29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 12 noon, and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
Foreign Students in Australia: Rights
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens and foreign students in Australia respectfully showeth:
That many foreign students in Australia, as well as many Australian students are deeply concerned at the political surveillance of foreign students in Australia by the officials of foreign missions from the nations of these students, particularly students from Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and South Vietnam.
That the undersigned strongly object to the extension into Australia of the laws of foreign nations in regard to the political activities and or beliefs engaged in by foreign students during their stay in Australia.
That foreign students on their return home have in fact been charged with activities engaged in while in Australia which under Australian Law are legal.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will ensure that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bennett, Mr Berinson, Mr Collard, Mr Dawkins and Mr Kerin.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction,
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over540,000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilized in Light Water Reactors overseas,
And whereas the Maximum Permissible Inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.00000025 gram,
And whereas Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers,
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years.
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized particles, its most dangerous form,
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us an import of Plutonium panicles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere.
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only earth available to us,
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-mcdical uses,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia (electors of the Division of Mitchell ) respectfully showeth:
Whereas the six million people of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latavia and Estonia, occupied and unlawfully annexed by the Soviet Union, have been deprived of freedom and civil rights and therefore are unable to express their will, the Australian Government has recognized de jure the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union. The recognition of the incorporation by the Australian Government is against the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as adopted by the United Nations.
We the petitioners wish to express our concern and dismay and humbly ask that the Government’s recognition of the incorporation be retracted.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cadman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia hereby showeth:
That the so-called Family Law Bill belies its name and is possibly the biggest misnomer of any Bill to come before Parliament.
It is anti-family and anti-marriage.
It is a Bill for disposable marriage, abandoning families, a charter for Casanova.
A Bill for legalizing de-facto polygamy at the taxpayer’s expense.
This Bill violates the natural rights of children and of mothers, and strikes at the very basis and stability of society. Broken homes are one of the main causes of rottenness in Society today and this Bill encourages the breakdown of Christian principals on which this nation was founded.
This Bill, and many others, will destroy the confidence of the Australian people, and deprive future generations of the heritage of Truth, Justice and Democracy.
Therefore we seek your support in opposing the so-called Family Law Bill.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Family Law Bill be postponed, till full Parliamentary debate on welfare aspects can be assured.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kevin Cairns.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Clayton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfuly showeth:
Government through taxation. Further, they believe that this economic support should be in the form of per pupil grants which are directly related to the cost of educating an Australian child in a government school.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that, as an interim measure, the Government will immediately increase the current grants being made to children in non-government schools to at least 50 per cent of the cost of educating children in government schools, thus enabling the nongovernment schools to continue to exist and fulfill their function of educating Australian children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That as the proposed Family Law Bill, in fact, removes all existing marriage laws and substitutes for these a simple notification by one partner to the court that he/she desires formal release from marriage thus causing life long emotional anguish to the other partner, with no compensation for this emotional and material injury.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the proposed Family Law Bill not dishonor lawful expectations of existing marriages.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Luchetti.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Ausutralia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australian more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions’ efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the reduction of the allowable deduction of education expenses under Section 82 J of the Income Tax Assessment Act from $400 to $150 is $50.00 below the1956/57 figure.
That this reduction will impose hardships on many parents who have children attending school, whether nongovernment or government; and particularly on parents with more than one child at school.
That this reduction will further restrict the freedom available to parents to make a choice of school for their children.
That some parents who have chosen to send their children to a non-government school will have to withdraw their children and send them to government schools already over crowded and under staffed.
That parents should be encouraged by the Australian Government to exercise freedom of choice of the type of school they wish for their children. The proposed reduction means an additional financial penalty is imposed on parents who try to exercise this choice and discourages them from making an important financial contribution to Australian education over and above what they contribute through taxation.
That an alternative system, a tax rebate system, could be adopted as being more equitable for all parents with children at school.
To compensate for the losses that will follow from the proposed reduction and to help meet escalating educational costs faced by all families your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should take immediate steps to restore educational benefits to parents, at least at the 1973/1974 level either by increasing taxation deductions or through taxation rebates.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Mathews.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we are concerned at letters in the press inferring that the Family Law Bill should be delayed. We are opposed to such action on the grounds that there has been ample time to discuss the bill with the community, and we are informed and believe that many submissions have been considered by Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee and the report of that Committee is substantially in accord with the Family Law Bill.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill be debated and passed as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Mathews.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed Universal Health Scheme is essential to the well being of all Australians, in so far as it will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will hasten to introduce this much needed scheme so that health care service in Australia can begin to function equitably, efficiently, and economically.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
– I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration: Is he aware that in the State of Victoria and, in fact, throughout Australia there is a vast number of Aborigines registered with his Department awaiting employment? Is he also aware that while the Commonwealth employment Service has been given top staffing priority for the introduction of the National Employment and Training Scheme, the Aboriginal employment section of the Department has been stopped from filling 35 essential positions- 10 vocational officers and 25 Aboriginal employment assistants- because of a staff ceiling imposed on this section of the Department? The Minister will recall that I sent him a note on this matter several days ago. I now ask the Minister: What action has been taken oris in the process of being taken to fill these positions in order that speedy assistance can be given to see that Aboriginal unemployed are not forgotten and passed over?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his interest in this matter. He has evinced a considerable amount of interest in the question of Aboriginal employment and I congratulate him for that. There are in the Department 52 positions for vocational officers and of those 52 positions 10 are vacant. There are 25 positions for assistant vacational officers and none of these have been filled because of the staff ceiling which had applied until quite recently. The staff ceiling in respect of my Department has now been lifted because of the very heavy burden that has been thrown upon it through the unemployment obligations of the Department and of the National Employment and Training scheme and the Regional Employment Development scheme.
I assure the honourable gentleman that there is no discrimination at all against Aborigines. I would be the very first to take appropriate action to prevent it if any evidence were produced to suggest that there is discrimination. There is within the Department an Aboriginal section but the officers of it are attached to the regional offices of the various States in the normal way and they are allocated jobs that are appropriate to their qualifications. We do make a special effort to have a fairly large percentage of the Department’s total Aboriginal work force stationed in areas of the States where a fairly high or even a moderate number of Aborigional people are living so that they can have the opportunity of servicing the Aborigines there. I believe that Aboriginal officers are the best ones for handling Aboriginal problems. I conclude by again thanking the honourable member for bis interest in this matter. Now that he has raised the matter, I will ask my Department for a further statement on the current position and what the position is likely to be in the future.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to statements made recently by the Queensland Premier to the effect that Queenslanders are worse off under this Federal Labor Government than they were under previous Liberal-Country Party Federal governments? Is it not a fact that individual Queenslanders are infinitely better off under this Government?
– Not only are Queenslanders much better off since the change of Federal government, but they would be better off still if the outgoing Queensland Government had cooperated with the Federal Government in the way that every other State government has. In financial terms Queensland receives from the Australian Labor Government this year an amount of $739m. That means that
Queenslanders receive per head $39 more than the average payment per head by the Australian Government to all State governments. In total, Queensland receives $70m more than it would receive if the per capita payments were the same in Queensland as they are over the average of all the Australian States. Last year Australian Government grants to Queensland for primary and secondary education were up 145 per cent on the year before; for tertiary education they were up 165 per cent on the year before; for technical education they were up 1 10 per cent on the year before; for welfare housing they were 20 per cent above the previous year and for Aboriginal advancement they were nearly 30 per cent above the previous year.
For welfare housing the Queensland Government was assured of a blank cheque by me on 7 June last, as all State governments were. We said that we would pay for every housing commission house for which they could let a contract. Health and welfare, roads and urban and rural development in Queensland are. all getting record amounts from my Government. In fact, if the Queensland Government had co-operated no further with the Australian Government than the other non-Labor State governments it would be receiving more than $50m more than it is. The money is available under Acts passed by this Parliament with the support of both Liberal and Country Party members of both Houses.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to take a point of order. This answer is not being listened to by the House. It is blatant politicking.
– No point of order is involved.
– All of those who still sit behind the right honourable gentleman voted for this legislation under which other State governments, including non-Labor ones, have benefited. They have taken benefits on behalf of the residents of their States. If Queensland had similarly taken the benefit of legislation passed by this Parliament with the support of the Liberal Party and Country Party members in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, as well as Labor members in both chambers, Queensland would already have received $50m more than it has. The money is available for the asking. Above that, of course, Queensland has received $70m more in grants than it would have received if it were receiving only the average per capita amounts for all the Australian States.
– Is the Minister for Labor and Immigration aware of a report that Australia’s $25,000 a year community relations officer, Mr Grassby, claims that he is handling more than 300 problems a week from troubled migrants? Is he also aware that the same report carries the claim that this gentleman sees his job as partially relieving some of the burdens that would have eventually fallen to Ministers and that, in making recommendations, he is often able to cut corners where a departmental officer would stick to the letter of the law? Does this gentleman have any statutory authority to cut corners or to make any commitments on behalf of the Government in relation to migrant problems? Does he have any authority to take any actions not available to other public servants, particularly those in the Department of Labor and Immigration, who continually deal with the problems of migrants?
-Mr Grassby is holding a position of considerable importance with the Attorney-General’s Department. It is designed to ensure that migrants in the community are not exploited. He has been instrumental in preventing the exploitation of many migrants. I do not know how many but I think it must be running now into several hundreds. Some of the migrants have been required to pay large sums of money to get, from agencies which have no right to make a charge upon a migrant for this service, an extension of a visitor’s visa. Migrants have been able to go to Mr Grassby and to ask Mr Grassby: ‘Is it in order for the travel agency to ask me to pay $90 to get an extension of my tourist visa?’ The fact that the alert Mr Grassby is on the job has contributed in no small measure to the fact that these shyster travel agencies have started to pull their horns in a bit. He has been able to draw to my attention examples of employers who have been employing overstaying visitors at below award rates and have been threatening to expose them if they do not work hard or if they attempt to obtain more money. The alert and very active Mr Grassby is there to help them and always does so.
The establishment of this office was long overdue. What amazes me is that former governmentsthat is, governments before 2 December 1972 -had not realised the problems that migrants had to face. What amazes me is that they did not bother even to think about appointing a person like Mr Grassby or establishing an office such as the one that he now hold to do this sort of work. Mr Grassby may cut corners to the extent that it is legal and lawful to do so. I dare say he does. He is not a man who fools around writing unnecessary letters or ringing up on the telephone unnecessarily. Mr Grassby has always been a man of immense activity, a man of great action. He is not a man who likes to get himself tangled up in red tape. I can assure honourable members that I have studied the work that Mr Grassby has done with an enormous amount of interest and great admiration. I have never in my life seen a man do so much work with a small office staff such as Mr Grassby has. He has an amazing capacity to get things done. I congratulate the Government on his appointment and I congratulate migrants for having a friend like Mr Grassby to whom they can turn.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I preface it by referring to remarks made by the honourable member for Parramatta in this House on 13 November 1 974. He said:
Specifically I ask the Prime Minister whether his Ministers were differing in the approach to be taken to the development of the Meggitt’s site in Parramatta for a Commonwealth office block. The site, as honourable members know, was acquired in 1973 following negotiations that were commenced during the time of my predecessor, the former honourable member for Parramatta, Mr Nigel Bowen.
I therefore ask the Minister whether those remarks accurately reflect the situation. If not, will he explain the correct position to the House?
– The remarks made by the honourable member for Parramatta on 13 November 1974 do not reflect the true position in any way. At a public hearing of the Public Works Committee in 1972 all Labor members of that Committee argued against a building for public servants being erected on a site at Woolloomooloo. On the evidence put forward by advisers to me while 1 was in Opposition we were able to persuade one Government member of the Committee to vote with the Opposition members at the time against the Commonwealth centre being sited at Woolloomooloo. For several years I had been agitating to have Commonwealth centres located at such places as Parramatta and Liverpool in Sydney and similar decentralised localities in Melbourne. Following the decision of the Public Works Committee, in desperation the then honourable member for Parramatta made representations to try to get a regional centre sited in Parramatta. The then Minister for the Interior in October 1972 placed a submission before Cabinet. The recommendation was not accepted.
In April 1973 the Australian Government acquired the Meggitt’s site at Parramatta. We also acquired the petrol station on the northwestern corner of that site. My colleague, the Minister for Services and Property, is negotiating with the Parramatta City Council for the acquisition of a baby health centre which will be incorporated into the site. The Government has also decided to acquire a right of way access from Marsden Street to integrate the development of the Australian Government site with the proposed development of Murray Brothers (Parramatta) Pty Ltd, which also faces Marsden Street. That property extends through the proposed mall in Church Street, Parramatta. Not only has a decision been made but also the Minister for Services and Property and I have recommended that 2,500 Australian Government public servants be located in the first phase of the building on this site. The ultimate development will provide for between 4,500 to 5,500 people to be located at the site. There will be, unlike-
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The time is twenty minutes past twelve and only 4 questions have been asked today. What has happened is that 2 questions have been clearly Dorothy Dix questions. The other 2 questions have come from this side of the House. It is perfectly obvious that Ministers are frustrating question time in order to protect themselves from having to answer questions.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– We would be quite happy to give leave for statements of this kind to be made after question time. Ministers are destroying the whole of the parliamentary procedures by this action.
– Order! As I have repeatedly said in the House, I have no jurisdiction over the length of an answer given to a question. The only thing I can do is appeal to a Minister to be as brief as possible with his answer.
– Unlike the previous Government which constructed isolated buildings without providing any services and other facilities, we are making 250,000 square feet of space available for civic, community and staff amenity facilities, for retail purposes and for other related office use. We will be able to make available a car parking area for from 500 to 1 ,000 cars. The area will be landscaped. As I said earlier, the Minister for Services and Property is negotiating with the Parramatta City Council to incorporate a baby health centre. There will be a right of way into the new Murray Brothers development. I make it perfectly clear that what we are developing in Parramatta will be a prototype for development in other parts of Australia, such as the Ringwood development in Melbourne. We will be making shopping facilities available. We will be incorporating welfare services and civic offices in order to serve the public. There will be senior citizen centres, baby health centres, legal aid centres, theatres and cinemas, restaurants, convention centres, child welfare centres, an an gallery and other facilities. Unlike the other government this Whitlam Government has a new thought and a new belief. It does not believe in isolating public servants; they should be involved in the mainstream of life.
– Is the Minister for Labor and Immigration aware that there is a great deal of criticism in Victoria against his Government’s Regional Employment Development Scheme as well as substantial delay in payments of unemployment relief, particularly to those who are classified as being retrenched because of Government decisions? Is it true that the Department can process only about 25 per cent of the applications which are coming in for unemployment relief and that naturally the delay is becoming greater? Is it also true that the Department’s decision on the RED scheme is recognised as too slow because too many committees have to approve of the various works proposed? Will the Minister reconsider the overall situation with a view to introducing a scheme similar to the drought relief scheme of the previous Government?
-There has been a delay. I acknowledge that. But it is a delay which comes from a desire by the Department to make sure that all ordinary and proper steps are taken to ensure that public moneys are not improperly spent or allocated. We could easily have obviated the delay by adopting a slipshod way of dealing with programs. Rather than do anything which could later be criticised as having resulted in the use of public moneys on projects which were not entitled to be carried out with such money, we thought it better to have some delay and to be absolutely certain that the scheme was above board. We did not want to rush in and agree to things without making proper inquiries.
Of course one of the problems was that we had a ceiling, as did every other department, beyond which we could not recruit officers. The ceiling was a one per cent recruitment increase. Now that that ceiling has been lifted we will be able to make recruitments fairly quickly. But if we were to recruit 529 officers tomorrow morning it would not be possible immediately to put the 529 new recruits into the sort of work that they would be called upon to do and expect them to understand it. There would need to be some training of them, and this would take time. But at least now we have the authority to make that recruitment. The income maintenance scheme does take a long time to clear up, but it is the kind of scheme which is open to abuse. We have had examples of where abuses have occurred. Even though we have taken great care to see that people who are not entitled to benefit from the scheme are excluded from it, there are still one or two who creep through. Again it becomes a question of-
– How many are there on the income maintenance scheme now?
-Around about 5,000- plucking a figure off the top of my head.
– What would they be getting? An average wage of about $ 1 40?
-What average wage a week are they getting?
– Yes about $ 1 40?
-Are you talking about income maintenance?
-Income maintenance, as you would know so well, is not an average figure, but is a set figure of $93.60 a week. So there is no such thing as an average because the figure is set at the average award rate for the previous quarter.
– No. I am referring to the income maintenance for the tariff scheme for the last 6 months.
– I beg your pardon. I thought that you were talking at the moment about the National Employment and Training Scheme. The income maintenance scheme is an average rate. I cannot give you the average figure off the top of may head either, I am sorry to say, because it is calculated according to the gross income of the employee for the previous 6 months, and that could range from possibly $90 or even, in the case of unskilled people as low as $80 up to as much maybe, with overtime, as $200. 1 would not know.
– So they would be getting more than people still in employment if overtime is cut out?
– Yes. That is a very clever interjection and a very good one. Of course, if the pay of people for 6 months prior to their retrenchment included a level of 4. 1 hours a week which was the average rate of ovetime at that time, and if that industry is now reduced to an average overtime rate of 3. 1 hours a week, obviously people on income maintenance would be getting more for not working than those who were still in employment. You are quite right, and it is a point very well taken.
– Forty dollars or $50 a week in some cases.
– I would not think that it would be $40 or $50 a week.
– I think it is a fact.
– I would not think so. I think that you ought to try to be a bit better with figures in the future than you have been in the past. If your present figures are as far out as your figures were last Wednesday, I think we can say that about $20 a week would be closer to the mark.
– What about the question?
-Yes, I am coming back to you now. You asked about the RED scheme, I think.
– Will you see that these people get paid before Christmas?
– I do not know. I would certainly hope so. The RED scheme has been criticised in Victoria, so the honourable gentleman says. Mr Hamer has criticised it. He says that he would like to have the old system under which the McMahon Government would give the State governments a sum of money each month and then not give a damn- I am sorry to say that- not care one iota about where it was spent. If they like to spend it on chipping grass, that was OK with the McMahon Government; but it is not with the Whitlam Government. The Whitlam Government wants something done that will be of some social benefit to the community in the area or region concerned. It wants to see developed areas that will be of some enormous benefit to generations even yet unborn, and that is what we propose to do. Mr Hamer has criticised the RED scheme. Even Mr BjelkePetersen has criticised it. To my knowledge, there has been one single solitary local governing body that has so far criticised it. I would rather have this scheme operating, under which the local Federal member can inform me whether the project is a worthwhile one so that the Government has some tab on what is being done, than the old scheme under which we gave the money to the States, and the members of this Parliament, from both sides of the House, were completely ignored by the State governments. That is not the way that it ought to be done.
-Clyde, we got unemployment down to 88,000. You are getting it up to 350,000.
-Well, Bill, I did not know that. I would like to get back to the final part of the question. Is the delay in approving projects due to having too many committees? I do not think so; and yet it may be. Who can tell? The reason that we set up the second series of committees, that is the State committees, was to meet the criticism of the State Premiers, who said that if there was to be a RED scheme they felt that the State authorities ought to be brought into it. So obligingly we brought them into it by setting up 6 State committees which could vet the schemes at the State level and which could then send their decisions on to the Federal committee which would normally, almost pro forma, agree to them. If the cost of a project exceeds $ 100,000, it is then referred to the RED Ministers. If a project costs less than $100,000, the RED Ministers authorise me to approve of it on their behalf, provided that I report to them at the subsequent meeting what projects I have approved under that power.
This means that we have streamlined procedures and eliminated all red tape. Schemes now go directly to the State committees and within a day they reach the central committee. They are approved by me that night and on each Wednesday my RED colleagues look at what I have approved and decide whether or not they will endorse my decision. I thank the honourable member for Wimmera for the question.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement by the Queensland Premier on a Townsville television program this week in which he claimed that he had received no answer to his plea to the Prime Minister to give the local authorities the money that they should have had some 12 months ago?
-My attention has been drawn to the transcript of a telecast that Mr Bjelke-Petersen made last Monday night in Townsville. The statement that he made and to which the honourable gentleman refers was inaccurate at the time that the telecast was made. The segment in which the Premier appeared had been recorded the week before it was shown. At the time he made the statement he knew that it would be inaccurate by the time that the telecast was shown. The Premier was referring to grants made to local government under legislation which, at the time the Premier made the telecast, had been passed by both Houses. The legislation awaited only the Governor-General’s signature, and that was given last Friday week. A week ago a cheque was paid to the Queensland Treasurer- the one who says he would make a better Premier than Mr Bjelke-Petersen.
The same day telegrams were sent to all local government bodies in Queensland to advise them that the cheque had been paid to the Treasurer. Under the terms of the legislation passed by this Parliament, the individual cheques had to be paid in full and promptly to the local government bodies. The Premier’s telecast was shown in Townsville. The Townsville City Council had already received $250,000 under the program. To sum up, the legislation had already been passed by the Parliament at the time the Premier made his telecast, as he knew. As soon as the Governor-General had signed the legislation the cheque was paid to the Treasurer of Queensland, and he promptly paid the individual cheques.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware of the concern felt in the rural industries about the possibility that the duty may be increased on 4-wheeI drive vehicles such as Land Rovers and Toyotas? Is he aware that these vehicles are essential tools of trade for the economic development of rough, tough country? As there is no local Australian production of 4-wheel drive vehicles to protect will he assure me that the duty on completely built up Toyotas will not be increased to 45 per cent and that the duty on Land Rovers, which are imported in a knocked down form and assembled here, will not be increased to 35 per cent, as seems to have been suggested by him in his recent statement on motor vehicles? As those of us who believe in lower tariffs now have hardly a feather left to fly with, will the Prime Minister at least see that we have a vehicle left to drive?
-The difference in duty on 4-wheel drive vehicles and ordinary 2 -wheel drive passenger vehicles will be less than it was hitherto. The reduction of margin will be in accordance with the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission. The honourable gentleman knows well the high regard in which I hold him on these matters and the heed 1 always pay to his views. If he wishes to have any further information on the matter I will be very happy to provide it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I refer to the fact that the Hospitals and Health Services Commission has appointed a committee to examine health careers, personnel and training so that statistics and recommendations in this area, which have been sadly lacking in the past, can be obtained to help the Government in its planning of health services and thereby enable it to meet the real needs of the community. Is the Minister aware that professionals in the health fields are anxiously awaiting the committee’s report? Can he give any information as to when the report will be available?
– It is true that previously there has not been a national survey of health manpower. The committee is at the moment editing its proposed report, which will be its first report. It presume that it will be a continuing committee and that this will not be its final report. The committee has assured me that the initial report will be available before the next session- in other words, I assume, early in February. The report should provide information not only to the professional groups who are awaiting the report but also to bodies like the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, the State governments and others who have to plan education, training and manpower in the health field.
– I ask a question of the about to be retired Treasurer. I ask, relative to some information which he presented to the House yesterday, whether he will agree that the pertinent point of the allowability for tax purposes of contributions to the John Curtin House Appeal in the letter written to him or to the trustees of the Appeal by an officer of the Taxation Office was that widespread publicity would be given to contributions if an organisation conducting business was to achieve deductibility? If that is so, will he advise, firstly, whether it is intended to give widespread publicity to the names of donors to the John Curtin House Appeal and, secondly, as no such publicity was given to those who contributed to the John McEwen House Appeal, how does he justify his assertion that deductibility was claimed by and granted to those who contributed to the John McEwen House Appeal?
– This is the third occasion on which I have attempted to clarify a point. I did not start this off. It was made a political argument by the honourable member for Wannon. I tried to set out the position clearly. The gifts are covered specifically by section 78 ( 1 ) (a) which lists a number of specific funds. There is no question of the disallowance of any contribution made by an individual to those funds. The section also lists a number of broad heads such as public benevolent institutions and certain widely known charitable organisations. Contributions to these institutions are also allowed as a deduction. I repeat that no individual may receive a deduction for contributions to John Curtin House, John McEwen House or even Menzies House. I am not drawing any distinctions. They are or were all estimable gentlemen in their own right. However, section 5 1 of the Income Tax Act deals with what are called losses and outgoings. It is in the hands of the Commissioner of Taxation to decide what is an outgoing in relation to a business. In the case of some outgoings in connection with John McEwen House- I am not specificing any particular firm- the Commissioner deemed that they were outgoings and were therefore deductible for income tax purposes. As far as John Curtin House is concerned, the financial year in which a deduction may be claimed has not yet terminated and the question has not arisen.
– What about the publicity?
– The honourable member is now talking about something that his Party started and he is referring to something which happened 10 years ago and which everybody has forgotten. I have no doubt that a question or two was asked in this House about McEwen House. I am not resurrecting that matter. I am simply stating as a fact that some deductions were allowed in respect of McEwen House. No deductions have yet been allowed for Curtin House, and whether they are allowed in terms of section 5 1 will be for the Commissioner of Taxation to decide. In the statement that the honourable gentleman issued outside the House yesterday he accused me apparently of a breach of secrecy. There has been no breach of secrecy. I am very circumspect about that kind of thing. But equally, if the honourable gentleman wants to maintain the subterfuge that some contributions to McEwen House, which were allowed as tax deductions, were not allowed he must live with his own conscience.
-I ask the Minister for Urban and Regional Development: What is delaying action on the development of the GosfordWyong growth centre? Is the Australian Government prepared to honour its commitment to assist financially with roads, transport, water. sewerage and other services that are deficient due to years of State and Australian Government neglect? Is the Government also prepared to contribute towards the development of the new city of Warnervale-Wyee? I ask again: What is rousing the delay?
– The Cities Commission report which was tabled in this Parliament early in 1 973 nominated Wyong-Gosford as a future growth area. It recommended that a development corporation should be set up between the Australian Government and State authorities to develop that area. Regrettably, to date little progess has been made with the New South Wales Government in regard to this development corporation. I might say that the area of Wyong-Gosford certainly fared very favourably in its grants from the Australian Government through the Grants Commission. It is now receiving money from the Australian Government under the national sewerage program. For the first time money will be paid through the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement for local urban roads. My colleague, the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), has made many grants in that area for improvement of recreational facilities.
It is my view and the Government’s view that a development corporation should be set up with the State Government to develop this region because it is a very sensitive environmental area. The lake areas particularly have been exploited. There has been a great deal of destruction in the sensitive rain forest areas. It is my view that the creation of a development corporation in that area needs the financial backing of the Australian Government and the New South Wales Government, but it can be done only if the New South Wales Government seeks it. We have made a great deal of progress in the CampbelltownHolsworthy corridor which was also nominated, but to date little progress has been made in regard to the Wyong-Gosford area. It is not the fault of the Australian Government. We are prepared to work with the New South Wales Government in setting up a development corporation in this area.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether there has been any change in the Government’s program for the progressive abolition of the means test. If there has been, will the Minister be good enough to outline the current program?
– The last statement on this matter was made in about July, and I have nothing to add to it.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a report that the Australian Labor Party is interfering in the proper working of the Party system in this House? Will the Prime Minister assure the House that this accusation has no foundation in fact?
– I assume that the honourable gentleman must be referring to a statement attributed in the Press to the Leader of the Opposition that the attempt on his position by some of his supporters last week was a propaganda exercise by the Australian Labor Party. I thought I made it plain a week ago that this could not be further from the truth. None of us wanted to bring him down. We are doing our best to prop him up.
– I call the honourable member for Kooyong.
-Mr Speaker -
– I ask that further questions be put on the notice paper.
-I have been called.
– That does not affect my request.
-For the information of honourable members I present a paper in the nature of a Green Paper on International Women’s Year 1975.
-For the information of honourable members of the present Parliament I present the text of a Convention which has entered into force and to which Australia is considering becoming a party by ratification on Human Rights Day, 10 December- to wit International Labour Organisation Convention No. 100, the Equal Remuneration Convention 1951. Some few of us might remember that Mr Holt, as Minister for Labour and National Service, tabled the Convention on 15 October 1953 but did not undertake to ratify it.
– I present for the information of honourable members the report on yarns, knitted fabrics and towelling, dated 10 November 1 974, prepared by the Textiles Authority within the Industries Assistance Commission.
– For the information of honourable members I present 2 reports entitled. ‘The Status of the Technology- Coal Gasification Oil from Coal’ prepared by the National Coal Research Advisory Committee and the ninth annual report of the National Coal Research Advisory Committee covering the period from November 1972 to November 1973. In tabling these documents I am fulfilling an undertaking made in my response to question No. 907, put by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). Due to the limited numbers available, I have arranged for reference copies of these documents to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable members I present the following papers: Notes of the ninth meeting of Australian and State Labour Ministers held on Friday, 22 February 1 974 and notes of the tenth meeting of Australian and State Labour Ministers held on Friday, 30 August 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present the following paper: Report of the Interim Committee of the Australian Council for Trade Union Training 1973-74.
– Pursuant to section 50B (3) of the Defence Service Homes Act 1 9 1 8- 1 973 I present the annual report of the Director of Defence Service Homes for the year ended 30 June 1974, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements. The interim version of the report was tabled in the House on 1 8 September 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present the first annual report of the Australian Government Department of Housing and Construction 1973-74.
– Pursuant to section 33(3) of the Criminology Research Act 1971 I present the second annual report of the operations of the Australian institute of Criminology together with financial statements for the period ended 30 June 1974.
-(Canberra-Minister for Manufacturing Industry)- Pursuant to section 43(5) of the aforementioned Act I present he second annual report of the Criminology Research Council for the period ended 30 June 1974
– Pursuant to section 19 of the AngloAustralian Telescope Agreement Act 1 970- 197 1 I present the annual report of the AngloAustralian Telescope Board for the year ended 30 June 1 974. Due to the limited number of copies available at this time I have arranged for reference copies of this report to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. I refer to the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that the question I asked this morning of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development was a Dorothy Dixer. This is a suggestion which I definitely resent because it is inaccurate. Indeed, to the contrary, I have undertaken considerable research into this matter.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I suggest that this is not a personal explanation.
– I remind the honourable member for Chifley that he will not be permitted to debate the matter or to explain why he undertook research. He will state plainly where he has been misrepresented. If his explanation is that this was not a Dorothy Dix question that is all he need say and he may then resume his seat.
– The point I have made, and which I am in the course of making, is that it was not a Dorothy Dixer.
– What is a Dorothy Dixer?
-My question was the subject of very considerable research into the accuracy of the statements of the honourable member for Parramatta.
– I have heard so many references to Dorothy Dixers that I should like some honourable member to tell me what actually is a Dorothy Dixer.
-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement arising out of something which was said during the adjournment debate on 25 November 1974.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted?
– I shall be brief. During the adjournment debate on 25 November 1974 I criticised the Sydney ‘Sun’ newspaper which employed a Mr Ralph Wragg as its financial editor and said that the New South Wales Commissioner for Corporate Affairs had exposed Mr Wragg in relation to an inquiry dealing with insider trading in shares of Endurance Mining Corporation NL. Since then it has been pointed out to me that Mr Wragg on 25 November 1974 was no longer financial editor of the Sydney ‘Sun’. I have had a request from Mr Ralph Wragg to incorporate in Hansard a statement by the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs made to the New South Wales Attorney-General. This appears in a letter of the New South Wales Attorney-General which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Dear Mr Griffith,
I refer to your personal representations on behalf of a constituent Mr Ralph Wragg of 1 Bermuda Place, Cronulla, concerning references that were made to him in the report of the investigation conducted by Mr J. S. Lockhart of Counsel and Mr M. F. Mealey, formerly an officer of the Corporate Affairs Commission, into certain dealings in the shares of Endurance Mining Corporation N. L. and Attunga Mining Corporation Pty Limited. You have requested me to confer with the Commission for Corporate Affairs and, if there is no definite accusation against Mr Wragg, to see whether or not it is possible to take such steps as would dispel any suggestion that your constituent was involved in any improper practice.
The Commissioner has advised me that he has personally read the sections of the report in which references are made to Mr Wragg as well as the transcript of evidence given before the inspectors by Mr Wragg. The Commissioner has stated that in his view there is no evidence, either in the report or in the transcript, or any misconduct on the part of Mr Wragg relating to his transactions in the shares of the first mentioned company.
The Commissioner has informed me that the inspectors reference to Mr Wragg arose from his participation in December, 1968 in a placement of 65,000 shares in Endurance Mining Corporation N.L. The shares were placed through a stockbroking firm, Clinton & Co., at a price of 82c per share. Mr Wragg was not a client of Clinton & Co. at the time of the placement and the inspectors were concerned to enquire into the circumstances under which Mr Wragg participated in the placement to the extent of 1 ,000 shares. In his evidence before the inspectors Mr Wragg stated that the shares had been allotted to him as a result of an invitation extended to him by a director of the company, Paul Murray, whom he had known for some years. At paragraph 406 of their report the inspectors state that Mr Murray denied that any instructions were given to include Mr Wragg in the placement.
The shares which Mr Wragg acquired on 4 December 1968 were subsequently disposed of on 13 and 20 December 1968 and 6 January 1969 at prices which resulted in a profit to him of $2,730. The number of shares allotted to Mr Wragg was significant by reference to the number allotted to other persons in pursuance of the placement. Of the 52 persons who participated, only seven received more shares than Mr Wragg, thirteen received the same number, whilst the remainder were allotted shares in parcels of between 200 and 900.
The possibility of a conflict between duty and interest which may arise where a financial journalist engages in share trading or participates upon favourable terms in a share issue not available to the public generally is so obvious that it is unnecessary to labour the point. In recognition of this fact, the Securities Industry (Amendment) Act of 1971 obliges a financial journalist, among others, to maintain a register of the securities in which he has an interest. The Commission or any person authorised by it may require a person to produce for inspection the register required to be kept by him. The Commissioner has observed, however, that if Mr Wragg was exposed to such a conflict there is no evidence to suggest that he resolved it in favour of his own interests. In his evidence Mr Wragg stated that the only occasion during the relevant period in which The Sun newspaper carried any item relating to Endurance Mining Corporation was on 16 January 1969 at a time when he was on holidays. The Commissioner has said that he is not in possession of any evidence to confute that statement.
A copy of the transcript of Mr Wragg’s evidence may be obtained by him on application to the Commission. You arc. of course, free to make such use of this letter as you see fit.
– I thank the House. While I obviously accept this letter relating to the report of the New South Wales Commissioner for Corporate Affairs, I should like to quote from it and make some brief comments. Mr McCaw’s letter states:
The Commissioner has informed me that the inspector’s reference to Mr Wragg arose from his participation in December 1968 in a placement of 65,000 shares in Endurance Mining Corporation N.L. The shares were placed through a stockbroking firm Clinton and Co., at a price of 82c per share. Mr Wragg was not a client of Clinton and Co. at the time of the placement and the inspectors were concerned to inquire into the circumstances under which Mr Wragg participated in the placement to the extent of 1 .000 shares. In his evidence before the inspectors Mr Wragg stated that the shares had been allotted to him as a result of an invitation extended to him by a director of the company, Paul Murray, whom he had known for some years. At paragraph 406 of their report the inspectors state that Mr Murray denied that any instructions were given to include Mr Wragg in the placement.
The letter goes on to state:
The shares which Mr Wragg acquired on 4 December 1968 were subsequently disposed of on 13 and 20 December 1968 and 6 January 1969-
That is, within one month- at prices which resulted in a profit to him of $2,730. The number of shares allotted to Mr Wragg was significant by reference to the number allotted to other persons in pursuance of the placement. Of the 52 persons who participated, only seven received more shares than Mr Wragg, 1 3 received the same number, whilst the remainder were allotted shares in parcels of between 200 and 900.
It will make things easier for honourable members to understand the position when I point out the people mentioned. Firstly, the firm of Clinton and Co. was involved in the insider dealings with Endurance Mining Corporation N.L. The report from the New South Wales Commissioner of Corporate Affairs states that apart from 2 principals, the members of the syndicate had been at pains to remain anonymous. However, they and their subsequent profit from the sale of shares in Endurance were given. The report mentions Andrew Clinton, stockbroker of Sydney who is still a stockbroker, together with other stockbrokers, made a sum of $502,437.40. There is a reference to a Mr Paul Murray who asked Mr Clinton to give Mr Wragg the shares. I mention that Mr Paul Murray is mentioned twice- Paul Raymond Murray of Sydney and John Maguire of Sydney, stockbrokers, $568,21 1.58, and O’Connell Corporation Ltd, in which Paul Murray and John Maguire hold a major interest, $210,175. The point is that those people obviously made a considerable profit out of dealings in Endurance.
I conclude by saying that it is not only necessary for financial editors not to push shares for the purposes of insider trading; it is also one of the jobs of financial editors, as I see it, to expose share dealings if and when they become aware of them, and to try to become aware of them, if it means that $5m is being ripped off the public by insider trading.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment-
Defence Service Homes Bill 1 974. Taxation Administration Bill 1974. Handicapped Persons Assistance Bill 1974.
-As Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts I present the 151st report and 152nd report of the Public Accounts Committee.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The 15 1st report of the Public Accounts Committee is concerned with the Committee’s inquiry into delays in the payment of accounts by Australian Government departments. The inquiry arose as a result of the Committee’s surveillance of a Treasury circular relating to the prompt payment of accounts. In its inquiry the Committee took evidence from the Department of the Treasury, the Department of the Capital Territory, the Department of the Media, the Department of the Northern Territory, the Postmaster-General ‘s Department and the Department of Supply. The evidence presented to the Committee and the most recent observations made by the Auditor-General show that a number of departments have been responsible for excessive delays in the payment of accounts both to departmental and to private creditors. It seems to the Committee that at present departments charging other departments for services are required to allocate a disproportionate amount of their staff resources to following up unpaid accounts which, if the paying departments were to meet their financial obligations on time, could be greatly reduced.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Mr Speaker, at the time you left the Chair I was making a short statement on behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which I shall now continue. It seems to the Committee that at present departments charging other departments for services are required to allocate a disproportionate amount of their staff resources to following up unpaid accounts which, if paying departments were to meet their financial obligations on time, could be greatly reduced. The Committee has suggested that departments should make an effort to reduce the delays in the payment of accounts by reviewing their procedures and by increasing the degree of supervision exercised in the payment of accounts area. The Committee intends to maintain a close watch on the position and will conduct further inquiries into this matter, if required.
The Committee has, for many years, conducted combined inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer and expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund but has tabled separate reports on both aspects of these inquiries. The 152nd report relates specifically to evidence taken by the committee in connection with expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer in 1973-74. As honourable members are aware, after the close of each financial year the Treasurer submits to the Parliament for its consideration and approval a statement of expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer showing allocations to heads of expenditure made byhim from the advance under section 36a of the Audit Act. The Committee carries out the parliamentary scrutiny of this past expenditure by obtaining explanations from departments for each item of expenditure charged to the advance and selecting the more notable of these for public inquiry.
In chapter 1 of the report the Committee has stated that, in examining expenditure from the advance to the Treaurer, it has sought to ascertain whether or not expenditure from the Advance has been confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the original and additional estimates. The Committee has also sought to ascertain whether or not the departments concerned in the inquiry have maintained efficient administration in the expenditure of funds under the items selected for public inquiry. As the report shows, there were cases where expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer was confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the Appropriation Acts. In other cases, however, there was evidence of clerical errors, inefficient estimating procedures, and delays which caused expenditure to be charged to the Advance when provision should properly have been made in the additional Estimates. Attention has been drawn to these inadequacies where they have been discovered.
As in several previous inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, the Committee has found evidence of amounts being charged to the Advance without warrant authority, in contravention of Treasury Regulation 90 (1 ). All of these overcharges arose from clerical errors. The Committee has cause to comment adversely on the brevity of some departmental explanations and the fact that some witnesses appearing before the Committee were inadequately briefed. I commend the reports to honourable members.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The need for the Prime Minister to defer his imminent five week overseas tour and discharge his responsibilities as Prime Minister within Australia.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places).
-Mr Speaker -
Motion ( by Mr Daly) proposed:
That business of the day be called on.
That business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– 1 have to inform the House that we have present in the gallery this afternoon Mr B. F. Kilgariff M.L.A., newly elected Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. On behalf of the House I extend a very warm welcome to Mr Kilgariff.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
Bill presented by Dr J. F. Cairns, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the validation until 30 June 1 975 of duties collected in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 13 to 17 introduced into the Parliament during this session and not enacted to date. The tariff changes validated by this Bill relate to reports by the Tariff Board on fibreboard containers, paper and textile bags and photographic and cinematographic apparatus, etc.; and reports by the Industries Assistance Commission on food processing machinery, etc., gloves, mittens or mitts, passenger motor vehicles, etc., and steam, gas and water fittings. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Dr Edwards) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 December on motion by Dr Cass:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Hunt had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, this House is of the opinion that the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory, should not have been bypassed and that Statutory Authorities and voluntary environmental and conservation groups in the Territory, should be directly and continuously involved in the preparation and review of the plans of management and the administration of parks, reserves and wilderness zones within the Northern Territory’.
-When the debate was interrupted last night I was referring to a section of the Australian Biological Resources Study Interim Council report which had some bearing on land use. I think this is referable to the national parks and wildlife legislation because it says, amongst other things:
However, the fact must be faced that adequate taxonomitdata may not be available before decisions about the use of land need to be made. This underlines the importance of extensive collections for taxonomic purposes in little-known areas and of basing land-use decisions on ecological surveys in which the native flora and fauna are given high priority us a national resource.
I think this illustrates that if the National Parks and Wildlife Service is to function properly there must be a stimulation of the activity in the biological resources study field.
In some ways I regret that this legislation is so narrow in its scope. I have seen national parks I think on every continent except the South American continent. There are 2 things which impress one about these national parks. One is the national nature- not the State rights oneand the greater scope of control which is exercised. They do not just cover national parks. They cover national monuments which are land and water areas of lesser acreage than national parks but have great significance, usually of a scientific nature; historical areas; recreational areas- (Quorum formed) Mr Speaker, when I was interrupted I was listing a number of things that are under the control of national parks and wildlife commissions overseas. The commissions are also responsible for such things as national land marks and historical land marks. Of course, in Australia many of these areas of responsibility reside in departments other than the Department of the Environment and Conservation and will be covered by authorities other than the National Parks and Wildlife Service. I think that this Bill is a start. Perhaps with experience many of those other areas will be added to the responsibilities of the Service. I certainly hope that we will continue a reviewing process in this area.
I made some comment in the early part of my speech to the economics of the national park and wildlife procedures. I referred to the fact that it is not just a matter of looking at this from the point of view of econuts- the term which is used nowadays. But there are strong economic reasons for developing these systems. I refer honourable members to a paper ‘Travel and the National Parks- an economic study’, by Emeritus Professor Swanson who writes on the United States national parks. While I cannot discuss this paper in detail, because I know that we wish to get this Bill through, I would just quote one portion of what he has to say about the national park system in America. He said:
The National Park System with appropriations of around $102m contributes at least 45 times this amount to the American people in the way of increased income- or more than 55 times the appropriations when income is stated as gross national product. Add to such amounts the indeterminable but probably large values growing out of the cultural and historical contributions, as well as the stimulation of economic growth, we then see in our National Park System an asset structure few others may eclipse.
I hope that some consideration will be given to that aspect and perhaps we may see the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) at some stage giving the same son of economic assessment of what the national park setup in Australia means to the Australian economic system. I welcome the Bill. I hope that the parks will be developed. I hope that appropriate commissioners are appointed to the service and that they will not be satisfied with its present form but will seek a constant examination and development of it in the future.
-Many honourable members will agree, no doubt, that the time has come for this Parliament to play its part in the preservation of our National Estate. The demand for it does not spring from this Government or its platform; it is, I believe, the will of all our people and reflects the growing awareness of all Australians that unless we intervene our technology and material greed will inevitably, although at times imperceptibly, destroy our natural assets. The Liberal Party’s federal platform clearly recognises this. It states:
The necessity to preserve our heritage and enrich the quality of life requires national as well as local, regional and State action. This action is needed to protect and develop properly our environment and our natural resources, minimise the pollution of our air, land and water, conserve our flora and fauna, preserve our historic buildings and sites and preserve and create urban and rural landscapes of beauty.
The Opposition therefore supports this measure in principle and it is with pleasure that I speak in support in this debate. In a speech such as this one is tempted to be emotive and to express gratification that at last the national Parliament is taking steps towards the preservation of our natural resources. However, the measure demands more than emotion. Indeed, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) in his second reading speech appears to have avoided it. It requires careful consideration to ensure that the measure is appropriate to our federation and the proper protection of our environment. Although I have not checked it, I believe that one can properly say that never before has such a phalanx of power been marshalled to support a single measure before this Parliament.
Clause 6 of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Bill states the objects of Part II of the Bill. It is on the draftsman’s part both an expression of determination and a confession, of uncertainty. However, uncertainty as to the extent of constitutional power should never of itself be a reason for opposing an otherwise worthwhile legislative exercise of power; nor should it prevent a government, properly advised, treading where angels of constitutional probity have formerly feared to tread. The High Court, as we know, will readily give us the answer- not that the present measure lacks a degree of constitutional support.
Clause 6 contains a series of sub-paragraphs which no doubt were intended by the draftsman to indicate the basis of power. The first object is to make provision ‘appropriate to be established by the Australian Government, having regard to its status as a national government’. To some students of constitutional law that may seem at first strange, but of course in the books there is some support for the view that because on Federation there was created a nation, out of that nation there springs implied power to do certain things. Whether of course it would bring power sufficient to enable national parks and wildlife reserves to be established is a matter for the future. But no doubt that is what the draftsman has in mind. In clause 6 (b) is a reference to the Territories. Clearly the Commonwealth has power to pass laws with respect to parks in the Territories. Clause 6 (c) refers to the Australian coastal sea and clause 6(d) states: for purposes related to the rights (including sovereign rights) and obligations of Australia in relation to the continental shelf of Australia;
Obviously those objectives are designed to take whatever benefit can be obtained from the rights of the Commonwealth, whatever they may be, in relation to the territorial sea and the continental shelf. No doubt in due course the High Court will tell us about that. Clause 6 (e) states: for facilitating the carrying out by Australia of obligations under, or the exercise by Australia of rights under, agreements between Australia and other countries;
Here again we have a reference to a power which has not yet been fully explored. In Burgess ‘s case in the High Court reference was made to the power of the High Court over external affairs. The big question will arise, of course, in the High Court, if this Bill should ever be challenged, as to whether treaties in relation to wildlife are an external affair which enables this Parliament to pass laws under that head of power. Clause 6 (f) states: conductive to the encouragement of tourism between the States and between other countries and Australia.
Here again there is a reference to a power- the trade and commerce power- which has not previously been used in quite this way in relation to tourism between the States and between other countries and Australia. Whether that will give a basis for this legislation may also be regarded as a matter for doubt. Be that as it may, it is against this constitutional background, one assumes, that the Bill has been drafted. Clearly enough the draftsman has cast his net as widely as possible and the result may be that the constitutional right of the national Parliament to participate in the field of nature conservation, both within the Territories and the States, will be substantiated. However, to date it must be remembered that the bulk of the control and regulation of national parks and wildlife has been undertaken by the States. I am optimistic that in his speech in reply the Minister for the Environment and Conservation will assert the Government’s clear intention not to interfere but to co-operate with and to assist the States in their work in this field.
The Opposition will propose certain amendments to emphasise within the Bill the intent of this Parliament that conservation in our nation must be a co-operative inter-governmental effort. For many years the States have been involved in the development of parklands. The funds made available and the expertise applied for this purpose have increased with public interest in conservation. Since 1967 a comprehensive National Parks and Wildlife Act has been in force in New South Wales and is presently being substantially amended. The Lands Acquisition Act 1955 included a provision which prevented the Commonwealth from acquiring by agreement or compulsory process land which was dedicated or reserved under State law as a public park or for public recreation. This would probably include areas set aside by States as national parks.
An amendment which we propose to move and to which I am optimistic that the Government will agree, will ensure that no land in a State can be acquired by the Commonwealth for a park or wildlife reserve which is dedicated or reserved under a law of a State for purposes related to nature conservation or the protection of areas of historical, archaelogical or geological importance or areas having special significance for Aborigines. This will ensure that efforts by a State in this field will not be interfered with by the Commonwealth. It will be a very significant provision. Whilst the Bill will recognise that the development of national parks and wildlife reserves is a matter of inter-governmental cooperation, it will also recognise that if the States proceed with the development of areas such as these, their parks and reserves cannot be taken over by the Commonwealth. A heavy responsibility will therefore lie upon our States to protect our national heritage as priority will be given to State action in this field.
This is consistent with past actions. It should also keep the decision-making close to the people and conservation groups involved. This Bill therefore will be an experiment in co-operative federalism. It must be implemented in that spirit of co-operation if our National Estate is to be preserved. The Bill evokes a spirit which is sadly lacking in inter-governmental relations in our nation today. It requires appreciation by both levels of government that this is a matter of mutual concern. We are sadly in need of a new spirit of federalism. I can do no better to describe it than by referrring to Reagan’s work on ‘The New Federalism’, in which he states at pages 158 and 159:
The difference between old style and new style federalism could be summed up this way: Old style federalism described a non-relationship between the national and state governments. New style federalism refers to a multifaceted positive relationship of shared action. The meaning of federalism today lies in a process of joint action, not in a matter of legal status. It lies not in what governments are, but in what they do. It is a matter of action rather than structure. It is dynamic and changing, not static and constant.
If this spirit can find its way into the implementation of this Bill when it becomes law we will have touched the essence of federalism.
A great deal of reliance has been placed by the Government on the external affairs power. This is reflected in clause 69 of the Bill. Under clause 69 the Governor-General may make regulations for giving effect to an agreement between
Australia and any other country or countries relating to the protection or conservation of wildlife and incidental matters. That is a very broad provision. It could, of course, cover conventions of considerable international importance. It could cover conventions such as the new Law of the Sea Convention. It could cover articles of the existing Law of the Sea Conventions of 1958. It may be that in some circumstances it may not be a matter of concern because the convention is of a minor nature. However, the clause is so broad that the Opposition feels that it should be taken out of the Bill altogether.
It has been the practice of successive Australian governments to submit significant international agreements to this House for approval. I do not believe it is a desirable constitutional practice to implement conventions by regulation which have never been sighted by this Parliament. Surely the introduction into our municipal law of provisions of international conventions is a matter for the members of this Parliament and not a matter for regulation by the Minister. Therefore, we seek the deletion of clause 69 from this Bill.
The other reliance on the external affairs power to which I would refer is found in clause 7 (c) of the Bill. Clause 7 defines those areas in respect of which a proclamation can be made declaring a national park or reserve. In paragraph (c) ‘area’ is defined as follows:
This means that for the first time this Parliament would be giving power to the Governor-General to proclaim a national park over an area of the high seas. So far as I am aware, this is a completely new concept in Australia. Of course, it involves a degree of control over the high seas and this to a substantial extent as can be seen from a consideration of the proposed regulation making power. From such a consideration one can see the great extent to which the high seas will be subjected to regulation. This is important because Article 2 of the High Seas Convention states:
The high seas being open to all nations, no State may validly purport to subject any part of them to its sovereignty. Freedom of the high seas is exercised under the conditions laid down by these articles and by the other rules of international law. It comprises, inter alia, both for coastal and non-coastal States:
1 ) Freedom of navigation;
2 ) Freedom of fishing;
3 ) Freedom to lay submarine cables and pipelines;
Freedom to fly over the high seas.
One only has to cast one’s mind quickly through clause 70, the regulation making power, to see the extent to which the Minister would be able to control a park which was declared over an area of the high seas. For instance, the GovernorGeneral in respect of a park declared over an area of the high seas could regulate or prohibit the pollution of water; he could provide for the protection and preservation of property and things there; regulate or prohibit access to it; provide for the removal of people from it; provide for the safety of persons; regulate the conduct of persons on the high seas; provide for the imposition and collection of charges for the use of vessels on the high seas; provide for the removal of vehicles, aircraft or vessels from places on the high seas where they have been left in contravention of the regulations; regulate or prohibit the use of vessels and the passage of vessels through the high seas and the landing or use of aircraft in and the flying of aircraft over the high seas.
These are very extensive regulating regulation making powers. Of course, if one were only considering a national park on land one might regard those as proper powers for a park authority to have. But when one considers them in relation to Article 2 of the High Seas Convention which states that no State may validly purport to subject any part of the high seas to its sovereignty, one can see that clause 70, since it would refer to parks established by the Government on areas of the high seas, may come close to a breach of the High Seas Convention to which Australia is a party. I do not for one moment believe that the Government intends a breach of this Convention. The High Seas Convention is, of course, a very vital one in international law and one which we have respected and which we could not possibly breach.
The reason this has happened, I believe, is that in this Bill a new concept is being developed, namely, parks on areas which are on the seas. The implications that flow from the degree of control that this regulation making power, which may well be apt for a reserve on land, would give over areas of the high seas may not have been thought through. I would draw this to the Minister’s attention and ask him to draw it to the attention of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) as it seems to me that it is a matter requiring careful consideration on the part of the Government.
One other matter to which I would quickly advert is the police powers which are given to wardens under this Bill. Clause 40 provides that a warden may, without warrant, arrest any person, if the warden reasonably believes that the person has committed an offence against this Act. Sub-clause 4 of clause 40 states:
The powers . . . may be exercised anywhere in Australia or the Australian coastal sea or in a park or reserve outside the Australian coastal sea.
So it could be done on the high seas as well as on land or in any city, or in any home in the Commonwealth outside a park. Clause 42(2) contains a similar power for a warden to do things outside a park. My reason for referring to these provisions is simply to draw the attention of the Minister to the extent of them. I would suggest that it is highly undesirable now that there be more than one authority at any one time to enforce the law within general areas. Inside a park the warden has a clear function and his function is perhaps traditional to parks and reserves. But in so far as the person who has been in the park and committed an offence and then left the park is concerned I would suggest that it is a matter which is proper to be left to the ordinary police force.
Another provision which requires consideration is clause 65 of the Bill which enables averments to be made. I would again suggest that it is too wide and that it ought to be restricted in some way and should be restricted to averments as to where a park is or into what part of a park an offence is alleged to have been committed and not an averment about the commission of the offence itself. Subject to those comments and subject to the comments which other speakers have made or will make, I am very happy to support this measure.
– It is pleasing that the Opposition supports this measure which seeks to acknowledge the responsibility of the Australian Government for the environment. I hope that the public at large will join with all political parties in accepting this responsibility so that concern for the environment can be regarded as a non-political, national issue. The Bill should be seen as a measure of the Government ‘s sincerity and determination to halt the destruction and the disturbance of the natural environment which has taken billions of years to build up. But in the very short time in which the white man has settled in Australia the environment has been threatened because of lack of government direction and shortsighted economic exploitation.
The Bill also should be seen as a measure of the Government’s desire and determination to ensure that its plans for the development of new urban growth centres in rural environments are supported by adequate national parks. If necessary, those national parks should become integral parts of the recreational environment of the new cities and new growth centres. A further important feature of the Bill is the extent to which it will safeguard the special needs of Aboriginals whose natural environment has been ruthlessly exploited and destroyed with drastic effects on their culture and security.
The initial impact of the Bill will chiefly be in the Australian Capital Territory, particularly in the development of the Gudgenby National Park, and in the Northern Territory, particularly in the development of the central Australian wilderness areas. An urgent need exists in the A.C.T. to exercise control over the Gudgenby National Park which comprises more than 20 per cent of the total area of the A.C.T. and which contains much of the future catchment areas for the waters of the Naas and Gudgenby Rivers for the future Tennant Dam. Until recently, the Park was controlled by the Conservation and Agriculture Branch of the Department of the Capital Territory. That Branch has carried out its work in a most satisfactory manner. But its role has largely been a caretaker one as a result of its lack of resources. However it has performed a very valuable caretaker role in the Gudgenby area.
There is no question of the need for the development of the Gudgenby National Park. The population of the Australian Capital Territory is estimated to be about 200,000. By 1985 the population is estimated to be approximately 500,000. In addition, in the south east area there are approximately 120,000 people who tend to use the recreational facilities of the A.C.T. Further, approximately 1 million tourists visit the Territory each year. By 1 980, it is estimated that 2,250,000 tourists will enter the A.C.T. So, there is tremendous pressure on the recreational reserves that already exist in the A.C.T. and a great need to expand them.
The Gudgenby National Park is the beginning of planned tri-State alpine park involving New South Wales, Victoria and the A.C.T. The Gudgenby National Park is this Territory’s contribution to it. Unfortunately, the Victorian contribution has been a bit slow in coming forward as a result of the reluctance of the Victorian Government to gazette the areas required. The Tidbinbilla Fauna Reserve is also a most important recreational area for the A.C.T. It comprises some 1,200 acres. This Reserve has been discreetly and effectively developed on sound conservation lines by the Conservation and Agriculture Branch of the Department of the Capital Territory. I think that it should remain under the control of that body, but I am sure that it will benefit from the setting up of another organisation to develop the Gudgenby National Park. There is also a need for further development of the management of the present A.C.T. water catchment area of the Cotter River, including the Corin, Bendora and Cotter dams, to cope with the growing pressure on those areas from a rapidly increasing local population and an influx of tourists.
The other important element concerning the A.C.T. in regard to this proposal is the fact that there are already extremely valuable teaching resources in the A.C.T. in connection with recreation. These would make a valuable contribution to the establishment of the national body and in the training of its officers. The Government is fortunate to have these resources as a basis for the development of a new service. These include the Conservation and Agriculture Branch, the Forestry Branch and the Parks and Gardens Branch of the Department of the Capital Territory, all of which have acquired valuable staff and experience in environmental matters in the A.C.T.
Institutions of learning such as the Canberra College of Advanced Education offer a number of courses relating to the environment, ecological studies and conservation and park management, as well as land use and resources location and urban planning. The Australian National University has its Forestry School and its Urban Ecology Branch and there are the Forestry Research Institute and the Wildlife Research Section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The Foresty Research Institute in the A.C.T. is the leading research body in forest management in Australia and carries out a lot of valuable original research into bushfire control in Australia. These are all bodies with a fund of knowledge from which any new body wishing to train staff would greatly benefit. I think that everybody would agree that adequate training of professional officers, field officers, wardens and rangers is most essential to meet the needs of this legislation. These officers must of necessity be able to exercise considerable discretion in dealing with the public. They should be seen as public relations officers with the role of educating the public rather than as law enforcement officers. That is the role that they have taken in the local organisation and I am sure that is the role people would want them to take.
I issue a note of warning. Some concern has been expressed on whether the new body would interfere in any way with existing instrumentalities in the A.C.T. Care should be taken to ensure that existing structures which have been built up over many years and which effectively exercise control over environmental areas of the city and its immediate surrounds are not unduly disturbed by any new environmental organisation. It would seem appropriate that the present Department of the Capital Territory organisation should retain responsibility for those areas which are or which we expect to come under the control of the Legislative Assembly. These are the domestic areas of environmental control in the A.C.T., including the management of areas like Black Mountain, Mount Ainslie, Red Hill, Mount Majura and Lake Burley Griffin. Responsibility for these areas should continue to be seen as part of the domestic affairs of the A.C.T. which should come under the control of the Legislative Assembly. I think it appropriate that the new organisation should take responsibility for the Gudgenby National Park. The Forestry Branch of the Department of the Capital Territory has had considerable experience and has developed managerial skills in the multiple use of forest areas, particularly softwood forests in Australia. I think that its managerial skills will be of great assistance to any new organisation and that one organisation can benefit the other without cutting across each other’s area of responsibility.
The Bill emphasises the need to develop large national parks to complement the new cities policies of the Labor Government. This concept contradicts the oft-repeated claims of the Opposition Parties, particularly the Country Party, that the Labor Government is attempting to divide country and city people. The policies of the Labor Government recognise the traditional Australian preference for the urban way of life and it seeks to combine that preference with the advantages of the rural environment. It seeks to establish and combine the whole urban superstructure in the form of well-planned living, recreational and cultural amenities with a rural environment, just as we have done in the A.C.T. Just as the need for national parks and wildlife reserves is now quite apparent in the A.C.T., I suggest that this need will become apparent in the new growth centres in Australia. The Government must be in a position to plan for these needs well in advance. This Bill will enable the Government to do so. I commend it to the House.
-The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Bill, which must be recognised as giving overall authority throughout Australia over national parks and wildlife, is essentially a matter for the national Parliament. I notice that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) in his second reading speech said that despite the excellent leadership initiatives taken in some of the States our record in Australia has not been good. I hope that he was not referring to the Northern Territory Reserves Board in relation to this matter because it is a most efficient and able body. Later I shall speak about my disappointment that it does not seem to be getting any sort of a mention in the Bill.
The Minister said that the Bill is the result of 18 months of careful planning yet it came to this House after weeks of delay and with many amendments. I think that a lot of those amendments will be helpful. I hope that they are. In the Minister’s second reading speech he refers to the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers which was set up on the Government’s initiative to develop a national approach. I am speaking to the amendment which my colleague, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), introduced and which refers to the Northern Territory. I am very disappointed to see that there is no mention of any Legislative Assembly authority in it. There is no mention of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in the Bill, despite the fact that the report from the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory on the Constitutional Development in the Northern Territory states that there should be an official sharing of the remaining functions. Paragraph 70 (d) states: ‘State-type’ functions that might be shared by the national Government and Territory Executive.
The Committee saw merit in sharing some of the functions such as urban development, roads, ports, fisheries, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. I think it is unfortunate that this Bill has come in before any action has been taken with regard to implementing that recommendation from the Joint Committee. I do not say that there has been panic in introducing this Bill but I feel that it has been hurried through without the consultation with a new Assembly which one would have expected. Members of the Assembly are very put out about that. They expressed themselves in the sittings which were held on 20 November 1974 when the Majority Leader stated:
It is clear that this Act would give the Minister and the Director new and wide ranging powers in the Northern Territory over matters which were formerly the responsibility of the Territory legislature . . .
He went on that in years gone by such action was seldom if ever taken before legislation was introduced into the then Legislative Council. I think the Minister might have been misinformed. He sent a telegram to the Majority Leader, Dr Letts, of the Country-Liberal Party of the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory. The Minister said that he appreciated their interest. He stated:
Legislation has been drafted after attendance of senior officers at Legislative Council . . .
I would like to know who the senior officers were because Dr Letts, speaking in the Assembly, referred to the fact that Dr McMichael was present for less than an hour in the visitor’s gallery and that an offer had been made, at very short notice, for a senior official to be available for discussions to take place between members of the new Legislative Assembly and Dr McMichael. I do not know whether he is endeavouring to create an empire for himself or whether he thinks he will save the entire national parks and wildlife across the country but I agree with members of the Legislative Assembly that something should be done in relation to having discussions with these men. I question what discussions were held with the Northern Territory Reserves Board. Something which distresses me is that in the Minister’s telegram he states:
No objection to areas of local significance being managed by an appropriate Northern Territory agency.
The Minister said that he always envisaged that a local advisory body would advise on national park and wildlife matters in the Territory. That is all very fine but such a provision does not appear in the Bill. That is the purport of our amendment. So that we will know what we are talking about I had better read the amendment again. It states:
That ail words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘Whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, this House is of the opinion that the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory should not have been bypassed and that statutory authorities and voluntary environmental and conservation groups in the Territory should be directly and continuously involved in the preparation and review of the plans of management and the administration of park, reserves and wilderness zones within the Northern Territory’.
Of course the Minister realises, as I hope many other people realise, that in the Northern Territory are two of the most outstanding national park areas in Australia. They are the Ayers Rock-Mt Olga National Park and the Kakadu National Park which is just west of Arnhem Land. We can throw in Katherine Gorge for good measure if we really want to see something decent. People come to the Northern Territory by the tens of thousands every year especially to see these places and central Australia. The
Kakadu National Park has not really been developed. It is a fabulous place. I would not say that I have been there dozens of times but I have been there on many occasions. It is an outstanding escarpment, wildlife, Aboriginal art, flora and fauna area. I am certain that the Minister is an honourable man and that he will not endeavour to do anything other than what he has said in his telegram. I assume the Minister means what he has said but on one occasion a former Minister, a colleague of the Minister for the Environment and Conservation who is at the table, made all sorts of noises about a 32 square miles acquisition area south of Darwin. The landholders in that area had been interviewed. This is a message which went from the Department of the Northern Territory to Australian Democratic Labor Party senators. They believed the message and they tossed out our efforts to stop this 32 square miles acquisition area, which has been a farce.
– And they were tossed out themselves.
– I might add that the CountryLiberal Party was not tossed put. They were the people who put pressure on the Government about this 32 square miles acquisition area. The present Minister may not always be there. His successor may be someone who is unscrupulous. These landholders generally agreed to this acquisition- according to the message- provided that an assurance could be given that longer term leases could be offered to them as soon as the acquisition was effective. The message stated:
This assurance can now be given and will be on the basis of a longer term lease until such time as the report by Justice Else Mitchell on land tenure is available, when a firm full term lease will be substituted.
That just has not happened. The other day I asked a question of the Minister about the Darwin piggery which is caught up in a financial snarl because of this 32 square miles acquisition area. We have had the case of the Darwin rural park area which no doubt fell for this business and believed that it would get longer term leases in the long run. A person of whom I am aware, with 2 acres of land in the Berrimah area, has not been paid for 18 months. So it goes on. We can take the Minister’s word, of course, but if there is a change of Minister and if the Government decides to change its policy on national parks, even more land may be acquired for other purposes. Another Bill to acquire land in the Northern Territory has been introduced into the House. The purpose of the Northern Territory Land Stabilisation Bill is to acquire land within a radius of 60 miles of Darwin. Like other Bills relating to the
Northern Territory, it is being forced through this Parliament without any reference to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.
I make these points because the people in the Northern Territory know the facts and can help the Minister. They are the people who should have the responsibility for running the national parks and wildlife reserves in the Territory. A wildlife authority that used to be under the responsibility of the primary industries branch of the Northern Territory Administration has gone down the drain. The majority leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is not the only one who has said that this Bill should be considered by the Assembly first. The Independent member for Port Darwin, Mr Withnall, agreed with him. He said:
The National Parks and Wildlife Bill . . . . is a departure from the practice and it is most important that this Assembly expresses as strongly as possible its objection to that course of action being taken.
He is another man who has said the same thing. I am on my feet to bring this point out. If, as the Minister says in his telegram, he is interested in the Northern Territory people and the authorities helping with this matter, then I can see no earthly reason why he does not accept the amendment. It will not spoil his Bill. It will just give the people of the Northern Territory a say in their own affairs. It is absolutely unthinkable that two or three Bills relating to the Northern Territory which have been introduced into this House since the election of the Assembly- an assembly which was promised by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to be a fully elected assembly before 3 1 December this year- have not been referred to the Assembly. I do not think we can afford to throw the whole Bill out, but I certainly ask the Minister to look seriously at the amendment.
The Northern Territory Reserves Board, of which I was a member for many years, was always a most efficient and able body even at the time when I was on it. In fact I was instrumental in organising the application for the Kakadu National Park. The people of the Northern Territory are interested in this legislation. They want to have a say in it. I hope that this Government will not continue its centralist policies and deny the Territorians the right to have a say in their own affairs. I would like to know what the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) thinks about this matter. The report from the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory on Constitutional Development in the Northern Territory recommended that only one Minister should deal with the Legislative Assembly. I would imagine that it would be the Minister for the Northern Territory. Bearing these things in mind, I hope that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation will give very serious consideration to the amendment relating to the Northern Territory. I know there are other amendments.
-In introducing this Bill, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) has brought in a most important piece of legislation concerning conservation in the Territories. Perhaps it may be interpreted as conservation in the States. The benefits will flow to the nation as a whole and I think we will all agree that it is important to retain and protect our wildlife. The responsibility of this legislation is great indeed. There has been a ministerial awareness, I know, of the ramifications of this legislation. Preceding speakers have pointed out the implications this legislation in its present form may have on services that are set up throughout the States.
I refer in particular to the fine and competent New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service. The history and record of this Service is very important. It is a most enlightened Service. It was established in 1967 and its activities encompass many matters, not just the confined area of national parks. It is responsible for areas such as national parks, State parks, historic sites, nature reserves and Aboriginal relics. I see no mention in the Bill of these other wider areas. Because my time is limited, I will list only briefly some of the achievements of the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service. In the 7 years since this Service was established, the area under its control has doubled from something like 860,000 hectares to 1.7 million hectares. The length of coastline under the control of the Service has increased from 40 kilometres to 200 kilometres. This Service was set up entirely by the State of New South Wales.
I mention to the Minister, without any feeling of competition, that it is his role to boost and to assist and to recognise the important part played by the New South Wales Service. It is a dreadful thought indeed that as the legislation stands, it would be within the powers of the Minister to take over an area such as the Kosciusko National Park. That would indeed be a crime. There is no relationship, as an earlier speaker tried to point out, between the United States of America and Australia in legislation relating to national parks. In the United States of America national parks services originated at the Federal level. In Australia fine services with great expertise and knowledge in this field have been established for many years. It seems as if the Minister wishes to do things in reverse, instead of co-ordinating and implementing the proposals that are already in train. There is a fear in my mind that if the wishes of the Minister prevail the activities of the true national service will be spread thinly. Instead of moving into areas that have a crying need we will be tending to look across the country and instead of undertaking the projects outlined by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) to assist the Northern Territory to undertake its programs, we will be spread so thinly as almost to be ineffective. We would probably be hit with a barrage of Press releases. I know it is not the Minister’s character to operate in this way. I raise this point because I think it would be detrimental to the whole concept of national parks. Efficiency and planning are not often mentioned in government circles because the thing seems to be to get the job done. I shall quote from paragraph 2.7 of the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate. It states:
Accordingly the 3 components of the cultural and natural environment forming the National Estate are those which are:
of such outstanding world significance that they need to be conserved, managed and presented as part of the heritage of the world.
of such outstanding national value that they need to be conserved, managed and presented as part of the heritage of the nation as a whole.
of such aesthetic, historical, scientific, social, cultural, ecological or other special value to the nation or any part of it including a region or locality-
It would appear that at the present time on our Federal scene we have 2 Ministers who would be the biggest sub-dividers of all time. It is their intention to sub-divide the National Estate. We have seen the responsibility for national parks lifted out of the National Estate context and moved into a completely different area, an area where it rightly lies. I would like to see Australia as a nation deal with such things as historic sites, which are important to our history and culture, under one head. The competition that will flow from the decision to sub-divide the National Estate is most concerning. It appears to me that the Minister and his Department have the right and the exact relevant instrument to deal with these areas. Why have we to break them up?
Traditionally, historically, right across the world there can be no doubt that the national estate of any country includes things of national importance and beauty whether they be man made or natural. As we move into this phase I would like further consideration to be given to bringing the National Estate together. In conclusion may I quote these words from the book of a famous game warden, Romain Gary:
It is absolutely essential that man should manage to preserve something other than what helps to make soles Tor his shoes or sewing machines, that he should leave a margin, a sanctuary, where some of life’s beauty can take refuge and where he himself can feel safe from his own cleverness and folly.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3 (Interpretation).
– I move:
At the end of the clause add the following sub-clause: ‘(3) In this Act, a reference to public notice is a reference to notice published-
The first amendment substitutes a different definition for the word ‘Aboriginal’. After discussion, including discussion with members of the Opposition, it was felt that the definition was too restrictive as it did not necessarily include the people of the Torres Strait Islands. The second definition relates to ‘wildlife’. This matter was raised by some conservation groups in South Australia. They questioned the case of migratory birds. We feel that they are certainly covered if they usually migrate to this country but there are occasions when some animals and birds periodically or occasionally visit this country. For that reason I have moved the second amendment. The third amendment has been moved because we wish to indicate further on in the Bill that certain actions that are about to be taken should be widely advertised. It was drawn to our attention, again in consultation with members of the Opposition, that it would be better to state this in clause 3 than to state it each time throughout the other clauses of the Bill and that it would be better to broaden the interpretation to include not only the Gazette but also local newspapers, if any, circulating in the area. That is the reason for the third amendment to this clause.
-The Opposition supports these amendments. In supporting them we thank the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) for taking into account the wishes of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aboriginal Affairs which brought this matter to the attention of the Minister. The first amendment will broaden the definition of ‘Aboriginal’. Also I think that the Minister has taken a sound step in spelling out the definition of ‘wildlife’ to include migratory animals that periodically or occasionally visit Australia. The third amendment covers matters that I have been discussing with the Minister in an effort to ensure that all people concerned are adequately consulted in regard to the proclamation of a national park, reserve or wilderness area. This could involve people such as land owners, home owners and land users who may live either within the area or in the vicinity of the area. We feel that this amendment gives greater justice to those people who may be concerned in the event of a public notice being issued to let the public at large understand what is in mind. As the Bill stood, I felt that insufficient consideration had been given to that aspect but now, as suggested in this amendment, the director will be required to publicly announce his intention to report on an area as well as to receive and consider appropriate reports. I think that comes later. I fully support the amendment and thank the Minister for taking those views into account.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 6 (Object of this Part)
– I move:
The Opposition feels that this amendment is necessary to allay the concern of the States, some of which feel that as the Bill now stands it is possible for the Australian Government, under the Lands Acquisition Act, to acquire existing areas as defined in that amendment. The Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) has assured me that that is not the intention unless the State itself requires the Australian Government to, or suggests that the Australian Government may, take over those areas if it feels that the Australian Government may have more resources or is more adequately able to cope with the preservation of such areas as historical, archaeological or geologically important areas, or areas that may have a special significance to Aboriginals.
I have had discussions with various State Ministers and, on behalf of the Opposition, I gave an undertaking that we would move this amendment to ensure that the Minister’s and the Government’s intention was inscribed in this legislation. It is not moved in any sense to frustrate the Minister in his objectives. It is moved to try to ensure that there is no occasion for the States to have the fears that apparently they have at the moment. It has been suggested that perhaps the right Act to amend is the Lands Acquisition Act but we are not dealing with that Act and, of course, to amend it would require other legislation. Whilst this clause does not specifically mention the Lands Acquisition Act it does, in fact, affect it. If this sub-clause is agreed to it will provide the assurance necessary to gain the sort of trust and co-operation for which the Minister will be looking in trying to achieve the preservation of wildlife and the conservation of our fauna and flora generally and of areas that are of special significance or importance to people in the States, particularly to Aborigines. I ask the Government to consider, between now and when the Bill goes to the Senate, the wisdom of accepting this sub-clause which is moved in good faith to allay the fears to which I have referred.
– I have thought a lot about the proposed sub-clause. As I indicated earlier, there was considerable discussion of this Bill. I make it clear that the Bill does not empower the Government to buy land; that power rests solely in the Lands Acquisition Act. This Bill simply indicates our areas of concern and what we would like to do in relation to the preservation of our natural resources. I am not inclined to accept the proposition that we should have in this legislation, which is not related to the acquisition of land, an inhibition on what the Australian Government now or in the future might or might not be able to do with respect to the acquisition of land. During the second reading debate and on a number of other occasions I have heard the comment that this legislation provides the means for the Australian Government taking over. It would be the height of folly for any Australian Government to seek to do so.
The intention of this whole exercise- people generally will not realise it because it is accepted in this place- is that the legislation should be associated with State grants for nature conservation purposes. In other words, we are seeking to allocate funds to the States to help them buy land. It is not intended that the Australian Government should take over land they have already reserved or conserved and are managing. If they need help we will seek to provide it by way of financial support. In my view, given the inadequate areas of total land reserved for park purposes in Australia, it would be foolish to take away from the States in the manner suggested.
I appreciate that this is rather far off the mark but it has reference to the fears expressed about the powers we are seeking under this Bill. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) is worried about any reviewing of the Australian Government’s powers concerning offshore areas. He is concerned with whether the Government may do something about establishing a marine park in the Great Barrier Reef area so depriving fishermen of their right to earn a livelihood. That is not the intention. It may well be necessary in some areas, for the purpose of genuinely conserving fish life, to impose restrictions on fishing or other forms of activity. In some limited areas it may be necessary to exclude such activity. However, by and large in legitimate fishing areas, which may be somewhat close to areas we seek to reserve, we do not intend to declare the whole area a national park which would involve strict measures of control. That is the position with respect to the Great Barrier Reef. Such an area would be a marine park, not a national park. We recognise that in this area there will be shipping, fishing and other sorts of rights but we want control so that there is no deterioration of the area. Having deviated a little I reiterate that the Government is not willing or anxious to include in this Bill restrictions on the powers of the Australian Government to acquire land for any purposes at all which are not encompassed in the Lands Acquisition Act. If such provision is necessary the right and proper place for it is in that Act. The Government declines to accept the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
1 ) In this section, ‘area’ means-
Where an area is declared by Proclamation under subsection (2 ) to be a park or reserve-
– I move:
This clause defines what is meant by ‘area’. It was thought that the reference to a ‘national park’ or ‘public park’ was not a sufficiently wide definition for the sort of areas that might be regarded as important for assistance. The amendment is designed to widen that definition.
-The Opposition supports this amendment which alters the definition of ‘area’ by deleting the words ‘as a national park or public park’ and substituting therefor the words ‘ for the purposes of a national park, nature reserve or wildlife sanctuary or for similar purposes’.
Amendment agreed to.
-The Opposition feels that to make this legislation completely clear with respect to the rights of miners, mining companies or exploration companies that may have rights, licences or permits within an area of the Australian coastal seas that may be considered for proclamation purposes, an amendment is necessary to this clause. Accordingly I move:
It has been said that this matter is covered in paragraph (b) of sub-clause (1) of clause 7 which reads: an area of the Australian coastal sea in respect of the seabed and subsoil beneath which no right, title or interest is vested in a person other than Australia: 1 have had conflicting legal views- such as one is likely to get- regarding the totality of the meaning of that paragraph. It is felt that to make the legislation perfectly clear with respect to rights, licences and permits that may have been acquired under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967-73 in an area that could be an area to be preserved or proclaimed by the Governor-General for the purposes of establishing a marine national park, an amendment is necessary.
– The Government believes it cannot accept this amendment. Much thought has been given to the implications mentioned by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) but the Government is reluctant to include in this legislation conditions, exclusions or special privileges which properly should be part of other legislation. For that reason the Government declines to accept the amendment.
– This amendment involves a very long addition to the clause. Again, it arises from discussions with the Opposition. It relates to the powers of the GovernorGeneral and the fact that he can make a proclamation relating to an area of land as a national park, whether to increase it, decrease it or do what he will in relation to that area of land. It was felt that before this action is taken the public should have the opportunity to examine the recommendations and, if they care to do so, to make comments upon them. It is a rather long amendment. Rather than read it out- I trust that all those who are interested have read it- I draw the attention of the House to the fact that once again it is part of our move to ensure that the public is fully involved. This matter had slipped our attention. We had not realised the position until the Opposition brought it to our attention but we readily accept the proposition. It gives time for all those who are interested to have some say in the matter. In fact, the time is not less than 60 days after the date of publication of the notice in the Gazette. The notice is to signify to what address the objections or comments can be sent. When finally recommendations are made by the Director to the Minister and in turn to the Governor-General, all these views must be taken into account. I move:
– I seek clarification. The Opposition supports the amendment moved by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) but wishes to move an additional amendment.
– The honourable member should move it as an amendment to the amendment.
– The Opposition will move an amendment to the amendment. We support the amendment that the Minister has moved. We thank the Minister for having taken into account the views that were expressed by the Opposition and by others in regard to the need to give adequate notice to people who would be affected or who would be in the vicinity of the national park- for instance, land users- or area to be proclaimed or declared to be a park. I think that this provision gives the opportunity to people who make representations to have them included in the report that the director has to prepare. Of course, this makes it necessary for the Director to report any representations that have been made to him together with his comments upon those representations. We are in complete accord with that so far. We have circulated an amendment to this amendment, the proposal being to add a new paragraph after paragraph (b) of sub-clause (12). I move:
The Minister could quite rightly claim that he has introduced environmental protection legislation which gives the Minister power to call for environmental impact assessments. This makes other Commonwealth departments responsible for the submission of environmental impact assessments in areas where there is Australian Government involvement. Very wide powers and very wide powers of discretion are given to the Minister. While I have no doubt that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation who is sitting at the table would, in fact, as a matter of course demand that an environmental impact assessment be provided with regard to any operations that may be contemplated within a reserve or a national park another may not.
As I said in my speech in the debate on the second reading, I and I am sure a lot of people do not like the thought of mining or other works taking place in national parks or reserves. Certainly I would not like to see this take place in wilderness areas. Of course, that has been prohibited in this legislation.
The point has been made that unless mining and other works are provided for within national parks, the likelihood of establishing national parks is a lot less. It is the thinking of many well informed environmentalists around the world that it is probably better to allow mining to take place where there is mineralisation and where it may be considered to be in the national interest provided the mining is undertaken according to very strict guidelines and under the codes of the plans of management. However, before any consideration is given to the possibility of mining I think it should be mandatory that those who are going to take part in the mining exercise, whether it be done by the proposed Petroleum and Minerals Authority, by private enterprise or in association with an authority of the Australian Government, should undertake an environmental impact assessment to ascertain the likely effect upon the environment within that park and the area adjacent thereto.
Many things have to be considered. We have to consider the ways in which the minerals are taken from the area. It does not involve just the digging of a hole in the ground. It probably requires the construction of railways and port facilities in the region. It may require extensive highway development and so on. It could require the establishment of an infrastructure such as villages in the Northern Territory. Probably we would see the development of quite a substantial town adjacent to the proposed national park, or perhaps within it. I do not know what the position would be but whatever is contemplated in this area I believe that there should be an environmental impact assessment that relates to these operations. It should be prepared by those proposing to engage in the recovery of minerals and should be taken into account before approval and authority are given.
– I am very glad to hear the sentiments expressed by the Opposition spokesman on this subject, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). Of course, this is exactly what I feel about all those sorts of things. If anything should be done in a national park which is of such environmental significance as this, an environmental impact study should be conducted. However, I suggest that this is in fact encompassed in the legislation although those exact words are not used. Clause 11 of the Bill deals at some length with plans of management. Clause11 (6) states:
The plan of management shall set out a detailed description of the manner in which it is proposed to manage the park or reserve and shall include-
a general description of any existing or proposed buildings, structures, facilities, or other developments; and
a detailed description of any operations for the recovery of minerals, or excavation, works or other operations that may be carried on, in the park or reserve.
That is the first thing. Nothing like the activity suggested in clause11 can take place unless it has been very carefully and clearly described in detail in the plan of management. In addition to that, the clause goes on to. state how the plan of management is to be reviewed and vetted, if you like, not just by the Minister but by the whole community. So in essence it becomes a sort of environmental impact study procedure. It is available for discussion. It has to take into account what people think about it. It has to be widely publicised. For example, sub-clause (10) of clause11 states that when the director has prepared the plan of management he shall state that the plan has been prepared. He has to advertise this fact in the newspapers, local and national. He has to state that the plan has been prepared to invite people to make representations in connection with the plan by such a date, not being less than one month after the date of publication of the notice, and so on and so forth. In other words, there is a lot of time for people to become aware of the fact that what is contemplated may in some people’s eyes be an assault on the sanctity of a national park and these people can seek to do something about it.
I am reluctant, for another reason, to accept the proposed amendment because it specifically refers to a procedure for which we have prepared and presented separate legislation. The purpose of this separate legislation, which with a bit of luck we may debate later today or tomorrow, is to ensure that anything that is considered of environmental significance, and quite clearly mining in a national park in anyone’s estimate would be environmentally significant, in which the Australian Government has a say and for which it is responsible- and unfortunately we can only hope that the States will follow this lead because we cannot impose anything upon them- will be subject quite apart from the plan of management which will have gone through the whole vetting process which has been discussed, to our Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Bill, which will insist that an EIS or environmental impact study be drawn up. What is more, I would assert that a public inquiry would automatically be held in regard to a proposal which concerned mining in national parks.
For those reasons I am reluctant to accept the amendment, not because I disagree with the sentimentsI completely agree with them- but because I firmly agree that our proposed approach encompasses all that the amendment seeks to achieve.
Amendment to the proposed amendment negatived.
Original amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9- byleave- taken together, and agreed to.
Notwithstanding sub-section (4)-
– I move:
The reason that we of the Opposition have moved to have this change made to clause 10 is that we wonder why the Minister for Minerals and Energy should be given this special power to approve mining within a park area. We know that he has a general power in regard to mining. But in the case of Kakadu National Park, for instance, which of course looms very large in our minds and I am sure in the minds of the Government supporters in regard to this legislation, a decision has to be taken ultimately as to what mining will take place in the Park and by whom. A decision has to be made as to who in fact will be responsible for the granting of the authority for mining to be undertaken.
The question arises as to whether the mining shall be done by those private enterprise companies which are already there or whether it will be taken over by the proposed Petroleum and Minerals Authority. I do not think for a moment that the legislation should be used to invoke the powers of either the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) or the proposed Petroleum and Minerals Authority which is currently under challenge before the High Court. Rather than try to tie down clause 10 and leg-rope it to the Minister for Minerals and Energy and secondly to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority I feel that this amendment should be made. Of course, our amendment would require just not the approval of the Minister as such but the approval of Cabinet as the ‘Governor-General’ means Cabinet. It would require the approval of 27 Ministers rather than the approval of 2 Ministers- in the first instance the Minister for the Environment and Conservation and certainly, as prescribed in the clause, the Minister of State for Minerals and Energy. If approval or authority is to be given for mining to be undertaken on Kakadu National Park or in any other area that is reserved or proclaimed for the purposes of wildlife and nature conservation I believe that this should be done by the corporate body of the executive of the Government itself rather than that power being vested in the hands of a sole Minister who, being a Minister for Minerals and Energy could, of course, have a degree- and I do not say this would be the case with the present Minister for Minerals and Energy but at some future date a Minister for Minerals and Energy could be a mining fanatic -
– You cannot say that about the present Minister, can you?
-No. But how long will he be there? The next Minister could say: ‘To hell with the magpie, geese and to hell with fauna and flora; we want the coal, the gold, the uranium or whatever it might be ‘. So I think it is important to look at the legislation as something that will stand and determine the course of actions and policy in regard to national parks and wildlife conservation for a very long time.
-A.s I read sub-clause (2) of clause 10, what it is really saying is that not only must mining, which by definition includes prospecting and exploration, be done with the approval of the Minister for Minerals and Energy but it can only be mining of a non-private nature. That is to say, it has to be mining by or on behalf of or in co-operation with Australia or an authority of Australia. What we are seeking to do by this amendment is not to take away from the government of the da)’ the right to say that a mining operation shall be conducted on a reserve; all we are seeking to do is to substitute the words ‘Governor-General’ so that the Executive Council, and therefore the Cabinet, can decide whether mining operations are to be allowed and whether they be private or public.
There is no reason as we see it for making a choice in the legislation between private and public mining operations. Indeed, if one harks back to the question of the seabed, the sub-claus(. now under discussion depends to some extent for its interpretation and effect on the operations of clause 7(b) and 7 (d) which talk about: an area of the Australian coastal sea in respect of the sea- bed and subsoil beneath . . .
And- an area of land or sea outside the Australian coastal .sea in respect of which Australia has, under an agreement between Australia . . . obligations . . .
Of course, that can cover the continental shelf and of course, under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act there already may be in existence licences to recover minerals or licences to explore for minerals on the sea-bed. Indeed operations very important to Australia are going on in Bass Strait on the continental shelf. As I understand it. those licences depend on the interpretation of the words ‘no right, title or interest is vested in a person other than Australia’ and that those words would be wide enough to cover a right in the nature of an exploration licence. I suggest to the Minister that that may be a matter of doubt. A right to mine would be an ‘interest’ in the seabed, but a right to explore for minerals may not be. It is very important if a park is proclaimed that it not bring to an end existing rights under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act.
As I understand it, the Minister and the Government do not intend to proclaim as a park an area where there are outstanding permits or licences under the Petroleum (Submerged
Lands) Act. If that is the intention and that is the interpretation that is given to clause 7, it means that clause 10 (2) would not operate until there were not extant any permits or licences. But whether a mining operation is on land or at sea, there seems to be no reason in logic to opt against private mining. Private mining on a reserve surely cannot be regarded as any worse than public mining. It is only a matter of imposing the restrictions that are necessary in order to ensure that the private operator carries on the operation in a way that is satisfactory to take account of the preservation of the park or the wildlife reserve.
As the Opposition sees it, clause 10 (2) ought to be amended to leave open the option of the government of the day. This provision to some extent is an extension of the Government’s philosophy that mining should be done either on behalf of the Government, in co-operation with the Government or by an authority of the Government. Of course we do not agree with that philosophy. But at the same time there is no reason why even this Government in certain circumstances should opt against private mining on national parks or wildlife reserves should it be decided to permit mining there. We press the amendment on the ground first of all that it leaves the options open but at the same time preserves for the Government of the day the right to say yea or nay to the operation and also preserves the right to decide whether it will be a public or private mining operation. I agree most wholeheartedly with what the honourable member for Gwydir said when he referred to the undesirability of having the Minister for Minerals and Energy- whether it is Mr Connor or somebody else- as the person who is to give approval.
– I think that I should indicate that my reading of this provision is a little different from that given by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) and the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott). I want to make it quite clear that the Minister of State for Minerals and Energy has no power at all under this legislation except that he is to do something in accordance with the plan of management relating to a particular park or reserve. In fact it is not even up to the Cabinet to decide whether there should be mining in a park. The way the provision is written means that mining can be allowed in a park only if it is in accordance with the plan of management relating to that park. The plan of management of the park has to be approved not just by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation or his
Cabinet colleagues, or the Party; it has to be approved by both Houses of the Parliament. So this in fact is a very severe restriction on the freedom or idiosyncrasies of any Minister of State for Minerals and Energy. He cannot do a damned thing until both Houses of Parliament have agreed to change the plan of management to allow it.
– Why is he mentioned in the clause at all?
-Given that both Houses of the Parliament have agreed that there should be mining we take the view that mining in a national park, even if the Parliament agrees, is still a very serious business. For this reason no matter how we might try to describe it, it will be seen by the community- certainly some sections of the communityas a betrayal of our trust in alienating a park. Even if it is agreed that because it is of sufficient national importance and interest we should overrule what would normally be the accepted view that a national park should be inviolate, we feel that the Government should be responsible and be seen to be responsible for these actions. In real terms if we say ‘the GovernorGeneral’ this obviously means a recommendation from the Cabinet. The Cabinet will decide on a recommendation of the Minister for Minerals and Energy once a decision has been taken that there should be mining. I want to make it quite clear that the Minister for Minerals and Energy cannot set the thing off, but once that decision has been taken I think the government of the day should be seen to be completely responsible. True, in the wording of the provision our philosophy is that it ought to be done and on behalf of the Australian Government. But I do not think the wording excludes the Minister, if he so wishes, from designating that private enterprise should carry on the operation. It think this is in fact a discretion which this wording leaves to the Minister.
– I do not know where it comes in if it does.
-‘ By or on behalf of the Government’ would allow the Minister to approve a private operation. ‘Other than or in co-operation with’ means that it does not have to be exclusively Australian; it could be an agent or some private consortium. This is how we have read the provision. Of course we stick to our view- it is a philosophical one, if you like- and we must agree to disagree on this.
– The plan of management itself might allow for private mining.
– I take the point that the plan of management could theoretically allow for private mining. As I have tried to indicate, we take the view that it is such a serious question that even if mining is allowed it is still in a national park and it will still be the national government’s responsibility. So I think we should be seen to be responsible (or the actions of mining. For these reasons, as much as I can see the point of the honourable member’s arguments, for these philosophical reasons if you like, on which we disagree we decline to accept this amendment.
– I move:
This amendment arises from a suggestion from Dr Geoff Mosley of the Australian Conservation Foundation, who pointed out to the need for an amendment to sub-clause (4), which now reads:
At a time when no plan or management is in force in relation to a park or reserve, sub-section (3 ) does not prevent the Director from performing his functions in that park or reserve for the purpose of preserving or protecting the park or reserve, protecting or conserving wildlife in the park or reserve or protecting persons or property in the park or reserve.
In accordance with the Foundation’s suggestion that the words ‘controlling authorised scientific research’ be added we have moved the amendment so that the end of the sub-clause would read: . . . controlling authorised scientific research or protecting persons or properly in the park or reserve.
As the Minister said to me in a private conservationI hope it was not too private- before the debate started, this is provided for in the next sub-clause, sub-clause (5). But what Dr Mosley was getting at was that there could be some time between the time a declaration is made or the reservation is made until a plan of management is actually approved. This delay could represent a considerable time. It would be quite unthinkable for a wilderness area to be set aside for any length of time and not to be available for scientific research. Dr Mosley felt that the power should be vested in the Director to enable scientific research to take place under his direction in accordance with his authority until such time as the plan of management is ultimately determined and approved by both Houses of Parliament. I think it is well worthy of the Government’s consideration. I have thought a lot about this amendment and I feel that it is justified. I hope the Government agrees to it.
– I feel that the amendment is superfluous. I must say that I am not terribly hung up on it. I would hope that no rational director would proceed to stop legitimate and authorised scientific research. I accept the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) though I think it is probably unnecessary.
A suggestion here has come from the same source. It was brought to my attention primarily by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). In the clause relating to the wilderness zone there are certain things that should not be done; there should be no excavations, no buildings, no works and so on, except in accordance with the plan of management relating to the zone for purposes essential to the management of the zone and to the safety of persons in the zone. This I find rather humourous but again I accept the proposal. The suggestion is that the words: ‘and to the safety of persons in the zone’ should be omitted. The reason is that if it is a wilderness area, but under the plan of management it is accessible to those hardy souls who wish to pit themselves against nature in the wilderness, they do not want to feel that if they do go into the area God, in the form of the director, is hovering over them caring for their safety.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) -A sort of twilight zone.
– Yes, a twilight zone. They want to go feeling that they are threatened.
– If they got lost they may want a helicopter.
– That is exactly my observation. If they get lost they will be very glad to see the helicopter zooming over looking for them. I am quite sure of that. However, if they feel happier in the knowledge that the Bill does not say that their safety is being looked after I will accept the honourable member’s amendment. I do not oppose the omission of the words ‘and to the safety of persons in the zone ‘.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
) Before preparing a plan of management in respect of a park or reserve, the Director shall, by notice published in the Gazette and in such newspapers as he thinks fit-
When the Director has prepared the plan of management, he shall, by notice published in the Gazette and in such newspapers as he thinks fit-
– I move:
The first two of these amendments relate to the third amendment which was made to clause 3 where it specified that in this Act a reference to a public notice is’ a reference to a notice published and .sped ties all the things it could be published in. Concerning the last two of these amendments, it was brought to my attention that in some situations where it states that the director shall give further consideration to a plan it was thought that we ought to insert the words ‘as soon as practicable after receipt of a plan’ because we did not want the plan to lie around gathering dust. Once again the Government accepts these proposals to insert in sub-clause ( 15) ‘as soon as practicable after receipt of the plan, ‘.
– I would like to raise with the Minister for the Environment and . Conservation (Dr Cass) sub-clause 5 of clause 1 1. 1 am concerned that provision can be made in relation to an area that is proposed to be added to the park or reserve. I know that this is incorporated in New South Wales legislation but it seems to me that this will put a cloud over neighbouring properties. Owners may suffer hardship if it is realised by the public at large that a plan of management and in fact an incorporation of that particular land may take place at a later date. If it is our intention, in some offhanded way, to raise the matter of a preserve surrounding a park, I do not think that the implication of a preserve is there. But I think the intention is that at a later date the park may extend in that particular direction. I feel there may be an obligation here on the Government should people be suffering hardship or involved in a situation where they may want to leave that area. The Government has surely some obligation to the owners of that land.
– I agree. I think it cuts both ways. In fact, I envisage the situation where the Government may want to extend a park area. After all, if the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Bill is passed $9m will be allocated for that purpose alone. I would think that a few State governments around the country are going to start looking for land to buy. If it is Crown land they will not have to buy it. So clearly the money is for land that they are going to seek to buy. It strikes me that there is no harm in letting people know what is likely to happen because I think it would be a poor situation for some poor blighter not to know that it is envisaged that the State- I am not talking now about the Australian Government but about the State governments- intends to buy some land because the Australian Government is giving them the wherewithal to do it. The State Government knows that it is contemplating acquisition. If it is talking about a plan of management and could foreshadow the buying of land so that people might be aware of it but does not do so the result could be that somebody sells some land to someone else in good faith and then soon after the purchase the new owner suddenly finds that he is submerged in a park. I think that bearing in mind the frailties of human beings in these sorts of activities and our passions in relation to these things and the fact that we do not want to lose, and we do not want to be taken down by people who can make a profit out of this kind of situation, there are 2 sides to it. I feel that the fairest thing, if an extension to the park is contemplated, is to have the plan of management indicate this possibility. It does not actually take any positive action. The clause states:
The plan of management may include provisions in relation to an area that is proposed to be added to the park or reserve, but those provisions shall not have effect until the area is added to the park or reserve.
Nothing can be done. It is warning people of something that is likely to happen. We will always have arguments about whether or not compensation should be paid. In this case what is obviously involved is compensation. The Australian Governmernt if it is ever involved in acquiring land anywhere, has to pay compensation in terms of market value. The States are the ones which might behave in a contrary fashion. I do not believe that they often do so. I think most governments, whether State or Federal, seek to be as just as possible to the people who may be victimised by their actions.
– There is no time plan indicated or anything like that. It could jeopardise neighbouring properties for quite a considerable length of time.
– I must admit that particular point had not been drawn to my attention. I would like to think that if a government bothers to specify in a plan of management that it intends to extend an area it is not going to sit twiddling its thumbs waiting for a long time to do it. After all, it could be accused if it did of bad faith and it may well rebound electorally on the government. I would suggest that any government anywhere that seeks to do that would be well advised to act quickly afterwards in fairness to the people involved. Delay could only rebound against the government itself. Imagine the hue and cry that some agrieved person could raise on this sort of issue.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 17- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
1 ) This section applies in relation to-
The Director shall not take any action under subsection (2) in relation to any land except in accordance with an agreement between the Director and-
– I move:
This matter was brought to my attention by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs on which both sides of the House of Representatives are represented as honourable members are aware. It has been pointed out to me that whilst the Committee agreed with the sentiments expressed in the clause as it was originally, it felt that it could be misinterpreted. For this reason we have turned the clauses around a bit to make it clear that if we are going to deal with Aboriginal land we will first of all ensure that the complete understanding, co-operation and agreement of the Aborigines is obtained beforehand. A fairly delicate exercise has been required. It is often difficult to know to which group of Aborigines one should address one’s attention, so we have specified what is required in these terms in proposed clause 18:
We are not wishing to take anything away from them or deprive them of anything: … in managing land to which this section applies for the purpose of the protection and conservation of wildlife in that /and and the protection of the natural features of that land.
The new clause then continues:
The Director shall not take any action under subsection ( I ) in relation to any land except-
This matter was brought to my attention quite forcefully by the Committee. It pointed out that while the Government is setting up land councils of various sorts, often the question of ownership is a most delicate one. Many Aborigines do not recognise that it is the prerogative of land councils to make these sorts of decisions. Aborigines have very strong views about who owns land. While we often squabble about land rights, they in many ways could be said to be far more civilised than we are. Over the aeons of time they have established who owns the land and whose rights to the land should predominate.
– Do they not believe in conquest at all?
– I think that they are far more civilised in many ways than we are. Because of this situation, we wanted if possible to find the Aborigines whom other Aborigines would concede have the traditional rights to that land. If it is not possible to do that, the sub-clause then goes on to provide:
In other words, as some of the Aboriginal land is vested in Australia we cannot ride roughshod over the Aborigines and we cannot ride roughshod over whoever is their representative as far as the Australian Government is concerned:
In fact, we leave it open in the case of any other land by providing:
We have cast the sub-clauses as widely as we could to ensure that we did not clash with traditional Aboriginal land rights. Sub-clause (3) of proposed new clause 18 specifies some of the other aspects which we do encompass initially in the provision. It states:
With the consent of the person with whom, or the party or body with which such an agreement is made by the Director in relation to any land, the Governor-General may, by proclamation, assign a name to that land.
Sub-clause (4) provides:
This section applies to-
land vested in an Aboriginal or Aboriginals or in a body corporate that is wholly owned by Aboriginals;
any other land occupied by Aboriginals.
For the reasons that I have outlined, I have moved the amendment proposing the new clause, the provisions of which I have just set out. It says somewhat the same things, but in a slightly different way with more emphasis being placed on land owners.
-The Opposition supports the amendment. As I am a member of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, I feel that I should thank the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) for being so co-operative in this matter. He went to the trouble of meeting with us and sought to understand and to accept the position, particularly with respect to the Northern Territory. This BUI will have prime application in the Northern Territory where a number of areas will ultimately be taken over by the Director. I have no doubt that other areas will be proclaimed. It could well be that these will be cases where land will be vested in Aboriginals or in a body corporate. I feel that the way in which the Minister has rearranged this provision will enable what is proposed to be better understood and more appreciated by the Aboriginal people concerned. The Opposition wholeheartedly supports the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
A program formulated under sub-section ( 1 ) shall he based upon, among other matters-
– I move:
Again, this amendment represents almost a complete redrafting of the original clause. It was pointed out that it was a bit incongruous to have in a Bill ostensibly for the purpose of national parks and wildlife conservation a clause which is noted in the margin as relating to: ‘Culling and commercial harvesting of wildlife’. It seemed, to say the least, a little incongruous and quite contrary to the spirit of the whole Bill. By the amendment, we seek to change the clause to a more positive expression of what we are seeking to do, that is, to protect wildlife. The clause has been redrafted in terms of its new marginal definition which is ‘Wildlife conservation programs’ rather than ‘Culling and commercial harvesting of wildlife ‘.
The amendment specifies in essence that we are to seek the co-operation of the States or the authority of the States in formulating and implementing programs for the purposes of the protection, conservation, management and control of wildlife. It indicates some of the points that should be examined in deciding those programs. These include habitat, an evaluation of the extent to which existing parks and reserves may achieve the purpose which we are seeking and the techniques for an assessment and analysis of the population of wildlife. After all, if we have claims and counter claims on, for example, how many kangaroos can be culled, the answer quite clearly depends on how competent our assessment of the kangaroo population is. We will seek to assess and analyse the population of wildlife and also give consideration to the obligations of Australia under certain agreements between this country and other countries relating to the protection and conservation of wildlife.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I wish to move an amendment to what the Minister has moved.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)Order! It will be necessary first to resolve the question now before the Committee. The question is: ‘That the clause proposed to be omitted (Dr Cass’s amendment) stand part of the Bill’. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no, I think the noes have it. The question now is: ‘That the clause proposed to be inserted (Dr Cass’s amendment) be so inserted ‘.
I was glad to hear the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) say that the programs for the protection, conservation, management and control of wildlife would be implemented and organised in co-operation with each State concerned. Unfortunately the proposed new clause does not necessarily restrict itself in that way. A simple way to achieve the desired result would be to amend the clause to provide that ‘the Director may in co-operation with the State formulate and implement’, and leave it at that, thus restricting formulation and implementation by the Director in his own power to the Territories. So, the amendment moved by the Minister does not quite meet the situation, as we see it, vis-a-vis the States because, on the face of it, if this power is granted, it would enable the Director to formulate and implement a program without regard to the interests or the attitudes of the State concerned. Hopefully, that is not the intention of the Minister in his administration of this law.
Each State should have its own program. In order to preserve the position we propose this amendment by inserting new sub-clause (2a). So if each State has a program of its own which it wants to formulate and implement it may do so and nothing in proposed new clause 19 would affect that program. The 2 provisions would be there. The Commonwealth law would operate if it was valid, and the State law would operate. Clearly enough it would be valid. There will be no question but that a State will have power to formulate and implement programs for the preservation of wildlife. That is the purpose of our amendment. Another way around the situation, of course, would be simply to express the intention of the Minister that programs which are to be implemented in a State will be done only in co-operation with the State. If at this stage the
Minister is prepared to accept that other amendment, of course proposed new sub-clause (2a), as we suggest, will not be pressed.
– I hope the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) with characteristic frankness and fairness will accept this amendment. As he knows, I am particularly concerned about the way in which the Australian Government’s writ runs in relation to kangaroos. I think that a far greater place of responsibility ought to be given to the States. Far more than people generally recognise the States live with their problems. They are aware of their problems in a way which I am afraid is not generally recognised. I am acutely afraid that because of the Commonwealth decision to forbid the export of kangaroo skins in the salt bush areas there will be an illegal program of poisoning kangaroos. The operation of the Australian law has been such that in many of the areas in my electorate the kangaroo population has been breeding and it will have to be controlled somehow.
The Commonwealth has made it economically impossible to shoot kangaroos. This is a grim kind of warning which I sound to the Minister. If the kangaroos are not to be shot they will be killed in some far more reprehensible way which will have no regard for the propagation of the species. All kinds of other animals will be killed which should not be killed. I am concerned. I know that many States- including my State of South Australia- have a very clear and, I think, generally a wise program of control of the kangaroo population. I ask the Minister, with his customary fairness, to recognise that there is a place in these kinds of grass roots things- I shall come to this in the next Bill also- for a more intimate way in which the States could help to make conservation work. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
– This particular issue has raised a lot of emotion, anxiety and anger on all sides. I think the point which the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) has raised is the key issue which has triggered off the whole matter. Before I answer him I point out while I feel cool, calm and collected that we do not envisage domineering or forcing people to do anything. This is a simple proposition if a reasonable and controlled program is drawn up in consultation with the States. That is the purpose of our proposed amendment. It states: 19.(1) The Director may -
If any State or all States adopt reasonable, rational and sensible control programs there is no earthly reason why the Australian Government should step in. Now, let me get a bit excited. I refer specificially to the kangaroo problem. I remember sitting on a back bench in this House while day after day the former honourable member for Henty, Mr Fox, the then Liberal-Country Party Government Whip, introduced petition after petition praying that we would save the red kangaroo. No one ever counted the number of signatures but I guess there were hundreds of thousands on those petitions. To do Mr Fox credit, he finally succeeded in stirring the government of the day, a LiberalCountry Party Government, to establish a committee of inquiry into the whole business. The Labor Party was represented on that committee together with supporters of the government of the day, the Liberal-Country Party.
The House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation in its recommendations strongly suggested the need for strong Australian Government participation and action in ensuring that sensible control programs were evolved. The report was made but, as is so customary with all reports, it tended to lie undisturbed gathering dust. Still the petitions came in. Still nothing was being done. I concede that when the Australian Labor Party got to power many of us on the Government side in 1972 and at the beginning of 1973 felt that we had gained office because- among other reasons- of our concern for the environment and conservation. The continuing slaughter of the kangaroo, as most people saw it, was worrying a lot of people.
The Australian Government has no direct power over kangaroos. Any State government could decree that every single kangaroo in that State be shot and we could do nothing about it. At least, there was nothing we could do about it at that stage. The position has changed a bit now. The story that the so-called ban was imposed by the Minister for Customs and Excise, Senator Murphy, without any consultation is not quite right. Senator Murphy indicated to me that he had power and that he was prepared to act. I accepted his offer with alacrity because in fact it was the only way of getting some action. All Senator Murphy did was to observe the law of this land as it has been since about the 1930s when the government of that day passed a law which provided that no native species could be exported without a permit. So unless there is a permit it is illegal. That is all there is about it. That is the law of the land. All Senator Murphy said was that he would not allow any more permits until he had been advised by the Minister responsible- who was myself- that the product was taken in conformity with a rational and acceptable management program. Of course when everybody learnt that we had forbidden the export of kangaroo products that raised merry hell. Kangaroos could still be killed. They could still be canned, made into goods and used in Australia but they could not be exported.
We had a meeting of Ministers, I think in March 1973. It was very early on. We were assaulted on all sides by the State people. We agreed that something had to be done about the matter. We agreed to establish a working party to work out a management program. We proceeded to do that. It was not the Australian Government but a group of the fauna authorities of all States. It was their recommendation which we sought and which we asked the State governments to accept. I regret to say that they have still not accepted the recommendation. That is the problem. This matter raises a lot of heat. I do not want to enter into any more argument. When we have a reasonable program the ban will be lifted. That is what we have said all along. We want to ensure that whatever animals are taken- that is what our proposed amendment suggests- it will be done in conformity with a reasonable management program. We decline to accept the amendment.
Amendment to proposed amendment negatived.
Original amendment agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 39- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
) A warden may, without warrant, arrest any person, if the warden reasonably believes-
– I move:
Under the clause as it stood. a warden could apprehend people without signifying who or what he was. We realise that that was unreasonable.
-This is possibly not the appropriate time to speak, but in my speech on the second reading I referred to the provisions of sub-clause (4) of clause 40 and the fact the warden was able to exercise such wide powers anywhere in Australia. The warden had power to arrest without warrant a person anywhere in Australia. In my speech on the second reading, I indicated that I thought these powers were too broad. On the other hand we have not moved an amendment. I understand that the Minister will take the matter up with the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy). On that basis we in the Opposition do not propose to move an amendment to clause 40 or to clause 42 (2) or any other clause which has this aspect in it. I do not think there are any others, but should there be I would intend that all of them be referred to the Attorney-General.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move:
In sub-clause ( 1 ), after ‘vehicle, ‘ insert ‘aircraft, ‘.
In sub-clause (2 ), after ‘vehicle, ‘ insert ‘aircraft,’.
In sub-clause ( 3 ), after ‘vehicle, ‘ insert ‘ aircraft, ‘.
In sub-clause (4), after ‘vehicle,’ insert ‘aircraft,’.
The word ‘aircraft’ was inadvertantly omitted initially.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
1 ) A warden may, in a park or reserve in Australia or the Australian coastal sea, search a vehicle or vessel for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is in or on that vehicle or vessel-
A warden may, anywhere in Australia or the Australian coastal sea or in a park of reserve outside the Australian coastal sea, search a vehicle or vessel if he believes on reasonable grounds that there is in or on that vehicle or vessel
3 ) A warden or ranger may, in a park or reserve-
Where a warden (other than a member of a police force who is in uniform ) proposes to search, stop or detain a vehicle or vessel, he shall, on demand by the person in charge of the vehicle or vessel-
Where a warden (other than a member of a police force who is in uniform) or a ranger makes a requirement of a person in pursuance of sub-section (3), he shall, on demand by that person-
– I move:
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 43 to 64- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
In any proceedings for an offence against this Act, an averment of the prosecutor, contained in the information or complaint, that, at a specified time-
– I move:
-This clause endeavours to establish what is known as an averment procedure. It enables a prosecutor to state a particular fact and the facts that he is able to state are detailed in paragraphs (a) and (b). That is to be prima facie evidence of that fact in any court of law. It means that the burden of proof shifts from the prosecutor in any instance to the defendant. The clause itself is very wide. I draw the Committee’s attention to paragraph (a), which states that one of the facts that can be averred to is that the defendant was in a specified park or reserve. There are a number of Acts in which sections of this type already appear. They relate primarily to finance and matters of collection of public moneys. There are such sections in the Customs Act, the Income Tax Assessment Act and a number of levy Acts. These sections appear in such Acts because of the particular and peculiar matters of information that are in the hands of the defendant. One can understand that if the defendant has the only books and records he might be required to produce the evidence that he has in his hands.
I am told this clause was supposedly based upon a similar clause appearing in the National Parks and Wildlife Bill which was earlier this year being considered by the New South Wales State parliament. I was particularly concerned that it may have been based upon some similar State Act. I obtained a copy of the Bill that was recently before that Parliament. Clause 181(1) covers the need of the Crown to produce a survey to prove that a particular place alleged to be in a park is in fact within that park. It was introduced to avoid the Crown having to produce surveyors in court to prove this fact. One can understand why a provision like that may have been introduced into the State legislation. I seek leave to have the clause of the New South Wales Bill incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)- 1 8 1 . ( 1 ) An allegation, in an information in respect of an offence against this Act, the regulations or the by-laws, that any lands in question form part of a national park, historic site, nature reserve, Aboriginal area, protected archaeological area, wildlife district, wildlife refuge or game reserve shall be sufficient without proof of the matter so alleged unless the defendant proves to the contrary.
-As I understand it clause 65 was designed to cover that situation, but in fact paragraph (a) has been drawn so widely that an averment that a defendant was in a park becomes the point of prima facie evidence that has to be disproved. I consider this is far too wide. It is a constriction of personal liberty that one could not defend. I would like to refer the Committee to speeches made by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby) some time ago on the Public Order (Protection of Persons and Property) Bill on 2 1 April 1971.1 draw the attention of honourable members to page 1813 of Hansard where certain very critical comments are contained on clauses of this type. I draw the attention of the House to the very scathing criticism of a clause of this type in the Pig Slaughter
Levy Collection Bill which was considered in the Senate on 1 1 May 1971. Senator Murphy’s comments are contained in page 1663 of Hansard. He was very critical of the way that finance matters that I mentioned earlier were being considered and where one could see some justification for it. Senator Murphy said of the averment clause of that Bill:
But why should there be an unlimited provision of this nature under which an averment or statement can be made and then the onus of proof passes to the defendant?
He was very critical of the clause. I suggest that the clause as drafted is far too wide. I personally intend to oppose it and I hope that if the Committee considers that it should be proceeded with an amendment to restrict its very wide character will be considered and that when the Bill is ultimately passed it will have been amended to take into account the matters that I have raised.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 66 to 68- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
Clause 69 (International Agreements)
– I move:
I have already given my reason for this amendment in my speech on the second reading, and I will not repeat it. I think the Minister understands the objection that we have to this broad power of regulation to implement treaties. I would only suggest to him, having in mind that this Bill has to get through the Senate, that he might take into account the possibility of putting in a schedule those existing treaties, to which Australia is either a signatory or which it has ratified, and which the Government would wish to implement through a clause such as this, so that specific power could be given consideration to them, but we should omit a broad regulation making power of this description. On that basis I would urge him to omit the clause at this stage and resubmit a provision which would implement this suggestion.
– At this stage I would prefer to leave it as it is. I will certainly mention the matter to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) and obtain his views on it. At this stage I wish to persist with the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Proposed new clause 69a.
– I move:
The proposed new clause relates to the use of parks and reserves by Aboriginals, in accordance with law, for their traditional use of the area of land or water for hunting, food gathering and so. Certainly we will have national parks where obviously we will have to observe the rights of the Aboriginals to use them in a traditional fashion but, of course, not to destroy the purpose of the park. Therefore the operation of the sub-section will be subject to regulations made for the purpose of conserving wildlife in the area. . Proposed new clause agreed to.
Without limiting the generality of sub-section (1), regulations may be made-
Regulations with respect to a matter shall be regulations applicable to that matter only so far as that matter may be dealt with under the powers of the Parliament, including its powers with respect to-
– I move:
It is felt that this paragraph provides too broad a power base for any Government to enact law by regulation rather than by a Bill for an Act. It covers a very broad area of legislative responsibility, an area to which the Australian Parliament should be directing its attention. I suppose it could be said that increasingly this Parliament is becoming involved with local and regional issues and responsibilities that have hitherto been the responsibility of the States. Yet we are moving to a position because of the pressure of legislation where we are trying to broaden the regulation making provisions within Bills. I think that this circumvents the proper responsibility of the Parliament. Therefore the Opposition feels that paragraph (2) (c) should be omitted.
– The Government opposes this amendment. We are prepared to concede the omission of the words ‘or restricting’ so that paragraph (2)(c) will read: regulating trade and commerce in connexion with wildlife:
I suggest that the clause be amended simply omitting the words ‘or restricting’.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, may I raise a question not of great principle? Can the Minister assure me that in paragraph (2) (c) the word ‘connexion ‘ is spelt correctly?
– I apologise.
– I move:
In paragraph (2 ) (c) omit ‘or restricting’. Amendment agreed to. Mr HUNT (Gwydir) (5.0 )-I move: . At the end of paragraph (2)(d) add ‘in parks, reserves or wilderness areas’.
Omit paragraph (2 )(s).
Omit paragraph (4)(e).
In paragraph (4)( f), omit ‘and among the States. ‘.
In relation to the first amendment, the Opposition feels that there should not be regulationmaking powers to encompass an area other than an area to which this legislation is directed. I have moved the second amendment because the Opposition feels that paragraph (2)(s) gives far too much power by way of regulation by regulating or prohibiting the use of vessels in, and the passage of vessels through, parks and reserves and the landing and use of aircraft in, and the flying of aircraft over, parks and reserves. This type of regulation should be contained in a Bill for an Act. Paragraph (4)(e) gives regulationmaking powers with respect to external affairs, including the implementation of agreements between Australia and other countries. International agreements are very important and surely they should be contained in a Bill for an Act rather than just be pushed through the Parliament by way of regulation. Of course, there are ways and means of blocking regulations but this is an easy way of trying to achieve things inconspicuously. If we adopt these procedures the Parliament could well not know what is going through by way of regulation because of the way in which regulations are made. It is no good saying that all members of Parliament are watching every regulation that goes through the Parliament. Not every honourable member- certainly not on the Opposition side- has the staff or the departments behind him to check the volume of regulations that is flowing through.
The last amendment refers to paragraph (4)(f). Here we have a regulation making provision with respect to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States, including the import and export of animals and plants. The Opposition has moved an amendment to omit the words ‘and among the States’ because it feels that the Government should not take unto itself regulation making powers in respect of trade and commerce matters that may apply among the States. Indeed it is questionable whether there is constitutional provision to entitle the Government to make regulations in this regard.
-In my speech in the second reading debate I referred to the possibility that, in relation to areas of the high seas over which a national park is declared, there could be a breach of the convention on the high seas. Having said that, I assume that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) would be prepared to discuss that matter with the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy), and on that basis the Opposition has not proposed any further amendments to clause 70. If it was thought that there was some substance in what I have said, it would of course be necessary to give careful thought to another regulation making provision to deal with parks which cover areas of the high seas.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Dr Cass)- by leave- read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 23 October on motion by Dr Cass:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Cass) read a third time.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill 1974.
Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Bill 1 974.
States Grants (Schools) Bill 1974.
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Bill 1 974.
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Bill 1974.
Queensland Grant (Bundaberg Irrigation Works) Bill 1974.
Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1974.
Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Bill 1 974.
Queensland Grant (Proserpine Flood Mitigation) Bill 1974.
Customs TariffBill 1974.
Customs TariffBill (No. 2) 1 974.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill ( No. 2 ) 1 974.
Customs Bill (No. 2) 1974.
Excise TariffBill 1974.
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Bill 1974.
Queensland Grant (Clare Weir) Bill 1974.
Air Navigation Bill 1974.
Debate resumed from 27 November on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This is a very short Bill but, of course, it is of the utmost importance to the people of King Island. As indicated in the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport ( Mr Charles Jones ) the Bill provides financial assistance by way of a loan to Tasmania of $1,415,000 in order to purchase the vessel the ‘Straitsman’. This vessel, of course, was involved in an unfortunate accident in the port of Melbourne early this year and is now in the course of repair. Therefore it will not be available to the service, I understand, until 1975. The provision of shipping between King Island, Tasmania and the Australian mainland has, of course, a long history. It has been a difficult problem and regrettably remains so under the administration of this Government.
Tasmania is as much a part of Australia as any other State. I should not have to say that but sometimes Tasmanians feel they are not Australians. The Labor Party needs to be reminded of that. King Island is as much a part of Tasmania and of Australia as any other locality. The residents of King Island number over 3,000 and, of course, are as important as any other Australians. Our philosophy in the Liberal Party is committed to emphasising the needs of these people. Under the transport section of our policy we have indicated specifically the desirability and, indeed, the need to consider the special problems of populated islands, including King Island, Flinders Island, Kangaroo Island, Thursday Island and so on. King Island is an isolated community in a very real sense. It is an island off an island. It faces many of the problems that isolated communities suffer. Communications, in all their forms, are of paramount importance in the daily lives of its people. The communication needs encompass transport by sea and air and the media communications of television, radio and telephone.
This Bill concerns the shipping link. Specifically, it makes available to the Tasmanian State Government $1.4 15m by way of loan repayable over 15 years at the long term bond rate of interest so that the shipping service to King Island can be maintained by the purchase of a vessel, in this case the ‘Straitsman’. Previous consideration has been given to the provision of a service to King Island- it goes back at least to 1967. Of course, the ‘Straitsman’ was constructed and available for service in 1 972. Prior to that, under the previous Liberal-Country Party Government, amounts were expended to provide berths at Grassy Island and at Stanley and for remodelling the Melbourne berth. These totalled, in all, about $2m of expenditure.
The present Government’s record in relation to King Island shipping is nothing of which to be proud. Prior to the 1972 elections the promises given were impressive. Since then the action delivered has been disappointing. Last year the Government introduced the King Island Harbour Agreement Bill, which made available a sum of $ 1.355m to assist in the construction of a sea port at Grassy, King Island. That Commonwealth assistance flowed directly from the commitment that was made by the previous LiberalCountry Party Government. It was not a Labor Party initiative; in fact, there have been few Labor Party initiatives in King Island. King Islanders remember only too well the telegram that the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) sent prior to the 1972 election. It read as follows:
Federal Parliamentary Party today approved the following policy decision. A Federal Labor Government will require the Australian National Line to assume responsibility for the King Island Shipping Service and. for this purpose, to negotiate with the owners of the ship Straitsman which was specifically designed for this purpose.
The telegram was signed ‘Ron Davies MHR’. On 15 March 1973 Senator Cavanagh, representing in the Senate the Minister for Transport, said:
The Australian National Line has been instructed to purchase the ‘Straitsman ‘. I believe I said yesterday that the vessel would not be suitable and would not be engaged. It is to start the service to King Island when agreement has been reached on manning conditions, about which there was some trouble previously. The ANL has been asked to maintain separate accounts for the operation of this service because it is realised that it will not be a profitable one. When the * King Island’ was in use the Government was subsidising the freight to the extent of $3.35 a ton and this cost approximately $150,000 a year. I can assure the honourable senator that the service will be operating in the future.
Neither of those promises has been honoured. The telegram from the honourable member for Braddon said: ‘A Federal Labor Government will require the Australian National Line to assume responsibility for the King Island shipping service’. The Minister representing the Minister for Transport said: ‘The Australian National Line has been instructed to purchase the ‘Straitsman’.’ Neither of these things was done. The lack of enthusiasm of the Government to tackle the problems of King Island is further demonstrated by the failure of the Government to appoint any Labor representatives to the Senate Select Committee which was appointed on 3 May 1 973 to examine shipping services between King Island, Stanley and Melbourne. The Tasmanian Liberal Party senators were represented on the Committee. They were interested in King Island. Apparently the Tasmanian Labor Party senators were not interested in King Island.
The conclusion contained in that Committee’s report was that the ‘Straitsman’ would become a profitable operation after an established period and that this operation was worthy of support by the Commonwealth Government. At this stage, the ‘Straitsman ‘ had been tied up at the wharf in Melbourne since 14 June 1972. The Australian
Labor Party was reluctant to accept this even though it had initially promised to do so. The outcome 2 years later is that the Labor Party has now introduced this Bill which will, in fact, result in the Tasmanian State Government receiving assistance for the purchase of the ‘Straitsman ‘. This is only a start; it needs to be followed up by assistance for its operation. The Opposition parties are disappointed that the form of assistance provided in this Bill is by way of a loan. If the Government were truly sincere in its written and spoken word prior to the 1972 election- it seemed to express a keenness to assist King Island and the State Government- a more suitable financing arrangement would have been at least a combination of loan and grant funds. Of course, interest charges on that loan will be added to and passed on in the transport costs. They will be borne by the residents of King Island. As I have said, the measures in this Bill represent only a small part of solving the shipping transport, communication and other problems that face the residents of King Island.
Some of the problems the residents face apply throughout Australia. For example, I refer to the depressed state of the beef industry. At the end of last month the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), Senator Rae and Senator Bessell visited King Island. Unfortunately, due to the transport difficulties I was not able to accompany them but I hope to visit there soon. During this visit to King Island the Leader of the Opposition issued a detailed paper on interstate and intrastate transport policies for Tasmania that the Liberal and Country parties have adopted. Specifically in relation to King Island, Mr Snedden referred to the callous decision of the Labor Government to withdraw the subsidy on air services. It is pertinent to mention the withdrawal of air services in this context because this decision illustrates the Labor Government’s lack of appreciation of the overall transport needs of the island. In addition to being abysmally slow in improving the shipping service, Mr Charles Jones, the Minister for Transport, is now in the course of ruining the air services. The King Island people have to rely now on a small twinengined plane for their flights to the mainland regardless of whether they are pensioners in ill health or school children trying to arrange excursions. The Minister’s concluding statement in his second reading speech is hypocritical. He said:
The Australian Government is concerned that adequate transport links to outlying communities should be maintained.
If he really meant that, he would not have withdrawn the subsidy, nor would he be so complacent about the threatened closure of Devonport and Wynyard airports. The Minister concluded his second reading speech by saying:
This loan to the Tasmanian Government recognises the needs of the people on King Island.
Let me indicate to the Minister that this Bill in no way satisfies all their needs in shipping or in other areas. I give notice now that I will be taking other opportunities to raise in this House the problems King Island residents face as well as those of other Tasmanians.
– I am sorry that the honourable member for Wentworth ( W Ellicott) has not done quite enough research i :”> the matter. If he had, instead of criticising he Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), who is at the table, and the present Government, he would have found that for the 6 months the ‘Straitsman’ was tied up the former Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) quite clearly indicated in a letter that the provision of the service- he was referring to the restoration of the ‘Straitsman’ service- rested exactly with the Tasmanian Government and its Transport Commission. This went on for some 6 months from the unfortunate date on which the ‘Straitsman ‘ was tied up. The honourable member for Wentworth talks about a harbour being built on Grassy Island. I do not think that the people of Grassy would be very happy if they thought that they were on an island isolated from the rest of King Island.
However, I want to put the record straight so far as I am concerned in regard to the ‘Straitsman’. Whenever the word ‘Straitsman’ is mentioned, the name of Captain R. H. Houfe comes to my mind immediately. As I have done in the House on several occasions, I want to pay a tribute to Captain Bob Houfe. He is recognised by everyone in the trade as a specialist in the island services. Apart from that and his abilities as a seaman, on a personal basis he is known as a man among men. I think that it is important to put the record straight so far as the ‘Straitsman’ is concerned because the position is not understood by some people. Bob Houfe commenced his company, R. H. Houfe & Co. Pty Ltd, in 1 954 when he obtained the ‘Loatta’ from W. H. Holyman & Sons Pty Ltd. It traded on the King Island run. Later, he purchased the ‘Darega’ from the New Guinea river trade. Of course, when he realised that this ship was too small he then designed and had built at the Devonport shipyards the ‘King Islander’, a magnificent little ship of 220 tons. It was designed as a Bristol freighter with bow loading. The ‘King Islander’ did a magnificent service and the King Island people could almost set their clocks by the schedule on which Bob Houfe ran in and out of the harbour at Currie.
However, he realised that in order to contain rising freight costs he had to use a bigger ship. Hence, he recognised the need for a ship of the type of the ‘Straitsman’. He made contact with the Standing Committee on Shipping for Circular Head in 1967. 1 want to mention very briefly the work of this Committee because it is tied up with the ‘Straitsman’ all the way. This Committee was formed in January 1965-10 years ago- on the occasion of the first visit of the ‘Empress of Australia’ to the port of Burnie. On that occasion I led a deputation of shippers to the late Frank Mercovich and Captain Sir John Williams. We requested an additional ship out of the port of Stanley because there was a certain backlag of timber and produce. On the ‘Empress of Australia’ that day the late Frank Mercovich and Captain Sir John Williams immediately acceded to our request and then suggested that we should set up a committee in order to obtain accurate freight forecasts and transmit them to the Australian National Line. They said that they would do everything possible to make sure that our requests were met in the future. We set up such a committee and it has operated very efficiently since 1965. It is still in existence. The purpose was to keep the port open because of the great potential of Circular Head. We were successful in obtaining a ship every 3 weeks during those years.
Of course, we realised that it was necessary to go into roll-on roll-off services and to keep pace with modern developments in shipping if we were to continue to keep the port open. We approached the Australian National Line and other companies in order to get them interested. Certainly, in those days the Australian National Line was very sympathetic and very cooperative. Captain Menzies, who was then the technical superintendent of ANL, came to the Tasmanian coastline and conducted a survey there. He found that there was no difficulty in constructing a loading ramp at Stanley. He also interested us at the time in the possible provision of tugs and barges because these were being used on the run from the west coast of the United States of America to Honolulu. We were interested in this proposition. After some 12 months of investigation by the Australian National Line unfortunately it turned down the proposition to establish a roll-on roll-off service for us between Stanley, King Island and Melbourne. However, Bob Houfe came to the Committee in 1967. We immediately embarked upon plans for a new and larger ship and for the provision of a deep water port on King Island in order to get the service operating. We saw then the possibility of the triangular service that we had all hoped for becoming a reality instead of a dream.
Of course, the honourable member for Wentworth gave all the credit to the previous LiberalCountry Party Government for the development of the port at Grassy. Of course, he does not realise the great amount of work that the Standing Committee on Shipping for Circular Head did with the Tasmanian Government at the time and the fact that the Tasmanian Labor Government at the time approached the Government here and shared the cost of up to $100,000 for a survey into the feasibility of a deepwater port on King Island. The study was done by Macdonald Wagner and Priddle. They unfortunately came up with the idea of a port at Currie. Of course, this was hopeless for us because it envisaged the use again of ships of only 300 tons. This spelt the death knell at the time of a triangular service because such a service envisaged larger ships.
This report was given to us in June 1969. Fortunately for us Peko-Wallsend Ltd who had the Grassy mine commissioned Maunsell and Partners in August 1 969 to conduct a feasibility study of an all-weather port at Grassy. We were very delighted. I will read quickly from the official report of the Standing Committee on Shipping for Circular Head. It stated:
The Consulting Engineers reported in September that the project was feasible. It provided for a harbour at Little Grassy Bay with a berth for a 200 feet roll-on roll-off vessel and moorings for a 500 feet tanker, using over-burden and reject rock from the mine as construction materials. The cost of this facility, complete with access roads and with a reclaimed and paved marshalling area would be approximately $ 1.3m.
Negotiations began almost immediately between PekoWallsend Ltd, and the Tasmanian Government -
This dispells all the praise given by the honourable member for Wentworth to his colleagues - on the new port for Grassy and the mining company bought capital equipment in excess of $!4m to start the breakwater.
After this work was started, Captain Houfe was able to go ahead and call tenders for a new vessel which he did in 1970. He let the contract to the shipyards of North Queensland Engineers and Agents Pty Ltd in Cairns.
I can recall that Friday, 4 September 1970. It was a red letter day for the Standing Committee on Snipping for Circular Head when we entertained Captain Houfe at a special luncheon in Stanley to celebrate the signing of the contract. During the lunch we received the following telegram from Mr Fry, the Managing Director of NQEA in Cairns which read:
Reference stern loading vessel for Stanley-King IslandMelbourne trade Stop Keel laid today Kindest regards.
So we thought that we were under way. We had a deep water port under way at Grassy on King Island and we had the keel laid for the ‘Straitsman’. But, of course, one of the factors that militated against ‘Straitsman’- and this is the purpose of this Bill- was the delay in the construction of the Grassy port and the procrastination by the then Liberal Party Government in Tasmania. Mr Bethune, the Leader of that Party, dilly dallied and just refused to give us the green light to go ahead.
However, ‘Straitsman’ came into service and commenced on 1 May 1972. It is extremely unfortunate that after 7 round trips she tied up on 16 June 1972 due to liquidity problems. Certainly it was a bad time of the year. It was towards the end of the financial year. It was a time when orders for timber were running down naturally because stocktaking was going on in the timber holding yards on the mainland. So the cargo was not there at that time. In addition to that, of course, there was a problem with the freight forwarders. I just point out that the general cargo rate for ‘Straitsman ‘ was $ 1 8 a ton. Of that, the freight forwarders took $12, leaving Captain Houfe with $6 of which he had to pay port dues of $2. So out of $18 a ton for general cargo, Captain R. H. Houfe with the ‘Straitsman’ netted only $4 a ton. So there were these problems which, as I have said, culminated in the liquidity problem.
For 6 months negotiations were conducted with the previous Government and Mr Peter Nixon, who was then the Minister for Shipping and Transport. As I have said negotiations were being conducted even a month before the 1972 elections. The then Minister continued to say in a letter that he, on behalf of the Liberal-Country Party Government, considered that the provision of the service, which would have meant the restoration of the ‘Straitsman’, rested essentially with the Tasmanian State Government and the Tasmanian Transport Commission. It is true that the Australian Labor Party made a policy decision that it would move in and try to do something about the restoration of the service. I saw the present Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) at 12 o’clock on the night on which he was appointed to his portfolio. He said ‘AH right’, and the next morning he sent a telegram to the Australian National Line asking for a report. Of course, the Australian National Line came up with a report that the ‘Straitsman’ would lose $500,000 a year in her trading. I want to make it quite clear that I did everything I could. The Minister showed me the report when he received it from the ANL. Included in it was this comment: ‘In the light of experience some forecast of losses would be reduced’. I immediately asked the Minister whether he would send officers to Tasmania again to survey the cargo potential. When meetings were held in Tasmania I was told confidentially that the service would be a goer and everything would be all right.
I do not know what went wrong, but later I was officially told that notwithstanding the second visit by officers and all the work that we had done- and I have all the documents with me- the saving would be only $27,000 a year. The official report to the Government by the ANL indicated that the ‘Straitsman’ would lose $500,000 a year. I followed this up and I submitted 2 ship’s budgets. I have them with me. One of them, which was prepared in November 1972, indicated that the ship’s revenue would be $1,646,300 and the expenses for the year would be $1,200,294, showing a trading surplus for the ship of $446,006. 1 gave this budget to the Minister. I also gave him a budget for 5 April 1973 which was compiled by NQEA. It showed that the summary of revenue for the ship was estimated at $1,705,800 and the expenses were estimated at $ 1 ,349,600, leaving a balance to the credit of the ship’s trading operations of $356,200.
However, the ANL still persisted that in its view there would be a substantial loss. I think that the position is best summed up in an article which appeared in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ on 8 March 1 973. It stated:
Shipping officials said in Sydney last night that the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, had tried to honour election promises concerning the King Island ferry service by instructing that the Australian National Line should take over the service.
However, according to these officials, the Treasury had refused to underwrite the losses incurred or likely to be incurred by the ANL in this trade and the ANL could not operate a losing trade without Treasury permission and subsidy.
Of course all this happened in the first few months of the Labor Government’s coming to office. It raises now the question of the part played by the Treasury, which is referred to in the report I have just quoted. I have in mind the disclosures by the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, in yesterday’s Press that in many cases the Treasury distorted facts to suit its own ends. I maintain that the advice given to the Government was incorrect, and I have advised the Minister of this. When the ‘Straitsman’ came back into service it actually operated at a profit. Its reentry into the trade was made possible by the loan of $1,415,000 from the Australian Government to the Tasmanian Government and the purpose of this Bill is to authorise this expenditure. The ‘Straitsman’ came into service in September 1973 and sank in the Yarra in March of this year. These were very tragic circumstances caused by a combination of unexpected and unfortunate occurrences.
I pay tribute to the Minister for Transport, who is at the table, because he immediately gave approval for the Tasmanian Transport Commission to import the ‘Rah’ from Finland. I pay tribute also to the Tasmanian Transport Commission, particularly the Associate Commissioner for Shipping. The honourable member for Gippsland will recall him. He was a very good and trusted servant of the Department of Shipping and Transport at one time. He is now the Associate Commissioner for Shipping in Tasmania, Mr Morehead. He is a very fine officer and has done a fine job in very difficult times for King Island and its people. He has been well backed up- contrary to what the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) said- by our Minister for Transport.
While the ‘Straitsman’ was out of operation our Minister for Transport issued without question permits to the Tasmanian Government to enable King Island to be served. On 11 April 1974 the Tasmanian Transport Commission chartered the ‘Alban’ which commenced operations on 23 June. It is still in service, thanks to the Minister for Transport, and will stay in service until 3 1 December. Also, we chartered the ‘Ida Clausen’, and that ship undertook 7 stock voyages in May and June to relieve the stock position. These 2 ships that were on charter and for which import licences were given by the Minister have been backed up by the ‘Joseph Banks ‘ of 900 tons which is the Commission’s own ship. That has done a magnificent job. I pay tribute to the officers and men of the ships and the waterside workers for the great work they have done through these difficult times.
On May 15 the Tasmanian Transport Commission purchased the ‘Rah’ from Finland and took possession of it on 6 August. Modifications to meet the Australian requirements have been completed in the United Kingdom. It is due in Melbourne next week on 10 December. It will go immediately into the trade. The Standing Committee on Shipping of which I have had the honour for the last 10 years to be the secretary, will be meeting in Smithton again on Thursday of next week to arrange the details with the shippers for the ‘Rah’.
Very briefly, what is the future for King Island? I know and I admit that we have been through very difficult times because of circumstances beyond the control of this Government and because of the accident to the ‘Straitsman ‘. The ‘Straitsman’ is due back into service next July. Also, the ‘Rah’ will be in service and we will have more than adequate shipping available for King Island. The Australian Government has done all it can. I shall summarise briefly. This Bill authorises a loan of $1.4 15m for the ‘Straitsman’. The Minister for Transport, as I indicated, readily gave permits for the ‘Alban’ and the ‘Ida Clausen’. He has given a permit for the ‘Rah’. The Government is to underwrite the loan for the ‘Rah’.
This is in direct contrast to the record of previous Liberal Party Government. I mention that for the 6 months the ‘Straitsman’ was tied up the previous Government did not do anything and maintained that it was a Tasmanian Government responsibility. I just wanted to place on record my involvement with the ‘Straitsman’, to pay a tribute to Bob Houfe and to say that after seeing the very adverse report from the Australian National Line- which is recognised as a very competent shipping body in Australia- the Australian Government has acted responsibly. I do not think it could have done anything else. I am very sorry indeed about what has happened because the report proved to be incorrect.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) said that during the time that I was Minister for Shipping and Transport I maintained that the problem of the ‘Straitsman’ was a matter for the Tasmanian Government and the Tasmanian Transport Commission. That is correct. I think that position has been borne out by history. I see that my position in those days is supported by the very words used in the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). He said:
Shortly after taking office we commenced negotiations with the Tasmanian Government. In the course of these discussions the Tasmanians indicated they wished to assume direct responsibility for the operation of the service.
That situation is no different from the position that obtained right through. It was clearly a matter for the Tasmanian Government at that time.
The honourable member for Braddon must find himself in a somewhat ambivalent position. He is certainly ambidextrous in his approach to this whole question. No matter what the honourable member for Braddon says, the fact is that he is one of the figures in this House who led to the final heartbreak of Captain Houfe.
– That is not true.
-Just let me tell the story and if you do not like it you can get up and rebut it where you like. The fact is that on 10 October Captain Houfe received a telegram sent by Ron Davies MHR that says this:
The Federal Parliamentary Party today approved the following policy decision. The Federal Labor Government will require the Australian National Line to assume responsibility for the King Island shipping service and, for this purpose, to negotiate with the owners of the vessel Straitsman which was specifically designed for this purpose.
The fact is that the Minister at the table, whatever else he has done, bucketed, in plain terms, the ‘Straitsman’. In this House and outside it he bucketed it and said that the ‘Straitsman’ was not worth two bob. His first complaint was that it was too big for the service. His second complaint was that it was badly designed for the service. He is recorded in Hansard as saying so. The Labor Government went back on an undertaking given and signed by the honourable member for Braddon himself. Captain Houfe ‘s situation unfortunately has worsened immensely because of the failure of the Labor Government to honour the undertaking given on 10 October 1972.
Captain Houfe is a remarkable individual. He has provided a service to King Island for some 25 years with a number of ships- the ‘Malaita’, the ‘Darega’, the ‘King Islander’ and finally the ship of his dreams, the ship that he really believed would do the job and would service King Island thoroughly and well, the ‘Straitsman’. He was told finally by the Minister for Transport that the ship was not suitable for that service. As a result Captain Houfe has suffered immense financial loss over the procrastination following the receipt of that telegram. Whatever his circumstance was at the time of the change of government the fact is that he was still in business and the telegram from the honourable member for Braddon offered him what he thought was some relief from the immense financial stress that he underwent. It is a very sad case indeed. Having given 25 years of service to King Island -
– You closed him down. You refused to give him any assistance at all.
– You made your speech. Be quiet. He was totally disregarded. He got the telegram which contained what was claimed to be a policy decision. The Minister quoted it. Captain Houfe is suffering a broken heart as a result of it
– You closed him down.
– No matter what the Minister at the table says about me closing him down, he knows that is nonsense.
– Of course you did.
– The Minister is saying that I closed him down. He knows that is nonsense.
– You closed him down.
– You often talk nonsense.
– He went out of business when you were the Minister.
– You get yourself in immense trouble by talking nonsense. It is a wonder you are still a Minister today after the past week.
– You were the bloke who closed him down.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member for Gippsland will speak through the Chair.
-The Minister has a habit of putting his foot right where his mouth is and biting his big toe. He is doing it again. The simple fact is that Captain Houfe in suffering a broken heart as a result of circumstances brought about by the Minister.
– You closed him down when you were the Minister.
– The honourable member for Braddon gave a policy commitment of the Labor Government.
-Order! I call the Minister to order.
– As long as it is on record -
– It will be on record. Captain Houfe knows that claim is untrue. I have had a conversation with him in the last 24 hours in which he confirmed this. Captain Houfe will get a copy of the speech in Hansard because I will be sending him a copy. You watch for the blast. You will deserve it. So does the honourable member for Braddon. One of the tragedies has been the way the honourable member for Braddon dropped Captain Houfe like a hot coal straight after the December election.
– That is not true and you know it is not true.
– It is true. The second question I want to raise, which the Minister might answer, is in relation to the sale of the ‘Straitsman’. As I understand it, it was sold for $1,000,070- that was the price put on her- to satisfy the creditors. This Bill is for $1.4 15m which is an entirely different figure. The second reading speech does not explain the difference between the price that the successors of Captain Houfe, the Tasmanian Transport Commission, received for the ship and the sum of money that is mentioned in the Bill. I do raise with the Minister the question of the difference between the valuation of $1.4 15m for the ship and the price that was actually received by the creditors for the ship, which was $1,000,070. If an arrangement has been made with the Tasmanian Government concerning the refitting of the ship, perhaps the Minister can inform the House. I think the Parliament has a right to know the reason when one figure is given as being the value of the ship and an entirely different figure is given as the sum loaned to Tasmania for the purchase of the ship.
The final point I want to make is that this is a loan to the Tasmanian Government. As I understand it, the Tasmanian Government was looking for a grant or a part grant from the Commonwealth Government. The Tasmanian Government sees Bass Strait as being the highway link between Tasmania and the mainland. As I understand it, the Tasmanian Government was of the view, therefore, that a purchase of this nature is like giving a grant to a mainline railway. It ought, therefore, to be on similar terms to, perhaps, the Bell Bay railway agreement that I signed as Minister or any standardisation railway agreement. In other words, there ought to be part grant and part loan to the Tasmanian Government, instead of which the Federal Government is not being generous to Tasmania at all. As I mentioned, it certainly has not been generous to Captain Houfe. The Government is not being generous to the Tasmanian Government because if it were to honour the commitment it undertook on 10 October 1972 it would have made the financial terms for Tasmania much easier than it has. I ask the Minister why it is that this is a loan to Tasmania at the long term bond rate, I understand, which is a reasonable rate of interest. Nevertheless, it is a loan, not a grant. Why is the loan not given at least on the terms of the Bell Bay railway agreement? Without question Tasmania does this as being the main and only link it has with the mainland.
-I rise briefly to reply to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) who has just resumed his seat. He was the Minister involved in the negotiations which were mentioned by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies). The honourable member for Gippsland is probably more aware of the story than anyone else about the ‘Straitsman’ and the ships prior to the ‘Straitsman’ and the development of the port at Grassy which was so important for the operations of Houfe ‘s ships, particularly the ‘Straitsman’. To the Government’s credit at that time $677,000 was granted as a non-repayable grant, plus $677,000 as a loan. But the non-repayable grant segment of this assistance from the then Commonwealth Government was given on condition that when the ‘Straitsman’ commenced operations the King Island shipping subsidy would end. I cannot figure the logic behind that decision. It must have been a great disappointment to Bob Houfe. After all, all that the previous Government did for him was to have a port built- a proper entrance for his ships- but that did not help him at all financially. He did not get one cent out of that deal. It only made it possible for his ship to run into the port. When the previous Government removed the subsidy that meant, of course, that Captain Houfe was operating entirely on his own.
For the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), to get up in this place today as the new spokesman for Tasmania and talk about these things is rather amusing. After all, no honourable members on that side of the House can teach the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) anything about shipping or King Island. He has represented it since 1 958 in a fantastically efficient way. There has not been a problem on the island that the honourable member for Braddon has not understood from top to bottom. He has spent hundreds of hours in interviews and deputations, particularly in the days when the previous Government was in office. He has always battled for King Island. I am disappointed at the way the people of King Island treated him at the last election. He has done a lot of work for that island. I ought to know something about it because my wife came from that Island. I lived there for 2 years- from 1938 to 1940. The honourable member for Wentworth does not even know where King Island is. He has got to look at the map to find out where King Island is. Yet he is the new Opposition spokesman on Tasmania. What utter confounded impudence. What impudence this is on the part of the Opposition to set up a member from Sydney as the spokesman for King Island and Tasmania. If the Tasmanian people fall for this humbug they are more easily duped than I would have thought. All these people have been hoodwinked lately by the Opposition into believing that the Opposition has the answers for this State. I have been fighting for Tasmania for 28 years. I have given thousands of hours to it- almost the whole of my political life. For newcomers and humbugs to come into this place and tell me how to represent Tasmania is outrageous impudence. I am utterly disgusted at the Leader of the Opposition and the attitude he is adopting towards Tasmanian members of this Parliament.
I want to make it quite clear that the honourable member for Braddon has worked his eyeballs out for King Island. In the days when the honourable member for Gippsland was the Minister we had deputations to him. I ask honourable members to listen to this: The previous Government stopped the subsidy to King Island. They left Mr Houfe absolutely ‘subsidyless’- if one can use that word. They left him battling without any assistance at all in his operations. Later, when the ‘Straitsman’ went bad financially for reasons outside Bob Houfe ‘s controlafter only 7 weeks of operation- the previous Government offered no help to him at all. I should like to tell the honourable member for Wentworth that we Tasmanians had meetings here in the Minister’s office, trying to get assistance for the ‘Straitsman’ and each time the honourable member for Gippsland came up with a negative answer. After the meetings with us the former Minister- when the official receiver moved in on the ‘Straitsman’ and on Bob Houfe- his Government refused to give any assistance at all. They left King Island for dead at that time.
Honourable members opposite should not get up in this Parliament and tell us what has happened to King Island. We know the history only too well. This new Government now is offering this loan to Tasmania- a loan for 15 years repayable at the bond rate- to pay for the ‘Straitsman’ so that the reconstructed vessel, after the accident in Melbourne -
– What is the rate of interest?
– It is about 8, 9, or 10 per cent at the moment.
– That is terrible.
– I am not very happy about the bond rate being the interest rate. But that is what it is fixed at at the moment. We at least made it possible for the Tasmanian Government to own the ‘Straitsman’. We are grateful to the Minister for what he has done to help this situation on King Island. The honourable member for Braddon deserves to be congratulated for what he has done for this island. I hope that the people of King Island will show more appreciation for what he has done at the next election than they did at the last.
– in reply- I should like to clear up a few points which have been raised in this debate. We have seen a typical example of hypocritical humbug on the part of the Opposition in its approach to this Bill. Let us get the picture clear as far as the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) is concerned. When this problem first arose with the ‘Straitsman’ being taken off the King Island run he literally lived on my doorstep. He was never out of my office- putting propositions to me about what could be done. I did not receive one word of representation from a member of the Liberal or Country Parties or from one Liberal Tasmanian senator. They had no interest in this matter whatsoever. Not one of them made any representations to me. They could not give a damn what happened to the ‘Straitsman’ or to the King Island trade. Let us get the facts clear. These are the facts. The Liberal and Country Parties were not the least bit concerned about what was happening to King Island. The speeches this afternoon by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) and the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) show what humbugs they are when they make such speeches in this place.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! Personal reflections are out of order. The Minister will withdraw that remark.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I withdraw the remark. I just say that the Opposition is a pack of humbugs when its members come in on this matter in that way. Let us get the facts clear. When I made the statement about the ‘Straitsman’, it was based on information which was given to me by Captain Houfe. When I compared the information that he had given to me with the facts which were collected by the Australian National Line- the honourable member for Braddon had requested that I do this- I found that what Captain Houfe had said did not match the facts. I had given an assurance that I would do certain things on information given to me by Captain Houfe which was later proven to be incorrect and did not stand up to close scrutiny. If one is given wrong information by somebody who is involved in the matter under consideration, as far as I am concerned one is not bound by a decision which one made believing that the facts had been presented.
Let us look at the attitude of the Opposition to Tasmanian shipping services. A lot has been said about the development of Grassy. The former Government provided a repayable loan of $677,500 and a non-repayable grant of the same amount. But the non-repayable grant was on the condition that, when the ‘Straitsman’ came into operation, the subsidy which was then being paid would be terminated. Yet, we have had spokesmen from the Liberal and Country Parties this afternoon talking about subsidies when it was the former Government which terminated the subsidy. When I became Minister for Transport, no subsidy was being paid because no service was being provided to King Island. The honourable member for Gippsland talked such bunkum about what he had done for Tasmanian shipping services. As Minister for Shipping and Transport, as he then was, the honourable member for Gippsland sat idly by and refused to give any assistance whatever to keep the ‘Straitsman’ operating. The tripe which he and the honourable member for Wentworth dished out this afternoon just shows what humbugs the Opposition members are -
– Order! The Minister cannot direct his statements in a general way while referring to 2 individual members. I ask him not to adopt that practice. I ask the Minister to withdraw.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. All right. If there is any reflection on those 2 honourable members, OK. The Opposition as a whole has to accept responsibilitity for the decisions which were made when it was the Government. The Premier of Tasmania made personal representations to the then Prime Minister and to the then Minister for Shipping and Transport for financial assistance. He received a stone cold ‘no’. They were not prepared to make any money available. Those honourable members say that this loan should be in the form of a grant and a loan. The former Government was not even prepared to lend the Tasmanian Goverment $300,000 to solve its liquidity problems. No question arose at that time whether a grant or a loan should be given. All the Premier wanted was a loan at a reasonable rate of interest and the former Government was not even prepared to give Tasmania that loan. When the honourable member for Wentworth and the honourable member for Gippsland talk about loans and grants today, let them look at themselves and recall what their Government did. They will see that the former Government has a pretty sorry record. That is why the people of Tasmania, knowing that record, have not returned any Liberal or Country Party members to this House. Members representing Tasmania are all Labor Party members, because the Labor Party has done something for Tasmania over the years both as a State Government and as an Australian Government.
That is all I want to say on this matter. When I hear honourable members opposite talking in the fashion to which I had to listen this afternoon, I am really riled to think that people can be such hypocrites.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) read a third time.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on Prices I bring up the report of the Committee on the practice of retailers repricing existing stock, together with the minutes of proceedings.
Ordered that the report be reprinted.
– I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a short statement on the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The report, which has just been tabled, is the second report from the present Committee. The predecessor Committee, established in the Twenty-eighth Parliament, had reported on 5 occasions to the Parliament.
The practice of re-pricing (double ticketing) shelf stock i.s one that is very irritating to consumers. A few Sundays ago a pensioner couple arrived on my doorstep to show me an empty peanut packet which had more than eight price stickers on it. This practice has been commented on in the newspapers and the Committee has received a number of complaints on it. The complaints represent a view held by the general public that re-pricing of shelf stock is undue ‘profiteering’.
The Committee sought submissions on the practice from major retailers. As a result of the Committee’s investigations. Woolworths is currently erecting prominent notices in its stores to the effect that should an item ever show two prices Woolworths will charge the lower price. This is encouraging and is indicative of the benefits the Committee can bring to consumers who find the practice unacceptable. The practice also damages consumer confidence and is certainly not conducive to a policy of price and wage restraint as a means of controlling inflation.
However, given the attitude of Woolworths and the recent amendments to the Prices Justification Tribunal Act that allows the Prices Justification Tribunal to inquire into retail prices, the Committee does not consider that the Practice of re-pricing should be legislated against at this point of time. Nevertheless, honourable members may be interested to note that there are proposals to legislate against this practice in some overseas countries.
The Committee is of the opinion, however, that other retailers could well follow the practice of Woolworths and recommends that the Minister for Science confers with State retail traders associations to obtain voluntary agreement for their members to charge the lowest price when there are two or more prices displayed on goods for sale, and to show signs to this effect in their stores.
I repeat that we are a consumer-conscious Committee and will be trying within the availability of members time and staff resources to assist the consumer to get a better deal.
I commend the report to the House.
Sitting suspended from 6.3 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 27 November, on motion by Dr Cass:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition supports the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Bill 1974. We have some reservations with respect to some of the provisions and to some of the powers which are provided to the commissioners. I foreshadow that some action may be taken in the Senate to limit the powers of the commissioners. The Bill will have farreaching effects on the environment. In 1971 the former Liberal-Country Party Government formed the first Ministry with environment as one of its specific responsibilities. Full credit must go to the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe, Mr McMahon, for the first initiative in recognising the environment as a dimension that should be taken into consideration when coming to a decision on any proposal of a structural nature or otherwise which might affect the environment.
The former Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, the honourable Peter Howson, established the Australian Environment Council which is a council of State and Commonwealth Ministers. I believe that it has a tremendous role to play in trying to bring about the sort of co-operation which is necessary to achieve a total involvement in the consideration of problems and matters which affect the environment. On 24 May 1972 the first ministerial statement on Commonwealth policy was tabled in this House. That stands in the records in the name of the honourable Peter Howson. In that statement it was announced that the Government had decided to introduce a system of environmental impact statements designed to protect the environment. Quite frankly, from memory, that was the first time that 1 heard the term environmental impact statement used. This is not to say that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), who is sitting at the table, and other more enlightened people had not come into contact with the phrase prior to that time. This week such terms have been dignified by inclusion in a Bill- that is the Bill which we are debating- which has been introduced by the Minister at the table.
Apart from being notable for the introduction of this legislation the month of November 1974 must be remembered and be regarded as an appropriate time to contemplate the present and future status of environmental impact statements in this country. The nation’s first few environmental impact statements have been released so that we can decide, with a reasonable amount of confidence, whether they are worth the time and expense which is involved in their preparation and, more importantly, whether they will be an adequate vehicle for bringing environmental considerations into the processes of government decision making. The Bill we are debating gives the Minister power to ensure that any project of any organisation or agency or, indeed, the Commonwealth Government or any project involving Commonwealth funds within the States which is likely to have a significant effect on the environment should be accompanied by an environmental impact statement.
In cases of particular significance an inquiry will be conducted by a commissioner or commissioners appointed by the Minister but not subject to directions by the Minister. That is an important point to note. The inquiries are to be held in public except in exceptional circumstances. So we will see the public making a contribution towards decision making with respect to projects of a significant nature. The Opposition generally approves the provisions of the Bill although it recognises that the Minister will not have an easy task. We have heard the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) talk about Nervous Nellies. I sense that the Minister for the Envoronment and Conservation could well be an Aunt Sally on many occasions. It will take a lot of courage from the Minister to try to exercise the sort of influence which will be necessary to satisfy the public on the one hand and environmental action groups on the other. Members of these groups are rather purposeful people who want to get their projects agreed to at any price.
– I would not call the Minister nervous.
– No, he is not nervous. I do not think he is even an Aunt Sally. I think he has the stamina, the capacity and the sincerity to be able to hold the fort on the occasions when it will be necessary. I certainly do not envy him the battles which lie ahead. There are so many people in the community, whether in the Public Service or private industry, who want to achieve their objectivesI do not say that they are petty objectivesregardless of the consequences.
– To make a profit, in other words.
– Not necessarily to make a profit. The honourable member came in quickly there. He assumes that everybody in the private sector is just interested in profit. There are people in the public sector who are interested in prestige. I suggest that we look at the Black Mountain tower. That is a case in point.
– One can now look at it.
– One can see it going up. I can never get the idea out of my system that the people who wanted the Black Mountain tower were those who wanted to build a monument to the organisation with which they were associated. We will live to regret the day that that decision was taken. It was actually taken in our time. The decision was upheld in the early days of this Government. (Quorum formed)
Having touched on these matters as an introduction to a debate on this issue, I think I should say that a number of State governments are concerned that the provisions in the Bill could tend to take away some of their decision making responsibilities and tend to superimpose the will of the Australian Government upon the activities of the State governments. I think in fairness that I should read a message that I have received from the Premier of Queensland, who indicates that he is not completely opposed to the legislation. His message reads:
If clause 5 of the Environment Protection (Impact Proposals) Bill covers works included in programs approved by the Loan Council, it is considered inordinant delays will result. If loan works were to be made the subject of environmental impact studies the consequent delays would mean without doubt that it would be impossible for approved allocations to be expended in the same year. The only approach that could produce some satisfaction would be the separate planning and construction years. This would mean that preplanning, environmental impact studies and design work would have to be carried out at least a year in advance. While eventually momentum could possibly be regained there would certainly be a long period of inactivity before such a position came about. The legal position as to whether the Act could be applied to loan works is not clear.
Where Commonwealth funds have been directed to local authorities for particular works and if such works involve rezoning in town plans actions before the local government court could be prejudiced by open commissions of inquiry appointed by the Commonwealth Minister prior to the sitting of the local government court. A similar situation could arise in regard to land court hearings.
I have read that message into Hansard because I think that the Government needs to take into consideration whether the environmental impact proposals will cover the applications from the States for funds from the Australian Loan Council. If if does, I see great technical difficulties and a slowdown in some of the important public works that are necessary. I ask the Minister to check whether in fact that provision is catered for in the legislation. I have also received a message from the Minister for Conservation in Victoria, the honourable W. A. Borthwick. I think his comments should be brought to the light of day. The message reads:
Re Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Bill 1974. Section 5(c) when read with section 11 and the general tone of the Bill is of concern to this State.
The essential elements in dispute are -
whether the Commonwealth has either the constitutional right or the heed to be concerned about the environmental effects of projects financed from borrowings by the States or its instrumentalities as the result of an agreement on total borrowings at the Loan Council meeting.
whether or not this legislation would lead to a duplication by the Commonwealth Government of the environment assessment procedures and activities of the appropriate State organisations, and
the sheer impracticability of the proposed procedures with regard to many kinds of work carried out by State and local government authorities.
There is no doubt that the Commonwealth has the constitutional right to insist on environmental satisfaction with respect to works-
financed by Commonwealth funds
financed jointly by Commonwealth and State funds
where it may be asked to issue export licences for the products resulting from any particular works projects or other activities.
However it is my opinion that works carried out with Loan Council funds are legally of no concern to the Commonwealth Government and in many instances they arc used to finance works proposed and approved at relatively short notice to meet particular local situations.
The whole tone of this legislation is one of apparent desire for dominance by the Commonwealth Government in an area where the majority of the problems are those which must be faced by States and local governments and for which the States have at least as good if not better expertise for the consideration of environmental problems involved.
The legislation seems to be saying that the States have not looked after environmental matters and they must be subject to some oversight on the grounds that some of the matters which may arise will have national as opposed to local, regional or State significance.
It is precisely to overcome such an attitude that the standing committee of the Australian Environment Council established a working party to put forward the principles which should be observed in the assessment of the environmental effects of projects and these principles were agreed to by the Council at its last meeting late in 1973. If the States observe these principles, it should be perfectly satisfactory for the
Commonwealth Government to accept advice that any project has been subject to an environmental assessment of its effects in accordance with this agreed set of principles and of the outcome. There should be no argument from the Commonwealth Government in this approach becuase even if State Governments did not exist and the Commonwealth had the whole task itself, it would still need to decentralize its operations to similar responsible groups in States or regions.
There appears to be no disagreement between the States and the Commonwealth that projects of various kinds need to be assessed so that the decision makers are aware of the environmental effects when making decisions. There seems to be no disagreement with regard to the procedures and principles for making an assessment of environmental effects of any particular project. There may be differences in the relative importance and degree of emphasis which should be placed on some pans of those procedures, e.g. public hearings. There seems to be no disagreement that the Commonwealth Government is justified in seeking environmental satisfaction with regard to all projects for which it has some constitutional right to seek that satisfaction.
– Are you still quoting Mr Borthwick?
– Yes, I am. He goes on:
The disagreement arises with regard to whether the Commonwealth should be involved to the extent to which it has been suggested in this legislation on each occasion, whether or not the Commonwealth is prepared to rely on the capability and expertise residing in the States for making such assessments provided certain principles and procedures are observed and whether or not the procedures suggested in the proposed procedures are in fact reasonably practical, or merely represent some bureaucratic ‘Big Brother’ desire for the Commonwealth to participate more intimately in matters which are essentially a function of the State.
- Mr Borthwick is not quite sure of the structure of his Department and authorities, is he?
-I understand that Mr Borthwick is highly regarded by a great number of people. I think that the Australian Conservation Foundation has been working closely with the Victorian Government and the Victorian Minister for Conservation. Perhaps the Victorian and the New South Wales Governments have moved as far as, if not further than, most governments in the whole of the Commonwealth to try to ensure that the procedures that are adopted with respect to environmental assessments are in fact sound, and more than just window dressing. So I think that is rather important to note one specific thing that Mr Borthwick mentions in that message. That is, that the Australian Environment Council should meet as soon as possible after this legislation becomes law to ensure that there is a general acceptance of broad guidelines so that much of the necessary work is done at the regional or State level. I do not for a moment suggest that the same principles, guidelines or details can be applied in each State or region, but the States themselves have the capacity, and I am sure must have the will, to try to come to some common agreement to work within the broad framework of the Bill that is before the House. The Australian Environment Council is the essential vehicle for such agreement.
As I have said, the purpose of the Bill was stated by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation in his second reading speech to be the introduction of the environmental impact study technique into the Government’s decisionmaking processes. The Opposition does not oppose that concept. As I said earlier, in 1972 the former Liberal-Country-Party Government legislated for the introduction of the EIS procedure. Furthermore, as the Mnister stated, there has been basic agreement by State Ministers sitting on the Australian Environmental Council on what statements should cover. However, in the present legislation before the House many questions have been left unanswered. Anyone told that such and such a technique is the best way to handle a certain problem is entitled to ask for a desription of that technique That is what this Bill just does not do as far as the EIS technique is concerned. Perhaps there is good reason why it should not. Perhaps as time goes by regulations arising as a result of experience will make it far easier for the Government to achieve these sorts of details with respect to techniques. Its success or failure could well depend on the procedures adopted. These apparently have not yet been decided, and I hope they will not be finally decided upon until there has been a general discussion with the States.
The Minister stated:
The detailed requirements for impact statements and hearings will be set out in the procedures to be established under clause 6 of the Bill.
Clause 6 merely states that the GovernorGeneral may, from time to time, by order, approve or disapprove variations of administrative procedures for the purpose of achieving the object of this Act. The actual form that these procedures take may well decide the success or failure of the whole proposal. For example, it would appear that the Minister has given a great deal of power in calling for or refusing an environmental impact statement. What are to be the opportunities, if any, for redress for the public or other interested parties? What is to be the element of Public participation? Public participation will not be possible if the Minister decides not to hold a public inquiry. Naturally, the Government will not be willing to undertake a full study of every proposed work because of the expense, the manpower and the total resources involved, but there should at least be an opportunity to appeal against the Minister’s decision.
Again on the question of public participation, if the EIS technique is to succeed it will have to involve real participation from the public, not just allowing the public to blow off steam. I suggest the adoption of a procedure similar to that adopted under the Electoral Act when redistribution proposals are made, or as laid down in Victoria under the Land Conservation Act. This Act calls firstly for a study report, then public comment on that. The next stage calls for the drafting of recommendations, and again public comment is sought on those. All of this precedes the tabling of the final report and the public’s comments and submissions received.
The Bill before the House seeks to involve governments, both State and Federal, in a very sensitive political area- an area in which nongovernmental organisations, private individuals and public opinion have been the pacesetters. The Bill will succeed only if due acknowledgment is made of this fact and if the procedures adopted give adequate, legal and automatic rights of public participation. That is why I say that the administration procedures adopted are all-important and why they should be embodied in or at least accompany the Bill. I fear that the Bill in its present form will leave the Minister on the receiving end of constant attacks from his colleagues, the State Governments and public opinion. That is why I said at the outset that he could well become the Aunt Sally in the whole exercise.
Needless to say, as I said the other day at the Academy of Science when the Minister was present, the Public Service has a very real role to play. I am told that there is a great divergence of opinion concerning its role. Some people, I am told, would like to see its members as rubber stamps- this is in relation to the whole environment impact assessment exercise- which can absorb the energies of the concerned public. Others see them as advocates to Cabinet or as environmental policemen. A member of the Public Service” informs me that the greater part of the energies of government environment bodies up to now have not been directed against pollution or even in warding off public protests, but have been expended in interdepartmental rivalry and pitched battles which are usually lost. From my short experience as a Minister of the Government I know that that is certainly possible. The Minister has taken a very courageous step and great credit must go to him for having been able to bring to the House a piece of legislation which is inherently controversial because undoubtedly it will have its vocal and silent opposition.
– And in Cabinet.
– In Cabinet and outside it. The New South Wales Government undoubtedly is very concerned that the Bill could well intrude into its own areas of responsibility. I have received messages from the New South Wales Minister who was very concerned about clause 5 (c) of the Bill. I am sure that the Federal Minister is in a position to allay the fears of all the State Ministers and the State governments through the Environment Council by indicating to them that the purpose of this Bill is not necessarily to intrude into their decision making processes but to ensure that in all decisions that are taken, where Commonwealth funds are expended, the dimension of the environment is taken into account according to procedures that are generally agreed to between the Australian Government and the State governments. If the Minister can achieve that degree of confidence and co-operation from the State governments, his battle will be more than half won. Once having done that, I am sure that we will be able to develop a degree of respect and confidence amongst the community at large for the importance of taking environmental factors into account before taking decisions on a whole range of projects.
– Could you put a bit of ginger into it?
– I am just about to resume my seat and then you can go to sleep again. Why do you not get yourself a couch and stretch right out, you lazy old fat cat?
– Order! The honourable member may not make personal reflections on another member.
- Mr Speaker, I enjoyed that. He always calls me a backwoods Bolshevik.
-Order! There will be no reflections on his eminence.
– The Opposition supports the Bill but I foreshadow that there will be amendments moved in the Senate in relation to the powers of the Commissioners and also with respect to witnesses giving evidence before the Commissioners who will be appointed under this legislation.
– I really cannot understand why the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) should quote a State Minister as the main basis for his speech. I do not think that party ideology has any part in this debate. What we are talking about is a framework within which the Government can work with the States and by which we can extend goodwill. The Australian Government has responsibility quite clearly in this area. Last night the Government introduced a Bill relating to national parks. This is an area where it also has responsibility. What we are talking about is co-operative federalism, for want of a better description. We should not approach every problem or every Bill with swords drawn on this constant argument about State rights. The Australian Government simply cannot negotiate, it cannot talk and it cannot begin to work out ideas on these matters unless there is a Bill. This is what we are trying to do. It is what we are doing.
The Bill is the most important environmental legislation to come before the Parliament. It is a first step. It is the first Bill in this area. In a speech to the Academy of Science on 29 November the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), when he was discussing environmental impact techniques, said:
I cannot and will not promise that Australia will never suffer another Lake Pedder disaster. But, speaking for the Australian Labor Government, I do promise that such a mistake will only be made again if the community at large defaults on its responsibilities and ignores its rights.
From now on the community is welded to the decisionmaking process as it affects the environment. For better or for worse, we have agreed that government belongs to the people and that the public should help make decisions which affect it closely.
The politicians, for the time being, have gone as far as possible. The rest is up to you.
In his frank way the Minister also pointed out what the legislation will not achieve. He said:
It will not grant me the exclusive power of veto over proposals or policies. It will not force developers to abandon environmentally unsound objectives. It will not ensure that the Government makes environmentally sensible decisions. It will not give individual citizens the power to stop bad projects or to set conditions for moderate ones.
In other words, it is a step in the right direction; it is the step to co-operate with the States. These 2 excerpts from the Minister’s speech express the 2 key features of this Bill. Firstly, it is a further demonstration of the Government’s policy with respect to open government whereby the public is vitally concerned, particularly in the processes of government, industrial activity or proposals. We believe that open government and freer expression mean more responsibility from all concerned. Secondly, the legislation is pathfinding not absolute. It will be subject to enhancement as a result of experience and the assessment of the significance of findings on proposals subject to environmental impact statements.
There is very little Australian literature on the technique of environmental impacts. All I could find in the Parliamentary Library today related to the United States of America where there are different laws. There can be no claim, in my opinion, that in any way the Australian Government is usurping State rights in this matter, as it is clear that the State governments are also in the initial stages of developing their own techniques. Broadly the Australian Government will be concerned with Australian Government projects where Australian Government funds are involved and where the Australian Government has undisputed constitutional powers. As yet all the States do not have manuals on environmental impact statements. They cannot give the people in their own States clear guidelines yet on where to go. Possibly the major exception is New South Wales where a draft manual was brought in by Mr Beale, the then Minister, on 1 1 January 1973 and another version on 27 September 1973. Now a new department has been set up and it is combining environmental control with planning. The New South Wales legislation provides for 1 1 groups of administrative authorities concerned with this issue. For example, they are concerned with air pollution or waste disposal. The New South Wales manual points out the areas of expertise and provides a check list of the characteristics of the environment. What the State Government is doing is pointing out to its own Government departments where their responsibilities lie from now on. This is what we are trying to do in the same way.
Queensland as yet does not have a manual, but it is in preparation. In South Australia recommendations of the Environment Protection Council on environmental impact statements have been approved by the South Australian Government. An Act either has been or is proposed to be introduced. There has been quite a deal of comment on it. In Tasmania, guidelines and procedures are set out. However, I do not know when its manual was prepared or a statement made. In Victoria there are still no real guidelines. A Bill is in preparation. It has been that way for the last 1 2 months, but it will be presented to the Parliament in the next session. In Western Australia there is still no official policy and one can say that the need per se for an environmental impact statement is not yet fully recognised. Quite obviously we are all in the same boat as far as environmental impact statements are concerned. We are all in the same boat in terms of the level of government awareness. However, it cannot be stressed too much that the Government welcomes State expertise and the capacity to provide statements and also develop the techniques.
This Bill is in 3 parts. The first 5 clauses are introductory. Clauses 6 to 10 concern environmental impact statement techniques. Clauses 1 1 to 24 relate to hearings. The aim is to protect the environment by 2 means- the environmental impact statement technique and the hearings. Clause 6 is the key provision. Clause 7 provides how clause 6 should be approved, namely by regulation. The procedures are still to be detailed but I think we will learn by experience. I have seen some South Australian criticism of the impact legislation it proposes. It is said: ‘If you do this too much by regulation it is going to become a messy situation. It would be better to incorporate it in the Act as soon as you can.’ I take the counter view. I think one needs as much flexibility as possible in this matter. Clause 8 sets out the duties of all the other Ministers- meaning other Ministers in the Australian Government. There is really no need for the argument to be raised that there will be delays and conflicts between Australian Government departments. I believe the Minister will be able to sort this out on a simple level of contact. Clause 9 includes the provisions that should apply to statutory authorities. Clause 10 relates to extra public involvement.
I emphasise that the aim, desire and hope of the Government is that when major development proposals are being considered it will be just as logical for business, for a government authority or a government department to make an environmental assessment as it is to make a feasibility study. In fact I see cost benefit economic analyses or economic studies being just as much a tool for environmental impact statements as I do for economic feasibility. For example, I can see this broadening into quite a few areasinto some of the larger issues that we will face with the environment.
In my electorate, for example, it was proposed to set up an atomic power station. Perhaps when we do an environmental impact study on this form of energy production we should look at coal production, the side effects of uranium, the problems with fuel oil and all the rest of it. Again there is a need to look at these things in cost terms to get a proper environmental impact statement. I do not think business objects to this at all any more. Last night I spoke to a group of businessmen who are engaged in rather messy businesses. Quite by coincidence the headquarters of their companies were in Houston. One of the dramatic experiences that the American businesses went through was, of course, the problems caused by the Houston ship canal. This has had a great impact on American business. Business world-wide now accepts that it cannot get away with what it used to and it accepts this quite responsibly. When the full procedures are developed and followed and the public has been involved, then ultimately it will be up to the Minister and not the courts to decide. There are plenty of ways that the Minister will be able to be involved in this with the public. As it stands, in the United States of America there are now instances where court actions are causing intolerable delays. I think this Bill is better in that respect.
To conclude in general terms, I have had some doubts about environmental impact statements. One thing that has always worried me is that the statement depends on who writes it. There are the examples of Black Mountain and Lake Pedder where the constructing authorities made statements. There are other alternatives to this. I believe that in Hawaii the Department of Planning and Growth Guidance charters a university to prepare the statement, and business pays. In Australia, this Bill does not take such an approach because it puts the responsibility on public participation and the development of the procedures themselves.
Another problem is the problem of categorising an environment. I believe that in the United States their indices go up to 1,500 parameters. If humans were included, it would mean an increase of approximately 1,500 parameters. This is rather confusing. It also appears to me that environmental impact statement techniques tend to ignore people. For example, in one proposal that came to our attention it was intended to turn wasteland into a park. It looked very feasible. An environmental impact study was conducted. It turned out OK but it would have been a rather sad show for the people concerned because the noise pollution and the other effects would have been quite traumatic. I believe that with co-operation and a desire to see optimim use of the environment we will overcome these procedures at all levels. Always the general concern is that development procedures will bog down, that people will say that there has always been another way, and that the procedures will become unworkable. Also, concern is often expressed that if one government is negligent, mucky industries will gravitate to its area. I believe that these problems will not occur if people accept their community responsibility and awareness. In other words, major issues will not blow up and in most instances all that will happen will be that there will be very little public comment once people get used to the procedures and to developing their own community responsibility. I think that any other problems can only be resolved in this very basic legislation by public pressure, open government and public participation. We must accept that generally this Government has heightened political awareness in Australia. In conclusion, I state that I have confidence in the awareness of governments, the people and business. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I want to speak in this very important debate because I, too, believe that this is one of the most important and far-reaching Bills to come before this Parliament. I regret that it is brought before the Parliament in these closing hours, as we have been told before in relation to other matters, when few speakers will be able to contribute to the debate. I will refer later on to certain matters which I think indicate that although this matter may be important to myself, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), other honourable members on this side of the House, and particularly the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) who preceded me, and perhaps the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), it certainly is not important to the Government as a whole. Few people could disagree with the statements of the Minister in his second reading speech when he refers to the virtues of legislation of this type, as distinct from this Bill, and its clauses, and one could be very much inclined to accept the view that to speak about the environment and environmental consequences when we are looking at important developments, is almost the same as speaking 10 years ago about the virtues of the family and family life. Of course, one wonders whether in the future the community will hold to those same values or perhaps even whether members of the community as a whole will hold those values which today I regard as important. They are the same sort of values that I regard as important when I think about the family and family life. However, I will put that aside for the moment to deal with certain important aspects of the Bill.
This Bill has very wide reaching repercussions. I believe that it allows the Government- I do not believe that the people know to what extent- to impinge upon all sorts of areas that are not only and immediately the Government’s responsibility. Looking at the definition section of the Bill where the authority of Australia is defined, it seems quite clear to me that one of the authorities of Australia would include the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. Again, if we look at clause 5 of the Bill it seems quite clear that where any authority of Australia is negotiating or doing something in association with any other government authority, body or person- perhaps it is entering into negotiations, enforcement of agreements and so on- arrangements under subclause (c)- that is the loan of money by the Bank- could give the Government authority to intervene through that Bank and to require this type of impact study statement as part of that negotiation. I mention this because the honourable member for Macarthur mentioned that business men did not mind the community making these judgments at the moment. Certainly, where State governments and perhaps local government authorities are required to vet proposals because of their impact on a community, business certainly accepts that this is necessary because the community has an interest.
But to what extent is business prepared to accept duplication? I submit that the community is not prepared at the moment to accept lengthy studies and perhaps examinations by commissioners in addition to seeking approval from State planning authorities, or planning and environment commissioners in the case of New South Wales, and local government authorities, and then have to meet substantial holding charges, which business has to do as distinct from governments which do not have to do that. They have to undergo extensive cost and delay and submit to numerous inquiries. While one might accept that the discretionary provisions that the Minister has referred to give the Commonwealth and the Minister power to exercise a discretion, to say that he will not require an impact study in this particular case, that clause of the Bill which deals with this matter by itself also has inherent in it other dangers which 1 do not believe people in the community would be aware of to date. I propose to cover this in a little while.
In political terms it is time for this sort of legislation because members of the community are concerned about the environment. Nobody denies the desirability of these sorts of studies when Commonwealth proposals and perhaps even expenditure by the Commonwealth in other areas are involved with the sort of limitation that I have mentioned in relation to bodies that merely lend money to the public. I was particularly pleased to see the definition of the environment. It was put in very wide terms. It included all aspects of the surroundings of man whether affecting him as an individual or in his social groupings. The word ‘environmental’ has a corresponding meaning. I think that the concept of environmental impact statements ought to be widened in the public mind to accept a social responsibility. I like to think in terms of social impact statements when we are looking at the effect of government proposals. I think that this definition will be more important in the future when the concept of environmental impact statements is seen to be wider, particularly when government proposals are being looked at.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, endeavoured to make political capital. Although in the opening paragraphs he acknowledged the role of the previous governments in developing impact statement procedures he went on to say that under the previous governments impact statements were to be made public immediately after a Cabinet decision was announced and before related legislation or appropriations were passed by the Parliament. He stated that these arrangements provided the public with minimum opportunity to influence the decision on an environmental ground. While that observation may be correct, I think that in the time in which it was introduced it was certainly an innovation. Perhaps it was a little unkind of the Minister to put it that way. In that case, perhaps I can be a little unkind myself. I make the observation that in answer to a question from the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) the Minister said certain things. The question on notice and the answer are recorded at page 2127 of Hansard. The honourable member for Sturt asked this question:
Will the Minister inform the public of environmental impact studies as they are initiated from time to time?
The Minister replied to that point:
No. This is a matter for the department or organisation putting forward a proposal, though in the interests of ‘open government’ I would hope that they will do so.
I think that it is pertinent to note that whilst the Minister involved was certainly concerned to see that these statements were made public his fellow Ministers were not as concerned as he was, otherwise it would not be necessary to answer the question in that way. I believe that the statement was a little unkind because he endeavoured to single out previous governments when, in fact, his own Government in its performance showed a distinct weakness. Perhaps honourable members should take the time to read the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) issued during this last week on the achievements of the Government during 1974. Perhaps this copy that I received is faulty. I went through it and looked for these very important items of legislation that are before the Parliament. I could find nothing dealing with environmental impact statements or dealing with the important national parks and wildlife legislation before the House. I believe that this is perhaps not indicative of the importance that the Minister puts on this subject but it is certainly indicative of the lack of importance put on it by the Prime Minister. I say this because of the fact that he omits this very important item of legislation from that statement of achievements.
The other matter I want to deal with briefly relates to the sum of money involved in the administration of this program. My recollection is that in the Estimates this year we are to see allocated for this project a sum of $35,000 as funds for the administration of this program and the establishment of the Commission. This is in comparison with the public awareness program of $100,000 and the $16,000 for advertising. I wonder sometimes where our priorities are or the number of impact studies we are likely to see made. I mention particularly the question of duplication in relation to the State governments and the exercise of this discretion that the Minister has. But what worries me about the discretionary rights is highlighted in the Galston proposal. Honourabe members will recall that before the announcement was made in regard to the proposal to site an international airport at Galston, no impact studies were readily avialable, none could be released and when impact studies were available the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) indicated that he would not be recommending to the Government that they proceed with the development of that site.
What one has to look at when a discretion is provided is the people in whose hands it is. I am not suggesting that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, who is at the table, would exercise this discretion improperly. But what does worry me is that there may be other Ministers who may not exercise that discretion in the same responsible way that he may. Certainly the Galston decision would clearly indicate that a government, where government interests are concerned, could arrive at a decision without regard to environmental factors and it could do so in exercising this sort of discretion. I have mentioned the problem as I see it in relation to duplication. I have mentioned particularly the Public Works Committee of this House. What I have been saying also applies to the other parliamentary committees that examine particular matters such as the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, of which I am a member and which I believe looks at social consequences and social impact when decisions are being made. It also applies to other parliamentary committees that undertake similar functions.
One of the matters of which we ought to take cognisance- I do not think discretion is a satisfactory way to overcome it- is the cost of the duplication and the number of studies that could be made. The Minister might well say that his discretion would enable him to ensure that we are not seeing four or five studies of the same question. But I do not believe that this is good enough. I think the guidelines ought to be established as to who is to make these studies and what sort of factors ought to be taken into account. It is not good enough to say: ‘Well, we will look at the particular authority. If it is a State government and if we do not like the way it is making its studies we will not recognise them’. Similarly, I suppose that in the case of a standing committee of this House the Minister could say that he would not look at its studies unless it went about conducting them in a certain way. I do not think that this is the way in which these decisions ought to be made. I do not think that these sorts of discretions should be used.
Many people have been concerned about the volume of law dealing with the environment. I have mentioned this on a number of occasions. I spoke about it in the Estimates debate involving the Department of the Environment and Conservation. We have seen numbers of young lawyers, particularly at Sydney University, express concern at the lack of teaching at the moment of environmental law within universities. They have reason to be concerned because there may be some 300 Acts, when one includes State Acts as well as our own, that could impose varying conditions upon people undertaking certain activities in our community. These Acts make up a body of law which is far too complex, far too difficult and on which people cannot get advice.
There is no locus standi in this legislation that I can see other than public opinion, and I know that the Minister puts great weight on public opinion. I read with interest an article that he wrote on influencing politicians. It may well be that he considers that is sufficient. But I would submit that it is not. There is an important principle here that the community ought to have locus standi to be able to undertake themselves where environmental factors are involved and are influencing the decision makers and they ought to be able to do it particularly by bringing pressure to bear through legal action. There ought to be a skilled body of lawyers taught effectively in these areas of law who are able to conduct these actions. I would recommend for the Minister’s reading an article on the question of locus standi by Mark Tedeschi, a Fellow of Sydney University Law School, which appeared fairly recently in the Australian Law Journal.
Earlier today I spoke about clause 65 of the National Parks and Wildlife Bill and I mentioned particularly the factors that concern me in relation to civil liberties. Again in this legislation, which is the second Bill dealing with the environment and conservation which has been before this House today, there are matters relating to civil liberties which appear to be in conflict with the environmental protection and impact proposals that we have before us. I am concerned that when we are dealing with one very desirable objective that we all believe ought to be achieved other desirable objectives are being put aside. I submit that this House ought to take greater cognisance of the freedom of the individual.
It is disappointing to me to go through a Bill like this and to see Commissioners given very wide power. They are able, after presumably giving reasonable notice, whatever that is, to the occupier of any land, building or place to enter and inspect the land, building or place and inspect any material on the land, or on or in the building or place. Clause 20 sets out the very serious offences that can arise under the legislation. It states:
A person shall not-
insult or disturb a Commissioner in the exercise of his powers or the performance of his functions or duties as a Commissioner;
One can well imagine the situation that could occur when a Commissioner walked on to some land, perhaps after reasonable notice had been given, or perhaps after inadequate notice that did not reach the individual had been given and as a result the individual was not aware of who that person was. The Commissioner could say: ‘I am a Commissioner’. The individual could then say: ‘A Commissioner for what?’ The individual could offer some rather insulting remarks. We find that under the legislation he is liable for a penalty of $1,000 or imprisonment for 6 months for having insulted or disturbed a Commissioner in the exercise of his powers or the performance of his functions or duties as a Commissioner.
I submit that these sorts of clauses are very wide in their operation and ought to be looked at and that the Government ought to pay far greater heed to the comments of organisations like the Council for Civil Liberties which offered comment on earlier Bills and which organisations, having regard to the time involved for the members to consider this important piece of legislation, would have been prevented from offering similar comment on this Bill. It is important I believe that all honourable members look to this aspect of the freedom of the individual when considering important legislation like this. I think they should not in any way be intimidated by the very desirable objectives thai the Bill is seeking to achieve.
The other matter that I want to mention is also a procedural matter that has been highlighted by the honourable member for Gwydir who preceded me in this debate. He mentioned particularly clause 6. An indication has been given in the Bill that there would be administrative procedures that would be brought before the Parliament at a later date and on a number of dates in fact. It is quite clear that we do not know when we are considering this very important legislation what sort of procedures are going to be laid down ultimately for the consideration of these sorts of proposals. I believe that we have erred as parliamentarians in allowing over the past years numbers of Bills to come before us which provide that the major substantive law making provisions are going to be dealt with by way of regulations that can be promulgated or procedures that can be promulgated, brought into effect and can be operating for some time before this Parliament is able to consider them and subsequently disallow them if they are unreasonable. I think this procedure is bad in principle and I am somewhat aghast that in legislation of this type we can have this sort of procedure used when we are trying to achieve very desirable objectives.
It appears to me that this Government is prepared to overlook very many matters when seeking to achieve its ends, and I believe that the end does not always justify the means. For this reason, if I were a senator and able to consider this matter, I would be very reluctant to pass this Bill unless very substantial amendments were made in those areas in which civil liberties are clearly involved.
-As usual the previous speaker, the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), sees bad in all, even in this Bill despite the statement by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) for the Opposition, that the Opposition is supporting this legislation. I suppose that our Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) would refer to the honourable member for Parramatta as a knocking Nellie. It would be a very apt term for him. But when he refers to leaders in commerce and to business judgments I think he fails to recognise that most leaders in commerce recognise their responsibility to the community and readily accept those responsibilities. He does not seem to realise it is bad business politics for a firm to ignore its public responsibilities. The honourable member referred to the duplication and triplication of the preparation of environmental impact statements. Apparently he also did not see that section of the Minister’s second reading speech which refers to the participation with State governments. It states:
This will mean that where 2 governments are involved in examining a proposal, only one statement will be needed.
The Minister said further:
The Australian Government will have to rely to a large extent on State government advice in assessing the environmental consequences of proposals in which it is involved and which are being developed in the States.
I see no danger of and am not concerned at the possible duplication of environmental impact statements. I support the legislation now before the House, the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that full consideration is given to the environmental factors involved in the Government’s decision-making through the use of the environmental impact statement technique and public inquiries. Throughout Australia there is widespread concern for the management of the environment both in urban and in non-urban areas. In the metropolitan areas there is rapidly growing congestion caused by people, automobiles, heavy transport, factories and the like. In the regions which are the centres of agriculture, mining, services and out-of-town recreation and tourism, there is also concern about the environment in terms of the multiple use of resources and investment in them. All of these result to some degree in financial charges to the Australian Treasury. So it has a direct interest in the decisions which are made. There is a pressing need for evaluations of the impact on the urban and rural environment. The Bill’s provisions will apply to proposals which are being developed by Australian Government departments or instrumentalities and to situations where Australian Government money is involved or where Australia ‘s constitutional power is involved.
In the past insufficient attention has been given to consideration of the impact on the environment of actions flowing from decisions that were taken. The provisions for the publishing of environmental impact statements and the conduct of public inquiries are in line with the Australian Labor Party’s policy of open government, of informing the people, of enabling public participation in the decision-making process. In recent years increasing concern from all parts of the political spectrum has been expressed that inadequate consideration was being given to the environmental effect of decisions taken. Generally, economic and technical considerations have overridden the environmental aspects of proposals. Many of our existing environmental problems of today- of noise pollution, air pollution, waste disposal, reduction of amenitywould not have arisen if there had been procedures available for a complete assessment of the impact on the environment of the proposed developments.
I do not mean to criticise unduly those responsible for past decisions taken, because it is only in relatively recent years that the peoples of the world have come to realise the dangers to the human race and the damage that has been done by ill-considered development. The economic aspects had more or less always been the major element in planning development- in other words, whether or not a profit could be made or a desirable service provided.
In my own region, the Hunter region, steel works and associated industries that have polluted the waterways and atmosphere could not be constructed today in the manner in which or the location in which they have been established since 1915. In the Sydney region, Botany Bay would still have most of its own natural qualities if environmental assessments had been carried out before industries and port developments were commenced. We cannot turn the clock back but we can plan and manage the future. After all, the environment does not belong wholly and solely to us. We have only a loan of it from those generations who will follow us and we have a heavy responsibility to pass it on to those who follow in the future in at least as good condition as we received it but preferably in a better condition. This legislation is the first national approach to that objective.
The concept of environmental assessment is not new. The fact is that as a nation we are trailing the efforts of our trading partners. We aim through this Bill to protect the environment in 2 ways; firstly, by use of the information obtained in the environmental assessments themselves- the factors threatened, the alternatives and the best course to follow having in mind a full consideration of all factors involved; secondly, by the educative process inherent in public hearings that may be held in association with the preparation of assessments. Some people may see the need for preparation of environmental assessments as another round of red tape to be overcome- a further unnecessary cost to be incurred by the taxpayer and a possible further delay in the planning process. Nothing could be further from the truth. We hope that, unlike the past when economic considerations were the prime considerations that influenced the decision-making process, in the future consideration of the environmental impact of proposals will take place along with the consideration of the economic features, hand in hand: that is, a parallel process, a marrying of the econ. omics and the effect on the total environment of the proposed development.
It is envisaged that proposals which could have a significant effect on the environment and which involve the Australian Government specifically or by use of grant moneys, or specified loan funds or projects which involve the constitutional powers of the Australian Governmentsuch as the woodchip industry and mining activities- will need to be examined before export licences are granted. It goes without saying that this legislation will mean there will be considerable scope for co-operation with State environmental authorities- a complementary activity. It is to the credit of the States that all States except Western Austraia have procedures, or are in the process of developing procedures, for the requirement of impact statements on those matters that fall within the State sphere of responsibility. In the Australian Environment Council there has already been basic agreement on what impact statements should cover. Where 2 governments are involved in examining a proposal only one statement Wi be needed. Thus it is expected that as experience in the use of the environmental assessment technique develops, a decision on whether or not a proposal should be the subject of an impact statement will become a relatively simple matter and the preparation of the statement will be part and parcel of any initial consideration of a proposal.
While objection may be taken to the Minister having the authority to determine whether a statement is required and a public inquiry is to be held, that is preferable to the less satisfactory provision in the United States of a flat statutory requirement and is less likely to lead to the problems being experienced in that country in the use of techniques. It will be at the Minister’s discretion to determine whether a public inquiry is to be held but it is to be expected that only in few cases public inquiries will be necessary. However, it also needs mentioning that the Minister will have the power to order a public inquiry where an impact statement has not been prepared. The provisions in the Bill for participation by the people in public inquiries are of major importance and represent a victory for the supporters of community expression of concern for planning and care of environment. The people want to be involved. They want the opportunity to put their point of view on the impact of suggested proposals on their life style, on the quality of surroundings and the amenity of the area in which the proposal is to be located.
I can think of no better example of the driving desire for public expression than that encompassed in the report tabled yesterday of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Conservation. The report deals with the Committee’s inquiry into the impact of New South Wales State highway 23 on Blackbutt Reserve in my own electorate. The recommendations of the Committee, which were against the construction of State highway 23, were a triumph for the people of the Newcastle area in that the fears that they had been expressing publicly and privately for 8 long years were upheld by the committee. For 8 long years interested members of the public were denied the opportunity of a public forum where evidence for all points of view could have been given on oath and an impartial decision made based on the evidence given. It is to the discredit of the New South Wales Department of Main Roads that the Department denied the people that opportunity. If environmental impact legislation had been in existence since Federation the 8-year argument over Blackbutt Reserve would have been avoided. Elsewhere injurious chemicals would not have poured into the Hunter river year after year. Lake Munmorah in the electorate of my colleague, the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), would still be providing the harvest of fish and prawns that it used to produce until the advent of rutile mining and electricity generation after World War II.
The people of Stockton in the Lyne electorate would not be subjected to the discomfort and the irritants of air pollution from nearby Kooran.gang Island if an environmental impact statement had been prepared prior to the construction of its industries. Coal trucks blighting the whole of the Hunter region presently could have been avoided if there had been environmental impact statements into mining development and transport of coal. I do not blame the coal truck owners. They are providing a necessary service. But the State Government is deserving of the strongest criticism for not having foreseen the need for adequate rail transport facilities from pithead to port. Roads are clogged by these gigantic coal trucks. People are being assaulted by their noise, fumes and dust from spillage. Quiet streets and back roads have become noise horrors. Busy roads have become congested because government has not planned or produced proper rail transport facilities.
Coal is bringing great wealth to our nation, but people are being seriously damaged by noise, by loss of privacy, by loss of quiet occupancy of their homes, by greater danger on the roads and by the degrading of the quality of the amenity of their neighbourhood. This legislation follows the greatest grass roots movements of the people in modern Australian history which has been centred around protection of the environment. It is essential that there should be full and proper provision for public expression of opposing viewpoints on controversial proposals. I think this legislation does make that provision. When there is no public forum for expression there is fertile ground for suspicion and mistrust by all parties which further compounds the controversy. The taking of evidence on oath by the hearing Commissioners will dispel much of that ground of mistrust and suspicion. In all controversies there has to be a reconciliation of opposing viewpoints. That is another of the values of the public inquiry provisions of this legislation.
There is little we can do to change our mistakes of the past. The present state of pollution is a result of inadequate planning and inadequate consideration in the development of our factories, mines, motor cars, waste disposal, means of transport, air pollution and water pollution. The time has arrived when we should survey our Australian environment, raise our standards and change our practices. We must plan for the optimum control utilisation for our country to provide an acceptable environment for both present and future generations. I commend the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Cass) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27 November, on motion by Dr Cass:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I will not detain the House very long in speaking to this Bill because I know there is a tight timetable. I want to say briefly that the legislation owes its origin to an initiative taken, I think in 1971, by the Australian Agricultural Council when it received a report from the Standing Committee on Soil Conservation. It provided a factual basis for the
States requesting financial assistance for soil conservation programs. As a consequent of that event, an interdepartmental committee was established in 1972. The interdepartmental committee reported in July this year. Discussions have been taking place with representatives of the State governments, the State authorities for soil conservation and the Commonwealth body. The interdepartmental committee agreed that soil conservation activities should be considerably increased, certainly well above the existing levels throughout Australia, and that it would be appropriate for the Australian Government to bear most of the financial responsibility. I have been informed that it was estimated a couple of years ago that about $350m would be spent during say a 5-year period to try to overcome the problem of the backlog that exists.
The Opposition welcomes the decision of the Government to assist the States in a long term program that could cost well in excess of the figure that was estimated a couple of years ago. I think the Minister was thinking that it could rise to over $500m. As I said in my speech on the motion for the second reading of the States Grants (Water Resources Measurement) Bill there is a need for a national co-operative effort. I will not quote from that speech because of the shortage of time. This Bill is termed by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) as an interim program of financial assistance to the States. A pre-condition to the provision of funds for the States will be an agreement by them to participate in the program. So far, New South Wales is the only State that has not agreed to participate in the program. I well understand the position of the New South Wales Government which has currently an ongoing program. It spent in 1972-73, $6. 175m; in 1973-74, $6.8m. In 1974-75 it is planning to spend about $7. 4m; in the next financial year it expects to spend a further $8.5m; and it is planning to spend $9.3m in 1976-77. The New South Wales Government asks: Why should it seek the Minister’s approval for its total $7m or $8m program when the Australian Government, under the schedule of this Bill, will contribute only $ 1 10,000 in this financial year?
The New South Wales soil conservation service is a well developed sophisticated organisation. It is probably one of the best in Australia. Needless to say, the capacity and expertise that is available to the New South Wales Government is not likely to be available at the present time to the Commonwealth Government. There is a great problem of duplication and one that must be avoided. The States will not give up easily their constitutional responsibilities for soil control. But in order to make the impact necessary on the problem of soil conservation and restoration, the States will require more financial assistance than is available to them at the present time. The States will require financial assistance and they will, therefore, require Commonwealth aid. On the other hand, there will be a need for consultation between the States themselves and the Commonwealth. There will be a need for cooperation between these governments ultimately to achieve co-ordination.
I see this Bill as an interim measure and I hope it does ultimately lead to a total program with all States being involved. It will do this, of course, and the Australian Government will achieve a national objective if it is able to resolve the feeling that appears to exist in the mind of the Government of New South Wales that this is an attempt to take over in a doctrinaire fashion the responsibility for soil conservation. As I said in my speech on the motion for the second reading of the State Grants (Water Resources Measurement) Bill, if we approach the task in some doctrinaire, socialist way, trying to take over the control of the tenure of land from a State the whole program would be fraught with ultimate disaster. I hope that that does not eventuate.
I have had discussions with the Minister on this matter who I must say again has been prepared to see the arguments that have been put to him. I am sure that if he maintains that sort of an approach he will be able to resolve some of the outstanding difficulties that exist with at least one State in the Commonwealth. I hope that that degree of understanding and co-operation will be ultimately achieved. I do not know whether the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is sunburned or whether he is getting worried about the time of the day. We are trying to get through this legislation. The Opposition will be moving amendments at the Committee stages. I understand that the Government is prepared to accept those amendments. We will, therefore, support the measure and wish it a speedy passage through this House and the other place.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (9.19)-As a member who comes from an area that has suffered severe financial and physical disadvantages caused by the lack of concern of previous national and State governments for soil conservation, I know that I will have the endorsement of all sections of my electorate when I say that 1 support the States Grants (Soil Conservation) Bill 1974. This Bill is concerned with the provision to the States of financial assistance for 1974-75 and 1975-76 for what the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), who has just resumed his seat, termed an interim program of financial assistance for soil conservation. As a result of what has happened in my electorateindeed, in my home town- I feel sure that it is necessary for the national Government to take over the lead in projects and measures to protect our national resources for the well-being of the present generation and of future generations.
The Bill before the House, in my opinion, gives tangible expression to the importance that the Government places upon the preservation of our natural resources and shows a willingness to give the lead that is necessary. In his second reading speech, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) informed the House that the first significant Federal attention that was drawn to this problem was in February 1971 when the Australian Agricultural Council received a report from the Standing Committee on Soil Conservation. That report was titled: ‘The Study of Community Benefits of and Finance for Soil Conservation’. From early 1971 to late 1974 seems to be a fair lapse of time and no doubt the Opposition will infer that the Government should have acted before this time, but by reading only the foreword to the report we find that the committee was set up in 1946. In my opinion, this demonstrates a great deal of procrastination by the Liberal Party and the Country Party in showing concern for our national resources and is a bit inconsistent with the argument that they have been putting forward recently in respect of the environment.
I do not think that anyone in this House was surprised to learn, when the Minister for the Environment and Conservation stated that the precondition for the provision of this financial assistance was an agreement by the States to participate in this investigation, that, at this stage, New South Wales has not reached this agreement. If members of the Opposition were consistent in what they claim the Government should be doing in regard to increasing food production at this time of, as they have pointed out on several occasions, a world food shortage, one would expect that they would be loud in their condemnation of the delay by New South Wales.
– You being provocative now.
– There is no doubt that we are going through a period when soil conservation is of great importance. This is because of the world food shortage pointed to by members of the Country Party and my friend, the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), who has just interjected. Additionally, we have reports that our present food production and distribution system expends 5 units of fossil energy for each unit of food made available. Honourable members will find that set out in one of the reports on this subject. We could well have the added problem that intensive mechanisation farming may be restricted for 2 reasons- firstly, the scarcity of fuel, and secondly, the high cost. Authorities claim we may have to re-think the whole system of food production.
When we think of soil conservation, we naturally think of soil fertility, soil erosion and soil erosion control. This brings us to the most important part of this report. The Standing Committee on Soil Conservation forecasts in its report that at the present rate of progress for 1971 it would take 100 years to achieve soil conservation. I do not want to read what the report says because, in common with the honourable member for Gwydir, who preceded me in this debate, the time available to me is restricted. The report sets out measures to solve this problem in 30 years. If I had the time, I could refer honourable members to the revelant pages. Another cause for concern raised by the report is that those measures to reduce the time required to achieve soil conservation from 100 years to 30 years would cost, at 1970 values an estimated annual amount of $12m. I point out that this does not mean that the land cannot be used for other purposes. It can be used for production at the same time because conservation means more than mere preservation.
I think we can say that rational utilisation of resources should play an important part in any scheme of land conservation. The Standing Committee’s definition of soil conservation is:
Application to land, cultural, vegetational, structural and management measures, either singly or in combination, needed to develop a system of use and management which would enable the desired level of productivity to be attained without damage or loss of soil fertility on this or other land.s.
I believe that our major responsibility in soil conservation is to ensure that both public and private landholders do not adopt systems of land use which would secure benefits for themselves but which, at the same time, would cause other users and the community greater expense.
I have been asked, as was the previous speaker, to assist inexpediting the consideration of the Bill by curtailing my speech. The town from which I come represents the best example of soil conservation practices that anyone will find anywhere. I speak of the work of the mining companies at Broken Hill. In my young days, there were skip dumps all around the town. The skips were blown all over the common and the vegetation was ruined. A gentleman called Albert Morris undertook regeneration right around the town. He established a regeneration area which was half a mile wide. The soil and the vegetation now in that town are, I would say, the best that anyone will find anywhere in Australia. I commend the Government for its actions. I hope that we can really push forward and see some worthwhile action undertaken in the area of soil conservation.
– I am going to make some criticisms both of the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) and of this legislation. Before so doing I think that I ought to spell out my reasons. They are important, at least to me. I have had a great deal of intimate association with the soil conservation service in my State. Indeed, in 1938 1 constructed the first contour banks in South Australia to guard against water erosion. I remember my father coming over on a Tariff Board matter, seeing these large gutters, and saying: ‘Look, young fellow’- I was young once- ‘you had better cure this’. I remember getting in touch with the Bank of New South Wales and obtaining a booklet that the bank had. I made an ‘A’ level which had 200 inches from one leg to the other, I cut 2 inches off one leg, put a spirit level on a cross piece, and then set to work to build the first contour banks in South Australia. Following that, we built up a soil conservation service in South Australia on which I had the honour to serve for 17 years or 18 years until I came into this rather queer way of occupying my time.
I do understand, firstly, that this is a grass roots problem. One does not solve the problem of soil conservation by eloquent speaking. It is done by an exact understanding of the biological and vegetative systems within which one works. Let me outline what worries me about the legislation now before us. This is illustrated by the discussion which the Minister and I had about kangaroos earlier in the day. I pay a tribute to the Minister because of his sympathy for kangaroos and because of his willingness to do everything he can for them. If he is frank with me he will agree that it is inevitable that if the present restriction on kangaroos stays there will be a poisoning program which he and I will regret to the utmost. If the same decisions are made about soil conservation as have been made about kangaroos we will be dealing with a grass roots problem. The thing that worried me about this legislation when it came before us and before I had an opportunity to talk to the Minister is exemplified by clause 4 (2). I am sure that the
Minister is not responsible for this monstrosity.
Clause 4 (2) reads:
A submission of a program to the Minister under subsection ( 1 ) shall be in writing-
in a form approved by the Minister . . .
That is carrying bureaucracy to the limit. If a State department which knows its problem, which has worked with its problem and which has worked to conserve thousands of acres year after year has to conform to a form approved by the Minister, we are starting off on the wrong leg. I criticise not the Minister but those who drafted this clause. It is really making a ridiculous fetish of conformity. But what really worries me is clause 4 (5) of the Bill. I have talked to the Minister. I understand that he will make a statement on it afterwards. It states:
An approval of a program, or of a variation of an approved program, under this section may be given or made subject to such conditions, not inconsistent with this Act. as the Minister thinks fit.
I say, in speaking with some knowledge of this subject, that a Minister with all the competence which he can gather together within his Department is not competent to judge things which come to the grass roots level. The present Minister may be able to do so. Generally speaking the judgments which will be made on soil conservation and the actions which will be taken, will be taken by people who live close to their problems, who have a grass roots involvement in their problems. It is not so much a matter of expertise. It is a case of doing the job.
As one who has walked over a good deal of country in South Australia which has been tackled and as one who has known the problem at the grass roots level, I do not think it is good enough to accept the proposition that the ivory tower- I say this in the pleasant sense of the words- attitude in Canberra can gauge the problems which lie at the grass roots. It is this which concerns me. I pay a tribute to the frankness and flexibility of the Minister. I say that in the nicest sense. Ever since the Minister made the unforgettable statement that flood plains are for floods -it has a kind of basic wisdom which not many have the courage to propound- I have had him on a pedestal. So I am not saying that the Minister does not have the willingness to see the problem in its entirety or the courage to put his convictions into effect.
Until I had some conversations with him my hackles rose at the thought that my soil conservation group in South Australia which has done the job so well would be under the domination of someone living in an ivory tower. But that is not so. The Minister will make that assurance clear to me. I think that is something we on both sides of the house ought to recognise. We could get every vote there was if we talked eloquently about conservation. We could say that there was a great national problem which threatened our heritage. When eloquence is over the way to tackle the problem is by making judgments on what to do about the texture of the soil, what should be the slope of a countour bank, where the outlets should be, should there be a wider rotation and should there be a different rotation system. These are the kinds of things which will make for success or for failure.
Although making eloquent statements on both sides of the House about a fundamental grass roots problem may make us feel better and may get us votes in the election, it will not solve the general problems of soil conservation. I understand that the Minister will spell out the solution to the problem which is worrying me in relation to ‘as the Minister thinksfit’. The Minister has some qualifications which I think will satisfy me. But there is another point which is a point of principle. The Schedule attached to the Bill shows that South Australia which has 9.3 per cent of the population in the next financial year will get 5 per cent of the amount which will be voted and it will get 4.4 per cent of the amount for the following year.I ask whether this table showing grants to the States for soil conservation when compared to State population can be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– This spells out the problem as I see it. This is a poor reward for good housekeeping. In South Australia we have a uniquely successful soil conservation service. I pay tribute to the work done on New South Wales by Clayton when I came into the field away back in 1938.I am not being critical of New South Wales in any way. I understand that the work is as good as it used to be. It was very good. South Australia has a uniquely competent soil conservation service which was headed for many years by R. I. Herriot. He did a first class job. He has been succeeded by Mr Alan Beare. I know how well they have done. It is a poor reward when having done well one gets less money for the future. I know this conforms to the Labor Party philosophy that those in need, to them shall be given.
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
-The Opposition wishes to move an amendment to clause 4 on page 2, line 2 of the Bill by omitting the word approval’ and substituting the word ‘consideration’. I shall move this amendment on behalf of the Opposition for the reasons which were stated by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr
Kelly) who regrettably was interrupted by a premature motion that the question be put. I am sorry that this happened, because I thought that the contribution he was making to the debate was a very good one and one that needs to be taken into account. I know that the Minister was interested in what the honourable member had to say. I would like the honourable member to finish what he had to say in support of this amendment, because as the Bill stood it was an indictment of the States. The States have to submit a total program to the Minister for approval, when in fact many of the States- I speak for New South Wales- have a sophisticated, wellestablished soil conservation service.
In New South Wales $8m is being appropriated in the next financial year for soil conservation, whereas under the Schedule of this Bill $ 1 10,000 is being appropriated. We know that it is an interim measure and that bigger things are to come. But to force the State of New South Wales to submit its total program to the Australian Government or the Minister for approval, I think, is a provocative approach and one that would not get the sort of co-operation that would be necessary to carry through the total objective. For that reason I wish to move 2 amendments to clause 4, which states in part:
Where a State submits a program to the Minister under sub-section ( 1 ) the Minister may-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)-Is the honourable member moving 2 amendments?
– Yes, together. It will save time.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Is leave granted for 2 amendments to be moved together? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
The essential difference between the amendment we move and what is standing in the legislation is that the amendment will make it necessary for the Minister to consult and confer with the States before modifying a program. I personally feel that the Minister and the Government have in their minds to do just what is stated in the amendment, but I think that it is essential to write it into the legislation so that Ministers in the future and the Government in the future will be bound to confer and consult with the States and to complete the program. As I said earlier in my speech on the second reading, it will be absolutely essential in any national program for the States to have the carriage of the administration of the program. Trying to do it from Canberra would result in a waste of resources and we would not achieve the objective with what is, as the honourable member for Wakefield said, a totally grass-roots problem. The problem goes right back to the grass-roots within States, regions and districts. To try to administer a massive program from Canberra or through a central authority would be fraught with disaster. I hope that that is not the intention of the Government. I thank the Minister for showing his willingness to take in good faith the points we have raised and for agreeing to the amendments.
– I should like to say a few words because, despite the gag, I was listening to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), and I agree with much of what the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) has said. Therefore I indicate that the Government accepts the amendments. I should also like to elaborate on the conditions which are mentioned in clause 4(5). The honourable member for Wakefield raised this question, so I shall read the details from the letter sent by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam ) to the Premiers. In that letter he suggested that the Australian Government was interested in providing funds for this sort of program and sought their co-operation. He set down certain conditions under which we were prepared to offer funds. It is to this letter that all the States, excepting New South Wales, replied in the affirmative accepting the conditions. The letter reads:
The main condition associated with the allocation of these funds is that the State and Australian Governments should collaborate in a study program to be completed by 30 June 1976 to establish a basis for a long-term national program of soil conservation in the context of an integrated approach to land management. Major components in the study program will be:
The development of a national approach to land resources survey and evaluation.
The drawing up of a co-ordinated research program aimed at meeting the most urgent needs associated with soil conservation.
Study of legal, administrative, financial and land tenure systems associated with soil conservation and land management, including the matter of cost allocation and reimbursement in relation to works on private property.
Requirements for the recruitment and training of all categories of staff.
Integration with other areas of Government policy including rural reconstruction, conservation and flood mitigation.
Other conditions are that your Government will not reduce its planned level of expenditure on soil conservation and that funds for the interim program will not be made available for works on private property unless the landholder undertakes responsibility for complementary land management activities.
In other words we will do the very things about which the honourable member for Wakefield was talking. We are interested in the grass-roots response. The letter goes on:
In accordance with its current practice, the Australian Government also reserves the right to consider the environmental implications of projects prior to agreeing to provide funds for those projects.
They are the conditions to which we have referred. I have placed them on record. They are contained in the letter to the Premiers, and on the basis of that letter the majority of the State Premiers have accepted the proposal. With those few words, I accept the amendments proposed by the honourable member for Gwydir.
– I appreciate the statement made by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass). He makes the position clear to those in the House, but what he says is not in the Bill, nor will it be in the Act. I think the Minister will recognise my concern. If the Minister had come into this debate on the Opposition side of the House and if he had seen in the Bill that approval of programs may be subject to such conditions as the Minister sees fit, he would have had the same kind of uneasy feeling as I have. Because I have respect for the Minister’s integrity, his honesty and his willingness to give way and not stand stupidly on a pinnacle of power, I will accept what he says. I pay tribute to the Minister for the way in which he has handled the matter.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Cass) read a third time.
WOOL INDUSTRY BILL (No. 2) 1974 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 28 November.
Clause 5 (Membership of Corporation)
– I do not intend to take up too much of the Committee stage as my colleague, the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), has moved the amendment standing in my name which seeks to delete the clause. The first thing I want to say is that I am very much indebted to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) for incorporating in Hansard at pages 4304 and 4306 a statement which sets out fairly clearly the political intentions of the Government with respect to the membership of the Australian Wool Corporation. Regrettably, what is contained in the statement in an article by Mr Alan Goodall of ‘The Land’ seems to be the intention of the Australian Labor Party. It is important that the Corporation be above politics. The Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) and I have agreed on previous occasions that the Corporation has an important role to play. I believe that that role should not be dependent upon the political affiliations of the people appointed to the Corporation but upon their capabilities as individuals and as representatives of the industry, whether it be in the role of a specialist or of an elected member. For that reason it is important that the membership be retained as was provided in the original Bill, recommended by the’ industry and after considerable consultation with those involved in the industry.
It is true that there might be some reason for an extension of the membership of the board of the Australian Wool Corporation. No reason has been given. I would be grateful if the Minister for Northern Development or the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) in another place would give an adequate reason for the extension of the board. The Opposition is not fundamentally opposed to it but I have always believed, and I do believe, irrespective of the area of concern, that a small board works more effectively than a large board. Parkinson’s law works as well as the Peter principle in the competence and the performance of those who are appointed to boards of this character. I would be disappointed if an additional member were appointed just to add to the numbers rather than for any particular function he might perform.
The second thing I want to say is that it is important that the Committee takes into account the attitude of the Australian Wool Industry Conference towards the amendment that is now before us. In order to save the time of the Committee during subsequent deliberations and debate, I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement by the Executive Committee of the Australian Wool Industry Conference taken at a meeting in Canberra last Monday.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
STATEMENT BY THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE AUSTRALIAN WOOL INDUSTRY CONFERENCE
The Executive Committee met in Canberra on 2 December 1 974 to clarify the Australian Wool Industry Conference policy on the Bill for an Act to amend the Wool Industry Act 1972-73 which is now before Parliament.
The Australian Wool Industry Conference is appreciative of the early action taken by the Government to ensure continued confidence of growers and wool users in the Australian Wool Corporation market support operations by the provision to make available an additional $200 m in loan funds to the Corporation and we therefore support the Wool Marketing ( Loan ) Bill ( No. 2 ).
The Executive Committee is pleased and encouraged in the knowledge that all political parties have indicated their support for the principle of strengthening the powers of the Australian Wool Corporation.
The Australian Wool Industry Conference supports increased powers of supply management and marketing which the Bill confers on the Australian Wool Corporation.
The Australian Wool Industry Conference agrees with provisions of the Bill for the establishment and operation of the Market Support Fund except for clause 28a (12) which the Australian Wool Industry Conference believes should be amended to read as follows: ‘ If any moneys stand to the credit of the Market Support Fund after the profit or loss certified under sub-section (5 ) has been dealt with in accordance with sub-section (9) or (II) those moneys shall be applied by the Corporation for such purpose in relation to the wool industry as it is determined by the Minister after approval has been given by the Australian Wool Industry Conference in writing to the Minister’.
This amendment would bring the use of the capital of the Market Support Fund within the terms of the understanding on which growers agreed to contribute to that fund. The Executive Committee considers this amendment essentia] to preserve beyond doubt growers’ interest in the fund.
There are certain other amendments to the Bill which the Executive Committee believes desirable.
1 ) As indicated by the resolution of the Wool Industry Policy Committee on 5 November 1974 and as endorsed by the Australian Wool Industry Conference at its annual meeting on 8 November 1974 the Conference does not support those changes to section 8 of the principal Act which increase the membership of the Corporation and which confer on the Minister the right to request the Australian Wool Industry Conference to submit additional names for inclusion in the list of names submitted to the Minister by the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
The Australian Wool Industry Conference Executive Committee commends to the Government amendments to clause 9 of the Bill to add the words ‘and appropriate employer groups’ to the end of the proposed section 20 ( I ) and to delete the whole of section 20a ( 2 ).
-I wish to draw to the attention of honourable members the statement made with respect to membership. It will be seen that the Australian Wool Industry Conference believes quite strongly that there are difficulties in changes of membership and in the submission of a panel of names to the Minister for Agriculture. For that reason the Opposition intends to pursue the amendment standing in my name, which will mean that the former position with respect to membership of the Australian Wool Corporation will prevail.
There is one further factor with respect to clause 5, namely, that the Opposition can understand and supports the concept that there should be a rotation of membership. If there is to be a rotation of membership, it would be better for it to be introduced after the expiration of the term of office of those who are presently members of the Corporation. It is not appropriate that it be introduced at a time when any change in the membership might seem as though there is a vote against the Corporation itself. I am worried about the future of the wool industry. I am worried about the prices paid for wool. Fundamentally, I am worried about the opportunities of those many Australians who have played such a tremendous role in developing this country- the small individual family farmers. We cannot run the risk of just throwing out the Wool Corporation and saying that it does not matter. For that reason the Opposition does not accept that at this time there should be a change in the Corporation. If it should happen at the expiration of the term, that would be a different matter. If anything is done now which in any way might prejudice the prices being received for wool, I would be concerned.
Politics aside, I do worry about anything that might seem to be taking away support when wool seems to be coming up from the bottom. If this measure were to do that I would be concerned. Therefore I wish to persist with the amendment. I support the concept of a change in rotation so that half the members who are growers’ representatives will be changed, only on each occasion when there is a re-election. I disapprove of the idea that the Minister should elect them. As I said on another occasion, he is an elected representative. We accept, even though we do not approve, the fact that he is an elected member of the Senate. Why should he not accept another body which is elected from the wool growers of this country to represent them? The Opposition intends to persist with the amendment to clause 5.
– The policy of the Government with respect to the method of appointment of members of the Australian Wool Corporation is well known. It has been stated time and again by the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) and by other honourable members. At present members of the Corporation representing the wool growers are appointed on the nomination of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. This requirement is being maintained but, with respect to this Bill, provision is being made for members to be selected by the Minister for Agriculture from a panel of names submitted by the Conference. The reason for the additional member with special qualifications is not one of politics.
Although it may be construed from things I said in a debate in this chamber when the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) was under challenge that I was attempting to bring politics into the question of membership of the Corporation, let me state clearly that I want to see the wool industry promoted and made as economically viable as possible. The Government’s intention, as expressed in this Bill, to have an additional member with special qualifications is in recognition of the very wide range of activities that will have to be covered by the Wool Corporation, particularly in trading. This measure will give the Wool Corporation a wide power in relation to trading that I believe will be for the benefit of the wool industry.
The Bill strengthens the hand of the Wool Corporation with respect to supply management. It ensures the regulation of the flow of wool on to the market, keeping in mind the demand for wool and the various processes not only within Australia but also throughout the world, in relation to our competitors and also to importers. The trading powers of the Corporation are such that we want to have on the board men with experience in the various specialist activities and in all facets of the new powers of the Wool Corporation. The Government believes that the making available of wider experience and expertise on the board is a prudent action and is in the best interests of the wool growers. Time will tell whether this is so.
I certainly do not agree that there is any motive behind the intentions of the Government to bring politics into this matter. The Government desires to appoint the best possible people. I cannot see why a panel of names should not be submitted. After all, the Australian Meat Board is selected in this way, from a panel of names to cover the various facets of expertise. A very high degree of expertise will be demanded because of the enlarged powers of the Wool Corporation. The Minister himself has a greater responsibility for oversight of the statutory body. He will need all the advice he can get from the expanded expertise on the Corporation itself. Surely all the skills and capabilities of wool growers are not so restricted that the AWIC would only want to put forward 4 names.
– But why should it not be left to the AWIC to determine the representation?
-Previously the nominations came from the AWIC, but the Minister still made the final decision. This will still happen except that this will be an extension. My advice is that there will be one more member.
– I am not talking about the one more member who is a specialist member; I am talking about growers’ representatives.
-Perhaps it may help if I read out the advice I have been given. It states:
The method of appointment of Corporation members: At present the members of the Corporation representing wool growers are appointed on the nomination of the AWIC. This requirement is being maintained but provision is being made for the members to be selected by the Minister for Agriculture from a panel of names submitted by the Conference.
– But the Minister could keep on rejecting nominations until he gets the person he wants.
-Perhaps he could do that, but I would not think he would. What the honourable member is saying is that the AWIC will not nominate the most suitable people. The Bill also provides for the retirement, on a staggered basis, of grower members and members with special qualifications. We think this is a wise provision because it ensures continuity of experience on the board of the Corporation. For those reasons the Government does not agree with the Opposition’s amendment. We believe that the appointment of one additional member with special qualifications will, in fact, strengthen the Corporation itself.
– I do not intend to delay the Committee but I make the point that it is desirable that the Australian Wool Industry Conference or the growers, through the avenues they choose, should have the right to appoint their own members to the board. The fact that the Government wants a panel of names from which to select a member really is, despite what the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) says, trying to get the type of person that the Minister for Agriculture wants rather than the type of person the wool growers want.
– That is ridiculous.
-The honourable member would not know anything about wool. There can be no reason for the proposed change other than to give the Minister greater authority over the selection of people to represent wool growers. I emphasise this aspect. I agree with the amendment and am opposed to the idea of a panel of names from which the Minister can select whomever he likes to represent the wool growers, despite the fact that that person will be from the panel of names submitted. The other point to which the Minister should reply relates to the position if the Minister does not select a person from the panel of names submitted to him. Will the organisation have to submit another panel until it nominates someone the Minister is happy to have?
– What pettifogging suggestions we have heard from the Opposition over this issue. A panel of names of wool growers will be submitted to the Minister.
– Why a panel of names?
– Who is making this speech? To think that a Federal Minister would go outside a panel for which he has asked is utterly ridiculous. He will be doing his best for the industry. The industry will supply him with X number of names of good men, true men, all wool growers themselves from around Australia.
– What if he does not select any of them?
– That is a ridiculous suggestion. He will select someone from the panel of names. This legislation makes no provision for the Minister to select as members of the Corporation persons outside that panel. It is ridiculous to talk about him knocking the panel over and not selecting someone from it. I am sure this is just a stalling action by the Opposition. It is incredible the number of proposals the Government puts forward which the Opposition tries to knock over. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), who is trying to interject, opposite thinks he knows everything about everything. That is his trouble. Members of the Australian Country Party think they are the Encyclopaedia Britannica about wool growing, dairying, wheat growing and apple growing. We also have studied these matters. We also have been growers, and we are not idiots all the time. I think this legislation is sensible. It is bringing the whole concept of the Corporation’s work up to date. This provision seeks to put on the board of the Corporation an expert in marketing. Anybody who disagrees this proposal is just bloodyminded.
– I disagree with just about everything that was said by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). I am also concerned with some of the comments of the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). However I do not intend to take time replying to those comments because the Opposition has been told it has 24 minutes in which to move a number of amendments. We believe that the amendments we are movingwith the sole exception of one to which I will talk later- are important. In normal circumstances we would divide on these amendments. We will not divide on them this evening only to ensure that Opposition members will have the opportunity to speak to the amendments.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Meetings).
– I move:
The reason for this amendment is that clause 8 provides for an addition to the quorum of meetings of the Corporation. As the Opposition has not accepted the Minister’s failure to explain to the Parliament in the process of the open government concept the reason for an increase in the membership of the Corporation it can see no reason for expanding the quorum. This amendment is intended to maintain the quorum at 6 members.
– Clause 8 obviously is simply a consequence of clause 5 which relates to the numbers on the Board of the Corporation. As the Government rejected the Opposition’s amendment to clause 5 naturally it rejects also this amendment to clause 8.
Clause agreed to.
After section 20 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: “20a. (I) Before taking any action that could reasonably be expected to affect the conditions of employment, or the demand for labour, in the wool industry, the Corporation shall consult with, and have regard to the views of, the appropriate trade union organizations. ‘(2) The Minister may give to the Corporation such directions in writing as he thinks necessary in connexion with the performance of the duty of the Corporation under subsection (1).’
– I move:
Proposed section 20a (1) makes provision for the Corporation to consult, and have regard to the views of, appropriate trade union organisations before any action is taken with respect to conditions of employment or the demand for labour in the wool industry. I find this an extraordinary provision in view of the oft-repeated aims of the Labor Party regarding industrial relations. It continually lays stress on the dialogue required to reach agreement in industrial relations from the labour organisation side of the . fence and from the management side of the . . fence, yet here we have this most extraordinary provision advocating that consultations shall take place only with respect to one side of the fence. It reminds me of a question which I understand is sometimes asked in the Zen Buddhist religion: What is the sound of one hand clapping? I make the point in regard to the proposed new section 20a ( 1 ) that it refers to only one side of the industrial fence. Yet continually the Australian Labor Party allegedly gives its support to consultation and negotiation between the 2 sides. We see our amendment as being not only sensible but also entirely consistent with the policy of the Australian Labor Party which has been put - . forward over many years. Therefore, we propose Amendment No. 3. It is:
At the end of sub-section ( I ) of the proposed section 20a add ‘and appropriate employer groups’.
Surely, if any sort of negotiated agreement is to be reached in this field, it has to be an agreement which is -
– You would agree with that, wouldn’t you, Mick?
– You have nothing to offer.
– I am very interested in the interjection of the honourable member for Port Adelaide that the employers have nothing to offer. If ever I have heard a case of prejudging an issue it is that. If you go into the negotiating situation with the cast iron belief that the other side has nothing to offer, obviously you will not listen to what the other side has to say. That is exactly why the Opposition has moved this amendment. It is quite patent from proposed section 20a ( 1 ) that the Government is not prepared to admit that the other side has anything to say. I am amazed that the honourable member for Port Adelaide with his experience in industrial relations makes that interjection. The whole basis of industrial relations is dialogue and listening to what the other side has to say. Therefore I have moved this amendment. If proposed section 20a ( 1 ) is to mean anything- the Opposition is not out to oppose proposed section 20a ( 1 )- it has to involve both sides of the industrial relations fence. It has to involve both sides in the sense that the Australian Labor Party itself has constantly advocated over the year. I hope that honourable members opposite will see the sense of the amendment and give it their support If proposed section 20a ( 1 ) in the terms of the Bill before us is to gain any advantage for the industry, both sides of the fence have to talk together. Therefore I have moved amendment No. 3 in the terms that had already been circulated to honourable members.
– I wish to make a quick point. Obviously the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) does not realise that there is already an organisation- the Joint Wool Selling Organisation- which includes employer and employee groups to engage in that sort of consultation which he has just outlined as being the justification for this amendment. The Joint Wool Selling Organisation exists for that sort of consultation. This amendment is directed at that area which obviously will be an area of greatest change in the future. This is the technology of wool marketing which directly affects the livelihood and the professional status of practically everybody employed in the wool, industry. Until 1972 the people employed in the wool industry were not consulted in these innovations and the way they were introduced into wool marketing. Under this legislation we are making it mandatory that the Wool Corporation involve itself in consultation in these areas. The clause is directed at that specific purpose. It makes good a deficiency which has been very noticeable in the way in which innovations were introduced under the previous Government.
– I will not detain the Committee in view of the time. I disagree with what the honourable member for Eden-Monaro said. I think that this is an eminent and reasonable amendment. It is the sort of amendment which it should not have been necessary to move. It is the sort of amendment which the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson), having had it drawn to his attention, should obviously accept. There has to be sensibility in negotiations. Changes that will affect the conditions in the industry will be far more fruitful if there is consultation between union organisations and the appropriate employer groups. I will not say anything more on this matter other than that I fully support the amendment that has been moved. Whilst speaking on the subject I should say that I think when one looks at the actions that have been taken against this industry there could very well be a clause in the legislation which states that the Government should consult with the industry when it is looking at things which will affect the industry. For instance, this would apply in regard to devaluations and matters of that nature.
– The Government does not support the amendment. Proposed section 20a( 1 ) reads:
Before taking any action that could resonably be expected to affect the conditions of employment, or the demand for labor, in the wool industry, the Corporation shall consult with, and have regard to the views of, the appropriate trade union organisations.
– We do not quibble with that.
-The honourable member has had 4 goes on this matter already. I would think that the Opposition, instead of denigrating the trade union movement, would support such a constructive move. Apparently the Opposition does not want to consult with the trade unions. History has shown that it has consulted very little with the various administrative authorities of the wool organisations. It is well known to the Opposition that there are established forms of consultation that have been followed by the Australian Wool Corporation and by those bodies administering wool promotion and wool marketing for a long number of years. They have in fact consulted. They will still continue to consult with the wool buyers and wool brokers. This has been the established practice for a great number of years. What this Bill does now is simply ensure that when we are talking about conditions of employment and labour, we are also taking into consideration the views, of the trade union movement. So far as we are concerned, it is a constructive and sound move. As I have said, the established processes are already there. This is to safeguard the rights and obtain the best possible advice on employment with respect to the wool industry. Therefore, we reject the amendment.
– Like most politicians I tend to succumb to the expediency of using words. There is a problem. There is no definition within proposed section 20a(1) or within the legislation as to what ‘wool industry’ means. I am worried about those who are farmers. This proposed section, if interpreted as it reads, would mean that the fellow whom even my colleague, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) -
– He pulls the wool over your eyes.
– He sure does. Even the honourable member for Port Adelaide might well think that the farmer deserves a right to a living. He is likely to find that this proposed subsection requires the Australian Wool Corporation to intervene in negotiations which affect the amount of salary or wages paid to station hands, the shearers’ cook, the shearer, the rouseabout and everyone who is involved in the woolshed. This proposed sub-section relates to the whole of the wool industry. So far as we are concerned in the operation of the Corporation, it should be involved in the wool industry. But we equally believe that the Corporation should talk with the trade union movement with respect to all these people right along the line. Is the Government going to deny the employer- the farmer who produces the wool- the opportunity to say anything about the fellows who will work for him? This poor guy has been in the industry for years. He probably ate bread and dripping whilst the honourable member for Port Adelaide went into the parliamentary bar and enjoyed his sip of champagne before coming into the House tonight. I know that the honourable member certainly went along to The Lodge and enjoyed whatever beverage was provided for his benefit at public expense.
It is true that it is necessary that both sides of the picture be put. The whole of the wool industry involves everyone in wool production. As far as I am concerned the farmer deserves a say on the Corporation just as much as representatives of the trade union movement deserve their say. We should not accept any move by this Government to destroy the opportunity of a farmer having a say in regard to the wages and salaries of the people he employs. We accept that the trade unions should be represented on the Corporation. Of course they should be there. But for Pete’s sake is it not reasonable to give the fellow who is going to pay the wage or salary the opportunity to say something? How many fellows in the bush today can afford to pay salaries and wages? They are all going broke thanks to the policies that you fellows have introduced. I completely endorse the concept that there should be an addition. I endorse the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Corangamite.
– I move:
Proposed sub-section 20a (2) states:
The Minister may give to the Corporation such directions in writing as he thinks necessary in connection with the performance of the duty of the Corporation under sub-section (1).
That is sub-section 20a (1 ). The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) and I have just pointed out the totally one-sided nature of the negotiations if such they can be called- arrangements involving only one side of an argument- which are proposed in section 20A (1). If proposed section 20a (1) were amended as we suggested by adding the words and appropriate employer groups’, there would be no need for proposed section 20a (2 ).
It is a matter of great regret to the Opposition, and it will not go unnoticed by the industry, that the Government has not been prepared to accept the completely reasonable amendment which we moved to clause 20a (1). I do not know that there is much more that I can add because, as I have said, the amendment which I have just moved is consequent on the amendment which we moved to proposed section 20a ( 1 ). But the Government’s attitude highlights once again its one-sided authoritarian view on industrial relations. Proposed section 20a (2 ) states that:
The Minister may give to the Corporation such directions in writing as he thinks necessary . . .
That is in relation to consultations with appropriate trade union organisations but not with anybody else. We have no argument with the Corporation having consultations with the trade union organisations. But what we say is that consultations are quite meaningless unless they involve the other side of the industrial relations fence.
The honourable member for New England has explained very clearly the great importance which these 2 proposed sub-sections have to those who actually produce wool and who have to find the money to pay the wages which are negotiated in the wool industry. Therefore we say very firmly that provided proposed section 20a (1) makes proper provision for consulting with both sides of the industry on conditions of employment, there should be no need to include proposed section 20a (2) in the Bill. Therefore, Sir, I have moved for its deletion.
-This is another example, to my mind, of the ivory tower philosophy that the Government has. If proposed section 20a (2) is allowed to remain and proposed section 20a ( 1 ) stands as printed in the Bill the Minister for Agriculture will be in a position virtually to enforce upon the Corporation Government policy in relation to trade union arrangements and negotiations. The Corporation will not be able to represent the industry which it is there to represent and which elects members to the Corporation to carry out the responsibilities that they have. We will have a situation where the Minister will be able to say to the Corporation: ‘This is the sort of industrial policy that we are following. You will have to toe the line on this policy. You have to negotiate with the unions on the basis that you are going to concede these different points. You cannot go and talk to the growers, and even if you could, there is no point in doing so because you are being instructed by me, the Minister, to accept the guidelines that I lay down. ‘
I do not want to take this matter any further than that. I merely say that this is another one of those situations where all wisdom is thought to lie with the Minister and where the industry will not have the opportunity to express a view through the grower member of the Corporation because the Corporation will have been directd by the Government to follow a particular line.
– The Government does not accept the amendment. Proposed section 20a seeks to ensure that the Corporation consults with the appropriate trade union organisation and proposed section 20a (2) gives the Minister the power to give directions to the Corporation as regards consultation. What the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) said is not correct. Nowhere in this Bill is the Minister given the power in any circumstances to direct the Corporation to accept a particular view. The Bill simply gives the Minister a right to make provisions in relation to consultation which is set out in proposed section 20a ( 1 ). But it does not in any way give the Minister the power or the right to direct the Corporation to accept any one view.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Market Support Fund).
– I move:
There are several things I want to say about clause 10. The first is that trust accounts set up under section 62a of the Audit Act are common vehicles by which funds paid in through any organisation in the community can be held in complete trust for those who deposit them. We are not concerned that the Corporation as it is now constituted will not handle funds in a true and appropriate manner. Of course it will do so. But we are concerned that money that is paid in for a particular purpose, from the moment that it is deposited from the Treasury, is available for the purposes that the Act specifies. We are concerned that from the moment it goes into Treasury hands trust funds should be constituted. Section 62a of the Audit Act has existed since federation. This section of the Act was not specifically created according to the manipulations of the present people who are in Government but according to the continuing wish of those who have been successively in government. We believe that section 62a trust accounts do set out a complete protection for those who deposit funds by law for the purpose designated under that law. For that reason we believe that a trust account is far more satisfactory than any trust fund.
If the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) in any way can assure us or can give adequate continued assurance to those who deposit the moneys that the same protection is given as is proposed, we might reconsider the requirement that a trust account be set up. I feel that there are so many research accounts and accounts in other fields where money is contributed under the same premise as this, which operate under section 62a trust accounts, that it is extremely difficult to see why this procedure should not be followed in this instance. We have 2 amendments to clause 10 to which I would refer. Perhaps I should first of all say that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) the other night intimated that a message had been received from the Australian Wool Industry Conference suggesting that only one part of the amendments to be moved by the Opposition at this stage should be accepted by the Government.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)Order! It being half past ten o’clock p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July I shall report progress.
-In accordance with the order of the House I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I require the question to be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, I wish to draw the attention of the Committee again to the fact that the Executive Committee of the Australian Wool Industry Conference has advised Parliament significantly differently from the advice tendered to this Parliament by the honourable member for
Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) and differently from the two alleged telegrams, which in fact were not telegrams, to which the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) and the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) referred in the debate on this Bill the other night. But with respect to this particular clause, there are 2 parts of it which concern us particularly. The first is that the amounts that are taken in deposit and are paid into the Wool Corporation and used for particular purposes under sub-clause 6 we believe should be separately specified so that everybody knows where they have gone and for what purpose. Secondly, if for some reason there should be a delay in the dissolution of the stocks of wool accumulated by the Wool Corporation over a period of time it might be a significant period before anyone knows what money has been paid and for what purpose and to what degree wool stocks are acquired. For that reason under subclause 6 we have suggested that an interim report be presented to the Parliament so that everyone in the Parliament and in the community might know where the wool has been acquired and for what purpose.
The second amendment is to sub-clause 12. Even the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, the honourable member for Macarthur and the honourable member for Fraser have intimated that the AWIC supported this amendment. If at any stage a credit should be accumulated as a result of the contributions made by members of the wool industry generally and as a result of the operations of the Australian Wool Corporation of course there is reason why the funds so accumulated might be preserved peculiarly to be disposed of according to the directions of the owners of the funds. It is for that reason that we have moved for the inclusion of sub-clause (12). It gives not to the Minister, who at his own whim may direct where the moneys might be expended, but to those who are members of the AWIC the right ultimately to approve where the money should be expended. For this reason I have moved my amendments.
– I support the amendments. I must say that on reading the section of the second reading speech of the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) dealing with the market support fund I was completely amazed at some of the references that he made. He said that under the Bill levy funds which have been collected may be put to other uses in the meantime for the benefit of the industry. He went on to say that those funds can be used to purchase wool, to pay advances to growers or that those funds can be invested. To my way of thinking there is no way in the world that can be interpreted as meaning that there is a double risk involved to the growers’ money. It is being collected on the one hand to cover losses and then on the other it is being used to buy more wool. I do not see any way that that is a satisfactory solution to the problem. I make that point strongly. I support the amendment.
– The Government does not accept the amendment. The amendment would in fact substitute a trust account for the Market Support Fund. This would require separate identification of accounts. This amendment has been looked at very carefully by the Government but the opinion of the Government is that the requirement that the Market Support Fund be operated as a trust account would not achieve a greater measure of identification or accounting. In fact it probably would achieve a restriction of the best commercial use of the fund.
-Because the trust account would be subject to direct ministerial delegated departmental control over its routine employment and necessary procedures would hamper it. The point is that the Bill requires separate identification of the Market Support Fund by the Australian Wool Corporation. It specifies the money which is to be paid into the Fund and the uses to which the money in the fund may be put. The accounting will be presented in the statutory report which the Corporation is required to make each year and which must be laid before each House of Parliament.
The Corporation is required by the Wool Industry Act to report to the Minister for Agriculture on its operations during the year and to present the report together with the financial statement of the Auditor-General. It would seem that the amendment to substitute a trust account would not in fact increase the merit of the Bill but in fact would hamper or restrict the best commercial use of the Fund. As regards the point made by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) regarding the disposal of Market Support Funds after profit and loss certified under the sub-section, I shall move an amendment immediately after this amendment of the Opposition is dealt with. But the industry itself, the Australian Wool Industry Conference, does not suggest that there should be a separate trust account, and neither does the Government.
– I move:
The interpretation of that amendment I think is quite clear.
– It is remarkable how little the Government is prepared to advise those in the Opposition about what it intends to do. I believe it is absolutely deplorable that the first I know of the terms of an amendment which has been moved and which it has been intimated might be approved, is when it is moved. I believe that if this Government pursues its policy of open government it should practice it. This is another demonstration of how little the Government is prepared to align the testimony which it expresses in public with the demonstration on it in practice in this Parliament.
– I am not quite clear what the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) means.
– What I mean is that I have not seen the amendment before.
-The amendment was circulated, I suppose, about half an hour ago.
– I have not seen it.
– It was circulated in this House on my instructions more than half an hour ago.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– I refer to clause 14 which reads in part:
Section 4 1 of the Principal Act is amended-
by inserting in paragraph (b) of sub-section ( I ), after the word ‘auction’, the words ‘(not being sale by tender)’;
by omitting from that paragraph the word ‘ and’;
by inserting after that paragraph the following paragraph: ‘(ba) in respect of any wool offered for sale by tender in accordance with any such arrangements, the Corporation submits a tender at the appropriate reserve price determined by the Corporation; and ‘; and
by inserting after sub-section ( 1 ) the following subsections: ‘( 1a) The Corporation may refrain from operating its flexible reserve price scheme in respect of particular wool unless-
that wool has been prepared for submission for sale at auction in accordance with standards approved by the Corporation; and
the terms and conditions governing the acceptance of the wool for sale and the sale of the wool are approved by the Corporation.
I have 2 further amendments which I wish to move. I shall deal with them in this form briefly in order to ensure that there will be adequate opportunity within the adjournment debate for my colleagues on both sides of the House to raise those matters which are of concern to them. First I return to my amendment No. 6, which I have already moved, and which seeks to insert new clause 10a.
One aspect of this clause to which I draw the attention of honourable members is that there is some concern among representatives of industry that perhaps there should not be an adequate cover for interest received from investment money standing to the credit of the Market Support Trust Account. Section 62 a of the Audit Act suggests that if these moneys that are paid in from the industry should be held by Consolidated Revenue then any interest accrued should be paid into Consolidated Revenue. This amendment, I am advised, will ensure that any moneys so paid in will accrue interest to the benefit of the woolgrowers trust account. The Minister, a moment ago, referred to the degree to which he believes that the market support trust fund does not do anything other than set up an administrative responsibility which is difficult for the Government The whole purpose of this amendment and the one that preceded it is to ensure that the funds which are woolgrowers’ moneys shall be held by the Government for the benefit of woolgrowers. It is essential, in our view, that this clause be pursued.
The seventh amendment concerns clause 18 which we move to omit. This particular amendment is consequential on the amendments we have moved before and is related to the degree to which clause (20) (a) should provide for any direction given by the Minister to be reported to the Parliament. We do not believe that the Minister should give any such directions. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) has referred to this. Therefore, I move:
I had a further amendment to which I want to refer. I do not intend to pursue it. It is an amendment that has been adverted to by people who are concerned with a duplication of function between the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Australian Wool Corporation. It is another amendment which has been circulated in my name. It states: 6a. Clause 14, page 6, paragraph (d), omit paragraph (b) of proposed sub-section ( lA), substitute the following paragraph:
The reason for that amendment was that it is essential that there should be an opportunity for the Corporation alone, in our view, to determine selling charges of those involved in the wool industry. We do not propose to move this amendment, not because we are not concerned that there should be a duplication of function but because we believe the Corporation should exercise the function and not the Prices Justification Tribunal.
I therefore suggest to the Minister for Northern Development and the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) who is sitting at the table, that the Government might look at the powers now exercised by the Prices Justification Tribunal with respect to wool brokers and other who, within the joint wool selling organisation determine selling charges but whose function is now inhibited by the Prices Jusification Tribunal. If the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has accepted that profits are now legitimate, surely it may be worth while looking at the way in which the Wool Corporation- a body with expertise, with experience and with involvement in the wool industry- should henceforth exercise this function. Therefore, I ask the Minister seriously to consider asking the Prime Minister to write a letter to the Prices Justification Tribunal asking that the Prices Justification Tribunal should not exercise this function and stating that power is given under this Act to the Wool Corporation to determine selling charges. I believe the duplication of the function is counterproductive. It does not achieve the purpose which the Government designs. Therefore, it would be better if the whole matter were resolved in the manner in which we suggest. I do not believe it is necessary to move the proposed amendment. But the Minister might ask the Prime Minister to write a letter to the Prices Justification Tribunal suggesting that it does not exercise its present function in this particular area.
The Opposition strongly believes that- from an expression of view from the Australian Wool Industry Conference- there is strong support for the amendments which we have proposed this evening. There is concern in the wool industry about the way in which this new Bill will function. There is concern about the Australian Wool Corporation in its changed role. The amendments which we have moved and which I now endorse are, I believe, very much in the interests of the Australian wool growing community and the future survival of wool as a viable source of Australian export income.
– The Government does not accept the amendments. First of all, the Wool Industry Bill (No. 2) requires interest to be paid into the Wool Market Fund itself. I should like to refer to the point made by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) regarding the brokers and the Prices Justification Tribunal. Not all brokers come within the ambit of the Prices Justification Tribunal. The Australian Wool Corporation itself is authorised under existing legislation to participate in negotiations with respect to charges in the wool industry. Equally, it is authorised to be associated with the establishment of terms and conditions for the sale of wool. Legislation exists under which the Corporation can participate with respect to these matters.
The honourable member for New England incorporated in Hansard a document of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Of course I willingly agreed that he should have leave to do that. In fact, I had intended to seek leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard myself. It does not make any difference who has it incorporated as long as the document is contained in the official record. Among other things, the statement says that the Australian Wool Industry Conference is appreciative of the early action taken by the Government to ensure continued confidence of growers and wool users in the Australian Wool Corporation market support operations by the provision to make available an additional $200m in loan funds to the Corporation. The conference therefore supported the Wool Marketing (Loan) Bill (No. 2). The document also stated that the executive committee was pleased and encouraged in the knowledge that all political parties had indicated their support for the principles of strengthening the powers of the Australian Wool Corporation. The Australian Wool Industry Conference supported increased powers of supply management which the Bill conferred on the Australian Wool Corporation. That is what is stated in the document which has been incorporated in Hansard. Yet the Opposition says that the prime motive of the Government with respect to this Bill is political.
The Australian Wool Industry Conference has given the lie to that. In actual fact, it supports the Government in what it has done tonight.
Proposed new clause 10a and amendment negatived.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 20 November, on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Motion ( by Dr Patterson) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise somewhat reluctantly to speak for the first time on the motion for the adjournment of the House. My reason for rising flows from a very concerned telephone call that I received this afternoon from one of my constituents, and also from subsequent information that I received. I raise this, not in any acrimonious personal sense but as a matter of concern to this Parliament. It relates to a wellpublicised appointment to the staff of the future Treasurer, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). Information I subsequently received indicates that companies of which that person and her husband were directors, officers and/or shareholders are currently the subject of investigation by the New South Wales Commissioner for Corporate Affairs. I raise this matter because I know that such a suggestion will prompt an immediate investigation by the Government. To raise something such as this is not a light matter. I will be very relieved to know that there is no substance in the information, but I do believe that the information is reliable and that the matter ought to be investigated.
This is not an issue that can be looked at in isolation. It is an issue which prompts all members of this Parliament to ask pertinent questions as to the types of investigations that are carried out when appointments of this nature are made. It is a very serious matter when information is available which indicates that a person in such a sensitive position with the Deputy Prime Minister, and potentially having access to such sensitive and important information, is involved and has been involved in companies which are currently under investigation by the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs in New South Wales. I think that the House will await with considerable interest the result of the Government’s own investigation. I might add that an effort was made to contact the Deputy Prime Minister this evening to indicate that a matter affecting a member of his staff would be raised in the House, but unfortunately he could not be contacted.
– I take this opportunity tonight in the short time available to bring to the attention of honourable members a situation which exists in Queensland in regard to hospital development. I refer particularly to the urgent need for a hospital on the southern outskirts of Brisbane and to the efforts that have been made by the Australian Government since it came to office in December 1972 to do something towards the achievement of this most urgent need. Despite its efforts and concern for the needs of the people in this area of Brisbane, the Australian Government has been continually frustrated by the Queensland Minister for Health and by the efforts of other members of the Queensland Government, including the Premier of that State, who have supported the Minister in his failure to make any real effort to bring to fruition this project which is being sought by the people of this area and sponsored and supported by the Australian Government.
I remind honourable members that before the 1969 State election the Queensland Government promised the people of this area that a hospital would be erected. By 1972 when the next Queensland election was to be held, nothing had happened. Just prior to that State election, the Queensland Minister for Health, Mr Doug Tooth, made an announcement which was heralded in the Press by the headline: ‘New hospital for Mt Gravatt ‘. The article stated:
State Minister for Health Mr Doug Tooth has announced plans to build a new acute hospital for the Mt GravattSunnybank area.
The new hospital, estimated to cost about $30m. will be built on a site in Kessels Road, Mt Gravatt.
The interim report of the ad hoc committee was released recently following detailed investigation of the report by the Health Department.
So much for the window dressing before the State election in 1972.
What was the real situation when this Government came to office in December 1972? Exactly nothing more had happened in regard to that hospital. When the 1973-74 Budget of the Australian Government was brought down by the Treasurer (Mr Crean), provision was made for $250,000 towards the cost of the planning of the hospital at Mt Gravatt. This money was to be made available by the Australian Government to assist the State Government to get somewhere with its planning for the hospital about which it had talked for so long. The Australian Government was asked why a more substantial amount of money had not been made available for similar purposes in Sydney and Melbourne. No money had been made available for anything other than the planning of this hospital. No money had been set aside by the Australian Government for the actual construction cost. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) soon illustrated that this money had not been made available because the State Government had not proceeded with its plans, in those 7 years since it had first talked about this hospital, to the stage at which construction could be commenced. The Queensland Government did not have plans of a nature substantial enough to put before the Australian Government so that an estimate of cost and of the finance needed could be made and the money provided. In a Press statement released on 6 September 1973 the Minister for Social Security said:
The absence of any viable plans on the part of the State Government strongly suggests that either the State Government lacks adequate forward planning or just has no confidence in its ability to provide alternative hospital complex development for Brisbane.
Twelve months later in the 1974-75 Budget, again the Australian Government was frustrated in its efforts to do something to provide money for the building of this hospital when it found that the State Government had failed even to spend the money made available 12 months previously for the planning of the hospital. Little more than $100,000 of that money had been spent by the State Government. Subsequently, in the last month or so, much has been said about this hospital, and political limelighting by the
Queensland Minister for Health indicated that the State Government was not prepared to accept the proposals of the Australian Government but would proceed with this hospital at Mt Gravatt on its own. I was prompted to ask a question in this House yesterday of the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) so that I could obtain a true indication of the real position in regard to this hospital which is urgently needed, not only for the people of this area but also as part of the whole development in the area in which the Griffith University will be very soon, I hope, proceeding with a medical school. This hospital will be needed as part of the ancillary activities of the Griffith University. The Minister was able to tell me that once again as a further illustration of the bona fides of this Government, he had given virtually an extension of time to the Queensland Government to enable it to reconsider the matter, to get on with the planning of this hospital, and to cease the procrastination in which it had engaged for so long.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was deemed to have been presented on 4 December 1974, by command of His Excellency the Governor-General:
Protocols for the extension of the Wheat Trade Convention and Food Aid Convention constituting the International Wheat Agreement 1971.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
I) , (2) and (3) In answer to a similar question (Hansard, page 462 of 4th April, 1963), the then Prime Minister, the Right Honourable R. G. Menzies indicated that publications of Australian Government departments are listed in the National Library serial ‘Australian Government Publications ‘. This is still so. The most recent full year listings were for 1973 and two further quarterly issues have been published covering January to March 1 974 and April to June 1 974. The quarterly issue for July to September 1 974 will be issued shortly.
Ministerial Councils: Contact with States (Question No. 51)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice:
– The Minister for Agriculture refers the right honourable member to the answer by the Prime Minister to Question No. 4 1 which provides details of Councils upon which both Australian Government and State Ministers are represented.
Ministerial Councils: Contact with States (Question No. 67)
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Foreign Investment in Australia (Question No. 667)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 3 November 1974 the Prime Minister also announced guidelines for foreign equity participation in and control of the mining industry in Australia.
In his October 1973 speech the Prime Minister emphasised that overseas capital would continue to play a significant role in Australia’s future economic growth, and that the Government intends to ensure that foreign capital inflows are associated with productive investment which adds to Australia ‘s real resources and brings us benefit.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) Applications received are as follows:
The following applications from groups within the City of Greater Melbourne are being considered:
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 2 March 1973 at a meeting between the Prime Minister and Premiers of New South Wales. Victoria and South Australia it was agreed to establish a working party of senior officials of the four governments to:
Following a report by the Salinity Committee the Working Party submitted an Interim Report to Ministers in September 1973 which made recommendations on a number of minor salt mitigation works. State Governments are continuing to carry out investigations in a number of problem areas and when these investigations are completed it is expected that they will be considered by the Salinity Committee which would submit a further report to the Working Party. Working Party Committees on water quality and irrigation farm practices will be submitting reports to the Working Party in the near future.
One problem area concerns the Working Party’s biological conservation Committee. The Steering Committee of Ministers agreed at their meeting on 7 November 1973 that conservation along the Murray should be considered by the
Working Party. Nominations for this Committee were received from Victoria and South Australia by March 1974. While on a number of occasions queries were addressed to New South Wales regarding their nominations it was not until 31 October 1974, that I was advised by the New South Wales Minister for Conservation that it would not be possible for New South Wales to nominate representatives to the Committee. I will be writing to the New South Wales Minister for Conservation to determine the implications of this action as to the future activities of the Working Party.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19741204_reps_29_hor92/>.