29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations.
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 Kevin Cairns, Mr Cope, Mr Kerin, Mr Lamb, Mr Martin, Mr Mathews, Mr Mulder and Mr. Oldmeadow.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The 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 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That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distance, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in the retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr. Adermann, Mr Mathews and Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: that implementation of the Report on Housing by the Priorities Review Staff will not ensure that the Australian community can secure living accommodation of its own choosing appropriate to its needs; that many of the proposals positively discriminate against home ownership; that the proposals if implemented would not encourage thrift and initiative but would further advance the philosophy of dependence upon the Government for basic services; that the proposals are more concerned with redistribution of income than providing accommodation for the Australian community.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will request the Government to take no further measures which will make home ownership unattractive to those who have a home and unachievable for those who have not.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Adermann and Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned strongly petition and protest against the refusal of the Australian Government to grant full Land Rights over the 96 hectares claimed by the people of Wreck Bay in accordance with stated Government policy.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this present Government implement its policy for Wreck Bay by vesting in the people the whole area of 96 hectares claimed by them as their right. by Mr Les Johnson.
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 Malcolm Fraser.
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 undersigned persons believe that-
The $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975. yvvdt030 End your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMr.Macphee.
To the Honourable the Speaker and House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMr.Kerin.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr. Lamb.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decisions of the Australian Government-
Your petitioners are impelled by these facts to call upon the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to review the abovementioned decisions (a) and (b), and to determine:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Martin.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned urge the Australian Government to provide by statute that the rate of pension benefit shall be 25 per cent of average weekly earnings and that adjustments to pension rates be made twice yearly in order to achieve this aim.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Mathews.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That we wish to protest most vigorously at the increases in postal and telephone charges.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
Diminish the size of the increase or, if possible, leave charges as they are.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Millar.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would tend to favour the larger states of New South Wales and Victoria over the smaller States of Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania;
That in Canada, where the various Provinces have the power to levy income tax, differences between the Provinces in income tax rates are substantial and tend to favour the larger, wealthier Provinces;
That it is undesirable that a new taxation system should be introduced in Australia which would widen rather than lessen the differences in standards of living between the various States;
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the present system of personal taxation which ensures geographical uniformity of treatment of citizens throughout Australia will be retained.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Morris.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I ask the Prime Minister: Is it reasonable to ask the Parliament to vote on the Budget when it is already recognised that the deficit indicated in the Budget Papers is now to be exceeded by at least $700m? Should not the Government recast the Budget so that the Parliament can vote on an accurate document with accurate figures?
– I would have thought that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have been able to comprehend the Treasurer when he was answering a similar question yesterday. The Treasurer was clear, cogent and specific. I would have thought that at the time the Treasurer was speaking he could have been understood by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In the meantime, what the Treasurer said has been reported in the newspapers. No doubt a copy of the Treasurer’s answer could have been obtained from Hansard. I would have thought that there would have been no difficulty whatever in so persistent a plodder as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition understanding what the Treasurer said yesterday. The fact is that because of the success of the Government’s attitude and representations on incomes matters it appears that there will not be so large an increase in incomes this year as was expected at the time the Budget was delivered. In consequence, there will not be such an increase in income tax returns as was stated at that time. This contingency was envisaged in the Budget Papers, as quoted by the Treasurer yesterday.
-Is the Minister for Defence aware of Press reports that there are dumps of mustard gas and phosgene from World War II at various locations throughout Australia, including the Blue Mountains? Is there any substance in these reports? Is there any danger to the public arising from these munitions dumps?
-I have seen the Press reports. In fact, I asked the gentleman who was responsible for the Press reports to let me have statutory declarations giving precise information about the dumps. I also asked the Department of Defence to investigate the claims. I now have the report from the Department which says that tunnels were used to store chemical munitions in the Blue Mountains area. Records show that they were all physically removed. The report also points out that large quantities of chemical materials were disposed of at a site in the same area. This site was checked 2 yean later. We are talking of something of the order of 30 years ago. When the site was checked 2 years later it was found that disposal had been complete and that the area was safe. As my colleague the Minister for Science is aware, mustard gas spilt on the ground is rendered harmless by natural processes in a matter of days. Leaking phosgene gas disperses in the atmosphere and leaves no trace. So on the basis of this report I inform the honourable member and the House that there is no danger whatsoever from the dumping 30 years ago in the Blue Mountains area. All steps needed to be taken for the safety of the area were taken some 30 years ago.
-I ask the Prime Minister Is it correct that the Minister for Minerals and Energy has at all times consulted closely with the Prime Minister and sought his approval before initiating action in respect of overseas loans? Did the Minister for Minerals and Energy inform the Prime Minister of the communications between the Minister and the Government’s principal loan raising intermediary on 1 1 June and 12 August?
-This is the first question the Leader of the Opposition has asked me on this matter for very many months. I point out that yesterday he put 8 questions on the notice paper for me bearing upon overseas loan raisings. I shall of course answer those questions. He previously asked me over 40 questions. The first time a question was asked after that I had the answers to those questions incorporated in Hansard. Later I think his Deputy, or it might have been the Leader of the Opposition himself, asked me some further 20 questions which were put on notice on 28 August. They were answered on 2 September. In these circumstances it seems to me reasonable that he should follow the leisurely practice which he has pursued of putting questions on notice. I will follow the practice of answering those questions promptly. There is only one matter of moment that I should take this opportunity of stating. In answer to the very first question that the honourable gentleman asked me, I stated:
Not a cent has been paid to the gentleman, not a cent has to be paid to the gentleman, not a cent will be paid to the gentleman.
In these circumstances I would like to inform honourable gentlemen that as a result of the newspaper article yesterday, to which the honourable gentleman obviously is referring and for which he is not prepared to give any authentication, the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department advised the Secretary of my Department in these words:
I confirm the advice I have conveyed to you orally with reference to these claims, namely, that the Government is under no commitment to accept any moneys from any would-be lender and that the Government is under no obligation to make any payment to Mr Khemlani or to anyone else.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Education been drawn to a Press statement by Sir Eric Willis, the New South Wales Minister for Education, in which he claimed that I had an incredible hide to claim that the total i cost of work at a number of schools in my electorate was financed by the Commonwealth and that it was not possible to apportion to the Commonwealth a specific amount from the total cost of a particular project? Has the Minister seen my original Press statement in which I listed the expenditures from the Schools Commission report? Is Sir Eric Willis ‘s statement correct?
-Some weeks ago I tabled in the Parliament a report of the financial assistance granted to each State in 1974, the report of the Schools Commission as is required by section 59 of the States Grants (Schools) Act 1973-74. 1 was amazed to see Sir Eric Willis’s statement that it was impossible to dissect Commonwealth grants from ordinary State expenditure and determine that in any specific school a certain amount of money assigned to that school came from the Australian Government. All I can say is that Sir Eric Willis is unaware of the information which his officers are supplying to the Schools Commission. If he is correct in saying that the honourable member for Robertson is incorrect then his officers are misinforming this Parliament.
I am going to be quite specific on this matter. The honourable member for Robertson said that the Avoca Beach Primary School had had $10,000 worth of capital construction and that the Caves Beach Primary School had received $89,600 from the Commonwealth. On page 6 of this report of the financial assistance granted to each State, it is stated that that is what the Schools Commission was informed by New South Wales officers. The honourable member also said that the Gosford High School and
Henry Kendall High School had received respectively $86,500 and $62,967 for capital construction. That is what is on page 9 of this report. He said that at Kanwal Primary School and at Killarney Vale Primary School there were respectively $387,107 and $324,388 of Australian Government money spent on construction. That is stated on page 128 of this report. He said that Umina Primary School had received $136,398, as stated on page 8, Woy Woy High School $274,280, as stated on page 10, and Wyong High School, 2 grants of $20,000, as stated on pages 10 and 129. Those are the last schools I want to mention. The information provided by the honourable gentleman to the newspaper and repudiated by Sir Eric Willis was the information provided to the Schools Commission about those specific schools by officers of the New South Wales Department of Education as they are required by law to do. Therefore I am going to write to the editor of the newspaper, sending him this report and drawing his attention to the passages concerned. I also am going to write to Sir Eric Willis about the misinformation that he provided in rebuking the honourable member for making public the information which Sir Eric ‘s own Department has given.
The only other thing I want to say about this is that Australian Government funds to the schools in 1974 and 1975 amounted to $784m. A statement which I will be tabling shows that next year the schools will receive $465.2m. Sir Eric Willis is quite entitled to the view that this is not enough. All I want to say is that the $784m and the $465.2m are additional to the efforts of State governments and of the non-government education authorities. Therefore, every cent of it ought to represent betterment. The constant misrepresentation of these sums of money by State Ministers may sooner or later convince the Treasury that the effort is not worth while.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Was the Minister for Minerals and Energy instructed to write to his intermediary instructing him not to proceed with further loan negotiations? Can the Prime Minister confirm that this was done? If not, can he tell the House why that action was not taken?
-I wrote to the Minister on 13 June asking him to confirm that action had been taken to terminate any discussions that he might have been having with persons involved in loan raisings. He wrote back giving me that assurance on 18 June. Perhaps I could be given leave to have incorporated in Hansard the statement made by the Minister to the Press yesterday.
-Is leave granted?
– If we could have tabled the letter which the Minister wrote to the intermediary.
-Leave is not granted.
-Has the Prime Minister any knowledge that Mr Khemlani -
Government supporters- Ha, ha!
– We know who will have the last laugh. I think that it is a laughing subject too.
-Order! I ask honourable members on my right to behave themselves. They seem to be deliberately trying to disrupt question time and I do not think that that is in the best interests of this Parliament.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has he had any knowledge that Mr Khemlani is suing or proposes to sue the Government for his commission?
-No, Mr Speaker.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, concerns the recently announced resignation of the Prime Minister’s adviser on women’s affairs, Miss Elizabeth Reid. Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether Miss Reid’s resignation means that there has been any loss of interest by the Australian Government in promoting the equality and advancement of women in Australia? In particular can he say whether it is the Government’s intention to establish within the Prime Minister’s Department, or any other department, a section to deal with policy for the advancement of women and, if this is intended, whether the position of personal adviser on women’s affairs will be continued? If a women’s policy section within the Public Service is to replace the personal adviser will he inform the House what advantages are expected to accrue from that arrangement?
-When this Government came to power it was quite obvious that urgent steps had to be taken to ascertain those areas of administration and legislation concerning women where the Australian Government had previously been passive, inert, negligent or insensitive. Pending the establishment of continuing arrangements in the Government structure and the passage of legislation I was fortunate to secure the services of Miss Reid as a personal adviser. She has entered on leave, to which she is entitled, and she has told me that at the end of that leave, which I think is early in December, she will be resigning.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay a tribute to her diligence, dedication and dignity in that position, the skill that she has brought to bear in serving not only women but all Australians both at home and abroad, in private and in the media. I think that Australians are enduringly in her debt.
One of the objectives that the Government has had- and to this objective Miss Reid has contributed mightily and nobly- is to build into the administrative structure machinery for ensuring that any aspects concerning women are observed and properly solved and acknowledged. This will be done. There is already a women’s affairs section in my Department, but it is proposed to upgrade its status. Miss Reid has always had the right to see any Cabinet documents and she has made suggestions which have helped very much in the handling of those submissions by the Cabinet and the future consideration of legislation in the Parliament. It is proper that there should be in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet appropriate machinery for doing these things on a continuing and official basis.
I should like to remind honourable gentlemen of some of the things that the Government has been able to do in respect of women’s rights. We did, as will be recalled, ratify International Labour Organisation Convention No. 100- the Equal Remuneration Convention- of 1951. We ratified the 1953 United Nations Convention on the Political Rights of Women. We appointed a royal commission into human relationships under the chairmanship of a woman judge. We sought the extension of the adult minimum wage to women in the 1973 national wage case. It came into operation at the end of June last. The National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation and its counterparts on the State level have been in operation since June 1973. The report of the committee appointed in July 1974 which inquired into the effects of social change on the educational needs of women and girls is about to be published.
A sub-committee to undertake a continuing review of developments affecting the employment of women in the Public Service was established by the Joint Council of the Australian Public Service at its fiftieth meeting. Since March 1974, 7 womens’ health centres have been established in Australia. At least 1 1 women’s refuges throughout the country are receiving Australian Government funding. In 1974 we introduced the supporting mothers’ benefit which is payable to any woman provided she has custody, care and control of a child. In June this year legislation was passed to establish the Children’s Commission. Last year $46m was spent on childhood services and a further $74m is provided in this Budget. In June 1975 the Family Law Bill was passed.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Yesterday on 2 occasions I rose to ask that the Minister responding at length to a question without notice might do so by making a statement after question time. I ask -
– Order! Yesterday I informed the honourable member that there is no point of order involved. If the point of order is taken again I will take action. The Chair does not have the right to direct a Minister. The honourable member is aware of that, and he will not take that point of order again. He will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker -
-The honourable member will resume his seat.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr SPEAKER-There is not a point of order. Mr Sinclair- There is a point of order. Mr SPEAKER-There is not a point of order. Mr Sinclair- There is a point of order on - Mr SPEAKER- I name the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party.
– Shame on you. Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the honourable member for New England be suspended from the service of the House.
-The question is that the honourable member be suspended from the service of the House. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’.
Government supporters- Aye.
-To the contrary ‘ no ‘.
Opposition members- No.
-The ayes have it. The honourable member stands suspended from the service of the House and will remove himself from the chamber.
Opposition members- The noes have it.
-No honourable member asked for a division.
-Is a division required?
Opposition members- Yes.
-The House will divide. Ring the bells. ( The bells being rung)
– When did the Prime Minister put you up to this?
– He is allowed to make policy statements during question time.
-Order! The honourable member will remain silent or I will name him again. (The bells having been rung)
-Lock the doors. The question is that the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party be suspended from the service of the House. The ayes will pass to the right of the Chair, the noes will pass to the left of the Chair.
– What is the reason?
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Wimmera knows the reason and might remain silent.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Honourable members seem to be under a misapprehension as to the rights of the Chair at question time. The rights of the Chair on answers to questions are those rights which are provided to the Chair by the Standing Orders of this House. If honourable members seek to change the Standing Orders that is their prerogative, but while the Standing Orders are in the form in which they are the Chair must abide by them. The Standing Orders on answers to questions merely state that an answer must be relevant to the question. There is no other qualification on the answer to a question.
-I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I draw your attention to standing order 1. Standing order 1 reads:
In all cases not provided for hereinafter, or by sessional or other orders or practices of the House, resort shall be had to the practice of the Commons House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in force for the time being, which shall be followed as far as it can be applied.
Sir, if you look at May’s Parliamentary Practice and particularly at the practice of the House of Commons you will see that what you have said conflicts with standing order 1 because the Speaker of the House of Commons does exercise authority when Ministers abuse, as Ministers have done in this House, their rights in answering questions. Sir, I ask you to conform to standing order 1 and direct that this kind of abuse by the Prime Minister shall forthwith cease. That is within your prerogative.
-Order! The honourable member will now resume his seat. He has taken his point of order. There is no question time in the House of Representatives which conforms to question time in the House of Commons and therefore there is no standing order here parallel to that in the House of Commons. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– May I make a point about the interpretation that you just made of the standing order?
-I would not think so at the moment. I think it is a matter for the Standing Orders Committee. I understand you will make a submission on that.
– I was not wishing to make an argument about it, Mr Speaker. I wished only to point out that on occasions you and certainly your predecessors have pulled up
Ministers who have taken too long in giving answers. I was one Minister who on occasion was pulled up in that way. Speakers have exercised an influence. When the Minister for Urban and Regional Development was in Opposition -
-Order! The Speaker has the right to ask a Minister to shorten his answer. I have done so regularly and most likely was about to do so with the Prime Minister. A Minister has the right to ignore that request, but the Speaker has no power other than to make a request.
– I understand that, Mr Speaker. I can only urge you to use your influence appropriately.
(Mr Malcolm Fraser having addressed a question to the Prime Minister)-
-I uphold the point of order.
-Can the Minister for Defence inform the House whether there has been any recent support from an unexpected source for the Government’s defence policy?
– I am very happy to say that there has been support for the Government’s defence policy from none other than the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. Certain features in the statement that was issued yesterday by the Liberal-National Country Parties all of a sudden brought them into the 1970s. The first feature of the statement is that they have abandoned the futile and outmoded concept of forward defence and they have accepted wholeheartedly and fully the concept that has been basic to the Australian Labor Party’s policy- the Government’s policy- on continental defence. The second paragraph of the statement pointed out that today there is no clearly identifiable threat. I welcome this statement because it reveals a more sober and realistic appraisal of the strategic environment of Australia. There is no longer the wild, woolly and emotional statements, the playing up of fears, that have epitomised the Liberal-Country Party’s defence policy in the past. This is important because if one bases one’s defence preparedness and one’s defence planning on wild and woolly statements the one thing that is distorted is the very notion of the defence policy.
I know that the honourable member for Moreton agrees with the proposition of the Government that the international scene must be kept under continuous review. Strategic assessments are taking place and I hope in the course of the next few weeks to be able to provide members of the House with the latest- the most up to datestatement on the strategic assessment of the Australian Government and its advisers. Another point was made in the statement. I was delighted to see it made because only weeks ago in this House the Opposition sought to defeat the legislation that the Government brought in for the reorganisation of the Department of Defence. It was only through the intervention in the Senate of the Independent senators that the Government was able to bring into effect the defence reorganisation. Let me quote from the manifesto of the Liberal-National Country Party which says -
-Order! I suggest that the Minister shorten his answer.
-I certainly shall, Mr Speaker. I can leave the matter with the observation that yesterday the Liberal-Country Parties said:
We believe that a single department co-ordinating and directing defence activities will best promote efficient and economic defence planning and operations
We thoroughly agree with that proposition. It is only unfortunate that the Liberal-Country Parties did not adopt it only a matter of weeks ago.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that the Government’s chosen intermediary, as reported yesterday, is a man of the highest integrity and repute and therefore suitable to act on behalf of the Australian Government, as he has done over the last 12 months?
-I have already asked, and I repeat, that the honourable gentleman should add this question to those he already has on notice.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. It is supplementary to a question that was asked yesterday. I ask: If the Australian Legal Aid Office were abolished, as promised by the Leader of the Opposition, to whom would the more than 10 000 people in need per month turn for legal advice and legal assistance? Where would the 4000 who seek help every month from the ALAO in family law matters get that help? How would environmental groups without adequate financial support be assured of equal access to the law? Who would ensure that the case of the low income tenant would get adequate representation in the courts?
– I take a point of order. I understand that the debate on the Legal Aid Bill is listed for today. Therefore, I understand the question to be out of order.
– It is not out of order. The honourable gentleman is seeking information about a specific subject. I call the AttorneyGeneral.
-The simple answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is that the vast majority of people who resort to the Australian Legal Aid offices now established and operating around Australia would be denied the services now available to them. It has been established beyond all doubt that the vast majority of people going into the Australian Legal Aid offices are not the sort of people who go to ordinary solicitors seeking legal advice. They are the poor, they are the migrant groups and they are the people who, for one socially conditioned reason or another, do not want to go into a solicitor’s office because of the aura which surrounds so many solicitors’ offices. That has been established by so many independent surveys that it reflects badly on the Opposition if it is not aware of it. Some 10 000 people a month are going to Australian Legal Aid offices. It is equally clear that the shadow Attorney-General in the Senate, among other Opposition spokesmen, has indicated that he sees no reason at all for the Australian Legal Aid office. He wants to dissmantle it. It is equally clear that the Leader of the Opposition has said that he would dismantle it.
It is equally clear that the indications coming from the Opposition are that it does not want to let the public know that it would dismantle the Australian Legal Aid office. It has to find a way around the situation. This is where the credibility of the Opposition comes really into the limelight, because its credibility is really at issue on this point. The Opposition seeks to resort to the ruse, the device, of saying: ‘When the Bill gets to the Senate we will send it to a committee. We will bury it and we will not be seen there to be burying and destroying such a valuable, popular and socially desirable initiative ‘.
-Order! The honourable member is now debating the subject matter of the Bill and not answering the question.
– I certainly do not intend to do that. I put as part of the answer to the question that one hopes that the Opposition is not going to go down the same road that it went down on Medibank when it allowed itself to be a stooge for the Australian Medical Association. We know that some law institutes and some Bar associations oppose the ALAO and would want to have legal aid in their own hands. The real basis of the honourable member’s question is that this Government intends legal aid to benefit people and not to be a subsidy for the legal profession.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Will the honourable gentleman assure the House that all communications between the Minister for Minerals and Energy and loan raising intermediaries were tabled by the Minister and himself on 9 July? If he is not prepared to give that assurance will he now table the documents that have been withheld?
– I ask that the honourable gentleman place the question on notice.
-I have seen the article. Naturally I am pleased to observe that the work of the Aboriginal medical centres has been acknowledged in a magazine that is circulated internationally as is the Reader’s Digest. The fact of the matter is that this enterprise is one which has sprung from the aspirations and initiatives of the Aboriginal people themselves. Needless to say, it would be very wrong to downgrade, disparage or disregard the contributions made by the Australian Government. From the time of the inception of this service some $365,000, or an amount in excess of that, has been made available mainly through my Department but also with inputs from the Department of Social Security and the Department of Health. The centre at Redfern is one of 7 such centres operating in Australia.
These centres are making a most significant contribution to uplifting the health standards of Aboriginal people.
The honourable gentleman asks me for an indication of future Government support. I can say that a substantial sum has been allocated this year- I think it is approximately $28,000 as a contribution to recurrent costs. Negotiations have been in progress for some time in respect of the need for new facilities for that Aboriginal medical centre. I am pleased that the honourable gentleman has raised this question as there has been some disparagement of the centre. Some reports have appeared in the Press to the effect that the Government’s support and enthusiasm in respect of its activities were waning. I certainly disabuse anyone of that impression and indicate the continued interest and backing of this Government for the work of the Aboriginal Medical Service.
(Mr Staley having addressed a question to the Prime Minister)-
-Order! The question is out of order.
-Why, Mr Speaker?
– It imputes motives to an honourable member which are improper. It cannot be asked without notice.
– Well, I ask the Prime Minister to confirm these statements -
-Order! The question is out of order.
-Is the Minister for Defence aware of any moves to reinstate the school cadet system.
-I had understood from the Opposition some days ago that one of its basic policies was to reinstate the school cadet system, if it ever had the opportunity. But on reading the Liberal-National Country Party manifesto on defence, I find that this quite clearly is no longer the case. Those Parties have no intention of reinstating the school cadet system. They have no intention of applying $ 1 1 .5m of the Defence vote to school cadets. What they have said is that they would seek to encourage schools maintaining school cadets. So, it is quite clear from the phraseology that they have used in their policy statement that they have no intention of reinstating the school cadets and undertaking an expense of $1 1.5m which the Defence advisers to the Government have pointed out detracts from the efficiency of the Australian Defence forces.
– For the information of honourable members I present the monthly report on the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund for July 1975. Due to the limited number available reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable members I present a statement relating to funds for the Education Commission for the 1976 calendar year.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been misreported. In an article in today’s Australian, that is Thursday, 9 October, under the headline: ‘ How the Affair Blew up ‘ there is this statement:
On July 8 the former Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, said he had found four commission cheques from the Australian Government worth $160m while investigating the petrodollar loan in Europe.
I did not even mention finding any cheque relating to commissions. I have never made such a statement at any time or in any circumstances. I said on PM on the day mentioned that I had seen one of the cheques drawn on the First National City bank for $20m. I go on to say now that that cheque was taken back from me. I also mention that I said that Mr Khemlani was known in the lower reaches of the trade as Old Rice and Monkey Nuts. I think that describes adequately what I think of the man.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In response to what was said by the honourable member for Chisholm I point out that in my phone call to Mr Sykes yesterday I stated that the reputed conversation had not taken place. I reaffirm that.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The question was ruled out of order. There is no call for a personal explanation.
-The statement was made. Irrespective of whether the question was in order it reflected on the integrity of the honourable member. She is perfectly entitled to make a personal explanation, which she has done.
– The question was not finished.
-At the request of the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Sinclair) who has been pushed out of this place -
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
Mr NIXON I withdraw.
– What is the motion?
– It has been set down for another day.
– I move:
I have moved this motion with the object of bringing home to the Australian people the appalling fact that this Government, and more precisely the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) with his henchman the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), will be judged, if their shabby history is ever recorded, as the architects of disaster for an industry which was the envy of the world, an industry that established us a Mecca for huge development and for rich investment. During the pre- Whitlam period it brought prosperity and security to thousands of workers. Through the high quality of housing and amenities it provided instant comfort, community happiness and comradeship in settlements which were established almost overnight in many remote parts of this land. The Minister for Minerals and Energy, encouraged by a group of radical academics, most of them no doubt sharing his sick, obsessional class hatred, men who have not one iota of genuine, practical experience of the mining industry, set out to gain complete control over oil and mineral production in Australia and finally to take over the control of this nation’s mineral resources. His highly publicised Petroleum and Minerals Authority was to be the vehicle of his grand design.
Let us examine his tactics. I want to stress one important fact. The victims of his socialist rampage would not be the giant mining companies but the workers- those who sweat underground, those who sometimes lose everything, including their lives, as did 13 of my people at Moura and two at Mt Isa last month and the previous month. His threats, his failure to have dialogue with the industry, his desire to bring this monster industry to its knees, will soon bring the present slow down to a grinding halt and the unemployment ripple will grow to a tidal wave. What did he do? He forced out of business those who were exploring for oil and had the most attractive leases? The withdrawal of the search subsidy, the ban on overseas investment, the atmosphere of uncertainty, the dictatorial refusal to have meaningful dialogue with the industry at any level, including union leaders by the way, have lost Australia nearly 3 years of effective minerals and oil exploration activity. Let us face it; if the Government did create conditions favourable to exploration, what company would take the risk of spending millions of dollars with the spectre of Connor control ever present?
Members of the Government prattle on about my Leader, the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony), and us in the Party being in the hands of the major mining companies. They know this is utter rot. These days you can almost detect hysteria in their repetition of the rot. This Government is falling apart. I know what it is like to lose something or someone you cherish. It does lead to irrational conduct and the remorse that follows is hard to handle. Because I understand these things I can well appreciate how the Prime Minister and the Minister for Minerals and Energy feel. They have earned for themselves and this magnificent country, and the once great mining industry, a status which would cause any country to think twice before establishing any sort of relationship with us, trade or otherwise.
Today I particularly want to discuss the small miner, the prospector, the gouger, the individual miner, an operator who, through thrift, sacrifice and efficiency gained by years of practical experience, has been able to provide limited capital for a lease which can be developed but not on a grand scale. While on this subject allow me to say that up to now these people have been a forgotten race. Like the small businessman, they have never received consideration from this Government. However, in both cases, we on this side of the House now have produced sound policies which are readily available for perusal. In the case of the people I have just mentioned in the mining industry, we have stated clearly that there will be a special tribunal. It will act in an advisory capacity as well as providing material assistance for these people who have been treated so contemptuously by this Government and more particularly by the Minister.
Let the representative of the Minister in the House today deny that. Let him get up and deny that all pleas for assistance to himself and to the Australian Industry Development Corporation from the small miners who have made approaches to them have been rejected with a callous contempt. In their honey sweet speeches they dishonestly claim to represent such people. I think that this is the third time on which I have issued this challenge. The first occasion was in reply to a claim by the Minister for Minerals and Energy that assistance had been given in numerous cases. But of course he has never named those cases. He has never disputed my challenge, despite letters seeking information on this very subject. His credibility, like that of the Prime Minister, is now recognised as non-existent.
As happened in the Khemlani affair, it has been clearly shown to the public and, regrettably, to the world, that the credibility of the Prime Minister and his Ministers does not exist and that they have diluted and distorted the truth. Our international reputation has suffered to such an extent that it was stated on the program AM this morning that the Arabs would be reluctant to do business with this Government. In fact the British financier who was speaking went on to say that a private approach made quite recently to secure finance was flatly rejected. Unless the Herald expose is untrue, we will still have the humiliating spectacle of Whitlam, Connor and Co. carrying on these back alley negotiations. One might well ask- in fact all responsible Australians are asking- why in heaven’s name the Treasurer was not involved in the initiating action at Government House, why no approach was made through normal financial institutions and why this Government subjected its top public servants to a conspiracy of silence.
All these things have flowed over to the mining companies in and out of Australia because finance is the lifeblood of mining activity and exploration activity. Whether we like it or not, if large sums of money are required- I am talking about billions of dollars- it is obvious that the source is the Middle East. Whether or not that situation is palatable, that is the case. Let me repeat that the small producer must be assisted. It is well known in the mining world- I have spent a lifetime in the midst of the richest mining leases in the world- that the small operator is an indispensable factor in the overall scene. In the aggregate these small producers are a great money making asset to the nation. This was realised in the United States of America. In about 1970 more particular attention was given to the small operator who could bring his mine to production perhaps through an inexpensive leaching process. That interest by the United States authorities not only stimulated a new deal for the miner himself but in the aggregate a valuable contribution was made to the earnings of the United States mining industry. I shall conclude this section of my address by making 2 points: As far as small Australian mining groups and individual miners are concerned, not only has this Government failed to encourage exploration activity but with calculated contempt it has ignored every request for assistance.
Now let me comment on the industry generally and look at some of the factors which have produced the present stagnation. Suffice it to say that the overriding cause of the problems facing the mining industry are the policies of the present Federal Government, particularly the twisted ideological motivation of the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I know that he deserves most of the blame for bringing the mining industry in Australia to its present state of confusion, crisis and uncertainty, but the Minister is a member of a government which has approved, even praised, all that he has done. It is that Government and the Prime Minister that must accept the ultimate responsibility for the present state of the mining industry. It is interesting to have a look at some figures. I am not in the habit of producing a lot of statistics but I think that these are interesting. Private exploration expenditure, excluding petroleum, over the last 10 years has been as follows: $44min 1965-66, $53m in 1966-67, $1 17m in 1967-68, $184m in 1969-70, $239m in 1970-71. Honourable members should note that one. In 1971-72 the amount was $163m. Now let us look at the figures since this Government took over, taking into account the present inflationary trend. The expenditure in 1972-73 was $131m, in 1973-74 $117m, and in 1974-75 $105m. There has been a steady decline in real terms since the peak in 1 970-7 1 . The outlook is for continued decline.
The Government’s policies towards the mining industry are not simply the result of confusion and misunderstanding, as many people in the industry, I am sorry to say, would like to think. The Government’s policy is one of deliberate sabotage of the mining industry. I do not say this lightly: I believe that the present Government is bent on socialising this country, and to achieve this goal it must gain control of Australia’s greatest source of wealth- our huge mineral resources. We are led to believe that the back alley negotiations, the Mafia type operation of raising money, were to be devoted to this objective. By bringing confusion and crisis to the mining industry the Government can more easily gain control of those industries. Inflation is part of the strategy designed to drive the mining companies out of business. If favourable world prices still enable them to stay in front, special taxes will be imposed as was the case in the coal industry. The mining industry should not forget that the Government’s plans to borrow $4 billion overseas were designed to put the industry out of business. We are not guessing about that.
If the mining industry wants clear evidence of this Government’s intentions it should look at what is happening at Ranger. The industry should take into account the millions of dollars worth of rolling stock lying idle in Darwin. The development of one of the world’s richest uranium deposits is being frustrated because the Government is not content that it will control a sufficiently large share of the project. The goahead to the Ranger development would of itself have provided a tremendous stimulus to the Northern Territory and Darwin which is badly in need of a project like this to bring funds and people back to the Top End. These days one utterly despairs going into the Northern Territory. Five or six years ago there were hopes for the cattle industry, hopes for exports, hopes for the production of grain. Above all there were hopes of bringing billions of dollars into the Northern Territory through uranium production. Now the Australian Council of Trade Unions is putting a ban on the export of uranium. Will we see the Government again cringing and crawling when the whip is cracked? In the face of this threat to its very existence the mining industry has reacted, I regret to say, with not a great deal of argument. It is at last beginning to realise that the ground is being cut from beneath its feet. The industry realises that it has a responsibility to join the Opposition in its protest. Perhaps the industry did not understand the facts until they were pointed out.
I should like to turn now to the policies of the alternative government, an alternative which I hope will become a reality in the near future. The basic policy of a Liberal-National Country Party government will be to revitalise the minerals industry and encourage the development of Australia’s mineral resources. Two areas which come to mind immediately where development could be given the go-ahead are coal in the Bowen basin and uranium in the Northern Territory. Several projects are in an advanced stage of planning and only need approval for work to commence almost at once. An essential part of the Liberal-National Country Party program to recommence the development of our mineral resources would be to restore the State governments to their proper role in mineral planning and development. The complete lack of dialogue between the Minister and every one of the State governments- I include the 2 remaining Labor controlled State governments- is a sorry spectacle. We believe that the maximum degree of consultation and co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States is necessary if a policy for mineral development is to be pursued.
The most important step necessary to bring about renewed interest in mining development in Australia is to clear away some of the myths that surround the whole subject The most important factor which we must realise is that to develop our mineral resources we need the assistance of others- their capital, their knowledge and their markets. Overseas investment in Australia is the cornerstone to this country’s economic development. Like all Australians I have said this from the moment I became a member of this House- I want to see as much complete Australian ownership of our natural resources as possible, but we must recognise that Australia needs the experience of the overseas experts, and that the benefits from overseas investment far outweigh the disadvantages. Overseas investors provide jobs, they lead to the creation of other industries and they pay taxes, and their money is as good as anyone else’s.
A Liberal-National Country Party government will adopt a case by case approach to overseas participation in the exploitation of Australia’s mineral resources. We will aim at the highest practicable level of Australian ownership but we will not bring all development to a halt because Australians are not willing to put up the capital required for a project, or perhaps are not able to do so. We do not adhere to the policy that if Australians cannot develop a resource, no one else can either. This has been fatal. The policy of the Government has deprived this nation literally of billions of dollars.
The second myth which we must get away from is that the Australian people can derive a greater benefit from the nation’s mineral resources by the direct participation of the Australian Government in mineral development. The Liberal and National Country Parties believe that the Commonwealth Government must play a major role in encouraging the exploration for and development of Australia’s mineral resources. But the Government’s role is one of creating the climate in which private enterprise will be able to carry out the task of finding and recovering the nation’s mineral resources. The role of the Government is to define national policies and to draw up laws for the orderly development of Australia’s natural resources.
Another myth which surrounds the whole issue of minerals development is that we should conserve our mineral resources and leave them in the ground. Nothing could be more shortsighted or disastrous. The Liberal and National Country parties reject the notion that by leaving our minerals in the ground they will only appreciate in value. What utter rot. How fluctuating is the industry? The price of copper is now getting down to a very dangerous level indeed. Consider the operations of Peko-Wallsend. This is the one which the Labor Party cited as being an Australian operation. My recent discussions at all levels with the mining fraternity at Tennant Creek only the week before last indicated that if the price of gold drops much further that company’s operations could cease altogether. That is how dependent it has become on the market value. Yet this Government talks about leaving our minerals in the ground. If a market is distorted then alternative sources of supply will be found. Companies are going to other countries for their minerals. I ask for the support of this House and I ask the Australian people to pay heed to this motion that I have moved; that is, that this Government should be condemned for its failure to encourage exploration activity to extend Australia’s known minerals and energy resources.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and I reserve my right to speak.
-This is the second time within a month that we have been subjected to a similar motion from the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). I do not know whether he is trying to promote himself as a future Minister for Minerals and Energy in a government comprising the Liberal and Country parties, but I suggest- as I have suggested before- that bigger dogs than he have got their paws on the bone. I think it is an abuse of the Standing Orders that twice within a month the same type of motion is moved under General Business thereby denying other honourable members the right to move legitimate motions. We should not be subjected to motions dealing with the rubbish that this man speaks. It is an indictment of the Opposition to think that the honourable member for Kennedy is the spokesman, the front man in the House of Representatives on vital matters like the minerals and energy policies of Australia, a man who in his ministerial position in a previous government was the court jester of the Parliament. I am not being rude to the honourable gentleman, but that is an accurate description of his role in this place when he was Minister for the Army. It is shame on the Opposition that he even sits on the front bench, much less coming into this place regularly promoting the Opposition’s policies on this topic.
He drops phrases such as ‘deliberate sabotage’, suggesting that the Government policies on minerals and energy are deliberate sabotage. I do not think any sensible person in Australia would attempt to sustain an argument or suggest that we should give back to the States a greater role in the area of minerals and energy developmentthe rotten pocket-borough State governments of Australia. The State of Queensland exported coal to the value of $5 15m last year. That State ‘s miserable royalty was $4m. The best that Mr Bjelke-Petersen could get out of the foreigners exporting the coal in Queensland was $4m out of $5 15m last year. Look at the giveaways by Sir Charles Court in Western Australia. Some of the State governments are corrupt when it comes to these policies and they have been shown to be corrupt. They are duchessed by these companies.
Of course the major policy initiatives in respect of minerals and energy should reside in the national Parliament and nowhere else. The National Country Party regards minerals and energy companies as a milking horse for its own election funds. I notice today some of the bureaucrats of the Liberal-National Country Party machine are in the Speaker’s Gallery. I would like to know from them where their funds are coming from. You can bet that a lot is coming from the minerals and energy companies because the Country Party makes a specialty of getting money from these people, and that has been the reason for the thrust of its policy initiatives in this place since 1972. There is a constant assertion that there is chaos in the minerals and energy area of Australia. Yet exports of iron ore, bauxite, lead, zircon and rutile are at record levels and the prices are also at record levels. For instance, there has been a continuing price increase in iron ore since 1972.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) secured revaluation compensation from the Japanese steel producers because the companies in Australia had their contracts written in United States dollars. When we revalued our currency against United States dollars they suffered a loss. That loss was recovered by the Labor Government. It would never have been recovered by a Liberal government because it would not have had the guts to stand up to the Japanese steel producers. The Liberals were treated like fools and lackeys by our trading partners and earned their disrespect because they were able to treat it so foolishly. Look at the price of coal. There has been a 200 per cent increase in the price of coking coal since 1972. There has been a 150 per cent increase in the price of steaming coal. In Queensland the export price of a ton of coal from the Blackwater mines in 1972 was $12.62. It is now $48. The export price of coal from the Peak Downs mines was $12.77. It is now $48.50. The same applies in respect of coal from the Goonyella fields and all of the others. Yet we hear the constant babble and the assertion that there is chaos in the minerals and energy area of Australia.
The honourable member for Kennedy is now trotting out arguments about uranium. The Opposition parties in government had a direct embargo on the export of uranium for 1 4 years up to 1972. There were no exports of uranium until 3 weeks before the 1972 election when the then Minister for National Development, Sir Reginald Swartz, foolishly signed an agreement allowing the export of uranium to Japan because his Government apparently wanted for election purposes some quid pro quo with the companies involved. Three weeks before the election and after the writs had been issued that Government lifted the embargo which had lasted 14 years and it agreed to contracts. Since we have taken over the administration of the policy in this area, particularly in respect of uranium, we have said that we intend to export as much of it as we can. However, we wanted the market to develop because everyone in the industry knew that in 1972 and in 1973 it was a buyer’s market, not a seller’s market. Uranium oxide was selling on the world market at $6.50 per lb, a hopelessly low price when it was obvious that there were going to be massive increases in the price of petroleum. Putting it on an equivalent British thermal unit basis, it is obvious that every other energy resource had to increase in price. Yet we hear the nonsense of the likes of the honourable member for Kennedy and the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) asking: ‘Why do you not export uranium?’ When they were in government they had an embargo on the export of uranium for 14 years. Since 1972 the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has asserted that a market will develop in uranium as people look for alternative sources of energy supply and that as the new enriched uranium reactors come on line contracts will be set up to supply these reactors towards the end of the 1970s. Today uranium is trafficking on a world parity rate of $25 per lb, compared with $6.50 per lb just 2 years ago. This vindicates everything the Minister said about waiting to see when the market would develop and then getting into the industry and exporting.
As late as last night there was a meeting of the Government on the Ranger development in the Northern Territory. We have entered into agreements with Peko-Wallsend Ltd for the refining, processing and mining of uranium in the Northern Territory. Because there were some administrative difficulties and a problem of cash flows with the companies concerned there has been a delay of a couple of months. But the real delay came from the inquiry into the national park, and now the environmental impact inquiry. The honourable member for Kennedy knows that the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the Government, at least to that extent, have been tied up until those 2 inquiries are finished and their findings published. But the clear intention of the Government was that it was to continue with the export of uranium.
It was asserted that there has been a decline in the search for petroleum in Australia. I should like to quote from official statistics of the Australian Government Statistician, which the National Country Party of course refuses to recognise because they do not suit its political argument, on private off-shore drilling. In 1969 $37m was expended on private off-shore drilling; in 1970, $44m; in 1971, $42m and for 1972, the year the Labor Government took office, the figure is $61m and for 1973 it is $57m. No further figures are available yet. The figures for metres drilled in petroleum exploration show that in 1970, 68 000 metres were drilled. I shall not quote all the figures. In 1971, 58 899 metres were drilled; in 1972, 117 429 metres were drilled; in 1973, 88 000 metres were drilled and in 1974, 90 000 metres were drilled. Those are the statistics. Where is the argument of the Opposition?
Any fool in the industry understands that the only place to look for oil is off-shore from Australia and not on-shore. The figures the Opposition always refers to in aggregate are the figures which were beefed up by the mining industry boom of 1969-70 and early into 1971. Of course every little tin pot mining company was selling worthless paper on the stock exchange, trying to justify its existence by drilling a few holes in the middle of the Northern Territory where there were no prospects whatsoever of the discovery of oil. Of course when the money dried up on the stock exchange they realised that there would be no money left in these companies and therefore the directors’ fees and so on would dry up so the exploration activities stopped. Of course what remains is only the sensible exploration activity, and that is the off-shore activity which has not declined at this time but has increased.
This has been made abundantly clear by Lewis Weeks and a lot of other people who have talked about exploration off-shore. The oil in Australia is on the prolongation of the Exmouth Plateau at the edge of the continental margin in about 1000 to 2000 feet of water. All the Northwest Shelf under 200 to 300 feet of water contains predominately only natural gas with some liquid hydrocarbons. But the oil is not there; it is off-shore where it takes about $4m to $5m a hole to drill to search in such depths of water. That is not the argument which the National Country Party would put because that would strain the limits of its intellectual integrity. It will not put this argument because it destroys its own case.
Have a look at the Budget speech of the Leader of the National Country Party. He talked about giving direct subsidies to the industry. In his speech on the Budget there was not one mention of the re-imposition of the section 77 or section 78 concessions or the direct search subsidies. The National Country Party criticised the coal export tax levy of the Government during the Budget debate. There was not one mention in speeches from the National Country Party that would indicate to the industry that the National Country Party would take the levy off. It criticises us for putting it on but of course members of the National Country Party do not say that they will take it off, because they are hypocrites and humbugs. Of course the worst of it is that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Liberal Party allow this team of bushrangers and buccaneers, the National Country Party, to have the carriage of the minerals and energy policy for the Opposition in this Parliament. Shame on him for it. He should have the guts to stand the members of the National Country Party up and keep them in their proper places. They are a rump and a pressure group and they ought to be treated accordingly. But of course no Liberal Party leader has ever been able to do it. The National Country Party generally has its wilful way in the coalition.
The Fitzgerald report into the industry, which the National Country Party and the Liberals tried to pass off as a political ploy 12 months before its findings were released, indicated that in the 15 years to 1974 the net return to the people of Australia, in respect of the massive exports in iron ore, coal, bauxite and the rest of our minerals, was that we paid the companies $25m. The Australian Government received no taxation benefits because of the taxation concessions of section 77 and section 78 and the direct subsidies. After 15 years of massive exports we paid the companies $25m for the privilege of having them here. How stupid can one get? The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), who is sitting in the chamber now and who was a Minister for National Development in a previous government, condoned this activity. All the other Liberal Ministers condoned the activity.
An editorial in the Australian Financial Review a couple of months ago states that ‘until the arrival of Mr Connor as Minister we had a succession of ministerial appointments who neither asserted nor sought to assert any strong political guidance over one area or energy policy where the Government did not have a direct involvement’. The editorial mentions nuclear energy and virtually says, as that publication has said constantly, that there was no management of Australia’s natural resources by the LiberalCountry Party governments. It goes on to give what I suppose one could term a backhanded compliment in stating that the Minister has his faults but at least he has turned Government attention to future energy policies. There has been management of things. The Fairfax Press does not rap this Government, but begrudgingly it has to admit facts. The facts are that there is now some coherent policy in respect to all facets of minerals and energy.
We put export controls on from the day we took office to guarantee that prices were in conformity with world parity and to see that the Australian producer was not robbed in world markets by straggling off to Japan and other countries as single producers, being picked off, one after the other, by the likes of Nippon Steel which negotiates for the totality of Japanese coal and iron ore consumption. The Japanese negotiate with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, MITI as one force, government to government. The previous Government allowed our producers to go straggling off. New South Wales was bickering and fighting with Queensland and Queensland was bickering and fighting with Tasmania. That was the legacy the previous Government left to us. Of course now the situation is back into some order.
Just to illustrate that nobody but the honourable member for Kennedy believes his propaganda, as late as 9 September this year the Australian Financial Review published an article on the economy which is headed:
Mine search expenditure edges up over quarter.
The article states:
Mining exploration expenditure in Australia appears fairly stable according to figures published … by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The figures, although not booming, do not support the idea that exploration has virtually died under the Labor Government.
The article goes on to suggest that there is no basis for the charge the honourable member for Kennedy made.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– If I were to refute every one of the propositions that the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) put forward I would take up the whole of my 15 minutes to do so. I do not intend to do so because others inside and outside this House will analyse his speech and see the fallacies within it which are so obvious. Let me make one or two comments to start off with. He speaks of corrupt State governments and mentions the Western Australian Government as one such government in regard to its minerals policy. Let me remind the honourable member that in the Pilbara in the north-west of Western Australia, the iron ore province of Australia, there are now 9000 employees where there were none seven or eight years ago. With their families they are established in towns built and provided by the mining companies in that area. Australia is now the largest non-communist producer of iron ore in the world. In Australia that means Western Australia. Is that the result of policies of a corrupt government? The Western Australian LiberalCountry Party Government through its development policy is able to provide Japan with nearly half the iron ore on which the Japanese iron and steel industry is dependent.
The honourable member also speaks of the Fitzgerald report. I think there is one thing that can be said about that report which establishes immediately the inadequacies of it, and that is that it ignores the reality of development in the minerals industry of Australia, some of which I have referred to but which is multiplied throughout Australia. One thing needs to be remembered by the honourable member and his colleagues in the Government. The wealth of the outback of Australia is the bastion of the development of the cities of Australia. The city and the country are interdependent as to mineral development, manufacturing and city life, in much the same way as in the past the city and the country were interdependent when Australia depended so much on its agricultural development.
There can be no doubt that there has been a dramatic fall-off in exploration in both the minerals and petroleum fields during the life of the present Government. All the statistics will establish that. The industry will tell the Government that if it will only listen. One only needs to get out into the field to understand it. Sir James Foots, one of the leading mining industry people in Australia, a man well respected by the Government as well as the Opposition and within his own industry, pointed out very recently in a speech to the Australian Institute of Management that the lifeblood of the mining industry, its exploration programs, is being choked by the policies of the Federal Government. Sir James pointed out that it is a matter of great concern that exploration activity in Australia had declined dramatically in the past three or four years and showed no sign of picking up. As he warned- I think this is something that the Government needs to appreciate- Australia cannot keep living off the fruits of yesterday’s discoveries. If it does Australia will be very much the poorer in the decades ahead because exploration is the lifeblood of the mining industry, one of the great pillars of wealth in Australia. That is why the Opposition is so concerned about what this Government has done to the mining and petroleum industry.
What also needs to be appreciated is that people, companies, prospectors, will explore only if there is a prospect of reward from the development of their discovery. From that development they must derive profit to repay past costs and provide future capital to continue exploration and further development. It has been the impact of Government policy which has brought about such a dramatic fall in exploration and which has led to strained relations between the industry and government. One thing that must be remembered above all is that if government is going to utilise the capacity and the talent that is in industry there must be the closest consultation with industry. There has been withdrawal of tax incentives which play an important part in the profit potential of industry and upon which, as I say, its future capital needs are dependent.
I refer particularly to the accelerated depreciation provisions which were taken away by the present Government. There has been an uncertainty of policy throughout the life of the administration of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), and this has had one dramatic effect. That has been the threat to the title of explorers to their discoveries. We have seen in the Northern Territory within the uranium industry a threat to their title to what was discovered so that they do not know when they expend millions of dollars and make a discovery whether the Government is going to give them a title to develop. The same thing has occurred in the oil industry. There has been a threat to the security of title to what has been discovered. A typical example was on the north-west shelf, in the statements by the Minister threatening the title of the north-west shelf discoverers to be able to continue with development of their discovery. Above all, explorers require security of tenure. No person, no company, will put money into exploration if he is uncertain about his right to continue development.
More recently, export levies have been put upon the coal industry and the petroleum industry. The coal levy and the crude oil levy have had a devastating effect on both those industries. I know that immediately the coal levy was announced the coal industry stopped exploration, quite obviously because the industry did not know what its future was with this coal export levy. I have no hesitation in saying that that kind of export duty is bad. It is wrong in principle. It inhibits exploration, it inhibits development, and it operates particularly in the export field of coking coal as resource blackmail upon the consuming countries which are so dependent upon it. I refer particularly to Japan, which is as dependent upon Australia for its coking coal as it is for the iron ore from Western Australia.
In one field above all within the minerals and energy administration of this Government have we seen the failure of the Government’s policies, and that is in the area of energy. A crisis in energy in Australia is fast approaching. Anyone who studies the industry knows that. Australians have been fed with the propaganda from the Minister for Minerals and Energy that we have unlimited availability of oil and petrol. Unlimited availability for ever and ever is the kind of message that the Minister has given to the people, but that is simply not the fact. We may be able to proudly boast that in comparison with other countries we now get 70 per cent of our requirements of crude oil from domestic production and so we are dependent upon the pricing policies of the Arab countries for only 30 per cent of our requirements. That may be so at the present time, but the undoubted fact is that by 1980 production will be falling. By 1985 to 1990 the 70 per cent provision of crude oil from Australian production will have fallen to 30 per cent and the relationship between imports and domestic production will have been reversed completely and we will be dependent then upon the production of the Arab oil producers.
Does Australia want to be put in that position? Of course it does not. It need not be put in that position if the oil industry is provided with the incentives to get on with the job, to put the wells into the ground. The only way oil will be discovered is by getting the wells drilled. What have we seen? We have seen a decline in the number of wells drilled over the last 6 years. In 1969 there were 322 wells drilled off-shore and onshore. So far in 1975 only 16 wells have been drilled. There has been a drop from 322 to 16. It is firmly believed within the industry that by mid 1976 it is doubtful that one well will be drilled off-shore. Now we hear the honourable member for Blaxland pointing out that the oil experts say that Australia will find its oil on the edge of the continental plateau in some 2000 feet of water. If wells off-shore and closer in-shore are to cost about $75,000 a day to operate what will be the cost of operating wells in 2000 feet of water. The honourable member quotes a figure of $4m to $5m for one well. That is high risk in anybody’s language. We know the proportion of discoveries to dry wells. That amount of money is a lot in anybody’s language. What company, Australian or overseas, will put $4m to $5m into drilling a well in deep water to discover oil for Australia and so provide Australia with the highest degree of self-sufficiency when the company is not provided with the incentives to get on with the job. This is the failure of the energy policy of the present Government.
What the Government cannot appreciate is the replacement cost concept. If we do not discover and produce our own oil we have to get it from somewhere else. The only other place we can get it is overseas and we have to pay overseas producers. How much more sensible it is to put our money into Australia instead of into Arab nations. How much more sensible it is in the pricing policies for domestic crude oil to observe that replacement cost concept.
We need from the Government a flexible combination of royalty, tax and price. Included in tax I refer to the depreciation provisions allowing for rapid write-off of costs. This Government might well take heed of the financial oil policy announced by one of the newest independent countries in the world- Papua New Guinea. I suggest to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Lionel Bowen), who is representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy that he obtain a copy of the policy released earlier this week by Mr Chan. Let me read quickly just one or two parts of it. He said:
Despite the high risk and costs the companies are confident enough to spend a lot of money on searching for oil. It is only reasonable that they should know early on what reward they can expect for their investment and risk. For this reason it has been a priority of this Government to formulate clear, logical and fair policies for the development of the petroleum industry.
That is a leaf out of the book of the Papua New Guinea Government which this Labor Government could well take heed of. Mr Chan goes on to say:
In petroleum we will be applying the same basic approach to policy to that we have developed for metal mining. The main work in exploration and development will be undertaken by private firms operating under terms and conditions specified by the Government. We are anxious to maintain the current high level of exploration activity-
I only wish the present Federal Labor Government had the same sentiments as Papua New Guinea has- and the terms and conditions specified will reflect this aim. At the same time the guiding principle, stated many times before, is that the investor should receive a reasonable return on his investment but a high proportion of any income in excess of that reasonable return should go to the people of Papua New Guinea.
Companies can expect to receive the full world market price for any oil that they produce. A maximum royalty of one and a quarter per cent of the value of production will be levied. Normal corporate income tax will be levied . . . and we are examining various ways of allowing relatively flexible and, where necessary, rapid write-off. We are particularly sympathetic -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– As the House is aware the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) is indisposed and I am representing him here today. This debate has been rather insignificant in bringing forward any new material. The subject has been frequently discussed in the last month. Listening to the debate today I heard no new matter brought forward.
Let me take up the last remark of the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) regarding the policies of Papua New Guinea. I would have thought, when we talk about policies being fair and reasonable, that the Australian Government’s policies are the same as those of Papua
New Guinea. Let us have a look at what happened in Papua New Guinea particularly in the copper development and at the contribution the Australian Government made to ensure that the people of Papua New Guinea and the Government of Papua New Guinea had an equity in the copper deposits. I think the lack of equity in minerals by the people of this country has been a great tragedy for Australia. In fact we fought the elections in 1972 and 1974 on the basis that Australians did not own their mineral resources. It is as clear as that. I would like to see the honourable member for Stirling get up in Port Moresby and suggest that perhaps the same equity would be sufficient for Papua New Guineans as now applies to Australians. He would be run out of town. I emphasise that it was our contribution, from Australian taxpayers’ money, that bought for Papua New Guinea a fair equity in the copper mines. The honourable member knows that and yet he will not admit it here. He also knows the keen interest that the Government of Papua New Guinea has shown in what it deems to be a fair and reasonable return from taxation of the profits. The honourable member would know that the sense of balance the Papua New Guinea Government has is the same as any reputable country would have. The balance is a fair and reasonable return to the people as against a fair and reasonable return to the people who invest and explore. The honourable member knows the difficulties of Kennacott in perhaps abandoning some of its explorations in Papua New Guinea. The honourable member knows the difficulties every company has in regard to the cost of exploration.
I support what has been said by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). We are discussing, apparently by accident- the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), who was to have moved a motion on transport, was removed from the House earlier today- the alleged failure of the Government to encourage exploration. It has been said before but let me repeat on behalf of the Minister that we are the largest exporter of iron ore, the largest exporter of bauxite and the largest exporter of rutile and zircon. We have increased not only the volume but also the ability to get a fair and equitable return, something members of the Opposition never did. The great problem for Australia as a nation is for its representatives to talk on behalf of the nation and not on behalf of individuals who in many cases have the ear of State governments. Anyone who saw how the Government coal mines in New South Wales were sold to private enterprise must ask why it was that they were sold.
– To make them efficient.
-Yes, the argument is that they are always efficient. Of course, it is the same miners who operate the mines. I do not know what private enterprise will ever do if we say to the miners that perhaps they ought to get the same share of the action as some of the State governments are suggesting ought to be given to the miners’ employers. Why is it that it took overseas private enterprise to make mining successful when governments had to sell these assets? The whole policy of the Opposition relates to that idea. It is a problem for Australia that it is plagued by these false sentiments that you cannot rely on your own people to develop your own resources.
Let us have a look at the real issues. We have had this spurious argument that insufficient money has gone into research. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) forgot to look at the Australian Financial Review during the last month. It clearly indicated that expenditure was on the upturn despite the downturn in the economy. Expenditure for the June quarter was $28.9m. That amount is above the average for the previous five quarters. I am reminded of the moneys that we have been able to get by way of return, that the price of coking coal is up 200 per cent and of steaming coal 1 50 per cent. The gross profit for the coal industry in 1974 was $544m. If you go to Europe the first thing the Europeans want to know is whether they can have the opportunity to buy into the area where uranium is found. The West Germans, the French and others want to know why they cannot buy our assets. It is no good saying to them: ‘Will you give us the same opportunity to buy your assets?’ Such an opportunity does not exist. This is the point we want to be able to convey in language -
– What language do you talk?
-The language of fair and honest trading on the basis that people of a nation own the resources in it. Opposition members should not adopt this wishy-washy attitude that because somebody has some dollars he can come in and buy our country. You cannot go to any other country and buy its land or its equity. Why is it that the Opposition encourages a policy under which we do not even now own the majority of our mineral resources? The big argument, the big contest, in this country concerns Federation, whereby the State governments have the title to the land, can extract some royalty and can give away some of the assets at prices which are not fair or reasonable. In Japan we find a New South Wales coal producer bidding against a Queensland coal producer to our complete detriment. That went on for years. It was not of any advantage to the Australian taxpayer. He lost millions, he was mulct of millions, on that very stupid issue. If we are to talk to the Japanese we have to talk as a nation because that is the only thing they understand.
Why is it that the Opposition decries these policies? That is the very thing the Minister has been trying to say. Think of the legal complications that have arisen as to who owns the offshore oil. That is still a matter for High Court determination. We are the one nation which cannot find out who owns our resources. We are still arguing on the basis of a Constitution that was drawn up some 75 years ago. Seventy-five years ago they were sensible enough to talk about uniformity of communication. There were no State boundaries involved in that. It is obvious that if that same problem were here today they would have said that mineral resources belong to the Australian people, particularly when the resources are offshore.
We have the problem of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority legislation. It went through the most tortuous process of 2 elections and a double dissolution. We fought for it everywhere, and won. Then it became a legal issue and the High Court said it was invalid on technical points of time. That legislation was opposed by the States. On what basis would one oppose legislation which was designed so that the Australian people might own and develop their own assets? It could be only because of the Opposition’s greed and avarice and its ability to give certain concessions to certain people which would be to its own advantage. You could not oppose it on the ground of any national interest. Yet the legislation was opposed by the States.
The Minister has met nothing but obstruction in every policy he has tried to implement. He has met not only the legal obstruction of the Constitution but also obstruction by the States, which have taken legal action to prevent the development of an authority which is worth while. Opposition supporters know that. The policies of the Government are based on the fact that we must promote Australian ownership of our resources and guarantee Australian participation in oil and mineral research. We have not reneged on any obligations we have had in the past. We agreed to fulfill all of them.
The Minister reminded us of the problems in a statement that he issued as recently as June. In describing the problems of the Petroleum and Minerals Co. of Australia he said that company was created by the Authority in February of this year to deal with the problems created by the Bjelke-Petersen Government in attempting to frustrate the purchase of an interest in the Delhi International Oil Corporation natural gas operation in South Australia and Queensland. The company is now solely owned by the Australian Government. Mr Connor said that with all the difficulties created by the challenges of the State governments the Authority and the staff have done an outstanding job. One would think we were at continual warfare with the States trying to prove what is in the national interest.
Let us talk about co-operation. Let us talk about the national interest. We fought two elections on that very issue and the Opposition would be defeated in any electorate in Australia on the basis that it would sell out our interest to overseas concerns. We saw Sir Charles Court running over to New York, addressing millionaires and saying: ‘Please come in and help me’. Why do we have to do that when we can develop our own resources? Whose fault is it that copper prices are falling? If we talk to copper producers in the world they will tell us that they place some of the blame on the London metal market. The great problem with metals is the instability of prices and the inability to control them.
The underdeveloped countries- particularly with regard to bauxite, iron ore and copper- are very concerned for the same reason as to why they cannot get a fair price. They are getting to the position in which they can control the price on the basis of what is fair and reasonable and not leave it to the speculators. The position with regard to gold or copper at the moment is speculative. Whether mines are in production here should not depend solely on an overseas speculative price. The same applies to beef, a matter which the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) wanted to raise in this debate. The beef industry is dependent on overseas sales. If there is no market there is no beef industry.
The great problem of the Australian nation is to get stability into the use of our resources and the development of them. Let us talk about the problem of research, or the search for energy resources. I am reminded by a minute that one of the great problems in Australia is that there have been 1 184 on-shore wells and only 6 commercial accumulations have been discovered. The minute indicates where they are. Off-shore exploration has discovered only 6 potentially commercial accumulations, five in the Gippsland Basin and one on Barrow Island. Those six accumulations are out of a total of 190 off-shore wells which have been drilled.
The importance of that fact has been emphasised by companies such as Esso Standard Oil (Australia) Ltd, the Shell Company of Australia Ltd and the Haematite Exploration Pty Ltd. All have stated that the prospects for oil search on the shore and on the continental shelf were very poor and that attention would have to be on deeper water. With that in mind on 1 4 September the Government announced a radical new approach to the pricing of Australian crude oil. One of the major purposes of the new policy was to provide the maximum practical incentive to explore the new fields. The Government has referred also the question of taxation incentives for mineral exploration and mining to the Industries Assistance Commission and will consider what further action might be needed in the light of the Commission’s report. The problem for Australia has been whether we can get all our own energy resources. Not many countries can do so. We have been fortunate in the discoveries we have made. We are able to repeat that because of the efforts of the Minister we have got the best possible prices for our resources. Because of the efforts of the Minister- despite obstruction- a very genuine effort has been made to guarantee the Australian people ownership of their own resources even if they have to buy them back, although it is a tragedy that such action is necessary.
Let me remind the House that the contract for uranium which was let some 3 or 4 weeks before the election in 1972 was not a fair and honest proposition because it gave an opportunity for a speculative group to make a small fortune. If one goes overseas now the discussions are always on the basis how best other people would love to make financial gain out of our resources and not so much on the basis of how they would want to develop them for us. That is the big issue in the world today. It is no longer left to the individual to go around the world hawking the national assets of the people. It must be a government to government proposition. It has to be fair. There has to be a reasonable return. But the Opposition should not leave the matter on the basis that the assets of the people can be exploited. It has no mandate for that. It lost 2 elections on that very issue and the National Country Party is still carrying a torch for those speculative groups.
In recent days we have heard a personal attack on the Minister which is without any foundation whatsoever. It was a deliberate and calculated attack which was based mainly by the Country Party and was utilised a little by the Liberal Party because it seems to have the money to finance this campaign. The point I wish to make is that if the Opposition wants fair and honest dealings it should do it as a national government. It should not leave the matter with some proposition that it wants to assist some particular segment of private enterprise. We welcome exploration. We will give incentives. But there must be a fair opportunity for the Australian people to own their own assets. The history of the Opposition is sad and tragic. It is one of giving benefits to a few, the few being overseas. On that basis the Opposition was rejected.
– Go and tell the miners that.
-We will tell the. miners that. We ought to be encouraging the miners to buy the mines, as they did in Broken Hill. The Opposition, in government, closed down a mine in Broken Hill.
– Every miner in Australia would be defeated.
-Not a bit. The Broken Hill situation clearly showed what the employees can do for themselves, and we ought to encourage more of that. That would frighten the living daylights out of the Opposition. The same could happen in Mt Isa or anywhere else.
- Mr Speaker - Motion ( by Mr Daly) put:
That the question be now put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put:
That the motion (Mr Katter’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative. Motion (by Mr Daly)- by leave- agreed to:
That the time for consideration of notices, general business, be extended until 1 p.m.
– I move:
That this House notes with satisfaction higher standards of health insurance cover provided for all Australians through the introduction of Medibank.
In speaking to this motion I shall address myself to an aspect of Medibank which often is not talked about but which to my mind, as a former medical practitioner, is nearly as important as some of the other aspects about which we talk. I think that any health care delivery policy which any government introduces into this country ought to have a number of objectives. I shall mention 2 important objectives, and I am not sure which is the more important of the two. One is that necessary medical services should be made available for everybody. In other words, there should be no discrimination on the basis of income or ability to pay. Everybody should be able to get necessary medical services. Secondly- and I think this is just as importantwe should improve health care. It is important that we improve health care as much as possible in this country. I think that if the only aim of the Government were to improve the payment of medical practitioners and the giving of refunds to patients, then we could argue about some of the aspects of Medibank.
An important aspect of Medibank with which I would like to deal in a minute is the second matter I have mentioned. The aim of Medibank is important in this area. What has changed since Medibank was introduced? Firstly, the patients, the people of Australia, no longer have to contribute to health insurance schemes. Health insurance schemes cost different amounts in different States. Basically, they were much more expensive in all States except Queensland because Queensland had a free hospital service. They cost somewhere between $3 and $5 a week for a family. Yet they were subsidised to a very large extent by the taxpayers of Australia. I have no objection to that. That was the position until 1 July this year when Medibank came in. From then on, in the case of medical services, everybody in Australia has been covered. There is no need for people now to take out any cover from private health insurance organisations as far as medical expenses are concerned. The maximum a member can receive is the extra 15 per cent with a maximum of $5 for any service. It seems pointless for families to pay something of the order of $ 1 .80-plus a week to receive a maximum refund of $5 for any medical service.
Medibank has made specialist medical services available to pensioners, people who were previously covered by the pensioner medical service. They are now able to attend specialist physicians or specialists of any kind for consultation. They do not have to attend the outpatients department of a hospital as they had to in the past. I think that is an improvement. It may be an expensive improvement but, nonetheless, it is an improvement. I think, generally speaking, apart from saving the $1.80 in actual payments there has not been much change as far as the medical services of Australia are concerned in relation to refunds, etc.
Let us come to the hospital part of Medibank which now has come in, I think, in every State. I am not sure about Queensland but I think that the last State to come in, on 1 October, was New South Wales- about a week or so ago. It is not so very important whether Queensland comes in or not because Queensland already had provided all the facilities that I will be talking about. What happened previously? People who had to go into hospital in most Australian States were subject to a means test. If a person was above a certain income he was unable to enter hospital as a public patient or a standard ward patient, whatever terminology was used in the particular State. He had to go in as an intermediate patient or as a private patient, or enter a private hospital. If a person entered as a public patient in a public hospital the doctor concerned received no payment. The doctor was not entitled to charge for treatment of that patient. He was not entitled to render an account either to the hospital or the patient. That applied in the vast majority of cases but there were some exceptions for very rare specialties.
That situation obviously could not continue along those lines once the means test was removed. It would be ridiculous for doctors to provide free services to public patients in public hospitals if there was no means test on the people who entered public wards. Therefore there is the proposal for sessional fees for doctors attending patients who choose to go into hospital as public patients.
– Why can they still do it the other way in Canada?
– I thank the honourable member for Murray for his interjection and I will deal with it. I think that the reply that most honourable members on this side of the chamber would give to him would be the cost involved. As the Australian Medical Association continually points out, there is a tremendous cost involved in paying fee for service for public patients in Canada. I think that is an important point but it is not necessarily the most important point and I would like to deal with it in a minute or two. It would be extremely expensive. The New South Wales Government has estimated that another $150m, for example, would be necessary to pay doctors at a fee for service rate rather than at the sessional fee rate. I think that that probably is an underestimate because it was based on doctors’ fees some 1 8 months or 2 years ago.
-Was that for New South Wales only?
-That was for New South Wales only if the basis of payment was fee for service. There is another important point, one which I have raised before in this House and which some of the other medical practitioners in this House have raised, although it is not generally discussed among the populace at large. It is the question of the possibility and, I suppose more importantly, the likelihood of unnecessary surgery and unnecessary procedures being performed on people if there is an inducement for medical practitioners to perform particular kinds of procedures. I do not think medical practitioners consciously perform unnecessary operations. Obviously there would be some who would do so but the vast majority of medical practitioners do not get up in the morning and say: ‘I lost $200 at the races yesterday so I have to do 2 extra appendectomies’. I do not think that that is the way they look at it. What I suggest is that there is a subconscious but significant difference in the number of operations or surgical procedures performed on patients if there is a financial inducement to do so.
I would like to cite some figures from the United States of America. We do not have figures for Australia but I am sure that basically they would be similar. Some work was done some years ago by Dr Lawson who at the time, I think, was Superintendent of the Footscray Hospital in Melbourne and he got similar results. The figures I want to quote were published in the New York Times on 21 September 1975. They deal specifically with hysterectomies, the removal of the uterus, but I would like to extend them to other types of surgery. The point I am trying to make is that it is important to reduce unnecessary procedures, especially operations. The article I refer to states, amongst other things:
The National Center for Health Statistics-
This is in the United States of Americaestimates that more than 690 000 women will have hysterectomies in the United States in 1975.
A corresponding figure in Australia would be 46 000 to 50 000. The article continues:
This procedure for removal of the uterus will be the nation’s second most frequently performed major operation. Only tonsils will be taken out more often. At a time when lowered birth rates and control of fertility and childbirth have vastly reduced uterine disease, almost half of all American women over forty will be advised to have their wombs removed; 378 000 will have their ovaries and Fallopian tubes taken out. These women will pay a total of $400m in gynecologists’ fees alone, and the operation will end in death for about 12 000 of them.
There is evidence to suggest, however, that not all of these operations will be warranted, that some will be unnecessarily extreme and therefor unnecessarily hazardous and that an increasing number of surgeons are rushing their patients to the operating tables more out of considerations of monetary gain than of sound medicine. Indeed, just such accusations are now being made by many public-health experts, consumer advocates, hospital administrators and even some of the gynecology surgeons themselves.
Further on the article states:
For example, on a national average, the number performed for insured persons is double that for the uninsured.
This corresponds to our private intermediate patient, even under Medibank. The article continues:
In pre-paid health plans run by unions or groups like the Kaiser Foundation, where peer review discourages unjustified surgery, rates of operation are as much as a fourth lower than in fee-for-service plans like Blue Cross-Blue Shield.
Those bodies correspond to the Medical Benefits Fund, etc. The article continued:
Hysterectomies are performed two and a half times as often in the United States as in England and Wales and four times as often as in Sweden, where, because medical care is State paid, doctors stand to gain little financially for performing more hysterectomies.
The article then went on with a medical discussion as to the reasons for performing hysterectomies. In addition to hysterectomies, much research has shown that tonsilectomies, the removal of tonsils and adenoids, and other gynecological operations, such as lifting the uterus forwards or upwards, or to whatever position the particular surgeon is keen on, appendectomies, operations on backs and some kinds of plastic operations are all performed unnecessarily when there is a financial incentive for surgeons to perform them. Therefore I think it is important, not only in order to save money for the taxpayer- saving the taxpayers ‘ money is one of the things that honourable members on both sides of the House have to do in this Parliament, as well as our colleagues in State parliaments- but also in order to prevent unnecessary operations that we should resist the demand by medical practitioners, surgeons, to have fee for service paid in hospitals because if we have fee for service in public hospitals many unnecessary operations will be performed.
Figures for the same sort of people covered by Blue Cross-Blue Shield and by the Kaiser Permanente system in the United States are available. The people, federal civil servants, were matched as to age, sex, type of job, previous medical history and so on. The number of operations performed on backs in the case of people covered by fee for service schemes was over 200 per cent greater than such operations performed on a similar group of people not covered by fee for service schemes but covered by alternative methods of medical insurance. I am afraid we do not have a scheme similar to the Kaiser Permanente scheme in Australia but if it were possible to work up something along those lines it would be worth while. I would support it strongly as an alternative. The Kaiser Permanente scheme, for those honourable members who are unaware of how it works, basically is a scheme under which a group of doctors in a particular locality provide all medical services to the population insured by them. They then provide the medical services which they can providegeneral practitioner services, specialist services and hospital services. A fixed amount is paid per year per patient. It is in their interests to keep people healthy and keep them out of hospital. Whatever money goes towards putting people into hospital beds does not go to the doctor. There is a fantastic difference in the rates of operations. That is probably the most convincing aspect of the whole argument on the question of fee for service.
– I accept that that is one of the possibilities, and that is why it is preferable to have 2 alternative schemes running side by side. The patient has the choice of joining the sort of scheme that is provided under fee for service or the scheme that is provided under non-fee for service, such as sessional payments or the Kaiser Permanente scheme. That should be available. It will be available in Australia not necessarily in the exact form to which I referred. If a person wants to take the risk of a medical practitioner performing unnecessary operations on him or his family he should maintain his intermediate ward hospital cover and go into hospital as an intermediate patient. If he does not want to run that risk he should go in as a public ward patient.
As I said earlier in reply to an interjection, I would like to see the Kaiser Permanente type of system introduced into Australia as an alternative so that people can make a judgment. I am not sure whether lay people can make that judgment accurately, but I suppose that in the long run the market place is as good a place as any other forjudging it. People will be given a choice between the alternative systems. The costs will be very different. Obviously, if one group of doctors do not look after their patients and do not put them into hospital when they really need hospitalisation the people will transfer to the alternative scheme. By the way, in America there is no evidence of that happening. If one looks at the figures for the Kaiser Permanente system one finds that it is growing rapidly. In the United States it now has some 13 million contributors.
– You are critical of the lack of utilisation of what was the case here under fee for service. What is built into Medibank to reduce unnecessary utilisation of services such as pathology or radiography procedures?
-What is built into Medibank is that people no longer have to cover themselves for intermediate or private ward treatment. Therefore, in a sense, they are being encouraged financially to go in as public patients. The first point is that there is no longer a means test, and the second point is that it costs a person extra money to provide himself with intermediate ward cover. So I hope that more people will go in as public patients. There will be fewer patients on whom doctors will have the incentive to perform operations. Whether or not this works out we will see over the next year or two.
– The figures are going the opposite way at the present time with over utilisation.
-That is not true. The point is that at least we have given people an alternative. Before 1 July, with the exception of those in Queensland, people were not given an alternative. Let us be quite clear on that. If a person earned a relatively low income he was means tested out of the system of public ward treatment. Many people in the community misunderstand what happens in the so-called intermediate ward services and public ward services. I think that if I were seriously ill I would prefer to be treated in hospital as a public patient and receive the sort of attention that a public patient receives. If I were not terribly ill I might like to have a telephone by my side, a television set and visitors all day. If I were recovering or wanted a rest, I might prefer to be a private ward patient. The important thing is that at that stage I would no longer be very concerned about the medical care I was receiving.
I have had sick children. When my own children have been ill and have been admitted to a children’s hospital in Sydney, for example, I have preferred them to be in the big wards with the public patients. It was impossible to do that before because of the means test position. In those wards there are sisters, nurses and resident medical officers continuously on hand. Because of means testing the children were put into small wards in the private section of the hospital where the sisters or nurses could not see them all the time. Nothing went wrong, but at odd times when the child was really ill one felt the need to employ a special sister to look after the child because of the worry that they would not be able to cope.
I have taken this matter seriously. I hope that other honourable members who participate in the debate will try to take it seriously rather than treating it as a straight-out political argument, because it is important that we provide the best kind of medical service and that we do not give in, for political reasons, to the surgeons in the different States who want to continue, for unsound reasons, fee for service. We must give the Australian population a choice of being treated as public ward patients, knowing that their doctor has no financial incentive to perform an unnecessary procedure, or intermediate ward patients for a relatively small difference in cost.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– I should like to compliment the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) on his thoughtful speech. He will notice that everybody listened to him courteously. I have criticised him before for making nasty interjections, but if he makes the type of thoughtful contribution that he has made today he will encourage thoughtful debate on health care services. I found myself more in agreement than in disagreement with what he said. There was only one fault. I say with great respect, and not trying to score a point, that he did not speak to the motion standing in his name which reads:
That this House notes with satisfaction higher standards of health insurance cover provided for all Australians through the introduction of Medibank.
He did not speak to that motion. As that is the motion before the Chair, on behalf of the Opposition I move an amendment, which will be seconded by my colleague, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), as follows:
That all words after ‘House’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘views with concern the fact that Medibank will provide a lesser health service at a greater cost and believes that reforms should be enacted immediately to overcome its weaknesses’.
Indeed, if the honourable member for Prospect said anything in relation to his motion he spoke against it, because he spoke with his great knowledge and experience of health care about the Kaiser Permanente scheme operating in California. I know that he has studied the scheme, as I and my colleague the honourable member for
Murray have studied it. We are impressed by it. The honourable member for Prospect said: ‘I certainly support it as an alternative’. I ask: As an alternative to what? Does he mean as an alternative to Medibank? He did not make that clear.
I remind him that to experiment with a health maintenance organisation of the type of the Kaiser Permanente scheme is already part of the Opposition’s health policy. We would not want to rush in and impact the health maintenance organisations- HMOs, as they are called- all over the country. In answer to my interjection the honourable member for Prospect seemed to have the same reservations about it as I have. In their desire to save money would doctors underuse the services? If they were in doubt about a patient who had a broken arm or an ulcer would they say: ‘I am pretty sure that the patient is cured. There is really no need for him to have another X-ray, because that will save some costs for the scheme and will mean a bigger dividend for the doctors and patients at the end of the year’. That is something that I cannot answer. I spent a couple of very exacting days at Kaiser Permanente and I was given every sort of convenience and help, but I still could not get the answer to that question.
Having said that, I wish to speak to the motion moved by the honourable member for Prospect, but more particularly to my amendment. Of course I would concede that Medibank has some advantages over the scheme which operated in this country when the Labor Party gained office. I have conceded that merely by virtue of the health policy I announced on behalf of the joint Opposition in April 1974 when I said there were weaknesses in the existing health scheme. There was not universality of cover. Pensioners were regarded as second-class citizens. Although there was a subsidised health benefits scheme very few people understood it and even fewer people availed themselves of it. These were weaknesses and of course Medibank does offer universal health insurance. It does provide cover without cost to those who cannot afford their own health insurance. There are included in Medibank paramedical services which were not covered by previous systems. The processing of claims under Medibank is certainly simplified- well, it appears to be simplified. There are other peripheral advantages in Medibank and one would be foolish to say otherwise.
Just because Medibank is an improvement on the old health scheme does not mean to say that we accept it. In fact, as my amendment to the motion says, we believe it will provide a lesser health service at greater cost. Claims are at present being received at a much higher rate than had been predicted. I know that the cost of a health scheme is not the be-all and end-all of it. The basic thing the Government should be concerned with is whether it provides a health service to the sick and the injured people of Australia. That is the first thing, so forgive me for mentioning costs at this stage. We have consistently prodded the Government on the question of costs because there are things that a government should provide for people who are disadvantaged other than health care. The whole area of social security involves people who through no fault of their own find themselves in deprived conditions- socially, emotionally and financially. When there is some sort of all-consuming monster, like we believe Medibank will be, which will take that much of the welfare cake it may well pre-empt a government from doing anything for other people in the community who are poor, sick or injured.
– In the Senate you altered the way of paying for it
– I acknowledge that interjection. While it is true it is completely irrelevant to the point I am making and I will now explain that. The Government estimated that there would be 90 000 claims a day under Medibank. We said there would be overuse and abuse. Under the expert cross-examination of my friend and colleague Senator Baume during a Senate Estimates Committee hearing on 7 October, Mr Taylor, the Senior Assistant General Manager of Medibank acknowledged that at the present time claims under Medibank had plateaued at 160 000 a day. The Government estimated 90 000 a day but present claims are plateauing -
– It is not for more services. It has been said that there are less services per claim, so it does not alter the total cost.
-The Government estimated 90 000 claims a day. The Senior Assistant General Manager of Medibank says that 160 000 claims a day are being received. I acknowledge the interjection of the honourable member for Prospect that it has only partial validity in respect to the point that I am making that the Government has grossly underestimated the number of claims that would come in each day under Medibank.
– It has already lifted the cost of administration by 25 per cent and that was acknowledged by the Minister.
– I thank the honourable member for Murray for the interjection. That also has been brought out in the examination of officers during a Senate Estimates Committee hearing. In fact, in the few months that Medibank has been in operation no fewer than 500 additional temporary employees have had to be engaged to cope with the additional claims. I think this is palpable evidence of gross under-estimation. It has already resulted in the scheme being extremely expensive. This is apparent within 2 months of its introduction at a time when the majority of the States including the most populous of the States have not entered into the hospital section of Medibank. As far as the processing of claims is concerned, again I speak to words in the motion moved by the honourable member for Prospect which read: ‘That this House notes with satisfaction higher standards of health insurance cover-‘. Good heavens, this Government promised that claims would be processed within 5 days. I have with me a sheaf of letters saying that some people have been waiting up to 5 weeks for their claims to be processed.
– How many people?
-I said I have a sheaf of letters. I hasten to say that it would be dishonest of me if I left it at that. I am going to say- without any prompting by interjection- that the national average- I stand to be corrected- has now levelled out at 11 to 16 days for the processing of claims, which is more than double what the Minister promised. I do not wish to reduce this debate to a facetious level but like the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) I too have Medibank fatigue after having been at this now for 2 years. I have a sheaf of letters which are examples of why Medibank cannot be stated as providing a higher standard of health insurance cover. An example I will cite might provide some comic relief to the debate but it is allegedly true. I will quote from the Daily Telegraph of 1 October.
– You could not quote from a worse source than that.
– This is an article by a journalist named Ann Newling. This lady has not got any reputation for telling lies. The article reads:
A Medibank claims computer has gone bust because it refused to accept that a woman has two separate breasts.
A Mt Druitt pharmacist learned this yesterday when he rang Medibank to enquire about his refund claim for breast surgery to his wife.
He was told the computer had been programmed to recognise surgery on only one breast instead of the normal two.
A Medibank officer told him the computer would be reprogrammed to accept two breasts. ‘It’s all a bit unreal,’ the husband said. ‘It’s no joke for my wife to be told she should only have one breast’
That is a facetious note that I inject into the debate. I have a sheaf of files indicating that what the honourable member for. Prospect alleges about Medibank, that it provides a higher standard, is just simply not true. Even weeks after the introduction of Medibank the Government said that because of escalating costs it could not post back receipts. If people wanted a receipt they had to enclose a stamped addressed envelope with their claim. What concerns me about the cost is the comparison between the Australian Medibank scheme and Medicare in Canada. It would be dishonest or inaccurate to make a naked comparison between the Australian Medibank scheme and the British health scheme because they are not similar. I suggest with great respect that the Australian Medibank scheme is largely comparable with the Canadian Medicare scheme. There are some differences.
– If there is payment on a feeforservice basis for public patients, it destroys the whole concept.
– We do not know what we are doing yet. This is another thing I will refer to in a second. This year the Canadian Medicare scheme cost $7,000m for 22 million Canadians. Mr Hayden asks us to believe that for 1 3 million Australians he can operate Medibank for $1.4 billion. I think anyone who looks at those figures would realise the absurdity of that statement and they would know that Medibank will not cost $ 1.4 billion. Medibank will be the monster that I described it as earlier.
– But you are not comparing equals because here the States pay half and over there they pay nothing.
– I acknowledge there are small differences. Thirdly, there is no inbuilt mechanism in Medibank which can curb overuse of the scheme by the patient or by the doctor. The honourable member for Prospect, in his extremely forthright speech, answered an interjection by my colleague the honourable member for Murray as to how this overuse could be curbed under Medibank. Frankly, the honourable member for Prospect did not have an answer. We are not suggesting that doctors- to use the example cited by the honourable member- will operate on people just because they have a loss at the races. What we are saying is that if there is no inbuilt moiety- and the extent of bulk billing suggests to us that there is no inbuilt moietythere will be overuse if not abuse. The indications at the moment are that pathology, radiology and those sorts of things will be overused for the reason that I gave earlier.
– Are you saying that patients -
– I am sorry, I cannot answer any more interjections. My time is almost up in this debate. I refer again to the motion which states that we note with satisfaction the higher standard of health insurance cover. No agreement has been reached with the surgeons by two of the most populous States about whom the surgeons will treat. I do not want to canvass the surgeons’ case or the governments’ case. All I am saying is that it is rather absurd for us to have this kind of motion proposed by a member of the Australian Labor Party when at any moment in New South Wales and Victoria there may be virtually no service by surgeons to sick people because of a breakdown in the negotiations. I would have thought that one of the most fundamental things for an efficient health service is to have surgeons prepared to accept elective surgery in the public hospitals of Australia. At present we do not have this. It is for these and many other reasons which time does not give me an opportunity to put that on behalf of the Opposition I reject this motion and have moved the amendment which states:
That all words after ‘House’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘views with concern the fact that Medibank will provide a lesser health service at a greater cost and believes that reforms should be enacted immediately to overcome its weaknesses’.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes. I second the motion and reserve my right to speak to it.
– I support the original motion as moved by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), that the House notes with satisfaction the higher standards of health insurance cover provided for all Australians through the introduction of Medibank. This motion cannot be denied. The Opposition, with its proposed amendment, has said that Medibank will provide a lesser health service at a greater cost and believes that reforms should be enacted immediately to overcome its weaknesses. Nobody is suggesting that Medibank is perfect or is even working perfectly at the moment. But for heavens sake, give it a chance. It has been in operation for only 3 months.
I should like the House to recall the previous health insurance scheme. One of the problems with introducing reforms is that once those reforms are introduced the matter is no longer an issue. So it is important to remind the House and to remind the people about the previous health insurance scheme that Medibank has replaced. The House will recall that at any one time under the previous scheme about 1 million people in Australia had no health insurance cover. About 1 million people were unable to have any of their health costs reimbursed by anybody. There were others who were prevented from making a claim because of fund rules about waiting periods and other such things. But perhaps the greatest problem with the previous scheme was the fact that people did not know from where their medical health insurance cover was coming. Only a small proportion of the population was aware that in fact a high proportion of their medical benefits refunds under the previous scheme came from the Government, from taxpayers money, and that they were already paying for it. The part about it that was absolutely appalling was that those who did not pay a private insurance contribution were not eligible to receive their rightful amount of taxpayers’ funds for that proportion of health insurance costs provided by the Government.
Even worse than this was the special account rort whereby at the decision of the private fund a patient could be determined to be on special account because he had made too many claims or had spent too long in hospital. At the fund’s discretion the whole of that person’s medical expense rebates were paid for by the Government out of taxpayers’ funds. But the only way anybody could be eligible for that was by continuing to pay contributions to a private fund. So it is undeniable that there has been an improvement in the health insurance cover for everybody in Australia. Everybody is covered for his medical and hospital costs. People may still choose to take out additional insurance for private hospital cover. People may, unfortunately I say, take out additional insurance to cover the gap between the 85 per cent rebate and the scheduled fee. But I suggest that before people continue with this gap insurance they just look at the return that they are likely to get from it. I think it is a rip off. I suggest that unless people fall into categories whereby they are likely to make large claims for ancillary benefits and so forth that they not cover themselves with gap insurance. I think it is a waste to do so.
In the few minutes remaining in this debate I should like to answer some of the points referred to by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). He at least acknowledged that Medibank has some advantages. I am afraid that the honourable member for Hotham has been a bit hot and cold on the whole thing over the last couple of years (Quorum formed). I regret that the Opposition Whip took away two minutes of my time- there is only VA minutes left- because there is a large number of things that I should like -
– Nobody was listening.
-The standard of debate on this motion, as the honourable member for Hotham acknowledged, was very good. We were debating in a sensible and reasonable way. I wanted to answer a number of points made by the honourable member for Hotham. He referred to pathology charges increasing under Medibank. But such things as pathology investigations are not services that patients choose; they are services that the medical practitioners choose. If the Opposition wants a private practice system, as it says it does, we must leave it to the private practitioners to determine whether medical services should be available. This is certainly not a case of patient induced abuse, it is a matter of -
– My point was to have a part patient contribution.
– It is again up to the doctor to decide whether he bulk bills or accepts the rebate as the total amount paid or whether he charges the scheduled fee. If he wants to do that he can. The point is that the honourable member for Hotham and the private funds are supporting gap insurance- there is no gap for people to pay if they have gap insurance- at the same time as saying that there ought to be a patient contribution. They cannot have it both ways.
There are lots of things that ought to be answered. The honourable member referred to the situation of hospitals in New South Wales and Victoria. The State governments have assured the Australian Government that they will conduct the negotiations and that they will provide sufficient public beds and services under the Medibank arrangements. It is the State Governments which have promised that. The increase in claims that has occurred since the scheme came in has been for a variety of reasons- people experimenting with Medibank, people putting in fewer services per claim form than they did under the previous scheme -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order!
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to continue my remarks when the debate is resumed.
-Order! The extended time alloted to precedence to general business has expired. The honourable member for Denison will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under general business for the next day’s sitting.
Sitting suspended from I to 2.1 5 p.m.
– For the information of honourable members I present the following documents relating to interim defence arrangements between Australia and Papua New Guinea: A joint, statement by the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade and the Australian Minister for Defence on interim arrangements, a letter to the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade from the Australian Minister for Defence and the four annexures thereto, and the reply from the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade.
Motion (by Mr Riordan) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill, in conjunction with the Income Tax Bill which I shall introduce shortly, will bring into effect the new personal income tax system I announced in my Budget Speech. It will also give effect to the Budget decision to continue the system of doubled rates of depreciation which applied for 1974-75 and to extend it, from 1 July 1975, to all sections of commerce and industry.
The paramount objectives of the Government in introducing the new personal income tax system are twofold. One is to achieve a more equitable distribution of the burden of taxation borne by individual taxpayers, especially the single income family. The other objective is to reduce marginal rates of tax at the level of average weekly earnings. In broad terms, these aims are achieved by increasing the marginal rates of tax payable on the first $6,000 of income and reducing them on the excess over this amount, and by substituting a much more generous and equitable rebate system for the existing system of concessional deductions. Both elements of reform- the new rate scale, and the change-over to rebates- are of fundamental importance.
In brief, a tax rebate of $400 will replace the existing deduction of $364 for a spouse, a rebate of $200 will replace the deduction of $260 for a student child or for one child under 16 years of age, and a rebate of $150 will replace the deduction of $208 for other children under 16 years of age. These rebate amounts are far in excess of the tax value of the deductions previously allowable. They mean also that, for all taxpayers, rich and poor alike, the tax value of a dependant is exactly the same, that is, it is not, as under the old system, larger for wealthy people than it is for low-income earners. I want to make this quite clear Our new tax scheme removes the inequitable system of concessional deductions and replaces it with a fairer system of rebates. Further, a new allowance, a rebate of $200, is to be introduced for parents without partners who are maintaining children who qualify for concessional rebates as dependants. The definition of student for the purpose of the higher of the 2 rebates for children is to be extended from the present definition to include any child under 25 years of age receiving full-time education at a school, college or university. Under the previous, more restrictive definition, only children between the ages of 16 and 25 could qualify as students.
Other deductions of a concessional nature, except those for housing loan interest and gifts which will continue to be deductible from income, will be replaced by rebatable amounts subject to a 40 per cent rebate of tax. The minimum rebate to be allowed in this context, which I shall refer to as the general rebate, will be $540. This means that taxpayers who would otherwise claim other concessional deductions of $1,350 or less will not need to itemise deductions claimedthe $540 rebate will be, as it were, automatic. Deductions for residents of zone A and zone B and members of the defence force serving overseas will be replaced by rebates equal to at least 40 per cent of the deductions formerly allowable. These rebates will, of course, be additional to the general and dependant rebates.
We have decided that two of the concessional deductions that were allowed under the old system will remain outside the new rebate scheme. These are for housing loan interest and for gifts to public institutions and approved building funds. The percentage of housing loan interest allowable as a deduction at present is, in effect, means-tested by reference to the combined income of a married couple. It is not proposed to change the present basis of the concession. Also, having regard to the people it is intended to assist, it is the Government’s view that the concessional deduction for housing loan interest should be viewed independently of any other concession and that interest eligible as a concession should therefore be placed outside the range of personal expenditures that are to be covered by the $540 general rebate or rebated at the proposed 40 per cent rate. As to gifts, the deduction is being retained because we believe that it is the recipient of the gift rather than the taxpayer that it is intended to benefit, although indirectly, by the concession.
A redistribution of the taxation burden implies, of course, that there will be both gainers and losers. From the point of view of taxpayers collectively, however, gains will exceed losses and the total amount of income tax to be paid annually by individual taxpayers will be some $205m less under the new system than it would have been if the old system had continued. Considerations of equity demand that the gainers in the redistribution should be those people who, out of a modest income, maintain dependants with little or no income of their own. This will be achieved under the new system by the generous scale of rebates for dependants. Those who will pay more tax under the new system will, for the most part, be persons without family’ responsibilities or members of multi-income households. Turning to the technical scope of the Bill, much of it is devoted to the repeal of the provisions of the existing law relating to concessional deductions and to their re-enactment in a form appropriate to a rebate system. There are also consequential amendments to other provisions of the law.
I should, however, refer to education expenses. The concessional allowances for both education expenses for a child and for so-called selfeducation expenses are, of course, to be absorbed into the rebate system. But the limit on the amounts to be taken into account is to be increased from $150 to $250 and, in the case of self-education expenses, the range of expenditure is to be widened beyond the cost of fees, books and equipment, so as to include all expenses necessarily incurred in connection with a prescribed course of education. Self-education expenses in excess of $250 will fall for consideration under the general deduction provisions of the income tax law.
In addition to the personal income tax provisions, the Bill provides also for the accelerated income tax deductions for depreciation announced in the Budget Speech. This measure represents a significant widening of the scope of the provision enacted last year to grant depreciation deductions at double ordinary rates in respect of new manufacturing and primary production plant. The new provision will apply to all new plant that is first used or installed ready for use for the purpose of producing assessable income on or after 1 July 1975, other than certain motor vehicles and plant that qualify for special statutory rates of depreciation. No time limit has been set for the operation of this provision. Taxpayers will be entitled to claim deductions on eligible plant at twice the rates normally applied for income tax purposes. The increased rates will continue to apply in succeeding years until the cost of the plant has been written off or until the plant is sold or otherwise disposed of. Taxpayers may elect to forgo the accelerated allowances if they so wish.
Finally, the Bill provides for the provisional tax otherwise payable in respect of 1975-76 income to be reduced or waived in certain circumstances’ In the absence of a special measure, provisional tax payable in respect of 1975-76 income would be an amount equal to the 1974-75 tax in respect of income other than salary or wages. Where that tax included any amount payable as a surcharge of tax in respect of income from property, that amount will be disregarded for the purposes of the provisional tax calculation. Also the Commissioner will be authorised to refrain from charging provisional tax in 1974-75 assessments in any case where it would appear that as a result of the proposed general rebate and the proposed rebates for dependants a taxpayer may not be liable to pay tax in respect of his 1975-76 income. A memorandum explaining technical features of the Bill is being made available for honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion,, by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
This Bill declares the rates of income tax payable for the 1975-76 financial year. (Quorum formed) There are 3 main features covered by the Bill: A new personal tax scale; reduced rates of company tax; and the removal of the surcharge of tax on property income. I will discuss each of these features in turn, but will devote most of my attention to the new personal income tax scheme. Compared with the 1974-75 rates, the new personal income tax scale has higher marginal rates of tax on the first $6,000 of taxable income. In other words, the shape of the progressive tax rate scale has been fundamentally changed in a way that allows an overhaul of the whole personal income tax system. Because of this change in the rate scale, we have been able to make reductions in most of the marginal rates of tax payable higher up the income scale, particularly around the industrially sensitive level of wages near average weekly earnings. The high marginal rates near the average weekly earnings level- 44 per cent and 48 per cent under the 1974-75 scalehave long been causing concern, particularly in the field of industrial relations. They are sharply reduced under the new scale to 35 per cent. We hope and expect that this change will be especially welcome to trade union leaders and the members of their unions.
Restructuring the scale in this way has also made possible an increase in the value of concessional allowances for dependants thus achieving a highly desirable redistribution of the burden of taxation in favour of the family man. The increases in the value of dependant allowances, together with the proposed general rebate of $540, will, in a great many cases, more than compensate for the effects of the increased rates of tax payable on certain parts of the taxable income. Indeed, as I emphasised in my Budget Speech, as a package, the new personal tax system will completely free from tax nearly half a million taxpayers. For a person without dependants, the tax threshold- that is, the lowest level at which income tax will have to be paid- will generally be raised from $1,041 in 1974-75 to $2,519 in 1975-76. For persons with dependants, the threshold will range from $4,001 where the only dependant is a spouse, to $5,943 where there is a dependent spouse and 3 children, including two at school.
Under our new tax system very significant benefits will flow to persons entitled to rebates for dependants. Let me take 2 examples which illustrate the position for gainers and losers. For a taxpayer with a dependent wife and one child who has a net income of $7,000 this year and is entitled to rebates for expenditures equal to 5 per cent of the net income, tax will be $770 for 1975-76 compared with $997 on the same income derived in 1974-75- this is a reduction of 22.8 per cent in his or her income tax. However, for a person with the same income but no dependants, tax will be $1,370 in 1975-76 compared with $1,247 in 1974-75-an increase of 9.9 per cent. Lest this latter example seem harsh, I might mention that by most standards, the taxpayer in the former category would be regarded as needing more assistance than the taxpayer in the latter category.
The benefits of the new tax system will show up in pay packets after 1 January 1976. The revised rates of tax instalment deductions which come into operation on that date will take into account the changed rates of tax, the general rebate of tax, and the rebates for dependants. Tax cuts on income earned in the current first half of the year will be reflected in tax refunds at the end of the year. Two other matters I should mention are the property tax surcharge and the aged persons rebate. The property tax surcharge which applied for 1974-75 is not being re-imposed for 1975-76. The special rebate of tax for aged persons which for 1974-75 has a basic amount of $130 is to be terminated. First introduced in 1973-74 as a transitional measure associated with the phasing out of the age pension means test, it had always been intended that it be phased out in due course. The rebate is now, in effect, to be absorbed into the general rebate of $540. Although some aged persons will pay more tax in 1975-76 than they would have paid if the arrangements for 1974-75 had continued, it should be remembered that age pensions are being increased . each spring and autumn. Further, as from 1 July 1976, the age at which pensioners become eligible for means-test-free pensions will be reduced to 69 years. The tax effects for aged persons cannot be properly judged without taking these factors into consideration.
Apart from the personal income tax provisions, the Bill proposes that for the 1975-76 financial year, the general rates of tax payable by companies in respect of 1974-75 incomes will be 42 Vt per cent. This will mean for both public and private companies a reduction of 2Vi cents per dollar in the rate of tax payable on the whole of their taxable incomes. For co-operative companies and non-profit companies- other than friendly society dispensaries- it will mean a reduction of 2V4 cents in the rate of tax which they pay on income in excess of $10,000. The rate of tax to be paid on the taxable income of a non-profit company that is a friendly society dispensary will remain at 37V4 per cent.
The rate of tax payable in respect of the 1975-76 investment income of a superannuation fund that does not invest a specified proportion of its assets in public securities will be reduced to 42 Vi per cent, thus preserving the link between the rate of tax to be paid in these cases and that to be paid by mutual life assurance companies. Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in the memorandum I have had circulated. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill proposes technical amendments to provisions of the Income Tax (International Agreements) Act 1953-1974 which operate to apply the credit system of relief of double taxation in respect of certain income derived by residents of Australia from countries with which Australia has entered into a double taxation agreement. Those provisions provide that where credit for foreign tax in respect of any income is allowable under the provisions of an agreement, the amount of that credit is generally an amount equal to the lesser of the foreign tax paid and the Australian tax payable on that income. A statutory basis is provided for ascertaining the amount of Australian tax payable on the amount of income concerned.
It is necessary for these purposes to calculate the average rate of Australian tax payable by the taxpayer. The proposed amendments will alter the basis of this calculation. They are consequential on the amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act substituting rebates of tax for deductions previously allowable for dependants and for most of the concessional deductions, and on the decision not to re-impose the surcharge of tax on income from property for the 1975-76 financial year. The proposed amendments are explained in the memorandum that has been circulated to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
– I move:
That the resolution of the House of Representatives of 28 November 1974 referring the construction of the proposed water resources centre, Darwin, to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, be rescinded.
The Darwin Reconstruction Commission is responsible for all works in the Darwin area, which is that part of the Northern Territory within a distance of 40 kilometres of the Darwin Post Office. This proposal is now the responsibility of the Commission and does not require to be referred to the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That the resolution of the House of Representatives of 5 December 1974 referring the construction of the proposed central laboratory facilities, Casuarina, Northern Territory, to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, be rescinded.
The Darwin Reconstruction Commission is responsible for all works in the Darwin area, which is that part of the Northern Territory within a distance of 40 kilometres from the Darwin Post Office. This proposal is also the responsibility of the Commission and does not require to be referred to the Committee.
– With regard to the rescission of the 2 resolutions concerning the Water Resources Centre at Darwin and the Central Laboratory Facilities at Casuarina I quite understand that under the provisions of the Darwin Reconstruction Act the Darwin Reconstruction Commission has jurisdiction over the planning of and responsibility for any work which is done within a radius of 40 kilometres of the Darwin Post Office. I hope that as those works disappear from the estimable Public Works Committee of this Parliament they will not be lost to the Northern Territory. I would have hoped to have seen them come under something such as the capital works program of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. Whether they do so I do not know. If the
Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) can assure me that they are not under the Darwin Reconstruction Commission civil works program in this Budget, when will they be there? I should like an assurance that they will find their way in to the Budget of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission.
– I thank the honourable member for his comments on both projects. They were substantially put back on account of the disaster -that afflicted Darwin through Cyclone Tracy. The planning of both projects is continuing. The date on which they will reach contract documentation has not yet been determined.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Development of a navy supply centre and army workshop facility at Defence Establishment Zetland, New South Wales.
The proposal is for the redevelopment of the exLeyland car manufacturing plant at Zetland for defence purposes to provide a Navy supply centre and an Army workshop and servicing facility. The work proposed comprises the construction of one major new building, the conversion and rehabilitation of existing buildings and the installation of specialised stores handling and vehicle servicing facilities. A complete fire detection system is proposed for all buildings together with an improved fire suppression installation. The rationalisation and upgrading of engineering services, the renewal of major sections of roofing of 3 buildings and any necessary minor maintenance of buildings are also included. The estimated cost of the proposal on August 1975 prices is $13.5m. I table the plans of the proposed work.
-I should like to query with the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) whether the type of project of which he is talking will in any way interfere with the operations of the work force in any other Government ordinance factory in the Commonwealth.
– I do not quite understand what the question is about.
-I ask the Minister: Will the proposal which is being put forward now in any way inhibit or hurt the work force of any other ordinance factory throughout the Commonwealth?
Mr RIORDAN (Phillip)-Minister for Housing and Construction) (2.44)- This proposal is concerned with the establishment of certain facilities which are already in existence. They are going to be transferred from one location to another. Before that transfer can occur, certain new work must be done in respect of the construction of a new building and the rehabilitation of another. I fail to see how that can possibly affect the work.
– That answers my question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The proposal is for the construction of a second high school in Alice Springs to provide educational facilities for approximately 500 students, with site potential for Stage 2 extensions to meet further population growth. The building will be constructed with reinforced concrete columns and floors. Most external and internal walls will be of locally manufactured concrete masonry. However, to provide maximum flexibility some internal walls will be designed as lightweight partitions which can be removed or relocated as necessary. The roof will be of coloured steel deck suitably insulated. Windows will be aluminium framed with tinted glass to alleviate glare. Evaporative cooling and winter heating will be provided to all occupied areas of the school.
The estimated cost of the proposed work when referred to the Public Works Committee was $5.43m. In the course of the public hearing the Committee was informed that a detailed examination of the design aspects of the proposal had resulted in a revised estimated cost of $5.2m. The Committee concluded that there is a need for a second high school in Alice Springs to cater for the projected growth in enrolments, that the site is suitable, and recommended the construction of the work in the reference. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– Briefly, I commend the proposal to construct this school and the fact that it is to be built on the eastern side of Alice Springs. I note also that it is to be set in communal recreation grounds, in the area of the community college and various other schools. I think this is good planning. It is far sighted. I commend the Government on this project. I notice that a sporting oval is to be provided. This is something for which we have battled in the past as there is a shortage of sporting ovals in Alice Springs. Further, some site planning and general beautification is to be undertaken. I am pleased to support this proposal and I hope that the work will go ahead with speed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1 October on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Mr Speaker, the Opposition supports in principle the purpose of this Bill. Honourable members will be aware that the purpose of the Bill is to provide for a referendum to amend the Constitution of the Commonwealth by inserting in the Constitution two new sections to be known, if the referendum is carried, as sections 108A and 108B. In summary, the effect of these two proposed sections is intended to clarify the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to refer powers under the Constitution to the State parliaments and, conversely, to clarify the power of the State parliaments to confer on the Commonwealth Parliament residual powers that the States have. The measure provides that the designations of power as they are described in the Bill may be on such conditions and terms as are agreed at the time when a referral takes place.
The Opposition whilst supporting in principle the objectives of this Bill believes that, because of its unique importance to the States, it is imperative that the views of the States on the provisions of the Bill be made known. I know that on many occasions when the Opposition asks the Government to take into account the views of the States on particular measures, if the matter is within the legislative power of the Commonwealth Government the Government suggests that whilst the views of the States may be interesting and relevant, it is in no way encumbent upon this Parliament to take their views into account. I would ask the Government to consider that in respect of this Bill there is a unique State involvement as the legislation deals with the constitutional balance between the Commonwealth and the States. Nobody could logically argue that in a matter which affects the powers of the States under the Commonwealth Constitution the full views of the States ought not to be known by this Parliament. I would therefore like to make it clear at this stage that, whilst supporting the measure in principle, the Opposition does reserve the right in another place to consider any appropriate amendments that it might think it necessary to make.
In the course of his second reading speech, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that this measure had received the unanimous support of the meeting of the Constitutional Convention in Melbourne in September. That of course is true. But, as the Prime Minister would know also, that Constitutional Convention was held in the absence of representatives of the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia and also in the absence of representatives of the Opposition Parties in this Parliament. I put that matter no higher than that. I would not want the Government to draw any unnecessary conclusions from my having raised that matter. But, having regard to the Prime Minister’s own remarks in his second reading speech, I think that the effect of the measure having received unanimous support at the Constitutional Convention ought to be seen in its true perspective. I would simply mention that at no stage has the Prime Minister asserted, or indeed has any representative of the Government asserted, that the specific terms of this Bill have received the total endorsement of all the States.
The Prime Minister has rightly acknowledged, in the view of the Opposition, that the effectiveness of the proposal, if it is subsequently carried at a referendum, will depend entirely upon the goodwill existing between the Commonwealth Government and the States. For my part, on behalf of the Opposition, I welcome this acknowledgement from the Prime Minister, belated though it may be, that it is necessary in constitutional matters to have co-operation and goodwill between the Commonwealth and the States. This is the argument that the Opposition has been putting for years. It is an argument that we hope will be accepted by those who sit opposite in a fuller sense than perhaps it has been in the past.
Indeed, our federalism policy recently announced, and which has drawn a very cerebral reaction from many members of the Government, is based on the absolute belief that a partnership should exist between the Commonwealth and the States. The theory behind the Bill which the Parliament is now debating is a most attractive one. That theory is that there should be a clear and unambiguous facility under the Constitution for an interchange of power between the Commonwealth and the States. This is a theory and a principle with which the Opposition does not argue. However, we would argue, and the House also should be reminded, that unless the legal and constitutional co-operation which is inherent in this proposal is matched by a financial partnership between the Commonwealth and the States, the objective of co-operative federalism of which the Prime Minister spoke in his second reading speech will not be achieved. A legal power in a government to provide a service is no power at all unless the Government with responsibility to provide that service has the financial resources to meet the obligation.
That in essence has been the dilemma of State and local governments in Australia for many years. It is a dilemma which the Opposition has recognised in the recently announced federalism policy which has drawn such interest and attention from members of the Government. It is also a policy which has drawn interest and attention from State and local government bodies throughout Australia. They see in it the most fundamental recognition by any political party or grouping of political parties in Australia of trie need to have a partnership between the arms of government in Australia, and a partnership which involves not only a legal distribution of power but also an effective distribution of the financial muscle required to discharge responsibilities which flow from a legal distribution of power. During the course of my remarks I shall raise a couple of points which the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby) may care to clarify in his reply. Clause 2 (2.) of the Bill reads as follows:
The power of the Parliament of the Commonwealth to designate a matter under this section is not limited by the provisions of this Constitution other than this section.
It has occurred to members of the Opposition and to others that in the event of this amendment to the Constitution being carried at a referendum there could be read into this provision a possibility that, for example, the provisions of section 92 or section 99 of the Constitution would cease to have the force and effect which they presently have. I would like the honourable gentleman to give us the benefit of his views on this matter. As I said at the outset in my remarks on this measure, the Opposition while supporting the principle involved in the Bill and while acknowledging- as the Prime Minister pointed out during his second reading speech- that during the past few years there have been general expressions of support for the idea contained in this measure from various State governments, State premiers and political parties across the whole spectrum in Australia, is very strongly of the view that until the attitude of the 6 State governments on the specific terms of this Bill are made known to the Parliament then the Bill ought not to be present to this House for a second reading vote.
I know that members of the Government may well say that the Opposition is once again indulging in obstructive tactics and that we are not genuine in our expressions of support for the principle which underlies this Bill. But as honourable members will be aware, this measure was introduced into the House only last week. It is an important measure. It is a measure which relates to the constitutional balance between the Commonwealth and the States. The Prime Minister during his second reading speech was not able to establish to the satisfaction of the Opposition why it was necessary or why it might be necessary for a vote to be taken on this Bill in advance of detailed responses from the States being obtained. Therefore, I think the Opposition is entitled to ask the Government to explain why it might be necessary to take a second reading vote on this measure only a little over a week after it was first introduced into this House. A measure which might ultimately lead to a constitutional amendment is no ordinary measure. It is a measure which, if carried into force by vote of the people, will have a long and far-reaching effect on the respective rights and responsibilities not only of this Parliament but also of the Parliaments of the various States. So in those circumstances the Opposition believes that it is entitled to ask the Government and this House to consider whether this Bill should be voted on until the views of the States on the measure are obtained.
I have no argument with the Government that over the past few years expressions of support for the principle behind this Bill have been given. But what I put to the Government and to the Attorney-General is that it is not unreasonable that a Bill that goes to the very essence of the constitutional relationship between the Commonwealth and the States should be considered carefully by the States. They are entitled to think about the ramifications of the Bill. They are entitled to have their views communicated to the Parliament. That is the view which the Opposition takes. It is a view which we think is entirely responsible and consonant with preserving a proper balance between the roles of the Commonwealth Government and of the State governments in this federation.
During his remarks the Prime Minister mentioned a number of matters which he thought might become the subject of a referral of power from the State governments to the Federal Government. For my part, and expressing very much a personal view, I can certainly find no quarrel with the proposition which the Prime Minister put in respect of several of those matters. For example, I find it anomalous that the Commonwealth should have a power in respect of family law matters covering divorce, property rights arising out of divorce situations, marriage and so forth, whereas the States retain legal responsibility for such matters as legitimacy and adoption. For my part, I think there should be a single, coherent body of family law in Australia. I can see very persuasive arguments for that. I can also see certain attractions in the concept of having a uniform defamation law. I can find very good reasons, as no doubt the Government has found good reasons, for supporting such a concept. I think honourable members on this side of the House would be interested to know of the types of powers the present Commonwealth Government might feel could be the subject of a referral from the Commonwealth Parliament to the States.
If one looks at the record of the present Government since it came to office in December 1972, one finds that as far as interchange of responsibility between the Commonwealth and the States is concerned, the tendency has been for it to be very much a one-way traffic. If the Government is really genuine in claiming that the purpose of this measure is to facilitate the exchange of powers between the Commonwealth and the States, I think we are entitled to ask it to give us some indication of those areas where it believes there might be a transfer from the Commonwealth to the States rather than giving us a number of examples where it believes the powers could all be referred from the State governments to the Federal Government. I, and I am sure other honourable gentlemen who sit on this side of the House, do not believe that the Constitution which was adopted in 1901 is necessarily up to date and totally satisfactory for our conditions in 1975. It is for that reason that the Opposition supports in principle the idea of removing any ambiguity which may presently exist in relation to the legislative power of the State governments and of the Federal Government to effect an interchange of powers.
As I said earlier, what we are interested in seeing and what I think a number of the States would be interested in seeing is whether the present Commonwealth Government is prepared to match a legal distribution of power between the Commonwealth and the States with a financial distribution of power between the Commonwealth and the States. The history of the Australian Federation during the past 10 years has been one of a gradual transfer of power from the States to the Federal Government, yet during that period of time that transfer of power has on no occasion been facilitated by an amendment to the Constitution, except in respect of the referendum to give the Commonwealth power over Aboriginal affairs. So over the past 10 years we have seen a most substantial shift of power from the States to the Federal Government. This has not occurred as a result of any constitutional alteration, except in the case of responsibility for Aboriginal affairs.
What that illustrates is that the financial distribution between the Commonwealth and the States is as critical as the legal distribution of power. The experience of the States during the past decade in the Australian Federation is that whilst they have been left with de jure responsibility for particular areas of government services, because of their financial starvation they have been forced again and again to hand powers over to the Federal Government.
Whilst it is an attractive proposition to remove legal doubts regarding the capacity of this Parliament and the Parliaments of the States to transfer power it really avoids the issue. The real issue is whether in 1975 all political parties in Australia are prepared to accept that we are a federation, that we are going to remain a federation, and that we are not going to effectively solve many of the great social and economic problems we have unless there is an effective partnership between the Commonwealth and the States.
Later on today this House will be debating a subject called legal aid. Remarks will be made during that debate but I cannot help but say that in the area of legal aid, as in many other areas, unless all political parties in Australia are prepared to accept the need for co-operative federalism, the need for a partnership between the Federal Government and the State governments, we simply will not be able to deliver to the Australian people the sort of services they are entitled to receive and there will be increasing dissatisfaction and discontent in the Australian community about the inability or incapacity of Federal and State governments to co-operate. I believe that the community is growing increasingly unhappy about friction between the Federal Government and the State governments and local government. Unless we can create a climate of partnership, a climate of co-operative effort between the 3 arms of government in Australia, we are not going to match the aspirations and expectations of the Australian people.
If a person living in any part of Australia has a problem, be it a housing problem, be it a legal aid problem, be he a consumer who needs protection, be he a person who is in need of social services, whatever the problem may be, he is not interested in whether it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government or the State governments to provide the necessary services; he is interested in receiving those services. How many of us in our capacity as members of this House have had constituents come to us with a problem and give us a saga of being shunted from State office to another State office, and then from a State office to a Federal office, and then when they got to the first Federal office they had been sent to another Federal office? Constituents who have had to go through that sort of experience are entitled to be cranky about governmental arrangements in Australia. They are entitled to say to politicians on both sides of politics in Australia: ‘Why do” you not sort out a sensible co-operative balance between the Commonwealth, the States and local government?’
Unless political parties and governments in Australia are prepared at many levels to pool their legislative powers, unless they are prepared to co-operate in providing services on a one stop basis to the people of Australia, there is going to be continuing and growing cynicism in Australia. It is the recognition of the need for that type of approach which has prompted the Oppositionit finds expression in our policy on federalism- to declare quite affirmatively and without ambiguity that we stand for an effective partnership in government in Australia. We stand for an arrangement whereby all arms of government in Australia have a share of income tax revenue. We stand for an arrangement between the Federal Government, State governments and local government whereby each of them has sufficient financial resources to discharge their respective responsibilities. Our policy is designed to end much of the confrontation and friction which has existed in Australia with increasing intensity since the end of the Second World War. It is a policy which is designed not to entrench for all time the division of powers and responsibility between the Federal Government, State governments and local government.
There is nothing inconsistent in our approach to inter-governmental relationships with the sort of transfer and referral of powers envisaged by the measure we are debating now. Above all our policy towards federalism is this: It is all very well legally to divide power and responsibility in a federation but unless you give to each of the elements of government in a federation financial power to discharge their responsibilities the legal division will be illusionary and a fiction in many cases. So the Opposition again says that it supports in principle the idea behind the Bill. Its supports in principle the removal of any doubt regarding the constitutional capacity of the State governments and the Federal Government to exchange powers. We believe that this is a measure which uniquely affects the rights of the States and therefore the States have a right to communicate their views not only on the principle involved but also on the means by which the Government has chosen to implement that principle. We do not assert that there is necessarily anything wrong with the method the Government has chosen for implementing the principle. What we do assert is that because it goes so fundamentally to the rights of the States they are entitled to express their views to this Parliament before the measure is passed. We support the measure in principle but we reserve the right in another place to modify it when the views of the States on its detailed provisions are made known to us and to this Parliament.
– I rise to support the constitutional amendment. Firstly I want to make 2 or 3 observations about the speech of the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard). He, like his colleagues on the Opposition side of the chamber, believes in a confederation, not a federation. His philosophy puts me in mind of what was said once about an Anglo-Saxon elected in South Africa: He talks Progressive, is a Liberal and prays to God that the Conservative policies will carry the day.
It is, of course, one of the quirks of the Constitution that while it makes provision for the transfer of powers to the central government from the State governments, there is no reciprocity. In effect there is no provision for the transfer of powers from the central government to the States. Candidly, I think that the founding fathers overlooked the necessity to provide a two way flow for the transfer of powers. I go so far as to suggest that this lopsided power has given rise to the justifiable suspicion by the States that any exercise of power automatically reduces their sphere of authority. ( Quorum formed)
There is nothing even like the compact clause in the United States Constitution which enables agreements between State governments in that federation to be given formal, legal supportlimited as this provision may be. The nearest we have come to recognising formally a need to give additional constitutional sanction to power sharing between governments has been through the Commonwealth-State Financial Agreement and the subsequent inclusion of section 105a in the Constitution. Aside from this, for 75 years we have operated in an essentially ad hoc fashion in attempting to create orderly arrangements between the governments of the federation. Sometimes arrangements have been made through formalised agreements, leading sometimes to the backing of legislation from the parliaments of the governments involved. However, there are many other intergovernmental arrangements which have not received formal backing like this, and even those approved by parliaments may not be enforceable.
Bodies such as the Australian Agricultural Council have been founded and have maintained marketing authorities, at least at the top level, but only by the continued willingness of governments to remain in active participation. The very existence of these bodies demonstrates the incapacity of the present division of power under the Constitution to cope with the evolving needs and demands of our society. The ad hoc nature of many of these arrangements, the legal uncertainties arising from their lack of formal constitutional backing, the unnecessary and costly duplication of effort and the complications which may flow from this cry out for something to be done.
Ideally, of course, there are, as this House well knows, a number of areas where it is clear that there is an overwhelming need for a reordering of the powers of the central government and the States. It is tragic and irresponsible to conceive today that corporations, for example, might still be regulated by 7 sets of laws. We have 4 tory governments in this so-called federation which choose to continue to compound the situation by their hotchpotch of interstate corporate affairs commissions. We have 7 defamation laws and 10 workers compensation Acts. This is a monstrous situation which honourable members opposite wish to continue to compound. Whatever might be done in reordering and restructuring the division of power between the national government and the States, in my opinion it would be wrong to leave open still the question of recognising in the Constitution the need for giving formal constitutional authority to the interchange of powers between the Federal government and the States. As we all know, in practice the Australian Constitution has proved to be extremely difficult to change. As Professor Geoffrey Sawer has said so cogently, beyond any doubt constitutionally Australia is a frozen continent. As a consequence, we have been obliged to get around the Constitution in many ways, and this has become the name of the game.
As I have already suggested, the results of this can lead, and have led, to cumbersome machinery, uncertainties and duplication in the workings of government. If the experience of the past 75 years is any guide at all, the continuing change in our social, economic and political life can make a constitutional provision, previously thought to be inviolable, not only obsolete but also detrimental to the workings of good government. The Industrial Revolution in Britain finally forced upon that country, as it forced upon this country, many changes in the working of governmental institutions, including the courts and the law, in a period when the rates of change were shorter than we experience today. In Australia in the twentieth century we have already witnessed how many changes have made parts of our Constitution quite unfitted for dealing with many aspects of our life- in the fields of trade, commerce, corporations and industry. In 1901 the provisions of the Constitution on these and related matters were probably a reasonable reflection of the needs of the time. But today, obviously, the corporate and economic facts of life in Australia have far outstripped the Constitution. Companies, trade and commerce are no longer carried on in the style of the nineteenth century. This is a fact of life. Our founding fathers cannot be blamed for not foreseeing such changes but certainly we will be blamed if, on seeing them, we do nothing about them.
There are many other ways, too, in which the rate of change has made the Constitution obsolete. The result has been that whatever the economic and social realities have been at a particular time, in terms of the allocation of constitutional powers, change can and may soon make them outmoded. Grey areas appear clouding the once clear distinctions which might have been made, for example, between intrastate and interstate trade and commerce. Let us take the recent example of the important moves made by the Government to establish regional growth centres. The Constitution makes no provision for developments like that. If the complex legislation for Albury-Wodonga is a good guide, with the required interaction between the central government and the States, in order to achieve a development like this we need better and more efficient machinery. What was satisfactory yesterday or even today as a means of regulating government power might, because of some completely unforeseen circumstance, be manifestly unsuitable tomorrow. But the matter goes further than that. What may be acceptable now may be downright damaging in 10 or even 15 years time. Flexibility and interdependence ought to be the basis from which we work- not fragmentation and divisiveness. A very great risk to our society, arising out of the inability of the Constitution to move with the times, is that the nature of change and the speed of change may be such that all governments in our system may lose control of evolving situations unless our constitutional mechanisms have the adaptability and flexibility to meet them. Once such control is lost it seems almost impossible for it ever to be restored completely.
I want to make some further observations on the speech of the honourable member for Bennelong. One of the difficulties which Australia faces today in relation to its constitutional crisis is not that we need to review the Constitution but rather that we need the mechanism to change it. Beyond any doubt the Australian electorate, over the last decade at least and particularly in 1974, has been subjected to a barrage of deceit and deception about referendums from the political demagogues- the tories- whether they be from the States or from the Opposition here. Jointly they did their best to torpedo any constructive or effective attempt to carry the much needed constitutional amendments. However, section 128 of the Constitution- the referendum provision- has proved that this device has failed to meet the need to update our Constitution. As the honourable member for Bennelong said, certainly the Constitution has been amended but, with a few notable exceptions, largely as a result of judicial interpretation by the High Court rather than at the ballot box. It is an indictment of the current system that perhaps the most important express powers which over recent years have been conferred on the national government have flowed from judicial interpretations rather than from the ballot box.
I refer to powers over restrictive trade practices, which the Opposition opposed; monopolies, which the Opposition opposed; the national Companies Act, which no doubt the Opposition will oppose; safety, efficiency and regularity in civil aviation; television and broadcasting; and the legitimation of children by subsequent marriage, which powers were valid. These powers and others have been vested in this Parliament and despite rejection at the ballot box or at referendum, or confirmation if you like, the High Court has placed its imprimatur on the recommendations of the constitutional committees as set out in the 1929 and 1959 reports and in respect of which the Opposition in government over 23 years failed to act upon. All the powers have been given to the Federal Parliament by the High Court in terms of judicial interpretation. We as a nation ought to study and contrast, if you like, the people’s track record, that is, the ballot box, and that of the High Court in the field of meaningful, constructive, progressive and much needed constitutional change. If one looks at that and assesses it constructively one will find that it is a deplorable record.
Let me wrap this up by indicating that I firmly believe that section 128 must be the most serious issue facing this country and is without question the major stumbling block in constitutional change. Clearly, as I said before, the problem really is not how to review the Constitution but to change it. The nation has 4 options. It can choose to change section 128. It can reject a proposal to change it. It can do nothing, or it can leave any meaningful changes to be made by the High Court. What is needed is for the intergovernmental arrangements to be given suitable recognition in the Constitution to enable interchanges of constitutional authority to be achieved without the trauma of referenda or backdoor dealings between the Federal Government and the State governments. Given this power the Federal and State governments would be in a position to promote their own best interests without reducing the totality of their powers. The States would, by this amendment, be placed on an equal footing with the Federal Government in relation to the transfer of powers. Furthermore, such a change more clearly opens up possibilities for power sharing, backed by formal constitutional means, hopefully enabling us at least to minimise the duplication of effort which is now sometimes required. Of equal significance, it would serve to minimise the risks of legal complications and the so often empty but nevertheless potent catch cries on Commonwealth-State relations which in the past have been so destructive to attempts to obtain reasonable arrangements to meet changing situations.
The proposed amendment would also be a more practical and certainly less explosive way than many involving necessary and important changes in the use of government power to meet the need for changes as they develop from time to time. Our present Constitution is short on the machinery necessary to keep the working of government at the formal level in touch with the evolving needs of our society. It is heavily weighted on the other hand with sections which lack the flexibility to achieve what is in the best interests of the country as a whole. What an amendment like this proposes is to present to the Australian people a realistic and hopefully acceptable means of ensuring that the politics of confrontation can be minimised in working to meet the contemporary and future needs of government in this country.
There is of course no sanction requiring either the Australian Parliament or the State parliaments under section 51 (xxxvii) to act to share their powers effectively, nor can or should there be anything like it. But by making reciprocal what is now essentially one-sided as far as the States are often concerned, this should go some way at least in developing more meaningful and effective efforts by the governments of this country to deal with our most pressing problems. To think otherwise would be to ignore the history of the past 75 years and would leave us in a situation which no one in this House who knows anything about constitutional law can deal with with any degree of equanimity.
I conclude by reiterating what I claimed earlier, that the real problem is not to review the Constitution, but to change it. Difficult as this is, this Bill at least which proposes to amend the Constitution is one constructive avenue by which we can make the Constitution work with some semblance of efficiency and perhaps some semblance of success. I commend the Bill to the House.
-I support this proposal. I think it is desirable that we put the proposal in the context of constitutional development and the need for reform of the Constitution in Australia. Quite clearly a constitution which has had its form for 90 years, although it has been operative for only 75 years, needs some amendments to bring it up to contemporary requirements. What we need to think about first is the reaction of people to government. People see the Commonwealth Government, State government and local government bodies. What people are concerned about is that they get services as they require them from the best area of government to provide the particular form of service. The ordinary citizen is not concerned whether the service comes from the Commonwealth, State or local government provided it is given in the best form and provided it is given in the most economical form; that it is value for money. It was out of these sorts of considerations that the original impetus for a convention on the Constitution commenced in Victoria and it was in Victoria that the call for a convention came. It was picked up by all the States and by the Commonwealth. In due course a convention was put together in Sydney in 1973.
At that convention there was a very great deal of goodwill from all political parties from all the State parliaments and from the Commonwealth Parliament. Added to it there was, of course, local government representation. The purpose of the convention was to find a rationale for the necessary amendments which could make the Constitution respond to contemporary needs. What was seen at that time was that there should be a whole package of constitutional amendments which would be put to the Australian people by referendum. That has not been done. There has been a piecemeal approach to amendments to the Constitution and those that have been put up over the last 2lh years have all failed. I believe that some of those constitutional amendments could have been successful if they had been separated and yet been put as part of a whole refurbishing of the Constitution.
Under the terms of this constitutional proposal it will be put separately again and for that I think criticism can be levelled at the Government and perhaps the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) directly, but there is no point in engaging in that sort of criticism. It will serve no purpose. What we need to do is to look at this Bill and to ask: ‘Should this legislation be passed so that a referendum can be conducted of the Australian people?’ What the outcome of that referendum will be one cannot know. Certainly if this had been approached in a different way there could have been almost a certainty of the referendum being successful. I doubt now that there can be ascribed to it that certainty. For my part I would like to see the Bill passed in this House, passed in the Senate, the proposal put to a referendum and succeed because I believe it is a very worthwhile referendum proposal.
The Constitution, as it binds the Commonwealth and the States, can be altered in 3 ways. It can be altered by referendum. It can be altered by the reference of powers from the States. It can be altered de facto by decisions of the High Court on constitutional cases. For my own part I do not like to leave to judicial decision the interpretation of the Constitution into a contemporary document. It is a difficult task to impose upon the judiciary and it does not enable consultation with the Parliaments by way of reference or consultation with the people of Australia by way of referendum. This is not to be taken as criticism of the High Court. On the contrary, I have the highest respect and regard for it. But it is not proper that constitutional development in Australia should de facto rely upon judicial interpretation of the Constitution by the High Court.
When the Constitution was being drawn up a provision was put in section 5 1- it is in section 5 1 that the great majority of the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament are to be found- at placitum (xxxvii), which provides that matters can be referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the parliaments of the States. Very little use has been made of that provision. Basically, one can say that the 2 major references have been in regard to air transport in Queensland and Tasmania, as I remember it, and Tasmania also referred power in respect of trade practices to the Commonwealth. There were some other references which are now defunct. One of the reasons for the lack of use of this provision was that the State parliaments did not know, because there was no sufficient judicial interpretation, whether they could refer powers for a limited period, whether they could revoke the powers once given or whether if they gave them, they forever rested with the Commonwealth. There were also some doubts as to whether if there was a reference of power it would be a power which remained with the States to pass legislation which would then be effected only by section 109 which would give the pre-eminence of legislative authority to the Commonwealth.
Against those doubts the States did not use the provision. Also, there was a very serious shortcoming in that although the States could refer power to the Commonwealth there was absolutely no provision which enabled the Commonwealth to refer power to the States. So when the Constitutional Convention met in Sydney one of the first items that was listed was this very question. The report of the Australian Constitutional Convention in 1973 shows that the list of topics for discussion included as the very first item:
The uncertainties concerning the power of State parliaments to refer power to the Parliament of the Commonwealth [Section 5 1 , placitum (xxxvii).]
Indeed it was this very question of the interchange of powers which had largely led to the movement for a convention. A case had been decided by the High Court in which it was held that the exercise of the States applying a receipt duty tax was an excise power and it was therefore unconstitutional for the States to do it. The States asked the Commonwealth to impose the tax, or the excise as it ought properly to be referred to, and the Commonwealth agreed to impose the State receipts duty tax as a Commonwealth excise. But the legislation, introduced in the 1 970 Budget, was rejected by the Senate. It is an interesting echo from the past in today’s context as to the power of the Senate in relation to money Bills. In fact in 1 970, because it was politically advantageous at the time, the Labor Opposition in the Senate rejected that Bill. That meant a restructuring of the Budget of the day. The amount of money involved, if my memory serves me correctly, was of the order of $300m. The Commonwealth therefore had to provide the money out of revenues not collected from the citizens. In any event, in order to get rational financial relationships with the States, the Commonwealth seriously contemplated the possiblity of giving the States excise powers to impose taxes. Equally, the States were anxious to have that power so that they could exercise what they regarded as responsible government in raising taxes and being answerable for them. At the same time there are many other powers which would be better exercised by the Commonwealth than by the States. So there was mutuality between the Commonwealth and the States for a refurbishing of the Constitution to put powers in the appropriate parliaments where they would be exercised better.
That is the origin of this piece of legislation. The proposal was put to the meeting of the Constitutional Convention in Sydney. Outside the Convention a dinner was held by the Prime Minister at which 5 of the Premiers attended. After the dinner it was announced that there was agreement in principle to such a constitutional amendment to enable the transfer of powers both from the States to the Commonwealth and vice versa from the Commonwealth to the States. That was in 1973. In the 2 years since there has been a great deal of consideration of the matter by the Constitutional Convention Committees. There has been a great deal of discussion by parliamentary counsel as to the proper wording of this legislation which in turn will become a question to put to the people in a referendum. It is a very complicated piece of legislation. I see the First Parliamentary Counsel, Mr Comans, sitting in the gallery of the chamber. I am sure that he has had some part in the drafting of this Bill. I do not want him or anybody else to understand that this is an accusation of inelegance in drafting when I say this: When one looks at this Bill it is perfectly clear that a great number of people will not understand it and they will rely heavily upon their confidence and trust in lawyers and politicians who do understand it to be satisfied, as people voting, which is the correct course of action to take.
The Bill proposes to insert in the Constitution 2 new sections, section 108a and section 108b. For my own part I do not see any problems whatever with the proposed new section 108b. In fact its provisions are drafted in a straightforward manner and I have no difficulty with them at all. However, some of the States must have some difficulties in relation to proposed new section 108a. Proposed new section 108a (1) is quite clear as to what it means on its wording, but 108a (2) would present a great deal of problems to some people who are concerned that the Constitution is not changed from its basic federal concept to render it a more centralist constitutional document. Proposed new section 108a (2) reads:
The power of the Parliament of the Commonwealth to designate a matter under this section is not limited by the provisions of this Constitution other than this section.
That will raise great fears on the part of many people that the Bill is proposing to alter the Constitution quite dramatically by allowing the Commonwealth to pick up a piece of power, which it now does not have, and give it to the States. I think 2 things can be said about it. One is that it is very unlikely that the Commonwealth would attempt to give the States a power which it does not itself possess. The second thing is that I believe, on the meaning of the words, that the Commonwealth cannot designate more power than the remainder of the Constitution itself in fact gives to it. In any event, there will be argument as to the meaning of it. There may also be argument as to the meaning of proposed new sub-clause (3.), which I will not bother to read but which needs to be put in the context of proposed new sub-sections (2.) and (4.). The three of those need a great deal of examination before we will satisfy people’s minds that they can readily and properly vote in a referendum for this change to the Constitution.
My colleague, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), the shadow Minister for consumer affairs, has already said that the
Opposition side of the House supports this Bill in principle. I very strongly support it in principle but we are confronted with the problem of what happens today in relation to this Bill. We could, if there were the numbers on the Government side, just push it through the House. We could use the power of numbers to push it through this House. Then it would go to the Senate. If it failed in the Senate it could nevertheless be brought into this House a second time. The numbers could be used to push it through again and it could become a referendum proposal to be put to the people. Under those circumstances I feel that the possibility of its passing would be very seriously damaged.
As I am in support of the principle of the Bill and, subject to more consideration of sub-section (2.) of proposed new section 108a, in support of the legislation as it stands, I do not welcome the prospect of the referendum being damaged by that sort of procedure. I would therefore suggest that the proper course for us today is to consider the matter of principle as we are now doing at the second reading stage and the matter should then be put to a vote on the second reading. I would expect that in those circumstances there would be no voice in this House opposing the second reading of the Bill. If it received unanimous support in this House then the prospects of it being accepted in the referendum would be improved. It would also not have the effect of binding anybody at this stage to the exact words of the Bill.
I pointed out that there will be doubts about three of the proposed new sub-sections. I think they can be resolved. I want to make that clear. But there is no point in my being satisfied and the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) being satisfied. It is the voters who need to be satisfied because they have to make the decision and they will have to put their trust, as I said before, in people whom they respect for integrity. The support and the trust they have will be so much the greater if there is a unanimous decision. I would therefore suggest that we put aside the Committee stage of this Bill for a sufficient period to allow the States to respond specifically on the issues of drafting. The parliamentary counsel are well advanced in their consideration so governments can respond, and respond quite quickly.
Finally, I draw attention to section 128 of the Constitution, which is the section which deals with referendum changes to the Constitution. It will be seen on looking at that section that the process of calling for referendum is such that if the necessary legislation passes this House but does not pass the Senate and is passed by this
House a second time it can still go to referendum. But there is another provision that even if that course is taken it will still be open to both Houses to agree to amendments to the proposal that is actually put to referendum. So with a spirit of cooperation in which this should be resolved it is up to both sides of the House to adopt the course I have suggested, wait for advice from the States and then consider our position. I would hope that the outcome of such a course will be co-operative unanimity for the passing of this important referendum. I think that if it is passed it will make a giant contribution to the future constitutional government of Australia.
– Those of us who have taken an interest in the Australian Constitution over recent years, I believe, have come to the point of view that there is a great need for reform, and the referendums which have been put to the Australian people recently are an example of the desire of this Government to effect reforms to the Constitution. This Bill, which deals with the reference of powers from the Commonwealth to the States and the reference of powers from the States to the Commonwealth, has the support of the Opposition.
I listened with interest to the remarks of the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden) and his suggestion that the Parliament ought to make sure that proposed new subsection 108a (2.) receives the complete support of the Senate. I think this is important. How long we delay it, however, is another matter, and of course it is not up to me to decide that. I take the right honourable member’s point that in putting a referendum proposal- and I believe this is an important one- all political parties and all States should support it, because lack of such support makes it very difficult to have a referendum proposal accepted.
We live in a very much different Australia from the Australia in which the founders of the Constitution lived. They worked on the Constitution for a considerable number of years before it was finally carried as an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament and became the Constitution of this country. It was very much a compromise even in those days. If honourable members study the Constitution Act they will see that in the initial stages it was not necessarily intended that Western Australia should become a member of the Federation in the first instance. As it turned out, Western Australia did become a member of the Federation, and I think that was very much to the advantage of this country as a whole. However, that just indicates that at that stage some of the States and very many people in Australia did have reservations about whether we should join together in a federation of the various colonies.
These problems have continued, of course, as time has gone on. In fact, the problems that were associated with the forming of the Federation have in many cases become worse with the passing of the years. So we find inherent in our Constitution provisions which would not be included in a constitution which was written today. However, we all realise the great difficulty in changing specific provisions of the Constitution to allow for the need for change. The Constitution Alteration (Inter-change of Powers) Bill is one way in which we can overcome some of these difficulties.
The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) mentioned some of the powers which could be referred. I will not cover that ground again but I shall refer to one matter which is of considerable interest to me, and that is the question of road safety and the interchange of powers between the States and the Commonwealth in this matter.- The first report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety, of which I was a member, made a recommendation to the Parliament that the constitutional position so far as road safety is concerned ought to be carefully examined. The Committee did this because we realised that there-is considerable difficulty.
I do not know whether honourable members understand that in every State there is a different accident report form and that the people who are concerned with the forms, representatives of the police forces in the various States, for instance, argue that their form is the most suitable one for them. This situation raises very serious problems in arriving at reliable statistics when.it comes to a consideration of matters affecting- road safety. These constitutional problems would, I believe, be largely overcome if this referendum is carried and the States can refer powers. It is not a matter on which a great deal of heat is engendered by either side- the Australian Government or the governments of the various States. The fact that the Road Safety and Standards Authority is being established at Albury-Wodonga is a good indication of the co-operation which is coming forward even at this stage. But I believe that that is not sufficient. We need something written into our Constitution to enable a formalization of any agreements which may be arrived at in cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States.
An important matter- this has been discussed before both at the Constitutional Convention and here- is whether the powers should be able to be revoked by either the Commonwealth or the States. I think that I should read the letters which were presented at the first Constitutional Convention in Sydney in September 1973. The New South Wales submission read:
At present, uncertainties exist as to the manner in which placitum (xxxvii) of section 51- the ‘reference power’operates. The limited use made of the power in the past is no doubt attributable in large measure to such uncertainties.
It is considered that, by constitutional amendment, these uncertainties should be removed by providing, for example, that references of legislative power by States to the Commonwealth may be made for limited terms and that repeal of a reference act has constitutional efficacy, and also that the Commonwealth Parliament might refer to the States any legislative power of the Commonwealth.
The Victorian submission read:
It is submitted that this provision should be amended to remove uncertainties that presently exist- to ensure that a reference-
is not irrevocable;
may be for a fixed or determinable period; and
may be subject to terms and conditions.
It is quite clear from both these letters from New South Wales and Victoria and also from other letters written and remarks made by other State representatives that this Bill in principle at least has very general agreement. I would hope that if there are any difficulties as mentioned by the right honourable member for Bruce they can be quickly ironed out so that we can put to the Australian people a very clear and decisive referendum proposal which will be carried overwhelmingly. I believe that this would be very much for the better government of his country. The way in which the referendum is worded of course is important. The States in referring powers to the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth in referring powers to the States must have an understanding . that if the situation alters the reference can be reversed. As I understand from reading the Bill the States still will have control because they can revoke any of the powers which have been given at any stage.
Before concluding I would like to say something about the role of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in pushing forward with these constitutional reforms. I think constitutional reform is long overdue and the Prime Minister will be remembered in time to come for it. No doubt the lead which he has given will be taken up in the future. For a long time there has been a need to do something about the matters which this Bill considers. Until the referendum in 1967 dealing with the breaking of the nexus and the changing of the powers as they applied to Aboriginal people in Australia was carried a referendum had not been put to the Australian people for many years. It is a matter of record and a matter of fact that in many other countries which require constitutions to be changed the constitutional amendments have been carried much more frequently than they have here.
The remarks made by members of the Opposition parties lead me to believe that there is a very good chance that this referendum, once put to the people, will be carried. I hope that members in another place adopt a similar attitude because without that sort of general support I, together with the right honourable member for Bruce, am rather afraid that a referendum would not be carried. I see a very pressing need to do something about this matter. I think that such powers would be very much to the advantage of the people of Australia. I commend the Bill to the House.
-With other members of the Opposition who have spoken on this legislation this afternoon I support it with perhaps the reservation that we want to hear a little further from the States on their consideration and their opinion of this matter. I was interested to hear the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) the other day when he introduced the legislation. It can be said that some of the points that he made emphasise one of the difficulties and one of the problems of constitutional referenda. Perhaps there is a fear in the minds of many people when it comes to changing the Constitution. I think this fear comes from all quarters and not merely from one section. I think the fear arises because people do not know what might develop or what might happen after the alteration. That is why, as already mentioned on 2 occasions by the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden) and the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie), there is a difficulty in having constitutional alterations passed and in fact in having any referenda passed by the people.
I was interested in the remarks of the Prime Minister when he mentioned that the reference of powers by the States to the Australian Parliament is already allowed for in the Constitution. He went on to say:
This provision has been little used, largely because of the doubts that have been held by the States as to whether a reference once given could be revoked and whether a reference could be given for a term of years only or on conditions. The proposed Constitution alteration before the House will remedy this position by making it quite clear that a reference given by the States will be revocable, that it may be given subject to conditions, including conditions regulating the kinds of laws that may be passed in pursuance of it, and may be made for a limited period of time. It will also make it clear that the reference of a matter by a State will not prevent the State from passing laws with respect to that matter.
A great deal has been said over a period in regard to the problems confronting Australia with its 6 States and its Federal Government. Reference has been made to education, transport, health and matters in the international field. They all sometimes require a greater degree of co-operation from the States and the Federal Government than has been shown in the past. I agree with that. I think there is a necessity in this country for greater co-operation between the States and the Federal Government.
However, I do not feel that perhaps the only way of overcoming this problem is by giving more and more control to a central government. I have said that for many years irrespective of what political party may be in control of the central government. One of the ways that difficulties could be overcome would be by greater cooperation between the Ministers in the States and the Ministers in the Federal Government. I realise that in that regard there are political difficulties. The political situation being what it is there is a very grave danger of the States trying to take an advantage and saying: ‘The Federal Minister would not let us do this’. I agree that there is an element of difficulty in regard to this matter, but I feel that advances have been made, for example in the fields of education, health and agriculture. I think the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) would agree that in discussions between the Attorneys-General there has been on many occasions a great deal of co-operation between the Attorneys-General of the States and of the Commonwealth. In my opinion this is something that could be explored and committees comprising those gentlemen and their permanent heads could be set up so that consultation could be carried out with a minimum of delay.
I think one of the problems relating to progress in Australia is the set-up that we have at the moment. Perhaps lack of co-operation is not quite the right phrase to use but in the set-up there is not co-operation to the degree to which there should be co-operation. I have stated on a number of occasions that I am not in favour of growth centres and yet in that regard we have seen a degree of co-operation between the Federal and State governments. I have an objection to growth centres because in my opinion it is a forced growth. You tend to discourage areas which are trying to make efforts on their own and because both State and Federal governments make special and significant concessions to a growth centre there is a danger that other areas will say: ‘Why should we worry? Let’s wait and see. We might be picked as a growth centre later on’.
I would rather see development along the lines of decentralisation by encouragement being given to all local governments so that they in turn, within their own administrative framework, may be able to work in the sphere of decentralisation. As has happened in many areas in my electorate, I should like to see work which is of advantage not only to the people of a particular district but also to the people of many other areas and many other districts surrounding it. I think this is one sphere in which we could have a greater degree of co-operation between the Federal and States governments and local governments without having enforced control in enforced growth areas.
I mentioned earlier that one of the problems confronting the acceptance of constitutional alterations is the fear in the States, and sometimes even within the Federal sphere, of greater powers in one area reducing the powers and the capacity in another. In his remarks the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) mentioned that the inference of conservatism from the Opposition was blocking the progress of more control for the Federal Government. I refer to the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which was presented in 1958. The House may recall that that Committee met in 1956 and 1957. There were some very distinguished gentlemen from both sides of the Parliament on that committee.
– Can you name them?
– I will name them with a great deal of pleasure, because I think they were gentlemen who made a pretty valuable contribution. I think their report shows the value of a joint committee discussing matters which concern both Houses. Senator Neil O “Sullivan was the Chairman. Senator Kennelly and Senator Reg Wright were members, as was Senator McKenna. Other members were Mr Downer, Mr Hamilton, Mr Pollard, Mr Calwell, Mr Drummond, Mr Joske, Mr Ward and the present Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. I think that report can be accepted as a very valuable report which achieved a great deal. I would make only one comment following what was said by the honourable member for Hawker which shows possibly one of the problems and difficulties confronting constitutional alteration. One comment in the report was:
The Labor members of the Committee considered that full legislative powers should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament with the duty and authority to create States possessing delegated constitutional powers . . .
The next comment would be obvious. It continued: … but since it was not possible to gain agreement to this effect the Committee was concerned to ascertain what measure of agreement was possible between members from both sides of the Parliament.
I think that that report expresses one of the difficulties and one of the variances of opinion between members of the present Opposition and members of the present Government. I do not take away from members of the Labor Party their right to have that opinion. Many of them have that opinion and they are entitled to it. But there is a difference. They believe in greater control for a central government. I believe that the members of the Opposition are not happy about that and we strongly oppose that particular thinking. I believe that if one increases the power of a central government one increases the dangers of bureaucracy in this country.
No matter what happens, Ministers of the Crown and the Prime Minister are responsible to the people, and every so often they have to face the electors. Public servants are not in that category. In saying that, I am not in any way being critical of the Public Service. It does a tremendous job and we are dependent upon it. We are dependent upon its advice and assistance and I believe in most cases that advice and assistance is given to the respective parties, irrespective of political views, to the advantage of the progress and development of this country. I come back to the point I made that too much centralised power means inevitably that decisions would be made by bureaucrats, in many instances without the ability of the Minister to be able really to give the full study and consideration that he should give to the decisions.
I am sure everybody will agree that the work of a parliamentarian, be he a back bencher or a Minister, in these days is increasing. The amount of paper work and the amount of administrative work have increased. As honourable members know, I have been a member of this House now for nearly 24 years. I would say that the amount of administrative work which I have now, compared with when I was first elected, is at least double, the amount of paper work has more than doubled. If there is too much centralised power there is the danger that we will take away power and authority from the States. They will be brought under the centralised control in Canberra. Ministers would not have time to meet deputations and to have discussions with the leaders of the community. Honorable members should consider that if we took away the responsibilities, the work and the tasks of State Ministers and placed them under a central control by Federal ministers, what would be the possibility of those Federal ministers being able to give the attention that would be needed to matters of decision? I believe for that very important reason that very strong consideration must be given to the continuation of the Federal system and the authority and the responsibility of the State governments.
That brings me to the point that there is a great deal of value in this legislation which is being presented for the alteration of the Constitution by the insertion of proposed new sections 108a and 108b. Having said that, I believe that we must give attention to what the States have in mind in relation to this proposal. Consideration must be given to their opinions and to their points of view. So, it is for that reason that, as was pointed out by the honourable member for Bennelong, we in the Opposition support the constitutional proposals involved in the change which the legislation presented by the Prime Minister seeks to achieve. But we believe also that further consideration must be given to the suggestion and that the opinion of the States must be sought and considered before finality is reached on this matter.
– It has been indeed pleasing to listen to the various contributions that have been made to this debate. I appreciate the great degree of unanimity that exists on this subject. It is all too rare in this House to find honourable members expressing such agreement on a subject. It is a pity that there was not the same degree of unanimity when the Government introduced this measure in March 1974. The House divided most vigorously on the issue when it was presented at that time.
I do not wish to take up too much of the time of the House as the proposal is really a quite simple one and it has been dealt with by many of the speakers. The honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) who has just resumed his seat in a wide ranging speech went beyond the bare bones of the proposal which is, as we all now know, to permit the exchange of powers from the Australian Parliament to the State parliaments and the return of powers on other matters from the State parliaments to the Australian Parliament, consequential on agreement. That is the basic of the Bill. The honourable member talked about philosophical matters. I will indulge myself, if I may, to answer him briefly.
The honourable member directed some remarks to Government thinking or what he called Labor thinking on the subject of greater control in the central Government. If those are not the words the honourable member used, they are the words that I wrote down. Without conceding that that is a correct way of putting the proposition, I say that the honourable member should appreciate that the Government tries to face up to this problem of power just as indeed the honourable member for Lyne tries to face up to that problem. This is a concept which is often avoided in Australian politics, and we run away from it. The position of the Government is different from that of the honourable member for Lyne and the Opposition Parties in the sense that the Government recognises that power exists in the community. If political power is fragmented and weakened, far from achieving the results that those on the Opposition side want to achieve, when the excesses of power are avoided, we believe that in turn excesses of power are created which are not accountable to anyone.
As the honourable member for Lyne put it, the Prime Minister and Ministers of the Government are accountable to the people. They are accountable to the Parliament. They must stand up here at question time and answer questions. Insofar as there is any power associated with them, it is responsible power for which they are accountable in a democratic way. But if a political power is fragmented in some form or another, in some constitutional or federal system, a confederate system or in some other system, so that political power is watered down to such an extent that we will find a concentration of that power of a different kind in a different area- say, the private sector- we will get for example enormous economic power, corporate power, which is not accountable to anyone. That basically presents a different ideological or philosophical point of view that members of the Liberal and National Country Parties would take from that adopted by members of the Labor Party. We believe that that type of power does not serve the interests of anyone. We believe in a democratic accountability of power. That is what often divides us. I do not want to take any more time on that subject. I see the honourable gentleman recognising that we have differences.
May I return to the Bill? It is, as the House knows, a Bill which proposes that a referendum be held to alter the Constitution with respect to the interchanging of powers between the Commonwealth Parliament and the State parliaments. The honourable member for Hawker (Mr
Jacobi) in a speech that was equally as wide ranging as that of the honourable member for Lyne drew attention to the remarks attributed to Professor Sawer of the Australian National University in which he described the Australian Constitution as perhaps a frozen Constitution. With respect to its Constitution, Australia is a frozen continent. That is the way that Professor Sawer has put it. It was the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden) who said that our Constitution is not only 75 years old but really finds its roots or its basis in an earlier period. It goes back some 90 years.
We know that attempts to change our Constitution have failed lamentably. There are really only 3 instruments of change provided for or built into the Constitution. One is the system of referenda referred to in section 128 of the Constitution. That is the section which provides the system whereby subject to laws of this sort being passed by the Parliament or in the event of those laws in some circumstances not even being passed by the Senate a proposal can be put to the people by way of referendum and that is therefore democratic action. The difficulty with this system in practice has been that our founding fathers saw fit, because they represented State colonies at the time- in many ways still colonies of the imperial crown- to build in what they thought were safeguards to make change not easy.
– Very good.
– I would say very bad. In any event, section 128 provides that there must be not only a majority of Australians vote for a proposal- I would have thought that that was enough; perhaps one could want a majority in each State or something of that sort- but that there must be a majority in a majority of the States in support of a proposal. Australia has 6 States. A majority of six is four. The system does not turn out to be exactly what it appears to be on paper. For a referendum proposal to be carried a majority not only of all Australians throughout the continent but also a majority of two-thirds of the States is required.
We know that in practice it has proved almost impossible to obtain those majorities on quite a number of occasions. This Government would dearly like be able to relax that rule. But it knows that it would run headlong into the opposition of the Opposition parties. Then we would be driven back again to what the honourable member for Lyne, who is not a member of my Party, referred to when he talked about fear because campaigners in referenda, people who oppose proposed changes, certainly rely on fear. Section 128 has largely failed. It is a notorious factperhaps ‘notorious’ is the wrong word, but it is certainly a fact- that Labor Party governments want to change the Constitution by referenda. Liberal-National Country Party coalition governments rarely do as they are more prepared to accept the status quo. This is again a philosophical and a fundamental difference, between us.
– We can get the odd one through.
-Yes. The only one you got through was one which said that Aborigines should be regarded as people. There are fundamental differences between us on these points.
The second method of change which the Constitution provides is to be found in section 51 placitum (xxxvii) which enables referrals of power by the States. That is the one to which we are trying to begin to attend in this legislation today. We know that the Founding Fathers thought that it might be appropriate for the States to give one of the powers that they have to the Australian Government. We know that the States have hardly ever done that because nobody likes to give up power. I suppose it is part of human nature. Also I think they have argued on the other hand that they might not be able to get back the referred power, as the language is unclear, and they might want to attach conditions to the exercise of power by the Australian Parliament. It is not clear whether conditions can be attached. So, that referral of power has hardly ever been done.
This measure seeks to overcome that situation by changing the Constitution to permit the States to have returned the power that they have referred if they want it back and to attach conditions if they wish to do so. In turn it Will allow us to give to the States some powers that it might be more proper that they should have than we should have here in the Australian Parliament.
The final instrument of change is the High Court itself. It is a lamentable fact or a pity that it has turned out to be the greatest instrument of change. There is no measure of criticism of the High Court in that comment. I refer to the fact that the other systems of change have so dismally failed that the High Court which interprets the Constitution and which I heard the Chief Justice say the other day was actually an arm of government that is something with which I might not necessarily agree- has turned out to be the instrument of change. It is the only instrument of change with respect to interpretation. More change, for example, came from the decision of the High Court in the concrete pipes case in terms of a transference of power from the States to the Australian Parliament than has ever come from any reference of power or referendum which has been put forward- certainly if not now then in the future. It is to overcome the rigidity or inflexibility which is such a feature of our Constitution and which results in our country being described by prominent academics as the frozen land that this change is put forward on this occasion.
It seems that the Bill receives support from the Opposition parties. We are very pleased about that. If the relationship between the States and the Australian Parliament is ever to change it is surely a matter for the States to decide whether it should change and the way in which it should change. I know of no way in which the States will suddenly disappear overnight, be swallowed up, evaporate or something of that sort, and I have no doubt that they will continue into the foreseeable future. This being so, then surely if the relationship between the States and the Australian Parliament is to change we must allow the States to change that relationship with us. This is not necessarily called striking a bargain- although there is nothing wrong with that expression- or horse dealing or anything of that sort. One certainly assumes that if this change ever becomes part of the law of the land, the Governments of the States and the Australian Government will at some stage in the future be able to sit down as rational men notwithstanding the difficulties which the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) described. I think he understated the position. One hopes that notwithstanding those political difficulties the States will be able to say: ‘We do not really want this power of defamation’ to take an example in the case of the States- ‘and you perhaps do not really want that exclusive power over Commonwealth places’. Other examples could be given.
In those circumstances why can we not just put the matter right as sensible men should do? We would get an instrument of change. I agree with one of the earlier speakers who said that if this can be brought about it will be one of the most momentous changes for good in the future- I am not talking about next week or in 6 months time, I am talking of 10 years, 20 years, 50 years or 100 years- that will have been brought about in the Australian Constitution, because it will introduce an element of flexibility which, at the moment, is completely lacking. The relationship between the States and the Australian Parliament at the moment is not what they want it to be at all. It is what people back in 1 870, who are long dead, said it should be. I cannot think of any State government which would say: ‘The relationship is ideal; let it continue.’ I cannot think of any Australian government, whether it be of an Australian Labor Party or of a Liberal-Country Party coalition persuasion which would say: ‘The relationship is ideal; let it continue.’ Yet there it is, written in black and white, almost unalterable except by the interpretation of the High Court which from time to time is able to give new meaning to old words. If this Bill becomes law the relationship will be what the parties want it to be. Surely that is civilised; that is progress. We regard ordinary, natural persons as being entitled to determine their own relationships when they want to. Surely the States and the Australian Parliament should be able to do the same thing.
Some questions were directed to me, I think by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) about sub-section (2) of proposed new section 108a. I put the situation to him this way: If he compares the present Bill with the earlier Bill which was dealt with last time he will find some differences. My recollection of the Bill which was before the Parliament in 1974 is that the exchange could be done on a State for State basis. In other words, State A could transfer a power on subject X to the Australian Parliament in return for some power. It could be done on that basis. Now, of course, the honourable member will note, if he reads sub-section (1) of proposed new section 108a that the power relates to all States. The States do not have to exercise the power but they do have that requirement. When one looks at sub-section (2) of proposed new section 108a I suppose the principal point I can put to him is, as he appreciates, that it provides that the power of the Australian Parliament to designate a matter is not limited by the general provisions of the Constitution. This will make it clear, for example, that the Australian Parliament could designate the matter of a State tax even though its own power with respect to taxation relates to Commonwealth taxation only. The Bill should also make it clear that the power to designate matters is not restricted by the requirement, for example, that Commonwealth laws with respect to taxation and bounties must not discriminate between States but must be uniform throughout the Commonwealth. I suppose one could argue that subsection (2) of proposed new section 108a need not be there.
– That is a good point.
– It could be argued. On the other hand, we would argue that it should be there for valid reasons. I put the view which I hold to honourable members listening opposite -I do not know whether they hold this view; they may- that the question of intra-State shipping is a problem which the States, or someone in Australia, might want to put right. They might want to make a better law. As I said a little while ago, at the moment the States are still, in many ways, colonies of the British Crown. The law on this subject is to be found largely in the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act of 1 894.
– That is a very modern Act.
-My friend the honourable member for Hawker who interjects from behind says that it is a very modern Act. I do not think anyone would argue that it is the latest word on the subject. The States are still bound by the Colonial Laws Validity Act because the Statute of Westminster did not pick them up. The Imperial Merchant Shipping Act cannot be repealed by the States. On the other hand, we of the Australian Parliament have no constitutional power to make a law on the subject.
– Do not make that admission.
-My friend the honourable member for Wentworth warns me not to make too many admissions. The fact remains that one searches section 51 and looks in vain for a reference to shipping of that sort. One might find support for the proposition from some other part of the Constitution but that might be a matter where a reference of power might help overcome the problem in the way in which sub-section (2) of proposed new section 108a contemplates. That is just one example. The future may well produce other examples. The situation we come back to is that sub-section (3) of proposed new section 108a makes it clear that provisions like section 92 of the Constitution -are applicable to State laws made under a designation. Subsection (2) is concerned principally with the designation by the Australian Parliament and not with exercises of power under the designation. Of course section 99 would have no application to a State law made under a designation. A designation must be made to all States by reason of the terms of sub-section ( 1 ) of proposed new section 108a. That is the matter I was putting a few moments ago. States could not be made subject to section 99 which is concerned with the Aus.tralian Parliament giving preferences between States. They would be free to legislate as they wished, subject to any conditions, etc., which might be found in the designation. I hope that my view on the subject in response to the request put to me by the honourable gentleman may be of some assistance.
I do not think there is anything further I want to say on the matter. It is my understanding that discussions have taken place between the Prime Minister and, I think, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on the subject. I hope that we will pass the second reading of the Bill when it is put to a vote, that we will go into Committee and then, perhaps, move that progress be reported. I conclude with these final words: I am not sure whether the germ of this idea of a mutual exchange of powers can be traced back to the 1957 Joint Committee on Constitutional Review of this Parliament. I have a recollection that it can, although I have not had the opportunity to check it recently. I know that the Prime Minister has been very much attached to the idea of constitutional change for a great period of time. He was active on that Committee as long ago as 1957. Certainly this Government, his Government, has tried very hard to upgrade and to modernise the Constitution. To date, we have had success which is not yet fully appreciated. When the High Court hands down its decisions we will know whether the success is greater or less than it has been to date. We all await those decisions with great interest. The initiative in bringing this measure forward is largely a tribute to the Prime Minister’s persistent interest in constitutional reform and constitutional change and a recognition that this frozen, rigid Constitution of ours must somehow in 1975, and in 1985 and in 1995, be made capable of adapting itself to the changing world that it is intended to serve.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Debate resumed from 5 June on motion by Mr Enderby:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The House now turns its mind to the Legal Aid Bill which was introduced by the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) some three to four months ago. I very much regret having to say at the outset of the debate that the measure of unanimity of opinion reached on the Bill we have just disposed of may not be present in the debate on this BUI. This is due, in the view of the Opposition, to the Attorney-General having embarked in the past few days on an irresponsible campaign to deliberately misrepresent the Opposition ‘s attitude to legal aid. Let me make it crystal clear at the outset of this debate that the Opposition is not opposed to the provision of adequate legal aid facilities in Australia. For the Attorney-General or any other member of the Government to represent to this House or to the Australian people that we are opposed to it is completely irresponsible. Further, for the Attorney-General to threaten to treat a referral of this Bill to a select committee of both Houses or to a Senate committee as a failure to pass within the terms of section 57 of the Constitution is to treat an important social service, legal aid, as a simple tactical political tool. It is a device which I think all honourable members of this House ought to deplore.
The Attorney-General’s campaign of misrepresentation reached its irresponsible heights yesterday during question time when in response to a question, no doubt a Dorothy Dixer, a term well known to all honourable members, the Attorney-General said:
The fact is that the Opposition parties do not believe in legal aid.
There it is in black and white. That is the extent of the Attorney-General’s misrepresentation. He then went on to say:
The Opposition spokesman on matters affecting the Department of the Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, is on record as having said that he opposes in principle the Australian Legal Aid Office. That means he opposes legal aid.
That is what the Attorney-General said. What he is inviting this House to accept is that because somebody may have expressed opposition in principle to a particular method of providing legal aid- and I do not concede for a moment what Senator Greenwood ‘s views may be on this matter- it follows automatically that he is opposed to the concept of providing legal aid. That is the level of the misrepresentation that has occurred already and no doubt that misrepresentation will be continued during the course of this debate.
The fact is that the Government is giving all the indications of using legal aid as part of its tactical ploys. It is bringing legal aid very much into the political arena. The Opposition hopes that debate in this chamber on the provision of legal aid services- we would hope that there is unanimity of agreement in principle that there ought to be adequate legal aid services in Australiawill be a sensible one and a debate which takes account of quite significantly different attitudes as to the manner in which legal aid can be provided.
We support legal aid and we have made that clear before. We make it clear again and nothing that we will do during the course of the debate can be honestly represented as being other than total support for the provision of adequate legal aid services. But the Government apparently intends to argue that, just because doubts may be expressed about the method it has chosen to implement legal aid, those who have expressed the doubts are therefore against legal aid. Does the Attorney-General therefore argue that his 3 Senate colleagues, Senator Button, Senator Everett and Senator Grimes, are opposed in principle to national compensation? Has the Attorney-General forgotten that when the National Compensation Bill was brought before this House and gagged through it with not even a semblance of a decent Committee debate, that Bill, by resolution of the Senate, was then referred to a Senate committee? Has he forgotten that that Senate committee, after a lengthy examination, produced a report to the Senate in which it recommended massive changes to the National Compensation Bill? Has he forgotten that the 3 Labor members of that Senate committee joined in the recommendations? Does he argue that because they did not like the method the Government had chosen for the provision of national compensation they are against the principle of national compensation? I wonder whether the Attorney-General really does believe that?
That is the type of argument that the AttorneyGeneral invites the House and the Australian people to accept in respect of legal aid. As far as the Opposition is concerned he is not going to be able to get away with that; he is not going to be able to misrepresent our position on legal aid and he is not going to be able to tell the Australian people that we are opposed to the provision of adequate legal aid services.
Why is the Attorney-General so concerned at the prospect of the Legal Aid Bill being referred to a committee of both Houses of this Parliament? Does he not want the Bill scrutinised? Is he scared that the same embarrassing result might come out of a Senate or joint committee examination of the Legal Aid Bill as came out of the Senate committee examination of the National Compensation Bill? It is well known in this place that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in particular, was very unhappy with some of the conclusions reached by the Senate committee which dealt with the National Compensation Bill. He was very unhappy at the fact that three of the people who shared those conclusions were members of his own Party. Is the AttorneyGeneral concerned that the same situation may arise out of the Legal Aid Bill?
What the Opposition proposes- it will be the subject of a formal amendment which I will move in a moment- is that the Bill be referred to a joint select committee of both Houses of the Parliament for inquiry into and report upon a number of matters. Having said that we immediately hear a vitriolic and cerebral response from honourable members on the Government side. They do not want the Bill carefully examined. Of course not. They regard the Government’s proposals on legal aid as sacrosanct. A few moments ago the AttorneyGeneral was extolling, in the constitutional context, the virtues of flexibility and of having an open mind on change. We invite the Government to have an open mind on changes to this Legal Aid Bill because its proposals already have come under attack from a number of people whose respectability in and knowledge of the field of legal aid cannot seriously be called in question. Therefore the Opposition wants the provisions of this Bill to be scrutinised by a committee of both Houses of Parliament. For once we would hope that the Government would give members of this chamber, members of the House of Representatives, members of what in recent days has so often been described as the popular House and the people’s House, an opportunity of sitting on that committee. We hope that the Government will adopt a flexible attitude to our proposals and establish a joint committee of both Houses. It is the Opposition’s intention to move accordingly.
We hope that the Government will see the wisdom of submitting its legal aid proposals to an examination by a joint committee of both Houses. Let me state at the outset that the proposal of the Opposition, if adopted by this Par.liament will in no way prejudice the current operation of the Australian Legal Aid Office. The Attorney-General knows that. He knows that nothing we propose to do Will upset the present operation of the Australian Legal Aid Office or the provision of facilities that that Legal Aid Office is presently providing. For any Government speakers to argue otherwise would be to continue the pattern of misrepresentation that the Attorney-General has already commenced in respect of this measure.
I think it is appropriate at the outset of this debate for me to state a few principles of the Opposition’s attitude towards legal aid because, I believe, the Opposition shares with the Government a commitment to the provision of adequate legal aid facilities in Australia. Obviously, a commitment of this nature must be based on an approach of principle. I believe that a number of principles are involved. I do not regard them as exhaustive and I do not regard them as totally definitive of the Opposition’s attitude, but they give some indication of our thinking on the type and the nature of the provision of legal aid facilities in Australia.
Firstly, we believe that no person should be denied the benefit of legal advice or assistance through lack of financial resources. Secondly, we believe that the existence of legal aid facilities should be made known to persons who might need assistance from those facilities. Thirdly, we believe that the administration of legal aid facilities should as far as possible be independent of government control. Fourthly, we believe that the provision of legal aid should take proper account of a person’s right to have individual and confidential legal advice. The lawyer-client relationship should be precisely the same whether or not the client is in receipt of legal aid. The provision of legal aid facilities should not create a situation of first and second-class legal advice. Because a person has to receive legal aid the relationship that he might otherwise enjoy with his solicitor or barrister should in no way be diminished by the fact that he does not have the financial resources on his own account to engage a solicitor or counsel. Fifthly, we believe that there should be clear eligibility criteria for the provision of legal aid services in Australia.
We do not believe in an open ended commitment to legal aid any more than the Government at the present time believes in an open ended commitment to other social services in Australia. For anybody to suggest that there should be an open ended commitment to legal aid is to embark upon a path of financial irresponsibility. We also believe that there must be a proper acknowledgement, in the provision of legal aid services, of the role of the private legal profession in delivering those services. The Opposition believes that the Commonwealth Government has a legitimate and proper role in the provision of legal aid services. We do not believe that the problems of providing an effective legal aid service will be solved simply by leaving the matter to the States- not because we believe that the attempts made by the States over the years have not contained a great deal of merit and have not contributed a great deal to the provision of legal aid services, but the fact is that the Commonwealth has a direct constitutional legal responsibility in a number of areas. Therefore it has a responsibility to provide legal assistance to those persons who need assistance in respect of the operation of Federal law. Perhaps most importantly of all, the Commonwealth is in a position to support financially the provision of legal aid services. It follows from that that it must have a very direct interest and responsibility in the provision of legal aid services throughout Australia.
The Legal Aid Bill which we are now debating represents, as I understand it, the end result of the Government’s deliberations on the best method by which it can give legislative effect to the establishment of the Australian Legal Aid Office. Honourable members will be aware that under the Legal Aid Bill provision is made for a board of management for the Legal Aid Office and the establishment of a legal aid commission. Provision is also made for legal consultative committees to advise and be responsible for the provision of legal aid services at a local level.
There are a number of general criticisms and doubts that may be expressed about the Bill. These are the sorts of doubts that the Opposition hopes that a joint committee of the 2 Houses will have an opportunity of examining. Firstly- I invite honourable gentlemen opposite to examine this- there must be serious doubts as to the constitutionality of the functions conferred by the Bill on the Australian Legal Aid Office. The Attorney-General knows that the Commonwealth Government has no express power to make laws with respect to legal aid and advice. Certainly the incidental power under the Constitution would be some help in providing a constitutional basis base for the provisions of clause 6 of the Bill. I invite honourable members to examine the terms of clause 6, which is the clause setting out that the functions of the Office are to provide legal assistance in accordance with the Act. Then it goes on to spell out the matters in respect of which legal assistance will be provided. It spells out a number of circumstances and concludes with the words ‘where it is within the power of the Parliament to provide for the giving of the legal assistance’. Those words in themselves acknowledge the tenuous constitutional base on which this Bill rests.
Ii is also true, in the view of the Opposition and also in the view of other persons interested in legal aid faculties, that the scheme proposed by the Bill duplicates existing services. It duplicates in many respects the existing State legal aid committees. It duplicates voluntary legal aid schemes, in many cases operated by younger members of the legal profession who provide duty and after hours services for persons in need of general legal advice. In the Australian Capital Territory it certainly duplicates the excellent legal aid scheme operated by the private profession in conjunction with the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. It duplicates specific provision which is already made under Commonwealth Acts in respect of the provision of legal aid where Federal law operates.
I draw the attention of the House to the provisions contained in the Family Law Act, the Trade Practices Act and the conciliation and arbitration legislation where provision is already made for the granting of legal aid. These are matters of duplication. These are matters perhaps of overlapping bureaucracy. These are matters of additional cost which ought to be taken into account in determining whether the Parliament supports this Bill. These are matters that can be investigated if the Bill goes to a committee. They are matters that will not be investigated if the Bill does not go to a committee. Once this Bill passes into law the deficiencies of it will be entrenched in the facilities which it sets up to provide legal aid, and much of the duplication, much of the additional costs, much of the lack of independence from bureaucratic control which concerns the Opposition will then be allowed to go on unhindered.
One aspect of this Bill that concerns us greatly is the question of cost. One cannot talk about the provision of legal aid services or in fact the provision of any other services by government without being concerned about cost. Under the scheme proposed in the Bill the cost of legal aid could become unlimited. This Parliament must concern itself with the costs of legal aid. This Government must be concerned that people who need legal aid receive it. Equally, this Parliament must be concerned that people who are not entitled to legal aid and who can afford to pay for their own lawyers do not receive legal aid.
There are certain passages and provisions in this Bill which concern the Opposition and which lead us to believe that in some respects there could be an open ended commitment to the provision of legal aid support. Overseas and domestic experience have shown that the cost of legal aid can grow very quickly. For example, in the United Kingdom for the financial year 1969-70 the total cost of legal aid was £Stg8, 17 1,000. By 1974-75 it had grown to f Stg30,076,000 which is almost a four-fold increase between 1970 and 1975. Already the Government’s allocation for legal aid totals $16m. It may well be that the commitment that this Parliament should make to legal aid is a very, very substantial sum, but Opposition wants clear criteria as to eligibility to receive legal aid. The Opposition also wants a system in the provision of legal aid in which there is no unnecessary duplication and no unnecessary administrative and bureaucratic expense.
A number of more specific criticisms have been made about this Bill, not by the Opposition but by persons both in the practising and academic legal profession who are vitally concerned in and very experienced with the provision of legal aid services. This Bill has been described by one legal correspondent in an Australian newspaper as one which pleases only the bureaucrats. There has been criticism of the lack of independence of the Australian Legal Aid Office from the Government. If one looks at clause 13, which is the operative clause so far as the determination of policy is concerned, one finds in subclause ( 1 ) and in sub-clause (2) that a lot of deference is paid to consultation between the Board of Management and the Attorney-General, but when one looks at sub-clause (3) one finds the following:
If the Attorney-General and the Board are unable to reach agreement, the Governor-General may, by order, determine the policy to be followed by the Board in relation to that matter.
What of course that means is that if there is disagreement between the Board of Management and the Government the Government will prevail. This, of course, follows a pattern that the Government has imposed in other legislation. I have already referred in this House to the power that the Attorney-General has under the Trade Practices Act to override decisions of the Trade Practices Commission when it pleases him and I refer honourable members again to that type of provision which is to be found in this Bill. The Government’s own law and poverty commissioner, Professor Ronald Sackville, recommended that there should be established an independent legal aid commission. I refer honourable members to page 170 of Professor Sackville ‘s report on Legal Aid in Australia under the heading Legal Services Commission. It reads:
The implementation of a national program of legal aid should be the responsibility of a Commission established by statute and enjoying independence from Government.
Certainly the Legal Aid Bill we are debating establishes a legal aid commission. It establishes the Commission under clause 17 but then it confers upon that Commission only advisory power. If one looks at the various sub-clauses of clause 1 7 one will find again and again references to the Legal Aid Commission giving advice to the Attorney-General, but of course the real power will still rest with the Government. The independent commission having executive control over provision of legal aid services in Australia, recommended by Professor Sackville and supported by the Law Council of Australia in its comments on this Bill, is certainly not to be the policy of the Government because the Government having established an apparatus to dispense legal aid, having established the bureaucracy, having said that the Legal Aid Office shall be controlled by the Board of Management then is not prepared to give to the people who are to run legal aid services in Australia the final power to determine matters of policy. No member on this side of the House would dispute that the Government should retain financial control as far as the provision of legal aid services is concerned. Only this Parliament should decide how much money is to be provided for legal aid, but what we argue is that having made an allocation of funds for legal aid it ought to be the responsibility of the people who are administering the legal aid services to decide the manner in which that money is to be dispensed.
– The lawyers.
– We are certainly very concerned, as others are, at the lack of independence of the ALAO from the Government and also the lack of real power and teeth which has been given to the Legal Aid Commission. I think the Government ought to take very much into account the remarks of Professor Sackville on this subject. If one looks at overseas experience one finds that only last year in the United States of America the Legal Services Corporation Act was passed setting up an independent corporation to take over responsibility for legal aid. It had been found in the United States that the fragmented system of the provision of legal aid in which government interference occurred on many occasions was unsatisfactory and that it was desirable to establish an independent corporation to take over the administration of legal aid services in the United States.
I would like to make a few concluding remarks about the role of the legal profession in the provision of legal aid services. It is, of course, very fashionable when talking about legal aid services to take a lot of sideswipes at the legal profession. The Attorney-General himself did it a moment ago by interjection. Of course the legal profession should not have all the say in the provision of legal aid services. Of course there should be non-lawyers- and plenty of them- involved in decisions both at a government level and at a local level so far as legal aid is concerned. However, I think the House ought to remember that the legal profession does have experience in the provision of legal aid services and must play a very substantial role in any system devised for the provision of legal aid, because however much people may take sideswipes at the legal profession the fact is that an independent legal profession is an important safeguard of individual rights in a democracy. The Opposition certainly would not like to see any scheme which did not pay not overdue but proper regard to the maintenance and integrity of an independent legal profession so far as providing legal aid is concerned. Perhaps I should quote from a Press release issued by Mr O ‘Leary, the President of the Law Council of Australia. It was issued in August this year in conjunction with detailed submissions made by the Council to the Government on the provisions of the Legal Aid Bill.
It reads: ‘It is easy to characterise the legal professions views as self interested’, said Mr O ‘Leary, ‘but that entirely overlooks the fact that the services being delivered are legal services in which the legal profession is the skilled body within the community.’ ‘Legal aid was not invented recently,’ he said. ‘Since 1966 the Law Council has been pressing successive Attorneys-General to expand legal aid services by making available federal funds. The multiplicity of voluntary legal aid services started and administered by members of the legal profession is adequate testimony to the public concern of the legal profession. ‘
Having quoted from Mr 0’Leary’s remarks I remind the House that the submissions of the Law Council of Australia on the detailed provisions of this Bill ought not to be construed by the Government as an uncritical acceptance of the concept of an Australian Legal Aid Office because the submissions of the Council were made within the parameters of the Bill and the Attorney-General would be aware that back in May the Law Council accepted that the Government had made a political decision to establish the Legal Aid Office. Therefore any submissions it had made on the provisions of the Legal Aid Bill ought to be looked at on the basis of that assumption by the Council and ought not to be taken as an automatic and uncritical acceptance that the Council, in fact the legal profession, totally supports the concept of an Australian Legal Aid Office. Therefore, I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the Bill be referred to a joint select committee of both Houses to inquire into and report upon:
the adequacy of existing legal aid services in Australia;
whether the provision made in the Bill is the most effective, efficient and economical method of providing legal advice and assistance;
which persons should be entitled to legal aid and what should be the basis on which advice and assistance is provided;
whether proper protection of the individual’s right to obtain independent and confidential legal advice and assistance is provided for in existing legal aid arrangements and under the Bill;
the extent of duplication in the provision of legal advice and assistance throughout Australia and the means by which unnecessary duplication can be avoided; (0 the likely cost of providing legal aid services in
Australia over the next five years and subsequently; and
the clauses of the Bill’.
In moving that amendment I ask honourable members opposite to treat it for what it is, that is, a serious attempt to take an intelligent look at the provision of legal aid services in Australia. It is not designed to obstruct, delay or dismantle -
– It is humbug.
-The Attorney-General and honourable members who sit behind him know that this proposal of the Opposition will not affect the current operation. of the Australian Legal Aid Office. They know that nothing we are proposing in this amendment will interfere with the provision of legal aid services which are presently available. We want an inquiry which will enable State governments, welfare agencies and the legal profession to put their views to a committee, preferably of both houses of Parliament for once. I appeal to Government supporters in this place to give members of the House of Representatives seats on a parliamentary committee. Let us not leave all of these parliamentary inquiries to members of another place. Let us give the members of the House of Representatives an opportunity to take a long and serious look at the provision of legal aid services, which the Opposition fully supports.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I rise to support the Legal Aid Bill in its original form and anticipating the amendments to be moved by the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby). I oppose the amendment moved by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) which is clearly an exercise in deception and an indictment of the attitude of the Opposition to legal aid in Australia. If we have a look at the Opposition’s track record we see that the amount of money that was spent on legal aid in the final year of the Opposition’s reign in this House was something like $290,000. That was a great effort!
We had a great dissertation by the honourable member for Bennelong. The only intelligent thing he said was that he recognised the fact that there was a cerebral response from the Governmentof course that means a brainy response. I hope that is acknowledged and the content of the Bill is treated accordingly. As the honourable member for Bennelong is leaving the chamber I would exhort him, if he is serious about providing proper and adequate legal aid, to ensure the passage of the Bill, with the proposed amendments of the Attorney-General, through another place.
The philosophy running through the major programs of reform introduced by our Government in the areas of health, education social security and others is a necessity to provide services to the people of Australia on the basis of needs. Priorities have been established on this fundamental notion of providing access to community facilities to those people who are urgently requiring our attention and protection. Once again, the establishment of the Australian Legal Aid Office by the provisions of the Legal Aid Bill 1975 is in line with the Labor Government’s policy of all citizens being equal before the law- a genuine declaration which is in sharp contrast to the attitude of the people who sit opposite who believe that there should continue to be an open slather for imposters crooks, shysters, local land sharks and phony lawyers who act on behalf of insurance companies, employers and others, to exploit the people who cannot protect themselves simply because they cannot meet the exorbitant fees charged by the mixed bag of legal advisers available to them.
It is necessary to point out that the ALAO will be complementary to the private lawyer and other bodies which are concerned with the protection of individuals in need. Our learned friend at the table, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), and all his offsiders have had a bonanza and no doubt will continue to do so until we can provide an adequate service on the basis of need to people who cannot afford it otherwise. It is all right for the honourable member for Wentworth and the other gentry around the chamber to protect the blue bloods. The system needs to go a lot further than that. So far as the involvement of other bodies, this is the key to the ALAO. It is in direct contact with the various service bodies in and around the area which know the problems of the people in the electorate of Melbourne in particular and the poorer areas of Sydney and other places. They can relate to them. They do not run up against a brick wall because the people who go to them do not have to get into their pockets before they are even talked to by some smart solicitor.
A great deal of debate has taken place within the community by representatives of law societies, legal referral services and interested groups. This has enabled the Attorney-General and his Department to frame a Bill that can guarantee a service practical in application that will be of benefit to the people of my electorate of Melbourne and others who are in a screaming need of assistance. The suggestions of the people to whom I have made reference and the debates which have taken place have resulted in the amendments to be moved by the AttorneyGeneral. Why go on with the humbug of the Opposition amendment referring the Bill to a committee? Anybody who has been in this business long knows that the easiest way of disposing of something or shelving it is to refer it to a committee. That has happened time and again to legislation in another place. It has been referred to a committee and there it has died.
It would be remiss of me if I did not make mention of one of the existing facilities that has provided much of the information born out of its experience which has served as the base for the introduction of this legislation. I refer to the Fitzroy Legal Service situated in the heart of my electorate. It has done a magnificent job in providing the type of legal aid at shop front facilities for a multitude of people over a wide range of legal problems. The service deals with about 5000 cases a year. It has not operated simply as a pilot scheme in the first instance and then faded into a minor role in the scheme of things; it has developed a highly respected service. It is actually providing another ALAO office on the cheap. I stress to the Minister the importance of this service to the people of Melbourne and other areas and ask him to recognise the role played by the Fitzroy Legal Service and like organisations and to ensure their survival, at least until proper and adequate service can be provided by his Department through the structure of the ALAO.
The role of the Opposition in general, and in particular the lord of the western districts in Victoria, has been an absolute disgrace. In the fact of public demand for the establishment of this type of legal facility, rejection of this Bill, the non-acceptance of it the shelving of it or whatever the Opposition might want to do with it, is totally irresponsible. Just how fair dinkum is the Opposition?
As usual the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has opened his mouth and let the wind blow bis tongue around. He has said that the Opposition will reject or dismantle the program, and in so doing has compromised some of the learned gentlemen opposite who have always genuinely supported the introduction of the ALAO and recognised the fact that if the service is discontinued it will have the same effect as cutting the widow’s pension or the invalid pension. It is now recognised as part of the whole structure.
– That is not relevant.
-The only thing that is not relevant here is you. If we are to provide a service to protect people against the individuals to whom I have referred, then we have to be clear and unequivocal in what we want to do. We have had debate in the community. We have talked to individuals concerned. We have carried out surveys. We know clearly from all the informationby God, we have plenty of it- that over a number of years the previous Government totally disregarded the provision of facilities to protect individuals against the scoundrels in the community.
People are sent to me from lawyers- halfsmart lawyers, probably in the Liberal Partywith letters of introduction so that they can ask me to make representations to the Department of Labor and Immigration to have their visas extended. I said to one of them: ‘How much did it cost you for that advice?’ The fee was $120, would you mind. A letter was sent to the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden) asking the same sort of advice. The person involved should simply say: ‘You go along and see your member of Parliament. He can fix that up as a matter of course’. The guy finished up in my office. I do not know what the service was like. I do not know what the charge was. He was not terribly satisfied with the service.
I have letters which show how fair dinkum some honourable members opposite are. The Leader of the Opposition has compromised these honourable members. Letters have been sent to the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) by Ralph Hunt, John Gorton, Don Cameron and William McMahon, would you believe. I wish to refer to a couple of them. Ralph Hunt states:
I would firmly recommend that the City of Dubbo be selected at the earliest opportunity for a branch of the ALAO. As you will know, Dubbo serves a very extensive region, and a branch of ALAO in Dubbo would provide legal assistance to those in need from as far west as Bourke, and as far east as Mudgee.
A letter written by John Gorton states, amongst other things:
Malvern has a large elderly population, whose insubstantial means frequently prevents them from seeking legal justice.
The people of Prahran, either that pan which comes into my electorate or that part which comes into Melbourne Ports, do not always attain legal justice because of lack of means and/or lack of knowledge and fear of the legal system.
Both areas have a large Greek population and communication difficulties leave them at a handicap as far as legal justice is concerned.
Malvern is well served with a tram service and a location in Prahran would probably cater well for both areas.
Don Cameron writes:
I acknowledge receipt of your circular letter dated 1 April 1975 and in response to your request for suggestions as to desirable areas in which to establish an Australian Legal Aid Office I suggest the Brisbane suburbs of Sones Corner and Cannon Hill.
William McMahon writes:
As you know, Burwood is the main business and commercial centre in the mid-western suburbs of Sydney and is extremely well served by public transport from all points of the compass. These factors, combined with its central geographical location, make Burwood eminently suitable for a Regional Legal Aid Office to serve more than 200 000 people in Burwood itself and surrounding areas.
I would be pleased if you would consider the establishment of such an office at this centre, and look forward to receiving your further advice as soon as possible.
These letters demonstrate the recognition of the ALAO by those honourable members. Their leader, this great fuhrer has compromised them. If they have got any courage they should stand up and be counted and force the Bill through in another place to ensure that the facilities are provided. We listened to the humbug of the honourable member for Bennelong talking about his own -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I think it might be wise if the honourable member for Melbourne were to rephrase that comment.
– Nobody takes any notice of him, so I do not mind.
– I tell you they will take more notice of me than they will of you. You come down to Melbourne or Victoria and put up the same rubbish as you have put up here this afternoon and see how you get on. The honourable member talks ridiculous nonsense about the solicitor-client relationship being taken away. If the honourable member can read, if he was taught to read at law school, he should read the documentation that was put out on the Legal Aid Office. It states:
The Legal Aid Bill creates the Office as an independent statutory body to give effect to the Government’s view that lawyers in the Office should be independent- and be seen to be independent of the Government.
Can the honourable member not read that? It is clear and unequivocal. All the arguments that have been put up against the Bill led to the Opposition’s incredible amendment, which I am sure is the greatest array of rubbish ever put into an amendment moved in this place. As evidence of the necessity for the Legal Aid Office Bill to be passed immediately and not shelved by the processes of the amendment, Iseek leave to have incorporated in Hansard figures on the interviews that have been conducted since the inception of the Office by personnel of the Office. I have already shown the figures to the honourable member for Bennelong.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– The number of interviews taking place is growing daily. Much more effective assistance can now be given by the adoption of the shopfront approach and by social workers and others welding together all the facilities available.
The Opposition meeting on Tuesday morning resolved to seek to have the Legal Aid Bill referred to a committee of this Parliament, as is indicated in the amendment. This of course is an old trick designed to kill off a Bill. It could be held up for months, even years, without the Opposition actually being seen to be voting against it on the floor of the Senate. That is a courageous stand! In other words, honourable members opposite have not got the guts to stand up and say, as they clearly believe, that the Liberal and Country Parties are opposed to the provision of legal aid. They seek to disguise their contempt for the underprivileged, migrants, people on social security and the inarticulate by the shoddy, back-door device of sending the Legal Aid Bill into oblivion.
The Australian Legal Aid Office was a creature of the Australian Labor Party. It was set up to fill the vast gap between the claim that all citizens are equal before the law and the reality that only those citizens who could afford the services of lawyers were equal before the law. As with the inequitable system of taxation deductions, subsidies and the like built up over the years by the conservatives, so equality before the law became a very sick joke. Now, just as they have threatened to abolish and dismantle Medibank, the same defenders of privilege are threatening to dismantle and abandon the provision of legal aid services to the needy or to send the Bill to a place where it will never be heard of again. They have put up a lot of rubbish and nonsense about inquiries. The Bill would bein and out of the Senate like a fiddler’s elbow. By the time it came back to this place, if it did come back to this place, the Government could not accept the amendments. The Bill would be only a shadow of its former self. We would see the honourable member for Bennelong ringing his hands with glee because the bonanza that he and his counterparts have enjoyed over a number of years would survive and continue.
I can understand, however, the inability of someone like the squire of Wannon to understand why the Australian Legal Aid Office is conducting a socially necessary role in Australia. Most of his friends would have Queen’s Counsel on the payroll. They would not have to worry about going along to the shopfront facility. They could go down to Queen Street or to whatever street lawyers hide in in Sydney. They could go anywhere. They could use either their personal staff or any of the individuals that are available to them paid for probably by the National Country Party or the Liberal Party. Those people would not have to worry about legal aid. None of the friends of the Leader of the Opposition would earn less than probably $20,000 or $30,000 a year. They would not want help in the area of consumer protection or shonky hire purchase contracts. His friends would be the ones perpetrating the rorts not the ones suffering from them. If Malcolm Fraser ‘s friends want help they would simply pick up the telephone and contact one of the Queen’s Counsel which the Melbourne Club establishment has on tap. The blue bloods are protected all right but they do not worry at all about the individuals -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House. (The bells being rung)-
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– What is your point?
– You were just about outside the door.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! In the strict sense an honourable member should not move in the chamber while the bells are ringing. I assumed that the honourable member for Bennelong was going to speak to the Whip. I was watching closely that he did not go any further. (Quorum formed)
-As I said it is not the blue bloods we are catering for in this legislation. If it is defeated or amended in another place the wrath of the people will be concentrated on the guilty men opposite. They will have to stand up and justify the total disregard, as will the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) who is walking out the door, that they have for the people who need the service.
– It is a great pity that this debate which could be on an elevated plane has tended to be reduced by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) to a mud slinging match. I do not intend to indulge in that except to say that I note that the legal aid offices that have been established first are all in Labor electorates. Let me say at the outset and reiterate that the Opposition is not opposed to legal aid, never has been and never will be. I hope that we can have a sensible and responsible debate about a very serious subject that affects this country. The Opposition takes the view that legal aid services should be provided in the most efficient, accountable and accessible form to those in need of it. For this purpose the Opposition believes that a joint committee of both Houses should consider the important legal, social and constitutional issues involved.
It is time, as the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) said, that we acted as a Parliament on a matter like this. It is time that we legislated on the basis of an inquiry into the important issues involved. We already have had an inquiry into the National Compensation Bill. That Bill was dealt with in the same way as this Bill is being dealt with in this House. We saw what happened to it. I suggest that the same thing will happen to this Bill if it is not at this stage dealt with on a proper basis. It will not help the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) to treat the referral of this Bill to a committee by the Senate as a failure to pass. It is not a failure to pass. He may as well wake up to that, take the advice and get on with the job of getting a proper and effective legal aid Act for the Commonwealth.
There are a number of reasons why it is both desirable and convenient to take this course. First of all the question of the extent of the power of this Parliament to provide funds for legal aid is presently before the High Court. In those circumstances I suggest to honourable members that it is stupid to legislate until we know what the High Court has to say. Those who have dared to challenge the power have been berated by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the AttorneyGeneral. These days if people attack legislation the Government attempts to shame them because they have dared to exercise their undoubted power to challenge unconstitutional legislation. If the legislation before the- High Court is declared invalid it is probably the Government’s fault for not putting it in proper legislative form. Obviously there is no power in the Constitution to legislate with respect to legal aid as a subject matter. On the other hand it is very likely that this Parliament has power to legislate so as to provide legal aid to citizens who are exercising their Federal rights before Federal courts. It is foolish, I suggest, for this Parliament to proceed with this measure while the matter is before the High Court.
The second thing I wish to bring before the House is this: The fact that a committee is set up will not prevent legal aid being dispensed through offices already established. Quite obviously this can continue. As we understand it the Attorney-General is engaged in the act of setting up another 30 regional offices. The setting up of these offices will go ahead. The AttorneyGeneral will go on his merry way whether this legislation goes through or not. If a committee is set up that will not prevent the Attorney-General from setting up these regional offices. Whether he is wise in doing so is another matter, but the setting up of a committee will not prevent his doing so. Thirdly there is no need for a lengthy delay. The committee should be able to deal with the matter by early next year- that is to say before the High Court hears the proceeding before it and is able to give its decision.
Another matter is this: Already there are several other comprehensive reports into the subject of legal aid in Australia, and these do not agree about the manner in which legal aid can best be provided. There is the report of the Australian Legal Aid Review Committee of March 1975, the Sackville report on legal aid in Australia and the Tomasic report issued by the Law Foundation of New South Wales. There are many helpful articles including an article by Messrs Ross and Mossman on legal aid in New South Wales in the Australian Quarterly, Volume 47, of March 1975. These raise numbers of legal, social and constitutional questions and the recommendations differ. They deserve study, consideration and report by a committee of the Parliament in order to find the best solution. For instance, the Sackville report stated:
A significant expansion of legal aid in Australia is required to meet legal needs within the community and to guarantee that all individuals and groups, regardless of means, have access to the full range of legal services.
The second recommendation is this:
This expansion should be based primarily on the establishment and development of a network of neighbourhood or local legal centres employing salaried lawyers-
That is a matter of great debate. The Sackville report has brought forward that recommendation, but the extent of the use of a salaried legal service in the provision of legal aid should be looked into. Submissions have been made to the Attorney-General by the Law Council of Australia. So far as I am aware, having had a look at the amendments that the AttorneyGeneral proposes, he is not prepared to adopt some of the basic submissions the Council has made. For instance, the Law Council has suggested that the Law Commission should be independent of government. The AttorneyGeneral, so far as his proposed amendments indicate, has refused to adopt that submission. It is suggested that the composition of the Board of the Commission and the consultative committees be amended to give further representation to the independent legal profession. So far as I read the Attorney-General’s proposed amendments they do not embrace that matter. There are other matters that the Law Council mentioned. They are submissions which are made by the main representative legal body in Australia and they are worthy of consideration by this Parliament. The legal profession has an obvious interest in legal aid and its role in legal aid requires effective and absolute assessment. I have already referred to what the Sackville report said about the use of salaried lawyers in legal aid.
Another matter which is of vital importance is the question of independence, which I have already mentioned. Unfortunately the Labor Government tends not to work with people or to involve people. It likes to tell people what to do. With legal aid it is doing exactly the same thingtelling people what to do. It wants to bureaucrause legal aid. It will not trust social workers, the legal profession or the people involved, who are the recipients of legal aid, to run their own legal aid system. In other words, it will not trust the community that knows most about the question of legal aid. I suggest that here is another issue which needs very careful consideration before a BUI such as this goes into law.
The role of existing legal aid schemes needs to be considered. For instance, in New South Wales, as honourable members will know, we have the Public Solicitor associated with the Public Defender. We have the Law Society’s scheme which has been set up and approved by statute and the role which the Law Society is performing in relation to legal aid. In yesterday’s
Press there was a report of what it is doing. The report stated in part:
The New South Wales law society expects its legal aid system for juveniles will cost $500,000 next year. The scheme, which provides the services of an experienced solicitor at all children ‘s courts, is probably the most extensive in Australia. Solicitors working on a duty roster made more than 1 100 court appearances for juveniles in May and June.
In other words, there is in New South Wales a very effective legal aid system which has been at work since the early 1 940s.
– They will go to the ALAO.
– Of course they will go the ALAO as well. All I am talking about is the absolute need to work out the role of those other bodies of legal aid in relation to the Australian Legal Aid Office. These considerations strongly support the setting up of a committee, preferably a joint committee. If the Government refuses to do so I suggest that it is clearly playing politics with legal aid because I can assure Government supporters that it will not do them any good to treat a referral by the Senate to a committee as a refusal to pass. That is a vain hope. It would be far better for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to look at the various issues involved and to come up with a good, effective and efficient scheme of legal aid for this country. That is why we have put forward this motion. The Opposition is not opposed to legal aid. To say that it is is absolutely false. The Opposition ‘s concern is to ensure that Australia has the most efficient, effective, economic and just system of legal aid that can be provided. It was in that context that the statement was made in the alternative Budget that we will abolish the Australian Legal Aid Office. We made that statement in the context that we believe that legal aid in Australia can be carried out more effectively, as I hope to demonstrate, through the State systems and not through a Commonwealth system.
I wish to set out what I believe to be some basic principles to be applied in devising an efficient legal aid service in this country. Firstly, the legal aid service adopted should represent co-operative involvement between governments at State and Federal levels, the legal profession, other professionals who are involved, such as social workers, and the assisted public. Secondly, the Federal Government has a definite role in ensuring the provision of legal aid. Let it be clear that this is not a matter, and is not being put forward as a matter, of State rights. Obviously a Federal Parliament which passes laws which create rights, duties and obligations has a real consideration in relation to those citizens who are enforcing those rights. The Houses of this Parliament are entitled to pass laws which effectively provide legal aid for people enforcing federal rights. So a Federal government has a clear involvement in legal aid.
The third principle is that in a federation an effective system cannot be worked out without co-operation between State and Federal governments. Let me explain. It appears that in this particular measure there is a limitation on the legal assistance or legal representation which can be aided by a federal legal aid office. There is a constitutional limitation. Most of the individual rights which people have in this country spring out of State law and not out of Federal law. Therefore, if one goes into a Federal legal aid office there is a limitation upon the nature of the advice and the extent of the assistance which one can get. On the other hand, a State legal aid office can provide assistance right across the board on Federal and State matters for constitutional reasons.
Obviously from the point of view of the public the most effective legal aid office will be one which enables the officers to give legal aid to people, whatever the source of their rights, be it Federal or State. It is rather stupid to have a diverse and duplicated system whereby we have Federal legal aid offices dealing with Federal matters and State legal aid offices, State agencies or law societies which are giving legal aid on another basis. Here we find not co-operative federalism; we find instead a confrontation between the State and Federal systems. For that reason I believe we need a rationalised system of legal aid in this country operating through the States but with Federal involvement and Federal support both financially and, if necessary, legislatively.
For instance, we could have in each State a legal aid commission which would have within it the necessary salaried service to the extent to which that was thought prudent. Within that legal aid commission, which could be an independent commission supported by and set up under State statute and supported by State and Federal money, offices could be set up in which members of the public- our constituents as well as State constituents- could get the legal aid they want without any reference to the constitutional difficulties. It would be a co-operative system of legal aid. A committee would go into this question and would ask what was the most effective way in which to do it.
Fourthly, the legal profession must play a leading role in any legal aid service. I believe that the only way of getting the maximum confidential and independent advice is by the involvement of the independent legal profession. That is a basic element in our democracy. Once the independence of the legal profession is dealt a blow, that will deal a blow to this country and to our basic rights. Whatever one says about lawyers and their fees, say nothing about the independence of the legal profession. I can assure the House that once the legal profession comes under the control of the State, that will be the beginning of the end of liberty in this country. Have no doubt about it. If we bureaucratise legal aid and keep out the legal profession we will find not only will a blow have been struck at the independence of the profession but also the community will be deprived of the practice and expertise of the profession.
What is more, one aspect that is tremendously important is the voluntary contribution of the profession itself. May I say that I have never found very many barristers or solicitors who were not prepared to make a contribution. They do already make significant contributions to legal aid in this country and have been doing so for many years, as have other professions. Unless the voluntary contribution of the legal profession is harnessed for the benefit of the community, legal aid will not mean very much, because we cannot afford it. That is the point. It is a bottomless pit. For instance, last year in the Australian Legal Aid Office approximately $6m of work was promoted. That work had not yet been paid for. The appropriation of $7m in this year’s Budget represents money that has already been spent in the sense that the work has been undertaken. That money is for fees that the Government must pay to the legal profession for work which is in train. This year, of course, more work will be undertaken. The bottomless pit of legal aid which must be watched is this problem of keeping a rein on expenditure, keeping it there through the legal aid system and through the exercise of proper principles and these have to be adopted all the time.
I think, because of the cost of litigation, that a contributory scheme is desirable. There are some people who are supposedly affluent who are deprived of their legal rights because they cannot afford to go into litigation. That is a fact. It is not only poor people who are in need of legal aid. Some supposedly affluent people share this need. In order to ensure maximum accountability and community involvement the legal aid scheme should be administered by a body or bodies which are independent of government. I have already dealt with that. There is a distinct role for a salaried service in areas of need. Again, legal aid should be administered as close to those needing it as possible by duty solicitors and the like.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, this Bill when passed will, among other things, establish the Australian Legal Aid Office as an independent statutory body. Since this is one of the Bill’s most important functions, I would like to spend some time on this issue. The second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) on 5 June this year told us that on 23 July 1973 the former Attorney-General, the then Senator Lionel Murphy, announced the establishment of the Australian Legal Aid Office. Individual offices soon began operating. These offices were and are still under the AttorneyGeneral’s direct responsibility. At that same time a Legal Aid Review Committee was also formed. Again the second reading speech informs us that the reports of that Committee, together with a discussion paper by Professor R. Sackville on legal aid in Australia, and submissions from and discussions with representatives of various Federal, State and private legal organisations give this Bill a firm basis on which to operate. So it would appear that the consulted organisations are in agreement with the provisions of the Bill. Indeed the law societies of Australia and the States have co-operated at all levels and for this we must indeed be grateful. Private legal practitioners are in fact essential to the every day as well as theoretical and administrative functioning of the office. Without forgetting our discussion of the Legal Aid Office being an independent statutory office, I would like to outline a few of the ways in which the office now works and, it must be presumed, will work in the future.
There are two sources for the office’s clientel One of these is where lawyers refer cases that they are dealing with to the Legal Aid Office for assistance in paying for their fees. The people will have these cases for legal assistance dealt with in the same manner as those who come to the office personally. The second is the general public, members of whom come into the office for an interview concerning their particular problem, which may or may not turn out to be a legal one. The Attorney-General in his second reading speech said that, between its establishment and the time of that speech, the office had interviewed over 100 000 people. The Sydney branch office at the moment is interviewing over 1000 people a week, which will amount to about 60 000 for the one office in 12 months. This is a massive number of people. The assistance given in such cases is basically of two types. The office Will advise practically everybody who is seeking help, as long as financial or other circumstances place them at a disadvantage in obtaining legal advice. So a person’s weekly income and bank account may be taken into consideration. If he can well afford to go to a solicitor who will charge him, the Government sees no good reason why it should spend time advising him while, as the figures on interviews I gave before will indicate, there are others who are at a disadvantage. For those cases which need assistance other than advice this will be granted if it is found, aU things being taken into account, that the person cannot afford to pay for it. In this situation it is most probable that that person will be referred to a private legal practitioner who will represent him in court. This procedure is mostly followed now, particularly with divorce work, because there are just too many cases for the office to handle itself.
Those lawyers who can have people referred to them are on panels. These panels have been set up in country districts as well as in the different areas of our cities, and it is entirely up to the lawyers themselves whether they are on these panels. There is no bar to any one of them. The fees that they will be paid will be subject to rates worked out between the Australian Legal Aid Office and recognised private legal bodies. In fact this is going on right now in New South Wales, and no doubt these negotiated fees will be subject to change in the future. The distribution of referrals among these legal practitioners has and will be on as equitable a basis as possible, depending as much upon the wishes of the client as on the work a particular solicitor is prepared to do. AU these conditions are guaranteed in clause 32 of the Bill. So procedures that have been carried out up to now will be given the authority of the law when this Bill is passed.
Before drawing any general conclusions from these last few paragraphs I return just for a moment to the provisions which formally remove the Australian Legal Aid Office from the direct responsibility of the Attorney-General. These are set out in Part 3 of the Bill. There will be a board of management, consisting of a chairman, a national director, and one other member. Of these the National Director Will I presume- the Bill does not say this- be appointed by the Attorney-General. The other members will be appointed by the Governor-General, and the third member Will hold the position only after consultation with, and presumably the agreement of, the Law Council of Australia. On any disputed areas of policy between the AttorneyGeneral and the Board, the Cabinet, through the Governor-General Will be the final arbiter.
I have gone to some lengths to lead up to this point but I felt it necessary that the previous issues should be expressed in as simple and yet as full a way as possible. There are 2 areas about which fears are expressed in relation to this legislation. I hope to draw upon my previous remarks to allay those fears. I have emphasised the word ‘independent’ a number of times. The independence of Government-created bodies from the influence of the Government, its policies and personalities, has been a most consistent theme of the Opposition throughout the Labor Government ‘s term of office. One is inclined to feel this has more to do with the interests those policies challenge than with any genuine concern over centralised control and alleged loss of freedom by the general public
Apart from the setting up of the Offices after much discussion and consultation with the private legal profession, which I have already related, a number of clauses in the BUI relate to the independence of the Office. According to clause 9 members of the Office are to observe the same rules and standards of professional conduct and ethics as any private, legal practitioner is bound to do. A member wm be subject to the same professional duties as private practitioners. The relationship between a member of the Office and a client will be that which exists between a solicitor and a client. The Office is to act in accordance with its function of providing legal assistance as would a firm of solicitors. A second fear which was expressed at a public meeting in Sydney earlier this year was that the BUI and the Offices already set up were a move in the direction of nationalisation of the legal profession just as- so the argument goes- doctors have been and insurance companies will be nationalised. In the minds of these people the fact that the Government, through the Legal Aid Office, will pay for the legal expenses of people is the first step towards all lawyers in Australia being salaried.
It does not matter that previously these people would have had no assistance or that they would have gone into debt to pay for assistance. The case earlier this year of some people trying to stop officers of the Australian Legal Aid Office in the Australian Capital Territory from appearing in court on behalf of clients is further evidence of this fear. It is the fear of vested interests losing the high fees paid by people who can afford them. It is an almost hysterical fear in those who hold it because, for one thing, it is not based on any fact. At each stage the Office has been based on consultation. The private legal profession has such schemes run by law counsels. As has been stated, most of the cases which come into the Office are referred to private practitioners who are only too willing to be given the work.
Clause 8(1) of the BUI is adamant on the status of the private practitioner. It states that the Office shall act consistently and without prejudice with the independence of the private legal profession. One could not really get a plainer statement of the Office’s intention than that. Until now I have been talking of the independence of the Office and of its procedures for providing assistance. In the time left to me I would like to address my remarks to the general thrust of this legislation as a whole. ‘Law is a social science’- these words by the national director of the Office, Mr J. P. Harkin typify the attitudes behind this BUI and to the provision of legal aid generally. It is necessary that the law which is made for the people does not, firstly get out of the people’s hands and, secondly, that it is not used against them. For this assistance the paying of fees and fines is not enough. The law must be for the protection of the individual in a society. It must strike a balance between the good of society and of particular individuals.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was saying that legal aid is to be provided when proceedings deal with a Federal law or a matter over which the Federal Parliament has jurisdiction. Irrespective of this it is to be provided when it involves a person who belongs to a particular class of persons for whom the Aus.tralian Government has a responsibility. People in this latter group would be, for instance, students, Aborigines and migrants. Professor Sackville in paragraph 1.7 of his Legal Aid in Australia, mentioned 3 aims that a legal aid service should have. They are, firstly, to use the legal process to attempt to change the political economic and social status of the poor; secondly, to press for the introduction of reforms in the interest of disadvantaged groups; and thirdly, to participate in overcoming the ‘powerlessness of the poor’, their inability to resist or shape the forces that impose inequities and hardship upon them.
The BUI will attempt to further those aims by the charges laid on the Office in such clauses as clause 29 in which the Office is encouraged to provide assistance in cases where it is in the public interest that a decision be made, and that proceedings be instituted where the natural and cultural heritage of Australia is at stake. Clause 8 (2) is designed to promote the power for reform which the Office will have.
Just as important for the 3 aims mentioned is the establishment of the Australian Legal Aid Commission which the passing of this BUI will authorise. I have not mentioned the Commission before, feeling certain that my colleagues would deal with it in their speeches. Its relevance here, however, is paramount and in concluding I will concern myself briefly with it. The second report of the Legal Services Committee states on page 10 that the Commission would be a vehicle for social change in the field of poverty. Indeed, it will serve the function of educator of the people in relation to legal aid and legal rights and part of its function will be the researching of areas where social change for the benefit of the Aus.tralian disadvantaged can be effected through reforms in law and other legal means.
I would like now to read from an address by Sir John Kerr to a seminar conducted by the Faculty of Law of the Australian National University, Canberra, on 23 August 1974. In it he said:
I used to think myself that it would be better to subsidise the private profession to undertake this legal social service and I still believe that there is a very big part to be played by the private practitioners in making available to ordinary citizens unable to afford legal assistance, the appropriate help needed under some form of subsidy, partly from the State, but I no longer think that this is the only way in which such legal aid can and should be provided.
Sir John Kerr continued:
Communally organised legal aid services and bureaucratically organised legal aid services, if they can be set up with able lawyers staffing them, well enough paid to enable them to find such work competitively attractive, could do a great deal.
In answering the honourable members for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) and Bennelong (Mr Howard) I think I covered the matter of maximum confidentiality. There is no doubt that dealings between the law and a person will be matters of maximum confidence. In the field of general law a minimum contribution of $25 will be paid. This figure can be increased depending on the income and the assets of the persons concerned. In the field of family law the minimum fee of $50 from the contributor can be waived depending on hardship and whether the person concerned has a bottomless pit. There will be current grants and there will be legal and Commission advice to the Government on future grants. I think that the Law Council is providing only for the private profession and that the passage of this Bill will be of great advantage to all people, especially the disadvantaged in this country of ours.
– I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate tonight on the Legal Aid Bill. I believe that the attitude of the honourable member for Evans (Mr Mulder), who just resumed his seat, was more statesmanlike than that of his predecessor on the Government side, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). I was somewhat intrigued by the outburst of the honourable member for Melbourne about the legal profession. He described its members as half smart lawyers, smart alec solicitors, hawks and vultures living on the innocent, the crooks, the poor and the underprivileged. What a mixed up individual the honourable member must be. If ever a man made a fool of himself it was the honourable member for Melbourne. He does not know how soon he will need a lawyer and after that outburst he will have little hope if he ever wants one.
– No, we are very generous.
-I realise that. He is like many of his mates on the Government side. When they are required to debate a Bill of great importance that they have no intention of altering they resort to innuendoes, abuse and denigration.
– You would not do that.
-No, I certainly would not. This BUI deserves reasoned debate; it does not deserve to be clobbered with abuse. Properly drafted and implemented this Bill would serve the underprivileged of Australia and would be of great importance. I believe that much goodwill will come from a comprehensive debate on this Legal Aid BUI. In answer to a question this morning the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) rather intrigued me because he made a very disparaging remark about his own profession when he said, and I hope I quote him correctly, that the vast majority of people who go into Australian Legal Aid Offices do not like the aura of solicitor’s offices and the things that surround them. He dared to denigrate his own profession in order to make himself appear to be someone beyond reproach. I well imagine that the reverse would be nearer the truth and could well be the case. Perhaps I am the one who should show some allergy to the legal profession as 2 of its members have been endorsed, one for the Liberal Party and one for the Labor Party, to stand against me.
– You will clean them up easily.
-I thank the honourable member. I am assured by his confidence.
– You will not get our preferences.
-That is another thing that does not really worry me either.
-I suggest that the honourable member for McMillan does not need assistance.
-I want to place on record that the Opposition is in no way opposed to the legal aid offices despite the allegations of Government members who criticise our alternative proposed program of grants to the States to continue and expand the legal aid services now available. It must be recognised that legal aid has been established administratively and that it will be continued by us in government. It does not require the enactment of the Legal Aid Bill currently being debated in this Parliament. It is not possible for us to terminate the existence of these volunteer offices but it is important that we maintain our policy. We do this so that the legal people involved and those who propose to become involved in the future will be aware of our attitude when we take over the reigns of government in the near future. We in the Opposition would welcome the opportunity, through the joint committee, to have some of our views accepted. We would like to ensure, in co-operation with the States and the legal profession, that there is a comprehensive availability of legal aid and advise to those who deserve it and who qualify for it by means.
We believe that financially assisted legal aid and advice is best provided through the independent legal profession in the same manner as legal aid and advice is provided through the legal profession to those who can afford to pay for it. In that way, the advice and assistance given to deserving people is more mature, more experienced and much more beneficial. Legal advice and assistance has always been available to those who are prepared to take it and to pay the cost of obtaining it. But not everyone is able to pay. Nevertheless, assistance has often been provided without fee for persons in deserving or necessitous circumstances. We in the Opposition accept that no person should be denied the opportunity of ascertaining his or her substantive legal rights simply because of lack of means. All citizens are equal before the law, but some have greater abilities than others. In a society which can afford it, the exercise of rights should be available to all. I am sure that we all agree on that point.
Legal aid should not be provided on a basis which assumes that there is no limit to its availability. It must be clearly understood that the cost of providing legal aid cannot be limitless. This is one reason why we believe in cooperative federalism and why we suggest that the existing system throughout the States should be supplemented so that the needy receive their just legal rights. Over-use of a free service could be avoided either by requiring some contribution from those assisted or by a means test. We foresee a number of duplications if the Australian Legal Aid Office is set up, because there are many avenues already provided where the public is involved. Legal aid should not simply be the means of providing legal practitioners with an income. Legal aid should be available for those who have a right to be asserted or a claim to be made or defended, or those who want advice. I repeat that their rights ought not to be denied because of lack of means.
The control and granting of legal aid should be the responsibility of the legal profession and, as government finance is an indispensable element in the provision of legal aid, some responsibility for the quality of representation and its funding should be accepted by the profession and watched closely by the national legal aid commission which we would set up. This would provide a measure of restraint in accordance with the standards which a profession employs in respect of the affairs of those who meet their own legal expenses. The joint committee should emphasise the nature and quality of the service to be provided. That would be a responsibility of the commission to be set up under this Bill. In my opinion, which is consistent with that of other members of the Opposition, a salaried service would be much less likely to provide the overall service which a profession working on its private account would be able to provide. A salaried service of younger practitioners lacking experience of advice and litigation in private practice would be less likely to provide the quality of service which experienced practitioners could provide. It is essential that the service which ought to be available to legally aided persons is substantially the service which they ought to be able to obtain if they possessed the requisite means.
I believe that the existence of an independent legal profession is vital for the adequate protection of the individual against the state- that point was made very well by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott)- and the proper protection of individual freedoms, rights and property. Legal aid should be available in accordance with the Constitution and not in defiance of it. We contend that the Commonwealth has no express power to legislate to provide legal aid or advice. There is no head of power under the Constitution entitling the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws generally with respect to legal aid, but it may be supposed that it can legislate to provide legal aid as an incident to the enforcement of rights under legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament- for example, under the Bankruptcy Act or under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Generally the power to make laws and provision for legal aid and advice rests with the States. The Commonwealth power is, therefore, a limited power. The honourable member for Wentworth made that point very clear.
The legal profession and the judicial system are organised on a State basis. A State organised legal aid system offers the most effective service. As a Government we would offer financial assistance without adopting control. We hope that the present Government will accept the force of our argument on that point. As a government we would provide for a national legal aid commission without executive functions to assess legal aid needs, to stimulate and encourage professional participation in legal aid schemes, to supervise and co-ordinate legal aid schemes and to report regularly on the operation of legal aid throughout Australia. We would provide grants through the States to enable existing legal aid schemes separated from government and serviced by the legal profession to provide legal aid, advice and assistance in all matters. We would not want to retain or establish a Commonwealth employed salaried legal aid service.
– Why not?
-Because it would be dominated by the Attorney-General, for a start. That would be one good point. I therefore commend to the Government the text and the proposal to refer this BUI to a joint committee of both Houses of this Parliament. The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) moved the following amendment:
That all the words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the Bill be referred to a joint select committee of both Houses to enquire into and report upon:
the adequacy of existing legal aid services in Australia;
whether the provision made in the Bill is the most effective, efficient and economical method of providing legal advice and assistance;
which persons should be entitled to legal aid and what should be the basis on which advice and assistance is provided;
whether proper protection of the individual’s right to obtain independant and confidential legal advice and assistance is provided for in existing legal aid arrangements and under the Bill;
the extent of duplication in the provision of legal advice and assistance throughout Australia and the means by which unnecessary duplication can be avoided;
the likely cost of providing legal aid services in Australia over the next five years and subsequently; and
the clauses of the Bill’.
This BUI has probably interested more people than honourable members realise. In my electorate a legal aid service is provided by a number of members of the legal profession. The consolidation of this effort by assistance from the Federal Government would create a better service. The one which we have at the moment, which is serving a very useful purpose, could be extended. I have been a member of a committee which has studied this legislation very closely, along with members of the legal profession, which a lot of people seem to want to denigrate from time to time. We have found that this BUI will lead to the domination of legal services throughout Australia by the Attorney-General, who will become all powerful as a result of having power over the Australian Legal Aid Office. We see no reason why the States should not retain their autonomy, which they can do by adopting Commonwealth powers, while the Commonwealth cannot adopt State powers which are in operation. So we will have a duplication of services. In my opinion the House should agree to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Bennelong, which is supported by the Opposition.
-I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly in support of this BUI.
– Be very brief.
– I Will do not be afraid of that. I will support the amendments that will be moved by the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby). I oppose the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard). I should like to make brief reference to some of the comments of the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson). It seems that the Opposition parties are very happy with the general philosophy of providing legal aid to people in die community but it must be done their way. The Opposition parties as the divine rulers in this place have always been able to say what is the right way and what is the wrong way. When they were in government their effort in relation to legal aid was abysmal. They had their chance for 23 years but they did not take it. Now after 2V4 years in which this scheme has been working and over 130 000 people have benefited from it they have come forward and said that we are doing it the wrong way. Why did the Opposition parties not do something when they were in office?
– We did.
-You did not. The effort put forward by your Government was abysmal.
-They put in $200,000.
-As the honourable member said, $200,000 was your effort and that is about the measure of interest that the Liberal and Country parties had in this matter. The honourable member for McMillan seems intent on denigrating salaried professionals, for whatever reason. He implied that a salaried solicitor, a lawyer, would be a lesser person than one working on a fee-for-service basis. We have heard this allegation in relation to Medibank. We have heard it in respect of other proposals. As one who was a professional on a salary the honourable member would not expect me to buy that argument at any price. If a person is worth his salt, whether he is on a salary or working on a fee-for-service basis, if he has the right motivation he will give the service. There are many reasons why I strongly support the establishment of additional legal aid offices and this Bill in particular. It is a new approach to legal aid. It is taking the law to the people with its shopfront approach and it aims to make legal aid readily and equally available to all people. I would stress the term ‘equally available to all people’ because at present it is not equally available. I can think of many people in the community who are disadvantaged under the law. I think of the migrant groups, the many needy people in the community, the pensioners and those who simply cannot afford legal advice. These are the people who will gain by a further extension of legal aid offices throughout this country. From my own personal experience I am aware of the need which exists. There have been so many occasions when people have come to me with their problems, part of which have had legal implications, and I have needed or wanted to have ready access to legal advice.
I am not going to denigrate the voluntary services that are provided in the community. These services are very fine and I commend the people who give up their time to provide them, but they are not available throughout the day and frequently there is a delay of a week before a person can obtain an interview. For this reason I will be very pleased when the next legal aid office in Victoria opens in my electorate in Springvale. I understand from the Attorney-General that this will be before Christmas. It is a well chosen location on the south-eastern side, some 16 miles out of Melbourne. As honourable members will be aware, at present there are offices in Melbourne, Broadmeadows, Brunswick, Sunshine and Geelong. There was a tremendous need for the establishment of an office on the south-eastern side which will have as a catchment area not only the electorate of Holt but I suggest also the electorate of McMillan. I am quite sure that the people in the Gippsland district will be very happy to travel to Springvale to get assistance.
– They do not break the law.
-Well, it is surprising how many people have come to my office seeking legal advice already.
– From your area?
-No, from the electorate of the honourable member for McMillan. I have no doubt that the staff could be kept busy just servicing my electorate, but we have to hasten slowly in this field. There is no doubt about how the community feels in relation to the establishment of legal aid offices. The Australian National Opinion Poll of July 1975 asked this question: ‘Do you think we do or do not have a need for the Australian Legal Aid Office?’ I think the answers to that question are significant. Of the total number of people interviewed 94 per cent said they need die offices; 3 per cent said they did not need them and 3 per cent were unsure. On a percentage break-up according to the sex of those interviewed, 94 per cent of the females and 94 per cent of the males said the offices were needed. On a political basis 95 per cent in support of the offices were Labor voters and 94 per cent were Liberal-Country Party voters. There was overwhelming support for the need for these offices. I think it is also interesting that there are a number of honourable members on the other side of this House who have written to the Attorney-General requesting that a legal aid office be placed in their electorates. The whole situation in relation to the attitude of the Opposition on this Bill is an extraordinary one. We have had the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- quite a categorical statement- that he will abolish the Australian legal aid offices if he gets into power.
– Would have.
– Will-that is what he said. Then we have the action of the Victorian Liberal Party Government which at present is challenging the validity of this proposal in the High Court. An amendment has been moved by the honourable member for Bennelong which seeks to refer this matter to a joint committee. Whatever happens it appears to me that the Opposition is now trying to wriggle off the hook. The Leader of the Opposition has come out with a categorical statement that he would abolish legal aid offices. We now have the Opposition saying: ‘Let us go as far as putting the Bill into the Upper House. Let is put it before a committee of that House, then we can forget about it. We can shelve it. We can bury it’. The Opposition has been able to do this so often in its attempts to frustrate our efforts to govern. The question which the people of Australia must ask themselves is whether or not the conservative parties of this country want all people to have equal access to the law. The actions of the Opposition parties suggest the contrary. I believe that they are content with the present situation, a situation which existed before 1973 and in which not all people had equal access to legal advice. There were many who did not have this access simply because they could not afford it.
This Bill assumes that a large proportion of the work of the Legal Aid Office will be referred to private practitioners. This was made quite clear this year in the Appropriation Bill which has just been passed through this House and under which $7m has been set aside for this purpose. It is clear that the majority of briefs that have gone from the legal aid offices that have already been established have been taken on by the private practitioners. The fact is that the shop front approach will bring the law to the people. People have had access to legal advice and representation for the first time with the establishment of the Australian legal aid offices. The amount of work the private practitioner will get will not decrease; it will increase simply because there will be so many more people getting access to the law than in previous times
Also, the Bill provides for a better and more rational approach for grants from this Government to assist legal aid schemes conducted by State governments, the legal profession in the States, and voluntary bodies. This is not to be seen as competitive but as complementary to what is going on in the ALAO offices. In my own electorate I am well aware of the excellent work that is being done on a voluntary basis. I shall refer to but one example, the Springvale Legal Service, which works in conjunction with the
Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau and the Springvale Council. It has been operated by law students from the Monash University and has provided tremendous assistance to a wide group of people. I understand that the service has before the Attorney-General at the moment a request for assistance. I know that when the Springvale legal aid office is established that this service will then become a joint venture, that one service will be complementary to the other, that it will not be a case of the Australian Legal Aid Office taking over and pushing this group out of the community, that there will be the opportunity to work in co-operation. This is surely the way it should be.
Let us just look at the figures in relation to what has been provided in the way of supplementary assistance. The 1974-75 figures show that $l.lm in grants was given to supplement existing legal aid schemes. Victoria received in all $430,700 of which $23,000 went to the Fitzroy Legal Service. Again, this shows the variation and flexibility of the approach that we are trying to develop. In this year’s Appropriation Bill provision was made for similar assistance. I emphasise that this Bill invites community involvement. The Bill refers to consultative committees which are to be elected to assist the ALAO. The purpose of those committees at State and local community level is to ensure that there is liaison and consultation between the legal profession and others interested in the provision of legal aid, and the lawyers in the ALAO.
The Australian Legal Aid Office is now well established with branches operating in all State capitals and in 23 regional offices. It is hoped that another 30 offices will be opened in the course of this year. I believe that it is significant that already 130 000 interviews have taken place with lawyers of the Office with this shop front approach. This does not include telephone advice and correspondence. Of course it reflects what I was saying earlier about the tremendous need that exists in the community. The Australian Legal Aid Office has already proved itself but there is still a long way to go. If we look at the figures it is interesting to see what proportions of the 130 000 interviews were in different areas and with different types of people. Of that number 35.5 per cent were in the family law area; 24 per cent were concerned with problems related to Federal law; 21.5 per cent were conducted with pensioners and 8 per cent with migrants. I suggest that it is possible that the low figure in relation to the migrant group could well have been due to the fact that there is this problem of communication. This is one of the challenges that remains before us at present.
I should like to make several observations regarding the need for legal education in secondary schools. In the United States and Canada the introduction of basic legal concepts is included in the junior high school curriculum. In my own state of Victoria at both the fourth form level and the higher school certificate level there is a subject called ‘Legal Studies’. I think the ALAO can play a role in the field of legal education in schools. There is no doubt that a legal education program will assist teacher; to reach understanding with students about the role of law in society. But I believe there is a challenge for us. The challenge exists to find ways of providing education in legal matters to adults in our communities, particularly to the inarticulate and the migrant groups. This, I believe, is a future area of expansion for the Australian Legal Aid Office.
I feel it is important to stress that this Bill creates the Office as an independent statutory body to give effect to the Government’s view that lawyers in the Office should be independent and be seen to be independent of the Government. It makes it clear that a relationship of solicitor and client exists between the lawyers of the Office and their clients and that the rules of professional conduct and ethical standards that apply to lawyers in private practice apply equally to lawyers in the Office.
The Bill also provides for the establishment of an Australian Legal Aid Commission. Its task is to carry out wide-ranging research and to give policy advice to the Australian and State governments and other bodies. It should be noted that the Commission is being established as a body separate from the Office as its function of research and policy advice is quite distinct from that of providing legal aid. Only a separate advisory body can give independent and objective advice to the Australian Government upon the roles of respective services and Federal grants to them.
As stated in the Minister’s second reading speech, members of the Commission will be drawn from all sections of the community so that the widest range of views and expertise is available. The Bill was introduced into the House some 4 months ago with the express purpose of allowing reactions and comments of members of Parliament, the legal profession and interested organisations to be made known to the AttorneyGeneral. Consultations have been held with the legal profession and other interested persons by the Attorney-General. These have been taken into account in the amendments which are to be put forward in the name of the Attorney-General at a later date. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I should like to commend the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) for preparing and presenting this Bill and I should also like to commend Professor Sackville and the Legal Aid Review Committee. I think they have done Australia a service with the thoroughness with which they have prepared their reports. Professor Sackville ‘s report is an excellent report. Apart from being thorough, it is very readable and it is eminently practical. The Legal Aid Review Committee relied heavily on Professor Sackville, and wisely so. This Committee is well qualified and was well able to query any of Professor Sackville ‘s pronouncements. The fact that it adopted his report so thoroughly is a credit to him.
Apart from the Chairman, Mr Roy Turner whom I know, and who has a lot of practical experience as a private solicitor acting on the panel of the New South Wales Public Solicitor, other persons who were on the Committee were distinguished and experienced in the field of legal aid, including Mr Justice Lalor who for many years was Public Solicitor in Papua New Guinea and for whom I worked. It is perhaps important to mention at this point that the first 10 years of my working life were spent in legal aid offices. Therefore, I feel that in this debate I can speak with some authority. For those reasons I applaud the work of Professor Sackville and the report, and I most strongly support the Bill. Passages from the report of Professor Sackville are incorporated in a couple of places in the Australian Legal Aid Review Committee’s second report. I would like to quote from the foot of page 1 of that report. The Committee says this:
The Committee agrees with the conclusion reached by Professor Sackville in his Discussion Paper (para. 1.7)-
The report then quotes Professor Sackville. I would like to read what he says and add my support by expressly agreeing with it. Professor Sackville says:
One of the fundamental choices to be made in establishing or reorganising a system of legal aid is to determine whether the services provided should be confined solely to meeting the needs of individual clients or should extend to the use of the legal process to attempt to change the political economic and social status of the poor. In Australia the more limited approach has been taken, but if the law is to play a significant role in improving the position of large numbers of disadvantaged people the broader view should be accepted. This approach involves the use of such techniques as test cases brought to develop principles in areas not previously judicially explored or designed to stimulate changes in legislation or administrative practices. In addition legal aid agencies should be prepared to press for the introduction of reforms in the interests of disadvantaged groups, by the formulation and presentation of draft legislation and other proposals for change. A further function of legal aid should be participation in activities designed to overcome the ‘powerlessness of the poor’ their inability to resist or shape the forces that impose inequities and hardship upon them.
The Committee went on:
Clearly the implementation of a national legal aid scheme in accordance with this philosophy presents many challenges and problems. However, with the establishment of the Australian Legal Aid Office some of these have already been tackled. One major responsibility of the Legal Services Commission which this report proposes will be to explore the means of implementing the changes dictated by a broad philosophy of legal aid.
That is a very important statement. To some people of course it will be rather a radical concept. The only reason I would like to see the Bill go to a joint committee, which is contemplated in the amendment of the Opposition, is to allay the fears which some people in the community have about the way in which the Legal Aid Office will function. Some of the problems have been raised by the Law Council of Australia and others are acknowledged in the report of the Legal Aid Review Committee, but basically the problems are being placed on the plate of the Australian Legal Aid Commission. It would do no harm, however, for this to be considered by a joint committee which could examine the propositions once more with a view to improving the Bill still further.
Having said that, I congratulate the AttorneyGeneral for the period of time he allowed to elapse after tabling the Bill. As I have said, I have no problems personally with the Bill. I certainly agree emphatically with the duty solicitor concept. Again I would like to quote from the report of the Legal Aid Review Committee. On page 6 it says:
There is widespread agreement that the major area of need not covered by existing legal aid schemes in practice is the provision of representation in criminal matters in courts of summary jurisdiction. Although some existing legal aid schemes do extend to representing defendants charged with offences in such courts, for the most part accused persons unable to afford their own counsel, will be forced to appear unrepresented.
That is a serious situation and one which this Bill seeks to cure. Secondly, I make it clear that I support the concept of salaried staff working in parallel with the private profession. I agree with the local consultative committees which are contemplated in this Bill. It is very important to encourage local involvement without unduly imposing on local practitioners. Both the Citizens Advisory Bureau system which is very common in Victoria and the Public Solicitor’s Office in New South
Wales tend to impose upon local practitioners. I believe too that the Legal Aid Commission is a most meritorious idea in providing a research and advisory body to government. It will have a most important role in preventing duplication and waste, and above aU it will be untouched by political influence in matters such as test cases which may in some way embarrass the government of the day. I think also that the idea of decentralised offices is a most important one and an excellent one.
Last year when I spoke on the AttorneyGeneral’s estimates I deplored the absence of a BUI and I also criticised the duplication. I did then, as I do now, strongly support the concept of a legal aid office. My first criticism, that of the absence of a BUI, is of course cured by this BUI, but I think the absence of a BUI encouraged or invited the idea of a High Court challenge to the Aus.tralian Legal Aid Office. As to my second criticism, I refer particularly to pages 2647-9 of last year’s Hansard. I think what I said then still remains a problem- that is the co-ordination between the Public Solicitor’s Office, the Law Society of New South Wales and the Australian Legal Aid Office. I was critical then and I remain critical of the endeavours in the other States. I think this is something to which the Legal Aid Commission will need to give early attention if taxpayers’ money is to be saved. This is the kind of thing with which the amendment of the Opposition hopes to cope. In any event, the Legal Aid Commission Will need to examine the matter very carefully.
Of course, one should also say that we have to be careful that the Australian Legal Aid Office does not become a bottomless pit. The shadow Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, has pointed to the English experience and has pointed to the fact that there are rising costs to government under legal aid systems in England. For example, in 1969-70 the approximate cost of legal aid services in England was £8m; in 1 970-7 1 it was £ 10m; in the 2 years to 1 972-73 it had gone up to £ 19m; in 1973-74 to £25m; and in 1974-75 to £30m. This, of course, is a worrying thing, and somehow we have to strike the happy medium between inadequate services as now exist and waste which can exist if the Legal Aid Office gets out of hand.
Certainly, both personal experience and the Sackville report convince me of the inadequacies and the disuniform nature of the existing legal aid services in the States. In fact, I recently brought to the attention of the Victorian Attorney-General a most unsatisfactory example of so-called legal aid from the Victorian Legal
Aid Committee. No one can convince me that the services being provided in the States are anything resembling adequate services.
I repudiate the suggestion from some sections of the legal profession that the independence, integrity or even the existence, which is what some say, of the private profession is threatened by this Bill. It is not. It will in fact provide work for the profession which is not now handled by anyone. A mixture of social conscience and enlightened self-interest has led others in the profession to welcome the Bill.
One of the possible abuses will he in the area of assigned solicitors costs. The Commission will have to devise a means of making solicitors moderate their costs and making them accountable for their costs without prejudicing those who need legal aid. Similarly, the Commission will have to try to curb the temptation of some of the enthusiastic lawyers who may encourage unnecessary litigation. As it is public money which is being spent, some tests will have to be devised. The New South Wales Legal Assistance Act of 1943 has a test of reasonable grounds and the Public Solicitor has absolute authority to say whether reasonable grounds for granting legal aid exist. There will need to be some regard for the public interest in matters such as that. This again is contemplated in the amendment which is before the House. I would like now to read from an attachment to a letter which was sent to all honourable members by the AttorneyGeneral on 1 April. He makes the following statement in paragraph 8 on page 3:
The Office provides a general problem solving service of legal advice for persons with an element of financial need. It is intended to solve the majority of problems that affect the ordinary citizens. Eligibility is determined on interview without a formal means test.
I applaud that. I think that is a very meritorious service. It is very important for people to get legal advice rather than being encouraged to take legal action and rather than finding themselves passed on to some other so called advisory body. Let me make a constructive suggestion. I hope that the Attorney will take some notice of it. As I said before, I speak from 10 years experience in legal aid offices. Some fee is desirable and necessary to minimise the cranks who come to legal aid offices. I refer to people who suffer from a variety of hallucinations and other mental conditions and who are the plague of willing legal aid officers. They provide a lighter side of life, no doubt, but at the same time they waste a lot of time. I think the charging of a fee would also minimise trivia. An awful lot of trivia comes across the path of legal aid offices. I think at the same time there is a strange by-product from the Protestant ethic which makes people value things they pay for and charging a fee would bring respect and appreciation to the office. I strongly recommend that a modest charge, perhaps even a token charge, be made. (Quorum formed)
I must congratulate the Government Whip on his acuity in calling a quorum when one of the Opposition members is speaking in support of the Government’s Bill. Having said that and having made what I think is a most important and constructive suggestion on the way in which the means test can operate I would like to say again that I applaud the idea of advice of this general nature being given. Apart from the Public Solicitor’s Office in New South Wales there has been a very serious vacuum in this field. I also make a constructive comment about the idea of interviewing officers. An interviewing solicitor is preferable to a non-legal officer. Nonlegal officers tend to give advice without the embarrassment of legal training and without any familiarity with the law library. Often they have, too, a clerical mentality and a rather curt manner which is very bad for the office.
I would like to say in regard to the letter of 1 April of the Attorney-General to which I have referred that I think paragraphs 9 and 10 are very sensible and they provide a flexible means and needs test which is very important for matters that go beyond legal advice. I would like to make one comment of criticism, however. It relates to the advertising of the Australian Legal Aid Office. I agree that advertising is needed to make the public aware, but I also believe that criticism is needed of the way in which the advertising was conducted. It really resembled Government propanganda because it ignored the legal aid offices which existed, although they are inadequate, as we have conceded. Cooperation of the States and voluntary legal aid systems cannot be obtained by projecting the Legal Aid Office as being the only answer. I would like to be critical also of the supplement to the Women’s Weekly that was mailed air express in great volumes to honourable members at considerable cost to the taxpayer. I would have thought that a booklet explaining the Legal Aid Office could be available at post offices, Commonwealth Savings Banks, supermarkets and elsewhere.
Having said that I wish to come back to the fact that I think the Sackville report is excellent. The Public Solicitor ‘s Office in New South Wales is accurately reported. I had 8 years in that office and if that part of the report is a reflection of Professor Sackville ‘s thoroughness the rest of his report must be very fair and balanced. His recommendations are imaginative and constructive and his conclusions are very fair. It is a very harsh criticism of governments and the profession when the only extensive salaried service in Australia, that in the Public Solicitor’s Office in New South Wales, has a means test which excludes applicants falling below the poverty line. No matter whether one remembers that this was not always so or whether one tries to argue about Professor Henderson’s definition of the poverty line it does not alter the fact that it is a damning indictment of governments and the private profession.
In my view the Government is to be commended for introducing this Bill. I support its concepts while I am mindful of the very vexed administrative problems and the need for financial management skills. The Attorney-General is however wrong in saying that the Opposition is opposed to legal aid. We are not. I quote from a statement of the shadow Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, of 8 May when he said:
Legal aid should be available to all who can show that they need it. Equality before the law can only be meaningful if each individual had the ability to exercise his rights. Individuals should not be prevented in pursuing a justifiable claim because of the costs involved.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
– by leave- On 7 October the Premier of Queensland, in a statement to the Queensland Parliament, accused the Australian Government of double-dealing and blackmail over the question of the border between Papua New Guinea and Australia. It is not my intention to answer the Premier’s intemperate remarks in kind. The issues involved in this question are too important. They affect the long-term relationships between Australia and the newly-independent nation of Papua New Guinea. They can profoundly affect the future of the people of the Torres Strait. With both of these issues my Government is deeply concerned. I think it important, therefore, to place on the record the procedures which my Government has followed in seeking to have this issue amicably resolved in the interests of all parties.
The issue of the border between Papua New Guinea and Australia is not one which was created by or is peculiar to the policies of this
Government. The need for an agreed definition of that boundary was an inevitable consequence of the policy of independence for Papua New Guinea. While there have been differences in judgment about timing between my Government and its predecessors, there has not, I believe, been any difference on the issue that Papua New Guinea independence had to be achieved.
Whatever the views of the Australian Government about the rights or wrongs of the Papua New Guinea claim for an adjustment to the border, that Government- whatever its political complexion- would have been faced on the one hand by a clear demand for adjustment by the Government of Papua New Guinea and on the other by the unwillingness of the Queensland Government to accept any change. It would also have had to take account of the clearly expressed wishes and interests of the Torres Strait Islanders themselves who are Queenslanders and citizens of Australia.
It has been clear from the outset that the Torres Strait Islanders shared with the Government of Queensland a general reluctance to see any change in the present location of the border, in the status and rights of Torres Strait Islanders as Australian citizens, but that in addition they attached great, perhaps even over-riding, importance to the protection of the total environment of the Torres Strait which they saw not merely as the basis of their livelihood but of their characteristic and independent way of life
The Australian Government, therefore, from the outset, made clear its position that the location of the border should be determined by negotiation between the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments, with the Australian Government accepting the responsibility to take account of the constitutional and other interests of the Government of the State of Queensland and particularly to protect the interests of Torres Strait Islanders. Accordingly, within a fortnight of our coming into office, I wrote to the Premier suggesting discussions between officials of the Papua New Guinea, Queensland and Australian governments to help resolve these matters. The Premier replied on 1 1 January 1973 to the effect that he could see no good purpose being served by such discussions.
In discussions in January 1973 with Mr Somare, then Chief Minister of the Government of Papua New Guinea, I expressed quite clearly the Government’s desire to resolve this issue in friendly negotiation and indicated that the Government would be most reluctant to accept a settlement of the issue which was unacceptable to Torres Strait Islanders. In a statement following the same discussions, Mr Somare also said that his Government was conscious of the existing rights, including land rights, of the Islanders and intended that these should be safeguarded in any settlement that might be reached.
It was evident at this time that complex negotiations between the Australian Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea would be necessary to resolve these issues and that the Australian Government would need, in parallel with these, to be carrying on discussions with the Torres Strait Islanders and with the Government of Queensland. It seemed to me important, in preparing for these negotiations, that I should take action to ensure that the interests and views of Torres Strait Islanders were at all times taken into account in discussions within the Australian Government Administration leading up to negotiations with Papua New Guinea or to discussions with the Queensland Government. I therefore invited Dr Coombs and his colleagues on the Council for Aboriginal Affairs to accept responsibility for consultation with the Islanders and for the presentation of their views in contexts where it was not physically or organisationally practicable for them to speak for themselves, I discussed these arrangements with the Premier in consultations on 23 March 1973 and he concurred in them. He agreed that the Council should be able to have direct private and confidential talks with the people of the Islands.
The Premier in his statement in the Queensland Parliament 2 days ago refers to Dr Coombs as ‘the direct appointee of the Prime Minister’. It is true that, with the concurrence of the Premier, I invited Dr Coombs and his colleagues to undertake this task but I remind the House that the Council for Aboriginal Affairs was first established in 1967 on the initiative of Prime Minister Holt, and has continued to advise every subsequent Government, including my own, in Aboriginal matters referred to them by the responsible Ministers. I do not think it is necessary for me to say that I have confidence in the Council and in Dr Coombs and that I believe he has carried out his task in this matter with integrity and dedication to the interests of the Torres Strait Islanders.
Shortly after this, on the advice of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs, I invited representatives of the Torres Strait Islanders’ Councils and members of the (Torres Strait) Border Action Committee to come to Canberra on 13 June 1973 to confer with me personally and with the Council for Aboriginal Affairs so that the border issue could be explained to them and I could receive an immediate personal expression of their views. The Queensland Director of Aboriginal and Island Affairs, Mr Killoran was invited to attend but declined. This was the first step in a long process of consultation and discussion which has continued until the meeting to which the Premier’s statement refers. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a chronology of Government actions on Torres Strait issues.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The document reads as follows)-
IS December 1972: Prime Minister writes to Premier of Queensland suggesting discussions between officials of Papua New Guinea, Queensland and Australian governments. 1 1 January 1973: Premier replies saying he could see no good purpose being served by such discussions. 17 January 1973: Joint statement by the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea- Australia willing to negotiate relocation of border but reluctant to be party to any settlement not accepted by Islanders. Recognition of need for prior consultation between Australian and Queensland governments. 23 March 1973: Discussions with Premier who agrees to Council for Aboriginal Affairs consulting with Islanders. 13 June 1973: Prime Minister meets Islanders. 19, 20 September 1973: Yam Island meeting between Islanders and coastal Papuans. Dr Coombs and two Queensland officials present as observers. 2 April 1974: The Premier moves Parliamentary Resolution for establishment of Marine Park. Adopted by Queensland Parliament on 3 April 1974. 7 April 1974: Prime Minister’s telegram to the Premier advising him of our concept of an environmentally protected area and proposing discussions between officials. 29 April 1974: Premier seeks more information before agreeing to discussions. 29, 30 May 1974: Daru Island Conference between Islanders and coastal Papuans. Dr Coombs and two Queensland officials present as observers. 26 June 1 974: Prime Minister writes to Premier, indicating much common ground and again invites discussions. 1 9 August 1 974: Premier replies agreeing to discussions. 24 September 1974: Premier makes statement in Queensland Parliament on Torres Strait. 13 November 1974: Discussions between Australian and Queensland Government officials in Canberra. 20, 21 February 1975: Discussions between Australian and Queensland government officials in Brisbane. 30 June 1 975: Prime Minister meets Islanders in Sydney. 3, 4 July 1975: Discussions between Australian and Queensland government officials in Brisbane. 13 September 1975: Prime Minister writes to Premier, passing him copy of letter of 8 September from Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade and expressing the hope that they can meet after officials have conferred further. 19, 20 September 1975: Dr Coombs attends Conference of Torres Strait Island Chairmen on Thursday Island. 24 September 1975: Prime Minister passes copy of letter of 15 September from Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade (addressed to Minister for Defence) to Premier.
Mr WHITLAM During the meeting of 13 June 1973 the Islanders suggested that there was a substantial community of interest between them and the residents of the coastal villages of that part of Papua adjoining the Torres Strait and that there would be value if they could meet representatives of the Councils of these communities for the purpose of evolving a common point of view. My Government agreed, therefore, to finance such a meeting. On 19 and 20 September 1973 a meeting was held on Yam Island which Dr Coombs, Mr Killoran and the senior regional officer” of his Department in the Torres Strait attended as observers. At this meeting there emerged evidence of a strong community of interest among the coastal residents and the Islanders in the preservation and protection of the distinctive environment of the Torres Strait in all its aspects- its islands, reefs and cays; the sea, including its surface and the sea-bed, airs and winds above it, and the wild life and marine creatures which formed part of it. My Government was greatly impressed with the strength and unanimity of this concern for the environment and I asked the Council for Aboriginal Affairs to ensure that in all discussions of this matter this aspect of the Islanders’ views was fully taken into account.
Following the Yam Island conference, the Premier of Queensland, on 2 April 1974, moved a resolution in the Queensland Parliament which - gave me and my Government reason to hope that there was sufficient common ground between the Australian and Queensland governments to enable this issue to be settled in friendly negotiation. In brief the Premier proposed:
In an answer to a parliamentary question the next day the Premier confirmed that he had said that there would, under his plan, be no activities on the sea-bed and that this would exclude for all time all oil exploration. It will be well known to members of this House that the conclusion of international treaties is an exclusive function of this Parliament by right of its constitutional responsibility with respect to external affairs. It would not, therefore, be practicable for the Queensland Government to be formally and directly associated with the negotiation of a treaty as such.
My Government, however, saw no obstacle to full consultation between it and the Queensland Government about the content of such a treaty nor indeed about the possibility of a parallel agreement or understanding between the Australian Government and the Queensland Government expressing their understanding and agreement about matters covered in the treaty. On the other matters touched upon in the Premier’s resolution in the Queensland Parliament I found myself in substantial agreement. Accordingly, on 26 June 1974, 1 wrote to the Premier expressing pleasure in the terms of his resolution and my belief that it afforded common ground between us for fruitful negotiations.
I therefore proposed that meetings should be arranged between officials of the Australian and Queensland governments to explore the issues involved in a treaty. Preliminary discussions took place on 13 November 1974 between the then Secretary of my Department, Sir John Bunting, and the Under Secretary of the Premier’s Department, with Dr Coombs present.
Following a request from the Torres Strait Island chairmen, my Government arranged and financed a further meeting between the Torres Strait chairmen and representatives of the coastal communities of Papua New Guinea bordering upon the Torres Strait. This meeting was held on Daru Island of Papua New Guinea on 29 and 30 May 1974. Dr Coombs, Mr Killoran and the senior regional representative in the Torres Strait of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs attended as observers.
This conference reiterated the concern of both groups of peoples for the protection of the environment of the Torres Strait. Meanwhile, informal consultations between officials of the Australian and Papua New Guinea Governments had been going on since my earlier discussions with Mr Somare. It seemed clear that the Government of Papua New Guinea remained anxious for a change in the border which would extend the area of sovereignty of an independent Papua New Guinea Government but was prepared to discuss any proposals submitted by the Australian Government designed to protect the environment of the Torres Strait and essential interests of the Islanders. After the Yam Island conference, Australian Government officials had sought to develop a possible basis for a treaty which would protect what seemed to be the essential interests of the Islanders. This basis was surprisingly similar to the outline of the plan presented by the Queensland Premier in his resolution to the Queensland Parliament on 2 April 1974. This basis envisaged that, irrespective of where the border for the determination of sovereignty was fixed,
An outline of these plans was presented in informal discussions by Australian officials to Queensland officials on 20 and 21 February 1975 and arrangements were made for further group discussions on 3 and 4 July 1 975.
About this time I was advised by the Council for Aboriginal Affairs that it thought it important that, before further and perhaps substantive negotiations with Queensland took place, the Islanders should be informed of the progress of negotiations and should be given an opportunity to express their views on them. Accordingly, representatives of the chairmen of the Torres Strait Islands were invited to meet me in Sydney on 30 June 1975. Queensland officials declined to attend this meeting. At the meeting the Islanders were informed of the attitudes provisionally being expressed by officials of the three Governments concerned and an attempt was made to assess for them the possible lines of agreement.
I took the opportunity to emphasise to the Islanders the importance of reaching an agreed solution if the independence of Papua New Guinea was to be achieved amicably. I pointed out that, once Papua New Guinea became fully independent, the power to resolve the issue would no longer he solely in Australian hands. I reminded the Islanders that, if we were unable to reach an agreement, it would, after independence, be open to the Papua New Guinea Government to take the matter to the International Court of Justice for resolution and that the Australian Government was committed to accept the decision of that Court. I reminded the Islanders that, while the judgment of the International Court on such a matter could not be confidently predicted, there were international precedents for such border issues between countries separated by areas of sea being settled by fixing the border approximately on the median line between the mainlands of the countries concerned or on some reasonable modification of that median.
The Islanders remained firm in their preference for the maintenance of the border in its present location and for the preservation of their present status and their traditional way of life. They acknowledged, however, the importance of continuing friendly relations between the Governments and peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea and in particular between the Torres Strait Islanders and the coastal residents of Papua. They were willing to consider some sacrifice to achieve a settlement in the interests of these continued good relations. No attempt was made, however, to seek the Islanders’ confirmation of this view or to prepare any formal statements of their views. Clearly, it was important that they should return to their own communities and consider these issues further.
The renewed discussions between officials of the Australian and Queensland Governments took place as arranged on 3 and 4 July 1975. A formal statement of the Queensland Government’s views was presented although it was made clear that the statement did not necessarily indicate the Government’s final position. From this statement emerged evidence of a significant change in the attitude of the Government of Queensland from that expressed in the resolution moved by the Premier in the Queensland Parliament. It was indicated that, while the Queensland Government was willing to proceed with the idea of a marine park or protected zone, it now saw this protection as relating only to the purely marine aspects of the area, that is, to the surface of the sea, the waters constituting it and whatever lay on the bed of the sea itself. It did not extend to the islands or to anything which lay below the surface of the sea-bed itself.
Furthermore, it was made clear that the Queensland Government wished to reserve to itself the right of decision affecting any application to explore or drill for minerals and/or oil on the islands or in the sea-bed. The attention of the officials was drawn to the fact that these changes appeared to run counter to the clearly expressed wishes of the Torres Strait Islanders and to contravene the intention expressed by the Premier himself in his statement to the Queensland Parliament on 2 April 1974, and in his reply to the question on 3 April 1974. This change was felt by Australian Government officials to be a significant set-back to the hopes of an agreement which would meet the Islanders’ wishes for effective protection of their environment. Queensland officials, however, undertook to explore further the issues dealt with in the discussions and to prepare proposals based on the Queensland Government’s attitude which could form the basis of the next phase of discussions prior to formal consideration by Ministers. During these talks, reference was made by the officials of the Australian Government to the importance of keeping the Torres Strait Islanders informed of the progress of discussions and of the issues which emerged in them. Dr Coombs stated that, in accordance with previous practice, he hoped to meet the representatives of the Islanders again when opportunity offered for these purposes and asked whether Queensland officials would wish to participate, but they declined.
A meeting of the chairmen of the Torres Strait Islanders councils was arranged by the Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs for 1 9 and 20 September 1975 on Thursday Island to discuss budgetary allocations which the Department hoped to make in the Torres Strait during the year 1975-76. It was clear that this meeting could provide an opportunity to inform the islanders of the progress of negotiations and to seek further guidance for subsequent negotiations. The importance of this opportunity was greatly increased by the fact that on 8 September 1975 Sir Maori Kiki, the Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade of Papua New Guinea, wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs outlining the attitude of his Government on issues relating to the Torres Strait and urging that prompt action be taken to resolve them so as to avoid any possible difficulties about the exercise of sovereignty after independence. The letter was expressed in conciliatory terms and sought to open the way to early and, hopefully, definitive negotiations. I sent the Premier a copy of it on 13 September but he has not as yet acknowledged it. Nor has the Premier acknowledged the copy which I sent him on 24 September of a further letter which Sir Maori Kiki gave to the Minister for Defence on 1 8 September. I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard my letter of 1 3 September.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)- 13 Sep. 1975
My dear Premier,
I received yesterday a letter from the Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade of Papua New Guinea that gives his Government’s views on matters relating to the Torres Strait.
Because of its relevance to the consideration our two Governments have been giving to this question, I thought I should pass you the text in advance of my departure for the Papua New Guinea Independence Celebrations tomorrow. This is being arranged by separate means.
I should hope that at an appropriate time we could discuss matters connected with the Torres Strait and suggest that in the meantime our officials might pursue the discussions on which they have been engaged.
Yours sincerely, E. G. WHITLAM
The Hon. J. Bjelke-Petersen, M.L.A., Premier of Queensland, BRISBANE Qld. 4000
– I thank the House. Dr Coombs arranged to attend the meeting on 19 and 20 September 1975 on Thursday Island. On 17 September 1975 he had telephoned the Premier’s Department in Queensland about these arrangements. He informed the Islanders of the substance of Sir Maori Kiki’s letter and reported on the progress of discussions between the Australian and Queensland Governments. The Premier complains that the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs was not invited to be present, whereas they had been at previous consultations. The Premier is mistaken on this matter. The consultations on Yam Island and at Daru were discussions between the Islanders and the coastal residents of Papua New Guinea. Dr Coombs and Mr Killoran attended not as participants but as observers. The Queensland Department, we are aware, holds meetings with the Islander chairmen from time to time. We would not expect to participate in those meetings, but equally I reserve the right of the Australian Government or its officials to hold whatever consultations it thinks fit with any Australian citizens.
There was no secrecy about the meeting on Thursday Island: The Premier’s Department was informed of it before it took place and received, on an informal basis from Dr Coombs, a copy of the document which emerged from it as soon as he had returned from Thursday Island. The Premier has tabled a version of the document. Furthermore the Department of Foreign Affairs has taken action to acquaint officials of the Government of Papua New Guinea with the views expressed in it. The meeting on Thursday Island proceeded in the following way. During the morning of Saturday, 20 September, time was taken out from the normal agenda of the conference to enable Dr Coombs to outline to the chairmen the content of Sir Maori Kiki ‘s letter of 8 September, to draw attention to the issues which had emerged in discussions with Queensland and Papua New Guinea and to draw the Islanders’ attention to the need to consider them.
The Islanders reiterated their preference for no change in the border and for the preservation of the present status of the islands and the Islanders. They stated that the negotiations so far ignored the fact that there had been from time immemorial a division between the territories controlled by the Papuans and the Torres Strait Islanders respectively. They suggested that there was no need for a border within the suggested protected zone which they believed could be maintained without division as a region within which the Islanders and coastal people of Papua could live harmoniously. They stated, however, that, if a border through the protected zone was necessary to prevent a serious dispute and possible ill-will between the Governments and people of Australia and Papua New Guinea, they would be prepared to consider accepting it, providing their essential interests were protected. They went on then to state what they believed to be their essential interests and concluded by stating their expectation that they would be kept informed and reserving their right to determine their final view at a later stage.
Dr Coombs pointed out to the Islanders the importance of the Australian Government having a clear statement of these views and suggested that they should be embodied in a document which could carry the authority of the meeting. At the request of the Chairmen, Dr Coombs prepared a draft based on the views expressed by the Islanders during the morning and in earlier meetings. Contrary therefore to the suggestion made by the Premier, the document was not in fact a prepared brief or a resolution but was a statement written hastily during the luncheon adjournment. This draft was handed to the Islanders during the afternoon and left with them so that they could discuss it among themselves alone. The Chairmen discussed the document, made minor amendments to it and, finally, it was signed by the representatives of the 3 groups of Islands. I believe it states fairly and honourably the views expressed by the Islanders but, as the document itself makes clear, the Islanders are free to seek advice, to discuss the issues further and to determine their final view on these and other matters at a later stage in the negotiations. I seek leave to incorporate that document in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The Conference of Torres Strait Islands Chairmen decided that while they wished to remain free to consider the future of the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea and their attitude towards it, the following statement could for the present be used by the Australian Government in its discussions as a guide to Torres Strait Islanders’ attitude to the questions involved.
The Islanders believe that the present discussions between the Papua New Guinea, Australian, and Queensland Governments about the border between Papua New Guinea and Australia are based on a misunderstanding of the traditional relationship between Torres Strait Islanders and coastal residents of the Papua New Guinea Mainland. They assert that there has from time immemorial been a border between the territories controlled by these two groups of peoples. It may from time to time in the historical past have been disputed in detail but they believe the coastal peoples would acknowledge its existence and agree that its location was generally similar to the present line encompassing Queensland controlled Islands of the Strait.
The Islanders would therefore prefer that the border be not changed and the present status of the Islands, of their environment and of the Islanders be maintained.
If some change in the border is necessary, the Islanders see no reason why it should run through the proposed protected zone which they believe could be maintained as a region within which Islanders and the coastal peoples of Papua New Guinea bordering on the Straits could live harmoniously as they have in past ages. They believe that the Governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea could work out a form of joint control which would be adequate in a zone where the protection of the environment and the embargo on mining and oil drilling would make many of the issues requiring the exercise of sovereignty unlikely or less difficult.
They believe this idea is worth serious consideration at least for an initial period of ten ( 10) years. It could then be reviewed in the light of experience and the views of the peoples concerned.
If a border through the protected zone must be established to prevent a serious dispute and ill-will between the
Papua New Guinea Government and people and the Governments and people of Queensland and Australia, the Islanders would be prepared to consider accepting such a border providing the following conditions are met.
All inhabited Islands in the Tones Strait to remain Australian territory and part of Queensland.
Status of Islanders
All present residents of Torres Strait Islands and their descendants to retain Australian citizenship and all rights of that citizenship.
Rights of Movement and Access
Torres Strait Islanders to be free to move and have unrestricted access to all parts of the Straits, to uninhabited Islands reefs and caves, to the sea and the sea-bed for all traditional purposes and activities.
Protection of the Environment
The Governments of Papua New Guinea, Australia and Queensland to agree to the establishment of an environmentally protected zone or marine park controlled so as to ensure the preservation of the total environment of the Torres Strait- the Islands, reefs and cays, the sea and seabed, and the air above it including the natural wild life and marine creatures as the basis for the traditional way of life of the Islanders and the coastal people of Papua New Guinea bordering on the Straits.
This protected zone to extend from the coast of Papua New Guinea bordering on Straits to include all areas of the Straits used by the Islanders including Bramble Cay, the Barrier Reef, Deliverance Island and Turn Cay.
That all new commercial ventures in this zone be subject to control to ensure that they will not damage the environment, that they are substantially owned and controlled by local residents and that the consent of the Representatives of the Islanders and the residents of Papua New Guinea bordering on Torres Strait has been given to their establishment.
The Islanders and coastal residents of Papua New Guinea bordering on the Torres Strait to be effectively represented on any body appointed to administer the Protected Zone (or Marine Park) or to advise Governments in relation to it.
Mining and Oil Drilling
That there be complete embargo on new mining and oil drilling or exploration for ten ( 10) years; the embargo to be continued thereafter unless agreed by the three Governments after the views of the Representatives of the Islanders and coastal residents of Papua New Guinea have been taken into account.
Any proposals for mining or oil drilling received if the embargo is ended to be subject to the same conditions and control as other new commercial enterprises.
Royalties for any mining or oil drilling project approved to be dealt with as those for mining on Aboriginal Reserves in the Northern Territory of Australia i.e.
. Royalties to be double the standard rate; and
Royalties to be paid to Trustees appointed by the local community most affected and by the Representatives of Torres Strait Islanders and coastal residents of Papua New Guinea and to be used for the benefit of these people.
Termination of Agreement
If any Treaty or Agreement relating to this matter is to be terminated other by agreement or by one party, the Governments agree to confer with the Representatives of the Islanders and of coastal residents of Papua New Guinea and if agreement cannot be reached about arrangements to follow those provided for in the Treaty or Agreement the question to be referred to the International Court or to some other Arbitrator acceptable to the Representatives of the Islanders and coastal residents of Papua New Guinea.
Consultation During Negotiations
The Islanders expect to be kept informed of the progress of negotiations between the Governments and reserve the right to seek advice and to determine their final view on the questions involved at a later stage of those negotiations.
-The statement by the ‘ Islanders that there had, from time immemorial, been a kind of border between territories controlled respectively by coastal Papuans and Islanders is being examined. The views of a leading anthropologist in the study of Torres Strait communities which have been obtained on this matter tend to support the statement of the Islanders. The suggestion of the Islanders that there is no need for a border to run through the protected zone is being examined. The idea is interesting and attractive but preliminary examination suggests that it would present real problems Just before embarking on his visit to the islands in the Torres Strait the Premier said that the border question was being dealt with in amicable negotiations between the Queensland and Australian Governments and that he was hopeful of a satisfactory outcome. In negotiations with Queensland officials, Australian officials will specifically bring forward the views of the Islanders on the border question and related matters. If the Premier is concerned as he asserts to help protect the interests of the Islanders, I suggest:
I have reviewed the history of this matter in some detail. I believe that that history amply demonstrates that the Australian Government has conducted itself in this matter soberly and with a clear anxiety to find an agreed solution. It demonstrates that my Government has taken great pains to ensure that the people of Torres Strait understand the issues involved and have had the fullest opportunity not merely to express their views but also to participate in the search for a solution. I believe that the conference of which the Premier complains, so far from being an example of duplicity and double dealing, was a further example of the process of frank consultation which, from the outset, has been the basis of my Government’s approach.
-by leave-With a degree of false modesty I put forward the proposition that despite the visits that Australian politicians have made to Papua New Guinea, no one in this Parliament has discussed either at such length or so frequently as I have the question of the Queensland-Papua New Guinea border with members of the Government of Papua New Guinea. I also submit that no one has raised in this Parliament since the Australian Labor Party was elected to Government the question of the Papua New Guinea-Queensland border as frequently as I have. I remind the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that on numerous occasions I indicated to him that if this matter was not settled prior to independence it would go beyond this Parliament into the International Court of Justice and to the United Nations. This is a matter in which I understand the background to the concern of the Papuans and New Guineans. Nevertheless, I have to say that this is a statement founded in deceit.
The Prime Minister on assuming office knew the background to this matter because I recall that he put questions on notice to me when I was Minister for External Territories. I recall his reference to committees of the United Nations referring to the border question. Within daysnot weeks, not months, but days- of becoming Prime Minister, the honourable gentleman said that, unilaterally, he would move the border between Papua New Guinea and Queensland. He knows only too well what is contained in section 123 of the Constitution because no one reminds us more frequently of his knowledge of the Australian Constitution and no one reminds us more frequently of his role as Australia’s greatest foreign minister. He knows only too well the ramifications of that statement. If the Prime Minister within days of his assumption of office had not said that he would move this border on his own, this problem we are facing tonight would not have arisen. Section 123 of the Constitution guarantees the rights of States to determine whether their borders will be changed. I plead with the Government to recognise not merely the views of the Papua New Guineans and the
Torres Strait Islanders but also the views of the representatives of the Queensland people.
As I say, this is a statement founded in deceit. If honourable members want to talk about maintaining good relations with Papua New Guinea, I just remind them that the reason independence was accepted on 16 September, supported earlier by the overwhelming majority of the members of the House of Assembly, was that the present Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the former Chief Minister, accepted implicitly and frequently the Prime Minister’s constant undertakings to grant increased aid at the time of independence. The Prime Minister revoked that promise shortly prior to independence just as he is revoking his knowledge of the background here. This is akin to the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) advocating constitutional anarchy. The Government cannot rip up sections of the Constitution and then come in here and plead ignorance of them. The Prime Minister knows as well as I do that if men of goodwill had got together they could have solved this problem. But the Prime Minister sought to ride over not only the Constitution but also the rights of the Islanders and of the Queenslanders. The Prime Minister knows as well as I do that the Premier of Queensland has sought to move from his former intransigent position to establish a national park. This was the first move. I do not care what example you cite in the sphere of international relations in which parties are apart. The duty of a Prime Minister and a Foreign Minister is to bring those parties together, not to exacerbate the situation by advocating some unilateral decision. The Prime Minister has come into the Parliament tonight with a 21 -page statement. On page 19 of that statement he states:
Contrary therefore to the suggestion made by the Premier, the document was not in fact a prepared brief or a resolution but was a statement written nastily during the luncheon adjournment.
I readily agreed to the incorporation in Hansard of the statement to which the Prime Minister has referred as being hastily drawn up during the luncheon adjournment. Let honourable members read this statement and let the most senior legal occupant of any bench in the Parliament advise me whether that document could have been drawn up at lunch time. It is like the stories my dear friend the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) tells about the men on the bench in the outer Barcoo and other areas asking counsel: ‘Are expressions such as .—-Il:- unius est exclusio alterius frequently used in the Barcoo?’ and counsel replying: ‘They talk of nothing else’. Fancy during a luncheon adjournment drawing up a 3-page agreement between parties such as Islanders, a nation such as Papua New Guinea and Australia. It is just not on.
The reality is that this was an action conceived in deceit and formulated on the basis of a misconception in the early part of the honourable gentleman’s reign of office, days after his assumption of the position of Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister that on 6 April 1972- remember, because of the frequency with which letters are produced in this Parliament relating to actions of past governments, that this can be readily produced- some 2 months and 4 days after I was sworn in as Minister for External Territories the then Prime Minister, after I discussed the matter with him on that day, wrote to me suggesting that an inter-departmental committee be formed. That committee reported in July 1972. Therefore, when the present Prime Minister assumed office he spoke on a matter that could have the widest ramifications internationally without even checking what had occurred at inter-departmental levels or at governmental levels. The Prime Minister sought to be the proclaimer of changes in Territories involving 2 soon to be independent nations.
The Prime Minister knows that what he put to this Parliament tonight is, regrettably, one of the worst statements promulgated by an Australian Government in regard to relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia. I reiterate, if I need to, the views and the sympathies I have with those in Papua New Guinea. I have spoken before. I also know that no solution can be found if people seek to berate parties to a dispute. You can only draw people together and seek a feeling of goodwill to reach a conclusion, not surreptitiously send some public servant whose better days were behind him and who allegedly could draw up a 3-page agreement in legal terminology seeking to transfer territory from one State to another.
It is not just the Australian Parliament that has taken an interest in this matter. It is not just the Queensland Parliament or the Papua New Guinea Parliament. United Nations visiting missions have taken an interest in it. Section 123, as I said, says that no boundary of a State can be changed without the consent of that State. The Prime Minister came in tonight and used the overwhelming majority of his statement to indicate all the background but he made no reference to the discussions that occurred prior to his assumption of office, no reference to the discussions that occurred shortly before he became Prime Minister, but rather sought to justify an exercise which was bent upon mischief, which sought to get around the Queensland view, and which probably will mean an inescapable venture into disputation for years to come- and not disputes in the Australian Territory but in the international sphere, not just through the United Nations but also at the International Court of Justice.
This matter could have been handled before 16 September. The Prime Minister has been told month after month when debates on Papua New Guinea have come into this Parliament, and every time I have supported the Government’s legislation, expressing not only the interest of Australia but also that of Papua New Guinea. Almost every time I have pleaded with both the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee and the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) to have regard to post independence relations. I have pointed to the problem of the border between Papua New Guinea and Queensland. Do not tell me that within less than 4 weeks of the independence of that country the Prime Minister can come in here and ascribe aU blame to the Queensland Government. He simply cannot wash his hands of this.
The Prime Minister has had nearly 3 years to get together with the Queensland Premier. The only person who has advocated publicly some form of solution, and he was supported by his Government, was the Queensland Premier. That was the national park that the Government subscribed to. I am not accepting the twenty-one or twenty-two page document put together tonight. This dispute has gone on since the latter part of the last century. There was a possibility of resolving it. As I say, without trying to assume false modesty, there were men of goodwill trying to draw different boundaries. I have here a map of the area that shows 6 boundaries drawn as we tried to narrow down the differences and this map was produced in 1972. Those were the endeavours that were being made. Do not tell me that one man like J.C. himself can walk into the position of Prime Minister and suddenly solve it, absolving himself of all constitutional requirements.
I do not pretend that this issue can be easily resolved. I do not stand here and say that one man can cure it. What I do say is that if the Prime Minister had sought to bring people together, if he had recognised that after independence this would be a festering problem, it could have been solved. The Prime Minister has caused it all because not within weeks, not within months, not within years but within days of becoming Prime Minister he cancelled almost every option by indicating his opposition to the Federal system and by indicating his opposition to the Constitution itself. By following a course of constitutional anarchy he has jeopardised relations not just between a Labor Government and a Country Party-Liberal Party Government in Queensland, but between 2 countries, Papua New Guinea and Australia. It is well to reflect that the man who sought the tide of Australia’s greatest Foreign Minister probably will bring about the greatest dispute between ourselves and our closest independent neighbour, not by delinquency but deceit.
Second Reading Debate resumed.
– I do not know whether the last 15 minutes were true. I am not quite sure whether the speaker, the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), who was so sensitive about the border dispute between Papua New Guinea and Australia, is the same honourable member for Kooyong who, as a member of the Government, put up his hand to drop napalm on the Vietnamese and who sought to send -
-Order! The honourable member will not refer to a previous debate. He will debate the BUI before the House.
– It seemed a little unreal to listen to that sort of occurrence from a person who was responsible, together with his colleagues -
-Order! If the honourable gentleman wants to continue his speech he will refer to the BUI.
-Someone ought to tell the honourable member for Kooyong that the proceedings of this House are being broadcast, not filmed; that he need only speak and not carry on and wave his hands around. I rise very enthusiastically to support the Legal Aid BUI. I want to steal one of Adlai Stevenson’s quotes in reference to the Liberal Party or the conservative thinking people of the world. He said that conservative liberals are opposed to any change; progressive liberals support change, but not now. That really is what we have been told tonight by members of the Opposition who spoke earlier. It also is of some interest and of some benefit to note, both by members of this Parliament and by people listening to the broadcast as well as by those who may read Hansard, that Opposition speakers have been dominated by the Liberal Party. They were aU former members of the legal fraternity. Every speaker on the Opposition side to date has been a lawyer.
-Yes. I understand that the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) is an ex-lawyer.
– The honourable member for McMillan.
– I am sorry, I was not here to listen to the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson). Actually the debate has been dominated by lawyers from the Opposition side. It may be said that the 2 electricians, the school teacher and the shearer from this side should not take on a debate about legal aid and the sort of questions that affect the Australian community. It seems to me that perhaps the mixture from the community speaking from this side of the House has far more experience in the problems and the adversities faced by the Australian community than have those who have some sort of vested interest. We do not rise in this debate and support the Legal Aid BUI simply to decry the legal profession. We decry the inaction of the conservative parties who were in power in this country from 1949 to 1972.
The first thing that ought to be said in a debate of this nature as it has been developed by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott and the honourable member for Balaclava is that we should look at what they are saying in support of an amendment and what their leader, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), said about the Aus.tralian Legal Aid Office. Now we are told that the conservatives on the other side Will not hold up the Legal Aid Office. They want to set up a committee. The Committee Will not take long to meet. It Will bring down its recommendations early next year, according to the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) so we will all get back to business. But what has the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said about the Legal Aid Office? (Quorum formed.) Before attention was drawn to the state of the House I was saying that the contributions made earlier in the debate by the honourable member for Bennelong, the honourable member for Wentworth and the honourable member for Balaclava do not rest easily with the statements made by the leader of their Party in this chamber on 26 August. The statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in his reply to the Budget contained the clear implications that legal aid is dispensable. He did not mention referral to a committee. His statement was a clear statement of intent- the abolition of the Australian Legal Aid Office. To qualify it now, as the speakers for the Opposition have done, is to qualify each of the other statements made in the same context by the Leader of the Opposition.
In his throwaway lines in which he threatened the abolition of the Legal Aid Office the Leader of the Opposition also advocated the imposition of a zero growth limit on the Public Service, the abolition of the Department of the Media and the Prices Justification Tribunal and the sale of the Pipeline Authority. To change their minds on the threat to disband the Legal Aid Office and now to seek to have the Legal Aid Bill sent to a committee as a backdoor method of burial raises serious doubts about the integrity of the Budget reply speech made in this House by the Leader of the Opposition. It raises serious doubts about what a Liberal-National Country Party Government would or would not do. If we cannot accept the clearcut promise of the Leader of the Opposition as the policy of an incoming anti-Labor government we cannot accept anything that he says. Either the Liberals are planning to abolish the Legal Aid Office or they are not. We have the choice here tonight of believing what the Opposition speakers have said or what the leader of their Party said on 26 August. Whom do we believe? Who speaks for the Opposition on matters of policy of this nature? From looking at the speaker’s notes that have been circulated amongst the Opposition we can see the directive given to members of the Opposition. I suspect that this document has been circulated by the shadow Attorney-General. It says:
Notwithstanding the hopes and expressed opinions of some that we can maintain the Legal Aid Office and be consistent with Malcolm Fraser ‘s statement, such a course of action would be unreal.
So we have the speaker’s notes telling honourable members opposite that it is an unreal situation. I refer to the relationship between what Opposition speakers are saying and the statement by the leader of their Party. Yet they come in here and tell the Parliament of Australia that they seriously want to refer this matter to a committee. They want to bury it, in accord with what the Leader of their Party said in his reply to the Budget.
Let us look at the effect of the Legal Aid Office and let us look at the philosophies of both Parties- the conservatives, serviced in Australia by the Liberal and National Country Parties, and the progressive thinking people of the country, serviced by the Australian Labor Party. It has been our intention since coming to office on 2
December 1972 to see that the people of this country are given the security to which they are entitled. How do we interpret security? It is not just in terms of health security, as we have done with Medibank; it is not just in terms of social security benefits that give the people some sort of additional security above that which was not provided in the 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government. We have provided not only ideas on national superannuation and national compensation but also an additional method whereby people have access to legal aid. The Opposition Parties cannot say that they did not know the intention of the Australian Labor Party. This has been the pOliCY of the Labor Party for 7 years. It was written into our platform 4 years before we became the Government. The then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, spoke about it on numerous occasions in the Parliament and outside the Parliament. The Opposition wants to refer to a committee something for which 100 000 people in Australia have voted with their feet. One hundred thousand people have been to legal aid offices seeking assistance, and they are not people who would normally go to a lawyer. They are not people who would normally pay fees to the private legal fraternity. They are people who in the past have perhaps been apprehensive about going to a lawyer’s office.
I want to quote from what Professor Sackville had to say in his report about the existence of legal aid in this country. He said:
One of the fundamental choices to be made in establishing or re-organising a system of legal aid is to determine whether the services provided should be confined solely to meeting the needs of individual clients or should extend to the use of the legal process to attempt to change the political economic and social status of the poor. In Australia the more limited approach has been taken, but if the law is to play a significant role in improving the position of large numbers of disadvantaged people the broader view should be accepted. . . . A further function of legal aid should be participation in activities designed to overcome the powerlessness of the poor’ their inability to resist or shape the courses that impose inequities and hardship upon them.
The National Country Party must be well serviced by legal aid. Its members have kept out of the debate and left it to their junior brothers, the Liberal Party. Let us have a look at some of the things that have been said. If honourable members opposite cannot be convinced by the views of the Government, if they cannot be convinced by those of us who service areas that are disadvantaged, they might listen to what some of the people say about legal aid and about the present legal fraternity as it services Australia. I quote from the Vinson report which says:
When it is considered that throughout Australia there are close to 1 million persons convicted each year in these courts the magnitude of the problem is seen. Although some existing legal aid schemes do extend to representing defendants charged with offences in such courts, for the most part accused persons unable to afford their own counsel, will be forced to appear unrepresented.
That is the finding of the Vinson report- not the Labor Party, not Mick Young, not the Port Adelaide Council, but someone who went into the subject deeply. The report also had this to say:
The alarming extent to which accused persons are not represented by lawyers in courts of summary jurisdiction has been recently documented for New South Wales by the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. The Bureau examined 28816 Petty Sessions cases during the first 6 months of 1972. From this sample were excluded all those with a previous criminal record, leaving a sample of 10 559 first offenders. Legal representation occurred in 3294 or 31.2 per cent of these cases. There was found to be a clear association between legal representation and securing a less severe penalty. It was found that those who were legally represented had 6 times the likelihood of obtaining an outright acquittal than those unrepresented. The unrepresented had a greater likelihood of being fined, and had 3 times as much chance of being sentenced to prison.
That comes from the Vinson report. We did not hear those asking for this Bill to be sent to a committee talking about what the Vinson report had to say. We did not hear those opposite talking about this Bill being sent to a committee talking about the Henderson report which found that no fewer than 12 per cent of the population live in poverty. Honourable members opposite should tell those people to go to North Terrace, Macquarie Street or Collins Street to see the lawyers. It is not on. These people are not being represented. Thirty-one per cent of the cases in New South Wales were represented in the courts, according to the Vinson report.
What did the Australian national opinion poll find? You people opposite are being dictated to in your political views at the moment by the computer, by the opinion polls. Following that system, what do they tell you? Ninety-four per cent of those interviewed said that the Legal Aid Office is of benefit to the community. They said: ‘We want to keep it’. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- no matter what the honourable member for Bennelong says and other honourable members opposite say because they are small fry- has said that the Opposition is going to abolish the Legal Aid Office. (Quorum formed)
In the few minutes left to me in this debate let me look at what has been done by the present Legal Aid Office. What about the problems of migrants which have been serviced now by the present Legal Aid Office? What about the mobile legal aid service which the Opposition now wants to abolish? The honourable member for Bennelong says: ‘We are confused about what the Party on the other side of the House is saying’. He should ask his Leader to come in here and speak in this debate and tell us what he is going to do about the Legal Aid Office because it has been well reported that he is going to abolish it. He is going to abolish a service which 94 per cent of the people who were interviewed say they want. The Opposition would abolish the mobile legal aid service which is servicing people in the back country, something which you people opposite would never have thought of. What about environmental legal aid? Almost every active environmental group throughout Australia has been to the Legal Aid Office. Honourable members opposite ask for guidelines. You people opposite say we should lay down guidelines on how people can use the Legal Aid Office. You have moved no amendment to the Bill. You just want to refer it to a committee because you want to bury it. You people opposite are the lawyers. You are supposed to stand for justice. Tell us about the 69 per cent of the people who were not represented in New South Wales courts. Tell us about the people who were gaoled because they had no representation in court. (Honourable members interjecting)
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! Interjections will cease. I ask the honourable member to direct his remarks to the Chair and to ignore interjections.
– All these groups, including the environmental groups, have sought assistance. We now have the last ploy of honourable members opposite- the same as with the doctors. If we replace the term ‘legal aid’ in this Bill with the word ‘Medibank’ we will have the same argument. You people opposite would say we are interfering with the relationship between the lawyer and the client in the same way as you have said we are interfering with the relationship between the doctor and the patient. There is a chap called John Kerr whom honourable members opposite may have heard of and if they live long enough they might reach the same heights as he has done, if they are prepared to listen. I will quote what he said about the situation. He said:
A final point that has to be made is upon the question of legal costs, expensive litigation and the position of the poor in relation to legal services. No one can argue that those with a need for legal advice, or with rights to be asserted or defended, should not have access to able lawyers and to the courts but the means of providing, within the welfare state, a legal social service is a matter of some debate.
I used to think myself that it would be better to subsidise the private profession to undertake this legal social service and I still believe that there is a very big pan to be played by the private practitioners in making available to ordinary citizens unable to afford legal assistance, the appropriate help needed under some form of subsidy, partly from the State, but I no longer think that this is the only way in which such legal aid can and should be provided.
There are many groups in the community, as we have come to understand, who need to be as it were persuaded to seek legal help and to overcome their ignorance of or reluctance to have anything to do with the legal profession. Communally organised legal aid services and bureaucratically organised legal aid services, if they can be set up with able lawyers staffing them, well enough paid to enable them to find such work competitively attractive, could do a great deal.
What happened when we advertised for lawyers to service the legal scheme? Bear in mind that you people opposite said that the legal profession did not want this service. We wanted 100 lawyers but there were 400 applicants. The Bill does not provide for the abolition of private lawyers. People who go to the Legal Aid Office can in some circumstances get private lawyers.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I am sure everyone would agree that access to the process of the law and protection under the law is the right of every Australian and should not be regarded as a luxury. For that reason the Opposition would support and vote for the second reading of this BUI. We have, however, moved an amendment that the Bill be referred to a joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament because we believe that the Bill as presented may not be the best or most efficient means of providing legal aid to the Australian people. If the amendment is carried it would in no way hold up legal aid, as the legal aid scheme has already been operating for some time. However, if the Government uses its numbers in this House to defeat the amendment, as is likely, then the Opposition, as I have said, will vote for the second reading:
The effect of this Bill will be to give the Australian Legal Aid Office, which is already operating, a statutory status to enable it to withstand any assaults which may be made on it on constitutional grounds. It also creates the Legal Aid Commission. If I have a criticism of this Bm it is because it sets up a third tier of legal aid in this country rather than integrating with those which already exist. Already in Australia we have a legal aid system operated by the profession itself. Then we have legal aid offices operated by the States and more recently we have had legal aid offices operated by the Australian Government.
To have three such systems of legal aid would appear to be an undue duplication as well as costly and inefficient. Surely it would have been preferable for the federal Government to have sought agreement with the States and the legal profession to combine the existing systems and grant federal funds for their expansion and operation.
The Australian Government could even have dictated the guidelines as it has in the case of other grants under section 96 of the Constitution. Had this been done I believe the underprivileged would have received more legal service from the legal aid allocation than at present and at no extra cost. As it is, the federal legal aid program proposed in this BUI will be limited constitution.ally to all matters arising under federal law and to people to whom the Federal Parliament has a special responsibility, such as Aborigines, students, migrants and pensioners.
Sizeable sums are being expended in establishing a separate federal scheme which one would have thought could have been done more economically by expanding the present schemes. The existing State and professional structures for the administration of legal aid have long existed. But the Government has ignored the possibility of utilising and expanding them. Be that as it may, legal aid must now be seen as an integral part of Australia ‘s social welfare program. Legal aid should and must be freely available to our financially and socially deprived.
The Australian legal system is based on common law which is sometimes described as being ‘adversarial’. This means that all evidence in a trial must be actually presented by the party who wishes to admit such evidence. It is not left to the judge to adduce or search for that evidence. This puts a heavy responsibility on the parties in the trial to fend for themselves in planning their cases and presenting them in the best way. For our legal system to work properly, it is essential that both parties are able to do this. Because of the intricacies of the system, only practising lawyers are capable of doing this. So it is essential for the operation of our legal system that both parties are legally represented. They need lawyers. But lawyers do not come cheap. Many people just cannot afford their services. Thus unless they are given assistance our system of justice as a whole becomes suspect, and unbalanced.
Those are the 2 principal reasons for the need of a comprehensive legal aid system. In a situation where the assistance which is provided by the legal profession itself and the particular State governments are inadequate, and law as a social tool continues to remain unavailable to a whole segment of society, it becomes the obligation of the Federal Government under its social welfare program to step in. However, I still believe it would have been preferable to operate through the existing State structures rather than to set up a third structure.
There are many misgivings within the legal profession to this Bill as it stands. The profession is not altogether content at the proposed independence of the Legal Aid Commission which will be established under this Bill. The profession has also expressed apprehensions at the ultimate implications of the ALAO and its impact upon the nature of the legal profession in general. It is important that the Legal Aid Commission is independent. A study of its structure indicates that the chairman will be drawn from the profession. There shall be a representative of the Attorney-General, 2 private lawyers and a number of other people involved in legal aid and welfare work. Unfortunately a rivalry appears to exist between the Government and the profession. The independence of the Commission, directing the legal aid program, would serve to correct and mollify this rivalry, one would hope.
The profession’s second concern arises from its apprehension of the impact of the Australian Legal Aid Office upon its independence of government influence. There is a clear fear that the office shall adopt and ultimately abduct matters that traditionally belong to the profession. Certainly, the profession has in part made earnest efforts to provide its own aid scheme and relief to the poor. Individual lawyers sometimes accept briefs without a fee. But, it is unfortunately clear that the present efforts of the profession must of necessity be totally inadequate. The interim report Poverty and the Legal Profession prepared by Dr Geoffrey Fitzgerald for the Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, which was issued in July, shows that only 10 per cent of private lawyer’s time is spent on low income people; and in fact, 20 per cent of solicitors as a whole admit to doing absolutely no work whatsoever for the poor.
This denial of access to law is not just the fault of the profession itself. Many people cannot afford lawyers and do not approach them for that reason. Yet, many also just would not use them, instinctively. This is perhaps even harder to remedy than the economic inaccessibility of the law. The extent of this problem is reflected in a survey conducted by Professor Sackville, who has been mentioned by previous speakers, for the Poverty Commission in March. Taken from a lower income area of Sydney, the survey indicated a most unfavourable community attitude to lawyers. It noted that 65.6 per cent of those questioned agreed that ‘lawyers are not champions of the poor’, while over 70 per cent stated that in their opinion ‘lawyers are mainly interested in making money’.
If a society discourages or denies access to law, there is surely a danger of injustice arising. As the legal profession appears to have been unable to respond to this situation, the Australian Government has felt it necessary to step in. However, the work accepted by the ALAO will I believe essentially be work never taken by the profession in the first place. If that is so, it cannot validly be seen, as a move by the Government to invade or nationalise the profession. In the 1 975-76 Budget $ 16.7m was provided for legal aid, $ 13.7m of which was allocated to the ALAO and $3m for legal aid to Aborigines. At present I understand that 29 offices are operating, with arrangements being made to expand this to 62. Already it is evident that the ALAO is satisfying a significant social need. But 29 offices are very few, especially for a country the size of ours, but at least it is a start. And $ 1 3.7m is also quite meagre in view of the degree of inaccessibility that there is to law as a whole, and the great expense necessary to operate within the legal sphere. This is evidenced by the instruction to the Melbourne Legal Aid Office in July to halt its expansion program owing to an exhausted Budget allocation. Even in the first year of operation the funding of this scheme had proven inadequate. The AttorneyGeneral has stated that ‘Ready and equal access to the law and the legal process is the birthright of every Australian’. I am sure that there would not be an honourable member in this House who would disagree with that statement. Nonetheless the reality is that the ALAO ran out of funds in July and that week after week constituents with legal problems whom I have referred to that Office have failed to gain assistance although they fall within the so-called ‘means and needs’ test.
I am not unduly criticising the Government’s legal aid program. But I stress that the need for adequate legal aid is pressing and great. Optimistic ambitions for the future do nothing actually to remedy the situation of the thousands of Australians who are being exploited and compromised daily through ignorance of their legal rights and a sheer lack of means to defend them in court. I urge the Government to expand its program. I would have liked to see it act through the State and professional schemes that already exist. I hope that it can not only expand its own program but also bolster the State and professional schemes that exist. We do not want to see any area of law left uncovered or any possibility of legal remedies being lost through lack of money or understanding of the available steps which people can take. Legal aid is an excellent thing. If there is any disagreement on the part of the Opposition, or on my part in particular, it is perhaps whether we should have another tier with a professional legal aid system, a State legal aid system and a federal legal aid system, or whether the whole three should be integrated into one legal aid system for the benefit of all the people who need the services of that system.
– I whole heartedly support the Legal Aid Bill. The real essence of the Bill and perhaps the real issue of the Bill, if one wants to put the issue rather brutally and bluntly, can be well summed up in perhaps one expression: Justice to the rich; poor to the hulks. Perhaps that was the catch-cry 150 years ago. But when one looks at the people who are actually denied access or equality before the law one wonders whether the situation is any different today. May I suggest that the essential purpose of the Bill is in fact to enable each individual to achieve and be assured of equal treatment before the law. May I take up the point raised, speciously, I believe, by my learned friend, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) a man for whom I have tremendous respect. As I understand it, this is what he said: ‘Why is it that legal aid offices are situated in Labor electorates rather than Liberal electorates?’ In other words he was asking why, in my State, they are situated in areas like Brompton rather than Burnside or Toorak. He asked: ‘Is it political, is it geographical or is it monetary?’ May I suggest to my learned friend that it is the latter. It is the poor, the disenfranchised, the indigent, the migrant, the disadvantaged who above all, because of their financial situation and distress, are denied access to any weight in the scales of justice.
Let us look at some statistics, and some pretty telling ones. As the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) said, since the Legal Aid Office has been in operation over 100 000 people have sought protection with legal aid that normally they would not have got. Surely no one disagrees with the crucial need to cover the existing legal gaps by legal aid, particularly the need for the provision of representation in criminal matters in courts of summary jurisdiction. Throughout this country almost 1 million persons are convicted each year. One has to grasp these figures, because they are clearly in themselves an indictment of the existing legal structure.
The need for representation in criminal proceedings heard by magistrates cannot be overstressed. Take some figures from the New South Wales legal arena, on the alarming extent to which accused persons are not represented by lawyers in courts of summary jurisdiction. The Bureau of Crimes Statistics and Research examined 29 000 cases in 1972. It excluded those with a previous criminal record, leaving a sample of 10 500 first offenders. Legal representation was provided in 3300 or 31 per cent of the cases. This is a deplorable record. It is an indictment of our so-called affluent society. Obviously there is a clear association, or, if you like, a correlation, between legal representation and the securing of a less severe penalty. It was found that those who were legally represented had six times the likelihood of obtaining an outright acquittal than those represented. Conversely, it was found that those who were legally unrepresented had a greater likelihood of being fined and had three times as much chance of being sentenced to prison.
These figures surely highlight the total inadequacies of the current system. Surely the survey points up the critical need for each person arraigned before the courts to have access to legal assistance if equality before the law means anything at all. I guess one could say the same about the level of inadequacies that applies in each state. I suppose one could extrapolate from that, but I think that would be rather unfair at this stage.
I turn to the Government’s suspicion of the Opposition’s motives in this matter. Why is it that we on the Government side of the house are suspicious of the Opposition’s ploy? The Opposition wants to palm the Bill off to another committee, to strangle it with red tape provided by selfish elements in the private law practice. It wants to bury it, kill it, under a deluge of paper. It wants to drown it with verbiage and verbosity until it is verboten and forgotten. How often have we heard that in this House? Let us look at the Opposition’s statistical record in the field of constructive, progressive and much needed social legislative reform. Since the Australian Labor Party assumed office in 1 972, time after time the Opposition has deliberately resorted to two destructive weapons, frustration and obstructionism- vacillation or procrastination if you like. Let us look at the record since 1972. In the 28th Parliament the second reading was negatived on 16 bills. One bill was laid aside after the Senate insisted on amendments. In the 29th Parliament second readings negatived in the Senate numbered 50, and 3 bills were laid aside after the Senate insisted on amendments. That makes a total of 70 bills. That is deplorable, reprehensible, regrettable and retrogressive. It is an indictment of the Opposition. Is it any wonder that we on the Government side of the House have no faith whatsoever that any committee which the Opposition might propose would carry out a constructive analysis? The Bill would be buried; it would be killed. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has stated publicly in this House that it is his intention to kill the Legal Aid Bill.
The Australian Legal Aid Office became Government policy in response to a clear need to give real meaning to a hallowed conceptequality before the law. For too long there has been too much truth in the old saying ‘one law for the rich and one for the poor’, not because of bench discriminations, not because the system is corrupt, but simply because adequate representation is expensive and so the wealthier one is the more chance one has of getting the best legal representation in the courts. The Legal Aid Office goes a long way to ensuring that the humblest, the poorest, the least socially equipped member of the community can have adequate representation. I was proud to open the Legal Aid Office in Adelaide on behalf of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby). It is about time that some of the so-called solicitors in the Opposition spent a day in the Legal Aid Office in Adelaide and saw the thousands upon thousands of people who come into this office disenfranchised, seeking legal support and protection before the courts of law.
The Opposition proposes that the Bill should be referred to yet another inquiry, this time by a Parliamentary committee. But legal aid has already been subjected to a series of inquiries. The sham of the Opposition’s claim can be revealed by the history of this initiative. A full policy statement by the former Attorney-General Murphy was subjected to extensive scrutiny by the legal profession and the users of legal aid. The Australian Legal Aid Review Committee has produced 2 reports, the more recent in February this year. Each of the constituent bodies of the Law Council of Australia has carefully examined the Bill. So too have 3 bar associations. The Poverty Commission has produced a detailed report, and a survey by the Australian National Opinion Polls has revealed the urgent need for a national legal aid office.
Yet the Opposition has the temerity to decide that there should be yet another inquiry while the needs of thousands of Australians wait. How many more bar councils does it want to make submissions?
– That is not true.
– It is not true.
-Be kind. The Opposition tactic is all the more transparent when one realises that all the scrutiny of the legal aid initiative has resulted in only minor matters of detail- questions of degree and of control. None of the inquiries has questioned the fundamental need for legal aid for those unable to avail themselves of existing facilities. There is no call from any responsible body, except from an irresponsible Opposition, for one more inquiry. What the Opposition wants to ensure is that a need which should be satisfied here and now will await its pleasure, not that of the Parliament.
No doubt the legal aid scheme is not perfect, but changes must come not in response to the whims of an Opposition motivated by obstructionism but in response to the experience of how the scheme works, and in response to the new needs which will come to light as Australians come to realise that equality before the law must become a reality. We reject the need for another inquiry. We invite the Opposition to tell us what the Leader of the Opposition meant when he said he would abolish the Australian Legal Aid Office. That statement is the key to the Opposition’s sham intention to divert the Bill into the endless morass of a parliamentary committee.
Beyond all the cant about the independence of the legal profession, beyond all the nit-picking of the carping critics, stands the central fact that for 23 years the Tories opposite turned a blind eye to the legal needs of the disadvantaged. Their gestures in this direction were mere tokens. The old dog has learned no new tricks and is determined to protect the less reputable reactionaries in the legal fraternity who want to go on practising their old tricks.
I want to turn my attention to one group which will derive particular benefit from the Legal Aid Office. We have only just become aware of the needs of the migrant communities. Under the previous Government they virtually lived in darkness. We are now slowly learning what their legitimate needs are. One area of real need is the legal area. I ask honourable members opposite to picture themselves in a strange country, trying to establish a family in an environment characterised by indifference, trying to take account of a new set of laws governing their relations with the rest of the community. And the vast majority of migrants are poor and cannot afford the cost of adequate representation. I believe that the Australian Legal Aid Office, the Racial Discrimination Act and the many other initiatives of this Government will help to right the imbalance, help to ensure that the migrant communities can play an active role in Australian society with a minimum of social cost. For the first time a migrant with a legal problem can get advice with a minimum of difficulty and legal representation with a minimum of cost. I wholeheartedly support the Bill.
– I quote firstly the words of the Attorney-General. He said:
Ready and equal access to the law and the legal process is the birthright of every Australian.
I accept this statement. Unfortunately I cannot agree that this Bill gives effect to those words. I am most concerned that we will develop several systems of legal aid some of which will give first class legal assistance, because one government has more money, and others for people who do not qualify for that legal aid a second class form of legal assistance. That is what the scheme before us does. It is most unfortunate but the form of the Bill and the form of the Constitution, unless there can be co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth, automatically give rise to such an unequal form of legal aid. I believe we need to have a co-operative arrangement whereby funds can be made available to the States from the Commonwealth to fund a form of commission run by both governments which will give legal aid on this basis or some other agreed basis but will not be selective in the ways in which it is given.
All the commentators demand that legal aid be equal in terms of the eligibility of people to be able to benefit from it. I could not help but agree with the conclusion of the authors Ross and Mossman in an article entitled Legal Aid in New South Wales: Politics and Policies. In their paper they went through and dealt with many of the matters that have been considered in the numerous reports leading up to this important piece of legislation. When one reads articles such as that published in volume 47 of the Australian Law Journal by Vinson and Homel one realises from the findings there that legal representation seems to be of considerable importance to the outcome of proceedings. This is why equal aid is essential for people who appear before our courts. I refer honourable gentlemen to volume 47 of the Australian Law Journal in which the necessity for legal representation to get equality before the law is dealt with in a very well documented way. It clearly indicates the desirability in proceedings where a person’s freedom is involved of having the assistance of legal representation.
But the problem that I pointed out was highlighted in a letter that I received from the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) when I wrote to him about certain advertisements that I believed were misleading. The Attorney believed, contrary to my views, that the advertisements were accurate and not misleading in the way in which they presented the Australian Government’s scheme. He said:
They made it clear that the area within which the Australian Legal Aid Office provides legal aid is the area within which the Parliament is empowered to make laws under the Constitution. The Office does not assist only in Federal matters. It provides legal assistance in matters arising under State law to persons for whom the Government has a special responsibility, including persons in receipt of social services, newcomers to Australia, servicemen, ex-servicemen and students.
He says that this is clearly within constitutional power. That letter makes it clear that persons who do not fall within those limited categories are not entitled to legal aid in matters that do not relate to Federal laws. They may be able to be referred to somebody else. They may be able to be told that they can go and see the Public Solicitor. They may qualify under the Law Society scheme. But surely that is the very problem which we have with this form of legislation. I have not discussed this with the Attorney but in view of the small amount of time that is left for me to participate in this debate I ask him now whether he is prepared to give me leave to have incorporated in Hansard a schedule of legal aid available in New South Wales which was prepared by Mr Kershaw, the Legal Aid Manager for the Law Society of New South Wales.
-Is leave granted?
– Not at this stage, no.
-Leave is not granted.
-I refer honourable gentlemen to that document. The schedule details the legal aid- it would be difficult to qualify it in terms of legal aid- available through law societies, the number of referral centres and the various forms of legal assistance available in New South Wales through various authorities including the Public Solicitor the Department of the Attorney-General, the New South Wales Commissioner for Legal Aid, local petty sessions courts and so on. Grafted on top of that is the Australian Legal Aid Office.
Much has been said about the survey of the Australian Nationwide Opinion Polls Pty Ltd which is allegedly a document which says that the Australian people support the programs proposed by this Government. I believe this is a sham- a sham because of the very limited way in which the questions were put to people and a sham in the way in which it has been relied upon by honourable members opposite. What did it cost? I dare say the survey was taken at a very considerable cost to the Australian people in order to provide justification for the Australian Legal Aid office. If honourable members turn to page 40 they will see that most Australian people when they consider the Australian Legal Aid Office are under a misapprehension as to what it is able to do. Honourable members will recall that I mentioned the people who are not eligible for legal aid, yet some 87 per cent of people questioned in the survey believed that the poor and the low income earners would be the people to benefit. Others thought to benefit would be pensioners, Aborigines, Labor voters and deserted wives. Excluding Labor voters the other 3 categories of persons who were thought to be eligible for legal aid numbered only some 10 per cent. But 87 per cent of those people questioned believed that the Australian Legal Aid Office would be able to offer universal aid. The document clearly demonstrates that if the Australian people understood the purpose of this Bill they would not support it. This is clearly a reason why all honourable members ought to support the amendment proposed by the Opposition. It would lead to an inquiry which might give us the sort of scheme that would lead to a legal system which gives genuine equality. I plead with honourable members to agree to the proposal put by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) because it is only in this way that we will get what members are asking for.
I believe it is important to the totality of the Australian people and to the respect of the legal system which we all uphold for the legal aid system that we implement to be one which will genuinely give this quality. I believe, as was set out in the report on legal aid by the Law Foundation of New South Wales, that the reason we have this legal aid system is that it was proposed and in operation, quite unconstitutionally, before any of the substantial inquiries were initiated.
Political Prisoners in Indonesia- School Cadet Corps -Defence
– It being half past ten p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July 1 974 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Tonight I wish to speak not as a supporter of the Government but as an individual member of Parliament. I wish to speak on the matter of political rights around the world and in Indonesia in particular. It is a tragedy that around the world most countries which are members of the United Nations are bound by the Declaration of Human Rights, yet there are violations of those rights to various degrees of incidence in more than a hundred of the member countries. There are many allegations, proofs and admissions of persecution and torture of political prisoners and the detention of prisoners without trial. Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, the Soviet Union, Spain, South Korea, Uganda, Argentina and Brazil are among the countries with long records of violations of human rights. The world looks with hope, some countries with suspicion, at the mass release of political prisoners in South Vietnam, Greece, Portugal and Mozambique. Those countries, as are all countries, are under watch to see that those freed are not replaced by the imprisonment of others.
I wish to use my time tonight to direct an appeal to President Suharto on behalf of the victims of mass arrests, many of whom continue to languish in gaols and camps throughout Indonesia. The first of October 1975 will mark the tenth anniversary of the dramatic events which brought the present Government of Indonesia to power and triggered off one of the most terrible massacres of this century. It will also mark the tenth anniversary of the associated mass arrests, many of whose victims continue to languish in gaols and camps throughout Indonesia. President Suharto’s ‘new order’ government, which succeeded the government of President Sukarno in the aftermath of the coup and counter-coup, has some important achievements to its credit. It ended the raging inflation of the late Sukarno years and wound up Sukarno’s trouble making confrontation with Malaysia. It negotiated Indonesia’s return to membership of the United Nations and re-established cordiality with its neighbour states. It has been consistently concerned for stable relations with this country and it has achieved an impressive rate of economic growth in recent years although there is much argument about the advantage of that for the great mass of Indonesian people, for fast growth has been accompanied by a sharp aggravation of inequalities.
But the Suharto Government continues to bear the legacies of its birth, in particular the shame of a large number of untried political prisoners. It is difficult to know the exact number of political prisoners or Tapols as they are known, in Indonesia. On 16 July 1974 an editorial in the Jakarta newspaper Sihar Harapan stated that according to official figures there were more than 35 000 political prisoners in Indonesia. On the basis of information available in all parts of the Republic, in Sumatra, Java, Bali, Sulawesi, the Malaccas and Irian Jaya, Amnesty International claim that more than 55 000 untried political prisoners remain currently in detention. I seek leave to incorporated in Hansard 2 tables, the first indicating the yearly release of Tapols since 1966, which gives a guide to the number of Tapols originally taken, and the second indicating the numbers admitted by the Indonesian authorities as still under detention and showing the 3 classifications of Tapols
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
Note: While there have been releases of prisoners each year since 1965 there have also been further arrests and detentions.
Category A: 2457- Those said to be directly involved in the coup attempt and scheduled for trial.
Category B: 26 650-People thought to have been directly implicated but against whom there is insufficient evidence.
Category C: 20 000-( Estimated by Amnesty International since no reference to Category C was made in the October 1973 figures.) Persons whom the authorities consider to have been indirectly involved in the coup, but to a lesser degree than those in Category B. Also persons with any indirect affiliations with or sympathies for the PKI.
Category X: 71 14- Persons arrested but whose interrogation had not been completed and who had not been classified into Categories A, B and C.
Figures for Categories A, B, and X supplied by General Ali Murtopo to Amnesty International, October 1 973.
– I especially appeal to the Indonesian Government to relieve the plight of the category B prisoners who are those that officials believe have insufficient evidence against them to place them on trial. To be held in prison without trial and without recourse to justice is probably one of the greatest infringements of the basic human rights of freedom and liberty, particularly when the Indonesian officials admit that such prisoners were not involved with the coup in 1965.
I earnestly appeal that those prisoners either be brought to trial or released as soon as possible. I earnestly urge the Indonesian Government to bring to trial as soon as possible the category A prisoners who, officials believe, were involved in the 1965 coup. Currently, trials average about 100 a year, which means that some Tapols even those who are later proved to be innocent, will have been detained for more than 30 years. Honourable members will probably not fully recognise the freedom of political activity which they enjoy in Australia, and I wish to impress upon them by comparison the names of 17 former members of the Indonesian Parliament who were detained during 1965 and 1969. 1 seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a list of the names of known former members of Parliament who are still detained in prison camps.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I wish to make a special appeal for the release of the aging Mr Giok Tjwan Siaw so that he might be allowed to apply for migration to Australia where he might join his 2 sons who now reside permanently in Victoria.
The relative openness of those early years did not last. As its policies of economic stabilisation achieved success and Indonesia became more and more attractive to foreign investors its leaders decided to side against those critics who argued for reform. So the recommendations of the 1970 commission on corruption were effectively ignored and the student and Press critics whose clamourings have led the President to appoint that commission were cowed into silence. The trend to increasingly harsh repression reached a climax after the riots which took place when the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Tanaka, visited Jakarta in January 1974. The riots provided the Government with a pretext for gaoling dozens of Indonesia’s most prominent lawyers, academics and student leaders people who had spoken out critically in the previous 3 months and for closing down 1 1 of the country’s most independent newspapers. Most of those critics remain in gaol and all of those newspapers remain banned. Thus, many of the civilian intellectuals who were vigorous supporters of the Suharto Government in its early years are now silenced critics. Independent trade unions are non-existent and the courageous voices of those who spoke up in those early years to remind their countrymen of the plight of the tens of thousands of political prisoners and their families are scarcely ever heard in public.
One of those gaoled last year was Buyung Nasution, a lawyer and the director of the legal aid bureau, who had sought to advise and defend the civil rights of so many Indonesians who were victims of the purges. I must congratulate the Indonesian Government and express my thanks that that gentleman has just been released after 18 months of detention without trial. It is hoped that that is a sign of progress by the Indonesian Government, and I hope that Buyung Nasution will be able to practise quite freely after his release, without restriction, to assist people to exercise their human rights. I hope that this act is an indication of goodwill and demonstrates a change of heart by the
Indonesian Government which had grown more intolerant of its critics. Its rebuff to the Amnesty International mission, which visited Indonesia in January 1975 a predominantly Australian mission including Senator Peter Baume and led by Mr Dick McGarvie, Q.C., President of the Victorian Bar Council was in marked contrast to the co-operation which its leaders have shown to the 3 previous International Amnesty missions to Indonesia in 1966, 1969 and 1970.I appeal to the Indonesian Government to relieve the plight and increase the welfare of the Tapols. I appeal that it allow independent observers to inspect the prisons so that their improved welfare can be verified.
I understand that during his Australian visit President Suharto informed our Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that he would welcome visits to Indonesia by Australian lawyers. Yet when members of the International Commission of Jurists approached the Indonesian Embassy for visas they were delayed 3 weeks before being advised that the Indonesian Government had refused the issue of their visas. I appeal that those visas be granted.
It was seriously expected by many observers that thousands of political internees who were not to be tried would be amnested on the 30th anniversary of Indonesian independence on 17 August 1975. A number of prisoners’ wives had also been led to the same hope by prison and camp officials. In the event, the President used that day to announce an amnesty of 2438 prisoners held for civil and criminal offences and to reduce the sentences of another 12 255 of those prisoners. But he announced no amnesty for any of the Tapols. Over the years there has been little or no overall improvement in their conditions. Food allowances made available to camp commandants are still as low as 15c a prisoner a day in many camps and medical facilities remain virtually non- existent despite the new buoyancy of the Suharto Government’s revenues since the tripling of overseas prices for Indonesia’s oil 2 years ago.
On the tenth anniversary of the coup, the counter-coup, the massacres and the mass incarcerations in Indonesia I believe it is my responsibility as an individual member of Parliament to join the occasional voices from Australian universities and student organisations, churches, trade unions, lawyers associations, and so on which have been heard as have similar voices from other countries. In today’s world of atrocities people too easily become accustomed to continuing reports of cruel and inhuman treatment to human beings of whom they know little. But if we ignore infringements of liberty, freedom and the rights of men and women throughout the world we cheapen the respect we hold for our own freedoms and we move closer to the total enslavement of all mankind.
-On behalf of the great number of parents and boys in the electorate of Gwydir, I want to make a special plea to the Government to reconsider the reintroduction of cadet training in schools. I have received a great number of letters from parents. I have conveyed those letters to the Minister of Defence (Mr Morrison). I personally support the review of the decision that was taken by the Government, apparently on the advice of the Chiefs of Staff but against the advice of a further report that was made available to the Government.
A large number of young boys at high schools, private schools and elsewhere have expressed a great concern that the Government has taken this decision. No doubt it was taken against a background of economic difficulties and of shortage of finance to provide a continuation of this training. But clearly the cadet system has provided a tremendous discipline of training. It has given very many boys at schools an opportunity to learn something of the basics of military training. Those of us who can remember the last war will recall that a great number of those boys who had gone through cadet training were advantaged when they enlisted to serve their country and saw service in the last war. At least they had basic training. When they went into formal military training, they had an advantage over those who had not had cadet training.
I wish to read to the House a letter I received from the headmaster at the Moree High School. It is dated 9 September 1975 and is addressed to me. The letter reads:
I would be grateful if you could forward this letter of protest and regret to the Minister of Defence at the phasing out of the Cadet Corps. Moree High School has only had a unit for the past two years but the effect it has had on the boys participating has been excellent indeed. Unimagined leadership qualities have been revealed in some of the boys and the school has been particularly proud of their efforts and their behaviour as a unit; as Lt CI Tilley the CO of 2 Cadet Bde would confirm.
Parents of boys in the Cadet Corps here at Moree High have expressed their dismay at the prospect of having the unit disbanded and have expressed their gratitude for what the Cadet life has done for their boys. We nave all been particularly pleased about the change in emphasis from the military to the adventure-type training for boys and were looking forward to the added experience such training would give them.
In an isolated country town such as Moree there is no alternative to a Cadet unit to give the boys the experience to engage in bushcraft, canoeing, cliff-climbing and the like when you are situated on the plains, as you well know. The argument that defence moneys could better be spent elsewhere is probably very valid- but why must the moneys be part of the defence vote? As a High School Principal who believes he has the welfare of our youth at heart, permit me to say that the value to the country of such an organisation as the Cadet Corps cannot be measured in terms of a relatively paltry sum of $10m compared with Budget deficit of $2,800m. Surely the interested youth of Australia should be considered.
In the case of our school, there have been quite a few Aboriginal boys members of our Cadet Unit- and that is still the case- who have gained considerable stature amongst their peers and this has more than assisted in their being accepted as ‘boys’ instead of being known as ‘aboriginals’. Here in Moree that sort of thing is what the school is trying desperately to achieve.
I could go on, but I feel the school’s point has been made, and I would ask that you, Mr Minister, might consider alternative methods of ensuring that such a worthwhile youth organisation may be permitted to continue -if even in a different form such as the Australian Government financing the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.
The letter is signed by Mr I. R. Hodge who is the principal of the Moree High School.
The letter is an unemotional plea to the Minister for Defence and to the Government. It is a considered plea. I know that it is supported by very many parents in the Moree district and in other parts of my electorate. If the Government is not prepared to re-establish and to support the cadet corps, as we have known it, I would like to know what it is going to provide in its place. We have a wonderful youth in this country. We have the energy of youth. Young people are looking for opportunities for training, for comradeship, in service. The cadet corps and its camps have provided an outlet for them. These are outlets which they otherwise would never have achieved. In some cases, it has provided boys from underprivileged homes the opportunity to travel to other parts of the State, to go into camps, to see other parts of New South Wales if not of Australia, to train together and to feel as though they are playing a worthwhile part. They know that in the event of an attack on this country they at least will have some basic training to enable them to try to defend it.
I suppose that it is true to say that we are not facing imminent attack. But who would be bold enough to say and to predict that Australia, with all its riches, its space, and everything that it has to offer, will remain and will go into history unchallenged. I would not predict that. If it did happen, it would be the first time in the history of mankind that a country with such attributes would not have had its shores a battleground. Let us hope that that never happens.
Perhaps one of the ways to ensure that we are secure is to make sure that we have defence preparedness and that we have a body of young people who have been encouraged to train and to prepare themselves for service, should that service be required. So often we debate issues regarding social welfare and a whole range of other matters in this Parliament. But I wonder whether we give enough consideration to the security of Australia as such. I have always believed that the cadet corps provided a very sound foundation for the security of this country because at least it gave a lot of young boys going to school the opportunity to learn something about military training. It gave them some inspiration to serve this country, if ever they were called upon to do so.
The decision with respect to cadet training was a tragic one. I would hope that the Government would reconsider this decision. If it will not, if there is no alternative, I think that this will be disaster for Australia. I make that special plea in the least emotional tones that I can make it. I would hope that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) will take the plea of the principal of the Moree High School into account in his reply.
– I respond, I hope, to the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) in the same way in which he made his speech, unemotionally. As Minister for Tourism and Recreation I happen to be charged with the responsibility for youth affairs. I believe that the $10m to $1 lm which we have been spending on the cadet units can be better spent throughout the community in training our youth- I mean both boys and girls- in leadership, discipline, adventure. We can get better value out of our $10m to $1 lm by perhaps helping such organisations as Outward Bound, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia and Youth Hostels Association of Australia. We can offer this money to the whole of the youth of the community, not just to 5 per cent of the eligible youth in Australia and not only to 16 per cent of the schools in Australia Unemotionally I believe that the cadet system in Australia did offer something to those young men who participated.
Surprisingly enough, $10m to $ 11m was not giving us value. Something like 33 000 out of 630 000 youths of the age group involved were participating in the cadet units. I agree entirely that young people of this day, of yesteryear, or even further back, need some sort of direction, training and discipline. Above aU, I believe that they still Uke to be led. But from where I stand now I see a better investment of $ 10m or $ 1 lm than we were getting out of the army cadets in the schools throughout Australia. I listened to the letter which was written by the principal of the Moree Boys High School. I feel that his attitude is one that should be followed by a lot of principals of boys’ high schools. I think that if the honourable member for Gwydir reads that letter again he will find that the principal of that High School is saying what I am trying to say now. We cannot aim at only a segment of the young people of Australia. If we want a good Australian I firmly believe that the young people in our schools should be given the opportunity to see, to search, to know and to learn how to be Aus.tralians They should take their chance in Australia. At all times they should be under some type of discipline and control, but particularly be under good leadership from our school teachers, parents and adults.
-I had not planned to take part in this adjournment debate but I. feel that some of the things which have been said tonight require following up. Some of the implications are not pleasant. In a way, the Government and the Opposition have changed their stance on defence. They are both talking now not in terms of forward defence which was better while we could envisage it, but which has been abandoned not through our choice but through force of circumstances. They talk now rather in terms of continental defence. This implies that we may have to fight in Australia. If it does not imply this, then our whole defence system is meaningless. Sure, it will be nice to have air forces, naval forces and rocket forces which can keep an enemy at some distance. But aU of us know in our hearts that without the assistance of powerful allies overseas we cannot hope to do that. It may be that we would have to fight in Australia. One hopes that we will not, but to guarantee that we will not would be irresponsible.
In those circumstances we need disciplined manpower and we need it in big numbers. It is quite reasonable for our forces to concentrate on fire power and the things which it hopes will prevent a disaster in Australia. But we need more than that. If this is so we have to be thinking in terms of 20 or 30 years. If we mobilise for defence the population up to the age of 50 yearsthat would be a minimum- then we may have to train them 30 years in advance. What the Government should be doing now is preparing forces for an emergency which could be 30 years ahead. If we do not do that now we will never do it because the opportunity is irretrievable. I put it that if we have changed our fundamental concepts of defence- and we have changed themthen we should also be changing our fundamental concepts of manpower. What is needed is not so much fighting skills, because fighting skills change, but the human skills of being able to live in discipline, of being able to live away from habitation, of being able to live in the field and of being able to move in accordance with a disciplined and set plan.
These are unpleasant things, but a government which does not face up to an unpleasant reality will, I think, be betraying Australia. I am not trying to put this forward as a policy from our side of the House. I am not in a position to do so. I am not trying to blame the Government. That would not be the right thing to do at the present moment in this context. In my view, the changed concept of continental defence which we have now adopted makes necessary, as a corollary, universal training from the age of 18 or 20 for a couple of years. In my view, it is not so much a training in anything more than elementary marksmanship and in the use of small arms as far as fighting is concerned; what is needed is the training to live in the field and in accordance with disciplines. I am not putting this forward as something on behalf of my Party- I am not empowered or entitled to do that- but I think the best solution may well be 2 years in a labour force in the field and away from home for all Australian youth from now on until we get some kind of better international security. Unless we do this we will find ourselves irretrievably -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. It being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Warrnambool Sewerage Authority has applied for assistance under the National Sewerage Program in 1974-75, and 1975-76, and for Support Activities funds in 1975-76.
The following applications for assistance were received in 1973-74:
The National Trust of Australia (Victoria)- restoration of 46.. Cottage’, Port Fairy.
The Portland Municipal Council- restoration of the Steam Packet Inn, Portland.
The following applications for assistance were received in 1974-75:
Borough Council of Port Fairy- a planning survey of historic and tourist precincts.
City of Warrnambool- land acquisitions for urban parks and reserves.
Port Fairy Historical Society- restoration and conversion of 5 1 Cox Street, to a cultural centre.
Youth Hostel Association (Victoria)- acquisition of Emoh Cox Street, Port Fairy.
Public Interest Research Group-coastal study for purposes of environmental conservation and recreation.
National Trust of Australia (Victoria)- continuation of restoration of Mott’s Cottage’, port Fairy.
The following applications for assistance were received in 1975-76:
Youth Hostels Association (Victoria)- acquisition of Emoh Cox Street, Port Fairy.
The Port Fairy Historical Society- restoration and conversion of 5 1 Cox Street, to a cultural centre.
The Portland Municipal Council- restoration of the Steam Packet Inn, Portland, and restoration of the Admella Life Boat.
The Shire of Kowree restoration and preservation of the old Log Gaol, Harrow.
The Chief Secretary’s Office, Victoria- investigation and protection of five (5) rock art sites in the Grampians.
Duplication of an ocean outfall sewer in Warrnambool, Stage 1. Construction of a pumping station to pump effluent from the industrial area of Albert Street to a treatment plant. 1975-76 Supply Period
Duplication of an ocean outfall sewer in Warrnambool, Stage II. 1975-76 Support Activities
The Support Activities proposals for 1975-76 have not yet been evaluated.
Restoration of Motts Cottage’, Port Fairy. Restoration of the Steam Packet Inn, Portland.
Study of the historic town of Port Fairy. Assistance with the restoration of Mons Cottage ‘, Port Fairy.
Assistance with the acquisition of 960 acres of land in the Grampians.
Assistance towards the investigation and protection of five ( 5 ) rock art sites in the Grampians.
The Grants Commission Program, through which assistance is made available to local government bodies, is administered by my collegue the Special Minister of State. Submissions and allocations are made on a regional basis. The electoral Division of Wannon encompasses parts of three regions in Victoria: Regions 2, 3 and 4.
The electoral boundaries also split two local government areas- the Shires of Arapiles and Kowree It is not therefore possible to provide accurate figures on an electorate basis for assistance made available to local government bodies through the Grants Commission in 1974-75, or 1975-76.
I refer the honourable member to the Grants Commission’s First Report (1974) on Financial Assistance for local Government tabled in the House of Representatives on 23 August, 1974. The Report for 1975 will be tabled in the near future.
Regional Organisations Assistance Program
Every Regional Organisation of Councils in Australia received $2,000 in 1974-75 to assist with regional administrative/secretarial expenses.
The Regional Organisations of Councils in each of Regions 2, 3 and 4 received $2,000 in 1974-75. It is not possible to determine exactly how much of this money will be allocated to the Division of Wannon as regional and electoral boundaries do not coincide.
The total sum involved for Stages I and II of the duplication of an ocean outfall sewer in Warrnambool, and the construction of a pumping station to pump effluent from the industrial area of Albert Street to a treatment plant is $230,000.
Restoration of Motts Cottage’, Port Fairy. Amount- $5,000 made available through the National Trust of Australia (Victoria).
Restoration of the Steam Packet Inn. Amount-$ 14,000 made available through the Portland Municipal Council.
Study of the historic town of Port Fairy. Amount-$7,000 made available through Borough of Port Fairy.
Assistance with the restoration of Motts Cottage’, Port Fairy. Amount- $5,000 made available through National Trust of Victoria. Assistance with the acquisition of 960 acres of land in the Grampians. Amount- $77,000 made available through the Victorian Government. Assistance towards investigation and protection of five (5) rock an sites in the Grampians- $2,000 made available through Victorian Government.
Regional Organisations Assistance Program
The Regional Organisation of Councils in each of Regions 2, 3 and 4 received $2,000 in 1974-75.
During 1974-75 $126,387 was made available to the Warrnambool Sewerage Authority. The amounts for 1 975-76 have still to be finalised by State Authorities.
See answer to (3 ) above. Regional Organisations Assistance Program
See answer to (3) above. (5) Sewerage
Current applications for assistance under the National Sewerage Program have been received from the following bodies:
Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Mornington (and Mt Eliza) Sewerage Authority Frankston Sewerage Authority Cranbourne Sewerage Authority Sunbury Sewerage Authority Melton Sewerage Authority Dandenong Sewerage Authority Springvale and Noble Park Sewerage Authority Dromana-Rosebud Sewerage Authority
Applications for Support Activities of the National Sewerage Program 1975-76 have been received from the following bodies:
Pakenham Sewerage Authority Cranbourne Sewerage Authority Dromana-Rosebud Sewerage Authority Frankston Sewerage Authority Hastings Sewerage Authority Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works State Rivers and Water Supply Commission Department of Health
The following applications are presented in tabulated form to save space.
Area Improvement Programs
Area Improvement Programs have operated in Victorian regions since 1973-74. Regions in which this program will operate are selected on four major criteria:
Areas of rapid population growth or change.
Areas with deficiencies in public facilities.
Areas of particular strategic significance for urban and regional development.
Areas for which the Australian Government has particular responsibility.
The four regions in which the Area Improvement Program will operate in Victoria in 1975-76 are Western Melbourne, North Western Melbourne, Northern Melbourne and Outer Eastern Melbourne.
Region 1 5, the Inner Eastern Region of Melbourne, has also lodged an application for special funds.
An application by the South Melbourne and Port Melbourne City Councils, to assist in the acquisition of a gas works site for low-income housing and recreation.
An application by the Melbourne City Council seeking assistance with a community participation program.
An application by the North Melbourne Association seeking assistance for an urban rehabilitation study and project implementation in and around North Melbourne Town Hall area.
An application by the Collingwood City Council for assistance for a study of a low-cost housing proposal in the Yarra Falls area.
An application by the Fitzroy City Council for assistance in three projects- an Adventure Playground, an Accommodation Service, and a Citizens Advisory Service.
The following amounts were allocated in 1974-75 for the National Sewerage Program:
The approvals for 1975-76 for the National Sewerage Program and the Support Activities have not yet been finalised.
Fourteen (14) projects were funded in Greater Melbourne in 1 973-74 at a cost of $379,000.
Thirty-one (31) projects were funded in Greater Melbourne in 1 974-75 at a cost of $ 1 ,067,500.
Area Improvement Program
In 1973-74 and 1974-75 the Area Improvement Program operated in the Western Region of Melbourne. Forty-seven (47) projects were funded in 1973-74 at a cost of $2.4m. Forty-three (43) projects were funded in 1 974-75 at a cost of approximately $2.4m.
The same principles apply as in the answer to (2 ) above.
All applications for assistance by the various authorities (listed in (5) above) under the National Sewerage Program and the Support Activities for 1975-76 are currently being assessed.
See answer to ( 5 ) above.
Decisions concerning allocations of funds to the Authorities listed above are currently being finalised by the relevant Authorities. Allocations of funds under the Support Activities will be decided by the end of October 1975.
Decisions concerning projects to be financed under the 1976-76 National Estate program will be made towards the end of 1975.
Decisions concerning the applications of the following bodies will be considered shortly: Melbourne City Council seeking assistance with a community participation program, North Melbourne Association seeking assistance for urban rehabilitation study, and an application by the Collingwood City Council for assistance for a study of low-cost housing in the Yarra Falls area. In the case of the application by the South Melbourne and Port Melbourne City Councils to assist in the acquisition of a gas works site for low income housing and recreation, considerable discussions involving other levels of Government must take place before a decision can be made.
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department has applied for assistance under the National Sewerage Progam in 1974-75 and 1975-76.
During 1973-74 the following applications for assistance were received:
Robe-Beachport-Coorong Study by the South Australian Government.
Robe-Beachport-Coorong land acquisition by the South Australian Government.
Restoration of early settlers’ cottage ‘Hope’ at Kingscote, by the National Trust (South Australia).
During 1974-75 the following applications for assistance were received:
Applications have been received from the National Trust (South Australia) for the following projects:
Restoration and fencing of Old Court House and Police Station, Willunga
Restoration of Old Court House and Police Station at Strathalbyn
Restoration of and treatment of salt damp, in Old wool and Grain Store, Beachport.
Restoration of Old Railway Superintendent’s House at Goolwa.
Restoration of Old Mundulla Hotel, Bordertown.
Restoration of Old Police Stables, Robe.
Restoration of Blacksmithy and Wheelwright’s shop Museum, Goolwa.
Renovation and extensions to Millicent Museum, Millicent.
Restoration of Old Post Office, Penola.
Clarendon Historic Hall Committee has submitted an application for the restoration of the historic Hall.
During 1975-76 the following applications for assistance have been received:
The South Australian Government has applied for assistance to study the natural and built environment of the Robe-Beachport area.
The Town of Naracoorte has applied for assistance for the acquisition of 9.55 hectares of natural parkland on the urban edge of Naracoorte.
Regional Organisations Assistance Program
Applications during 1974-75 were received from the Regional Organisations of Councils from three of the four regions that are within the Division of Barker, for the $8,000 component of the Regional Organisations Assistance Program. The three regions that made applications were:
Region 4, South Metropolitan (Part).
Region 10, Murray Lands (Part).
Region 11, South East.
The Region that did not apply was:
Region 9, Southern Hills and Kangaroo Island (Part).
During 1974-75 the following projects were supported:
Happy Valley Treatment Works Relief Rising Main.
Mount Gambier Rising Main.
During 1975-76 the following projects are being supported:
Happy Valley Treatment Works Upgrading.
Happy Valley- Coromandel Valley Trunk Sewer.
Mount Gambier- Screens and Outfalls.
During 1 973-74 the following projects were supported:
Robe-Beach port-Coorong land acquisition.
Restoration of early settlers’ cottage ‘Hope’, at Kingscote, Kangaroo Island.
During 1 974-75 the following projects were supported:
Study of the natural and built environment features of Robe-Beachport-Coorong.
Assistance with the restoration of an early cottage ‘Dingley Dell’ at Port MacDonald.
Assessment of the impact of development activities on the natural biological and physical components of the Lower Flinders Ranges.
Assessment of Crown land holdings in the south east of South Australia.
Assistance with the restoration of Clarendon Historic Hall.
Assistance with the acquisition and maintenance of ‘Hope Cottage’, Kangaroo Island.
Assistance with the cost of transportation and restoration of the ‘Cape Jaffa’ Lighthouse.
Assistance with restoration work of the old court house and police station, Willunga.
Assistance in the minor restoration of the old court house and police station, Strathalbyn.
Assistance with the restoration and re-erection of ‘Cape Willoughby’ Lighthouse, Kangaroo Island.
Assistance with the restoration of the ‘Old Wool and Grain Store’, Beachport.
Assistance with the restoration of ‘Mundulla’ Hotel.
Assistance with the restoration of the old railway superintendent’s house, Goolwa.
Assistance with the restoration of the old police stables, Robe.
Assistance with the second stage of the restoration of ‘ Cape Jaffa ‘ Lighthouse.
Assistance with the restoration and extension of the curtilage of the old blacksmithy and wheelwright’s shop, Goolwa.
Assistance with the restoration of Woodgreen House’, Millicent
Assistance with the extension of two acres to the existing Macarthur nature reserve, Millicent.
Regional Organisations Assistance Program
Each of the four Regional Organisations of Councils mentioned previously are being assisted under the above program in 1974-75 for administrative/secretarial expenses.
Region 4- Southern Metropolitan (Part) and Region 10- Murray Lands (Part) will each receive a further amount under this program for the promotion of regional activity. Region 1 1 was unsuccessful in its application.
South Australian Land Commission
To 30 June 1975 the South Australian Land Commission had acquired 194 hectares of land for open space and recreational uses at Willunga, under the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974-75.
The Grants Commission program, through which assistance is made to local government bodies, is administered by my colleague, the Special Minister of State. Submissions and allocations are made on a regional basis. The Electoral Division of Barker encompasses parts of three regions in South Australia (Regions 4, 9, and 10) and the whole of a fourth (Region 1 1 ). It is not therefore possible to provide accurate figures on an electorate basis for assistance made available to local government bodies through the Grants Commission in 1 974-75. 1 refer the honourable member to the Grants Commission’s First Report ( 1974) on Financial Assistance for Local Government, tabled in the House of Representatives, 23 August 1974. The Report for 1 975 will be tabled in the near future.
Regional Organisations Assistance Program
South Australian Land Commission
See answer in (2) above.
During 1974-75 $793,000 was made available to the South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department.
During 1973-74 the following amounts were made available:
Robe-Beachport-Coorong Study. $5,000 made available through the South Australian Government Robe-Beachport-Coorong land acquisition. $5,000 made available through the South Australian Government.
Restoration of early settlers’ cottage ‘Hope’, at Kingscote $2,000 made available through the National Trust (South Australia).
During 1974-75 the following amounts were made available:
Study of the natural and built environment features of Robe-Beachport-Coorong. Amount $25,000 through the South Australian Government.
Assistance with the restoration of an early cottage ‘Dingley Dell’ at Port Macdonald. Amount $24,000 through South Australian Government.
Assessment of <he impact of development activities on the natural biological and physical components of the Lower Flinders Ranges. Amount- one of 5 studies by Nature Conservation Society of South Australia at cost of $9,800.
Assessment of crown land holdings in the south east of South Australia to determine conservation significance with special attention to wetland areas. Amount- one of 5 studies of Nature Conservation Society of South Australia at cost of $9,800.
Assistance with restoration of the Clarendon Historic Hall. Amount $20,000 through Meadows Council. ‘Hope Cottage’, Kangaroo Island- assistance with acquisition and maintenance. Amount $10,000 through South Australian Government.
Assistance with the cost of transportation and restoration of the ‘Cape Jaffa’ Lighthouse. Amount $12,000 through National Trust of South Australia.
Assistance with restoration work on the old court house and police station, Willunga. Amount $5,500 through the National Trust of South Australia.
Assistance in minor restoration of the old court house and police station, Strathalbyn. Amount $4,000 through National Trust of South Australia.
Assistance with the restoration and re-erection of ‘Cape Willoughby’ Lighthouse, Kangaroo Island. Amount $5,000 through National Trust of South Australia.
Assistance with the restoration of the ‘Old Wool and Grain Store’, Beachport. Amount $6,000 through National Trust of South Australia.
Assistance with the restoration of ‘Mundulla’ Hotel. Amount $7,000 through National Trust of South Australia.
Assistance with the restoration of the old railway superintendent’s house, Goolwa. Amount $4,500 through National Trust of South Australia.
Assistance with the restoration of the old police stables, Robe. Amount $3,500 through National Trust of South Australia.
Assistance with second stage of restoration of ‘Cape Jaffa’ Lighthouse. Amount $5,000 through-National Trust of South Australia.
Assistance with the restoration and extension of curtilage of the old blacksmithy and wheelright’s shop, Goolwa. Amount $6,500 through National Trust of South Australia.
Assistance with the restoration of Woodgreen House’, Millicent. Amount $5,000 through National Trust of South Australia.
Assistance with the extension of 2 acres to existing Macarthur nature reserve, Millicent. Amount $3,000 through National Trust of South Australia.
Regional Organisation Assistance Program
Each of the four regions mentioned previously received $2,000 in 1974-75. Region 4-Southera Metropolitan (Part) and Region 10- Murray Lands (Part) will each receive a further $8,000 under this program.
An application for the re-organisation of the North East Trunk Sewer has been received.
The City of Adelaide Plan- a reply is expected shortly. The sum involved is $50,000.
See answer to (5) above. Sewerage
See answer to ( 5 ) above.
See answer to ( 5 ) above. Other Applications
See answer to (5) above. Sewerage
See answer to ( 5 ) above.
Decisions concerning projects to be financed under the 1975-76 program will be made towards the end of 1975. Other Applications
See answer to (5) above. Sewerage
Decisions concerning projects to be financed under the 1975-76 program will be made towards the end of 1975.
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974 I may, in consultation with an appropriate Minister of a State, approve programs relating to: Urban Expansion and Redevelopment; Area Improvement, being urban and regional improvement and rehabilitation; Sewerage; Water Supply; and Restoration, preservation and improvement of landscapes and buildings of special significance.
Financial assistance by way of loan or otherwise may be provided on this basis to: an authority of a state; a local governing body; or any body corporate constituted for purposes other than the acquisition of gain by its individual members.
Grants have been made to individual groups who satisfy these legislative requirements under one program only- the National Estate Program. Financial assistance under all other programs I administer are made to authorities of a state or local governing bodies.
The National Estate Program commenced in 1973-74 under the legislative authority of Appropriation Act No. 2. Then as now advertisements calling for applications for these grants are placed in the national press. These grants were also advertised in the handbook entitled ‘Australian Government Assistance to Local Government Projects’ published by my Department. They have again been advertised in the subsequent publication of my Department entitled ‘Australian Government Assistance to Local Projects’. Apart from this direct advertising the National Estate Program receives much general publicity in the media.
In 1974-75 alone in excess of 1 100 applications for grants under this program were received and processed. All applications received are considered by the Interim Committee on the National Estate, who make recommendation to my colleague the Minister for Environment and myself. Agreement of the appropriate State Minister is also obtained before the final projects to be funded are selected.
As with all of the programs administered by my Department the monies involved are transferred from the Australian Treasury to the appropriate State Treasury who control the flow of funds to the recipient in accordance with normal Treasury principles.
The total amount spent under this program in 1973-74 and 1 974-75 respectively was $2,226,900 and $7,207,850.
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is:
In these circumstances it would be premature to state how much land the South Australian Land Commission has decided to acquire.
An important goal in the Land Commission program is to exert a beneficial influence on the urban environment by ensuring, through public ownership of land, that development proposals take full cognisance of all social costs and benefits. Programs of Land Commissions pose peculiar problems in relation to .environmental protection, confidentiality, the need to reduce speculative activity in the land market, and the frequent necessity for expediency in decisions on acquisitions. For these reasons, Land Commissions will be expected to ensure that environmental assessments are integrated into planning decisions but they may not be required to prepare impact statements on acquisitions.
Discussions have also been held with Land Commissions and Urban Land Councils on environmental aspects of proposed programs, and with the Department of Environment on the environmental assessment requirements for, and clearance of, these programs. The development of a generalised two stage approach to assessment of the environmental implications of urban land development proposals, firstly at the acquisition phase in relation to broader regional strategies and secondly at the more localised development phase, is a significant objective.
In South Australia, lands acquired by the Land Commission have been in areas zoned for urban or future urban use under the Development Plan for Metropolitan Adelaide. Decisions regarding land use in this Plan have been deliberate and careful, and I understand that environmental issues were considered in the formulation of the Plan.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
When will the Minister answer my question No. 1715 which first appeared on the Notice paper on 13 November 1974.
– The Minister for Labor and Immigration has provided the following answer to the right honourable Member’s question:
Question No. 1715 was answered on 2 October 1975 (see Hansard of 2 October 1975, pages 1715 to 1718).
asked the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Report of Committee of Inquiry into Workloads in Government Factories (Question No. 2841) Mr Snedden asked the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, upon notice: ‘Further to Question No. 2365 concerning the final report of the Committee of Inquiry examining the additional workload for Government factories, does he intend to table this report; if so, when; if not, why not’
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is not proposed to table the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Workloads in the Government Factories. The Committee was established to develop workload opportunities for the factories and its report is essentially a working document directed at assisting in that particular regard.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is, as follows:
The seasonal adjustment of statistical series is based on the average monthtomonth changes in recent years, and any special factor which causes variation from such average movements may cause erratic movements in the adjusted series. For this and other reasons it is normally dangerous to try to draw any definite conclusions from changes in a single month. This danger is evident in the present case. There were factors associated with changes in annual leave arrangements and industrial disputes which may well have affected the seasonal adjustment of the series in question for January 1974, and it is to be noted that figures for all but one of the series increased again in February 1 975.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Overseas Loan Raisings
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) asked me this morning whether I would assure the House that all communications between the Minister for Minerals and Energy and loan raising intermediaries were tabled by the Minister and myself on 9 July or, if not, whether I would table the other documents.
I am assured by the Minister for Minerals and Energy that all communications of substance between him and Mr Khemlani were tabled by him on 9 July 1975.
Overseas Loan Raisings
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) asked me this morning whether, to use his words, ‘the Government’s chosen intermediary’ is a man of the highest integrity and repute and therefore suitable to act on behalf of the Australian Government, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested he had done over the last twelve months.
As indicated by the Minister for Minerals and Energy on 9 July (Hansard, p. 3613), Mr Khemlani was not authorised to act on behalf of the Australian Government.
Overseas Loan Raisings
– This morning the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) asked me whether it is correct that the Minister for Minerals and Energy has at all times consulted closely with me and sought my approval before initiating action in respect of overseas loans. He also asked me whether the Minister had informed me of communications to him on 1 1 June and 12 August.
Further to my response this morning, the answer is that the Minister consulted with me as appropriate. He did not consult with me on the specific communications mentioned- it was unnecessary.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 October 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19751009_reps_29_hor97/>.