30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will immediately cease the mining and prohibit the export of uranium until perfectly safe methods of final disposal for radioactive wastes have been guaranteed; will greatly increase expenditure on research into safe, clean and inexhaustible sources of energy; and will aid underdeveloped countries in their efforts to secure a fair share of the world’s energy resources, while at the same time honouring its obligations to the future of humanity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Killen, Mr Adermann, Mr Eric Robinson, Mr Bonnett, Mr Kevin Cairns, Mr Hodges and Mr Jul].
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 those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severly and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the means test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all Aged Pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a right and not a charity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Garland, Mr Hyde and Dr Richardson.
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 Budget will increase unemployment to unprecedented and crisis proportions at a time when hundreds of thousands of Australians, especially school-leavers, young workers and apprentices, are without work; the Budget completes the dismantling of Medibank as a simple, effective universal health insurance scheme, providing basic coverage for the total community; the Budget, by its heavy cuts in urban and transport programs, will worsen the quality of life available to many Australians; the Budget will compel state governments to reduce their services and increase charges; the Budget reduces spending on Aboriginal affairs by 30 per cent and returns expenditure on Aborigines to pre- 1 972 days; the Budget seriously disadvantages migrant groups, most notably in employment and health, and leaves room for concern over the future of ethnic radio; the Budget, despite the government’s earlier rhetoric about defence threats to Australia, continues to hold the size of the armed services at present levels; and the Budget, despite all the above, still cannot be expected to reduce Australia’s annual inflation rate below twelve per cent;
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the 1976 Budget be redrafted to provide for economic recovery within the guide-lines laid down by the Australian Labor Government’s 1975 Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon, Mr Morris and Mr Stewart.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
Federation who represent the vast majority of children in Australia attending Government Schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr E. G. Whitlam and Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully sho weth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament, assembled should:
Extend the freeze on European claims to the unalienated Crown Lands of the Northern Territory until 12 months after the passage of the Bill; and to provide for speedy lodging and hearing of Aboriginal claims. The hearing of the Aboriginal claims has been postponed as a result of Government decision, Aborigines should not be penalised.
Amend the Bill to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Beazley and Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Corbett and Mr McVeigh.
Symphony Orchestra in Newcastle
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Hunter Valley
Region respectfully showeth the lack of a resident professional symphony orchestra in Newcastle and surrounding areas, with consequent denial to the citizens of adequate provision of concerts, opera, ballet, school concerts, teaching of various orchestral instruments and career opportunities for young musicians.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament give due and early consideration to the provision of funds, in association with the N.S.W. State Government, Local Governments and the community of this region, for the establishment and maintenance of the Hunter Symphony Orchestra, consisting initially of 40 players, located in Newcastle and serving the cultural needs of the 500 000 inhabitants of the region, in accordance with the proposal and budget submitted to the Industries Assistance Commission,
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones and Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris and Mr Young.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whereas your petitioners respectfully request consideration be given to:
Both of the above being without the prerequisite of referral by a medical practitioner.
Therefore your petitioners pray your honourable House to legislate accommodation of these matters under the provisions of Federal law.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair.
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 are deeply concerned at the threat to the continuation of symphony orchestras throughout Australia posed by the I.A.C. and Green reports.
We believe that the Government should not allow the symphony orchestras of Australia to be reduced in any way at all.
Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will take steps to ensure the continuation and growth of our symphony orchestras, thereby ensuring that the quality of life of the people of this country shall be maintained.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will immediately increase the expenditure on solar energy research to an amount comparable with the current expenditure on atomic energy research and will give assurances to maintain solar energy research expenditure at this level, at least, until the year 2000 AD and maintain CSIRO control of the responsibility for solar research, until an appropriate commission can be established.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr J. F. Cairns.
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:
Therefore, your petitioners call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chipp.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned at the recent outbreak of racial riots and killings in South Africa.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
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 the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully urge that: there be continuing and expanding support for child care of all forms with particular emphasis on the needs of children whose parents either work or are furthering their education.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
Dockyards at Newcastle
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth:
That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of the Newcastle region.
That a recent study by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation showed that SO 000 people were partially or wholly maintained by the State Dockyard.
That stability is at present in jeopardy, as a new ship order is required within the next few weeks if serious unemployment and hardship is to be avoided.
That the previous Government’s plan for the building of a graving dock in Newcastle should be continued as proper ship repair facilities are a vital factor in the maintainance of a viable shipbuilding industry.
That the Government’s election pledge to restore business and employment can be implemented in Newcastle if new orders and a graving dock are granted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government place immediate orders with the Newcastle State Dockyard and implement the previous Government’s plan to build a graving dock in Newcastle.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the electors of McMillan respectfully sheweth:
Such alterations and amendments to the Family Law Act as will abolish the Maintenance and Alimony System and establish the right of fathers to custody of their own children against defaulting wives.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that: thereby reducing the divorce rate and re-establishing security and stability in family life.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Simon.
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 are concerned about the future of the Australian Assistance Plan.
That we request that the Commonwealth Government support the Australian Assistance Plan by providing for legislation and finance for the Plan on a national basis.
That we feel this way, because the Australian Assistance Plan is making it possible for citizens to help themselves, especially those who need help the most, such as invalid, the inarticulate, and others, as evidenced by the work of the Western Adelaide Regional Council for Social Development over the last two years.
That we believe that this represents the best possible use of limited government resources.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament take immediate steps to continue the Australian Assistance Plan as recommended in the report tabled by the Honourable, the Minister for Social Security, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, in Parliament on 4 March 1976.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Young.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House notes with regret the decision of the Mount Lyell Railway and Mining Co. Ltd to reduce production of copper concentrate at its Queenstown mines, and to close down the ‘Crown’ mines, the ‘Lower West’ mine and the ‘Royal Tharsis’ mine, and to retrench in 3 stages during December- January next 400 of the total work force of 1050 men and women.
Accordingly, this House resolves that because the towns of Queenstown and Gormanston are totally dependent on Mount Lyell for employment and the town of Strahan is substantially so dependent, and because these towns being situated on the remote and rugged West Coast of Tasmania have no rural industry and no alternative industrial employment, a critical situation has arisen and it is imperative that urgent discussions be held involving the Commonwealth Government, the State Government and the company on the following matters:
The immediate as well as long term future of Mount Lyell.
The nature of Government aid, if any, sought by the company in recent months.
Whether or not a copper bounty ensuring that the company receives a sufficient price for its copper concentrate to maintain a break-even position is feasible and appropriate in all the circumstances.
Whether the State Government can immediately relieve the company of payment of payroll tax for a moratorium period of 12 months.
Whether the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme can be extended to include copper concentrates shipped interstate in bulk by Mount Lyell.
And therefore, whilst realising the critical problems facing the company and its employees are caused by a prolonged period of low world copper prices and rapid escalation in production costs and State charges in recent years, this House urges prompt and effective action to be taken forthwith to avoid the immense social and human suffering which will occur to the people of the West Coast of Tasmania as a result of the proposed retrenchments.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the Australian Government has decided to discontinue the funding of the anti-tuberculosis X-ray campaign? When will the Australian Government funding cease and how much a year will that save? Which States have announced that they will not continue the anti-tuberculosis X-ray campaign as a result of the Australian Government’s decision to discontinue funding? Is this decision of the Australian Government yet another example of its mixed up priorities and lack of interest in the health of the Australian people?
– This is a fairly detailed question. I will supply the details to the honourable member later. The Government’s decision to terminate the special financial arrangements with the States under which the anti-tuberculosis campaign has been funded throughout Australia since 1948 was based on the fact that the campaign had achieved its aim of bringing tuberculosis in this country under control, in the knowledge that the States have been fully equipped with adequate beds and other facilities under the financial arrangements to enable them to maintain an adequate level of control of tuberculosis as part of their normal public health responsibilities and on the fact that the hospital costs of treating tuberculosis, which had earlier formed a large proportion of the reimbursements to the States under those arrangements, are now being met under the Medibank hospital agreements. A decision as to whether mass X-ray surveys should continue as part of their normal public health responsibilities is properly one for the States to take. We are having discussions with the States. I have written to all the State Ministers concerned. I am still waiting on replies from them. Some of the States have not been happy that we have vacated this field, but I think there is a general acceptance among them that since it is part of the public health programs that a State government normally would undertake it is not a hard decision in the longer term. We will maintain the National Tuberculosis Advisory Councila Commonwealth-State body- which will continue to monitor the incidence of tuberculosis in this country. Discussions are still going on with the States about the responsibilities they will accept.
-Is the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware of the special need for big capacity imported auto headers in grain areas of Australia, such as the electorates of Maranoa and Darling Downs? Do local manufacturers agree that no comparable capacity machines are manufactured in Australia? Would the manufacture of machines of such capacity in Australia result, on account of the limited market requirement, in significant purchase price increases in comparison with the imported machines? In view of these circumstances, will the Minister advise whether concessional by-law entry will be granted, and on what conditions, for these imported machines?
-The honourable gentleman has drawn my attention to a matter that has been the subject of representations from a number of honourable members, including those representing the electorates he named and also the honourable members for Angas and Wakefield. As a result of those representations and also representations from various farmer organisations, the Bureau of Customs discussed the matter with local manufacturers. There was some acknowledgment by local manufacturers that some of the harvesters now being imported into Australia have a much greater harvesting capacity than locally manufactured harvesters. As a consequence, I have approved a by-law for the duty free admission of certain large selfpropelled combine harvesters outside the range of local manufacture. For the purposes of administration of the by-law, the diameter and capacity dimensions will be involved. Full details will be the subject of publication in the form of a consolidated by-law reference. The point about price comparison is a little difficult to answer in the absence of suitably equivalent locally manufactured units. A price comparison cannot be made until such time as suitably equivalent units are manufactured locally.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has the rundown in Australia’s overseas reserves in recent months- the situation is that we now have only enough reserves to finance 3 months of imports- been due to the Government’s miscalculation in the Budget concerning foreign investment? Since tax concessions for foreign investors were a major factor causing the deficit contained in that Budget, will the Treasurer now agree that the Government’s strategy has failed? What corrective action will be taken to combat the growing level of unemployment and the balance of payments problem?
-The answer to the first question is no and the answer to the second question also is no. .
-Has the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations seen reports that the New South Wales Premier would like to end State control of aspects of industrial law? Did the Premier, in discussions with the Minister, make this offer before initiating the suggestion in a dramatic Press release? How do these comments square with the New South Wales Labor Government’s stated intention to go it alone in legislating to compel companies to make redundancy payments before retrenching employees?
-There does seem to me to be a basic inconsistency between what the New South Wales Premier is reported to be saying about industrial legislation and the unilateral action to which the honourable member referred. All I have seen are the Press reports. I find it rather strange that the New South Wales Premier has chosen this way of communicating with the Federal Government. Neither myself nor, as far as I am aware, the Prime Minister has had any communication from the Premier. I presume that the Premier is responding to an initiative taken by the Prime Minister a week or so ago when the Prime Minister wrote to Premiers suggesting cooperation between the Federal and State governments on industrial matters. If the New South Wales Government wants to put specific proposals to us in response to the Prime Minister’s initiative, of course we will be pleased to have a look at them.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact, as reported prominently in one of Australia’s major newspapers this morning, that the Prime Minister believes in the so-called justice of redistributing income to farmers and miners? How does he intend to do this? From where would the redistribution come? Would he have already done this were it not for the objections of the Reserve Bank of Australia? Did he, as suggested in the same report, go to church on Sunday and pray? If not, why not?
– I think that report contained many marked elements of fantasy. But that is not necessarily surprising.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House as to the decision of the Government on Fraser Island? Has the Queensland Government been informed of the decision and, if so, by whom and how? Is the Government prepared to look at alternative means of assistance to Maryborough and district as a result of loss of revenue to the area and increased unemployment?
-The Government’s position in relation to this matter will be made known later this afternoon or this evening by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. At the moment he is probably on the way back from Queensland because, with the Acting Minister for National
Resources, he visited the Premier this morning at about 12 o’clock to convey the details of the Commonwealth Government’s decision in relation to these matters. That was done in accordance with an undertaking which I gave to the Premier when we met a few days ago to discuss the problems of Fraser Island. On more than one occasion I have referred to the difficulty involved in coming to a decision about this matter because there are legitimate interests in the conservation of the natural environment of Fraser Island. Also, there are legitimate interests about the employment and well-being of the people involved in the mining enterprise.
These matters obviously are very important to Maryborough and district. Nevertheless, despite the very real concern which the Commonwealth has for these latter aspects, we have felt impelled to adopt the report and the arguments in the report. The last paragraph on page 184 of that report, I think, cogently and in one paragraph expresses the reasons for the Commonwealth’s action in that regard. The Ministers hope to establish arrangements with the Queensland Government which will enable the various programs conducted by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations to be applied effectively and efficiently in the area. If special arrangements are necessary, they will be undertaken. In addition, we will be proposing that there be discussions between the appropriate Ministers concerning the development of the forestry industry around the Maryborough region and the further development of tourism, especially as it relates to Fraser Island and the long-term objectives which one might have for these areas. The report will be applied and export contracts will not be forthcoming after the end of this calendar year. At the same time, there needs to be close consultation and collaboration between the Queensland and Commonwealth governments to try to ameliorate the employment effects of that decision. The Commonwealth will be using all its good offices to try to achieve a worthwhile result in that respect.
-I direct my question to the Attorney-General. Has the Attorney seen reports in the Australian Financial Review that he proposes to appoint somebody in Sydney- a former President of the Law Society- to report to him on the future of the Australian Legal Aid Office? Is he aware that this gentleman has a vested interest in not supporting Australian legal aid and is in fact an implacable opponent of it? In view of the uncertainty this report has caused, will the Attorney give an assurance that the Australian Legal Aid Office will remain and will be expanded to cope with the needs of all Australians in the Federal jurisdiction?
– As honourable members are aware, for some months I have been attempting to get the New South Wales Attorney-General to agree to establish a legal aid commission in New South Wales. That is the policy of this Government, and I am hoping that that AttorneyGeneral is still sincere when he tells me that he is thinking about it. However, having seen the report, I am beginning to wonder whether he is because he consistently says that the Government wants to close the Australian Legal Aid Office and to opt out of legal aid. Statements in the report such as those which are attributed to State ministers are absolutely incorrect. The fact is that this year the Government has increased the appropriation for legal aid by some 25 per cent. I myself have given a personal commitment to the legal aid officers that in any attempt to set up a legal aid commission their position would be preserved. I have given that assurance to officers not only in New South Wales but in every State and Territory of the Commonwealth. At this very time officers of my Department are having close discussions with officers in Western Australia with a view to coming to an agreement in relation to setting up a legal aid commission in Western Australia.
I have given some consideration to the question of having somebody inquire as to the activity in the Legal Aid Office in Sydney. Let me say this about it so that there will be no misunderstanding: First of all, honourable members will recall that the Legal Aid Office was set up by the previous Government by pushing Legal Aid Office lawyers onto empty floors of buildings in most cases, and they were told to go ahead and administer legal aid. When the ALAO was taken over by this Government it was in a state of confusion. In addition, in that period a great deal of misunderstanding existed between the private profession and the Legal Aid Office. The reason for that was that the previous Government did not bring the Office into force in a state of understanding. My approach and that of the Government has been to attempt to achieve that understanding. If there is an inquiry in relation to the Legal Aid Office in Sydney, the purpose of it will simply be to establish a working relationship between the Office and the private profession in New South Wales. If the Office is to be handed over to a legal aid commission set up by the 2 Governments it will be done in a way that will ensure that there is that understanding.
Furthermore, I think it is important to understand that a legal aid office is rather like a large firm of solicitors. Activities and practices which are used in large firms of solicitors can be used in a legal aid office. If an inquiry is to be held, its purpose would simply be to report on the building of that relationship to which I referred and to indicate what sorts of procedures might be adopted, if any, to improve the efficiency of the Office. As to the man mentioned, may I say that Mr Loxton was the President of the Law Society of New South Wales. He was closely associated with establishing the Mount Druitt Legal Aid Office in Mount Druitt, Sydney. He was also associated with establishing the Law Society’s legal aid scheme. I do not accept the criticism that has been made in relation to him, that is, that he is an opponent of the salaried service. I do not accept it at all. He is not such an opponent and his activity in relation to legal aid has shown that he has a real sympathy for setting up legal aid offices in places where people are disadvantaged.
– My question, which I address to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, concerns the introduction of worker control into Telecom Australia and Australia Post by the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union and action by that union to prevent the delivery of an estimated 30 000 articles of mail addressed to John Fairfax and Sons Ltd and its subsidiaries. I ask the Minister: Is it illegal under legislation enacted by this Parliament during the life of the former Labor Government to withhold the delivery of mail? Further, was an injunction recently granted by Mr Justice Taylor in the New South Wales Supreme Court to prevent the Union from hindering or obstructing mail addressed to John Fairfax and Sons Ltd or its newspapers? Does Australia Post propose to take action to have this illegally delayed mail delivered without further delay?
– This, of course, is a very important and sensitive problem. What the honourable member for Farrer said with regard to court proceedings is perfectly true. An injunction has been issued. I do not want to say anything here, or anywhere else for that matter, that will aggravate this position because one would hope that sufficient common sense would be displayed and that we could solve this matter rather than inflame it into something of greater proportions.
Let me say that I deplore the action of members of the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union. I would expect them to have regard to the decisions of the court. I would hope that senior office bearers of that union could bring their influence to bear for the exercise of common sense. It is quite improper for people to use their power to single out one particular enterprise in Australia simply because they want to help another union that is in dispute with that enterprise.
I would like the House to know that, despite the fact that I have not made a number of public statements, I have been keeping in close touch with the Australian Postal Commission, with the company concerned and with my colleague, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street. There is to be another meeting tomorrow morning. I would hope that common sense will prevail. There is, of course, a limit to anyone’s patience.
– Without notice I address a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to the recommendation by Mr Green that guidelines for programming for Radio Australia should be set by the Department of Foreign Affairs in consultation with the Department of Overseas Trade. I ask: Is it a fact that the independent inquiry into Radio Australia under the chairmanship of Sir Keith Waller, which reported to the Government last December, recommends explicitly against any government department having such control? When will the Minister be able to announce the Government’s decision on who is to have responsibility for Radio Australia? Will he table the Waller report before or after the Government announces its decision?
– The Green report makes certain recommendations. I stress -
– There are no copies of it.
-If the little chatterbox will be quiet for a minute or two he will be better informed. I make the point to the Leader of the Opposition that that is a report; it is not a decision of government The Government has taken no decision whatsoever. We have the Waller report. I have asked my Department to consider this matter in consultation with other departments. I hope that we can bring something to the Parliament in the fairly near future.
-Has the attention of the Minister for the Northern Territory been drawn to a statement, reported in the media, attributed to Major-General Stretton and asserting that, of a total of $ 15m raised for the victims of Darwin’s cyclone Tracy, about $7m has not been accounted for? Can the Minister indicate whether the statement could be true?
– I have seen some of the media reports of statements attributed to General Stretton. Of course we all pay tribute to the magnificent role performed by him in the aftermath of cyclone Tracy. After cyclone Tracy many donations were made to provide relief for the stricken people of Darwin. Of the funds provided, more than $8m was received by the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust and disbursed by it. The trust fund was established in early 1975 before we were the Government. In accordance with the trust deed, since that date regular monthly reports and financial statements have been tabled in the Parliament. I recently tabled reports for the months of February to June 1 976. That trust account is now being wound up. It will be subject to audit and the final report will be tabled in this Parliament.
Other amounts paid by groups to other groups in Darwin may total $7m, or whatever figure it was that General Stretton claimed. These amounts did not go through the Trust. Accountability for them lies outside the Trust and the Government and with those parties which handed the money over to local groups. It is known, for example, that Herald and Weekly Times Ltd gave about $lm to the Salvation Army, Red Cross received a large amount, and other organisations such as Rotary, Lions, and the Returned Services League dealt through their own organisations. I believe that that is the answer to General Stretton ‘s query. We do not look for mistakes or try to pinpoint mistakes that were made at the time of cyclone Tracy. The people of Darwin and the people of the rest of Australia rallied magnificently in an emergency. The thing we must do is learn from those mistakes. That was the first time Australia was confronted with a disaster of this size.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Will the evidence received by the National Population Inquiry headed by Professor Borrie be published? As the first report of the National Population Inquiry mentioned in a footnote on page 710 that the report on the economic study was nearing completion, can the Minister tell the House the current progress of the cost-benefit analysis and when the results will be published?
-The first matter relates to the evidence supplied to the inquiry. I will look at the case and see whether the evidence can be made available. The second matter related to the cost-benefit analysis. Is that the one performed by Professor Wilson?
– It is mentioned on page 710, but not in those terms.
– I think it is the study that was commissioned to be handled by Professor Wilson. We have a preliminary report from the Professor. It is not finalised yet. As soon as it is finalised I will make a decision on whether it should be published.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General and is further to a question asked some weeks ago. Has the AttorneyGeneral received reports as to the activities of a number of religious sects involving allegations of brainwashing and indoctrination of persons joining them and alienation of children from their parents?
– This matter was raised in the House some weeks ago. As I pointed out then, it does present us with a dilemma. On the one hand there is the clear right to religious freedom that is embedded to some extent in section 1 16 of our Constitution. On the other hand, I do not believe that any thinking person could fail to be appalled by the material that has been put before me as to the effects of certain religious sects on the lives of young people. I believe that the situation confronts us with a dilemma. We hear about cases of intense processes of indoctrination, brainwashing and restrictions upon personal freedom. We have heard about cases in which young people have handed over their assets to these organisations and have become disaffected. Perhaps it is the search by some of our young people for some new life style or an attitude of bewilderment with the society in which they are living which has caused them to do this. But at the same time, it has raised this very serious question. I think we need to ask whether the problem has ceased to be one of freedom of religion or rather is one of the protection of the young from skilfully organised people who are attempting to brainwash, indoctrinate and deprive people of property.
I raised this question recently with the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, but the reaction of the Attorneys-General was simply to note the matter. They were not prepared to take it up. I can only say that I shall keep it under consideration within my Department. It was a matter for review by the Attorney-General of New York. He had to give up also. However, may I say also that the law does provide, as the lawyers present will recall, in cases of undue influence upon those who have been affected by a religious experience or by an over-religious experience which has resulted in them giving away their property, that if they have done so in a relationship of influence on the part of those involved, they can go to court and claim a return of their property. At the moment, that is about the only law which provides some sort of an answer to this type of problem.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for the Northern Territory. Has his attention been drawn to comments by the chairman of the National Disasters Organisation and the remarks at pages 1 and 2 of the March-April report of the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund of last year which referred to the multiplicity of appeals, the inequitable distribution of funds and the duplication of relief payments? Is he aware that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board under existing legislation has no power to regulate the conduct of radiothons telethons or any appeals of that nature conducted by the electronic media? Will he ensure that any changes to the Broadcasting and Television Act and other appropriate legislation will bring into operation public accountability on the part of those conducting such appeals? Finally, will he support a parliamentary inquiry into the general conduct of radiothons and telethons on a public basis as occurred between the period December 1974 and June 1975?
– The honourable gentleman will have heard the Minister for the Northern Territory say that the thing to do in relation to the experiences that have come out of cyclone Tracy and what has happened since is to learn for the future. The honourable gentleman has made certain suggestions. I have no doubt that the Ministers who will be responsible for taking up those suggestions will examine them.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, relates to the problems of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd in Tasmania. The Prime Minister will appreciate that one of the causes of the retrenchments has been the rapid escalation in production costs and State charges, especially State payroll tax, in recent years. Can he suggest any means by which the company may be given some relief from these costs and charges?
-The honourable gentleman is right to point to the importance of State taxes and charges and the consequences of State legislation on the fortunes of companies large and small within State boundaries. Payroll tax collections from this company over a 3-year period rose by approximately $200,000. The Premier of Tasmania now has made an intriguing suggestion that if men are first sacked and then re-employed the State will not charge payroll tax for the people who are thus sacked and re-employed. That would seem to be an odd type of scheme. I cannot understand why the Premier tries to insist that people be sacked and be reemployed before he is prepared to give a concession in relation to payroll tax to industries in his own area. It is also worth noting that the Premier finished the last financial year with a Budget surplus of $4m and a loan account surplus of about $17m. If the Premier were really and truly concerned about these matters it would be within his province to take some action without standing on his head and requiring that people be sacked before companies can qualify for a particular concession. It seems a strange way of going about business.
In the years from 1973-74 to 1975-76 although the number of people employed by the company was reduced from about 1300 to a little over 1000, the cost of workers compensation to the company increased from just over $400,000 to $ 1 .2m. That is not only a mark of inflation but also the result of State legislation. Quite obviously the additional charges in respect of payroll tax and workers compensation put a very heavy additional burden on this company as they would on every company in Tasmania. That ought to be noted. The honourable member brought a delegation from the Queenstown Trades and Labour Council to me yesterday. The delegation had earlier put an interesting and constructive suggestion to the company. It advised me as did the honourable member, that it had earlier put the suggestion to the company. It was that there should be a work sharing arrangement in an effort to avoid retrenchments. The Council also of its own volition volunteered to see whether it could work out with the agreement of the employees concerned- it was their suggestion and not a suggestion of the honourable member or myself- an arrangement whereby there would be a reduction in wages, if this would assist the company in maintaining employment. This proposal was put to the manager last Thursday, I am advised, and it was then dismissed. I spoke with somebody from the company during the course of the discussion with the delegation yesterday and was given an assurance that the proposal would be appropriately examined. I also said that the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations would make any of its personnel and expertise available if employers and the Trades and Labour Council would like some assistance in examining the proposal further.
A proposal of this kind highlights the seriousness of the situation. This is not just a company and it is not just a mine; it is a community which is isolated and in which there are not many other areas of employment. If the employees concerned are prepared to go to these lengths to share the difficulties of the present situation amongst themselves rather than have the total burden fall on 300 or 400 out of the 1000 employees, that is a matter that ought to be examined very closely by the company obviously in prospect of better times with an upturn in copper prices which would enable the operation to go forward on a better basis. I hope that these matters will be very seriously considered. Certainly the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations stands ready to have somebody from his Department visit the area and discuss these matters with the Trades and Labour Council, if that is the Council’s wish, and also to discuss the application of any of the standing programs that are administered by the Minister and his Department if they are believed to be relevant. The attitude and the proposal of the deputation which saw me yesterday is certainly to be commended. It ought to be pursued and examined. These proposals are not novel. They might be novel in Australia but in other countries they have been pursued and applied with success and if there is a wish on both sides for them they could be applied with success here.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. What advice has he received from Crown Law officers concerning allegations, passed on to him 6 months ago, that breaches of the currency regulations had been committed by the man whom the Premier of Queensland had engaged to carry out loan investigations overseas? When did he receive the advice and how does he propose to act on it?
-I have already received the advice. I think there were 3 matters referred to. Quite frankly, I have adopted the attitude, as the Leader of the Opposition knows, of not airing in public matters that affect individuals. I think that is a quite proper attitude to adopt. Two of the matters raised by the honourable gentleman, or I think by his former private secretary, were found on examination by the Crown Law officers to be not well grounded in law. The other matter was investigated and a decision has been made. Although there are some facts which would support a prosecution, it has been decided not to proceed with the matter because, in accordance with past practices, such a matter, with such a slight breach of the law involved, would not have been prosecuted. There seems to be no reason in this particular case to take any course different from the one that has been taken in other cases.
WATER TANK AT POINT McLEAY
-Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware that the water tank supplying Point McLeay collapsed on Monday night with the result that the town is running the risk of being without reticulated water for the summer? Will the Minister tell the House how much money was made available to the State of South Australia to provide an adequate water supply for Point McLeay and when that money was first provided? Whilst I understand that some emergency provisions are being made by that State, will the Minister use all the resources at his disposal to ensure that the State commences work immediately, as further reluctance by it to do so will cause great inconvenience and a grave risk of disease in the area?
– I am aware that the water tower at Point McLeay collapsed on Monday night. My Department in South Australia, in conjunction with the Point McLeay Community Councilthat is the council of the Aboriginal people living there- and the South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department, has taken emergency steps to supply water to the community. Two 20 000-gallon tanks are being provided and the South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department has advised that these tanks ought to be erected by the weekend. They will be paid for out of moneys provided by my Department in previous years which, regrettably, were not spent on a water reticulation project to renew completely the water reticulation system. As far back as April 1975-1 might say that this was under the previous Administration $240,000 was provided by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for this purpose. The Community Council entered into a contract with the South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department to carry out this work. Regrettably, the work has not proceeded with the speed with which it ought to have proceeded. My Department has been pressing both the Council and the South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department to get on with the job. Presently an amount of $ 1 97,000 is available out of this year’s Budget appropriation for this project. On 2 November my colleague in the other place, Senator Guilfoyle, notified the Senate that it was expected that the work would commence within 3 weeks. That 3 weeks period has nearly passed. Now that the water tower has collapsed, I hope that everybody concerned will get on with the job so that the people of Point McLeay can have a proper water reticulation system.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of his advocacy that the State governments should forgo payroll tax and also that workers compensation payments should cease in the case of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd, will the Prime Minister examine means by which his Government can pay portion of the amount which normally would be paid in unemployment benefit to persons laid off, in order to support employment of persons in that area and other areas similarly affected?
– The honourable gentleman has put forward an interesting suggestion; but I think he has overlooked the thrust of my remarks, which was that increases in payroll tax and changed arrangements in relation to workers compensation had added very greatly to the charges that had been placed upon companies, in particular the Mount Lyell mining company. If the honourable gentleman looks at Commonwealth company tax, for example, he will find that over a period- and in part during the period when he was sitting on the other side of the House- it was reduced from 47 per cent to 42 Vi per cent. The Treasurer will correct me if I am wrong. But at a time when there had been a reduction in Commonwealth imposts- at least in that regard- there were very considerable increases in State taxation.
The message needs to be understood that, in a situation in which a State ended a year with a $4m surplus on its revenue account and $ 17m on its loan account, it cannot just go along and believe that the consequences of its actions will have no impact upon the industries within its locality. The policies pursued by the Tasmanian Government have very clearly had an impact upon the fortunes of industries within Tasmania. Despite the very marked contribution to Tasmanian industrial development and trade that this Government has introduced through the freight equalisation payments and the general policies of the Government there are still continuing difficulties in Tasmania. That is recognised. What we are saying is that quite clearly the Government of Tasmania could make a much greater contribution to the wellbeing of industry in Tasmania if it had a will to do so. I think everyone in this Parliament knows and, by this time, nearly everyone in Tasmania knows that Mr Neilson came to Canberra yesterday in part to lay the groundwork and to do what he can for a State election. It has been made quite plain that what he is involved in is the preparations for an election and the people of Tasmania should well understand that.
-Can the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs indicate when the interdepartmental committee will be submitting to him its report summarising the recommendations in the report of the Industries Assistance Commission and subsequent industry submissions on the Australian dried fruit industry? When is the Cabinet expected to make a decision on the committee’s recommendations? Can the Minister give an assurance that the Cabinet’s decision will take into consideration the social and welfare implications of any economic adjustment to the industry and the decentralised communities it supports?
– This Industries Assistance Commission report was furnished to the Government either late last year or early this year and made public in January of this year. An announcement was made subsequently- in February of this year- that the dried vine fruits stabilisation scheme would be extended to cover the 1976 season. Following the release of the report the Government received representations from the Australian Dried Fruits Association and the Federal Grape Growers Council asking that they be allowed some extra time to study the report. That request was granted. Final comments were not received from those 2 bodies until after their respective council meetings in July and August. I anticipate that the interdepartmental committee will have completed its examination of the report by about the end of this month. I can assure the honourable gentleman, both in respect of this IAC report and in respect of all other IAC reports which have obvious social, employment and regional consequences, particularly to isolated communities that are highly dependent upon a particular industry, that in making any decisions on the IAC reports the Government will pay very special regard to the types of problems to which he has referred.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands for the period from 1 January 1975 to 3 1 December 1975.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Education relating to the programs of the education commissions for the 1977-79 triennium.
– Pursuant to section 99 of the Telecommunications Act 1975, I present the annual report of the Australian Telecommunications Commission for the year ended 30 June 1976.
-I ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do.
-The honourable member may proceed.
-During the adjournment debate last Thursday and in a letter addressed to you, Mr Speaker, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) misrepresented me on a number of points. In accordance with my response to the letter, I take this first opportunity to make a personal explanation. The honourable member for Hunter first alleged that during a division in the House I opened and read documents left on his table. The claim is totally untrue. My recollection is that there were papers on the table in front of his seat. In the course of the division I may have glanced at the uppermost paper. If I did so I do not recall the contents thereof. I did not make notes relating to the paper. During the division referred to I did make notes on a daily Hansard relating to a debate in which I participated that day. The notes in no way referred to any document on the honourable member’s table. The allegations reflect on my personal integrity in a manner which I regard as reprehensible. I repeat that, apart from an inadvertent glance at whatever may have been uppermost on the table, the allegations are totally untrue.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do.
-The honourable member may proceed.
-Mr Speaker, you will recall that you prevented me from explaining my case on certain grounds in allegations against the honourable member. In my speech in the adjournment debate I was allowed to say only that he opened certain documents. I intended to correct that, if I have been allowed, by saying that he unfolded certain documents. The documents were folded in this manner on my seat here.
– That is, they were folded four ways.
-I repeat, they were folded. They were opened by the honourable member.
– Order! I am not prepared to allow the honourable member to debate the matter. As I told him the other night, he may only make an accusation on the basis of a substantive motion. That is not the position now. No such substantive motion is before the House. What he is entitled to do now is to make a personal explanation as to a misrepresentation relating to him.
– I will endeavour to conform with your request. I have been misrepresented in that the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) said that he never opened the documents. He did unfold the documents. He was personally observed by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) who is a man of integrity in this House. He was seen to copy from the document.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I do not accept his explanation. He has misled the House.
– I take a point of order. The honourable member implied that the honourable member for La Trobe is not a member with integrity. He suggested that whereas the honourable member for Maribyrnong might be, the honourable member for La Trobe was not. I regard that as an unacceptable statement and I suggest that the honourable member be asked to withdraw it.
– Speaking to the point of order, I suggest that one can readily understand the confusion in the mind of the honourable member for Hunter. Having risen during the adjournment debate to question what may or may not have happened where he sits in the House, he was prevented from explaining fully what had occurred. He now faces the accusation that what he said was incorrect. How best does he explain to the House exactly what happened without flouting your ruling?
– I give a ruling on the point raised by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair). I cannot call for the withdrawal of a statement which is only a statement by way of implication. Therefore I do not call on the honourable member for Hunter to withdraw that statement. I have allowed the honourable member for Hunter more liberty under the Standing Orders to explain his case than the Standing Orders would permit. It seems to me perfectly obvious that an allegation has been made by the honourable member for Hunter. It has been denied by the honourable member for La Trobe. There is no way in which this Parliament can or ought to establish itself as a court to determine facts. I do not propose to do that. An allegation has been made and denied. I think that is where the matter ought to rest.
- Mr Speaker, will you guide me as to how to bring this matter before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Privileges so that the honourable member for Maribyrnong might be interviewed?
– I will not, in these circumstances or indeed in any circumstances, offer advice to an honourable member as to any course of action he may elect to proceed with. That is a matter for the honourable gentleman to determine himself.
I have before me a note which tells me that an honourable member wishes to make a personal explanation. I inform the honourable gentleman that it is not sufficient when wishing to make a personal explanation to send me a note in the
House. Anybody wishing to make a personal explanation should approach me and inform me that he intends to do so. If the honourable gentleman pursues that course I shall consider whether I will give him the opportunity.
– by leave- I visited Port Moresby from 6 to 8 November to sign the Papua New Guinea /Australia Trade and Commercial Relations Agreement on behalf of the Government of Australia. Sir Maori Kiki signed on behalf of the Government of Papua New Guinea. A joint Press statement was issued by Sir Maori and myself following signature of the Agreement on 6 November. The Agreement will come into force when notes are exchanged between the Government of Australia and the Government of Papua New Guinea notifying compliance with their respective legal requirements. Trade between Papua New Guinea and Australia has always been an important feature of the special relationship which exists between the 2 countries. Since 1926 Australia has accorded special duty free entry to Papua New Guinea products. In the 1950s Australia obtained waivers from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to accord extensive duty free treatment to Papua New Guinea primary and processed primary products. At the present time 95 per cent of Australian imports from Papua New Guinea enter free of duty.
Papua New Guinea is an important market for Australian exports. In 1975-76 Australian producers exported approximately $170m worth of goods to Papua New Guinea. This represented 49 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s total imports. Papua New Guinea is Australia’s eleventh largest market for all exports and the third largest market for manufactured goods. Until the Agreement just signed comes into force trade relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea will continue to be governed by the Memorandum of Understanding relating to interim trade and commercial arrangements. The Memorandum, which was signed in December 1973, was intended to cover trade relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea in the period between self-government and independence. It was extended in April 1975 to cover the period between independence and the conclusion of a more permanent trade and commercial relations agreement between the 2 countries.
Objectives of the Agreement
Most of the trade between Papua New Guinea and Australia has traditionally been free of duties and other restrictions. It was therefore appropriate that both countries should enter into a free trade agreement. The Agreement was drawn up on the basis of the following 3 aims: To continue and extend the duty free and concessional conditions of access for Papua New Guinea exports into Australia; to allow the Papua New Guinea Government to develop new industries and to protect them from import competition; and to enable the Papua New Guinea Government to pursue its social and economic objectives through the encouragement of capital inflow consistent with its investment guidelines. It was recognised by both countries that Australia, in entering into this Agreement, should retain the right to protect its industries where it is considered that they are threatened with serious injury by imports from Papua New Guinea. It was also recognised that the Agreement should accord with Australia’s GATT and other international obligations.
Consistent with the aims outlined above the objectives of the Agreement are: To further the development of the area through the expansion and diversification of trade; to further the development and use of the resources of the area in accordance with the respective social and economic objectives of the member states; to further the development of the area by the promotion of direct investment which is consistent with the foreign investment policies and priorities of the recipient member states; to promote and facilitate commercial, industrial, administrative and technical co-operation between member states; and to contribute to the harmonious development and expansion of world trade and to the progressive removal of barriers to it. Accordingly the Agreement provides that a free trade area is established consisting of Papua New Guinea and Australia and that subject to certain exceptions specified in the Agreement trade between the member states should be free of duties and other restrictive regulations of commerce.
At present Papua New Guinea’s exports to Australia consist mainly of foodstuffs and raw materials. However, Papua New Guinea has indicated its intention to establish new industries. Australia can assist in this development by allowing the products of Papua New Guinea industries to enter Australia duty free provided adequate safeguards are available to protect Australian industry. The Agreement, therefore, provides that Australia accord duty free entry to imports from Papua New Guinea on all but some 270 highly sensitive items. In addition there are 210 items, which are specified in the agreed minutes attached to the Agreement, and in respect of which Australia may take unilateral protective action if damage is caused or threatened to an Australian industry producing those goods. In those items where duties on a wide range of industrial and other products have been eliminated for Papua New Guinea, safeguards to protect Australian industry are included in the Agreement where serious injury is caused or threatened. There are also special provisions covering rules of origin, deflection of trade, dumping or subsidised trade and the suspension of obligations in exceptional or emergency circumstances.
The Australian Position under the Agreement
Whilst the Agreement meets the requirements of the free trade provisions of the GATT it is not the intention of the Australian Government to ask the Papua New Guinea Government to discriminate in favour of Australia as against third countries. Australia will receive no better access than any other country. The Agreement provides no special conditions in relation to Australian investment in Papua New Guinea. In this respect the Agreement is similar to the Lome Convention under which the European Economic Community grants non-reciprocal tariff preferences to a large number of developing countries and to which Papua New Guinea has received approval from the Council of the Economic Community for accession. At the same time Australia’s most favoured nation position in Papua New Guinea is protected under the Agreement by the provision pursuant to which each Government agrees to accord the other treatment no less favourable than that accorded to any third country.
Trade with Third Countries
Any diversification of trade affecting third country suppliers to the Australian market will be gradual and will take place over a long period of time. Papua New Guinea is not expected to move in the foreseeable future to develop industries other than those based on its traditional exports. With regard to developing countries, nothing in the Agreement precludes Australia from continuing the liberal access it has already granted developing countries through its generalised scheme of preferences, or from making a positive contribution to the development of international trade through the GATT.
Other matters covered by the Agreement include, inter alia:
Consultation on the contribution of direct Australian investment to the social and economic development of Papua New Guinea in accordance with that Government’s foreign investment policies and priorities;
Industrial, technical and administrative cooperation; the promotion of trade; consultations on the supply of scarce essential commodities; the encouragement and facilitation of commercial contracts; the association of other States with the Agreement; and the periodic consultation and review of the operation of the Agreement.
I have arranged for copies of the Agreement to be placed in the Library for the reference of honourable members. I intend to table the Agreement in the House in the near future and I understand that legislation will be introduced in the House as soon as possible to amend the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff Act and the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act. Once this legislation is passed through both Houses the Australian Government will be in a position to exchange notes and thereby to bring the Agreement into force.
Honourable gentlemen will be aware that I went to Papua New Guinea on behalf of the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Anthony) who is temporarily indisposed. I express my appreciation for the assistance rendered to me on that visit by the Permanent Head of the Department of National Resources, the Permanent Head of the of the Department of Overseas Trade and Mr McDonnell a senior officer with the Department of Overseas Trade. I commend the statement to the House.
-I seek leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The Opposition joins with the Government in welcoming the proposed agreement to replace the memorandum which was signed during the lifetime of the Labor Government. Over the years, we on this side of the House took very positive steps to see that Papua New Guinea received its political independence, and we are just as enthusiastic about Papua New Guinea receiving its economic independence. It is also pleasing for the Opposition to see that such a person as Sir Maori Kiki will sign on behalf of his Government. Over the years, we have had a lot in common with that representative of the Government of Papua New Guinea and many of us today would share his views on Governors-General. The market of Papua New Guinea is just as important to Australia as the Australian market is to Papua New Guinea. At the moment, 95 per cent of imports from Papua New Guinea enter Australia free of duty. I am sure that the figures will be rather illuminating for honourable members. According to the Minister’s statement, in 1975-76 Australian producers exported approximately $170m worth of goods to Papua New Guinea. That represented 49 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s total imports. So, one can see instantly the importance of Australia to that country. Papua New Guinea is also the third largest market for our manufactured goods. Of course, that position may change in the years ahead because of the development of industries in that country. Papua New Guinea will have to diversify its industries before it can reach the total economic independence which we in Australia would like to see.
The memorandum was signed during the lifetime of the Labor Government and indicated its initiatives and wish for Papua New Guinea to be put on a true economic footing. There will be difficulties about the economic relationship between our own country and Papua New Guinea. There will be difficulties in that country in its dealings with other Third World countries and other developed countries, in the building of its industries, in their protection, and perhaps in some of the concessions which are granted to the industries which will be built up in Papua New Guinea and will produce the same lines of goods as those produced in Australia. As all honourable members will realise, at the moment some industries in Australia are going through particular problems as a result of the concessions granted to developing countries and as a result of the agreement with New Zealand. Obviously we will see the same sorts of problems resulting from the agreement with Papua New Guinea. It is to be hoped that the unilateral action which can be taken by Australia and which was referred to in the Minister’s statement does not have to be taken. It is to be hoped that Australia can successfully monitor the build-up of industries in Papua New Guinea and the impact they have on industries in Australia so that the period during which those industries are built up will be smooth. As I said, it is in the interests of all political parties in this country for us to encourage the build-up of industries and skills and the diversification of industry in Papua New Guinea. The Opposition welcomes the Minister’s statement and looks forward to the signing of the agreement as soon as possible.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 1 1.4S a.m. tomorrow.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, I present the Committee’s report on proposals for variations of the plan of layout of the City of Canberra and its environs, 62nd series.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I ask for leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-This report deals with 32 proposals to vary the plan of layout of the City of Canberra and is the sixty-second such series of proposals to be referred to the Committee by the Minister for the Capital Territory. The Committee has been asked to deal with a large number of proposed variations during this current period of sittings. For instance, we reported to the Parliament on the 60th and 61st series on only 5 October last. We were requested to deal as quickly as possible with the present series to enable construction work to proceed on some of the items early in the new year. This has meant that we have not been able to give the detailed consideration to some of these proposals that their importance seems to warrant. In particular, we were asked to approve a number of variations that would have the effect of converting sites previously designated for development for medium density housing to permit development of those areas by the construction of standard detached housing. The Committee takes the view that it should obtain more information from the National Capital Development Commission on the Commission’s long term policies for medium density housing in Canberra before it signifies approval to 3 proposals presented in the current series. The proposals in question involve a change of land use from medium to low density in areas close to shopping centres in Wanniassa, in Tuggeranong, the Kippax Centre in Holt and at Latham in Belconnen. The Committee has adopted a similar approach to a proposal put forward in this series for a new road to link the Campbell Park office complex with the Russell Offices. The Committee is not satisfied that the new road is necessary or that the new office blocks could not be served by modifications to existing roads.
In our report we request that implementation of these 4 proposals not proceed until we have examined them further and reported on them to the Parliament again. We would expect to do this early in the autumn sittings of 1977. We have requested that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) postpone that action he would normally take on receiving our report, which is to table the instrument of variations in both the Houses of Parliament, until the Committee has had the opportunity to give further consideration to these particular matters. I should also mention 2 other proposals of importance contained in the series now before the Senate. We were asked to approve a proposal for an access road off Canberra Avenue to serve a site for a tannery and other as yet undetermined industrial uses in the Jerrabomberra district. This is near the existing abattoirs. In the long term it is proposed to site other works in this area- of about 9 hectareswhich like the tannery have the potential to cause some environmental problems. The Committee was satisfied that the selected site is sufficiently distant from land users likely to be affected by the tannery. We were assured by officers of the Department of the Capital Territory that, in the construction and operation of any plant to be developed in the area, laws for environmental protection would be rigidly enforced. We expressed some concern that the Clean Air Ordinance is still only in draft form and has not yet become law. We recommend in our report that development of the tannery not be approved until the Ordinance has come into force. Other proposals contained in the current series which will be of interest to honourable members are those that will permit the development of the Belconnen Town Centre- in particular the proposed major shopping mall and the commencement of work to substantially improve parts of the Monaro Highway.
Finally, I should add something about the procedures we adopt when considering variations. When notice is given by the Minister of his intention to vary the gazetted plan, members of the public have 12 days in which to lodge objections to any proposal. It has been our custom when examining the proposals to call before the Committee those persons who have made formal objections. By this means the Committee can inform itself on community attitudes to proposals. On this occasion we facilitated an exchange of views between objectors and officers of the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Capital Territory. This seemed to us preferable to the procedure adopted in the past of discussing the objections separately with the official witnesses and the objectors themselves. We will adopt this practice in future whenever the importance of a particular matter would appear to warrant such a procedure. We have also asked the Minister to consider a new procedure which would ensure that, in future, consideration of variations by the Committee can be regularised so that they would come before us twice a year- once in the autumn sittings and once in the Budget sittings. This would obviate some of the problems which have arisen occasionally in the past with the Committee being asked to hurry its consideration of variations to meet planned development schedules. I commend the report to the House.
-I seek leave of the House to make a short statement on behalf of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-On 2 November the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) presented a petition to this House on behalf of a number of Australian citizens concerning alleged harassment of Jews residing in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and of Jews who seek to emigrate from the USSR to Israel. At the time of moving that the petition be printed, the honourable member for Mackellar outlined to the House his intention to submit the petition to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence for examination.
I inform the House that the Committee has considered this request and has agreed under section la of its terms of reference to undertake an inquiry into the subject. Owing to commitments on current inquiries the Committee cannot undertake this investigation immediately but anticipates that it will be able to do so early in the coming year. The terms of this petition open up a very wide subject and the Committee will be shortly determining its strategy for the conduct of the inquiry.
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G.
Whitlam) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The threat of political control over all forms of broadcasting.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– The Fraser Government’s long-planned and carefully orchestrated campaign to stifle the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been revealed at last. The ABC is to be remodelled according to the political tastes of the Liberal Party and the wishes of the commercial broadcasting industry. That is the purpose of the so-called restructuring of broadcasting which the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) announced last week. When the Fraser Government speaks of restructuring broadcasting it means restructuring the ABC. It is the ABC alone, not the commercial broadcasting stations, whose structure and control are to be changed by the Government’s proposals. It is the ABC alone whose interests are threatened. It is the ABC alone which will be subjected to periodic scrutiny and review by government inquiries. It is the ABC alone whose independence and integrity are challenged.
The campaign of intimidation against the national broadcasting service has been building up for over a year. It has taken 2 principal forms, the first being cuts in the ABC’s budget designed to cripple its services and demoralise its staff. The Fraser Government cut more than $lm from the Commission’s budget early this year and refused requests for additional revenues to cover staff costs which have increased with indexation. This has led already to severe retrenchments in ABC staff and heavy cutbacks in local program production. Secondly, there have been direct attacks on the ABC by Liberal and National Country Party spokesmen. During the election campaign last year the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) publicly attacked the ABC and demanded the appointment of a censor to monitor its current affairs programs. That is typical of a long-standing attitude of illiberality and paternalism towards the ABC by conservative politicians. Thirdly, there has been a deliberate attempt to create confusion and obscurity about the future of the national broadcasting service. For 8 months the Government refused to appoint a full-time chairman of the Commission or to confirm the permanent appointment of its qualified and respected Vice-Chairman, Dr Earle Hackett. At a time when the Commission desperately needed a full-time chairman with full authority to speak on its behalf, the Fraser Government did its best to ensure that the Commission was left rudderless and vulnerable to government pressure.
The smokescreen for its latest proposals to reshape the ABC and force it to conform to Liberal direction is the report by Mr Green. The Government is trying to present the report as some sort of justification for its actions. Not only is the report silent on most of the changes now proposed for the ABC; it is in fact opposed to them. Clearly the Government hoped that by announcing its changes first and- after a shameful and totally needless delay- releasing the Green report afterwards, the public would be persuaded to ignore the conflict between the two. There are any number of disagreements between the Green recommendations and the Fraser Government’s intentions. Mr Green recommended that a broadcasting planning board be established to undertake research and planning in the policy area. The Government ignores that proposal. Mr Green envisaged a powerful role for the proposed Broadcasting Council which has been downgraded to some sort of advisory function. There was no mention in the Minister’s statement of any support staff for the Council as recommended by Mr Green. The one basic matter in which the Government has more or less accepted the Green report is in the establishment of the Tribunal- a body which will be mainly concerned with the commercial stations, and whose establishment in some form or other the commercial broadcasters were openly advocating.
Where the Green report is flagrantly at variance with the Government’s intentions is in the structure of the ABC, especially the reshaping of the Commission itself. The report says flatly that ‘it does not support the view that there should be a representative from each State’. It labels statutory requirements for female members as being ‘at the least anachronistic, and at worst sexist’. What the Government is doing is using these 2 changes- a representative from each State and 2 women members- as an excuse to sack the whole Commission. It is using a sop to primitive federalism and a sop to women as an excuse to disband the Commission and to appoint its own sympathisers. I say ‘an excuse’ because, if the Government wants to appoint 2 women and a commissioner from each State, there is nothing in the present Act to prevent it from doing so.
The Green report made only one recommendation on the structure of the Commission- that the number of members be reduced from nine to seven. That recommendation has been rejected.
It all adds up to this: The Government’s plain intention is to remove from the Commission people it cannot trust or cannot control. In particular, it is determined to remove the person democratically elected by the staff of the ABC- Mr Marius Webb. It wants a Commission wholly sympathetic to Liberal Party ideas and hostile to experiment, to innovation, to challenge, to dissent. At the same time it will be appointing all the new members of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, and thereby removing all members of the old Broadcasting Control Board appointed by the Labor government- especially Dr Patricia Edgar and Dr Geoff Evans. The Government realises that the only way it can control these bodies, the only way it can scrap Labor’s appointments and get rid of anyone else it dislikes, is to scrap the organisations themselves and appoint new ones. So with the Government’s proposed legislation it will acquire absolute control over all the organisations running the national and commercial electronic media- the ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, the Broadcasting Council. The result will be an opportunity for political surveillance of broadcasting unknown before in Australia ‘s history, and without precedent in the Western world.
I would not want it thought that the Opposition is attacking the Green report. It is a far more enlightened and sensible document than this Government deserves, or in all probability expected. It is at pains to seek administrative and supervisory machinery for broadcasting which will be as independent of government as possible. It proposes that the Tribunal have power to hold hearings and set standards and directly grant licences rather than merely recommend their granting and leave decisions to government. The Minister’s statement last Thursday, vague and sketchy though it was, apparently accepted this recommendation. The Minister insisted, however, that the Government would still undertake what he called ‘broadcasting planning’. The difference between the report and his statement is that the report is mainly concerned with matters concerning commercial broadcasting, while the Government is mainly concerned, indeed remains obsessed, with the ABC. For example, Mr Green recommends that the Tribunal hold public inquiries into the crucial question of licence renewal. This would impose important tests of public accountability on the commercial licensees- an opportunity for continuing review of their standards and services. The Government has rejected this recommendation.
The only broadcasting services to be subjected to periodic inquiry are those of the ABC. As the Minister said:
The services provided by the ABC will be subject to a periodic review by an independent public inquiry, with the first such inquiry being undertaken in 1 980.
Why should the ABC be subjected to a degree of scrutiny and surveillance from which commercial stations are exempt? Why should the Government ignore recommendations by Mr Green which are opposed by the commercial interests and prefer changes which are hostile to the ABC? As the Australian Financial Review reported this morning:
Federal Cabinet has ignored many of the substantive changes to Australian broadcasting recommended by the Green Report and in some cases has made decisions contrary to the report’s recommendations . . . The report leaves the government open to attack from those critics who believe that it is out to ‘get’ the ABC . . . The Green Report has recommended that public hearings be undertaken by the tribunal when licences are up for renewal - … But to date the government has not specifically opted for the notion of public renewal hearings … So the upshot of Cabinet’s decisions is more power over broadcasting planning for the department of Post and Telecommunications, a toothless Broadcasting Council and a Broadcasting Tribunal with marginally more powers and personnel than its predecessor . . . And the government is free to fill every position on the new tribunal if it so chooses.
The machinery for controlling the membership of the ABC and the Tribunal is only part of the story. The Fraser Government is also assuming direct control of the operation of all radio and TV transmitters. At present this is the responsibility of the Australian Telecommunications Commission. It will now pass into the hands of the Department- in other words, from an independent authority to a government department. It is legitimate that the planning and allocation of frequencies should be the direct concern of the Government, but why should the Government be controlling the means of transmission as well? Imagine the outrage if a Labor Government had proposed that the Department of the Media- or any government departmentassume control of the printing presses of Australian newspapers.
Only this morning the Government’s intentions were publicly revealed by the Federal President of the National Country Party. Mr Solomons issued a statement commending what he called ‘the Government’s latest moves to return balance and stability to Australia’s broadcasting industry’. It is easy to see which section of broadcasting the Country Party has in mind because Mr Solomons’ statement deals almost entirely with the ABC. It refers to the ‘obvious need for a wide-ranging review of the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.’ I do not mind reading from the statement because I am quite happy to give it maximum publicity. It makes it perfectly clear that the intention of the Fraser Government is to inhibit all ABC news and comment which it regards as hostile to the Government. Here it is spelt out by the head of the junior coalition partner. According to him, ‘a great deal of work still remains to be done’ to ‘correct the imbalance and reduce the bias’ of ABC programs. For ‘bias’ read ‘fair to the Labor Party’. Mr Solomon’s statement goes on:
The intention of the Federal Government … is to guarantee, for a long time to come, completely unbiased, Balanced and impartial presentation of ABC news and public affairs programs.
Mark those words- ‘to guarantee for a long time to come’. The Government wants to stifle the ABC completely and permanently.
The lesson for all Australians is this: But for the ABC, the monopolisation of the private ownership of newspapers in this country would extend to broadcasting as well. Only the ABC stands in the way of complete domination of Australian radio and television by the major newspaper interests. Not only does the ABC provide the sole objective and impartial source of news and information in this country; it provides a check to the domination of private newspaper owners and a touchstone of quality, of excellence, however flawed, by which all other services may be judged. Weaken the ABC, undermine the ABC, destroy the independence of the ABC, and the delicate fabric of public trust and respect for the ABC will disappear. The tradition of quality and dependability for which the ABC is renowned will be removed. It is not necessary for the Government actually to take over the Commission; it is sufficient merely that it can do so if it wishes, that people are ready to believe that the Commission can be stacked with Liberal supporters and its independence compromised. What the Government appears to be doing, what it gives itself the power to do, is scarcely less important than what it does.
For generations conservative governments have encouraged and connived at the concentration of media ownership in private hands. The Menzies Government in the 1950s handed the control of television to a handful of newspaper proprietors who already monopolised commercial radio and the Press. Under Country Party pressure in the 1960s this monopoly was extended to rural newspaper interests as well, not to mention Sir Reginald Ansett. No attempt was made to create new radio stations or break the iron monopoly of the airwaves established by the commercial broadcasters. When Labor came to office we liberalised and extended the whole range of broadcasting services. We licensed the first new commercial radio stations for 40 years. We allowed the ABC to set up new AM stations 2JJ and 3ZZ. We established ethnic radio and frequency modulation broadcasts, which had been covertly resisted by commercial interests. The Government is still silent or dilatory on the future of these reforms.
Above all we strengthened and upheld the independence of the ABC in accordance with the ideals on which it was founded. We were determined to ensure for it a position of special primacy and honour in our national life; not an unfair competitive advantage, but a distinction and reputation to which all other media could aspire. That is what this Government is challenging. I can do no better than quote the words of Prime Minister Curtin when he appointed Mr Richard Boyer Chairman of the ABC in April 1945:
The intent of the Australian Broadcasting Act is to create a position of special independence of judgment and action for the national broadcasting instrumentality. This is inevitably the case because of its highly delicate function in broadcasting at public expense news statements and discussions which are potent influences on public opinion and attitudes. This peculiar function calls for an undoubted measure of independence for the controlling body of the national broadcasting instrumentality . . .
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I welcome this debate because it gives me an opportunity to acquaint the House with a few facts. Far too much fiction has been made available to members of the Parliament and to the Australian community. We have just listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). He spent a lot of his time referring to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Green report is a report on broadcasting and not on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is just not a jumble of specific recommendations. It is founded on principles. We will not have a sensible discussion of the recommendations it makes unless we recognise and debate those principles. Firstly, it is basic to the whole report that the inquiry sought to maximise public participation in broadcasting. It asked:
How the people of Australia can best participate in and achieve a satisfactory degree of collective control over broadcasting, on the basis that such participation is seen as a means of preserving and strengthening the social, economic and political fabric of Australia.
That is on the first page of the report. Secondly, the report distinguishes between the two major elements of any broadcasting system which are often confused: First of all the structure of the control and operating components of the system; and secondly the programs which constitute the output of the system.
The report points out that the structure of a system and its development are properly a matter for the Government because they are related to its overall communications policy and a need for Government management of the radio frequency spectrum. It goes on to say that the regulation and administration of programming is a totally different matter which should be seen to be removed from the direct influence of government. Let me stress this point because it is the basic distinction made by the report, a basic distinction which members of the Opposition persistently ignore despite the clear injunction of the report. The Government is and should be involved in shaping the structure of the system. It is not and it should not be involved in dictating the content of programs. The Government accepts this and unless the Opposition is able to demonstrate this principle has been breached there is simply no case to answer.
Let us forget the Press and other speculation on the report and the emotion which seems to have arisen because of this conjecture and give the report, as it actually is, proper consideration. Let us ignore the usual conflict within the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition has been talking take-over of broadcasting 3 days after his own former Media Minister, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), told the House that he had made basically the same proposals only a few months ago. During its recent term of office the Labor Party took no initiatives to reduce political influence in broadcasting. The honourable member for Maribyrnong did not remove the Minister’s control over licences. He did not surrender any powers. Yet he now seeks to claim credit for good intentions, for circulating similar proposals months after being removed from office. We are reducing political influence in broadcasting. We are replacing it with public and industry participation. Statements to the contrary are nonsense.
The Leader of the Opposition talks of sinister activities. But they are sinister only to him. He cannot or will not recognise fully that the Green report marks a great advance in the development of broadcasting in this country. His own former Minister for the Media, the man he chose to exercise responsibility for broadcasting, is hamstrung by an honest recognition that the steps we are taking as a result of the report are the steps that any rational Administration would take. In fact, they are the steps that he would now like to take. Let me turn to deal with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Commission’s own submission to the inquiry supported the concept that the national service had a responsibility to the public and therefore to the Parliament in the same way as the commercial and public sectors have such a responsibility. To provide for the periodic reviews which the Government has approved will do nothing more than allow a regular forum for those critical of the performance of the ABC, and those supporting it, to put their case in public. This is the practice in Great Britain where the British Broadcasting Commission at this very time is undergoing such a review. Is anyone here seriously suggesting that the BBC therefore is not independent? Would anyone suggest that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which is regularly reviewed at a series of public hearings, is not independent? The fact is that the only comparable broadcasting organisations in the world are both subject to just those same periodic reviews.
The Government agrees with the reports comment that: . . . the ABC is the cornerstone of the Australian Broadcasting system.
The Government intends, as the report says, that such reviews: should not be regarded as investigations of the ABC; rather they should be careful and rational discussions of the Australian national broadcasting service, of its mandate, its philosophy, its accomplishments and its future orientations.
Indeed, such a review would be helpful to the ABC because, after all, the members of the Australian community happen to contribute $170m of the taxpayers funds- $ 130m in direct costs and $40m by way of engineering costs- for expenditure by the Commission. Before I leave this area, let me nail yet another misrepresentation. It is not true that the ABC will be reviewed while the commercial and the public broadcasters will escape such examination. The report clearly spells out, and the Government accepts, that the new Australian Broadcasting Tribunal should review the performance of licensees each time their licences are renewed. These renewals could be made after public hearings at which any member of the public or the industry will be able to speak out. Again, the basic principle of the report has been followedthat is, to maximise public and industry participation in broadcasting.
The most serious misrepresentation concerns the future independence of the ABC. The decision to change the composition of the Commission was taken by the Government. Whilst it did not follow the exact recommendations of the Green report, it does adhere to the principles. The net result will be that the public will be more adequately represented than before. Where at the moment 4 commissioners were from one State and 2 States had none, now each of the States will at least be represented. I want to tell people- members of the Opposition particularlythat they will be proved wrong if they go around claiming publicly that the commissioners appointed by their Government will be dismissed in some wholesale manner. I suggest to them as a matter of advice that they would be wise not to make those sorts of assumptions. They will be proved inaccurate. I would also like to comment on the claim of the Leader of the Opposition with regard to the budgetary reductions within the ABC. They were not any more or less than the effective reduction in Government spending throughout the entire fabric of government and its instrumentalities. The ABC took no greater share of that burden than did other areas of government. In fact, some departments took a much larger reduction in expenditure and it is utterly unfair to suggest that there is something sinister about the minimal reductions in the vote for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
It will be seen that the report accepts representations made by the ABC and its 2 staff associations that there should be a loosening of the ties with the Public Service. The Government has accepted these recommendations and will be legislating to give the Commission a considerable degree of freedom in appointing its staff and deciding their salaries. Perhaps the most important question- certainly the question which most concerns the public- is whether the standards fixed for commercial and public broadcasters should apply also to the ABC. It is an anomaly for one set of broadcasters to have a completely different set of standards from any other. The ABC has recognised this by voluntarily accepting the standards set by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The Government has deliberately chosen not to take any action on this matter, except to have a public inquiry into the concept of self regulation by broadcasters.
I now refer to the decision that planning functions will be undertaken by the Postal and Telecommunications Department. This has caused some outcry as though the idea of giving a department responsibility for policy and planning were unique. Of course, it is not unique. It was one of the options contained in the Green report. The Government is responsible for overall communications policy. One component of that responsibility must be strategic policy for the development of the Australian broadcasting system. This involves government decisions on such questions as the sectors which will make up the system, whether they be national, commercial or public; the role of each sector; the need for additional or new kinds of services- frequency modulation, educational, foreign language, etc; the need for services involving new technologies -for example, cable television, pay television, satellites, etc; and the availability of frequencies for sound and vision broadcasting services. Planning is a process. It simultaneously provides inputs for policy formulation and translates policy into priorities in accord with the availability of resources. Since the Department already advises the Minister on policy, the Government has decided that it is a logical extension of this role for it also to undertake detailed planning.
However, it should be stressed that adequate safeguards to protect the interests of the public and the industry exist through the Broadcasting Council. This Council will have an opportunity to examine and comment upon every planning proposal prepared by the Department. The new legislation which 1 will introduce will give the Council a statutory right to be consulted on planning proposals. Broadcasters have never had such a right before. Each sector of broadcastingthe ABC for the national sector, the television and radio federations for the commercial sector and the Public Broadcasting Association for the public sector- will be equally represented. These representatives will not be chosen by the Government; they will be chosen by the industry. In addition, members of the Council will be entitled to originate planning proposals on their own part. There will be departmental representation on the Council to facilitate liaison between the industry and the Government on broadcasting matters. There will be an independent chairman who hopefully will be able to contribute a viewpoint on behalf of consumers of broadcasting.
In these comments I have attempted to separate the facts from the fantasy. There is nothing sinister in the report or in the Government’s decisions. The claim that we are seeking to impose political influence on broadcasting is exactly the opposite of the truth. No longer will a Minister of the Crown have the final power over licences. No longer will a Minister be able to authorise punitive action against broadcasters. No longer will the public be excluded from the processes of renewing the licences of broadcasters. Now, for the first time in the history of broadcasting, all planning proposals will be fully debated by the industry and the public before they are put into operation. Now, for the first time, the members of the public will have the opportunity to comment upon the performance of the ABC at regular public reviews. The Government has retained powers only in the areas where it is necessary to do so. It has not increased its powers. Like the report on which its decisions have been based, the Government has taken as basic to any consideration of broadcasting the necessity to increase the level of public participation and involvement in those processes of policy formulation. These are licensing and regulation, which play such an important part in shaping the system to meet the basic interests of the Australian people. The Leader of the Opposition continues to claim that there is some threat to the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, despite the fact that time and time again the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and I have indicated clearly that the integrity and independence of the ABC are not at risk and are not under any threat at all. Let me remind the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues behind him that the Liberal Party platform sets out quite clearly that freedom of expression in the Press, radio and television and freedom from governmental and political interference are fundamental to Liberal beliefs and essential to democratic government. It is further stated that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be independent of political control. The media policy of the National Country Party is similar to that.
We have had a good broadcasting system in Australia. The changes upon which the Government has decided will improve that system. Now we will have an independent Tribunal and we will have a Broadcasting Council which will involve the industry and the public in planning and policy. The decisions which the Government has taken will make a good system a better one- the best system of broadcasting in the world. There will be other considerations flowing from the Green report. There will be ample opportunity for debate and discussion before any Government decision is made.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I welcome the elaboration by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) of some of the plans which up to date have been rather sketchy. That simply highlights our criticism that the Government at least might have done the Australian community the service of tabling the Green report before it came up with these proposals so that we could have enjoyed digesting and thinking about it while the Government was making up its mind. Maybe then there would have been much less confusion and hostile reaction to the announcements. Given all that, I still would like to analyse some of the points the Minister has made. He talked about one of the basic principles on which the Green report is based being maximum public participation. It seems strange to say something like that and yet not to allow the public to discuss the report. I do not believe that the way in which the Minister is approaching this matter is realistically increasing public participation.
Let me deal with the 2 major bodies that are really concerned in this discussion, namely, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Control Board has its functions listed on page 16 of the Green report. I will not detail them, but in essence they are fundamentally the same as the functions the Minister is suggesting for the licensing tribunal but minus some of the technical requirements such as the policing nonsense on which I completely agree with the Minister. I had been saying things like that when I was the Minister responsible for this area. I objected to the policeman-censor approach of any government agency. The Control Board is responsible for the granting, renewal, revocation and suspension of licences, and this is the sort of function to be performed by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. So, in that area it is not a question of more participation. There was no need to change the legislation in such a way as to completely restructure that Board in order to involve the public.
We had been talking about public hearings for licence renewals, and the Government has taken up that suggestion. It is true that we did not get to it- for many obvious reasons, not the least of which was that we did not have the numbers in the Senate, and the Minister well knows it. However, the point remains that what he is proposing will not necessarily give the public much more say in the challenging of licences, because on page 76 of the Green report where it talks about the renewal of licences we find the following sentences:
The presumption at hearings for renewal of licences should be that the licences will be renewed. Only if a prima facie case is established for denying renewal should the licensee be required to defend his performance during the preceding period.
Harking back to what I said when I first commented on the Minister’s statement, that may be all right but it depends on how the Government implements it. I said that much of what the Minister is proposing is basically similar to what I have been proposing. The Minister quoted that but forgot to mention a significant qualification which is, to quote from an earlier speech of mine: ‘Really the rub is how it is finally implemented’. With those comments in the Green report about the need to have a case established before the hearing goes further, it may well be that the public hearings will be as difficult to organise as they have been under the present legislation. I knew quite well that I could challenge a licence, but only on the condition that there seemed to be enough evidence to suggest that that licence should not be renewed. However, how could we know of that evidence without a public hearing? Therefore we could not get to first base. We could not organise the public hearing unless we had enough evidence, and we could not get enough evidence of community dissatisfaction unless we had public hearings. Therefore we could not have public hearings. It was as miserable, as that.
Whether we open this matter up depends on how we implement the proposals in the Green report. I hope that the Government does open it up, but it may not do so. There is room in the recommendation to leave it as tightly closed as it is right now. So, when we take away from the Broadcasting Control Board some of these functionssomething with which I certainly agreeand leave it with its main function of licensing, one is forced to ask: Why bother restructuring it at all? Why not just take some of those functions away rather than use the occasion as an excuse to get rid of certain people? The Government, oddly enough, still will have to appoint roughly the same numbers to the Tribunal- three to five people. The Control Board now has 3 full time and 2 part time members. It gives me the feeling that the Government is using the whole manoeuvre as an excuse to get rid of people it may not like. It may be that it will not get rid of them, but I can only say what my feeling is, because I do not see why the Government has taken this approach. It may be seeking this change in the legislation to suddenly get a completely new group of people on the licensing body to do the same sorts of things as the present Control Board is doing. After all, the Government already has appointed someone. Also, there are vacancies due and I understand that someone wants to retire anyway. In the course of a couple of months the Government could, without any legislation, have dominated the Board anyhow. Two of the present appointees are this Government’s appointees and at least one member wants to retire. If that is what the Government has in mind, it does not have to go in for this subterfuge. If that is not what it has in mind, I do not see why it needs to change the legislation in this way. All it has to do is bring in amending legislation to take away some of the functions at 1>resent performed by the Control Board and leave the Board basically as it is.
In relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission there is the same sort of approach. The Green report suggested some restructuring, in the sense of reducing the number of people on the Commission from nine to seven. Wisely the Government has decided to leave the number at nine, but there is nothing in the present legislation which precludes what the Government wants. In fact, the practice in past years has been to try to ensure a wide distribution and representation from all the States. When we were kicked out of office every State except Tasmania was represented but I had already found someone from Tasmania to fill a vacancy. It was a female. Hopefully I would have finished up with 2 females on the Commission, and that would have fulfilled the requirement that this Government proposes to put into the legislation. There is nothing in the legislation to preclude all the commissioners being female. If I might dare suggest it, to specify 2 females is rather sexist. There should not be any need to do it. It should be up to the Government to appoint more females because obviously they represent a larger section of the community than one would gather from the representation of only one female on a body of nine.
If there was distortion in the State distribution, it is the Government’s own fault. It has had a couple of vacancies available to it. It could have filled one of the vacancies with someone from Tasmania. It could have replaced Dr Hackett with somebody from Adelaide. Then all the States would have been represented. This again calls to mind the fear that the Government is using this as a pretext for doing something else. I accept the Minister’s assurance that all the Labor Government’s appointees are not to be sacked. I hope that they will not be sacked, because that certainly would be a very serious reflection on the Government. However, it does suggest to me that the Government is using the occasion to go back on an innovation we introduced, whereby we allowed the staff of the ABC to elect somebody and we undertook to appoint that person to the Commission. The Labor Government did not change the legislation to enable an ABC staff representative to be appointed. Such a provision is not contained in the legislation. The appointment was made simply because we agreed to that proposition. The Government could still follow that example. It is not necessary to change the Act to do so. The legislation does not need to be changed in order to prevent such an appointment. I fear that the Government is using this manoeuvre as an excuse, in fact, to provide some legitimacy to finding suddenly, when it appoints the 9 Commissioners, that it does not have room for somebody to represent the staff of the ABC. I think that is a shortsighted approach on the part of the Government. It will encounter a lot of opposition not only within the ABC but also within the community. The Government is concerned about productivity. It has appointed a Minister for Productivity to look into this area. This inevitably will entail more worker participation in the management of various undertakings. This was the motivation of the Labor Government in appointing to the ABC someone elected by the staff of the ABC. The staff did not elect a person to the Commission; it merely elected someone whom it then proposed to the then Government. The Labor Government took up the option and appointed that person as an ABC commissioner. This Government should continue to make such appointments. I fear the motives of the Government because if what it has in mind is not an intention to scrub this appointment, I see no reason why it should bother to change the legislation in the way in which it appears to be bent on doing. I accept from what has appeared so far that nothing else is to be done to the ABC. What is the reason for the change in the legislation? What is the reason for making these silly specifications in the legislation about the need for a commissioner from each State? It has the power to achieve this result now. It was the fault of the Government if in the past the ABC Commissioners were dominated by representatives from the State of New South Wales.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, frankly, I am quite amazed that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) had the gall to introduce as a subject for discussion as a matter of public importance: The threat of political control over all forms of broadcasting. I spent 13 years in the electronic media, in radio and television, and in the years of the Labor Government I was in a position of management responsibility with a metropolitan television station. My mind goes back over those 3 years to some of the events that occurred under that previous Administration. Let me illustrate, if I may, what I believe are very real examples of political interference and political control in the electronic media in Australia.
I take the Leader of the Opposition back through those 2 terms of office of the former Administration. I remind him of the number of events that he declared on behalf of his Government to be of national importance. The former Government forced Australian Broadcasting Commission stations and commercial stations throughout the length and breadth of Australia to broadcast across the nation under the guise of events of national importance what amounted to no more than Labor Party propaganda speeches. How many times was the economy referred to as an event of national importance? It certainly was. But, as a result of the way in which these telecasts were handled, they were certainly no more than Labor Party propaganda.
Let us go back to the time of the establishment of the Department of the Media. If we turn our minds to that period prior to 1972 and to the discussions that went on with groups such as Actors Equity we will recall that we saw a tremendous advertising campaign based around the It’s Time theme when we saw virtually every second actor in Australia on television every Sunday night at 2 minutes to 8, singing that song. Should we not ask ourselves: What was the deal? The deal was to try to increase the amount of Australian content in television and to institute the points system for television. What did this point system do? It did nothing more than stifle any imagination or experimentation in Australian programming.
The Department of the Media was known within the industry as the ‘Department for Propaganda’. The former Minister for the Media, who has just spoken- the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass)- had the most unenviable nickname in the industry in those days-‘Dr Goebbels’. That Department was virtually nothing more than a propaganda department. How many tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money was spent by the previous Government virtually every night of the week on commercial television stations around
Australia on 30 second and 60 second commercials extolling the virtues of the Labor Government? It was taxpayers’ money that paid for these commercials.
I refer to the stacking of the Broadcasting Control Board. The former Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland, brought in Jack Neary and BUI Davies. I have nothing against Jack Neary; he is a pioneer of the entertainment industry in Australia and has certainly made a fine contribution to our entertainment industry. But he was a very close personal associate of Senator Douglas McClelland. Then, when the honourable member for Maribyrnong took over as the Minister for the Media, he appointed Dr Geoffrey Evans and Dr Patricia Edgar to that body. What contribution did they make to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board?
Let us look at the pressure that the unions managed to exert on the radio and television industry through the Minister for the Media. I refer to the situation of a television station in Brisbane which, because of union pressure, was forced to introduce a full news service costing tens of thousands of dollars in a market that was already saturated with news programs. I refer also to the subject of children’s educational television. The Government forced commercial television stations to program in prime time children’s television programs which were subject to Government guidelines. What an absolute disaster that was. Every Saturday afternoon we saw these programs on commercial television throughout Australia. These programs achieved extremely poor ratings. The highest rating that any of these prescribed programs ever achieved in the Brisbane market was 3 points. This represented about 1800 viewers on a Saturday afternoon in a market of the size available in Brisbane. But the television stations were forced to screen these programs.
The Green report has been long overdue. It is the first major investigation into the industry since 1942. At the outset, it should be made perfectly clear that we cannot look at the Green report bit by bit. We have to look at it in an overall sense. No valid or constructive attitudes can be developed if we look at these aspects in a superficial way. The report suggests a blueprint for the development of the Australian broadcasting system in the years ahead. It is the first initiative of this type since 1942. Nothing had been done in this field since television was introduced to Australia in 1956. It not only reviews current situations but also it looks ahead to the new technologies such as those about which we have heard so much.
I refer to the system of satellite telecasting and the situation of cities wired for cable radio and television transmission. There are many new technologies that we must be looking at and planning for for the future. At the moment it would be possible for Australia to put a satellite into space and to beam all its radio and television transmissions from that satellite. These are the sorts of innovations that we have to be looking at. These are the things that our planners must be involved with. The spectrum that is used by radio and television stations, whether AM or FM, is a very rare commodity. The fact that the industry grew up without any technical guidance is one of the biggest problems that has been faced by the industry in years past.
In many ways, licences and frequencies were issued indiscriminately. I remind the honourable member for Maribyrnong that some of the licences that he issued under the Wireless and Telegraphy Act of 1905 were issued to stations without any public hearing whatsoever. He just went ahead and issued the licences. Some of these are fairly doubtful undertakings as well. This is the area that we must be looking at. It is the area in which the Government must be planning if we are to have a rational and constructive approach to future radio and television transmissions in Australia. This is exactly what the Green report has set out to do. It is for many of these reasons that this inquiry was undertaken. I have given ample evidence that this report was long overdue and that action had to be taken soon.
In the section dealing with broadcasting engineering issues, the report points out that changes to the present arrangements must be made against those impending developments in technology. It will not be a take-over of the system. We must have progressive planning for the future of the industry. The trend to integrate our facilities is already established. I was interested to hear the Leader of the Opposition mention that he was most concerned about the possibility of a number of stations using one transmission mast. I believe there are about 70 shared masts in Australia. If honourable members opposite and the Leader of the Opposition would like to go outside Parliament House and look at Black mountain, they will see a prime example of the sharing of transmission facilities.
The main feature of the Green report is that something had to be done and done soon. I commend the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) again for what he said today. He pointed out that so many aspects of that report are open for public debate and for debate in this House because there is a full spectrum of the industry and areas of its operation that must be debated publicly and must be considered. I know that some mention was made earlier of the situation regarding the transfer of part of the responsibilities of Radio Australia to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Overseas Trade. Anyone who reads the report will see quite clearly that it says that Radio Australia should continue its operations within the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It also says that the guidelines concerning the strategy and target audience for Radio Australia should be considered. An interdepartmental committee is presently considering the operations of Radio Australia and will be making a submission to the Government on future developments, particularly the future expansion of its transmission facilities. But there is no suggestion that Radio Australia should be taken over by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
I commend the Green report to all honourable members. I should like to encourage as much public debate as possible on so many of the areas that it covers. There is one area that is of concern to a number of people in Queensland who have already contacted me, that is, the transfer of the symphony orchestras from the ABC. Some talk has been going around that in actual fact the ABC will be throwing them out altogether. The report says that they should be transferred to the Australia Council.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 9 November, on motion by Mr Ellicott
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate on the Federal Court of Australia Bill and other cognate measures was interrupted last night I was in the process of establishing the Opposition’s attitude to this legislation. I reiterate that the Opposition feels that the Federal Court of Australia Bill is a very good concept but does not think that it goes far enough. We express that opinion but will not be opposing the motion for the second reading of the Bill. We propose to move an amendment in the committee stage of the consideration of the Judiciary Amendment Bill to give an appeal as of right where the matter concerned involves an interpretation of the Constitution. We propose to do that for the very simple reason that we feel that the High Court of Australia should be the one court in Australia dealing with the Constitution and its interpretation. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, there are also a number of ancillary measures whereby jurisdiction is to be transferred to the new Federal Court of Australia. They are the other Bills that will be enumerated upon in the course of this cognate debate. I need not go over them again. Suffice it to say that we do not oppose that legislation.
I think that a summary of the situation really comes down to looking at what the Judicial Amendment Bill is doing in restricting appeals to the High Court of Australia. We feel that this is unfortunate. We feel that the High Court should not have this restriction by way of being able to suggest that it will not deal with matters. I emphasise again that as a result of these proposals being implemented there will be no appeal as of right in any case direct from a single judge of a Supreme Court. There will have to be an intermediate appeal first to a State appeal court or an application for special leave to the High Court, even though the case is of a kind that might inevitably go to the High Court. As has been said, we may fairly guess that it will be extremely difficult to obtain from the High Court special leave to appeal direct from a single judge of a State Supreme Court. This category of appeal is probably the largest of those which now go to the High Court as of right. Appeal by special leave of the High Court is only granted, firstly, as to all other Supreme Court judgments and, secondly, as to all judgments of other State courts exercising Federal jurisdiction. The result of the above will be, as I understand it, to move the High Court very close to the position of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, in which that court can pick and choose which cases it will hear. It has been said, and I think it has been said validly, that is a result which was not envisaged by section 73 of the Australian Constitution.
Another matter which we were discussing is the new power of intervention by the AttorneysGeneral. Clause 10 of the Judiciary Amendment Bill proposes to create a new power for the Commonwealth or a State Attorney-General to intervene in any case between private parties pending in any Federal court, any Territory court and any State court exercising Federal jurisdiction if the case involves a matter arising under or the interpretation of the Constitution. The proposed new section 78 B contains provisions to facilitate the intervention and obliges the court in which the constitutional question arises not to proceed with the case unless and until reasonable notice is given to the Commonwealth and each State Attorney-General. For this purpose the court may adjourn the case. I am informed that it is not clear whether the court may order the Commonwealth or a State to pay the cost of the delay and adjournment unless the relevant AttorneyGeneral does intervene. If that is so, there is to be a substantial new power for government to interfere with private litigation. It could well cause private parties to bear the costs of the delay and adjournment involved. No doubt the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) will address his mind to that matter.
With respect to the new rights of legal practitioners, clause 8 of the Judiciary Amendment Bill proposes the insertion of a new section to confer a new right on legal practitioners who are now entitled to practise in Federal courts to practise in any court of any State in a case where that court is exercising Federal jurisdiction. Thus it seems, for example, that a New South Wales barrister who is not otherwise entitled to practise in the Supreme Court of Queensland can do so in a case in the latter court which involves the exercising of Federal jurisdiction. This new right probably will be necessary when the other measures which are the subject of this cognate debate are removed from the High Court to the specialised areas of Federal jurisdiction.
One of the examples given to me is the announced proposal to remove from the High Court the present jurisdiction in industrial property matters, such as patents, trade marks and designs, and to invest such jurisdiction in State courts. I am reminded that at present 99 per cent of the patent cases are dealt with in the High Court. That might be a very good reason why the High Court feels that it should be removed of the burden. Nevertheless it does create the problem that in some States there are no legal practitioners who are experienced in the classes of jurisdiction that are involved in this very specialty. The State courts or Federal courts in the area will have to learn very fast how to deal with those matters, as will the profession in that area.
I think I have indicated the Opposition’s attitude to all the matters involved. We basically support the tenor of all the legislation, except for the 2 matters that I mentioned at the commencement of my speech, one of which will involve the moving of an amendment in the Committee stage of the Judiciary Amendment Bill.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the Government is to be congratulated for introducing these measures. The Federal Court of Australia will provide a much needed new court to deal by streamlined methods with the jurisdictions that it takes over as well as those areas which will be given to the Court in the future. The Federal Court of Australia Bill has one interesting feature. It allows judges to hold office for life, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and other provisions, but a person may not be appointed a judge of the Court after he has attained the age of 70 years. The Bill further provides that a judge may, if he wishes, become a Senior Judge of the Court after he has reached 70 years of age and be relieved of the responsibility of sitting regularly. He will do this voluntarily. It appears, therefore, that the Bill goes a far as is possible within the present constitutional limitations towards providing for the age of 70 years to be the age at which judges ought to become less active in their judicial offices.
I for one would support the proposal that Federal judges should retire at 70 years of age. I think we saw general support for that proposal in the last week or so when the Constitution Convention met. I congratulate the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) on a reasonable set of provisions that will go as far as is possible at present to achieve that aim. The Court will be a superior court of record, a court both of equity and of law. It will be a court which will, according to the Government, supplant the proposed Superior Court that the Labor Party sought to introduce, which had a significant number of problems surrounding it, and which was rejected by the Senate.
I move now to deal with the Judiciary Amendment Bill. This contains a number of far-reaching proposals which may not be apparent at first sight. I have not yet seen the amendment proposed by the Opposition relating to appeals as of right to the High Court in matters affecting the interpretation of the Constitution. Subject to seeing that I would be inclined to agree that it is a proper amendment and I would ask the Attorney-General to give due consideration to it at the appropriate stage. The Bill restricts to some extent appeals to the High Court. The provisions dealing with restrictions from a single judge of a Supreme Court are in my view quite reasonable and proper. We have in the States either full courts or courts of appeal, the purpose of which is to give to the citizens of those States comprehensive appellate hearings within the range of time, convenience and expense. Those courts can better do this at a decentralised level than can the High Court. The High Court has to travel throughout the country and is available only periodically in the different capital cities. The State Supreme Courts, in their Courts of Appeal Division or as Full Courts, are able to hear appeals regularly throughout the year. Those Courts also involve less cost to the citizen who otherwise has to arrange for his case to be heard in the High Court, sometimes with extra delays and with attendant costs, or alternatively the citizen may have to go to the High Court in any case because the opposing party may appeal to the High Court from a State Full Court or a Court of Appeal decision. There still is provision for special leave to appeal and this protects the position in those classes of cases referred to by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen); so there is no real problem in the Bill as far as those matters are concerned. Indeed, it is proper that the Supreme Courts of the States should be able to deal comprehensively with appellate matters in their own States.
There are, however, one or two matters which give me concern and they fall within clause 35 of the Judiciary Amendment Bill. One of these relates to an increase in the monetary sum necessary before an appeal may be brought to the High Court. I do not cavil at that provision as such but this would have been a good opportunity for the Government to adopt a new approach to appeals to the High Court and to avoid the excessive accent upon property which our system of law has traditionally provided.
Under this Bill there will be an appeal as of right from the Full Courts of the Supreme Courts, subject to monetary qualification. In nearly all other cases, including those to be brought from the single judge or in other cases even from the proposed Federal Court of Australia, there are restrictions. What I object to is this: There is a monetary limit prescribed which is arbitrary. Probably, in this modern day and age, that is something we cannot avoid. However I would have thought it proper particularly in criminal matters, that in other cases there should be a right of appeal from the Supreme Courts in their Full Court jurisdiction or in New South Wales from the Court of Criminal Appeal. I would have thought it would be better to provide a right of appeal to the High Court at least in those cases of serious crime such as murder or rape, or other serious crimes, or at least in cases where a very heavy penalty was provided under the section or had been imposed. The situation now is that it is easier to go to the High Court as of right if a mere $20,000 is involved in a case than it is if a person has been sentenced to 10 years ‘ imprisonment.
I believe there is an accent in our law towards the protection of proprietary rights as against the protection of personal rights that has historically been to the detriment of our legal process. Liberty is something that ought to be protected to the fullest extent of the law. Whilst I appreciate that limits must be applied for practicality, at least in regard to the most serious offences or in regard to cases in which a very heavy sentence has been imposed, I believe there should be an appeal as of right to the High Court. I know we differentiate already in the criminal system between summary proceedings which are heard before a magistrate without a jury and indictable proceedings which are heard before a jury. I know there are differences in the appeal provisions, depending upon the seriousness of the matter. But many people historically have reflected upon and criticised our law for too great attention being given to the protection of property rights as against personal rights. I believe the Bill might well have included a provision for appeal in special circumstances as of right to the High Court in those matters involving substantial detriment to the liberty of the subject.
Allied with that is the new provision in clause 35 which restricts the right of appeal where the only ground of appeal concerns the assessment of the amount of any damages in an action for damages for death or personal injury. I will not read the actual words of the particular amendment but they talk about a ground that relates to the quantum of damages in respect of death or personal injury. I ask: Why do we restrict this to death or personal injury? Once again we are restricting the right of appeal in cases of personal rights as against those of property rights. If there is to be a rule that we want to cut out appeals on quantum of damages to the High Court, for the various sensible reasons that are proposed, why do we not have a restriction on the right of appeal on a ground that relates to the quantum of damages- full stop? Why go this further extent and only restrict it to death or personal injury in cases where the individual’s personal rights have been affected? I believe again that we are perpetuating an accent in the law upon property rights. I believe that we would have been better served by having merely the words ‘relates to the quantum of any damages’. There would be no problem in the case of a failure to apply a proper principle in the assessment of damages, because the failure to apply a proper principle when assessing damages is an error of law. Subject to the other restrictions, an appeal to the High Court would lie where there had been a failure to follow proper principles of law in the assessment of the quantum of damages.
But as I have said a number of times, the Bill fails to take the opportunity to ennunciate to the nation at large that this Government and the law are based upon concern for both property and personal rights, not property rights to a greater extent than personal rights. I am a little concerned that the Australian Labor Party Opposition so far has not made any point of this matter. I would have thought that it was appropriate for a Labor Opposition to make comment on this. I certainly hope that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith is not becoming a tame cat shadow Attorney- General.
– We did it last night. You should have listened.
– Last night I did not understand the Opposition to take that point. I apologise if I misunderstood what the honourable member was saying. I was here last night. I hope that the Labor Opposition is not going a little lightly on this matter because it still has a commitmentperhaps it has not; I do not know its present policy- to national compensation in which it tends to devalue court proceedings for death or personal injury in favour of national compensation which is some distance off. If ever we reach that stage we can look at the position anew at that time. Those are the matters in the Bill which give me some concern. However, as the Bill is generally supported by the Opposition and as it provides for very important matters, I do not believe that it should be prevented from being passed.
There is a useful provision in the Judiciary Amendment Bill which relates to the question of legal representation in the various States. In my view this is long overdue. I have never quite understood why we should have so many restrictions upon the right of appearance in other States by solicitors or counsel who are qualified in one State. Some States impose residential qualifications. Other States impose stronger qualifications. Nearly all States seem to require admission in their States after assessing the qualifications of the person in his home State. I hope that this provision will enable the Australian public eventually to be represented by one common Bar or profession throughout the country. The provision entitles any barrister or solicitor who is on the High Court roll and entitled to practise in a Federal court to the right of audience in a State court while it is exercising Federal jurisdiction. I understand that after discussions with various States the Attorney-General proposes to allow
States to set up their own registers. Those registers will be kept by the court. If there by a need to remove a person from the register following the appropriate proceedings in that State, then a person may be removed from that register.
I think one other matter requires some consideration, and that is the matter of special leave and just what it means. The courts have grappled with the phrase ‘special leave’ on many occasions. As late as 1962 the High Court said that efforts to define the word ‘special’ had broken down in may cases, We often have to rely upon the individual situation. I would like to have seen the word ‘special’ left out of this Bill and only the word ‘leave’ inserted. In the recent past a body of law has grown up which relates to the words ‘special leave’, particularly in criminal matters. I think it is well known that it is almost impossible in the High Court to have an appeal on sentence only. It is also very difficult to obtain special leave in the High Court in criminal matters. Again, there is the tendency- albeit in accordance with legal principle- in some cases to treat matters relating to the criminal law as being in a slightly different category from those relating to proprietary rights.
What I am concerned about is that the very restrictive case law on the words ‘special leave’ will be applied to appeals from now on. If the very restrictive interpretation of ‘special leave’ is to be applied to quantum of damages appeals or to all the other cases set out in the Bill which require special leave, then I really think that for practical purposes we are blocking them out. I would hope that the word ‘special’ could be removed from the Bill. However, it may mean that the exigencies of particular situations will lead to a slightly more liberal interpretation; so one should wait and see what the courts do in particular cases. Although it is not directly relevant, I draw the attention of the House to the question of interlocutory matters. I merely say that the question of the definition of interlocutory matters has dogged the law for a long time. I have never quite understood why a stay of proceedings which can shut a man out of his case permanently is still considered to be an interlocutory matter. I know that is good law, but I think that at some time we will have to consider the whole subject of interlocutory matters as they relate to appeals. This Bill makes some provision in relation to interlocutory matters.
On the whole, subject to those points and, generally speaking, anticipating agreement to the Opposition amendment, I support the Government. The consequential Bills have involved the Attorney-General in a great deal of work. He is to be congratulated on the way in which he has brought these Bills to fruition, on the consultations he has had with all parties concerned and on the immense amount of work that he and his officers have put in. In general these are very sound Bills.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I move:
The Opposition does not oppose the establishment of the Federal Court of Australia. It welcomes the legislation. It is a tidying-up piece of legislation. By constituting a Court with 2 divisions- namely, the Industrial Division and the General Division- it will make for a much mo.e rational organisation of the existing judicial structure. Nonetheless, the Opposition, while not opposing the establishment of the Court, does have some reservations about the legislation and about the timidity of the Government in its proposals for this Court. The Opposition does not propose to be churlish, simply because when the Government was in Opposition it opposed every attempt to establish the Superior Court. The opposition, albeit somewhat silent, of a lame duck Solicitor-General to the establishment of that Court now has been replaced with the rooster-like boasting of an Attorney-General who is looking forward to a new nest for his wellfeathered friends. The Attorney-General dismissed in 2 sentences the rejection of the Superior Court legislation by the Senate and the opposition, which was led by him, of the Liberal and National Country Parties.
For the benefit of honourable members, I should like to take them through some of the arguments about the Superior Court legislation raised by the Attorney-General when he was in Opposition. I must apologise to honourable members for not being able to lead them through these objections in any particularly logical order but it does not appear to me that the objections can be fitted into such a frame. However, I will go through them at least in the order in which them were raised at that time by the AttorneyGeneral. The only consistent thread which runs through them is the exhibition of the extremely conservative mind which will resist change at all cost. The first objection raised by the AttorneyGeneral, then only the private member for Wentworth, was the jurisdiction being granted to the proposed court in relation to associated matters by clause 23 of the Superior Court of Australia Bill. In relation to that the AttorneyGeneral said:
Clause 23 of the Bill is designed to give the court jurisdiction in associated matters. It is a dragnet provision aimed at attempting to overcome a problem which possibly cannot be overcome, namely, of giving the court jurisdiction in matters which are not matters of federal jurisdiction.
I invite the attention of the Attorney and of all honourable members to clause 32 of the Bill to establish the Federal Court of Australia. If one looks at that one will see that the wording of this proposed section is almost identical with that of the Superior Court Bill. The Attorney was clutching at straws at that time. Now he realises that that kind of provision is necessary in relation to any legislation for federal courts, even that which is as timid as this.
The Attorney went on to object to the proposed Superior Court on the basis that it would create an additional court in an already complicated judicial system and that this would involve increased expense. On that point, I think it is worth referring to something that Sir Garfield Barwick had to say in relation to the original proposals for a new Federal Superior Court. In the Federal Law Review, in an article with which many honourable members in the chamber will be familiar, he said:
Judicial work requires no fewer judges, and no less court space and staff, if it bears a federal rather than a State label, and is provided for separately.
One can turn that on its head just as logically and say that judicial work requires no fewer judges and no less court space and staff if it bears a State rather than a federal label and is provided for jointly. Again, the argument is without any foundation whatsoever. Sir Garfield Barwick could see through it. It is odd that the AttorneyGeneral should be concerned about the complexities of the judicial system when his brothers in the conservative administration in several States have never done anything to clear them up. I think it is a matter of record that in respect of simplifying procedures in courts and administrative tribunals the Federal Parliament and successive Federal Governments have a much better record. In fact, if we are concerned about the complexities of judicial systems we can be assured that they will receive better attention more expertly and more often in this Parliament than they will in any of the State legislatures.
The Attorney-General went on to object to the Superior Court on the basis that physical accessibility of courts was very desirable in relation to judicial proceedings. I agree with that, every honourable member here agrees with it. The Attorney talked about how the Superior Court could not sit in large provincial towns in the States. Again, that too was just not a genuine objection. If the Attorney looks at the structure of every State Supreme Court in Australia with the exception of the Queensland Court, he will see that they are all centred in the State capitals and that they all proceed on circuit through the provinces, as was then proposed for the Superior Court- and the Attorney well knew this at the time- and as he now quite properly proposes that the Federal Court of Australia should do. The next objection raised by the AttorneyGeneral in 1974 was to the tenure of judges. He said that we would have a system whereby in some States judges would retire at 65 or 70 and in the Federal Court judges would be appointed for life. Of course we would have had that system, and the position remains the same, as the Attorney well knows. Conservative members have been forced at last to place on the agenda of the Australian Constitutional Convention the question of the retiring age forjudges, and it is to be hoped that the Attorney-General pushes the Government to produce a proposal for a referendum on that question. But for the time being the objection he raised to the Superior Court legislation stands in relation to his own legislation now before the House. It is not an objection that I think is significant but it is one which might point up the bona fides in 1974 of the AttorneyGeneral.
The Attorney-General then sought in 1974, as conservatives quite often do, very selectively to deprecate developments in the United States. He referred also to the different law officers proposed under the Superior Court legislation by comparison with those existing in most States. He talked about the fact that we were going to have marshals of the Superior Court rather than sheriffs. I can understand the Attorney’s conservatism. Quite often members of the Liberal and National Country Parties like to go back further, and I suppose one could antedate the term ‘sheriff’ to that of ‘marshal’ by a couple of centuries, indeed to before the Norman Conquest. It might then have some more English connection which is appealing to him, but of course it is a nonsense. Who cares what the officers are called? The Attorney-General was at that time being quite flippant, one would hope, in talking as he did when he said:
There will be the creation of a parallel system of law enforcement officers- marshals who rush in with a federal badge as distinct fom sheriffs who rush in with a State badge.
I know that occasionally he has to play down to the Country Party benches and to those Liberal Party back benchers who can watch only westerns. The position now is that there will be sheriffs rushing in with a federal badge as opposed to sheriffs rushing in with a State badge. What a great distinction. What difference does it make? If the Attorney is concerned about standardising the designations of court officers throughout the country he has a long way to go. Again, it was a spurious objection. He was grasping at straws, as the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham), who is interjecting, knows.
The next and most curious objection raised by the Attorney-General in 1974, although in 1975 he went further, was when he had this to say:
Covering clause 5 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act which says that the law of the Commonwealth shall be binding on all State Courts, is an expression of the idea that all the law shall be enforceable in the State courts.
The Attorney-General has changed ground since then. Now we have a measure introduced by him on behalf of the Government which contradicts that proposition, a proposition which would be supported by no honest lawyer in Australia and a proposition which is so demonstrably false that I do not think even at that time the AttorneyGeneral could have meant it seriously. He said that all laws shall be enforceable in the State courts, but in the related measures we are debating here we are talking about industrial matters, at least a good part of the bankruptcy law, trade practices and the judicial review of administrative decisions. All these matters are to be litigated in federal courts and not in State courts. Only a few minutes later the Attorney went on to argue that specialised federal jurisdiction which needs federal courts should be vested in the Industrial Court. He has changed ground since then. He now thinks the provisions of the Trade Practices Act ought to be invested in a special federal court, as the Labor Government proposed at that time. I wonder why he has changed his tune? I will come to that shortly.
The Attorney-General then went on very poignantly to object to the jurisdictions which the legislation was designed to remove from the State courts. What he said is worth quoting in full:
This is an extremely important matter. Industrial accident and workers’ compensation jurisdiction will be removed; taxation jurisdiction will be removed; industrial property jurisdiction will be removed. I ask honourable members’.
What will be left of the great common law courts of the States of this country?
I imagine that even the Attorney would concede that Sir Garfield Barwick has the interests of the great common law courts of this country at least as much at heart as he does. He proposed that exactly those 3 items the Attorney then instancedindustrial accident and workers’ compensation, taxation matters and industrial property matters- ought to be part of the original jurisdiction of Federal courts. Let me read what Sir Garfield Barwick had to say in that same law review article in 1964. In relation to taxation and industrial property he said:
I turn now to consider what original jurisdiction should be conferred on a new federal superior court. The basic ingredients I think I have perhaps already sufficiently indicatedtaxation matters other than mere enforcement of assessments, and industrial property matters.
Sir Garfield Barwick had it right! The Attorney had it wrong. Sir Garfield Barwick had it wrong on one count; he objected in 1964 to the inclusion within the original jurisdiction of a Federal court of family law matters or, as we then referred to them, matrimonial causes matters. The Attorney-General now concedes that family law is an appropriate subject to be administered in separate Federal courts. All of these views reflect value judgments.
I want to refer now to the substance of my amendment. In particular I want to mention the timidity of this Government, and particularly the Attorney-General, in describing what should be the original jurisdiction of the Federal Court. In a very significant article in 1963 Mr Byers, the present Solicitor-General, put the case very well when, talking about the device of investing State courts with Federal jurisidiction, he said.
This device of investing the State courts with federal jurisdiction virtually means that the Federal Government hands over administration of the Statutes involved to State Governments without considering whether such State Governments might be or become hostile, friendly or merely disinterested.
The Attorney-General in 1975, Mr Enderby-he was a good Attorney-General- had this to say:
The Parliament has no constitutional responsibility for State courts and cannot under the Constitution intervene in the organisation of those courts.
Earlier in the year we had a very good example in this Parliament of this occurring in relation to the administration of the matrimonial causes legislation. The Attorney will well remember that several very pointed questions of great public interest were raised in relation to the proceedings in a State Supreme Court in a matter entitled Robson v. Robson. The Attorney-General was unable to discover for members of this Parliament the information sought precisely for those reasons- precisely because he had no control over the administration of the laws passed by this Parliament. That simply is not good enough. It is not good enough to make value judgments about what are special areas of interest and then to say that others are not special areas. Quite eminent authorities differ on this point. Sir Garfield Barwick, for instance, did not think that family law was an appropriate subject. Now I think that the vast majority of members of the Parliament would concede that it is. The Attorney-General does not concede that industrial property and taxation matters are appropriate matters for the original jurisdiction of the Federal Court. Sir Garfield Barwick did.
The present Attorney-General concluded his objections in 1974 with the most curious objection of all, but it was typical of the obfuscation he raised throughout the debate at that time and subsequently in 1975. He said:
I ask: Can the right of appeal to the High Court be taken away? I ask that question because the judges of this court are officers of the Commonwealth just as judges of the Federal Industrial Court are officers of the Commonwealth and they are subject to the original jurisdication of the High Court under section 75 (5) of the Constitution. I have mentioned those matters because they only indicate that there are constitutional problems with this court as well.
He reached the true part in the last sentence when he said: ‘I only mention that because there are constitutional problems’. He knows that there are constitutional problems that Sir Garfield Barwick did not think were insurmountable back in 1964. He concedes that he was grasping at straws in respect of the measures we are now discussing, measures such as the power of the High Court to remit matters to other State courts and to Territory courts, and that such objections were not legitimate.
In 1975 when the Bill was brought before the House again, because the Senate had rejected it for reasons I can guess would not even be as well expounded as the peculiar reasons of the Attorney-General that I have just gone through, the Attorney-General had refined his argument. He said that he did not want to repeat his argument. I can understand that, as someone who values his professional reputation, he would not want to be seen too often stating such ludicrous propositions. This time we had a longish speech from the present Attorney-General who was by this time on the front bench of the then Opposition. As honourable members will recall, he was the shadow spokesman on Aboriginal affairs. He talked about the Bill having come back in the form in which it had been put to the House in 1974. He said that it was an irrelevant Bill because developments since the Bill was originally passed by the House of Representatives had made it out of date. He said it referred to the Matrimonial Causes Act which had been repealed because the Parliament had passed the Family Law Act. He said that the level of salaries set out in the legislation was out of date as a result of movements in money values. Of course they were all relevant objections and, as the Attorney knew, they could have been met by amendments in the Senate which would have been accepted by the Labor Government of the day. The Attorney-General knew that but he still forced on with these propositions that must have stretched his professional credibility tremendously.
I really like the following remarks of the present Attorney-General in that debate:
This underscores one basic fact, namely, that there are some aspects in relation to which section 57 of the Constitution ceases to have effect I suggest that the Attorney-General have a fresh look at section 57 to see whether it can appropriately apply to a Bill that no longer in many respects has relevance.
Honourable members know that the AttorneyGeneral is the resident expert on section 57 of the Constitution in respect of which he offered the most famous piece of gratuitous legal advice in the history of Australia. Tomorrow is the anniversary of that advice being acted on- in the specious Yarralumla statement. The specious Yarralumla statement made no reference to the proclamation that dissolved the Parliament. But I daresay that the Attorney has seen it, and possibly had seen it before it was signed by Malcolm Fraser when he did not command a majority in this House. If the Attorney-General cares to look at that statement again he will see listed amongst the Bills upon which the Governor-General purported to dissolve both Houses of Parliament the Superior Court of Australia Bill 1974. How ironic that on the anniversary of that despicable and outrageous occasion that ghost should come back in this legislation to haunt the AttorneyGeneral.
The Attorney-General then went on to talk in very large terms about the ideals of a system of national courts, all of which we should support, and about the difficulties with Chapter III- the judicature chapter- of the Constitution. He urged the Prime Minister to place it on the agenda of the Australian Constitutional Convention. I was at the Australian Constitutional Convention and so was the present Attorney-General and neither he nor any of his co-delegates from his side of the House sought to place those questions on the agenda or in any way to have them discussed, not even laterally in relation to the retiring age of judges. The amendment deserves the support of the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I am always amused when I hear the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) speak about 1 1 November 1975 because all members of this Parliament and his electors know that at that time last year he was walking along the Strand and as he passed Australia House he wondered why the crowds were clamouring around that building chanting out: ‘Hurrah, hooray, hooray’. He learnt much to his horror that his father had just been dismissed by the Governor-General and home he came running. So much for that. We are talking of other matters here today.
I direct my remarks principally to the Remuneration and Allowances Amendment Bill (No. 2). I suggest that a myth surrounds this nation’s judiciary. The myth is that there are but a handful of judges, commissioners and stipendiary magistrates. Because of that myth they are able to receive a salary which is rarely scrutinised or compared with salaries for other callings. Because of that myth they are able to deliver a work performance- whether it be excellent or poorthat is never commented upon or scrutinised. Indeed our own Standing Orders- I refer to standing order 75- grants them particular protection. I am not for a moment breaking that standing order.
I make it quite clear that I am not opposing the new Federal Court of Australia but rather I am endeavouring to tear away the wraps of mystery which surround our judiciary and facilitate the payment of salaries far in excess of the salaries of the nation’s parliamentarians and more significantly way ahead of the nation’s Ministers. I see that the nation’s top lawman, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott), is seated at the table. Even the Attorney-General’s salary is $10,000 behind the salary paid to many members of the nation’s judiciary. Australia is often referred to as the over-governed country of the world where there is a politician on almost every corner. I have done some work on the numbers in the nation’s judiciary. It indicates that if politicians are 2-bob a dozen judicial officers are only 25c a dozen.
– It is about time you did some work.
-Well, you are probably being paid in accordance with your value. Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to drop that little comment. I do not feel that at all about the Minister at the table.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! I do not think that we can delete something that was said. I will leave it to the discretion of Hansard.
– I hope it is understood that I was retaliating to what was only a very friendly remark. We will call it quits at that.
I have had some figures taken out by the Legislative Reference Service of the Parliamentary Library. I seek the permission of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), the Opposition spokesman, to have the documents incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
Question: The number of judges and magistrates in each court in each state, and their salaries.
Dateof request 19 July 1 976. Required by 23 July 1976.
New South Wales has 78 judges and 91 Stipendiary magistrates.
Supreme Court 34 judges
Chief Justice: $50,660 + $2,700 expense allowance
President, Court of Appeal: $47,710 + $2, 100 expenses
Judges: $46,350 + $2, 100 expenses 3 Masters: $38,260 + $510 expenses
Industrial Commission 8 judges
President: $47,710 + $2, 100 expenses
Members: $46,350 + $2,100 expenses
Workers Compensation Commission 8 judges
Chairman: $41,750 + $2, 100 expenses
Members: $38,260 + $2, 100 expenses
New South Wales District Courts 28 judges
Chief Judge: $41,750 + $2, 100 expenses
Judges: $38,260 + $2, 100 expenses
There is the possibility of the appointment of one further Workers Compensation Commission Judge.
Stipendiary Magistrates in New South Wales 91 magistrates
Chairman of the Bench: $32,180 + $480 expenses
Deputy Chairman of the Bench: $30,460 + $336 expenses
Stipendiary Magistrate Grade 1: $28,700 + $228 expenses
Stipendiary Magistrate Grade 2: $26,399 + $228 expenses
Stipendiary Magistrate Grade 3: $23,721 + $228 expenses
Queensland has 33 judges and 61 magistrates.
Chief Justice: $50,370 including expenses
Judges: $42,940 including expenses
District Court 19 judges
Chairman: $40,460 including expenses
Judges: $36,330 including expenses
Salary ranges 114: $20,752
121 : $25,239
123 : $26,836
There are no projected increases in numbers known.
Tasmania has 5 judges and 1 acting judge and 14 state magistrates.
Supreme Court 5 judges and 1 acting judge
There may be an appointment of one further judge next year when the acting judge retires.
South Australia has 24 judges and 30 stipendiary magistrates.
Supreme Court l0judges
Chief Justice: $43,500 including expenses
Judges: $39,000 including expenses
Local and District Criminal Courts 14 judges
Senior Judge: $36,000 including expenses
Judges: $32,000 including expenses
Stipendiary Magistrates 30 magistrates. In addition several positions for Senior
Magistrate have just been advertised but it is not known exactly how many will be appointed.
Chief Senior Magistrate: $28,523 + $198 expenses
Supervising Senior Magistrate: $27,558 + $ 1 98 expenses
Senior Special Magistrate: $26,387 + $198 expenses
Senior Magistrate: $25,536 + $198 expenses
Victoria has 49 judges and 65 stipendiary magistrates.
Supreme Court 21 judges
Chief Justice: $48,370 + $2,500 expenses
Judges: $43,290 + $2,000 expenses
County Court 28 judges
Chief Judge: $43,350 + $2,500 expenses
Judges: $36,960 + $2,000 expenses
Senior Magistrate 1 usually becomes Senior Magistrate 2 after 5 years.
Victoria may increase its staff in the future by 1 or 2 Senior Magistrates 1 further Country Court Judge and 1 further Supreme Court Judge.
Western Australia has 1 8 state judges and 29 magistrates.
Supreme Court 7 judges 1 Chief Justice: $44,799 1 Senior Puisne Judge: $4 1 , 08 1 5 Judges: $39,843
District Court 6 judges
Stipendiary Magistrates 29 Senior Magistrates plus 1 vacant position. Usually there are 30. It is expected that this vacancy will be filled soon.
In addition 4 Magistrates are entitled to district allowances ranging from $89 p.a. to $ 1 , 305 p.a. for work in remote areas.
State Family Court: 4 judges
Compiled by: Sylvia Gleeson.
– In summary I refer to New South Wales where there are some 78 judges and 91 stipendiary magistrates. In Queensland there are 33 judges and 6 1 magistrates. In Tasmania there are 6 judges and 14 state magistrates. In South Australia there are some 24 judges and 30 stipendiary magistrates. In Victoria there are 49 judges and 65 stipendiary magistrates. In Western Australia there are 18 State judges, 29 stipendiary magistrates and in addition 4 State Family Court judges. On the Federal scene which includes the High Court, the Australian Industrial Court, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Federal Court of Bankruptcy, the Family Court of Australia, the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, the Law Reform Commission, the Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration, the Royal Commission into Human Relationships, the Grants Commission, the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Trade Practices Commission and the Trade Practices Tribunal, there are a total of some 56 judges and 52 commissioners. We are all aware that the Federal Court of Australia Bill will add to the number of Federal judges and commissioners. The grand total of the State judges, Federal judges, commissioners and stipendiary magistrates is 607 with more to come because of the Federal Court of Australia Bill.
I said before that if politicians are 2-bob a dozen the judiciary could be sold at 25c a dozen. To balance my mathematics it must be pointed out that the total of State and Federal parliamentariansthat includes of course both upper Houses and lower Houses- comes to some 756. There we are with 756 politicians and 607 judicial officers throughout Australia. Yet when we look at the salaries paid to the judiciary and compare them with the salaries paid to parliamentarians the figures are not so close. The judicial
officers on average would probably be receiving $38,000 to $39,000 a year. That is more than the salary of the nation’s highest law officer, the Attorney-General. If one were to believe that the judicial officers were always hard-working one might be able to live with the knowledge of their high salaries. I wish to incorporate in Hansard information which was gathered by an honourable senator on the performances of the judges of the Australian Industrial Court between 1971 and 1975. 1 seek the permission of the House to incorporate the document in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
SENATE ESTIMATES COMMITTEE ‘F*
QUESTION BY SENATOR WRIGHT: DIVISION 172
At the meeting of the Committee on 9 October 1975, Senator Wright asked:
the names of the present Judges of the Industrial Court, and
details of their judicial and extra-judicial work over the last four years.
The names of the present Judges of the Industrial Court have been furnished and were notified in Hansard of 10 October 1975.* The following information is now furnished in answer to the second part of Senator Wright ‘s question.
Chief Judge Mr Justice Spicer-
Mr Justice Dunphy- Court of Marine Inquiry
MV Blythe Star 1973-19days MV Blythe Star, 1 974-20 days.
Mr Justice Nimmo-
Mr Justice Woodward-
Mr Justice Franki-
Mr Justice Sweeney-
– I thank the House. An examination of the number of sitting days which the judges of the Industrial Court put in during those years, with a couple of exceptions, will show a deplorable lack of dedication to duty. I recognise that the Chief Judge, Mr Justice Spicer, in 1972 had 7 days away from the
Industrial Court on a number of marine inquiries, that Mr Justice Dunphy spent some 19 days in 1973 and 20 days in 1974 on a court of marine inquiry, that Mr Justice Nimmo had a number of inquiries to conduct and that Mr Justice Woodward spent most of 1973 and almost the first half of 1974 with the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission. He also spent a part of 1 975 at sittings of the Trade Practices Tribunal. Of course this indicates the extra work done by judges of the Australian Industrial Court. I suggest to the Attorney-General that he could use his good offices to ensure that Federal judges are in fact giving a fair return for their very high salaries.
I will not reflect on the judiciary because that is against Standing Orders. I am sure that if honourable members were to examine the figures of the actual sittings of the Australian Industrial Court there would be, to say the least, some raised eyebrows. I have not been able to get figures for all the other courts. Perhaps the incorporated material gives a general example of the whole system. If that be the case, rather than appointing more judges perhaps we should be considering retiring the present judges as quickly as we can in order to decrease the numbers and thereby to ensure that they are all contributing as we would like.
I wish to refer once more to salaries. I find it amusing that the nation’s Prime Minister receives a salary that is $3,000 a year less than that of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia; that the nation’s Deputy Prime Minister receives less money than the judge who is second in charge of the Family Court; and that the nation’s Treasurer, the man who is supposed to come forward with all the answers to save the nation, receives a salary barely more than that of an ordinary Family Court judge. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker: Does this indicate to you that perhaps the Ministry- whether it be a Labor Ministry or a Liberal Ministry- is being grossly underpaid or that perhaps the nation’s judiciary is being grossly overpaid? It is suggested that very high salaries have to be paid to entice these gentlemen and ladies away from fairly lucrative law practices. I concede that a successful lawyer in private practice could command a very high income if the practice were well conducted. But to be made a judge, even if judges are worth almost 25c a dozen compared to politicians who are worth about 2 bob a dozen, is surely a great honour. To be made a judge- a Federal judge particularly- is a way of ensuring a job for life. Only the other day Mr Justice McTiernan in his late eighties at last threw down the flag. If anyone suggested for a moment that a man in has late eighties was not quite as able as a much younger man to produce a judgment, that person would face a great deal of problems for having made such a suggestion against a member of the judiciary. I believe that to be appointed a judge of this nation is a great honour. I believe that to serve in this nation’s Parliament is also a great honour.
I also believe that it is high time the Government of the day either reviewed the salary ranges of the Ministers to bring them up to the level of those of the judiciary or, alternatively, ensured that the judiciary has its salaries pegged until such time as the Ministry- the men in whose hands we have entrusted the future of this nation- are paid the same salaries. Either the nation’s Ministers are being hopelessly and recklessly underpaid, or the judiciary is being recklessly overpaid. I leave you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to decide that, and I remind you that it is a judge who is in charge of the Remuneration Tribunal which sets salaries for both judges and members of this Parliament.
– It is a pity that I have to answer an honourable member from my side of the Parliament who has made a very strong attack on the judiciary. If I may say so with respect to him, it was an unfortunate attack because the judiciary, of course, cannot protect itself from such attacks, which have been traditional in the Parliament over the years since Federation. I can assure honourable members that judges, as a body of men, work hard. It is usually people who do not Understand the life of a judge who attack them. Mention was made- I thought it was a little unfortunate- of Mr Justice McTiernan who has just retired from the High Court of Australia. Quite frankly, I will not sit in the Parliament and hear a word said against Sir Edward McTiernan. I can speak from experience of the hard work that he did as a justice of the High Court over a period of 40 years, for 20 years of which I appeared constantly before him. I know something of the work that he put into the Court. I mention this because I would not sit here as the only one who can protect these gentlemen and not answer such an attack made on an individual.
As to judicial salaries themselves, I think honourable members have to understand that those who go to the Bench normally go from very lucrative practices at the Bar. I have said in this House before that it is not uncommon for counsel in this country to be earning incomes running into 6 figures. When they go to the Bench they must give up quite a deal in terms of their yearly incomes. True, they receive the benefit of security and the status of a judge. But let it not be. thought that these are men who suddenly are working their way up the salary scale to achieve some ultimate objective of a high salary. In most casescertainly in cases in which people of quality are appointed- they are men who have to accept a substantial diminution in their yearly incomes. So judges’ salaries are properly at the level at which they are. If we cannot pay people of capacity a salary which is sufficient to attract them, they will stay at the Bar. That is understandable.
There is no ground really upon which a comparison can be made between a member of Parliament and a judge. They are 2 quite different occupations. Different demands are made upon them and there are different disciplines within which they work. I would not attack members of Parliament for not working hard. I know that they do work hard. I know that coming into this place week after week is like stepping on to a treadmill at 9 o’clock in the morning and being thrown off the treadmill at 12 o’clock at night. I do not think the members of the public realise what is involved in the politician’s life. A judge’s life is not made up of just sitting in court. It is made up of preparing judgments; of sitting in court; of undertaking research. In other words, many aspects of a judge’s time are taken up outside court. Let it not be thought that because a judge is not sitting in court he is not working. Indeed, sitting in court for three to four days a week is a good sitting week for a judge. Those other periods- a day or a day and a half- are usually, and ought to be, taken up in preparing judgments, which need care and consideration. The life of a judge is not an easy one. It is a remote life. To some extent, it is like going into a seminary. The door is slammed behind him. When a person becomes a judge, there is not much more in his or her life, other than being a judge. Sometimes they come out, as was the case with Dr Evatt. But not many do so. So there is a sense of finality. A judge’s life is something that needs to be understood. I cannot sit here and listen to the objections of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) without rising to my feet to answer them.
The honourable member cited the number of members of the judiciary in Australia. Of course, it comprises a large number of magistrates. Magistrates are scattered around the Commonwealth, in remote places and in large cities. There is a large number of them. But the superior courts, by and large, consist of a small number of judges compared to the figure of 500 or 600 members of the judiciary mentioned by the honourable member for Griffith. The judges of the new court will number twenty, or thereabouts. They will be working hard as a peripatetic court moving around Australia. They will sit in the Territories- in Darwin and in Canberrathey will be moving from city to city. They will be truly working hard. To some extent they will be specialist judges sitting in the industrial division or in specialist matters such as taxation and industrial property. I was asked about appointments to the industrial division. I say to honourable members opposite that these are matters that will be discussed with individual judges and, as the Bill provides, some judges can be assigned to one division and some to another. However, the question of what division judges go to will be discussed with individual judges.
– Their decision will be the one which is accepted?
– The question of where they will go will be a matter of arrangement with the judges. The honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) raised the question of section 78 (B). It seems to me that that section is fairly clear and that it indicates that the Attorney-General has a discretion to pay the costs occasioned by a delay in a matter because notice had to be given. I do not think there is any uncertainty. It is very difficult to make provision for an order for costs. It is for the AttorneyGeneral of the day to exercise his discretion in a proper way and I imagine that is just what he will do. I do not propose to answer the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) in detail. He was not in the chamber in 1 974 but he seemed to want to spend his time by answering what was put to this Parliament then. If he reads what I said in 1974 he will find that the original jurisdiction of this court is basically the same as that which I thought then should appropriately be given to a Federal court. At page 600 of the Hansard of ‘24 July 1974 he will find a statement to that effect.
The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) raised the question of whether property should be the basis of the right of appeal and I have discussed this with the honourable member outside the chamber. To some extent I have sympathy with him but when this question was discussed by the Judiciary Act Review Committee as far back as 1969 the problem quickly arose of finding another basis. The only other that we could find then was to make all appeals subject to leave. However once one gets away from the traditional property matters and into questions in relation to criminal matters, and asks whether there should be a right to appeal in the case of a sentence, affecting the liberty of the subject or where a person who has a sentence of say 5 years but not one with a lesser sentence only by way of special leave, we immediately raise problems. A month in gaol to one person might be as significant as is 5 years in gaol to another. It is an extremely difficult matter in which to draw a line other than by proceeding in the traditional way or by providing for special leave to appeal. I would like to find a more satisfactory way but have not yet been able to do so. I did not find it in what was said by the honourable member for St George, but I take into account very seriously what he said.
Perhaps I can leave anything else I have to say to the Committee stages. I would like to thank all those who have participated in this debate for the constructive way in which they have dealt with the matters raised in these important and significant Bills which in effect are reforming the Federal judiciary in this country.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations announced.
Bill committed pro forma; progress reported.
by leave- The Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry reported its final findings and recommendations to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development on 2 1 October 1976. The commission of inquiry had conducted public hearings on 3 1 days between 5 August and 3 October 1975, received 658 exhibits, and viewed a number of places and activities, including sandmining operations and the rehabilitation of sand mined areas on Fraser Island, North Stradbroke Island, Inskip Point, Rainbow Beach and the Cooloola area.
Evidence on behalf of DM Minerals was given to a previous inquiry by a senior executive and two consultants; DM Minerals lodged 61 exhibits. This evidence was taken into account by the inquiry. Evidence was given by executives of Queensland Titanium Mines. The inquiry was conducted by two appropriately and highly qualified commissioners, supported by four expert advisers. During the inquiry, the commission had the benefit of advice, in evidence, from a range of experts. The inquiry took 15 months to reach its conclusions, and is thus a fully detailed and comprehensive review of the environmental features of Fraser Island and the impacts of the sandmining industry.
The inquiry, which was conducted under the provisions of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 for the purposes of achieving the object of the Act recommended that:
Having regard to the evidence in respect of all of the environmental aspects of the making of decisions by or on behalf of the Australian (Commonwealth) Government in relation to the exportation from Australia of minerals (including minerals that have been subjected to processing or treatment) extracted or which may hereafter be extracted from Fraser Island in the State of Queensland, the commission recommends that:
All exports of minerals (including minerals that have been subjected to processing or treatment) extracted or which may hereafter be extracted from Fraser Island be absolutely prohibited except for minerals extracted from below the mean high-water mark on the eastern beach south of Indian Head.
Appropriate economic and other assistance be given to the extent that adverse regional economic effects follow the implementation of Recommendation 1.
The whole of Fraser Island be recorded as pan of the National Estate as soon as possible.
The Commonwealth Government has reviewed in detail the findings and recommendations of the inquiry, and has taken fully into account representations made to it since the report was published, including views expressed by the Queensland Government- which favoured continuation of mining- local governments, the mining industry, the firms concerned, and many interested organisations and individuals. The Commonwealth Government has decided that the export of minerals extracted from Fraser Island, other than from below highwater mark on the beach south of Indian Head, should be phased out and export should not be permitted for minerals mined after 3 1 December 1976. The Acting Minister for National Resources (Mr Nixon), had indicated that he intends to withhold export permits accordingly. Mining operations until then should be carried on under conditions and on locations agreed by the Commonwealth and Queensland governments. The Commonwealth Government has also decided that Fraser Island will be recorded as part of the National Estate, under the Australian Heritage Commission Act. This decision recognises the place of Fraser Island as part of our national and international heritage. It is a decision both in keeping with the Government’s policy concerning the Australian environment, as well as being part of our international obligations. In reaching this decision, the Government has recognised that it needs to act, in conjunction with the Queensland Government, to ensure that the special features of Fraser Island are preserved for future generations as well as for the present community. These special features set Fraser Island aside as an area of outstanding social, aesthetic and scientific significance. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development will consult with the Queensland Government seeking joint Commonwealth-State action to develop an agreed management plan for Fraser Island, having in mind the preservation of the Island ‘s natural features and the oversight of Island activity. The inquiry reported that:
The natural environment of Fraser Island is of great significance, complexity and fragility. The Island possesses individual features of great attraction and importance, such as its perched lakes, immense beaches, cliffs of Teewah (Coloured) Sands, sand blows and rain-forested sand dunes. But the inevitable highlighting of the presence and importance of these individual features of its natural environment should not be allowed to obscure the links and interdependency of its many fragile elements, while, overall, an impression of wilderness gives unity to the broad spectrum of the particular natural features of the Island.
In reaching its decision the Commonwealth has been most concerned about the implications for people affected by the decision and for employment in the region generally and it is looking at measures to alleviate any detrimental effects. The Commonwealth is most concerned to assist people affected to find suitable alternative employment. The adjustment process towards suitable re-employment may require, for some, retraining in new skills, or relocation of place of residence. There is no single measure capable of solving the overall problem. Neither is the problem one which the Commonwealth Government can solve alone- State governments, employers and the unions concerned may also need to be prepared to act in a co-operative and constructive way. The range of measures available from the Commonwealth to employees retrenched or under threat of retrenchment comprises:
The employment counselling, placement and related services available through the Commonwealth Employment Service; training assistance under the National Employment and Training scheme; relocation assistance for employment, or training leading to employment, available under the Relocation Assistance Scheme; and income support to unemployed persons by way of unemployment benefit and other related benefits.
The relevant Commonwealth Ministers will consult with Queensland on the application of special arrangements for the services provided by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, and on the development of forestry operations on the mainland, and the development of the tourist industry and the tourist potential of Fraser Island and the Maryborough region. The Queensland Government has already been informed of the Commonwealth Government’s decisions and consultation between the 2 governments, consistent with the federalism policy and the announced approach to Commonwealth-State co-operation, is already proceeding. On export commitments for mineral sands, overseas buyers should be able to secure the balance of their requirements which would not be available from Fraser Island from the on-going operations in the Australian industry at reasonable prices. In the unlikely event of these overseas buyers encountering difficulties in obtaining supplies the Commonwealth Government will make appropriate arrangements to ensure that supplies are made available. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed;
That the House take note of the paper.
-The Opposition welcomes the decision by the Government to adopt the Fraser Island report. It is certainly a great victory for all concerned with the protection of the environment. I should note also that it is a vindication of the decision of the Labor Government to establish the inquiry in the first place. The Opposition therefore takes special satisfaction from the adoption of the report. Nevertheless, there are some aspects of this report to which I wish to address myself. It must be admitted that there are costs involved in this decision. In my opinion, the costs are worth paying. Nevertheless, we should look briefly at them.
It seems to me that there are 2 sets of costs. Firstly, there is a loss of national income and exports by foregoing the mining activities. This has an effect on our gross domestic product and balance of payments. Secondly, there are costs relating to the economic effect on the persons in the Maryborough-Hervey Bay area. The first set of costs will be borne by the nation as a whole, and this is appropriate as we are seeking to preserve a unique aspect of our natural environment for all Australians. The Opposition is concerned that the second element of sacrifice will be borne by the persons directly concerned and that the element of national sacrifice will not extend to them.
After listening to the statement made by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman), I do not feel much satisfaction about the protection that is being offered to persons who are directly affected by the decision. The Commission of Inquiry made it clear in its report that it expected that the cessation of mining, as recommended by it, would have adverse economic and employment effects in the Maryborough-Hervey Bay district. It was not able to evaluate that effect as it depended on such intangibles as the likely increase in tourism that would flow from implementation of the report. Nevertheless, the Commission considered that assistance to the region would be required. The second recommendation contained in the report states:
Appropriate economic and other assistance be given to the extent that adverse regional economic effects follow the implementation of recommendation 1.
The first recommendation in the report was, of course, to cease mining activities. The Commission recommends in the body of its report that this assistance be provided by both State and Commonwealth governments. But if any really effective steps are to be taken these will almost certainly depend on the Commonwealth Government taking the initiative. This raises the very pertinent point as to what is the responsibility of governments to people who are adversely affected by actions taken by those governments in the national interest.
In the recent past the Labor Government accepted responsibility for actions it took in the national interests on such matters as reducing tariffs by providing structural adjustment assistance to employees who lost their jobs as a consequence of that government action. These employees were able to receive the average of their weekly earnings over the previous 6 months for a period up to 6 months if they could not obtain another job. If this kind of income maintenance can be made available to persons affected by one set of government decisions, it is surely only fair that other persons similarly affected by other government decisions should receive the same kind of assistance.
I am not sure at this stage just what is the state of the structural adjustment assistance program, as it operated under the Labor Government. It depended on a declaration by the government that persons affected by certain government decision were eligible for assistance. I am unaware of any such declarations being made by the
Fraser Government. Nevertheless, I suppose the income maintenance scheme which applied under the Labor Government still exists on the books. That scheme which applied when tariffs were cut could easily be applied in this instance and, in the opinion of the Opposition, should be applied. As I have said, this situation is similar in that a Government decision affects employment. There is no earthly reason why the scheme should not be applied in this case as it was applied in the case of persons affected by tariff cuts.
Instead, the Minister’s statement offers income support to unemployed persons by way of unemployment benefit and other related benefits, whatever that means. The offer of the unemployment benefit is not really one designed to fill a potential recipient with great enthusiasm. It seems to me that the Government could have been rather more generous, to say the least, in looking after the persons who will be directly affected by loss of employment by extending to them the income maintenance scheme under the structural adjustment assistance program rather than offering them the unemployment benefit as though it were some great effort by the Government to assist them.
The other measures mentioned by the Minister are employment counselling, placement and related services available through the Commonwealth Employment Service. This is nothing particularly especial. It has been offered in some special way to the persons in this country who have been affected by the measures that the Government is introducing on the waterfront- to the employees of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. So far, although they were given notice in July, those persons still have not received any special assistance from the Commonwealth Employment Service. I am not blaming the officers of the CES. I suggest that it is more to do with governmental direction. The offer here of special help from the CES is not going to be a source of great joy when one considers the previous offer that was made to the officers of the Stevedoring Industry Authority. It has not meant anything to them yet.
The offer of training assistance under the National Employment and Training scheme certainly could be valuable to the people who need to be retrained. We will have to await the outcome of that to assess whether it is worthwhile. The relocation assistance for employment also may be worthwhile, but I do make the point that it is not going to help the Maryborough-Hervey Bay district to have everyone move away from the area. I am sure that the people who live in the area want to stay there and would much prefer to have jobs created in the area rather than be offered a payment for being relocated somewhere else. This brings me to the point that the Government should be looking not only at the measures which have been mentioned by the Minister, which in my opinion are very thin, but also at the possibility of creating jobs in the area. It is not good enough just to talk about relocation and training assistance. The Government should be also looking at the possibility of creating jobs in that area either through direct expenditure by the Commonwealth Government and its encouraging the Queensland Government to do the same thing or by making some special assistance available either to relocate industry in that area or to assist other industry which is already there. I understand that there is not a great deal of industry right now in the Maryborough-Hervey Bay district. Either of those measures would be extremely helpful to the people who are going to lose their jobs, but nothing of that kind had been offered.
In relation to the provision of assistance to industry, I recall that when the Australian Labor Party was in office there was the SANMA- the Special Assistance to Non-Metropolitan Areasscheme, which has died a natural death since we went out of office. It provided assistance to firms which were affected by structural adjustment. There is no reason why that sort of scheme could not be used to encourage firms to relocate in the Maryborough-Hervey Bay district or perhaps to assist a firm in that district which is struggling to provide more employment. But a much more imaginative approach than is outlined on the third page of the Minister’s prepared statement is needed. If the Government is really concerned about looking after the people of the Maryborough-Hervey Bay district it can do a lot more. They can be given a lot more by way of income maintenance. They should be given a much better deal in terms of job creation. Having said that, I reiterate the point that the Opposition welcomes wholeheartedly the decision by the Government to adopt the Fraser Island report. The Opposition reservations are in respect of the miserly attitude that has been adopted towards those who are affected by the decision.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 1 to 8- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– Perhaps I should explain, quickly, why I shall be moving the amendments I have circulated. This Bill was laid on the table for a few weeks. It was considered by the Law Council of Australia and by various Bar associations and it was circulated among judges. As a result or representations that were made, the Government decided to accede to certain amendments, and those are the amendments to which I refer. Very broadly, I think it can be said that they attempt to bring the Federal Court of Australia into line with the Supreme Courts of the States and Territories so far as appeals to the High Court are concerned. The Law Council of Australia took the view that, whereas the Bill provided that all appeals should be by special leave, it was appropriate that this Bill should give a right of appeal to the High Court from judgments of the Federal Court similar to that in respect of the Supreme Courts of the States and the Territories. It is for that reason that, for instance, amendment No. 9 is in the form circulated.
-May I interrupt for just a moment. I think the AttorneyGeneral should ask for leave to move all the amendments together; then, after leave is granted, the Attorney-General may talk about any amendment he likes.
– I seek leave to move all the amendments together.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I have circulated amendments which refer to clauses 9, 10, 15, 24, 25, 28 and 33, which read in part:
The Consolidated Revenue Fund is appropriated to the extent necessary for payment of salaries and allowances in accordance with this section.
1 ) Subject to any other Act, the Court may, in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction-
In clause 24, omit sub-clause (2) and substitute the following sub-clause:- “(2) On or after the commencing day an appeal shall not be brought to the High Coun from a judgment of the Supreme Court of a Territory except-
Omit clause 33 and substitute the following clause:- “33. (1) The jurisdiction of the High Court to hear and determine appeals from judgments of the Court whether in civil or criminal matters, is subject to the exceptions and regulations prescribed by this section. “(2) Except as otherwise provided by another Act, an appeal shall not be brought to the High Coun from a judgment of the Court constituted by a single Judge. “(3) Except as provided by the succeeding provisions of this section, an appeal shall not be brought from a judgment of a Full Court of the Coun unless the High Coun gives special leave to appeal. “(4) Subject to sub-section (5), an appeal may be brought as of right from a final judgment of a Full Court of the Court given or pronounced-
Amendments agreed to.
Remainder of Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 June, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I desire to speak only briefly to the motion for the second reading of this Bill. When this Bill first appeared on the horizon I found it a somewhat unattractive document. I would like to record my appreciation to the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) for the time and trouble he has taken in explaining to the Law and Government Committee the basic principles behind this legislation. Many of the fears I originally held in respect of the access of Tasmania and other outlying States to the High Court of Australia have been allayed. In my respectful submission, it must be a fundamental principle that all persons in Australia have equal opportunities of access to the High Court of Australia, that Court being the highest court of appeal in the land. I believe that it would be a morally untenable position for any government to tolerate that residents in one State had easy access to the High Court but residents in outlying States found it not only difficult but also an expensive and time-consuming process to get access to the High Court.
Many of the problems which have existed in the past have related to the need for litigants in States such as Tasmania and Western Australia in particular to travel to Melbourne or Sydney to make an application for leave to appeal to the High Court, frequently in cases in which to appeal to the Full Court of the State and then to appeal to the High Court could have meant a delay of up to 12 months or in one case up to 15 months. A litigant could go bankrupt waiting to .get his matter determined. I believe that the principle that justice delayed is justice denied would be breached if we ever created a situation in which litigants in any remote part of Australia found it difficult to get their cases heard and determined with some degree of speed.
I commend the Attorney-General because I believe that, flowing from the discussions which have taken place on this legislation, a more streamlined approach in regard to applications for leave to appeal to the High Court will be available. In particular, I hope that the High Court will make it possible for a single judge to travel interstate and hear applications for special leave to appeal in the State from which the appeal originates rather than have the present expensive and archaic system whereby litigants have to travel at considerable expense from Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland to Melbourne or Sydney to have their applications heard. For example, in a case in which a man had a right to appeal to the High Court of Australia and also to the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Tasmania last year and chose to make an application to go direct to the High Court, the cost of the application for leave to appeal direct to the High Court, which he lost, was almost $3,000. That sum basically was eaten up by travelling expenses, costs in preparing the documents and counsel’s fees.
The point I am making is this: The High Court belongs to the people of Australia. It is not the province of just those who live in the most populous States. Within the next 5 years the High Court probably will move to Canberra. The point has been made on many occasions that Canberra is not the font of all wisdom in this country. I hope that, if the High Court does move to Canberra within the next five to ten years, it will not forget that there are people in other parts of Australia who will want access to that Court and might very well need assistance to get their matters brought on speedily. I therefore ask the Attorney-General, although really it is a matter not for him but for the ChiefJustice of the High Court, to bear in mind that the Court since its inception for nearly three-quarters of a century, has travelled to every State in Australia. When that stops, the Court ought to give consideration to sending at least a single judge interstate to hear applications for special leave to appeal. If that is not feasible the Commonwealth will have to look very closely at the idea of setting up a fund to subsidise the costs of litigants travelling from States such as Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania to have their matters heard.
I leave that matter with the Attorney-General with some degree of confidence. I hope that Order 75 of the High Court Rules is looked at. I hope that we get to a situation in which applications for special leave can be made ex parte, according to a written form. Anything that should be done must be done to provide equal access to the High Court of Australia for all Australians. If the High Court of Australia becomes the domain of the rich who live in New South Wales and Victoria and if it becomes inaccessible to the poor who live in the more outlying and less populous States, it will cease to be the High Court of Australia. I am convinced that this is not the wish of the Attorney-General, or of this Government, or of the shadow AttorneyGeneral. I support the Bill but I record my earnest belief that the moment the High Court ceases to be accessible on economic grounds- that is from a financial point of view- to all Australians we will have succeeded in destroying the High Court. I do not want to see that happen. On that basis I support the legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
Proposed new clauses 2a, 2b and 2C.
– I move:
As with the Federal Court of Australia Bill these amendments arise out of the fact that the Judiciary Amendment Bill was laid on the table for some months. We received a number of representations. These and other amendments flow from those representations. They are designed to take into account- as I think we should in this Parliament- the representations made by learned bodies such as the Law Council of Australia and the bar councils of Victoria and New South Wales. Also, of course, individual practitioners have written in. I am grateful for the way in which all those people have responded by making helpful suggestions which I think will result in a better piece of legislation than we had when we introduced the Bill in, I think, June last.
-Is leave granted for proposed new clauses to be moved together? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Proposed new clauses agreed to.
“35.(1) . . .
“(4) Sub-section (3) does not allow an appeal as of right to be brought where the only ground of appeal concerns the assessment of the amount of any damages in an action for damages for death or personal injury. “(5 ) This section has effect subject to any special provision made by an Act other than this Act, whether passed before or after the commencement of this section, preventing or permitting appeals from the Supreme Courts of the States in particular matters.
Amendment (by Mr Ellicott) agreed to:
Omit sub-section (4) and substitute the following subsection: “ ‘(4) An appeal shall not be brought from a judgment referred to in sub-section (3) on a ground that relates to the quantum of any damages in respect of death or personal injury unless the High Court has given special leave to appeal on that ground. ‘ ‘.
-If the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) wishes he can move his two amendments together. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
In sub-section (5) of proposed section 35 omit ‘This section has effect’, substitute “The foregoing provisions of this section have effect ‘.
After sub-section (5) of proposed section 35 insert the following sub-sections: “ ‘(5a) Notwithstanding any other Act, an appeal may be brought as of right from a final judgment of a Full Coun of the Supreme Court of a State where the ground of appeal, or one of the grounds of appeal, involves the interpretation of the Constitution. ‘(5B)Where-
In the course of my speech during the second reading debate I mentioned the necessity, in our view, to retain the High COUrt as the court in all constitutional matters. The amendments relate to that situation. I say for the benefit of the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) that we have to accept the Bill as it is given to us by the Government. It is not our Bill. The honourable member made a suggestion that perhaps we should be moving more amendments. We obviously would be doing that if we were in government. We are talking of fundamental amendments. It is not much good my being in the Portuguese Army and having somebody on the other side telling me what I should be doing when I am not able to control the situation. It is true that we made comments about the restrictions of rights in relation to a Bill, particularly in relation to those matters which the honourable member mentioned. But I think it should not be thought that we would not move other amendments if we thought they would be accepted. We criticised the factor which the honourable member raised. I just mention it again. It is not much good a Government supporter criticising me in this respect. I would have thought that a member of the Government parties could at least have moved the same amendments if he cared to do so. I say this only because what the honourable member proposes we should be trying to do here can destroy a debate. The concept of a Federal court was a good one. We think it is limited in the appeal provision. This is one of the amendments which we are moving and which we hope will meet with some success.
– The proposed new subsections comprise an amendment to which the Government is prepared to accede. I think it underlines the constitutional character of the High Court. Therefore it seems to us that it is appropriate that we agree to it. In the course of its administration it could conceivably lead to abuse by people inserting a ground challenging some section of an Act on the basis of it infringing the Constitution. I hope that will not happen. As I read the amendments, proposed new subsection (5b) is intended to enable the court to deal with such frivolous cases. So if anybody dares to put in additional grounds simply for the purpose of getting an appeal, as of right, they will be severely dealt with by the High Court. That is the basis upon which we agree to these amendments.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
Mr ELLICOTT (WentworthAttorneyGeneral) I seek leave to move amendments Nos 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9a and 10 standing in my name, together.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– These amendments refer to clauses 8 and 10 and to the Schedule which read:
Section 55b of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: “(4) A person who is, by virtue of this section, entitled to practise as a barrister or solicitor, or as both, in any federal court has a right of audience in any court of a State in relation to the exercise of federal jurisdiction by that court “.
After Division 1 of Pan XI of the Principal Act the following Division is inserted:
Division 1A- Provisions relating to Constitutional Matters ‘78a. (1) The Attorney-General of the Commonwealth may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, and the AttorneyGeneral of a State may, on behalf of the State, intervene in proceedings before the High Court or any other federal court of any court of a State or Territory, being proceedings that relate to a matter arising under the Constitution or in which a question of interpretation of the Constitution is involved or arises. “(2) Where the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth or of a State intervenes in proceedings in a court under this section, the cOurt may, in the proceedings, make such order as to costs against the Commonwealth or the State, as the case may be, as the court thinks fit. “78b. (1) Where a cause pending in a federal court other than the High Court or in a court of a State or Territory relates to a matter arising under the Constitution, or in a cause pending in any such court a question of interpretation of the Constitution is involved or arises, it is the duty of the court not to proceed in the cause unless and until the court is satisfied that notice of the cause, specifying the nature of the matter or question, has been given by a party to the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth and to the Attorney-General of each State and a reasonable time has elapsed since the giving of the notice for consideration by those Attorneys-General of the question of intervention in the proceedings or removal of the case to the High Court “(2) For the purposes of sub-section ( 1 ), a court in which a cause referred to in that sub-section is pending-
Sections 55b (3), 55C, 55d (4) and 6 (b), 65 and 80a.
3 ) After clause 7, insert the following new clause: “7a. Section 48 of the Principal Act is amended-
After clause 8, insert the following new clauses: “ 8a. Section 56 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraphs (b) and (c) or sub-section (1) and substituting the following paragraphs: ‘(b) if the claim arose in a State or Territory-in the Supreme Court of that State or Territory or in any other court of competent jurisdiction of that State or Territory; or ‘(c) if the claim did not arise in a State or Territory- in the Supreme Court of any State or Territory or in any other court of competent jurisdiction of any State or Territory. ‘. “ 8B. Section 68 of the Principal Act is amended-
In clause 10, omit sub-section (1) of proposed section 78b and substitute the following sub-section:- “ ‘( 1 ) Where a cause pending in a federal court other than the High Court or in a court of a State or Territory involves a matter arising under the Constitution or involving its interpretation, it is the duty of the court not to proceed in the cause unless and until the court is satisfied that notice of the cause, specifying the nature of the matter has been given to the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth and-
In clause 10, after sub-section (2) of proposed section 78b insert the following sub-section:- “ ‘(2a) For the purposes of sub-section ( 1 ), a notice in respect of a cause-
Section 39 (2) . . . Omit ‘the last two preceding sections ‘ substitute ‘section 38 ‘. “.
I have already referred to the nature of these amendments. They arise out of representations which have been made. I mention one amendment which I think is significant. Some of the State bodies took the trouble to refer to the fact that their courts had no power over counsel who appeared before them from other States. We have put in a provision which enables each State supreme court to set up a roll for counsel if it wishes. Counsel from other States will have to put their name on that roll. If there is any act which justifies their being struck off, they can be struck off that roll by the Supreme Court of that State. That is an example of the type of amendment to which I am referring. That should meet the objections which have been raised about their courts having no jurisdiction whatsoever over counsel from other States. This amendment to the Bill is a very basic one and one which I hope will lead to a common Bar right throughout Australia.
Amendments agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- as amended- agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott)- by leaveread a third time:
Consideration resumed from 19 August, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations announced.
– I seek leave to move all the amendments together.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The amendments refer to clauses 2 and 3 and propose the insertion of new clauses. Clauses 2 and 3 read in part:
This Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on 1 June 1976.
Sections 13 and 14 of the Principal Act are repealed and the following section is substituted: ‘13.(1) ‘(6) An additional annual allowance at the rate of $250 per annum is payable to the senior Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory appointed under sub-section 7(1) of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act 1 933.
) After clause 3, insert the following new clause: “3a. After section 13 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted in Part IV: ‘ 14. The provisions of sub-sections 13 (2), (3), (4) and (5) do not apply to a person who is a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia. ‘ 1 5. In respect of a judicial office specified in column 1 of Schedule 4-
These amendments are designed to put into the Bill before the Committee the salaries of the new Chief Judge of the Federal Court of Australia and of the judges of that Court. Honourable members will recall that the Government will be establishing the office of Chief Judge of each of the Territory Courts, and this Bill will have the effect of fixing the salary of the Chief Judge of each of those Courts.
– This appears in clause 4?
-This is contained in Schedule 4 and the amounts are there set out. So far as the new Court is concerned, those amounts will establish that the Court is intended to have Supreme Court status at least, and I say ‘at least’ advisedly. It should be borne in mind that at present the salary of the Chief Justice of New South Wales is approximately $52,000 and the salary of a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales is approximately $47,000. According to the Bill before the Committee, the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court will be $52,500 and of a justice of the High Court other than the Chief Justice will be $47,500. Honourable members will see that High Court judges’ salaries are not very much different from those of the judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and I think of the Supreme Court of Victoria. Those in other States are slightly below that amount.
These amendments will fix the salary of the Chief Judge of the new Court at $46,000, with an allowance of $2,500, and the salary of judges at $42,000 with an allowance of $2,250. The Chief Judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and of the Northern Territory will receive $40,500, with an allowance of $2,500, in respect of their offices. As I said, the amendments provide for those salaries and I hope that they will signify to the profession and to the public the intention of the Government that the new Court- the Federal Court of Australiashould be regarded as a court of a status which will attract those in the profession of the highest learning and repute. The Court will then be accepted in this country, as in a sense it must be, as a court to which litigants can go with great confidence. I hope that this Committee will applaud the appointment of the new Chief Judge when it is announced.
– This matter relates to remuneration and the Opposition supports the proposition. I think it clearly indicates, as the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) said, that we want to attract the best men to judicial office. I might make the point that in another debate earlier today it was suggested that the judiciary and magistrates may not work as hard as politicians. I think both groups of people work very hard indeed. Anybody who practises in the courts will understand that these people carry out a very effective function in a democracy. There are many countries which do not have courts functioning at all and there is no opportunity to obtain justice. It is wrong to create the impression that the people carrying out judicial work are not fully engaged. I suggest that is the wrong atmosphere to create and will not assist either the Parliament or the judiciary. Might I suggest also that these salaries be dealt with by the Remuneration Tribunal during its next assessment and that the relativity of judicial salaries be maintained?
– May I say to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) that these figures have been supplied by the Remuneration Tribunal on an informal basis. Therefore they do not come here as figures simply fixed by the Government.
– That satisfies my question.
– I had no intention of re-entering this debate until the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) made a comment. The speech to which he alluded was my contribution at about 5 o’clock this afternoon, and I will not readily forget the response from the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott). As far as I am concerned, it was one of his memorable speeches. I did not suggest that the judiciary was not hard working. I cited the Australian Industrial Court, which is but one of the many courts throughout the country. I referred to the difference between the salary of my friend the Attorney-General, for instance, who is the highest law officer in the country, and those of some judges to whom his very high decisions are referred. I want that to be clearly understood. I realise that both the Opposition spokesman and the Attorney-General are men who have a background of great legal learning.
– They advise Governors-General.
-They advise each other too. It might be suggested that their views are slightly prejudiced because of their background. I hope it is clearly understood that I stand in this place to put the views of the majority of Australians. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral does not give me another serve like he gave me before the suspension of the sitting for dinner.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott)- by leaveread a third time.
Consideration resumed from 3 November, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time.
Messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations in relation to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1976 and the Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1976 announced.
Leave granted for third readings to be moved forthwith.
Bills (on motion by Mr Ellicott) together read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr McLeay, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the payment of grants to the States for government and non-government schools in 1977, the first year of the 1977-79 rolling triennium. The Government issued guidelines for the triennial programs of the education commissions on 20 May of this year providing expenditure in 1977 of $508m, in December 1975 prices, on schools in the States. The Schools Commission’s report for the 1977-79 rolling triennium was tabled in the Parliament on 18 August. The Government’s decisions on the Commission’s recommendations were announced in another place on 4 November.
The Bill provides for programs estimated to cost $459.4m-at December 1975 prices-for the 1977 calendar year, the balance of the $508m, that is, $48.6m, being available under the ongoing States Grants (Schools) Act 1972. This Bill therefore honours the Government’s undertakings in relation to the first year of the 1977-79 rolling triennium. The amount represents a 2 per cent growth in real terms over 1976. The grants in this Bill are expressed in June 1976 prices for capital programs, and September 1976 prices for recurrent programs, except for the nongovernment schools general recurrent program which includes an allowance for cost increases during the first half of 1977. Consequently the grants for 1977 actually incorporated in this Bill amount to an estimated $509.5m. The grants will be subject to supplementation by amending legislation for subsequent movement in costs. Supplementary funds for this purpose will be determined by movements in the schools price index after any offsetting savings are taken into account.
The introduction of the rolling triennium will enable, as each year progresses, plans for the remaining 2 years of the triennium to be reviewed and updated and initial proposals to be made for a new third year. This Bill gives effect to the new arrangement for 1977. For years two and three of the 1977-79 triennium, the Schools Commission is to plan on the basis of a minimum growth of 2 per cent per annum over the level of expenditure in year one.
The Government has considered recommendations of the Schools Commission against the background of its own education policies for schools. These include widening educational opportunity and promoting equality; parental choice in schooling; encouragement of community participation in education policy development and implementation; and special assistance to the educationally disadvantaged. We endorse in particular the emphasis the Schools Commission wishes to see given to moves to create two-way communication between schools, parents, employers and the community at large, and encouragement of cooperative planning between government and non-government school authorities.
The Government welcomes moves by school communities and State governments to encourage a more active role for parents, teachers and local communities in school management and decision making. In particular it is the Government’s intention that these groups participate with government and non-government school authorities in planning activities under the disadvantaged country areas program.
The Bill gives effect to several new initiatives proposed by the Commission. Principal among these are programs for disadvantaged country areas, to which I have just alluded, emergency aid for non-government schools in temporary financial difficulties, particularly in country areas, and grants for the education of children living in institutions. Funds will also be available for the first time in 1977 for the provision of boarding facilities in non-government schools. The Government has decided to guarantee loans for approved non-government school building projects and to implement a scheme of advance offers of building grants for these schools to enable projects to be commenced sooner than would otherwise be the case. Legislation to authorise the former of these 2 schemes will be introduced in the autumn session, while the latter does not call for legislation.
General Resources Programs
As indicated in the Government’s statement tabled in the House on 10 November, we have accepted the Commission’s financial recommendations for government schools in broad terms but have modified the recommended distribution between States of capital grants. This modification was made after considering the basis of the recommended distribution and relating this to the existing pattern of grants in 1976. The Government considered that, in the light of 1976 allocations, the recommended total of general recurrent and capital grants for Queensland would make it too difficult for that State to implement its planned programs for 1977. The modified distribution of grants decided on by the Government results in a $1.4m addition in December 1975 prices to Queensland’s allocation for general capital grants offset against slight reductions in the allocations for four other States. As is the case in relation to grants for 1976, the Commonwealth is prepared to consult with the States on the question of transfers between the allocations for general recurrent and capital grants within each State. This move is aimed at providing each State with a degree of flexibility in planning the use of grants under these 2 programs.
The Government reaffirms its policy of providing basic per capita grants for all pupils in nongovernment schools while at the same time maintaining higher grants for schools in greater need. It is concerned to encourage parental choice. The Government has accepted the Schools Commission recommendation that the level of grants for non-government schools be linked automatically in future years to per pupil expenditure levels in government schools. The Government has generally accepted the Commission’s recommended levels of funding for non-government schools in 1977 but has decided to increase the size of recommended general recurrent grants for the most needy primary schools from $223 to $229 per pupil, in average 1976 price levels. These schools cater for approximately 90 per cent of enrolments in nongovernment primary schools.
The Government has decided not to proceed with the introduction of a ‘Supported Schools’ scheme for non-governmental schools. The per pupil grants for non-government schools in 1977 are set out in the Bill and include allowance for price increases in the first half of 1977.
Specific Purpose Programs
The Government will be continuing the special purpose programs in 1977, generally at about the same level of activity as in 1976, for migrant and multi-cultural education; for disadvantaged schools; for handicapped children; for educational services and development; and for special projects. The provisions incorporated in the Bill will contribute significantly to maintaining and improving primary and secondary education in both government and non-government schools in the States. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 November, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill seeks to provide authority for the implementation of the forty-third Grants Commission report. The recommendations in the report were for special assistance grants to the States, but in fact the grants turned out to be only to Queensland. For the financial year 1976-77 Queensland is to be paid a grant. This circumstance has arisen because after negotiations earlier this year on financial assistance grants it was agreed that only that State would be eligible to make a claim to the Grants Commission. I will come shortly to the reasons why that is so. Special grants are paid by the Federal Government, on the recommendation of the Grants Commission, to claimant States which by reasonable efforts on their own part are unable to function at a standard similar to that of the average States. For this purpose the average States are deemed to be New South Wales and Victoria. Along with financial assistance grants, or tax sharing entitlements as I suppose we must now call them under the so-called new federalism, and along with the special revenue assistance grants, these special grants are part of the general revenue assistance to the States. This comprises the revenue the States receive to administer as they see fit. No strings are attached.
The original purpose of special grants was to overcome the fiscal disabilities suffered by the less populous States. These grants are termed horizontal equalisation grants and their aim is to provide each State with the capacity to provide its citizens with the same fiscal deal as is provided to the citizens of any other State. For this purpose a fiscal deal is regarded as the net effect on a citizen of the charges- for example, taxes- a State makes and the facilities it provides for the quality of life of its citizens. At present the 4 less populous States- Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania- are free to apply to the Grants Commission for special grants. However, Western Australia withdrew from the Grants Commission arrangements as from 1968-69. South Australia withdrew as a result of an agreement between the Australian Government and the South Australian Government for the transfer of that State’s nonmetropolitan railways to the Federal Government. In June 1975 Tasmania, which had to withdraw from claimancy from the beginning of 1974-75 following arrangements under which its financial assistance grants were to be increased, made application for special grants for 1974-75 and 1975-76; but the applications were subsequently withdrawn.
It should be noted that, although individual claimant States have reached agreements with various Federal governments not to apply to the Grants Commission for the special grants, all four are legally entitled to do so. In recent years there has been a growing tendency for special grants to be subsumed into negotiated financial assistance grants. The 1975 report of the Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations comments:
The special arrangements with South Australia and Tasmania in 1974 and 1975 are indicative of a tendency for the distribution of general revenue grants, and thus the process of equalisation or horizontal fiscal adjustment, to become increasingly dependent on bilateral bargaining and political decisions rather than on systematic evaluation by the Grants Commission.
Special arrangements in this area between Federal and State governments have not been limited to the years of Labor rule. I thought for a moment that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), who is one of the few members in this House who understand these things, would be pointing out that I have drawn attention to political bargaining of which I do not approve in these matters. It is not only my Party that has fallen for this. For example, in 1959 and 1968 conservative Federal and State governments reached agreements for individual States not to apply to the Grants Commission in those years.
It could be argued that, with special grants accounting for less than 0.03 per cent of total Federal payments to the States and with only one effective claimant State, the need for the Grants Commission is diminishing. I have previously put the view in this House- in fact, just a week ago tonight when we were discussing the revenue sharing Bills, the so called new federalism Bills - that I consider that the Grants Commission should be retained and given a much larger role, especially in the disbursement of local government funds. Thankfully, the present Government has stated that even if its new federalism arrangements come to fruition- I must say that this looks increasingly doubtful as the degree of State disquiet intensifies- the less populous States will have access to the Commission.
I point out that the Grants Commission does much more than assess special grants. For example, in 1975-76 the subjects it investigated ranged from an investigation of the problems of measuring the revenue in relation to a number of taxes, land revenues and mining royalties to the measurement of diseconomies of scale and other special difficulties in relation to a wide range of cultural activities. Any body with such wide ranging fields of expertise should be exploited to the fullest. I repeat my call for the Grants Commission to be given at least an overseeing role in relation to these new State local government Grants Commissions. I presume that most honourable members would appreciate that there is a fair degree of irony in our discussing this Bill at this time. After all, the greater proportion of us are what the Queensland Premier would describe as southerners. Here we are discussing a Bill to give Queensland funds to overcome its fiscal disabilities when the Premier of that State has stated of his State, ‘We could go it alone; we would be much better off’. There appears to be somewhat of a contradiction between the reality as the Premier sees it and as the Grants Commission sees it. In section 1.8 of the summary of the forty-third report of the Grants Commission it is stated that a special grant is given: to enable a claimant State to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other States without having to levy taxation and other charges of greater severity than in those other States. Its revenue needs to be supplemented because of: (a) its lower capacity to raise taxes and other revenue; and (b) its need to incur higher costs in order to provide comparable governmental services.
For these reasons this Bill provides for the payment of $2 7m to Queensland. An amount of $ 18m of this is an advance payment in respect of the current financial year 1976-77 and the other $9m is a completion payment for the year 1974-75. As the honourable member for Lilley would know, these completion payments are for a particular year and are made 2 years after the advance payments for that year, after the Grants Commission has examined in detail the actual financial positions of claimant and standard States in the appropriate year.
The futile, ill-informed and unnecessarily divisive talk that emanates from the Premier of Queensland on secession should be deplored from all sides of the House. We all know that secession is virtually a legal impossibility. The people of the separate States joined in a federation at the turn of the century to become one nation for a very large number of good reasons. The greater number of the major reasons for their decision at the turn of the century remain just as valid now as they did then. Some are even more valid now. The Queensland Premier talks rubbish about Queensland supporting the rest of Australia. Export figures are cited. No mention is made of who supplied the original investment which made such exports possible. No mention is made of the billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money from other States over the years which have been used to help give Queensland the public facilities it possesses. This Bill is just one example of the money coming from the rest of Australia to that State. The Opposition is supporting it. I do not quibble with it. But I quibble with the nonsense that is talked on subjects like this by the present Premier of Queensland. I am sure that I have the support also of members of the Liberal Party in what I say. I repeat that Australia is one nation and must solve its problems as a single nation. The prattlings of the Queensland Premier should be consigned to the oblivion they deserve. I am sure that the great majority of Queenslanders find these utterances as embarrassing and invaluable as anyone else does.
While on the subject of the Premier’s public statements, I refer to his newfound concern for the unemployed. His stand on Fraser Island on which he opposes the cessation of mining because of the effects on unemployment must rank high on the list of hypocricies voiced by conservatives in this country. One must be forgiven for thinking cynically that he is prepared to use men’s jobs as a lever in his personality struggle with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Why not put forward a plan for saving both jobs and Fraser Island as the Labor Party did in the House today? I must make comment upon the statement by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) on this subject. What a lot of hope it gave to the miners on Fraser Island. He merely offered them the services of the Commonwealth Employment Service to find other jobs or offered them merely the unemployment benefits which they will receive anyway. We have outlined already what we would do. This was stated in a speech in the House before the suspension of the sittings for dinner by the shadow Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, the honourable - member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). We would bring in such structural adjustment schemes as applied to industries hit by the 25 per cent tariff cut. We would be of real assistance in employing the men who are hurt by necessary, progressive decisions taken by the Government of honourable members opposite, decisions which we applaud for environmental reasons. But we do not applaud the way that the people who will be hurt by those decisions are being left on the scrapheap as this Government is leaving them.
I point out, Mr Deputy Speaker, that these remarks are pertinent to this Bill. As you would realise, they relate to money being made available to Queensland for its development. Surely it is time that the Government’s ideological opposition to public spending was replaced with practical policies. A little bit of thought should be given to these things instead of the grandstanding and window dressing which we have heard and seen. Surely we could have this adjustment plan used as a pilot for other plans urgently needed in other parts of the country, just as this plan is needed now in relation to Fraser Island. They are the main points that should be made concerning this Bill, save one. The last point I want to make is to draw attention to how much better off Queenslanders would be now if their State Government had accepted the generous offer of the Australian Labor Government to take over its railways. The offer was accepted, of course, by South Australia and Tasmania. Thenbudgetary problems have been eased enormously. Their independence has not been hit one iota. Stupid, small-minded irrational conservative political attitudes such as those just displayed by the attempted interventions of some honourable members opposite are responsible for Queensland continuing to bear the burden of an enormous loss on its railways. The people of Queensland are the losers. In addition, their State Government is forced to continue to come cap in hand as a claimant State to receive the funds that are made available in this Bill which, I repeat, the Opposition does not oppose.
-The comments of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) ranged very wide. He claimed that they were relevant. If they were, I could speak on any subject in the debate on this Bill, the Queensland Grant (Special Assistance) Bill.
-I would not try it.
-However, I would like to take up the honourable member on some of the points he made which I believe were irrelevant to the Bill. He talked about the Federal Government taking over the Queensland State railways. In Queensland we thought so little of the former Federal Government that we would not let it take over anything in Queensland and we based our decision on that Federal Government’s incompetent handling of our economy, which was brought to its lowest level in the history of this nation. Why should we have given that Government the railways which we were prepared to handle ourselves? If we had those railways would have been brought down in the same way as the economy was brought down. The honourable member asked where the money came from to develop Queensland. Most of it did not come from grants such as the one we are debating now. Most of the money came from Queenslanders themselves, and that money was better handled by Queensland than it would have been by the Commonwealth Labor Government.
He also talked about the structural adjustment schemes. If he were to use those schemes on the Australian Labor Party as far as I can see that is where they would be most effective. Perhaps then the Labor Party would be able to provide a better Opposition in this House and in Queensland. Queenslanders have decimated the Labor Party in that State and the Labor Party now has only 1 1 members in a House of 84 members. In the judgment of Queenslanders the Premier of that State who has been denigrated in this House tonight stands as high as any Premier of that State. He is still prepared to stand up to all the criticisms coming his way and he stands high in the eyes of Queenslanders generally. I believe that a lot of those comments made against him tonight are the result of bitter feelings because of the success achieved by his Queensland Government and it does not do the honourable member for Adelaide who has just spoken or his Party any good to give the type of oration he gave tonight in the debate on a grants Bill.
The honourable member also talked of secession. It was spoken about in Western Australia too. Are the Western Australian people to be denigrated for thinking of seceding because they felt that they were not getting all that they thought they should? I do not believe in secession but the Premier of Queensland is not the only one who has talked about it. It has been talked about in States when people feel they are not getting the treatment they should get from this national Parliament. They are entitled to their opinion. The Queensland people have backed their Premier and will continue to do so. There is no question about that.
The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment to Queensland of $2 7m in special assistance grants. In his remarks in this respect the honourable member for Adelaide was dealing with the Bill. He talked about States coming cap in hand. Surely if there is an arrangement whereby States can apply for these grants why should it be called coming cap in hand if they do? What about the contribution which Queensland has made to the soundness of the national economy and our balance of payments? The honourable member brushed over this very lightly, but the Premier has mentioned it. What about the exports from Queensland which have assisted the national balance of payments to the great advantage of every Australian? Those are the things that are sometimes forgotten and they apply also to Western Australian.
Mr Keith Johnson- This is Bjelke-Petersen propaganda.
-That was the fellow from the south who probably would not know where Queensland was, but if he does know where it is the best thing he can do is go there and get a lesson in how to run a State. It is a good job that he is not running the State of Victoria. That is all I can say in reply to that interjection.
– You are being terribly nasty.
– I treat people as I find them and I have found that this is a pretty good measure. I do not try to be less than fair when doing that. Payments which have been made under this sort of legislation have made a contribution to those States which are at a disadvantage with other States and in doing that have assisted the balanced development of this nation which is beneficial to every resident in it. Surely we all should subscribe to this view but sometimes when I hear some of our southern friends talking I wonder whether they do. The balanced development of the nation is really the principle behind State grants and every State had taken advantage of these grants over the years. We in Queensland make no apology for doing so when we use the money as effectively as we have in the interest of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is all very well for people from southern States with a greater density of population to criticise but I heard a professor from the Australian National University, when speaking in Queensland one night, say: ‘ I wonder whether, if the settlement of Australia had begun in Townsville, we would be talking now about the under-developed south’. So those people who have such great pride in what has been achieved in some parts of the Commonwealth might think about the advantages they got from the early settlement of this country. Those people who developed the outlying areas in other States deserve the gratitude of the Australian people for their work and we in Queensland make no apologies for what we have done. The Queensland Grant (Special Assistance) Bill provides for the payment to Queensland of $27m.
– Not enough.
-Hear, hear! That comprises advance payments of $ 1 8m in respect of 1 976-77 and completion payments of $9m for 1974-75. The basis of those payments is fairly well known. The comments of the honourable member for Adelaide in this regard were perhaps the most acceptable part of his speech. The advance will be subject to adjustment in 2 years time. That has always been the basis on which these grants have been made. After they have been looked at in 2 years time the completion payments will be made, and that is a reasonable approach. This is the last year in which these formula grants are to be made but, nevertheless, the less populous States still will be able to apply for special financial assistance on the recommendation of the Grants Commission. So despite all that has been said the principle behind the grants is still being applied and still being accepted by this Parliament. It is not being opposed by the Opposition which was so critical of what is being done. Honourable members opposite talk about the States coming cap in hand. This is a 2 -faced approach as can be seen when we compare what is being said by the Opposition with what is being accepted by it.
Some criticism was offered of Queensland because it will do away with death duties at the beginning of next year. This is a progressive move and one which is accepted in many areas of the Commonwealth as being long overdue. A progressive government has made this decision and it is a move that will be followed elsewhere. Other States will not follow it too closely because they do not like to give Queensland that much credit, but they will follow it. The Commonwealth Government is moving in that direction and it may well be that other States will follow the lead of this very progressive and able State Government. The criticism of it was quite unjust.
Death duties are an iniquitous tax. People, particularly primary producers who have a viable business probably carrying a debt, can be forced to the verge of insolvency or even into insolvency because of death duties. It has happened many time. They cannot sell part of an estate to pay probate or succession duties and so the whole of the estate is forced on to the market at any one time. It would not be a viable proposition if they were to sell part of the estate anyway. This is one of the criticisms of this tax but no mention was made of it by the Opposition tonight. Queensland is to be complimented on what it has done down the years. The money it has received through grants from the Grants Commission has been well and faithfully applied to the advantage of Queensland and the Commonwealth. I am quite confident that the Queensland Government will make very good use of the funds provided under this legislation.
If this Parliament feels that it should not be making these grants it is up to the Parliament to say so. However, we will not get any opposition from anybody because honourable members opposite are not prepared to show their opposition because they know that if they did they would not have even the 1 1 members that they now have in the Queensland Parliament. So there is no opposition to this Bill. The principle behind making grants to the less populous States is sound, particularly in the promotion of the balanced development of this nation and that, I believe, was the statesmanlike thought which brought this scheme about in the first place. I commend the Bill.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I have 10 minutes in which to make my contribution. I am always delighted to be able to speak on a Bill to approve the allocation of funds as determined by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I have been especially delighted to be able to do so over the last 5 or 6 years. It was a long battle to get Queensland to become a claimant State and to go to the Grants Commission, as it did, from 1 965 to 1 97 1 . It is rather a paradoxical fact of life that the last State to become a claimant State before the Grants Commission is the only one remaining as a claimant State before the Commission now. I would not suggest that that position will remain for too long on the Australian economic scene. I suggest that, before many years have elapsed, Tasmania, South Australia and, in certain circumstances, Western Australia will look once again at the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I believe that they ought to look at it rather more quickly than they might be inclined to indicate at the moment.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission has existed for more than 40 years. It is an economic body which always deserves a quite special tribute because there is no other institution or economic mechanism like it in any other federation in the world and there is no other economic mechanism anywhere in the world which has been so successful, by its efforts, by its advice and by its investigations, in developing horizontal equality among the various parts of a nation. By that I simply mean that the characteristics of Australia in this respect may be described in this way: There is less difference, in terms of living conditions and standards, expectations of standards and the services to which people have a right as citizens of a State, between people living in different parts of Australia than exists between people in any other country. I believe that this is a very great tribute to bodies such as the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
The Government obviously has felt that the Commission is important, as the Grants Commission represents the fall-back position for the new federalism on which the Federal Government depends. We all know that in any new arrangement a great deal of political footwork is required. A great deal of political footwork is operating at present under the new federalism and under the proposed new federalism. So it will always be. But the neutral corner to which the States will be able to go and where they will be able to make their appeals is occupied by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I hope that this body continues and that it continues in its present form.
For various Australian States, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been a boon over many years. It was a boon for Tasmania in the 1930s. It was a boon for South Australia in the 1930s, the 1940s and most of the 1950s. It was a boon for Western Australia for many years. Some States have come into the Grants Commission; other States have withdrawn from it. But it has always been acceptable. I believe that it is a tribute to this House and to the Parliament that no grant recommended by the Grants Commission has ever been questioned and that legislation seeking to enact such a grant has always been passed without any attempt at amendment. In its way, that fact is a tribute to the nature of federalism in Australia as well as a tribute to this House.
I believe that a quick passing comment has to be made upon the new technique for determining the grants which is involved in the report with which this legislation is concerned and the previous report. The new technique for determining the assistance which the Commission has divined, if I may put it that way, has been to examine in each category of revenue that is available to a State- such as betting taxes, land taxes and payroll tax- the revenue effort of the claimant State compared with that of the standard States. In addition to that, the new method involves determining the expenditure required in a claimant State for it to have standards of schools, hospitals, or whatever, similar to those in the standard States. So the expenditure effort is determined. Those efforts are averaged in order to determine the grant that is to be given to the State. That is a different technique from and is rather better than the one that was utilised for many years, in which the Budgets of the standard States were compared with those of the claimant States. Budgets were adjusted appropriately. Budget expenditures of claimant States that were hidden or that were loaded were taken out of or added to those Budgets so as to make them comparable with those of the standard States. So, a deficit per person in a claimant State was adjusted to be similar to a deficit per person in a standard State.
It is worthwhile dwelling on those 2 methods for one or two moments, for the simple reason that as long as the Budget method was utilised States could always say that a determination of the Grants Commission resulted in it imposing its own conditions on a claimant State. As I recall, for many years Treasurers of Western Australia were most adept at saying: ‘We do not want to raise this tax, but the Grants Commission has told us to raise it. It examined our Budget. We are a claimant State before the Grants Commission. We are raising the tax not because we want to do it but because the Federal Treasurer in Canberra is causing this to happen through the people whom he has appointed to the Grants Commission are who are saying that we should raise this tax’. That was always a nonsense argument. The new method of calculation introduced by the Grants Commission at least strips the availability of a propaganda exercise of that type from any State Treasurer. I believe that that is very good.
I point out, as a piece of history, that there was a famous Treasurer in Tasmania, Dwyer-Gray, who held that office for many years. He built his whole political ethos and campaign on being able to belt the Federal Government as Treasurer of a claimant State. Any pressure that was on him to raise State taxes was always blamed on the Grants Commission and the Federal Government. It so happened that very many years ago hearings of the Grants Commission concerned with Tasmania were held in capital cities other than Hobart because the Grants Commission was too frightened to go to Tasmania and retreated from holding hearings there. At least those days have passed, and the excuse and the mechanisms which were available to a State Treasurer to pursue such a propaganda campaign have passed from the scene also.
In the short time that is available to me, I wish to make several points and one or two suggestions. It may be thought that the Grants Commission, being concerned with developing equality among the States, does all the investigations that are necessary. It does not. It deals only with fiscal equalisation- an equalisation in terms of public services available from public moneys. I suggest that one reason which has given rise to that misunderstanding is that people think that the Grants Commission deals with total equalisation among the States. That is not so. It cannot deal with total equalisation among the States insofar as it does not deal with tariffs and those distributions of resources in Australia that derive from the external affairs power. In the early 1930s, the Grants Commission wanted to look at tariffs. There was insufficient evidence for it to do so. I suggest that, with the help of the Industries Assistance Commission, it ought to look at the redistribution effects which come from tariffs and quotas in Australia and it ought to see what exporting parts of Australia are enabling high standards of living to be attained, pursued and retained in those parts of Australia where most of the work force is protected by tariffs and quotas. This is a valuable mechanism, and the Grants Commission ought to be invited to look at that aspect. I hope that some of the States which give evidence to the Grants Commission will require it to look at that.
The second point I want to make- in 30 seconds- is that the Grants Commission does not look at the equalisation of monetary conditions among the States. I request the Reserve Bank to consider looking at the equalisation of monetary conditions and volume of money among the States so that when there is a great change in the volume of money in Australia some States are not squeezed much more than others and some States are not allowed to enjoy a much more lax position than others. That would be a matter for the Reserve Bank, but it falls with the purview and the kind of consideration which is available to the Grants Commission. I intended to talk about other aspects, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I dare not do so, because a little later I would like to say something about Fraser Island. I hope that the Grants Commission continues. It should continue. It is a quite unique institution which exists only in the Australian federal scene. Insofar as it is able to widen its purview and consider equalisation not only in terms of fiscal matters but also in terms of those transfers of resources that go with the possession of the trade power and in terms of the transfer of monetary responsibilities so as to equalise those between one part of Australia and another it could have a welcome widening of its own present activities, which are extremely valuable to Australia and of which I would suggest in the immediate years to come more States than one will be very anxious and very ready to take advantage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Eric Robinson) read a third time.
Ministerial Statement Debate resumed on motion by Mr Newman: That the House take note of the paper.
-Today the Minister for the Environment, Housing and
Community Development (Mr Newman) announced the decision of the Federal Government on the report of the Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry. I would not attempt to disguise the fact that to the people most widely concerned in the Maryborough area this decision constitutes nothing short of a tragedy. One acknowledges immediately the Government’s need to maintain its credibility as a government that is sensitive to its responsibilities to the environment. But in the end the question devolves upon the wellbeing of people. It seems to me that to contemplate such action at a time when there is a desperate need to keep people in productive employment is almost indefensible.
I should say immediately that the people of the Maryborough area are not by any stretch of the imagination barbarians. There has been a suggestion and argument and counter-argument that opinions polarise to those who are enlightened and sensitive souls and those who derive some practical and material benefit from sand mining on Fraser Island and who therefore are obtuse and insensitive to the environment. The reverse is the case. The people of the Maryborough area have lived with Fraser Island from the time this country was discovered. They have developed a regard and an affection for the island and, in the process, have acquired an intimate knowledge of its characteristics. Nobody in Australia is more concerned with maintaining that island as he knows it than are the people in the area immediately affected.
This island, which is of 160 000 hectares in area, is subject to mining leases covering 1600 hectares and constituting approximately 9 per cent of the total area. But, more significantly, within that area of leasing there are known mineral deposits that have been earmarked for mining amounting to only 1 per cent of the island. Fraser Island is 80 miles in length and up to 12 or 14 miles in breadth. It is not as most people- well meaning people in many cases, I concede- have been brainwashed into believing it to be, that is, a glistening coral atoll that can be wiped out before lunch by a D8 bulldozer. It is a great piece of Australiana, admittedly. But 80 per cent of the island, ignoring its unique technical characteristics insomuch as it is a great sand mass- some acclaim its uniqueness on that score- is to the eye of the beholder nothing more than drab, dull, grey Australian scrub. On the other hand, there are localities that are quite unique and a joy to behold. It was never intended that those localities be disturbed in any shape or form by mining activities.
I say again that the overall consideration is the wellbeing of the people of Australia- in particular, the people of Maryborough and the surrounding area. As I have said, to take this action at a time like this is a luxury that this country cannot afford. Arbitrarily to stop sand mining on Fraser Island without providing the Parliament with an opportunity to debate the serious consequences inherent in the decision is to surrender the function of the Parliament to commissions or committees. Those bodies may or may not have the competence and objectivity necessary to protect the interests of affected people or the rights of the respective States.
I feel that I am bound to make some comment on the competence of the Commission of Inquiry. I hasten to say that I claim not the slightest competence to assess in turn its technical competence, but it is a firmly held belief in the Maryborough area among those who gave evidence to the Commission and who observed its proceedings that there was substantial bias by the Commission. Because I am not in a position to make such an assertion, I make it clear that personally I do not impugn the integrity of the Commission. But I would suggest to this House that one must accept the possibility that the members of the Commission, having an expertise arising from their long association with the environment, associated in turn with their professions, must have subconsciously at least an inclination or a predisposition to maintain the environment. Under such circumstances it is not inconceivable that, manifesting a very common human trait, they may warp logic to their own subconscious desires.
It is the place of this Parliament to assess the contents of the report and to subject them to such debate and examination as to satisfy the representatives of this Parliament that they can in truth vindicate the Government’s action in coming to a decision such as this. It is true that the Government, in making the announcement regarding the decision, has with unquestioned sincerity indicated its resolve to minimise, if not completely offset, the injury suffered by the people who will be most seriously affected by this decision. But in their present form the proposals -tentative proposals, I would hope- as outlined by the Minister are grossly inadequate. They can do nothing to reassure those people who must be consumed with apprehension this evening as to their future. It is doubly tragic that only 2 years ago the same district suffered the loss of its shipyard, notwithstanding the most extravagant promises and assurances from the previous Administration that, if necessary, it would go it alone to maintain a shipyard in production. That was a traumatic experience for the community, but, because of the introduction of sand mining, the members of the community gradually regained their confidence. There was a new spirit in the community. Now- a short 2 years laterthe community has been devastated by this decision of the Government.
We require more positive proposals from the Government. We require specific indications of the extent to which it will compensate those affected so that it may be recognised immediately what the future holds for the people of the affected area. It is not good enough just to talk about the National Employment and Training scheme, retraining and relocation. All of those things could have the same effect of tearing the heart out of a living community. People moved into this area confident that the mining activities were proceeding with the endorsement of both Governments. I draw to the attention of the House the fact that they were endorsed by both Governments. Those people may reasonably have expected some security of tenure in their new environment. Now their commitments to buy homes and their plans for the future are all at risk. There will be massive depression if this situation is not remedied within this community. There will be a depreciation of values and, over and above all, there will be a growing conviction in their minds that governments and societies in this country comfortably remote from the areas of impact of such decisions are quite indifferent to the outcome.
We must have positive proposals about the future of the timber activities on Fraser Island. For over 100 years the timber industry, a foundation industry of the Maryborough district, has harvested timber from Fraser Island. The people in this industry have done this with such rare skill and expertise on this Island that during the furore of this present debate the Island has been described by the conservationists as a gem or a jewel. This industry supports quite substantially the wellbeing of the district. What is its future in the national heritage? What assurances are to be given to the Maryborough area, indeed to Queensland as a whole, that there will not be another intrusion on the wellbeing of the district as a result of increased ambition by those who have a disproportionate and unqualified commitment to preserve the environment regardless of other considerations? This must be spelt out. The enthusiasm of the conservationists is in direct ratio to the distance that they are situated from the scene of major impact.
The role of the States is significant. In this case a previous environmental report commissioned by the Queensland Government and on which the mining was initiated has been swept aside. It would appear now that the ability of the States to determine and manage their own development will continually be at risk of Federal intervention because of environmental issues. It is not inconceivable that in a volatile political situation or for pecuniary advantage a committee’s report could be used for purposes inconsistent with the spirit of the committee. I suggest that State governments should carry the responsibility for environmental impact studies. Recently great discontent was expressed by New South Wales coal mining interests about the unfair advantage Queensland had because of its open cut mining techniques. The New South Wales interests could not compete with this modern technique of extracting ore from the ground. A government or a committee which had a bias or an interest towards New South Wales- I mean New South Wales no mischief in singling it out for this example- could well turn around and bring in a report suggesting that the methods of open cut mining in Queensland were barbaric, and that such operations should be closed down on environmental grounds. It could force the interests concerned to mine underground. This is one possibility that must be borne in mind.
It is disturbing that this is the first time that a Government has broken a contract or an arrangement relating to a mining activity in this country. This Government has applied the environmental protection impact study retrospectively. It has moved in and said, in effect: ‘It does not matter that we gave an undertaking before; we have changed our mind; you can suffer the impact of the reversal of our decision and be left to your own devices’. Clearly this must erode confidence in all concerns that have a mind, both in their interests and this nation’s interest, to engage in mining activities. It is highly erosive of the confidence essential for the creation of wealth in this country so that we can afford all our laudable programs for social welfare, education and health out of our earnings and not further deplete our capital. We delude ourselves if we say that we can maintain the environment of certain sections of this country when we live under the threat of a total breakdown of our economic and social structure.
This decision seems to be a gross inconsistency. The States have a role in federalism and it must be extended to give them confidence and authority in respect of their own development. Does any honourable member seriously suggest that individuals in one State or another are less sensitive to the environment or are of a lower intellectual standing? Is there a difference between an Australian in Western Australia and Tasmania? What nonsense it is to suggest that the environment of Queensland must be protected by the overlording role of the Federal Government. There are 300 people facing immediate unemployment.
– For Christmas.
– Yes, for Christmas. There are another 700 people throughout the infrastructure of this industry who will face unemployment. It will be some considerable time- weeks or months- before finally we will be able to determine where this cancer, this malignancy, will stop. How do we embark on a program of compensation to afford relief when it is not immediately possible to identify all the people who will be affected?
This Parliament has a heavy responsibility to the people of Australia. There is no question or doubt that Fraser Island requires careful attention. A management plan is an essential prerequisite. I hope that the Federal Government and the State Government can get together to facilitate that objective. As the honourable member for Wide Bay I will devote myself to achieving that goal after having first attended to the urgent requirements of people who suffer the impact of this Government decision. At present there is a direct economic benefit of $6.42m per annum. (Extension of time granted.) I thank the House for granting me an extension of time. I will not unduly delay the proceedings of the House. The tragedy of this decision is compounded by the precipitate haste with which it is to be implemented. I would have thought that the Government’s credibility in this area would not have been diminished if it had said, having decided on balance that it was vital to the national interest to restrict mining on Fraser Island, that the mining operations would be phased down over a reasonable period in order to afford people time to adjust properly to the circumstances. That would have been a logical decision.
I think the Federal Government must indicate clearly that it will bear the full burden of caring for the welfare and the relocation of anyone whose livelihood is at stake as a result of this decision. Of course, such rehabilitation must be under joint State and Commonwealth Government review, resisting at all times the demonstrated inclination of Federal Governments to become dominant in such a situation. I would have thought that assurances could be given to the rnining companies to the effect that they could seek relocation and work in other nonsensitive areas and thus maintain economic viability in the district. Following determination of that new location, perhaps some assistance could be given to them to relocate and thus maintain employment in the area. Over and above all that, any agreements must be in conjunction with the State Government.
The rest of Australia just has to realise that over $270,000 in monthly income for the Maryborough district comes from the activities on Fraser Island. Certainly everyone acknowledges that consideration must be given to environmental issues. However, at this stage, when the nation is struggling to achieve economic stability, the Government should be doing its best to convince the people of Australia that it is sincere in its ambitions and that they can confidently put their trust in it knowing that their best interests are being served. This decision comes not only as a shattering blow to the Maryborough area but also it raises serious doubts in the minds of many people who looked to this Government to give them the sort of government they deserve.
-I find it a bit surprising that the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) who has just spoken should have attacked his own Government in the way he has.
– It is all right for you down in Melbourne, 3 000 miles from where these people are employed.
-I will come to that.
– He is not concerned. He is prepared to drag down this country.
– I happen to be concerned about that.
-Order! There are too many interjections. It would help if the honourable gentleman would address the chair.
– I shall come to the problem of people because that is the main reason I want to speak. Concerning the question of procedures that have been adopted by the Government in handling the Fraser Island Environmental Committee report, I point out that that is not the problem of those of us on this side of the House. At least the report was tabled before the Government announced its decision. It is true that not much time was given for discussion. Nevertheless, the inquiry had been going on for a long time. I well recall, while I was Minister for
Environment, the continual criticisms and charges by the then Opposition, the present Government, that I was doing nothing to save Fraser Island. It was quite clear from the sentiments expressed by members of the Liberal and National Country Parties that the Fraser Island controversy was seen to be a significant problem for the government of the day. Much of the emphasis in the criticism against us was of our failure as a government to protect Fraser Island. So, having established, in accordance with the environmental protection legislation, a committee of inquiry, we were prepared to await results of that inquiry and then be guided by the findings of fact of the inquiry in order to determine what our future policy should be. That was the condition under which approval was given for mining of the leases that are now in question.
If honourable members look at the record as it is set out in the report of the inquiry or if they look at the parliamentary record they will find that the Minister for Minerals and Energy at that time made it quite clear that any extensions and any further export licences would depend upon the environmental assessment being undertaken by the inquiry. I shall not comment on the observations made about the capacity or otherwise of those who constituted the inquiry. One has to live with oneself when one makes observations like that. I simply comment on some of the conclusions drawn by the Commission of Inquiry. For example on page 67, the conclusion was drawn: . . . Fraser Island is of great environmental importance. It is of aesthetic, historic, scientific and social significance for the present community, and for future generations of Australians, as well as being of international environmental significance.
Of course it is only a big heap of sand. That happens to be one of its major points of significance. It is the largest sand island in the world. It happens to be one of the few remaining areas where nature is still mainly unaffected.
– Have you been there?
– I have been there and seen the effects of both mining and logging. The logging, I can see, has been skilful. To do the commissioners credit, they found that to be so. They conceded that it had not disrupted the general pattern of the island to any significant extent. They even conceded that it may be possible to continue in this way. They also pointed out that because of our- meaning people in Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and other parts of the world-changing appreciation of wilderness areas more people are beginning to value the island for its natural attributes than for the benefits to be gained from either logging or mining. If one continues to look at some of the comments made apropos this point about the value of a wild, uncultivated island being destroyed forever by mining- this is the impressionone finds that it is most of those qualities of the Island’s natural environment which make Fraser Island of special value for the present community and for future generations and thus worthy of being recorded as part of the national heritage. We have a responsibility to people. If we only see life as being responsible for oneself, we may as well all drop dead. There would be no future generation.
-What about Lake Pedder?
– Supporters of the National Country Party who are interjecting are putting on a pitiful demonstration. They ought to at least listen to some of the points. They are asking: What about Lake Pedder? I happen to agree with them. I regret that I did not succeed in saving Lake Pedder.
-Order! These interjections are a little bit too robust and too consistent. I do not think they either help the honourable member- that may be the point of the interjections- or add to the decorum of the House.
– The fact remains that society all over the world is increasingly valuing these things. I put it to supporters of the National Country Party that while they value the mining, it is quite conceivable that, with proper care and development in terms of a nature area, the people of Maryborough will gain more financially from the use of that island as a natural reserve than they might get from it if it were mined. Let us face it. Most of the money from mining does not go to the people of Maryborough. Most of the money obtained from mining does not even go to the people of Australia. But tourism brings money to the people of Maryborough. It could well be that in the future the proper use and management of this island in the terms suggested by this report and in the terms accepted by the Government may prove a boon to the people of Maryborough and be of more value than the shipbuilding industry or the mining of Fraser Island.
I think the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in answering a question on this subject today mentioned- he did not quote- what to him was perhaps the paragraph in this report which best epitomised the argument in favour of the action he has agreed to take and about which he has advised the Queensland Premier. He mentioned the last paragraph on page 184. He did not quote it, but I shall. It states:
Looking at the evidence as a whole-
He said he agreed with this- it is difficult to identify any more environmentally significant and fragile area on the Island than that covered by MLs 102, 95 and the nearby mining leases of Queensland Titanium Mines Pry Ltd, MLs 84, 104 and 105. The environmental aspects of decisions having the effect of permitting the mining of all or any of these Teases will involve major permanent and irreversible environmental harm to the landscape, vegetation and lakes of the island and, consequently, substantially damage its value to the Australian people.
That view stated in the report is the opinion of the Prime Minister, the leader of the honourable members opposite. For these reasons the Australian Labor Party welcomes the decision to support the recommendations.
Now let me come to the people because, of course, I share the view of honourable members opposite. People are important. If there were no people Fraser Island would be irrelevant either as a mining venture or as a tourist resort. With no people it would be nothing. It is people which give it value of one sort or another because people place a value on it. Of course people are important. Of course it is easy for people in Melbourne, Hobart or even here in Canberra who are far away from the action to decide that because they think it is a good thing it ought to be saved. People like supporters of the National Country Party and the people they represent who are involved in earning a living on the island feel that the burden is entirely upon them. But the report recognises this fact. I shall read the second recommendation to honourable members because it seems that they have not read the report. The first recommendation was that all mining should stop. The second recommendation states:
Appropriate economic and other assistance be given to the extent that adverse regional economic effects follow the implementation of Recommendation 1.
The whole concept of the environmental impact statement procedure envisages that people’s rights come first. But it is not just the right to earn a living; it is the right to enjoy the environment, to appreciate things of aesthetic beauty, and to be whatever it is that makes us humans and not animals. That is more than just eating; it is appreciating and understanding the sorts of things that are recognised in this report.
I am not sure yet that there is any criticism to be made, but I am prepared to side with the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) on this matter because he has posed questions to the Government. Bearing in mind what the commissioners said about the need to be concerned for the people, a radical departure from previous behaviour may be involved. Let us consider what is being done. I think that this matter goes beyond Australia. Fraser Island probably belongs to the world’s heritage. In fact, the Labor Government contemplated trying to put it into the World Heritage Register.
– Were you trying to sell a bit of Australia?
– For the whole world- not to sell it, but to keep it for everybody, even the honourable member’s grandchildren. If they happen to go somewhere else in the world they can say proudly that Australia has preserved something of value to the whole world. For that reason, I agree that the Australian community is demanding a lot of the people of Maryborough. I do not think it is good enough simply to say to them: ‘We will do the things that were listed in the Minister’s speech and, in essence, you can make do with the dole while we are trying to work it out’. I agree that that is not enough.
If we demand that sort of sacrifice from the people in that area, in my view the Australian community is morally obliged to carry a larger burden in ensuring that those people do not suffer personally. It is not their fault that they went there in good faith in order to engage in timber lopping or sand mining at a time when everybody on all sides of the political spectrum throughout the country accepted it. I grant that; but we have changed our values. We are not the same people as we were 5 years ago.
– 111 say! You have deteriorated.
– I will ignore the honourable member’s view about communists. In his view, the whole country has been taken over by communists. That is sheer nonsense. The point is that we have all changed our values. Even the honourable member for Swan, I assume, accepts that I failed to save something of value in not saving Lake Pedder. I accept that. If we have changed, then it is our responsibility as a Parliament to provide more than just a handout in the form of the dole. I quite agree that there is a need to make a special effort. It may require establishing new industries, encouraging tourism in order to make some use of the very thing we have created by this move -
– No one goes there. They have islands such as Brampton, Daydream and Dunk, and I could name a few more.
– I will persist with my view. I happen to think that it is important from the point of view of the people of Maryborough. I also happen to think that the most important point is that, given this offer of security to which they are legitimately entitled, the people of Maryborough, when they cool down and think about it and are shown the rehabilitation which should be offered, will vote to save Fraser Island. I will bet anything on that. I do not believe that they are so insensitive that they will not realise that if they do so they will be party to saving something that they themselves, their children and their grandchildren will value more than the miserable amount we might make in a few short years out of mining Fraser Island. I compliment the Government on making these moves. I hope that it has the courage to implement rehabilitation procedures which will ensure that the people of Maryborough do not have to carry the burden on their backs, because they should not have to do that.
-There was one quaint assumption underlying the speech made by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). He seemed to think that unless the mining was stopped completely Fraser Island would be blown away or would no longer exist. He is completely unaware that, due to the natural forces which occur from time to time, cyclones and wind blows hit the island. As much devastation is caused by the winds which habitually hit parts of the island as would be caused by the mining, which was going to cover 0.9 per cent of the area of the island. I believe that that ought to be understood; it seems to have been forgotten. I do not accept for one moment that the alternatives were either taking this action or the island being washed away. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) will acknowledge that in certain circumstances parts of the island may be split off. The honourable member knows that that is quite likely to occur. In those circumstances, this report would no longer be able to refer to this being the largest sand island in the world, and therefore an island that is completely unique and about which something should be done. Why not change that a little and say that some other island is the smallest sand island in the world and we ought to do as much to save it as to save the largest sand island in the world? The logic of that position rather escapes me.
However, I do understand and appreciate the excruciatingly difficult decision that the Government has had to make. Decisions have been required by those who are interested in living standards obtained through mining. A decision has been put upon the Government by the nature of this report, which has recommended that the mining be stopped forthwith. I am concerned about the consequences of the recommendations in the report and the investigations referred to in it. We have been asked to look very closely at the recommendations. The environmental inquiry should be concerned with the total environment. I want to consider whether it is concerned with the total environment. The total environment consists not only of people being able to walk around sand dunes with trees on them but also of people having decent living standards within their own households. On that basis, the report completely ignored any valid investigation. Let me read, first of all, the definition of ‘environment’ which activated the minds of the commissioners. On the first page of the report it is stated that the environment- …. includes all aspects of the surroundings of man, whether affecting him as an individual or in his social groupings, and ‘environmental’ has a corresponding meaning.
That is pretty vague, but it would seem to cover almost everything that can exist- the whole surroundings of man. Having said that in its definition of ‘environment’, the report has completely ignored anything to do with the household environment of the people concerned directly and indirectly in the area. In order to see the vagueness of the propositions in the report, let us consider the recommendations. I will deal with the second recommendation, to which the honourable member for Maribyrnong referred. How do honourable members like this for a precise injunction in relation to action by a Government? The second recommendation states:
Appropriate economic and other assistance be given to the extent that adverse regional economic effects follow the implementation of Recommendation 1.
That is the end of the commissioners’ concern. It goes no further, and that is the nature of the report. It is a totally inadequate report because it has denned ‘environment’ in a certain way. Sometimes we forget that in this world the environment exists for man and man does not exist to serve the environment. Yet the nature of this report seems to accept the second proposition and not the first.
I have been a little concerned about the report. I acknowledge the difficulties of the Government, but I say quite clearly and quite categorically that the report has seriously and gravely underestimated the effects on the precise surroundings and living conditions of many hundreds of people, not only in Maryborough and
Wide Bay but also extending far beyond Wide Bay. I am concerned also about the effect of the report and its recommendations on mining in Australia. One has to acknowledge the simple fact that the most productive, the most efficient and the greatest wealth-producing industry in Australia is mining. Without the mining industry being able to expand and develop its export income, the people working in factories- for example, the motor car factories in the electorate of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young)- would not be able to receive the wages and the effective subsidy equivalent of those wages which they presently receive. The honourable member smiles. He has an enigmatic smile such as one would see on the face of those without responsibility. Those people could not have received the standard of living to which they are at present accustomed were it not for the export income increasingly being earned from mining activities in Australia. So I am concerned, and any Australian has to be concerned, about the difficulty that this decision will produce for a very great industry and for people who would benefit from the industry.
In the minutes available to me I want to look at one or two matters in the report that deserve closer analysis. I turn to that part of the report that deals with the direct and indirect effects of mining. An undertaking is given that once a decision is made appropriate compensating economic measures will be taken. They are going to be difficult, they are going to have to be long term, they are going to have to be persistent, and they are going to have to be unique. I turn to one part of the report that deals with these measures, because it deals with the living conditions of people. I refer to page 170 of the report which contains a summary of the estimated effects of this mining on regional income.
The report deals with the direct effects and indirect effects and quotes an article by McColl and Throsby which appeared in the Economic Record of June-September 1972. In that article they say that the induced effects are only 20 per cent above what the direct effects are. That is a piece of nonsense. If the article had been examined closely they would have seen at page 1, speaking in terms of the regional effects, this passage:
Important components of these impacts are the multiplier effects on output, incomes and employment in the region which are not usually counted as benefits at the national level.
The whole tenor of the earlier speech by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) was to quote the economic effect of this mining as its contribution to national income at the national level. The regional effects, the Statewide effects, have been imprecisely and very inadequately dealt with. I suggest that comes through increasingly in the report.
The report deals with the regional economic effects, which are concerned with the most intimate environment of all, on pages 1 73 to 1 75. In other words the report discusses in one and three-quarter pages the regional economic effects without mentioning one figure, one dollar sign or one estimate whatever. Yet a few pages earlier the report states that the induced effects, on an inadequate analysis- it admits itself to be an inadequate analysis- amount to only 20 per cent in addition to direct effects.
The honourable member for Wide Bay, who has practical experience in this area, has pointed out that at least 300 people are directly affected and 700 people are indirectly affected. We know that there are 2 States of Australia whose citizens have depended for many years for their living conditions on the ripple and feed-back effects of mining. This has been the case in Western Australia, which has had and is having a great period of prosperity. The prosperity in Western Australia is due not to the feed-back effects of rural industry- I realise I might offend rural people when I say that- but to the feed-back effects of mining. The multiplier effects of mining are now very great in the community in which mining operates. In Queensland, which was a long backwater of Australia but which came to the forefront and did very well from the late 1960s and 1970 onwards, the domestic economic effects in terms of job opportunities resulting in full employment were experienced when the rest of Australia did not experience such opportunities. Household incomes rose more quickly there than they did in the rest of Australia. Those effects derived completely from the ripple of mining operations within that State.
I look in that context and from that experience to the position of mining on Fraser Island. The ripple effects of that mining are great and I hope they will not be under-estimated. That very fact indicates the difficulty that the Government is facing. The Government is facing a very great difficulty in that it has to decide what to do in order to compensate for what has happened there. Of course, that is going to involve money. There has always been the cynics who have said: ‘Of course, money can buy anything’. There are those people who have said: ‘No fortress is impregnable up to the gates of which an ass can be led laden with gold’. That is the position which the Government faces at the moment.
I repeat that the difficulty that the Government faces is simply this: It has to decide what kind of compensating action to undertake. I would suggest that reafforestation cannot substitute for what is being done by the mining industry itself. I have accounts here from the mining companies of their expenditures, not in terms of wages but in terms of current expenditures. They are not capital expenditures. One company was involved in an expenditure of over $7m last year, and another company was involved in an expenditure of several million dollars less. That is not something to be put aside lightly or easily.
The other difficulty that the Government faces is this: This was not a mining venture on which short term expectations were built. Rather long term expectations were built. The honourable member for Wide Bay has illustrated very well that people bought houses or built houses. They set themselves up in certain living conditions because of the long term expectations. One of the companies expected to be mining for more than another 20 years. Another one expected to be there for a few years from now. But 20 years plus is a long period of time. This illustrates the exquisite difficulty facing the Government.
What I am concerned about every time I look through this report is that it has ignored those difficulties completely; it has not dealt with them. I am concerned that the report has not sought to deal with the difficulties. All the report says in relation to these things is that no doubt some appropriate economic measures can be taken. What a general qualitative proposition that is; it would be inadequate in any report. A great head of steam has been built up in relation to it. A great deal of propaganda was conducted in relation to it. Some unkind soul- it was Kingsley Martin- has said that you cannot sell propaganda unless you have the proper geese. I would suggest that sometimes on environmental issues that might be an appropriate motto to be adopted by some people.
I appreciate the difficulty that the honourable member for Wide Bay faces. He faces an 80 per cent to 90 per cent downturn in activity. He is concerned with the most intimate environment of all. The effects will go much beyond the electorate of Wide Bay; they will go throughout the length and breadth of Queensland. I would say that if the Government is going to look at measures, it should not take the advice of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who talked about substituting structural assistance schemes and so on. These schemes are not appropriate here. They are schemes appropriate for a government floundering around trying to find something to substitute for the products of its own mismanagement. That is not appropriate to this measure. So what is needed are compensating economic measures. They will have to be long term and will have to apply in terms of the region itself. But whatever compensating measures are taken which will affect people, there will be a net detrimental effect on the national income. Much of this will apply in terms of export income forgone and those transfer effects that help to support large parts of Australia which of their nature are unable to compete with the rest of the world.
-This is the beginning of an era when new values will be set on our national heritage. Fraser Island not only is our heritage, it also belongs to the world heritage. I personally and my Party welcomes the Government’s historic decision to cease mining operations on Fraser Island from 3 1 December this year. I want to state clearly how this inquiry began. The Commission of Inquiry was appointed on 12 July 1975 in pursuance of section 1 1 of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 to conduct an inquiry known as the Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry: … in respect of all of the environmental aspects of the making of decisions by or on behalf of the Australian (Commonwealth) Government in relation to the exportation from Australia of minerals (including minerals that have been subjected to processing or treatment) extracted or which may hereafter be extracted from Fraser Island in the State of Queensland.
After a lengthy inquiry the Commission recommended:
These decisions are historic. They have wide ramifications and they will be expensive. The only decision I find a little disturbing is recommendation 2. 1 feel that the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) is rightly concerned. Politics are not involved here. I think all honourable members have to come together to give support to make sure that the affected workers and the region are not disadvantaged by this decision. But it must be recognised that this is not a decision just affecting the people in the Wide Bay area; it is not a decision just for environmentalists; it is a decision affecting the whole of the nation. Therefore the nation as a whole has to face the responsibility. The workers and the region involved have to receive special consideration. I believe the proposals put forward by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) concerning the workers and the region are not good enough. Much firmer decisions have to be made.
I give an undertaking on behalf of the Labor Party that we will support a fair go for the workers and the people of the region of Wide Bay, irrespective of politics and irrespective of State issues. It is important that they get justice and that they should not have to pay for this momentous decision alone. As an environmentalist I say to other environmentalists that they should be working to make sure that the people and the workers of the area concerned are not disadvantaged in any way. If they are there may be a backlash against environmentalists. If the people, particularly the workers, and the companies concerned suffer a great deal, some repercussions will flow to the whole environmental situation. The Minister stated in regard to recommendation 3 of the report:
The Commonwealth Government has also decided that Fraser Island will be recorded as part of the National Estate under the Australian Heritage Commission Act. This decision recognises the place of Fraser Island as part of our national and international heritage.
As the Minister responsible for the Heritage Commission in the Labor Government and as a Minister responsible for the setting up of the inquiry into the National Estate I can say that we envisaged such a decision as this. I am pleased that this decision has been made. I know that sometimes decisions are hard and harsh but the fact is that this is an historic decision.
I think the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) who spoke before me- honourable members opposite repeatedly interjected while he was speaking- is a man of human understanding. He struggled to set up the inquiry. He is to be commended on his early pioneering. We shared a joint responsibility. We applaud the decision because it was the Labor Government that started the whole momentum to bring about this decision. It is not a matter of sides. The precious gem of Fraser Island will now be preserved for all time not only for our national heritage but also as an international hertitage.
I am pleased that positive measures have been taken to protect this unique island. I am pleased that Australians who are concerned with the environment and who have fought so hard to protect Fraser Island from the bulldozer mentality have at last had a major victory. Neither myself nor the Labor Party ever wants to see destruction to the environment similar to that which occurred with Lake Pedder. Whilst I find this decision commendable, I believe it is contrary to this Government’s attitude to the protection of the environment. In the past year the Government has given no indication at all of any understandings of environmental issues. The Government has cut back drastically on all major environmental commitments. There is no financial commitment at all for new projects under the National Estate this year. My colleague the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has stated that we have to make sure that the workers who are involved will be protected. Any protection of those workers will not be cheap. Therefore I hope there will be a financial commitment to this side environmental issue. This decision is that of a complex man. I refer to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I am aware that he has been convinced and that has been strong enough to make this decision to protect this precious gem of Fraser Island. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister is a complex man but he has shown strength in this decision.
Generally the Government’s attitude to the environment is contradictory. Generally this Government supports growth for growth’s sake and exhibits a bulldozer mentality. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) expressed that point of view. In many ways I find the Government’s decision on Fraser Island to be in complete contradiction to its other actions in government. For a short term economic purpose the Government reduced the amount appropriated for protection of the environment this year. It has downgraded the Australian Government’s commitment to the National Estate. It worries me that this is just a sop to the environmental groups and concerned Australians. The Government may not have the same commitment to the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry chaired by Mr Justice Fox. Whilst I do not criticise the decision on Fraser Island- in fact I have said very clearly that I applaud it- from an environmental protection point of view I am worried by the way the Government intends to protect the displaced workers. Clearly this is a matter we have to look at. I think it is only marginally less important when a government decides to protect the environment that it should take definite action to protect the people in the area concerned.
I want to spend the concluding moments of my speech in showing the contradictions of this Government. Is the same attitude going to be taken in regard to the first report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry? Will there be wide discussion and debate by the Australian people? We have tried to find out from the Prime Minister; we have tried to get some information out of the Government. Is it going to do as -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. The subject matter before the Chair is not the Ranger uranium inquiry. It is the Fraser Island inquiry.
There is no real substance in the point of order. There has been a wide-ranging debate covering all environmental matters affecting the community. I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I point out that this report we are discussing tonight- the Fraser Island report- was commissioned under section 11 of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. I related this matter to the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry’s first report, which was also set up under the provisions of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. The point of order taken by the honourable member illustrates the trouble the honourable members on the Government side have. It is impossible to make a decision on the environment in isolation and separate issues one from the other. When a decision is made on environmental issues, it highlights that everything is connected to everything else. This is a basic truth. If on the one hand, the Government members seem to think that it can make a decision on the recommendations of the Fraser Island inquiry and then on the other hand ignore the recommendations of the Fox inquiry, this decision becomes a complete sop to the environmentalists. I quote the final recommendation of the Fox report in relation to uranium mining:
Our final recommendation takes account of what we understand to be the policy of the Act under which the Inquiry was instituted. It is simply that there should be ample time for public consideration of this Report, and for debate upon it. We therefore recommend that no decision be taken in relation to the foregoing matters until a reasonable time has elapsed and there has been an opportunity for the usual democratic processes to function, including, in this respect, parliamentary debate.
I am asking those Government members who support the Government’s decision in respect to the Fraser Island report: Are they going to be consistent in relation to those recommendations? Are they going to make sure that there will be ample public debate before a decision is made in relation to the Fox inquiry? That is what I am challenging them on now. The Covernment cannot make a decision in relation to one inquiry commenced under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act and then ignore the report of another environmental inquiry. We are seeking a public debate. We are seeking this debate to make sure that the issues are aired and that there is an open discussion.
Having said that, let me say that I feel the Government has made a courageous decision. But I say clearly that all members of Parliament should come together to support the position of those workers affected and ensure that the whole Wide Bay region does not suffer from this historic decision.
– I wish to support the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) who expressed the feelings of the people of the Maryborough district very well and very factually here tonight. I also support the remarks of the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) claimed at one stage that we were not supporting the conservationists. I question that and ask him: How is it that the Capricornia Conservation Council received a grant of $6,000 some 6 weeks ago? If that is not supporting the conservationists, I am not quite sure what is. I would like to draw to the attention of the House what the leaders of industry and the leaders of the City of Maryborough said recently in reference to this report. They said:
The report is heavily biased in favour of environmental considerations and is apparently written from an extremely narrow viewpoint. The report obviously pre-supposes that Fraser Island is the exclusive preserve of environmentalists and scientists . . .
– All from the south.
– They could well be. I will continue with my quotation:
The report obviously pre-supposes that Fraser Island is the exclusive preserve of environmentalists and scientists, with lesser beings perhaps permitted, provided they do not disturb the environment. Controlled industry and the requirements of such run a very poor last. Sandmining is obviously a dirty word to environmentalists, with timber harvesting only faring slightly better.
I think that there was reference to that here tonight by honourable members opposite. The quotation continues:
Evidence given by the Australian Conservation Foundation and views expressed in other areas by ACF people leave us in no doubt that the timber industry is also on borrowed time, despite their impeccable conduct on Fraser Island over the past 100 years.
What will be the direct result of the cessation of sand mining on Fraser Island? From the report we read that 300 people will be directly thrown on to the labour market. The present unemployment level in Maryborough stands at 916 people. The loss of direct salaries and wages amounts to $2. 87m per annum. The loss of the local content of operating expenses amounts to $ 1.41m per annum. The loss of secondary benefits to the total area represents $860,000 per annum. I have taken these figures from the report. The house property values in Maryborough will fall sharply due to the lack of demand, poor sales and the lack of confidence. If we accept that the value of 7 375 house properties in Maryborough will fall by an average of $5,000, we would have a net capital value loss to Maryborough citizens of $36,875,000. Commercial properties will also lose in value. This will be the immediate effect. I am not competent enough to say whether sand mining is actually harming Fraser Island. I am not arguing on that point. What I am saying is that if we are to stop sand mining on Fraser Island, surely it would have been more beneficial for the whole area to have it phased out over a 12-month period. It is interesting also to note in this chamber tonight that in reality not one Government back bencher has stood up and fully supported this action- this line that has been adopted.
– Why do you not resign?
-I would fall into the same category to which you people belong; not on your life. The investors’ confidence in Maryborough will also be shattered. Certainly, the decision will undermine several major projects. For example, I mention shopping centres and large complexes of home units. People will seriously think twice about investing their money in Maryborough now. It is all very well to talk about the tourist industry in Maryborough. It is all very well to say that in that area of Queensland we have a viable tourist industry. But in actual fact if honourable members like to look at the tourist industry in our area they will realise that it certainly is declining. I think it was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who spoke about people going out to Fraser Island. He ought to realise that many of the people left Fraser Island. There was once a large tribe of Aborigines on Fraser Island. They moved out and now we are talking about people going back there.
Let us look at what Queensland will lose out of this. The loss to the State Government of revenue will include royalty payments, rail freight revenue, payroll and other tax and workers’ compensation business through the State Government Insurance Office. What about the loss to Australia- to the Federal Government? The loss to the Federal Government will include company and income tax as well as sales tax on the equipment that the mining companies use. It will include export earnings of between $5m and $10m per annum. The honourable member for Lilley said that it was anticipated the mining would continue for a period in excess of 20 years. The period I heard was 23 years. What really worries me is this: If the Federal Government accepts this as the bible for all environmental reports, what will happen to my area of Agnes Waters where the sand mining companies have moved in and have established leases? What has happened there is that the conservation council has gone down -
Minister for Productivity- New South Wales Petrol Dispute- Governor-General- Democracy in Australia- The Parliament
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1976 I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Last Sunday, 7 November, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced the establishment of the Department of Productivity and named as the new Minister for Productivity the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee). I congratulate the new Minister on his appointment, but I offer my deepest commiserations to the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) because he thought, as did most Government members and we on the Opposition side, that he would be the next member to be appointed to a House of Representatives vacancy in the Ministry. After all, honourable members will recall that he was appointed a Minister in the first Fraser Ministry but because of some activities of his during the election campaign he had to step down from that position.
I wonder why this Department was formed. I wonder whether it is not a sop to the Employers Federation that was represented outside the Parliament by the honourable member for Balaclava. I do not want to raise only my own doubts on the desirability of the Department of Productivity. I want to quote from the Australian Financial Review of 9 November which, in its editorial headed ‘The Department of Silly Walks’, had this to say:
There really is something absurd in any government creating a Department of Productivity. But it is almost too much that such a bureaucratic monster is spawned by the Fraser Government . . .
Just where the idea of such a department came from remains something of a mystery.
Rather it appears to be a case study in political ad hocery of throwing a sop to government supporters who are likely to be riled by the substantive policy decisions also announced at the weekend on a clampdown on credit.
The very way in which the department has been thrown together reinforces this impression.
I have studied the statement of the Prime Minister which was issued on 7 November, and it is a classic example of waffle and gobbledegook. Already there are 5 departments connected with industry- I regard primary industry as being part of industry -but in the whole of this 2-page Press release issued by the Prime Minister there is no mention at all of any primary industry activities being handed over to the Minister for Productivity and his new Department. The department which is vitally interested in manufacturing industry is the Department of Industry and Commerce. Again very little of its activities are being handed over to the new Department of Productivity. The Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) is responsible for the efficiency and development of manufacturing and tertiary industries and research relating thereto, adjustment assistance to industry, assistance to small business, manufacture of goods and provision of services. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is responsible for agricultural and pastoral industries, fisheries and forestry.
If we are to have a Minister for Productivity, surely we should have a department that has some teeth. The new Minister also will handle two Minister-assisting portfolios. He will assist the Prime Minister in women ‘s affairs and he will assist the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I do not downgrade the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Whilst he is only small in stature, he carries a big whack in Cabinet. I can see the new Minister looking after women’s affairs himself. I hope that they keep him busy, because he will not be kept very busy with productivity unless the 2 tasks are connected. With the new Minister having 2 Minister-assisting portfolios and a powerful Minister on top of him, and having to guarantee that he will carry out his duties as Minister -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In Sydney today there is a serious petrol strike. Stocks are in short supply. One of the biggest scandals in this strike is the failure of the State Government to make proper arrangements for essential services to be provided. One of my constituents has been seriously prejudiced by the non-action of the State Government. I draw the attention of the House to a very sound editorial in tonight’s Sydney Daily Mirror, which states:
The biggest puzzle this puzzling petrol dispute has exposed is the haphazard and chaotic arrangements for essential services.
The AMA revealed today that many doctors could not make house or hospital calls because no arrangements had been made for them to get emergency petrol supplies.
And doubts were voiced that other essential serviceshospitals (with reduced nursing staff), ambulance and police- could be kept going.
This is a scandal the State Government must face up to.
The health and welfare of the community must be safeguarded at all costs- even at the risk of making a Labor Government look like strike-breakers.
So far nothing seems to have been done. There is a certain lady in the electorate of St George. She does not wish her name to be used; therefore I will not divulge it. She is a grandmother now living by herself. She has no partner in life, but she has her grandson living with her. She is a pensioner. She has brought up her grandson since he was 20 months old. The grandson suffers from muscular dystrophy, which is a shocking disease. I understand that it starts in a person at about 5 or 6 years of age and gradually gets worse. Very few people who suffer from this disease manage to reach adulthood and stay reasonably physically fit. This young man somehow has managed to get through the higher school certificate by a correspondence course and to obtain a job. He works in a very important job that he values. He is the only person in that place who carries out that job. He gets to his work each day in a specially fitted motor vehicle which he can drive. He cannot climb stairs or move in and out of the vehicle without assistance.
In the last couple of days he was short of petrol and he rang my electoral office. Do honourable members think that the State Government could assist in getting petrol in emergency circumstances for this young man? My secretary rang the Trades Hall and was told that the matter was out of its hands; that it was handled by the Trades and Labor Council. She rang the Trades and Labor Council, which said that it was none of its concern and it could not assist. It said to ring Pat Hills, who is the Minister for Industrial Relations apparently. We tried to ring Mr Hills’ office, but all the telephones were completely blank. My secretary rang Mr Hills’ Department, which said that his telephones are nearly always out of order. The Department suggested ringing the explosives section of the Department of Mines. Why, if one wants petrol, one should ring the explosives section of the Department of Mines I do not know. I think the Minister is also the Minister for Mines. A very courteous gentleman in that Department said that these matters were usually handled by the Premier’s Department and to ring the Premiers office. A call was made to the Premier’s office and a sympathetic secretary said: ‘I am afraid we just cannot help’. So my secretary rang the public relations department of the Shell oil company, and within hours the Shell oil company had made special arrangements to deliver petrol for this young man from some special supplies that it has. The Shell company will continue to supply this man with petrol so that he may continue to drive to his place of employment.
But what is the New South Wales Government doing. All it is giving to the people of New South Wales are circuses. It has done nothing about unemployment or other problems facing that State. No change has been made with respect to the bread industry. All that the New South Wales Government is interested in is nude bathing and gambling. The State Government is run by a premier who is a prancing popinjay who has turned out to be a paper pussycat within his first 100 days of office. If the State Government cannot handle ordinary arrangements for essential services during a strike, it ought to resign tomorrow. If within 48 hours it has not these essential services going I hope that the nurses and doctors in New South Wales hospitals and the underprivileged and handicapped in that State storm their Parliament House and get something done.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, it is a moment of great excitement when the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) rises and calls on us to man the barricades. All I can say about the honourable member for St George is that the dragon that he handles will be a pretty small one. I have risen tonight to remind members of this House of the events of 12 months ago tomorrow. On 11 November 1975, the Governor-General of this country carried out such a breach of constitutional propriety, supported by the people who are now on the other side of this House and in particular by those who were sworn in as Ministers, that their actions offer a threat to the continuance of democracy in Australia. I invite honourable members for a moment to imagine what it all means.
Let us imagine that the honourable member for St George became Governor-General. We have heard him tonight making statements in which he has demanded violence and action outside the law. Armed with the powers of the Governor-General as they were presumed to exist at this time last year, what does this mean? In the first instance, he is the CommanderinChief of the Australian forces. He can do almost what he will with those forces. But honourable members may say that that is a chimera; that will not happen. But what did happen in fact last year was something which nobody in this country presumed could or would happen. I have spoken to dozens of people, many of whom did not vote for the Labor Party last year, who heard on the wireless with complete disbelief the announcement of the dismissal of the Labor Government. They did not believe that it could happen here.
So, if we transfer the present reading of the constitutional powers of the Governor-General to the other sections of the Constitution which deal with, for instance, the dissolution of the Parliament, the prorogation of the Parliament and the sending of messengers by the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriations, we find that a situation has been created in which there is one person with absolute authority in this country over this Parliament, over its governance and answerable to none.
I know full well that honourable members opposite can treat a matter such as this with some levity. I know that they have one of the blackest records of Western democracies regarding the gerrymandering of electorates and the rigging of the whole ballot system. I know that no honourable member opposite could hold his head up at a meeting of true democrats. Honourable members on the Government side support such bodies as the Queensland Government, various legislative councils and the chicanery and manipulation by the National Country Party wherever it has the power. These facets of our political life are offensive to everything for which democracy stands.
The oddest situation has been created in which what was called by Lord Bryson in 1911 ‘the most advanced democracy’ has become a potential for one man dictatorship. It is all right for honourable members opposite to laugh. It may well be that at some time in the future somebody who does not hold the same political persuasion as honourable members opposite will occupy the position of Governor-General. In 50 years time that office could be in the hands of a person with a totally different outlook. The time has come for all of us to consider a rapid alteration to this part of the Constitution.
Most of the vituperation has fallen upon the head of the Governor-General. But I want to remind the Parliament of what some of the members of this House did. At 2.24 p.m. on 1 1 November last year, this House passed a vote of no confidence in the continuation in government of then then caretaker Prime Minister, the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Despite that vote, against all parliamentary tradition, he accepted office and some 12 or 15 members of the House at that time also accepted ministerial positions. I believe that that was an act of sabotage against parliamentary tradition. Whatever else it was and whatever else happened, that was the worst feature of that day.
One of the brightest spots of that whole situation came the next day when members of the Transport Workers Union in this city refused to drive those members of the Parliament to Government House. Those transport drivers were probably the only people in this country who recognised the significance of the breach of parliamentary tradition by those people. I stand here tonight to say thanks to those members of the car pool in Canberra for their action on that occasion.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr NEIL (St George)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) implied that I had called on people to use violence. How anyone could read into my speech a call for the underprivileged and the handicapped to use violence I cannot imagine. The context of my speech makes it plain that no such inference can be drawn. I reject any such inference.
Mr BRYANT ( Wills)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I, too, wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) presumes to misread the language which I used. I said that he called for violence because he asked people to storm the New South Wales Parliament House. If that is not what he said, I will be happy to see it expunged from the Hansard record. But, in fact, that is what we heard on this side of the House. He might have a different wavelength over there.
– I believe that the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) is a reasonable man. Therefore, I will make an attempt to convince him by reason that the action of the Senate late last year in refusing the Budget was appropriate and a proper use of the Senate’s powers. Let me quote some constitutional experts with whom, of course, the honourable member would agree. I refer to Mr E. G. Whitlam, Q.C. Let me quote his own words. The Leader of the Opposition at some stage in the past said in this House:
Let me make it clear at the outset that our opposition to this Budget is no mere formality. We intend to press our opposition by all available means on all related measures in both Houses. If the motion is defeated we will vote against the Bills here and in the Senate. Our purpose is to destroy this Budget and to destroy the Government which has sponsored it.
Surely that was not the present Leader of the Opposition speaking! It was indeed. The date was 25 August 1970 when this House was debating the Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) 1 970-7 1 .
– He was younger then.
– He was younger then and seemed to know his constitutional law at that stage. He would have tried to force a double dissolution if he had been able to obtain concurrence in his proposed action from the Australian Democratic Labor Party. There is no doubt that he sought to obtain that DLP concurrence. Let me give Mr Whitlam another ‘fair go’ to state his view. On 12 June 1970 Mr Whitlam said:
The Labor Party believes that the crisis which would be caused by such a rejection should lead to a long term solution. Any government which is defeated by the Parliament on a major taxation Bill should resign.
Those are his words. Let us give him a third chance. I quote his words again. On 1 October 1970 he said:
We all know that in British parliaments the tradition is that if a money Bill is defeated, as the receipts duties legislation was defeated last June, the Government goes to the people to seek their endorsement of its policies.
Let us turn now to another constitutional expert. I refer to a former Attorney-General in the previous Government, Senator Lionel Murphy, who is now Mr Justice Murphy. As reported in Hansard, he said on 18 June 1970:
The Opposition will oppose these measures. In doing this, the Opposition is pursuing a tradition which is well established, but in view of some doubt recently cast on it in this chamber, perhaps I should restate the position.
The Senate is entitled and expected to exercise resolutely but with discretion its powers to refuse its concurrence to any financial measure, including a tax Bill. There are no limitations on the Senate in the use of its constitutional powers, excepting the limitations imposed by discretion and reason.
He went on to say:
The Australian Labor Party has acted consistently in accordance with the tradition that we will oppose in the Senate any tax or money Bill or other financial measure wherever necessary to carry out our principles and policies.
Is it not amazing that in those days honourable members opposite, including the present Leader of the Opposition, saw with such clarity the constitutional principles involved? It was only late last year that some new light suddenly shone in their consciousness and they were able to recognise some other principle. We on this side of the House can only assume that the difference was that in 1970 they were in Opposition and were trying to defeat the then Liberal-Country Party Government. When they were in government they were prepared to use whatever means and whatever tactics were available to them to stay in power, including putting pressure on the private banks to provide funds, which was suggested at one stage. We look with interest at the record and the record shows that honourable members opposite have supported the principle that the Senate has the power to refuse Supply and that if it does that an election should follow.
– It is always intriguing to listen to people who speak on the basis of self justification and who deny principle.
Government supporters- Oh!
-It is always a matter of levity to those people who would seek power quite unscrupulously, without conscience and without honour. One of the things which I think this House ought to understand is that the events of last November have destroyed and will continue to destroy until such time as they are resolved by proper process the hope of any confidence existing in any government other than that which controls the sources of power in the media in this country being allowed to govern. Firstly, the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) talked about defeating Supply. The Liberal and National Country Parties did not have the guts to bring it to a vote in the Senate. So let us get honest about this matter. They refused to deal with the legislation because they knew that they could not get the necessary votes of the senators to defeat Supply. But let us get down to the real nitty-gritty of the matter.
-The parrots over yonder do not believe in democracy. If they want to see what they have done to it they should go to Queensland and look at the situation that exists there. While we are talking about this proposition, I think the House should be made fully aware that it was not the Senate that the people of Australia elected that was voting on this issue last year.
– Of course it was.
-It was not the Senate that the people elected. It was a rigged Senate.
– You are all bitter and twisted.
– Why do you not grow up? You are like a spoilt schoolboy. You have won office by a dishonest act and you want to protect yourself.
– That is not what you said in the Herald tonight.
-I said nothing about this in the Herald tonight. If you learned to read it might help your political career.
– You had better watch your tongue because you have delivered yourself by that remark.
-I think the honourable gentleman does not understand some things. Honesty is a thing that he does not seem to understand. I want to make a point and I will make it now.
– It is the first one you have made tonight.
– You just do not know how to talk. The point I want to make is this: The Senate that refused to consider Supply was not the Senate that was elected by the Australian people. There were 2 members of the Senate at that time who had been appointed by State parliamentsquite improperly- to replace 2 elected Australian Labor Party senators, one of whom had died. The Parties of honourable members opposite conspired to rig the Senate by stacking it with people who could not get elected and who could not get the votes of the Australian people and utilised the votes of those people who were dishonestly appointed by State governmentshonourable members opposite do not know much about honesty- in order to acquire the numbers to defeat an elected government.
– They did not vote and you know it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I am reluctant to interrupt the honourable member for Corio because of the time factor, but I suggest that the debate may be assisted if interjections were to cease.
-The facts of the matter are that the decision not to consider the Supply Bills was taken on a tied vote with a Queensland senator who had replaced a Labor senator not being present. Had that Labor senator been present the Bills would have come on for consideration. I think honourable members opposite ought to understand how this was done. It was done because of the fact that 2 Labor seats were taken away from the Labor Party by the machinations and, I think, the supreme ego of the then Premier of New South Wales and the machinations of the Queensland Parliament. The people elected a Senate of certain numbers. Honourable members opposite believe that is honest and decent for the people who are elected to be replaced by their friends. The fact that they have the Upper House of every State Parliament rigged in such a way that this cannot happen to them justifies the situation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I had the very good fortune on Saturday night of going to a dinner addressed by the former honourable member for Grayndler- the Honourable Fred Daly. It was a cricketing dinner and he described the events of last November in cricket parlance. He said that Gough had appointed the umpire, had been given out caught, stumped and bowled and still claimed that it was a no-ball. I am glad that at least the former honourable member for Grayndler is aware of the absurdity of the position currently being maintained by his former colleagues.
I believe that the House should be made aware of the historic significance of tomorrow in Australian political terms. It is, of course, the day on which the first automatic adjustment to Australian pensions will take place as a result of the introduction of legislation by this Governmentlegislation which it had undertaken in its policy speech to introduce. The pensioners of Australia probably will have cause forever to celebrate 1 1 November on 2 counts now. Firstly, it got for them a government which promised to introduce such just legislation. Secondly, 1 1 November marks the day on which payment in fact will be made automatically and without reference to Parliament, so that there can be no political intereference with the rights of pensioners to receive adjustments in accordance with rises in the cost of living.
– Because we care for them.
– Exactly. Because this Government has a deep concern for the welfare of pensioners, particularly after 3 years of massive inflation which did more to damage pensions and more to damage the position of pensioners than can be conceived by people who have not been in that situation. The people who are now quite justifiably in Opposition are in Opposition because of the votes of the people. It was not the Governor-General who put honourable gentlemen opposite where they are now with the numbers that they have now. It was the people of Australia who did that. It was done by the same people who had been conned in 1972, and who were not prepared to admit by 1974 that they had been conned, into believing that they were going to be given something on a plate without noticing that that something on a plate was coming out of their own hip pockets. I believe that the facts are very clear. I believe that the pensioners of Australia have a great recognition of the things that are being done for them by this Government compared with what was done for them by the previous Government, which, for example, taxed their pensions.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is concluded. The House stands adjourned until 1 1.45 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice
am asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Election of Officers in Employee Organisations (Question No. 1016)
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
When may I expect an answer to question No. 867.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Question No. 867 was answered on 2 November, 1976, (Hansard, 2 November 1976, page 2250).
asked the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
What action has been taken to implement the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety in order to-
ensure that the Northern Territory immediately legislates for retrofitting of seat belts based on the Advisory Committee on Vehicle Performance draft code of practice;
initiate a program to notify all pre- 1974 motor vehicle owners, at the time of registration renewal, of the inherent dangers associated with the incorrect wearing and fitting of seat belts; were circulated:
investigate the practicality and feasibility of incorporating an outside device on vehicles to indicate whether seat belts are being worn;
ensure that vehicles are fitted with a ‘fasten seat belts’ warning light on the dashboard operated in conjunction with the ignition switch; and . (e) investigate the present reasons for granting exemptions from seat belt wearing and encourage Territory authorities to amend their legislation according to the result of the investigation.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The question from the honourable member is taken to refer only to the action that has been taken in the Northern Territory on these matters. The simple answer to that question is that these matters are all under active consideration. I will however add further comment on each of the points raised.
) Paragraphs 439 to 444 of the Report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety indicates that only the states of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia have enacted legisation relating to the retrofitting of seat belts. In fact the Report states that ‘no State has adopted the ‘ code in its recommended form’- the ‘code’ being the draft code of practice prepared by the ACVP and referred to by the honourable member.
Although no action has been taken to amend Territory legislation along these lines, my Department in Darwin is currently investigating the magnitude of the task and the likely cost to the community.
The Report recommends that the Federal Department of Transport, in conjunction with the State and Territory registration authorities initiate such a program of advice to Vehicle Owners. I expect that my colleague the Minister for Transport, will be contacting me in this regard at some time.
I would expect that the recommendation for the installation of such a device would be referred to the Advisory Committee on Vehicle Performance in the first instance before any State or Territory considers its adoption.
The Standing Committee in fact recommended that an Australian Design Rule be developed to ensure that vehicles are fitted with the seat belts warning light. This being the case my Department will not take any action along these lines until such a Design Rule is introduced. It would neither be prudent nor advisable for the Northern Territory to act unilaterally in this matter.
Northern Territory legisation makes provision for exemptions from the wearing of seat belts in certain circumstances. Administrative practice requires a person seeking exemption to produce medical evidence (a doctor’s certificate) to substantiate a claim for exemption on medical or physical grounds. Exemption may also be granted to drivers of delivery vehicles under strict conditions. I understand that these exemptions are not inconsistent with similar legislation elsewhere in Australia.
asked the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
What action has he taken to implement the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety to ensure that (a) the Northern Territory legislates to ban the sale and fitting of unapproved child restraints and ( b ) legislation is enacted to require the wearing of restraints by children in the Northern Territory.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No action has yet been taken on the matters referred to by the honourable member. Contrary to the statement contained in the Standing Committee’s Report that children under the age of eight years are exempted from wearing seat belts, the Northern Territory requires all passengers in a motor vehicle to wear seat belts where fitted. These seat belts must be of an approved standard.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
What action has he taken to implement the recommendation of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety that the Federal Government urgently investigate a form of Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection suitable for the Northern Territory with a view to its early implementation.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
All motor vehicles in the Northern Territory are already subjected to an annual mechanical check for roadworthiness. Public motor vehicles such as taxis and buses undergo this check every six months. This has been the practice for over twenty years.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A similar position obtains in regard to the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to underwrite the equalisation values for butter and cheese for the six months period ending 31 December 1976.
The general question of underwriting dairy products was raised at the Australian Agricultural Council meeting on 8 October 1976, within the context of the Council’s consideration of the Industries Assistance Commission report on dairy industry marketing arrangements. Both the Commonwealth and State Governments are well aware that the present underwriting arrangements apply only to the period ending 31 December 1976, but at this stage no decision has been taken as to what arrangements should apply from 1 January 1977.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Question No. 1310)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Most of the standards in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concern state laws and practices as well as federal and territorial laws and practices. The question of whether Australia should ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights raises not only legal issues but also fundamental political issues in so far as the Australian States will need to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government to make it possible for Australia to ratify that Covenant and enable it to meet its international obligations under the Covenant. The Government is seeking to resolve these issues.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education has supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 November 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19761110_reps_30_hor101/>.