will sponsor a move, if someone does not pre-empt me as I believe someone may to put a motion before this House for some inquiry to be made into these agonising questions on a matter which impacts itself on every family throughout this nation at one time or another. Such a proposal will have my utter and complete support.
– I compliment the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) on his remarks. Like him, I do not believe that ignorance is bliss, although it may be comfortable. I want to speak on a matter which is of direct concern to the area I represent. This matter is creating some very unfortunate situations because of its use as a vehicle for campaigning in the Victorian State elections. Prior to the 1970 State elections undertakings were given by both major political Parties to establish a fourth university in Victoria. Following the 1970 election a committee was set up to inquire into a fourth university in Victoria. That committee reported in January 1972 to the Victorian Government. Its recommendation was that a university of external studies should be established, that it should be incorporated in 1972, that planning should take place over the 2 trienniums to 1978 and that a site in the eastern suburbs of Victoria should be acquired for the proposed university.
That was the report of the Victorian Government’s own committee of inquiry. The report also indicated that study centres should be established in some strategic centres in the country and that at least one site for a branch of the university should be acquired in a country area. The Victorian Government did not act on the report, and that is its prerogative. It has a perfect right to do what it likes with reports made to it. Unfortunately that is a standard it does not apply to the Commonwealth Government. The Victorian Government believes the Commonwealth Government is bound by the reports of the experts advising the Commonwealth Government, but that the Victorian Government can accept or reject advice from its own expert advisers.
Towards the middle of 1972 the Victorian Minister for Education had some discussions with the Commonwealth Universities Commission at which he raised the matter of establishing a multi-campus university or a university in a country area. He was told by the Universities Commission that it did not consider it would be a viable proposition. In October 1972 formal discussions took place between the Universities Commission, the Victorian Minister for Education and the then Minister for Education and Science. At that stage, 9 months after the report of the expert committee had been brought forward, the Victorian Minister for Education had no proposals whatsoever to put before the committee. He was asked to provide details of the site of the proposed university, which I would have thought was a basic matter, the numbers of students envisaged at the commencement of the university and 5 years afterwards, the academic structure of the university and other details relating to its operations. This was in October last year.
In February this year the Universities Commission wrote to the Victorian Minister of Education asking for the details to be provided. That was on 5th February, to be accurate. On 12th February the Victorian Premier, Mr Hamer, in a Press release announced a proposed multi-campus university to be established at Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo. I do not think any honourable member representing any of those areas would have been unhappy about that announcement. But what concerns me is that it is now the end of May and not even the site of the administrative centre is known to anyone except possibly the Victorian Minister for Education, who is not announcing it because he may well offend the 2 other cities named. He does not want to do this because of the coming Victorian election. That is why the information is being kept in the dark.
– It will be in Ballarat.
– The honourable member for Ballaarat thinks that the administrative centre will be established in Ballarat, and the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) who is sitting beside him, I am sure would like to think it will be established in Bendigo.
– lt will be in Bendigo.
– There, we have complete unity among members of the Liberal Party on this matter. They both claim to have the administrative centre and I disagree completely with them.
The Commonwealth Government and the then Minister for Education referred the matter of a university in or near Melbourne, in or near Sydney and at Albury-Wodonga, to the Australian Universities Commission in December, 2 months before the Victorian Government’s announcement was made. The Victorian Minister for Education was asked - this was subsequent to 5th February - to provide details of the proposed university. No such information has as yet been provided to the Commonwealth, yet that Minister is running around Victoria saying that the Commonwealth has rejected his proposals. Based on the information that has been provided to the Commonwealth and the information which has been provided in the local areas, we could well use a discarded external toilet which is no longer required, put a sign ‘university’ across the door, and that would meet the description of the seats of learning which are proposed by the Victorian Government at this stage for Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. It would at least be a place to sit and think.
I am concerned that on Monday of this week the Victorian Minister for Education summoned municipal leaders from Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo to Melbourne on what was reported as a deputation, to tell them that they should demand of their Federal members of Parliament - I am sure all members concerned have had a telegram on this subject - that the Commonwealth should support the Victorian proposals. The municipal leaders concerned are being totally hypocritical about this. If 1 went to the local government bodies in Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong and said to them: ‘I want to build a motel’, and gave no information other than the site on which I proposed to build, they would tell me to go away and get plans, specifications, planning permits and to give absolute and detailed information to the councils before they would consider my proposal. But they are making these claims at the behest of the Victorian Minister, who, 18 months after the Victorian report was made and 3 years after he promised the establishment of the university to the people of Victoria, has not provided details of the academic structure of the proposed university, or in fact any information whatsoever. The Victorian Government is claiming that the Commonwealth Government should establish an expert committee which will make recommendations. This is a committee which I am quite sure that the former Government would have listened to also. The Victorian Government wants that committee to recommend allocating money to a university which has no structure and no form. There has been only the announcement of the towns and some general courses which have not been allocated to any centre.
I am not concerned that the university will not be built. I am quite sure that it will be built. But the Victorian Government has said that it should be started in 1976. It cannot start in 1976 if funds are not allocated this year. Very serious educational matters have to be considered, such as the relationship of the university with the tertiary institutions already existing in the centres named, the duplication of courses, and the great deal of planning to be done. Another thing about which I am concerned is that there are people who have become bemused by the word ‘university’ and will destroy or discard all other tertiary institutions in the area. What is required and what is absolutely essential is that when the university is established in these areas - J fully support the proposition and know that it will be established; I do not quarrel with that - that university should be based on the best interests of academic tertiary education for the people in those areas. I think that those people who are running round making political gimmickry for the sake of an election in which possibly no seats will change hands in these areas are doing a total disserve to the people they purport to represent.
– I take the opportunity while the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) is at the table to heap praise upon him for his recent announcement that he intends altering the regulations in the Australian Capital Territory to allow contraceptives other than oral contraceptives to be available through various retail outlets rather than, as under the old concept, just the pharmacist. I suppose people are wondering what the Australian Parliament is coming to when 2 speeches in a row from this side of the House refer to the subject of sex. Last week only 34 hours were given to the Parliament to discuss legislation relating to abortion. Members have given great consideration to the question and have come to conclusions, but they have not really had an opportunity to present them to the Parliament. I suggest that the Minister should consider introducing legislation which would compel the manufacturers of the various forms and brands of contraceptives to print on the outside wrappers and the packet the failure rate of the various products as was outlined early in March by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), when he brought before the House various facts and figures which had been discovered by the Canberra Consumer Affairs Association.
We live in a day and age in which the more knowledge the population possesses about these things the better. Furthermore, I believe that every member of every parliament in Australia, whether it be State or Federal, has an obligation to set about tearing down those barriers which have existed in the past and which have prevented ready access to such things as contraceptives. I say this at a time when every member of this Parliament has had to think very deeply about this social question. It is all very well for those who are completely against abortion on demand - and I count myself in that group - to parade round with a holier than thou attitude, but it is proper for those people to recognise that in the 1970s we are, rightly or wrongly, living in a far more permissive society than that in which previous generations lived.
It is interesting to note that in the United States of America it has been established that 46.1 per cent of girls are sexually active before 20 years of age. Such a survey has never been taken in this country, but there is every reason to believe that the Australian figure would be comparable. At this moment the Aquarius pop festival is taking place at Nimbin in northern New South Wales. It is being sponsored by the Federal Government through the ministry to the arts. Last weekend the current affairs program Four Corners’ showed a lass at the festival probably 18 or 19 years of age, bared down to the waist. The next segment of the program dealt with various women’s magazines with a heavy emphasis on sex and even with fold-out colour photographs, like femine ones in ‘Playboy’, of male models. The stage has been reached where there is a great awareness of the functions of the body among the very young. I believe that any religious group, parliament or body in our community will keep its head buried in the sand if it says the only way to stop the proliferation of sex is to stop magazines with a strong emphasis on sex.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! It being 15 minutes to 1 o’clock, in accordance with standing order 106 I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Bill
States Grants (Water Resources Measurement) Bill 1973.
Housing Assistance Bill 1973.
Defence Service Homes Bill 1973.
Debate resumed from 16 May (vide page 2243) on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When this debate was interrupted last night I was making the point that when world prices are accelerating the only realistic way to stop a similar acceleration of domestic prices in a particular country is to take action which puts a restraining pressure on prices. Such pressure can be achieved in a number of ways. Firstly, it can be achieved by appreciating our currency when our balance of payments position is very favourable. Such action reduces the price of imports on the local market and so helps to offset the most important way in which inflation is transmitted from overseas. The Reserve Bank of Australia in its last annual report recognised that this was the case, and of course one of the first acts of the Labor Government was to appreciate the Australian dollar. A second way is to put pressure on prices to ensure that the business environment is competitive, and it is the intention of the Government to change radically the Trade Practices Act to bring about this situation. Thirdly, we can eliminate unused tariff, and in this connection the Tariff Board is conducting a review of tariff levels to determine where excessive protection exists, but this unfortunately is a long term project and will take some time to conclude.
Another way to put restraining pressure on prices is to do what this Bill is intended to do, that is, to establish price regulating machinery. In a situation of intensive world inflation such a method as this is essential if we are to protect ourselves against that inflation. In theory at least, revaluation should be an effective weapon in this regard, but other factors are involved as well in anti-inflation policy in determining the desirabiliy of revaluation; so its use is likely to be limited. Elimination of excess tariff and a removal of restrictive trade practices, though important, would have only a once and for all effect in combating a virulent world inflation. The only way to put a continuing and effective restraining pressure on prices is to establish a price regulating body such as the prices justification tribunal proposed in this Bill. Those who oppose such a measure should realise that what they are saying, in effect, is that Australia should simply inflate along with the general level of inflation in the rest of the world.
– Although I have doubts about its effectiveness, I accept that this is a very important Bill. Inflation is a great problem in all developed countries, but none has yet found a solution, except perhaps those prepared to use ruthless totalitarian methods or to accept a high level of unemployment. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) rightly rejects the deliberate creation of a high level of unemployment as a means of controlling inflation, and in that we on this side of the House strongly support him. But the combination of high employment and low inflation is a very difficult one to maintain. The Treasurer in his second reading speech very generously pointed out the excellent record that the
Liberal-Country Party Government had in this respect for most of the 1960s. The last few years, for reasons not unassociated with the change of leadership of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, have seen a worsening of the inflationary situation. Both sides of this House have a duty to approve any proposals of the Government which are likely to reduce this inflation, an inflation which strikes at the roots of our society and damages most those least able to defend themselves.
In his second reading speech the Treasurer referred to the Government’s submission in the recent national wage hearing, when the Government said, in effect, that the Arbitration Commission could go ahead and grant large wage increases because the Government would control inflation through demand management. These are pious words and seem to give demand management a dominant importance as an anti-inflationary tool which all recent experience in full employment economies around the world would suggest is greatly exaggerated. I think that one of his Treasury advisers must have been on top instead of on tap.
What is this Government’s record on demand management? It came to power after promising extensive and expensive programs in almost every aspect of our affairs - health, education, social security, housing, urban development and protection of the environment. Most of these have desirable aims, although we on this side of the House would frequently question the methods by which they are to be achieved. But what is quite clear is that the only way they can be achieved, unless personal consumption is to be reduced through increased taxation - the Government has promised not to do that - is by a rapid rise in national production. One would have expected a sane government or one under any sort of effective leadership from its Prime Minister, faced with a dilemma of expensive promises and rising inflation, to do all it could to increase production. But what has this Government done? The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) is campaigning for a 35-hour week, which will cause a 12i per cent loss of production. The Government has led the way to an extra week’s annual leave, which will cause a further 2 per cent drop in production. The new Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, recently guillotined through this House by the Minister for Labour, is certain to decrease national productivity still fur ther. If the Government were serious about controlling inflation, the first step would be to restrain sharply its immediate promises and its Minister for Labour.
To be fair to the Treasurer, I must say that he did point out that there is no simple cure for inflation, although some of the other measures he mentioned - such as revaluation of the Australian dollar, restraints on overseas borrowing and domestic monetary measures - really come under the heading of ‘demand management’. Others, such as restrictive trade practices, can have no immediate effect. Tariffs, which were mentioned by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and which could be helpful in controlling inflation, are very unlikely to be effective while the present Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) remains in office. He has a very old-fashioned approach to the role of tariffs. He seems to think of tariffs merely as a means of protecting employment rather than as a means of encouraging the optimum use of resources. Only by encouraging the optimum use of resources can tariff changes have an effect on inflation. But that sensible approach seems to be against Labor Party dogma.
So, all we are left with, as far as the Treasurer is concerned, is prices justification. He made no mention of an incomes policy, although that is obviously central to a serious prices policy. The omission of an incomes policy is a clear indication that Labor Party dogma overrides serious economic considerations. This can be seen, in perhaps its clearest form, in the decision of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to reverse what seemed to be a clear decision at last week’s Premiers Conference, namely, to investigate an incomes-prices policy. Now we are told by the Prime Minister that the investigation will not cover incomes or wages. I wonder why.
What can a prices policy achieve? The ‘Economist’ magazine recently pointed out, after a survey of a number of countries, that the presence or absence of price control had no noticeable effect on price rises. Why then is the Government proposing such a measure? Obviously it has attractive public appeal. Everyone wants incomes to go up, but no one wants price rises too. The Government says: Let us fix prices and then all our problems will be solved’.
When one asks how increased costs are to be absorbed, the answer given is: ‘Out of profits’. This ignores the fact that many costs that press on low income earners are not the result of profits. Rates and transport and electricity charges, all of which services are nonprofitmaking, are good examples of this. Even the absorption by profit-making companies of greatly increased costs may and probably will be against the public interest. Our profits, particularly in manufacturing industry, are low by international standards, and any further reduction of profits would cripple new investment, on which our future prosperity depends. For example, the failure of the recent price inquiry to grant the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd an appropriate price rise to cover increased wage costs has caused a sharp reduction in plans for new investment in steel making. The Australian community will be the loser in the long run. Another argument which has been advanced in favour of the Prices Justification Tribunal is that wages are controlled and therefore prices should be controlled. This is absurd. Wages are not controlled. Only minimum wages are controlled, and it is above-award wages obtained by unions ruthlessly using their monopoly power that are the dominant cause of cost-push inflation.
Nevertheless, short-sighted though it may be and inadequate though it may be, the Government does have an effective mandate to set up a Prices Justification Tribunal and it would be wrong of us to frustrate this, although we believe that in its present form it will be futile. How should such a tribunal operate? It will cover only the 400 or so biggest companies. But these have many thousands of individual products. One has only to look at the number of products sold by a firm such as Myer Emporium Ltd to see the scale of the problem. The only basis on which such a tribunal could operate is, one way or another, control on profits. The greatest difficulty for the Tribunal will be the pricing of new products. One of the reasons why price control worked reasonably well during World War II was that there were few new products then coming onto the market. Now there are many new products. If we are not careful we will have all our industry working on a cost-plus basis with no incentive to improve efficiency. This would be a disastrous consequence of a muddle-headed decision by this Government. I believe that one of the most important roles the Tribunal could perform would be educational. The British Prices and Incomes Board published reports of 30 to 40 pages on important cases, examining the issues involved in depth. I hope that our Tribunal will do likewise. Also, the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal will cover many of the activities of the Monopolies Commission proposed by the previous Government. If there is both a Prices Justification Tribunal and a Monopolies Commission there is bound to be buck passing, duplication of investigations and duplication of scarce staff, as well as unco-ordinated policy making.
– Two fat bureaucracies.
– Two fat bureaucracies, each competing for scarce staff. I believe that the responsibilities of the Prices Justification Tribunal should be extended to cover the responsibilities of the Monopolies Commission proposed by the previous Government. In my opinion, the Tribunal could also usefully deal with foreign takeovers. I put those suggestions to the Treasurer.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had pointed out that incomes were an integral part of any serious prices policy and also that the complexity of the problem facing the Tribunal made it very probable that the economic effect of the Prices Justification Tribunal would be to make Australian industries work on a cost plus basis with no incentive to improve efficiency.
Whether or not trade unions and wages are the cause of inflation, the indisputable fact is that wage restraint is necessary if the rise in prices is to be slowed down without massive unemployment. In one of his typically inept interventions in economic policy, the Minister for Labour has publicly advocated that a reduction in working hours should be granted in industries, as the Minister expressed it, which are able to afford it. In view of what we are discussing today, it is ironic that the oil industry, which is the Minister for Labour’s first target, has been subject to price control for its major products for many years. The South Australian Prices Commissioner sets maximum petrol prices throughout Australia. If, indeed, the Minister for Labour is right, and the oil companies’ profitability is excessive, surely it would be better for prices to be reduced so the whole community - including the workers - benefit, rather than all the benefits being passed on to a very small group of trade unionists. But that sensible solution again seems against Labor Party dogma.
For the time being, the Arbitration Commission must remain the main source of wage policy, and despite the strong hints of the Minister for Labour, it must seek to balance the public interest in industrial peace with the public interest in avoiding inflation. The fact that the Commission’s function is to prevent and settle interstate industrial disputes does not mean that it should ignore the possible inflationary impact of its decisions, since inflation is a main cause of the disputes it is meant to prevent. The Constitution, however, only confers on the Commission the power to arbitrate disputes. In other words, if employers and employees agree on wage increases, as they have increasingly done in collective bargaining, the Commission is powerless, except by refusing to register or certify such agreements or endorse them as awards. It had this power under the previous Government’s Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and has retained it, in a regrettably watered down form, in the Bill we have recently passed.
Some people regard all collectively negotiated wage agreements as a bad thing. This is quite wrong. Birt some important agreements may be against the public interest. I would like to see the Arbitration Commission use its power and refuse to register those agreements it disapproved of. For example, because of their excessive size; because of the need to avoid inflation; or because they pre-empt a national wage case decision, as in 1971. The problem is to decide what the public interest is. The term ‘public interest’ has never been really defined. I think, in this field, it can be met by laying down what average wage increases the economy could stand without excessive inflation. The Commission would therefore need to be given public economic guidance by the Government, as the representatives of the public interest, on what average level of wage increase would be within the public interest.
If the Commission refused to register a wage agreement, then the Prices Justification Tribunal, in my opinion, should refuse to allow it as a cost to be passed on in higher prices. Similar criteria might be applied to salaries which rise, on average, faster than the target laid down by the Government. Incidentally, there is much evidence that salaries are rising substantially faster than wages. This suggestion of not allowing such unjustified costs to be passed on is an alternative to the proposal I made in this House 2 years ago to use the income tax system for this purpose. But the Government must accept the consequences of such action. If the Arbitration Commission refused to register a consent award as being against the public interest, and the employers therefore refused to pay it, the Government would have to be prepared to indemnify the company financially against the consequences of a resultant strike. Otherwise no highly capitalised company can resist excessive wage demands. Look at an airline. A strike costs an airline probably $30,000 a day. How could it be expected to resist a threat of a crippling strike by a small group of employees, however unreasonable their demands? Of course they give in - and the country is the loser in the not-too-long run.
I hope the Government will revise its present policy and try to strengthen the Arbitration Commission’s role as an instrument of national wage policy, rather than to dismantle it. We have a great history of reasonable wage justice, and establishment of fair wage differentials, If the Government and Prices Justification Tribunal were prepared to act in the way I have proposed, it would not result in a perfect incomes prices policy, but it would at least be a start. What this Government is proposing is a half-hearted attempt at such a policy. The Government is a sectional party - it describes itself as the political arm of the trade union movement - and it is prepared to submerge the interests of the community as a whole before the sectional interests of its members. Inflation is a great problem. The Government, by its inept policies, is making it much worse, and its countermeasures are feeble, doctrinaire and ineffective.
– I support the Bill. I do not think we can consider this piece of legislation in complete isolation. I think we have to look at the whole range of Government action on the very important question of inflation. Furthermore, I think we must realise that what is occurring in Australia is only an example of what is happening in the rest of the world today. We do not stand in isolation as the only country suffering from inflation. I think we should look at the root causes of this world-wide inflationary movement. I think that the action of the United States of America is the major root cause of this movement. I am not carrying out an an ti- American crusade in saying this but I think that America has to accept her responsibility for the excessive demand over resources that she has created throughout the world. This inflationary movement is even finding its way into countries such as Russia.
The real cause is, of course, that America has for nigh on 2 decades lived beyond her means. She has spent more than she has earned. This will have an effect upon that country and upon the economies she influences similar to that which it would have in any family group. America has spent more than she has earned because she has consistently been importing more than she has been exporting. She has been consistently assisting other countries in respect of foreign aid. We are very glad that she undertook this policy. But her assistance to other countries in respect of foreign aid meant, of course, the export of dollars. Importing more than she exported meant the export of dollars. She has exported dollars in respect of the war in Vietnam. She has exported dollars by purchasing other countries’ assets and resources, buying up industries and resources such as mining. So, overall, in effect she has printed dollars and exported those dollars to the rest of the world. By doing so she has created a greater demand for resources than there were resources to meet it and accordingly a worldwide inflationary movement. Therefore when we look at this item of legislation and at the Government’s pricing policies as a whole we should remember also that what we are endeavouring to do is to put a brake on a situation which has arisen because of the actions of another country far removed from here, but a country which has a reserve currency and accordingly has had a great influence and impact in regard to what can only be called its unwise policies of the last 2 decades upon all other smaller nations such as ours.
Our action, of course, as the Treasurer said, can only slow down inflation. We cannot by some magic means abolish the inflation overnight. It is not possible to do this. The Treasurer in his second reading speech on this Bill said:
The Government has already taken … a number of measures to counter inflationary pressures - the revaluation of the Australian dollar, restraints on overseas borrowings-
To try to cut down that excess liquidity in the Australian market - domestic monetary measures including the call to statutory reserve deposits by the Reserve Bank, and the establishment of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices.
I will deal with that Committee in a few moments. The Treasurer went on to say:
In the longer-term, policies in other fields - for example, on tariffs, restrictive trade practices and consumer protection - will have a favourable impact.
These proposals which have already been implemented and the future policies which will be implemented will provide for far greater efficiency in Australian industry and commerce. Of course, that efficiency will be passed on to the consumer by way of more reasonable prices. In other words, the economic policies which have been followed in this country have been laissez-faire policies which have been put forward in the hope that inflation would correct itself. But never at any stage has there been an attempt to sit down to assess what was the real root cause of inflation here in Australia or a realisation that it is a world wide problem. The world wide cause of that problem was never faced up to by the previous Government. This Government intends to do so.
Basically the policy enunciated by the Government at this stage in this legislation is part of a 2-pronged attack on prices. Firstly a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices has been established which will play an ombudsmantype role. I think that that would be a fairly accurate description of the function of that Committee. The Committee will receive complaints and it will be staffed, unlike most other committees of the past, by people who are highly qualified in the field of inquiry and report. The Committee will make decisions and will publicise unfair pricing tactics and unreasonable prices charged by various sectors of industry and commerce. In other words, by exposing these practices the Committee will show the utter hypocrisy of the claims that were made by the previous Government over the years - and there are men sitting in the ranks of the Opposition who must have known how untrue those claims were - that the cause of price increases was purely that of rising wages. The previous Government refused to realise that increases in wages and salaries were only a symptom of the base problem of inflation. So, the Committee will have a good effect in this regard.
The Committee also will show which individual companies are engaging in unfair price tactics. It will show that the cause of inflation in this country is not simply rising wages but also the unfair pricing tactics of various companies. Secondly, of course, the Committee then will have the power of recommendation and referral. But sitting next to this Committee in the context of the Government’s pricing legislation will be the Prices Justification Tribunal. The legislation before us provides that any company that has sales of more than $20m a year will come under the umbrella of the Prices Justification Tribunal. In other words, the Tribunal will be concerned with those large companies in terms of volume - and there are 300-odd of them at this stage - which by their pricing activities have an impact on prices and costs right through the economic framework of this country. When the Tribunal, which ‘again is a body staffed by very efficient and experienced people in the field of inquiry, finally makes a determination it will be able to reveal what is considered to be a reasonable price to be charged by any particular company or organisation.
Of course, the Tribunal will not exercise any punitive powers. But it will have that great power of exposing to the public as a whole unfair tactics and activities as well as incorrect prices and prices which help to create inflation in this country. Once again people such as supporters of the previous Government will not be able simply to blame wages for inflation. Having done this, one may ask how the Tribunal will implement its recommendations. We will expect industry to adopt a reasonable approach and, of course, large sectors of industry have to come to this Government at different times for assistance. I believe that those sectors of industry which are prepared to adopt a reasonable pricing policy - one which takes cognisance of the decisions of the Prices Justification Tribunal - would be more sympathetically received than those who do not. I think that this is an important instrument in a pricing policy.
I believe that there are many unfair tactics which are being engaged in today. I think that one factor which will have a big impact upon prices in the economy in the near future is the transfer to the metric system. It is a pity that I did not bring with me into the chamber the tin of pipe tobacco which 1 usually smoke. I had better not give the brand name of this tobacco because I do not want to be accused of giving free advertising. But recently, because of the change over to the metric system, I have changed from buying tins of 2 oz to tins of 50 grams which are approximately 14 per cent less tin weight than the 2 oz tins. Yet, 1 have found that the various shops at which this tobacco is sold still try to charge me 76c for the 50 gram tin, which is the same price as I used to pay for the 2 oz tin.
– That is a good reason to give up smoking.
– I must put in a plug for the pipe. Statistics show that pipe smokers do not suffer more from cancer and heart disease than any other person. The pipe is different from the cancer sticks which some honourable members smoke. It depends on whether one likes a nice aroma.
-Order! We are talking about prices, not pipe smoking.
– 1 agree, Mr Speaker, but the former Minister introduced this subject which has nothing to do with the Bill.
-I did not hear him.
– This is one example of what will happen in the retail field in respect of a large number of commodities. I have given this as an example because it is one of the first commodities to transfer to the metric system. It should be borne in mind that every shopkeeper who gets away with charging 76c instead of 67c gets a further mark-up of 14 per cent. I give a warning to the general public to watch what they buy from now on where weight or any form of measurement is involved, to ensure that they are not being charged the same price for something expressed in grams as they would have paid for a larger amount expressed in ounces because they are likely to be rooked to high heaven. I have given an ordinary, human and normal type of example, but if this becomes an activity in a large way it could be a good subject for inquiry by either the proposed tribunal or for the parliamentary committee on prices. For these reasons I support the legislation.
I emphasise that this legislation, by itself, cannot cure inflation. It can dampen it down. The Government does not claim that it can cure it. The causes of inflation are world-wide and, I believe, relate originally to the very unwise economic policies of the United States of America and the export of United States dollars - the Euro dollar - and the effects this has had throughout the, world. We must grapple with the problem. Our efforts will be of no use if we do not accept the root causes of inflation but say: ‘We can do nothing about it. Let laissez faire have its way. Let things take their course’, as the previous Government did. Inflation is a problem with which we must grapple. It must be dampened down, otherwise there will be wide-ranging effects upon the economy and upon the living standards of the Australian people as a whole. This Bui, and the legislation under which a committee was appointed earlier by this Parliament, seek to do something about inflation. Other economic policies which have been introduced - revaluation, restraints on overseas borrowing, the call-up of statutory reserve deposits - and future proposals concerning restrictive trade practices and consumer protection are valid moves by this Government to wipe aside the laissez faire policies of the past and to try to do something effective in dampening down inflation, which is a serious problem for the future of Australia and one which has been inherited, unfortunately, from the past.
– The Opposition views with concern the alarming rate at which prices are increasing. The Opposition is anxious to see the current rate of price increases abated, lt is appreciated that for the consumer the mo.st immediate symptom, and perhaps the most crippling symptom, of inflation is the increased price charged for products bought from week to week. The Opposition is anxious that prompt action be taken to cut back price increases. It does not believe, however, that the proposals advanced by the Government in this Bill will achieve this result. This is unfortunate. We have serious doubts about the ability of the Prices Justification Tribunal to achieve any real progress. We will see whether the Government’s belief that it will succeed is true. The Opposition does not accept that view but will not hamper any proposals that may help in combating inflation. The Government has said that this proposal will work, lt is now up to the Government to prove that it will work. It is laudable to express concern for inflation. It is laudable to be concerned for the rights of the consumer. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) expressed his concern in these regards during his second reading speech. But where in this Bill is the Government combating inflation? The maintenance of consumer rights may be stated as an objective of the Prices Justification Tribunal but only the Bill will show whether it is a reality.
This Bill is the most naive piece of economic legislation that I have ever seen. I doubt whether there has ever been such a piece of naivety put before any Parliament in the world, let alone this Parliament. Given time it will further confound any reader or observer. The Treasurer has a grounding in Utilitarian philosophy. He believes that the greatest happiness should be made available to the greatest number. I appreciate his idealism but I find it hard to accept the notion of a prices justification tribunal as upholding the rights of the consumer by pillorying the major supermarket when it increases the price of bargain basement items but leaving without scrutiny every shopkeeper whose turnover last year was less than $20m. It is like a scene from the theatre of the absurd.
– Who do you think is naive?
– The honourable member for whatever electorate he temporarily holds is a star performer in the theatre of the absurd.
– The honourable member for Chifley.
– Yes, the honourable member for Chifley is the absurd actor.
-Order! The previous speaker was heard in complete silence and I would ask honourable members to extend the same courtesy to the Leader of the Opposition.
– The context of consumer protection is important, but in a curious context such as this Bill how is it to be viewed seriously? The legislation is all-embracing so long as the company concerned happens to have a large enough turnover in accordance with sub-clause (1) of clause 5 of this Bill. The provision applies only if the sum of th& amounts received as payment for the supply of goods or services, or both, exceeds $20m a year for one company or group of companies. There is no description of particular classes or types of goods or of services to which the justification of prices procedure is to be applied. The only construction available is that if the total turnover exceeds $20m, all prices must be justified for all goods and all services. The Bill therefore has a matrix of goods and services which are not described, yet the price a company can charge is circumscribed.
The legislation has a markedly populist flavour. It appears to get stuck into the large manufacturers and retailers whilst sparing the smaller businessman who may now be described ironically, in terms of this Bill, as being lc off a $20m a year turnover. How many have a turnover of from $5m to $20m whose prices directly affect the cost of living of the people of Australia and of all consumers? People might be excused for thinking that to be at all logical all companies should be included. I do not argue that they should be, except in the context of an incomes-prices policy which is thought out and is appropriate to circumstances. The Bill gives no guidelines about the amount of any price increase which could be allowable. There is no consideration of or direction about how frequently prices should rise. The Tribunal is left free to determine its own criteria and reach its own economic judgments in isolation from all the other interacting forces in the economy.
The mechanics of the Tribunal, as described in the Bill, are fascinating. The possibility of rich new growth of the bureaucracy is quite daunting. As the reader passes through the great amount of rigmarole of the Bill he comes to how the ‘men from the Tribunal’ are to operate. All intended price increases must be notified. Then there is a lag period of 21 days while the men from the Tribunal consider. Not surprisingly, there is no limit to the number of members of the Tribunal nor to the number of clerical staff, research staff, administrative staff or any other staff which the Tribunal can have. Coming back to the men from the Tribunal, they may agree or may further refer prices to an inquiry which has 3 months to reply.
In the meantime the backlog of proposed price increases will bank up, particularly having in mind the way that the prices are rising today under a Labor Government. Is it a correct biblical quotation to say: ‘And then came the flood’? Meanwhile, the prices must be kept at the old level by the chosen companies, even though in the marketplace where the companies are bringing in their supplies costs may be escalating. In this context, the cost of labour which does not have to justify itself in terms of price before the Tribunal is likely to continue to rise also. On the other hand, while the large manufacturer or retailer is waiting for his price to be stamped justified’, economic pressure is being exerted on him by the supplier of the goods. Whether manufacturers or wholesalers, if their turnover is less than $20m they are without restriction at all. The Bill is clearly discriminatory - ‘but then, it was meant to be discriminatory.
A major problem that I see with the Tribunal is that its reaction time would be slow. I cannot see it dealing with all articles in any real sense. For instance, I am told that there are 4,000 to 5,000 different lines in a typical major food retailing outlet, and in a large department store there may be 50,000 or upwards. No doubt those companies would have a turnover of more than this requisite $20m. The Bill speaks of ‘goods of a particular description’. I expect that this includes perishable goods such as meat, fruit and vegetables. They are subject to daily market price fluctuation, even to the large buyers, and it is hardly practicable for stockpiles of perishable foods to wait up to 21 days for decision by the men from the Tribunal. Perhaps they would all be approved. This is hardly in the interest of the consumer as that interest is represented in the Bill. If prices are raised without consent of the Tribunal, a $10,000 fine each time can be imposed.
It would need a large calculating machine to work out what the sum of the total fines might be, given the thousands of items handled by companies with a turnover of $20m. It adds literally to tens of millions of dollars. But the fines are payable only - I ask honourable members to listen to this brilliant piece of legislative thinking - if the price increase occurs before the Tribunal says that the company should not increase the price. The Tribunal can be ignored totally after it says, ‘No, you should not increase it’, without any penalty. If you make a mistake in timing the fine is $10,000 multiplied by the number of items; but if you can stand off for about 2 months there is no penalty at all. You just make the appropriate sign to the Tribunal and go ahead. All that the companies need to do is to tell the Tribunal what they are going to charge and they are immune from penalty, so long as they do not do it too soon.
I believe that the Tribunal will have to confine itself to a schedule of key goods and services which presumably will be stated later by regulation. What a wonderful way to do it! There is not a single mention of it in the second reading speech of the Treasurer. Otherwise the Tribunal would appear to need the services of a small army - probably a bigger army than the Labor Government is prepared to have as a professional fighting force for Australia. The Prices Justification Tribunal will be under indirect pressure from the consumer to protect him and also to arbitrate. This will be reinforced by the Joint Committee on Prices under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). He has already indicated his determination to prevent prices rising. He does look like Canute, does he not? He is going to resort to unusual forms of sanction such as boycott. It will be recalled that the unions will be asked to co-operate in boycotting. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has just been chastising the unions for their actions in relation to French goods, but in relation to the Prices Justification Committee the trade unions will be turned loose with all the ferocity they can gather.
The Prices Justification Tribunal may try to move with a measured tread, but I do not think it will be able to do so. The Australian Labor Party policy speech stated: ‘We will establish a Prices Justification Tribunal*. This is now being done. The Government considers that it has a clear mandate and that it should be allowed to have rope, not to hang itself but in order to prove the premise of this form of control. The Australian Labor Party policy speech also states that it will ‘convince all sections of the community that responsibilities, burdens and opportunities are to be shared equally by all sections of the community’. Mr Orwell would echo those words. Some are more equal than others and there is a residue less equal than others. That is egalitarianism in the modern socialist sense. However, I feel it necessary in talking of prices to bracket them with wages. It is not popular to do so because a great deal of propaganda has been put about that prices are what it is all about. Does anybody for a moment believe that if costs go up prices can somehow magically be subsidised by pulling money off trees or finding it floating to the ground from the air? Of course you cannot separate wages from incomes. The Labor Party in government believes that it has a unique anointed role to make Australia the only country in the world where inflation is handled by looking at prices alone. Inflation is subject to the pressures of cost-push and demand-pull. In fact, this legislation in a description of the companies which will be subject to it states that the provision of services will be considered in the $20m benchmark. This mention of services emphasises the understanding that wages are an essential part of the conundrum. They put it in the legislation but they refuse to acknowledge it in words. What sort of abandonment of logic does that represent?
There is a growing anxiety in the community to combat inflation. For example, the growth of consumer protection groups who are worried by rising prices at all levels reflects that anxiety. The general community concern is important in considering the adoption of any policy which encompasses both prices and incomes. It is important that the community be prepared to accept direct governmental influence in the level of prices, wages and probably other income as well, if there is to be a real attack. The community must be involved. People must understand what the problem is and they must be prepared to participate in solving it. The criteria to be used must take account of the various institutions which now directly or indirectly modify, maintain and determine costs and prices. Let us not delude ourselves. The Prices Justification Tribunal at best can work in only one segment of the field. While the Labor Party in government refuses to acknowledge the other segments it cannot work effectively.
Other countries have experienced price justification and notification systems. In Canada a Prices and Incomes Commission was set up in 1969. Business firms voluntarily agreed to give the Commission advance notice of intending price rises, but the Commission had no powers. Another essentially voluntary plan was started in the United Kingdom with a National Board for Prices and Incomes. More recently the Conservative Government has proposed a Prices and Wages Board following a 90-day wage and price freeze last December. The original Board contained representatives of management and labour and was provided with a relatively large research staff. Where is there any attempt on the part of the Australian Labor Party to understand the reality of this problem? It is prepared to allow inflation to run because the only chance the Government has of putting into effect its promises is to feed off inflation and to collect the additional take from personal, company and sales taxes and excise duties. That is what the Government has in mind.
Constitutionally, the Commonwealth may be able to legislate with respect to company prices. I do not know; that will need to be determined. But the Commonwealth may be able to employ or threaten to employ other powers such as taxation and tariffs and other powers to stop unjustifiable price increases. However, I believe that the force of consumer opinion is such in Australia that if the wage component is dissected from the price of goods, the consumer would not allow the Government to concentrate solely on prices. In other words, if the consumer understood it, he would know that the Government’s approach to this problem is a false one. This is the danger in considering the proposed Prices Justification Tribunal as the panacea for all problems relating to inflation and consumer protection.
In Australia, our arbitration could offer a ready made framework for an incomes policy. It does not do so now. It sets minimum wages, not maximum wages. The wages it sets are always exceeded in fact. In contrast, whoever heard of a prices tribunal setting a minimum price with a penalty for charging below it? That is what the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission does. It is not the co-efficient. The arbitration tribunals are completely independent of government, whereas a fully fledged incomes policy, I believe, would require that they be integrated within the Government’s general economic and social policies. With Australia’s system of independent arbitral tribunals, a complete incomes policy would be possible only if the Government in the public or the consumer interest intervenes and requires tribunals to make decisions which accord with established criteria. The Arbitration Commission is not the incomes component to an incomes-prices policy. The proposed Prices Justification Tribunal will not be the prices component of an incomes-prices policy. There is no such policy of the Government. There are only stabs in the dark.
The successful use of the wage freeze by President Nixon in 1971 was a circuit breaker in a vicious cycle that was going around and it was successful for the period it lasted but already the United States again is running into serious problems in relation to inflation. It is important that we continue to assert the link between wages and prices and that an attack on one must necessarily be accompanied by an attack on the other. A recent report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development related the experiences of prices and incomes policies in Austria. The report emphasised the need in any prices and incomes policy for social cooperation and interdependence by all parties within a community. However, the machinery of any wages and prices policy which may arise during the next few years must be considered overall in terms of the interests of the consumer in combating inflation and reducing it to an acceptable level, and ensuring that the Australian economy remains on a stable footing over the next few years for its growth to proceed unabated and not be subject to disruptive ‘stop-go’ tactics which inflation produces.
I have great reservations about the Prices Justification Tribunal as it is stated in the Bill. (Extension of time granted.) I am fully aware of the need for the rights of the consumer and I am most concerned with the present galloping inflation, as would any Australian be. I hope that the concept of a Prices Justification Tribunal will be of assistance, but I have stated my strong doubt that the actual detailed description as laid out in the Bill will achieve the purpose for which it is designed. The Labor Government has made the pudding; it will have to eat it.
Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in a spiteful moment in the early part of his speech referred to me as ‘the temporary member for Chifley’. I would point out to the House that my majority in the electorate of Chifley in the last election was 27,000.
-Order! The honourable member has not been misrepresented. This is not a debate as to how many votes he received at the last election.
– The honourable member for Chifley said that I misrepresented him. I should make it plain that what I had in mind was not his majority at the last election but his performance in this House and the likelihood of him being replaced by someone of better quality.
– Before the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) leaves the chamber, I should like to say that what we have just heard from him was a shocking and useless exercise in destructive cynicism. When is this man going to be constructive? What a tragedy for this country if he ever should become Prime Minister. He failed as Treasurer in the previous Government. Stagflation ran amok and unemployment rose to 2 per cent or 120,000 people. No wonder he is leaving the chamber; I am reminding him of the performance he put up when he had responsibility. Instead of hearing something constructive on this Bill today, we have heard nothing but destructive criticism. All the Leader of the Opposition has ever done - he did it again today - is huff and puff against the unions and now this destructive criticism has been turned to such legislation as this Bill, which proposes to establish a Prices Justification Tribunal, and also to the Joint Committee on Prices of which I have the honour to be Chairman. If he feels the way he does about the Joint Committee on Prices, why are members of his own Party playing such a constructive role on this Committee? The Leader of the Opposition should remember when he makes these sideswipes against genuine attempts - this Bill represents the first genuine and proper attempt - to do something about inflation in this country that some honourable members on his side of the House are also helping in this attempt.
Just as yesterday we experienced within this House the Federal Labor Government proposing a measure of great national importance, namely, the Pipeline Authority Bill, and finding it opposed by the Liberal-Country Party Opposition in this place - true successors to those narrow men who opposed 25 years ago the great national Snowy Mountains scheme-
– Mr Speaker, 1 take a point of order. 1 find these remarks most offensive to me. Would 1 be in order in asking you to ask the honourable member to be constructive and stick to the Bill?
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– It is sad that the honourable member for Angas has been cut to the quick; no doubt it is because what 1 am saying is the truth. As I said, 25 years ago the predecessors of those opposite opposed such a Bill as this and today we find similar opposition to another great Federal Labor
Government innovation as represented by this Prices Justification Bill.
In this case, honourable members opposite - I except the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) from this because he did make a constructive contribution during his speech on this Bill - are the true successors to those who, in the early 1930s, opposed the then Treasurer Theodore and those who advocated deficit financing to spend our way out of the tragic depression of those years. (Quorum formed) T do not wonder that honourable members opposite do not like hearing the truth of this matter, following the contribution of their Leader prior to my rising to my feet. They are the true successors of those who opposed the policy of spending our way out of the great depression in the 1930s. There was less excuse in those days. John Maynard Keynes had not written his great work ‘General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’ then. There is no excuse for Labor’s opponents today because John Kenneth Galbraith has clearly outlined the futility of attempting to rely on fiscal and monetary policies alone. He has shown how budgetary policy of cutting government expenditure in relation to government income and Reserve Bank policy of raising interest rates and cutting back lending alone are only blunt policies and are futile.
People do not react in the same way now to those sorts of policies. Public tastes and reactions have changed. All that happens when governments rely on those policies to contain inflation is what happened in this country between February 1971 and the election of a Federal Labor Government, namely, a tragic rate of unemployment with prices continuing to rise; in other words, stagflation. Last year the rate of unemployment in this country was 2 per cent or 120,000 people, yet under the Liberal Government the rate of inflation raged on. That was just not good enough. New policies had to be devised. Galbraith did not point out in his published works only the futility of the old policies; he also pointed out the way to new policies. I refer to his publication ‘A Contemporary Guide to Economics, Peace and Laughter’. I refer particularly to chapter 5, Inflation, Recession or Controls’, and also to a couple of chapters in ‘The New Industrial State’, another work of his. Those works give a significant academic justification of the multi-pronged approach being undertaken by this Federal Labor Government in its attack on stagnation, and this should not be forgotten.
I want to emphasise this multi-pronged approach of the Federal Labor Government. One or 2 speeches from the Opposition in this - the one from the Leader of the Opposition was no exception - debate have been of a completely simplistic type, as though restraining wages would constitute a panacea which would cure all our ills and our inflation problems. This was certainly so in the speech of the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony), who led for the Opposition in this debate. He continued with the huffing and puffing against the unions and it was repeated by the Leader of the Opposition. He even went so far as to say:
There is nothing essentially mysterious about the inflation that is currently being experienced in Australia. It does not derive from a national bout of profiteering by Australian companies; there is no evidence to suggest that profit margins are being expanded. It is not the result of a national business conspiracy to systematically plunder the consumer in the interests of higher profits.
What a lot of nonsense that is. What evidence has he that there is not a national bout of profiteering in many areas or that profit margins are not being expanded? As some honourable members will remember, I did some work on one or two undertakings just over a year ago. I acted, in effect, as a oneman prices justification tribunal. I chose the brewing industry for more detailed investigation. It was my opinion that the profits earned as a ratio of funds invested represented a rate of return which, in the case of many brewing companies, was quite excessive. Since then the announcements of brewing company profits in the financial newspapers have shown that the breweries have improved their position. This is inevitable because in their monopoly or quasi-monopoly position they were hardly likely to let their position worsen. Let us look at a few of these announcements. The Advertiser’ of 14th April had the headline: Bonanza for SA Brewing shareholders’. The article shows that the pay-out of dividends to shareholders has exactly doubled between 1967 and 1973. The dividend pay-out in 1967 was $1.155m and in 1973 it was $2.31m. I know that some increase in capital may have occurred, but it certainly would not be an increase of that rate. In the ‘Australian’ on 10th May there was the headline: Tooth up again’. New South Welshmen in this House will recognise the name of that company. The newspaper article stated:
Sydney brewer, Tooth and Co. Ltd, has pushed up net profit higher for the eighteenth year in succession - this time by $lm.
The net profit is $11,323,391 for the year to March 31 . . .
That shows that profits have continued to rise since I drew the attention of this House to the rate of return of breweries. I will be the first to admit that I am not infallible. Unusual for a politician though it may be, I am a modest fellow. Perhaps I have been unfair to the breweries or to some of them. It is for our Prices Justification Tribunal to ascertain this. It is not a job for any one of us in this House. However, for the Leader of the Australian Country Party and the Leader of the Opposition to say that there is no evidence of exorbitant profits is mere window dressing.
I will not be at all surprised if there are weaknesses in this Bill, because it is breaking new ground. It would be extraordinary if this were not so. In my view, it may be that clause 18 should apply only to the supply of goods or services of a particular description in respect of which the company received $20m in the previous financial year for the same class of transaction as that in respect of which the higher price is proposed. There could be other weaknesses in the Bill. However, there is great flexibility in the structure of the Tribunal and there are great hopes that, with the good will of the business community which, I believe, also wants this wages-prices-costs nexus broken, a tremendous amount will be achieved. The Bill can be tightened later in the light of experience. The attitude of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd in putting its case before Mr Justice Moore’s tribunal showed that the good will certainly exists in some quarters and I believe that the business community of this nation will show more of the attitude of being good Australians and joining with the Government in doing something about this pricescostswages nexus than has been displayed today and yesterday by Opposition members. I believe that such leadership as we have seen from BHP in this instance should be commended.
I draw to the attention of the House, and in particular to the attention of the Leader of the Opposition, the achievements of the British Prices and Income Board in the prices field. It was left free to a great extent - as our Prices Justification Tribunal will be left free - to determine its own criteria. In the prices field the British authority has achieved much, although in the incomes field it has achieved very little. More than that, it has built up an expertise in the field of business efficiency - an expertise which will be of great use to the country in many different spheres. It is obvious that the prices field is the first one to be tackled. Those on the Opposition benches who continue thinking that the way to tackle inflation is just to complain about the unions or to complain about rises in wages are living in cloud cuckoo land. All the experience, including that of the British Prices and Incomes Board, is that if we put the lid on the pressure cooker in an area such as this it may have a temporary effect; but as soon as the lid is blown off, as it will be when there is injustice in the form of low wages, we will have the same rise in prices over a length of time as we would have had if no lid had been put no. If we are to break this nexus the first place to attack is prices, for the good reason that it is only when the Government shows, as this Government is showing, that it is prepared to draw attention to exorbitant profits and high prices that others will exercise restraint.
It is not only restraint of incomes of unionists that is required, it is restraint from professional people as well. Who are giving a lead at the moment when it comes to the professions? It is the doctors in what they are demanding. I should be a little more accurate - it is the leaders of the doctors, who will not even inform uV Government of what doctors’ fee rises will be from 1st July so that the Government can make attempts to do something about medical benefits in order to reduce the hardship caused to people in Australia from medical costs. That is the sort of leadership that is being given by those in that profession. Yet the huffing and puffing goes on opposite against unions although the unions represent people on much lower incomes than doctors enjoy. In other words, we are hearing only the voice of the past from the Opposition.
Before concluding I draw attention to the worthwhile effect of prices legislation in my own State of South Australia. There we have a very active Prices Commissioner and Consumer Affairs Branch. I. believe that it can easily be shown that prices in South Australia are 4 per cent less than elsewhere. The Federal Government is attempting to bring to the Commonwealth sphere the sort of benefits of legislation that we have had in South Australia. It is true that this legislation affects only companies with a turnover of S20m a year, but at the same time it has to be pointed out that the legislation affects 350 companies which are responsible for twothirds of the turnover of this nation. As pointed out to me by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), if the Leader of the Opposition is so worried about the other one-third turnover why does he not move an amendment to this Bill to include everybody else under its jurisdiction?
I shall end on this point: The Government’s attack on inflation, or stagflation as we still have it - we must not forget that there are still 81,000 people unemployed in Australia - is a multi-pronged one. This measure is only one of those prongs. The work of the Joint Committee on Prices is another method of attacking and drawing attention to that onethird area which is not included in the provisions of this Bill. We have also to consider Australia’s revaluation of currency, doing something about the funds which come here from overseas. Australia is awash with funds in the banks in the community. Demand has been high because of that. We have already been given notice that new restrictive trade practices legislation, which will have teeth, is to be introduced. We hope that this will have the result of bringing greater competition to the community. All these measures add up to the first worthwhile attempt to tackle the important matter of inflation since Sir Robert Menzies won power in 1949 on the slogan of bringing value back to the pound. This is the first worthwhile attempt in 23 years, and it is with a great deal of pleasure that 1 support this Bill.
– The Prices Justification Bill 1973 I believe is a grandstanding attempt by this Government to pretend that it is doing something about price rises in Australia when in prospect it is not doing anything substantial. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who has just taken his seat and with whom I have crossed swords on this matter earlier - I do not want to spend much time on him - made a number of abusive comments when he opened his speech. He talked about the lack of constructive criticism from this side of the House. I want to point out that when one carefully studies his speech - 1 invite honourable members to read it in Hansard - one will no; see anything constructive in what he said at all. On the contrary, one will see that his speech supports my contention that he is trying to build up a feeling that the Government and he, as Chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices, the aims of which are in exactly the same category as this Bill, is only making the appearance of doing something. If, as he claims, this Bill is a genuine attempt to do something then I shall look forward with great interest to the results of what is achieved, and not just what he talks about. I shall not really try to follow all the meanderings of his speech because it really was not, I believe, a serious contribution.
– He mostly quoted Galbraith.
– Yes, he quoted Galbraith and even Keynes - who is a little outdated, I might remind the honourable member for Adelaide. I think that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) pointed out in detail the omissions from this Bill and how effective it will be. I think he did that forcefully and well. Therefore, I do not propose to traverse that area or the area that was covered so well by the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) last night, on other ground.
The purpose of this Bill is to make the appearance of controlling, regulating or at any rate acting as a restraint on price rises. I believe that it is wholly politically motivated just to give the appearance of effort where there is none. I shall explain why 1 say that. The honourable member for Adelaide, who has now left the chamber, so great is his interest in this matter, has been talking a great deal to the Press lately and indeed has become almost the spokesman of the Labor Party on prices justification policies. He talks as though decisions have been made. He says things like: ‘We will examine this. We will not permit this’, all as though he were speaking with some sort of executive power. But when one examines the Bill one finds that there is hardly a sanction in it. We have seen Press reports about the efforts of the Treasurer and Minister in regard to this Bill. I believe we can to a large degree believe Press reports in relation to this Government because of the excellent relations that Ministers, particularly the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is at the table, have with the Press. Then employ former members of the Press gallery on their staffs and they enjoy a really excellent relationship, so I think one can believe the statements by com mentators more than one might have in previous times. Press reports have stated that the Minister fought hard in the Cabinet room for sanctions to be put in this Bill, but he did not win on that point. So the Bill has no teeth. I think the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) was another member reported to be in support of that proposition. The Bill is given no teeth by those who are supporting the view that there ought to be price control or some means of enforcing price justification. What we have here is an empty shell presented by those who say we need this type of action.
I remind the House, though it has been said here many times as it was in relation to the establishment of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices, that this Bill and the speech that was made in introducing it make no reference to wage costs at all. Everybody knows that the type of inflation which exists in Australia today is cost-push inflation - that is its Keynesian aspect if I might refer it to the honourable member for Adelaide - cost-push inflation, not demand-pull inflation, and the greatest ingredient of cost-push inflation is rising wages. I do not say that it is the whole problem but it is the largest part of the problem and it has been totally ignored in this Bill. There has been no reference to it because the Labor Party is based four square on the trade union movement. I have referred to what 1 believe are the real aims of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and the Government in introducing this Bill. I believe that the Treasurer himself, if one closely examines the remarks he made in relation to Appropriation Bills No. 3 and No. 4, harbours some knowledge of the effect of wages in the matter and that he hinted-
– He has been overruled.
– He has been overruled, of course, as my colleague says. But I think he hinted in his speech that he would like, step by step, to get to grips with the problem. I hope that there are some Government supporters in the national interest who share that view, even though they do not find it politic to mention it at this relatively early stage. Whatever the truth of the matter was, he said in that speech that large numbers of people in the trade union movement believe that their wages are controlled. I thought that was an illuminating statement, because obviously he does not believe it and obviously it is not the truth of the matter; but it does show that he is having to recognise that situation. 1 repeat, because it is the major point 1 bring to the House in my speech today, that the setting up of this Tribunal, like the setting up of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices, is largely window dressing, to make as much noise as possible by the Government to fool the Australian people into believing that the problem of price rises which they see and which affect them very much is being grappled with. It will be part of my effort as a member of that Prices Committee representing the Opposition to try to get that Committee down into the detail really to examine complaints about prices and see whether we can find any truth in the assertions which are made strongly and so widely that price rises are unjustifiable and - I think I would be right in saying this - have little to do with wage costs.
I say of the Treasurer, because one does not gel a lot of opportunities to speak of him, that I think he discussed this question of inflation in his second reading speech in a fairly reasonable way. I think he brought out a few old chestnuts. 1 am sorry that he is not here. He is usually here when he has a Bill before the House. But I think my respect for him as an individual requires me to say that I believe that his conduct of Treasury shows every sign that he is an old fashioned Fabian socialist. I believe though that he is the best qualified on his side of the House to hold the office of Treasurer. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) disdains economic matters, and indeed seems to bring to these matters the same sort of disdain with which the aristocrats of old used to speak of trade.
The Treasurer, to return to him, is by no means above repeating some blatant political Labor Party propaganda. For instance, he brought out the old chestnut about some people wanting a pool of unemployed. I interjected: Name one’. He said he would perhaps satisfy me by naming some people who actually believe in creating a pool of unemployed to avoid inflation. I hope that when he replies to this Bill or on another suitable occasion he will give me that list, as half promised, because I would be very interested to see whom he accuses of it. I do not discuss the details. As I said, the Leader of the Opposition did a good job of that. I believe, though, that the Government in this Bill and in the second reading speech has shown itself as not being really serious in trying to control inflation and to give it the high priority that it needs. I do not refer therefore to the absence of any reference in the Bill to price levels, to the criteria of investigation, to what are fair profits - in fact the whole concept of profitability - to the allocation of costs, to the hundreds, to the thousands, to the tens of thousands in some cases, of products which are produced by company groups. I have some experience in pricing policies of a practical nature in relation to my own companies in former times and those of clients.
– They are the people you represent in this House.
– No, 1 do not think they are. I am trying to take a fair view of this, and if the honourable member believes that what I am saying is incorrect I hope he will take an opportunity, not necessarily in this debate, to try to point out where it is not correct. The companies concerned, of course, are in danger, if this policy of investigating large groups is continued, of having funds go from that area into others. That is a serious matter that has to be faced. I remind the Government and the honourable members here that whatever criticism they may like to make of resource allocation in this country - the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) talks of resource allocation with great frequency - and whatever new policies they think ought to be implemented, the wealth of this country today that they have to use to implement their welfare and other policies was created under the climate of Liberal-Country Party governments which were in power, as the House knows, for many years. I believe that the national wealth available for this purpose has grown largely because of that encouragement and the endeavour of many individuals in this country and the way of life under which they have worked and lived. It yet remains to be seen what the result will be in productivity, growth, inflation, employment and the external balance flowing from all these new policies which are being put forward. Let us always remember that these grandiose schemes we have put to us and the country at the moment are policies very largely in prospect, not in practice.
We heard a good deal about prices and incomes policies. I want to say a little on this today. If I am not mistaken, there is starting to be a tendency for people to forget the great values and the day by day need for the old demand management policies. If inflation is to be a very serious matter in this country, and there is every indication that it is, and if it cannot be cured by adequate demand management policies, we on both sides of the House have to consider seriously prices and incomes policies. I do not come down on one side or the other on this. Of course, one is aware that there are many degrees of prices and incomes policies, but I want to make one or two observations about them which I believe are relevant to this Bill.
Experience abroad has shown that 14 selected countries with economies comparable to Australia had an inflation rate on the average in 1967 of 3.8 per cent, in 1969 of 4.4 per cent, in 1970 of 5.3 per cent, and in 1972 of 5.9 per cent. In terms of the lowest rate of inflation, Australia was the fifth best of the fourteen. Germany was the best. Its economy was without any incomes and prices policies, although I do not necessarily suggest that that was the reason for its low rate of inflation, but nevertheless it remains a fact. Australia some years ago had put to it a referendum on prices powers for the Commonwealth, and it was defeated. Perhaps, if the referendum were put again, the public would not take that point of view, but we still have to remember that that was its view - no more power to Canberra.
Prices and incomes policies are probably only of use in direct and in most thoroughgoing policies, and for Australia to adopt them it would need the co-operation of all sectors of the States, as we have learnt. They are not a substitute, as I said, for demand management policies when they are of use, and I believe they ought to be more greatly used by the Government today. Overseas experience has shown that in the short run there have been advantages. They give an initial shock, and in terms of inflation a beneficial shock, but that is because they are relatively easy to manage. Certainly in the long term there does not seem to have been much advantage, certainly as measured in inflation and unemployment rates. That appears obvious in that the effect wears off, so that in the mid term and long term situation the policies are much more difficult. Still the search world wide is on, and it is right that Australia should be involved in it, even though as yet it does not appear to have been perfectly successful.
I mentioned the constitutional difficulties and 1 mentioned briefly in passing that the arbitration courts have just washed their hands of the problem. They have said: ‘It is not a matter for us to concern ourselves with. It is a matter for the government of the day’. They have said that, even though the Government does not have full power. It may well be that we will have to consider in days in the future whether we can permit or, if you like, provide in the law for the arbitration system to take that point of view when it, of course, by its determinations affects greatly the cost of wages in the community. I have said that a prices and incomes policy would have to have some teeth. In its favour is that it would perhaps lower the rate of inflation and some people regard it as desirable to redistribute incomes. We do not hear a lot of debate about that.
Against such a policy is that there are enormous practical difficulties with a large bureaucracy. It has been suggested that tax penalties may be put on employees who are paid higher wages than those set and on firms which obtain profits greater than those set. I am advised that the Taxation Office would need to be expanded to 3 times its present size to handle that little suggestion. As I said, there are enormous practical difficulties with a large bureaucracy and a reallocation of resources in the community which will give a very different result from that which we have today and which will not necessarily improve it. Controls of basic commodities, which are mooted by many Government supporters and are implicit in this Bill because it involves large companies, will not necessarily have a good result. They inevitably will mean less investment in those areas.
The proposed Prices Justification Tribunal is to be investigatory only. No sanctions are provided, possibly because the Government received advice that they would be unconstitutional. It will be an attack on price setting and will have no influence on wages. So it can hardly be regarded as a serious effort to control prices and wages - the elements in our inflation problem. I believe that this is symptomatic of the Government’s lack of policy in this area. I put that to the honourable member for Adelaide as reasoning for my statement and something that he just cannot set aside as superficial. If he wants this matter to be debated in more than superficial terms, let him be a little more detailed and a little more sophisticated about it instead of just making unsupported assertions. What a difficult position this Bill puts the Tribunal in. It has no teeth. If there is to be a tribunal, it must make decisions which are broadly acceptable to all the parties in order that it will have any credibility or that there will be any broad acceptance of its views and findings. The same position applies to the Arbitration Commission. What can it do without sanctions?
The other point that worries me is that we are dealing with an institution in isolation. In his second reading speech the Treasurer mentioned two groups of measures the Government was taking in respect of inflation. I interjected after the first: ‘They are a flea bite’. He did not answer me; so my interjection is not recorded in Hansard. Later he spoke of other measures and institutions. Where do these and other future institutions fit in? The Tariff Board, the Protection Commission, the Restrictive Trade Practices Tribunal, the proposed Securities and Exchange Commission, the Monopolies Commission and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices. It is also mooted that there will be an indicative economic planning body. What is the rationale for this proliferation of bodies and this split-up of resources? There was no mention in the Minister’s speech of the Monopolies Commission, which in Britain is the body that does all the work. Its success has been acknowledged by the honourable member for Adelaide. How are these bodies brought in? One can imagine that in the case of colour television, which has been discussed recently, practically all these bodies will get into the act.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The speeches made on this Bill by honourable members opposite really represent very lonely words in an intellectual desert. Honourable members opposite have made a number of suggestions about what should be done to cure inflation, yet every suggestion they have made has been tried somewhere else in the world without success. The suggestions have been tried in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. Each one of those plans, when adopted in those countries, has caused hardship to groups of individuals, and in each case has failed to achieve the desired result. The establishment of this Prices Justification Tribunal will be welcomed universally by those who rely on wages, salaries or low and middle fixed incomes. There is no com fort in this Bill for those who utilise their power and position to gain wealth for themselves by exploiting others who are unable to defend themselves from the erosion and attack of inflation.
Unregulated and spiralling prices cause severe hardship to most Australian citizens. Inflation attacks all sections, but the effect certainly is not equal. Farmers are affected in quite a different way from housewives. Wage and salary earners have to convince somebody else that their rates of wages or salaries should be increased. They are forced to convince either their employers or, alternatively, an independent arbitral tribunal that some wage or salary increase is justified. If they fail to convince the company or the employing authority of the justification of their claims, they do not gain an increase, unless in turn they are able to establish the justice of their claims to the arbitral tribunal concerned. Persons who rely on superannuation payments, government pensions or social service payments are almost defenceless. The aged, sick and infirm are the worst affected in our society. They have little power. They generally are unable to exercise the physical capacity to defend themselves against the effects of inflation. They usually suffer the most, whereas ethical considerations demand that they should have the greatest protection.
Not less than one-third of all wage and salary earners in Australia are totally dependent on the awards made by arbitral tribunals for their level of income. These are the employees who receive no over-award payments. All employees of the Commonwealth, State and local governments and various government authorities are paid only the award minimum wage. For these employees the minimum wage fixed by arbitral tribunals is also the maximum wage. Employees who are engaged in areas of employment outside the major cities also are entirely dependent on award wages as their maximum rate. Even in cases where the employees have bargaining strength, extra payments that may be negotiated on their behalf are related directly to the appropriate award rate. It follows, therefore, that practically all wage and salary earners are required to justify to some appropriate body or tribunal any claims they may have for an increase in the financial reward for their services.
This is certainly not the case in regard to the fixing of the prices of goods and services. When a wage increase is awarded it is only as a result of long discussion and argument and, in some cases, very close and careful consideration. In my view there is absolutely no doubt and there can be no argument that many price increases are unjustified. For example, if one were to look at rents one would see a startling position. The consumer price index figures supplied by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics show that rent for privately owned dwellings in Australia has increased by 49 per cent since 1967. In 6 years rent has increased by this extravagant amount. Pensioners, young married people and all who have not the capital resources to provide a personally owned home are the victims. To test whether this increase is within the bounds of reasonableness one should make a comparison with the increase which has occurred in the rent for government owned dwellings. Over the same period the increase in rent for government owned houses was 29 per cent. So we see that rent for privately owned houses has increased substantially faster than rent for government owned dwellings.
One must also take into account for very careful consideration, when looking at prices generally as a cause of inflation, the fact that there is extensive collusion in the fixing of prices. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr Sydney D. Einfeld, has made a particular study of this matter. Over recent years he has constantly exposed substantial evidence of collusion, but it has fallen on the deaf ears of governments which stand in the place of privilege. Governments in New South Wales have been concerned with the preservation of privilege rather than with the preservation or even the establishment of consumer protection. In this House the apostles of privilege presently occupy the Opposition benches. Their effort in this debate has been sufficient to ensure that they will stay there for a long time to come. Their idea of correcting inflation is to kick the wage and salary earner, and to kick him hard. To cut down costs they say: ‘Suppress wages; suppress salaries. Do not affect the prices. Whatever else is done, do not look at the other elements of inflation. Do not consider interest rates. Do not consider over-capitalisation. Just leave aside all these things.’ They just trot out the hackneyed phrases. They just trot out-
-Order! The time allotted for all stages of the Bill has expired.
Bill read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) when speaking of honourable members on this side of the House, including myself, said that we were advocating low wages. The position is exactly the opposite. I have always advocated the highest possible wages.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The honourable gentleman knows that the point he has raised is a frivolous one. I draw his attention to this fact so that he will be aware of it in the future.
Remaining stages of the Bill agreed to.
Bill presented by Mr Whitlam, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is designed to place local government firmly within the framework of the federal system. The Government is determined to make the third tier of government a genuine partner in the system and to give local government adequate access to the nation’s finances. The Bill provides legislative authority for the Commonwealth Grants Commission to inquire into and report upon applications by local governing authorities for financial assistance from the Australian Government. It continues the Grants Commission’s role in respect of applications by States for special financial assistance. We propose that the Grants Commission should now play the same role in reducing inequalities between regions as it has between the States since 1933.
The role of the Grants Commission has been confined hitherto to State activities covering one-third of the Australian population.
This Bill will extend the role of the Commission to the larger States and the larger cities of Australia. The legislation implements a firm undertaking I gave on behalf of the Australian Labor Party at the elections. The Government firmly espouses the need for the national Government to supplement local government finances to enable those authorities to perform their increasingly important and wide-ranging functions. It will be noted that the Bill provides for the repeal of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1933, as amended, and for a new Act, to be known as the Grants Commission Act 1973, to replace it.
This new Act makes provision for the continuation of the Grants Commission’s role in respect of applications by States for special grants. The automatic right of claimant States to have their applications referred to the Commission for inquiry and report is in no way diminished. The opportunity has been taken, however, to make minor alterations to the precise terms used in the Bill to make them consistent with the practice which has prevailed since the very beginnings of the Grants Commission’s activities in 1933. Clause 16 (a) of the Bill, read in conjunction with clause 5, makes it quite clear that the applications by States for grants that will be considered by the Grants Commission are those in respect of section 96 grants for special assistance, for the purpose of making it possible for the State, by reasonable effort, to function at a standard not appreciably below the standards of other States’. This is, of course, the way in which the States have exercised their rights under the existing legislation.
Of the many kinds of applications made by the States for assistance, only one has been inquired into and reported upon by the Commission - -namely, applications by claimant States for special grants. The provisions in the present Act for the Commission to inquire into and report upon any matters relating to a section 96 grant which has been made to a State and upon matters relating to the making of a section 96 grant to a State are retained. In each case the inquiries will be undertaken only if the matters are referred to the Commission by the responsible Minister. All reports of the Commission, including those on applications by any of the States for special financial assistance, under the new legislation will be made to the responsible Minister. Previously the Government was required to have the Governor-General refer matters to the Commission for inquiry and the Commission’s reports, as a consequence, were required to be made to the Governor-General.
The main provisions in relation to applications by local governing bodies for financial assistance are contained in clauses 6, 17 and 18 and, in essential detail, are similar to those in relation to State applications for special financial assistance, with 2 important qualifications. First, all such applications must be lodged with the Special Minister of State who may, in his discretion, refer them to the Commission for inquiry and report. I should mention here that the exercise of this discretion is intended to ensure that on y those applications that conform with the requirements of the legislation are referred to the Commission. The Act will require a regional organisation making an application to the Minister to send a copy of its application to the appropriate Minister in the State Government so that the Minister may be aware of the details of the application and be in a position to make submissions to the Commission on any matter related to the application. Further, the Commission will be required to consider submissions made to it by State ministers, the Treasurer and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development on any matters reating to applications by regional organisations for financial assistance but this will not preclude the Commission from pursuing its inquiries in any way it sees fit.
The second qualification is that applications will be considered only from local governing organisations or bodies approved by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development as an approved regional organisation for the purposes of this Act. There are nearly 900 local governing authorities in the 6 States and clearly the limitation of the right of application to the Commission to regional groupings is the practical way of making the prospective task of the Commission manageable. The grouping of authorities into regions and the approval of regional organisations will be carried out in full consultation with the States. To provide a degree of flexibility, provision has been made for the Minister, in special circumstances, to approve a single local governing body as a regional organisation for the purposes of the Act.
It should be clearly understood that the financial assistance to local governing bodies which will flow from the Commission’s recommendations will in no way be a substitute for the revenues normally raised by them by long established methods such as rates and charges for services, nor will it replace assistance normally provided by State governments to local governing bodies in one way or another. Rather, it will be in the nature of a topping-up’ process of the financial resources of lesser endowed bodies to enable them, by reasonable revenue raising efforts on their part, to provide a standard of services to their communities that will be comparable with that enjoyed by communities elsewhere. I should perhaps emphasise that:
Firstly, such assistance as is granted will be in the form of section 96 grants paid to the States in the first instance; secondly, applications for assistance with single purpose or specific developmental projects will not be the concern of the Grants Commission, and thirdly, applications will not be accepted, from semi-government authorities and business undertakings operated by local governing bodies.
I turn now to what might be termed the machinery provisions of the Bill. The additional task that the Commission will be required to undertake under this legislation is one of considerable magnitude and importance. The present Commission consisting of a part-time Chairman and 2 part-time Members could not be expected to cope with both State and local government applications for financial assistance. The Bill, therefore, provides for a full-time Chairman and from 4 to 6 Members appointed on either a full-time or part-time basis. It is envisaged that the Chairman and 2 part-time Members would continue the task of inquiring into and reporting upon State applications and up to 4 full-time Members, under the aegis of the Chairman, would undertake the task of inquiring into and reporting upon applications from approved regional organisations of local governing bodies. Clause 26 of the Bill provides for the continuity of appointments to the Commission made under the repealed Acts and of the inquiries into State applications for special financial assistance referred to the Commission tinder those Acts.
It is appropriate to mention here that the Government is indeed fortunate that the present Chairman of the Grants Commission, Sir
Leslie Melville, has agreed to continue as a full time Chairman for the remainder of his present term of office which expires at the end of September next year. Sir Leslie is one of Australia’s most distinguished economists and has served on the Commission since 1965. His great experience in this area will be invaluable in the formative period of the proposed enlarged activity of the Commission. For the additional members, the Government will be looking to persons with wide knowledge of local government administrative and accounting practices to assist in the important task ahead.
Clauses 8 to 13 of the Bill contain the usual provisions governing the appointment of members of Commissions, including acting members, and the terms under which they hold appointment. It provides for terms of appointment of from one to 5 years as it may not be possible in some instances to obtain the services of an otherwise eminently suitable person to serve on the Commission for a full term of 5 years. Clause 14 provides for the conduct of meetings of the full Commission and Clause 15 sets out the duties of the Chairman in the conduct of the Commission’s business.
Clause 19 enables the Chairman to create divisions within the Commission, which will exercise the powers of the Commission for the purpose of conducting inquiries and reporting on applications from States and local governing regional organisations. This is required because it will be necessary for a number of inquiries to be conducted concurrently if the Commission is to accomplish its tasks by the required time each year. Clauses 20 to 24 provide for the conduct of inquiries, the taking of evidence by and the giving of evidence to the Commission. Clause 27 provides for the making of regulations, not inconsistent with the Act, should this prove necessary.
The Commission will be required to report to the Minister on the outcome of all its inquiries into applications referred to it, whether these be applications by States or by local governing bodies. Clause 25 requires the Minister to table these reports in each House before a proposed law relating to the subject of the report is introduced into Parliament. The Minister may, if he chooses to do so, attach to such reports any comment that he thinks proper. This continues a similar provision under the previous legislation and I am sure that members who have studied the Commission’s past reports will agree that they are most useful documents for any person with an interest in the financial relations between the various levels of government in Australia. I am equally sure that anyone who has the interests of the 3 levels of government in the Federation at heart will look forward with very great interest to the Grants Commission’s Reports on its inquiries into the financial needs of local governing bodies.
The Bill represents an historic step forward in advancing and enhancing the role of local government in Australia. It is a key part of our new charter for local government. I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr N. H. Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the validation until 31st December 1973 of duties collected in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 1 to 9 introduced into the Parliament during this session. The tariff changes validated by this Bill relate to Tariff Board reports on agricultural tractors; cathode ray tube display terminals; and cherries; and Special Advisory Authority reports on capacitors; and phthalic anhydride. I expect the subject matter validated by this Bill to be included in the next Customs Tariff Bill. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr N. H. Bowen) adjourned.
– I have the honour to bring up the third report of the Publications Committee sitting in conference with the Publications Committee of the Senate. Copies of the report have been circulated to honourable members in the chamber.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from 10 May (vide page 2010), on motion by Mr Connor:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill combines 2 quite separate and distinct objectives. In Part II it sets out to assert a claim by the Commonwealth against the States to the territorial sea, the continental shelf and certain internal waters. In Part III, on the assumption that its claims in Part II are correct, it proceeds to lay down unilaterally a mining code covering reconnaissance authorities, exploration permits and production licences in respect of petroleum anywhere in the claimed area. Petroleum is defined in such a way as to cover hydrocarbons whether in a gaseous, liquid or solid state. While Part II is designed to be a vehicle for testing, if necessary in the courts, the conflicting claims to sovereignty, if the Commonwealth’s claims are not upheld in full the, system in Part III will be thrown into utter confusion and will no doubt have to be withdrawn and redrafted. For example, if the decision is that the States have sovereignty over a 3-mile territorial sea it is obvious that any meaningful mining code off-shore could only be arrived at in consultation with the States.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in his second reading speech has in effect invited the States to make a legal challenge to Part II. Commonsense would seem lo dictate that Part III should not be in this Bill. In fact, even if the States made a legal challenge to Part II which was unsuccessful - that is, even if the Commonwealth claims which are set forth in Part II were proved to be correct - State co-operation in any really workable off-shore mining regime would be essential. Off-shore mining inevitably requires substantial on-shore installations and the use of port facilities, just to mention 2 items. It is, I suggest, a completely authoritarian and even a dictatorial way to proceed as the Government is doing in this Bill. The Opposition recognises that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech referred to the territorial claim and reference to it was also included in the Governor-General’s Speech.
We believe that this House should condemn the way in which the Government has sought to implement its announced policy. It is clearly a matter involving important State interests. It is, in regard to Part III - that is, the mining code off-shore - clearly a matter where State co-operation wm be needed. Yet, the Government is following a course which is becoming usual with it, of treating the States and their rights with complete disregard. It is with these matters in mind that I now move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of this Bill in the following terms:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House, while not declining to give the Bill a second reading and accepting that the question of sovereignty should be determined, (a) deplores the method adopted by the Government of proceeding without consultation with the States especially in relation to the code which is contained in Part III of the Bill, and (b) is of opinion that consultations with the States for a co-operative regime for controlling the exploitation of the resources and generous royalty distribution to the States should commence forthwith.’.
Coming to the Bill itself, I shall address my remarks principally to Part II which deals with the Commonwealth’s claim to sovereignty in this area. My colleague, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) who was Minister for National Development in the former Government and is now Opposition spokesman on mineral matters, will be speaking later in this debate and he will deal particularly with Part III which covers the mining regime. Part II of this Bill is very similar to a provision in an earlier Bill which was introduced in this House by the previous Government. That particular Bill was the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. It was debated in this House on 18th October last year but was not proceeded with at that time for reasons which I then stated in the House. The then Government was in the course of consulting with the States. I will not repeat what 1 said at that time. However, I remind the House that in the middle of last year a series of consultations took place between officials and Ministers of the Commonwealth and the States on this matter. It was discussed at the meeting of the Australian Minerals Council, which consists of the Mines Ministers of the States and the Minister for National Development of the Commonwealth. It was discussed also at a meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
On 10th August last year, with the then Minister for National Development I met in
Canberra with ministerial representatives appointed by the Premiers of all States to discuss this whole matter. In the communique which was issued at the end of that meeting it was stated, among other things, that the Commonwealth emphasised the desirability of removing legal uncertainties as to where sovereignty lay. It was also stated that while this was recognised by the States they all took the view that a possible series of legal cases was not a satisfactory method. One proposal put forward was that a preferable method in the long term would be to determine the question by constitutional amendment. It was suggested that this might be one of the matters to be brought before the Constitutional Review Convention. In the communique was also recorded a series of suggestions put forward by the States. Those suggestions indicated that the States strongly favoured a joint examination of other ways of dealing with the question apart from that particular legislation to be followed by a test case.
The communique recorded 3 points which I will recall to the memory of honourable members. Firstly, the states suggested a solution of the problem of off-shore minerals by means of complementary State and Commonwealth legislation. That is the immediate problem of mining. Secondly, they suggested a resolution of legal questions surrounding control of the territorial sea and the continental shelf by means of Commonwealth-State co-operation. That, of course, did not restrict the means which might be explored. One of those could be a test case and another could be by constitutional amendment. Thirdly, the communique suggested defining the internal waters of the States and the baseline from which the territorial sea is measured by means of consultation between the Commonwealth and the States.
The Commonwealth was, of course, in no way bound by these suggestions. But it was then apparent that it would be well worth while to confer at Prime Minister and Premier level to explore the possibility of securing agreement on the way in which this question of sovereignty was to be determined and the way in which the off-shore mining code was to be determined. On 5th September last year the then Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers suggesting a summit meeting. Over a period of time favourable replies were received from all the State Premiers. Unfortunately elections supervened before that summit meeting could be held. Now we find the present Government bringing in this Bill in virtual disregard of any interest which the States have in the matter. This is something which this House should deplore, and I suggest that the House should support the amendment which I have moved.
Of course, there are some people who take a simple view of this matter. They thank that if this Bill is passed and a case is then taken to the High Court to decide whether the Commonwealth claims in the Bill are correct this will clear up everything. This is obviously the view of those who brought forward this Bill, but I believe that this is far from the truth. The experience in the United States of America and in Canada is certainly against <that view. In the United States it was decided, as far back as 1947 by the American Supreme Court, that the federal government there had sovereignty from the low water mark. That was over a quarter of a century ago, but since then there has been a continuous series of cases and the problems involved in off-shore mining are still unresolved in America. Huge amounts of money are held in escrow still awaiting court determination of various problems which continue to arise. In Canada in 1967 the Canadian Supreme Court in litigation between the Dominion Government and British Colombia held that the Dominion Government had sovereignty out from the low water mark, yet the problems have still continued and at present are unresolved in Canada. I understand that Canada recently sent someone to Australia to see how we had managed to solve these problems in the Federal system in our earlier off-shore legislation.
I am strictly limited as to time. The Government has placed a time limit on this debate and there are many honourable members on this side of the House who wish to speak to this Bil!. I will have to confine my remarks and will give one example of the kind of problem which this Bill produces but does not solve. It is not the only problem; there are many, but this will serve as an example. I refer to the way in which this Bill deals with inland waters. Inland waters are those waters included in bays, gulfs, the estuaries of rivers, in ports and in harbours. At the present time, and since Federation, these have been treated as within the jurisdic- tion of the States. State laws run as to the control of small boats, as to maritime control and in other ways in these inland waters. This Bill, with some exceptions I shall mention in a moment, claims that the Commonwealth has sovereignty over all internal waters - that is, all bays, gulfs, estuaries, ports and harbours. This is provided for in clause 10 of the Bill. What is the present position? What is the extent of the exceptions which are provided for in clause 14 of this Bill?
At the time of Federation in. 1901 the extent of bays was determined according to the common law, and under the common law there were various tests. One of these tests was that using the headlands of bays as a baseline the waters could be closed off. This was according to what the human sight could see. I think days on which there was a fog were disregarded. Another test was applied. They took the territorial sea, which was then a 3-mile limit, originally based on the length of a cannon shot, and between the heads of bays, if it were not more than 6 miles, the waters were closed off and everything inside was inland waters. This was the position in 1901. Those waters, of course, were within the jurisdiction of the States just as much as if they were dry land. Since then there have been developments in the law relating to inland waters.
In 1928-9 a codification conference was held at The Hague. Australia indicated that it was prepared to go along with a 10-mile closing line for bays instead of the former 6- mile closing line. Subsequently we adopted a 10-mile closing line and the ‘States took over the inland waters with a 10-mile closing line. There were international conferences on the laws of the sea in 1958 and the closing line, of 24 miles was arrived at by agreement between the nations of the world who signed the convention, including Australia. Following that convention we adopted a 24-mile closing line for inland waters - bays, gulfs, estuaries of rivers, ports and harbours. I recall that as Attorney-General in this House on 31st October 1967 I announced the adoption of this principle by the Commonwealth Government. The. Department of National Development then prepared maps which it supplied to the States in connection with off shore oil matters showing a 24-mile closing line across bays. These maps are currently in use. The States have been administering those inland waters on that basis.
The (first point about the Bill is that it claims that these waters are under the sovereignty of the Commonwealth Government but it then it goes on to give an exception. It states in clause 14 that in effect the States will retain those waters which were inland waters of this type on l&t January 1901 and so remain at the present time. That produces a number of difficulties. The first point is that on any view it seeks to take away from the States all inland waters in the bays which they presently administer and which are outside the 1901 limit. It goes back to whatever was the position in 1901, in spite of the fact that the Commonwealth Government as recently as 1967 has declared a 24-mile base line for bays, has announced it to the States, has supplied them with maps and the States have been administering inland waters within the 24-mile rule. But worse than that. It is extremely difficult to determine now what was the position of each individual bay, gulf, estuary of a river, port or harbour in 1901.
Not only were the common rules somewhat debatable; we also lack records of where the low water mark was in 1901. In fact, low waiter mark varies from month to month and year to year. There are no records to show what was the low water mark in many of these instances in 1901. It would be necessary to have a case, perhaps in respect of many bays., ports and estuaries, in order to try to produce evidence of the position of low water mark in 1901. A river may have changed its course so that it now enters a bay at a different point. An estuary may be entirely different from what it was in 1901. All that is Commonwealth territory, and a State, although it is quite appropriate for it to be. part of the State, has that area taken away from it by this Bill.
There is a further difficulty. Supposing that a court decides that the States are entitled to a 3-mile limit. I understand that constant reference is made to the fact that in the case of Bonser v. La Macchia the Chief Justice and Mr Justice Windeyer expressed the opinion obiter that the Commonwealth had sovereignty from low water mark. Again and again people fail to refer to the fact that other justices expressed a somewhat different view. For example, Mr Justice Kitto took a different view. Nobody ever troubles to refer to that fact. Suppose, for the sake of argument, as a possibility that the High Court decides that the States are entitled to a 3-mile limit. Com monwealth laws will be applying from low water mark across the 3-mile limit out on to the continental shelf. I hope and expect that the High Court will hold that the continental shelf is within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Under this Bill the Commonwealth will still have sovereignty over all the odd bits and pieces around every bay, port, harbour and river estuary in Australia. This is a ridiculous situation and I seriously suggest to the Government that it is inappropriate to make this claim in respect of inland waters prior to determination of the base line for the territorial sea and continental shelf.
Because of the short time left to me and the desire to give other speakers an opportunity to take part in this debate I have had to confine my remarks to that one example. It is typical of the way in which this Bill would operate in disregard of State rules and to produce a ridiculous situation. The Opposition will be denied an opportunity of moving amendments because the guillotine will come down if the speakers on the list take their full time. Other honourable members are trying to get their names on to the list. We will be denied an opportunity to move amendments to remedy such defects. In fact, it will require considerable thought to draft appropriate amendments. This Bill was introduced last Thursday. Now the Government is seeking to rush it through this House with limited debate. We can say only that by the time this measure reaches the Senate it is to be hoped that there will be time for such appropriate amendments and that in the Senate, if the Government has not had second thoughts on some of these matters, such as that relating to inland waters, time will be given for debate at least of possible amendments that introduce a sensible and rational scheme into the legislation. I commend the amendment which I have moved to the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I rise to support the Bill. The issues raised by this Bill have been frequently canvassed in this House. Today I propose to offer a number of reasons why it is imperative that the legal status of Australia’s off-shore areas be resolved once and for all, and to point to some of the very great legal complexities which hinder a ready solution and which make effective action almost impossible before there is a solution. Two sorts of problems are thrown up by the legal considerations relating to Australia’s offshore areas, both of which have been well dealt with before in this House and which therefore merit only brief consideration from me. The first relates to the problems of zones of jurisdiction in Australia’s off-shore areas. There are 3 sorts of maritime regime here. Firstly, there is the area of internal waters - that is waters within certain sorts of bays and gulfs - where jurisdiction is now exercised by the States, but to an uncertain extent. The present Bill makes it possible that there will also be some areas of Commonwealth internal waters located immediately outside State internal waters.
Secondly, there is the territorial sea, over which it was assumed until recently the States had jurisdictional rights, but which under this Bill is subjected to Commonwealth control. The territorial sea is a coastal belt extending from the low water mark and the exterior limit of internal waters out to a distance which Australian practice has fixed at 3 miles. International practice has not been able to reach a satisfactory consensus, but seems to be moving towards agreement of 12 miles. The present Bill leaves the Executive to fix a distance. Thirdly, beyond the territorial sea there is the high sea in which international law, such as it is, reigns supreme. The problem created by these various zones is that around a complex coastline the regime of law can alter from internal waters to territorial sea to high seas and back again with bewildering frequency. Federalism compounds the problem because a change in zones can mean the change from Commonwealth to State control and vice versa, and around the coast near State borders there is also the problem of change from State law to State law, and indeed British law.
Is it any wonder that we are breeding a race of neurotic fishermen and confused navy commanders, or that ships off the Australian coast can pollute with impunity? The present Bill goes part of the way to resolving these problems, but unfortunately the difficulties created by a complex coastline, with its various indentations, islands and reefs, most probably cannot be solved unless whole areas were to be enclosed or ‘squared off’ and such action would surely be adversely received in the international arena.
The second sort of problem relates to control of offshore resources. This Bill vests sovereign rights over the continental shelf in the Commonwealth, to the limit which the Geneva Convention permits. I make no apologies to this House for that. As we all know, we live in a federal system. This means that within our municipal system of law, responsibilities are divided between 2 sorts of politics. On an international plane, Australia is recognised as an independent State and therefore has international obligations. The dilemma thrown up by a federal system is that sometimes the powers and responsibilites conferred on the 2 sorts of politics by firstly the international system, and secondly the municipal system, do not coincide.
With this lack of coincidence comes an almost impossible situation for Australia in international affairs. On the one hand, Australia is looked to by other States to undertake certain international actions and, on the other, the only government recognised internationally as representing Australia has no municipal power to execute those actions. Queensland, Australia and Papua New Guinea are classic examples. The High Court appears to have recognised this problem in part in its interpretation of the external affairs power. Likewise our founding fathers were aware of the problem when drafting the Consi tut ion, and generally attempted to locate external or national power in the Commonwealth. However constitutional draftsmen are not seers, and can only be expected to make allowances for conditions as they experienced them. Conditions, national aspirations and even some fundaments of Australian federal existence have changed considerably since 1900.
In my opinion, it is for instance, ludicrous today that having overcome competition between the States for international loan funds, we still have the possibility of States competing against each other to attract capital to develop their resources, including off-shore resources, frequently to the detriment of Australia as a whole. The only way Australia as a nation can benefit is to present a united front. It is ludicrous that today when the energy crisis is a major global problem, possibly the global problem for the rest of the century, with the horrible spectre of trade wars before us once more, Australia has difficulty in rising above the level of federal-State bickering to develop a national policy.
Our federal system may be looked at in 2 ways. It may be viewed either as a loose confederation of quasi-independent states, or as a national federation. I do not apologise for viewing it as the latter. Or if I may paraphrase something which the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) said on another occasion in this House, I am an Australian first, and then a South Australian. And it is about time we acknowledged that our Constitution should no longer be used as an obstructive document, which can be quoted by any partisan politician for his own purposes. Our Constitution must be clear, dynamic and forward looking, and it must, in my opinion, serve the purpose of an Australian federation of States, and not preserve a confederation. If our Constitution cannot serve us like this, it must be changed. If the law exists to frustrate common sense, then the law must be changed.
In light of what I have just said, I propose to look at some of the difficulties created for the Commonwealth in matters concerning offshore areas by our Constitution - difficulties which unfortunately may not be entirely cured by the present Bill. Starting not with part II of the Bill, but with the innermost region of off-shore waters, we are confronted by the problem of so-called internal waters - the bays, gulfs, estuaries, ports and harbours around our coast. I emphasise initially that these waters have a singular legal character. Both in international law and our own municipal system, they are for legal purposes assimilated with the dry land. That is and again I emphasise it, because it has important legal consequences they are as much part of the land territory as the sites of our capital cities.
The present Bill purports to fix the limits of internal waters as they were at 1st January 1901. Quite obviously this is done with 2 legal assumptions in mind. Firstly, Section 123 and indeed also Section 128, which is the general referenda section, of the Constitution, prevents the Commonwealth from altering the limits of any State, including the maritime limits, without a nationwide referendum. Therefore the Bill purports to fix limits and not alter them. With this first assumption I think I would agree. Secondly, the Commonwealth in its attempt to set limits on internal waters without altering any boundaries, has purported merely to fix the limits of internal waters as they were at Federation. The legal assumption here is that Federation in some way froze the limits of the States at 1901. With this assumption I do not necessarily agree.
The legal arguments are quite complex, but briefly they appear to be as follows: Firstly, the Imperial instruments establishing the colonies, by prerogative or legislation, except in the case of South Australia, do not make any reference to bays and gulfs, when defining colonial boundaries. Since internal waters were treated as part of England by both the common law and British executive practice - although to different extents - before the establishment of the Australian colonies, it must be presumed that such waters become part of the colonies. This is expressly stated in the case of South Australia in the Letters Patent of 1834, although in all cases their extent is uncertain.
Secondly, it is possible that the extent of internal waters was defined either by customary international law or the common law. The standards for enclosing internal waters in both these systems have varied and evolved over many years. If it is decided that a contemporary standard in customary international law was not meant to be the basis for enclosing internal waters in the Australian colonies, we must look to the presumption that the common law was intended to define what was a legal bay or gulf. The common law of England, up to the date of settlement of the Australian colonies, had used various tests to legally enclose indentations. From the time of settlement the common law as developed in Australia takes over the task of definition. In simple language all this means is that a court of law in Australia must be the final arbiter of what constitutes the internal waters of the Australian States. Once a court has arbitrated, then the Commonwealth may act to fix the limits of internal waters, according to the court’s decision. But any attempt to pre-empt a court’s power to decide the issue can only be regarded as an attempt to alter the boundaries of internal waters from some theoretical or posed standard, contrary to Section 123 of the Constitution, and will be ineffective in preventing litigation on whether or not there has been an alteration.
Thirdly, there seems to be no clear and explicit reason from the terms of the only 2 relevant Acts - the Colonial Boundaries Act 1896 and the Austraiian Constitution - to suggest the boundaries of Australia’s internal waters were frozen at 1901. It is conceivable that the extent of legal bays was not frozen at their common law extent in 1900, but has continued to alter with alterations in the common law since 1900, and therefore the extent of internal waters within a State is today simply what a common law court says it is today, using today’s common law criterion or definition of a bay - that is, it is all up to the judges.
On the other hand, if it is true that the extent of internal waters was fixed at 1900, as this Bill seems to assume, the problems are a little different. It becomes necessary to ascertain what were the limits of internal waters at 1900. This must be done by court decision before this Parliament can legislate to fix those limits. A good argument can be made out for saying that the limits of internal waters in 1900 were those established at the time of settlement of the colonies, and it can further be argued that at the time of settlement, despite the uncertain state of the common law which was moving from variations of a range of vision test to an ad hoc test which enclosed each particular bay or gulf on its merits. Despite all this, it can be argued that British practice at this time was to enclose indentations with very extensive closing lines, up to 65 miles long as in the case of Shark Bay in Western Australia, across the headlands of the indentation, if there were adequate penetration into the coast. If this can be established to be the case, the Commonwealth might be foolish to abandon enclosure of such extensive waters, because under the Geneva Convention, we would not be permitted to firstly enclose as many ‘bays’ because the 19th century British legal definitions of a bay would not appear to have been as demanding as the semi-circle formulation in the Convention; and secondly, to enclose bays up to such widths, because the maximum closing line permitted by the Convention is only 24 miles. I have perhaps dwelt for too long on the problems of internal waters, but they are quite obviously very complex legal problems; and the considerations which I have canvassed will at some stage have to be faced by our courts because of the singularly unhelpful nature of our constitutional structure.
The next Federal problem in off-shore areas is the question of sovereignty in the territorial sea. The legal problems here are equally complex. The primary and fundamental question for the lawyers is, apparently, the nature of the coastal States’ interest in the territorial sea. If the territorial sea were to be assimilated with the land territory and also held to belong to the States, the Commonwealth, in attempting to gain control over it, once more would be faced with the problem of infringing section 123 of the Constitution. If the territorial sea is found in law not to be equivalent to maritime territory but somehow just a bundle of rights over a sea area, then the section 123 problem might be avoided. Of course, if this Bill is found simply to be enforcing the status quo - that is, declaring the territorial sea, whatever its legal character, to be within Commonwealth sovereignty when that is already the case - then no problem can arise. But, as has been emphasised many times in this House, only a court of law can decide the question of original possession of sovereignty in the territorial sea.
I must admit to being pleased that this Bill vests sovereign control over the territorial sea in the Commonwealth, as I think this will lead to uniform control over activities such as pollution in off-shore areas. However, one problem which has been pointed out to me disturbs me somewhat. It is probably quite desirable that the States have some power to regulate activities in the territorial sea which closely affect their territory. However, if the territorial sea is to be regarded as a place acquired by the Commonwealth under section 52 (1) of our Constitution, then, according to a recent decision of the High Court in Worthing v. Rowell, State laws are excluded from that place. According to my advice, the Commonwealth Places (Application of Laws) Act 1970 will not cure the defect - at least, not so far as the laws passed specifically for the territorial sea are concerned. Apposite to this I make reference to section 122, which relates to territorial powers, insofar as it applied to the acquisition of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands in Western Australia.
Naturally, a decision about ownership of the sovereignty of the territorial sea does not resolve the quite separate problem of ownership of rights in and over the continental shelf. Whilst the territorial sea and internal waters involve considerable legal problems and demand simpler and more efficient legal regulation, in my view control over the continental shelf, especially outside the territorial sea, is the real point that we have all been arguing over these many months. The name of the game is money or, to put it less crudely, national resources. Apart from the question of fishery resources in the maritime zones off our coast, the crux of this Bill is to vest control over the tremendous resources in the continental shelf in the national Government.
Before I conclude, let me make what 1 consider to be an extremely pertinent observation and one that surely ought to exercise the minds of honourable members in both this Parliament and the State Parliaments. Even when Britain gave a good deal of independence to its colonies in the nineteenth century, it recognised that the control of shipping and like matters required uniform control to be effective, efficient and successful. So, down to the present day we have the position that at least some of the rules relating to maritime matters in Australia have continued to be controlled by the British Merchant Shipping Acts which cannot be amended or repealed by our State Parliaments in many cases without the approval of the British Parliament. I draw the attention of honourable members to the recommendations contained in the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review of 1960, in particular in the navigation section dealing with this aspect. This longstanding recommendation that uniformity is desirable, confirmed by the fact that the States themselves have not moved to change the situation, surely shows that at least a set of uniform laws is needed for the control of waters on the Australian coast.
I repeat what I said earlier: The crux of this Bill is to vest control over the tremendous resources in the continental shelf in the national Government. Of course, secure and confident action can only be taken once the extent of control over the other zones - that is, the territorial sea and internal water - has been resolved, because only then can leases be accurately and safely granted and located. But, once this is done, the Commonwealth should have unimpeded control over the seabed resources. I support the Bills.
– The Bill before the House has had a long gestation. It has been here before in respect of that Part which relates to the sovereignty of offshore lands and the seabed. But it has not been here in respect of Part III of the Bill.
The Bill is a long and complex one and, as it was introduced only last Thursday, very few members of this House have been afforded an adequate opportunity to examine it in its full detail. The first Part of the Bill is only preliminary. It is true that, while Part II relating to sovereignty and sovereign rights has been before us previously, the other Part relating to the mining code and setting out the details and specifications upon which recovery of minerals should be exercised is entirely new. That Part is, of course, a consequence of the determination of sovereignty and therefore needs to be seen in relation to other mining codes applied by the several States around Australia.
The Australian Country Party is concerned about the presentation of this Bill both with respect to the opportunity it has had to examine its measures and the degree to which there is dispute not only in regard to the financial aspects of relationships between the State and Commonwealth governments but also in regard to the meaningfulness of responsibility for the development of future resources. The Country Party is concerned that there is no opportunity for adequate and effective consultation to determine a basis upon which this mining code should be established. As my colleague, the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) has outlined, there have been significant discussions in respect of Part II on the question of sovereignty and sovereign rights. These discussions have ‘been not only at meetings of Attorneys-General but also at other ministerial meetings. In two of my former portfolios I was involved in areas of discussion which demonstrated the very real difficulties that exist -is the law is now, without this Bill, and as it must be interpreted by the courts of this land. For that reason the Country Party is of a mind that it is necessary that sovereignty be determined, and determined as soon as practicable.
However, the Country Party does not support the concept of the application of a Bill of this character which arbitrarily imposes upon State governments restraints with respect to the jurisdiction which they henceforth can exercise on waters between the low water mark and the 3-mile limit and restraints which will affect all mineral resources, other than petroleum, found beneath those waters. In practical terms, this has very real implications because in the general pursuit of the exploitation of resources there is, of course, a necessity for extensive land based facilities. It is accepted that these land based facilities will be on land within the jurisdiction of the States. The Bill similarly imposes difficulties because of the degree to which the existing system has been developed by the States. I refer particularly to those States which have fishing resources close to their capitals - New South Wales and Victoria - and which also have a fairly extensive fisheries patrol service, for example.
For some years now in Australian Fisheries Council meetings there have been discussions on how it might be possible for the Commonwealth, if it is asserting sovereignty, to express its financial responsibility. Today patrols are undertaken by the States. The vessels that, for the most part, are supervising the fishing activities within close proximity to the waters of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania are predominantly State vessels. It is true that naval vessels have conducted patrols out to the 12-mile limit, but their particular purpose has been restricted to the intervention into Australian waters of vessels that belong to other countries. In other words, at this stage, whilst this Bill is asserting sovereignty it is not in any way expressing a means by which, at the practical level within areas where a State is already expressing its responsibility, the Commonwealth will accept responsibility in the future. That of course does not deny the validity of the necessity to assert sovereignty, but it re-emphasises the necessity for meaningful consultation with the States both as to sovereignty and the way in which that sovereignty is henceforth to be exercised.
There are 3 areas to which I want to address myself briefly in relation to the Bill. Firstly, with respect to the whole field of sovereignity, I do not intend to canvass the legal base. That is an argument which has been the subject of extensive discussion in this House before, and some excellent cases have been presented in favour of the assertion of Commonwealth jurisdiction or sovereignty. Nor do I deny that in the pursuit of the legal base there seems to be some division between the States in their interpretations of the present law and the Commonwealth or members of this Commonwealth Parliament in their assertion of the present law. Because .there is this division surely there is reason for a definition and then a legal resolution so that henceforth there can be some understanding of where sovereignty lies.
I turn to the legal arguments on some of the consequences of the present position. I think we can see in simplistic form the difficulties that exist as the law now stands. As Minister for Shipping and Transport I was the responsible Minister at the time the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ ran into a rock in waters that were not adequately charted, in one of the main waterways off the north-east tip of Australia. On this occasion there were 2 problems. In the pollution sense .the flow of the. current and wind fortunately took the oil spillage away from the land mass of Australia. Consequently, it was not necessary to have a cleaning up operation that might otherwise have been required. The particular rock on which the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ foundered lay just within the 3-mile limit, but the vessel hove to outside the 3-mile limit and within the 12-mile limit. So the vessel came within Commonwealth responsibility although the cause of its being hove to was within the 3- mile territorial limit.
Obviously in circumstances of that character there are extreme difficulties in developing an adequate means of controlling both the cause of the foundering in the first place and in dealing with any subsequent pollution that might flow from the vessel. However, the whole of the pollution control procedure was not left to go by default. In fact, meaningful discussions have taken place between Ministers responsible for marine affairs. Today, largely due to my successor as Minister, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), a very satisfactory arrangement operates between the Commonwealth and the States which permits adequate, effective and expeditious control of oil pollution wherever it may lie around Australia. True, there are still some problems in relation to the waters outside the 12-mile limit. The resolution of these problems depends on the result of the Law of the Sea Conference to take place shortly. I hope that will enable effective action to be taken and financial responsibility be centred on the masters and owners of the vessels who might cause pollution outside the 12-mile limit.
A second practical area in which there has been meaningful consultation is in the field of navigation around the coast. Most lighthouses, other than those in internal waters, are operated by the Commonwealth of Australia. They are operated to assist navigation within the 3-mile limit and, of course, they are intended as reference points for vessels sailing outside the 3-mile limit but proceeding towards a destination in Australia. In the plotting of deep sea channels and the development of access for ports in Australia there have been consultations of Ministers at a Commonwealth and State level in order to develop a base, on which the Commonwealth and the States together can assert an extension of our present position.
Neither in the field of oil pollution nor in the field of navigation has the position been prejudiced because sovereignty has not been resolved. In the field of fishing I have referred briefly to the fairly extensive patrols that the southern States maintain in what they call their own waters. This Bill henceforth will place the responsibility for these patrols on the Commonwealth. The dispute to date has been largely as to whether the Commonwealth will accept financial responsibility, if not within the 3-mile limit, then in cases where the fishing patrols are conducted outside the 3-mile limit and up to the 12-mile limit. To date the Commonwealth is in a difficult position because of the degree of uncertainty as to the proportion of patrols the States operate outside their presently claimed waters. Again, the resolution of this problem lies not within the passage of this Bill or of a new piece of legislation, but in meaningful discussion by the Ministers responsible in this area. It will be a product of CommonwealthState consultation that will determine the issue, not the assertion of sovereignty in this matter.
The particular area of concern, which arises from the third part of this Bill, is the development of resources under the sea. At the time of the 1958 Law of the Sea Conference the development of resources under the sea, particularly mineral resources, was thought to be largely in the scientifically uncertain future. The remarkable developments since 1958 have placed some urgency upon the passage of legislation in order to identify both the responsibility for granting of exploration licences, the basis of the granting of exploitation licences and, of course, the payment of royalties. In this area there is an extensive field in which it is necessary, I believe, for the Commonwealth and the States to act in tandem rather than by confrontation. As to the third part of the Bill, I believe it most unfortunate that .the Labor Government has not seen fit to enter into meaningful negotiations in order to resolve the problem. I recognise the difficulty of this problem, but having been involved in several such problems, in the fishing industry, at the navigation level, in the field of lighthouses and of oil pollution, I believe that it is not beyond the capacity of State and Federal governments to come to a meaningful resolution of the basis of the granting of these licences and then of the application of royalties.
For these reasons I have very strong personal reservations about the wisdom of applying this sort of legislation at this time. I recognise that it is necessary, however, that the matter be not left to go on indefinitely. For far too long there has been uncertainty and delay in the resolution of the question of responsibility and sovereignty. Under the previous government the Commonwealth undertook a series of negotiations to try to accelerate the determination of sovereignty. Regrettably the negotiations did not come to a final conclusion. But I think there are possibilities because of the other area in which resolution has been achieved. There is a possibility of achieving something like a meaningful working relationship. For that reason it would have been far better, instead of the Bill coming forward in this form, if there had been further discussions between the Commonwealth and the State governments before the Bill was introduced as it is now expressed.
The Country Party is opposed to the Bill as it now appears. However, it is prepared ito support the amendment insofar as the amendment refers to the necessity for the determination of the question of sovereignty and to the degree to which the amendment deplores the method adopted by the Labor Government of proceeding without consultation with the States. The Country Party is of the opinion that consultations with the States for a co-operative regime for controlling the exploitation of resources and generous royalty distribution to the States should commence forthwith. For that reason the Country Party will support the amendment even though it is not in favour of the first part of the amendment which refers to not declining to give the Bill a second reading.
– I support the Bill introduced by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) on behalf of the Government and congratulate him on the energy and enterprise which he has shown since he took up his ministerial portfolio in proceeding with the legislation now before the
House and in other areas. The honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) made a number of comments on the legislation, putting the point of view of the Australian Country Party. He, of course, agreed that for far too long there had been uncertainty and delay in this area, and he also agreed that the Government in which he was a senior Minister had carried out over a very long period of time a series of negotiations with the States on the principles enshrined in the present legislation when the former Government presented its Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill.
I do not think there can be any argument that this is not a matter which has not been before this Parliament for a considerable period of time. The honourable member also referred to the fact that there were new principles, the principles of exploiting the resources of the seabed, which are a consequence of the determination of the sovereignty that this Bill seeks to determine. I do not think there are any valid arguments in favour of going back to negotiate with the States on a matter over which unsuccessful negotiations took place over a long period of time. When the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), was in office he brought down this legislation. Arguments were put forward before us then from every State in the Commonwealth, from both sides of politics, that instead of the Commonwealth introducing legislation of this nature so that it could be challenged by the States it would be better if the States introduced their legislation and the Commonwealth, in reverse, challenged it. What a ridiculous situation that would be, in the sense that we are trying to determine a question of great importance to this nation.
The States, of course, are obsessed with the royalties which they consider will accrue from the resources of the seabed and with other matters of financial significance to their own budgets. I can well understand their concern, and probably if I were a member of a State government I would be seriously concerned about these things as well, because we have all lived through a period in which the financial significance of the States has deteriorated while their constitutional responsibilities have remained very largely the same. But no one can reverse that trend. We are now in a position that this legislation will determine the position of sovereignty, although perhaps not immediately because I do not think there is any doubt that challenges will be made in the courts, but the result of those challenges will be that the problem of sovereignty will be determined. I suggest to the House that it is only at that point in time that meaningful discussions can take place with the States, because any discussions with the States, the ones that have taken place in the past or the ones that might take place now if this legislation were taken to a conference, would still revolve around this question of sovereignty, which can only be determined by an Act of this Parliament and with such legal challenges as may take place in the future.
The Commonwealth has responsibilities in this matter. The States lost their international personality at the time of Federation. If Australia is to enjoy the jurisdiction over the tertorial sea and seabed and the continental shelf that almost all, if not all, other maritime nations in the world enjoy, that jurisdiction can be extended only by Commonwealth law. It cannot be extended by any law passed by a parliament of the States, which, as I said, have lost their international personality and none of them is able to accede to the conventions on the law of the sea. Of course, it is not only a question of what happens to the royalties from the resources of the seabed. There are also very important questions affecting international relations; questions affecting the maritime boundary in the Torres Strait, for example, which is a matter of some concern; questions of defence such as the provision of early warning devices on the seabed - the United States Government has sought to deal with some problems in this area - matters over which the Commonwealth has undivided responsibility and matters which are of great concern to every member of this House.
It has been argued that we should have conferred with the States. I have tried to establish that the only meaningful consultation that can take place with the States will take place only after this matter of sovereignty is determined. At such point of time, living as we do in a federal system, I believe there is certainly an obligation on the Commonwealth to evolve patterns of meaningful cooperation with the States, because this Bill will not only introduce changes into areas at present covered by State law but it will also create some problems in areas covered by local authority by-laws which operate under the jurisdiction of the States. I am sure that those meaningful discussions will take place when this matter of sovereignty is determined.
What exactly are the States losing from this legislation? In actual fact, if the judgments of the High Court of Australia and the opinions of eminent people in the field like Professor O’Connell are taken into account, the States have no jurisdiction beyond the low water mark. The Commonwealth is asserting its rights in this area. Previous arrangements made by the States under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act, the legislation introduced by the previous Government, still remain and are protected by this legislation. The mining code which is set out in this Bill is an inevitable consequence of the determination of sovereignty. Naturally, in the very unlikely event that sovereignty were not determined in favour of the Commonwealth, the mining code would be meaningless. But if this legislation did not introduce such a mining code, then at such time in the future as this matter of sovereignty were determined the Commonwealth would have to introduce legislation to introduce such a mining code.
The purpose of this legislation is to bring this whole question to a conclusion in the interests not just of this Commonwealth Government as against the interests of the States but in the interests of the people of Australia, because it is only by this Commonwealth Parliament that this matter can be determined. I pay a tribute to the right honourable member for Higgins, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and other members of the Liberal Party who have fought in their own Party for the principles enshrined in their previous legislation and the principles enshrined in this Bill. I know that some of them may disagree with some aspects of the legislation. Some of their views have already been expressed in the debate. But the principle still remains that the Commonwealth is taking action in an area in which the previous Government sought to take action and in which it was unsuccessful, in part, because of opposition from the States and I think in part because of division in its own ranks. The Austraiian Labor Party is united on this matter in this Parliament. Of course, some of our State colleagues do not agree with us on this matter. We consider that this Bill correctly interprets the law as it now stands, given the developments in the law of the sea. When the determinations of the High Court of Australia are made, I would think that the States will realise that, instead of there being an attack on State rights, under the developments which then take place this legislation will actually confer a benefit on the States, because it confers a benefit on all the people of Australia. For that reason I support the Bill.
– In direct contradistinction to the previous speaker on this side of the House, my colleague the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), I wish to make it perfectly clear that I support the Bill and have no intention whatsoever of voting for the amendment. I express support for the Bill and, if I may be permitted to say so, I feel great satisfaction that it appears that it will now pass this House of Parliament. It should have been passed 3 years ago and on other occasions since then. The national interest required it to be passed then, and the national interest will be served if it is passed now. Indeed, it is a little ironical to reflect that had it been passed previously, before it was introduced by the present Government, the States were assured and had been assured of even more generous royalty treatment than they are getting under the existing petroleum legislation. It now appears that they will not receive those benefits. But they have little more than themselves to blame if this turns out to be the fact.
I must make it clear that this Bill will not decide the question of whether the national Government or the State governments have legal sovereignty over the waters around our coast. It was always realised that a Bill of this kind could not decide that. But what the Bill does do, and why I support it, is that it opens the way for that question to be decided, and decided by the proper tribunal - the High Court of Australia. It ought to be decided. We are told that there ought to be conferences between the national Government and the State governments on this matter. There have been innumerable conferences on this matter between representatives of the national Government and the State government. They have been going on and on over a period of years. Despite what has been said in this chamber, I submit that no progress was made on the central question - the question of who in fact has sovereignty over Australia’s seas at any of those conferences. From communiques issued to us, it appeared that the meetings reached no agreement except an agreement not to try to solve the central matter at all and not to try to put the question of sovereignty beyond doubt by the only method open to this Parliament - passing legislation making an assertion and allowing the body set up under the Constitution to determine the matter to determine the matter.
So, if we can judge on past evidence, there seems little point now in saying that action should be further delayed while there are more conferences, when in fact all the conference so far held on this central matter have been abortive. On the plain ground of common sense, they would continue to be abortive; they must continue to be abortive. How can one reach co-operative agreement with anybody on anything about what should be done in certain circumstances when one does not know what those circumstances are? How in the world can one hope in that way, when there are different vested interests, to reach some kind of a conclusion? The only way to do it is to find out what the circumstances are; and then by all means have discussions as to whether and how there should be or could be co-operative measures, but have them under a set of rules which are known, definite, final and finite. That is why I support the Bill as it is before us now.
I do not believe that, if this matter is resolved in this way - even if the resolution is supported by a judgment of the High Court, as I believe it will be - it will clear up all matters at stake. There will still be areas in which there will be legal questions in doubt, which have been adverted to by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) and other speakers with legal knowledge. But merely because it will not clear up all legal matters in doubt is surely no reason for not clearing up some of the basic legal matters in doubt - the basic legal matter in doubt. Then the others, of course, will tend to be cleared up later. I cannot understand the argument that, because this Bill does not settle everything, it should be rejected so that it settles nothing. I simply find that an impossible argument to accept. 1 believe, with others who have spoken here previously and in other parliaments, that it is not just a question of mining codes with which we are concerned, important as that may be. A mining code affects not only the minerals taken from the sea and the royalties charged on them but also the questions of what is done to the seabed when mining takes place, whether currents are altered, what happens to the ecology and what is changed. There needs to be one central authority to see that in some part of Australia, under a government of some part of Australia, action is not taken which damages that which belongs to all the people of Australia. For example, there is the question of whether drilling should or should not take place on the Barrier Reef, whether reefs should be mined for aggregate for cement - a whole variety of questions which are national matters however one looks at them.
The honourable member for New England adverted to pollution. He mentioned one instance where there were difficulties - I remember them well because I, too, was in office at that time - which ought not to have been difficulties, which were overcome and for which special action should not have had to be taken in order to overcome them. In a situation in which special action has to be taken to overcome some problem of that kind, it is always possible for the other party not to allow it to be overcome. This is not a situation in which Australian governments should be placed. The matters of control of fisheries and the conservation of fisheries, looked at in a proper way, are matters which in my view ought to be under the control of the national Parliament but which, I submit, in anybody’s view call for a decision as to whether they are or are not under the control of the national Parliament.
What are the arguments that have been advanced against taking this step? I leave out of consideration some of the arguments advanced by some representatives of State governments because they boil down, in my view, to a simple statement that they do not want to have the matter resolved; they just do not want to find out what the position is. Other than those, various arguments have been put forward. All I can say is that to me they seem to have the venerable charm of antiquity and nothing else. One of the arguments put forward against the Bill is that it will not completely dispose of the matter. It will not. But it makes a start on disposing of it and it will dispose, one way or the other, of the central matter. I can only express a hope that if the High Court should not support the assertion of sovereignty in this Bill - I shudder to think of it - some government will go to the people and ask them at a referendum to give it that power.
It is said that the mining code in the Bill is not satisfactory. I express no opinion on that subject, but I point this out: If the main principle of the Bill is acceded to and upheld by the High Court, clearly any national government will have the authority to bring in a mining code. This is assuming that the High Court will uphold that principle; therefore suggesting that a mining code could be brought in under it. If the High Court does not uphold the principle, the mining code means nothing because the Parliament would not have the power to make it. If it does uphold the principle, a government with a majority in either House could bring in any rnining code it liked and then we could discuss the rights and wrongs of it. It has been suggested to us that perhaps there would be difficulties because the States might not provide the land facilities which would be necessary for off-shore mining. Although that argument is advanced in good faith I do not know whether it is expected that anybody would take any notice of it. Can anybody imagine a State government saying: ‘You the Commonwealth, or you the mining company which the Commonwealth has licensed - say, Hamersley if there is a new Hamersley company - cannot use the land on the coast of our State, be it Western Australia or South Australia’. Surely nobody can really suggest that that would happen. I suppose one reason why it might not happen is that if any State government were ill-advised enough to try it - I am sure that they would not be - the Commonwealth in pursuit of a Commonwealth objective could acquire land under the Constitution and then use it. But this is an argument of which I think we need take no notice at all. We are told that in America and Canada the whole matter has not been cleared up. I do not think we have been given a full and accurate story on what has happened in the United States or in Canada in regard to these matters. We hear of a lot of money in escrow. I believe it is only in one part; I believe it is only in the Gulf of Florida. I believe there are other matters concerned with this which are not the central matters which we are discussing now.
Putting those arguments to one side, I have heard no other argument advanced as to why a national parliament in which every Party represented asserted that the national Parliament has authority over these water* - and every Party in this place asserts that - but which is challenged by State counter-claims should not take action to make that assertion a fact and test it in the proper way as is laid down in the Constitution. For my part, if we assert in the Liberal Party, as we do, that we have authority in the national Parliament over these waters, it seems pusillanimous not to test that assertion when it is in the national interest to do so.
As far as the amendment is concerned, I think I have indicated why I would not myself vote to support it. I am not of the opinion that consultations with the States for a cooperative regime should commence forthwith. I am of the opinion that this Bill should be passed and tested and that then there should be discussions with the States under circumstances which are then known and, where reasonable arrangements can be made, they should be made. But that would have to be, in its turn, a matter for discussion. I reiterate that I cannot see how the Government can have consultations in a given situation when it does not know what the situation is. That is why I support the Bill. That is why I do not propose to vote for the amendment. Before I sit down I want to reiterate what was said by a Senate select committee which perhaps puts more succinctly than I have the conclusions of the case. The Committee said:
The Committee considers that, notwithstanding the advantages to the national interest which the legislation-
That is, the mirror legislation - and its underlying conception has produced, the larger national interest is not served by leaving unresolved and uncertain the extent of State and Commonwealth authority in the territorial sea-bed and the Continental Shelf.
This Bill is aimed to ensure that the larger national interest is served by resolving the uncertain extent of State and Commonwealth authority. For that reason I support it. Indeed, if I may say so, it was for that reason that I introduced it at another time.
– For the second time in 2 days I have much pleasure in following the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) in a debate on associated matters. I would like to pay him the compliment of saying that he has been consistent in his attitude to this legislation. In fact he and the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and the honourable T. E. F. Hughes, the previous honourable member for Berowra, were the 3 people in former governments who were consistent in trying to ensure that the Commonwealth had adequate powers in the area in which they believed the Commonwealth should be asserting itself. I refer firstly to the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill for which the right honourable member for Higgins and also the honourable member for Moreton suffered at the hands of their own Party, and their collective efforts with the honourable member for Berowra in relation to the corporation power of the Constitution which was tested in the High Court of Australia at their behest. The result was a judgment which reiterated the restrictive trade practices legislation and gave this Parliament power to introduce a uniform companies law and laws over all trading and financial corporations. In those 2 areas - the area of offshore legislation and the area of comprehensive company law - which are vital to this Parliament, this Parliament has extended powers.
I congratulate the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) on the introduction of this Bill. It is much the same as what is termed the Gorton Bill - the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. It was promised by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech in 1972. It was mentioned in the Governor-General’s address to the Parliament in 1973. It will allow the legal position as to sovereignty to be exercised by the States and the Commonwealth to be determined in the High Court. In fact, the Minister virtually said this in his second reading speech. The Bill is a mixture of the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill and a mining code for minerals. Up to clause 16 of the Bill it is almost identical with the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. It differs from the Gorton Bill inasmuch as it was a declaratory Bill. It declared that it had sovereignty over the territorial sea but it never asserted it. But Part III of this Bill has a mechanism in it to exercise sovereignty and to assert sovereignty. The amendment, which I could not support, states in part (a): deplores the method adopted by the Government of proceeding without consultation with the States especially in relation to the code which is contained in Part III of the Bill . . .
Part III of the Bill is the mining code. To show the inconsistency of some members of the Opposition, including the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) who moved the amendment, honourable members opposite probably would not like to be reminded that the previous Minister for National Development, who introduced this Bill, said at page 1276 of Hansard 16th April 1970:
The present Bill will be followed later in this session by an off-shore mining Bill by which the Commonwealth will exercise sovereign control, in respect of mining for all minerals other than petroleum, on the seabed and in the subsoil of the whole area to which the authority of the Commonwealth extends.
So it was the intention of the previous Government, the honourable member for Parramatta and others who supported him in his Party room today and yesterday, to introduce a Bill to complement the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. To illustrate again the consistency of the right honourable member for Higgins, he said in a speech recorded in Hansard of 15th May 1970, after a statement by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) attacking him on his stand, that he told the honourable member who was then Minister for National Development to eliminate from any proposed letter he was writing to the States any suggestion that the Commonwealth would not legislate unilaterally until after the completion of full and frank discussions with the States on the matter. He said that because he knew full well, as he knows now, that you can never reach any finality with the States about it. They are opposed to it and (the only way this matter can be determined is if it goes to the High Court.
In relation to the proposed Bill that was to be introduced by the previous Liberal Government, I might say that some of the provisions of that Bill were similar to the Petroleum Submerged Lands Bill. In that proposed Bill there were 3 options: (a) to leave the administration of this area with the Commonwealth; (b) to have some of the States administer it jointly with the Commonwealth; or (c) to have all the States completely administer the off-shore of Australia. Under the mining code in Part III of the Bill, we do not fiddle around with those considerations. We assert that we have sovereignty. We have put the mechanism in Part HI of the Bill and we say without any beg pardons that we will administer it. If in the final analysis it does not have effect, it will only be due to the High Court invalidating the legislation. The Bill does not affect the provisions of the Petroleum Submerged Lands Act. It is allowed to operate independently of it. But what it says is that we will have complete control over minerals offshore.
The honourable member for Parramatta introduced into the debate a lot of legal technicalities, again talking about consultation with the States as a way of letting himself and his Party out of the dilemma they are in. The honourable member talked about the question of internal waters. We have provided in the Bill that any internal waters as at Federation do not come within the ambit of this legislation. For example, we would not consider Port Jackson to fall within the ambit of the Bill. But those areas which are on the landward side of the base line drawn between headlands, to determine the extent of the 3- mile territorial sea limits, which are termed in the Bill as being internal waters are regarded by the Government as being within the sovereignty of the Commonwealth. It is fatuous to argue whether an area remains the property of the States and whether a State would not allow a pipeline or anything else to go offshore across State lands. As the right honourable member for Higgins has just said, no State would disagree and if it did the Commonwealth under other powers could resume the land if it saw fit to do so.
There has been agitation for this legislation for many years. Sir Percy Spender, who was a Minister and a member of this Parliament for a long time and also a Justice of the International Court of Justice, said in 1969 that the Australian Constitution gave the Commonwealth sovereignty over the off-shore of Australia and that the Commonwealth Parliament ought to be able to legislate in relation to the areas. In the famous High Court case of Bonser v. La Macchia in 1969 all 6 members of the Court rejected the contention that the Commonwealth did not have sovereignty beyond the 3-mile territorial sea. On that occasion Mr Justice Barwick, the Chief Justice of Australia, said:
It is quite clear historically if one examines the descriptions of the Territory placed under the governorship that the Territory of the original colony of New South Wales, except as to certain islands of the Pacific, did not extend beyond low watermark. The same can be said for other Australian colonies.
So there is a fairly clear assertion of what he believes ought to be the Commonwealth’s rights in this matter. We believe that all members of the High Court will see it that way.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy in his second reading speech said that under Part III of the BUI the Commonwealth will be administering off-shore mining in relation to exploration and production. In referring to per mits and licences for exploration and production the Minister said:
Such a permit grants its holder an exclusive right to explore for specified minerals in an area not exceeding SOO blocks, that is an area of approximately 575 square miles. The initial permit term is 2 years, and there is provision for renewals, for periods of 2 years each, subject to the permittee’s compliance with the permit conditions and the legislation. Upon each renewal the permittee must relinquish at least onequarter of the area previously held.
That will give honourable members just some idea of the provisions in the Bill. The Minister went on to say:
Upon discovery of a mineral deposit, a permittee may apply for a production licence, covering no more than SO blocks, that is an area of approximately 58 square miles, of his previous permit area. If the permittee has complied with, the permit conditions and the legislative provisions he has a right to a licence with an initial term of 21 years.
They are the type of provisions that should have been written into the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. Because the Act was aborted by virtue of the arrangements with the States, we have seen the States administer the provisions in a disgraceful way, where by contrast with the maximum area of 575 square miles provided in this Bill we have WoodsideBurmah with 143,000 square miles. Also there is the provision that no one else can explore in that given area for any other material or resource. Under the provisions of Part HI of this Bill we could find someone exploring for gravel beside someone who exploring for oil or someone exploring for gold beside someone who is exploring for nickel. All of these activities would be taking place within the one given area.
This type of provision would have been written in to the Commonwealth legislation had the previous Liberal Government asserted that the Commonwealth did have power in this area and that the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act was under the exclusive control of the Commonwealth as is the mining code incorporated in Part III of this Bill. So I think that the Bill does deserve support I think the amendment is a contemptible one inasmuch as it is only a let-out for some members of the Opposition who on other occasions supported the views of the right honourable member for Higgins. They are now prepared to back away from the stand they took on that occasion. It is time the Parliament asserted its sovereignty over the off-shore areas of Australia. It is ludicrous to think that an island continent like Australia cannot be spoken for in definite terms in the forums of the world as a nation by its representatives and that the 6 States are needed to ratify matters of import. I commend the Minister for introducing this legislation which is another step in his plan to provide for Australia a comprehensive energy and resources policy. I believe that he deserves the congratulations of the House. The Bill deserves support; the amendment deserves defeat.
– I want to state my reasons for thinking that the Bill before us relating to the territorial seas, the continental shelf, the historical bays and internal waters is objectionable. But before I do that may I refer to the fact that the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) who preceded me in this debate is doing so under at least one misapprehension, and that is that the Commonwealth Government has not the power to deal internationally with the problems which face us not only in this Bill but in two other measures which were before us both yesterday and today. There is no doubt that so far as the external power is concerned the Commonwealth has the power and this power is not in any way objected to or contested by the State governments. In fact, when we were negotiating with Indonesia over the dividing lines of the continental shelf between that country and Australia all States accepted the fact that the Commonwealth had legitimate and constitutional authority to do so.
Let me put this matter into perspective against a background of the other 2 Bills that we have been looking at in the House and which were covered by the guillotine and adopted against our wishes.
I refer to the Bill relating to the national pipeline grid and the Bill relating to the Australian National Airlines Commission which extended the powers of Trans-Australia Airlines.
Honourable members will see that these 2 Bills and the Bill we are now considering contain a vast extension of Commonwealth powers and that if the High Court upholds the constitutional validity of the Bills and there is any inconsistency between the Commonwealth and State laws then, to the extent of that inconsistency, the Commonwealth laws will prevail.
I repeat, each of these Bills contains a vast extension of power. I favour private enterprise if it is able and willing to do the job, for reasons that I cannot canvass now. I believe that private enterprise has made a magnificent contribution to the development of this country and that it is at least as efficient as most of the enterprises that are under Commonwealth or State control.
The National Pipeline Authority is not solely a common carrier. It does not have the sole function of building the pipeline and ensuring the carriage of hydrocarbons and crudes from their place of production to other distribution points within the Commonwealth. Far from that being the position, the Authority has power from the well-head to the point of distribution to control every single aspect of production and distribution. If honourable members read the Act with a great deal of interest and attention they will see that the Authority has the power to intrude very nearly onto the factory floor and into practically every avenue of production.
An extension of power has been given to the Australian National Airlines Commission which operates Trans-Australia Airlines. As I look at the position the powers of TAA extend, to put it shortly, from Casinos to contraception.
I believe that this is not what honourable members realised when they heard the title of the Bill and were able to look at the preamble. I believe that both of these Bills have been motivated either by a political objective or by ideological goals. They are of a radical and harmful kind. This is socialisation by stealth. If one examines the preambles to and the titles of the Bills it will be seen that nowhere could it be seen that there would be an extension of power in the way provided in this Bill. Not only is it socialisation by stealth, but also socialisation by deceit.
I turn now to the actual Bill which relates to the territorial sea, the continental shelf, historical bays and waterways and interior waters.
The Bill is concerned also with a mining code to which I shall first address my remarks. The mining code was tabled in this House only 10 days ago. It contains 93 clauses of complicated material and is extremely difficult to understand. I doubt that 10 honourable members have read the mining code and I certainly doubt that 5 honourable members, if they have read it, are capable of understanding it. I am prepared to suggest that if this matter were debated on television the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) would not be able effectively to debate the 93 clauses in that code.
The Government did not present either a green or a white paper explaining the objectives and the means of achieving the objectives of this code. It has given honourable members no time in which to debate this matter as, for example, when my Party was in government we tabled a White Paper and afforded the then Opposition ample time to debate a Bill concerned with conciliation and arbitration. The Government has been prepared to introduce this Bill, guillotine the debate and push the legislation through with a maximum of haste, and without giving any explanation.
This is another classic example of the contempt with which this Parliament is being treated by the Government. It is contempt not only of the Parliament but also of the mining industry which has part of the great responsibility of developing Australia and of providing the international exchange and finance on which our future national growth, progress and development depend. I refer to every aspect of national growth and progress, including the provision of houses and all those things which the Opposition believes are the basis on which the better society is created. The Government is also contemptuous of the Australian people because few Australians will be able to understand the real substance and real purpose of this Bill.
I believe that the mineral Division of this Bill are confused and are too difficult to understand. Consequently it would be in the best interests of Australia if this Division of the Bill were rejected and not passed into law.
On the question of sovereignty, I earlier mentioned various matters including the territorial sea and submerged land. Even if this Bill were passed into law and the High Court ruled that every provision in it was both constitutional and valid a large residue of functions and constitutional responsibility would still remain under the jurisdiction of the State governments. This undoubtedly means that ultimately there must be consultation, cooperation and agreement between the Commonwealth and the States if we are satisfactory to handle the national problems that are faced up to partially in this Bill.
I have no doubt that sovereignty should be determined, but the Government and the Opposition have differing views on how it should be done and on the ways and means of achieving the objective. The Opposition believes that it can be satisfactorily resolved by negotiation. There are precedents to prove this can be done. The Government is demanding a confrontation. It is not willing to try the successful methods that have been tried in the past. It wants, to the limit of its capacity, to ensure that the States are compelled to submit to the jurisdiction of the High Court. I believe this is an ineffective way of dealing with the problem. I believe that method decided on by the McMahon Government with a view to securing resolution of this problem is the preferable method.
There should be consultation, co-operation and agreement between the Commonwealth and State governments. As I see it there is ample reason for believing that this solution is practicable and possible. Let us consider the alternative - the means adopted in at least 5 different countries over the last 25 years. If we persist in trying to solve this problem by litigious means - that is by litigation in the courts - it is highly improbable that there will be a solution within a reasonable time. I instance the experience of the United States of America, where, for the past 25 years, they have been attempting by litigious means to get a solution of this problem. Even today after 25 years there are still 3 cases before the American courts demanding resolution. We have precedents favouring negotiation and agreement, as was mentioned by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) who spoke earlier in this debate, related to off-shore production, pollution problems, deep sea channels, lighthouses and other matters. Those problems were resolved by successful negotiation and I believe that this method should be tried in this case.
During the time when I had the good fortune to be Prime Minister negotiations were commenced with the States to agree on a solution. On 5th September last year I was able to write to the State Premiers suggesting that officials should meet in order to work out the problems and to present to the Commonwealth and State governments recommendations concerning methods by which the problems might be handled. I have good reason to think that at least with the Liberal Party Premiers and the Country Party Premier of Queensland there was a reasonably good chance - perhaps better than a reasonably good chance - of coming to an accommodation. That is conclusive proof that consultation and co-operation is the preferable means of resolving differences. And it avoids all the irritation and problems associated with long drawn out litigation.
Earlier I mentioned that the honourable member who preceded me in this debate had made a mistake concerning the international jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. I conclude on these notes: Firstly, I do not think it desirable that the States should take the problem of sovereignty and of jurisdiction to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In an inter se matter of this kind, a difference of opinion between the Commonwealth and the States, the Australian courts should decide sovereignty. I do not think that the Judicial Committee would agree to handle this problem and it is objectionable to me that this course of action should be suggested. Secondly, I believe that we should be generous in our approach to the States in dealing with this matter, particularly so far as royalties are concerned. I know that when my colleague the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) was Prime Minister he was prepared to deal very generously with the States and to open up a new avenue through which they would be able to obtain the finance necessary to carry on their responsibilities.
I think that that is the right approach and I strongly support proposals which would give the States more than 50 per cent of the total royalties obtained through mineral and oil prospecting and production.
This is not the time to bring down legislation of this kind. It never will be the right time for it because there are better methods of achieving our objectives. We have plenty of time and that being so, let us now exploit the known methods of success which we are sure will be satisfactory to the States. Then we may proceed in goodwill to get a satisfactory solution.
I favour private enterprise. I believe it can do the job. I see no reason why the Commonwealth should intervene and spend not $ 1,200m but probably 3 times that amount if past performances and multipliers can be any criterion. In dealing with sums between $3,000m and $4,000m it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that the money has to be raised by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth would have to compromise its fiscal and monetary policies. It places burdens on the Commonwealth. It would be far better if the project were carried on outside the governmental sphere. The Government could be given a greater degree of flexibility, not only in social welfare payments but also in other developmental projects in which the State governments are unable to participate because they are beyond their capacity, and greater capacity to finance projects to which private enterprise cannot or will not commit itself.
– I support the Bill. If need be I will vote for it and I assure the House that I will have no difficulty in walking across the chamber to vote for it, or indeed, getting across by any other means. In the conduct of human affairs it is a matter of regret that obstinacy plays a dominant part. Of course, obstinacy has at its disposal a number of highly meretricious elements. It is not in the belief that I have succumbed to those elements that I say without ambiguity that I propose to support the Bill. One of the distinctive features about the majority of people who during the long history of this legislation have criticised it is that they share one thing in common; that is, whereas argument has been advanced as to why this matter should be resolved, all that one hears as to why it should not be resolved is a gathering of argument which does disservice to the name of argument by so describing it.
I do not indulge myself in any luxury with respect to any remarks that have been made this afternoon, no matter how close in juxtaposition to my remarks they may be; but I observe that I find the temptation hard to resist, although resist it I will. This year in Geneva there will be a law of the sea conference. I suppose that to the majority of us it will be just another international gathering. To people with a nodding acquaintance with the agenda it will be a conference concerned with the law of the sea seeking to find a measure of definition. I do not believe that it is gilding the lily to describe this conference on the law of the sea as the most crucial conference of the 20th century. Honourable gentlemen who sit in this House and who have been in previous parliaments probably know far better than I do the imperfections that I possess. Probably they will forgive me and understand when I say that if there is one determination that boils in my being it is a sense of resolution to see that some public order comes into the conduct of affairs in this world; or those who live in this world will perish. That is not dewy eyed sentimentality. It is not a curious notion sponsored by an involvement with an organisation that may have some sentimental and humanitarian views. Surely to heavens this world is heartily fed up with conflict. Ti not, there is neither health in it nor hope for it. The relevance of this I will make clear in just a moment .
Five-sevenths of the world in which we live is made up of oceans. It is the one last great frontier that man has yet to conquer. To say that it is not within touch of that achievement is completely to misunderstand the position. The tumble of events of the last IS years can be described only as a cataract in terms of achievement. Those people who attended the last great conference on the law of the sea in Geneva in 1958 and hammered out a code in 4 conventions on the sea thought that they had reached the end mark. One has only to look at Article 1 of the Geneva Convention dealing with the continental shelf to see the stark shuddering truth of that. The continental shelf, described as a geographical and geological phenomenon of the land extension out under the sea was regarded by those people in 1958 as being exploitable merely to the 200 metre mark. There is a curious fuzz of language following on which states, in effect, that if you can exploit beyond that point you may have it.
This is the crucial matter that faces the world today. The achievements and persistence of man today take him way beyond that point. He has at his ready disposal, certainly to be compacted, measured and explained in terms of a few years, the means to exploit in a fashion the vast resources of the sea probably beyond the dream even of Jules Verne. What is the relevance to this country? What is the relevance in terms of those who say that we are not inhibited with respect to the external affairs power? I recall vividly the presentation of some views on the history of the external affairs power that were not received with rapture in some places. But I put temptation to one side.
The simple fact of the matter remains that we have here in Australia, although as yet completely undefined, a vast continental shelf. We have heard in Australia those who preside over some of our State parliaments contend with a measure of unhesitancy that I find completely overwhelming that it belongs to us. I do not want to resort to harsh and pejorative language. It is too serious a matter, but I will not see imperilled to the least extent the name of this nation, its integrity, or indeed the welfare of its people because of the posturing of any State Premier or, indeed, the president of any political party. This transcends it and if that spirit is unwelcome in the Parliament of the nation I hope I will at least be able to find the strength to walk out of it.
Take New Guinea, for example. There is an unbroken continental shelf between New Guinea and Australia - the State of Queensland. The Premier of Queensland has said that shelf belongs to Queensland. This is not a matter of argument; it is a matter of public record. The same view is held by some members in the State of Western Australia. I want to take the assumption that they are right and that it does belong to them. What is their position with respect to an independent New Guinea? The 1958 Geneva Convention provides that if parties to the Convention are having an argument with respect to a continental shelf, they may resort as the solution of their argument to the median line - simply the centre line. That is the basis of their negotiation. But a few years ago, the International Court of Justice in the great North Sea Continental Shelf case held that the median line was not a customary rule of international law. Therefore, if a nation is not a party to the Geneva Conventions as they now stand, it cannot use the median line with respect to international law. This is the relevance of the external affairs powers and the need to decide it, because if by chance the Premier of Queensland is right he cannot, because his State possesses no international personality, argue his own case and he cannot adopt the simplistic method of saying: T invite an independent New Guinea to agree with me to draw a median line’. An independent New Guinea by that time could well have studded around it powerfully backed international consortiums.
I am horrified when I think of the incredible fuss we have had with respect to the Torres Strait islanders. Here we are dealing not merely with the future of the lives of the people and their welfare and happiness; we are dealing with the welfare of generations to come. I beg of this House and the people of this country that they do not shrug off the importance of this great issue. One might have rows over the territorial sea. However, the courts should be resorted to wherever possible, not that I seek to encourage litigation merely for its own sake. But we cannot solve these problems by resorting to caprice, to force or to posturing. Hard argument has never hurt any person and the courts are there for that purpose - to listen and to respond and to give their adjudication. This is the central issue in regard to the continental shelf and I would hope that we can come to that simple realisation.
In regard to the international community, at last count there were, I mink, 135 countries of the world, 109 of which have some contiguity with the sea and all of which in one form or another have a continental shelf. One of the dominant proposals to come before the next Law of the Sea conference is the proposal to decide whether or not the continental shelf in terms of explorability should be given to the coastal state up to the 200 metre mark, and the area from the 200 metre mark out to the edge of the continental margin to be operated on the basis of an international trusteeship, 50 per cent to go to underdeveloped countries and 50 per cent to the coastal state, ‘state’ in that context being used in terms of international law. There are many minds in this world which are immensely attracted to that proposal in terms of showing a tangible expression of the needs of international countries which are in fact underdeveloped.
I take the assumption again that the Premier of Queensland is correct. Is he going to agree to an international regime so seeking to order mining on the continental shelf? One has only to posit the argument to see the exquisite absurdity of it. That is the position with respect to the external affairs powers as I see it and the urgency as I see it to have the matter resolved. I take the other assumption just in passing. Here, I am at one with my friend, the right honorable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). If it should be held that sovereignty with respect to the continental shelf does not reside with the Commonwealth, there would be a powerful case to be put before the Australian people.
I turn from that to the recent move by the State Premiers to go to London but I observe in passing that to compare the Australian federal system in this context with the American federal system is to misunderstand completely the 2 separate systems of federation. I made the charge - I did it, I hope, with a sense of generosity and charity - that the last Government purported with respect to Indonesia to hand over part of the State of Western Australia to Indonesia. I made that statement on the basis that the assumptions of the Premiers were right. If they were right, that is what happened and the last Government was in conflict with section 123 of our Constitution because we cannot alter the boundary of a State without a Bill of a parliament and a referendum of those living in the State.
I turn to the move of the Premiers to go to London. It is perfectly true that the States of Australia can petition the Privy Council to give what amounts in effect to an advisory opinion or a declaration. That this is not a matter of mere theory is shown by the Boundary case of 1884 when 2 Canadian provinces, Manitoba and Ontario petitioned the Privy Council and the Privy Council referred the petition to the Judicial Committee which in turn reported back to the Privy Council and there the matter was. The great case with respect to the territorial sea in our law is the case of R v. Keyn of 1876. In that case, 13 judges in a majority sitting in the Court of Crown Cases Reserve held that the realm of England finished at the low water mark.
What is the position of the State Premiers today? Taking the assumption that the Privy Council accepts their petition and refers it to the Judicial Committee of that body, that body would be faced with overthrowing Keyn’s case. I have yet to hear any State Premier say: ‘We are going off to the Privy Council and if it should happen to be against us we will accept its decision’. I indulge myself in this luxury to this extent: If by some chance, Keyn’s case were to be ignored and swept to one side, it would be to throw a multitude of law into a state of utter bewilderment. Therefore, I would invite the Premiers to say that, even though they are attracted to this method of deciding the matter, they will at least abide by the adjudication.
But another curious matter comes into this. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has always observed the custom of hearing the other side. The Commonwealth would be a party to any approach and possibly it would be that our colleague, Senator Murphy, would have to leave The Hague and go to London. He may not be greatly enraptured with that prospect. But would it be seriously suggested that, at this time in our history, we should on this matter accept the jurisdiction of the Privy Council? The High Court of Australia, as the convention debates show, was appointed just for this purpose - to decide these issues, to say where the matter rests. Those who say: Of course, the States are not too sure that they will get a fair deal in the High Court’, do a great disservice to the traditions of this country. In my experience I have never known any judge who consciously would put himself in the position of abandoning the disciplines of his profession, seeking to sully the ermine that he wears and putting his integrity in jeopardy. Those who are touched by the judicial instinct - I do not use ‘touched’ in any uncommon sense - and those who understand it realise that these are the great surviving virtues of many centuries of struggle. I come back to where I began. I support this Bill. I will vote for it, and nothing in years will give me more pleasure than so doing.
– I am delighted to have the opportunity to support this Bill. I am delighted to say at the outset of my remarks that I am in a position to do something that probably should not happen very often to a member on this side of the House. I am able to compliment not only one but two of the recent speakers from the Opposition side. In particular, I compliment the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). I must say this about him: Having had the experience originally of tackling him in a Federal election in 1966, I have never doubted his capacity to stand up for the things in which he believes. I found that out on that occasion, and on every occasion since then when he has felt the need to stand up for a principle such as this he has done so. Not only on this occasion today but also on each occasion that this matter has been discussed in the Parliament he has shown his preparedness to do so.
The fact is that on the previous occasion when this matter was before us there were not enough of his colleagues on the Government side in those days who had the same feeling of nationalism as he has shown today and as has been shown also by the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). Of course, the debate on that occasion lapsed for want of solidarity in that Government and for want of a preparedness on the part of that Government to accept the support that was genuinely extended to it by members of the Australian Labor Party, then in Opposition, to give this nation an opportunity to overcome the problems that were readily visible. There had been no determination of the rights of the nation or the rights of the various States to the areas of our nation beyond the low water mark.
This morning the Brisbane newspaper, the Courier-Mail’, carried the banner headline: Liberals Avoid Sea Bill Split’. I daresay that it was due to the arguments of the honourable member for Moreton and the former Prime Minister that the Liberals were able to avoid that split, but it is a sad condemnation, that there still exist in the ranks of the Liberal Party so many who have not been prepared to learn the lessons of the last election. One of those lessons surely was that the former Government was cast out of office because it lacked the intestinal fortitude that this nation needed; it lacked the leadership and back-up support for leadership that would have enabled it to put a measure such as this through the last Parliament. Today honourable members opposite are in the position of trying to have, in old terms, 2 bob each way. They will not block this legislation in the House of Representatives but some of them are hoping that their friends in the Senate might do something with it. For that purpose they have introduced an amendment for consideration here. The ‘Courier-Mail’ article stated:
The Liberals decided to press an amendment to the legislation deploring the Federal Government’s failure to consult the States, all of which have opposed the Government’s moves.
What gross hypocrisy it is for Opposition members to talk about the failure of this Government to consult with the States. During the years they had the opportunity to consult with the States, on every occasion that they opened up discussions with the States the reactions of some of the States were such that the former Government dropped the discussions. It swept the problem under the carpet and went no further than attempting in a half-hearted fashion to convince the people of Australia that it was solid in its determination to do something about this matter, to have the problem solved. I venture to say that if the nation had had the misfortune of having the former Government inflicted upon it for another 3 years there would have been throughout the life of this Parliament the same procrastination as there was throughout tha life of the last Parliament.
As recently as 13th August last year, when this legislation was discussed in a very limited way in this Parliament and when an attempt was made by the then Opposition to give honourable members on the other side of the House who were then back bench members of the Government parties an opportunity to measure up to what they had been prepared to stand up and support, we saw that they were not prepared to do so. The temporary compromise between the Commonwealth and States, which we saw occur so often during the life of the last Parliament over this matter of control of off-shore waters, was hailed in some quarters as a victory for co-operation and negotiation and as a vindication of true federalism. Many other high sounding phrases were used to describe it. However, we know that it was just an exercise in humbug; it was an exercise in dithering; and it was a typical exercise of the last Prime Minister - indecision after indecision. I congratulate the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) on having the foresight to bring this measure into the House. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on his forthright statements on this issue since it once again became an issue of public comment.
We are in the position today that the Labor Premiers are disgracefully lining themselves up with the Premiers of other States and, as was shown in an answer to a question asked at the Prime Minister’s Press conference last Tuesday, doing so in the face of what they clearly must know to be the policy of the Labor Party. One Labor Premier in particular would have been a delegate to the Federal Conference that discussed, supported and ultimately adopted this very policy. One wonders today why these people have lost their national attitudes. It is true that very often when we come to talk about national issues we hear people talking as Western Australians, Queenslanders or Victorians but, sadly, not as Australians. I am sorry that I must confess here today that we in the Labor Party have now disclosed that we have some of these people in our midst. I hope that before too many days have passed they will see the error of their ways.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Mr Speaker- (Quorum formed.) I may perhaps comment, Mr Speaker, that association with the word ‘Wentworth’ seems to have a strange effect on the behaviour of honourable members opposite. However, I recognise the fact that the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), who called for the formation of a quorum, might have been concerned at the whereabouts of some of his Liberal colleagues at this hour of the night when they should have been present in the chamber. Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the concern that I have, and I am sure many other honourable members on this side of the House have, at the fact that some of the States which collectively could be referred to as the more enlightened States - the States that have Labor Governments - have decided to align themselves with the less enlightened States in their attitude to the announcement by the Prime Minister that this measure would be introduced in the House. As I said before, I hope that within a few days the Labor Premiers may see the error of their ways and they may see that there is no justification for them racing off to the other side of the world to seek clarification and justification of any of the proposals contained in this Bill.
How ridiculous it is to consider that some 70 years after Federation we still have people believing that they have to adopt a defensive attitude against every decision that the Commonwealth wishes to make. Surely they must realise that they all belong to one nation. How ridiculous it is to suggest, as some of them have done, that States’ rights and the people’s welfare will be threatened if this Bill is passed by this Parliament. We have the ridiculous attitude that was adopted by the last Queensland Minister for Justice, Dr Delamothe when this issue was first discussed in the Federal Parliament. He made a statement in the Press that he saw a distinct possibility of floating two-up games and call girl services with dinghies rowing clients to pleasure launches off the Queensland coast. The Press report stated:
He told State Parliament that these “possibilities’ could arise through a combination of Commonwealth offshore-resources legislation and a recent High Court decision.
The other day I heard a prominent State politician, whose name escapes me for the moment, interviewed on a radio program. He said that he saw the State laws being defied by people in the water 5 yards beyond the low watermark. Surely if any of these suggestions exist as genuine possibilities - these call girl services that Dr Delamothe feared, or the breaches of State laws that could occur, according to recent comments, as a result of this legislation - any such problems can soon be overcome. Surely these possibilities do not give the States the need to adopt the attitude that they have adopted. Surely today we should be able to expect a reasonable attitude from the States and a realisation that this is a matter which must be settled. It can only be settled, as has been mentioned by the Minister in his second reading speech, by a challenge to the legislation being taken, if necessary to the highest- court in Australia.
Despite what the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) said this afternoon there have been instances in the past when it has been embarrassing to this nation to be seen in the eyes of the rest of the world, and particularly in the eyes of the emerging nations of Asia, as being restricted in our efforts to speak with one voice as a nation. In contrast to the last government, this Government is attempting to build a respectable image for Australia. The fact is that in the past there have been instances - these were referred to by the Minister in his secondreading speech - where the States have not agreed to the Commonwealth ratifying international conventions or have imposed extreme delays on such actions. It is little wonder when we have Premiers of the style of the present Premier of Queensland, who in a schizophrenic reaction to the action of the Commonwealth in introducing this measure talked about seceding. Of course he has been disowned by every reasonable politician in his State. But when we have States led by politicians of this calibre it is only reasonable to expect that a Commonwealth Government such as the present one, with Ministers and a Prime Minister of such high calibre, will be prepared to take on the States and to show them that what we are doing is in their interest and in the national interest, and that there is no need for them to adopt the bogyman attitude they have adopted over this measure. I am very pleased to support the Bill and once again say that I am sure the House will realise how ridiculous is the amendment proposed to the Bill by the Opposition as a face saving measure for its own dissident ranks. I am sure that the House will reject the amendment and support the Bill.
– I find myself partly in agreement with the opening statement of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in his second-reading speech when he said that it would serve Aus tralia’s national and international interests to have the legal position on jurisdiction resolved. I say partly because there never has been any doubt that the only government that can negotiate internationally on behalf of any part of Australia’s maritime shelf is the Federal Government. The problem is: How can this question of jurisdiction be resolved? There seem to me to be 2 alternatives; firstly, for the Federal Government to legislate and challenge the States to litigate, or, secondly, to try to negotiate an agreement with the States, and then to put the agreement into legislation.
The second method was successfully used in the off-shore petroleum legislation. It has been of enormous benefit to Australia. The States made no secret of the fact that they would have liked to see the same principle used in off-shore mining legislation. The previous Government did, of course, try to obtain agreement with the States but was unable to do so before it went out of office. The present Government is using the first method, but I do not think the Government could have really studied the consequences that must flow from this legislation. I propose to examine a few of those consequences.
The effect of this legislation must be to incite permanent litigation extending over, perhaps, 2 or 3 decades before Federal and State boundaries are finally resolved. If held to be constitutionally sound, this legislation must inevitably undermine the off-shore petroleum legislation, and the Minister in his second reading speech has twice used the ominous phrase ‘off-shore petroleum arrangements will continue for the present time’. Administratively, this legislation must also produce confusion. The Commonwealth has no Mines Department except in the Northern Territory to administer and police laws for mining off-shore, nor could it police laws for fishing, boating, swimming, marine parks, criminal law and other matters. Yet the Commonwealth will have the ultimate responsibility in these matters if this Bill becomes law and the High Court upholds its validity.
This legislation is nuclear in many areas. It is doing enormous damage to CommonwealthState relations. The friendly relations and goodwill which I did my best to build up over more than 5 years are going. To replace all these minuses, what does the Commonwealth seek to gain? The only purpose, apparently, is to resolve an abstract question of power as to whether the Commonwealth Parliament or the State Parliaments have the power and authority. Surely the sensible answer is for co-operation and joint action in which neither the States nor the Commonwealth contests one another’s constitutional jurisdiction and in which joint arrangements on administration and sharing of returns are made on a mutually satisfactory basis. All this enormous damage to Commonwealth-State relations is so completely unnecessary because virtually no off-shore mining is now occurring, and it is not likely to occur in any major proportions for the next decade.
The Minister in his second reading speech places his reliance for Commonwealth authority on an obiter dicta made by the Chief Justice in the case of Bonser v. La Macchia - a case in which jurisdiction was not argued and in which the Commonwealth and State AttorneysGeneral specifically asked that no decision on Commonwealth-State sovereignty be made. I would like to quote the remarks of a legal authority who, while he may be no more eminent than the Chief Justice, is cer- tainly no less so. This person .said:
In the Australian federal system, it is I think, clear that off-shore control is exercisable in accordance with the constitutional division of powers between the Commonwealth and States, the territorial sea being for this purpose treated as part of the territory of the State concerned. Accordingly, the control of the oil resources of the sea-bed beneath the territorial sea would normally appear to fall wholly within State authority, subject of course to such Commonwealth powers as those with respect to defence. But in this field as in all others, it is the Commonwealth and not a State which is internationally responsible for any exercise of power, whether by the Commonwealth or by a State, which affects other countries or their nationals.
Those were the words of the then member for Parramatta and Attorney-General in 1962, Sir Garfield Barwick. Some people have claimed that Australia is the only nation which does not know what the legal position is and where sovereignty lies. This statement is simply not true. The following countries are some of the federations with divisions of power between the State and Federal authorities similar to Australia: The United States of America, Canada, the Federal Republic of Germany, Malaysia and Nigeria. Do these federations know the legal position of their off-shore resources? If the United States knows, why did the courts in the United States hold up to an amount of $1,3 65m in escrow because their courts could not decide whether this amount, which comes from 13369/73- -R- pi) royalties, was owned by the State or the Federal Government? I stress ‘did’, because there has been some improvement lately.
If everything is such plain sailing in the United States since the 1947 decision, why was it necessary to appoint recently a special master and to place in his hands the unresolved question regarding areas subject to Federal Government or State jurisdiction in the State of Louisiana? It is good to know that, since the 1956 Agreement between Louisiana and the United States - and I stress that it was an agreement, not a court decision - dual permits or dual royalty payments have no longer been required. However, the question of the duplicate payments made prior to that time has not yet been resolved even though Louisiana and the United States are holding some payments that are clearly from each other’s area. Why are a number of cases still pending in the American courts if the legal position is understood there? If everything is so clearly understood in Canada, why are negotiations still proceeding between the Provinces and the Federal Government 6 years after the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in a case which only applied, of course, to the Province of British Columbia? Why is this decision, in the words of a previous information officer of the Canadian High Commission in Canberra, generally considered as affecting just one round of a fairly lengthy match? If the situation is so clear in Malaysia, why was the Malaysian Government studying the Australian off-shore petroleum legislation, just as the Canadian Government did after the Canadian Supreme Court decision when it sent Mr Isbister, the Secretary of its Department of National Development, to Australia?
Perhaps there are some people naive enough to think that all that is needed is a decision by our High Court and we then all live happily ever after. Every experience available shows that this would not be so. If honourable members desire to see constant litigation over a decade or more, they should pass this legislation. It should keep the lawyers fat and prosperous for many years to come. Some honourable members may ask why this is so. It will come basically from attempts to delineate State boundaries and therefore State sovereignty. Some basic rules for delineating boundaries have been laid down, but there are so many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ that there is enormous scope for legal disagreement. Let me mention a few of the problems to support my contention. At the present moment, State boundaries are determined by closing off harbours by a closing line drawn across the natural entrance points. Under the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Sea, if such a closure is less than 24 miles all waters inside this line are internal waters and therefore under the jurisdiction of the State. Of course they are shown on Commonwealth maps already as being under the jurisdiction of the State. This Bill, however, makes State boundaries revert to their boundaries as at Federation. Some authorities believe the closure distance at Federation was 10 miles and some believe it was 6 miles. Who is right? This will have to be decided by the Court if this legislation is held to be valid.
Then we come to the drawing of baselines with regard to islands and low-tide elevations. Next comes the problem of enclaves and nonadjacent archipelagos. Of course, where the baseline method is applied to a coastline which is surrounded by a number of islands, but not a sufficient number to warrant this method, the drawing of areas of territorial sea round each island will lead to small pockets of high seas surrounded by territorial waters. One opinion has been expressed that such enclaves; as they are called, if not more than 2 miles in breadth and entirely surrounded by territorial waters, may be included within the territorial waters, but, in the case where the waters are open at both ends the pockets should be regarded as part of the high seas. We should not forget that there are islands which are not so close to the coastline as to exhibit an affinity with it, yet are so interconnected with each other as to suggest the application of the joining line of more than 6 miles, which would be the width of an island joining line if measured in the ordinary manner. I am sure that this shows the House that there are obvious grounds for disagreement in so many of these decisions. At a conference on this problem some delegates favoured the ordinary 3-mile line principle while others favoured treating the group as a whole, on condition that the distance between islands did not exceed 10 miles.
Then we come to the treatment of low-tide elevations and complex areas of coastline consisting of deep indentations and fringeing islands. There is the problem of the so-called historic bays, where the depth of penetration must be at least equal to the radius of an area marked out by a semi-circle, the diameter of which is based on the distance between the entrance points. Sometimes bay is the term applied to indentations of the coastline wider than the depth of penetration, while a gulf is characterised by deeper penetration. Along the Australian cost some so-called bays are not bays at all. There is said to be a great deal of confusion in the Australian position in bays.
Article 7, paragraph 3, of the Convention on the Territorial Sea concerns islands along the mouths of and within bays. One writer has described this provision as being so difficult to apply in practice that it is impossible to appreciate either its value or its purpose. And so one could go on. If there is not enough to keep the High Court going for years, then I am a Dutchman - and ‘Fairbairn’ is, as I am sure even the Minister realises, a name of entirely Scottish origin. So far, I have, not touched on baselines drawn for economic interests. What of low tide elevations with and without lighthouses permanently above sea level? What of rocks awash? What is the legal requirement for the existence of an island? What about uninhabited cays, rock outcrops -and boulders above high tide? Do these have territorial water surrounding them? Are drying rocks and drying shoals points of departure for. measuring territorial . waters? What heights of tides are used? Are they normal tides or neaps? I could go on much longer; but I think I have said sufficient to suggest that the title of this Bill ought to be changed to ‘A Bill to provide lawyers with large incomes for many years to come’.
These problems were avoided in the off-shore petroleum arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth because ‘ common sense, agreement and co-operation were used in achieving the solution. Not only has there been no agreement or co-operation in this legislation; common sense also has been a casualty. When I was in the United States 6 years ago, a commissioner of the Federal Power Commission told me that he did not expect to see the end of litigation on the United States’ off-shore areas during his lifetime. When we agreed on the joint Commonwealth-State offshore legislation on petroleum I hoped that Australia was capable of learning from the United States’ mistakes. Apparently I was over-optimistic. I certainly shall be proved over-optimistic if this Bill becomes law.
Litigation also can arise from the attempt to determine jurisdiction. What happens, for example, where a person in the water uses obscene or offensive language to a person on the shore? Should State law apply or should Commonwealth law apply? What happens when a surfer strikes a swimmer with his board? Someone will have to determine whether the accident occurred above or below low water mark so as to determine jurisdiction. Coal miners in the Bulli coal fields, for example, will pass to and from Commonwealth jurisdiction as they cross vertically the low water mark. I said earlier that this Bill does not do what the Minister’s second reading speech claims that it does. This is not my opinion; it is the opinion of eminent legal authorities from the States. How, they point out, can one exclude from Commonwealth jurisdiction structures built on Commonwealth land? Surely any wharf or jetty automatically becomes Commonwealth property if it is built on Commonwealth land, just as, for example, if I own a block of land and someone puts a structure on it, it becomes my property. Thus, the Commonwealth would acquire not only all these structures but also any areas built up by the States since Federation - for example, Port Kembla, Portland, Warrnambool and Port Latta. Certainly a number of more open harbours, such as Barrow Island, which are now administered by the States will become Commonwealth property.
This legislation also ignores the fact that, in the proper development and control of offshore areas, joint co-operative action is required by both the Commonwealth and the States in the legislative and administrative spheres. Even if a State did not have any power below low water mark it still would have to play a major part in the development of any off-shore mining venture as it would have to provide so many on-shore facilities such as housing, roads, schools and police stations, lt could, I suppose, exercise the ultimate sanction of preventing the development of an off-shore mine merely by preventing a mine from landing its ore in the State concerned. The Commonwealth, of course, has supreme power in the off-shore areas in relation to the execution of any of its functions, just as it has on the on-shore areas. What it is seeking to do here is to extend its powers to the complete exclusion of the States.
I hope that, even at this late hour, it may be possible to withdraw this Bill and try to repair some of the damage that has been done. What is needed, surely, is not a decision by a majority of the High Court judges as to where they believe jurisdiction lies at present. What is needed is a common sense arrangement, thrashed out with the States, as to what they and we would like to see. Then we can set about implementing this decision by legislation in this and, if necessary, all parliaments.
– With a name like ‘Kerin’, I too must confess to not being a Dutchman. I seem to recall studying political geography for a post-graduate degree at a university during which I studied at one stage the whole problem of boundaries and frontiers and all the sorts of problems which go with definition and which the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) has just outlined. I still do not think that those problems are beyond resolution or negotiation with the States. As I understand it, the Bill does not preclude such negotiation and cooperation. What this Bill is about is the concept of sovereignty, and little else. I think that co-operation and all the small legalisms and definitions can be resolved quite easily once we resolve the big point of sovereignty.
It would appear that, after 3 years of sustained intelligent policy protection, the day of the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) finally has come. The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has been only too happy to be able to give substance to the policy, as it always has been the policy of the Australian Labor Party. The present Bill incorporates the 2 Gorton Bills of 1970 and adds some provisions with respect to royalties. Examination of the record of the debates on the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill and the Press reports of the time reveals that nearly everything that could be said on this vital matter has been said. The attitude of the Opposition to the Bill is now largely a national one. It is a pity that the nettle was not grasped sooner.
It is important that doubts as to sovereign control with respect to the seabed, resources, the territorial sea and fisheries be resolved. All fishermen in my electorate and on the coast of New South Wales generally are vitally interested in this Bill. Put succinctly, in an age when the law of the sea is undergoing challenge and development, when there is a pressing need to speak with one voice at international conference tables, when nations are expanding their commercial interests and spheres of territorial control and hegemony, when archipelago nations are making even more complicated claims and when technology is opening up potentials in resource discovery and extraction which hitherto have been impossible, it is simply intolerable that doubt as to sovereignty between the Commonwealth and the States should persist. The Minister has stated that all existing arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States will persist but that the Government is of the firm belief that ultimate control should reside in the national Government for the benefit of all Australians.
Despite the engulfing legality which surrounds the point of contention, I believe that the State governments are not at all concerned for the legal rights of their States but simply for the revenue that may accrue from the royalties consequent on any discoveries off their coast. With respect to coal in particular, the States have not acted as national commercial maximisers of the royalties that would and should be available, and often have neglected their duty in the quest for funds. The question of adequate royalties is of staggering complexity. Only recently has it been apparent that the United’ Kingdom has made far from optimum arrangements with respect to royalties for natural gas. This is not always simply a function of ineptitude; often it is more a reflection of the problem of Commonwealth-State financial arrangements. Our States have boundaries chosen largely by the accidents of history. Although I believe that industry and population should locate at points of the most optimal economy, I do not believe that States should be allowed to be at too great a disadvantage due to the fact of having no off-shore resources.
The national Parliament has the charter to govern for all Australians, not merely to adjust regional inequalities due to the particular consequences of varying rates of economic growth or economic endowment. The Queensland Government has shown that it is not prepared to act nationally or responsibly with respect to the border with New Guinea and although I do not challenge its right to contest what we see as the national position on this question, what we are saying is that the legality needs to be cleared up and we believe that the High Court is really the place to clear it up. My opinion, of course, is that Australia should negotiate with New Guinea over this boundary.
All that this Bill is about is sovereignty. Commonwealth and State laws are in conflict. But even with respect to revenue, this Bill does not seek to oust the States as far as revenue is concerned. What it does is assert the exclusive right of the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to these resources and to police, protect and exploit them - in terms of royalties - in the interests of the nation. Compromise, negotiation and agreement are not excluded and in most instances 1 believe that the States will accrue greater revenue. The agreement between Australia and Indonesia on the Timor border was reached after negotiation which involved the Western Australian Government. But at all stages of that negotiation doubts persisted and the previous Government was limited in its ability to negotiate. Other nations with which we compare ourselves have had their law clarified, for example, Canada, and in its case this has been of particular importance as far as fisheries have been concerned. In Australia no one is sure which laws Australian or foreign fishermen may be breaking. The Gulf of Carpentaria is still a. major area of concern with, respect to fisheries and the Great Barrier Reef is of particular concern with respect to fisheries and territorial Some LI, 000 ships visit our shores every year and with increasingly large oil tankers the risk of massive pollution, increases, yet we are. still uncertain as to which authority is responsible .for thepolicing or interpretation of Australian law and international law.
My speech can only be a summary at this stage. I am alarmed that some divisions exist among honourable members opposite, particularly with respect to State rights. It is only these that we wish to clarify. Although I can profess no great understanding of some of the legal points being made, I cannot help but feel that if all problems are not solved by this Bill it will at least be a massive leap forward. I cannot really see what the problems of the courts of other countries with different constitutions have to do with us. We do not think the problems are unsolvable. I support the Bill.
– In speaking to this Bill I would just like to make one of two comments on the contribution made by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin). I will try to be fair and reasonable in replying to what he said. The honourable member claimed that once we resolved sovereignty with regard to submerged lands the other problems would resolve themselves. The honourable member said that once we resolved this everything else would fall into line. I think that is a very optimistic view to take. I do not agree with him at all. But at the same time I do accept the fact that this is a situation which does need to be resolved. I think the argument has been put by some members of the Opposition, including my friend the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), that it should be resolved in a different way from that which has been suggested by the Government.
The other point I wanted to make - and I am sorry that the honourable member for Macarthur is not now in the House - relates to his comment that the Queensland Government has shown that it is not prepared to act nationally m regard to New Guinea. In point of fact the position is the direct opposite. The Queensland Government was prepared to act nationally. It was prepared to act nationally insofar as the preservation of the rights of Queensland and Australian citizens was concerned. It was prepared to act nationally as far as the preservation of Queensland and Australian land was concerned. There is certainly a very big difference between the view that the honourable member for Macarthur holds on this matter and that held by me and also, I believe, many other members of this House.
I would also like to make some comment on what the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), who is not in the House at the moment, had to say. The honourable member said that the State Labor Premiers will - he hoped - see the error of their ways. I just wonder what makes him confident that they will and also why they made errors in the first place. I wonder whether it will be that the real rulers of the Australian Labor Party - the Australian Council of Trade Unions - will crack the whip on them and this might make them change their minds. I just wonder at the reason for the confidence that was expressed in that view and whether in fact that change will take place. The honourable member said also that the Premier of Queensland was disowned - I am speaking from memory - by every practical politician in that State. The honourable member did not look very far into the article which he quoted earlier from the ‘Courier-Mail’. Let me also quote from today’s ‘Courier-Mail’ which states that a motion was carried in support of the Premier’s stand, that the motion that it be carried with acclamation was moved and was carried unanimously. The Press article is headed:
The joint Government parties yesterday unanimously carried a motion commending the Premier (Mr Bjelke-Petersen) on his fight for State rights.
Not only was it carried unanimously but also it was carried in an unusual way with an enthusiasm expressed by acclamation. I think that this certainly refutes the argument put up by the honourable member for Bowman. I should like to read the motion. It states:
That this joint meeting of Country Party and Liberal Members commend the Premier for his untiring efforts and statesman-like attitude in placing before Australians in the strongest possible terms, Queensland’s sovereign rights and privileges in any CommonwealthState relations’.
The motion added the words:
We also appreciate the steps the Premier has taken to initiate and safeguard our interests in London.’
So there is certainly unanimity on the part of Government supporters in Queensland in favour of the strong action that the Premier of that State has taken in this regard. There are a few points that I want to make on comments made by the honourable member for Farrer. He pointed out, as I said, that there are 2 ways in which this matter can be approached. One is to legislate and wait for a challenge and the other is to try to reach an agreement. Very rightly and, I would say, nationally, he spoke of the value of first trying to reach an agreement as was reached in relation to the off-shore petroleum arrangements. I want to repeat because I think it is worth repeating the words he uttered about the ominous phrase that was used in the second reading speech of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) when he said that off-shore petroleum arrangements will continue ‘for the present time’. That certainly indicates that the arrangements will not continue for very long. It must have been put in there for that very reason. I can see no other reason why it should have been put in there. I, too, agree that there will be constant litigation, as the honourable member for Farrer said, if this Bill goes through. He pointed out, and I agree with him, the great number of legal problems that can exist. I also agree with him - I am in pretty full agreement with his address - that it would be in the best interests of the nation if this Bill were withdrawn.
Earlier in this debate the right honourable (member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) said that the Commonwealth now has power to deal internationally and if there is any inconsistency between State law and Commonwealth law the Commonwealth law will prevail. Certainly the Commonwealth has the power to deal internationally. That is one thing that can be said. Indeed it has done so. There was no objection by the State of Western Australia whose Premier, unless the whip is cracked, will go over with the other Premiers to discuss this matter in London. There was no disagreement or objection by him as far as I know when the boundaries between Australia and Indonesia were decided by the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Indonesia. That is the way that this matter should be approached. I am sure that the States will accept reasonable international agreements without question.
In addition to what I have already said I want to point to some of the problems that do exist. I am speaking now in regard to a second reading speech on a Bill presented in 1970 when Mr Swartz was the Minister for National Development. He said:
The exercise by any State - that is to say any country - of sovereign legislative authority and propriety rights beyond its land territory is part of its international relations.
The States are sovereign States, so there is an area of doubt in this matter. It is an area of doubt which in all common sense should be resolved if at all possible by negotiation and consultation with the States. He went on further to talk at some length and referred to the 4 conventions which were adopted at the United Nations conference on the law of the sea in Geneva in 1958. These conventions were adopted by the Australian Government and the States did not take exception to this action. I think that on top of what other speakers have said this should be sufficient to indicate the great area of doubt and the need to try to resolve that doubt. It should give us some confidence to think that the doubts can be resolved when, as the honourable member for Farrer said, the negotiations resulted in agreement in regard to the off-shore petroleum leases and petroleum rights. If they can be resolved, I am sure the other can. But it cannot be done in a hurry. It is not easy to achieve results in this area in a short time.
It has long been claimed in this House that it will be in the national interest to have the legal position concerning the control of resources of the seabed off the Australian coast resolved. In that respect I certainly agree that this is what should be done. I do not think that anyone would doubt that. I fully accept that the question of sovereignty should be determined. The only question and argument I believe is how it should be determined. I ask why can we not have this consultation with the States and why cannot we have co-operation with them? We have done it before in regard to the exploiting of the resources of off-shore Australia. Why can we not offer generous royalty distributions to the States in our negotiations which we did in the case of off-shore petroleum? One thing that is acting detrimentally towards an achievement of this goal has been the characteristic of this Government to centralise authority to the detriment of the States and this has aggravated the feeling between the Commonwealth and the States. If there is one thing that is detracting from resolving these difficulties it is the actions of the present’ Commonwealth Government in its relations with the States.
To say that progress and consultation with the States has not been successful in the past anyhow is no excuse for not endeavouring to take this action in the future because that is the way in which it can best be resolved. I am not suggesting that these negotiations should go on indefinitely, but I believe that a reasonable time should be given so that the States can have the opportunity of putting up their case to the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Government to present its case to the States. What is more, in a matter of this importance I believe that the Commonwealth Parliament is entitled to know what sort of offer has been made to the States. I certainly will be interested to see what the suggestions are because it is on that basis that we will be able to judge whether the States have been unreasonable in their dealings with the Commonwealth. Why not adopt a reasonable approach to .the States in regard to the exploitation of these other resources and endeavour to reach an agreement with the States? We - should determine what authority each government should exercise and how it should be exercised.
I submit that very special consideration should be given to the rights of Queensland. Queensland has, indeed, very special circumstances. I make no apology whatever for talking as a Queenslander. I completely refute the suggestion that one can talk as a Queenslander and not be talking as an Australian or that what is not good for Queensland is not good for Australia. In a large percentage of cases what is good for Queensland and what is good for any other State is good for the Commonwealth of Australia. It is complete hogwash . for anyone to get up in this House and suggest that because one has some loyalty to one’s own State one has not loyalty to the Australian nation. I said that Queensland has special circumstances. One of these special circumstances, as has been mentioned in the speech by the honourable member for Macarthur who has just spoken, is the Great Barrier Reef. A very large proportion of the Barrier Reef is under water at high tide. A smaller proportion of the Barrier Reef is above water at high tide and this forms the islands which the Queensland Government has control over. Where is the line of demarcation or control of conservation of the Barrier Reef? This is another angle in addition to those mentioned by the honourable member for Farrer which has to be decided. I certainly believe it reasonable and common sense that in dealing with conservation of the Great Barrier Reef the one authority should be able to exercise control in that direction. Since the Queensland Government will have control of those islands surely it should have the right, with Commonwealth assistance, to conserve this great national asset of ours.
There is another angle of special importance to my own State of Queensland, and that is the Torres Strait islands. We know the problems that have existed there. They have been mentioned earlier in this debate. I say that negotiations should take place on this matter between the Commonwealth and the States, and particularly the State of Queensland because of the special problems that exist there. But that does not mean that negotiations cannot take place with all the States. I am not suggesting that at all. Is it not possible to arrive at some sort of sensible agreement with the States? I believe it is. I do not believe that all the brains of this country are concentrated in this Parliament. I believe that there are men of high integrity and great national loyalty in our State Parliaments who will stand comparison with the members of this Parliament. I suggest that we do not get a body of people such as the whole of a government of a State and say that they are not prepared to look at anything from a national point of view. I refute that suggestion. Even in this Parliament we have had one ex-Prime Minister taking one point of view and another ex-Prime Minister taking another point of view. I respect the views of both of these men. But this demonstrates the great difficulties that are posed by this problem.
There are a number of other matters I want to mention. However, I want to say that it must be recognised that if the Commonwealth takes authority from the low water mark it is obvious that there will have to be co-operation with the States. Why not try to get this co-operation before this Bill is passed? Let us start that co-operation now between this Federal Government and the States and endeavour to resolve the problems that obviously exist. One would think that the Commonwealth Government would not have the same authority over the continental shelf as it has over the mainland. This is the impression that I have received from some of the speeches that have been made. Some honourable members have suggested that the Commonwealth Government will have no authority over those areas. 1 believe that the Commonwealth would have the same authority over those areas where it exerts authority as it has today. Because it has, the important matters that have to be dealt with by the Commonwealth can be dealt with at the present time.
As I mentioned before, the Commonwealth Government is quite competent to negotiate international agreements as it did in the negotiations which it carried out with Indonesia. It should be of some concern to all honourable members of this Parliament that all the State governments as far as we know at present are looking for advice as to their position in regard to the continental shelf. Why should they not get that advice? Why should they not come to the negotiating table with the maximum of qualified advice available ro them? I believe that they should also come to the negotiating table determined to try to resolve the position in a national way. So let us have a look at the offer which the Commonwealth Government is prepared to make to the States and in the light of that information let us in this Parliament decide whether or not the States have had the treatment that they are entitled to expect from this Commonwealth Parliament.
Mr KEOGH (Bowman)- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, on 2 occasions. Twice during his remarks the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) referred to my speech earlier this evening and on both occasions misrepresented me. He suggested that I misinterpreted or misrepresented material contained in an article in the ‘Courier Mail’ from which I quoted. To show that the intent of the article was quite clear and far from the point the honourable member made I quote the relevant passage as follows:
After a day of argument and negotiation in the Party room the majority of Liberals agreed to allow this legislation through so the question of sovereignty could be resolved.
That article appeared on page 1 of the Courier Mail’. The article from which the honourable member for Maranoa quoted - I looked it up in my office where I was listening to the broadcast of the honourable member’s speech - appeared on page 8. Until that time I had not read that article because I had not got beyond page 3 for laughing at the article I read there about the Democratic Labor Party takeover of the Country Party in Queensland. The second time the honourable member misrepresented me he spoke about remarks I had made and said that they indicated a lack of loyalty to my State of Queensland. He could not see how a person could have loyalty to Australia and not loyalty to Queensland. I refute that suggestion and would suggest, without reflection on the honourable member, that I would have as much loyalty to my State of Queensland as he has. Combined with the loyalty I have for my State is sympathy for the fact that it has a Country Party Premier inflicted on it.
-Order! The honourable member is starting to debate the issue.
- Mr Speaker, I am proud to be a Queenslander, but first and foremost I am immensely proud to be an Australian.
Mr CORBETT (Maranoa)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I certainly do. My remarks, to which the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) has referred, related to a Press release. I did not doubt that what he said was right. In fact, I know it was right. What I did say was that he had not turned the paper over far enough to get to the next page.
– The article the honourable member mentioned was on page 8.
– lt was on page 8. There is no question about that. If the honourable member had gone further he would have seen it. This is different from what the honourable member said. I certainly did not say that he could not be a loyal Australian and be a loyal Queenslander. He has misrepresented my remarks and I ask him to look at Hansard in the morning or whenever he gets it to see what I did say, because he has it completely wrong. There is no animosity on my part. I feel that the honourable member has completely misconstrued what was said in both instances and I hope that in future he will be more careful about his quotations.
– I am pleased to support this measure which, as I understand it and as it was presented quite clearly by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), has for its purpose the clarification of the argument about who controls the mineral rights in the territorial seas or submerged lands surrounding Australia extending out as far as the continental shelf. Some honourable members have suggested, and the amendment moved by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) expresses the opinion, that whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading the Commonwealth Government should, in consultation with the States, work out a co-operative regime for controlling the exploitation of these resources and that a generous royalty distribution to the States should commence forthwith. The Opposition is not looking at facts as they really are. If the Minister had not presented this Bill, which was promised by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and announced by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, the dispute would continue. The Commonwealth has offered the States the right to challenge this measure so that the matter can be clarified once and for all.
There has been argument about where the low water mark lies and what people might achieve by breaking the law by walking out into the water. Very few members in this place would be capable of walking very far on the water, although some might think they could. Even if we accept the present 3-mile limit the problem is still unresolved further out. Some people have told me that it is cheaper for them to buy a Commonwealth fishing licence than a State fishing licence.
The Commonwealth has recognised this and has insisted that a person must have a State fishing licence before a Commonwealth fishing licence can be obtained. The honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) spoke of his experience as Minister for Shipping and Transport when a disaster occurred in Torres Strait and the side was ripped out of the vessel ‘Ocean Grandeur’. He said that it was only because the wind was blowing from a certain direction that the oil slick was moved from a State responsibility to a shared responsibility. It is a fact, to which numerous speakers have referred in this debate, that only the Australian responsibility is recognised by other countries. States are not recognised in international disputes.
Mention has been made of the Great Barrier Reef. This concerns all Queenslanders and all Australians, because Australians regard the Great Barrier Reef as one of our greatest natural tourist attractions and one of the greatest wonders certainly of the South Pacific if not of the world. I remind honourable members that had it not been for the intervention of the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) when he was Prime Minister the Queensland Government might well have permitted oil exploration and various types of mining on certain parts of the Great Barrier Reef and certainly in proximity to the Great Barrier Reef where oil blows, if they occurred, could cause inestimable damage to the Barrier Reef. That was one instance of Commonwealth intervention. I am pleased that the right honourable member for Higgins has chosen to support this measure. Knowing of his support for it I realise it must give him a great deal of satisfaction to see this legislation once again before the Parliament, and so early in the lifetime of this Labor Government. The situation needs clarification. The amendment will not achieve anything. The only way to resolve the dispute is for the House to pass the Bill and reject the amendment. I support the Bill with much pleasure.
– This Bill has certainly created divisions in different sections of this House. It is a Bill upon which people speak with honesty and integrity, and those who speak in that way must be respected for the stand they take. I was gratified to hear the way in which the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) spoke when they supported the Bill. It was totally consistent with stands they have taken over the years. The right honourable member for Higgins sought to adopt his stand on what he saw as the national interest of Australia. All of us in one way or another, when we speak on a particular Bill - particularly a Bill of this kind - seek to support what we say in terms of the national interest. So it is not unusual that one person should adopt a different view of the national interest from another person. My view of the national interest is different from that of the right honourable member for Higgins and, more so, the view of the national interest that is taken by Government supporters. When Government supporters speak of the concept of the national interest I wonder whether they are speaking politically or whether they are speaking in terms of the people whom a Bill like this will affect. I look at the Bill to discover how it will affect people. When we speak of States and States’ rights I sometimes feel that we forget the people who live in particular places. There should be no condemnation of a person who says that he seeks to represent people in a particular place and so uphold a point of view because what he sees as happening will affect their vital interests detrimentally. That is the way in which I look at this Bill because it does affect the people of Western Australia in a most vital way. Where it affects people we can invoke the national interest on their behalf. To me the 2 things are synonymous because people make up a nation.
The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Kiilen) said that it does no harm at all to be involved in hard argument on a matter of this kind. Certainly it does not. I am grateful that I have been able to have hard argument with the honourable member, that he has been able to take the stand he has taken and that I have been able to take the stand that I have taken. This Parliament is a better place for it. I ask the House to look at the Bill in this way: We have heard a great deal about the need for the States and the Commonwealth to get together to agree, but if this Bill is considered as affecting people wherever they live, let us take our minds back to the time of Federation. What happened then? It was hard argument that created this great Federation and this great nation. It took years of effort and reason, years of argument and compromise until the people wherever they lived had a unified spirit to create a new nation.
At that time, the land mass of Australia was not considered to go beyond the low water mark, or perhaps 3 miles out from the low water mark. This was the area of concern to the people of Australia then, because they lived on shore. The search for minerals was conducted on shore. They farmed on shore and when they fished, they might go a mile or so off shore to catch a few fish. It has taken about 50 years for the people of Australia and the world to realise that off the great land masses and under the seas there is wealth. That is why people explore the sea bed. They explore it because there is wealth to be found there. Wells have to be drilled? there is oil or gas to be drawn up and converted into wealth for the benefit of the people who live on the land masses. 1 ask honourable members to bear that in mind when considering this Bill. Is it any wonder that people in the different parts of Australia are concerned when a government - not being the government which affects them directly - seeks to control absolutely the wealth that can be drawn from off their shores? Of course, when it is put in this way one would expect the people of Queensland to react in the way in which they have reacted. The same is true of the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Make no mistake - this Bill is not one that affects only the people of Western Australia or Queensland. After listening to honourable members opposite one would think that only Queenslanders and Western Australians are affected, but the continental shelf spreads right around the coast of Australia. The prospects of wealth being drawn off-shore may be as great for New South Wales as they are for Western Australia. I say that they may be, because the off-shore continental shelf of New South Wales has not been explored in the same way as the north-west shelf of Western Australia.
This Bill seeks to declare unilaterally by this Parliament that the Commonwealth has sovereignty over the territorial sea and the sea bed that hes underneath it. What is sovereignty? It ls a political concept which, when looked at fundamentally, has legal ramifications touching on international law. Certainly the subjects about which the honourable member for Moreton spoke, relating to the law of the sea, have ramifications flowing from the concept of sovereignty. Certainly on the international scene they have to be worked out in their own way, but so far as concerns Australia it is undoubted that the
Commonwealth Government is the Government of this nation which has international legal personality and it does this by invoking the external affairs power under the Constitution.
When we talk about the boundary between Papua New Guinea and Queensland and about inland waters and historic bays, these are matters on which the Commonwealth has constitutional power. The argument is put that the High Court of Australia is the appropriate legal authority to sort out the question of sovereignty but I suggest that when the High Court is invoked, in truth the Government is asking it to act as a legal arbitrator upon a political question. When that idea is grasped I think the people of Australia will appreciate that this measure involves political policy. Various speakers have referred to what the High Court might do but they have sought to prejudge the decision of the High Court in justification of their own arguments. That then is the most empty argument of all.
I suggest that Australians should get the record straight on what the Government is seeking to do by this Bill. It is an act pf political policy. To me the States are not geographical areas defined by lines on a map. The States are people and an act of political policy affects people. Have not the people of Western Australia a vital interest in the future of this Bill and in the waters that lap their shores? Have they not a vital interest in the minerals that lie on the sea bed or the petroleum that is being discovered off their coast? I put the simple proposition to the people of Australia that the sedimentary basins of Australia containing petroleum start on-shore. They simply move away from the coast and under the sea.
The States have complete control over exploration for petroleum and minerals onshore. Is there any reason why they should not participate in control and regulation of the sedimentary basins that merely move under the sea from the land? It is a simple proposition and I suggest that if it is put to the people of Australia they will give a very quick and simple answer. They will claim a say in what happens beyond the low water mark under the sea just off their shores. It is a simple proposition to grasp and it affects every State. Would not the Victorians want to have a say in the development of the Bass Strait oil and gas fields? Would not the people of New South Wales want a say in the continental shelf off Sydney? Would not the Queenslanders want a say in the continental shelf that lies off their shore? Similarly with South Australians. I do not see any reason why the people, wherever they live, should not have a say. That is what the amendment seeks to tell the people of Australia - that this Bill in truth is cutting them off from any participation in that development. Of course, the Government invokes the national interest in this. But when it is seen that this Bill is nothing more than an act of political policy, one must look at the Bill in the context of the whole platform and policies of the Government. I am indebted to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) for acknowledging this by saying that this Bill is a part of the resource policy of the Government. Of course it is. One has only to look at the platform of the Australian Labor Party and the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam) to see that this is what it is. It is one of those actions taken by this Government to implement the resource policy of the Government. I could relate them very quickly. They include such actions as the use of exchange controls to restrict overseas borrowing to support exploration in Australia; the use of the export control power to control the export of minerals, including petroleum; the removal of tax incentives for the raising of risk capital; the removal of petroleum subsidies to explorers; the instigation of a national fuel and energy authority; the implementation of a national pipeline authority; and, now, the last piece in the jigsaw, the last act to put the lid, as it were, on the resource policy of this Government has been to introduce this Bill.
One can see the matter traced quite easily. I refer firstly to the speech by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) when this Bill was being discussed in May last year. He put as the primary reason for the Opposition’s support of the BUI then that it gave effect to the resource policy of the Opposition, as it was. I refer to an article in the ‘Australian’ of 16th May by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. It is headed ‘How Labor moved into minerals’. The Minister stated:
The 1971 Launceston Conference of the Australian Labor Party laid down the basic platform for Australian resource development for a Labor Government.
These broad policies are now being implemented by the new Labor Government
He then goes on to relate some of the actions to which I have already referred. Right in the heart of these actions, which the Minister says are aimed at implementing this resource policy, is this:
Cabinet has . . . Directed the Attorney-General’s Department to draft legislation to assert sovereignty over minerals in the Australian continental shelf from the low water mark out.
I refer honourable members to the next statement by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. This is the statement that he made in the House on Federal petroleum search policy. The Minister stated:
In off-shore petroleum exploration, there is undoubted Commonwealth sovereignty, and I will be asking Government approval for appropriate legislation for the establishment of a national petroleum and minerals authority at an early date. Such an authority would explore, produce, transport and refine petroleum.
Then we have in this Bill the declaration in Part II of sovereignty in the Commonwealth over minerals that lie on the sea bed off-shore of Australia. In the second reading speech of the Minister, he rnakes quite ‘ clear that the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act and the agreement between the States giving effect to that legislation is part and parcel of his concept of a resource policy.
The Minister says, as has been pointed out by another honourable member in this debate, that that legislation and that’ agreement will continue to operate for the present and he repeats that again in a later part of his second reading speech. So, what are we to gather from this? Are we to assume that the Government will at some later time seek to amend or perhaps repeal this Bill by which it unilaterally declares its sovereignty over off-shore areas. WU1 the BUI be amended so that the Commonwealth Will have complete control over off-shore petroleum resources? It must be realised that, at present, control of those resources is given to the States of Australia by way of the designated authority, being in each case, the Minister for Mines of the State. So, the Minister for Mines can say who gets an exploration permit and who may, if he discovers oil or gas, produce from that permit.
Of course this is of vital interest to the people in each of the States. It is of vital interest to the people who live on the shore because, by that legislation, they can have a say in who explores, who develops and where the development will take place.. When one realises the wealth that can be produced from oil and gas, one can understand why it is a matter of concern that people should want to have a say in the destiny of their own State. This is what I want to see for the people of Western Australia and that is why it seems fundamental to me that, when we live in a federation which is a federation of people as much as of States, those people should have a say in the wealth that is produced from the sea bed that lies off their shore. But this Government is denying that participation to the people by the Bill that it is seeking to have implemented.
What can be wrong with seeking agreement in an area of this kind in the same way as our founding fathers sought agreement to create a new nation? There is nothing different in concept in this. I would have thought that with all the aspirations of the present Government, it would seek to instil a national unity of that kind in the people rather than create the divisions of the kind which this Bill has so drastically done. But no, the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the Government have no thought of that. The Government simply seeks to maintain in a unilateral declaration its sovereignty and it says: ‘Well, if you want to argue this, you go away and fight’.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr N. H. BOWEN (Parramatta)- I ask for leave to amend my amendment to the motion for the second reading of this Bill by omitting from the words proposed to be inserted the words ‘not declining to give the Bill a second reading speech and’. The motion would then read:
That all the words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House, while accepting that the question of Sovereignty should be determined, (a) deplores the method adopted by the Government, of proceeding without consultation with the States especially in relation to the code which is contained in Part III of the Bill, and (b) is of opinion that consultations with the States for a co-operative regime for controlling the exploitation of the resources and generous royalty distribution to the States should commence forthwith.’.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I support the Bill. Edmund Barton spoke of Australia as one land, one race, one flag and one destiny. Tonight we should be considering Australia in the terms in which Edmund Barton spoke - one nation, one flag and one destiny - and we should be considering the nation not as separate entities but forming one part of a very small and diminishing world. When it comes to the question of international conferences dealing with the subject that we are debating this evening, it is the Commonwealth which is represented at those meetings to determine problems in respect to this question. It is not a matter for individual States. Just because we reside within a State our standing as Australians does not diminish. When this nation is involved in any conflict, men leave its shores and serve in its defence not in the spirit of being New South Welshmen, Victorians or Western Australians, but as Australians - one people, one nation, one destiny. We belong to the one nation. We belong to Australia. In the consideration of the resources of this nation, the minerals and all the other wealth beneath the sea on the continental shelf, again we should not be dividing ourselves on a States basis. We should look at the overall problem of how these resources can best be used in the interests of the people of this nation.
I commend the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) on his action in regard to this matter. He has exhibited a brand of Australianism which has been lacking in the past when the resources of this country have been lost to it - and when the wealth of our country has been fed out to people living overseas by multi-national corporations which have had the opportunity of exploiting the great wealth of our nation. Regrettably, it is true that some of the States have engaged in what they thought was a form of speculation which would bring in some immediate return and have bartered away much of the wealth of our country. We cannot afford to continue this practice. When we are dealing with any other nation in trade and commerce we must deal as a nation and not as parts of a nation. If some nation comes to us to buy our coal or some other mineral won from the submerged lands or elsewhere, it comes as an organised economic unit to purchase what we have to sell but we are divided in our dealings with other nations. For that reason it is imperative that this matter be decided, and decided promptly.
I was particularly impressed this afternoon with the remarks of the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), who made national speeches or Australian speeches on an Australian subject. On questions such as this the Parliament should forget for once the narrow divisions that sometimes separate honourable members on questions of political attitude and party considerations on other matters. We should submerge those considerations, adopt a national attitude and put forward a point of view which will be intelligible not only within Australia but also outside this nation.
What has been the situation in the past on the question of the wealth won from beneath the ocean? This activity has been promoted by the national government, the Australian Government - past non-Labor governments - by way of assistance to companies searching for petroleum beneath the ocean in Bas Strait and elsewhere, by way of assistance provided by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and by way of subisides and taxation remissions. In all these fields it has been a national attitude which has helped to bring the development about. Then, having won certain rewards in this regard, the Commonwealth had vacated the field and left it to independent and individual States.
Let us look at some of the practices which have occurred. Take the case of Esso-BHP in Bass Strait. This was an example of the type of consultation that we have been asked to accept this evening. It is an experience that should have taught honourable members that this is not the most desirable practice. In the mid-1960s Esso-BHP was able to locate considerable reserves of petroleum products - oil and natural gas - in Bass Strait on the continental shelf. Despite the fact that they were found as a result of money made available by our national Government, the Australian Government, these resources have not been readily made available to the people of Australia. They have not been made available to the people all around the countryside. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), who spoke in this debate, is a former Minister for National Development and he represents an electorate which includes the city of Albury. That city, which is in close proximity to where the oil and natural gas have been found, has been unable to get natural gas up to this stage because of the man ner in which that resource has been handled. Surely if there was one honourable member in the House who should have cried out for a change of attitude on this matter it was the honourable member for Farrer.
Let us look a little further at the use of these resources. Sir William Pettingell, the energetic and capable administrator and executive of the Australian Gas Light Co., tried to negotiate a deal to get natural gas from Bass Strait for New South Wales. Despite all his efforts, he was unable to get it at the right price. Consequently, he had to become involved in oil and gas searches in the distant parts of New South Wales and eventually he had to make an arrangement to buy natural gas from Gidgealpa in South Australia. This is an experience that should be remembered.
The arrangements made in respect of the Bass Strait resources by Sir Henry Bolte, when Premier of Victoria, arid the nonLabor Federal Government of the time so tied up those resources that they were not available to the people of the rest of Australia. The price was prohibitive. Only now is EssoBHP coming to adopt a realistic attitude to the sale of these resources. I remind honourable members that some time ago I raised in this House a question about the sale of liquefied petroleum gas in New. South Wales by Esso-BHP. It was being sold, to the Lith- gow City Council at $52 a ton. However, the same resource, the availability of which was made possible by the provision of a subsidy, was going from Australia to Japan at $16 a ton. This is the sort of thing that we can and perhaps will correct in the foreseeable future. But before these matters can be dealt with effectively it is imperative that the law be known. We should establish beyond any doubt just where the Commonwealth stands in regard to the control of submerged lands and the resources won therefrom.
It has been said that the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick - I have read the remarks he made in the court case concerned- has declared that the State responsibility and authority ends at the low water mark. Be that as it may, accept that if we wish, whether it is true or false, the fact is that the question should be determined by the Court. It should be put beyond any shadow of doubt at all. And the only way that this can be accomplished is by a determination, firstly, of this national Parliament of Australia to legislate in the form of the Bills which have been presented by the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
It has been a sore point in Australian politics that much of our resources is being acquired and taken over by foreign companies. On whatever side of the House honourable members sit, they know that there is a great body of public opinion that is absolutely disgusted and fed up that this trend has been allowed to develop to the stage where the resources of our country have been acquired stealthily, skilfully and in a scheming way and placed in the ownership of people living outside our country. I have referred to the operations of Esso-BHP in Bass Strait, but look at the situation of Woodside-Burmah in the other lucrative field on the north-west shelf of Western Australia. There, too, is a case where foreign ownership has acquired great graticular blocks, tremendous areas of land such as would not be made available by the Arab States of the Middle East, yet we, the so-called enlightened Australians, have been prepared to allow this situation to develop.
The submerged lands in this area overlie tremendous wealth. They have been passed into the hands of foreign speculators and multi-national corporations. These resources should be in the hands of Australia. There should be an Australian policy determining these matters. United we stand in any matter; divided we fall. If we are united as Australians, speaking with an Australian voice, it will not be a voice which will be petulant; it will not be -harmful to one State as against another; it will have clear national objectives for the good of the Australian people. If we are incompetent and incapable of doing that we at least ought to surrender our rights to govern this country. Surely it is fundamental that the resources of our country should be in the charge and control of the nation and the Government of the nation. Whether the Government be Labor, Liberal or Country Party is beside the point. These areas should be in the charge of the nation and controlled by the government of this land.
So I make a plea tonight that this matter should be determined by the Parliament and a decision made once and for all time. We should determine the matter. If the validity of this legislation is to be tested in the courts of the land let the process come into operation. Let it be determined. Let us know where we stand. This situation of uncertainty and doubt while our country is being plundered is certainly not good enough for us. We must think too of our relationship with foreign countries, with Indonesia and other countries with which we have a continental shelf boundary and link. The time will come, as the honourable member for Moreton said this afternoon, when Papua New Guinea will be independent. What will be the situation there? After independence who knows what group of people from America, Japan, Canada, Russia, China or anywhere else will have a dominating say in the affairs of Papua New Guinea. Are we going to let this matter be handled by the Premier of Queensland and follow the line that he has followed? I hope not.
It is not for us to judge the attitudes of people who have been elected to lead their various States, but I want to make a plea for national unity in this matter. I plead for national understanding and national purpose so that the resources of Australia will be protected firstly for the people of this country. We all know that there is a great dearth of fuel and energy. Energy is a diminishing asset If the Government of the nation does not act to protect the rights of all the people of Australia through legislation of this kind it will have betrayed the people it was elected to represent and to serve.
Tonight I merely enter this debate at the eleventh hour with no previous intention to speak. But I was somewhat astonished to hear the attitude of ‘little Australians’. I was heartened by the words of the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins. I was encouraged very much by the remarks of the honourable member for Moreton and I have been stimulated by the remarks made by honourable members on the Government side who, with clarity and force, have declared Australia’s position and have also made a plea for a clear understanding of the legal situation in this important matter. I support the Bill.
– The previous speaker and I have one. feeling in common, and that is the feeling of astonishment. As a backbencher I was astonished to realise that in such an important matter as this a speaker for the Government would admit that he had no intention whatsoever of speaking on this vital matter until the eleventh hour. I share his feeling of astonishment when I consider the attitude of professional debating that he adopted, compared with the forthright contribution made by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner). In the charity of my own mind I make allowance for the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti). I realise that he is approaching the twilight of his career. I hope that at no stage of my career will I ever adopt the deliberate tactics of stonewalling and filibustering that I have had the displeasure of witnessing tonight.
I was in total disagreement with the platitudinous speech that he made. He spoke of the great problem of nationalism. Where did he stand last week when he had the opportunity of saying whether he believed in nationalism? Where did he vote when the Bill to amend the previous magnificent legislation of the past government - which stood for balanced development of Australia in cooperation with the States - and to set up a Cities Commission was introduced? Where was his spirit of nationalism then? When did he stand up to be counted? I appreciate the great contribution that he has made in the past, but I am very disturbed at having had to sit here for some 17 minutes and listen to his muddled thinking. I say on behalf of the people of Queensland, as the honourable member for Stirling said on behalf of the people of Stirling: Where was the sense of nationalism during the war years when the people of the southern States drew a line across the continent and called it the Brisbane Line? They completely disregarded the rights of the Queensland people at that time.
I am ashamed to have observed over recent weeks in this House the position of a certain gentleman from Melbourne sitting on the other side of the chamber and being surrounded by members of the Australian Labor Party because they realise that if they are to get pre-selection at the next election they have to dance to the strings that he pulls.
– The boss.
– I thank the honourable member for Petrie for his interjection. The boss is the right title. Taking a cue from that line of thought I offer a little advice to my friends.
– I rise on a point of order. I have listened now for 4 minutes, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I have not heard the honourable member mention one item contained in the Bill that is before this Parliament. I draw your attention to the fact that we have a Bill before the Parliament and I think it is up to you to keep the honourable member in line.
– I think the honourable member has gone slightly wide of the Bill.
– I thank you for your tolerance, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I was just developing my line of argument as opposed to the pseudo-nationalism that was displayed by the previous speaker. I appreciate the comment of my colleage, the honourable member for Calare (Mr England), that the Government is deliberately out to stop me making a fight on behalf of that great State of Queensland, ably led by that great Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Just developing the point on nationalism, I might sound a note of warning to the Government: Beware of being all honey running around the honey pot; you might get stung by the big bee.
Having dismissed to the best of my limited ability the rather innocuous remarks made by the honourable member for Macquarie, 1 will now proceed to make out a case in support of the magnificent contribution given in this debate by my colleague from Queensland, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), who, if he has not proved it to this Parliament before, certainly proved’ to it tonight that he is not afraid to stand up and fight for the principles, aims and objectives of a State which is being oppressed by a government deliberately bent on a policy of centralism.
The Bill before the House is another one in the long line of Bills which seek to erode further the sovereign rights of the States. I refer to legislation introduced by the present Government for the simple purpose of centralising all power in Canberra. As a Queenslander, I want to state, as my colleague the honourable member for Maranoa did, and I want to state it just as emphatically as he did, the opposition of that great State to the policies of this centralistic Government parading under a subterfuge of co-operative federalistic policies which, to say the least, are spattered with purple rhetoric and dun grey generalities. These policies of centralism are very well publicised, just as widely understood and most certainly not appreciated by the public of Queensland. The residents of that State refuse to go cap in hand begging favours from a socialistic Prime Minister. We will not religiously obey the whim and commands of a leader of a party who orders members of his party around - and let them deny it - with orders as crisp as a parade ground command and who thinks he can do the same to the States, which were in existence prior to the formation of the Commonwealth, which is in effect the creation of the States.
This Bill is an underhand attempt to reduce a group of complex concepts of delicate international and national law, concepts and data which have been rather difficult to clarify. I firmly uphold the view that this legislation is not concerned with accuracy and justice and State rights but is a thrust of pragmatic political professionalism in action. The Minister in his second reading speech said that the purpose of this Bill is ‘to remove any doubt about the exclusive right of the Commonwealth to sovereign control over the resources of the seabed off the coast of Australia and its Territories from the low water mark to the outer limits of the continental shelf.’ He admits and I quote from his .speech - ‘the question of jurisdiction and ownership in off-shore areas in doubt’. I note in the Press that the Premiers of the States of the Commonwealth are united in their opposition to the political manoeuverings of the centralist Government. I do not know what will happen at the next Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party when the Labor Premiers have to stand face to face with their masters. But there is doubt, and it is good to note that the States are unwilling to be trodden on by this centralist monster. I applaud their efforts to resist these demands and to fight this cancer of centralism.
The Minister in his second reading speech describes it as an intolerable situation if the Commonwealth had to seek State agreement before ratification of international treaties, agreements and conventions. He does not even want to have to ask them. He wishes to deny them their rights. He wants to wield the big stick. It is amazing how absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is just as well that he and his followers were in opposition for 23 years. We will see what they do now, because in that other House of responsibility in this Parliament senators made a great decision this afternoon. We will find out now whether the Government means business about a double dissolution. On behalf of my colleagues in the Australian Country Party I say the sooner the better, because if we have a double dissolution members on the Government side will find themselves on the Opposition side for another 23 years.
During the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) paid great attention to the position as it applied in the United States of America. As a rather good student, I now draw the attention of the Minister for Minerals and Energy, who is at the table, to the following position in the United States: By virtue of the Submerged Land Act of 1953, the coastal States, except for Texas and Florida, own the living and non-living resources of the seabed and the sub-soil of the sea out to 3 nautical miles from their coastline. Texas owns the resources out to 9 nautical miles from its coast and Florida out to 9 nautical miles from its gulf coast. That is the position in the United States of America, a country where there is a truly com-operative system of federalism, a country which retains and respects the rights of the States.
There should be consultation between the States. The position in Queensland is quite clear, notwithstanding the High Court judgment in Bonser v. La Macchia in which Barwick C:J. and Windeyer1 J, stated that the States had never had sovereignty over the offshore waters to the 3-mile limit either as colonies or as States. I quote from ‘Triumph in the Tropics’ by Cilento arid Lack, which is an historical sketch of Queensland prepared for the centenary celebrations of Queensland in 1959. 1 think it will do the Minister a lot of good to listen to the true position as it pertains in the State which is certainly the greatest one of all. The book states:
When Queensland was separated from New South Wales in 1859 her rights were not clearly defined regarding the islands ofl the coast. Letters patent dated 6th June 1859 and letters patent dated 13th March 1862 transferred to Queensland ‘all and every adjacent islands’, . . .
In 1865, the Governor of New South Wales granted a lease of Raine Island Oat. 11° 35’ S.; long. 144° 1’ E.), which is on the outer edge of the Barrier Reef and about sixty miles from the coast of Queensland.
On 30th May 1872, the Governor of Queensland was appointed Governor of all islands within sixty miles of the coast and these islands were transferred to Queensland by G.G. 1872. Vol. I, pp. 1325-6.
By letters patent dated 10th October 1878, Queensland was authorised to annex by Proclamation the islands beyond the sixty-mile limit, … the boundaries of Queensland were extended to include all islands of the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Straits and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The passing of the Imperial ‘Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act’ of 1901 rendered it necessary to issue a new Commission to the Governor of Queensland. Letters patent dated 29th October 1900 did not confirm those letters patent dated 10th October 1878. To place the matter beyond doubt, a fresh Commission was issued to the Governor of Queensland on loth June 192S. The result is that:
The maritime boundary of Queensland is the coastline from Point Danger to the 138th meridian in the Gulf of Carpentaria, together with all islands within the outer edge of the Barrier Reef and within a line drawn from the north-western point of the Reef to the 138th meridian.
Honourable members opposite may say what they like, but that is the position in Queensland. The Queensland Government by letters patent is authorised to have control of the Barrier Reef some 60 miles east of the coast and of the islands of the Torres Strait. That is the position as far as Queensland is concerned. We are concerned about the present Government, with its overt allegiance to the cities of Melbourne and Sydney and its complete disregard for the interests of rural people, as was indicated once again in this chamber this morning by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when, in his. cavalier fashion, he dismissed a question of rural importance asked by the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond). We are concerned about what the Government will endeavour to do to the Barrier Reef. On behalf of my fellow Queenslanders I say this to the centralist : Government: ‘Hands off the Barrier Reef. It is Queensland’s property. It is ours to have and to hold for ever. In no circumstance will we allow the control of that Reef and those islands to pass out of our hands. The Reef is one of the wonders of the world and, what is more important, it is ours’.
The argument is about whether the territorial sea is within the limits of the State. Far be it from me to join the procession of legal brains who have participated in this debate, but I think it is pertinent to point out that the Territorial Waters Jurisdiction Act of 1878 provided that, for the purposes of jurisdiction alone, the boundary of England was 3 miles out into the territorial sea. The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, in its submission to the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources, stated:
It has for a long time been undisputed in international law that, subject only to the right of ‘innocent passage’ for foreign ships, a coastal country has full sovereign rights in respect of the territorial sea and the seabed and subsoil beneath it in the same manner and to the same extent as it has full sovereign rights in respect of its land territory. In effect, in international law, the bed and subsoil of the territorial sea form part of the territory of a coastal country.
The evidence given to the Select Committee by the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department was that the legal position concerning the Territorial seabed between the Commonwealth and the States was uncertain. The Secretary was of the view that it was by no means unlikely that the High Court would find in favour of the States. . The learned authority, Dr Lumb, holds the opinion that the States have jurisdiction over the territorial seabed in respect of mineral exploration.
The States have differed in the past on the legal basis on which they rely for authority to legislate in respect of the territorial seabed. The great Australian, Sir Robert Menzies, summarised the position in respect of jurisdiction as follows:
The States say that within the territorial limits - which, being old-fashioned, we can call within the 3- mile limit - they have the sole jurisdiction. We don’t agree with that as a matter of law, but we on the other hand assert that outside territorial limits and on the continental shelf, which has a total area about 20 times the size of the territorial waters, the jurisdiction belongs to the Commonwealth.
The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen), who was then the AttorneyGeneral, took the view that there appeared to be difficulty and uncertainty about the position, at least within the 3-mile limit, and the possibility of a decision by the High Court in favour of the States could not be discounted.’
That is the position as I see . it. On behalf of the State of Queensland, I make an appeal to honourable members opposite to display the spirit of nationalism about which the honourable member for Macquarie spoke - a spirit of nationalism where the rights of a State, however small, shall be respected; where the rights of the person, as the honourable member for Stirling said, are of paramount importance; and where the historical gulfs and bays of the great State of Queensland and other States will be preserved and maintained as the responsibility of the State and will not be handed over to that monstrosity of centralism that is sought to be generated by a government which is intent on destroying private enterprise, a system of living which has stood the test of time in Australia and a system of living to which I am devoted to maintaining.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) and I are both new members of this Parliament. It came as rather a surprise to me to hear him refer to the remarks of the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) in the terms that he used. If both of us can do as well for the people of Australia and the people of the electorates we represent as the honourable member for Macquarie has done, I think that we will have served this Parliament and this country well.
One would think, from listening to the debate, that it was a question of Queensland against the rest. This is a national Parliament and we ought to be thinking about this issue in a national way. We are delegates and representatives of the Australian people elected to speak on their behalf in the national interest and not in the interests of the States. That is the important thing. It is the most important thing contained in this Bill. It is not a question of centralism at all; it is a question of whether the Australian people should be able to assert their sovereignty over the waters around our coast. Some years ago the Victorian Government made what I believe to be a grave mistake as far as the petroleum resources off the coast were concerned.
– That is an understatement.
– It is an understatement. In Canada the national Government controlled the leases in that country and many hundreds of millions of dollars came to the Government of Canada through the proper sale of leases for petroleum exploration. This sort of money did not come to the State of Victoria. We see the sorry situation where schools, hospitals, roads and public transport generally go without sufficient funds because the interests were sold out partly to overseas interests. Let us see that this sort of thing never happens again. We owe loyalty to this country; not to particular States. I am amazed at the attitude of some of the members of this Parliament who try to make this a question only of State rights. In this country we certainly need co-operation between the States, but we need to think of ourselves, first and foremost, as Australians. The States lost their opportunity to participate in the councils of, as it was then, the British Empire in 1902 when they did not even deign to attend.
I think that the Parliament agreed some years ago that this Bill was urgent and that it ought to be introduced. The time has now come. Having regard to the remarks that have been made, particularly those of the honourable member for Darling Downs, when the Bill comes to a vote it will be interesting to see how honourable members will vote on this issue as members of a national Parliament concerned with the national interest. Why should we not pass a Bill which will give the people of Australia, for the first time in our history since Federation, absolute and complete control over these assets which are of such great importance to the Australian people? We need to protect our environment and to conserve our national resources. This Bill will do. this. It is about time that we stopped talking about State interests and started to talk about the interests of the country to which we all belong - Australia.
– Order! The time allotted for all stages of the Bill has expired.
That the. words proposed to be omitted (Mr N. H. Bowen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 10 May (vide page 201 1), on motion by Mr Connon
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, I understand that the Bill before the House is to impose a royalty on minerals other than petroleum recovered from submerged lands. I support this Bill, which is a natural consequence of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill which has just been passed. I think it is important to say something about the philosophy of this Bill.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation in the House.
– I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your protection. It is important to realise that the philosophy behind this Bill depends upon the view we take as to the ownership of the minerals in these submerged lands. I supported the concept behind the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill because I believe that these lands are in Australian ownership rather than in the ownership of any one State. I heard the honourable mem ber for Stirling (Mr Viner), for example, say that he represented a State, that he represented an electorate and that it was his business to push the interests of that State and that electorate. That is fair enough. But I represent an electorate and a State and it seems to me that I should have a similar right, and I shall certainly exercise a similar right, to protect the interests of my constituents who, in my eyes, are just as important as the constituents of the honourable member for Stirling arein his eyes. We are both looking at the interests of our constituents. I say that we must look at this as Australians because all Australians should share in this wealth and in the royalties that come from it.
It has been said that these submerged lands are adjacent to a land mass. So what? At the time when the boundaries of the land mass were determined there was no idea of any value in the submerged lands adjacent to them. They were just part of the sea. The only title that we have to them for the future comes as an Australian title and not as a Queensland title, a New South Wales title or a Western Australian title. It is an Australian title and the windfall should come equally to all Australians. All Australians are entitled to share it. The people of New South Wales are just as much entitled to get a royalty from the submerged lands off north Western Australia as are the people of Perth. They have an equal right in this because it is in virtue of our Australian title that these lands are now capable of providing royalties under this Bill. For that reason and because these are windfalls, I say that all Australians have an equal right and I, as a representative of an electorate in New South Wales want to put forward the rights of the people in my electorate and the rights of the people of New South Wales.
As it happens the shallow off-shore areas which are of interest are much more extensive off Western Australia and Queensland than they are off New South Wales. But that is irrelevant. The people of New South Wales have just as much right as the people of Western Australia to the submerged lands off the coast of Western Australia because they are coming to us by virtue of an Australian title and not of a Western Australian title. The same will be true in regard to Queensland. I stand up for the rights of my people in New South Wales and my people in the electorate of Mackellar just as, very rightly, the honourable member for Stirling, for example, stands up for the rights of the people in his electorate of Stirling and the people of Western Australia. That is fair enough. I believe that there is very great wealth in these off-shore lands. I am not going, of course, to canvass the legal position which will be determined for us in due course by the High Court, and there may be legal questions and issues. But insofar as we consider the political questions and not the legal questions it seems to be just elementary justice that all Australians should share equally in all these benefits.
– Give us a share of your factories in New South Wales.
– The honourable member for Stirling says: ‘Give us a share of your factories in New South Wales’. These factories happen to be on the land mass. I do not for one moment say that we should take over the minerals on the land mass. Those belong to the people of the States. But the off-shore minerals do not belong to the people of the States. They belong to the people of Australia as a whole and, as I have said, all Australians are entitled to share equally in the benefits that come from them. The Bill before us makes provision for the imposition of a royalty. Naturally, the legal validity of the Bill–
-Order! The time allowed for all stages of the Bill has expired. The question is:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-The question now is:
That the remaining stages of the Bill be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Libraries in Tertiary Institutions - Constitutional Review - Tourism - Political Parties - Co-operative Federalism
-Order! It being 15 minutes past 10 o’clock p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House of 1st March, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Few persons associated with tertiary education dispute the fact that libraries are essential for satisfactory teaching and learning to proceed at tertiary institutions. This claim is well documented, not only in Australian publications, but also in those emanating from overseas. In its first report 6 years ago the Wark Committee stressed the need for first rate facilities in colleges of advanced education. Undoubtedly the Committee realised the importance of libraries in tertiary education institutions and spoke of them as vitally imp’ortant services.
The University Grants Committee in Great Britain in its report - the Parry report - comes out very strongly on this matter. The Committee suggests:
The character and efficiency of a university may be gauged by its treatment of its- central organ, the library. We regard the fullest provision for library maintenance as the primary and most vital need in the equipment of the university.
In its first report, the Wark Committee, commenting upon the college libraries said that few deficiencies struck it more forcibly than the inadequacy of libraries. The situation some 6 years later is not noticeably improved.
Colleges of advanced education libraries are sometimes regarded by governments as less important than libraries in universities. This fallacy is quickly disproven by the following reasons advanced by a number of bodies, including advisory bodies to the Government itself. The library is of central significance in any tertiary institution. It provides a resources and information service which is an essential supplement to formal teaching. The library will be a major means in providing the liberal education which is to supplement the vocational courses in the colleges. There has been a greater emphasis placed on libraries by college staff in the last few years. This trend will continue. The facilities to cater for it do not exist.
The library can teach skills in information retrieval which are useful in employment. The library provides study facilities and thereby promotes self-disciplined learning. The part time student needs the library no less than his full time counterpart. His need is, instead, for different hours and for more reader services. The vocational nature of college courses generally means a large number of classes, but still requires use of a library. Technical journals are required, as are course books and material for a general education. College students generally come from poorer family backgrounds than do university students, and are less able to afford to buy the books required for their course reading. The library therefore must have them available.
Why then. I ask, is it that college libraries have only one-third the number of serials per student as have universities? There is seating for only one-sixth of the students in colleges of advanced education libraries but seating for one-quarter in universities. College libraries are open for only two-thirds of the time that university libraries are open, despite their greater proportion of part-time students. College libraries have only 40 per cent of the number of books per students as have universities. College libraries spend less than half as much per student as do university libraries. Yet university libraries are increasing their book stocks at 6 times the rate of college libraries. Blame cannot be levelled at the universities, foi their libraries are far from adequate. Instead, these figures indicate that there is a double standard in tertiary education, that college libraries are grossly inadequate and that their rate of improvement is far too slow.
The nearest major libraries to Toowoomba are in Brisbane at the university and at the State library, neither of which is in a position to meet the reference and bibliographic needs of the Institute in addition to meeting the needs of its immediate clientele. Toowoomba is not able to rely on substantial assistance from any other library. A survey of country college reference collections, undertaken by the Association of Librarians in colleges of advanced education during the early part of 1972, indicated that most of the libraries did not hold reference works which are absolutely vital for an in-depth study of many subjects. When such works are not in the collections of college libraries situated in the capital cities, students and staff have the opportunity of using them in other libraries in those cities. However, this simply is not the case in colleges situated in country areas. Country colleges of advanced education libraries well recognise the need which they should fulfil in servicing local industry and commerce by providing technical and scientific information. The Australian Commission on Advanced Education has stressed this point in each of its reports. However this vital service cannot be provided without adequate resources and when it is, using the present inadequate collections, students and staff within the college must suffer.
At the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education in Toowoomba in 1973 there are 1,213 attending students and 606 external students. The library at present holds only 22,000 books. According to the standards outlined at page 61 of the second report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education the library falls within category 3 and should have a book stock of 80,000 volumes with 700 to 1,000 periodical subscriptions. This, of course, simply is not the case. With its grossly inadequate collection the library cannot serve students and staff as it should and, of course, they are the ones who suffer. It is my belief fiat when the Commission is distributing the $5m unmatched grant for libraries being offered in this triennium, special consideration should be given to the plight of country colleges.
At the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education it will be impossible for the library to come anywhere near the standards set by the Commission in its second report. It is expected that by the end of 1973 the library will hold 24,000 volumes; by the end of 1974, 31,000 volumes; and by the end of 1975, 38,000 volumes. Funds available for the purchase of materials for the library are $41,000 in 1973, $66,000 in 1974 and $84,000 in 1975. The increasing cost of acquisition being experienced by the library suggests that it will be impossible for the library to reach the goal of 38,000 volumes by 1975 with the money that is available. I submit that there is a clear case for the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education at Toowoomba-
– Where is that?
– I suspected that my honourable friend opposite might not have known where Toowoomba was and I sought to improve his education. I realise he has a narrow outlook which begins and ends at the airport in Brisbane. There is a clear case for the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education to receive special consideration in the allocation of funds as the development of the library which is possible using existing funds is such that it will not be possible for it to meet fully the needs of student and staff at any stage in the foreseeable future.
In conclusion I make a strong plea for colleges of advanced education in rural areas to be given special consideration on this important question of libraries. As I said initially, it is not possible for country students to do as constituents of the honourable members for Bowman (Mr Keogh) and Lilley (Mr Doyle) can do, namely, to borrow books from the university or another college of advanced education in the next street. These students have no tertiary education institutions available to them within a distance of 100 miles. Mail deliveries are sometimes slow and when books are mailed there is sometimes the problem of someone taking them and keeping them for a long time. So in the interests of decentralisation and as a means of casting our minds further afield than the cities of Melbourne and Sydney-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I remind all honourable members that when the Chair calls time, an honourable member’s speech in Hansard will conclude at the last word before that call.
– I want to speak on the urgent need for constitutional change in this country, a subject which is, I think, rather appropriate having regard to what has gone on earlier this evening. As honourable members will know, the history of Federation in Australia had a rather tortuous path to follow during the late 1890s. The statesmen in this country - there were a few then - felt that there was an urgent need for Australia to be regarded as one nation, so a convention was called. Discussions extended over a number of years. It was decided to recommend to the Imperial Parliament that Australia become a Commonwealth, a federation of States. The Act to federate Australia and produce the Constitution finally was carried. It was a compromise constitution because State rights were just as strongly held then as they are now, perhaps more so. However, one wonders whether we have progressed very much in the last 70 years.
The Constitution was out of date when the Act was passed; it is even more out of date now. Therefore I greeted the news that a new constitutional convention was to be held with a great deal of satisfaction. This convention will meet shortly. Due, I believe, to the activity of the Australian Labor Party on the question of local government and the need for it to be represented, local government will be represented at that convention. At a meeting held last Monday the steering committee agreed to recommend to the convention that local government be given direct representation consisting of 3 representatives from each State, 2 from the Northern Territory and one from the Australian Capital Territory and that representatives from each State should include one representative of the capital of the State. The steering committee decided further that the representatives be nominated by local government, but that the method of selecting the 3 representatives from local government in each State would be left to the parliamentary delegation from that State. The point was that the parliamentary delegates from each State should decide who to ask to select the representatives of local government, not that the parliamentary delegates themselves would choose those representatives. I believe it is long overdue for local government to be represented at the highest councils of this nation.
Responsibilities of local government during the 70 years since Federation have changed a great deal. Local government bodies now are not concerned only with bridges, roads, draingage and associated matters. They are much more concerned with pre-schools and social welfare, providing sufficient public open spaces and sports ground and community recreation facilities generally. For far too long the ordinary ratepayer has had to bear the burden. One of the first steps we must take to see that the financial burden of supporting local government is spread more evenly, is to enable local government bodies to be properly represented where the real decisions are made. I believe that the coming convention will be a land mark.
One of the real problems of local government finance is that rates, generally speaking, are fixed on a flat basis. Regardless of income, the same amount of rates is paid. This is particularly noticeable in areas where the unimproved capital value rating system is employed. The system has many advantages, but it also has a disadvantage which I will describe. In a residential area a pensioner may live next door to a millionaire. The millionaire is paying marginal income tax at the rate of 66c in $1. If he pays $100 in rates he gets a refund of $66. If the pensioner is unfortunate enough to live in a State where no rebate is given, he receives nothing back from the $100 rates that he pays, because he pays no income tax. It is a ridiculous situation in which a millionaire pays about $33 in rates and a pensioner pays $100. That is only one of the inequities of the present system.
This Government is pledged to give local government finance from the Commonwealth
Grants Commission and to allow local government bodies to be represented at the Australian Loan Council. Therefore we should see a change in the situation. Referendums in the Commonwealth have not been very successful in getting proposals carried. It seems to me that a convention to operate on modern lines with overall representation is the best means of changing a set of rules, for that is what the Constitution is, designed in a horse and buggy era, for more modern structure. The disadvantages of the States in respect of the Constitution are only too well brought out by what is happening in the States.
I will refer briefly to my home State of Victoria. Let us look, for instance, at what is happening in regard to handicapped children. The Government has a policy concerning the welfare of handicapped children but it is not always able to implement it. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) invited a Victorian Government committee to give information to the Interim Schools Committee so that the Commonwealth could assist in the education of handicapped children in Victoria. The Victorian Government has not responded to the request. Experience in respect of a needs survey was similar. Victoria delayed giving information even to the Liberal Government that preceded the present Government. It did not make its material public in Victoria. It provided only limited information to the previous Government. Every other State co-operated.
In the field of transport, the Bureau oi Transport Economics sought information from all States on transport needs during the term of office of the McMahon Government. Mr Wilcox, the Victorian Minister for Transport, was completely unco-operative which meant that Victoria was placed last because of the total lack of information. The report of the Bureau said that Victoria was the only State which refused to provide full details of its capital requirements. Victoria refused to allow the Bureau to run its own check on the economic feasibility of its demands for assistance for new projects. There are many cases of this lack of co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth. As I said before, we need more national planning. I hope that the constitutional convention which will be held late this month and in succeeding months will be able to do something about making sure that the needs of this country are properly planned for.
– I desire to speak tonight on the subject of tourism as it affects Australia. The report of the Australian Tourist Commission for 1971-72 has just been received. It has revealed that an ever-increasing number of tourists are visiting Australia. For example, in 1970 the number of tourists was 338,395. In 1971 the number was 388,660, an increase of 14.9 per cent. However, this represented a significant decrease in the growth rate of 22.7 per cent experienced in 1970. A decline in the number of tourists must give us cause for concern. No doubt the growth of our tourist industry can be partly explained in terms of the increasingly competitive nature of international tourism, in respect of both travel costs and tourist facilities. In other words, Australia remains a relatively more expensive country to visit and its tourist facilities suffer by comparison with those of our major competitors.
Our neighbour New Zealand has also suffered a decline in visitor growth. The growth rate of 17.2 per cent in 1970 dropped to 1.7 per cent in 1971. Cheaper air fares to Europe have affected the flow of visitors from New Zealand to Australia. Of all visitors to Australia, 21.5 per cent come from the United States. New Zealand provides 25.3 per cent; the United Kingdom 11.4 per cent; continental Europe 8 per cent; Japan 4.1 per cent; Malaysia 3.3 per cent; and other nations 26.4 per cent. What must give us cause for concern is that the number of Australian tourists travelling overseas exceeds the number of tourists coming to Australia. This can largely be attributed to the cheaper air fares operating out of Australia not only on overseas airlines but also on Qantas, our own airline.
Australian tourists spent $170m more overseas than foreign tourists spent in Australia last year. In 1971 Australians spent only $60m more overseas than visitors to Australia spent here. Mr Atkinson, the General Manager of the Australian Tourist Commission, said recently that Qantas-initiated low fares to Europe and package tours were major reasons for the increase in the number of Australians holidaying abroad. Qantas last year initiated moves leading to the introduction of $420 one way and $700 return air fares to Europe. It also started a package tour scheme offering Australians 8 days in Singapore, including accommodation, for about $268.
The Australian Tourist Commission has been trying to narrow the gap and had been doing so until the lower fares were introduced by Qantas. The Commission is not critical of the lower fares. It thinks it would be bad to discourage Australians from going abroad. It welcomes the aggressive marketing mood of Qantas as a sign of an active and progressive organisation. The Commission believes that the inclusive tour charter flight scheme of Qantas to South East Asia has been responsible for few foreign tourists coming to Australia. Mr Atkinson also stated that he ‘looked forward to the time Qantas operated similar schemes between Japan and North America and Australia. Then the many people wanting to tour Australia could be exploited’. The local industry and those who serve it will have to pull their socks up. They will have to improve their marketing and their standard of service and accommodation.
One has only to look at recent Press reports throughout Australia to see headings like the one in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 9th January which states: ‘Our tourist resorts are poor’. This seems to be the opinion that has been circulating overseas about this country. So, as I have stated, the people involved in the local tourist industry will have to pull their socks up. If they want to attract tourists to this country they must provide up to date, modern hotel and motel facilities. Above all, they will have to get out into the market place and actively compete for custom. Nothing is more certain than that in the near future the industry will face much stiffer competition from abroad. Our problem is that the cheaper fares are being offered to countries which have a low cost structure. In Australia, by comparison, building and labour costs are high. This in turn means higher tariffs. The domestic airlines have already responded to the challenge by offering a wide range of cheap interstate package tours. However, the fact remains that holiday travel within Australia still is comparatively expensive. While it is expensive, Fiji, New Zealand and other outer Pacific and South East Asian countries will continue to have the edge on Australia’s major resort areas and tourist spots. So our tourist operators will have to have a good look at the situation and make every effort to improve it to attract more visitors from overseas, and this will mean more revenue for Australia.
I have also mentioned that we must improve our hotel and motel accommodation. Tourists like comfort and modern amenities to which they are accustomed in overseas countries. Various State governments have set up tourists departments which support financially country regional tourist associations and a splendid job is being done in this field. For instance, New South Wales has established regional tourist associations throughout that State. These regional tourist associations are supported by the State Government which assists them financially to employ a regional tourist officer and to promote tourism in their areas. But I feel that we should be doing more in our federal capacity to promote and develop tourism in Australia. We have a Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) in the Federal Government. He is doing a good job. He is getting about and encouraging tourist activities throughout the country. I also pay a tribute to the Australian Tourist Commission, which is doing a splendid job. I personally have had communications with the Commission with regard to tourist facilities in my own area. The Commission is sending an officer to the area to look at the facilities so that it can advertise them overseas and overseas visitors will know where there are places in this country that they can see Australian farm life and the general Australian way of life.
Most country members and, of course, city members as well have tourist attractions in their electorates. In my electorate of Paterson we have many tourist attractions. We have the great Glenbawn Dam on the Hunter River above Scone; this is a major tourist attraction. We have the Cullingral Ranch at Merriwa about which the Australian Tourist Commission wrote to me. This is a splendid tourist attraction. It has motel type accommodation and 3,000 acres under sheep and cattle where overseas visitors, particularly Americans, can be accommodated in comfort and where they can see our great agricultural industries at first hand. So I say that we should all get out and promote Australia as a tourist attraction because tourism not only advertises our great country but also brings to it valuable income that we need.
– It is good to hear the contributions from members of the Australian Country Party this evening. I was wondering why they jump to their feet during the adjournment debate and I suddenly recalled, of course, that soon we will hear of the marriage - whether it is shotgun or unhappy, I do not know - of the Australian Country Party and the Democratic Labor
Party to form a united front across the nation. It would seem that the honourable members for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) and Maranoa (Mr Corbett) are intent to make a contribution that will mark them down as safe for re-endorsement by their king maker, Senator Gair, when they come up for reelection.
Having made that aside, I should like to refer to the matter on which I originally rose to speak tonight. I rise to express :ny concern about a matter that vitally affects my electorate of La Trobe - a matter that exemplifies the undermining influences that operate to the detriment of co-operative federalism. Honourable members may be aware that the electorate of La Trobe is an area largely composed of the outer eastern suburbs of the rural fringe of Melbourne. Rapid expansion of the population in areas like Boronia, Croydon, Montrose and Scoresby and the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges has meant that the demand for services such as those provided by local government, community services and drainage, as well as health services has greatly outstripped the supply. Nowhere is the demand greater than the supply than in the area of educational services. In an attempt at least to house the explosion of primary and secondary students at the schools the State Liberal Government has adopted a policy of providing portable classrooms. This »t has done rather than opt for a crash program to provide permanent buildings, ls it any wonder that amongst teachers the policy is described as ‘portable madness’.
Under the systems and techniques used by the present Administration in Victoria, the present timing of construction for a school in my area or any area is 3 to 5 years. We would halve this if we were to allow the regional directorates to be set up and regional directorates to undertake a crash program utilising local knowledge and resources. With a little more activity at local level and a little more knowledge of the surrounding area in the eastern suburbs, 1 believe that, rather than portable madness, we could have a planned program of permanent buildings.
Many schools are operating with short staffs, with the consequence that school curricula are severely curtailed and a full option of subjects is not offered to children in some schools. In other schools, subjects are ter minated or delayed in mid-term because teacher replacements cannot be obtained and teacher timetables become a nightmare to the principals. The position is worsened when we realise that the State Government has spent only about 5500,000 of the Commonwealth grant of S3m for libraries in the last period of allocation. Many schools are still without a library which is essential and central to the schools’ studies and activities. Suddenly, the money now is available for strategic spending. But what of the education or lack of it over these years while the money was being salted away?
With such disregard exhibited by the State Libera] Government towards education, the morale of the teaching staff is low and I receive countless letters from parents complaining of the interruptions to their children’s education. They are anxious about the future of their children and the lack of education that they receive, despite the determined and dedicated teaching staff. This is not a recent picture. It is a story that has been repeated for years, particularly in the expanding outer areas of Melbourne. As part of the answer to this concern and as the new member for La Trobe, elected as part of the new Labor Government, I issued a questionnaire in February of this year to principals of all schools in the electorate, private and government, primary and secondary, that cover the area south of Lilydale. This questionnaire was a needs survey that sought details which I could incorporate into a submission to the Schools Commission in order to improve the state of education in this area. Each questionnaire was accompanied by a letter that explained the purpose of the survey. And here is the rub. On 30th March the State Liberal member for Scoresby, Mr Geoff Hayes, MLA, wrote to the principals discouraging replies to the survey and charging me with committing a breach of parliamentary privilege in that I used House of Representatives note paper to correspond with the principals. It should be noted that the State member for Scoresby wrote his letter of discouragement on State parliamentary note paper.
The role of the Commonwealth in financing education in Australia is becoming more important every day. This Parliament and this Government are becoming more involved in providing education for young children at a standard higher than ever before. In honouring the promises which were rewarded so overwhelmingly by a mandate from the people - one was for the establishment of a Schools Commission to apportion Federal funds on the basis of need1 - it was obligatory on me to do what I could for the electorate, working within the scope of the Schools Commission and on the principle of open government. The needs survey I conducted in the electorate met these demands. Who would spend money without knowing the needs and priorities for spending that money? I venture to suggest that noone but a businessman bent on self-destruction would do so.
Far from there being a breach of parliamentary privilege on my part, for nothing could be further from the truth, my action was a fulfilment at the local level of my parliamentary duty. But, I submit that the State Liberal member for Scoresby, in writing to the principals of the schools involved with the intention of discouraging replies to the needs survey has deliberately interfered with the work of a Federal parliamentarian in carrying out his duties. I draw the attention of honourable members to this matter so that they may be prepared for any similar interference in their work. This is not an example of a State member exerting or protecting his State’s rights. It is an example of an attempt to frustrate the co-operative spirit that must exist between the 3 levels of government - tocal, State and Federal - if the problems of education and other community services are to be overcome.
I also submit that, in using parliamentary note paper to interfere with and frustrate the duties of a Federal member, the State Liberal member for Scoresby has laid himself open to a charge of breach of parliamentary privilege. The State member’s charge against me cannot be sustained but is exposed for what it is - a political action designed to discredit me as the Labor Federal representative for La Trobe and to enhance his own electoral prospects at the Victorian State election to be held this Saturday. I do not believe that the people will be fooled. The question at issue is the future of co-operative federalism. I would like to place on public record that whoever wins the State electorates covered by my electorate will receive my full co-operation in all. those activities and policies that are in the public interest. Parliamentarians, State and Federal, cannot jeopardise the public welfare by undermining each other’s efforts and duties for cheap political gain. They must co-operate, especially in those areas where the people have given such an overwhelming mandate to the Federal Government as was given to this Government in the field of education. I believe that it is not too much to expect a reciprocal offer from the State members, whoever they might be after Saturday, to the offer I have reiterated tonight.
– It is not my intention to reply to the silly asides of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb). Tonight I appeal to the Government not to deny to rural towns, which have already planned for it, the opportunity to attract people. This House recently passed the Cities Commission Bill and enough argument was put by honourable members on this side of the House against persisting with such a devastating plan. I make the plea particularly for the Shire of Warragul, of whose Council I have the honour to be a member. Only last week the Treasurer (Mr Crean) visited the shire at the invitation of the Develop Warragul Committee and the Council. The Shire President and his wife went to great trouble to ensure that the Treasurer was well feted and given the opportunity to see for himself the great potential for development of our town at a minimum cost to this nation.
I believe that the case presented for the resiting of the Reserve Bank’s note printing works was one of irrefutable facts and I am sure that except for a decision having previously been made by the directors of the Bank the Treasurer would have given his approval. However, as he quite rightly stated, the decision was a technical one and he would not override it. But he said that he would do his best to get the directors to reconsider the decision with my Shire. I pay a compliment to the Treasurer for the attitude that he took and the helpful advice that he gave to the development committee. But I am sure that he would agree with me that the project would provide a natural development for the town of Warragul and the towns within a 40-mile radius.
This project would take out of the metropolitan area approximately 1,000 employees and their families into a pollutant-free environment and provide a wonderful opportunity for the economic use of many natural resources within the Central Gippsland region. Quite often people tend to forget that those in rural communities have certain rights and they should not be denied these rights because of a huge commitment to new cities throughout the State. The Central Gippsland area provides a golden opportunity for viable and economic expansion. The Treasurer sees great merit in the case presented to him. He sees the economic utilisation of the natural resources, not only by that industry and region but also by the ancillary industries and the existing industrial development that is already taking place.
These opportunities should not be denied to any area which has similar ambitious development programs. I hope that the new legislation will allow some financial assistance to be given for the development of other than proposed cities, such as the Albury-Wodonga complex. In recognising the need to decentralise, I believe we all agree that we need to take into consideration the available recreational, vocational and environmental amenities in close proximity. These amenities exist within a very short radius of the ribbon development envisaged towards and including the Latrobe Valley. The strangling growth of Melbourne can be solved by such development eastward, and this development can be properly planned to eliminate completely any possibility of pollution. Development to the north, including Albury-Wodonga, has only one outlet for its effluent and that is down the Murray River. I think that problem will be created there. The ribbon development towards the Central Gippsland area presents a wonderful opportunity to resite the note printing works on an economic basis. It would provide employment and also the opportunity for the surrounding areas to be properly developed on an economic basis.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Order! The House stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 10 a.m. or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the chair.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m. until 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 22nd May 1973, or until such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the chair.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Weekly Wage Rates: Adult Males (Question No. 51)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What action has been taken to grant public lending rights to Australian authors.
– The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The grant of a public lending right to Australian authors is part of the policy of the Government. The means by which this might be done is under examination in my Department. The matter has also been referred to the Literature Board of the Australian Council for the Arts to study. The Literature Board has established a committee under the chairmanship of Professor Geoffrey Blainey to examine the matter.
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am advised that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Second ary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the following information:
Drafting of general standards for pharmaceutical products which include contraceptive preparations has reached an advanced stage. This matter will shortly be ‘ considered by the Therapeutic Goods Standards Committee and then the Therapeutic Goods Advisory Committee. Work on additional specific standards for microdose formulations is also under way.
It should be appreciated that although neither of our present official Standards Compendia, viz. the British Pharmacopoeia and the British Pharmaceutical Codex, contains standards to cover contraceptive combinations, these formulations are being subjected to comprehensive testing and analysis by the Department of Health.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question, which is based on information supplied to me by the Minister for Health, is as follows:
(a) Calculations based on assumptions which overestimate the risk, show that the survey will have no discernible effect on the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory. The results of such calculations are given in the appended table.
Additionally, indirect benefits are expected to derive from the medical follow-up of contacts of sufferers and the discovery of persons with certain chest abnormalities who are prone to break down with tuberculosis.
asked the Minister representing the Special Minister of State, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Official and Non-official Post Offices (Question No. 505)
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Brigade and Ambulance. This number is in use in all State capital cities and Canberra, and also at a number of country centres. It is the aim of the Department to extend this emergency number to all centres eventually but, in each case, this depends upon satisfactory negotiations with the authorities concerned.
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
People’s Republic of China: Recognition by Canada (Question No. 490)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The Australian Government recognises the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China, acknowledges the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China, and has decided to remove its official representation from Taiwan before 25th January 1973.’-
The substantantive passage of the Sino-Canadian communique released on 13th October 1970 reads:
The Chinese Government reaffirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China. The Canadian Government takes note of this position of the Chinese Government.
The Canadian Government recognises the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China.’
Canada did not have official representation in Taiwan at the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations with China. With this in mind I consider mat there are no significant differences between the 2 passages cited.
People’s Republic of China: Recognition by Britain (Question No. 491)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The Australian Government recognises the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China, acknowledges the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China, and has decided to remove its official representation from Taiwan before 25th January 1973’.
The substantive passage of the Sino-British communique of 13th March 1972 reads: “The Government of the United Kingdom, acknowledging the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China, have decided to remove their official representation in Taiwan on 13th March 1972. The Government of the United Kingdom recognise the Government of the People’s Republic of China’.
There are no significant differences between the 2 passages cited.
People’s Republic of China and United States of America: Diplomatic Relations (Question No. 49Z)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Republic of China, managed to achieve exchange of representatives with both the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Taiwan.
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 May 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730517_reps_28_hor84/>.