29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that on 1 January 1975 the President of the Senate and I sent the following message of sympathy to the Speaker and members of the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory:
On behalf of all members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives we send best wishes to you, to the members of the Legislative Assembly, and to the people of Darwin. We are all distressed at the loss of life and suffering caused by Cyclone Tracy and extend our sympathy to the people of Darwin. The magnificent fortitude of the people and their determination to surmount the havoc caused by the cyclone are an inspiration to all Australians. Our thoughts and high regard will be with members of the Legislative Assembly when they meet in emergency session on Thursday.’
The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly has replied expressing the gratitude of the members of the Assembly, saying that they were fortified and encouraged by the thoughts expressed.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr J. F. Cairns, Mr Dawkins, Mr Drury and MrKillen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned, all being of or above the age of 18 years, is as follows:
Your Petitioners oppose and seek the deletion of those provisions of the Family Law Bill 1974 which supplant the existing grounds by the introduction of the sole ground of irretrievable break-down, which remove any consideration of fault, and which will weaken the family unit while causing more widespread injustice because:
Your Petitioners commend the divorce legislation introduced in Great Britain in 1973, which acknowledges the importance of the family unit, mirrors community requirements, secures justice for innocent people and establishes a realistic definition of irretrievable break-down, and call for similar legislation to be provided in Australia.
Your Petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will make provision accordingly. by Mr Kevin Cairns.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that marriage is an exclusive life-long partnership between one woman and one man, which should not be dissolved at the will of one party after twelve months notice, nor without a reasonable attempt at reconciliation and that a husband should normally be responsible for maintaining his wife and children within marriage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill 1974 be amended:
To specify three objective tests for irretrievable breakdown, namely:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kelly.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House:
Legislate that (a) Marriage guidance and family welfare organisations be adequately funded- to
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fisher.
To the honourable the Speaker and Members ofthe House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the present Family Law Bill as it now stands constitutes a threat to the stability of marriage and the home.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that positive provisions to support married couples in accordance with the statement of the Australian Catholic Episcopal Conference be incorporated into the Bill. by Mr Fisher.
To the honourable, the Speaker and Members ofthe House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Family Law Bill 1974 would be an unjust law if passed since the innocent party could be divorced against his or her will after a year’s separation.
That the Bill does not only facilitate divorces but changes the nature of marriage and the husband-wife relationship. Legislation ought to reflect public opinion, not attempt to condition it. Gallup polls indicate 75 per cent of Australians are opposed to the concepts of the Family Law Bill. Therefore Parliament has no mandate from the people to ask such a far reaching change in the nature of our society.
That children need a stable emotional and psychological environment in which to grow up. This stability is upset by divorce. A high proportion of criminals come from broken homes. Consequently any law which makes divorce easier is harmful to society.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament so vote as to defeat the Family Law Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed Family Law Bill is contrary to the Christian understanding of the permanent nature of marriage and undermines the very fabric ofthe family which we consider essential to the welfare of this nation.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill in its present form and maintain the traditional respect for the marriage relationship and the structure ofthe family. byMrErwin.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
We the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
It is granted that the present law respecting divorce is deficient in some of its provisions, and needs reforming.
Your petitioners consider preservation of the family essential to the healthy function of society, and that every effort should be made to preserve traditional attitudes to marriage andchildbearing.
Certain aspects of the Family Law Bill 1974 conflict with these concepts, and endanger the security, welfare, education and development of children.
We request that the Bill be not enacted in its present form, and that consideration be given to our concerns in formulating amendments thereto.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrKerin.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members ofthe House ofRepresentatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology which has catered for tertiary needs of Melbourne for nearly 100 years is still without any location where students can gather in a social context.
That a properly constituted meeting of students supported the policy ofthe elected Students’ Representative Council that Union Facilities should be the First priority ofthe Institute.
That the S.R.C. formulated a Definitive Plan that is an acceptable constructive and reasonable amendment to the present planning schedule at the Institute.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House ask the Australian Commission on Advanced Education to consider in their 1976-78 Triennium Report an allocation of funds to ensure the provision of Union Facilities at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
We are concerned that the Family Law Bill has been delayed long enough. Its contents represent a consensus view of community feelings towards family breakdown and it should be made law at the earliest possible time.
We support the sole ground of irretrievable breakdown based on 12 months’ separation, and we ask the parliament to pass the bill in its present form.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Macphee.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we strongly oppose the easing of restrictions on the importation, production in Australia, sale or distribution of pornographic material whether in films, printed matter or any other format.
That any alterations to the Television Programme Standards of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which permits the exploitation of sex or violence is unacceptable to us.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing Television Programme Standards or to permit easier entry into Australia, or production in Australia, of pornographic material
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Drury.
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 ofthe 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 particles 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-medical 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 Mr Lamb.
Foreign Students in Australia: Rights
To the Honourable 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 stays 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. by Mr MacKellar.
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 plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored in those areas where the greatest inconveniences and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever humbly pray. by Mr McKenzie
Mr Speaker, I inform the House of the following changes which have been made in the Ministry since the House last met in December 1974:
Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer- the Honourable Jim Cairns.
Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Agriculture- Senator the Honourable K. S. Wriedt.
Minister for Overseas Trade- the Honourable Frank Crean.
Attorney-General and Minister for Customs and Excise- the Honourable Kep Enderby, Q.C.
Minister for Manufacturing Industry- Senator the Honourable Jim McClelland.
Changes in the representation arrangements in the Senate are as follows: Senator Wriedt will represent me; Senator Willesee will represent the Minister for Overseas Trade; Senator J. R. McClelland will represent the Attorney-General, the Minister for Customs and Excise and the Minister for Science; and Senator Cavanagh will represent the Minister for Northern Development and the Minister for the Northern Territory. In this House Mr Enderby will represent the Minister for Manufacturing Industry.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Did he announce that in future there ought to be a general presumption against further increases of government spending? By how much will government spending be limited by his Government? What specific areas will be cut back? Government spending increased by 43 per cent during the period from July to December 1974 compared with the 32.5 per cent increase which was provided for in the Budget. When will the Government introduce legislation for supplementary appropriations?
– I did state that there would be a presumption against increased government expenditure between the Budgets. I did not state what the amount of the percentage increase or reduction would be. This is a matter upon which I notice that the right honourable gentleman is similarly imprecise. I quote one of his committed supporters, although not a very enthusiastic one - the editorial writer of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. The editorial says that it makes it impossible to evaluate the right honourable gen.telman’s program if he is not precise in these amounts. It states:
The difficulty in attempting to pass judgment on the program is that no indication is given of the magnitudes involved in the 3 key inter-related variables - money supply, Government spending and taxation cuts. This may be politically wise, but it makes it impossible to evaluate the program. Until the Opposition indicates an order of magnitude . . policies have little meaning.
What I have said is that there is a presumption between Budgets against any increased or new programs in government spending. There are, as the right honourable gentleman knows, very many proposals being put, particularly in this week, by his colleagues in the State parliaments for increased government expenditure. I said that the presumption would be against increased government expenditure, and that applies to both Federal and State programs.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Services and Property who is in charge of electoral affairs. In view of the fact that he is to introduce into the House electoral Bills of some great significance, will the formation of a new political party in Tasmania mean a revision or amendment of this proposed legislation?
– I have heard of the proposed formation of another political party in Tasmania. It appears, though, to have certain growing or labour pains at the moment. Consequently, I have not had an opportunity to study the proposal precisely. I might mention for the benefit of the House that I understand the Australian Country Party is forming a branch of its Party, under the title of the National Party, in Tasmania, and it may change the voting pattern. I have a copy of the ‘Saturday Evening Mercury’ dated 8 February 1 975. An article states:
The Country Party was trying to exploit Tasmania for some cheap empire building, the Liberal Party Leader (Mr Bingham) said today.
Their intrusion here is a shabby and short sighted move to serve the personal ambition for more power by the Country Party Leader (Mr Anthony).
It is particularly alarming when one considers the unsavoury place this organisation has in the Tasmanian scene’, Mr Bingham said.
So it can be seen that a change in the voting system may be necessary. According to the Press report, Mr Anthony replied in this way:
Mr Anthony said: ‘I would have had some sympathy for this point of view if the Liberal Party had a better performance in Tasmania. But when that Party has been losing seats here and Tasmania has had a Labor Government something like 27 out of 30 years I find it hard to accept that everything is all right and that there is no room in Tasmania for another political voice. ‘
I also understand that Mr Bjelke-Petersen arrived there. One could not blame the Tasmanians for not wanting to have Reggie Wright and Bjelke-Petersen in the State at the one time. To say the very least, the Tasmanian Liberals are very discerning people. I think the Tasmanians realise the old saying-
– What about Queensland? What about the 1 1 scraggy members who are left in the Queensland Parliament? What about the Northern Territory election result?
-Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will cease interjecting.
– If I were the honourable member for Kennedy I would spend most of my time now looking for another seat. (Opposition supporters interjecting)-
-Order! Honourable members will cease interjecting. The House will come to order, and the honourable member for Kennedy will remain silent.
– The honourable member for Maranoa thinks that is a first class idea. I think the Tasmanian Liberals realise that the Country Party is likened to an appendix: It is a perfectly useless organ; it is unpredictable, the centre of inflammation; and only a major operation will remove it.
– The Prime Minister with his profound classical education would be well acquainted with the significance of the quotation: Beware the ides of March’. Does the Prime Minister recall that it was during the ides of March 1973 that the then Attorney-General made his famous ASIO raid and that it was during the ides of March 1974 that the same person made an awful mess of the Gair affair? Will the Prime Minister assure me that his transfer of the
Attorney-General to the High Court was not activated by the imminence ofthe ides of March 1975 rather than the legal eminence of his accident-prone colleague?
– One does not have to go as far back as 44BC. There have been more recent instances in recent centuries where conservative forces have sought to assassinate persons identified with policies of reform. The Honourable Lionel Murphy has come in for more than his fair share of vilification. He is in fact the most constructive Attorney-General in the history of this country. In 2 years in that office, and despite quite unprecedented and improper procedures in the Senate, he has been able to secure the passage through the national Parliament of more pieces of legislation than anyprevious AttorneyGeneral. There are many persons in the last 10 years- some of them in the chamber still- who, in a similar period of 2 years’ office, have not produced a tithe of the legislation in quantity and have produced a still smaller proportion in quality.
Perhaps I should take the opportunity of saying that conservative forces in New South Wales are proposing to make another onslaught on the constitutional and political proprieties in this country. I would like to applaud what a former Attorney-General and a Queen’s Counsel, the present Leader of the Opposition, said: That Mr Lewis should follow tradition and appoint a Labor senator to replace Senator Murphy. The fact is that every State has followed the proprieties hitherto, even when the Government of that State and the majority in the Parliament of that State might have thought it was to their temporary political advantage to act otherwise.
Because of the deal of comment on this matter I should give the record. In New South Wales the Askin Government appointed a Labor man, now Senator the Honourable Jim McClelland, to succeed the Labor Senator Ormonde, when Senator Ormonde died in 1970. In Victoria, on 3 occasions, the Bolte Government nominated Labor men to succeed deceased Labor senatorsSenator Sandford replaced Senator Devlin in 1 957, Senator Poyser replaced Senator Sandford in 1966 and Senator Brown replaced Senator Cohen, Q.C., in 1969. In Queensland the Nicklin Government nominated Senator Whiteside to succeed Senator Poulter in 1962. In South Australia the Walsh Government nominated Senator Laucke to succeed Senator Hannaford in 1967 and the Dunstan Government nominated Senator Martin Cameron to succeed Senator
Laught in 1969. In Western Australia a nonLabor Government nominated Senator Cooke to succeed Senator Nash in 1951, the Hawke Government nominated Senator DrakeBrockman, D.F.C., to succeed Senator Seward in 1 958 and the Tonkin Government nominated Senator Reid to succeed Senator Prowse in 1973. In Tasmania the Cosgrove Government nominated Senator Marriott to succeed Senator Chamberlain in 1953.
In all these circumstances it will be seen that, in every State, governments, irrespective of their political complexion, nominated senators of the political complexion of the senator who was being replaced. I believe that we should all stand firm on the principle otherwise the proportional system of representation in the Senate which has applied since 1949 is destroyed. In New South Wales last May the Australian Labor Party secured 52.7 per cent of the votes cast for the House of Representatives while the LiberalCountry Parties secured 44 per cent. For the Senate the Labor Party obtained 50 per cent of the formal votes and the Liberal-Country Parties 41.7 per cent of the formal votes. Senator Murphy, as he then was, secured 200 000 more votes than did his nearest competitor who headed the Liberal-Country Party team. In those circumstances there should be no question whatever that New South Wales should continue to be represented in the Senate by a Labor senator in succession to Mr Murphy. I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition said about this matter. Mr Lewis should follow tradition and appoint a Labor senator to replace former Senator Murphy. If I may quote-
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. Would the Prime Minister permit me to point out that nearly all the cases-
– Order! There is no substance to the point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– They occurred through death and not to-
-Order! What the honourable member is saying is not a point of order and the honourable gentleman knows it.
– If I may quote the right honourable member for Higgins in this matter about Mr Lewis on this occasion, he is mad.
-I direct my question to the Treasurer. Is he aware that the cost of damage to property in the private sector resulting from the devastation of both earthquake and flood over- the last 20 years has been estimated at some $500m and that in the case of Cyclone Tracy it is estimated that the cost to the insurance industry will be about $250m? In view of the timely action taken by this Government to set up a natural disasters organisation, it is now crucial that we take steps to implement a natural disasters insurance scheme. Is it a fact that a committee comprising experts in this field of insurance has forwarded to the Government, at the Prime Minister’s request, a feasibility study into the introduction of a natural disasters insurance scheme? Is it the Government’s intention to act on the recommendations contained in the report? If so, when will the legislation giving effect to the recommendations be tabled in the Parliament? Finally, does the Treasurer agree that the implementation of a natural disasters insurance scheme for Australia is a matter of urgency? Is it his intention to seek the co-operation of all sections of the insurance industry to facilitate its introduction?
– The subject of the honourable member’s question is a very important one. It has been apparent for quite a number of years that the significance of natural disasters in a country like Australia is great enough to mean that a comprehensive national scheme to provide for these disasters is a matter of great importance. The Government set up last year for the first time a natural disasters organisation. It proved to be of enormous value in the aftermath of the Darwin disaster as a result of Cyclone Tracy. A great deal of experience has been obtained all round Australia - not just in Darwin - as a result of the work of that organisation following that tragedy.
It is true that in March 1974 a report was prepared on this subject by a committee of private insurers. It was entitled ‘Feasibility Study into the Introduction of a Natural Disasters Insurance Scheme’. The report has been very carefully examined since its receipt by the Government. This is a very complex and substantial problem. The committee of insurers I have just mentioned is preparing an additional report following the Darwin cyclone. That too will be taken into account. I expect that it will be some weeks before I can say any more than I have said now on the matter. That will be necessary because of the substantial amount of work that has to be done. It will be then possible to begin to see the pattern that legislation might take. But I expect no decision to be taken short of several weeks.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. Is the Minister aware of indications that the $20m provided by the Government through the Development Bank for lending to beef producers over 10-15 years at 1 1.5 per cent interest is not meeting the urgent need of the industry, which is for immediate short term carry-on finance? Will the Government urgently consider providing carry-on finance at more appropriate interest rates? Will it consider my suggestion that short term money should be provided through the State rural reconstruction agencies at the same rate as now applies to debt reconstruction loans advanced through those agencies, that is, 4 per cent? Will it also consider the suggestion that there be at least one year’s holiday from repayments pending a review of the market in one year’s time? Finally, does the Minister agree that if easy carry-on finance is not soon made available outright grants will have to be made available to the industry as the crisis worsens?
-As I understand the position the Minister for Agriculture and the Treasurer are considering additional proposals with respect to financial matters concerning the Australian cattle industry- beef cattle in particular. There is not only a question of finance involved, as the Leader of the Australian Country Party will know. Finance, of course, will allow cattlemen to carry on, particularly in those export areas in which cattle production is governed by the export market and is a monoculture. But I am also concerned about what will happen to the cattle because at present we have the greatest amount of cattle in our history available for turn-off in a fat and semi-fat condition, the stocking rates are at a maximum and the breeders are at a maximum. That has been due to an extraordinary run of good seasons. The big question, in addition to finance, is: What are we to do with the cattle? I treat that as a very serious matter. I think every member of this House would not tolerate a situation in which cattle were allowed to die on properties because they cannot be slaughtered or their meat cannot be sold or given away. As I see the situation, it is one of crisis in the cattle industry today. I can assure the Leader of the Country Party that the Government is doing everything possible to solve the situation. It may not be to his satisfaction. He has put forward proposals. I can assure him that I will pass on those proposals and make certain that they are examined in detail by the Government.
(Mr Whan proceeding to address a question to the Prime Minister)-
-The point is valid. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro will have to rephrase his question. I will call him later.
-Can the Minister for Labor and Immigration assure the House that adequate steps are being taken to ensure that international criminals are not allowed to enter Australia and that appropriate action is being taken with regard to any overseas criminals who came here while the experimental easy visa system was in operation?
– No one can be absolutely certain that methods which a country may adopt to prevent criminals from entering the country will be 100 per cent successful. This Government has continued the practice of its predecessors of vetting all applicants for resident status in Australia to a point at which it is as near as possible to say that successful applicants are free of any criminality. As a consequence of the easy visa system, when this vetting of people who pretended to be coming here only for a short visit as tourists was lifted, many people entered the country on a tourist visa who would not have entered if the visa had been one for permanent residence. For that reason, among others, the easy visa system has been scrapped. We are now reverting to the previous system under which we will vet very carefully all who wish to come here whether as visitors or as permanent residents. Some criminals have entered the country, most of them during the previous Government’s term of office. They are being rounded up, wherever we can find them, and deported. I am not saying that no criminals have entered the country since this Government came into office. There was the famous case of Mr Thomas Utter about whose criminal record I told the House some time last year. There will always be some. We will continue to do everything physically possible to prevent them from entering the country.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. It deals with the beef crisis. Will the Minister examine the possibility of setting up long term credit facilities for countries which find it difficult to finance imports of beef from Australia, such as Italy and underdeveloped countries? Is the Minister aware that long term credit facilities are made available already to several countries in respect of wheat? As a further method of helping our beef industry, has the Government investigated the suggestion that we are able to can beef for export to the Middle East and other tropical countries?
-As the honourable member will know, world beef prices, in real terms, are at the lowest levels probably since the depression years. I am quite surprised to find that a country such as Italy is unable to finance imports of beef. The problem is to find countries which have the capacity to consume beef. As the honourable member probably knows, the Australian Meat Board has announced the sale of 40 000 tonnes of beef to Russia. I understand that there also has been a preliminary announcement that this figure may be increased by 20 000 tonnes. There is available in the world and in Australia at the present time plenty of meat suitable for canning. The problem is to find sufficient facilities to can beef. When one is able to can the beef one is then faced with the problem of what to do with it. This is tied in with the answer I gave the Leader of the Australian Country Party and boils down to 2 things: Finance for the cattle producer to enable him to carry on but, just as importantly, what is to happen to the cattle that are ready to be turned off. I am referring to cattle which have been able to stay on the property, eat grass and get fat, as one might say, because of good seasons. There is no guarantee that northern Australia will have good seasons this year. The rainfall this year already has been lower than average. If there is in these export areas a drought or even an extended dry season early, there will be one of the biggest smashes seen in the history of the Australian cattle industry.
-I ask the Prime Minister the following question: Following the tragic event of cyclone Tracy, did any foreign countries offer assistance? If so, can those foreign countries be named?
– A very great number of foreign countries did give assistance and offer assistance to rehabilitate Darwin and to help its inhabitants and the dispersed inhabitants. It would be a bit invidious for me to mention some of those countries now because I might forget others. However, if the honourable member would like to put the question on notice I could quite quickly gather the information together. It was heartwarming to notice that some countries which would be regarded as the least fortunate in the world were among those which offered assistance.
-I ask the Minister for the Northern Territory: What progress has been made in the receipt and disbursement by the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund of the millions of dollars most generously given by Australian citizens to assist victims of the cyclone disaster of last December?
-A Darwin trust fund has been set up consisting of the Administrator of the Northern Territory, His Honour J. N. Nelson; Harold Brennan, the Mayor of Darwin; Paul Everingham, the Deputy Majority Leader in the Legislative Assembly; Mr McDonell, who is an executive member of that body; Dr Stack, representing the women of Darwin; Bishop O ‘Loughlin of the Roman Catholic Church; Mr Trower of the Red Cross; Reverend Bence of the United Churches of Darwin; Mr Robertson of the welfare organisation; Mr Alec Fong Lim representing the business sector; and Bernard Valadian representing the Aboriginal community. This trust has been accepted in Darwin and throughout Australia as representing the people of Darwin. My role on the trust is one of co-ordination to ensure that the Federal agencies throughout Australia, such as the Department of Social Security and the Department of Labor and Immigration, are able to help the trust in the disbursement of funds.
Up to this morning $1,779,000 had been received by the trust. Of that figure $1.3m had been paid by the Queensland Premier on behalf of the people of Queensland. On behalf of the people of Darwin I congratulate the people of Queensland for the contribution that they have made of $1.3m out of $1.779m. Other major donations have come from the lady mayor of Newcastle. That city has made a donation of $200,000. The Herald and Weekly Times of Melbourne has donated $225,000. The Wagga mayor appeal fund has donated $ 10,000. It is noticeable that although millions of dollars were supposed to have been collected in Sydney, Melbourne and other capital cities, no large sum of money has been received by the Darwin trust from places other than the ones I have named.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Northern Territory. He will recall the tabled report of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory and the recommendations it made concerning executive responsibility to be taken by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Especially in view of the really great amount of responsibility that members of the Legislative Assembly have been showing since the cyclone disaster in Darwin, will the Minister advise the Parliament when executive power and responsibility will be passed to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly so that Territorians may have a rightful say in their own affairs?
-The honourable member will know full well the present position of people and organisations, including the Legislative Assembly, in Darwin. At the present time the Legislative Assembly building is basically in ruins. In view of the fact that so many Darwin people are transient or are out of Darwin at the moment, the whole terms of reference given to the parliamentary Committee with respect to executive power and other important matters dealing with constitutional reform may have to be looked at again. I have discussed this matter with Dr Letts, the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, and with the permanent head of my Department. The decision I will take is that the Committee again have a quick look at the situation in Darwin. The only qualification that Dr Letts made was that the Committee should report quickly. The honourable member for the Northern Territory must agree that very serious structural differences have occurred as a result of the disaster in Darwin.
-Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to recent proposals to increase the price of petrol? Can the Prime Minister state the cost to rural industries and to other consumers of a 40 per cent increase in the price of petrol advocated by some political leaders?
– I have noticed that the Leader of the Australian Country Party is at it again.
– You are going to misrepresent me and be dishonest again. Go on, prove yourself to be a lying Prime Minister.
-The right honourable gentleman is far too inflammable on petrol.
– I am when people are deliberately dishonest.
– I think I can substantiate it from copious newspaper reports in the last week and last May.
– What a valid way to prove your point. You have proved yourself a liar before and your are going to do it again today.
-Order! The Leader of the Country Party will contain himself.
– If you want to keep it up -
-Order! I call the Leader of the Country Party to order.
-The only difference between the right honourable gentleman’s performance last May and his performance this month is that last May his colleague, the Leader of the senior Opposition Party, was embarrassed by him and hauled him into line. This time the Leader of the Opposition has fallen into line himself. There is no question that the Leader of the Country Party has this obsession about higher petrol prices. Of course he is not looking after the interests of primary producers but those of some of the mineral explorers and exploiters. This is where the Country Party gets its funds; this is where it gets its fuel.
– You are a liar, you are a liar, you are a liar.
-Order! I warn the Leader of the Country Party.
– Accordingly, the consequence of the right honourable gentleman’s proposals is that the cost of petrol will go up by 40 percent.
-Order! I warn the Leader of the Country Party. The House will come to order.
- Mr Speaker, the consequences of warning the right honourable gentleman are well known, but the allegation being made by the Prime Minister has recurred time and time again. The Prime Minister knows very well that what he is now saying has been corrected time and time again by my colleague. If the Prime Minister continues -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. If the Leader of the Country Party has been misrepresented he just has to come to me and ask for the leave of the Chair after question time to say where he has been misrepresented and I will give him every opportunity to do so. That is all he has to do. He knows that if he has been misrepresented he can do that, but the Prime Minister is entitled to silence when answering a question. The Leader of the Country Party knows his rights and, if he has been misrepresented, he can follow that course after question time.
- Mr Speaker, I thank you for making that point clear.
– I rise to a point of order. The right honourable gentleman just got up and, without saying that he wished to take a point of order, proceeded to make a speech. He is quite out of order. He cannot get the floor any time he wants to.
-The Prime Minister will resume answering the question.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker, before the Prime Minister resumes. He knows that the allegations are false.
-The Leader of the Opposition knows that that is not a point of order. The Prime Minister may give an answer that is relevant to the question.
– A personal explanation later does not cure the lie.
-Order! I am giving a ruling on the usual procedure of the House. If an honourable member claims to have been misrepresented in an answer given by the Prime Minister then that honourable member has ample opportunity to come to me and say where he has been misrepresented and I will give him the opportunity to make an explanation after question time.
-Mr Speaker, I do not want to revive any disputes as to what was said or what was not said or what was unsaid or what was retracted last May. I am referring to what has been said in the last week. When looking at today’s newspapers, I noticed in the Melbourne Sun’ this report.
The Opposition leader, Mr Snedden, hinted yesterday that the Liberal-Country Party government would raise oil prices.
– What rot!
– I am quoting from today’s Melbourne ‘Sun ‘. Again I quote from an article in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ of last Thursday, 6 February:
The Leader of the Country Party, Mr Anthony, yesterday repeated his call for a higher domestic oil price, although this would increase petrol prices.
There is no question that in Perth last week the Leader of the Country Party again referred to the fact that our petrol prices in Australia were only a fraction of petrol prices in comparable countries. He said that petrol prices would have to go up to encourage exploration, and I have quoted what the newspapers have said today. There is no question that this matter has been raised once again by the Leader of the Country Party and apparently it was dealt with yesterday at a Press conference by the Leader of the Opposition. The difference is that whereas last May, as a result of false reporting or whatever it was, the Leader of the Opposition had to haul the Leader of the Country Party into line, this time he seems to be aiding and abetting his call to put up petrol prices in Australia.
– I address to the Prime Minister a question concerning the appointment of Mr Lionel Keith Murphy, a Queen’s Counsel, to the High Court of Australia. Did Mr Murphy volunteer to the honourable gentleman that he would not sit judicially on any matters on which he had sat legislatively? If the honourable gentleman, who has since left this Parliament, did not so volunteer, did the Prime Minister request of him an undertaking to that effect? If no request was made, can the Prime Minister say what his expectation on the issue is?
– I can assure the honourable and learned member that this matter was not raised by me with the Honourable Lionel Murphy nor did he raise it with me. I will not express any view as to what may happen if that situation arises. The fact is, of course, that Mr Murphy is well acquainted with proper legal principles and judicial practices in this country and overseas. Let it be recalled that he has for more than 20 years pursued a very active legal practice in the Federal, New South Wales and Victorian courts. He is also the first Australian to appear before the International Court of Justice. He is the fifth Attorney-General of Australia to become a Judge of the High Court. There are precedents in all these matters. Unquestionably Mr Murphy would be aware of them. I will not volunteer an opinion here on a matter which is proper for determination elsewhere.
Since I was asked a question on this matter previously today I have had drawn to my attention a very succinct, firm and proper statement of the principle concerning the succession to senators. Sir William Spooner in a statement made in the Senate said:
I hold the view very firmly that when there is a casual vacancy in the Senate, by tradition and usage it should be filled by the appointment of a person holding the same political views as were held by the senator whose place is being filled. I take a great deal of comfort from the fact that since the commencement of proportional representation in 1949 every casual vacancy has been filled by the State parliament concerned by the selection of a member of the same political party as the previous holder of the seat.
I touched also- but I did not have the facts beside me- on Mr Murphy’s legislative record. I might therefore quote that record now that I have the precise details before me. In the 2 years during which Senator Murphy was AttorneyGeneral he secured the passage of 20 Acts through this Parliament. Among them were such major and significant Acts as the Death Penalty Abolition Act, the Trade Practices Act, the Law Reform Commission Act, the Legislative Drafting Institute Act, the Extradition Act and the Crimes Act. Among the Bills which he introduced and which are still before the Parliament are such significant and major pieces of legislation as the Corporation and Securities Industry Bill, the Family Law Bill, the Racial Discrimination Bill and the Superior Court of Australia Bill. Outside his legislative record Mr Murphy has been responsible for the establishment of the Australian Legal Aid Office and the conduct of the nuclear test case before the International Court of Justice.
It might be invidious to quote the legislative record of Mr Murphy’s predecessors in previous years. The Attorney-General of 1972 was responsible for 5 pieces of legislation; 10 pieces of legislation in 1971, five in 1970 and three in 1969. Whatever one may say personally and politically in former times about Mr Murphy, there can be no question that he has been one of the most experienced advocates before the full range of Australian superior courts. He has been unquestionably the most creative and effective legislator that we have ever had as an Australian Attorney-General.
– Would the Attorney-General please inform the House whether any substantial changes are contemplated in the functions and duties of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force? Will he assure the House that any matters which affect the future of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force are referred to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly for consideration before any decisions are taken?
-The honourable member directs his question to the all-important and con.tinuingly important subject of the police in Australia. The subject was of great interest to my predecessor. There has been I fear, some misunderstanding by some of the people concerned with the problem. As all honourable members are aware there is the Commonwealth Police Force and there is the Australian Capital Territory Police Force. It has to be remembered that there are enormous advantages in avoiding fragmentation of the police forces and duplication of resources. There are other law enforcement agencies in Australia such as that located in the Department of Customs and Excise which deals with the question of narcotics. The role of taxation officers as well has to be considered. There are, as I said, enormous advantages in integrating them. It gives a better and more attractive career system for police officers.
On the other hand one has to concede that the police forces and the people who comprise them have a strong sense of personal identity with their own police force in the community they serve. This goes to the level of esprit de corps that makes a police force work so well and behind that there is the relationship between the police and the public. I think that what lies behind the honourable member’s question is the fact that there have been some expressions of concern about a loss of identity that might take place if the Australian Capital Territory Police Force were integrated into a wider body, but one has to say that the 2 things are not incompatible. One has to bear in mind, of course, the need to maintain the identity within an overall framework and surely that is not an impossible task. In Canada it has been done and done extremely successfully. These are early days yet for me in this portfolio of Attorney-General but I point out that some three or four months ago I spoke to the Comptroller-General of the Department of Customs and Excise, Mr Carmody, who had made a study of the situation as it exists in Canada. He at that time was extremely confident that benefits could come if the 2 systems could be successfully married together.
I have also had discussions with representatives of the Commonwealth Police Force and I have had discussion in the past with representatives of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force in my role as a local member here in Canberra and I certainly intend to do so again in the very near future. Indeed I am having discussions on the subject with Mr Carmody at lunch time today. The role of the Legislative Assembly, which was referred to in the honourable member’s question, is a matter for my colleague the Minister for the Capital Territory but it is a matter about which I will have discussions with him.
– I present for the information of honourable members a summary report of proceedings of the Second Australasian Parliamentary Seminar. The seminar was sponsored by the Commonwealth of Australia, the State branches and the New Zealand branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. It was conducted in Perth, Adelaide and Canberra between 13 and 26 October 1974. It was attended by 28 delegates including the Australasian Regional Councillors from some 21 CPA branches in Australasia, the Pacific and South East Asia. Speakers and panel members were drawn from prominent academics, leaders of political parties, heads of executive departments, parliamentary staff and, of course, parliamentarians.
I am sure honourable members of this Branch would wish me to record their appreciation of the financial assistance and advice given by sister branches in the Australian States and in New Zealand, and in particular the notable parts played by the Presiding Officers of the parliaments of Western Australia and South Australia and their Clerks of Parliament, by the Premiers of those States, by representatives of local government, by the federal presidents of Australian political parties and by the delegates from New Zealand.
As for our own Branch, all members were ready and willing to assist in whatever way they could. Those who were able to take part in the formal discussions made a worthy contribution to the dialogue of parliamentary democracy. Those who were unable to take part formally made an equally important contribution to the community of interests in our neighbourhood in informal discussions with the visiting delegates. Honourable members will forgive me if I do not name them all, but I hope they will bear with me when I mention in appreciation the services of Senator the Honourable Sir Magnus Cormack, Senator Davidson and the honourable members for Lyne (Mr Lucock) and Franklin (Mr Sherry) who, as members of the Steering Committee, piloted the Seminar ship from the bridge. I thank the House.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Council for the year ended 30 June 1974.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Honey Industry Act 1962-1973 I present the eleventh annual report of the Australian Honey
Board for the year ended 30 June 1974, together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Tobacco Industry Act 1955-65 I present the nineteenth annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1 974.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Fishing Industry Act 1956, I present the eighteenth annual report on the operation of the Act during the year ended 30 June 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present the resolutions of the ninetieth meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council.
– Pursuant to section 125 (8) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1974 I present a report on the operation of section 125 of that Act for the period from 1 January 1973 to 30 June 1974.
– Pursuant to subsection 12D of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973-74 I present the Academic Salaries Tribunal 1974 review.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Royal Commissions into Petroleum Drilling in the area of the Great Barrier Reef. Due to the importance of the report, the Government distributed copies to all members during the recess. It is now tabled at the first opportunity.
– I present for the information of honourable members the reports on injection moulding machines, dated 23 December 1974, and tyres, dated 2 January 1975, of the Temporary Assistance Authority in accordance with section 20 (2) of the Industries Assistance Commission Act on steam and other vapour generating boilers, etc. dated 12 March 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Cities Commission entitled ‘Planning Options For Future Darwin ‘.
– Pursuant to section 41 of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1973, I present the annual report on the operations of the Commonwealth Railways for the year ended 30 June 1974. The financial statements of Commonwealth Railways operations for the year ended 30 June 1974 were tabled on 26 September 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report on the administration of the Commonwealth Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises for the year ended 30 June 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on the activities of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs from its creation on 1 9 December 1 972 to 30 June 1 974.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on the meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Environment Committee at ministerial level on 13 and 14 November 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present a White Paper entitledScience and Technology in the Service of Society- the Framework for Australian Government Planning’.
– For the information of honourable members I present a working paper on public broadcasting prepared by the Department of the Media.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) today. He quoted newspaper reports of a speech which I gave to the Perth Press Club last week. At that Press conference I spoke about the tragic policies of the Government relating to oil exploration and the disastrous situation which faces the future of this nation in the supply of petroleum products. In that speech I stated how I had been misrepresented during the last election campaign. The newspapers have picked up those remarks as if I had made them again and misrepresented them in the same way as the Prime Minister deliberately misrepresented them last May. For the Labor Party to claim that my Party advocates high prices for petroleum products is ludicrous when Labor has increased the price for country people in remote areas by as much as 35c a gallon. Labor has increased the excise; Labor has abolished the petroleum equalisation subsidy-
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is debating the matter.
– I will not debate the matter, Mr Speaker. All I say is that it is quite obvious that this matter was raised at question time today as a diversionary tactic in an attempt to draw attention away from some of the appalling decisions of the Government in recent days, especially the appointment of Mr Murphy to the High Court.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to standing order 75. The Leader of the Australian Country Party has just made a reflection on the judiciary, contrary to that standing order, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
-I do not know what the reflection was. I did not hear it; neither did the Clerk.
– He said that it was an appalling appointment.
– That is not considered to be a personal reflection.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker, there is no doubt that to say that an appointment was an appalling one after the judge had been sworn in would be highly irregular, highly improper and contrary to the Standing Orders. The only way in which the right honourable gentleman escapes the noose is that technically the future judge of the High Court has not yet been sworn in, otherwise what he said would have been highly irregular.
– No point of order is involved.
– On the point of order, Mr Speaker -
-Order! No point of order is involved in regard to what the Leader of the Country Party said.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill 1974.
States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) 1974. States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill 1 974. Dairy Adjustment Bill 1974. Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Bill 1 974. International Development Association (Further Payment) BUI 1974. Banks (Housing Loans) Bill 1 974. Loan Bill 1974.
States Grants ( Water Resources Assessment ) Bill 1 974. River Murray Waters Bill 1974. Nursing Homes Assistance Bill 1974. Homeless Persons Assistance Bill 1974. King Island Shipping Service Agreement Bill 1 974. States Grants (Soil Conservation) Bill 1 974. States Grants (Nature Conservation) Bill 1974. Export Market Development Grants Bill 1 974. Structural Adjustment (Loan Guarantees) Bill 1 974. Loans (Australian Industry Development Corporation) Bill 1974.
States Grants (Fruit-growing Reconstruction) Bill 1974.
Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1974.
Aboriginal Land Fund Bill 1974.
States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Bill 1 974.
Papua New Guinea Bill ( No. 2 ) 1 974.
Judges ‘Pensions Bill 1974.
Customss Tariff Validation Bill (No. 3 ) 1 974.
Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Bill 1 974.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the Senate has agreed to the amendments made by the House on amendments Nos 1 and 2 of the Senate.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the Senate does not insist upon its amendments disagreed to by the House.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Defence Service Homes Bill 1974. Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1974. Income Tax Bill 1974. Income Tax (Bearer Debentures) Bill 1974. Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill 1974. Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1974 Aged Persons Hostels Bill 1974. Banking Bill 1974. Taxation Administration Bill 1974. Handicapped Persons Assistance Bill 1974. Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Bill 1974.
Arbitration (Foreign Awards and Agreements) Bill 1 974. Australian Development Assistance Agency Bill 1 974. States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill 1974.
States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) 1974. States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill 1 974. Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Bill 1974. International Development Association (Further Payment) Bill 1974. Banks (Housing Loans) Bill 1974. Loan Bill 1974.
States Grants ( Water Resources Assessment) Bill 1 974. River Murray Waters Bill 1974. Nursing Homes Assistance Bill 1974. Homeless Persons Assistance Bill 1974. King Island Shipping Service Agreement Bill 1 974. States Grants (Soil Conservation) Bill 1 974. States Grants (Nature Conservation) Bill 1 974. Wool Industry Bill (No. 2) 1974. Wool Marketing (Loan) Bill (No. 2) 1974. Export Market Development Grants Bill 1 974. Structural Adjustment (Loan Guarantees) Bill 1 974. Loans (Australian Industry Development Corporation) Bill 1974.
States Grants (Fruit-growing Reconstruction) Bill 1974.
Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1974.
Aboriginal Land Fund Bill 1974.
States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Bill 1974.
Papua New Guinea Bill ( No. 2 ) 1 974.
Judges ‘Pensions Bill 1974.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 3 ) 1 974.
Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Bill 1974.
Parliament Bill 1974.
Dairy Adjustment Bill 1 974.
– I move:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
At this stage I make a brief explanation. Later today I will give notice of the hours of sitting, which may be debated tomorrow.
-The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has intimated that later in the day he will be giving notice of the hours of sitting but I think that at this stage it needs to be brought to the attention of honourable members.
-Are you speaking to the motion?
– I am speaking to the motion that the House, at its rising, adjourn until 10 a.m. tomorrow. This motion is being presented as part of a package plan to try to persuade the Australian people that this Government is calling the Parliament to sit longer in order to deliberate on the nation’s business. The fact that the House will be adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow is a convenient way of hiding the fact that the days of sitting of the Parliament have been seriously shortened as a result of the amended schedules of sitting distributed under the name of the Leader of the House, who has moved this motion. The time of the sitting each day- in this instance commencing at 10 a.m. tomorrow- is only a part of the way by which this Parliament is able to schedule the time for debate. What matters is how often it sits and when it sits. It is quite apparent that after a prolonged absence from this place, part of which the Government enjoyed in Terrigal and during part of which several of its leading members enjoyed seeing the ruins of the ancient world, the Government has forgotten the realities of the political climate which it has created. The disastrous economic plight from which every Australian suffers cannot be adequately considered and examined in Parliament unless this Parliament sits adequately to enable the Opposition to canvass the matters which are of such importance. The Opposition does not support a device which supposedly gives longer sitting days but which is a facade which disguises the reality that this session of the Parliament is to be seriously reduced in overall sitting time, while the opportunities of the Opposition to canvass matters of public importance, the ability of the Government to introduce legislation and the opportunity for proper consideration of that legislation, not just within the Parliament but within the community at large, will also be reduced. For those reasons the Opposition is not inclined to accept (Mr Daly) by way of a motion of this sort that the House adjourn until 10 o’clock tomorrow in order to disguise that in reality the Government is seriously reducing the available hours of debate on matters of such significant public importance.
– in reply- I listened with interest to the propaganda speech of the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair). I hoped that tomorrow this matter would have been debated more fully and that he would not have gone off half cocked as he did today. The fact of the matter is that the days of sitting will not be reduced. It is just that the altered sittings will suit a lot of people. In March there are holidays such as Canberra Day and Easter. The times of sittings in previous sessions which I will give the House now, are interesting. In 1965 under the then Government- that is, the present Oppositionthe Parliament sat for 27 days during the autumn session, in 1966 for 25 days, in 1967 for 31 days, in 1968 for 28 days and in 1969 for 29 days.
-I rise to order. I do not want to interrupt the Minister but since the Minister is replying now- I know he can move the gag afterwardsdoes it mean that the Minister is closing the debate which gives nobody else a chance to speak?
-The Minister is closing the debate. Nobody else rose to speak so the Minister is closing the debate.
– Nobody rose on this side because the Prime Minister indicated that he was going to speak. The Prime Minister was rising and that is why nobody on this side -
-But the Prime Minister did not rise. The Leader of the House got the call from the Chair.
-When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) was Leader of the House the greatest number of days on which the Parliament sat in the autumn session was 3 1. We will exceed that in this session. In 1973 we sat for 34 days and last year, because of the election, for 16 days. This session it is proposed that we sit for 30 days but honourable members will observe from the notice that has been sent out that if necessary the sittings may be extended. There is no desire to curtail debates in the House. We will sit for 26M hours a week and, if my memory serves me right, that is a little longer than it was in the last session. In any case, the longer the session lasts the fewer members of the Opposition we see in the Parliament. I have here details of the attendances last year of Opposition members. The Opposition has 61 members but on occasions it could muster only 40. One-third of them was away and a couple of times, even on a censure motion, the Opposition did not have enough members here to call a division. It took the result on the chin without dividing the House.
I would like to incorporate in Hansard details of attendances of members of the Opposition. They already appear in Hansard but let us record them again for the nation to see. The Opposition was down to 47, 40 or 48 on occasions, and do not forget that those members who were not here, the Leader of the Opposition included, were wandering all around the country campaigning against the Labor Party. Like a collection of political butcher birds, Opposition members come here and then disappear into the wilderness again. They will not fulfil their obligations. I will bet that the longer we sit the less we will see of the honourable members opposite. They are growling about a lack of sitting time, when one-third of them cannot be bothered attending the Parliament. Have I the permission of the House to incorporate in Hansard these figures from the authentic records?
– We have not seen them. It is not according to the normal practice followed here.
-Of course not.
-Order! Are you seeking leave to have some figures incorporated in Hansard?
-Is leave granted?
Opposition members- No.
– There being objection, leave is not granted.
– The Opposition’s sorry record will not see the light of day in Hansard, but it is here for all to see. Amongst the worst offenders are those who complain about not having enough time for debate. I give honourable members my assurance that there will be no curtailment of sitting hours or the sitting times of the Parliament. In addition, Opposition members will find that this session probably will be the longest autumn session they have had for a long time. The opportunity is being taken to give honourable members an opportunity to attend to their work in the Parliament and in other places. It will give the Parliamentary Counsel and others time to prepare their legislation and other things, and in every way -
Opposition members- Oh!
– Opposition members have one track minds; if one changes one’s ideas it takes them weeks to find out what it is all about and they see something sinister in it. There is not one Opposition member who privately is not looking forward to being able to go out and give to the public his infamous message about the Labor Party some time during the March recess. In any case, we will be watching the count in every division, so the Opposition Whip had better make certain that he has more than two-thirds of his members here and that Opposition members are not running around their electorates when they ought to be in the Parliament, because under the new sitting arrangements they will have adequate time to be in their electorates. They ought to be here when the Parliament is sitting. I do not want to see any of these crocodile tears from the honourable member for New England. The Opposition’s record in autumn sessions is a shabby one. It is there for all to see. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the Opposition’s record. Am I given permission?
-Is leave granted?
Opposition members- No.
– There being objection, leave is not granted.
– The Liberal and Country parties have one way of hiding their record and they do not want anybody to see it. In any case, I will debate this matter at more length tomorrow. The story which the Opposition puts out is completely false and it is completely condemned by its own record.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The tragic level of unemployment and the urgent need for policies which will get Australians back to work.
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)
– Under the rules of this Parliament, when a matter of public importance is raised, as I have done this morning, it requires the support of 8 members who are required to stand in their places. All members of the Liberal and Country parties on the Opposition side stood in their places because they want to discuss this tragic situation which has befallen Australia. Not a single member on the Government side was prepared to stand and give his support to ihe discussion of the issue of unemployment. Government members are a lazy, lethargic mob of people who just do not care about the social implications of their actions and what they have done to the people of Australia. Some Government members are not sitting in the House. Where is the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), with the level of unemployment in Ringwood and Croydon? He is not here. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) has not even bothered to turn up. The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Clayton) is not here.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition is calling attention to those honourable members who are not here. I do not notice the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) amongst Opposition members.
-Order! There is no point of order.
-The honourable member for Diamond Valley is not here; there is unemployment in his area. Where is the honourable member for Isaacs? He is not sitting in the chamber. Where is the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb)? He is probably dispensing something for the headaches of the people who are unemployed. Where is that person who is so socially involved with the ills of people who are unemployed, the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child)? Where is she? Where is the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns)? Where is the cocktail Cabinet? The kitchen Cabinet is not here. The people who take the economic decisions are not even bothering to be here. As for the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) who is in the House, he is the new runner for the Prime Minister. He has taken over from the honourable member for Casey. Apparently Port Adelaide is a safer seat than that of Casey and the Prime Minister has abandoned the honourable member for Casey as his runner. The honourable member for Port Adelaide is here. He will report back. He will carry the tales. He was out on the first ballot for the Cabinet position.
Unemployment in Australia today is running at a level of 31 1,596 people. But the Australian Labor Party can muster only a dozen members to come into the House in response to a debate on the matter. This is the second successive month in which the unemployment rate has exceeded 250,000 people. The number of unemployed persons at present is twice the population of Canberra. That gives some idea ofthe dimension of the problem. That figure is made up of adult persons, people who are concerned to find a job but cannot do so. I ask honourable members to think of the problems this will lead to for such people in future years, to think of the set backs to their careers. The first connection with work that a school leaver has is that he or she cannot find a job. People make their commitments to buy a house, a motor car, a refrigeratorwhatever is might be- and are thrown out of work and cannot keep up the payments. The social impact is immense.
There are in the House people who remember the Depression and the impact it had on people who could not obtain work. They could not find a job. Such honourable members will remember the indignity of standing in a dole queue and the indignity of getting up every morning, going to an employer and saying: ‘I want the job ‘, and the employer saying: ‘There were 30 people here at 4 o’clock this morning looking for the job’. They will remember the indignity this causes to a man and the way it crushes his soul. That is what this Government has created? This is the Government which said that it was elected to office by the working people of Australia to make right the situation of the working man. What has this Government done? The honourable member for Port Adelaide can sit there on the front bench and grin about the position. The runner for the Prime Minister can sit there and he can grin about it. But there are honourable members on the other side of the House who know what it is all about. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) knows. I quote the Minister as he was reported:
I have been out of work myself and I know the anguish that comes to a person who suddenly finds he cannot get work.
He has been through it and he knows. Certainly, it had an impact on him. He was asked about it in August last year when he was saying that the Labor Party was great, that it could do anything, etc. He was asked about unemployment. This is the question- it is reported quite accurately:
You were recorded as saying that you would sooner resign than preside over unemployment of 250 000. Acknowledging that you say what you mean, just how serious were you?
Mr Cameron said:
Quite serious about it and I think that most of the Government would feel the same way.
He said that most ofthe Government would feel that way. There are 3 Ministers in the House now. There is a Minister failed, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), the Minister for Defence who was formerly the Deputy Prime
Minister. The Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, did not stand by with even a finger snap to protect him when he was under pressure. He is there. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is here because he is plotting some new way in order to sit less time and to have less debates. The Minister for Labor and Immigration, who said that he would resign if the unemployment rate exceeded 250 000 people is here. For 2 months, December and January, it has exceeded that level. Where is the honour of the man? It is perfectly simple to write out a letter addressed to the Prime Minister in accordance with the undertaking he gave: ‘I will resign’. But that has not happened. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has, on a number of occasions, said words to this effect: ‘I give you, the Australian people, an unqualified commitment that the Labor Party is committed to full employment.’ Honourable members will remember those advertisements stating: ‘Only Whitlam can achieve full employment’. They appeared less than a year ago, placed in the knowledge that the decisions the Prime Minister was taking were wrong and would lead to recession, price rises, unemployment and soul destroying indignity to people and to families. But he said that in May to cling to office. He is a man without honour.
-Order! They are personal reflections. I ask the right honourable gentleman not to use terms like that.
– When the time comes that in this Parliament we cannot state the facts truthfully and stand up for them, parliamentary democracy will be gone. A man who says, ‘I give you a commitment to full employment’, and in less than a year has 300 000 unemployed, 5 per cent of the work force, I say is a man without honour.
-Order! When I ask the right honourable gentleman not to use terms like that, I mean it. As the right honourable gentleman would know, many promises have been made in the past. I can recall one about putting value back into the pound.
-Mr Speaker, are you entering this debate?
-I can recall one about putting value back into the pound.
-Mr Speaker, your role is to preside over this House; not to debate.
-Order! I suggest that when I make an appeal to the right honourable gentleman not to cast personal reflections, I mean it.
Immediately after I made the request the right honourable gentleman repeated the remark.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask you to point to the precedents established either by youself or by your predecessors that it is not open to an honourable member to use the expression used by the Leader of the Opposition.
-It is a personal reflection.
-Order! The honourable member for Chisholm will withdraw that remark.
– It is true.
-Order! The honourable member for Chisholm will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr Speaker.
-I am taking the advice of my Clerk on this particular matter. I ask the right honourable gentleman not to use those terms.
-The fact is that the Australian Labor Party has pursued policies which have produced unemployment in Australia. Last week members of the Party gathered at Terrigal and declared their passionate belief in private enterprise. Private enterprise has failed to respond with a vote of passionate belief that the Labor Party means what it says. These late recantations will do no good for the people who are out of work. The people who are out of work will have to face that situation continually. Labor will be remembered in the future as the party that created unemployment and did nothing to reduce it. It is all very fine to use words like ‘tired radicals ‘. A few tired ones are sitting here. A year ago they were great socialists, great reformers and campaigners. Today they are like a lot of fox terriers. They yap and yap to draw attention and to divert attention but they do not adopt any policies.
The honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) is a man whom I have always understood to be socially committed to the cause of people and equality, but he is sitting in attendance reading. What has happened to the people of Perth who are unemployed? How can he sit there and be unconcerned about it? The policies that have produced the unemployment are perfectly clear. They are the pacesetter principles advocated by the Minister for Labor and Immigration. It is surprising the Minister is still here. If he were a man of honour he would have resigned in accordance with his promise. It was he who used the pacesetter principle and lifted wages. The Prime Minister said for a long while that wages had nothing to do with inflation. Then, in his somersault- it is a wonder he was not signed up for the Moscow Circus when he was overseas- he said that wages were at the heart of it. We have known that for a long while. The Government pushed up wages. It wanted to transfer the private sector resources into the public sector. The fact is that we cannot grow and give employment by putting everyone on the public payroll.
The place where jobs have been lost is the private sector. Confidence has gone down, profits have been driven away, productivity has been abandoned and there has been no incentive whatever. The number of jobs lost are there for all to see. We need positive programs to stimulate the private sector and to get investment in plant and equipment. Some members on the Government side of the House are skilled tradesmen. If some of them have to go back to the lathe or the bench after the next election they will find that they will be working with inadequate equipment because there has been no investment in new plant or equipment. We will lose technological advance in Australia. We will become inefficient and lose productivity. There has been the social impact of injury to the dignity of men, women and children. Now the efficiency of manufacturing and commercial industries will be ruined.
Quite clearly we need an understanding in Australia that people want to work and they should have the right to work. The place where they can find a job is in the private sector if the right action is taken. People need to have restored to them the initiative to work if they want to work and to profit from the work if they want to. Private companies have to have the initiative to invest, to improve their efficiency and to profit from it. Only by doing these things will we have the opportunity to overcome unemployment. We want a position where even the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) could get a job. There is no comfort in saying that unemployment in Australia has been imported. Nobody will believe that. For 18 months the Prime Minister alleged that inflation was imported. Now he has abandoned that falsehood. It has been picked up by the Minister for Labor and Immigration who is saying that unemployment is imported.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman ‘s time has expired.
– This is the first time since the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party became the Opposition that the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has not been the one to raise the question of the unemployment situation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) apparently no longer trusts the honourable member for Wannon to put the position succinctly enough. It seems that the honourable member for Wannon has not got very much faith in the Leader of the Opposition either. When the Leader ofthe Opposition was looking around the House and drawing attention to the members who were not present, I looked around the Opposition side of the House and I found that among those who did not stand when those supporting the discussion were asked to stand was the honourable member for Wannon who until now has been looked upon as the expert on labour matters on the other side.
– I take a point of order. The Minister knows that he is deliberately misrepresenting the position. I was not in the Chamber at the time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)There is no substance to the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
-That makes the position even worse. He now admits- I did not know it until he made the admission- that he was not in the House when this matter was raised. I want to come now to the matter before the House. The Leader of the Opposition made great play of the fact that I would resign or that I said I would resign if unemployment exceeded 250 000. What a stupid, irresponsible thing it would be for a government that believes in full employment to resign and hand over to a government that believes in unemployment. How silly and irresponsible that would be. It would almost border on criminality for me, who believes in full employment, to resign and hand over the reins of governments to the honourable member for Wannon whose party, when previously in government, supported unemployment.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The statement to which reference has been made was that the Minister would personally resign, not the Government.
-Order! That is not a point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat
-Let us consider what the Leader of the Opposition believes about full employment. When he was Treasurer he set out upon a deliberate Budget proposal to create a pool of unemployment. He deliberately did it. No one can say that this Government has deliberately set out to create unemployment. Not even those honourable members opposite who are laughing believe that the present Government set out to create unemployment. However, we do know that honourable members opposite believe in unemployment because we have the boast of the Leader of the Opposition in January 1972: ‘We have achieved what we set out to do in that we created an environment in which overaward payments are depressed ‘. The Opposition parties when in Government- that is what they will do again if ever the unhappy day comes when they return to the Government benchesdeliberately set out to create unemployment because that was their way, their only known way, of bringing about industrial peace. It was their way of dealing with industrial relations to have so many people standing at the factory gate waiting for work that the fear of not getting a job or the threat of losing a job would be sufficient deterrent against unions which might try to obtain a fair go. That is what honourable members opposite believe is the way of dealing with industrial relations should they become a government again.
I should hate to think what the level of unemployment in Australia would be if the Opposition parties had won the last election. I should hate to think what the level of unemployment would be if the Opposition, with its policies and philosophies, were, unhappily, re-elected to government. The present seasonally adjusted figure of 240 000 would pale into insignificance compared with the figure that would then be the order of the day. Honourable members opposite would not worry about the suffering and the anguish of the people who were unemployed; it would not worry them if 500 000 people were unemployed. In fact, if the unions could not be brought to heel with 400 000 unemployed, honourable members opposite would let unemployment reach 500 000 because that is their way of dealing with trade union militancy. It annoys me to see how the Opposition Parties seize on unadjusted figures during the months of the year when the unadjusted figures are higher. At the moment they are quoting raw figures of 3 1 1 000 because these are higher than the seasonally adjusted figures of 240 000. Next month they will probably do the same, but from then on they will switch and stop quoting raw figures and use the seasonally adjusted ones which will then be higher than the raw figures. If honourable members opposite wish to create an honest debate on this matter why do they not either stick, as I have always done, to the seasonally adjusted figures or, if they wish, stick to the unadjusted figures, but stick to one or the other right throughout the year? They should not try to have it each way.
I repeat that everyone knows that the Government was not responsible for this situation. We all know perfectly well that there has been a cyclical downturn throughout the Western economies. I was able to forecast as far back as September 1973 that this situation would develop in the latter part of 1974. 1 repeated my forecast in the presence of the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) in October 1973 at the Hotel Canberra. I repeated my warning again in December 1973. Every time I did that all the experts decried my forecast, said that I did not know what I was talking about and tried to ridicule the predictions. Members of the Opposition did the same thing. We must remember that I was right in saying that there would be a cyclical downturn in the Western economies. I said then that this cyclical downturn in addition to the energy crisis, if it remained unresolved, would inevitably cause an economic downturn in this country because it was not possible for us to become an economic island, to live alone in the world and not be affected by the ripples coming from the shores of other countries which were badly affected by inflation.
Let us look at what is happening in the 3 richest democracies in the Western world- West Germany, the United States and Canada. We see that right now the number of people unemployed in West Germany is 5 per cent, compared with 0.9 per cent little more than a year ago. In the United States the level of unemployment has reached 8.2 per cent and according to the predictions of Mr Meany, the head of the unions in the United States, before very long the level of unemployment in America will be 10 per cent. In Canada the level of unemployment has already reached 5.5 per cent. In Australia we are affected by what is happening in the countries that are our main trading partners. Our problem is that not only must we deal with the effects of inflation and of unemployment which interact between each other in other countries, particularly those that are our main trading partners, but also we must try to govern a country with a Senate that is constantly obstructing the Government at every turn. All the time the Government is under the threat of a dissolution or the refusal of Supply. Senator Withers asked me to explain what I meant about the Senate’s obstruction and the effect that the obstruction was having on economic planning by the Government. I wrote back to him and, among other things, I said:
I see obstruction by the Senate not just in terms of the Bills which your Opposition Parties have defeated or emasculated but in the wider sense of deliberately interfering with the process of Government and threatening Australia’s democratic future. In particular, the deliberate use of the threat of refusing supply to a political party which, having gained a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives in a general election, has the right to form a Government under the Australian Constitution. Furthermore, such a party has the right under the Constitution to govern for 3 years.
That is what parliamentary government means. The people elect a government for a specified period of years and that government is entitled to plan according to the terms of the Constitution.
Sir Robert Menzies, a man whose views I would have thought Senator Withers would have respected, stated that the action to which I have referred, ‘would create an impossible situation and would make popular government unworkable’. His attitude towards Senator Withers’ record of Bills defeated by the Opposition was that it was a falsification of democracy. The continuous threat by the Opposition of refusing supply- a threat which the Leader of the Opposition renewed on 4 February- makes government almost impossible in Australia. Every member of the Government has to look at the contingencies of the next 6 months. The Government can never plan for 3 years ahead. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) pointed out on 25 January this year that this threat ‘. . . makes government very difficult indeed and whatever party was governing, it would find it the same, and any country would find it the same’. The temptation is always there not to take a particular important decision which, however necessary it may be for the current economic management, may cause temporary political unpopularity. No wonder people in Australia are becoming worried about the future of parliamentary government and of democracy in this country. They are genuinely worried because they know that if the Australian people lose respect for the parliamentary system of government there is nothing standing between these traditions and the institutions as we know them, and street law. Nothing stands between the institutions that we hold dear and street Jaw once the only factor that now props up our institutions and our democracy is destroyed. It would be an act of criminality on the part of the Opposition parties so to distort the processes of parliamentary government because, whilst the benefit to them may be of a temporary nature, as it would be, in the long term they will cause people to lose all respect for the system of government in Australia. It is no wonder, therefore, that the ‘Age’ on 5 February had to make the following comment:
Yet the consequences of an election this year will appal everyone and not the least those who are appalled by the record ofthe Labor Government. We are not yet even a year beyond the last election, cynically forced on the nation by denial of Supply. The inevitable consequences of the kind of self-fulfilling prophecy on which some Liberals have embarked are that Australia will face annual elections. This is a plague on the life cycle of Parliaments which will wreak havoc on our democratic institutions. With it would come the certainty that no Government would be able to take tough economic measures with any sort of electoral security.
What we are talking about is a Custer’s last stand, not for the Labor Party but for the continuing processes of sane government. What is involved is not an economic crisis, painful and perhaps mismanaged as that may be, but precedents which will determine the health of our parliamentary processes for generations in the future. If Mr Snedden saw far enough, he would see that the implications of what he is proposing could amount to a kind of electoral anarchy. To countenance another mid-term election, let alone to want to see it, is to place great strains on our democratic future.
I repeat that it is not just the violence done to our legislative program but the issues that I have referred to which lead me to single out-
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– It is a little sad to see the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron), this once socalled gladiator of the ordinary working man and woman and of the trade union movement acting as an apologist and making excuses for the Government’s appalling policy in allowing 5.2 per cent of Australia’s population to become unemployed. There are 311 000 people- one in twenty- out of a job in this country. These apologies and excuses expose the sham of the man who claims that he is genuinely interested in the welfare of the ordinary working man and woman. A year ago, as the crisis was worsening, in trying to show that he was true blue to the Labor Party’s beliefs he came forward and said: If the unemployment figure should ever reach 250 000 I would resign. I am a man of principle. That is the last thing I would ever stand for’. There should be an election. The Government should go to the people to prove whether our policies are right or wrong.
The very fact that the Government has had to reverse decisions on a multitude of items proves and exposes once and for all how very wrong it has been. This Government is the cause of the economic sickness of this country. This Government is the cause of people not being able to get a job. Unemployment is the most alien thing that there is to the Australian society and no government of this country can be entrusted with the responsibility ofthe nation’s management unless it can keep unemployment down to reasonable levels. Nobody would say that when unemployment reaches the figure that it is today a government has control of the situation. It is all right for the Minister for Labor and Immigration to espouse the international situation and to talk about how the ripples come across the water and effect Australia. What about the ripples from New Zealand? What about the unemployment in that country? There is virtually none in New Zealand yet New Zealand has the same sort of influences that we have in Australia. In fact we ought to be better situated than the people of New Zealand.
What has caused this situation? It has been caused by a new government obsessed with the political purpose of foisting socialism upon the Australian community. Irrespective of the consequences to different sections of the community it is going to push ahead with that purpose. The consequences now are starting to be revealed. They are being revealed in the frightful social upheaval that is going on across the country, with hundreds of thousands of men and women, young girls and boys, not being able to get a job and facing a bleak future. When this Government came to office it thought that money did not matter, that it could just spend money right and left. It created liquidity pressures in the community and inflation started to move. The Minister for Labor and Immigration was the man who led the Public Service in demanding increased wages and all types of conditions which put intolerable pressures on the rest of the community thus reducing its capacity to employ people. Profits were reduced and the capacity of the private sector to reinvest and to expand was slowly compressed until today it is not a case of being able to put some people on but a case of trying to survive and having to unload some of those already employed.
The Government’s vindictiveness to the private sector has crushed the capacity of the private sector to continue expanding, to be productive and to make wealth for this country, the very lifeblood of which is providing jobs for people across the nation. The Government’s vindictiveness has been highlighted by its policies for rural industries, mining industries and manufacturing industries. Today, as the Government about-turns, as it makes plausible remarks and as it pours out rhetoric to the effect that it has seen its mistakes and is going to mend its ways, it is up to the Australian people to make a judgment on whether they really believe the Government. Is the Government going to abandon its policy of socialism? Of course it is not. A political party so entrenched with the left-wing movement and the pro-communist element will never deviate. If it is going to reverse policy, if it is saying that it has been wrong, then it is responsible for the present situation as we have been saying for so long.
It is of no use for the Minister for Labor and Immigration to say that the Senate is the cause of this and that there is a threat of a possible double dissolution of the Parliament and another election. The Senate is a fully constituted House elected by the Australian people. When the Australian people elected the full Senate- not half of the Senate but the full Senate- in May last year they made a decision that a brake had to be put on the excesses of this Government. I think it is a pity that the Senate did not act as a brake a bit earlier in relation to a good many more things about which the Government is now having to reverse decisions. The Government abused the Senate for making threats, thus causing the Government to reverse decisions, but it seems to be getting the message that these things just have to be done if there is to be any salvation for the workforce of this country. The situation is becoming hopeless. It is getting worse and worse as the supporters of the Government demonstrate that they just do not have the capacity to manage and are not qualified to hold the all important office of looking after this country.
The Minister for Labor and Immigration has made plausible remarks about wanting to look after the work force. For almost 12 months I have criticised him for cutting out the nonmetropolitan rural unemployment relief scheme. I highlighted how in country areas, including my own electorate, the unemployment figures were going up and up. All I received from him were smart Alec replies that it did not matter, that the Government would look after it sooner or later or that the unemployed were better off in the hands of the Government than in the hands of anybody else. Of course, it was not until the total situation throughout Australia reached such a low ebb that the Government eventually brought in the regional employment development scheme. But the non-metropolitan unemployment relief scheme never should have been abandoned. It was a good scheme. I believe that it was an even better scheme than the one the Government has brought in today because it gave local government authorities the chance of being able to distribute money within their own areas and the distribution was done equitably according to the unemployment situation throughout the nation.
Today we have a multitude of schemes being brought forward and there is utter confusion. We have this sort of facade, this cosmetic treatment just to try to absorb some of the unemployed, which is well and good and nobody wants to criticise it. But the relief is only temporary. What the Government has to do is start getting confidence back into this nation. It has to start to encourage the productive sector of the community to want to get out and work, save and invest. That philosophy should be pursued with all strength and endeavour by the Government by taking convincing action and not by attacking the mining companies, by bringing in policies for taking over the ownership of the energy resources of this country or by a national economic planning department which is going to direct everybody what to do. The Government has to make free enterprise work and encourage foreign investment to come back into this country and invest money in it. Of course, the Government has reversed some of its decisions in this respect. It has shown how cynical and hypocritical it is by going overseas and trying to get money from overseas. But it is too late for that. The damage has been done.
It seems quite clear that there is only one way in which this country will really get back on the rails and get the work force fully employed. That is by bringing back confidence by putting in charge a government which can really manage the economy. The Liberal and Country Parties have a record that shows that they have a capacity and an ability to be able to do that. In 23 years of a Liberal-Country Party government we never saw unemployment like we see it now. Inflation was kept to a low level. The housing situation was at least contained and people had a chance of getting a home. Today the whole situation has fallen apart. Nobody should be more ashamed of having let down the workforce and of having betrayed the trade union movement than the Minister for Labor and Immigration, who is sitting at the table. The rank and file members of the Australian Workers Union must be glad that he did not get in charge of them a few years ago. I say that a tragic situation exists today. The Government deserves to be fully condemned for allowing 5 per cent of the workforce to be unemployed. Goodness knows what the figure is going to be in another two or three months.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This must be truly one of the most remarkable debates ever to have taken place in this Parliament. In the first place the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) came into this chamber on the basis that the unemployment situation is a matter of great importance to the Australian community and spent the first 20 per cent of his speech in complaining about there being insufficient supporters of the Government present to hear what he had to say. He will find in the months and perhaps the years that lie ahead that he will have even more to complain about because on that sort of performance if he continues to ask the people of Australia to elect him as Prime Minister he is going to be more disappointed still because he will find even fewer people are prepared to vote for such a policy. I listened to his speech very carefully and I listened very carefully to the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). Nowhere in either of those speeches was there one sensible, practical solution. Listening to the Leader of the Opposition, I gained the impression that his speech was typical of what one has come to expect from him.
The level of unemployment is serious, regrettable and unacceptable. I say this now: I believe that it will fall steadily and quickly. I think that this House ought to look at the matter in a very dispassionate way.
– What are you doing about it?
– I remind the honourable member for Riverina that in this House last year I conceded that the actual unemployment figure would reach 300 000. 1 also said at that time that by the end of May or June this year there would be a serious shortage of skilled labour again. I believe that anybody who looks at the trend will see that occurring. We are going through the pit now, as it were. We have reached the bottom of the trough. The level of employment will rise and will rise very quickly. In the next four to five months Australia again will be facing an acute shortage of skilled tradesmen. The statistics available to this Parliament and to the Government are imprecise and do not reflect accurately the true position, in my view. I believe that the present statistics overstate the present unemployment position. World trends are scorned by the Opposition as a factor in Australia’s present employment level.
-The old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be.
-I wonder what the honourable member for Gippsland says about world trends in respect of beef prices and the effect those trends are having on the price of beef at present. I wonder what would be the reaction of his colleagues who demand an excessive and unrealistic imposition of import quotas to protect jobs in one sector of Australian industry if the countries affected placed similar quotas on goods which they are importing from us.
– They do.
– Yes, and we also impose restrictions. If we do what some of the honourable member’s colleagues are suggesting we will not have a market left. The whole point is that in all these matters one needs balance. It is the sort of balance which one does not get from the Opposition. There is an acute and very serious situation in Australia today. I invite all members of this House to look at the unemployment statistics. They will see that over the past 15 to 20 years it has been impossible to have full employment without an acute shortage of skilled labour. They are the facts. Every time there is full employment skilled labour is in very short supply. What is the reason? It is simple and direct. It is that previous governments have refused, over a quarter of a century, to engage in adequate and proper training programs. The result is that the whole labour market in Australia is out of balance.
I have looked to find the Liberal solution. What is the great Liberal plan? What is the latest testament from the prophets of doom and gloom? How would they fix the current situation? I came across a very interesting and rather cheaply produced little booklet called ‘The National Economic Program of 1975’. I searched through it to find a solution or to find the light at the end ofthe long tunnel, as it were. What did I find? Their first step is to abolish the Prices Justification Tribunal.
– As quickly as possible.
-As quickly as possible. What a marvellous way of getting price exploitation eliminated! Remove the regulator. That is the first step. That will cut prices! What they really mean is to let prices run as high as they can. The second step is to oppose wage indexation. If one takes those 2 things together, what they mean in simple terms is that over a short period wages and salaries will lose their purchasing power- a classic ingredient for industrial disputation.
In another section of the document the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has had his way. ‘Strengthen the Arbitration Commission’, whatever that is supposed to mean, is another suggestion. They are the innocuous words in this document, but one has to look elsewhere to see what the honourable member for Wannon had to say at a recent conference. There we see emerge in all its gory detail the Fraser jackboot plan. We see the establishment of an industrial gestapo through which he will have men of the Australian Public Service going to factories to try to crush workers into line, workers who have suffered the squeeze between their non-increasing wages and rapidly increasing prices. The net result of the Liberal plan is higher inflation and lower real wages and salaries. I gain the impression from the Leader of the Australian Country Party that he supports the Liberals in this aspect of their policy. Their next step is to encourage foreign investment in productive industries. I suppose this means more General-Motors, sell a bit more of the farm, hand a bit more of the Australian economy over to foreign control and influence. The Liberals then make the unequivocal statement that it is only the private sector that can provide the means of eliminating unemployment.
– Yes, it is.
-The honourable member says: ‘Yes, it is’. I wonder whether the honourable member would mind telling Tom Lewis, Mr Bjelke-Petersen and Mr Hamer the result of the findings because they do not agree with them. They think that one way of reducing unemployment is to give more funds to the States and to allow the States-
– You are starving the States.
-On your philosophy that is the right thing to do. In fact, on your philosophy we are providing too much. You say that we should give that money to Ford, General Motors and others to create more employment. Your philosophy is ludicrous; it is stupid. Of course, the thing that members of the Opposition always refuse to face up to is that this Government is frustrated by their un-Australian activities. It is frustrated because of the Opposition’s activities in the Senate and elsewhere where it deliberately sets out to undermine business confidence in the community, where it tries to talk the Australian community into a depression. The Opposition has failed. It is now trying to create political instability by threatening to cut off supply. If the Opposition faces the Australian people on that issue it will suffer a worse fate than having Supply cut off. The Opposition parties will be decimated at the polls if they try that stunt again. No government can plan effectively for a national economy of this kind with the threat of an election every 6 months.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was a man without honour, that he had not done what he said he would do and that he had done nothing to correct unemployment. I shall let this House judge who is the man without honour. This Government has already devalued the currency. It has relaxed borrowing controls. It has placed restrictive measures on sensitive imports. It has reduced the SRD ratio from 9 per cent to 3 per cent. It has introduced special drawing facilities for the major trading banks. It has reduced the short term interest rate by 2 to 3 per cent. It has made amendments to the banking regulations to allow the savings banks to expand their lending to housing. It has made substantial cuts in personal income tax. It has introduced tax deductibility on mortgage interest payments for home owners. It has reduced company tax rates. It has deferred the February tax payments and accelerated the depreciation allowance for plant and equipment. I could go on and on with the things that this Government has done to correct the present economic position.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– There is hardly anything in the speech of the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) that really requires a reply. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) had one or two interesting things to say, especially when he revealed the depth of his argument over the last 12 months with the Cabinet, a continuing argument that has gone on since December 12 months ago when he made it plain that he was warning his Cabinet colleagues that there would be impending and rising unemployment in Australia throughout 1974. The Minister was quite right in that. The only thing in which he was wrong was the cause to which he was going to attribute that unemployment. He was, of course, using the argument to try to get his retraining scheme accepted, and it was accepted ten or eleven months later with all the imperfections that were then revealed.
The Minister’s response to unemployment has been the Regional Employment Development scheme which was a reintroduction in a much worse form of an earlier program of ours. Now 312 000 people are unemployed. This is the proud and monumental record of the Minister for Labor who believes that the Government has a binding commitment to full employment One thing distinguishes the Opposition from the Government in this matter. I believe that every person in this House would want to see full employment. The Opposition has shown over a considerable period of time that it has the capacity to maintain full employment, and the Government in a short space of time has demonstrated that it has no capacity to maintain full employment.
The Minister for Labor, in a pious form later in his remarks, started to say that the dignity of this Parliament and the strength of the institution were of great importance. He does not do the institution much good or serve the cause of parliamentary democracy when he makes allegations in this Parliament which he knows full well are utterly and absolutely incorrect. We in the Opposition have been proved good managers in maintaining full employment. The Minister for Labor and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) have been proved to be completely incompetent managers. It was interesting to see how much the Minister for Labor was seeking to take out personal assurance today over this matter. Every word of one section of a recent speech by the Prime Minister was denied by the Minister for Labor. The Prime Minister, speaking in Adelaide, said:
You can’t blame Vietnam for the inflation in the western world. You can’t blame the oil prices for inflation in Australia. You can’t blame the takeovers and the currency rates for inflation in Australia now. You have to place the blame on wage claims. What’s happened in the past 12 months is that profits have been reduced very greatly in every form of activity. Wage claims in the past 12 months have so greatly reduced the profitability of employers that they’ve ceased to employ. As long as wage demands continue to cut profit then there is going to be unemployment. Every excessive increase in income for one man takes the job of another.
Despite that the Minister for Labor says that ripples coming in from distant shores are causing inflation and unemployment in Australia. The Minister knows quite well that that is not true. The Prime Minister has at long last admitted that it is not true. That means that the cause of our present ills is the policies of the present Government as implemented over a period of about 2 years. We need to understand also that under the activities of the present Minister for Labor 3 significant industries have now been told that they now have no place in Australia; that they might as well pack up and go home. The Minister, talking of the problems of higher wages for the clothing, textile and footwear industries, made it plain in a monthly report released early in January that those industries could not stand the pace in Australia, the implication being that they ought to shut down. Is it any wonder that there is unemployment when a Minister tells 3 significant employers in the Australian scene that there is no place for them in Australia?
What are the members of Parliament doing who have clothing, textile and footwear industries in their electorates? Has any one of them approached the Minister for Labor? Has any one of them spoken up in favour of his constituents? Has the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), the honourable member for Bass, who has a very large textile firm- Patons and Baldwins (Australia) Ltd- in his electorate, said anything to the Minister for Labor complaining about the notice the Minister has served on the 3 industries I have mentioned? Has the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) who is in the Chair at the moment, done anything to protect the motor industry and the textile industries in his electorate? It would be possible to ask nearly every Labor member of this Parliament whether he has spoken up on any occasion for any measure that would help to restore full employment.
– Of course we have.
– ‘Of course we have’, one says. The voice was so loud that nobody could hear it. It might have been a squeak in some quiet room. What Labor members might have said to their constituents in their own electorates is not what they have said in this Parliament. They all speak in 2 different voices in this matter. They know that if they were to speak in this place as they have spoken to their own constituentsI am looking at the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), who will not long be in his seat- they would have to condemn the present Government, as many of them have condemned the policies of the present Government to their constituents over the last 6 months. They know quite well that that has happened, because so many of their constituents say to us in the Opposition: ‘If they really believe this why do they go on in this way? Why do they continue to pursue these policies?’ The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) does the same thing in relation to this own rural electorate, and he also knows that full well.
The Government has to understand the nature of this problem before it can seek to solve it and the great problem is that the Government does not understand it. Its proposals for solving unemployment in Australia rest solely on increased Government expenditure in different ways. It does not understand that the unemployment is mostly in service industries and not in productive industries and it does not understand that in any one year national resources are largely finite, divided between Government requirements, the requirements of wages and salaries and private enterprise. It has become quite plain in recent times that there is going to be a continuing pressure in the wage and salary area and Government policies, which I will mention in a moment, will make that pressure worse. The only way in which you can make room for private enterprise to live and breathe and re-create the jobs and opportunities to employ the 300 000 reasons for the condemnation of this Government is for the Government to withdraw from some of its own areas of expenditure so that there will be room for private enterprise.
The Prime Minister, and latterly the Minister for Labor and Immigration, in part say that it is wages that cause inflation and unemployment, although the Minister for Labor and Immigration has said today that it is much more caused by overseas events- a complete repudiation of his Prime Minister. But they both support indexation as a means of achieving wage restraint, although the President of the Labor Party and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has said that the ACTU has no role in this, that it is a matter for the individual unions concerned. The white collar unions have decided to fight the Government’s indexation proposals, as have all the significant left wing unions throughout Australia. Left wing sources, concerned about suggestions of restraint in wage matters, are happy that yesterday’s resolution from the ACTU left them open to pursue claims as they wish. The Minister for Labor and Immigration knows quite well that there will be no restraint as a result of the form of indexation that he seeks to introduce. The Moore conference on wage indexation, the new system of wage fixation, demonstrated that last year when the President of the ACTU could offer no assurance that there would be restraint as a result of the introduction of a new system of which indexation might well have been a part.
If there is not to be a reduction in proportions going to wages and salaries then it must come from the Government arena, from Government expenditure, and this is the very thing that the Government is not prepared to accept. The Government will not argue in industrial tribunals; it will not really argue in its own parish. It makes speeches from on high, and the trade union movement thumbs its nose at the Government, as it does at the Minister for Labor and Immigration. The approach that the Government has adopted in many of these matters is, I believe, a cynical and a false approach. Our record over 23 years in relation to inflation and to the maintenance of full employment speaks for itself. The record of this Government, now admitted by the Prime Minister to be the result of the Government’s own policies, also speaks for itself, and whenever there is an election there will be a change of government because people will not want to see the incompetence and mismanagement, the monumental bungling that has been the result of 2 years ‘ policies, continued for a day longer than absolutely necessary.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The most monumental blunder Australia has seen in recent months was the attempt by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to become leader of his own political Party.
– How did you go in the election yesterday?
– I went very well, and 12 votes in the Labor Party are worth 100 in the Liberal Party. I take much more interest in a speech made a couple of weeks ago by the honourable member for Wannon. I want to quote a paragraph from the address that he made to the congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science in which he said:
The world in which we are a significant part may not survive. Economists, politicians, theorists press their own explanations and solutions. With rare exceptions, they have one characteristic in common. They underestimate the serious nature of our ills, the complex of social, economic and political factors that might yet destroy the best form of government yet devised.
Any honest attempt to debate this question would, of course, enable the honourable member for Wannon- if he were being honest- to put forward again his views about the effect that overseas economic problems are having on Australia. The only country to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) could refer was New Zealand. If we had the same political system as that of New Zealand perhaps we would not be facing the problems we are facing today. New Zealand has no Senate. It has first past the post voting and it has a Labor government- all the things that we hope will one day will become part of the Australian scene.
An attack was made by members of the Opposition on the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). If 1975 shows us anything it will show us that the Opposition has not improved. It took 3 speakers to flush out the honourable member for Wannon to come to the table to try to defend the views that he puts forward around Australia. One of the things Opposition speakers have said is, of course, that they will sit down with the trade unions- if ever the Opposition comes back to government- to solve the problems. I have had a talk with a number of trade union representatives about this proposal. There is no significant enthusiasm on behalf of the trade unions to sit down with the Liberal and Country Parties. One cannot talk about unemployment unless one talks about the traditional attitudes of the political parties of this country to the working people. One can take the cynical attitude to the Leader of the Opposition when he says: ‘Well, if there were an election held and some of the Labor people were defeated they would have to go back to the factories to work’. That is a true statement by the Leader of the Opposition. Some honourable members on this side ofthe House do come from jobs where we had to work. The background of members on this side of the House is quite different from the background of the members of the Liberal Party. Our ties are, of course, with the working people.
Members of the Australian Country Party are interjecting, so let us talk about the attitude of the Australian Country Party in any of the Parliaments in Australia and its attitude to any of the conditions which we have tried to improve through the trade union movement or through legislation affecting the lives of working people in country areas. At every level the Country Party, with the support of the Liberal Party, has attempted to frustrate any improvement in the working conditions of the people in the rural areas- whether the improvements be in the form of wages, conditions or accommodation. On every stand the Country Party has been significantly consistent in its attitude to the working people in the country. One cannot take just the attitude of a political party on the question of unemployment. One has to take other things into account. The education of the children of the working people of Australia has been greatly improved by this Government. Members of the Opposition have spoken about what they have done for the people of Australia. The honourable member for Wannon, in the speech to which I referred earlier, said:
In a liberal society personal objectives will fall into 2 categories. There are snared goals, security, and maintenance of national independence.
There were 510 Australians killed in Vietnam. That is national security as far as the Liberal Party is concerned. The honourable member for Wannon stated that he was concerned with the opportunity for work and was concerned for those who were disadvantaged. I will tell the Opposition how concerned it is for the disadvantaged. It was in government for 23 years and in its last year in office it set up an inquiry into poverty. There could be no greater condemnation of the Liberal and Country Parties of this country than that after 23 years the only thing it could do was to set up an inquiry to see how many poor and underprivileged people there were in this country. Members of the Opposition speak about their attitudes to the trade unions and the working class. Will the Opposition sit down with Clarrie 0’Shea the man it put in gaol for four or five weeks until he nearly died? Will the Opposition sit down with the people it has spent hours and days in this Parliament, year after year, condemning? The trade unions are not interested in sitting down with the Opposition because they cannot trust it.
The Opposition wants to oppose every proposal that is put forward in Australian parliaments. Members of the Opposition speak about unemployment overseas not affecting Australia. Again, I reiterate the figures given by the Minister for Labor and Immigration. The unemployment figure in Germany is 5 per cent; in Belgium it is 5.4 per cent; Denmark 9.2 per cent; France 4.3 per cent; Italy 5.3 per cent; Ireland 8 per cent; and the United States of America 8.2 per cent. Of course this is the problem. The honourable member for Wannon is quite correct in the speech he made outside the Parliament. He should not be so dishonest when he comes into the Parliament as to present his views about the problems that Australia is facing. Again I want to follow the line put forward by the Minister for Labor and Immigration who has done more for the working people of Australia than any previous Minister for Labor. He has introduced the National Employment and Training Scheme and the Regional Employment Development Scheme. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) spoke about rural relief. It was the greatest fraud ever put upon the Australian taxpayer in the history of Australia. That scheme produced golf courses and rose gardens, as can be seen by driving around the country towns. There was no social contribution at all in rural relief and now because there must be some constructive element in projects for local government areas the Country Party supporters are crying out for rural relief. They are the ones who manipulated it.
Let us have a look at what has happened since December 1972 when the Labor Party was elected to office. There has not been one week of one month in one of the 2 years in which we have been in government during which spokesmen from the other side have not threatened to hold an election. Every week, every month, Opposition supporters are saying they are going to use the numbers in the Senate to kick this Government out of office. How can any government operate, how can any government make plans to run this country, if it has to face a continuous barrage of threats to block money Bills in the Senate where the Opposition parties have the numbers? The Bills cannot be blocked in this place because the Opposition does not have the numbers here. Look at the dismal contribution which has been put forward by the main speakers on the Opposition side today who talked about unemployment. They have absolutely no feeling. We on this side of the House come from the working people. We have our ties with the working people. We talk to the trade unions. We understand the social problems created by unemployment but we also understand the things that go hand in hand with it. We are building community health centres. We are building child care centres. We are improving the living standards of people around Australia, people, including the underprivileged, who were ignored during 23 years of conservative government.
What a farce it is when honourable members opposite take up the time of this Parliament by raising a discussion such as this. As everyone on this side of the House would know it is just a complete sham. I suspect that we will have to put up with this sort of thing every day throughout this session. The business of this Government will be frustrated not only by unnecessary debate but also by the continued attempts of the Opposition to disrupt Government business. Mr Snedden says: ‘I do not know whether there is going to be an election. I do not know whether Mr Fraser meant it when he said is not going to run against me’. Mr Fraser says: ‘I will see what happens. I do riot know whether there is going to be an election’. They do not know whether there is going to be an election in their own Party and they do not know whether they are going to try to force an election again on the people of Australia. They belong to a party which has caused us to fight 3 elections in 2lA years. That is their idea of the role of the Parliament in Australia. They should not sit in this place and try to make people in Australia believe anything else.
I believe that for the rest of the parliamentary sitting we are going to have to put up with all this nonsense about the Opposition’s reported feeling which has built up since December 1972. The present Opposition parties did not have this feeling between 1949 and 1972 when on no fewer than 3 separate occasions they forced masses of people into unemployment to cure what they thought were their economic ills. There was no attempt to camouflage what the then Opposition was trying to do. They set out to cause unemployment and that is exactly what they did. Plans such as the NEAT scheme which have been introduced by this Government should have been introduced 20 years ago. People have been saying that everybody must now be trained at least 3 times in their lifetime. This is the only government which has attempted to retrain the working people in this country under the present Minister for Labor and Immigration whom honourable members opposite say has done nothing to contribute to the lifestyle of the Australian working people. I conclude with the remark that the trade unions and the working people do not trust the Opposition parties. They do not want to sit down with them. They want to see us put into operation in Australian life all the things that we have promised.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The discussion is concluded.
Bill- by leave- presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Darwin Reconstruction Bill provides the basis for implementing the Government’s plans for the reconstruction of Darwin following its devastation by cyclone Tracy on 25 December 1974, Christmas Day. I wish to take this early opportunity to present in some detail for the benefit of honourable members, a statement on the events and activities before and after cyclone Tracy. I present this information as a prelude to an explanation of the Bill to enable honourable members better to comprehend the magnitude of the disaster and the measures necessary both to restore Darwin and to provide for the future safety of the people and property of that city. This is not a speech one can enjoy making, depicting as it does the spectacle of awesome destruction. I can only hope, Mr Speaker, that honourable members will grasp this as a singular opportunity for a unified approach to the proper restoration of a vital and characteristic part of the Australian nation and indeed to Australia’s way of life. The proposed Darwin Reconstruction Commission embodies the means of achieving the reconstruction of that stricken city.
Honourable members may be unaware of the adequacy of warning and the emergency service plans to deal with a disaster of this magnitude. Whilst few could have foreseen the extent of damage and its consequences for people and property, nonetheless, the effectiveness of the organisation implemented on Christmas Day and the magnificence of the achievements since, should dispel any misgivings about these arrangements. We know that cyclone Tracy was adequately forecast and warnings were given sufficiently far ahead to enable persons to take cover. There is record of 15 warnings, of which the first was given at 4.15 p.m. on Monday, to Darwin people and to the surrounding areas- 36 hours before the cyclone struck. Thereafter successive warnings from radio and television advised of its approach. By noon on Christmas Eve a flash warning broadcast the prospect ‘of very destructive winds’ which were expected ‘in Darwin tonight and tomorrow’.
Though Tracy moved erratically from that first warning until the noon of Christmas Eve, it moved on its deadly path directly towards Darwin from that time on and it was clear that Darwin was threatened. The cyclone warnings and reports were broadcast continually from midday on Christmas Eve until Tracy hit; its course having been plotted by satellite and by radar. As we are all aware the devastation defied description. Electricity, water and sewerage services were eliminated, 95 per cent of houses were reduced to ruins, the hospital and Government and commercial buildings were severely damaged, and trees and shrubs were uprooted. Debris lay everywhere, roads were untrafficable and the port was severely effected. Ships were sunk. Few of the people or the facilities of Darwin escaped the ferocity ofthe cyclone.
That the death toll was relatively small in proportion to the extent ofthe damage is difficult to believe. Indeed, some people have challenged the official figure of 49 killed and some persons still missing including 16 persons on small vessels sunk in the harbour. These challenges to the official figure are understandable in view of incredible damage, but rely on imagination and emotion, certainly not on fact. Church leaders in the Northern Territory, as recently as 2 February 1975, have issued a joint statement attesting the official record of deaths. News of the cyclone was speedily transmitted througout Australia and the world. Messages carrying news of the disaster were sent by various means including several ham wireless operators who established links with the south. I was notified of the Darwin tragedy early on Christmas morning. I took immediate action to fly from North Queensland to Darwin and on Christmas night, accompanied by Major-General Stretton, head of the Natural Disasters Organisation, and with a team of specialised medical people landed at the smashed Darwin Airport. I would like to pay tribute to the air crew of the Royal Australian Air Force Hercules which made the landing that night under most difficult conditions without the help of navigational aids at Darwin.
A fellow called Shortie somehow got MajorGeneral Stretton and me to the Darwin Police Station, the headquarters of the emergency operation. By dawn next morning the crucial decision to evacuate the city had been made- a decision which I knew would have profound ramifications. Major-General Stretton put the proposition to me. I agreed and as the Minister for the Northern Territory I accepted full responsibility for that decision which was taken at a time of extreme emergency. The absence of sewerage, water and power, the lack of accommodation and the fact that health facilities were strained to the limit for a city of over 40 000, all leading to a very real threat of disease, clearly justified my decision to evacuate the city which was discussed with the Acting Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Leader ofthe Opposition (Mr Snedden) on Boxing Day.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-The evacuation was accomplished so quickly and effectively, and with the utmost co-operation and humanity of people and organisations receiving the evacuees, that an historic airlift of the magnitude seldom seen in peacetime anywhere in the world was achieved with minimal discomfort. I know now of the many problems that the evacuation has caused. I know of personal bitterness and the personal crises which have occurred as a result of the decision to evacuate the city of Darwin- to separate wives from their husbands and children from their fathers. But in view of the stark evidence available, particularly the threat of contagious disease, I believe this action was completely justified.
On Boxing Day morning I met with the Emergency Committee in Darwin and explained the role of Major-General Stretton and the Natural Disasters Organisation. The successful handling of the Darwin emergency over the ensuing few days was due to the unqualified backing which Major-General Stretton and the Natural
Disasters Organisation received from the Northern Territory Emergency Services Organisation in Darwin and which included representatives of private and Government interests, the Northern Territory police, the Australian Defence Services and community organisations. Disaster planning for Darwin which had commenced in October 1974 and was approved in principle on 15 December 1974- only 10 days before the cyclone hit- provided the Northern Territory Emergency Services Organisation. The emergency services provided by this organisation were immediately effective following cyclone Tracy and indeed were put into effect on that Christmas Day-25 December 1974. The test of the suitability of the Organisation was its operation under fire.
In Canberra the Natural Disasters Organisation, in the first instance, co-ordinated the requests for assistance and the movement of goods and personnel at the headquarters of the Natural Disasters Organisation in Northbourne House. The emergency operation established in Darwin was, in a sense, mirrored in Canberra and on 3 January 1975 the Canberra Disasters Organisation handed over co-ordination to the Canberra office of the Department of the Northern Territory. A handful of officers representing my Department and the Departments of Defence, Manufacturing Industry, and Housing and Construction ensured the continued coordination of transport of goods and personnel in the most effective and efficient way. Officers in Canberra worked around the clock and provided the vital lifeline which kept the emergency operations in Darwin supplied with the necessary equipment and supplies for survival of the city in those early days after the disaster. At all stages the emergency operation in Darwin involved representatives of the Legislative Assembly and the City Corporation. The Assembly has assisted in the maintenance of effective and necessary control in the area by passing appropriate legislation which had this Government’s support. Its role in the immediate disaster period and the subsequent restoration must be recorded, achieving as it did the involvement of these bodies in bringing Darwin back to life.
But primarily, let me pay tribute to the people of Darwin. The way in which they reacted in this crisis deserves the highest commendation. There was an unusual spirit prevailing amongst the citizens who went about performing the essential tasks of helping the injured, restoring services and establishing facilities for the homeless. People suffered the difficulties and indeed the indignities of those early days with understanding. Despite the emotional overtones of the evacuation, the community of Darwin went about its task with a sense of purpose which should serve as an example to the nation.
I acknowledge also the work of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Industries, the employers’ organisation and the Trades and Labour Council representing the trade union movement. Their co-ordinated effort was one deserving of the highest praise.
I turn now, Mr Speaker, to some account of the restoration and problems associated with matters such as communications, accommodation, transport, health, Aboriginal welfare, port facilities, works and services, education, business, social welfare services and sports and entertainment.
Have been substantially restored with the provision of Darwin, Berrimah, Howard Springs, and Noonamah exchanges. Some public telephones are functional and trunk dialling gives national access on most circuits. Full television coverage from Brisbane is operating and both radio stations are functioning normally.
Postal charges for outgoing mail have been reduced with charges waived on all normal standard size letters carrying a postal charge of 10c and with reductions in charges for telegrams and telephone calls within Australia. A limited postal delivery service is operating in Darwin.
Late on Christmas Day only 408 houses were intact out of a total of more than 8000. Flat units were also extensively damaged to the extent of 50 per cent completely uninhabitable.
School buildings in Darwin provided a major resource for temporary accommodation. In the early stages of the emergency many thousands of people were sheltered and fed at schools. Since the evacuation schools have continued to provide accommodation for some homeless people and, in addition, some 500 imported workers.
The set target of 1000 weatherproofed houses by day 35 was exceeded by almost 600. Emergency repairs to weatherproof 16 out of 32 government buildings in the city area, 17 outside the city area, and 1 8 other buildings have been completed.
The accommodation situation in Darwin is under constant review and I have agreed to the re-roofing of all suitable houses, both private and government, estimated to number 3500, and with respect to government houses only, carry out other repairs and supply of equipment. All this work will still only result in temporary housing accommodation. In addition emergency action has been taken for large scale acquisition of caravans, together with demountable residential units costing approximately $ 1 5m.
In consultation with my Cabinet colleagues I have approved the charter of the ship ‘Patris’ which has the capacity to provide accommodation for 1000 persons.
People requiring accommodation have been asked to register their need and more than 700 applications have so far been recorded. Surveys of available accommodation are being carried out and as houses are restored inspections are being made to determine ownership and occupancy. Hotel and motel accommodation is almost fully committed with an estimated 2000 people being accommodated and repairs to these establishments is providing some further accommodation.
Food and goods to the value of more than Sim. have been distributed since 25 December. These have included clothing, cooking equipment, beer and soft drink, cigarettes, ice, refrigeration plant and communication expenses. Full retail and catering trading resumed on 20 January 1975 and since this time meals supplied by Commonwealth Hostels, who have taken over the operation of the main accommodation and feeding centres in the schools, are on a charge basis except to volunteer workers and deserving cases treated through normal welfare channels.
Air transport co-ordination during the emergency included the use of Royal Australian Air Force and civil aircraft for evacuation purposes and for the supply of urgently needed stores to the Territory. Two Hercules aircraft made available by the Indonesian Government were used to capacity and assistance was provided by the United States Government in the form of Starlifter aircraft. Domestic airline traffic is back to normal operation. International operations are not being permitted at present by the Department of Transport, but this is under review now. Road and rail transport is normal, subject to wet season conditions. Regular sea transport has resumed with the ‘Darwin Trader’ and Western Australian State ships in operation.
The health of the people of Darwin continues to provide no great anxiety at the moment. No outbreaks of disease of any kind are anticipated while the situation remains firmly under control. Garbage collection services and dumps are back to normal and flies and mosquitoes are being controlled by ground and aerial spraying. Repairs at Darwin Hospital are proceeding rapidly. The operational size had been reduced by damage to 200 beds, which however is more than sufficient for current requirements, and all specialist units are operational providing a 24-hour cover for in-patient and out-patient services. Aerial medical services to the surrounding countryside are operating normally, and health services are being provided to all other centres in the Northern Territory.
Bagot Reserve was completely evacuated but some residents have since returned and arrangements are being made to re-establish the community. Other Aboriginal urban residents of Darwin were assisted. Also the fringe dwelling community outside the city area was given full support. A feature of this support was the organisation and involvement of the members of the Aboriginal community themselves. Suggestions from certain quarters in the south that discrimination against Aboriginals occurred in Darwin during the disaster are completely without foundation and a public denial on these lines has been made by the Aboriginal Welfare Committee.
The Fire Brigade is operating out of 3 stationsthe Casuarina station is closed down- and normal services are provided although there are still some difficulties with communications.
Since the termination of mass evacuation 26 040 people by air and several thousand by road- late evacuations are still being arranged by issuing travel warrants for flights by commercial airlines. Approximately 5000 warrants have been issued and this is continuing at the reduced rate of approximately 250 per day. Persons are still being uplifted from Darwin at the expense of the Government but these are restricted to those persons who were in Darwin on 25 December 1974 and who have not previously been evacuated. The categories of people who are permitted to enter Darwin can be summarised as adult male residents, adult female residents who have essential employment and satisfactory accommodation, persons with legitimate business interests, non-residents who have satisfactory accommodation and who can make a definite contribution to the restoration of the city, and wives and families of people working in Darwin, subject to the inspection and acceptance of their proposed accommodation.
There have been a number of problems to be solved in introducing the permit system but it is now working smoothly. A small committee under Mr Justice Ward is exercising general oversight of the system. Some people have quibbled over aspects of the permit system. I wish to see families reunited at the earliest possible moment but not at the risk of the health of the community. I need not remind you that the cyclone period still threatens Darwin. Indeed, further emergency planning for the possibility of future cyclones in Darwin has already been undertaken.
The credit for the success of the evacuation exercise must go to the pilots of aircraft, civil and military, and their controllers, to those who mobilised the people at the Darwin end and to those who arranged their reception at the end of their journey. This was an incredible human achievement. It was supported by an equally magnificent team effort along the roads. Thousands moved out of Darwin by road and having few clothes, little food or cash and vehicles often incapable of achieving the long hauls necessary to get south. These people were given haven and comfort to an amazing degree in every large and small town along the way, particularly by fellow Territorians in such places as Pine Creek, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, and bordering communities such as Mount Isa and Kununurra. The dislocation in these towns in some ways was almost as severe as that caused in the immediate cyclone area and we should all recognise and pay tribute to the wonderful generosity of the people in them.
The Department of Social Security undertook the task of co-ordinating the care of evacuees. They were assisted in this task by voluntary agencies such as the Red Cross, churches, Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, and other groups who acted with unprecedented understanding and goodwill in almost every city and town in Australia. To all those who assisted may I say ‘thank you ‘ from the people of Darwin.
Following the cyclone, the Government moved quickly to establish a Trust, the members of which are all well respected Darwin citizens representing a broad spectrum of community interests. The objects of the Trust are to apply and distribute the funds which have been donated and raised or are in the process of being donated or raised by public subscription in and beyond Australia for the relief of sufferers from the cyclone and for the alleviation of their distress.
The Trust aims to ensure that no victim of Cyclone Tracy or its aftermath would be without financial assistance to cope with immediate needs. At the same time an undertaking was entered into by the Australian Government that it would bear all the administrative expenses arising out of the conduct of the Trust’s affairs and that all moneys contributed by the public would be devoted to the alleviation of distress. Every cent contributed to the fund will be used for the benefit of the Darwin people affected by the cyclone and its aftermath. The assistance of the Trust will be over and above that assistance already given or to be provided by the Australian Government.
The shipping channel is clear of obstruction and most buoys and marks have been repaired and/or resited. Fort Hill wharf in Darwin is in normal operation and repairs are being carried out to Stokes Hill wharf damaged when the HMAS ‘Arrow’ sunk at her moorings. The iron ore wharf is available for berthing ships, but the iron ore loading facility was severely damaged and is likely to be out of operation for 6 months. A bailey bridge is being erected by Army engineers to bridge the gap to the wharf and fuel and water lines should be connected shortly thereafter.
The Stokes Hill power station has resumed operation and has sufficient capacity to cope with current demands. The overhead distribution system has been 90 per cent restored throughout the city. The water supply is adequate and reticulation has been restored to most areas. In these areas sewerage facilities are also available. All roads were clear for traffic by 1 0 January 1 97 5 .
Fuel and liquid petroleum gas stocks are adequate for current needs and further replenishment by bulk tanker has been organised. Oil pipelines have been temporarily restored to enable tankers to discharge from Fort Hill wharf. Terminal facilities and transport units have been restored to a stage where the oil industry is comfortably maintaining supplies to all areas of Darwin and as far south as Alice Springs, although there is a severe staff shortage.
One cannot commend too highly the efficient and swift deployment of the Royal Australian Navy Task Force to Darwin. Its arrival on new years day was a tremendous boost to civilian morale. From this day on, over 1000 Navy personnel were made available to assist the skeleton crews of civilian and other service personnel on the massive clean-up task and restoration of essential services. The number of blocks cleared by Naval personnel is 1294 and this total included schools, hotels, government offices and buildings housing essential services. Skilled teams assisted the Postmaster-General’s Department and the electrical supply undertaking in their respective fields and roofing teams have worked throughout with the Department of Housing and Construction. Sporting and recreation facilities such as playing fields and swimming pools have been restored. Naval diving teams have cleared wharf areas, investigated submerged contacts and salvaged HMAS Arrow’. Helicopters have undertaken such tasks as lifting heavy equipment onto the roof of high buildings.
Since the departure of the fleet, a large part of the task of assisting the civilian workforce in the restoration activities has and is being carried out by Army units brought to Darwin for this purpose and to date more than 2000 housing allotments have been cleared. The Defence personnel have been greatly assisted in the restoration of essential services by volunteer unionist workers from the southern States. Nevertheless, much remains to be done and there is an urgent need to proceed as rapidly as possible.
The Northern Territory division of the Australian Department of Education together with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Darwin have arranged for the provision of educational facilities in Darwin. Two high schools and 7 primary schools commenced classes on 10 February. It is planned that 3 pre-schools will also open. There are currently about 200 Commonwealth Teaching Service personnel in Darwin to cater for an estimated enrolment of over 3000 children for term 1. The Darwin Community College plans the resumption of normal technical/trade courses and adult education and tutorial activities.
Red Cross had a disaster volunteer relief team drawn from all States of Australia based in Darwin operating the Tracing Bureau, answering inquiries from next of kin, and relatives as to the whereabouts and welfare of families separated by the disaster. Also the Red Cross Northern Territory Division Centre is manned on a fulltime basis making issues of clothing etc, and providing a first aid service as required.
The responsibility for receipt and distribution of clothing, including boots and bedding material was undertaken by the Salvation Army.’ It also assisted in other community welfare efforts. Its contribution was a most significant one and I wish to pay tribute to the officers and to the Salvation Army for their magnificent assistance.
In January the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) agreed to my suggestion that a fund of $2m be set up to assist small businesses to re-establish and continue to operate during the reconstruction period. A committee has been established to administer this fund and is currently interviewing applicants for assistance. A complete survey has been undertaken of all businesses intending to continue or to resume operations in Darwin.
Many Darwin public servants are currently scattered throughout the States of Australia following evacuation. It has been agreed that an office block will be leased in Brisbane which will permit my Department and other appropriate departments based in Darwin to regroup these public servants and rationalise the division of functions and positions between the two locations with a view to having all Darwin public servants properly housed and operating efficiently pending reintegration in Darwin. I must stress, however, that the centre of Australian Government operations on behalf of the Northern Territory will remain in Darwin and the top hierarchy will remain there.
A very significant range of social welfare benefits has been implemented as a result ofthe disaster, both for those remaining in Darwin and for those evacuated and now living elsewhere. Also a considerable joint effort between Australian Government, State and local voluntary agencies has been mounted. Special units in Darwin, all capitals and some regional centres are now operating to meet the special and extra needs of the Darwin people. A number of further special proposals are being studied by me and my colleague, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), to meet the emergency situation. The question of compensation is a major issue facing the Government as a result of the cyclone disaster. Action to date includes the survey by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation to determine the level of damage suffered, both personal and business, and results of this survey will be considered by the Government in the very near future.
On the sport side, the following sports are back into operation: Rugby league, Australian rules, horse racing, basketball, baseball, hockey, volleyball, bowls, golf and cricket.
– I understand that there is some there. Great support is being offered by southern sporting associations in the re-establishment of these sports and the provision of visiting teams.
With regard to entertainment we have had visits from the Johnny 0 ‘Keefe Show, Rolf Harris, the Horrie Dargie Million Dollar Review and the Bert Newton Show. As you will be aware from the Press many groups of entertainers around Australia have visited Darwin or have indicated their willingness to do so.
Some suggestion of lawlessness has been made. Let me say that whilst there were some isolated instances of looting, larceny, illegal use of vehicles and some minor offences, I assure honourable members that there was a remarkably small degree of lawlessness and indeed there were only 31 arrests during the 2 weeks ending 17 January 1975. (Extension of time granted). I wish to take this opportunity of recognising the contribution made to law and order by the visiting police officers from the State and Commonwealth forces as well as paying a tribute to the untiring efforts of the Territorial Police. The extreme good humour with which the police and defence personnel carried out their tasks deserves the highest commendation.
The cyclone is gone, but the disaster remains. There is no way of providing honourable members with accurate assessments of the damage or the repair bill. Doubtless honourable members have been regaled with anecdotes which, in their way, give some perspective of the horror of that Christmas morning. Individual experiences are legion and I could provide many from my own observation. There is, for example, a 100 feet high water tower in one area of Darwin which bears the imprint of a large domestic refrigerator 80 feet high up on the side of the tower. Again, one small lad remarked to this father after some hours of clinging to a wall support with the continuing roar of that fearful tornado: ‘Dad, when are we going to land?’ I have no hesitation in stating that the disaster is the worst natural calamity in Australia’s history. Darwin will be rebuilt. Honourable members are assured of the Government’s intention to re-establish the city, and given the continued co-operation of elected community representatives, the business community, the trade union movement and the many individuals and organisations all with a view about reconstruction, we will proceed with rebuilding as we have done with recovery.
The certainty of the intention to rebuild is conveyed in the provisions of the Bill. It may not be the Darwin of old; we have the opportunity of creating a city with improved facilities in which former residents and newcomers to Darwin will be able to lead a rich and full life in safety. The Government moved quickly to establish the Interim Reconstruction Commission in order to make the necessary arrangements for the speedy restoration of the city. The Interim Commission has met 3 times and has resolved on a good many matters including the need for underground electrical wiring, a new building code, the necessity to consider government assistance for housing to meet the stringent safety standards which will need to be laid down, the general nature of redevelopment of devastated suburbs, land availability, etc. It also recognised the need to employ as far as possible locally based firms in the reconstruction program and indicated its belief and intention that this mammoth construction task could and would be met by building organisations within Australia. Indeed, I would expect that the Department of Housing and Construction would play an important role in this construction field.
A wide spectrum of community interests has assisted the Interim Commission in the formulation of its views and plans. Apart from its distinguished chairman, Sir Leslie Thiess, and the permanent heads of the Department of the Northern Territory, the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the Department of Housing and Construction, the nominees of the Legislative Assembly and the Darwin City Council represent the full involvement of the community in deliberations about reconstruction. I draw the attention of honourable members to the publication and free distribution by the Interim Reconstruction Commission as from 4 February of the Cities Commission ‘Planning
Options for Future Darwin’. This is not an authoritative final statement. It was intended as a basis upon which those with a view can consider some of the alternative starting points and has already proved effective in this respect.
I now turn to the particular provisions of the Bill. Honourable members will realise that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission must be a forceful body which may need to vary some of the present and normal arrangements operating in the city of Darwin and its environs. The Commission should clearly have the power to do this in the performance of its functions. Naturally the normal processes of government will gradually be re-established as the city is rebuilt. This is the underlying purpose of the Bill. Clause 4 of the Bill limits the effective operation of the Commission to a duration of five years after commencement of the Act or such date as is fixed by proclamation. After that date the Commission will continue in existence but only for the purpose of winding up its affairs. Thereafter on a further proclaimed date the Commission will cease to exist and its continuing rights and obligations vest in Australia. This provision reflects the Government’s intention that the Commission should be a temporary body only and that as soon as possible the normal arrangements and features of government in the Northern Territory be resumed.
Clauses 5, 6 and 11 of the Bill establish the Commission and set down its functions and powers. These features and powers are typical of corporations with comprehensive urban development functions. Honourable members will see that the Government’s intention is for the Commission to assist it in determining desirable development in the Darwin area and to carry out the planning associated with that development. Clause 7 enjoins Australian Government departments and all public authorities carrying on operations in the Darwin area to assist the Commission in carrying out its functions so far as is reasonably practicable whilst clause 8 provides that the Commission shall perform its functions in relation to development and construction in accordance with planning and development schemes approved by the Minister and together with clause 9 gives the Minister oversight of the Commission’s development and construction program actions.
I now draw the attention of honourable members to clause 13 which enables the Minister to place land in the Northern Territory under the Commission’s control that is the property of Australia and is not comprised in a lease granted to any person. In order to meet the special needs of Aboriginals of Darwin, it is intended that this provision will not affect areas such as Bagot and Kulaluk, except by specific Government direction after consultation with the Aboriginals, nor prejudice any claims they may have. I would expect that the Commission and the Aboriginals would co-operate in the planning of the development of such lands and in the proper housing and location of Aboriginals generally. Let me say that it is not the Government’s intention to acquire all the land in Darwin, as has been put forward in some quarters. Private construction on private land, with the approval of the Commission, will proceed hand in hand and complement the Government’s reconstruction program. The remaining clauses of Part II of the Bill limit the erection of buildings and the performance of works on land for the purposes of the erection of a building or of the supply of services except in accordance with the approval of the Commission (clause 14). Associated with this provision is clause 15 establishing the right of the Commission for the purposes of public safety or sanitation, to enter and work on land subject to certain restrictions and clause 16 under which the Commission may remove occupants from premises that are in a dangerous condition or unfit for occupation.
Part III constitutes the Commission and provides for its meetings and other associated matters. Part IV provides for the appointment and terms of appointment of the General Manager of the Commission, whilst Parts V and VI provide respectively for the appointment of staff to the Commission and the finance provisions to be applicable to the Commission operations. It is the Government’s desire that citizens of Darwin be as fully involved as possible in the rebuilding of the devastated city. To that end the Bill in Part VII provides for the appointment of an advisory body to the Commission to be known as the Darwin Citizens’ Council. Members of the Council are to be appointed by the Minister from nominees drawn from community groups in the Darwin area. In addition, the Commission may appoint advisory committees as it sees fit for the purpose of giving advice to the Commission on matters which the Commission refers to them (clause 5 1 ).
I now draw the attention of the House to some of the provisions of Part VIII of the Bill. Clause 53 was inserted as it seemed that there would be great difficulty in valuing land in the Darwin area over the next few years and the Government would not wish to take advantage of any fall in the value of land attributable to the cyclone. The clause, therefore, provides that for the purposes of determining compensation in respect of the acquisition of land under the Lands Acquisition Act 1955-1973 the assessed value of land is not to be less than its value immediately prior to the cyclone if the improvements on it had then been in their present damaged condition. Section 18(8) of the Public Works Committee Act 1959-1974 provides that no works, the estimated cost of which is more than $2m., may be commenced without reference to the Public Works Committee. Clause 54 of the Bill has the effect of enabling work in the category to be commenced by order of the Governor-General without prior reference to the Public Works Committee. However, it should be noted that the clause would not affect the power of either House of Parliament to refer to the Public Works Committee a work in the Darwin area irrespective of its cost. In accordance with the Government’s view that the Commission must be a forceful body and be able to operate so that the rebuilding of Darwin might take place in an orderly way, clause 55 of the Bill excludes the operation of the Town Planning Ordinance 1964-1971 of the Territory as far as the powers and functions of the Commission are concerned. In addition, Clause 56 places restrictions on the grants of titles to Crown Land in the Darwin area without the concurrence of the Commission.
-Order! The Minister’s extended time has expired.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Daly)-by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for the Northern Territory concluding his speech.
Mr Speaker, I believe the task facing the Commission and all involved in the reconstruction of Darwin is perhaps the most challenging one in Australia’s history. This legislation is designed to achieve the framework on which this task may be accomplished. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Snedden) adjourned.
-The question now is that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I move:
That the words ‘ next sitting ‘ be omitted and the words ‘ 1 8 February ‘ be substituted.
In speaking to my amendment I wish to emphasise at the outset that there is no intention whatever on the part of the Opposition to obstruct in any way consideration of this Bill. I do not wish to make a long address about the devastation of Darwin and the necessity for action to be taken to put the position right. There is nobody in the House who would not accept that proposition. This Bill has been introduced just now. The Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) was kind enough to give me a draft copy of it at lunch time yesterday. In the intervening period between lunch time yesterday and now there has not been the opportunity for myself or my colleagues in the Party fully to examine the Bill, as I am sure the honourable gentleman will understand. The Bill has been in the course of development as to principle and as to construction for approximately 6 weeks. For us to attempt to deal with it in 24 hours notice is just not practicable in any way. This is not a Bill in respect of which the Government has given notice in the past and has said: ‘This is a fundamental principle for the Labor Party and therefore we are going to bring the Bill in and we are going to use our numbers to push it through’. I do not wish this Bill to be dealt with on that basis.
As the Minister for the Northern Territory knows, I was in Darwin within 24 hours of the tragedy. I had the opportunity there to discuss the matter with him and with Dr Cairns, who I think at that time was not the Treasurer but was the Acting Prime Minister. I appreciated the opportunity of having a discussion on this matter. I made it clear at the dme that the Opposition would approach this matter on a totally nonpolitical basis. There is a big job to be done for the people of Darwin- not just for the people of Darwin but because all the Australian people expect us to do the job. There is an immense sympathy and understanding by all the people of Australia of the tragedy that the people of Darwin have suffered. It is against that background that I have moved this amendment.
The manager of business for the Opposition, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), discussed this matter with the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and it was agreed that the Bill would not go on today but would be left until tomorrow. I appreciate the willingness to put it off for a day, but I am bound to say that to put it off for a day is totally inadequate. I do not wish to say anything in terrorem but I am sure it will be understood that if the Bill must come on for debate tomorrow we in the House will not be able to put the point of view which ought to be put in the House. The Bill must go to the Senate and the Senate will want time to fully examine it. Therefore, no time will be lost by accepting the proposition we put to delay resumption of the debate on this Bill until next Tuesday so that we can have full discussion of it.
Without in any sense whatever criticising the second reading speech ofthe Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) I should point out that the second reading speech occupies 23 foolscap printed pages. It is not until the middle of page 19 that a description is given of the Bill. The section prior to that- I have no criticism of it- is an historical survey dealing with a number of issues. It is not until half way through page 19- and the second reading speech only goes to page 23- that the Minister says: ‘I now turn to the particular provisions of the Bill’. It so happens that the Bill itself is of 19 pages. It is a coincidence that it is not until page 19 ofthe second reading speech that the Minister turns to the description of the Bill which has 1 9 pages. There are, in fact, 61 clauses ofthe Bill.
For the purposes of my argument, I repeat the following part of the Minister’s second reading speech:
I now turn to the particular provisions of the Bill. Honourable members will realise that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission must be a forceful body which may need to vary some of the present and normal arrangements operating in the city of Darwin and its environs.
To the people of Australia and to the Opposition the use of the words, ‘a forceful body which may need to vary some of the present and normal arrangements operating in the city of Darwin and its environs’ spells out the need to examine very closely the provisions of the Bill. The second reading speech continues:
The Commission should clearly have power to do this in the performance of its functions.
If the Commission does do this in the performance of its functions it is clear that it is going to override the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and the Darwin City Corporation. The speech continues:
Naturally, the normal processes of government will gradually be re-established as the city is re-built. This is the underlying purpose of the Bill. Clause 4 ofthe Bill limits the effective operation of the Commission to a duration of S years after the commencement ofthe Act . . .
Once this Bill is passed it establishes the practice for the next 5 years. When what is proposed is a Commission which is described as ‘a forceful body which may need to vary some of the present and normal arrangements operating in the city of Darwin and its environs’ we need to look at the matter quite closely. I am quite sure nobody would quarrel with the right of an Opposition to do so as part of its proper role. I quote another part ofthe second reading speech:
Let me say that it is not the Government’s intention to acquire all the land in Darwin, as has been put forward in some quarters. Private construction on private land, with the approval of the Commission, will proceed hand in hand and complement the Government’s reconstruction program.
Naturally, the Opposition would want to know the criteria for approval being granted by the Commission for people to build a house on their own private land. Obviously, that goes to the very basis of the human freedom of the people in Darwin who are anxious to re-establish themselves in their normal way of life. I quote again from the Minister’s second reading speech:
Associated with this provision is clause 15 establishing the right of the Commission for the purposes of public safety or sanitation to enter and work on land subject to certain restrictions . . .
To give any commission which is not subject to parliamentary scrutiny the right to enter on to land is quite a step to take and it needs to be examined closely to see what are the restrictions on that right of entry, under what circumstances it can operate, what notice is to be given, etc. Because the Opposition has just received the Bill it is impossible for it to understand fully what is proposed in that provision.
-I think the right honourable gentleman would be aware that his remarks are touching on the Bill itself.
– I am sorry, Mr Speaker, I hoped to avoid that. I do not want to deal with the Bill because it will be dealt with in the debate. I have made the points, I hope, that there are major issues involved in this Bill. To expect honourable members to be able to debate it tomorrow is unreal. No time will be saved because, I am perfectly certain, the Senate will want to look at it just as closely as we do. I give an undertaking that whatever the outcome of our examination of the provisions of the Bill- and there may be some we want to oppose, I do not know- if we are given a week to examine the matter we will go ahead with the debate and let the matter be resolved in the debate. There will be no attempt on our part to delay the Bill further. I do put this to the Government-
– The Opposition’s position, then, will be one of criticism rather than obstruction?
– The logical processes of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) are frustrated and he constantly jumps to conclusions which have no basis at all. How the Minister who is responsible for social service and health matters could be relied upon to bring in a health scheme when he comes up with an interjection like that is beyond my comprehension. I think, Mr Speaker, that the Minister for Social
Security needs a little bit of attention himself judging from that interjection.
The seat of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory is in Darwin. The members of the Legislative Assembly were elected last year and they are very keen people. I have met them all, naturally enough, and they are very anxious to discharge their obligations to the people of the Northern Territory. They wish to have the Assembly sit for the purpose of examining the Bill so that they can see the way in which it affects them and their constituents in the Northern Territory. I have received a request from Mr Grant Tambling, Member for Fannie Bay in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. His telegram read:
Request copies Darwin Reconstruction Bill be made available here immediately on introduction Australian Parliament and sufficient time be allowed for examination and comment. At public meeting business people last night 44 citizens requested me convey their concern that Reconstruction Bill may be processed Australian Parliament before opportunity given for scrutiny and comment.
This request came directly from a member of the Assembly. The Leader of the Assembly, Dr Goff Letts, has asked the joint Opposition parties to have the matter adjourned for a week so that his Assembly can discuss it. I have received a telex message from Mr Ian Barker, Chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee, Darwin. I think that is the same committee which was referred to by the Minister for Northern Development in his second reading speech. Mr Ian Barker, of course, is a leading citizen. If my recollection is correct, he is actually a Queen’s Counsel. His telex message read as follows:
Request delay of one week in passage of Darwin Reconstruction Bill in order that people of Darwin might have the opportunity to consider the Bill before it is passed.
I believe, Mr Speaker, that I have presented a full and proper case for the debate of this Bill to be adjourned until next Tuesday. I would hope that the Government would see fit to accept that course and I give the undertaking that, if it does, the Opposition will go ahead with the debate. I confidently expect that, in fact, no time will be lost because the Bill will not become legislation until it has passed through the Senate. I am supported in this motion by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). He is seconding my amendment.
-Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I rise to second the amendment. I assure the House and the Minister for Northern Development and
Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) that, as we agreed on Boxing Day in Darwin, there will be no politics in this matter. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) may well sneer. We are talking about something that the Minister for the Northern Territory and I have seen. We are quite sincere in what we are doing. I have been requested by very many members of the community including politicians and private citizens- and not only all the members of the majority party in the Legislative Assembly, incidentally -
– Do they see you sometimes?
– I answer the interjection by stating that Mr Withnall, a leading legal man, who is an independent member, has asked me to try to have the passage of this Bill delayed so that it can be considered by the people who live in Darwin. Those people are concerned about the actions of the Government. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has said that we will certainly pass the Bill with all speed once it has been looked at by the Opposition and its colleagues in Darwin. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is sitting today. If I am correct, a copy of the Bill was not available when it requested one. So I imagine that it has not seen it. The Legislative Assembly has been informed that the Bill has been brought into this House today.
– It was not available until today. We did not see it ourselves until today.
– The honourable member for Hunter does not live in Darwin. I work in Darwin. I hope that the Government will see the sincerity behind the Opposition’s request to have further consideration of this Bill delayed until next Tuesday. What is the urgency about getting it through 2 sitting days ahead of that? Why should the people who will be involved in the matter not be allowed to consider the Bill before it goes through the Parliament? I regard that as being a normal act of decency. The Minister for the Northern Territory arrived in Darwin very quickly after the disaster and took effective action to marshal the forces and save the situation, and I commend him very sincerely for doing so.
– Where were you?
– I was there. The character destroyer who calls himself a Minister is endeavouring to besmirch my character. I landed there on Boxing Day and stayed until the following Tuesday.
– No one realised it.
-I happened to be working on the tarmac and evacuating children from schools in buses while a Labor senator was strutting around like a peacock doing nothing. The Minister for Social Security probably has not been there yet. He would not know what a disaster it was. The Minister for Social Security should go to Darwin and assess the situation. Before the Leader of the House starts his character destruction, which no doubt he will do very shortly, I say that I hope that he will go there and speak to the people and get their opinion on the matter. We want to obtain their opinion here and now. That is why we have genuinely asked for further consideration of this Bill to be delayed until next week. That is a simple request. I hope that the Government will give the people of Darwin- the legislators there and the private citizens- the privilege of looking . at the provisions of the Bill and considering them before it rams the Bill through this House.
– The Government will be opposing the amendment.
Opposition members- Why?
– If honourable members opposite are patient I shall explain why in a much more thoughtful and better manner than those who spoke for them in trying to put a case for postponement of the consideration of the Bill until next week. I am not influenced by what is said by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), who rang for a car to meet him at Darwin in the middle of the Cyclone Tracy disaster.
– That is a deliberate lie and you know it. You are lying. You are a liar.
– He is an unmitigated liar.
-The honourable member for Kennedy will withdraw those remarks.
– It is very difficult to do so, Mr Speaker, but I withdraw.
-The honourable member for Kennedy will withdraw those remarks.
– I withdraw, but it is very difficult to do so.
– Probably no more important or urgent legislation has ever been brought before this Parliament than that introduced today by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson). One reason that this Parliament is back early is to enable it to deal with legislation of this kind. One ofthe most important aspects of the Government’s legislative program is to put this legislation through. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), from his rare visits to the Northern Territory, ought to know that the people of Darwin are criticising the Commission and the Government for the inaction of the Commission. An interim body was set up immediately after the disaster; but at this stage, as honourable members know, it has no right to pay out money and cannot function in any way legally. There has been great criticism of this failure. The Parliament is debating this matter today, which is the first day of the sitting, in order to enable the legislation to be put through with a minimum of delay. Sir Leslie Thiess has been appointed to do certain things but it is necessary for him to have the authority to act. There is work to be done in Darwin by the Commission. We are now being asked to delay that for another week or so.
I find it incredible that the brains trust which sits opposite, with its numerous advisers, cannot inside the space of 24 hours or so be able to put a presentable case and not delay the passage of this important legislation. Little did I think that I would sit in this Parliament and see even the honourable member for the Northern Territory seeking to delay and frustrate and threatening to hold up in another place important legislation on which thousands of people in Darwin and throughout this country depend. That is typical of the approach of those who sit opposite. All they want to do is frustrate, delay, put off and criticise. I suppose their colleagues in another place will reject this legislation. I challenge them to do so. They have done every other contemptible thing except stop the people of Darwin from getting the assistance to which they are entitled. I listened today to the mealy-mouthed exposition on this subject from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). He seems to think that the passage of this Bill should be delayed so that he can criticise it. Countless thousands of people are still wanting action in the Northern Territory. It is apparent from the way in which honourable members opposite spoke on this matter today that the Opposition has had a pretty good look at the Bill. It knows a lot about its clauses. The Government sees no reason why its passage should be delayed this week.
The fact is that the honourable member for the Northern Territory and other honourable members opposite want to play politics with the suffering of the Darwin people. We are not going to be a party to that. This legislation will be going through this Parliament this week. The Opposition can divide the House on it as much as it likes. That will be an indication to the people of
Australia that it does not give a damn about what happens to the people of Darwin so long as it can make political capital out of the matter. Let there be no bones about it: Everything honourable members opposite do is politically motivated. Every move they make is sinister. They are endeavouring at all times to frustrate the will of the Government. The Leader of the Opposition has threatened that the other place will hold up this legislation concerning Darwin as a reprisal against the Government. For every minute that the people of Darwin suffer from this legislation not being passed they should remember that it is those who sit opposite, including the part-time member for the Northern Territory, who are to blame. It is the old, old story of the Opposition wanting to hold up, frustrate and delay.
Does any honourable member opposite say that the Opposition is not in favour of the legislation? Is it in favour of it? If so, why is the Opposition wanting to delay its passage for another week? The collective brains of honourable members opposite could not add one iota to the worth of the measure. Honourable members opposite know full well that that is the case. I do not intend to delay the passage of this legislation by speaking for too long. The motion has been moved which will enable this legislation to be debated tomorrow. The Government is not going to be a party to the holding up of legislation when it is being criticised in Darwin at this moment for not passing it. Those people in Darwin who are seeking to delay the passage of this measure are not very concerned about other than the politics of the situation. Of course, they have ready made parties in this Parliament who are prepared to do those things despite the suffering of the people of the Northern Territory. This legislation will go through this week because it is important that it go through. It is far-reaching legislation. Any honourable member opposite who is fair dinkum should not do anything to hold up something which is going to benefit people who have suffered from a disaster the extent of which is unknown in the history of this country.
The Government opposes the deferment. The Bill will be debated tomorrow. The Opposition can hold it up, threaten and challenge as much as it will, but we on this side stand to support the people of Darwin who are suffering, to rebuild Darwin and to give them the things they want. We are not going to be a party to holding up legislation for which the people who depend on it most are clamouring at this time.
– I call the Leader ofthe Australian Country Party.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Snedden’s amendment) stand pan of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to supersede certain provisions of the laws of Queensland that discriminate against Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and deny them basic human rights. Some of these laws are discriminatory on grounds of race and others are of general application. They have the effect of imposing on Aboriginal and Islander reserves a legal regime that is different from that which applies to persons in other parts of Queensland. The elimination of racial discrimination has been one of the major preoccupations of the international community since the Second World War. The United Nations Charter is based on the principles of dignity and equality inherent in all human beings and the Charter provides that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race.
A comprehensive series of instruments has been developed by the United Nations in fulfilment of these objectives. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 25th anniversary of which was celebrated on 10 December 1973, proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration, without distinction of any kind, in particular as to race. The Declaration and subsequent instruments provide, for example, that all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection ofthe law. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence and no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family or home. Everyone has the right to just conditions of work without discrimination and to protection from forced or compulsory labour. The International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), which was signed on behalf of Australia by the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr Hasluck, on 13 October 1966, and to which 81 countries have subscribed, requires countries to prohibit racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee equality before the law without distinction as to race.
The United Nations has supplemented these instruments with numerous resolutions, conferences and programs designed to promote the elimination of racial discrimination. For example, the Proclamation of Teheran issued by the International Conference on Human Rights in 1968 observed that the implementation of the principle of non-discrimination, embodied in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration and other instruments, constituted a most urgent task of mankind. It further stated that gross denials of human rights arising from discrimination on grounds of race outraged the conscience of mankind. The Australian delegation to this conference included the then AttorneyGeneral, Mr Bowen, the present shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, and the then Senator Murphy. Subsequently, the United Nations designated 1971 as the international Year for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, and vigorous programs for the year were conducted throughout the world, including Australia. On 6 December 1971, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution urging further ratifications of the Racial Discrimination Convention and this resolution was carried by 101 voting in favour (including Australia), none against and five abstentions. On 10 December 1973, the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination was inaugurated by the United Nations. The program proposed by the United Nations for action on the national level during the decade includes the introduction of legislation, where appropriate, to prevent racial discrimination.
Against this background, it has been the conscious policy of both Liberal and Labor Governments to eliminate all legislation in Australia that contains elements of racial discrimination. In his policy speech on 8 October 1969 the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, stated:
In recent years most discriminatory legislation against Aborigines has been abolished. We intend to see that this process is completed in the life of the next Parliament upon both State and Federal levels.
In the Governor-General’s speech on the opening of Parliament on 3 March 1970 the following statement was made:
My Government . . . hopes that during the lifetime of the Parliament any remnants of discriminatory legislation against Aborigines will be eliminated.
On 2 1 May 1970 Senator Keeffe received a letter from the then Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Wentworth, in relation to the Queensland legislation observing that, as a result ofthe 1967 referendum, the Commonwealth had concurrent legislative power with the States regarding Aborigines. The then Minister stated that the Commonwealth and the States had been discussing discriminatory and special legislation for some years, and that in the previous decade major changes had been made in all State Acts relating to Aborigines. He went on to say, as recorded in Senate Hansard of 21 May 1970 at page 1750:
I would hope that the Commonwealth will not be compelled to bring down legislation in order to invalidate some sections of a State law.
The letter went on to say that discriminatory State legislation was being discussed with individual States and that he had asked the Attorney-General to assist him in these discussions. In a subsequent answer to a parliamentary question, Mr Wentworth identified the Queensland legislation with respect to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders as being prima facie discriminatory’.
On 19 January 1971 the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, speaking in Singapore, said:
Racism is an unmitigated evil … I am prepared to say and mean that we will abolish racism within Australia . . . There is legal discrimination still in some Australian States against Aborigines, but my Government has told those States that those laws will be repealed by those States within two years, or if they are not, we will move in and repeal them.
However, in April 197 1, the then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, had discussions with the Queensland Premier on this matter and he agreed, in relation to the Queensland law permitting the management of the property of an Aboriginal without his consent, that in special cases there was a responsibility to protect Aboriginal people from exploitation. He regarded the measure as one for the protection of the Aboriginal people and not one of discrimination. (Hansard, 20 April 1971, page 1663).
In 1971, the United Nations Association of Australia set up an ‘Australian Committee to
Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination’, as part ofthe United Nations program for the year that I have mentioned. This Committee consisted of representatives from 125 community organisations. The then Australian Government made a grant of $12,000 to enable the Committee to carry out its program. In its report of its activities of the year, the Committee stated that during the year it had repeatedly urged the Australian and State governments to repeal all legislation of a discriminatory nature and to take all necessary steps to ratify the Racial Discrimination Convention. The report stated that in reply to representations made by the Committee, the then Prime Minister said:
The Commonwealth is pledged to remove all discriminatory legislation against Aborigines by the end of 1 972.I regret that it is impossible to complete during 1971 the action necessary for Australia to ratify the Convention. You may be assured, however, that the Government is continuing its efforts to end all forms of racial discrimination in Australia. ‘
I draw honourable members attention to the policy platforms of the Liberal Party and the Labor Party on the issue of discrimination against Aboriginals. The 1972 platform of the Labor Party included the proposal that the Australian Parliament should legislate against all forms of discrimination as part of a program to provide equal rights and opportunities for all persons. The Federal platform of the Liberal Party, as approved by the Federal Council in October 1974, includes proposals for the implementation and enforcement of legislation to promote equality of rights between all Australian citizens and to remove any form of discrimination against Aboriginals. The present Australian Government has made numerous attempts to resolve these matters by consultation. Immediately after the 1972 elections, the Prime Minister wrote to the Queensland Premier on the matter and there were discussions on the matter at a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier on 28 March 1973. There were subsequent discussions between the Australian and Queensland government ministers responsible for Aboriginal affairs.
As no action has been taken by the Queensland Government on these matters, provisions were included in the Racial Discrimination Bill 1973 to supersede the Queensland law that authorised the management of the property of Aboriginals and Islanders without their consent. In a teleprinter message on 27 September 1973 from the Prime Minister to the Premier the Prime Minister sought consultations with respect to the Bill. On 20 November 1973, the Prime Minister sent a further teleprinter message to the Premier of Queensland pointing out that, in addition to the provisions with respect to property management, there were other features of the Queensland legislation with respect to Aboriginals and Islanders that were unsatisfactory from a civil liberties viewpoint, including provisions relating to liberty of movement to enter a reserve, legal representation before, and appeal from Aboriginal courts, and relating to compulsory labour and conformity to a code of conduct on reserves. The Prime Minister sought to make these matters the subject of consultations.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs discussed the matter with the Queensland Minister in charge of Aboriginal Affairs on 8 January 1974. In addition, the then Attorney-General wrote to the Queensland Attorney-General on 1 5 January 1974 stating that his officers would be available for consultation on these matters. On 24 January, the Queensland Attorney-General replied stating that State officers would be made available for this purpose. However, tentative arrangements made for these discussions to be held on 1 1 February 1974 and 21 March 1974 were cancelled, due to the unavailability of State officers. On 3 April 1974, the State officers wrote stating that the question of a convenient date for appropriate discussions would be kept in mind and that further advice would be provided as early as possible. No further reply has been received from the State officers.
The introduction of legislation to supersede the Queensland laws was envisaged in the Governor-General’s Speech on the opening of Parliament on 9 July 1974, and a further letter was sent by the Prime Minister to the Queensland Premier on 20 October 1974 informing him that draft legislation to override discriminatory aspects of the Queensland legislation was being drafted. He pointed out that on this and other matters he had sought mutually acceptable decisions through consultation and was prepared even at that stage to pursue that course further if there was still room for fruitful negotiation. The Queensland Premier replied on 1 November 1974 stating that steps had been taken to enact amendments to the Queensland Acts to remove restrictions on the control by an Aboriginal or Islander of his property. The amendments referred to by the Premier were passed by the Queensland Parliament and came into force on 1 November. The amendments permit an Aboriginal or Islander to terminate the management of his property by notice in writing witnessed by a justice ofthe peace. However, the amendments leave intact provisions that authorise the continued management under the present legislation of property managed without the consent of Aborigines and Islanders under earlier Queensland legislation. Moreover, the amendments do not deal in any way with the matters of freedom of movement of an Aboriginal on to a reserve, legal representations before, and appeal from, Aboriginal courts, compulsory labour and the other unsatisfactory features of the Queensland laws.
It is the contention of the Queensland Government that the Aborigines and Islanders in Queensland do not desire any further amendments to the Queensland law. The Australian Government does not accept this contention. It does not believe that any group of Australian citizens should be subject to laws that are inconsistent with fundamental rights. The legislation now introduced will deal with the discriminatory aspects of Queensland legislation I have referred to. Clause 5 provides that any property in Queensland of an Aboriginal or Islander shall not be managed by another person without the consent of the Aboriginal or Islander and that any consent so given, whether given before or after the commencement of the Act, may be withdrawn at any time. The purpose of Clause 6 of the Bill is to deal with those provisions of the Queensland legislation that authorise persons to enter the premises of an Aboriginal or Islander for certain purposes. The clause provides that it is not to be possible for a person to enter the premises of an Aboriginal or Islander without his consent unless, if the premises were not situated on a reserve, the entry would not be unlawful. The purpose of the provision is to put an Aboriginal and Islander in the same position in this matter as a person outside a reserve.
Clause 7 deals with legal proceedings. It provides that an Aboriginal or Islander is to be entitled to be legally represented in proceedings for an offence before an Aboriginal or Island court. The present Queensland law permits representation only with the consent of the court. Clause 7 also deals with the question of appeals from Aboriginal and Island courts in criminal proceedings. It will have the effect of preventing an Aboriginal or Islander from being convicted by such a court of an offence against regulations or bylaws made under the legislation unless a right of appeal exists in the matter to a superior court. The present Queensland law provides merely for an appeal to a district officer and to a visiting justice. The purpose of clause 8 is to deal with provisions of by-laws under the Queensland legislation which provide a system of compulsory labour. The by-laws provide that all able-bodied persons over the age of 15 years residing on the reserve shall, unless otherwise determined by the manager of the reserve, perform such work as is directed by the manager or person authorised by the manager. Clause 8 provides that an Aboriginal or Islander on a reserve is not to be required to comply with any direction to perform work unless the direction is given in relation to the performance of reasonable community obligations or unless the work is in relation to an obligation that the Aboriginal would be obliged to perform if the direction were given outside the reserve.
Clause 9 deals with terms and conditions of employment. It provides that Aborigines or Islanders in Queensland are not to be employed on terms and conditions of employment that are less favourable than those applicable to other employees. Queensland laws with respect to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders contain provisions relating to the employment of Aborigines and Islanders in accordance with the provisions of awards, but these provisions only apply outside a reserve. There is also a provision which provides that an Aboriginal who is an aged, infirm or slow worker may be paid less than the basic wage or minimum wage prescribed by the award. This provision applies only to Aborigines and does not apply generally to persons in the work force. The provisions of the Bill are not intended to replace the whole of the Queensland legislation with respect to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. They are intended to remove only elements of this legislation that are inconsistent with what the Australian Government regards as basic civil rights to be enjoyed by all Australians, without regard to race or colour. The provisions that the Bill will supersede are quite contrary to the principles of equality and dignity contained in the United Nations Charter and in the other international instruments that I have described. They should form no part of Australian law and ought to be removed.
Honourable members will be aware that this Bill when introduced into the Senate contained additional provisions relating to entry on to reserves and conduct on reserves. Against the wishes of the Government these clauses were deleted. It is a legal opinion that the absence of such provisions would prevent Australia meeting its obligations to United Nations decisions. The Bill as passed by the Senate leaves intact the present Queensland law which provides that, subject to certain exceptions, a permit must be obtained to enter a reserve. This means, for example, that Aborigines and Islanders are unable to visit their relatives on reserves unless they apply for, and are granted, a permit to enter the reserve. It is the Government’s intention to reintroduce the provision ensuring that it not be necessary for an Aboriginal or Islander to obtain a permit to enter a reserve. It has been suggested that this is an attempt to throw the reserves wide open to anybody. This is not so. What is objectionable in the existing Queensland Acts is the power they give to Queensland officials and councils to discriminate between one Aboriginal or Islander and another, allowing one on to the reserves but not allowing another. Elsewhere in Australia, Aborigines have a right to enter Aboriginal reserves but in Queensland not only do they have no title to those reserves but they must obtain a permit before being allowed on to them.
The other clause deleted in the Senate and which the Government intends to reintroduce, provides that an Aboriginal or Islander is not to be penalised by reason only that he has conducted himself in a way that is not to the satisfaction of an authority or person appointed under Queensland law, if his conduct was not unreasonable. The purpose of this provision is to supersede such provisions as regulation 14 of the Aborigines Regulations, in its application to Aborigines, which provides that a person authorised to be on a reserve shall conduct himself properly and to the satisfaction of the Aboriginal Council and manager or district officer of a reserve. The standard of conduct now required is at the discretion of persons in authority who have, in effect, the power to arbitrarily eject individuals from reserves. It is intended that this power should only be able to be exercised where an individual’s conduct is unreasonable. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hunt) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr Hayden) agreed to:
That the amendments be considered in Committee of the Whole House forthwith.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Senate’s amendment No. 1-
Leave out clause 22.
Senate’s amendment No. 2-
Leave out clause 23.
Senate’s amendment No. 3-
Leave out clause 26.
Senate’s amendment No. 4-
Leave out clause 27.
Senate’s amendment No. 5-
Leave out clause 28.
Senate’s amendment No. 6-
Leave out clause 29.
Senate’s amendment No. 7-
Leave out clause 30.
Senate’s amendment No. 8-
Leave out clause 32.
Senate’s amendment No. 9-
Leave out clause 36.
Section 9 1 of the Principal Act is amended-
Senate’s amendment No. 10-
Leave out paragraph (b).
– I move:
That the amendments be agreed to.
This Bill was passed by the House of Representatives and was referred to the Senate, where a number of key and important provisions were rejected. The Senate’s amendments, now before the Committee, embody the rejection of those key and important provisions. The Government accepts those parts of the Bill which have been agreed to by the Senate-better half a loaf than none. Those parts which have been agreed to by the Senate relate to amendments necessary to allow the more proper operations of the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act; to allow for the provision of certain medical and surgical aids and appliances; and part of a proposal in the Bill relating to friendly societies, allowing dependants to benefit from friendly societies of which their parents are members. Unfortunately, a proposal to allow existing friendly societies with restricted approval to expand their operations so that they can fully provide dispensing services under the National Health Act was rejected by the Senate.
The key parts of the Bill which were rejected represent a severe setback in the attempt by this Parliament to establish protection of people’s rights. The people in this instance are people who are contributors to health insurance funds. The point has been properly taken by some of the major national inquiries into health insurance funds in this country that consumers do not have representation on open funds, and accordingly there is a bounden duty incumbent upon a government to ensure the protection of the community’s rights in the operation of those funds. That, shortly stated, was all that was being sought by the amendments embodied in this Bill relating to health insurance funds and which have been rejected by the Senate. They were not amendments which are essential to the introduction of Medibank- the universal health insurance program which will become operative on 1 July this year. They were amendments which are consistent with the recommendations of the Nimmo committee of inquiry into health insurance set up by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government at a time when the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) was the Minister for Health, and they are consistent with recommendations from the major investigation carried out by the Senate into health insurance, among other things, in this country.
It is a shame that the blind, passionate, political prejudice of the Opposition has allowed it, in its obstructionist way, bluntly to oppose these amendments. If the Opposition believes that it has at least a sporting chance of being a national government in the future, it is these sorts of amendments which would have increased greatly the effectiveness with which it could have administered health insurance through private funds in this country. Such amendments would have to be put into effect if the Opposition believes that it is going to establish or re-establish a system of private health insurance in some way similar to the way in which it operates now.
Frankly I do not believe that that can be achieved.
In any case, looking at the principle of the matters which were before the Senate, which the Senate rejected and which are now before the House again- we accept them as deletions from the Bill to allow at least some advantages to be achieved for the community- these proposals were consistent not only with the findings of the Nimmo Committee and not only with the recommendations of the Senate Committee of Inquiry, but also indeed with statements made by the honourable member for Barker when he was the Minister for Health in a previous government.
The sections of the Bill which were rejected by the Senate referred among other things to the transfer of funds between medical and hospital funds conducted by one organisation. Speaking in this House at the time when this Bill was initially introduced by me, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) in responding to my statement saw some sort of sinister plot in this proposal. He argued that there was no precedent for it, ignoring totally the precedent established by his own party as a government. Under the National Health Act as it stands at the moment- it was established, I repeat, by the Opposition at the time when it was a government in this country- a fund may transfer reserves from a hospital fund it conducts in one State into a hospital fund it conducts in another State. The honourable member for Hotham on that occasion argued that if we transferred reserves from a medical fund to a hospital fund, or vice versa, we would be taking money from contributors to one fund and giving it to totally different people as contributors to another fund. It is more likely that people who contribute to a given fund ‘s medical fund in one State will also be contributing to its hospital fund in the same State. That would be much more consistent with the concern which the honourable member expressed than would be the system which has been established by legislation by the Opposition as a government under which reserves in a hospital fund in one State can be transferred to another State’s hospital fund which quite clearly would have a different set of members altogether.
We propose that there should be liability of public officers for the various health insurance funds in this country. One ofthe disgraceful situations we find in private health insurance in this country is that really, with the exception of overkill legislative authority to control the funds, there is nothing available to ensure that funds behave in a proper way as directed by ministerial authority after advice by the legislatively established Registration Committee. We have a situation in which funds can, if they wish, refuse to charge contribution rates and refuse to provide benefits which are advised by the Minister. They can establish excessive levels of reserves and can, if they wish, maintain them. They can refuse to take any instruction but instructions which they themselves wish to set by their controlling committees. Indeed, we face the situation from time to time in which the only authority, the only power, that a Minister has to try to effect some sort of compliance is either to suspend or deregister the funds. In neither case, especially if they are large open funds in any given State, will the interests of the contributors be well served by doing that. Of course, those funds are well aware of this. Not only I but also my predecessors in previous governments have had extreme difficulty with these open funds. Senator Greenwood, for instance, had at least one major confrontation with the private health insurance funds and he was in a very difficult situation because of the absence of effective legislative enforcement authority. Similarly the honourable member for Barker, whether or not he cares to remember it, on several occasions had confrontations with the funds. In all these confrontations the best interests of the contributors, members of the community, cannot be guaranteed because of the weaknesses of the National Health Act.
I think it ought to be put on the record, too, why the National Health Act is so defective. It was drawn up through lengthy sittings and in consultation with representatives of the private health insurance funds. So it was more or less the sort of Act that they wanted. Accordingly, while if reflects very generously the sorts of interests that they had in mind, it does not reflect effectively the interests ofthe contributors in the community. There is a need to establish in these mattersthis would have been established under the amendments proposed in this Bill but rejected by the Senate- the priority of Australian law over State and Territory law. We have the situation, for instance, in the State of Victoria where the Victorian statistician may give certain advice to the State Government and that advice may be passed on to the health insurance funds. They in turn, obliged by State law, set certain contribution rates. At the same time the Australian Government may give a direction that a different level of contribution and a different level of benefit should be established. We have this irreconcilable situation of conflict and, at law, I understand that both directions can he upheld.
As a layman I find it a most curious sort of situation. That is the sort of problem with which we have been confronted. It is exactly the same sort of problem with which a future Liberal-Country Party Government would be confronted at some time, whether it was administering a reestablished private health insurance fund or administering them in the fringe areas in which they expected to operate, namely, in the medical field or, in the area of private insurance, in the hospital field.
The proposals in this Bill which have been rejected by the Senate would have ensured that the reasonable and proper directions of the Minister were followed. That would have established an arrangement under which excess reserves could have been progressively reduced by transferring those excess reserves so as to reduce special account liability which has to be borne by the Government. Special account is a system whereby people with pre-existing ailments in certain situations of long term chronic illness can have the cost of their medical treatment and hospital expenses transferred across as a liability to be borne completely by the Australian Government. It is estimated that this year the Australian Government will be outlaying $84m for this purpose. I quote that figure as an indication of the very high level of financial liability which the Australian Government has to carry through this system. Indeed, if it were not for special accounts, so generously provided by the Australian Government, contribution, rates to hospital insurance with the private funds would increase by at least 20 per cent again. It seems reasonable to me that instead of carrying these excessive reserves- there is no justification for them; the excess reserves situation has been condemned by major national inquiries, some of which I have mentioned- it would be far better to transfer that sort of money across to reduce the Australian Government’s liability, a liability which has to be borne by Australian taxpayers.
The amendments rejected by the Senate also provided for a system of investigation, for instance, where a fund looked as though it may fail. The investigation would be carried out by a properly accredited inspector. Furthermore, there was provision for a judical role to establish whether a fund should be wound up or whether its operation should be continued and the circumstances in which that continued operation should proceed. So there is a very proper and a very responsible approach to these matters. I might add that this was consistent with our approach in this Parliament when a little while ago we had conflict with 2 private health insurance funds- the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd- in the State of New South Wales. On our initiative this Government moved to establish amendments to the National Health Act so that there could be a system of appeal. There was some fiddling with the amendment proposed in this House by representatives of the Opposition in the Senate. It seems as though they may have greatly weakened the legislative effect of that amendment, and right now the authority of the Supreme Court of New South Wales to make decisions under that amendment is being challenged in the Court of Appeal in New South Wales by a contributor member of one of those funds. I think it is worth mentioning- this relates back to something I said earlier- the capacity of the funds to ignore totally, if they wish, the reasonable directions of the Minister. Honourable members would remember that the HCF and the MBF sought an increase of about $ 1.40 a week in their contribution rates for private health insurance. Because there was some dispute between the funds and myself we did, as I have mentioned, seek to have an amendment made to the National Health Act so that there could be a system of appeal. As I have indicated and consistently shown, we abide by the decisions of the umpire. We have certainly done that repeatedly in the case where a private independent umpire has been set up to determine medical fees. I wish that the people on the other side of this disputationthe medical profession in that case- would equally adhere to the decision of the independent umpire.
The decision of the Supreme Court of New South Wales was to uphold the application of the funds. But the funds then immediately sought to increase their contribution rates above the level they had originally sought, above $2.14 a week, to $2.66 a week for private ward hospital insurance. Their argument was that they wanted to establish some retrospectivity of income. Our calculations showed that this could not be justified at all in the case of the MBF. The MBF would have accumulated $12m. We proposed that it should charge $2.34 a week- which is 20c a week more than the $2.14 which it had sought and which had been upheld by the New South Wales Supreme Court. This would have allowed the fund to accumlate reserves of nearly $6m. There is a great difference between that amount and what it wanted to accumulate. The final result, I understand, is that the funds have gone back to $2.14 a week but are claiming a lump sum retrospective payment from their members. Mr Justice Sheppard made it quite clear in his decision that his court had no legislative authority to give such a decision. So of course it is clear that the funds are acting illegally. But this does not deter these funds. I mention this as an illustration of the problems that arise with these private funds and the fact that the only authority available to ensure that the public interest is protected is over-kill. To either suspend or deregister the funds and leave them with an enormous accumulation of reserves seems scarcely a rational sort of action to undertake because then there would be absolutely no control over them at all and goodness knows how they would disburse that rather excessive accumulation of reserves. All that was proposed in these amendments which have been rejected by the Senate was to introduce proper methods to regulate the operation of private health insurance in this country, to regulate it according to the reasonable findings of the Senate Committee of Inquiry and Nimmo Committee.
I am drawing to a conclusion because I do not want to delay the deliberation of the House on other matters. I shall quote from the report of the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs on the matter of protection of contributor interest. I relate the remarks to proposed new section 36 of the new Part VIA of the National Health Act as originally proposed by me but rejected by the Senate. Paragraph 163 of the Senate Committee’s report said this:
If it is believed that the suspension and cancellation powers -
Which I was talking about a few seconds ago- are too strong for appropriate supervision of registered organisations, the Committee recommends that immedate action be taken to make available, by law, more appropriate powers. This recommendation does not imply the accession of excessive powers of Government domination over the internal affairs of registered organisations. It does imply that the Government has a real responsibility to act in the interests of the effectiveness of voluntary health insurance and of the contributors to the organisations which form such a major part of it
Paragraph 164 states:
Contributors to funds are not in the same basic situation as share-holders in a normal company, and the Committee was disturbed to learn how little, if any, contributor participation or representation exists in relation to funds. It is logical, therefore, that the Commonwealth Government, which, in 1968-69 outlaid $135.6m of taxpayers’ money as medical and hospital insurance benefits should act in a supervisory way, to ensure that contributors’ interests are protected.
Recommendation 37 of the Nimmo Committee report states:
That organisation and their officers be subject to penalties for any failures to comply with the conditions imposed by and under the National Health Act.
That is what we are trying to follow. We were even trying to follow the honourable member for Barker who, as Minister for Health on 4 March 1970, made this statement:
In addition to the new measures which I have just mentioned, the Government is considering the introduction of legislation providing for penalties to be imposed on funds ‘ officers for serious neglect of their responsibilities, and enabling the replacement of funds’ officers by appointed managers in certain circumstances, as proposed in the Nimmo Committee’s recommendation 37.
So it is clear that what was proposed in this Bill was consistent with the Nimmo Committee, with the Senate and even with the honourable member for Barker. But in the intervening period between 1970 and when this Government was elected in 1972, the honourable member for Barker and the Government of that period suddenly became exceedingly and, indeed, excessively amenable to the point of view of the private health insurance funds. The interests of conributors were submerged. I guess the honourable member for Barker finds himself flattered when people who are in control of the large open private heath insurance funds refer to him as a good bloke, as an understanding bloke and as a man who knows what it is all about from the private health insurance funds’ point of view. I guess he feels flattered. But I think he would feel more flattered and more satisfied and more achieving if he knew the contributors were getting a better deal, that their interests had been looked after and that they, instead of minority powerful groups controlling private health insurance funds, were saying those things about him. It was in an endeavour to protect the contributors’ interests that I proposed these amendments. It is blind opposition of the members of the Liberal and Country Parties in this House and in the Senate, their total commitment to the private health insurance funds and their indifference to the rights of contributors which has caused them to obstruct the passage of those amendments which would have been so crucial to the effective administration of private health insurance.
– If people in the funds have been saying those nice things about me they have not said them to me. They might have said them to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), but I am not aware of anything of that sort being said. I start by saying that we of course applaud the Government’s decision to accept the amendments of the Senate. As my colleague, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), indicated- he is overseas at present, otherwise he would be speaking in this debate- in this chamber when the Bill was originally brought in, we support those parts of the measure which were left intact by the Senate. So we welcome this move by the Government. But I must say this: What the Minister does not seem to understand when he talks about my attitude and the attitude of the Ministers in a LiberalCountry Party Government is that we believed in voluntary health insurance. We were interested in making the voluntary health insurance work. That is why we set up the Nimmo Committee. That is why in 1970 we implemented a large number of the Nimmo Committee’s recommendations. But to relate a situation in relation to a government which believed in voluntary health insurance to the situation today where we have a Minister and a government who are dedicated to destroying voluntary health insurance, is absolutely absurd.
The Minister for Social Security asked us to believe that he was motivated by good intentions in introducing this legislation and that he was doing so only in the interests of contributors. How can he expect anybody to believe that when, as I said, the measure was brought into the Parliament for the first time in the dying hours of the voluntary health scheme which for years, the Labor Party has been dedicated to destroying? It has sought for many years to control and destroy the funds and the people who run them. It has been denigrating them consistently. How can the Minister expect us to believe that he and his Government have anything but the most sinister motives in introducing measures which are designed to further control and to bring under the thumb of the Minister and the Government the voluntary health insurance funds?
The Minister said that the measures were consistent with the Nimmo Committee’s recommendations. Of course this is the way the Minister so often operates. He quoted the one measure- the most innocuous measure in the Bill that was rejected by the Senate- which was recommended by the Nimmo Committee. What about the other recommendations? When the Minister shows me a recommendation . in the Nimmo Committee report for this daylight robbery in transferring the reserves from the hospital funds to the medical funds, and when he shows me a recommendation in the Nimmo Committee report which involves the fiddling around of the special account and the pushing onto contributors of the obligations which had previously been accepted by the Government in respect of special account contributors, I will believe him, but the Minister cannnot show me such recommendations and what he says about those measures is untrue. I will not go over the ground any further. It has already been discussed in debate. I need only reiterate what I said earlier- that it is a different ball game now. We have a government hostile to voluntary health insurance and it must expect that any measure brought in in the dying hours of the scheme will meet with opposition. The Minister has been boasting once a week that this new compulsory, monolithic scheme will commence on 1 July. He has brought in measures in the dying hours to further effect his control. What he wants to do, of course, is to completely take over the voluntary health insurance funds and to use their reserves, their assets, and their personnel to ease the transition of his compulsory health scheme which we know is opposed by the Australian people. That is his motive and that is why we oppose it.
One other matter to which I should like to refer concerns the way the Government has gone about this matter. As I have suggested, it is a cynical and a clumsy attempt to destroy the voluntary health funds for the Government’s own purposes. The Minister’s method was to combine in one Bill these measures related to voluntary health insurance with certain welfare measures which have a strong emotive content, including provisions for benefits for handicapped children and for the sufferers of kidney disease. These have nothing to do with the measures relating to voluntary health insurance. Indeed, as I understand it, some of these measures are the responsibility of the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham), yet this legislation is to be administered by the Minister for Social Security. What an extraordinary situation. Matters involving two different Ministers have been introduced in the one conglomerate Bill. It is easy to see that the expectation was that we would be coerced by the emotional overtones of these measures and the political pressures which would be brought to bear as a result of them. We would be coerced into accepting the Government’s measures to take over and destroy the voluntary health insurance funds. Well, it did not work. All that has happened as a result of this cynical exercise is that these people- that is the beneficiaries of the handicapped children’s benefit and the sufferers from kidney disease- have been denied benefits for some months. That is what these cynical exercises by the Government have done, but the Government does not care if people suffer if it can achieve its objectives. If evidence were needed that the Labor Government is not fit to govern and that we would be justified in sending it to the people, it is contained in this exercise.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) rants about constitutional proprieties. He did so at Question Time this morning; he is always doing so. When he and his Ministers spend their whole time conniving in these cynical, contemptuous and degrading, dirty tricks such as this exercise in this measure, it degrades the Parliament and the democratic process. It springs from a belief that they can get away with anything. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) did so in the House only half an hour ago in connection with the Darwin Reconstruction Bill. It springs from the belief that one can get away with anything by substituting a public relations exercise for honest responsible government in which the people of Australia are taken into one’s confidence. By not doing so, the Government demonstrates the contempt in which it holds not only this Parliament but also the intelligence of the people of Australia. I say thank God for the Senate when we have a government such as this. Without the Senate I believe this Government would have completely destroyed democracy in Australia by this time.
– I should like to take a couple of minutes to reply to the synthetic anger of the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) expressed by him on behalf of the people who put up the money for Liberal Party election propaganda -
– Who are they?
-The Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd and similar organisations. I should like to deal with 2 points specifically. Firstly, the reason why provisions related to handicapped children and sufferers of kidney disease were included in the same Bill. These matters, of course, were originally contained in the National Health Act and the Bill sought to amend that Act. At one stage the Act was administered by the honourable member for Barker, who has a very short memory not only on this matter but also on others. More importantly, I think I should reply to the honourable member’s statement accusing us of daylight robbery by trying to transfer funds from reserves between hospitals and medical funds. May I put to him-I was going to say as a reasonable person, but I certainly have not found him to be so- as an almost reasonable person and to other members of the Opposition what is happening at present in New South Wales. The Medical Benefits Fund is claiming the alleged arrears for the hospital fund contributions. For example, some people have paid both medical fund contributions and hospital fund contributions to 28 February. Hospital fund contributions have been raised retrospectively to 1 August last year by the Medical Benefits Fund. The Medical Benefits Fund then says to these people: ‘You are financial not to 28
February, but let us say until 1 January.’ The honourable member will agree with me that as the only charges that had been increased were the hospital fund charges and not the medical fund charges, these people should still be covered by the medical fund for the original time and for the hospital fund for the shorter time. But the funds are not doing that. They are adding up the contributions, as they always do, and are making the period shorter for both the medical fund and the hospital fund even though they have not increased the charges for one of the funds. I think the proposition is ridiculous. The funds have been completely dishonest in the way in which they have stood over people, requiring them to pay extra contributions and to meet arrears. As the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has pointed out in the House, a court case is pending- I understand that it is listed for 14 February, later this week- in which the validity and the power of the HCF and the MBF in New South Wales to charge and collect not only higher contributions but also arrears following increases in contributions which are backdated will be challenged. I appeal to the people of New South Wales who belong to these funds to wait for the outcome of this court case and not to be conned by the funds into paying large sums in arrears. I will not participate further in the debate because I know that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is due in a short time to make an important statement.
-The Committee is discussing amendments which the Senate has made to the National Health Bill (No. 2 ) 1974. As the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) has made clear, the Senate once again has shown that, far from being obstructive of democracy, it is safeguarding democracy in this country by holding up hasty legislation. It is serving precisely the purpose which the Senate was intended to fulfil. It is about time that those who have an interest in democracy stop knocking the Senate in this most desirable aspect of its functions.
Here again we have a classic case. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden)- I pay him credit- and the Government have accepted the wisdom of what the Senate has done with respect to this Bill. What the Senate did was to sort out the good from the bad in the Bill. It discarded that which was bad and kept that which was good in that legislation. That which was bad has been mentioned by my colleague and by others. That which was bad relates fundamentally to part ofthe Labor Government’s desire to destroy the non-government health funds in this country in pursuit of its objective of a socialised health scheme in which all Australians would ultimately participate.
The Minister for Social Security made some comments about the emotionalism of this debate, but he himself was somewhat prey to this when he talked about one of the disgraceful features of the private health funds. I think that in a way that single word he used when describing the non-government health funds gave him away. He did not say ‘unfortunate’ or ‘worrying’; he said ‘disgraceful’. That is his Government’s approach to the non-government health funds. They are seen by the Government as disgraceful. That is why the Government has set out constantly to discredit them. That is why in the Bill that the Senate has amended we felt it was necessary to take away from the Minister powers which he was seeking to give him ultimate control over the non-government health funds. If he believes they are so disgraceful no honourable member could look very happily at the sorts of power which he sought in the Bill which the Senate was sensible enough to carve up in this fashion.
I do have some sympathy with the Minister’s point of view about the bluntness of the weapon of total deregistration of the funds. It does seem to me to be an extraordinarily blunt weapon to use where there is a disagreement between the funds and the government. Under circumstances in which the government of the day was not making war on the non-government funds, I would be perfectly prepared to countenance legislation which enabled arrangements to be made between the government and the funds which gave the Minister sufficient powers to ensure that what was being done was in the public interest. But in the prevailing debate, which is about the way the total health scheme of Australia is to be conducted, I am afraid that to take such a position would be a luxury.
The Minister was simply seeking powers to enable him to destroy the non-government health funds which had, along with all other organs of the medical and health care professions of this country, refused to countenance his health scheme. That is the crux of this matter as it has been the crux of so many of the debates on health which have taken the time of this Parliament and which, indeed, have taken the time of this country for so long. The Opposition remains adamantly opposed to Labor’s socialist health scheme. We remain adamantly opposed to Labor’s health scheme for a number of reasons. Not the least of those reasons is the fact that the health scheme holds out the illusion of free medical and hospital care, not just for the very poor but for all Australians. Labor’s scheme would undoubtedly reduce the quality and increase the cost of health care in this country.
In the manner in which government is conducted Australia faces a parting of the ways between those who believe that one can go on and on expanding the public sector and those who believe that the constant emphasis upon the use of general taxation revenues and the expansion of the public sector will lead to a collapse of public service such as social welfare in this country. We in the Liberal and Country Parties take the view that what is needed in Australia is a mix of public and private expenditure in all these crucial areas of social welfare which are so near to the hearts of Australians. If the responsibility for the provision of these services is placed solely upon governments, governments simply will not find the funds to pay for them. The community will lose control over the services it is receiving and individuals will cease to have sufficient responsibility for their own care and welfare.
The whole notion that medical services can be received free of cost leads the community to use those services to the point where finally everything is incredibly costly. We believe that the Labor scheme and the action proposed by the Minister which, as I say, he has been good enough to forget today in this one respect in the face of the reality of the Senate amendment, would reduce the personal responsibility and the freedom of choice of the individual regarding doctor, fund, ward or hospital. The Government says this is not so. All these freedoms, the Government keeps assuring us, will be preserved. But such a view is an illusion, as unreal as the lure of free health care.
When the centralised bureaucracy takes control of the relationship between doctors and patients and when it absolves the patient from any responsibility to pay anything and makes its arrangements directly with doctors it will inevitably evolve bureaucratic rules and regulations for its own convenience, as all government organisations always do have. Cost controls will become difficult to administer and costs will get away from us further. If there is one issue that is going to be of crucial importance in the next generation of health care in this country it will be the control of costs. Patients will be prescribed to certain doctors who will be instructed eventually to develop patient lists. The dedicated care of health professionals will be hemmed in by government bureaucracies. Waiting lists at hospitals will lengthen. Perhaps the saddest thing of all is that those who Labor says it seeks to help will be bit hardest of all. These are the low income people who are treated in the public wards of hospitals today where they now have priority- pride of place. Under Labor’s scheme the doors of the public wards and the public hospitals will be open to all comers; all of those who can no longer afford private insurance will be knocking on the doors of those wards and asking for admittance simply because they will no longer be able to afford private hospitals or private wards.
– I rise to a point of order. The honourable member does not seem to be dealing with the contents of the legislation that is before us. He is dealing with a completely different Bill which established Medibank. What he feels is likely to happen after Medibank is established is about as accurate as what he felt would happen when he challenged his own Leader in his party room and is about as relevant.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)The amendments do cover a variety of matters.
-The point is, Mr Deputy Chairman, that this is highly relevant because the Minister has assured us that he seeks to see the private health funds continue and we believe that the Bill which has been amended by the Senate makes it clear that ultimately the Minister seeks to destroy the private health funds if they do not serve his purpose. That is why the remarks I have made are so relevant. The private health funds must be seen in the context of Labor’s aim, which is to destroy non-government health insurance in this country and to destroy, therefore, patients’ freedom of choice- the choice of funds, of doctors and so on.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Whitlam, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Governor-General dissolved the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously on 10 April 1974. Elections for both Houses were held on 18 May. The new Parliament met for the first time on 9 July. Under the Constitution the terms of service of present senators are taken to begin on 1 July preceding the day of their election, the places of half of them will become vacant at the expiration of 3 years from the beginning of their term and the election to fill their places shall be made within one year before the places are to become vacant. In brief, the next election for the Senate must take place at some time between July 1975 and June 1976. Under the Constitution, however, the House of Representatives shall continue for 3 years from the first meeting of the House, that is, the next election for this House need not take place until July 1977.
This Bill proposes to alter the Constitution to ensure that Senate elections are always held at the same time as elections for the House of Representatives. A similar Bill was introduced by the Government in November 1973 and, after it had twice failed to pass in the Senate, was submitted to referendum on 18 May 1974 in accordance with the second paragraph of section 128 of the Constitution. The proposal failed only narrowly to obtain an overall majority of the votes. Over3½ million voters endorsed the proposed law and slightly fewer than 3¾ million voted no. The proposed law received a majority of yes votes in the most populous State, New South Wales, and was only narrowly lost in Victoria and South Australia. The proposal is clearly one that has great appeal to the electorate. My Government is of the view that it is of such importance and merit that it should again be put to the people.
Subject only to necessary alterations in respect ofthe transitional provisions, which I shall mention shortly, the Bill is identical with the Bill I introduced in November 1973. It gives effect to the principle recommended by the all party Joint Parliamentary Committees on Constitutional Review in 1958 and 1959 that the terms of senators should be changed from fixed terms of 6 years to 2 terms ofthe House of Representatives so that the elections for both Houses of our Parliament would take place simultaneously. That was the view of all but one member of the Joint Committees on Constitutional Review. The Committees were set up by our predecessors- in 1956 on the motion in this House of the then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies as he then was, and reconstituted in 1958 on the motion of the then Leader of the House, Mr Holt, and reconstituted again in 1959 on the motion of the AttorneyGeneral and now Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick.
The constitutional amendment now proposed will give senators a term of service equal to 2 terms of the House of Representatives. The principle of the rotation of senators will be preserved at each House of Representatives election; be it at the normal 3-year interval or sooner, there will be an election for half the Senate. As in the case of the previous Bill, there are 2 exceptions to the provision that Senators have terms of service equal to 2 terms of the House of Representatives. These are: Firstly, in the event of a double dissolution, the normal term of a senator can be cut short, as is the case now; secondly, the terms of existing senators will be changed to provide for short term senators, who would normally retire on 30 June 1976, to have their terms extended until the next House of Representatives election, which would normally be held in 1977, and long term senators, who would normally retire on 30 June 1979, to have their terms extended to the second House of Representatives election, which would normally be held in 1980. Thus existing senators, subject of course to there not being an earlier double dissolution or an earlier House of Representatives election, would have effective terms of approximately 3 years in the case of present short term senators and 6 years in the case of the existing long term senators. This transitional provision would thus give the senators concerned terms of service that are generally in line with those envisaged by the Constitution in section 13.
The Government would hope that on this occasion the Opposition will treat this Bill with the objectivity that marked the consideration of this difficult problem in the Joint Committees on Constitutional Review during the 1950s. The Government hopes therefore that the Opposition would not only support the Bill on this occasion but also will refrain from misleading the electors, as indeed it did when it opposed the proposed law in the 1974 referendums. The Opposition claimed in 1974 that ‘this referendum will make the Senate a rubber stamp of a socialist, centralist Labor Government’ and that ‘the Government is being deceitful- the question you will vote on does not explain the real proposed law’. This could not be further from the truth. This proposal involves no derogation of the authority or responsibility of the Senate. There are, however, major benefits to the Parliament and the people; most importantly it will assist in reflecting in both Houses simultaneously the peoples’ will, so that the government of the day and the Parliament may get on with their job.
Before the Constitutional Review Committees recommended this reform there had only been 3 occasions on which an election had been held for one House alone- for the House of Representatives in 1929 and 1954 and for the Senate in 1953. Since the Committee’s final report there have been 9 national elections. Elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives were held simultaneously on only two of those occasions- in December 1961 and in May 1974. In between, there were four separate elections for the House of Representatives and three separate elections for the Senate. Australia may have had fewer governments than some other advanced countries but it certainly has had more elections than any. They have been too frequent for the good working of the Parliament, too frequent for the people, and too costly. It has been estimated by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer that the holding of simultaneous elections for the House of Representatives and half the Senate could result in savings of up to approximately 90 per cent on the cost of a Senate election held separately. Opposition support for this Bill will, therefore, assist in reducing government expenditure and for this reason alone I look to the support of the Opposition.
The intention of the men who drafted our Constitution and the expectation of those who voted for it was that every 3 years there should be an election for the House of Representatives and half the Senate. No supervening principle has emerged in favour of multiplying and separating elections for the Australian Parliament. There is only one way in which simultaneous elections of the Senate and the House of Representatives can be assured at all times and that is by the constitutional amendment that is proposed in this Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ellicott) adjourned.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Whitlam, and read a first time.
The honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), who is taking this Bill on behalf of the Opposition, suggests that I might at the same time seek leave to present a Bill to limit further the matters in which special leave of appeal from the High Court of Australia to Her Majesty in Council may be asked. If leave is given to me and I present that Bill I could give a second reading in relation to both Bills at the same time.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr WHITLAM I thank the House.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Whitlam, and read a first time.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, in 1900 John Quick and Robert Garran- later Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garran- who were the first, and who are among the most distinguished, commentators on the Constitution, described the High Court of Australia as ‘The crown and apex, not only of the judicial system of the Commonwealth, but of the judicial systems of the States as well. ‘
It is true that, for reasons peculiar to the circumstances of the time, the Constitution did not initially and automatically close off the avenue of appeals from Australian Courts, including the High Court, to Her Majesty in Council. But the Constitution gave the plainest of indications that the High Court was expected to become the final court of appeal from all Australian courts in all Australian matters. The Constitution itself began the process. The Parliaments of the first decade of Federation continued the process. In 1968, this Parliament passed an Act which was suported by the Australian Labor Party and which was described by its sponsor as an historic step towards the establishment of the High Court as the final court of appeal for Australia. Its sponsor was the then Attorney-General, the Honourable Nigel Bowen, Q.C. He is now the Chief Judge in Equity of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and from his decisions in wholly State matters an appeal still lies to the Privy Council. Those who were here in 1968 or have since read the Hansard will discern a close resemblance between the views I express and the case presented by Mr Bowen, as he then was, in support of the Bill that he had introduced on behalf of the coalition Government.
The passage in 1968 of the Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act has brought us to the following position:
Appeals from the High Court in constitutional and other federal matters have been abolished.
Appeals from the High Court involving the socalled inter se questions cannot be brought to the Privy Council without a certificate of the High Court, and no certificate has been grantd since 1912.
Appeals from territory Supreme Courts have been abolished.
Appeals from all State courts in constitutional and federal matters have been abolished.
Appeals may still be brought to the Privy Council from State courts in wholly state matters.
Provision still exists, under legislation of 1 833, for Her Majesty to be petitioned to refer questions for the advisory opinion of the Privy Council.
Now, almost 75 years from the enactment of the Constitution, Parliament is being asked to take the 2 remaining steps needed to make the High Court of Australia the final court of appeal for Australia in Australian matters.
There are 2 Bills. One Bill- the Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Bill- takes to its logical conclusion, in so far as appeals from the High Court are concerned, the legislation passed in 1968. The effect of the Bill is to preclude appeals from the High Court in matters of a wholly State character. Those appeals were not touched by the legislation of 1968. The Australian Labor Party endeavoured, on a motion by the late Senator Sam Cohen, Q.C, to have the 1968 Bill extended in the way that we now propose. The Government of the time did not accept the amendment- not because it did not agree with it but because, as I apprehend, it considered that there might be some litigants from some States who might want to avoid the High Court and take appeals direct to the Privy Council. I need say no more on that Bill. I believe it will have the unanimous support of all honourable members.
I believe also that the second Bill, the Privy Council (Appeals Abolition) Bill 1975, will be given unanimous support. I want honourable members to understand that this Bill, like the first Bill, is a Bill devoted to making the High Court Australia’s final court of appeal. In 1973 1 introduced a Bill by the same title and in substantially the same terms as the Bill under the consideration. At that time, and subsequently, the Bill was wrongly represented as an anti-State Bill- as a Bill to erode the constitutions of the States. Mr Deputy Speaker, Neither the Bill of 1 973 nor the Bill I have now introduced is anything of the kind. Any dispute between the Federal Government and a State government or any dispute between any of the State governments in constitutional matters has to go to the High
Court. It cannot go beyond the High Court unless it involves an inter se question and even then only with a Certificate of the High Court. No such certificate has been given since 1912.
Let us be quite frank, Mr Deputy Speaker, about the reasons for the opposition to what this Bill sets out to achieve. There are those who apparently will resort to all kinds of devices to bypass the High Court. It is time that all this was brought into the open and that the people of Australia should no longer be misled.
The High Court of Australia is no ordinary court. From the beginning- that is to say, by force of the Constitution itself- the High Court was given jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from the Supreme Courts of the States. The High Court was not confined, as is the Supreme Court of the United States of America, to federal or constitutional cases. Time and time again the quality of the justices of the High Court and the excellence of their legal learning have been extolled by English-speaking lawyers- indeed, by members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Last year the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham- the second Lord Hailsham of that name- made a visit to Australia for the specific purpose of attending the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Charter of Justice of New South Wales, by which the Supreme Court of that State was constituted. Lord Hailsham delivered an address in which he said:
Outside academic legal circles, I suppose I am as well qualified as anyone to judge the quality of lawyers from different parts of the common law world. I have practised in the Privy Council since before the war, and I have now sat judicially both in the House of Lords and in the Privy Council in cases in which I have had to compare and cite authorities from Britain, the United States, Ireland, Canada, Australia and the Caribbean. I put Australian lawyers, as epitomised for instance in the judges of the High Court, as second to none and I mean this meed of praise in absolute terms, that is, making no allowance whatever for the relative size in the populations of the countries concerned.
Addressing the Sixteenth Australian Legal Convention in Melbourne in 1971 Lord Diplock had this to say:
Today, the High Court of Australia has a reputation as one of the great common law courts of the world and I should like, on this occasion, to pay a tribute to the leader of it who brought it to that high pinnacle of fame and who is still with us, Sir Owen Dixon. He will go down in history not only in this country, not only in England, but I think I can speak for Judge Wisdom in saying, in the United States, as one ofthe great illuminators ofthe common law of this century.
Only a few days ago Lord Wilberforce, sitting in the judicial committee of the Privy Council with Lord Kilbrandon and Lord Salmon, paid tribute to the late Sir Douglas Menzies. In the words of Lord Wilberforce:
His judgements in the High Court came to be very widely esteemed throughout the English-speaking world. Those of their lordships who were privileged to sit with him on the Privy Council were able to appreciate the depth of his learning and the charm of his personality.
Contrast these opinions, expressed by eminent British lawyers, with the criticisms and hesitations voiced by some Australian State politicians. At times one could be forgiven for believing that they were speaking not of an Australian but of a foreign court.
Sir Henry Bolte, when Premier of Victoria, gave as his reason for wanting to retain appeals to the Privy Council that Victoria was not satisfied with the High Court. It apparently annoyed him that the High Court intervened the day before Robert Peter Tait was to be executed in 1961 and granted a stay of execution and that as a consequence the Victorian Government had to commute Tait’s sentence of death to life imprisonment. The actions of the Queensland Premier in repeatedly asking the British Government to seek advisory opinions from the Privy Council indicate only too clearly his desire to avoid the High Court. Nothing more clearly underlines his lack of respect for the High Court. I find this all very strange. Thirteen of the thirtyone Justices who have served on the High Court were appointed from State Supreme Courts. Four of the present Justices had at one time or another served as State Supreme Court judges.
The Privy Council Appeals Abolition Bill will have the effect of abolishing appeals from Australian Courts, including courts of a State, other than the High Court. The Bill will also exclude approaches being made for advisory opinions of the Privy Council under legislation of the early 19th century- the Judicial Committee Act 1833- to which certain State Governments have endeavoured to have resort, as a means of bypassing the High Court, over the past three years. The Bill has a two-fold operation. It abolishes appeals from courts and references for advisory opinions directly by force of the Bill itself. It also requests and consents to the enactment of United Kingdom legislation for these purposes. It will be open to any State to challenge the validity of the Bill in the High Court. If the self-operating provisions are upheld that will be the end of the matter. If not, the United Kingdom Government will be asked to introduce legislation in the terms of the Westminster Bill scheduled to our Bill. I expect that it would do so.
It is necessary to get rid of the procedures for obtaining advisory opinions from the Privy Council because of the way in which certain States have endeavoured to use those procedures in order to by-pass, or to embarrass, the High Court. The procedures are contained in a United Kingdom Act of 1833. Since 1900 no attempt had ever been made to resort to them until 1972 when there was an informal approach by officials from Tasmania and Victoria seeking to know whether there was a possibility of the Government led by Mr McMahon joining with Tasmania in petitioning the Queen to refer to the Privy Council for its advisory opinion certain questions relating to rights to the seabed. Now, these were questions that were certain to come before the High Court- and in fact are presently awaiting determination by the High Court. Moreover, they were inter se questions on which no appeal could be made to the Privy Council from the High Court without the High Court’s approval.
An advisory opinion from the Privy Council could not have precluded litigation before the High Court. Any advisory opinion from the Privy Council which might have been at variance with the decision of the High Court one assumes could not have prevailed against the decision, the judgment ofthe High Court. This was not a question where governments alone would be concerned because matters concerning rights to the seabed so far have come to the High Court for decisiondecisions have been given- not at the instance of the Federal Government or of any State government, but at the instance of private citizens. Even if governments had agreed to request the British Government to recommend to the Queen of Britain that she seek an advisory opinion from the British Privy Council, it would not have precluded litigation before the High Court and an advisory opinion from the Privy Council would not have prevailed against a judgment of the High Court. My predecessor perceived immediately that the Tasmanian proposal involved the by-passing of the High Court and he indicated that the proposal had no support from his Government.
Nevertheless, in 1973 Tasmania and Queensland petitioned Her Majesty to refer the seabed questions for the Privy Council’s advisory opinion. I advised Her Majesty not to accede to the request. United Kingdom Ministers gave the same advice and, as the Queen announced when opening our Parliament on 28 February last year, she decided not to refer the questions to the Privy Council: the appropriate tribunal to determine those questions was the High Court of Australia. Last year Queensland again endeavoured to obtain an advisory opinion from the Privy Council, this time in connection with questions concerning Her Majesty’s Royal style and titles- the proposal that Her Majesty should be known as Queen of the United Kingdom, of Australia, of Queensland and so on. The Australian Government has challenged the validity of the proposed reference in the High Court. I have advised Her Majesty not to accede to Queensland’s request. There must not be 2 streams of authority. The High Court must not be by-passed.
Mr Deputy Speaker, it has been suggested that I have not consulted the States about this legislation. Let me give the House the facts. I first introduced the Privy Council Appeals Abolition Bill on 3 1 May 1973. 1 had a discussion with the Premiers on 29 June 1973. As a result of that discussion I wrote to the Premiers on 23 July and said that if all the States were to agree that appeals to the Privy Council should be abolished I would be prepared to proceed by means of a joint approach by all the Australian governments to the United Kingdom Government asking it to enact legislation abolishing appeals. I said that I made this proposal in the belief that the States were concerned with the method and not with the result. The replies from most States were disappointing and, even now, New South Wales has not replied at all. The Queensland Premier simply informed me ofthe passage of legislation by the Queensland Parliament designed to make still further provision for appeals and references to the Privy Council. This legislation had been introduced, without prior notice, after I had written to Mr Bjelke-Petersen and at a time when, as I believed, I was in consultation with him and the other Premiers. In the event, the Australian Parliament was prorogued before debate had been resumed on my Government’s Bill. I have since had discussions with the United Kingdom Prime Minister and have decided that the best course to resolve these issues is to reintroduce the Bill, which I have now done, and to give every opportunity for questions as to its validity to be raised in the High Court of Australia, in accordance with proper constitutional processes.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I have spent some time in describing the events of the past three years because I believe it is important that all honourable members should be aware of the devices that have been resorted to by some States to avoid the High Court-in 1972, 1973, 1974-and of the distortions of the Australian Government’s proposals. My concern is that this Parliament should do everything in its power to complete the process of making the High Court of Australia Aus talian final court of appeal from all Australian courts. I commend both Bills to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ellicott) adjourned.
Bill- by leave- presented by Dr J. F. Cairns, and read a first time.
– I move:
One ofthe specific platforms of policy on which this Government was elected to power- and reelected is that we would expand the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation to enable it to do its job more effectively. This Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill 1974 [No. 2] seek to give effect to this mandate. The AIDC was set up by a previous government to help finance the development and growth of Australian private enterprises in the mineral and manufacturing sectors and to secure Australian participation in the ownership and control of Australian industry. These Bills, which are now being introduced for the fourth time, are designed to remove certain unnecessary restrictions on the AIDC’s operations contained in existing legislation and to increase the ability of the AIDC to assist investment and employment in the private sector, and to facilitate ownership and control by Australians of our industries.
At no time in recent history has there been a greater need in Australia for the kind of development financing that these Bills will make possible. There is a vital need to revive private investment and create employment opportunities in the private sector. While the AIDC’s contribution in the short term can necessarily only be a limited one, it can, if it is allowed to function effectively, give an important lead to investment in the vast number of potential developments which are crying out for funds today. It is strange indeed that the Opposition has prevented the Government for a period of 18 months, from implementing policies for promoting sound industrial development and expansion in the private sector and for facilitating Australian ownership of Australian industries.
The Bills were first introduced on 30 August 1973 and passed to the Senate in October where they were referred to a select committee for inquiry and report. The committee did an excellent job and while, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, it was not able to present its report, its public hearings cleared away many of the misconceptions which surrounded this legislation. In April 1974 the Government, anxious to proceed with this important legislation, reintroduced the Bills but they were again rejected in the Senate despite the work that had been done by the committee and without any obvious reference in that rejection to that work. On 16 July 1974 the Government re-introduced the Bills for the third time in a substantially amended form. Once more the Senate rejected them. The Bills introduced today are in exactly the same form in which they were rejected by the Senate on 13 August 1974.
The Bills are the result of detailed study and refinement by Government and private business experts and incorporate amendments flowing from the hearings of the Senate committee and from discussions with the Opposition. The Bills have been extensively discussed and debated and no substantial objections to them were raised. The Government re-introduces the Bills, therefore, in the full expectation that they will receive a quick passage.
Let me remind the House of the main features of the proposed legislation and its particular objectives. Fundamentally, the provisions of these Bills retain completely the original character of the AIDC as a business enterprise run by businessmen. The AIDC Board includes some of the leaders of Australian business, most of them appointed by the previous Government and re-appointed by the present Government. The Bills continue to provide for the AIDC to run on sound economic lines, but directed towards nationally desirable industry and resources development and towards helping to give Australian companies the financial strength to be able to share rather more in the ownership and control.
A major change in the AIDC’s functions proposed in the AIDC Bill is to make the securing of maximum practical Australian ownership and control of industry an equal primary function of the AIDC along with financing industry development. Practically every Australian proclaims these as desirable objectives, but the simple fact is that the AIDC, in pursuing these objectives is unduly and unnecessarily hindered by many unrealistic legislative restrictions and anomalies which operate in practice in ways which certainly could never have been intended by the Government which introduced the original AIDC legislation. I point out that the original amending Bills which were designed to remove these legislative restrictions were in fact drawn up by staff of the AIDC itself as a result of experience under the previous Government and I would imagine that the attitude of the Minister then responsible would have been that he agreed with those changes.
A major objective of the AIDC Bill is to remove these unnecessary hindrances. Let me instance just a few examples. Under its present law the AIDC, because it is limited to financing manufacturing and mining companies, could finance the construction of a mine railway if it is to be owned by the mining company itself but not if it is to be owned and run by a separate specialist company. The same is true of any other ancillary activity. Again, the AIDC is at times unable to provide as much finance as a project needs because to do so might put the AIDC in a position where it could be said to be able to exercise control. The AIDC cannot now use its project funds to participate in a joint venture because each member of a joint venture, no matter how small his participation, is technically a ‘principal’ in his own right and is in full ‘control ‘ of his percentage of the venture.
The AIDC is currently bound to source its borrowings principally outside Australia regardless of whether this is good or bad for the Australian economy of the future. So when the requirements of monetary policy make it desirable to restrict or forbid overseas borrowings, the AIDC is still bound by this rule. The AIDC, which was set up for the declared intention of promoting Australian ownership and control, is not allowed to use its project funds to buy back existing foreign owned shares in enterprises in Australia.
Anomalies and restrictions of the kind I have mentioned are, of course, illogical and unnecessary. It is understandable that their effects may not have been foreseen when the original AIDC legislation was drafted, but once they had emerged in practical operating experience any responsible government that was serious about the role and objectives for which the AIDC was founded would have had to take steps to correct them. I point out those corrections. The amendments to the Act which were provided in the original Bills were provisions that were designed by the staff of the AIDC itself during the time of the previous Government and would undoubtedly have emerged in any case. I would imagine that had the previous Government managed to retain office in the last 2 elections and was now the government considering the powers of the AIDC it would be proposing amendments similar to the ones that I have just mentioned and the others that appear in the amending Bill.
There has been much talk about the AIDC being put in a privileged position by these Bills.
However, the matters about which there has been most discussion are proposals mentioned in connection with the AIDC but not contained in the Bills. These proposals, if decided upon by the Government, would require separate legislation when they would be subject to the specific and detailed examination of the Parliament. Let me keep that quite separate. The case that has been made about the special privileges of AIDC -in my opinion, they are not significant- do not come into operation as a result of the passage of these Bills but would require separate legislation. If the Opposition objected to those provisions, that would be the time to do it, and not now.
It should also be said in this context that no company in Australia, local or foreign, is subject to the sort of restrictions under which AIDC has to operate. AIDC operates and will still have to operate within the framework of specific statutory functions and policy guidelines. The fact that AIDC must confine itself to a specific sphere of nationally important industrial development, while fundamental to AIDC’s purpose and therefore unavoidable, is itself of course a constraint on its business activities which does not apply to other private businesses. Even with the passage of the current Bills the Corporation will remain relatively restricted by comparison with other private businesses. However, the proposed legislation would give AIDC a little more of the flexibility which ordinary companies already enjoy.
I turn now to a second major objective of the AIDC Bill. This is the setting up of machinery whereby the Government itself could provide funds on a case by case basis for particular projects, assessed as being important in the national interest, which the companies concerned are unable to handle with their own resources together with such assistance, if any, as AIDC may be able to give. There is no intention of changing the basic principle in the concept of AIDC that it should operate as a business. But in this day and age it is not difficult to envisage that there will certainly be potential developments, within AIDC’s functions, and having obvious long-term economic or social benefits to the nation, but which AIDC on a business judgment could not afford to help. For example, the investment of AIDC funds required may simply be too big for AIDC, particularly when one takes into account the restrictions that apply to AIDC and its ability to raise funds both here and overseas.
The ‘national interest’ provisions of the AIDC Bill are a means by which the Government itself could assist in such cases, either by providing funds or by giving guarantees which would enable AIDC to provide funds on its own business judgment. Such AIDC national interest cases would, however, require not only a feasibility report by AIDC and consideration by a Government national interest committee but also would require specific legislation passed by both Houses of Parliament- even where no more than a Government guarantee was involved and Government funds may never be needed.
It was said initially- as one could be certain it would be said by an Opposition continuously concerned with political gains- that these provisions were a back door nationalisation. In fact, anything less like stealthy government intrusion in industry or less subject to parliamentary and public scrutiny and control is difficult to imagine. I am sure that this is now well and truly understood. The provisions about the national interest division of AIDC, by which funds can be provided directly to AIDC or a guarantee given, were provisions that were designed as a result of an attempt to give a complete answer to the Opposition which wanted parliamentary control of what was being proposed. I have made it clear time and again that no action could be taken under the national interest division unless there was first a feasibility study by AIDC itself and, secondly, a resolution that has to pass both Houses of Parliament for the provision of funds or for the provision of a guarantee. If that is nationalisation by stealth then I have nothing to say. These provisions are a means by which governments, with parliamentary approval, can assist nationally important private sector industrial development through AIDC where only the Government is able and willing to provide the balance of the investment funds required.
The third and last major feature of the Bills is the establishment of the National Investment Fund. The National Investment Fund would at once provide an additional source of finance for AIDC’s functions and a means by which the Australian public, protected by an independent supervisory council, could invest in successful AIDC projects. The Fund would issue ‘National investment bonds’ which would be readily and cheaply transferable from one investor to another. The Fund would also be authorised to raise money in competition with endowment insurance and certain types of public superannuation funds. If AIDC is to fulfil its original role and be able to contribute equity as well as loan capital for projects, where that is the project’s need, financial, prudence necessitates that AIDC had access to equity funds ofthe kind that national investment bonds issued by the
National Investment Fund could provide. Again, AIDC must have a reasonable access to local funds for its advances of loan money to projects. Not every meritorious project needing AIDC finance can afford to borrow only from foreignsourced funds with attendant foreign exchange fluctuation risks.
Hopefully, the National Investment Fund would give AIDC a limited but useful access to domestic capital, to supplement its loan raisings overseas and reduce its dependence on foreign currency sources. AIDC should not be in an inderprivileged position in competing with other institutions for local savings. AIDC obviously cannot do its job to much effect if, where it has to rely on local funds, it is no more than a source of high cost finance at the highest end of the spectrum. In addition, the Fund could be an excellent mechanism through which foreign investors, interested in investing in Australia but not seeking voting rights, could participate in Australian investments without diminishing the degree of Australian control in areas where that might be an important policy consideration.
In summary, the measures contained in these Bills, now before the Parliament in unchanged form for the second time, will create the means for AIDC, ofthe Government through AIDC, to help provide the financial requirements of the private sector in industry development of importance to the Australian economy. They will contribute to financing the growth of Australian owned companies. They will help Australian companies to be able to take and hold a bigger share of the ownership and control in partnerships and joint ventures with companies from overseas. At no time in recent history has there been a greater need in Australia of a kind of development financing that these Bills will make possible. I hope that on this occasion the AIDC and NIF will be accepted as an essential step in permitting the AIDC to carry out its nationally important role. Opposition to the proposals contained in the Bills can be read only as a vote against what practically every Australian proclaims as desirable objectives.
I ask, and sincerely hope, that the Parliament as a whole will on this occasion allow national considerations to prevail over any sectional differences and, on serious and impartial reflection, give unqualified support to the AIDC proposals. They have been amended in a spirit of” cooperation and compromise to try to accommodate all points of view. This is a matter warranting universal support in a genuine national endeavour. I commend the Bills to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ellicott) adjourned.
Bill- by leave- presented by Dr J. F. Cairns, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I have given my speech on this Bill in the course of speaking on the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill 1974 (No. 2).
Debate (on motion by Mr Ellicott) adjourned.
by leave- I wish to report to the House and to the Australian people on my recent mission abroad. It was, I believe, the most arduous and comprehensive overseas visit ever undertaken by an Australian Prime Minister. It was also among the most necessary and productive. From Australia’s point of view it was long overdue; in each of the countries I visited it was welcomed without reservation. It enabled me to put Australia ‘s views, to hear the views of our friends and trading partners and to strengthen our goodwill in regions of undoubted importance to us. I count it an unqualified success.
Between 14 December and 21 January I visited Sri Lanka, Belgium, the headquarters of the European Communities in Brussels, Britain, Ireland, Greece, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, the Federal Republic of Germany, Pakistan and Bangladesh. I had intended also to visit Malta, but because of my return to Australia after the disaster in Darwin, the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), who accompanied me throughout my mission, visited Malta in my stead. Mr Bowen and I were accompanied by a team of senior officials, including the Secretary of the Department of Minerals and Energy, the Secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade, the Deputy Secretary of my own Department, the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and for part of our visit, a First Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of the Attorney-General ‘s Department.
It will be seen from the duration of my trip, from the number and range of the countries visited and from the number and seniority of the officials who accompanied me, how highly I rated the importance of this mission and the tasks I undertook on Australia’s behalf. No Australian Prime Minister had visited the Soviet Union in the 33 years since diplomatic relations were established between the Soviet Union and Australia. Many of the other countries I visited had not previously been visited by an Australian Prime Minister. Yet the nations of the European Economic Community constitute Australia’s second largest trading partner after Japan. The Soviet Union is one of the world’s two superpowersone of the nations whose policies determine the fate of all mankind. More than l’/i million citizens have come to Australia from the nations of continental Europe. We share with many of the countries I visited economic and social problems which it was clearly in our interests to discuss together.
I saw my mission as an essential part of my duty as a head of Government. It had already been postponed for 6 months because of the action of the Opposition in refusing supply and forcing an election last May. I did not believe it should be postponed again. Quite apart from the inconvenience and disruption this would have caused to the Governments I visited, the issues we discussed were so important, so pressing, so central to Australia’s immediate and long. term interests, that a further postponement could not be contemplated.
I stress that point because, for some weeks, the Australian people witnessed a persistent and often unscrupulous campaign by sections of the media to deter me from my visit, and when I was not deterred, to disparage what I did. The specious view was put forward that a Prime Minister’s duty is to staty at home at a time of economic difficulty. Now however serious our own problems and however acute my concern about them- and I trust my concern is not in questionI believe as Prime Minister, in the nature of his office, has a special and at times an overriding duty to promote Australia’s place in the world. This is not to say that our economic problems are unimportant. I agree that domestic matters, inflation and unemployment, have a greater priority in our thinking and are more important to the nation ‘s welfare than any of the matters with which I had to deal overseas. The point is really this: While it was possible for my colleagues to deal with our domestic problems in my absence, it was not possible for anyone other than the Prime Minister to deal with the matters that arose during my mission.
That is the crux of the matter. In all the denigration of my visit I have not seen this point acknowledged, let alone refuted. Only a visit by a head of government enables Australia to put her point of view at the highest level and in the most forceful terms. Only a visit by a head of government obliges the countries visited to clarify and co-ordinate their policies towards us. Only a visit that includes all European countries- or at least the majority of those of importance to us- can generate a cumulative impact and promote Australia’s advantage on the widest scale.
Our economic problems, far from being irrelevant to the matters discussed on my trip, in fact bore closely upon them. One of the themes of my mission was the essential and growing interdependence of nations in dealing with their economic problems. It would have been curious indeed if I had given the impression to our friends and trading partners, by cancelling or again postponing my mission, that Australia is the only country whose problems can be isolated from the rest of the world. The whole point of my mission, the point persistently ignored by the critics, was that Australia cannot isolate herself. Our inflation and unemployment are to a large extent linked with the present economic recession in the United States and much of Western Europe. I left Europe with the feeling that despite our temporary difficulties, Australia’s economy is healthier and basically sounder than those of most of the countries I visited. I left Europe with the sure knowledge that the management of the western monetary system and the western economy is, along with the maintenance of peace, the greatest and most immediate problem of 1975. In meeting that problem, Australia, like every other advanced industrialised nation, has a part to play.
For the information of honourable members I shall give a brief outline of my itinerary and official discussions before dealing with particular issues. I left Sydney on 14 December and made an initial stop in Sri Lanka, where I had talks with President Gopallawa and Prime Minister Bandaranaike. The following day I flew to Brussels for a stay of 4 days, during which I was received by their Majesties the King and Queen of the Belgians and had discussions with Prime Minister Tindemans. I had talks in Brussels with the President of the Commission ofthe European Communities, M. Ortoli, and with the VicePresident, Sir Christopher Soames. I addressed the International Press Centre there on 18 December. I shall later seek leave to table the texts of this and other speeches made during my trip and the texts of cultural and other agreements that I signed on Australia ‘s behalf.
On 19 December I flew to London for a 5-day visit, which included an audience with Her Majesty the Queen of Australia and discussions with Prime Minister Wilson and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Heath. I sought to define Australia’s relations with Britain in my speech at the Mansion House at a luncheon given by the Lord Mayor of London. On 23 December I paid a short visit to Ireland for talks with the Taoiseach, Mr Cosgrave, and other senior Ministers. I was also received by President O’Dalaigh. On my return to Europe I visited Greece, where I had talks on 3 January with the recently elected Prime Minister, Mr Karamanlis. The same evening I flew to The Hague for a 2-day visit. There I was received by Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands and had talks with the Prime Minister Den Uyl and other senior Ministers.
On 6 January I went to Paris for 2 days of talks with President Giscard d “Estaing, Prime Minister Chirac and other French Ministers. In Paris I attended a ground-breaking ceremony at the site of the new Australian Embassy building and a civic reception in the Hotel de Ville. I had talks with the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, whose headquarters are in Paris.
From Paris I travelled to Rome, where I had discussions with President Leone and Prime Minister Moro, the Foreign Minister, Mr Rumor, and several other senior Ministers. During my visit to Rome I signed a cultural agreement between Australia and Italy. I flew next to Yugoslavia, the first Australian Prime Minister to visit that country. I had talks on 9 and 10 January with Prime Minister Bijedic and met President Tito.
On 12 January I flew to Leningrad and 2 days later to Moscow where I had wide-ranging discussions with President Podgorny and Prime Minister Kosygin of the Soviet Union, and signed cultural and scientific agreements between the Soviet Union and Australia. I visited the Federal Republic of Germany from 16 to 18 January. In Bonn I met President Scheel and had talks with Chancellor Schmidt and other senior Ministers. I addressed a meeting of bankers and industrialists at the Federation of German Industry in Cologne on 1 6 January.
On my way back to Australia I paid a brief visit to Pakistan on 19 January for talks with Prime Minister Bhutto, and Bangladesh, where I met Prime Minister- now President- Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Joint communiques were issued after my visits to Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union which I shall seek leave to table.
The EEC- Uranium
It became apparent as my visit to the 7 EEC countries progressed that Western Europe’s demand for uranium in the late 70s and the 80s will be very substantial. Our role as a potential major supplier of uranium means that Australia’s importance to these countries will increase.
In Brussels, London, The Hague, Paris, Rome and Bonn, as well as in Moscow, I consistently asserted Australia’s wish to develop her own enrichment capability so that as much uranium as possible should be exported in an enriched form. There are important policy issues to be resolved, such as the choice of enrichment technology, the capital investment required and the extent to which we may be prepared to sell unenriched uranium both before and after we have our own enrichment capability. I am convinced that my visit, and the fact that the head of the Department of Minerals and Energy, Sir Lenox Hewitt, accompanied me, has greatly facilitated the Government’s consideration of the total uranium supply and demand situation over the next decade. The obvious interest shown throughout Europe in Australia as a supplier of uranium suggests that we shall exercise considerable influence in this important area.
In each European Community capital I took up forcefully the Community’s current import restrictions on beef. I left heads of Government in no doubt about our attitude to the Community’s action in imposing restrictions without warning or consultation. I pointed out the disruptive and harmful nature of this action to the Australian meat industry and urged on European leaders the need for stable long-term marketing arrangements. The response of the individual governments was, in the main, apologetic and sympathetic. I believe that my visit has made it more likely that the Community market will be re-opened to Australian beef, if not later this year, then by mid- 1976. 1 was informed that the total market could return to about 400 000 to 500 000 tons by mid- 1976. This total market, of which we would have a share, would mean that we would be still selling less beef than we did before the market was closed, but it would be an improvement. I also believe that the strong stand which I took on this matter and the interest ofthe European countries in Australian uranium will make it much less likely that such restrictive actions will be taken against Australian commodities again.
In a number of countries I discussed in some depth the energy crisis and the Middle East. I assured European leaders that while we agreed that an increase in the price of oil was justified, we did not wish to see a confrontation develop between cartels of producers and consumers. I asserted strongly our attitude that while producers have every right to negotiate with consumers for fair prices for their resources, we will also work to harmonise the interests of producers and consumers with proper concern for the international situation as a whole.
The Middle East
In my discussions on the Middle East I asserted the right of all countries in the Middle East including Israel, to secure and recognised boundaries. I believe that Israel’s integrity as a state must be upheld. At the same time, a lasting solution in the Middle East will require withdrawal from occupied territories and measures to meet the legitimate needs of the Palestinian people. While I cannot go into the details of private discussions, I was not discouraged by my discussions in the Kremlin and in Belgrade on this matter.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
I took the opportunity in a number of capitals to urge greater support for the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. In particular I did so in Paris, Bonn and Rome. Australia wants to see the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty strengthened and all countries accept the multilateral obligations which the Treaty embodies. I sensed that there is a real possibility of movement by the governments in Rome and Bonn, which is most encouraging. In France I explained frankly the problems of selling uranium to countries which had not ratified the NPT or adhered to the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Although France has not signed the NPT I believe that she too is concerned about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and I hope that she too will sign. Meantime, France has said that she will behave as if she were a party to the NPT and that she already applies the safeguards adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Non-Aligned Movement
I discussed with Mrs Bandaranaike in Sri Lanka and with President Tito and Prime Minister Bijedic in Yugoslavia Australia’s interest in the Third World and the non-aligned movement.
Although Australia is an aligned country- and there can be no doubt about this- we have interests which overlap those of the Third World. Many of the non-aligned countries- like Sri Lanka- are within or on the borders of the Indian Ocean. I explained to Mrs Bandaranaike, President Tito and Prime Minister Bijedic our interest in attending future meetings of the nonaligned group either as a guest or as an observer. I found all three appreciative of the interest of Australia in the problems of the Third World and the objectives of the non-aligned movement and sympathetic to our association as a guest or as an observer with future meetings. We shall in the future be examining further the possibilities of our attendance in this capacity at future meetings of the non-aligned countries with other important members of the movement in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The Indian Ocean
I had discussions on the Indian Ocean while I was abroad. Honourable members will recall that I raised this matter in the United States and that the Government had raised it previously through diplomatic channels in both Washington and Moscow. I took the opportunity of my visit to Moscow to refer to this matter at the highest levels in the Kremlin. The Soviet Government understands our attitude. In the joint communique issued after my visit to Moscow the Soviet Government endorsed ‘its readiness to participate’ in ‘seeking a favourable solution to the problem of making the Indian Ocean an area of peace’. I believe that in urging mutual restraint on the great powers we are on the correct course. To support any further development of bases in the Indian Ocean or any long-term naval deployments in the area is to supportescalation and a heightening of tension in the region. We reject that course.
While in Western Europe, and especially in Bonn, I had full discussions on the question of investment in Australia. I made it plain that the Australian Government continues to welcome foreign investment but that we wish as far as possible to control our own industries and resources. I agreed that a West German mission should visit Australia in the near future to discuss in detail ali aspects of investment in Australia. I agreed also to take up with the Australian Taxation authorities the strongly expressed interest of the Belgian, Netherlands and Italian governments in negotiating a double taxation agreement with Australia.
The International Court
Honourable members should know that I took advantage of my visit to The Hague- the city in which the International Court of Justice is based- to refer to our warm support for the principles and objectives of the International Court and to urge that the international community give greater attention to the Court as an instrument for world peace and harmony. I urged that the Court’s jurisdiction should be made compulsory and universal. Honourable members will know that it has been the practice of most countries, including Australia, to accept the Court’s jurisdiction only with reservations or with the exclusion of certain categories of dispute. I take this opportunity to inform the House that, as an earnest of our respect for the Court, Australia proposes to forgo her existing reservations and, in any dispute which we litigate before the Court, to accept its judgment unreservedly.
Relations with Britain
In London I had useful and cordial talks with Prime Minister Wilson on important issues including energy problems, unemployment, inflation, the dangers of a world recession, British attitudes to the re-negotiation of the Treaty of Rome and Constitutional issues including the Right of Appeal to the Privy Council. I have today introduced Bills to give effect to the Government’s policy on Privy Council Appeals. That policy can be stated simply: We do not believe that Australians should litigate their disputes before the Courts of another country. I believe that attitude is understood and accepted in Britain to a greater extent, regrettably, than it is in some quarters in Australia.
In case there are any lingering misconceptions about the Government’s approach to its relations with the United Kingdom, at the Mansion House, I made it clear in a speech which was widely publicised and applauded by the British media, that changes in the world situation had naturally led to changes in Australia’s traditional relationship with Britain. I made it clear that those who saw the Government’s recent actions concerning Britain as a manifestation of strident new nationalism or anit-British sentiment had completely misread the Government’s intentions. What we are seeking to do is establish an independent Australian identity in the world and especially in our region. We have grown up. Our actions are in no way anti-British; they are simply pro-Australian. Contrary to a popular impression, I did not raise in Britain the question of States Agents-General. I made it clear that the traditional understanding and affection between
Australia and Britain, based on strong historical and family connections, would deepen rather than diminish as Australia assumed her rightful place as an independent nation with a distinctive Australian role and a distinctive Australian voice in the South East Asian region, in the Commonwealth and in the world at large. We see particular value in our continuing associations with the Commonwealth. With the majority of member nations of the Commonwealth now lying in and around the Indian and South Pacific Oceans, Australia is geographically closer to the centre of the modern Commonwealth than is Britain herself.
The Soviet Union
It is 33 years since a former Labor government established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. When I spent more than 6 hours in discussions with Chairman Kosygin and President Podgorny in the Kremlin it was the first time that Australia’s views on a wide range of important issues had been put at this level. We discussed such matters as the situation in the North Asian region, Japan, China, Korea, detente and disarmament.
I was also able to raise a number of human rights issues. While the Soviet Union maintains that these are matters within its domestic jurisdiction it is not insensitive to representations on these matters. 1 raised the matter of Jewish emigration. I raised the matter of ‘Operation Reunion’, that is, the scheme under which persons resident in the Soviet Union seek to join relatives or friends in Australia. Prime Minister Kosygin listened with courtesy to my presentation and replied in some detail on the question of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union and on the question of ‘Operation Reunion’. The Soviet Government takes the view that these are matters of purely domestic concern. Australia, for her part, believes that on any matters involving broad humanitarian rights, nations have a duty to put their viewpoints strongly. No purpose is served if we avoid issues where agreement is unlikely. The Soviet Union has a better understanding of our views and, I believe, a greater respect for our candour.
In France I had substantial and lengthy discussions with President Giscard d ‘Estaing and Prime Minister Chirac. I believe it is true to say that my visit and my reception by my hosts in Paris put the seal at the highest level on the resumption of normal relations with France following the strains which had developed over
France’s atmospheric testing in the Pacific. This testing has now ceased. Arising from my visit to Paris, it was agreed that a French trade mission should visit Australia in the coming months to explore the possibility of increasing commercial exchanges between our two countries. Businessmen in Australia should understand that there is no political constraint upon their initiating contacts with France. It was agreed also to negotiate a Cultural Agreement between Australia and France and an Agreement on Co-operation in Science and Technology. It was further agreed to hold regular consultations between officials of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and the Quai d’Orsay. The first round of these consultations is likely to be held towards the middle of this year.
My visit to Dacca brought into focus the issues involved in responding to Bangladesh’s enormous needs, especially for food. I explained the great sympathy which the Australian Government and people felt for the people of Bangladesh in their struggle to feed their population. However, I felt obliged to point out to Sheik Mujib that while Australia is willing to do as much as we can for his country, it is not right that the whole burden for supply as aid, or selling on credit, of wheat for Bangladesh should fall on the relatively few countries which produce surplus grain. I suggested international arrangements under which some of the developed countries with capital, such as the Federal Republic of Germany or Japan, or the oil-rich Middle Eastern countries, might use some of their petrodollars to finance the purchase of wheat on credit from the grain producers’.
I turn now to the broader issue of world peace, I see the peace of the world resting on the progressive reinforcement of the network of accommodations and understandings between the two super powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. This network of understandings is itself part of wider balance of interests involving the other principal powers, China, Japan and the enlarged European Community. If peace is to be preserved- and in the ultimate analysis nothing is more important than that- the interests of the United States, the Soviet Union, Japan and China and those of the enlarged European Community must be kept in balance in Europe and in Asia. Each must live with respect for the legitimate interests and aspirations of the others, only in this way will detente become durable and global. Only in this way will peace be secured. It is the duty of the middle powers and the smaller powers to make their views heard in seeking to strengthen the structure of peace. This must be a common collective concern, not something left to the major powers alone. The future belongs to us all and, as I said in my address to the General Assembly last September, the Government rejects a concept of a world in which a handful of powerful men in charge of the most powerful nations chart the course for the rest of us to follow. Some may ask what influence a country like Australia has in the White House, in the Kremlin, in the Councils of Europe, in the Great Hall of the People, or in Tokyo. I believe we can and do have influence. I believe at the very least we should not fail to try to exert some influence for the causes in which we believe. We should not permit our views on major international problems like the proliferation of nuclear weapons and access to markets to go by default.
I had a number of objectives in undertaking this journey and I believe I fulfilled them all. I wanted to emphasise Australia’s continuing and substantial interest in Europe and to strengthen Europe’s awareness of Australia. I have done so. I wanted to complete, as far as possible, the pattern of visits which my Foreign Minister and I have been undertaking abroad to outline Australia’s policies in a number of areas following the first change of Government in 23 years. I have now largely completed that pattern of visits. I wanted to establish or strengthen personal contacts with the heads of Government of important countries and exchange views with them on matters of international concern and on common economic problems including inflation and unemployment. I have done so. I wanted to discuss at first hand Australia’s interest, in longterm arrangements for the access of our commodities in markets in Europe and I have done so. It is less likely, I believe, that Australia will ever again be subjected to summary and restrictive closures of markets which we have carefully nurtued. I wanted to discuss at the highest level the international energy situation and to form my own assessments on the major policy issues involved in the sale of Australia’s bountiful mineral resources, especially uranium and coal, to the countries of Europe. I have done so, and I believe the outlook for Australia in the area of energy supply is immensely encouraging. I wanted to discuss with those countries whose people have contributed to Australia’s cultural heritage and economic development the present attitude of the Government towards immigration. This I did in Britain, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia and The Netherlands. I wished also to explain
Australia’s policies on foreign investment and to remove any uncertainties about these policies. I have done so. Finally, I wanted to examine ways in which Australia might make her contribution to strengthening the fabric of co-operation between Australia and Europe and to explore, at the highest level, the attitudes of countries like the Soviet Union, France and Yugoslavia to detente and to the Middle East, which are essential to forming any sound assessment of the prospects for world peace. I have done so.
I regret that many of these things, these immense and tangible benefits for Australia, have been obscured from the Australian people. I do not resent fair criticism from the media. Everyone in public life accepts such criticism, and frequently benefits from it. Even my worst enemies would concede that I have rarely complained about the media’s treatment of me, that I have been more accessible to the media, more frank in my dealings with them, than any of my predecessors in this office. A free Press has an essential and constructive role in democratic society. I regret, however, that on this occasion the Australian public was not served by the media as objectively or as intelligently as it deserves. Too often matters of substance were subordinated to reports of trivia. It was repeatedly suggested that much of my time was taken up with sightseeing and in visits to archaeological sites and museums. Very little time was taken up with these things and most of it was during public holidays and weekends. Such diversions, of course, are a normal part of the hospitality extended to visiting heads of government, and I make no apology for my interest in the culture and histories ofthe countries I visited, of the countries from which so many of my fellow citizens have come.
We are not a nation of Philistines; we should not be content with an image abroad based mainly on Barry McKenzie. I take some pride in the extensive and sympathetic presentation of my mission in the media in all the countries I visited. I found immense goodwill, not just for me, but also for Australia. This goodwill was expressed and symbolised in many different ways. In Bangladesh, for example, there was a warm appreciation of Australia ‘s food aid programs. In the visits of the Special Minister and myself to war cemeteries in France, in Belgium, in Crete and in Athens I found deep and genuine gratitude for the contribution of Australian soldiers to the Allied cause in two world wars. In many countries there was a ready understanding of the links forged by our immigration program. Everywhere in the media of the countries I visited I found a full appreciation of the importance and urgency of the matters I sought to raise. I regret that I found much less understanding in the media of my own country.
Over a year ago, on my return from China and Japan, I had occasion to say that Australia had at last got her relations right with the 4 powers of most immediate concern to us- with Indonesia, our nearest neighbour; with Japan, our largest trading partner; with China, the most populous nation on earth; and with the United States, the world’s most powerful nation and our firmest ally. My visit to China ended a generation of lost contact with a quarter ofthe world’s people. My visits to the United States, Japan, Indonesia and India consolidated, improved and matured existing relationships of great importance to us. My visit to the Soviet Union has marked a new stage in the development of practical and realistic relations with the other most powerful nation on earth. My visit to Europe has reasserted our strong and continuing interest in the European Community and, I believe, rekindled Europe’s interest in a strong, progressive and independent Australia. Taken together, we have begun to fashion a more contemporary relationship with Europe- East and West- more appropriate to the changed conditions of our time. We can now say confidently that Australia has got her relations right, not just with the countries nearest to us, but also with most nations of importance, and regions of importance, in the world. Mr Speaker, I table the documents to which I have referred in my speech.
-Order! No point of order arises.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the Ministerial Statement.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the site selection study by the Department of Transport entitled Albury-Wodonga Growth Centre Aerodrome, Road Safety and Standards Authority and Other Transport Units’.
– Today we had a 23-page statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on his recent journey overseas. No journey has been so satirised in the history of Australian politics and no journey has been more deserving of being satirised than that journey. No journey ever made has been so empty of achievement. Today’s statement by the Prime Minister was his second attempt to justify the journey. He went on national television and there attempted to justify it and he failed. Today in the House he attempted once again to justify it. One would have expected that instead of attempting to justify the trip, which he failed to do, he would make a statement on the foreign policy of the Australian Government. It so happens that the Government, which pretends that it is so concerned about foreign policy that the Prime Minister has to spend overseas 5 months of the 2 years of his period in office, has been responsible for only one foreign policy debate in this Parliament
The Prime Minister attempted to justify his journey on the basis that only he could do it. We have had plenty of experience of the Prime Minister saying that only he could do it. Nobody will have forgotten the advertisements that only he could reduce unemployment, that only he could reduce inflation and that only he could reduce interest rates. Now we have been told that only he could have made this trip. What has been achieved? What is it that only he could do? What have been the tangible achievements? There have been no tangible achievements. Where are the contracts? The Prime Minister spoke a lot at odd places- not in this Parliament- about uranium. Apparently he talked about uranium in Europe. Why can the people of Australia not be told what the policy of the Government is in relation to uranium? He did not go to the point of saying that as Australia is a supplier of uranium and as Europe is short of uranium a growing influence will be exerted by Australia over European affairs. That was a thinly veiled return to the resources diplomacy which the Prime Minister announced in Mexico in 1 973, 1 think it was, and about which he was so badly panned that he abandoned it and never mentioned it again until this thinly veiled reference that Australians will have considerable influence in Europe because we have a resource that Europe is short of and needs. I say on behalf of the Opposition Parties that we totally reject the concept of a resources diplomacy being used in a way in which it has been used by some countries and in which apparently the Prime Minister suggests it should be used.
Where are the contracts on uranium? Not a single one has been produced. What must be the attitude of Japan towards the statement by and activities of the Prime Minister in Europe in relation to uranium. Has a single contract been brought back on beef? Not a single one. What we have been told is that the Prime Minister talked quite sharply to the people of Europe about the problems of Australia in relation to beef. He said that he hoped that by the middle of 1976 400 000 to 500 000 tonnes of Australian beef will be admitted to Europe. The beef industry, which is on its knees now, will be ruined by then. Why can the Prime Minister not say to those countries: You must understand that a whole way of life for a whole section of the Australian community depends upon the sale of beef to your country. Pull down the barrier that prevents it from coming in’? Why could he not have come back and said that he had succeeded instead of giving us this oddity that he talked straight to them and that he hopes that by 1976 something will happen?
Where are the policies that he mentioned on investment? The Prime Minister said that he went overseas and talked very frankly to the people over there about investment in Australia. I wish he would be as frank in Australia as he is outside Australia. The Prime Minister said in his address to the House that he had to go overseas because when a head of Government goes overseas the heads of government of the countries visited have to co-ordinate their policies so that the situation can be explained to him. If the Prime Minister has had the advantage of their explaining their co-ordinated policies, why has a statement not been made in this House as to what the policy of the Australian Labor Party in government is to overseas investment in Australia? Where is the policy on trade? No policy has been announced. No announcement has been made in this House. None has even been made outside the House, not even by the Caucus committee. International monetary reform has been declared today by the Prime Minister to be the most important issue of 1975. Not a single word was said by him in his statement as to the Australian Government’s attitude to international monetary reform. All I can suggest to him is that he should read pages 32 and 33 of the document entitled ‘National Economic Program 1975 ‘, which I released yesterday. I seek leave to incorporate pages 32 and 33 in Hansard. They state what Australia’s attitude should be to international monetary reform.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The Temporary Assistance Authority should be used in circumstances where domestic industries are undergoing short-term disruption. In these circumstances, short-term protective devices must be considered to protect Australian jobs. It is important that this be seen in the context of the need to promote trade generally.
International Monetary Reform
The short-term problems of the international monetary system are dominated by the need to finance the deficits of the oil importing nations without severe disruptions to their financial systems or to world trade. Other aspects of the problem, however, not necessarily related to the oil situation, have been the problems for exchange rates caused by differing international inflation rates, strains on financial institutions and confidence resulting from stresses on a largely unsupervised international capital market. The major issue of increased development assistance to the developing countries is closely related.
Australia as a significant world trading nation has a major interest in the success of negotiations seeking solutions to these problems, but also as a resource-exporting nation, and a member of OECD and the IMF Group of 20 is well placed to make a contribution. We believe that Australia should be actively supporting the following objectives in international monetary negotiations:
The establishment of special international facilities for handling petroleum funds, recognising that the United States and West Germany would have to be the real guarantors of any such facility- there is no doubt that much of the petroleum funds can be placed through existing institutions, but there must be real doubts that these can bear the whole burden or direct the funds in the direction of the most seriously affected economies.
Support flexible exchange rates as necessary to the international adjustment problem for the time being while there is instability in international inflation rates and a lack of co-ordination between international monetary policies.
Continued progress in the development or Special Drawing Rights as international reserve assets.
Continued active negotiations to achieve mutual reductions in trade barriers.
Co-operative actions by central banks and the International Monetary Fund to stabilise major financial markets and maintain confidence.
-I thank the House. A statement on foreign affairs has been made and not a single mention has been made of the subject of defence. I invite honourable members to check the Hansard record as to when there was last a debate in this House on defence. The honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes), who is the shadow Minister for Defence, can state what the Australian Government’s policy ought to be on defence and what the Opposition’s policy would be in government, but the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), the former Deputy Prime Minister, cannot state a single thing about the defence policy of this country. Another subject in which the policies should have been made clear is the economic relations between Australia and other countries. The Prime Minister talked about interdependence. We believe in inter-dependence, but not in the way in which the Prime Minister put it. We believe in inter-dependence because we believe that the resources of all countries should be made available to the people of all countries. We want a fair price for our resources. We expect people to pay a fair price for them. Our resources are natural. The resources of other countries are the capacity to mobilise capital, technological advance and marketing. We ought to pay a fair price for them also. But where is there reference to that in the Prime Minister’s statement? There is not a single bit on it. The Prime Minister has declared that we are independent of the United Kingdom
Apparently he has never heard of the Statute of Westminster of 1 93 1 . Apparently he has never heard of the Colombo Plan, which we Australians initiated. Apparently he has never heard ofthe ANZUS Treaty. They are all acts of great inter-dependence. The Prime Minister has said to the Australian people: ‘Throw off your shackles and be free’. The only trouble is that the Australian people have no shackles to throw off. For the Prime Minister to pretend that he has a great national issue- an issue of nationalismand that we have to be independent falls emptily on the Australian people for we are free, we are independent, and it does not make us the more so because we keep saying it. We either are or are not The truth is that we are.
We believe that it is important that there be substantial discussions with overseas countries and that there should be agreements reached where necessary. We believe it is important for Ministers to make journeys if there is a job to do. We live a long way from Europe and the United States of America. In many ways this is an obstacle for us. But we must not allow it to be an obstacle which we create ourselves. Therefore if there is a job to do a Minister should go and do it. Members of the Opposition should go and do their jobs. But Ministers should not pretend that only they can do the job when in fact we have overseas a very efficient diplomatic service and representatives from other government departments who can do it.
We have stated our policies. We ask the Government to do the same. The Prime Minister made a fascinating statement in the course of his remarks this afternoon. He said that he, the
Prime Minister of a country which has over 70 per cent self sufficiency in oil, told the leaders of European countries which are importing 95 per cent of their oil requirements that an increase in oil prices was quite justified. What an extraordinary cheek for the Prime Minister to go overseas and tell countries which are so dependent on oil that a price rise was justified. That is what the Prime Minister said this afternoon. This morning at question time he repeated his false allegations that my colleague the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) was advocating a 40 per cent increase in petrol prices. It is absurd and rubbish to make this allegation because it was never said. But contrast the 2 attitudes. The Prime Minister went to Europe and said that oil prices should go up; he came home and for the narrow purpose of votes tried to pretend that a man had said something he had never said. Then contrast the attitude of the Prime Minister who refused to participate with the United States to solve the world’s international monetary problem caused simply by the immense buildup of reserves of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The figure is something like $60 billion. With these reserves the OPEC countries can buy a giant international multi- national corporation like IBM every couple of months. That is how much money is being accumulated and that is where the cause of the instability lies. The United States, wishing to meet this problem, has suggested to the rest of the world that there should be an economy in usage, that there should be vigorous discovery programs and that there should be testing to find new fields of oil. But the Australian Government refuses to have any part of it.
There was no mention of any consequence in the Prime Minister’s statement of the major issues for us in foreign affairs today- the Middle East, which I will come to in a moment, and the Indian Ocean. I want to make clear our view in regard to the Indian Ocean- an area which presents the greatest possibility of instability in terms of the defence and security of this country. The Liberal Party recognises the need for a continuing United States role in the Asian and Pacific areas. This is a result of a desire to ensure Australia’s security and regional stability. It is in our interest to strengthen ANZUS which is the basis of the unique relationship between the 3 partners. ANZUS has always represented more than a defence alliance. Australia has a responsibility to demonstrate that it is prepared to take realistic measures to strengthen its security within the means available to us. This is the essence of the Guam doctrine which must be taken into account in Australia’s defence and foreign policy. There is a developing competition between China and the Soviet Union for influence in regions adjacent to Australia. While there is a competition for influence there will be a destabilising effect. If that becomes a competition not merely for influence but hegemony the threat to Australia is very real and does not need expanding because it is there for everyone to see.
The balance of stability, as China itself clearly appreciates, depends on a continuing presence in the area of the United States. It is also fundamental to our security. This applies very specifically to the Indian Ocean. Since 1968 the Soviet Navy has built up its forces in the Indian Ocean. It is now a matter of bipartisan acceptance in Australian politics, I would hope, that the North- West Cape communications centre is an essential element in Australia ‘s overall security position. The United States plans to upgrade Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and thereby contribute to maintaining the naval balance in that ocean. Diego Garcia and the North- West Cape station are regarded by the United States as complementary and as links in their global defence system. With the possibility of reopening the Suez Canal, this arrangement takes on added significance for Australia’s security. In the present circumstances of Soviet build-up we see the United States decision on Diego Garcia as enabling the balance of stability in the Indian Ocean to be maintained.
Super-power rivalry is an obstacle to the achievement of a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean and emphasises that in present circumstances the concept of a zone of peace is unreal and we ought not to believe in unrealities. The Prime Minister in part of his statement recognises the need for a balance of great power interests in Asia and Europe, but he continues to deny the need for the same balance in the Indian Ocean. If there is to be balance, this could be initiated by the withdrawal of the Soviet naval forces from the Indian Ocean. But apparently that was not put in the Kremlin. (Extension of time granted). I now wish to refer to what the Prime Minister said about the Middle East. The Middle East received less than 100 words in the statement.
– He spent more time denigrating the media.
-That is right, and as someone said to me: ‘Some of my best friends are newsmen’. As I said, there were less than 100 words in the statement on the Middle East. Here is a point of conflict. The Opposition believes that Australia will not contribute to the attainment of lasting peace in the Middle East by taking a partisan stand. We have reasserted our support for United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 as the bases for settlement. We would not have supported the Security Council resolution of 24 July 1 973 which was defeated by a United States veto. This resolution was partisan and departed from Australia’s traditional position. Even Australia’s Ambassodor, in voting for the resolution on Government instructions, conceded that it was ‘lacking in balance’. Inconsistency can only damage our international standing and will not contribute to a lasting peace in an area where instability can affect the security of us all.
Nor would we have supported or abstained on the participation of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in the United States debate on Palestine until that body had accepted Israel’s right to exist as a state. In his statement today the Prime Minister gave little time to the Middle East, the most crucial question affecting the world. What was emphasised again was Labor’s failure to assert that it, as a Government, will take what action it can to ensure that Israel’s right to exist is respected. The Prime Minister should give instructions to every diplomatic post making it abundantly clear that this is the basis upon which we proceed- the right of Israel to exist as a state. The Opposition has made it clear, for example, that the PLO representatives should not be granted visas to visit Australia until that body recognises Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state and as a fellow member with Australia of the United Nations.
The Prime Minister in his statement said: Australia is aligned- there can be no doubt about that’. So often this Government makes statements and expects to be believed and then acts contrary to what it has said. As I pointed out, today the Prime Minister said that Australia is aligned and there can be no doubt about it. But then he went on to say that Australia, under a Labor Government, wishes to receive an invitation as a guest of the Non-Aligned Nations Conference.
– Or observer.
– I am sorry- as a guest or an observer. Only that sort of thinking can distinguish between a guest and an observer. If an observer is not a guest I would like to know what he is. If a guest is not an observer what is he? But they want to crawfish out of this reality by drawing some distinction between ‘observer’ and guest’. The fact is that the Prime Minister has done everything he possibly can to receive an invitation to the non-aligned world’s conferences.
– Order! I think the honourable member for Franklin, who is interjecting, is out of his seat.
-Mr Speaker, please be kind to him. He will not have it for long. There needs to be a resolution of attitude between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, because the Deputy Prime Minister, without any shadow of doubt, wants to carry Australia into the non-aligned world. The Prime Minister really wants to go there because he wants to walk the world ‘s stages, and yet he knows that it would be political disaster for him not to acknowledge the United States alliance. So he wants to do it both ways, to say ‘We are aligned’ and at the same time to say ‘We want to go into the non-aligned world’. Let me state this as emphatically as I can: There is no role for Australia in the non-aligned world.
-The interjection from the honourable member for Franklin, which I hope was noted, was ‘Rubbish’. Quite clearly, the honourable member for Franklin believes, along with the Prime Minister, that the role for Australia is in the non-aligned world. Well, when we come to an election we will test that. We will test whether Australia should go into the nonaligned world or whether it should remain an integral part of the Western defence system. There is no doubt where the Liberal and Country Parties stand on this matter.
The Prime Minister said that the Soviet Union is sincere in its wish for detente. The way it was reported, he came out of Moscow into Bonn and the Germans were sitting there with their fingers crossed waiting for some words of wisdom from the great master. He said that the Soviet is serious about detente. The Germans, living alongside the Soviet might obviously put a great deal of their diplomatic effort into it. Can anybody believe that they were sitting there waiting for the result ofthe Australian Prime Minister’s chance visit to Moscow to tell them how they should conduct their affairs and whether they would be safe? I remind the House that the Germans are very active and committed and dedicated members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and that is part of the Western defence system. They must have found it a joke for a man to come from Moscow to tell them, knowing that he had said in other parts of the world that he wanted to get invitations from the nonaligned world. Are we to believe that the Germans would take him seriously?
Finally, I want to say that we regard the decision of the Labor Party Conference to admit to Australia the representatives of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, in other words, the Vietcong, as a compromise the like of which we have never experienced in Australian politics. Does the Labor Party want to recognise the Vietcong or does it not want to recognise them? Contrast that decision with the Government’s refusal to grant a visa to a highly respected member of the South African Cricket Board to enable him to come to Australia to put his point of view. He is refused a visa, yet now we are going to give Government encouragement to the establishment in Australia of an information office for the Vietcong. It is perfectly obvious that the differences between the Opposition and the Government are profound.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– We have just heard the usual diatribe from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in a rambling reply to the speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), which the Leader of the Opposition did not bother to come into the House to hear. One would think, having listened to him now, that he gave no credence to its content. The Leader of the Opposition has delivered a prearranged, written speech, a speech written perhaps two or three days ago. Let us have a look at the position of the Leader of the Opposition, who had a trip overseas in the same period as the Prime Minister.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is telling a complete untruth.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will be quiet.
-Honourable members opposite should not interject if they cannot adopt the proper stance of an opposition. The Leader of the Opposition went on a short burst to America and made a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations.
– Six days.
-Six weeks or six days, it would not matter. The Leader of the Opposition has had more than one trip. He went to China for about 2 days in 1973 but we did not hear a report on that. These are the points we want to make.
-Mr Speaker, it is customary to wait until a speech is finished before making a personal explanation, but that is completely false.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
-The Leader of the Opposition is very sensitive tonight. The point I want to make is that he travels the world, but what sort of impression has he made on these other countries? Never once has he offered to go to China, except on a very fleeting visit, and yet he is making suggestions tonight about this power that is likely to invade us. That is one of his, suggestions. He also refers to the presence of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the Indian Ocean- another invasion. ‘Do not get mixed up with the non-aligned countries’, says the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, they are the ones surrounding the Indian Ocean. Apparently it is all right for the British to make some arrangements about Diego Garcia and not consult Australia. Where is your national spirit that you cannot stand up as an Australian and say: We want the Indian Ocean to be a zone of peace, and if there is to be a conference of the nations surrounding the Indian Ocean we ought to be there at least as an observer’. Why interpret that as meaning that once we go to such a conference as an observer we have really given away the United States? The real attitude for Australia to adopt is one of leadership, to indicate clearly to the world that we want the Indian Ocean to be a zone of peace, and not to accept a bargaining arrangement between 2 powers about what is going to happen to Diego Garcia, because the Russians properly say that if that base is going to be built up they are going to establish a base as well, and they are going to build it up on that basis. The Leader of the Opposition comes here and suggests that because the United States must have Diego Garcia then Australia must run along with that arrangement.
The same situation occurred about Vietnam, when the then Government conscripted the youth of Australia to become involved. It was a phoney war, a war in which we should never have become involved. The United States tragically lost 60 000 men, and most of the other big nations of the world stayed out ofthe fight. From where do you get your principles of democracy? What is the real trouble with Vietnam now? There was a peace conference held to which Australia was not invited, but to which the Provisional Revolutionary Government was invited as an observer. Not a word on that from the Leader of the Opposition tonight. What is wrong with the terms of the peace conference? They foolishly said that there ought to be free and democratic elections in South Vietnam, and to this day they are still fighting over the meaning of the words. If there were any real intention to solve the problems of South Vietnam a method of election could have been clearly established. It should not have been left on the basis that a peace treaty was drawn up in Paris, and yet another 100 000 people have been killed. The great powers of the world failed to solve these matters with the result that there is still an argument and, worse, a war in Vietnam.
– Who was invading South Vietnam?
-Obviously the North, as you would say. But who got out of Vietnam? What is the issue? The issue is that in Vietnam there ought to be elections on a provincial basis and not elections for a President. Remember that one President was assassinated. Perhaps honourable members opposite would like to explain how that happened. The President who followed him has not got the support of the major powers. Let me make quite clear what should be done from the point of view of world peace. The Leader of the Opposition should not come in here and say that these troubles can be solved simply by running along with some other power. Stand up as an Australian and have a look at this fact. In the 2 World Wars in which Australia was actively involved we were up against the German nation and on both occasions we were working alongside the Russians. Like it or not, that is the position. When you go to the councils of the world today and see the leaders -
– Get your history right.
-Well, the Russian people. There is no difference.
– No difference?
-Order! There will be a vast difference here in a moment if the honourable member does not remain silent.
-They say to Australia: ‘Is it not remarkable? We have had diplomatic relations for 33 years and this is the first time we have seen you. Is it any wonder that your trade is fading right away? Is it any wonder that you have no beef markets in the Common Market and the member countries are making their own arrangements? If we go over to the 9 member countries in the Common Market they say: ‘We are very sorry about your beef. We know we have broken all the rules but we have increased our production. In fact we have given to our beef farmers a 10 per cent increase and we are not going to take your beef at all.’ That is the attitude that they adopt at this stage. What did the Opposition supporters do when they were there? They went over and cavilled on the basis that perhaps those countries would be nice to Australia. What did the Leaders of the Opposition parties do when they went there? They said: ‘Please help us’. If honourable members look at our trade figures they will see that for years Australia’s trade has been declining. All the Common Market countries want to say is: Can we buy your assets?’ That is the point honourable members should consider. So the attitude of Australians ought to be: Let us for once look at this as a nation. The Prime Minister’s role was to indicate clearly that he represented the Australian people when he said to these countries: ‘Why have you reneged on your beef contracts?’ All they could say was: ‘We hang our heads in shame’. That is a nice sort of argument to put up to a case that was represented.
– You have not done anything for years.
-The Deputy Leader of the Country Party will cease interjecting. If he does not, I will take the appropriate action.
– I have been very patient.
-I will take the appropriate action if the honourable member does not cease interjecting. I ask the Minister to address the Chair.
-I am addressing the Chair at the moment. It comes back to this situation, that the Prime Minister was speaking as a leader of the nation. For the first time in many years these countries have seen the Austraiian leader. Is it any wonder that our trade figures are so atrocious? An announcement was made about a deal with the Russians involving 40 000 tonnes of meat- nobody mentioned that tonight- as a result of the Prime Minister’s visit to Russia.
– Do you think he caused it?
– Yes, as a result ofthe visit. As a direct result of the visit of the Prime Minister to the Soviet Union a meat contract was entered into involving 40 000 tonnes of meat. It was due to a very simple reason. At last there was some opportunity to discuss trade. We are not talking the art of politics; we are talking trade. There are 360 million people who have said: Why is it that we cannot develop trade? Why is it that we cannot do business on meat and wool? What is wrong with you Australian people? You will not get out and sell your products’. Is it not a tragedy to think no other leader of the Australian nation has bothered to look at this? It is important that we establish an overseas trading corporation within Australia so that we can market our products such as meat and wool instead of leaving it to so-called private enterprise speculators in the Common Market.
Let us look at the converse of the situation. When we went to the Common Market to discuss beef the only answer we got was one of repentance and a sense of guilt. It solved nothing from the point of view of meat. The Germans criticised us over wool. They said: ‘What right have you to put a fixed price of 120c a kilo on wool? What right have you to do this? We said: ‘We are trying to protect the Australian producer’. They said: “This is private enterprise economy. You should not have to fix prices like that’. They then said: ‘What about your uranium. Let us buy into it. We do not want to know about having some sort of loan arrangement; we want equity participation. ‘ Does this not follow when we look at the record of our predecessors opposite?
An urgent survey undertaken in 1973 revealed that foreign control of Australian mineral resources reached an estimated figure of 62 per cent, having escalated in the 4 years from 1 964 to 1 968 from 34 per cent to 58 per cent. Why is it in the Australian national interest that honourable members opposite must always kowtow to foreign capitalists from the point of view of foreign investment which they think is so valuable? Have a look at the mineral resources in Western Australia and in Queensland which in the main are foreign owned. No Common Market country would accept that. The United States would not accept it nor would Japan. Why should we have to accept it? Was it not right that the Prime Minister of Australia should say very much the same thing to these people and discuss trade matters with them on the basis of being fair and reasonable by clearly indicating to them that Australia intends to own its resources in energy and not be in a situation in which it was the one country whose energy resources could be bought by foreign interests. What did he do that was wrong in talking to all these leaders and clearly indicating that Australia has not had a fair go from the point of view of trade? There is a proper way to do business. It was not done by the Common Market countries. It was not done by the United States or by Japan when they put up these barriers against us.
If we have an opportunity to develop trade with the Soviet Union we should explore it immediately because there is a market there for our products and we ought to do it in the interests of producers both in the primary field and in the secondary field. It is a great tragedy for the Australian nation to play these minor politics, thinking that one can run the world from Australia on the views expressed in this Parliament. If honourable members opposite do not wake up to the fact that within 6 years, perhaps, there will be a federal parliament in Europe they will be very much mistaken. In that federal parliament will be represented the United Kingdom as well as a lot of other countries which, naturally, are mainly interested in their own production and their own survival. The Ministers there meet each other about every month. They are well aware of each other’s problems. They are working for themselves as a team and we are not going to be actively considered.
Let us make the position clear. The history of the last 10 years shows that there has been a great decrease in their interest in us from the point of view of trade. We have to look for new markets and the markets have to be in the Pacific basin. They have to be with China. They have to be with the United States. They have to be with Japan and they have to be with the Soviet Union. We could well develop overseas trading corporation arrangements whereby we can market the resources of our own people and take in return products that we are now importing from other countries, get them on a fair basis and activate the trade prospects of Australia, but to go around the world, as have the Leader of the Opposition and certain State Premiers will not solve our problems. These people should carry foreign passports because they do not speak for Australia. Their whole attitude has been one of We love your money. Come in; we guarantee a profit.’ But what about the Australian? He is not mentioned. In credit to Australians when they travel overseas are the deeds that Australians performed in the First World War and the Second World War. They will never be erased, but unfortunately not much credit is given for them. When one looks at the battlefields and sees the graves one well understands the valour of the men, but no real credit is given in this hard commercial world. These are the things that we want to remember- what Australians did fight for in the wars and what they thought were freedoms that were to be preserved. They still are the right principles, but do not always expect that somebody in power in some other country will operate in a fair fashion.
The great danger for the world is not only the Middle East; it is Cyprus and Turkey. The great danger for the world is that there can be individuals in certain positions of influence with other influental powers of the world making decisions. They may not be elected by members of the people or to any parliament. They may make decisions and perhaps threaten war against the Arab countries. That is the big danger. That is the thing that frightens Common Market countries. They have the wisdom to say: We do not agree with that sort of policy. We do not agree with that energy policy or that energy agency because it is futile to have another war. It will be a disaster. These are the things for which we want to give credit to the Prime Minister because he went to all these forums to indicate clearly the Australian attitude on both international and national matters, and particularly trade and world peace. The Australian attitude in all these fields is to be commended and encouraged because these countries are anxious to converse with us, to understand our point of view and not leave it to some other nation to speak for us, not have us involved in their politics or their views on international affairs. It is useless for the Leader of the Opposition to come in here and make such a criticism without substantiating it because for the first time we are on our own both in trade and international affairs. We have to speak as a nation and speak up for the children ofthe future on the basis that this is a great country with a good democracy and we know how to manage our own affairs and our own resources.
-Mr Speaker, the speech we have just heard from the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) would be the most extraordinary exposition of foreign policy heard in this Parliament for years. If the aim of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was to become a figure of fun during his overseas tour no wonder he took the Special Minister of State with him and no wonder he had the Special Minister of State represent him tonight and while he was away. The Special Minister of State has no concept of the international economic ramifications facing the world at the moment. He has no understanding of the need to avoid disputes between producers and consumers. He has no concept of what has transpired in the background leading up to international relations today. But I was intrigued to note the admission at last by a Government spokesman that South Vietnam is being invaded by the North. For years honourable members opposite have argued that it was merely a civil war.
We were told by the Special Minister of State that if the United States of America is able to expand Diego Garcia the Soviet Union will seek access to facilities around the Indian Ocean. My
Gpd, she already has 6 bases. How many more does the Government want to see in exchange for one United States logistic support base at Diego Garcia? The Special Minister of State then sought to develop the argument in support, I assume, of Australia’s becoming one ofthe nonaligned group either with observer status or as a guest, to use his own terminology. I will deal with that in a moment. Primarily we are dealing with the Prime Minister’s statement on his overseas visit. This has been the eleventh trip in 2 years. In the first 2 years of his term as Prime Minister Mr Menzies, as he then was, made 2 visits overseas. Mr Holt made 5 visits, Mr Gorton made five, and Mr McMahon made three. This Prime Minister has spent at least 130 days outside the country, and this Parliament has sat for only approximately 143 days. That shows the priorities of those who call forth the need for this Parliament to be sitting. The estimated cost of the Prime Minister ‘s visit is well in excess of $ 1 m.
We were given the chronology of the visit. We were told that on such and such a day he went to this place and that place. He left aside some other factors including the denigration of the Press for criticising the visit. Let me remind the Prime Minister of a few salient points. On 9 December Mr Hawke and Mr Egerton said that it was imperative that the trip be called off. On 10 December Mr Hartley said that the plan to go ahead with the trip was an alarming failure to come to grips with political reality. On 14 December the Prime Minister left for overseas. On 18 December, speaking in Brussels, the Prime Minister committed himself to opposing tariff increases. What does the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) think of that? What do the trade unions now think of that? Also the Prime Minister failed to obtain any significant relaxation on the ban of beef imports to European Economic Community countries, and this continued throughout his visit. On 19 December the Prime Minister interfered with British domestic issues by telling Britain what it ought to do about the Common Market. On 20 December in the United Kingdom the Prime Minister attacked States’ rights. On 28 December he rushed back to Darwin. For a momentary, fleeting glimpse of time he visited the modern ruins of Darwin before returning to the ancient ruins of Crete and Olympia to rejoin the Special Minister of State on 30 December.
On 2 January he ordered one of his bodyguards to run round the stadium of Olympia. He said: ‘I want you to be able to say you have run around the Olympic stadium.’ This is the Prime Minister who told us tonight that he wanted to shed the Bazza Mackenzie image. On 6 January he made the most appalling outburst by a Prime Minister when dealing with a tragedy that occurred in Australia. He denigrated the captain of the vessel that collided with the Tasman Bridge. The next day- 7 January- he unreservedly withdrew any imputation. On 9 January he pushed a television camera into the face of a pressman and said: ‘It is very embarrassing. Do not take any photographs.’ On 17 January was his retreat from Moscow. There is the chronology that the Prime Minister forgot tonight. He alleged tonight, with frequent use of the first person, that he had done much. That is not so, nor has he contributed in any way to any further understanding of this Government’s confused and, frankly, debased foreign policy. He can be charged accurately with hypocrisy and duplicity.
As I said earlier, more space was devoted to denigrating the media for their criticism of his visit than to such matters as the European Economic Community, uranium and energy and the Middle East, as was developed by my leader. So much for his priorities. The Prime Minister’s overseas tour had little positive purpose and achieved even less. Much has been made of the possible sales of uranium. In Australia’s long term interests such sales would, of course, be welcome. But at the present moment, with the state of the energy crisis, blind Freddy could sell uranium to the Europeans. The real point is that if a sale is successfully made ultimately, it will depend not on the Prime Minister’s headlines but on the fine print of any agreement- and none has yet been negotiated. Despite endless talk the Government has failed miserably to develop any kind of resources policy. A Liberal-Country Party government will move rapidly in this area. The term ‘resources diplomacy’ itself suffers from inherent ambiguity. It runs together and confuses the question of the measures necessary in order to develop Australia’s resources in the best possible way. The question of how the power which resources represent should be utilised in the general framework of foreign policy is, frankly, both a political and an economic question and is too important to be left to either the Prime Minister or a czar like the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor).
The 2 questions I raise are closely related. For example, let me refer to Australia’s independence. Honourable members opposite love that terminology. They scream for independence. They have run down our defence forces to such an extent that we are more dependent on other countries than we have been before. They talk and prattle away about independence. How much more independence we will have once our energy resources are properly developed and are not being frittered away and when incentives that ought to be given for those resources are not being retracted. Resources cannot be treated in isolation but must be related to overal objectives, which means that economic, political, technological, ecological and other considerations have to be co-ordinated and balanced. In the foreign policy field one of the first priorities of a LiberalCountry Party government will be to mobilise the expertise required to make informed and considered decisions. One thing can be said now: A narrowly nationalistic approach to resources is not only morally indefensible but is also positively dangerous, for if resources represent a source of political power they also represent a tempting target. A world starved of resouurces is hardly likely to sit idly by while it is held to ransome by the policies espoused by the Special Minister of State.
Tonight the Prime Minister mentioned detente. He does not face the reality of detente. For too long his virtually uncritical and optimistic view of detente has underpinned the Government’s foreign policies. The Opposition believes that the future- indeed the meaning- of detente is now very much in doubt. From the beginning authoritative voices have been pointing out the difficulties and the uncertainties of detente. Others have maintained that even should it succeed the results will be far from wholly favourable for countries like Australia but these warnings have not been heeded by the Australian Government, and the statement tonight reveals once again that they have been cast aside. So far detente has done nothing to lessen the growth of the Soviet’s military power. It has given that country important economic benefits and it has loosened the bonds between the United States and its European allies. Fears that it may destabilise the central balance between the super powers are not groundless. The more multi-polar balance to which the Prime Minister was referring tonight is not becoming a reality. The move to European union has, temporarily at least, lost its momentum, and the national economic system is facing critical problems of inflation and recession. Yet these salient facts are virtually ignored in his statement tonight, and as a result both the Prime Minister’s trip and his statement are virtually worthless.
Now I want to turn to the non-aligned movement. The Prime Minister has at last said in the Parliament that Australia is an ‘aligned country’. However, his Deputy Prime Minister consistently maintains that we are an honorary member of the Third World. This is yet another example of Labor’s doubletalk. The Labor Government has in fact and in real terms reduced our aid and assistance to members of the Third World and yet poses as a friend by requesting attendance at future meetings of the non-aligned countries. How empty. How deceptive. Australia cannot by any effort of will or ideology become a memberhonorary or not- of the Third World. In terms of our history, our culture, our social structure, and our living standards ours is a Western country and our foreign policy should reflect this fact. Anything else is phoney and unsustainable. Australia can and should have friendly relations with Third World countries, as it has in the past. Labor’s record pales in comparision with that of the previous Liberal and Country Party Government. It has done nothing to equal the Colombo Plan or the opening of universities to Asians. Its performance simply does not match its rhetoricempty rhetoric at that.
During his overseas visit, as I said at the outset, the Prime Minister became not merely a figure of fun or the subject of bar-room jokes; he became an object of ridicule throughout this country. His statement tonight in no way restores the stature of an Australian Prime Minister. With an ineptness bordering on genius he has managed to achieve the worst of both worlds- to be naive without idealism and opportunistic without advantage. A Liberal-Country Party government will work with a sense of urgency to reintroduce both realism and decency into Australian foreign policy. We will again tie certain concepts of defence planning to our strategic assessments. We will not allow ourselves to be deluded by the concept that there is no threat for 15 years. The Government has utterly failed to develop any sort of coherent and effective defence policy.
What discussions were held with NATO powers on some arrangement that we could enter into with them? What discussions were had with a view to bringing European forces here from time to time so that they could exercise with us? Not one iota of thought would be given to this at all. If this Government had in fact deliberately set out to destroy Australia’s defence capabilities it could hardly have done a more efficient job. We are spending less of our gross national product on defence in real terms than at any time in the last decade or more. We are spending an even smaller proportion of that diminishing percentage on hardware but we are spending more on maintenance. No wonder the Prime Minister does not wish to discuss the matter. No wonder he does not want to raise it in Parliament. No wonder we cannot get an in depth debate on international affairs. I do not consider the debate on a report of this nature to be a full scale debate on foreign policy. It is nothing of the sort. That means that we have had only one full scale debate on international affairs in the time in which the Labor Party opposite has been in government. It is a scandal, but it mirrors the conduct of the Labor Party’s foreign policy since it has been in government.
– It is understandable that the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), has succeeded the Honourable Nigel Bowen as foreign affairs spokesman for the Liberal Party. He clearly agrees with the statement that the Honourable Nigel Bowen made some years ago in New York that Australia was an insignificant country. The whole proposition that was put forward in the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the spokesman on foreign affairs for the Liberal Party was that Australia has no right to send a Prime Minister overseas to an area from which most newcomers to Australia in the last 15 years came. Let us go through the record. How long is it since an Australian Prime Minister paid a visit to Europe which, I think, would be commonly conceded as a very important part of the world? Prior to the Prime Minister’s visit an Australian Prime Minister had never visited Ireland, Italy, the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia. It is 15 years since an Australian Prime Minister visited France, Germany and Greece.
– So what.
– The honourable member says: ‘So what’, and it stands to indicate the level of ignorance and the degree of isolation which this Party opposite is prepared to inflict on Australia. The first point is that Australia for the first time in 23 years does not have an independent foreign policy. Mr Rohan Rivett, a journalist of some note, had something to say about the Prime Minister’s visit last year to Asia. He started off by saying that that visit was a tour de force. He continued: . . and the response in Asia today is spectacular.
But what he went on to say was this:
For 23 years Australia was ignored or bypassed in the thinking of most Asian governments. She rated merely as another American satellite blindly following what to most Asians seemed the inexplicable vagaries and miscomprehensions of American policy in Asia.
For the first time in 23 years Australia has now got a foreign policy not only in relation to Asia but also in relation to Europe. I can understand the frustrations of the honourable gentleman opposite when the Australian Prime Minister goes overseas and is received by heads of government and by organisations which have a direct and powerful influence in world relations. But what happens when the Leader of the Opposition goes overseas- and he does go overseas? He was recently in the United States. I have here a list of the people whom the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of an alternative government, saw. He saw the Deputy Secretary of Treasury; the Assistant Secretary for International Affairs (Treasury); the Acting Secretary of State; the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund; the Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs; Representative Pierre Dupont, member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Dr Wade, Deputy Assistant Secretary of International Security Affairs, Department of Defence; and William Clements, Acting Secretary of Defence. They are all estimable gentlemen but all very much a second eleven politically.
The Leader of the Opposition is a man who may at some stage be the leader of the government, yet the attitude taken by the United States to his visit was one which resulted in his receiving the second-class treatment that any member of this Parliament could receive on going to the United States. The performance overeseas of representatives of the Opposition when they were in government is, I think, highly illustrative. One point that the Leader of the Opposition tried to make overseas when he was invited to speak to the Council on Foreign Relations was made in a speech which he had already drafted. In that speech he followed the precedents of one of his predecessors in seeking to bucket Australia in foreign lands. But he did not understand that there is more protocol associated with Americans than obviously there is with members of the Opposition, because it became known to him that the Council on Foreign Relations was not a platform in which they would allow any visiting dignitary to bring into the United States any domestic wrangles. So the right honourable gentleman had to go off and re-cast his speech. It is very unfortunate that one of his ex-colleagues Mr Nigel Bowen, speaking in 1 97 1 -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not believe that the Minister is either speaking to the paper or defending the Prime Minister.
-Order! No point of order is involved. The honourable member knows that.
-We had the appalling example of a most blatant piece of seeking to involve a foreign country in the domestic affairs of Australia when Mr Nigel Bowen spoke to the American- Australian Association in 1971. He set out to invite the United States to intervene in the domestic politics of Australia. On that occasion he said: in the interests of our 2 countries . . . you-
He was talking to the American people- should consider whether you yourselves really wish actively to contribute to this shift of political power which, having regard to present policy statements of the Opposition, would lead inevitably to the imposition of conditions of Australian control of American installations in Australia which would be, asI personally am inclined to think would be intended to be, entirely unacceptable to the United States.
Here is an example of a Minister of the Opposition Parties when they were in government, the Foreign Minister, while overseas seeking the involvement of another country in the political affairs of Australia. Members of the Opposition have reached their height of frustration. If one examines the overseas visits of Prime Minister Gorton and Prime Minister McMahon- they did undertake overseas visits- one sees the perpetual run of incomprehensible statements and monumental gaffes. The main reason that they produced reports when they came back was to explain away the gaffes that they had made while they were away. There was always the proposition that the Australian Labor Government would follow policies that were inimical to the interests of the Australian people. But the previous Prime Ministers went further. They always associated the policies of the Australian people with the policies of the United States Government. We became a pale and feeble echo ofthe United States.
The one thing we have earned in these 2 years of government is the respect of the United States Government and the respect of the Soviet Government because we are prepared to stand up and put our point of view without fear or favour. Honourable members may have seen the report in the ‘Age’ which was headed: ‘Kosygin rebuffs Whitlam’. It was part of this very subtle campaign to denigrate the Prime Minister when he was overseas. But what was the point of the rebuff? The point was that the Prime Minister had raised with the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union the question of Jewish emigration and the question of the emigration of Soviet citizens to Australia. Can honourable members tell me that any predecessor of the Prime Minister from the other side fo the House would have gone to the Soviet Union and- I will put it in pretty blunt Australian terms- had the guts to raise in that environment the issue that Prime Minister Whitlam raised? When he went to the Philippines and when he went to Indonesia he raised the humanitarian questions of Amnesty International about the imprisonment of political prisoners. Again I ask that question: Which of his predecessors from the Opposition as Prime Minister would have dared to raise these questions? Prime Minister Whitlam is a man of substance. Prime Minister Whitlam was not afraid to put what he knew would be an unpopular proposition to the people with whom he was speaking. Because we have raised these matters after 23 years in which such propositions were not put by the former Australian governments we have earned respect. I shall quote a statement which reads:
Australia is understandably aware of its own strength and resources. It has assumed an increasingly important role in international bodies. It has an independent stance in world affairs which comports not only with Australia’s dignity and importance, but it serves everyone ‘s interests for Australia to exercise a greater influence on the world scene. We in America have no quarrel with this natural phenomenon and indeed we see it as potentially strengthening our relations with Australia.
That statement was made on 29 March last year by the United States Ambassador to Australia, Mr Marshall Green. It is because we can put propositions and we do put propositions- on Diego Garcia, on Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union- that we have rightfully earned the respect of the world powers.
I turn to the propositions that were just put forward on Diego Garcia. The Leader of the Opposition admits that there are dangers in competition. I think we have to go back a little further than the honourable member for Kooyong mentioned. There are such things as Polaris submarines in the Indian Ocean, so arranged there that they constitute a threat not only to the Soviet Union but also to China. We put a very simple proposition to the Soviet Union and to the United States. We accept the view of the Leader of the Opposition that there is a danger in competition. We said that if there is an escalation, if one side does something there the other side will do something there and there will be a spiralling and a build-up of preparedness. Preparedness, as we saw through the Vietnam War, leads only to war. That proposition was put to both countries. We did not put it just to the Soviet Union and forget about the United States, nor did we put it to the United States and forget the Soviet Union. This proposition has earned us the respect of the countries of the Indian Ocean. It was discussed between the Prime Minister and Madam Bandaranaika, the Prime Minister of Sri
Lanka. The proposition has earned us respect because for the first time other countries see an Australia that is prepared to stand up and put its view clearly and concisely to the 2 great powers in this world.
The Australian Prime Minister has undertaken a mission abroad. It was a mission that was long overdue. The Opposition can talk about its interest in foreign policy, but how can it maintain that when certain countries the Prime Minister visited in 1975 and late 1974 had never been visited by an Australian Prime Minister? Many of these countries are vital in terms of our trade and as the source of a number of our Australian citizens from overseas. Some had not been visited by an Austraiian Prime Minister for 15 years. The Prime Minister carried out this task as a man of dignity and was received by the leaders of the European countries. He had the capacity and the ability to talk to them on equal terms and what he said was understandable and understood. Now members ofthe Opposition come in their flocks to try to denigrate the very first time that Australia has been able to walk tall in Europe.
– If Australia walks tall in Europe it will not be because of any intervention by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) or that unnecessarily large entourage of which he reported to us in this Parliament tonight. The consistent policy of this side of the House in government was that Australia as a middle-ranking responsible power should have a position in which it was able to assert its point of view independently, responsibly, consistently and reliably in all the theatres of the world in a way in which it would be listened to and respected. Tragically the product of the last 2 years has been the complete reverse of that acceptance of responsibility. On no better occasion has this been illustrated than in the report to this Parliament tonight of the visit by the Prime Minister and his entourage to the ruins of the ancient world.
It is a tragedy that in the speech just given to us by the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) he did not realise the degree to which in seeking the respect of the United States and the Soviet Union, which he asserts his Government has gained, he does not realise the realities of even the visit we are discussing presently. In the United States today there is a considerable measure of concern about the degree to which this Government is so much to the left- a point of view which was expressed to me by the Acting Secretary for State who the Minister for Science tried to reflect upon because the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr Snedden) happened to have had some consultations with him. It is of interest that in the Soviet Union members of the Press who accompanied the Prime Minister found themselves so critical of KGB surveillance and that the Prime Minister himself found it necessary to take a debugging expert with him to ensure that those conversations which he wanted to have in private were in fact private. So much for the privacy, the confidence and the respect which this man, the Prime Minister, asserts he has been able to gain in these 2 countries.
Let us examine this recitation of a tourist’s tour that the Prime Minister has made. Let us look first at the manner and form of travel. This matter has been discussed on occasions by this Parliament, in the Press and within the trade union movement. The degree to which the Prime Miniser was prepared to spend lavishly has no doubt even been discussed by members of the Government. The Prime Minister was prepared to take with him an entourage only to justify the nature of the plane. He was prepared to come back for a brief, flitting visit to the tragedy afflicted city of Darwin and then to return to Europe, largely, one must presume, in order to enable the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) to assert his own credentials as a legitimate, alternative Prime Minister within the Labor movement. There is no doubt that the jet lag which the Prime Minister was suggested to have suffered while abroad seems to have even prejudiced the dissertation he has given us tonight. The manner and form of travel reflect not to the credit of Australia. Perhaps it might have satisfied the ego of the man who took the trip, but it certainly in no way justified the apologia we have heard tonight on the reasons for this visit.
It is true that we on this side of the House accept the necessity for a head of government to visit abroad. We accept that there are distinct advantages in a head of government, a responsible Prime Minister, visiting countries overseas to establish at that level a relationship which is both personal and able to demonstrate at the highest level the attitudes of the government of which he is the leader. But there is no justification for a visit of the duration of that taken by the Prime Minister. Nothing said to this Parliament tonight, either by the Prime Minister or the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) who accompanied him, can in any way justify the absence abroad of the Prime Minister at a time when the economy of this country had fallen to the depths which it had not hitherto attained, other than during the depression. There is nothing in this recitation of interviews conducted by the Prime Minister which demonstrates that the interviews and discussions which he held in any way assisted the unemployed of this country. There is nothing to demonstrate that he assisted to contain Australian inflation. It is no use his again resorting to that common excuse that, after all, inflation and unemployment are not peculiar to Australia. There is nothing in the statement to suggest that his visit overseas has brought him back to Australia with any new knowledge which is likely to lead to the resurrection of the economy to something like the position it was in when he took office, nor to the position it might well be in if a Liberal-Country Party government were to be in office at this stage. There is justification for a head of government going overseas; there is justification for his taking brief visits in order to discuss responsibly with other heads of government, matters of national importance. None of the products of the Prime Minister’s visit has been demonstrated to be in that category if all he has succeeded in achieving is included in the statement made to this Parliament tonight.
Let us look at the nature of the impact of his visit domestically. There is no doubt that the concern felt by leaders of the trade union movement which the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) mentioned, was echoed widely by the Australian community early in December in the days when the Prime Minister was preparing to depart on his trip. It was echoed once more when the Prime Minister returned for that 6-hour visit to Darwin. It is important that the Prime Minister recognise that while in his terms it might be that his colleagues can deal with domestic problems in his absence, the unemployment statistics degenerated significantly during that period while he was away from Australia. It is important that he realise that the men and women in the soup queues and the men and women who were receiving unemployment benefits were in no way better off for the visit that he made and the time he spent in countries abroad.
It might be said that in the pursuit of resources diplomacy- so effectively demonstrated, so he alleges, in this statement- there is surely a benefit for some elements of our community. Let us look at that resources diplomacy. What did the Prime Minister achieve by way of trade concessions? Nought. Did he in any way plead Australia’s case for trade in all those other significant commodities with which we persistently have trade difficulties- wool, and minerals other than uranium? What did he do about sugar? There is a serious world shortage of sugar and in no countries has this shortage been greater than in the European Economic Community and Britain. What reference is there in this statement to sugar? When the former Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Tanaka, was in Australia to discuss those commodities which the Japanese badly wanted to buy, it was suggested that Australia would have been much better off if our Prime Minister had said: ‘Well, I am prepared to talk about those after you have explained your position to us on beef and wool.’ But he failed to do so.
The Prime Minister has not learnt his lesson. As one can understand it, he sought to have discussions on beef in only the first 2 countries he visited. Apparently after that he decided to keep quiet. Yet the Australian Meat Board has just had a delegation to Russia. What conversations did the Prime Minister have in Russia about selling Australian meat to that country? There is no report and no comment on it. Indeed, my advice is that after 2 visits to countries overseas, the Prime Minister was told not to push the question of selling Australian beef. With regard to uranium, somebody thought to mention to him that it is not the only alternative energy source.
The Prime Minister made a great deal of having visited Britain. He suggested that at this stage he has established the fact that Australia is not deserting our British family relationship but has maintained it in a more adult way. He made a great deal in his statement of the fact that at this stage Australia is closer to Britain than she has been for a long time. He said that it is important that our attitude in Britain is understood. So we would all agree. But we on this side ofthe House do not think that Britain is peculiarly England.
The Prime Minister went to see that former senator of some repute in this country, the present Ambassador to Ireland, Mr Gair. I wonder what discussions the Prime Minister conducted in Ireland, a country from which 35 per cent to 40 per cent of the Australian population derives. It is a country which today is as divided as any other country in the world. What good offers did the Prime Minister make perhaps in terms of assisting towards the establishment of peace in that country? The Prime Minister made no statement in that country that reflected the concern of Australia about the deterioration of relations in Belfast over the last 5 years. He made no effort to intrude, on behalf of the significant percentage of Australians who derive to some degree from Ireland, to try to assist towards a resolution of that country’s problems. He made much of the fact that he, the Prime Minister, is concerned about Australia’s relations with Great
Britain. He made much of the fact that he went to Europe and to those other countries to work. Yet in none of those sensitive areas of world diplomacy has he bothered to take a role at all.He went to Russia and of course Mr Brezhnev did not see him. It is true that the Prime Minister did see Mr Kosygin. It is important to realisethat Mr Brezhnev is the Head of State of the Soviet Union. In the Moscow communique the Prime Minister, having come back to Australia, said he believed it important that the independence of Israel as a state should be accepted. The Prime Minister asserts he was able to establish good relations in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, yet the USSR was able to persuade the Prime Minister that it was necessary to avoid any mention of the necessity for recognition of an independent state of Israel in the statement that he released in that country. The Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) has suggested today that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had sufficient guts to talk about Jewish immigration with the Russians. Why did notthe Prime Minister have sufficient guts to talk, to both sides of this House about what I had thought to be one of the fundamental precepts of foreign policy, that is, that it is necessary in the resolution of the problems of the Middle East that there be a recognition by all countries of the necessity for the establishment and maintenance of an independent state of Israel? Yet the Prime Minister, in his Press releases in Moscow, made no reference whatsoever to the necessary recognition of Israel as an independent state. But he did assert that there should be a separate Palestinian state. Mr Whitlam, of course, was quite prepared to forgo mention of Israel in order to establish these new so-called better relations that he enjoys with a country that was prepared to bug bis room and commit the KGB to follow every Press journalist who accompanied him on his mission.
In his wonderful achievements in the external fields, why was it that in one country alone on his visit- I refer to Holland- he was prepared to accept in his discussions on immigration that there should be a preparedness by the Australian Government to consider an increase in migrants? In no other countries did he make any commitment to this effect. Why did he not talk about it in Britain? Why was not he prepared to talk about it in the other countries that he visited in Europe? In other words, the achievements which the Prime Minister has asserted came from his visit are rather illusory.
In each of the countries which the Prime Minister visited he was able to meet the high and the mighty. Long in rhetoric but short in achievement, the Prime Minister demonstrates in this recitation that in reality little has been achieved to Australia’s advantage as the product of his expensive 6 weeks absence from this country. Indeed, it is a tragedy that so many of the senior officers of the important departments of this country and the Prime Minister and the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) should have found it necessary to be absent for so long. One must only assume that the purpose of the trip was mainly to pander to the desire of the Prime Minister to visit the ruins of the ancient world and enjoy the contacts that he makes with those who deservedly are the heads of their countries and who enjoy respect and status for the contributions which they have made to world affairs.
I have no time to go into the details of what I consider should have been included in such a visit. Why did not the Prime Minister visit the Middle East, another area about which there is tremendous concern in Australia and a source of a good deal of immigration to this country? Why was not the Prime Minister prepared to participate in a responsible way in a resources policy which secured a meaningful advance in trade access for commodities which Australia badly needs to sell? Why was not a meaningful sale of beef secured as a result of these aproaches by the Prime Minister instead of a possible achievement for the end of 1976, when all the pundits accept that the reverse of the present situation of oversupply will exist? Indeed, there is no doubt that the sooner there is a return to the consistency, reliability and responsibility in foreign relations pursued by Liberal-Country Party administration the sooner Australia’s true status and respect will be regained. There is not time for this modern hero to pursue further visits to the ruins of the ancient world in the manner of this visit.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hayden) adjourned.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Connor, and read a first time.
– I move:
In introducing this Bill I remind all honourable members that it is identical with the measures which I introduced in this chamber on 1 1 July 1974 and which was carried in this House without amendment on 23 July 1974. It was then introduced into the Senate the same day. The Senate refused to pass the Bill on 24 July 1974. As an interval of 3 months has now elapsed since the Senate failed to pass this measure, the Bill is being introduced again so that it may be returned to the Senate.
Honourable members ‘will recall that the Bill before them constituted Part III of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973 which I first introduced into this House on 10 May 1973, and that this Part was deleted when the Senate passed the Bill with amendment on 27 November 1 973. The mining code embodied in the Bill will provide a legal framework and established rules governing the orderly exploration and exploitation of our offshore mineral resources. The salient features of this Bill and the associated Royalty Bill were outlined by me when introducing the measure previously and I see no point in going over them again.
Mr Speaker, the passage of this Bill will again emphasise the importance we attach to the exercising by the national Parliament of its sovereign powers over the offshore area in relation to offshore mining activities. This Bill is a further positive step towards this objective. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.’
Bill presented by Mr Connor, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is consequential upon the Minerals(Submerged Lands) Bill 1974 and was also introduced into the House on 1 1 July 1974 and carried without amendment on 23 July 1 974. It was introduced into the Senate the same day and there failed to pass on 24 July 1974, when the Senate also refused to pass the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974. As with the principal Bill, 3 months have elapsed since the Senate failed to pass this measure and I now introduce this Bill again and commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
The Bill before the House is designed to provide for an orderly transition from the present health insurance scheme to Medibank. This Bill is identical to the Bill passed by this House last July, which was subsequently rejected in another place. Honourable members will be aware that since this Bill was last rejected a Joint Sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate has been held. During that Sitting, the Health Insurance Act and the Health Insurance Commission Act were passed. The Health Insurance Act authorises the payment of medical benefits, the Australian Government to enter into agreements with the States for the provision of hospital sevices and the making of health program grants. The Health Insurance Commission Act establishes the administrative structure of Medibank. I should point out that although Medibank can be brought into operation and can function without further legislation its operation nonetheless can be greatly facilitated, especially in the public interest, by the passage of further ancillary legislation. This Bill is such an instance. It will facilitate the introduction of the program and ensure adequate protection of all groups in the community during the transitional period. I shall deal with these matters more fully later.
Medibank has been the subject of a prolonged campaign of deliberate misrepresentation conducted principally by those with vested self interest in the preservation of a present inefficient, inequitable and very costly health insurance scheme. In view of the confusion born of this misrepresentation I will remind the House briefly, as I have done on previous occasions, of the basic facts concerning Medibank. The first and main objective of Medibank is to give every Australian on identical terms automatic security against the cost of medical and hospital treatment, at reasonable cost to the community. It is not a program to nationalise medical and hospital services, nor does it reduce any of the freedoms which patients, doctors or hospitals now enjoy. On the contrary, it extends them. Honourable members will know that the medical plan gives everyone automatic coverage for private practice, fee-for-service, medical treatment and that there will be complete freedom of choice of doctor by patients and of place and type of practice by doctors. Persons with pensioner medical service entitlement will have access to all medical practitioner treatment- specialist as well as general practitioner, procedural and diagnostic services as well as consultations. Currently, of course, these pensioner patients are only entitled to free general practitioner consultations under the pensioner medical service.
The Health Insurance Act makes special provision for pensioners whose financial means are within specified limits equivalent to the present pensioner medical service entitlement limits. I will be writing to all doctors asking them to accept benefits in full settlement for treating these patients. I am hopeful that doctors will cooperate in this arrangement, so that eligible pensioners will receive treatment free of charge. For the rest of the community treatment will also be free where doctors bill Medibank direct. Doctors may follow this course or will be able, if they wish, to bill patients in the traditional way. In this case, where the schedule fee is charged, the medical benefit refund will be such that the patient will have to meet only 15 per cent ofthe fee, up to a maximum amount of $5.
The hospital arrangements within Medibank provide for the Australian Government to enter into agreements with individual State governments under which the net costs or operating State public hospital systems will be shared equally between the Australian and State governments. In accordance with the agreements, standard bed treatment- that is, public ward- in public hospitals will be free of means test and free of charge to patients who choose this form of treatment. For those choosing private treatment in either a public or a private hospital there will be a $16 a day subsidy towards hospital bed charges provided under the Health Insurance Act. Where state governments decline to enter into agreements then, until such agreements are entered into, the present National Health Act arrangements will continue so far as hospital benefits are concerned. An effect of this will be that access to public ward treatment will still be subject to whatever charges and means tests the State governments apply and, of course, people in these States will have to continue to pay high hospital insurance contributions although they will be relieved of their medical insurance contributions.
I outlined to the House the provisions of the Bill when it was last introduced on 16 July 1974 and I do not intend to repeat them again now. However, I will outline briefly the main provisions. Firstly, the Bill provides for cessation of the payment of Australian Government medical and hospital benefits under the National Health Act. Secondly, it provides for the manner in which existing health insurance organisations will phase out their National Health Act operations. Of course, organisations ceasing operations under the National Health Act will be eligible to seek authorisation to conduct health insurance business under legislation supervising private health insurance which will be introduced later in these sittings.
Thirdly, its provisions recognise that, with the pending introduction of Medibank, some existing medical and hospital funds may have difficulties continuing their viable financial operations. Some organisations may not be able to meet claims for medical and hospital benefits for services rendered prior to 1 July 1975. Other organisations may decide to cease operating in view of Medibank being introduced and may have difficulty in ensuring the continuance ofthe protection of their contributors. To meet these situations, clause 19 provides for Medibank to conduct private medical and hospital insurance to the extent necessary to ensure the interests of contributors are fully protected during this transitional period. Finally, the Bill provides for the Australian Government to assume the liability for nursing home benefits at present paid by registered hospital benefit funds to insured nonpensioner patients. This will be achieved by extending the additional Australian Government nursing home payment, now applying to pensioners with pensioner medical service entitlement, to all qualified nursing home patients.
As I have already stated it is not absolutely essential that the Bill before the House be passed to enable medical benefits to be paid and the hospital arrangements to be achieved under Medibank, but if is desirable. The failure to pass this Bill would disadvantage some sections ofthe community and cause personal loss to individuals- for example, patients in nursing homes and contributors of funds which cannot meet their claims. Should the Opposition continue to block the passage of this Bill, then it must hold itself responsible for such personal losses that in some cases could be substantial. Australians generally will be denied the protection afforded by properly authorised transitional arrangements which are designed to safeguard fully their interests. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Clyde Cameron, and read a first time.
– I move:
In April 1973 I introduced into this House a Bill to make a number of important amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Included in that Bill were provisions designed to remove existing barriers to trade union amalgamations and provisions relating to certified agreements. When this first Bill went to the Senate that chamber took the extraordinary step of rejecting the Bill at the second reading stage thereby refusing to give proper consideration to the merits of any of its clauses. The Government was therefore faced with the question of whether it should reintroduce its original Bill intact or remove from the Bill those sections which the Opposition seemed to think were controversial, namely, provisions eliminating penal sanctions and those protecting organisations and their members from certain tortious liabilities, so that the remaining important provisions could be proceeded with as a matter of urgency. The latter course was adopted and I introduced a second Bill in the House in August 1973. This was eventually passed on 13 November 1973 but only after considerable alteration by the Senate, including amendments and deletion of provisions concerning certified agreement, and almost complete rejection of the amalgamation provisions. I commented at that stage:
I must say on behalf of the Government that it is a bitter disappointment to me that the Senate saw fit to reject the 6 clauses dealing with amalgamations because one of the things that is plaguing industrial relations today is the demarcation dispute which arises as a result of having too many unions and which cause employers to be the innocent sufferers and by-standers in these stupid inane disputes over which union shall cover which particular occupation. This tragedy- and it is nothing less than a tragedy in industrial relations- will never be resolved until the Parliament alters the Act in such a way as to make it easier for the unions to amalgamate and thereby to reduce the number of unions.
I accordingly introduced a new Bill relating to amalgamations in July of last year. It is now industrial relations history that in September 1974 the Senate rejected the Bill without allowing debate on a single clause. That act of wanton obstruction, of attempted destruction, has not deterred the Government in its endeavours to achieve the enactment of the important industrial relations measures for which that Bill provided- the removal of the barrier set up by the joint Liberal-Country Pary Government to prevent amalgamations of unions registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
This Bill is exactly the same as that rejected by the Senate last September. It contains nothing that is revolutionary or even extraordinary. What it proposes is the dismantling of barriers to amalgamations deliberately erected by the previous Government. The arguments for encouraging amalgamations have now been canvassed several times in the Parliament. The merits of those arguments are obvious to all but the most obtuse, and I intend to spend only a little time mentioning some of them. Although the number of trade unions in Australia has been slowly declin-ing-375 in 1956 to 305 in 1972 and to 294 at the end of 1973- the figures still show a large number of separate unions representing small groups of employees.
This Parliament is privileged to have in its precincts tonight a distinguished visitor from Sweden, namely, the Managing Director of Orrefors. This gentleman comes from a country where the number of trade unions has been limited to a number that makes the number we have look absolutely ridiculous. It is because the Swedish labour system is so much superior to ours that the Swedes are able to boast of a very much greater and better industrial relations record. The official figures show that, of the 305 unions in existence in 1972, 158 had less than 1000 members; another 82 of the unions had between 1000 and 5000 members; 28 of the unions had between 5000 and 20 000 members; 23 had between 20 000 and 50 000 members; and only 14 unions in a country of our size with a population of 13 million people had a membership of over 50 000. The figures show also that, of the 294 unions at the end of 1973, 226 had a membership of fewer than 5000 members and 103 unions had a membership of fewer than 500 members.
In my second reading speech on 12 April 1973 I said:
Grave defects attend this dispersal of working people throughout such a large number of separate organisations. There is unnecessary duplication of work. Salaries paid to officials of great energy, dedication and talent are low and unattractive and discourage men of quality from making the sacrifices that a career as a trade union official often involves. The population base from which the leaders are drawn is often small. Demarcation disputes concerned with protecting the revenue and membership of a union threatened with loss of coverage by encroachments of other unions are a common occurrence in this country. Too much time is lost through disputes over which unions should handle a certain job.
I would hope that the honourable and distinguished honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who is leader of the other side of the House at the moment and who takes such a keen interest in this matter, will listen with great attention to what I am saying. I know that his heart is in the right place and I am sure that if the Tories and reactionaries who seem to run his Party at the moment would only listen to his advice on this matter this Bill could fare better this time than it did before.
My speech continued:
The mobility of trade union officials from office to office is sometimes restricted by rules which require officials to be drawn from among longstanding union members only. The cost of libraries and research staff- essential for good quality industrial leadership- is frequently beyond the resources of small unions. Even the cost of assembling the members and officials in conference is too much for some unions frequently to bear. Discussion and policy making in tune with the needs of the members always suffer when the members and their leaders cannot frequently consult each other.
The formation of larger unions will provide a significant part ofthe answer to these problems. I recognise that a stage could be reached in the size of a union where possible disadvantages might outweigh any additional benefit. I concede that. I realise that unrestricted growth could eventually result in a situation where a union’s officials cease to have rapport with the union’s members and lose awareness of their needs and aspirations, where the energy and devotion of union officials could become absorbed in the material advancement of their union as an institution to the detriment of its members ‘ welfare. I appreciate that the complexity in relationships and communication that attend size could result in loss of direction and, perhaps, inertia. But these problems are not a necessary concomitant of size. However, these are not the problems that bedevil the Australian industrial relations system. We have too many unions with too few members. We have too many inefficient unions. We need in Australia today fewer and more efficient unions.
– Industry unions?
– Well, the concept of industry unions is something that I personally support strongly. But it will be a long time before Australia moves to the position where it will accept industrial unions as the honourable member has mentioned. But it is a desirable objective from my point of view. I believe in it. But we are a long way from getting that ideal situation. I doubt very much whether employers will thank the Opposition for its continued obstruction of these reforms. Employers want fewer and more efficient unions. They do not want 303 unions, some of them small and inefficient but very obstructive; they want fewer unions. Mr Polites, the spokesman for the National Employers Association wants to see fewer and more efficient unions. After all, the employers derive considerable benefits from the formation of larger unions. Frequently several unions are parties to a single award or agreement, as is the case in the metal industries or in the Australian Post Office, where something like 24 separate unions operate to cover the various people employed in the PostmasterGeneral ‘s Department alone. And often there is a multiplicity of awards and agreements which operate in single establishments.
Amalgamation of organisations will operate in this situation not only to reduce the number of unions parties to single awards and agreements but also to limit the number of awards and agreements applying within single establishments. Negotiation and agreement on industrial matters would also be facilitated if the employer had to deal with only one or two unions instead of, as is often the case today with larger employers, with a number going into double figures, each one operating under different rules and procedures and not necessarily common policies. I remember the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee), when he was the leading light in the Chamber of Manufactures, telling me that on one occasion he had had to sit down at a table and talk with the officials of 14 different unions about an award to cover one industry. What could be more absurd, what could be more debilitating than this? One needs to look no further than government instrumentalities to get an idea of the number of unions one employer has to deal with. I have already mentioned the Postmaster-General’s Department. Workers in the Sydney Mail Exchange are covered in the one building by no less than 20 unions. It is utterly absurd and it ought to be remedied. The work force of Trans- Australia Airlines is covered by no fewer than 26 unions. The men and women employed by the Commonwealth Railways, a small enterprise by railway standards, belong to 14 different unions.
It is no wonder that in February 1972, before the introduction of the legislation which erected the present barriers to amalgamation, the then president of the Metal Trades Industry Association issued a Press statement stating that he would be informing Mr Lynch, my predecessor, the then Minister for Labour and National Service, that the MTIA would be opposed to any action by the then Government which sought to prevent the amalgamation of 3 metal unions which was in progress. The statement said that, far from objecting to the amalgamation, the MTIA saw many practical advantages for industrial relations in the metal industry. Specifically mentioned were the reduction in the number of unions with which the MTIA and its members would have to deal and the elimination of costly demarcation disputes in which the real sufferer is the helpless employer, who has to sit on the sidelines watching his industry go down the drain while the members of 2 unions fight over who will do what job.
-But that amalgamation did go ahead, of course.
-That amalgamation did, but not before Senator Greenwood, your leader in the Senate, did everything he could, even at the last minute, to prevent the amalgamation from being brought to finality. Because your Senator Greenwood, acting on instructions from the National Civic Council and Mr Santamaria, who seems to dominate Senator Greenwood’s thinking on everything, was the one who wanted to prevent the amalgamation of those 3 metal unions. The joint Liberal-Country Party Government took fine care not to prevent that amalgamation, so it paid hp service to the Santamaria-ites who wanted to prevent the amalgamation, but in the end was able at least to let that one go through. But it was able effectively to prevent the amalgamation of the building workers unions, which at that time had both completed secret ballots of their members to arrange for the amalgamation of the plasterers union with the Building Workers Industrial Union. That amalgamation was prevented by what I describe as a snide amendment to the Bill then before the House in the Committee stages. It was a disgrace and nothing for the then Government to be very proud of when we reflect upon the way it prevented that amalgamation from being brought about. Similar care was not taken in the interests of the employers and employees.
There is also the area of primary importance, that is, the national interest. The benefits to unions, employees and employers already mentioned that would flow from fewer and larger unions would go a long way towards a more efficient industrial relations system, one which would be conducive to a substantial improvement in industrial relations. More specifically, in the longer term a relatively small number of unions could effect a reduction in the number and frequency of wage claims and, I think it is reasonable to suggest, a consequent moderation in the rate of wage increases. With nearly 300 unions, our industrial relations area is in a state of constant ferment, with unions making claims, negotiating agreements or undertaking arbitral proceedings to bring their members’ conditions up to parity with or to improve upon wage rates obtained by other unions. Wage claims are made in such numbers and with such frequency that it is extremely difficult for union officials or anyone else to know whether a union’s claim will maintain the members’ wage position relative to that ofthe members of other unions or will comprise the initial bid in a new round of wage increases. If the only effect of amalgamations were to lessen the number and frequency of wage claims, that in itself would be a significant improvement on the present situation.
The Bill that I now present provides a contained code for amalgamation and the procedures for amalgamation are very much simplified. There would be no mandatory requirement for an officially conducted amalgamation ballot in the case of each organisation concerned in a proposed amalgamation. A organisation will have the option of conducting the amalgamation ballot internally according to its rules or of seeking its official conduct, if that is what the organisation wants. Its official conduct may also may be sought by a specified number of members of the organisation where the committee of management has failed to formulate an amalgamation proposal. For acceptance of the amalgamation there will no longer be a requirement that 50 per cent plus one of the members must vote, nor that 50 per cent plus one of those voting must favour the proposed amalgamation. A majority of financial members voting formally will be sufficient for the acceptance of the amalgamation. The cost of officially conducted amalgamation ballots will be borne by the Australian Government. Exemptions from ballots may be granted by the Registrar to the organisation remaining in existence, that is the host organisation, after amalgamation, where it possesses a membership at least 20 times that of the deregistering organisation, unless the Registrar considers that there are special circumstances by reason of which the exemption should be refused. If the nurses union wanted to join the boilermakers union, we would say that the boilermakers should not be forced to accept the nurses as part of their union, to come along to boilermakers’ meetings and to decide how much dirt money a boilmaker should get unless the boilermakers also had a right to say whether they wanted nurses to attend the meetings of the boilermakers.
Under the Bill the following steps will be involved in the procedures for amalgamation: The committee of management of each organisation concerned will be required to resolve upon the proposed amalgamation and accept a scheme of amalgamation; the publication of the proposed amalgamation in the Press and in the journals of the organisation concerned; the scheme of amalgamation will be filed with the Industrial Registrar; the existing procedures in relation to the registration of organisations and the alteration of rules of existing organisations will then apply and, under these, objections may be lodged on specified grounds; a determination by the Registrar of the application following a hearing; conduct of the ballot or ballots; and if the proposed amalgamation is to proceed, the carrying out of the necessary formal steps of registration, alteration of rules and deregistration.
I refer honourable members requiring any further details on the clauses of this Bill to previous debates, especially the Committee debate on 3 1 July last year. I should remind honourable members that the continuation of the 1972 amalgamation provision means that Australia is not honouring its international obligations. Australia has ratified International Labour Organisation Convention No. 87, ‘Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise’, and it did so on a commitment to undertake amendments to the amalgamation provisions which prevent the Convention from being implemented. This most undesirable state of affairs has to be brought to an end. The truth of the matter is that there was no reasonable justification for the erection of the present barriers in the way of amalgamations. Some little time before the introduction of the enabling legislation in 1972 the then Minister for Labour and National Service, my predecessor, Mr Phillip Lynch, referred to this matter. It would do members of the House well to listen to this quotation although there is only one Opposition member present, with another who seems to be half asleep. Let me remind the one who is listening of what Mr Lynch said:
I think it is fair to say that providing the membership of industrial organisations does not lose effective control as a result of amalgamations there are many advantages which can accrue from amalgamation.
For instance there are some 300 unions in Australia. Most of them are very small. It could facilitate the functioning of the arbitration system and relations generally between employers and unions if this number of unions decreases . . .
That is the end of the quotation, and I agree with Mr Lynch. Those barriers were erected to placate the hysterical fever of certain former members of
Parliament and their supporters. I refer to the Democratic Labour Party in particular, but its supporters are no longer with us so we ought not to worry about them. Their fear was too unreasonable to permit any consideration of the enormous benefits to unions, the enormous benefits to employers and the enormous benefits to the community that could flow from amalgamations of unions.
They feared that larger unions might also be more militant, using their industrial strength in reprehensible ways. That would be, of course, a possibility. I do not rule it out but if we are to allow our every thought or action to be influenced by the possibility that some unwanted consequences might follow it is doubtful that we could bring ourselves to the point of daring to act at all in anything at all. Size and militancy are not automatically concomitant. The Australian Workers Union is one of the 2 largest unions and few would disagree with its reputation for conducting its industrial affairs in a moderate manner. Many people would say it is too moderate but no one can say it is too militant. On the other hand, that same fear blinded its holders to the fact that comparatively small unions with members employed in carrying out functions whose continued operation is vital for the economic or social wellbeing of the community can exercise industrial strength out of proportion to their numbers. Time and time again we see examples of this.
I suggest that the importance of the Bill’s provisions merits the response of reasonable consideration rather than blind prejudice. The Government’s firm commitment to the provisions of this Bill is endorsed by the general support given to amalgamation by leaders of both sides of industry and by industrial relations experts both here and overseas. In West Germany there are only 16 unions covering the whole of the unions in a country with 6 1 million people. One of them, the Metal Workers Union, has a membership of 2 070 000. The 1974 statement on Employment and Industrial Relations Policy endorsed by both the Country Party and the Liberal Party said: the multiplicity of unions and the spread of certain unions through many industries make the task of consultation and negotiation more difficult with problems of one union unnecessarily flowing to others.
This Bill gives members of those parties an opportunity to do something constructive about these matters and about the problems to which they very rightfully pointed their fingers. The Government regards it as imperative that this Bill be passed and I invite honourable members on both sides of the House to support it. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Clyde Cameron, and read a first time.
– I move:
It is very difficult, Mr Speaker, with the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) breathing down my neck and telling me to finish my speech by reading one page when I have 10 pages before me.
– They know all about it. They heard all about it before.
-But we want to put it on the record so that when a double dissolution is brought on, if there is one, we can show the people what we said about it at the time and what sort of a reasonable proposition it was that the Opposition decided to reject.
This Bill is concerned exclusively with industrial agreements. Its principal provisions can be summarised as dealing with the certification of agreements, their operation and cancellation. They are integral elements ofthe Government’s industrial relations policy. The primary objective of that policy is the promotion of an industrial relations system that will be the most efficient possible in providing harmonious and mutually satisfactory industrial relationships. The Government is trying to make good the results of the neglect, ineptitude and harm in the field of industrial relations that characterised the time in office of the joint Liberal-Country Party Government. It is trying to provide a system that will be able to accommodate the needs of the future.
There are people who find it difficult to adapt to changes occurring about them. Others, out of the depths of their pessimism, fear change. For some of these people, as things are so they must remain. Others even try to turn back the years and resurrect the practices of days gone by. This attitude is particularly prevalent when alterations to the industrial relations system are proposed and I suggest that in this area it has more success in preventing improvements than in most. It is an attitude often expressed in the sentiment that our conciliation and arbitration system has served Australia well for more than 70 years. Implicit in that view is a basic assumption that a system designed to deal with the kinds of industrial relations problems that occurred at the end ofthe 19th century and which, in fundamental aspects, has remained substantially unchanged since then, is adequate to deal with the industrial relations problems arising in the eighth decade of the 20th century. It is a fallacious argument.
In 1904 Australia had a rural economy and a comparatively small work force which, in the main, had little education and its expectations of something better were depressed by its experience of the legal and economic constraints from which it was struggling to become free. The trade union movement was in its infancy and for many people, including many employees, it was far from respectable. Today Australia is an important manufacturing country utilising sophisticated technological processes serviced by a highly skilled workforce. Unions are recognised to play essential roles in shaping the economic and social life of the community. They draw their members from all walks of life: Scientists, accountants, nurses, engineers and doctors as well as the shearers- I was a shearer before I entered Parliament- seamen and waterside workers who did so much for the development of trade unionism in Australia. Nevertheless, our conciliation and arbitration system remains essentially the same as it was 70 years ago.
When the provisions of this Bill were last before the Parliament it was said:
The Bill recognises the wide and increasing incidence of voluntary agreements. Of a total of 800-odd federal awards, approximately 500 were arrived at wholly by agreement. Many of the remaining 300 incorporate agreed portions. Thus the Bill responds to the needs arising from this industrial environment by providing procedures both facilitating agreements and their operation according to their tenor.
I endorse that statement. It was maintained by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the fact that these agreements had been reached within the conciliation and arbitration machinery is an argument against change. It was also maintained that the Bill’s provisions- which do no more than recognise the existence of that trend and facilitate its development according to principles which will benefit not only the parties but the community- are part of a scheme to bypass and weaken the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. These assertions reveal the Opposition’s usual fumbling lack of appreciation as to how the industrial relations system and the conciliation and arbitration system really work.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act does not set up, and was never intended to set up, machinery through which claims had to be channelled for approval or disapproval. I realise that members of the Opposition hold this view of the function of the Commission but it is a mischievious and even dangerous misconception. The Commission is set up to prevent or settle disputes and the need for conciliation or arbitration by the Commission does not arise unless the parties to an industrial relationship cannot reach agreement on the terms governing the continuance of that relationship. In 1904 it was natural that unions looked to the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for protection. They were impoverished and their members were poor and uneducated. All the advantages of money and power then lay with employers. It is understandable that in the circumstances pertaining in the first half of this century unions may have developed a habit of looking to the Court. However, the trend towards agreements indicates that this is no longer the position. Unions now have self respect and the respect of others. They have acquired a status in the community. Their members are often well educated- in the case of some unions, extremely well educated. The majority know that they can now treat with employers on the basis of equality. They no longer regard the Commission as a source of protection or as some sort of authoritarian ‘Big Brother’, but view it, as I suggest it should be viewed by all, as the proper place for parties to receive assistance when they cannot resolve a matter between themselves. This Bill will not result in the Commission being bypassed or weakened. It should not be necessary to point out that the Bill retains the requirement that agreements be certified by the Commission. What the Bill does do, is to reflect the need to adapt the Act to accommodate the changes that have occurred. We cannot afford to close our eyes to those changes. If we do, we run a very real risk that the Commission will be of increasingly less relevance. We must not let that happen.
The attitudes of some union officials need to change also. Today people in general are not as willing as they once were to accept decisions that are unilaterally imposed. We all are aware, or should be, of the considerable evidence that people now feel more strongly than ever before that they have the right to a voice in the making of decisions that will affect them. Probably one of the clearest examples of the expression of that desire is in the field of education. Parents, teachers and also students are concerned about the quality of education and believe that they have constructive contributions to make on improvements to our education systems. Another example, this time in the field with which we are now particularly concerned- industrial relations -is that unions are asserting, and it is becoming generally accepted, that where capital and labour are co-operating in an enterprise, there are legitimate interests of employees entitling them to a voice in the management of that enterprise at least to the extent that those interests are involved.
It should, therefore, be readily understandable that rank and file union members are not willing to endorse agreements that union officials have decided are in the best interest of the members but which do not take account of the real needs and desires of members because no one has thought it necessary to try to find out what the members are thinking. If fixed-term agreements are to be that in fact as well as name, it is essential that rank and file members be consulted and kept informed on the progress of negotiations and account taken of their wishes. Their involvement must be such that they can recognise that the agreement provides the terms and conditions they are seeking or a compromise acceptable to them.
It is quite unrealistic for anyone to think that where such basic matters as wages and other important conditions of employment are concerned, trade unionists will be willing to accept less than they believe to be reasonable and fair. It is quite unrealistic for anyone to think that trade unionists will abide by fixed-term agreements which they believe, after weighing the pluses and minuses’, provide for less than is justly due to them. It is quite unrealistic for some trade union officials to continue to assume that the rank and file will abide by decisions in the shaping of which they had little or no part. It is quite unrealistic for those trade union officials not to share the process of decision making with the rank and file because of fears that their authority will be usurped by shop stewards: they must have more regard for the views of members at the shop floor level and recognise that shop stewards are an important, even essential element, in the process of identifying and transmitting views and ideas from the rank and file to union management and vice versa. It is unrealistic for employers to disregard the obvious fact that an agreement reached with union officials might not be observed if the rank and file have not been involved in the substance of the negotiations and fail to co-operate with union officials in designing procedures which will enable the rank and file to be involved in the negotiating process.
It is fortunate that there are many trade union officials today who welcome democratic controls and processes. Regrettably, there are some who do not. One of the purposes of the provisions proposed by this Bill is to encourage those officials to democratise the decision making processes in their unions in relation to proposed agreements concerning the members’ conditions of employment. I believe that one’s attitude to this Bill will depend upon one’s personal philosophy. A person with a liberal philosophy would favour it, a person with authoritarian inclinations would probably prefer an alternative approach to a solution to industrial relations problems. The question that has to be decided is really this: Is it preferable for matters to be resolved by agreement of responsible and knowledgeable parties to an industrial relationship with full freedom to determine for themselves the most appropriate ways and means, or should free consideration of the matter be circumscribed by the forced intervention of, and procedures prescribed by, a stranger to that relationship? I suggest that if the answer to that question favours the first alternative, it necessarily follows that the provisions of this Bill should be approved in their entirety.
This Bill is in terms identical to those of the Bill rejected by the Senate last September. As to certification it provides:
That prior to certification, the member of the Commission is to be satisfied that the principal terms of the agreement are acceptable to the majority of the financial members of the organisations affected by the agreement;
Where he is not so satisfied, he may direct the conduct of an official ballot in order to ascertain the views of those members;
That the Commission shall not refuse to certify an agreement unless its certification would result in a major detriment to the public interest;
For a single member of the Commission to certify agreements which contain matters previously reserved for a Full Bench only;
For the reference of an agreement by a member of the Commission to the President where the member believes that its certification could result in a major detriment to the public interest; the President is then empowered to determine whether the matter should be considered by a Full Bench.
In connection with the first proposal, the last time the provisions of this Bill were before the House it was said that these provisions would weaken union leadership and ‘union leaders would have no authority or incentive to make anything stick’. In fact, their effect will be precisely the reverse. The knowledge that the Commission, if it is not satisfied that the terms of the agreement are acceptable to a majority of the union’s members, may direct that a ballot be held, will be a strong inducement for union officials to ensure that agreements made by them reflect the wishes of the members. Union officials would not willingly allow themselves to be caught in a position which revealed a lack of rapport with the members they were elected to represent. Accordingly, they will be forced to establish and keep open effective lines of communication with their members. This will increase their knowledge of day to day union affairs which, in turn, should increase their confidence in their right to act authoritatively in their dealings with others both in and outside the union. Having entered into negotiations, armed with up to date information on what is expected of them by their members, they will be able to give undertakings and enter into agreements confident that the undertakings and agreements will not be disowned by the rank and file. Having entered into an agreement with the knowledge that it reflects the wishes of the majority of union members, they will be in a very strong position in their dealings with members who may be reluctant to abide by the terms of the agreement.
The remaining 3 provisions mentioned go no further than is necessary to permit employers and unions themselves to determine the form of the relationship they want. They are aimed at striking a reasonable balance between the need to facilitate agreements and the need to protect the public interest. To be effective in reducing industrial unrest it is essential that employers and unions should be able to negotiate with reasonable certainty that whatever agreement they reach will stand. It is therefore important that the Commission should not be able to withhold certification because of some minor consideration. It is equally important that they should be able to negotiate and agree on the whole range of matters relevant to their relationship. Negotiation is a matter of give and take and the process just could not operate satisfactorily if one of the matters of main concern had to be excluded from the discussions.
The Bill also provides that limitations on industrial action may be included in agreements only where the limitations apply to industrial action against the settlement terms ofthe agreement. Provisions in agreements extending to industrial action taken in relation to matters not covered by the agreement are to prevent the certification ofthe agreement. Whether agreements are negotiated with terms limiting industrial action is for the parties themselves to determine. The Government does not set out to stop that. However, we do want it to be made abundantly clear that what is being prohibited by the agreement is a strike against the settlement terms that are dealt with specifically in the agreement and not other matters outside the agreement. Opportunities should not be afforded to parties to go beyond the spirit and intent of agreements and to capitalise on open-ended commitments unwittingly entered into by parties to the agreement. Should this occur, there will be a reluctance in future to enter into agreements.
As to the operation of certified agreements, the provisions of the Bill are designed to ensure continuity of coverage of employees’ entitlements and to encourage the timely re-negotiation of agreements. A certified agreement is to operate for the period specified in the agreement. Thereafter it is to continue to operate until one of the parties acts to bring about its cessation. The Bill provides for the giving of notice by a party to the Registrar, 30 days after which the operation of the agreement is to cease. Prior to the cessation of its operation, all other parties to the agreement are to be advised of its impending cessation. This procedure will enable a party to cancel an agreement when it no longer represents that party’s wishes, whereas under the existing legislation an agreement can never be cancelled by one party alone. It can of course be cancelled by the agreement of all parties and by order of the Commission but, short of those 2 situations, once made there is no way of getting out of a registered agreement at the present time. The agreement continues ad infinitum. On the other hand, this procedure also gives a warning of 30 days to the parties concerned for renegotiation of their agreement in the knowledge that if they do not do so, the area concerned will be award free at the end of the 30 days. Continuity is thus placed in the hands ofthe parties themselves.
Finally, there are provisions concerning the suspension or cancellation of agreements by a Full Bench of the Commission where a party has repudiated the agreement by persistently contravening its terms. This again reflects the Government’s belief that agreements freely entered into should be honoured by the parties concerned. If one party does not do so, it would be quite unfair for the other parties to continue automatically to be bound by the provisions of the agreement already repudiated by the other party.
The successful negotiation and operation of industrial agreements is absolutely crucial for the survival of our conciliation and arbitration system. The Government desires to encourage such agreements as a means of paving the way for some co-ordination in the presentation of union wage claims and of achieving moderation in wage claims and as a rational alternative to industrial strife. It should be seen as inter-related to the Bill on amalgamations. The 2 Bills complement each other in assisting to achieve 2 major objectives of the Government: The rationalisation of our industrial relations system and a dampening of inflation. This is an important Bill. I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to speak on a most important constitutional issue, namely, the filling of casual vacancies that have occurred in the Senate. We know that ever since the introduction of proportional representation the Senate has been fairly evenly divided. Indeed, I think since 1951 that condition has always obtained in the Senate. The filling of casual vacancies therefore becomes a matter of major importance. It is perhaps somewhat strange that the principles which should determine it have not been more discussed. One thing which stands out is that the Senate is, in a sense, the House of the States and the filling of casual vacancies lies therefore in the first place in the hands of State governments. We are speaking, I suppose, about the principles which might actuate State governments in making their decisions. But what are those principles? I think we are looking at this as a comparatively new thing because until the Senate was elected by proportional representation this matter was not of any great significance.
There are 2 kinds of casual vacancies which occur in the Senate and on this principle they should be sharply differentiated. There is first the casual vacancy which occurs by reason of the death or illness of a senator and there is second the casual vacancy which occurs because a senator has resigned to take up some other appointment. These are quite different. In the first case, death or illness is something which occurs by some unforeseen chance. The second occurs by choice of the senator concerned. This is the vital difference between the 2 situations. If the vacancy occurs by death or illness it is only fair and reasonable that the place should be filled by a senator of the same Party. I think it would be reasonable to expect in that case that the State making the choice to fill the vacancy should scrupulously keep to the Party of the dead or sick senator. This is something which has not happened by his choice; it has happened by a chance, and as such it is only fair that a senator of the same Party should be appointed to fill the vacancy.
But it is quite different when the vacancy occurs by the resignation of a senator who resigns from his own choice. In that case he has to take the responsibilities of the action and the consequences of the action which he himself has voluntarily provoked. In that case, if the Party from which the senator comes is in command of the government of the State from which he comes he can . quite reasonably expect that his successor will be of the same Party as himself. That goes, I think, without saying. It is quite competent for him, before he makes his resignation, to go to the Government of the State concerned and ask : ‘If I resign will you put a member of my Party in my place?’ If that State Government says yes, then it is an agreement which of course must be kept. If it says no, the senator has to make the decision as to whether he should resign, knowing that his place in the Senate will be filled by somebody of another Party.
I think it is of absolutely vital constitutional importance to distinguish between the case where a vacancy in the Senate occurs through the voluntary action of a senator and the case where it occurs through illness or death. This is important because it gives some sanction in the hands of a State government against an improper appointment for the senator concerned, because the senator must now say: ‘I am going to resign because I am going to be appointed to this or that post’. If the State government thinks this is an improper appointment it should say to that senator: ‘You are of a different Party from us. If you take this course which we think improper, we will put a senator of another Party in your place ‘. If he has not taken the precaution of going to the State government before he resigns, the consequences are on this own head.
This is of particular importance in regard to Mr Murphy. Mr Murphy has resigned from the Senate by his own choice and on his own initiative. It is up to the State to impose a sanction if it thinks that the pending appointment to the High
Court of Mr Murphy is an improper appointment. I think there is good reason to think that it is an improper appointment, made of the wrong man and for the wrong motives. This is a matter which has both smaller consequences relating to the individual concerned, Mr Murphy, and larger consequences in relation to the High Court. Both of these matters are important. 1 do not think that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) would have offered this post to Senator Murphy, knowing that he had to resign from the Senate, unless he had expected great advantages politically from Senator Murphy on the High Court. I do not think he would have done this because whatever -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take the point that that is a very shameful statement. When Sir John Spencer was appointed Chief Justice of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court we did not say the same thing about him.
-Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that there is a serious implication in what he has just said. I ask him not to repeat any such implication.
– I am speaking of a Mr Murphy. I am not speaking of a senator and I am not speaking of a High Court Judge.
-Order! The honourable gentleman implied that favours would be cast by Mr Murphy upon the Prime Minister. That was the implication as I understand it. I ask the honourable gentleman not to make such an implication.
– I stand here and I say that the Prime Minister in appointing Senator Murphy, even if the State of New South Wales were to appoint a person of the same Party to succeed him, would still have lost politically because he would have lost a long-term seat in the Senate. He knows this perfectly well. I do not think the Prime Minister would have done this unless he believed that he would get political advantage on the High Court from -
-Order! I have just told the honourable member that the Chair believes that that is an implication of favouritism towards the Prime Minister in any decisions to be made by Mr Murphy. I will not stand for such implications. I ask the honoarable gentleman not to make them. If he intends to do so I will ask him to resume his seat.
– I think that you are not perhaps behaving as you should, Mr Speaker.
-Order! I will ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat unless he does as I ask him to do.
– I withdraw what I said about your behaviour. Perhaps you are not making the position clear enough.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will continue with his speech if he wants to do so or he will resume his seat.
– I will continue with my speech, Sir. I am trying to make it plain that I am not speaking about a judge of the High Court. I am not speaking about a senator. I am speaking about a private individual. I believe 2 things: First, that this has been done for the reasons I have given, and, secondly, that Senator Murphy has beaten the rap.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I have given him adequate warning.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I move:
-Order! The honourable member has moved dissent from my ruling. The question is that the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion say aye -
- Mr Speaker, I am prepared to speak to that motion of dissent.
-I call the honourable member for Mackellar.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the honourable member for Mackellar be not further heard.
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar has to put his objection to the ruling in writing.
– Very good, sir.
– You are a real ratbag; it is a wonder they do not lock you up.
-Order! The Minister should not exacerbate the position. The honourable member for Mackellar has to put his objection to the ruling in writing.
– I do not want to press this point, but I -
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the honourable member for Mackellar be not further heard.
-Order! The question is: ‘That the honourable member be not further heard ‘. For the question say aye; to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
– The noes have it. (The bells being rung)
– Fancy defending a ratbag like the honourable member for Mackellar -
-Order! The Minister will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw, Mr Speaker.
– He is just a psychotic.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
That the honourable member for Mackellar be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-We have just listened to an exposition of apologies for an unconstitutional and unthinkable proposition which has been put by the New South Wales Government. Since the introduction of proportional representation for elections to the Senate all vacancies have been filled by the Parliament of the Senate appointing a member of the political party from which the person who has ceased office belonged. There have been numerous resignations and appointments. One which comes to mind involved Mr Justice Spicer. He was Attorney-General of Australia. He put legislation through this Parliament to set up the Industrial Court and then resigned from the Senate to become the first Chief Justice of that court. The attacks on the democratic system which have been made by the Parties opposite, since they were denied what they look upon as their divine right to govern, would cause concern in some of the least democratic countries if they occurred. A clear campaign is being mounted in this country in the State parliaments and in this Parliament to end democratic government for ever in Australia. That campaign is being led by the Country Party. The Liberal Party, which has most to lose in such an event, is being led by the nose. Although, in Queensland, elections no longer take place to elect governments. There is no way in which governments can be changed in Queensland by the electoral process. Such is the manipulation of the electoral laws in Queensland that the present Premier and his Party could win an absolute majority in the Queensland Parliament with 33 per cent of the total votes in that state.
Motion (by Dr Forbes) put:
That the honourable member for Corio be not further heard.
The House divided: (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-Order! As the time of the honourable member for Corio has expired, I call the honourable member for Wimmera.
– I am surprised at the reaction this evening of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). I think most members in this chamber would be most perturbed at the reaction of the honourable member following the statements made by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) -
– I rise to take a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member’s time had expired.
– That is not the point of order that I wish to take. The point of order that I take is that, at one minute to 11, the honourable member for Wimmera is about to misrepresent me, and I do not think that is permissible.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 February 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750211_reps_29_hor93/>.