30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the House that the Prime Minister will not be attending the House today as he is in Western Australia farewelling the Queen at the conclusion of Her Majesty’s visit to Australia.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
Royal Commission on Petroleum
The petition of certain members of the Service Station Association of N.S.W. Ltd, and certain members of the motoring public of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
That the Federal Government give every consideration to implementing the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will take action to ensure that the needs of the motoring public and the retail petroleum industry are given every consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Abel, Mr Baume, Mr Lionel Bowen, Dr Edwards, Mr Gillard, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Charles Jones, Mr Lusher, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Martin, Mr Neil, Mr O’Keefe, Mr Ruddock, Mr Stewart, Mr Wentworth and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide SO per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5, 903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Mr Braithwaite, Mr Martyr, Mr Millar and Dr Richardson.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government should totally finance national highways and half the cost of constructing and maintaining all other public roads.
That since current road funding arrangements have seen a deterioration in road assets, this backlog in construction and maintenance needs to be reduced by the Commonwealth Government undertaking to make a larger financial contribution. by Mr Bourchier and Mr Lloyd.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth that a Citizen Radio Service should be introduced on the 27 MHz frequency band incorporating frequencies 26.965 MHz to 27.255 MHz enabling use of good quality 23 channel AM and AM/SSB radio equipment currently available on the Australian market. There shall also be additionally an extension of this service provided for in the VHF/UHF spectrum within 3 years as the usage of the Citizen ‘s Radio Service increases.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should, immediately introduce legislation to amend the Wireless Telegraphy Act and regulations to allow such a Citizen’s Radio Service to function legally. These amendments should allow the Service to develop to the benefit of the people and also allow self regulation through the National Citizen’s Radio Association as the united representative body of Citizen’s Radio Operators working in conjunction with your Departmental Representatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howard and Mr MacKenzie.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Abel.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the Council of the Municipality of Casino respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations of the Commonwealth Burea of Roads for the funding of rural local roads and urban local roads in New South Wales for the triennium 1977-1980.
For and on behalf of the Council of the Municipality of Casino. by Mr Anthony.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Zone Allowance Provisions currently included in the Income Tax Assessment Act require variation from the point of view of boundaries and value of the allowance in view of the substantial changes of circumstances over the last decade, brought about by the coal mining enterprises in the Central Queensland Highlands.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we request that your Government take immediate action to have established at Moranbah ABC television without further delay. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Australian Government employees strenuously oppose the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill first introduced in the House of Representatives on 8 December 1976. The basis for opposition includes the following reasons:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should reject passage of any legislation to extend powers of compulsory retirement of Australian Government employees unless and until any variation has been agreed with staff representatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Haslem.
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 Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully urge:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government issue identity cards to persons receiving unemployment relief, to qualify for such relief able bodied persons be employed by local councils and that such relief be no higher than age and invalid pensions.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr MacKenzie.
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 McVeigh.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal income whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
The House notes-
That the firm of Patrick Partners carried on the business of stock and share brokers under that name principally in Sydney and Melbourne;
That the said firm had 12 partners of whom Michael Ehrenfried Baume, now the honourable member for Macarthur, was one;
That on 27 July 1975, 1 1 members of the firm other than the honourable member for Macarthur signed an authority under sub-section 188 (1) of the Bankruptcy Act of 1966 as amended, authorising Mr J. H. Jamison, a registered trustee, to call a meeting of his creditors and to take over control of his property and the authority became effective for the purposes of Part X of the Act on that day;
That on 27 July 1975 the Honourable Member also signed an authority under sub-section 188 (1) of the Bankruptcy Act 1966 as amended authorising Mr J. H. Jamison, a registered trustee, to call a meeting of his creditors and to take over control of his property, and the authority became effective for the purposes of Part X of the Act on that day;
That on 27 February 1976 deeds of arrangement with each of the eleven partners other than the Honourable Member were approved by special resolutions passed under paragraph 204 (1) (b) of the Bankruptcy Act at creditors’ meetings held on that date;
That the deeds of arrangement were executed on 19 March 1976 in compliance with sub-section 216 ( 1 ) of the Bankruptcy Act;
That all eleven deeds of arrangement provided in the recitals (inter alia) that:
Recital A. The Debtor was at all material times a partner of Patrick Partners, Stock and Share Brokers (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Firm’) who carried on business principally in Sydney and Melbourne.
Recital B. On 27 July 1975, the members of the Firm consisted of the persons named in Part A of the First Schedule hereto. Michael Ehrenfried Baume (hereinafter referred to as ‘Mr Baume’) was prior to 24 February 1975 a partner in the Firm and there is a dispute between Mr Baume and the Firm as to whether he was a partner thereof as at 27 July 1975. Mr Baume claims to be entitled to indemnities in respect of the debts and liabilities of the Firm from certain of the Partners and Former Partners of the Firm.
Recital C. On 27 July 1975, the Debtor, and the other members of the Firm (not including Mr Baume) signed an authority under Section 188 of the Act appointing the Trustee as his Controlling Trustee. Mr Baume also appointed the Trustee as his Attorney with powers limited to dealing with his interest (if any) in the Firm.
Recital F. The Debtor is desirous of entering into this Deed of Arrangement in favour of his creditors in order to make arrangements for his affairs and secure payment of his debts in whole or in part to his said creditors on the terms and subject to the conditions herein contained.
That all eleven deeds of arrangement provided in clause 9 that:
In consideration of Mr Baume completing an agreement to make arrangements for the satisfaction of the debt of $ 106,082 claimed to be due by him to the Firm (the amount so paid by Mr Baume being part of the amount referred to in Clause 3 (b) hereof and forms part of the funds available for distribution to the Joint Creditors hereunder) and in consideration of the pay ments to be made by the Trustee in accordance with the provisions of this Deed, the Joint Creditors each covenant with the Trustee not, during the Currency of the Deed, to bring any action, suit or demand or take any steps to enforce payment by or against Mr Baume for any indebtedness in respect of which Mr Baume may be jointly or severally liable with the Debtor to any Joint Creditor and on the expiration of the Currency of the Deed the claims of all Joint Creditors (whether Participating Creditors or otherwise) against Mr Baume shall be deemed to be fully discharged and satisfied and shall thereupon be released and extinguished. The Trustee shall agree with Mr Baume and subject to such indemnities as the Trustee may determine to seek to restrain any Joint Creditor from bringing any action, suit or demand or taking any step to enforce payment against Mr Baume arising out of any indebtedness to a Joint Creditor in respect of which Mr Baume is jointly liable with the Debtor or to defend any such action, suit or demand so brought. The Trustee shall also agree with Mr Baume that the Trustee will not bring any action suit or demand or take any steps to enforce payment by Mr Baume for any indebtedness due jointly or severally by Mr Baume to the Debtor or the Firm or in respect of which Mr Baume is responsible to the Firm whilstever Mr Baume observes and performs the obligations on his part contained in the agreement entered into by him with the Trustee hereinbefore provided and upon the expiration of the Currency of the Deed all such claims and demands against Mr Baume shall be released and extinguished. If Mr Baume fails to complete the agreement with the Trustee as hereinbefore provided before the Commencement Date then this Clause shall not apply to Mr Baume.
That all eleven deeds of arrangement provided in clause 1 (inter alia) that:
In this Deed unless the context otherwise requires the following expressions shall have the meaning set opposite the same respectively:
The Commencement Date’ means the date on which this deed is executed.
Currency of the Deed’ means the duration of the Deed is provided by Clause 14 hereof.
That all eleven deeds of arrangement provided in clause 14 that:
This Deed shall operate for a period of five (5) years from the Commencement Date.
That the Honourable Member execute also on 19 March 1976 before any of the eleven deeds of arrangement were executed a deed as contemplated by the opening words of clause 9 hereinbefore referred to;
That the Honourable Member has complied with the requirements of the relevant covenant in that deed;
That in a judgement of 21 September 1976 Mr Justice Riley of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy determined in the matter of Dowling and others:
that on the evidence each of the deeds of arrangement was entered into in accordance with Part X of the Bankruptcy Act, complied with the requirements of that Part, and was duly executed by the debtor concerned and the Trustee;
that pursuant to sub-section 233 ( 1 ) of the Bankruptcy Act each deed was therefore ‘binding on all the creditors of the debtor’;
that even though each of the eleven deeds related not only to the liabilities of the debtor who executed it but also those of the honourable member, it could validly contain provisions which refer to liabilities of a person other than the executing debtor;
that a deed of arrangement may contain any reasonable provisions requisite to give effect to the purposes of the deed if they do not contravene those provisions of the Act made applicable to deeds under Part X of the Bankruptcy Act;
that the effect of the provisions relating to the Honourable Member which the deeds contain is that $106,082 contributed by the Honourable Member may be available for distribution among the creditors that would not otherwise be available with the added advantage of the avoidance of litigation against the Honourable Member over his liabilities to creditors and by him over his entitlements to indemnity from his former partners;
that there is nothing in these provisions that offends any provision of the Bankruptcy Act and each of the eleven deeds is valid and binding;
that having regard to the circumstances of the execution of the deeds of arrangements the deed signed by the Honourable Member need only have been executed by him before the debtors executed their deeds of arrangement for clause 9 to apply and therefore as he did in fact execute his deed before the deeds of arrangement were executed creditors are bound by the deeds of arrangement and clause 9 of those deeds applies to the Honourable Member;
that the injunctions sought by Mr Jamison the trustee of the deeds of arrangements pursuant to sub-section 30 ( 1 ) of the Bankruptcy Act be granted restraining certain creditors from taking any step to enforce payment by the Honourable Member for a debt in respect of which the said creditors alleged the Honourable Member is liable and which was the subject of proceedings in the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the making of an order that the creditors be restrained from proceeding with the action.
That the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia provides (inter alia) in Section 45 (ii) that if a member of the House of Representatives takes the benefit, whether by assignment, composition or otherwise, of any law relating to bankrupt or insolvent debtors his place shall thereupon become vacant.
The House therefore resolves that the question whether the place of the Honourable Member for Macarthur has become vacant pursuant to the provisions of Section 45 (ii) of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia be referred for determination to the Court of Disputed Returns pursuant to section 203 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
-I feel bound to inform the House that it has been apparent for a period of time that notices have included unnecessary recitals. It is necessary to give a recital to make a motion meaningful, but when the recitals are so extended as to amount really to a speech in support of the motion it will be necessary for me to consider the extent to which that procedure can continue to be adopted and the forms of the House be put aside. I will consider whether this should be done by an examination of the Standing Orders or whether some discretion needs to be exercised by the Chair.
- Mr Speaker -
-Before I call the honourable member for Scullin, I make it perfectly clear that I in no way impugn him or anyone who has given notice of motion in the past. It is just that I believe that we need to examine the forms of the House at present.
– May I address myself to that point?
– When guidance has been given to members, I think the precedent has been that notices contained a statement of a chain of facts and then the action desired of the House. In other words, fact, not opinion, is given. Mr Speaker, I wonder whether in making your decision you would consider that aspect for the guidance of members.
-I certainly shall. My intention is to consider the extent to which a recital is an argument as distinct from a necessary recital to make a motion meaningful.
– I address my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is it a fact that claimants for the unemployment benefit have to wait for 6 weeks before they become eligible for the benefit if they have voluntarily left their previous employment? Is the Minister aware of the publicity given to statements by a certain South Australian senator that 40 per cent of the unemployed have voluntarily left their previous employment? Is there any statistical evidence to verify these claims or are the claims a further attempt to play down the plight of people who are at present unemployed?
– The payment of the unemployment benefit is not the responsibility of my Department but the administration of the work test is. The guidelines relating to the administration of the work test stipulate that those who leave their jobs voluntarily should not be entitled to the unemployment benefit for a period of 6 weeks. I understand that the figures quoted by the honourable member had their origin in a report from, I think, the Australian Bureau of
Statistics. The figures indicated that of those receiving the unemployment benefit some 38 per cent had left their job voluntarily.
-Can the Treasurer tell the House what would be the cost of recently suggested changes to the conditions under which women can gain the unemployment benefit? Can he also tell the House whether these changes would be a genuine contribution to those in need?
-I believe that the honourable gentleman is referring to a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. It is apparent from comments made by the Leader of the Opposition during question time yesterday that he is seeking to renege on a promise in respect of women and the unemployment benefit made by him at a Labor Party function last weekend. I believe also that it is clear from a reading of the honourable gentleman’s speech that he believes that changes should be made to conditions applying to the registration of women for the unemployment benefit. Why else would the honourable gentleman have complained that women are not entitled to benefits, to quote his words, ‘if their husbands have any sort of job ‘? Why else would the honourable gentleman have described his commitments as, again to quote his words, ‘the basic goals of a Labor government for women’? Presumably the Leader of the Opposition is not in the habit of putting forward the status quo as a goal for any future Labor government.
As the Prime Minister mentioned during question time yesterday, the promises made by the Leader of the Opposition would, of course, entail a huge cost. Some indication of the expenses involved can be drawn from the fact that if all married women under the age of 60 years not at present in the work force applied for and received the proposed benefit, the Commonwealth would have to pay out some $3,300m. A very significant amount of money would go to women whose husbands were in the upper income bracket. In other words, those benefits would go directly to a number of wealthy families.
I am advised also that the Leader of the Opposition’s commitment to make child care services available even to women who are not working could involve an additional cost of the order of $200m. If the Leader of the Opposition wants to claim that his speech last weekend contains no new commitments I suggest that in future he make it plain that a Labor government would make no changes to the present conditions under which women are eligible for the unemployment benefit and for assistance with child care.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development been drawn to the announcement that a film made in Australia entitled Leisure was awarded an Oscar in the animated short film section of the Academy Awards? Is this the first Oscar to be won by an Australian film since the Second World War? Has the Minister yet seen the film? If so, what were his impressions? Was the film commissioned and funded during the term of the Labor Government by the now defunct Department of Tourism and Recreation? Was the film all but completed prior to 11 November 1975? Finally, will the Minister arrange for a private screening of the film for the benefit of senators and members of this place and for an immediate screening on Australian Broadcasting Commission television for the benefit of all Australians?
-The Minister need not say what he thought of the film because the honourable gentleman is not entitled to ask for an opinion of that kind.
– I have seen the film. In view of the judgment of the people of America I had better not comment further. As I understand the advice I have received, it is true that the film is the first Australian film that has been given this award in this category. I offer my congratulations to the producer, the film maker and Mr Petty himself.
– And to the Minister concerned.
-Yes, I readily admit that the former Minister did a wonderful job in funding it. As to the other question, I will certainly make arrangements to have the film screened here. Whether it will be for the entertainment or information of honourable members I am not too sure. I will also consult with my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications as to whether it could be shown on ABC television.
-I put my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to statements he made in the United States of America, which were reported widely here, that China is a force for stabilisation in South East Asia. As I presume this was an expression of Government policy I ask what is the factual evidence on which this policy is based. Is there any sign of a diminution of Chinese support for insurgency in, for example, Burma or in the Marxist-Leninist party in Malaysia and in other South East Asian countries? If not, does his statement as an expression of Government policy merely acknowledge China’s ability to act as a counterpoise to Russia in this part of the world?
-Statements akin to that were not made solely in the United States, but a careful reading of the speech on foreign policy I made in the House before going overseas would show that statements along those lines were contained in that speech. It does not list factual evidence. In fact what it says is that we will be watching the situation carefully following the assurances given and the interpretation placed upon them by the previous Australian Ambassador to China and accepted by the present Government as a significant change in the attitude of the Chinese Government. As I recall, on this element my speech concluded that we will be watching carefully to see whether there are any changes in attitude. So there is no long term judgment or judgment sine die. I believe there is a requirement to involve China to a greater extent in the international community. I have said so before. I said it not only in the United States but also here.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development related to that asked him by the honourable member for Lang, in answer to which he gave an endorsement of the Hollywood award to the Australian film Leisure. I ask: How soon does he expect that the Government will resume grants under the capital assistance for leisure facilities program under which no grants have been authorised since 17 December 1975? I also ask him: What steps have been taken to pursue the proposal which the Bailey task force made Vh months ago for a new community assistance and recreation program to incorporate among others this leisure facilities program?
-The Leader of the Opposition is correct in saying that the Bailey Task Force looked at all the range of programs that used to be administered under this general head, including capital assistance for leisure facilities, the area improvement program and several others and has recommended a complete rationalisation to form one new program. The Government is looking at it seriously. As the Leader of the Opposition would know, the task force report is now on the table and available for comment. Some are commenting. The Government will complete its review. It will take into consideration any comments it receives. The general program will be considered in a Budget context.
-Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the strike at the Hamilton container terminal, Brisbane, following a demarcation issue between various unions involving 2 Transport Workers Union members who were guaranteed similar work by the same company at a different nearby location? Is he aware that this issue could lead to the loss of at least $2m worth of meat owned by hard-pressed beef producers, the closure of meat works, affecting the jobs of thousands of workers, and lower prices of up to $50 a head, for cattle? What steps is the Government taking to thwart the activities of irresponsible trade union leaders, and what action has been taken to put real teeth into the legislation to allow these unions and their irresponsible leaders to be sued for damages by the beef producers and other workers on a basis similar to that by which irresponsible leaders and unions can be sued for damages under the Bjelke-Petersen legislation in Queensland?
-Over the last 12 to 18 months there has been probably no more aggrieved sector of the Australian community than the beef producers. As a result of the marketing efforts of the Australian Meat Board and as a result of government to government contact by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, myself and other Ministers, that industry has gradually begun to see a way out of its traumas. In a climate in which beef producers are still far from being able to offset the escalating costs which were largely induced by the previous Government, they now find that, through the totally irresponsible action in particular of the Transport Workers Union and of (the officials of that union, the whole of the recovery in Queensland seems to be prejudiced. The Transport Workers Union has taken unto itself a position which threatens to disrupt completely the whole of the beef industry in Queensland. I understand that the union has now taken action not only against containers within that State, and in particular against refrigerated containers, but also against the handling of those containers interstate.
A compulsory conference which has been called before Commissioner Mansini tomorrow morning is expected to take place without representatives of the Transport Workers Union being present. That leads one to believe that the Transport Workers Union executive is failing in its duty not only to the rest of the residents of that State but also to members of its own union. I believe that the circumstances of this dispute highlight the situation in which totally irresponsible action by a few trade union leaders can disrupt the whole of the activities of an industry and indeed of a State. The compulsory conference to be held tomorrow morning may possibly resolve the problem. I can assure the honourable gentleman that there is already a capacity under existing Commonwealth legislation for a civilian damage action to be taken against those persons responsible. My colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and I have been in conference on innumerable occasions about the circumstances of this dispute to see whether any further action can be taken within Federal responsibility. We are most concerned at the implications not just for the State of Queensland but in particular for the beef producers whose tenuous recovery at this stage looks as though it will be entirely prejudiced because of those irresponsible actions of the executive of the TWU. One would hope that the responsibility of the members of the union if not of its executive would prevail so that at least they will appear at the compulsory conference tomorrow morning and that there will be a reasonable prospect of a sensible solution to what seems at the moment to be an almost intransigent problem.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has the Government decided to transfer a number of specific purpose payments for capital works now funded by the Commonwealth into the Loan Council programs of the States? In particular, has it decided to transfer the national sewerage program? In the case of such transfers, what will the Government do to compensate the States for the higher interest rates which will ensue?
-The answer in the first place is no. In any case the honourable gentleman ought to be aware that matters that concern the Loan Council are privy to the Loan Council and are not subject to public comment.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Has the Minister seen the article in the Australian Financial Review of last Tuesday week referring to service pensions and the service retirement scheme? If so, what is the Minister’s reaction to the article, which I found particularly offensive and misleading?
-I did see the editorial to which the honourable member has referred and I share his sense of indignation concerning some of the sentiment expressed in the editorial. I presume that when the leader writer used the term ‘service pension’ he was referring to pensions that flow under the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act, that is to say, pensions for servicemen in the 3 Services who contribute 5.5 per cent of their salary to the fund. In the first place the editorial writer drew heavily on his imagination to contend that these pensions were something in the nature of a sacred cow and that they should be exposed to some form of means test. I wonder what the editorial writers of the Fairfax Press generally would feel if they were told that the pensions which their contributions to a superannuation fund earn for them at some time in the future should be exposed to a means test. Further, the editorial writer contended that this was the brainless connivance of the former Government. I thought that was a gross insult to an all-party select committee in the last Parliament.
-Two Parliaments ago, as I am reminded by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. Every party in the Parliament was represented on that committee and I think for all practical purposes the committee’s recommendation to the government of the day was a unanimous one. So the newspaper’s assertion is inaccurate and grossly unfair. I trust that having regard to its unfairness, if for no other reason, some adjustment or some correction will be made. May I presume to remind the editorial writers that unlike most of us who contribute to superannuation funds, when those who serve in the armed Services contribute to a retirement benefits fund they are also contributing on the basis that their commitment to this country is total. In other words, they are quite prepared to say: ‘The country can have my life if it needs it ‘.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Capital Territory. Is it a fact that his intervention in the subject of the supply of milk to Canberra produced the tendering system the results of which have just been announced? Did he intervene in this way on his private enterprise and market place philosophy on the grounds that it would produce a better milk supply and cheaper milk? Has it in fact produced dearer milk? Does it not show that the economic philosophies on which he and his colleagues operate are totally erroneous? Would it also be true that his intervention -
-Order! The honourable member is now arguing the point. He should ask for information.
– I just want to put this: Has his intervention in various areas such as this- the price of land in Canberra, interests rates and the like- cost $20m this year?
-Order! The honourable member will be ruled out of order.
– The short answer is no. My intervention, if it may be called that, in the question of the supply of milk in the Capital Territory led to the A.C.T. Milk Authority being asked to arrange in a very normal fashion for public tenders to be called for the supply of milk in which price would be the major factor in the awarding of contracts but not the only factor. Other factors such as the quality of milk and regularity of supply were also to be taken into account. In pursuit of that direction the Authority called tenders and it has now announced the results of those tenders. Owing to factors which are in no way related to the criteria which the Authority drew up, milk will, of course, be more expensive in the Territory. The major reason for that, of course, is that the price of milk in Victoria increased substantially recently. In a fairly short time the actual new price of milk to the consumer will be announced. But I stress that that has nothing whatsoever to do with the system of tendering which has been agreed to. In fact the system of tendering which had been used before the recent change provided that the more expensive milk which was offered to the Territory was that which was most taken up by the Territory. The system of tendering which we have introduced provides, of course, that price is now the major factor, thus keeping costs down as far as possible to the Canberra consumer.
-The Attorney-General will remember that last week he indicated he would consider representations from the seven parliamentary representatives for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory for the granting of assistance to appear before the High Court of Australia on behalf of the interests of the people of those Territories. Can the AttorneyGeneral indicate whether assistance will be given and, if so, what assistance will be given?
– The granting of legal assistance to the Territorial senators and members of the House of Representatives has been considered by the Government and the Government has decided that legal assistance should be given. As the interests of the senators and members which will be argued are the same as those of the Commonwealth, I am proposing to ask the Crown Solicitor under section 55E of the Judiciary Act to brief senior and junior counsel to appear on behalf of the senators and members involved. That, of course, would mean senators and members from both sides of this House and the other place.
-I call the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I just say publicly to some of the gentlemen in the Press Gallery up there that I intend to be the honourable member for Melbourne Ports for some time to come yet. I address my question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. Whilst it is realised that difficulties are attached to giving precise meaning to concepts such as common fund and integrated commodity approach, nevertheless considerable areas of good will, both inside and outside Australia, are becoming alienated by what is seen as a negative attitude by our representatives at the Common Fund Negotiating Conference in Geneva. I ask the Minister specifically: Is the Australian Government yet prepared to support a common fund in principle or at least to indicate what it sees as the necessary framework for a viable fund? Secondly, does he acknowledge that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development initiatives to stabilise commodity prices and markets are seen as a crucial first step towards a new economic order by many of our currently friendly neighbours? Finally, is the Minister prepared in the parliamentary sessions following Easter to make a detailed statement setting out the Government’s fundamental attitudes towards these important questions?
-May I give my support to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports in the sentiment expressed by him initially and express the hope that he will be here for many more years. Australia’s attitude has been made perfectly clear in relation to an integrated program for the marketing of commodity products. I am disappointed to see reports challenging the sincerity or the validity of the Government’s attitude. The Government supported this resolution at the UNCTAD Conference in Nairobi and it has participated in all the meetings that have resulted from that resolution. These meetings have dealt with a whole host of commodities. Australia has been very much to the forefront throughout the years as an initiator of international commodity agreements and is a party to many commodity agreements. The only agreement operating at the moment which has a buffer fund requirement is the tin agreement, to which Australia makes a contribution. The reports suggesting that Australia is against the idea of a Common Fund are not correct. The idea of a Common Fund is to enable buffer stocks to be held so as to try to stabilise or firm up prices in the market. The precise question of a Common Fund must be related to individual commodities and products and Australia is not yet satisfied that the proposals coming forward can work in practice.
The Government’s attitude on these specific commodities is no different from that of the United States of America, the European Economic Community or Japan. Australia will be supporting Common Fund arrangements where they can be sensibly applied and work effectively. I hope that those people whose interpretation is that Australia is reluctant to support the Common Fund will correct their attitudes. Many people in the community have adopted this idea that everybody must make a contribution to a Common Fund. In fact, people are sending a $2 contribution to my office to add to the Common Fund. I appreciate the intention of these wellmeaning people but I have had to tell my staff to return the money to them and inform them that if Australia does become involved in Common Fund arrangements, the contribution will be met by the taxpayers.
-My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, is partially supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Canberra and refers to the case initiated in the High Court by Queensland and Western Australia concerning the representation of the Territories in the Senate and the House of Representatives and the assurance of the Prime Minister that the Northern Territory is shortly destined for Statehood. Will the Attorney-General inform the House whether the proposal that section 125 of the Constitution be altered by referendum to allow the placement of all but, say, 15 to 20 square kilometres, which could be described as the parliamentary triangle of the Australian Capital Territory, into New South Wales is a viable proposition? Secondly, will the Attorney-General confirm whether this would mean that the citizens of the Australian
Capital Territory could then vote in referendums and vote for and be represented by 10 senators-
-Order! The second part of the question is hypothetical.
– In that case, Mr Speaker, I ask the Attorney-General to reply to the first part of my question.
-I have some difficulty comprehending the meaning of the phrase whether it is a viable proposition’. It depends on one’s attitude to the question. Politically speaking, I should not have thought that it was a viable proposition. The whole thrust of this country since Federation has been to develop the capital of Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. This plan was adopted many years ago and has been prosecuted ever since. In that sense, I should not have thought that it was a viable proposition. At the moment the Constitution provides that the Territory shall consist of an area of at least 100 square miles. If the Australian Capital Territory were to consist of only the parliamentary triangle, it would be a very peculiar sort of territory in which to have the seat of government. With very great respect to the honourable member for Griffith and although I would like to assist him to develop a viable proposition, I suggest that this is not a proposition which I, as Attorney-General, would wish to present to the Cabinet at this stage. I suggest to the honourable member that he should bring up this matter in the Party ranks in Queensland.
– I direct my question to the Foreign Minister. I refer to the statements made 6 days ago by President Carter at his Press Conference in Washington that his Administration is going to try to move towards demilitarising the Indian Ocean and by President Podgorny in Tanzania that the Russian Government is prepared to consider the question of declaring a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean. I ask: What approaches has the Government made to the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for an expansion or clarification of President Podgorny ‘s statement?
-The short answer is that discussions of significant moment are taking place at present between the Secretary of State for the United States of America and the Government of the Soviet Union. I do not think it would assist those discussions for other countries to be seeking further clarification of remarks at the time when these discussions are occurring. It is true that the statement made by President Podgorny was made some few days before Secretary of State Vance went to Moscow. But, after all, what he said was a reiteration of what the Soviet Union has been saying for some time; that it favours demilitarisation and that it wishes to have a zone of peace. In this context our officials on occasions have had discussions with the Soviet Union as to just what this means. For example, my former Permanent Head put to the Soviet Union: ‘Does it mean that you agree to the dismantling of your base at Berbera?’ ‘No’, said the Soviet Union, ‘because it is not our base; it is a Somali base’. Frankly, until we have an expression which indicates that it is in fact and in reality, as most commentators and certainly the United States Government at present regard it, namely, a Soviet base I think the discussions in that area will enter into some difficulty. As is well known, the discussions that Secretary of State Vance will be having will extend over a much wider area than just the Indian Ocean. We must await the reaction of the Soviet Union to the proposal enunciated by the American President and discussed in somewhat greater detail by the Secretary of State. Until that time I think it would be wiser for countries outside the 2 super powersthe United States of America and the Soviet Union- not to do any more than the form of exploratory discussions that officers in my Department have had with representatives of the Soviet Union. But clearly there will need to be, either during this period of talks with the United States or at some future date, if it is agreed that there be further discussions on the Indian Ocean, an acceptance publicly by the Soviet Union that the base in Somalia is in fact what most would accept it to be, a Soviet controlled entity. If that is forthcoming we can look for discussions heading towards some form of demilitarisation in the Indian Ocean. The contrast between the Government and the Opposition on this matter is of course that we have at all times called for the very thing that is occurring now- discussions to see whether it is possible to enter into an arrangement for mutual balanced reductions, not for the opting out unilaterally of one country, namely the United States, which was symptomatic of all statements made by the Leader of the Opposition.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. What action is the Government taking internationally to improve the current depressed world market situation for dairy products? In particular, what is being done to prevent another collapse in the world price of skim milk powder when the production season gets under way soon in Europe and North America?
-The world dairy trade has immense problems mainly because of the restrictive trade barriers that operate in North America and the European Economic Community. We have a long record over the years of trying to get access to these markets, both through multilateral negotiations and bilateral understandings. However, we have not been as successful as we would have hoped to be, but we will be making this matter one of the main features, along with matters of other agricultural commodities, of the multinational trade negotiations which we hope will commence this year. We will certainly want to see a freer flow of agricultural commodities.
With regard to skim milk powder, the Australian Government, along with the dairy industry, has been making requests to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to increase the floor price from the present price of $350 a ton, which has existed for the last 3 years, to $500 a ton. Negotiations have been going on with a number of countries. Discussions have been held with New Zealand, which is very important in this aspect, to get its support. If we can get major producers such as New Zealand and the European Economic Community to support our proposals the world price should increase.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Transport. The Minister will recall the welcome increase in beef orders from Japan following his visit there with his colleagues a few weeks ago. However, my question relates to attempts by the Australian National Line to secure ore cargoes to Japan for its vessel, the Australian Prospector, and to current negotiations by Japanese steel interests in regard to iron ore and coal prices. I ask the Minister whether he, in association with the Minister for National Resources, will use his good offices to secure iron ore cargoes for the Australian Prospector during price negotiations with the Japanese steel industry?
– This matter has been subject to long and protracted negotiations over a period. When I was in Japan I raised the matter directly with my opposite number, the Minister for Transport in that country. We had quite useful discussions about it. The entry of the Australian Prospector into the Japanese trade run is under negotiation at this time and I wish to make no comment on it.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for National Resources, relates to the wide publicity given to the debate sponsored by the Leader of the Opposition in the House yesterday on uranium and refers in particular to safeguards. I ask the Minister whether he will state whether the Government’s policy on safeguards varies from the public statement early last year? If so, what changes have been made?
-My attention has been drawn to the wide publicity given to the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in stating the Australian Labor Party’s policy. I am somewhat astonished that the Leader of the Opposition has just discovered the question of nuclear safeguards because, prior to this, the Labor Party’s only attitude was to take note of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The items that the Leader of the Opposition spelt out yesterday comprise the first detailed statement we have had from him on the subject. In fact the only other statement of recent times was one towards the end of last year when he said that a Labor government of the future would not honour any contracts entered into for the sale of uranium. He was virtually saying that there would be no development of uranium in Australia, thereby closing the debate which the Opposition has accused us of not having. The Labor Party’s attitude has been made up and finalised before the second Fox report has come out. I should like to draw the attention of the House to the statements of this Government and in particular the statement made to the Fox inquiry in April last year. We gave it our indicative thinking of what stringent safeguards there should be for the sale and export of uranium. I have here the statement that was given to the Fox inquiry and seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
EXTRACT FROM GOVERNMENT EVIDENCE TO THE FOX INQUIRY, 8 APRIL 1976.
The Government has given preliminary consideration to the safeguards to apply to exports of nuclear materials from Australia: that is, the arrangements which need to be made by the Australian Government to ensure that, if Australia supplies nuclear material to other countries for nuclear power generation or other peaceful purposes it is not diverted to non-peaceful or explosive purposes.
The following is indicative of the Government’s thinking with regard to safeguards to apply to exports of Australian uranium.
- The export of Australian nuclear material under any future contracts will need to be consistent with Australia’s obligation under the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and associated arrangements to which Australia is a party. These arrangements require the application of safeguards administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to material supplied by Australia to all non-nuclear-weapon states. They also provide for the application of IAEA safeguards to Australian material should it be re-exported to such countries from nuclear-weapon states.
The Government intends, in addition, that the Government of any country wishing to import Australian uranium will be asked to conclude with the Australian Government a prior bilateral agreement. This agreement will then provide direct, formal assurances from the importing country to the Australian Government that material supplied by Australia will not be diverted from the purposes specified in the agreement. It will also specify appropriate safeguards and controls to this end.
In considering the details of the safeguards and controls which importing countries will be asked to accept, the Government has under consideration a range of proposals, to which it is giving full and careful attention. At this stage, it has in mind that it will, in negotiating future bilateral agreements, ask that the importing country accept the following provisions in those agreements for the export of Australian nuclear material:
Provisions fully reflecting Australia’s obligations to ensure the application of safeguards to verify that material supplied to any non-nuclear-weapon state for peaceful purposes is not diverted to any explosive use:
Provision for the continued application of appropriate IAEA safeguards in non-nuclear-weapon states party to the NPT in the event that safeguards under the NPT should for any reason cease to apply at any time in the future:
Provision for Australia to reserve the right to apply other safeguards in the event that IAEA safeguards should for any reason cease to apply at any time in the future in non-nuclear-weapon states: and
In general, agreement by the importing country that material supplied by Australia will not be consigned to another country (including consignment for upgrading) or re-exported without the Australian Government’s consent which could be given at the time of sale.
The Government expects that a clause will be included in all future commercial contracts for the export of Australian nuclear material, making it clear that transactions are subject to safeguards as agreed between Australia and the importing country.
The Government wishes there to be no doubt that Australia will continue to support the strengthening of international restraints on nuclear weapons proliferation. In line with the recommendations adopted by consensus by all countries which attended last year’s NPT Review Conference, we shall support constructive multi-lateral efforts to encourage the application of IAEA safeguards on all peaceful nuclear activities in importing countries not party to the NPT. Australia’s safeguards policy in relation to exports of nuclear materials will be kept under review, to take into account changing circumstances and on-going international efforts to strengthen controls against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
-I asked for that document to be incorporated in Hansard because it is obvious that the Leader of the Opposition has read that submission and virtually used it word for word to present what is the Labor Party’s new policy regarding safeguards. Although the policy is a little belated, one is at least pleased to see that the Labor Party is catching up.
– You would not come into the debate yesterday.
– There was no need to come into the debate yesterday. Our point of view had been stated a long time ago.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition knows that he should not interject in that fashion. I call upon him to remain silent.
-Like the Minister yesterday.
-Obviously the Leader of the Opposition laments coming into the issue and trying to bring forward a policy. The only thing I can say is that I am very glad that he has taken note of our remarks and that the Opposition is enlightened at least on the safeguard requirements.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I refer him to page 2 of today’s Australian Financial Review. I also refer him to section 53a of the Trade Practices Act which prohibits false representations with respect to quality, grade, style or model. I ask him: How long ago was the picture in the newspaper taken? Will he undertake to supply newspapers with a more recent photograph so that he can comply with the spirit of the legislation? Does he not think that he is improving with age?
-I thought this would happen. The grand illusion has come to an end. I have not sought legal advice. I am not sure that the Australian Financial Review was trying to promote me. When I looked at the photograph I thought that perhaps it was. Having read the article, I am not so sure. I know that there is a provision in the Trade Practices Act in regard to grade, quality and style. I do not think I have been misrepresented in those aspects, but perhaps I have in respect of model. I confess that I am a 1928 model. My birthday is tomorrow. The photograph was taken, I think, 8 years ago. I have more contemporary ones which reflect the hazardous and harassing experience of trying to care for the health of the nation and to maintain Medibank. I do not know that I have improved with age. I might have mellowed a bit, as a good wine from the Hunter Valley might do.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. He is undoubtedly aware that in rural areas telephone connections more than 12 kilometres from an exchange can mean that enormous amounts are payable by new subscribers- about $7,000 in some cases. Is the Minister aware that Telecom Australia will spend about Sim on connections more than the 12-kilometre distance from exchanges and will receive about $500,000 in revenue from those involved? Is the Minister aware that about 366 000 telephone connections will be made this year? Therefore, if about $ 1.37 were added to each connection fee, people in the country would not have to be discriminated against. Will the Minister take up this matter with Telecom?
-I was not aware of the exact figures which the honourable member for Barker has quoted. I will study them carefully. I look forward to that exercise. I inform the honourable member and the House generally that the policy of the Australian Telecommunications Commission is to improve services to rural communities. Many of the plans for this year, which will be to increase the number of automatic exchanges, will assist the great bulk of people in the rural community. They will advantage them. Only a very limited number of people will be disadvantaged. We have increased the distance in respect of which linkage to these automatic exchanges is free. I am aware of the tremendous cost to people whose properties are fairly distant. It will not be possible for these people to afford, under present technology, linkage to an automatic telephone system. We are looking to see whether we can devise a new system. Members of the National Country Party from Queensland will know that I looked at the matter closely in the electorates of Kennedy, Leichhardt and Dawson only 3 or 4 weeks ago. We will see whether it is possible to improve facilities to far-flung rural areas without adding enormously to the costs which I realise that they cannot now afford to carry.
– Pursuant to section 35A(2) of the Prices Justification Act 1 973 I present the report of the Prices Justification Tribunal in respect of the 6 months ended 3 1 December 1976. Due to the limited number of copies of the report available at this time, I have arranged for reference copies of the report to be placed in the Parliamentary Library and with the
Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives. Normal distribution of the report will be made as soon as copies are available.
– For the information of honourable members I present a corrigendum to the statement of the payment made in 1975-76 pursuant to section 8 of the Independent Schools (Loans Guarantee) Act 1969, tabled in the House of Representatives on 16 February 1977. Copies have been distributed to honourable members.
- Mr Speaker, I have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– I have been misrepresented by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in reply to a question, purportedly without notice, by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer). I made no proposal such as the honourable member asserted in his question or as the Treasurer asserted in his reply. The sentences from my speech to the New South Wales Labor Women’s Conference in Sydney last Saturday from which the Treasurer quoted do not bear in any way upon social services for women. They are taken wholly from a paragraph in which I dealt with unemployment among women. To illustrate the point, since honourable members listening to today’s debate and people who read today’s Hansard may not readily have a copy at hand of the speech, I will read the sentences from yesterday’s Hansard preceding and following the Treasurer’s quotation.
-I take a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition has asserted those respects in which he claims the Treasurer misrepresented him. Having done that, he is not entitled to canvass the issue further or to try to wriggle out of the dilemma into which his terrible remarks have got him.
-The honourable gentleman is making a point of order which has no substance.
-The sentences which preceded the Treasurer’s quotations were these:
Under the Fraser Government they are finding it harder to get those jobs and harder to keep them. The official unemployment figures conceal a huge rise in what might be called hidden unemployment. The labour force figures published every quarter by the Bureau of Statistics show that in the year to November 1976 . . . there was a rise of 185 000 in the population aged IS years and over, but in the same period there was an increase of only 5000 in the number of employed wage and salary earners. There has been a big decline in participation in the work force as people have given up hope of getting a job and clearly those people are mainly women or working wives.
Then appear the sentences which the Treasurer quoted. Later I said that the number of women in the total work force fell from 43.8 per cent in November 1975 to 42.2 per cent by November 1976. 1 concluded the paragraph by saying:
In other words, women’s role in the workforce has declined under the Fraser Government.
The Treasurer also asserted that I had made no new commitments in the speech that I made to the Women’s Conference. I did make a new commitment. I did so in these terms: I said: we would have extended, and we will extend, this benefit to supporting fathers too.
That is, the supporting mothers’ benefit. In doing so, of course, I was merely saying on behalf of my own Party what the present Prime Minister said on behalf of his Party in November 1975 in correspondence to many organisations, that a Liberal-National Country Party government would ensure that supporting fathers are treated in the same way as supporting mothers and that the amount payable will be a realistic one. Of course, the promise has not been fulfilled.
– I rise to order. I would like to clarify a comment made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in the opening remarks of his personal explanation. The point I wish to raise is a matter of fact, and I think the honourable gentleman will agree with what I have to say. I distinctly recall the question that was asked by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer). I seem to remember the words that the honourable member used. It is my recollection that in his question the honourable member made no reflection on persons and did not use the names of persons. I think the Leader of the Opposition is not correct.
-Order! There is no point of order.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill 1977.
Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill 1977.
Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Collection Amendment Bill 1977.
– I present the official report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the United States of America.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I seek leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In June and July 1976 I had the honour to lead a delegation from this Parliament to the United States of America and I am pleased to report that the visit was a useful and interesting experience for all of us who participated. Although many of our parliamentary colleagues have been to the United States independently ours was the first delegation to visit the United States since 1972. A visit to the United States is always a fascinating experience but it was particularly fitting that we were there on 4 July 1 976, the two hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the United States. We were glad to have the opportunity to convey the good wishes of the Parliament and the people of Australia on this memorable occasion. We followed a demanding schedule that took us to 6 States and the District of Columbia in a little less than 3 weeks. Given the limits on time and the size of the country, our itinerary gave us the maximum possible exposure to America’s many wonders, both natural and man-made.
My colleagues of the delegation, the honourable members for Moore (Mr Hyde) and Hawker (Mr Jacobi) and Senators Chaney and Bishop, were excellent representatives of Australia and the Parliament. Their expertise on Australian problems and policies was of great assistance in our many meetings where we dealt with a wide variety of issues of common concern. Our report summarises our activities and we hope it will be of interest to the Parliament and useful as a guide to future delegations which may visit the United States.
On behalf of the delegation I would like to express our appreciation of the efforts of all who were involved in organising our visit. Of the 7 cities that we visited, Australia was represented in only three, and we relied to a considerable extent on the goodwill and hospitality of State governments, private organisations and the many individuals who extended the hand of friendship to us. The Australian Ambassador in Washington, the permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York and our Consuls-General in Chicago and New York also gave freely of their time and their staff went to great lengths to see that we were well looked after. The Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library provided us with a very comprehensive background brief. We are most grateful to them all.
This report touches on a number of issues which are of current concern to the Parliament. In particular it records our observations of the United States approach to Federal and State relationships and urban redevelopment in those areas which we visited. Copies of the report are available from the Tables Office and from the Library. I commend the report to the House.
-I have received letters from both the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by standing order 107 I have selected one matter, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, namely:
The threat to democracy caused by the challenges to the representation of the Territories in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
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-
– Thank you, Mr Speaker, for selecting this matter which is one of the greatest public importance. It is one on which this nation will be asked to express an opinion on 21 May in a referendum which will be seeking approval for people in the Territories at least to have the right to vote in future referendums. I want to draw the attention of the House to a number of significant developments that have taken place in relatively recent times. The House would be aware that Territory representation in the House of Parliament has come about only after a long and tedious struggle. It has always been the Australian Labor Party that has promoted the cause of representation for the Territories both in this House and also in the Senate. It is very significant to note that every effort made in the past by the Labor Party has usually met strong opposition from those who now occupy the Government benches. Needless to say, some of those honourable members who occupy the Government benches are also representatives of the Territories. So they were lacking in foresight if they ever thought that people elected from the Territories would always be pro-Labor, or what we might describe as being anti the LiberalNational Country Party coalition. The position is quite to the contrary. The people of the Territories have been able to exercise their democratic rights and elect people to this Parliament to represent them. The Labor Party also has splendid representation from the Territories both in this House and in the Senate.
I would also like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that Australia, as a member of the United Nations and as a country that participates in world debate in respect of the rights of human beings in all countries and in all territories, has subscribed to the human rights provisions, particularly in respect of Article 25 which states:
Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in Article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives . . .
So there again we have an expression of what is essential to human beings in the sense of having representation in a democracy by way of election to the Houses of Parliament.
On 3 March Queensland decided to institute legal proceedings which if successful will mean that the Territories- that is the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory- will not be entitled to have representation in the Senate. Again, within a short space of daysnamely on 1 6 March- Western Australia also decided to institute proceedings in the High Court to the effect that the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are not entitled to have representation in this House. One must wonder immediately how it is that State governments of that type and political domination can instigate litigation in the High Court which will at least jeopardise the right of people of the Territories having representation in both Houses of the national Parliament.
We are well aware- and this is a political fact- that the philosophy of the Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland are one and the same as that of honourable members now occupying the Government benches in Canberra. It is rather incredible to think that Australians can have such a difference of ideology between political philosophies. We have a situation in which the Liberal-National Country Party coalition in this House is espousing one set of philosophies to the Australian people, namely, that at least it gives token support to representation of the Territories in this House and in the Senate, and its State counterparts in Western Australia and Queensland are taking deliberate action to deny the continued representation in both Houses of this Parliament. I find it quite contradictory. I think the whole of Australia would think it is the laughing stock of Parliament when after the tremendous effort that has been gone through in this Parliament to get representation for the Territories that representation can now become of no avail because of a judicial determination.
How could there be any chance of success in such a judicial contest? Again I would like to place before the House some interesting comments by no less a person than the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick. We well know that Sir Garfield was a member of the Liberal Party. We well know that he has had a distinguished career in both law and politics. Nevertheless he has expressed views as to what he thinks the Constitution means when it relates to representation of the Territories in this House and in the Senate. We are well aware that recently in McKellar’s case, which related to representation and the question of how many people would be representing the nation in this Parliament, he made a decision which we would say was reasonable. I want to read to the House some comments he made on page 3 of that decision. Bear in mind that this decision was of a relatively recent date. By way of obiter dictum he said:
Before indicating my opinion as to the correct answers to these questions, it should be noted that two States during the argument of these proceedings questioned the propriety of the Court’s decision in the State of Western Australia and Another v. The Commonwealth of Australia and Another.
That was an earlier case in which it was the majority decision of the Court that there could be territorial senators. The Chief Justice of course gave a minority, dissenting judgment in that case. Notwithstanding that, he then said:
However, unfortunately as I think, neither State -
By that he meant Queensland and Western Australia- proffered any argument in support of this questioning.
That is not surprising because the question of territorial representation had nothing to do with the facts in the McKellar case. He went on to say:
I say unfortunately because, if the decision is to be reconsidered, that reconsideration should take place before what, with due respect to the opinion of others -
They of course were those who made the majority decision- appears to me to be a serious departure from the federal nature of the Constitution, becomes entrenched in constitutional practice by the mere passage of time.
Because the Chief Justice decided to have a second go at the problems he felt arose because there was representation of the Territories in this House and in the Senate he used the McKellar case to invite further challenges to the present law.
– Hear, hear!
-Listen to the Queensland representative. It is well known that Queensland does not believe in democracy. Why should its representatives in this House want to give the people in the Northern Territory a vote or even the right to representation? What right have people in Queensland to dictate as to the rights of others in this country? The Chief Justice, having invited a challenge, has now got the challenge. It raises this serious question of democracy in Australia: Does the Chief Justice really think now that he will be able to get a majority of the High Court to overturn the relatively recent earlier decision in the case of The State of Western Australia v. The Commonwealth of Australia that there could be senatorial representation for the Territories? He is inviting a challenge. The challenge has arrived. If he adheres to his previous decision and the other judges do likewise, and there is one new appointment to the bench, is he canvassing the suggestion that the Court could well overturn the earlier decision whereby there is to be Senate representation for the Territories? If the High Court in May were to determine that within the meaning of the Constitution, representation for the Territories does not mean representation in the full sense of the word but means perhaps only the right for a territorial representative to appear in a Parliament and speak when invited, and does not mean the right to take part in any debate and certainly not the right to vote, territorial representatives would be mere mummies from the point of view of effective representation of the Territories. It is being said that it is the view of the Chief Justice on his interpretation of the Constitution that representation for the Territories is to be something less than representation for the States. In other words, representatives of the Territories should merely have the right to speak as and when asked and only on matters applying to the Territories.
Let us look at the situation that this Parliament is now facing. As a result of discussions at the Constitutional Convention meetings it was virtually unanimously agreed that we should submit to the people of Australia a referendum on 21 May asking whether they would allow the people in the Territories to vote at future referendums. We hope that they will vote yes and we will encourage them to do so. In fact the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) urged again yesterday all Australia to give the people in the Territories the right to vote in referendums. After all they pay taxes. They are the same as any other Australians. They are not second-class citizens. That is an expression that was used yesterday by the Prime Minister. The Opposition supports that concept. Here we are the major political forces in the country urging the people on 2 1 May to give the people in the Territories the right to vote at referendums.
We are now aware of the fact that there will be two High Court challenges by the 2 States I have mentioned, namely Western Australia and Queensland, to deny the people of the Territories the right to any representation in this Parliament. If those challenges are successful, irrespective of what the decision of the Australian people is on 2 1 May- we would hope it would be a decision giving the people of the Territories a right to vote in future referendums- it would be null and void for the very reason that section 128 only gives to the electors in the States- we seek to interpose there the words ‘and the Territories’- the right to vote in a referendum in the same context as they would have the right to vote for the election of the House of Representatives. Irrespective of what happens on 2 1 May, the High Court may decide in May that the people of the Territories have no right to vote for a representative in the House of Representatives and therefore exclude them from the right to vote in future referendums.
We are spending millions of dollars putting a proposition to the people saying to them that we have an act of Parliament that will interpose the words ‘and the Territories’ after the word ‘State’ in section 128 of the Constitution so that under that section people in the territories will have the same rights to vote as people in the States have for House of Representatives elections. If the High Court determines early in May or at some later date- possibly after 2 1 May- that they have no such right, this referendum will be null and void and of no effect. A substantial majority of the people of Australia could well say that the people in the Territories should have the right to vote in referendums, but their decision could be declared null and void by a judicial decision that the Territories have no right to representation in this House or in the Senate.
This is the point I want to make in the concluding few minutes of this address. What more important matter could there be in Australia at the moment than this? We are spending millions of dollars on presenting a case suggesting that the people of the Territories are to get democratic rights but these rights perhaps will be denied by judicial interpretation. As I say, irrespective of what happens on 21 May, in other words if there was a resounding majority decision to give people in the Territories their basic rights, a High Court decision made before or after that date will remove those rights by interpretation. The High Court itself should not be engaging in this encouragement for further challenges. It should not have done so. It having been done, we must look at which of the States are engaging in these challenges. What about the lack of democratic principles applying to representation within those States? They have the most gerrymandered electorates in Australia. They seek to use that sort of ‘democratic’ principle to say by way of interpretation that other Australians will not have any representation and, not only that, but also no right at all to vote.
It is about time the Government made urgent representations through its representatives, such as the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) who is interjecting, to those Premiers and asked: ‘What about giving the people in the Territories a fair chance? What about withdrawing your litigation?’ Honourable members opposite belong to the same parties as those State governments. What influence do they have? How weak are they that they cannot say to Court and to Bjelke-Petersen: ‘Withdraw that challenge because of the danger that is coming’? What sorts of Australians are they who allow this sort of representation and this type of challenge to be made to that representation when they are of the same political parties? It is very important at the present time to say: ‘We want to give these people in the Territories the right to vote. We applaud the representation that they have. We want to maintain it.’ The solution is with the Government.
-It is with pleasure that I follow the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) who has put forward arguments defending democratic representation for the Territories. As we all know, recently there has been some criticism about the amount of slanging and political pointtaking in this chamber. I compliment the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), who has recently left the Liberal Party, for putting that point squarely before members of the Parliament. We are lucky today that this matter of public importance which has been proposed by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith is one which almost all members of Parliament- certainly the more enlightened members of Parliament- would support.
I think that we should look at history when we begin to talk about democracy. We must remember that the area in which this Parliament stands was first explored in the early 1820s. Since that date democracy in this area has been evolving as it has evolved in the rest of Australia. But, suddenly in 1977, two governments of this country have decided to try to turn back the clock. I do not challenge their right to do that. I believe in the democratic system and, therefore, I believe in the role of the High Court and in the right of people to test propositions before that Court. But I agree with the honourable member for KingsfordSmith that it is very dangerous for a Chief Justice of the High Court to be inviting challenges to decisions of that Court only a short time after they have been made.
– I rise to take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Standing order 75 states that ‘No Member may use offensive words . . against any member of the Judiciary’. I suggest that the words just uttered by the honourable member are offensive to the Chief Justice of the High Court.
-I did not hear the honourable member for Canberra say anything which I could rule objectionable under this standing order.
– I compliment the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) for what he said on the subject some weeks ago. I shall not repeat his words as I might offend the sensitivities of the honourable member for Griffith. Canberra is a city of Australia. It is a city which has grown dramatically in the last 1 5 or 16 years. It is a city which has grown in a way which was not anticipated by our founding fathers.
– Like a parasite.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Griffith made a most damaging and insulting remark about the people of the Australian Capital Territory. He called the Australian Capital Territory a parasite.
– I was talking about you.
-I can see no point of order arising from the interjection.
– I am sorry that the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), who lives in Canberra, did not take that point of order, because he could have taken it much more personally than the honourable member for Hindmarsh. Canberra has grown as a city of Australia. It has grown to be a city of which people are proud. Today, as the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) told a surprised audience recently, Canberra has more tourists than Hong Kong. Those tourists are predominantly from the rest of Australia. They come to the city because they are proud of it. They do not come to see whether people in the Australian Capital Territory have 2 heads or are freaks of some other description. They do not come to see what second-class citizens look like. Strangely enough, we all look the same. If we were to become second-class citizens because of some threat to our democracy- I believe that this could be the result of the actions which are being taken by the two more remote States in Australia- this would have a divisive effect on Australia. We have been a nation for over 70 years, approaching 80 years. We have come together slowly and gradually. We have been through a difficult period in the last 2 years. We were thrown apart and we are now coming back together again. Actions taken by people, for legalistic and political reasons, against 250 000 to 300 000 people in Australia must be divisive.
It would really be quite absurd if the people of Canberra were said to be fundamentally different from the people of the rest of Australia. We have a very high migrant population in Canberra. Many people who came to Australia to work on the Snowy scheme now live in Canberra. Those people came to Australia because they understood that it was a democratic country, that it was a country that would go ahead and would look after the rights of individuals. They were right. How strange it must now seem to those tens of thousands of people in Canberra to find that other Australians are telling them that those democratic principles which we held out to them before they decided to come to Australia do not really operate if they live in Canberra. How strange it must seem to those soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought for this country and who have been transferred to Canberra to find that when they were in Queensland or in other States they were able to vote on federal issues and on referendums but that when they came across an artificial line to live in Canberra they lost those rights.
What is the future for Canberra if the High Court challenge should be successful? I imagine that the future for Canberra will be that the responsible members in the political arena throughout the whole of Australia will try to find some other means of ensuring that we have representation. Presumably they will go to the Constitutional Convention to try to get some arrangement agreed to in that forum, much as they have done with one of the referendum issues that is before the Parliament at the moment. Is that good enough; is it necessary? What does it do to the people of the Australian Capital Territory in the meantime and what does it do to the Territory representatives in the meantime? It would mean that for at least 1 8 months the people of Canberra would not have proper representation. It would mean that elected representatives would probably not have a job. There would be uncertainty which I believe would be quite unacceptable to the people of the Territory.
I now pass on to the referendum proposal which particularly impinges on the Territory because it is really part of the same issue. Honourable members will remember that this proposal will grant the Australian citizen who lives in the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory the right to vote in referendums. It surprises Australians when they come to Canberra -I meet many of them when they come to live here- to find that they are denied that right. Despite the fact that, like every other Australian, people living in the Territories pay taxes and are required to obey the same federal laws as the people of the States, they do not have a right to vote at a referendum. These referendum issues significantly affect their lives and their life styles. They are people of Australia and with a high turnover in population in the A.C.T. many people who are currently in the Territory will be here only for a number of years and then they will live somewhere else in Australia. It is patently unfair that they should not have a vote on one occasion but on another occasion have a vote.
The proposal will not interfere with the rights of the States. It will still be necessary for the people of four of the 6 States as well as a majority of all voters to vote in favour of an amendment before the Constitution can be changed. So it is very difficult to understand how the people in the States who are against the concept of the people in the Territories voting in a referendum can put that argument with any conviction or honesty.
There is nothing new or strange about the proposal that the people living on this piece of ground called the Australian Capital Territory should be able to vote in referendums. At the time of Federation the areas now known as the Northern Territory and the Austraiian Capital Territory were respectively part of South Australia and New South Wales and the people then living there were able to vote in referendums. Only when those areas became Federal Territories did the electors who were living there lose their right to vote at a referendum. We are simply restoring the status quo by asking that the people in the Territories be given a vote at a referendum. A Yes vote at the referendum would ensure that over 150 000 voters living in the Territories would have the same basic rights as the rest of the people of Australia. The opponents to this right fail to see the point that what we propose in the referendum is to alter the Constitution to provide a basic right. The fact that the Constitution does not give this basic right at the moment is no argument for saying that we should not have it.
The Constitution was formed many years ago at a time when our founding fathers probably did not conceive the Territory being something of the size and order of importance and with a population as the honourable member for Griffith envisages. The proponents of the No case say that the people of Canberra are not concerned with State powers and that State electors should not have their parliamentary powers determined by votes from Canberra. The answer to that is, I think, that all Australians are concerned with constitutional powers, State or Commonwealth. State electors will not have their parliamentary powers determined by the people of Canberra. The referendum proposes only that we should have the same basic rights as all Australians. It is objectionable that the proponents of the No case should argue that it is inappropriate for the people of the Australian Capital Territory to vote on matters affecting Commonwealth and State powers. We should have the same rights in this respect as all other Australians. Again I note: We pay taxes as do other Australians and we obey the same Federal laws as do other Australians. A Yes vote in the coming referendum would give the people in the Territories the same democratic rights as have other people in Australia. It is not without significance that the fine old elder statesman of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies, has indicated in the Press today that he personally favours a Yes vote on the referendum for the Territories. As the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has said, if a High Court challenge is successful it will negate the referendum provisions, which in itself would be a nonsense.
I would not like to speak with too much anger in relation to the Premiers of the States of Queensland and Western Australia, but I think if I did not do so in the closing stages of my speech I would be remiss. Politics is politics and as the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has said, sometimes politics is a nasty business. But the Premiers of those States should realise that they are acting on behalf of the people of their States in this challenge and that they will bring upon themselves and their people the disappointment, the anger and the enmity of the people of the Australian Capital Territory. It would be a great disappointment if over the next few months when cars with Queensland and Western Australia number plates are seen around our city, that the people in the Territory are forced to tell the people from those States just exactly what they think about what their Premiers are doing.
– I am very pleased to join my colleague, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), and the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) in taking part in this debate. I find it really hard to believe that, after responsible government has been in existence for so long in this country and after the democratic battles of the past, which went on for so long in this country and in other countries, we now have to start all over again and start fighting for the same basic democratic rights involving something like 300 000 Australian citizens. I find it hard to believe that people are now saying to me: ‘Do we have to go back and start arguing that there should be no taxation without representation’. I think it is a fair enough argument. It was an argument which was the basis of our representation over 100 years ago in Australia- in the 1840s and in the 1850s- when we secured a measure of selfgovernment and, of course, the question was behind the great struggle in America for independence. They won that battle 200 years ago; we won it 100 years ago.
There is now a group of people whom I can only describe as political troglodytes or power hungry legal eagles who seek to turn the clock back and play petty politics with people’s basic rights, people who for the sake of some cheap political advantage, for the sake of influencing a referendum result are prepared to deny basic rights to or disenfranchise 300 000 Australian citizens. We are not going to take it. We have been pushed around a lot in the last couple of years and I can assure the people who are interested in that exercise that the people of the Australian Capital Territory will not sit back and take kindly this attempt to deny them their rights. They will be out in the streets if necessary. They will be over at this Parliament House demanding their rights as have the people of Australia throughout history. It is turning the clock back in a most shameful way and we are not going to stand for it.
The basis of our representation is quite plainly spelled out to the layman. There does not seem to be any doubt at all. People have heard section 122 of the Constitution repeated ad nauseum. I again repeat it:
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State . . . and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
There is nothing ambiguous about that. It is quite clear. What I contend is based on a plain reading of the Constitution. If we have any doubt about what the founding fathers’ intentions were we do not have to look very far. I go back to the 1890s to quote Alfred Deakin who was one of our most famous founding fathers and one of the wisest, I believe. He said:
We should seek to erect a constitutional edifice which shall be a guarantee of liberty and union for all time to come to the whole people of this continent . . .
Most of the debate about the Constitution these days is about State rights or about federalism. But the founding fathers were concerned with the people and that is why Alfred Deakin refers to ‘liberty and union for all time to come to the whole people of this continent’. If our Constitution does not protect the people in their basic rights it is time we had a Bill of Rights which did protect them. As I said, the debate has not been about individuals rights; it has been about State rights and about Federal powers. I think we have to start interpreting the Constitution more in terms of the rights of the individual and if it is deficient it is time that we wrote something into it or adopted a Bill of Rights which would cover these things. Alfred Deakin went on to say:
Wherever we can detect a Federal interest or power we should provide for it in advance, without waiting for public clamour or the long agitation leading up to an amendment of the situation. We should provide in advance for all conceivable Federal contingencies, strengthen the Federal Government and trust the Federal Parliament to use its powers wisely.
I think we tried to do that. There is one thing that worries me about legal aid for the representatives of the Territories. I must say that I was very pleased at the decision, announced this afternoon, to give the Territorial representatives legal aid. It has always been in our minds that the Government which will be going in to defend the validity of the Act which provides for our representation is made up of the same people, the same parties, who opposed the legislation most vigorously in 1974. Those people fought tooth and nail against Territorial representation in the Senate. Of course, it was only by holding a joint sitting of both Houses that we were able to succeed in gaining that representation. The people who opposed that proposition are now saying that they will defend the laws of the Commonwealth. I hope they do. I feel more confident in the knowledge that the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) is allowing the representatives concerned to have their own counsel at the High Court hearing. I appreciate that.
I think most people are aware that the first representative for the Australian Capital Territory in the Federal Parliament was Dr Nott. He was here for a short time, and then the people of the Australian Capital Territory were represented by the late Jim Fraser who served them with great distinction for about 20 years. He set a very high standard of service to the people of Canberra- a standard which my colleagues and I have found very difficult to emulate. He looked after the people of Canberra extremely well indeed and he set a standard which was greatly appreciated by them. Representation for the people of the Australian Capital Territory came about by a deputation led by Sir Robert Garran, who was the only surviving member of the founding fathers at that time, going soon after the Second World War to the Prime Minister, Mr Curtin, and pressing the case for such representation. That deputation pointed out that that is what the Constitution had intended. It was as a result of that approach that representation was granted. I do not know of anybody now who would doubt the need for such representation in Canberra. I am sure that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) would not like to receive all the representations that are made to the honourable member for Canberra, the 2 senators representing the Australian Capital Territory, and myself. I am sure that he would not want to see the documentation landed on his desk. He gets enough of them landed on his desk now after they have filtered through our offices.
We have to face up to the fact that we have no State government representation in Canberra; we have only an emerging local government which does not have any real powers at this stage. So the only real power that the people of the Australian Capital Territory have is through their elected representatives in this Parliament. They avail themselves of the services of those representatives quite freely, and I think that they get a reasonably good service. It would be quite unacceptable if the people of Canberra and the people of the Northern Territory were suddenly to have that service completely removed. To do so would leave them open to abuse by greedy professional people who wanted to amass for themselves huge profits at the expense of the people, and through arbitrary bureaucratic decisions from which they would have no recourse at all.
As the honourable member for Canberra pointed out, the people of the Territories are mostly people who lived originally in the States. When those people arrive in the Territory they are not asked to give up the rights they have enjoyed in other parts of the Commonwealth; and why should they? They are no different from anybody else.
Let us look at the degree of representation in the various parts of the Commonwealth. I have heard people say that we are over-represented because we have 2 members of the House of Representatives, 2 senators and 18 elected members of the Legislative Assembly. There is one elected representative in Canberra for approximately every 6000 electors or people on the electoral roll. None of the States comes anywhere near that small degree of representation. The smallest degree of representation is to be found in New South Wales which has one elected person for every 1182 electors. Let us look at the situation in the States which have the smallest populations and which squeal about the situation. I refer to Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia where the position is even worse than that of New South Wales. Tasmania has one elected representative for every 480 electors. Western Australia has one elected representative for every 387 electors. As I said, the position here is that we have one elected representative for every 6000 electors. Yet this man from Western Australia wants to deprive us even of that amount of representation, when in his State there is one elected representative for every 387 electors. In Queensland- our friend, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) should listen to this- there is one elected person for every 791 electors. I repeat that we have one elected representative for almost every 6000 electors. So let us not hear any of this nonsense about our being overrepresented.
The people should also be made aware that the politicians in the States, who are using this challenge as a cheap political device by which to gain some political advantage and possibly to influence the results of the referendum, are using taxpayers’ money. Some of that money has been collected from the people of Canberra who pay their taxes just the same as anybody else. That money is being used for the purpose of making a phoney legal challenge to the rights of the people of Canberra. I can assure those political troglodytes, as I call them, and legal eagles who seek to deprive the people of the Australian Capital Territory of their rights that we will not take such a challenge lying down. We have been pushed around long enough by the policies of this Government. The people are not in the mood to have taken from them rights which have been hard won after years and years of struggle. As I have said, I am sure that the people of Canberra will be prepared to speak up for themselves and will demand that those people who seek to take away their rights justify their actions, if they can do that. Of course, such people never can do that.
I agree with the view expressed by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) when he said that people are getting fed up with the cheap political posturing that goes on between the States and the Commonwealth, the lack of principle which underlies their actions, the complete disregard for basic human rights, and the concentration on some cheap temporary political gain at the expense of other people.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I thank the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) for bringing this matter of public importance before the House and before the people of Australia today. I thank also the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) and my colleague the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) for their contributions to the debate. We feel very keenly about the blow which has been aimed at the rights of Territorians, and in that I include the people of the Australian Capital Territory. I shall deal mainly with the Northern Territory because of the other speakers in the debate the two that live in Canberra have dealt very well with the situation here. However, I would like my remarks to be regarded as referring to the people who live in the Australian Capital Territory just as much as they refer to the people I represent in the Northern Territory.
I would like to correct a misconception which the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith seemed to have when he said that Labor Party supporters have been the only ones who have made moves to gain representation for the Territories. When I was elected to this place in 1966 it was on a platform which included full voting rights for the people of the Northern Territory. They were granted in 1968. Senate representation was achieved by legislation which was passed in 1974, and senators representing the Northern Territory took their places in the Senate in 1975. Also included in that platform was the right of the people of the Territories to vote at a referendum. I think that all of those planks in my electoral platform have been gained, and I hope they they will remain. I hope that the people of Australia generally will follow the advice given by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, who spoke out in support of the proposition that the people in the Territories should have the right to vote at a referendum. After all, there are currently approximately 200 000 people in the Australian Capital Territory and approximately 100 000 people in the Northern Territory. It has been said before that these people have served the nation both in wartime and in peacetime.
They pay their taxes and they obey the laws. Why then must they be considered as second or third class citizens? I wonder what the Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland think. They are the men whose legal officers have issued the writs and mounted this challenge. In the Morgan gallop poll released in The Bulletin dated 2 April- which is somewhat ahead of its time- I see that 83 per cent of the people in Queensland support the right of Territorians to vote at referendums. In Western Australia 86 per cent of the people in that State who were counted in this poll support that right. To fill in the picture I will give the figures for the other States. For all people in Australia it was an average 82 per cent. In New South Wales it was 83 per cent, in Victoria 80 per cent, in Tasmania 82 per cent and in South Australia 84 per cent. I urge those Premiers to look at those figures. I have already urged them to do so in a speech in this place on 23 March during the Address-in-Reply debate when I pointed out that Territorians are normal Australian citizens. I concluded by saying that I considered the challenge to be narrow minded, bigoted and selfish. I think that is what it is.
It comes as a surprise to me that these men and their Governments for whatever reason, are aiming a blow at the rights of the citizens of both Territories. I remind the House that the Northern Territory has been represented in this place since 1922 and the representative of the Northern Territory has had full voting rights since 1968. Now there is a challenge to that. I do not know what is behind the challenge but I remember that in 1968 when a referendum was held concerning the breaking of the nexus between the House of Representative and the Senate -
-It was in 1 967.
– It was in 1967. I thank the Leader of the Opposition. I did not think that it had happened so soon after I came into the House. I remember that a mass meeting was held in Alice Springs. It was covered by the local television station. At that meeting there were placards saying ‘No vote, no voice’ There were all sorts of placards pointing out to the people who saw the television coverage later on that we considered that we had the right to vote at that referendum. In actual fact, it was a very important referendum for Territorians because it concerned the Constitutional change which gave the Commonwealth Government the right to make laws for all races in Australia, which of course, included Aborigines. At that time we marched on what would have been the polling booth. We beat on the doors and sent a petition to Canberra supporting our demand for basic rights. I believe that this challenge, as the honourable member for Canberra said, is generally tied with the right to vote at a referendum. We in the Northern Territory seem to have been fighting, certainly ever since I have been a member of this House and since Jock Nelson, the former member, was in this House, a continual battle to obtain the rights which we should have as Australian citizens and which I believe we did have in the years from 1907 to 191 1. In those years the Northern Territory was the Northern Territory of South Australia. It sent representatives to Canberra and, I believe, voted in a referendum at that time. But when the Territory passed to the Commonwealth, those rights seemed to be whisked away. As my colleague the honourable member for Canberra pointed out earlier, at this time we are really battling to have those rights brought back again. To my way of thinking they should never have been taken away in the first place. This battle goes on and now there is the challenge which has been brought against the representatives of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. I do not know whether this challenge from these gentlemen in Western Australia and Queensland is a ploy, in the case of the Northern Territory, to bring on Statehood earlier than may be the case. The Government has already promised the Northern Territory Statehood within 5 years from 1 975 so almost 1 8 months of that 5 year period has gone by. I put it to them that it is time the Northern
Territory was made a State. The people in the Northern Territory should have similar rights to those of all other Australians.
-Order! The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 29 March, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Lionel Bowen had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to prevent-
hostile incursions by Australians into foreign countries;
b) preparations for such incursions, and
recruitment in Australia of Australian citizens for these purposes’.
– I referred yesterday to the 2 main matters dealt with by the Bill. The first is the preparation in this country for acts likely to take place in other countries. I referred to the recent past in which there have been instances of persons using weapons to drill or train or having explosives in their possession in this country. That situation is obviously intolerable. It constitutes at least an indirect threat to Australian citizens. Whatever may be the purpose of the individual who is training- in some cases he may think he is going off to fight in a war of conscience- nonetheless, we cannot tolerate this activity in this country. The second principal issue relates to the actual entry to other countries for purposes set out in the Bill. I wish to speak only briefly but I draw the attention of the House to one or two matters of concern which I feel regarding certain clauses of the Bill. Clause 6 refers to a person who enters a foreign country with intent to engage in a hostile activity or who engages in a hostile activity against the government of that country. So it is quite obvious that the intention of the person is the major element to be considered when he is entering the country. Presumably, if he has entered that country with an innocent intention, or even with a hostile intention, and then engages in a hostile activity, he is liable under clause 6 of the Bill.
Hostile activity includes causing by force or violence the public in a foreign country to be in fear of suffering death or personal injury. I presume that the Attorney-General, with his usual learned approach to these matters, has fully satisfied himself of the constitutional position in relation to extra-territorial legislation. It seems to me that it is taking the provision to its absolute limit, if a person enters another country with an innocent intention but then in that country causes by force or by violence the public to be in fear of suffering death or personal injury, to say that comes within the external affairs power. I find it a strange interpretation. That can mean that if a person enters Mexico, South Africa, New Zealand or some other country with an innocent intention and then in that country engages in driving furiously down the street, causing the public to be in fear of suffering death or personal injury, on the words of the clause and on the clear understanding of the law relating to culpable driving, manslaughter and furious driving, he is to be liable under this clause. I think that is an extraordinary extension of the principles of extra-territorial legislation. I hope that the Attorney-General satisfied himself that the power runs so far.
I have listened to the Opposition’s concerns about clause 6. Whatever the Opposition’s proposed amendment may purport to mean it is clear that it provides firstly that there shall be a withdrawal of the Bill and perhaps some redrafting. It is obvious that a withdrawal of the Bill would solve no problems. I have mentioned before how the proposed redrafting would not assist. But it appears to me that what the Attorney-General and the Government have sought to do is to tie clause 6 to hostile acts against a foreign country’s government in order to keep us within the true principles of extraterritoriality in relation to the external affairs power and to be consistent with the Privy Councillors’ recommendation. The Privy Councillors in England said that the only real reason why these activities should be banned is because of the possible detriment to good relations between this country and another country. As the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) has said, this clause does not deal with the case of a person going to fight in the armed forces of another country. I think there are so many complications involved in clause 6 and there are difficulties in some cases in defining what is the true government of a country that we might be better off with the American situation in which if a person fights in the armed forces of another country- and I think in other armed forcesthat person is dealt with in another way, namely, he loses his American citizenship.
However, I am also concerned about clause 6 in relation to extradition. I really do not think it is a practicable clause. I do not know that there can be proper extradition from many countries; there might be from others. 1 really do not know how we would prove many of the elements concerned. The actions will have occurred on other ground. The intent is in the mind of the individual and surely matters of proof are extremely difficult. There is also one other problem. We are setting up double penalties which is normally contrary to our law. I would clearly understand the clause to be directed to acts which in the country of the action would be criminal or culpable. One could hardly imagine that it is sought to make criminal in Australia acts which occur in another country which are not criminal in that country. Therefore we have the problem of 2 jurisdictions applying to criminal acts. A person possibly may be sentenced to a heavy term of imprisonment in one country. He may serve that sentence and come back here and then be liable to a maximum term of 14 years imprisonment. He may serve his sentence for some period of time in the other country and be deported and come back here to face a double penalty. However, I believe this is a matter for the AttorneyGeneral to take into consideration and possibly a matter for consideration in another place or . in Committee when detailed amendments are dealt with.
As I said before, the major problem that concerns me is what occurs inside Australia. If the clause had been directed to what occurs inside this country, if it had been directed to those acts undertaken with the intent or as part of the purpose of engaging in hostile actions in another country, I would have thought we would solve the major problem in Australia and we would not have these difficulties that might arise. Also we would not be caught appearing to allow persons to go from this country voluntarily, as under the Bill they are entitled to do, to fight in the armed forces of other countries. There might be something to be said for that not applying except in special cases.
I move to clause 7. If it were based within the context of the matters I put to the House I would agree with it in form. I certainly agree with it in substance in any case. It is the basic clause designed to deal with what occurs in Australia. Clause 8 is a proper clause which deals with recruitment for the purposes of serving overseas with a body or association of persons whose objectives are set out under clause 6(3), namely, hostile activities against the government of another country. Clause 9 prohibits recruitment into the armed forces of another country or into armed forces that are in that country, and it is a proper clause. It does not affect the right of the citizen to leave Australia to go elsewhere and to serve in the armed forces of another country.
This is a difficult problem. There are arguments both ways. One can envisage the difficulties that would be faced if Australians wanted to go to serve with Idi Amin’s armed forces. As a moral matter I would be strongly opposed to that occurring. On the other hand a person might be said to have a right to engage in his own activities in other countries if there is no nexus with Australia. I think that the difficulties that have given rise to clause 6 as I see them might well be overcome if that clause were not there or if it were not there in its present form.
Clause 9 of course allows the Minister to make certain exemptions and it provides that there may be exemptions or permits given, either generally or in particular circumstances, for persons to serve in or with a specified armed force or to serve in or with a specified armed force in a particular capacity. That is a very wide power given to the Minister. It is an extraordinarily wide power. It means that the government of the day in effect can allow Australian persons to serve in forces overseas. However, no criteria are specified. Again, there may not be much need for it if clause 6 were not in its present form or not in the Bill at all. Clause 10 (3) causes me a degree of concern. Firstly, I think it is unsound in principle to have delegation of this power allowed at large. The Attorney-General, if he is to be given this power- I have some degree of concern about it- ought not to be allowed to delegate that power to any person whatsoever. I think that, at the outside, the Attorney-General should be allowed to delegate power to the Acting AttorneyGeneral for the time being or perhaps to the Solicitor-General- but I would not go even that far. There should be some delegation of authority if the Attorney-General becomes ill or if he is overseas. But to delegate authority to any person whatsoever is, as a matter of general principle, too wide. The fact that the AttorneyGeneral is the only person who may allow proceedings for commitment to proceed is something about which I have a degree of concern. It is a provision that is found in a number of Acts. To that extent, this is not an unusual provision. I would prefer to see those types of provisions minimised in Acts wherever possible.
I ask the Attorney-General to look at clause 10 (5). I submit that the provision of a reasonable time is quite inappropriate. A person may be charged with an offence. He may be arrested. He may be remanded in custody or without bail. He may be left up in the air because the AttorneyGeneral may take no proceedings at all. I can envisage abuse of this clause. I can envise the Police going along to the courts and saying:
Well, look, we are trying to put a further case to the Attorney-General. All we are seeking is further information’, and for that, or for some other reason they may persuade a court to go on holding a man in custody when the proceedings have not been authorised by the AttorneyGeneral. From memory, in New South Wales a person cannot be held in custody without his consent for any longer than 8 days without being brought again before a magistrate. He may then be remanded again in custody. But some specific number of days is set down. I ask the AttorneyGeneral to consider putting into this Bill a time period of at least no more than one week to 10 days. I ask him to consider whether or not some of the provisions of clause 10 might not be inconsistent with the most commendable sections of the Criminal Investigation Bill which has yet to be debated by this House. Those are my brief comments. The Bill warrants consideration in the Committee stage and in the other place. The major matter to be dealt with is the internal activities in this country. This Bill is a very good piece of legislation from that point of view. I expect that it will serve our citizens well and will deter any person from carrying out dangerous activities in this country of the nature prescribed.
-I agree with the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) in his general view of the provisions of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill and the rather suspicious look he has taken at them. I do not agree that I see all that much good about the legislation. The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) and his colleagues will forgive me if I view the motives of this Government with some suspicion when I come to consider legislation of this sort. I am reminded of the Crimes Act of some twelve or thirteen years ago and some of the dragnet provisions in that. I am reminded of the National Service Act which perpetrated great injustices in this country. I am reminded of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill of a quarter of a century ago which, happily, the people of Australia were able to reject.
This Government has an unhappy record in regard to civil rights and such matters when it comes to the areas which it chooses to call ‘public interest’ or ‘national security’. So, I start with the assumption that this legislation has probably been brought down more rapidly than it ought to have been; that it has not been deeply considered in the light of the comments that have been made here and which ought to have been made before it reached this House. This is a question that we ought to re-examine. The Bill ought to be withdrawn and reconsidered. I am not optimistic enough to think that in the Committee stage in this chamber we will be able to make the necessary amendments to cover some of the points that have been made from both sides of the House. To me, this legislation has the dragnet look. I think that in this legislation we are attempting to define the indefinable. There are some aspects of the legislation which I find very difficult to define. I might be in agreement -as indeed I am- with the general principles or the concepts of the legislation, but unhappily I think that often concepts are impossible to define. In the pursuit of definitions, we are likely to inflict upon people prejudices or injustices which they ought not have to suffer. My own attitude is that, where this legislation applies to actions inside Australia, it is highly improbable that there is not already some existing Australian law that deals with such actions.
One of the great inflictions of the present is the legal views of the past. They flow on through legislation which is available to people who wish to get at a person no matter what that person has done. I remember a lecture I heard once in the Army about the use of a particular section of the Army Act relating to conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. That section meant that the Army could get a person for anything. I remember the lecturer on that occasion saying: ‘I do not think that anybody should ever use that provision. If any soldier can think of any sin, or crime, or action that is not covered in a specific case in the legislation in the Army Orders, he deserves to get away with it’. I have an idea that sometimes we become too ‘dragnetish’ to coin a phrase- in our approach to these matters.
The other question that arises is: What powers have we over an Australian citizen once he leaves this country? Whilst I am unhappy about some of the activities that Australians get up to overseas, again, I am not sure that we would not be trespassing upon the general feeling of what civil law ought to be, what public and criminal law ought to be and what national security really requires, if we assumed that the punishment that an Australian received somewhere else in the world for an action which probably would be offensive to the law in the country in which he was operating, was not enough. If the laws of the country to which such a person goes do not provide sufficient punishment, there is something wrong. So, I agree with the honourable member for St George about the question of the double penalty.
As soon as I saw this piece of legislation, I started to think of the current situation in relation to Timor, Indonesia’s claims to it, the rather ambivalent attitude that the Australian Government has to those Indonesian claims and the response that one could expect from this Government at any moment as a result of the activities of people in this country such as myself in encouraging and supporting the people of East Timor in their attempt to fight for their own rights. That is what bothers me about the legislation. I know that the present Attorney-General has an unfortunate habit of assisting and advising in the signing into law legislation that ought not to be made law because it has not been passed by both houses of Parliament. I will forgive him in this instance because I do not think that he did it on purpose. But the sorts of attitudes that we in this House today bring to matters are not necessarily the kinds of attitudes that might well prevail when we start to look up this legislation to see how it can be used against somebody in 2 years’ time, 20 years’ time or perhaps even in 3 months’ time.
I remind the House of some of the things that have gone on in relation to the situation in Timor. I would have thought that listening to radio broadcasts from overseas was a pretty innocent matter. However there have been indications from high places in this Government that people who listen to messages from Timor and who receive them and pass them on to other people may well be trespassing on legislation relating to posts and telegraphs. So we try to prejudice that ordinarily free activity of people. I think that this is a serious matter to which this Parliament should attend at this moment. Are we to pass into the hands of anybody the kind of authority that resides in this Bill including the interpretation of the provisions of the Bill?
I refer to clause 6 (d) which relates to the unlawful destroying or damaging of any real or personal property belonging to the Government of the foreign country. It has been pointed out that that is a simple enough proposition. A person may run into a government car somewhere or he may run over a government official somewhere or perhaps he may do something inside an airport which causes damage and then he is caught. I think that this is a totally unnecessary piece of legislation. The legislation in the country concerned will certainly cover that. While I express what one might call dim views of this Government, its behaviour and some of the legislation that applies to citizens of this country, I must admit that most of the rest of the world is worse and that people are likely to be more seriously disadvantaged under the criminal law in the rest of the world than they are here.
What about clause 7, sub-clause (1), paragraph (0, which states: receive or solicit money or goods, or the performances of services, for the purpose of supporting or promoting the commission of an offence against section 6 . . .
Proposed section 6 covers things such as being in association with or assisting people who are perhaps at odds with a government of another country. Last night I heard reference to situations throughout the world, some of which are still present, in which there is even a contest as to who is the government of the country. Last night I heard my colleagues refer to the International Brigade. I know some people who served in the International Brigade in Spain in the 1 930s. I am proud to know them. I am glad to know that people went off to take part in that kind of contest. Most of the contests in the world at the moment I regard as not of that order. That is perhaps a subjective view. History gives one a chance to be a bit more objective. We may live in a world that needs the sort of people that those men were- preventing or unnecessarily inhibiting that kind of action.
I am talking about what I think are the dragnet provisions of clause 7. Take the provisions of clause 7, sub-clause (1), paragraph (d), which states: allow himself to be trained or drilled, or be present at a meeting or assembly of persons with intent to allow himself to be trained or drilled . . .
I regard ‘with intent’ as a very dangerous term indeed. Quite often the courts are unduly protective of the wrongdoer. Quite often people get tangled up in the emotional content of contests. The courts are not all that objective. Neither are the juries which are empanelled nor the judges who sit upon the cases. Often the people involved will be most defenceless. They may not have been born in this country. Their actions are likely to be prone to or motivated by some latent patriotism or something else. Freedom of association, which is prejudiced by that paragraph, ought to be protected rather than prejudiced by legislation before this House. I speak as one who nas had a fairly long association with what one might call the dissident movements in this country. I have never encouraged anybody to act violently here or elsewhere in these matters. I would think that if this legislation had been current during the Vietnam war it would have caused a great deal of trouble to a lot of us, even those who gave money to the Red Cross for North Vietnam or something of that nature. I am quite confident that we could have been caught up in all sorts of trials and tribulations. As my colleagues pointed out, the provision which allows a person to be arrested, detained and perhaps not charged for a reasonable period can put one under grave threat indeed. We do not need to have this provision. I suppose that what I am saying to the Attorney at this stage is that I do not think the legislation is necessary in this form.
I come to a rather alarming provision. It would be charming if it were not for the serious nature of it. I refer to sub-clause (2) of clause 9. A person does not commit a crime if the Minister has, by instrument signed by him and published in the Gazette, declared that it is in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia, to permit the recruitment in Australia, etc. It seems a rather novel provision in Australian legislation that the Minister is able to declare war unilaterally. He may let the people of whom he approves take part in events on either side of the fence in Northern Ireland, the Middle East or perhaps Timor. He may have anybody who does the opposite or who holds the opposite view to the Government or himself severely punished. I do not believe that is the kind of provision which we ought to have in this legislation. Why the Minister? If a person who takes part in a military operation is given the Government’s fiat, if that is the correct term, or approval, that is a very serious matter. It should not be done by administrative decree. We should not allow the Minister to do it. It is not a question of this Minister or of any other Minister. It is most unusual legislation. I have no doubt that the Attorney-General is a man skilled in law. After all, he helped write a lot of bad law introduced by previous Liberal-National Country Party governments. He might be able to find plenty of quotes from other legislation. If he does, I suggest we start by trying to remove them from this legislation. I hold a very strong view against that paragraph.
I hold an equally strong view against the power of delegation. I am not so sure that I am as strongly critical of the provision which allows the Attorney to decide whether a prosecution will proceed. It is possible to have a lot of vexatious litigation in these matters or prejudicial prosecutions simply in the pursuit of individuals. I think we are talking about areas of great emotion. In this country we are at the moment removed geographically and in lots of other ways from the great tumult in Northern Ireland. It is not so long ago that the feelings in this community about the Irish question ran as hotly as they did in Ireland and Britain. It would be very difficult to get objective judgments by police forces, Attorneys, even juries, in these matters if they were brought to court. I would think that probably the same feeling still prevails with regard to many of the areas of conflict in the Middle East. I represent an electorate in which there are very large numbers of people from the Middle East. It is quite possible that those people would be empanelled on juries in these matters. We all know how difficult the internal situation has become in Yugoslavia. We know from the differences of people who were born there and who have brought their differences here. So I am strongly supporting the amendment on this side of the House that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted.
I do not think the Bill approaches the real problem of international terrorism. I am motivated by the same views as the Attorney has. Anyone who travels a lot or anyone who has any sense of humanity must be horrified at the things that are done in the name of patriotism by some people. Those things are called terrorism by people like me who regard them as wrong, no matter what the cause. I do not think this Bill will solve the problem. That will be solved by international negotiation and by close relations between the defendant countries, if one might call them that. I do not know what we have done internationally to try to bring to their senses the nations which harbour terrorists. They ought to have been isolated from the world community a long time ago. There are quite a lot of them. Some of them have become victims of these acts by now. They are starting to show greater sensitivity.
I suggest to the Attorney-General that we on this side of the House are more often associated with what one might call the dissident movements than the people on his side are. We are more often associated with people who are likely to get entangled in this legislation. We may not agree directly with the connections that they have. However, we feel that the Bill ought to be redrafted. In general, Australia’s criminal law in the State and Federal jurisdictions will cover everything that is done here. I think it is a dangerous step to follow an Australian wherever he goes on this planet, and when he comes home to pin him down. I am not confident that we have given sufficient thought to the Bill. It is relatively new legislation. It is relatively new thinking. Perhaps it is the processes of this Parliament which are in error rather than the AttorneyGeneral. It may be one of those things that should have been put into the system and given greater consideration by the system. I find one of the more ‘distressing’ areas of parliamentary thought the fact that when the Bill goes from here it is likely to get rougher treatment in the Senate in respect of trespassing on human rights and things like that, so bless me. I think it is a serious matter when the House of Representatives has to say to itself: ‘No matter what we do here we will be saved by the Senate’. This sort of thing has happened on occasions, particularly in respect of regulations and ordinances that we have brought down. Therefore I appeal to the Attorney-General and to the House to withdraw this piece of legislation, to give it a thorough going over and to see whether in fact the broad sweep of it is really necessary or whether we need some different set of international relationships to prevent the kind of action that has been taken.
– in reply- I thank honourable members for the creative contributions that they have made. But I must say much of what has been said has been based upon misapprehension. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who has just spoken, is an illustration of the sense of fear and legalistic analysis that has suddenly gripped all who have spoken against this measure. Usually it is the lawyers who are gripped by this sort of thinking. If one wants to instil fear into the hearts and souls of people in respect of legislation of the character we are considering, he need only proffer some legalistic analysis designed to show people that the legislation might strike at a man who is driving a motor vehicle up the streets of Salisbury or some other place. The fact is, of course, that such a consideration is so remote and so small a part of the legislation- in fact it is not even caught by itthat one can only say that fear and legalistic analysis of this sort do not help in a debate about a matter so serious as international terrorism, which is what this Bill is about. Let us make no mistake about this. All civilised governments of the world have decreed that terrorism ought to be outlawed. A basic objective of this Bill is to do just that.
One would have hoped that in this debate we would have heard a cry from the Opposition supporting this basic idea and seeking to assist the Government in its attempt to put into legislative form some sort of provisions that would enable this country to play its part in the great task that this world has to smash terrorism at every level. Clauses 6, 7 and 8 of the Bill are cast in that mould. They are designed to say to every Australian: ‘You are not going to engage in terrorism anywhere in this world. This, your Government -one would hope supported by the Oppositionis going to take every measure it can to stop terrorism’. Clause 6 is not designed to impede the freedom of people. It is not in the Bill to stop people from driving motor cars up the main street of Salisbury. It is not designed to prevent a man from kicking a garbage tin as he walks down the Strand. What a lot of rubbish we hear from people when they talk in this way about the provisions of clause 6 of the Bill. One may ask why the clause is in the Bill. It is there to stop the sort of thing that we saw happen at Tel Aviv airport in Israel some years ago. It is there to stop people who think that they can just enter a country, shoot people down, instil fear into the hearts and souls of the population and strike at the government of a country.
Every civilised government has an interest in legislation of this character. I would have hoped that the Opposition, and indeed some honourable members behind me, would have hailed this legislation as a major step towards the adoption of this type of legislation around the world. By passing this legislation we will be able to say: Yes, we have set our face into the wind in this area and we have established a precedent that other civilised countries can follow’.
I defend clause 6 not only as a matter of substance but also because its provisions, when read with that degree of common sense that is demanded in reading legislation, would lead one to the view that it achieves the objectives that I outlined in my second reading speech. Paragraph (a) of clause 6(3) states: the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the foreign country;
That refers to the objective of entry. Paragraph (b) states: causing by force or violence the public in the foreign country to be in fear of suffering death or personal injury;
If there are some better words to explain our objectives, let us have them. But that is the draftsman’s choice of words on our instructions to him, namely, that we want to stop people going from Australia into another country and doing just what the Bill spells out- instilling fear into the public of that other country, and having that as their objective. Paragraph (c) states: causing the death of, or bodily injury to, a person who- (i) is the head of state . . .
We want to stop that. I do not care whether the head of state is the President of Russia or the President of the United States of America. This consideration has nothing to do with political attitudes. We are concerned with the attitudes of mankind as they relate to peace and the solution of war and violence in our communities. Every government and every one of us has an interest in stopping war and violence.
I hope that none of us has a brief to encourage any person in our country to go abroad for the purpose of activities of the kind I have mentioned. Paragraph (d) of clause 6(3) states: unlawfully destroying or damaging any real or personal property belonging to the government of the foreign country.
The Australian Government says without any reservations that that is not a worthy objective for Australians to have.
What is the purport of clauses 7 and 8 of the Bill? These clauses, which are the most effective provisions in this Bill, relate to terrorism. They have been included to strike at activities designed to prepare for terrorism that are going on in this country. I have said that there have been unfortunate incidents of this sort in this country. The Government is determined to stamp them out. Clause 7 has been included for that very purpose. Again I hope that every member of the House will see clause 7 as an effective provision designed to do just that.
The honourable member for Wills was worried about clause 7 ( 1 ) (e) because he feared that it might relate to Vietnam. It has nothing to do with Vietnam. It is directed to people doing things for the purpose of the commission of an offence against clause 6, and, of course, that is preparing for an act of terrorism. We are not concerned about the Vietnam situation because it has nothing to do with this paragraph. To say that it has is to distort completely the purpose and object of this legislation.
Clause 8 clearly is designed for the purpose of stopping the recruitment of people for the evil purpose of hostile activities against foreign governments. There is no doubt that it is an evil purpose for people to go into other countries in order to strike down the head of state, to strike at the people of those countries or to attempt to overthrow its government. Unless we are prepared to seek, even in Uganda and with a man like Amin, a solution to the problem by basically peaceful means, without force or violence, the principle that we are pursuing will stand for nothing at all. There is only one solution to this problem of violence- I think honourable members opposite will agree with me- and that is by the use of peace and understanding.
Clause 9 of the Bill has been the butt of a number of attacks both in relation to its scope and in relation to the powers which it proposes to give to the Attorney-General. I defend this clause as a reasonable provision. I understand that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) says that clause 9 in effect is not wide enough, that it ought to apply not only to recruitment in Australia but also to enlistment overseas. The Government has taken the view which I outlined in my second reading speech, that people in Australia ought to be able to go and join defence forces overseas. The Government is not prepared to stop that. One could quote a number of statements from the Wilberforce report, but I shall not do so. However, the report emphasises that it is undesirable to interfere with the freedom of an individual to enlist in a foreign defence force. If he chooses to do it, so be it. It does not mean that the Government thinks it is a good thing. It does not mean that we all applaud it. But the fact is that it is a right- not in a legal sense but in a general sensewhich the Government feels a person should have.
Quite apart from that, the report of Lord Diplock points to the undesirability, and I will concede it, of extraterritorial legislation in criminal areas. Of course the Opposition can have no comfort in the fact that on the one hand it is accusing the Government of introducing extraterritorial legislation and on the other hand it is saying that it should be wider to cover enlistment. Lord Diplock says that legislation of the character which prohibits enlistment overseas should not be passed unless it is clearly in the public interest. Quite clearly clause 6 is of that order. That is to say, it is extraterritorial. The Crimes Act of Australia is extraterritorial. It too has an extraterritorial operation.
There is no doubt about the power of our Parliament to pass extraterritorial laws. The Statute of Westminster says so. The High Court in Croft v. Dunphy said it. There is absolutely no doubt about it. Before legislation of this character is passed or before it is put forward there ought to be a public interest factor which is so strong as to overrule the ordinary view that in a criminal area it should not be extraterritorial. What is the public interest factor here? I have already adverted to it. That is the fact that the Government is bent on stamping out terrorist activities by Australians. Therefore we feel it is appropriate to put into the legislation a provision which does what clause 6 does. In other words, we feel it meets the public interest test to which Lord Diplock referred in the report to which many honourable members have referred.
I come to sub-clause 9(2), which gives the Attorney-General power not to extend the operation of the legislation but to reduce its operation. He can do this only where he says it is in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia to permit recruitment in a particular case. There has been in this time of ours a great deal of attack on our basic institutions. One of the institutions we have is ministerial responsibility and responsibility in this House. An Attorney-General who used that provision in a way which was clearly not in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia would be subjected to an attack. Of course, from time to time such attacks are made on Ministers. The fact is that the Attorney-General ‘s charter is clear. His duty is to act within the responsibility that is laid upon him by the Parliament in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia. If the government of the day wanted to it could bring in an amendment or there could be a proclamation procedure, but the fact is that whatever approach is adopted in relation to these matters there ought to be in given circumstances a means of allowing recruitment in times of partial war or something of that description when our country is under threat. For instance, if we were not at war but there was some threat that could involve Australia, say an attack on Canada and the Canadian people wanted to recruit Australians to fight in Canada and we felt it was in the interests of our defence that we should go to the assistance of our Canadian friends, then of course a government or an Attorney-General instructed or moved by his government would be justified under such a clause as sub-clause 9 (2) to take the step of permitting recruitment. That is the sort of thing that it is intended to deal with. It is not intended to be applied in clandestine situations such as those that have been suggested.
There has been an attack on clause 10, which gives power to the Attorney-General to consent to the sorts of prosecutions provided for. Some honourable members have conceded that it is not an unusual provision. I remind honourable gentlemen opposite of one Act that was put forward by them. The only excuse is that perhaps they might be able to say I was Solicitor-General at the time serving their Government. I confess and avoid. In the ultimate the Labor Government’s legislation committee had to adopt it and it had to be adopted by the Caucus. The Crimes (Protection of Aircraft) Act 1973 in section 17 contains a provision almost identical with clause 10 of this Bill. Why is it there? The reason is that crimes of this character ought to be the subject of a discretion on the part of the law officer before people are prosecuted.
– Who challenged clause 10? It was someone on your side.
-I thought a couple of honourable members on the Opposition side challenged clause 10.
– I said that with proper reservations I would almost support you on it.
– The honourable member’s attack on clause 10- I think if he looks at Hansard he will find that he made an attack on it- is not well founded because it is a clause which ought to be found in legislation of this character. He may have a point in saying that it should be confined to the Attorney-General. Quite frankly, I am prepared to concede that. If the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) wanted to move an amendment on that I might accept it. If he wants to restrict the delegation power to the Attorney-General I am happy to do that. There was an attack on sub-clause (5). Sub-clause (5) reads:
Nothing in sub-clause (4) prevents the discharge of the accused if proceedings are not continued within a reasonable time.
It is there to help the accused. It is not there to condemn the accused or to put him in gaol a little longer. It is there to help him. I remind the honourable member for St George that there is a section in the Judiciary Act of which I am sure he is aware, section 68, which says that the laws of each State with respect to the arrest and custody of offenders or persons charged with offences etc., in effect apply. If there are laws in New South Wales which relate to the arrest of offenders and allow them to be released after 6 days, 6 hours or whatever it may be they would apply in relation to this legislation because, as it will be noticed, under clause 1 1, jurisdiction is given to the State courts. So with respect to the attack on clause 10 I would say only that the Government does not accept it except in the limited way in which I am prepared to see clause 10 amended if an appropriate amendment is put forward.
I simply come back to the basic proposition with which I started and with which I believe the second reading speech started. That is that this is a Bill designed in its initial and main thrust to outlaw terrorism from the Australian mind. We want Australians to forget ideas of terrorist activities overseas. We hope they will forget activities of that character, certainly in their countries of origin. There are laws to prevent that but there are not sufficient laws to prevent Australians from preparing here to engage in activities overseas.
I indicated in the second reading speech that the Government was contemplating a proclamation under section 27 of the Crimes Act in order to prevent unlawful drilling. There has been at least one instance recently of this sort of drilling. It should stop. It cannot be allowed in our country. We do not want that in our country. If we are to have a defence force we want the taxpayers to pay for it and we want it to be brought together in a legitimate way. Section 27 of the Crimes Act will be availed of when this legislation comes into force. That proclamation will be made as a means of complementing the legislation so as to prevent unlawful drilling. The whole purpose of it will be, as I said earlier, to outlaw terrorism in this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Lionel Bowen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5-by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 14 years.
-This clause has been the subject of more contention than any other clause in the second reading debate. We recognise that the Government is not prepared to accept our view that the
Bill should be redrafted. Accordingly, in the hope that we can improve the Bill in the Committee stage, I move:
I explain at the outset that these amendments have been circulated and the copies are marked with an asterisk at the bottom of the sheet to distinguish them from other amendments which were circulated earlier and which these amendments now replace. In the thrust of this debate the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) surprised me in his reply by saying that this Bill was aimed mainly at acts of terrorism. Nobody on this side of the Parliament would disagree with that aim, but in looking at the structure of this clause and what it talks about we interpret it to cover acts a lot wider than just acts of a sporadic nature. In the second reading speech the Attorney himself said that the Bill was designed to prohibit people from engaging in incursions into foreign countries. He married that proposal with his other propositions that there should be no training, drilling or action by hostile people to overthrow a government. I was looking at the Bill, as were my colleagues, on the basis that this involves more than just an isolated act of a person drilling himself with the intention of overthrowing a government. We were motivated by the fact, as we argued, that clause 6 permitted people to engage in hostile activities for a government but not against a government. Let us assume that the activity related to terrorism. Perhaps we would then be in agreement, but we were talking about the mercenary aspects of the situation when numbers of people have been recruited throughout the world to fight for governments or against them. The Attorney mentioned the Diplock inquiry. He mentioned the mercenary situation. That is why we are now saying that the great weakness in clause 6 is that it promotes hostile activity on behalf of one party against another. It could well be that in the world situations Australians could be fighting each other. To give support to our amendment, any Australian who engages in activity of a military or a paramilitary nature, irrespective of whether it is for or against a government, should be liable to a penalty. We do not want Australians engaging in actions throughout the world where they can be an embarrassment to this country. Let me illustrate this point.
Clearly the United States has legislation which says that no person may enlist in the service of any foreign state. If he does he is liable to a penalty of 3 years imprisonment or $ 1 ,000. If a person enlists in the armed forces of a foreign state without the permission of the Secretary of State he is liable to lose his citizenship. The reasoning behind this absolute bar is that military activity for the purpose of overthrowing governments is usually of a great magnitude. It is not just a machine gun at an airport; it involves actual training, invasion, a lot of weaponry and a lot of skill. It is said in the United States that matters of that nature belong to the sovereign capacity of a government. We are saying in our amendments that it is within the sovereign capacity of Australian governments to guarantee that Australians do not put themselves into a position where they are subject to trial for war crimes or because they were mercenaries.
Let me make this point very strongly and very clearly. The British Government was severely embarrassed in the Angolan situation. The British Government established the Diplock Commission to find out what it could do about it. That Commission said that the old Act of Parliament was not good enough. There is nothing like clause 6 to cover the British situation. The British needed something to prevent recruitment. The Diplock recommendations had one weakness in them. The Commission said: ‘But of course we cannot stop people leaving the country and enlisting in other armed services’. In the concluding remarks of the speech by the AttorneyGeneral in introducing this legislation he said that he did not want to restrict the freedom or the personal beliefs of others. If honourable members look at the human rights provisions set down by the United Nations they will see that they clearly show that a person shall not engage in acts of violence that will endanger the lives of others. Other people have human rights also. In talking about the Angolan situation we are talking about young British men who lost their lives and the British Government was embarrassed. Honourable members talk about international politics. It was made very clear that in the main those people who were executed in Angola were executed as an example to the Western world. The Government there decided: ‘We will teach these people who were recruited in other countries a lesson. They interfered in the internal politics of our country so we will execute them because that is a show of strength to the West’. This bears out my argument. I am not talking about isolated acts of terrorism. I do not want to address my mind to that. I want to address my mind to the Angolan situation, the mercenary situation, the Diplock Commission and what can happen to Australians in Rhodesia. They could be indicted for war crimes because they were captured and in this situation they could be tried by somebody who might take power there and they may be executed. If we had some law here which said that is not what we would encourage and that we would deal with those people, we might well save lives. In the Angolan situation before these people were executed Mr Jack Dromey, a former Chairman of the National Council for Civil Liberties, said:
It will do no good for the British Government to appeal against the sentences. They must show they are prepared to stop mercenaries operating from Britain.
All four men who received death sentences could be dead by the end of the week, he said. The Government must show that they have a political will to outlaw mercenaries and act fast. Only then will the Angolan Government pay attention to a plea of clemency.
That is what we are saying. If the Australian Government is to protect Australians against themselves, it has to do that. Do not worry too much about the niceties of their so-called freedom to fight wherever they wish. We have to protect people against getting involved in actions in which foreign governments are likely to lose power, in which case they may be prosecuted by the government that takes over. In the Angolan situation, to emphasise my point, there were 3 contending parties. The Portuguese gave power to the three of them. A person could find himself fighting for any one of those 3 sides and if he was unlucky enough to be on the losing side he would have no chance.
Clause 6, as it is framed, does not protect anybody who is unlucky enough to be on the losing side. I am not talking about isolated acts of terrorism. I am talking about active training, drilling and recruitment of people and the use of weapons to overthrow a government. These people in Angola were indicted on the basis that their own country had no legislation to deal with them. It is for that purpose that we do not want to see Australians engaged in military or paramilitary activity unless it is on behalf of Australia. I am not talking about isolated individual acts of terrorism. Accordingly, I have moved those amendments to clause 6.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Is the Committee dealing with the 3 amendments to clause 6?
– I rise very briefly to support the amendments moved by the honourable member for
Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) spoke about international terrorism and I thought rather unkindly impugned the motives of the Opposition in anticipating the moving of these amendments. In fact, international terrorism is not always directed against foreign governments, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has made very clear. This is not a theoretical situation. We are not talking about Angola, but in the case of the Lebanon we have concrete examples of Australian citizens, many of whom have been in their early teens, who have gone from Australia to fight in that war- not against the foreign government, not against the government of Lebanon at all, but for one faction or another in that country. We ought not to permit that to happen and we ought not to encourage any organisations in Australia- this applies consequentially to clause 7- to assist in such activity.
I am prefectly well aware of what paragraph (b) of sub-clause (3) says about ‘causing by force or violence the public in the foreign country to be in fear of suffering death or personal injury’, but I do not believe that addresses the situation in which the violence is not directed against the foreign government, because the meaning of the word ‘public’ is not defined. In fact, clause 9 of the Bill deals with armed forces in foreign countries, whether those armed forces form part of the armed forces of the government of that foreign country or otherwise. So clearly the Bill draws a distinction between armed forces belonging to a foreign government and contemplates armed forces within a country which do not belong to that government. I suppose it is not hard then to argue that persons who belong to those armed forces are not members of the public. The amendments do not address themselves to a theoretical situation. They do not address themselves to a situation which may occur in Australia tomorrow. They address themselves to a situation which has been occurring here in a very hard way for the last 1 8 months or so. The amendments deserve the support of the Committee.
– I am a little fascinated with the amendments moved by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) which replace the amendments which last night he indicated he would be moving. There is no doubt that the debate last night and today has caused him to have second thoughts. The amendments which were circulated last night -
– We did not prepare the first amendments. Do you understand?
– They are in the name of the honourable member.
– Yes, I know, but we did not prepare them. We prepared the second amendments.
-It is a very sad thing that when amendments appear in the name of an honourable member -
– They were not circulated.
– They were in the House. They were certainly circulated to me. Nevertheless, the difference between the amendments moved this afternoon and the ones which I saw last night is that, on the basis of the second set of amendments, sub-clause ( 1 ) of clause 6 would read:
A person shall not-
enter a foreign country with intent to engage in a hostile activity of a military or paramilitary nature;
That part of the clause deals with the intent to carry on that sort of activity in whatever overseas country happens to be involved. I find it difficult to know what definition would be given to what is described not only as military activity but also paramilitary activity.
– Let a court determine that. You do not have to determine it.
-Those things are not defined in the amendments which have been moved, and I find difficulty in understanding precisely what is intended. There is no doubt but that that would inhibit Australian citizens from doing many things that they might want to do in difficult parts of the world. Examples were given of Australians who feel very strongly about the situation in Israel wanting to assist Israel in some of her actions against incursions and aggressions. It is quite clear that the amendment would prevent people- Australians or those who qualify as residents of Australia- from engaging in that kind of activity. I wonder whether the honourable member is trying to draw too strong a line in respect of the freedom that the people who are resident in Australia have in taking an interest in the affairs of overseas countries, particularly when the country concerned is the one from which they have come and with which they have very close and very pertinent, sensitive family connections.
Some of the examples that were given last night are still relevant, and the amendment does not take account of them. What would happen, for example- one looks at the experience of historyto people who took an interest in, say the international brigades, either for or against, during the Spanish Civil War? Some of the people who have done that have been praised by members of the Opposition in other debates in this House. I can recollect people who took part in the international brigades- I refer to such people as George Orwell and Ernest Hemingwayreceiving praise in this House for taking an interest in the work of those brigades, even though they were citizens of another country. Many honourable members sitting behind the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith have done that in the past. What he is saying is that the judgment that was made by his own colleagues in those cases was incorrect. It is an interesting reversal of values. What he is doing above all is making himself a judge, making himself the conscience in respect of the activities of a military or paramilitary nature of any Australian overseas. That is a very wide net to draw indeed, and it is a very wide net to throw in respect of activities in which Australians might engage overseas.
Bearing in mind that amendment and bearing in mind the amendment which the Opposition proposes to move to clause 9- its purpose is to remove the flexibility able to be exerted by the Attorney-General in determining what action might attract attention in Australia- once again the Opposition is committing the error which I believe was clearly enunciated last night. Australia would be impelled inflexibly into taking action with respect to citizens overseas, and that would become a major matter in the determination of Australia’s international and foreign relations. So I suggest that that amendment ought to be defeated, even though it is proposed to remove sub-clause (3). That will have the effect of removing some of the fractious and very unusual circumstances such as kicking in a telephone booth which might cause action to be taken. I am glad to see that the honourable member for Kinsford-Smith has had second thoughts about those absurd situations. Nevertheless, the principal reason why the amendment ought to be rejected remain its absolute inflexibility, the absurdity of the situation with respect to the judgments which he is going to impose on Australians overseas when they engage in a very wide set of activities, for or against a government, of a military or a paramilitary nature. It would be impossible for a country to be significantly in charge of its own foreign policy in such circumstances. I believe that the amendments ought to be rejected.
– I rise to support the amendments. With due respect to the honourable member for Lilley (Mr
Kevin Cairns), I rather thought that he put his case back to front. I am not sure that a country would ever get into holts in foreign relations with another country because it stayed out of its internal conflicts. I rather thought that the reverse would be the case, and that that there would bs more international ill-will against Australia if citizens of Australia were permitted to embroil themselves in the internal conflicts of other countries. I reject the honourable member’s argument about the international brigades because that related to an event which occurred a long time ago. I am not of the conservative ilk, as he is, and I do not believe in standing still, as he does; rather I believe in moving with the times and considering questions as they arise contemporarily and in the light of modern day thinking.
Clearly the thinking of most of the larger nations in the world is to move away from armed conflict between men and to resolve their problems in another way. That is not to suggest that armed conflict does not exist, but I do not think that Australian citizens ought to be permitted to be involved in them. If not permitting such activity were an infringement of civil rights and civil liberties of Australians citizens I make no apology for expressing that point of view. I thought that the purpose of the parliamentary process in which we participate was to make laws which in all cases are in the interests of all the people. The laws we make are to protect the people generally and individuals from their own actions in many cases. If it is taken to its ultimate extent, I suppose it applies to every law. The law that tells me to drive my motor car on the left hand side of the road, for example, could be regarded as an infringement of liberty. I reject that argument. I think it is specious and out of character. I support the amendment and I believe that the use of the words ‘against the Government of that country ‘ is too narrow. If the Government is sincere in its endeavours to prevent Australian citizens or residents of Australia or people who have been in Australia for 12 months- the classes mentioned in the Bill- from engaging in hostile activity it should accept the amendment. If the honourable member for Lilley is unsure of the meaning of ‘paramilitary nature’, then I suppose I am just as unsure about the meaning of ‘hostile activity’. We must rely on common usage of those words. I think that paramilitary is not an uncommon word. It is a word that is used quite frequently and its meaning will be known. I repeat, if the Government is sincere in its endeavours to prevent Australian people from becoming embroiled in the internal disputes of other countries, why does it limit the
Bill by leaving in the words ‘against the Government of that country*? Why does it not broaden it by using the words suggested in the amendment, that is, ‘of a military or paramilitary nature’ wherever that reference appears in a particular clause. That is the principal point that I wanted to make. I do not wish to delay the Committee. Other matters have been adequately covered by other speakers.
– The Government has already indicated that it opposes the amendments to clause 6. Clearly, the clause selects specific conduct of what might be called a paramilitary or hostile nature and it fixes on that particular conduct. What the amendment would do, quite clearly, is to not direct the clause to any particular conduct or objective. It would omit sub-clause (3). It would apply right across the field to all military or paramilitary activity overseas. The Government does not accept that. In my second reading speech and in my speech in reply I have indicated sufficiently the Government’s attitude in relation to this matter. The Government opposes the amendment.
– I expected that the Attorney-General would not accept my amendment, but I want to address myself to some of the remarks of the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). The Opposition is not talking about offences such as kicking in telephone cabinets, which is the problem which the honourable member thinks the Opposition has introduced. I remind him that sub-clause 3 provides for such offenders to be caught. That is the honourable member’s problem because he is a supporter of the Government which introduced this Bill. The Opposition did not do so. It wishes to remove this aspect from the Bill. The real thrust of the Opposition’s amendments are that the Bill must be of a substantial nature and should not be for or against a government. The Opposition asked that amendments be prepared to delete reference to a government and amendments were prepared on that basis. However, they were not strong enough so the Opposition prepared its own amendments on the basis of defining the nature of the operation. I make that point by way of explanation.
I ask honourable members to bear in mind that we have met many world leaders. One whom I happened to meet was in Yugoslavia. He experienced a lot of difficulties with people coming from Australia and trying to suggest how he could improve Yugoslavia. His word of advice to me was that if people are in Australia they should do the best they can for Australia. If they still want to fix up Yugoslavia, they should go back there and look at the situation together. They should not try to suggest from within Australia how other countries should be run. A good Australian should act in accordance with the Government in Australia. He should not try to rectify every other government in the world. The Government cannot possibly rid itself of these difficulties if it is just going to say: ‘Well, there is an issue in Israel’. There are issues in every country in the world. People at the end of hostile activity do not just receive a letter saying: We do not like you’. They receive a bullet or a bomb, something violent that takes life. If that is done, action breeds reaction, and the reaction would be against Australian citizens. As my colleagues have said, we do not wish to see Australians impugned on the basis that their Government had a Bill and did not do anything about it. If one looks at the issue in Angola, in the United States and in Canada, it is pretty clear that they do not want their citizens to be caught up in this sort of ideological struggle in other countries of the world.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Preparations for incursions into foreign countries for purposes of engaging in hostile activities)
– The Opposition is formally opposed to this clause although we would agree to it if the amendments to clause 6 had been accepted. The Opposition has already discussed what it feels are the wrong aspects of clause 6.
– You do not have any amendment?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Recruiting persons to join organisations engaged in hostile activities against foreign governments)
– The Opposition opposes this clause for the reason that it clearly shows that anybody who wanted to meet in an objective capacity, in a body or association, as was outlined in the second reading debate, though not engaged in hostile activity, could well be the subject of severe penalties. The Opposition cannot reconcile that with the fact that the Government is allowing people to engage in hostile activity for a government but will penalise people who might genuinely be meeting to suggest that a government should be removed. The case of Uganda was mentioned and it was suggested that people who honestly attend a meeting with the objective of suggesting that the general in Uganda be removed, would, on that basis, be liable to a penalty of 7 years imprisonment. The Opposition does not see the merit of that. I do not intend to delay the Committee. The Opposition has fully canvassed these situations and it is our view that this clause should be removed.
Clause agreed to.
– I move-
Omit sub-clause (2).
As has been said at the outset, the Opposition agrees with sub-clause (1) which clearly prohibits anybody from being recruited for the armed force of a government or otherwise. The whole tenor of the Opposition’s argument has been to the effect that we should take both sides to prevent any recruitment. Sub-clause (2) gives the exception that if the Attorney-General decides that it is in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia to permit recruitment in Australia of persons to serve in or with a specified armed force in a particular capacity- it is assumed that this would be in relation to a foreign government or a foreign countryhe is able to do so. I believe this is quite extraordinary and well beyond the ambit of any discretionary power that should be given to a Minister. This would not refer to just an isolated one or two. It would be a large body of people being recruited to serve. The case of New Guinea was referred to. I do not think it is appropriate that there should be any recruitment in Australia of people to serve in New Guinea and the Government not take any direct action. I do not believe we can conduct international relations on the question of peace and security on the discretion of a Minister, no matter how well meaning he is. I do not think it is appropriate that any country should allow the recruitment of people to serve in armed forces on the basis that it is in the interests of defence or international relations. Far from it. As I said with regard to the United States committee debate, I believe the issue is that if a government takes any military action, it is an action within the sovereign capacity of that government which cannot be delegated. No person, no Minister can say: ‘Well, I exercised my discretion and I think it would be in order’. It is a matter of the highest political action and the highest political motivation. Public opinion would be certainly concerned if any Minister said: ‘Well, it will be all right to recruit on this particular issue and perhaps not on any other issue’. For those reasons, the Opposition opposes sub-clause (2).
– I support the proposed amendment to omit sub-clause (2) of clause 9. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) spoke about it being odd that legalistic argument should be used in a debate such as this. That is a rather odd statement for an Attorney-General to make. Nonetheless, I think in relation to clause 9 the reservations expressed by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), on the Government side, were well put. The suggestion that the Minister, in this case the Attorney-General, ought to have such a wide authority is extraordinary. This is not a discretion that the Attorney-General exercises as First Law Officer. It is not the kind of discretion that he has in relation to the giving of a consent under clause 10, which is a perfectly proper consent for an Attorney-General to be called on to give in proceedings of this nature. In the case of sub-clause (2) of clause 9 he has to have regard for the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia. As the Attorney-General himself allowed, he will be instructed or moved on that question by the Government.
The Attorney-General muddies the waters completely when he talks about the issue of ministerial responsibility. Ministerial responsibility does not mean that this Parliament gives each Minister a blank cheque in relation to his portfolio and that if he does wrong in it or if the Parliament thinks he does wrong he is called to account here. Substantive questions of law are decided by this Parliament. In a situation like this where admittedly it may not be appropriate to have an amending Bill every time it is decided that it is in the national interests of Australia that a foreign country ought to be able to recruit persons in Australia, we at least ought to ask the Attorney-General to consider amending this legislation so that any instrument he signs is tabled in the Parliament and can be disallowed by either House. It seems to me that that would be a perfectly good compromise. It is not covered in the terms of the proposed amendment but it is one the Attorney-General might consider. I think it would address some of the reservations that are felt on this side particularly and which have been expressed on the other side at least by the honourable member for St George.
The question of what is in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia is a political question. It ought to be able to be brought on quickly for a direct and immediate debate on a disallowance motion in this Parliament. I believe it is not something that ought to be dealt with simply by a gazettal by the Attorney-General. I stress that the kind of consent that is to be given under clause 10 is altogether different. That is a perfectly proper consent for the First Law Officer. The one under sub-clause (2) of clause 9 is a political question. If that provision cannot be omitted at this time the Attorney-General might give consideration to the procedure I have suggested.
– I find it difficult to understand the grave concern that the Opposition has in relation to this clause. When one contemplates for one moment the consequences which would flow from this provision were it to be deleted from the Bill one sees that some of the consequences become a little absurd. It is clear that between Australia’s armed forces and armed forces overseas there is a significant exchange of personnel, not each one of which should invite a proclamation or an instrument to be signed. That should be able to occur without going through formal procedures which would put each one of them at risk. As I understand it, for example, were the Australian armed forces to second, say, computer operators, people skilled in that technical kind of work, between this country ‘s armed forces and say the armed forces of Papua New Guinea it could be done under this clause, but were the clause to be deleted another whole set of formal procedures would have to be followed. Where there is exchange of personnel between armed forces of this country and those of the United States of America it is presumed that they occur as a simple matter of course and judgments have to be made as to the countries in which that kind of exchange will occur as a simple matter of course. Where it is presumed that they could occur without going through formal procedures the deletion of this clause would not allow it to occur. Take exchanges between Australian armed forces and Sandhurst Military College. One could think of a whole host of exchanges which occur all the time that involve technical personnel, scientists, biochemists and engineers. They involve people skilled in, for example, military work.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-As I recall, before the suspension of the sitting, we were discussing the amendment to clause 9. Clause 9 is that clause which allows the Attorney-General- the Minister- by instrument signed by him and published in the Gazette to permit recruitment in Australia. Sub-clause (2) of clause 9, which the Opposition seeks to delete, reads:
The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), before the suspension of the sitting, as I understood what he said in the short time that he addressed the Committee, spoke in terms of what would happen if some armed force outside Australia, some recognised army of another country, were to seek people to serve that army perhaps in the capacity of programming computers, or something of that nature. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) put forward a very sound proposition, I thought, as to why this clause dealing with an instrument signed by the Attorney-General and published in the Gazette should be amended so that it was in the nature of a regulation and would need to lie on the table in this chamber so that the Parliament could be involved. I go along very strongly with that proposition even though I am supporting the amendment which seeks to delete the sub-clause. The amendment seeks to delete this sub-clause. We do not think it is a good one. If the proposition put forward by my colleague from Grayndler were to be acceptable to the Government, I do not think the Government would find the same opposition from me.
I come back to what the honourable member for Lilley was saying. It seems to me that to cater for that particular situation, to which I suppose one could hardly object, in the manner proposed is a very curious way of doing things. To place this sort of authority in the hands of the
Attorney-General, even though the AttorneyGeneral has told us that he would be taking action on the advice and with the authority of Cabinet still strikes me as an odd way of doing things. The discretionary power is too great. It could be specified that the Parliament would need to be informed if an interchange occurred between members of armed services. I am sure that such a proposal could readily be accommodated. If those people were to be recruited in our country from among the civilian workforce, I think that that also is something about which the Parliament would need to know.
In my speech on the second reading of this Bill I used the word ‘omniscience’ in regard to the Attorney-General. I checked it out in the dictionary before I used it and I found it did mean what I wanted to convey. I do not think that anybody in this country, not even our Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), has that sort of wisdom. There would be the opportunity and the possibility for errors to be made in this area. We spoke earlier about laws being made to protect Australians from the results of their own actions. Our Attorney-General is an Australian. Perhaps we need to protect him also on occasions from the consequences of his own actions. For those reasons, I support the amendment.
Is the Government to persist with the present wording of sub-clause (2) of clause 9? I find that sub-clause unsatisfactory and unacceptable. Therefore, I support the amendment. However, if an amendment were to be moved in the terms expressed by my colleague from Grayndler, I might have second thoughts on the matter. I do not think that the Attorney-General should be placed in the position of just having to sign an instrument and advertise it in the Gazette without the careful scrutiny of this Parliament. I take the point that anything published in the Gazette is public knowledge. I suppose the tenet of law which says that ignorance of the law is no excuse applies. If I do not read the Gazette, that is not the fault of the Attorney-General, of the Government Printer or of the Government; it is my fault. The Gazette is there; it is available to be read; I should read it. However with the volume of reading that people have to do today, it probably becomes something of a chore to go to another place to find the Gazette. But if a document is laid upon the table of this Chamber, if it is made known to every member specifically and drawn to their attention, the situation is different. Until that occurs, I oppose this sub-clause as it now stands. I support the amendment and I trust that the Committee will also support the amendment. There are some aspects of this rather contentious clause that would bear much deeper investigation than I would be able to carry out. It should be investigated deeply and thought about very carefully. Until those processes occur, I support the amendment.
– The purport of this amendment is to remove sub-clause (2) of clause 9. The problem, needless to say, is that what the Opposition is doing is seeking to apply a blanket principle in a situation where there will inevitably be some exceptions. The purpose of sub-clause (2), as I indicated in my reply in the second reading debate, is simply to enable the government of the day through its Attorney-General, to make those exceptions that are sensible and necessary when they arise. They are exceptions that will occur only on the ground of being in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia. Those circumstances are clearly prescribed.
An amendment was proposed by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam). Sometimes some reasonable suggestions come from him. During the suspension of the sitting, I gave some thought to an amendment to the clause that might satisfy this suggestion. Although we will not move an amendment here, if the honourable member does not mind, I say to the Committee that I shall ask the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack), who represented me in the other place to move an amendment on behalf of the Government. In effect, it will treat an instrument which is signed under sub-clause (2) as if it were for instance, a regulation, and then it will lie on the table of each House and can be disallowed within the prescribed period. That amendment will be moved in the Senate. So, if that meets with the approval of honourable members opposite, their appetite will be satisfied in the other place.
Clause agreed to.
-Mr Chairman before the Committee proceeds, I have a suggested amendment. I understand that the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) would be prepared to have that amendment considered by the Government and moved in another place. The suggested amendment to the Bill reads:
Clause 10, page5, lines 3 and 4, omit ‘or a person authorised by the Attorney-General, by instrument in writing, to give such consents’, substitute ‘or any Minister for the time being acting as Attorney-General ‘.
– We heard what the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) said. It seemed to me to be reasonable to omit the words or a person authorised by the Attorney-General, by instrument in writing, to give such consents’ and to substitute ‘or any Minister for the time being acting as Attorney-General’, i.e. provided the Minister who was acting as Attorney-General also had the power to exercise this discretion under clause 10, sub-clause (3). Again, I would not propose to move an amendment on behalf of the Government, but it will be moved in the other place.
– I think the proposed amendment is reasonable. I wish to make this point:
– It is not an amendment.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)There is nothing proposed before the Chair for this Committee. The Attorney-General, if I may clear up the point, forecast that this amendment may be moved in another place. Does the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith wish to discuss that proposition?
– I read it out.
-I am referring to the proposed amendment which was read out, a copy of which was given to us.
– Do you disagree with it?
-I do not disagree with it. I was about to make the point that I thought, as a matter of course, there was within the Department the opportunity for say, the Solicitor-General to act on behalf of the AttorneyGeneral in his absence. Was not this proposal about ‘a person authorised by the AttorneyGeneral’ part of what the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) was talking about? Was not there this problem: Was not the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) saying ‘or any Minister acting as Attorney-General ‘? I understood that within the ambit of the Attorney-General’s ministry the Solicitor-General can act in this matter oh his behalf. I am just wondering to what extent this change might affect the position.
– That will cut it down. Might I just explain?
– I call the Attorney-General.
– The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) explained that there is a political content in this consent that may not exist in other instances. His point, as I understood it, was that it was desirable to confine it to a Minister. That was the reason why I was moved to accept it. It is an exception, perhaps, to other cases in which the Attorney-General’s consent might be conferred on, say, the Deputy Crown Solicitor in the Australian Capital Territory, as it is in many cases, but it should not be conferred on such a person in relation to a discretion of this character. Therefore I am prepared to accede to his request that it be confined to a Minister.
– I want to make this point: ‘Any Minister for the time being acting as Attorney-General’ could be somebody who is not a lawyer. Therefore the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) is suggesting this position as against the normal position, when the right could be conferred on the Solicitor-General.
– The Minister would be elected.
-He would be elected, but his professional skills might not be as obvious. The Government is proposing to accept the suggested amendment. It is from the Government side. We will not delay the Committee any further. It is an unusual amendment when compared with the normal situation, when the donee of the Attorney-General’s power would be the Solicitor-General. The power will now be given to ‘any Minister acting as Attorney-General’. With respect, the Minister might not have any real association with the portfolio. I think the proposed amendment has that slight sanction in it.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Ellicott)- by leaveproposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I want to raise with the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) only one or two things. A couple of amendments have been suggested tonight. He indicated that they would be moved in the Committee of the Whole of the Senate. Some things were raised earlier with the Minister from this side of the House during the debate. I hope that he will look at those arguments in retrospect and outside the context of the parliamentary debate, to ensure that the Bill meets the purpose which the Government intends it to meet. The Opposition obviously had and has some doubts about the application of the
Bill and would seek the Attorney-General’s assurance in this matter that another examination of those points will be made in order that we can be certain that the Bill carries out the functions for which it is intended.
-in reply-I have already indicated to the House that those proposed amendments are amendments of substance to the nature of the Bill. Needless to say, the points raised in the debate were listened to by me as the debate ensued. I will take note of the various points raised. If I feel that they do raise any questions that could bring forward an amendment within the substance of the Bill as the Government sees it, I would be prepared to bring them forward. At this stage, having heard the debate and having given it consideration, I am not moved to suggest any.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
-I present the eleventh report of the Publications Committee sitting in conference with the Publications Committee of the Senate. Copies of the report have been circulated to honourable members.
Report-by leave- adopted.
– by leave- I wish to inform the House that agreement has been reached with the Indonesian Government concerning arrangements for the reunion of East Timorese in Australia and their close relatives from Timor. In a joint communique issued at the conclusion of the visit to Indonesia in October 1976, the Prime Minister and President Soeharto announced that they had agreed that Australian and Indonesian officials should meet to resolve the problems of the East Timorese evacuees who came to Australia without their families. Following discussions in Jakarta, the Indonesian Government has agreed, in principle, to a visit to East Timor by a team of Australian officials to interview Timorese who are eligible for entry and have been nominated by relatives in Australia. The Australian Government has agreed in principle to a visit to Australia by an Indonesian team to consider applications by any Timorese who wish to be reunited in East Timor with their families. The Australian Government has very much in mind the distress occasioned by the separation of families and arrangements are proceeding for the visit to East Timor to take place as early as circumstances permit.
Any Australian immigration action in East Timor requires the co-operation of Indonesian authorities to locate and assemble nominees for migration procedures. It is necessary, therefore, to provide relevant details of nominees to the Indonesian authorities. The information will be provided to the Indonesian authorities only with the agreement of the sponsors. The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is compiling a list of sponsored nominees acceptable under family reunion policy. The acceptable categories are: spouses, minor dependent children and parents of Australian residents, relatives who have employment skills and experience recognised and in demand in Australia.
It is necessary to set a closing date for receipt of nominations so that the operation can proceed as quickly as possible. Nominations received by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs up to close of business on 22 April 1977 will be considered in this operation.
The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is seeking from sponsors details of the disposition of their families so that all relevant factors may be considered in assessing the eligibility of their nominees for entry to Australia. In accordance with normal immigration procedures, this information is for internal departmental use only and is being obtained on a form used, where required, in cases involving family reunion.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I have sought leave to make a statement because I believe the statement of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) is a repeat performance of statements in which decisions have been made in haste. I am afraid that I have some criticisms to make about the concept of the statement just made by the Minister. I think the problems of the East Timorese people are much more complicated than what is set out in the Minister’s statement which has been produced at the last moment. I believe that the Opposition should have had much more time to examine the Minister’s statement because of the complexity of this issue.
For instance, many East Timorese families are divided and are living in different parts of the world. East Timorese women who are employed in Australia are keeping their husbands who are living in East Timor. The Minister might close his eyes to this situation, but later in my speech I will refer to East Timorese women who are sending money to East Timor to keep their husbands and whose children are in other countries. The difficulty, of course, is that once again we have acted reluctantly. Our actions have led to complications that I will spell out to honourable members.
– Can you tell us how they are getting the money there?
– We could certainly have more intelligent interjections than the one just made by the honourable member. The money is sent to East Timor by arrangement with and the cooperation of certain people. The fact is that the people who are in these difficult situations have to be helped. I think what we are seeing here is a disgraceful exhibition of a lack of efficiency, given the desperate nature of the situation. For instance, the Minister in his statement talks about evacuees. But the word ‘refugee’ is used twice in the joint communique mentioned in the Minister’s statement. The word ‘evacuee’ is not used. The criteria for approval related to refugees. Once again we get into this murky area concerning what is by definition a ‘refugee ‘.
I would like to read for the information of the Minister the terms used in the communique. Paragraph 15 of the communique states:
The Prime Minister noted that another aspect of the human suffering caused by the conflict had been the plight of the refugees -
Not evacuees- who had gone to Australia without their families. The President and the Prime Minister agreed that officials of their two countries would be meeting to resolve the problem of their refugees.
Again the word ‘evacuees’ was not used. The problem that we face is the definition to be applied to East Timorese people. We have the example also of Lebanese and Cypriot people who have been denned as displaced people. Once the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has this matter well in hand we will be able to get down to obtaining a literal interpretation of what is an evacuee and what is a refugee.
I hope and trust that we will see a far more flexible interpretation of ‘refugee’. This matter is worthy of urgent consideration because of the plight in which the East Timorese people find themselves. We have seen the break-up of the family unit with family members being spread all over the world. In some instances children are now living in Hong Kong, husbands in East Timor and wives in Australia where they are earning a living to supply the wherewithal to enable their families to exist. I think it is worth asking whether this sort of existence is desired by the people concerned. I have proof that families are placed in such circumstances. I believe that the advantages of such an existence are doubtful and dubious and that, therefore, the Australian Government has to do much more than it is doing at the moment. It has to go much further than what has been outlined in the Minister’s statement.
The Minister talks about the limited area of the classification of people who wish to enter this country. He talks about spouses, minor dependent children and parents of Australian residents. He talks also about relatives who have employment skills and experience recognised and in demand in Australia.
– That is exactly the same as every statement.
– As the honourable member suggests, these are the same criteria behind another facade. When we talk about our obligation to help refugees, quasi refugees or evacuees- a rose by any other name- we hide behind either the United Nation’s definition of the word ‘refugee’ or behind the criteria that we are putting forward from time to time. In this way we are able to avoid responsibility for what we are doing and what we ought to be doing for the people who have these particular problems.
Another problem that I see in the Minister’s statement is the question of restricted categories. I might say that this is a very serious problem. The point here, of course, is that when we allow bureaucrats to have an inch of latitude in respect of the literal interpretation of the word ‘refugee’, humanitarian interests flow out the door because someone is more interested in keeping his job. I have seen this happen in a number of areas throughout the world where refugee problems are involved.
I believe that the question of interpretation is a very serious impediment in giving effect to our obligation to the Timorese people. I think the principle that was spelled out in the first instance was good. However, on behalf of the Opposition, I take exception to the vague and interpretative decisions that have flowed since from that principle.
– Which categories would you include?
– I would include a person who by definition has a responsibility for individuals who may be concerned. The categories would not be confined to the interpretative decisions that the Minister imposes. In other words, immigration would not be confined to the family that the Minister recognises. I believe that recognition of the broader principle of the family ought to be taken into account. The Minister asked me a question. I believe that he ought to be flexible in his application to ensure that the bureaucrats who interpret the classifications into which people fall make their decisions with an overall view to humanitarian grounds. If there are dependants who do not specifically come within the category that is spelt out in the statement then the discretion of the Minister ought to prevail.
It seems to me that the closing date for the receipt of nominations is another facade. People have precisely 23 days, for God ‘s sake, in which to do something for the people in East Timor. That is fantastic. My heart bleeds for the Minister. He is a busy man, I know, but there are people who are in incredible positions arising out of the Timorese situation. Both sides of the Parliament ought to be looking at themselves in terms of the responsibility they have in this question. The Minister is engaged in some conversation. I hope he will listen to me. It is heartrending to think of the plight of the East Timorese people spread throughout the length and breadth of the world arising out of the conflict in East Timor. We ought to be falling over backwards to ensure that we spread ourselves as far as possible to ensure that justice is done in each case.
For the Minister to hide behind the definition of evacuee as against refugee as he does in his statement does not do his cause justice. If the statement was prepared for him I am sure that he must have overlooked the use of the word evacuees’ or he has not read the joint communique of the Prime Minister and Soeharto. There is a distinct difference between an evacuee and a refugee. It might be said that this is a minor criticism and that I am being pedantic about words, but really the interpretation of such words is in fact a difficulty that a lot of people have run up against when endeavouring to deal with the problem we are discussing. I draw the Minister’s attention to paragraph 15 of the joint communique issued by the Information Service of the Embassy of Indonesia to spell out what I am saying.
The categories of people acceptable for immigration ought to be extended at the Minister’s discretion. Knowing the Minister well, I am sure his heart would bleed for people who are in a difficult situation. It seems to me that these categories ought to be interpreted in a wider sense, but the criteria should not restrict the Minister’s capacity to make sure that there is no impediment to reuniting families which have been divided as a result of this terrible thing that has occurred in East Timor.
Last but not least, I implore the Minister to disregard the condition of 23 days. It ought to be an extended time. Why should there be a time on the receipt of nominations? There are people who cannot communicate -
– I will tell you why there has to be a time on it. We have to send a team to Dili, and we need the names of the people before we send the team there. We cannot keep the team there indefinitely.
– The Minister says he cannot keep the team there indefinitely. He said that about Nicosia in the Lebanon situation. In these matters the consideration of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who seeks to interject, goes about as far as his consideration of other people. In fact the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs shows a lot more consideration than he does. We took the task force out of Nicosia just prior to Christmas and what happened? Up to that time the number of people who were rejected on medical grounds was negligible. After that the number was astronomical.
– We did not take the task force out prior to Christmas.
-No, we did not.
– Yes, you did. You took the task force out just prior to Christmas and the increase in the number of people rejected was astronomical. The Minister told a person from the Lebanese community that it seemed to him that the people who were arriving in Nicosia were unfortunately coming from areas- perhaps the Minister did not understand that there had been a civil war in the Lebanon for some timewhere there was a lack of medical services so their medical condition was not all that good. The fact was that they were not washing behind their ears or they were too fat or too thin. There was always some excuse for not accepting them. I am putting it to the Minister that that should not be an impediment. There should not be an impediment in terms of time. I do not see why 23 days is relevant. I acknowledge the fact that an initiative is being taken but, for God ‘s sake, if the arrangements are to be restricted in certain aspects as outlined in the statement I believe they will be farcical in the end result. I put it to the Minister that each of the points I have made ought to be kept well in mind. The 23 days is a major aspect of our opposition to the spirit of the statement. We think the Government’s offer should be held open until such time as we get around to acknowledging the problem and doing something as a result to resolve it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Order! Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
-I table on behalf of the Minister for Social Security the Occupational Superannuation in Australia report, which is the final report of the National Superannuation Committee of Inquiry, Part II, published March 1977.
Debate resumed from 24 March, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports the Law Courts (Sydney) Bill. Very briefly, it is a Bill to regularise the present title of land in Sydney which is jointly owned by the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government. The joint site has one building erected on it which is for the common use of both State and Federal courts. The Bill provides that the land shall be transferred to a corporate body which has been created for the purpose of the joint ownership. That body is to be known as Law Courts Ltd. The Bill also provides that that company will be exempt from State and Federal taxation. Accordingly New South Wales will pass complementary legislation to provide that the building shall not be so taxed.
The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) in his second reading speech indicated that it was appropriate that this transfer to the company should be by way of enactment for reasons which are perfectly valid and acceptable to the Opposition.
The building is a very substantial one. It will have a long duration of life. Accordingly it is appropriate that its management should be by this method of corporate control. The Opposition supports the legislation.
– There is not much to say about this legislation. Both the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) and the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) gave us a very accurate description of the purpose of the building which is the subject of this legislation and its site. I suppose that, for the first time, it gives a definition in a Federal statute to this company, Law Courts Limited, so at least it is appropriate to talk briefly about what the company does. It administers a building which is designed to provide courts for both the State and Federal authorities. That is unique in a building like this and it is welcome. In relation to accommodation for Federal judges, I think that the Attorney-General is aware of the present grave limitations of several Federal courts in New South Wales and, I know, in other States. We ought not to be too blase about finding some solutions to this problem because a lot of these courts are the physical arenas in which citizens come up against the power and the authority of the law, particularly laws passed by this Parliament, especially in family law jurisdiction. In that jurisdiction persons’ expectations have been raised greatly over the last couple of years, but when they get into the physical accommodations where their disputes are to be settled they are made even less comfortable than they should be.
I do not think that we can let a debate such as this go by without talking about the way in which citizens come into contact with the law. One of the things that bedevils every one of us in this Parliament is that we have ridiculous demarcations in our absurd Federal system between Federal, State and local government levels of authority. They can be arbitrary, and each of them will draw lines and be unhelpful about what they can do for other people. An illustration of how small-minded we are in the administration of these courts is that we have a situation in Sydney where the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, in order to preserve the dignity of his Court and its independence, has instructed the chief executive officer of the Supreme Court of New South Wales to lock and to bar a door between the glassed entrances to the Federal courts and the State courts. How absurd and petty!
This massive building stands in one of the oldest squares in Sydney- Queen’s Square. The aesthetics of the building are nothing much to admire, and I will come to that in a moment. But at least it is a building which people know houses the courts of law. It is a building through which not only the legal profession but anybody who has any business in those courts, either with counsel, solicitors in attendance or by themselves, ought to be able to proceed with a minimum of fear and a minimum of the absurd pomposities with which the law surrounds itself so unnecessarily. I appeal to the Attorney-General to see that his Department takes up with the Supreme Court authorities in New South Wales, and particularly with the Chief Justice, this pettifogging restriction which has been imposed on the movement not only of the profession- after all that is not nearly so important- but of the public.
This building has a large glassed-in forecourt overlooking Queen’s Square in one of the main public pedestrian precincts of the biggest capital city in our country. People want to proceed through this building for many reasons- perhaps to take a short cut, perhaps to look at the building, perhaps to go and sit in the public galleries of the law courts. After all these galleries are provided so that the public can have access to them and can see justice done. It is not simply for the benefit of the professionals and the practitioners that this stupid pettifogging restriction should be lifted. I hope that at the earliest possible opportunity the Federal authorities will seek to see that that is done.
I do not want to steal the thunder of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) who knows much more about this matter than I do and who in his period of office as Minister for Urban and Regional Development did more than anybody else in this Parliament to affect the physical landscape of Australia, but one cannot talk about this law courts building in Queen’s Square without talking about what an abomination it is aesthetically. I know that this is subjective judgment and that people’s views differ but it seems to me a great shame that in a project like this one, where we had the State and Federal governments coming together very properly, I believe- I know that the Attorney-General who is a great advocate of national court systems will support the concept of the Federal and State authorities coming together and putting their courts in the one building- the best that they could come up with is a building which is no doubt functional for practitioners but which is not a credit to the city which it ought to grace. The law courts do not need to have any particular awesome quality about them but there is no reason why one of the 3 arms of governmentthe legislature, the executive and the courtsought not to be housed in a very pleasant environment. In this instance that is not the case. I trust that on future occasions when we are looking at the construction of Federal courts, I hope in association with State courts, this sort of thing will not occur again.
– I want to confine my comments to the town planning aspects of the law courts. I think it should be stated at the outset that it was a step in the right direction when the State and Federal courts rationalised their development by housing their courts in the one building. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) pointed out that there is still a certain amount of sectarianism, if I may use that word, amongst the bureaucracy of both the State and Federal courts. I think that it is now a matter for the Federal and State AttorneysGeneral to break down that sectarianism. I am not trying to isolate the problem to this case. In the portfolio which I administered I did everything that I could- it was extremely difficult- to break down the distrust which seemed to occur between Federal and State authorities. Unless we can get our public servants, judges or whoever the authorities may be working together, in the long term they will be working against the interests of the people.
I think that the decision to combine the Federal and State courts was a rational decision. It was under a conservative Government that agreement was reached on this back in 1959, my first year in this Parliament. Construction commenced in 1 970. It has been underway for a long time. What disturbs me greatly is that this building, which is 360 feet above street level, with a total of 24 floors- 22 floors above street levelwith a floor area space of 54 000 square feet, can be located in metropolitan Sydney in an area in which there is very little open space. The buildings in this part of Sydney are very densely concentrated. Open space is needed for the ordinary residents and citizens of that city particularly in the lunch hour. This building is located at the northern end of Hyde Park. As I said, it is 360 feet high and I suppose that it is within 100 feet or so of Hyde Park. In winter time office workers and departmental employees seeking a break from the pressure of work go out into these open space areas, particularly at the northern end of Hyde Park, to enjoy the warmth and sunshine. Because the sun is low on the northern horizon in winter time, this building will throw a shadow over the northern end of the Park towards the Archibald Fountain area.
– Where should it be?
– The honourable member asks where it should be. All I am trying to say is that if an area of natural beauty has been created, whether by foresight or accident, in the form of a very rare open space area in the centre of the city, proper town planning methods should be used to protect the interests of the people who will use that open space area. Incorrect and foolish planning has taken place. The Commonwealth has made grave errors by incorrect town planning.
I am speaking in this Parliament tonight in the hope that the mistakes that the town planners have made in regard to this building will not be duplicated in other planning in the future. Whenever one looks at Australian Government buildings in the cities, whether they be in Sydney, Melbourne or any of our major capitals, we see monstrosities. They are condemned for their ugliness. Their architecture is appalling. There is no gentleness about them. There is no intelligent or sympathetic planning.
Turning away from the law court building, the Commonwealth building in Chifley Square in Sydney is a building of tiles and glass and there are no shopping or social amenities in it. The thousands of people who work in that building have to walk a nearly half a mile if they want to do some shopping. The situation is even worse in Spring Street, Melbourne. All this is due to the stupidity of past planning. At least under the planning of the Whitlam Labor Government the government centre that was being developed at Parramatta would have had available a quarter of a million square feet to provide shopping facilities and other social amenities for employees in that building. We intended to create theatres and other facilities to improve the work and city environment. I hope that the planners and architects who are now in the Department of Construction will take their heads out of the sand. If they cannot apply correct thinking and planning within the Department, at least they should seek out private consultants so that we can get some decent buildings and decent planning. The Australian Government has a responsibility not to scar the city landscape. For far too long Australian Government buildings have scarred the hearts of our cities. They have not enhanced the culture in and the beauty of our cities.
It is regrettable that this building was permitted to be built 360 feet above street level because this will starve the northern end of Hyde Park of winter sunshine at lunch time when people mostly want to use the area. This will deter people from using the park. Having said that, I hope that the constructive criticism I have levelled at the Attorney-General- might I say that I am not only talking to the Attorney-General; I am talking to the Government as a whole- will be accepted in such a way that something may be learnt from it.
– Come back to the Bill.
– The Minister for Transport has all the answers. We know he is a country hick and he thinks like one.
-(Mr Ian Robinson) - Order!
-Surely, Mr Deputy Speaker, you would not object to being called a country hick, but I know you are very sensitive about your colleagues. I hope somebody on the Government side or somebody in the bureaucracy will take note of the constructive criticism I have levelled so that in the future this type of planning will not be repeated.
-in reply- I feel that after those words of wisdom I should reply on behalf of the Government. There has been a series of attacks on me in relation to this measure. I thought it was one of those non-controversial measures which would find its way quietly through the House. However, as might be expected, this has not turned out to be so. First of all, it seems to have provoked an attack on me as the AttorneyGeneral because of my administration of the Family Court of Australia. Just to put honourable members’ minds at rest, the fact is that because this building has been built and judges have moved into it, Temple Court, where the Federal judges have been for some years, will become vacant and very shortly those premises will be passed over to the Family Court and there will be eight or ten magnificent courts there to minister to the people of Sydney who find themselves embroiled in the Family Law Act. So this building has a direct effect on the people of Sydney and it enables us to get on with plans to put the Family Court where it was always intended to be- in a place much more suitable than that chosen for it by, if I might say so, the Labor Government down in George Street well away from transport, well away from the legal profession and in a place where very quickly the building became quite inadequate and people were forced to move to various parts of the city. But because of the construction of this building, and purely no doubt as a matter of coincidence in time, the fact is that the Family Court will be moving into better premises.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) would have to mention the door. He could not resist it. He assumes that the Attorney-General does nothing and that he is not in contact with the matter in Sydney. I only hope that by reason of the honourable member for Grayndler having said something about it, all the careful negotiations that I have been undertaking do not fall to the ground, but I assure the honourable member that I am optimistic that the door will be opened.
I, and I am sure honourable members behind me- there are not too many of them but there are a few in front of me- never thought we would be criticised for allowing a shadow to fall across a park at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Some honourable members do not come from Sydney so I can understand why they feel there is some substance in that remark but the fact is that at that end of Hyde Park there are many trees and the trees are there to shade people from the sun. Those of us who are used to walking in Hyde Park know that that is one of the more pleasant parts of the park either to wander about or to sit in the shade out of the midday sun. Now we are in trouble because we have erected a building 300-feet high that allows a shadow to fall across the park at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. I cannot apologise for that. I am very sorry; we cannot move the shadow. I do not think it is going to affect the people of Sydney in any way whatsoever.
As for the building, it has turned out to be a magnificent building from the point of view of the administration of justice and that is actually what it was built for. It was built to house law courts and inside the building there are court rooms, places forjudges and registry rooms. May I simply add that due to the thoughts of Senator Murphy there is even a suite there for the Attorney-General. May I simply say that the building is a magnificent building and although, due to the type of achitecture that has to be adopted for courts, it may not look as magnificent from the outside as one might have liked it to look, nevertheless this building was constructed so as to fit in with the Law School and the surrounding buildings, and it does exactly that. I do not apologise for the architecture. I am very glad the building is completed and I hope that this Bill will bring about a situation in which State and Federal relations will flourish within Law Courts Limited.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 March, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-We are debating the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads (Repeal) Bill 1977. Its purpose is to repeal the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act 1964, thus abolishing the independent statutory authority known as the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to enable the establishment of a new and expanded Bureau within the Department of Transport to be known as the Bureau of Transport Economics. That larger Bureau attached to the Department of Transport will comprise the Bureau of Transport Economics originally set up in 1971 and the existing Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. The Opposition believes that the timing for the amalgamation of the functions of the Bureau of Transport Economics and the Bureau of Roads is appropriate. We agree with the concept of a strong multimodal transport advisory body but we believe that such a body should be established as an independent statutory authority along the lines of the Bureau of Roads under its own specific legislation. There are a number of sound reasons for our taking that view, and I shall return to them later in my remarks. Accordingly the Opposition is opposed to the Bill.
Since the present corrupt, conservative Government came to office we have seen a succession of measures designed to reduce community access to the decision making processes of government and to reduce the public availability of information on the background to government decisions. Because this Bill deals with road funding investigations, evaluations and priorities, it affects the safety of our roads and the lives of motorists. It was only a few months ago that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), who introduced this legislation, sponsored a similar Bill designed to abolish the independent statutory Road Safety and Standards Authority and to absorb it into the Minister’s centralist empire of the Department of Transport. The pretext used on that occasionthe same pretext is used now- was that that action would save money. Yes, undoubtedly it would save a relatively small amount of money but that would be at the expense of the lives of motorists. This Bill is in a similar vein.
Let us look for a few minutes at the origin and the reasons for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. In his 1963 election speech the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, foreshadowed the establishment of an independent national roads authority. He said that such an authority would ‘provide a focal point for the planning and development of a comprehensive system to help in co-ordinating the activities of Commonwealth and State governments in the roads field’. He continued:
The nation would benefit from a thoroughgoing survey and appraisal of the existing roads system and of foreseeable road requirements.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport at that time, Mr Freeth, noted in his second reading speech:
We have felt it is essential for us to have a body capable of investigating roads and road transport with a view to assisting the Government in reaching its decisions as to the nature of the financial assistance to the States for roads and road transport.
He went on to say:
Having decided on these functions we feel that they could best be undertaken by a statutory body, to be called the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, responsible to the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
Since its establishment in 1966 the Bureau of Roads has acquitted its tasks well. I know of no criticism of the manner in which it has performed its duties, although the Opposition would have preferred that the tabling of its reports was an automatic process rather than being left to the discretion of the Minister, especially the present Minister.
I mention that because 2 reports of the Bureau of Roads that have been completed in the last 12 months- one relating to alternative funding strategies for roads in 1976 and the other relating to alternative methods of funding roads under the Government’s federalism policy- have not been presented to the Parliament, nor has mention been made of them. Yet in the public discussion on the methods of road funding and the priorities for transport generally they would be very important documents, and documents which would be necessary if an adequate and balanced public discussion were to take place. However, in the past decade the Bureau has earned a high level of credibility for its reports and a wide level of acceptance by all interest groups in the transport scene, from State governments, local government units, and motorists and transport organisations to individual members of the community. Honourable members will recall that in the preparation of its 1975 report the Bureau received in excess of 300 submissions from interested parties.
If we are to consider the Bill in its proper perspective we must take note of the Government’s style of operation. On 9 October 1976 Cabinet took a decision that legislation should not be introduced into the Parliament for the purpose of implementing its objectives where regulation would suffice. The decision was clear and explicit- government by regulation, not by legislation. Why? The reason was that it would enable the Government to surround its activities in greater secrecy and protect them from the glare of closer parliamentary scrutiny than would be the case if separate legislation were enacted. In the Department of Transport that style has been most evident.
I mentioned earlier the abolition of the Road Safety and Standards Authority in the latter part of last year. Since the change in government we have seen the Bland Committee or Administrative Review Committee set up. Its deliberations and reports were kept secret. I hardly need to remind honourable members of how the Medibank review was conducted and how the reports on that were leaked. Next came the Aviation Industry Review Committee of Inquiry which looked into the cost recovery program. That inquiry was conducted by principals of the industry into the industry, and its deliberations and reports were privy to the Minister and to the aviation industry. The consumers of airline services, the air travellers- after all, they pay for everything- were not represented on the inquiry or allowed to see the report. Public discussion of the industry’s problems is inhibited by the refusal of the Minister to table the report.
Next came the MacNeill Committee of Inquiry into the operations and financial structure of Australian Government transport enterprises- the people’s own transport enterprises. Again there were secret hearings and a secret report was presented, to which the Committee and the Minister had access but with which the Parliament and the public are not to be trusted. I must make this point in respect of that Committee of Inquiry: It was a case of competitors with and clients of publicly owned enterprises inquiring into the financial structure and efficiency of those publicly owned enterprises and that information being privy to those competitors and clients but not being available to members of this Parliament. The members of this Parliament, Government or Opposition, are not to be trusted, are not responsible enough to be made aware of the contents of the report of that Committee of Inquiry.
Running through this Government’s operations then is the continuing theme of suppression of information and a return to the closed shop style of government which was so prevalent prior to 1972. Given the Minister’s record in government, how could any reasonable person place credence in his assurance that the new amalgamated Bureau of Transport Economics will function in the manner for which the Bureau of Roads has been renowned- with public hearings, public participation and political impartiality? I add to those things the Minister’s promise of the ready availability of reports from the new Bureau of Transport Economics. Obviously the answer to that question is that any reasonable examination of the Minister’s record and the Government’s record will show that nobody can reasonably accept the Minister’s assurances.
I know also that many members of the Parliament have been receiving correspondence from motorists’ organisations and local councils as well as local government organisations urging the establishment of the amalgamated Bureau by separate legislation. In a moment I shall read from page 66 of the September 1 976 issue of the Australian Municipal Journal. Numerous other articles have been published on this subject, some by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations and some by the respective State organisations. This generally sums up the background of the issue before us. In quoting Prime Minister Menzies, the journal states:
The principal reasons for setting up the Bureau of Roads were: to have road needs presented to the Commonwealth by the States to provide an ability within the Commonwealth to check the States ‘ assessment to initiate enquiries about specific classes of roads, for example, freeways to ensure overall priorities in the application of resources to minimise State rivalries to avoid political ‘horse trading’ prior to the expiration of the normal five year Commonwealth Aid Road Agreements.
The Association maintains that these reasons are still valid and in the best interests of local government to retain.
The present position gives the Commonwealth an accurate assessment of roading requirements in its various forms, assesses State and local government capacity to meet part of the cost, and sets out policy options open to the Government.
What is more it brings an enlightened approach to the general question of roading and apart from recommending the best use of resources is able to exercise control in this area which calls for joint governmental endeavour.
Amalgamation and integration within the Department of Transport could destroy the main attributes of the Bureau.
Attributes like independence from departmental and political influence are important. They give the Bureau credibility in the eyes of State and local governments.
Indeed it is hard to imagine why the Federal Government would want to destroy a body which has so many elements which demonstrate co-operative Federalism at work.
One only has to recall the new definition of cooperative federalism- coercive federalism. The latest announcement by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) on 25 February on road funding for 1977-78 makes quite clear this Government’s definition of federalism. It is bleed the States of sufficient funds to force them to do what you want them to do’. The Minister has readily in the past indicated that he has been able to get his way with the States when he wishes. That is one of the reasons that in its existing form the Bureau of Roads is to be changed. The Bureau established credibility and acceptance because it was seen to be on the side of the Department, not a captive of the Department’s priorities, management services and budget and, importantly, not subject to political horse trading. The Minister claimed in his second reading speech that the existing Bureau of Transport Economics had similar autonomy to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. This is not so. The Bureau of Roads has had its own financial independence and its own division in the Appropriation Bills. It employs its own staff and has outside members on its board. These are all significant sources of autonomy in terms of task definition and performance. It has had a broad and continuing brief to make policy recommendations to the Government of the day on financial assistance to the States for roads and road transport. In its 1975 report, the Bureau of Roads stated:
As the Bureaus is small, autonomous and free from the normal departmental function of administration of legisation, we are able to work closely with official and unofficial groups within the community.
Equally we can, in a completely independent manner, express and evaluate the views of governmental, industrial and community organisations. Our experience has confirmed our view that the statutory authority has a very important role in open government.
On the other hand, the Bureau of Transport Economics has primarly been involved in ad hoc project evaluations, whereas the Bureau of Roads has been concerned with road programs and policies, a much broader, continuing and integrating function. If the Minister wished to satisfy the sentiments expressed in the first 5 pages of his speech, the way to do so would have been to extend the role of the Bureau of Roads across all the modes. I do not wish my remarks to be misinterpreted as favouring the performance of one bureau as against the other because I have the highest respect for the existing Bureau of Transport Economics and the professional manner in which it has functioned since its inception. In short, the question at stake in this legislation is open government and public accessibility of information. I reiterate the quote from the 1975 report of the Bureau of Roads, after 1 1 years of practical experience. It stated:
The Statutory Authority has a very important role in open government.
That view has been supported widely by State and local government, by motorist organisations and by individuals. The best example I have seen of public participation in the decision-making process was the inquiry conducted by the Bureau of Roads in the Newcastle area about 2 years ago. That inquiry was appointed by the then Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), to his credit. It was an inquiry into the proposed route of the National Highway north of Doyalson to the north of Newcastle in New South Wales. I attended some of those public meetings to see what kind of reception the representatives of the Bureau received. I realised that a firm of consultants was also employed at the time. I sat in on some of those hearings to see what kind of people attended and what points of view were put. In the very early minutes of the meeting that I attended in the Newcastle City Hall it was quite obvious that the people at the meeting had confidence in the representatives of the Bureau and the consultants. It became quite clear that the people from the Bureau were there simply to listen to submissions, to receive submissions and, later, to make a report. They were not there as officers attached to a department considering the project put before the Department. There was a quite different approach. I have had enough experience in local government inquiries and in committees of inquiry by this Parliament to see the great difference in attitudes of the public who were present at that meeting. They were very quickly put at ease by the officers of the Bureau of Roads and they very quickly acknowledged that there was no bias and no partiality on the part of officers of the Bureau and their consultants who were conducting that exercise. I repeat that the view that I mentioned earlier that the statutory authority has a very important role in local government has been supported by State governments, by local government and by motorist organisations. What came out of that inquiry at Newcastle was that the people in the
Hunter region were able to see, through the local Press, that the Bureau of Roads was operating, whilst responsible to the Minister, as an entity in its own right. The community was able to attach trust and credibility to the Bureau’s activities.
The Minister sought, in his second reading speech, to assure the House that the new Bureau, operating along the guidelines he has set out, would not detract from the methods used by the Bureau of Roads. In a question on notice I sought from the Minister an assurance- I quote from page 92 of Hansard of 1 5 February: . . that the expanded Bureau of Transport Economics will be able to examine and publicly report on current Government policies in respect of transport without prior vetting by the Department of Transpsort; if not, why not.
The Minister provided me with an answer that runs into about IS lines, but whilst there are a lot of words in the answer -
– He should be able to answer in one line.
– It has been a liquid tea again, apparently.
– Come on, you can do better than that.
– Is the honourable gentleman claiming credit for that statement. The answer neatly sidesteps the question which was posed and which was quite specific. I sought an assurance that there would be no prior vetting by the Department and the Minister was unable to give me an answer. He gave me an answer which seems to answer the question that was asked, but on close examination it does not answer the question. In short, he gave no assurance that the new Bureau would be able to examine and publicly report on current Government policies in respect of transport without prior vetting by the Department of Transport. As I said, the key words in the assurance sought are ‘without prior vetting by the Department’. The pork barrelling exercises of the National Country Party on road funding- I sympathise with those members of the Liberal Party but as they go along with it, I suppose I should not give them any sympathyare renowned in Australia. What the Minister wants to cover up is his retention of the ability to buy country votes with road funds, even, I understand, for roads to Cape Corna. I indicated at the outset that the Opposition recognises the advantage to be gained from an expanded role for the Bureau of Transport Economics and the Bureau of Roads. It recognises that there ought to be a multi-modal approach to assessing the needs and future requirements of transport. Where we differ is in the way in which the amalgamated
Bureau should be established and the degree of autonomy it should have on the one hand and the level of accessibility that interest groups should have to the Bureau on the other.
Above all the Bureau in its activities should be placed beyond the political influence of the Minister. That will not be achieved simply by repealing the Bureau of Roads Act of 1964. Despite what the Minister has said in his second reading speech and despite what comments he may make in reply, the fact is that the Bureau will be downgraded to the limited status of the Bureau of Transport Economics rather than the amalgamated body being upgraded to the independent status of the Bureau of Roads, operating under its own legislation.
Some mention has been made of savings to be made following the amalgamation. I point out that the Bureau of Roads appropriation- that is, division 659 in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) of 1975-76-was $ 1.717m while in 1976-77 it was $ 1.288m. Thus any savings considered in the full light of the Department of Transport budget would be relatively small. The Minister has said that the new Bureau of Transport Economics will be able to move with the times- that will be a change for the National Country Party- rather than be rigidly controlled through legislation. That in itself is a remarkable statement because the inference is that the new Bureau would be hampered and restricted in its functions if it were established under separate legislation. Yet in the next and final paragraph of his speech he went on to pay a tribute to the Bureau of Roads, its staff and members, for their invaluable contribution and particularly to the Chairman, Mr Harold Loxton- a glowing tribute to an organisation which has functioned under its own Act, under its own separate legislation throughout the 1 1 years of its existence. One would have thought that if an organisation were to have been rigidly controlled by legislation that would have happened to the Bureau of Roads but obviously it did not happen, because the Minister has paid a glowing tribute to its performance. I leave it to the House to determine which paragraph is sincere. But we note that the Minister made no criticism of the Bureau of Roads or its performance in his second reading speech and I think that speaks for itself. He made no criticism of its performance or of its legislation.
– That is because it is good.
-I agree with the Minister. We agree on that. I do not want to upset him but we agree on that. The Minister made no criticism whatever of it and one can only assume- the
Minister has agreed- that the Bureau of Roads functioned adequately and efficiently under separate legislation. I see no reason why a separate amalgamated authority could not function under the same principles. This amalgamation, to the best of my knowledge, has not been discussed by the Australian Transport Advisory Council. We are told a lot by the Minister about how he liaises with the States and about this co-operative federalism, this transformation to coercive federalism.
– He gave the Victorian Minister a nice kicking here the other day.
– The Minister has done a little better than that. In that harmonious relationship he seeks to tell us about that he has with the State Ministers, even the National Country Party Minister in Queensland, no mention to the best of my knowledge has been made of the Government’s decision or proposal not to establish separate legislation. The States are vitally affected here. Because of the torrid climate that has existed in the ATAC meetings where we have had State Ministers walking out and other Ministers accusing a Minister of not having had a marriage in the family for many centuries, I suppose that is understandable. But that is not the way to get good government for the people of Australia and that is not what the taxpayers pay for. To place an amalgamated body such as the new BTE under the Minister’s wing, nice and comfy, where he can divvy out the goodies for the National Country Party will not improve the relationship with the State Ministers.
In the debate on this Bill I should like also on behalf of the Opposition to take the opportunity of expressing our congratulations to the staff, the Chairman and those associated with the Bureau of Roads for the manner in which they have performed their duties during its period of operation and I think properly also to the outgoing Bureau of Transport Economics for the manner in which the officers of that Bureau have performed their duties. As I said earlier, we do not seek to draw a comparison or any kind of competitive relationship between the 2 bureaus. We believe that the proper way to establish a new bureau would be by separate legislation. The action encompassed in this Bill is a retrograde step. It is another blow against open government and pub- he participation by this Government. It deserves to be rejected by this House.
– It is pleasing to hear the Opposition’s spokesman speaking on a transport issue. In recent times he has been particularly quiet and I would suggest he has not spoken as regularly or with the wisdom -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There has. not been any transport legislation before this Parliament for some months. The Minister has not been present for seven of the last 9 Bills. I ask that that comment be withdrawn.
There is no substance in the point of order.
– If one counted the number of transport Bills in the last 12 months one would find a dozen or more. The point I make is that the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) has been rather quiet on these transport issuesquieter than the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), I would suggest. On this occasion once again he has failed really to appreciate the purpose of this Bill, the reason for it, and has not recognised the express intention of the Government in bringing down this piece of legislation. The reason is clear. The Bureau of Roads is not being abolished. It will continue to exist. It is true that it will not continue as a separate, autonomous statutory authority, but it will continue to exist. Its functions will remain and the expertise that it has displayed in the past will continue to be displayed by the new body following the amalgamation with the Bureau of Transport Economics.
It is interesting to look at the history of this legislation. Back in 1964 the then Opposition, the now Opposition, was not happy with the Bureau of Roads as it was originally formed. There is some inconsistency in the stand being taken now by the Australian Labor Party Opposition in the comments that have been made by the honourable member for Shortland. I wish to quote from a speech made on 11 August 1964 by the then honourable member for Stirling speaking on behalf of the Labor Opposition on that occasion.
– You are going back a fair while.
– Yes, but it is interesting. He was speaking about the Bureau of Roads as it was originally formed. The then honourable member for Stirling said:
Whilst the Bureau, as proposed in this measure, will be of little or no benefit in the serious transport situation that faces us, it could be a Stan and from it could develop a body that may have teeth in it some time in the future.
The honourable member further said:
We will criticise its weaknesses and move amendments and we will outline the type of authority that the Australian Labor Party would like to see set up by the Government.
The Opposition then was critical of the Bureau of Roads.
– They have changed their spots.
– Yes, and the comments that the honourable member for Shortland has made this evening are inconsistent with the comments the Opposition was making in those days.
– You are abolishing what you created.
-We are not abolishing the Bureau. As I said, the Bureau will continue to exist. This is something the Opposition must understand or attempt to understand. It has been made perfectly clear by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that the Bureau is not to be abolished and its officers will be transferred to a joint bureau comprising the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics. I am aware of the concern about the proposed amalgamation which has been expressed in some sectors, particularly in local government. There is a strong view in local government in Victoria that the amalgamation should not take place. One of the committees of which I am a member had an opportunity of listening to the people from the Australian Council of Local Government Associations and in particular the President, Warden Ray Duff, and certain members of the executive of that body. They expressed some concern about this proposed amalgamation. I want to make one or two comments about that concern and then I wish to refute the expression of concern they displayed. They saw the need for independence. They believed that it was necessary to have a separate statutory authority, independent of political influence, to carry out the functions of the Bureau. They felt that the freedom from departmental and political influence would give the Bureau credibility in the eyes of State and local governments. In addition, they argued that the Bureau was carrying out its functions efficiently and effectively- and one would not dispute that- and therefore that that performance should not in any way be prejudiced or endangered by any change.
I quote from a document that was prepared by that organisation. It states:
The Bureau has sought and obtained the co-operation of State Governments, State Road Authorities and local governments. It is regarded as a partner of equality.
The Bureau has talked earnestly, thoughtfully and cooperatively with the States, particularly through State Road Authorities. It has talked extensively -with local councils.
It has promoted discussion between parties on a factual basis and with a great degree of moderation. lt has obtained the co-operation of the States, State Road Authorities and municipal councils in conducting road surveys, the results of which have been very material in the preparation of its reports.
This co-operative consultation and co-operative effort has been good for each level of government
There is less master and more partner.
All parties have performed better because of the Bureau and the efforts it has made.
A number of councils within my own electorate of Braddon put similar views after receiving correspondence from their national body. I have had letters from the Burnie Council, the Circular Head Council, the Ulverstone and King Island Councils and certain other councils within my electorate, all expressing the same sort of theme. I should like to mention here that today a deputation from King Island which included the Warden of King Island, Councillor Nash and Councillors Barratt, Daw, Brooke and the Council Clerk from King Island, Mr John Bonney, came to this Parliament. They were here not to discuss this matter but other transport matters affecting King Island, which of course is in a very isolated position and transport is vital to it. I think that they put their case to the Minister very well. The Minister listened to them and no doubt he will take into account the views expressed by that delegation from King Island.
I have also had discussions recently with members of the Municipal Association of Tasmania. I believe that the Minister has also met these gentlemen- Councillor Frank Britton, the chairman of that Association and Mr Bevan Johnson, the secretary. Both these gentlemen are very widely respected in local government circles, not only in Tasmania but nationally. They did not express the same degree of concern about the proposed amalgamation. Obviously they have studied the subject in some detail and are willing to accept the assurances given by the Minister that the existing standards and functions of the Bureau will continue. The fact is that the existing functions both of the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics will continue under the new body. The duties and functions of the body have been spelt out by the Minister in his second reading speech. I wish to reiterate those duties and functions. I quote from the Minister’s second reading speech. With regard to the Bureau, he said:
Its primary function will be to assist and advise the Government. Its duties will in part be to-
Undertake evaluations of the Australian road situation as presently done by the Bureau of Roads. These will continue to be done, as in the past, by consultation in the broadest sense with State and local government authorities. It includes conducting investigations and reporting to the Minister on the matter of the need for financial assistance to the States for roads and road transport.
Advise and assist the Government in its consideration of financial assistance to the States for roads and road transport.
Advise and assist in the formulation of policies aimed at the reduction of transport costs.
Undertake research and advise on the improvement of transport efficiency.
Advise and assist on the rationalised planning of transport facilities.
Advise on the optimal allocation of resources in the transport field.
Assess and advise on transport planning and administration procedures.
A secondary function of the new BTE will be to assist State and local governments, Commonwealth and State instrumentalities and the private sector to identify and solve transport problems and to plan developments with regard to transport.
To achieve these functions, it is clear that the new Bureau of Transport Economics will need to engage in a wide range of activities. These activities will include:
The assessment of the performance of transport systems and equipment.
Carrying out feasibility studies.
Carrying out studies of resource use and availability.
Carrying out studies of pricing and finance.
The evaluation of proposed investments.
The new body will act independently of the Department of Transport in research activities and in providing expert advice. Its director, of course, will have ready access to the Minister. That is important. It will continue to collect facts and information to assist all levels of government in determining levels of funding for roads. It will continue to prepare and present reports and they will continue to be made public to the same degree as at present.
No one could doubt the success of the Bureau in the past and in this respect I heartily agree with the comments made by the honourable member for Shortland. He was quite right when he praised the body. The amalgamation can in no way be interpreted as criticism of the Bureau itself. The Bureau is a highly responsible and respected body. In particular, the Chairman of the Bureau, Mr Harold Loxton, who has been the chairman since the Bureau’s inception, must be complimented on the job he has done personally and on the job that the Bureau has done as an organisation. Following amalgamation, the Bureau ‘s functions will not be curtailed; they will continue and in fact to some degree they will be extended. The Bureau perhaps will be given further opportunity to gain additional respect, if that is possible, in its operations in those extended areas.
There has been talk that the rights of officers within the Bureau will be adversely affected. In fact, the opportunities for people in the Bureau will be enhanced and not reduced as a result of this amalgamation. Their rights will be fully protected by the Minister and by the Government in carrying out the amalgamation. I quote from notes prepared by the Minister as to some of the action he has taken in ensuring that the rights and interests of people working in the Bureau will be fully protected. The Minister said:
On 17 November 1976 I announced the formation of a new body attached to the Department of Transport to be called the Bureau of Transport Economics and indicated, amongst other things, that the functions of the new body would include the existing functions of the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics.
Within a few days of that announcement the Secretary of my Department visited the Bureau of Roads’ premises in Melbourne and addressed the staff.
On 30 November 1976 the Secretary of my Department received a letter from the Chairman of the Bureau of Roads enclosing a questionnaire prepared by staff of the Secretary’s Division of the Bureau.
That questionnaire was referred to recently in question time. The Minister continued:
In January 1977 the First Assistant Secretary, Management Services, held discussions with the Australian Public Service Association (Fourth Division Officers).
During the discussions held by the Secretary of my Department and his First Assistant Secretary, undertakings were given to the staff of the Bureau that, in accordance with Government policies, provision would be made to safeguard the rights of officers and employees of the Bureau.
That is stated there quite clearly. The Minister went on:
It was also indicated that the Department had commenced negotiations with the Public Service Board on the machinery of transfer of non-Public Service Act staff from the Bureau of Roads to the Department.
In January 1977 a joint departmental/Public Service Board review team was established to develop the organisation structure of the new Bureau of Transport Economics. This review is still proceeding. During the course of the review staff at all levels of both Bureaus nave been given the opportunity to contribute to the development of the new structure and action is currently being taken to give all staff an opportunity to comment on the proposed organisation. Also, during this review further consultations were held with representatives of staff from all areas of the Bureau of Roads with particular emphasis on the matters raised in the questionnaire.
That is the questionnaire to which I have referred. The Minister continued:
On 15 March 1977 a letter was sent from my Department to the Chairman of the Bureau of Roads referring specifically to the questionnaire from the staff of the Secretary’s Division of the Bureau. In this letter the Chairman was asked to let my Department know if there are any matters which the staff of the Secretary’s Division considered to be still unanswered. I might add that the Secretary of the Bureau of Roads has joined with officers of my Department during recent discussions with officers of the Public Service Board relating to staffing aspects of the amalgamation.
It was made quite clear in those comments by the Minister that the interests of the staff of the joint Bureau would be fully protected as this amalgamation proceeds. The dangers which the honourable member for Shortland and the Opposition see in this repealing legislation have no substance of any kind, just as their opposition to and criticism of the original Bureau in 1964 and the Act then had no substance. The Act is not sinister, as has been suggested. It is a sensible Act. I think that the role and function of the Bureau of Roads are being fully protected in the actions being taken by the Minister and the Government. Therefore I believe that this Bill should be supported.
– I oppose this Bill. I do not wish to go over the matters canvassed extensively in an excellent speech by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). I think he put very cogently the argument that the Bureau of Roads should not have done to it what the proposed Road Safety and Standards Authority had done to it when it was incorporated into the Department of Transport. It lost the autonomy that the Labor Government had proposed for it. I have always felt that, while there can be far too many statutory authorities, in matters such as this where important research and important facts need to be put before the people of Australia so they can judge objectively the effects of the recommendations, it is important that these statutory authorities be able to do so without fear or favour. They should not be under the influence of Ministers, industry or lobby groups. They should make their decisions without unnecessary influence.
I want to canvass the question of transport in a broader sense- roads in particular. One of the most depressing aspects of any debate on transport in Australia or, for that matter, the whole world is that most of those who participate in the debate simply do not seem to be able to come up with acceptable, practical answers to the problems which all of us know our society faces at the moment and the far worse problems which must occur in the future. It is depressing because the public debate has been going on in Australia for the last 10 to IS years at least, and with the exception of a few cosmetic adjustments very little has been done to stop the inevitable catastrophe that must occur. Basically the debate goes like this: Every year the number of privately owned motor vehicles on the roads increases, costing thousands of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds to provide more and better roads, improved pollution control methods and safer vehicles. Each year, despite the improvement in vehicle emission controls and improved safety devices, the cost in lives continues, and the chaos and congestion on the highways gets worse.
We know from overseas experience just how desperate the situation has become. Those of us who, fortunately or unfortunately, have visited Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Madrid and a host of other cities know just what a nightmare the motor vehicle has become.
– Some of us are not as lucky as you.
-I said ‘fortunately or unfortunately’. It eats petrol, steel, rubber, money, lives, space and people’s sanity in a way that would have seemed inconceivable 30 years ago. It caused almost single-handedly the economic crisis of the last 3 to 4 years, because the problems with oil and petrol flowed over into the whole problem of the motor vehicle- our inability to use the existing high consumption vehicles, the need for vehicles in toto the decline in the use of oil and so on. We are still suffering from the 1973 Arab war and the aftermath of the oil price rise by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The problem can be backtracked primarily to the motor vehicle.
We know what is happening, but we do little or nothing about it. Certainly there has been some questioning of our priorities. To the credit of the State Labor governments of New South Wales and South Australia and the former Federal Labor Government, there has been greater emphasis on public transport, and less on private transport. It still seems to me that there is no long-term planning of the general direction of transport in Australia. Our approach is on an ad hoc, day to day or, at best, year to year basis. Urban freeway projects in Sydney and Adelaide have been abandoned, and more money has been allocated to rail and bus transport. There have been some worthwhile attempts to ban the use of private motor vehicles from sections of towns and cities and to turn those areas into plazas for the use of people instead of vehicles. For the most part, our approach has been tentative and lacking in exciting experimentation.
I do not pretend that I have the answers to the problems. I do not pretend that the Labor Party has the answers. I do not think it is so much a question of a party having a socialist solution or a free enterprise solution; I think it is a question to which we do not know the answer. I think we could use a little more adventure and excitement in our approach to the subject. Firstly, I think it is essential that we look at our transport problems as a whole, not separately in terms of road, rail, sea or air transport. We must see that our transport planners and our urban planners work closely together, not as separate entities concerned with expanding their own empires and to hell with everybody else. We ought to be looking at the future of the private automobile and its role not for the next 3 or 5 years but for the next 50 years.
When I look at the vision and imagination of our forefathers 100 years ago I am staggered that they had the courage to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on railways, roads, and telegraphic communication. The public investment in railways in the latter part of the nineteenth century was unbelievable. A small country, in population terms, managed to raise the finance, mostly from Britain, to spread a network across a continent. Most of the railway network that now crisscrosses the nation was completed during that period. A similiar situation applies with roads and the telegraph. During the 1920s another upsurge of public investment occurred in radio, irrigation, soldier settlement schemes and urban facilities. The interesting thing was that the investment was not by Labor governments; most of it was by conservative governments. I notice the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) nodding his head. Much of the expenditure was unnecessary. Much of it was wasteful. Much of it was blatent, unabashed pork-barrelling, but the money was expended. The heavy borrowings from Great Britain were one of the major causes of the economic problems which faced the Scullin Government during the Depression.
– You are always stiff.
-If the honourable member knows anything at all about economic history, he will know that is a fact. I am sure the honourable member for Mackellar would agree with me.
– I do not, but it was a good try.
-He does not.
– He has never been partial to facts.
-Perhaps the honourable member for Oxley, who knows more about economics than anybody else in this House at the moment, would agree with me.
– Does he know more than the honourable member for Adelaide?
-I said ‘anybody else in this House at the moment’. The honourable member for Mackellar is trying to score a cheap political point. I am talking about members in the House at the moment. Obviously the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) is a match. For all the overcapitalisation there were great benefits for Australia. Despite what I said about over investment and the pork-barrelling, there were great benefits for Australia. The network of roads, railways, telecommunications and urban investment laid the basis or the infrastructure for the expansion that was possible when more profitable times came in the 1 950s.
Why is it that we were so adventurous during the period 1870 to 1928-29 and so lacking in vision in the period when we had 3 times the population and 100 times the income? The gamble was taken then when we rode almost totally on the sheep’s back with a little help from agriculture and mining. When Australia has a far stronger economic base because of its vast array of natural resources our present Government baulks on making the public investment that is essential to develop our highways and to tackle the problems of urban congestion.
– Do you want an increase in tax?
– The honourable member makes an aside about taxation. This has always been the problem. Either you tax people or you borrow money. I believe that our proposal to borrow large sums of money from overseas would have been a way of financing it just as conservative governments borrowed hundreds of millions- and in today’s terms billions- in the 1 870s to build railways.
– I like the united front with the Arabs.
-I have no objection to Arab money- none whatsoever. Is the honourable member casting a racist slur on the Arabs? In the 1870s and the 1880s the surplus capital was in America. Later on it was in Britain. Today it is in the Arab countries. I am quite happy to do business with the Arabs. The question is: Will they do business with me? The Whitlam Labor Government initiatives in tackling the problem of constructing a national highway of international standards was one of the many superb achievements that was long overdue and received little or no recognition by the media or the public when it was announced and when it was commenced. It should have been received in much the same way as the Snowy Mountains scheme. It is to the eternal shame of the present Government that when it was in office from 1949 to 1972 it made absolutely no attempt to construct a national highway, instead it allowed the major links between Australia’s major cities Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide to deteriorate into fourth class rural roads. Huge trucks, semi-trailers and private cars competed with one another on narrow gutted roads that must have been embarrassed to be graced with the name ‘highway’. Hundreds and hundreds of people were killed and injured on these roads because the federal Government in its allocation of funds preferred to pander to the whims of pharochial interests instead of getting on with the job of building a multi-lane divided highway that connected the major cities of Australia. In a speech I made in the House on the 10 November 1971 -
– I remember that speech.
-I know. The Minister has quoted from it often. It is one of the few things that I give the Minister credit for. He does not do many intelligent things but he reads my speeches and he uses them. I commend him for that. In that speech I pointed out that on the Hume Highway between Sydney and Albury approximately 100 people were killed every year. For many complex reasons it is difficult to estimate how many people are killed travelling on existing highways, or rather how many people’s lives would be saved if there was a major 4-lane divided highway connecting the cities. These difficulties in calculation occur because not all those people on existing highways would necessarily be travelling on a new highway. Those who travel on alternative routes may choose to use the new highway when it is constructed, and so on. However, overseas experience has shown that whenever a new, autostrata, autobahn or expressway replaced a conventional 2-lane road the death toll dropped by approximately 70 per cent.
Let me make it clear that the number of people killed and injured is far less than it would have been if it had not been for the Australian initiative of introducing compulsory seat belts legislation and the work of Ralph Nader in forcing automobile manufacturers to stop producing death traps and start producing vehicles that gave the occupant a chance of survival if involved in a crash. These 2 factors coming together as they did in 1970 and 1971 have significantly reduced the number of people killed and injured in Australia. If one looks at the ‘passenger motor vehicle safety’ graph on page 160 of the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety one can see that since 1970 there has been an effective 25 per cent reduction in the number of vehicle occupants killed and a 21 per cent reduction in injuries. For Victoria, where enforcement of seat belt legislation has been tougher the figures are 38 per cent and 4 1 per cent respectively. This is a staggering result in that State.
Australia has made great strides in cutting our toll, or should I say stopping the numbers from increasing, as they must have done with increased population, and increased number of drivers more cars and more mileage driven. Had the death toll continued to climb from 1970 onwards, as it had climbed inexorably during the past 30 years, Australia would have been losing between 4250 and 4500 people per annum, instead in 1975 there were 3694 killed and in 1976 there were 3584. These are still horrifying numbers, particularly when one multiplies these figures by 19 to 20 times to obtain the number injured. But it is a vast saving when one considers what it might have been. This saving has been due to seat belt legislation and improved motor vehicles. Although the national highway programs have been going for 3 years, by the very nature of highway construction and the need for planning, designs and construction, the effect of the $243m spent in the years 1974-76 and the $ 156.8m being expended in this financial year have had little impact as yet.
Those of us who drive down to Canberra from Sydney along the Hume Highway must have witnessed the changes that are taking place, particularly at Yanderra where new work covers 30 kilometres. We will see a very significantly changed highway when that section is opened. That is the sort of thing that has to happen all over Australia. The prospects for this highway look good and improvements will take place as a result of the national highway program. We have to give a higher priority to national highways. They are of benefit to all Australians.
During the period of time in which the Labor Government was in office grants were adjusted between urban local, urban rural, arterial roads and so on. The Labor Government initiated the first expenditure on national highways. I noticed that the Minister for Transport, who is at the table, gave a gentle serve the other day to gentlemen from Victoria. They are a grossly dishonest bunch of people when it comes to making their own alley good. They will say anything or do anything. They will take anything that is given to them. One might give them $ 100m extra in one area, but if there is a drop of $lm in another area they will never stop telling all the local people what a pack of so-and-sos you are. The Labor Government increased expenditure on national highways and dropped expenditure in other areas. Of course, national highways are of benefit to all Australians. They benefit people from the city and people from the country. It is true that they do not benefit every country town.
But a highway from Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra to Albury to Melbourne to Adelaide and then of course, later on, to further extremities of Australia will benefit almost every Australian, whether he is in the city or the country, whereas some of the expenditure on urban and local roads benefits very few people- usually the local shire president and his mates.
I am concerned at the failure of the Government to provide long term commitments in respect of our highways. Unfortunately we in Australia are suffering from the Malcolm Fraser, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand philosophy that there is no such thing as a free lunch. This, of course, is a lot of simplistic rubbish. There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but a good lunch means that you build up your strength for later in the day. Planning expenditure on things such as this- roads and highways- saves lives and saves money for years to come. It has an effect on the economy because of savings in freight and the capacity to move freely around the country. I might say that I am enjoying the interjections which the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) is trying to make. I will discuss them in greater detail with him later so that the honourable member can make a contribution himself.
– We are enjoying your speech.
-I can hear the honourable gentleman nodding his agreement. The advantage to the defence system is invaluable. I hesitate to think- I am sure the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) will agree- what would happen if we ever had to move troops, tanks and equipment from one end of Australia to the other quickly. If some of the roads were blown up we would have to ask the Russians or whoever we were fighting to wait a few weeks until we got the roads fixed. Of course tourism, an area of great interest, will be greatly advanced with decent highways.
I have been talking primarily about inter-city highways. Time does not permit me to go on and speak for as long as I would like about urban roads and urban arterials. I still think we have to come up with solutions to diminish the traffic congestion in the cities. I do not know the answers. We ought to be looking at perhaps reintroducing trams and at the number of buses. We ought to be looking at railways. There are many problems.
– Melbourne has trams.
-The Minister is right. Maybe we need to reintroduce them in Sydney. There is a problem with railways. We have seen the enormous expenditure on the eastern suburbs railway in Sydney without result. What the answers are I do not know. The BART system in San Francisco, which was hailed as the great answer, apparently is not producing the results that were expected. We need to look at staggered working hours and penalties to discourage motorists and stop giving into pressure groups who want us to go on spending as we are.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) in the course of his speech referred to me as a racist because I had criticised the Australian Labor Party’s attempts to get money out of the Arabs. Let me assure him that my reference had no racist connotation. My criticism was directed to the fact that the leader of the Labor Party, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), had shamefully tried to sell out Australia and to deviate his policy in order to get money out of the Arabs.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat. There is a point of order.
– I think if the honourable member for Mackellar looks at the Hansard report he will see that I said he cast a racist slur on the Arabs by this comment. I did not accuse him of being a racist. Of course the honourable member for Mackellar cannot resist the temptation to get in and kick any head he can.
-Order! The honourable member has made his point.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat. I believe he has made his point. I call the honourable member for Ballaarat.
-This Bill to abolish the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads is an important Bill and one which I believe has perhaps been misunderstood in various quarters as to its effects. The Bureau of Roads has earned since its creation in 1964 an enviable reputation for the quality of its research and its advice to government through the Minister for Transport on road funding needs. As well, as the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) said in his second reading speech on the Bill, the Bureau has been a leader and an innovator in the fields of transport data collection and of analytical and evaluation procedures. Most importantly, it has developed and adapted these techniques to total systems of public works rather than the project approach which is still predominant in many other areas of public works.
I congratulate the Bureau on the excellent work it has performed. We as a nation are better off as a result of the professional and objective approach the Board has consistently adopted at all times. If I thought that this Bill to repeal the Bureau of Roads and to amalgamate it into a new organisation was going to mean that the professionalism, expertise and independence of the Bureau would be lost to Australia then I would oppose the Bill. But it seems clear to me from the Minister’s second reading speech that not only would this be quite at odds with the Government’s intentions but as well there is no prospect that this will happen in practice. Indeed, the opposite is likely to be the case.
The amalgamation of the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics into a new organisation also to be known as the Bureau of Transport Economics is a logical step and one which should bring considerable benefits in helping to co-ordinate the independent research work and advice flowing to government over the whole range of transport. It is perhaps unfortunate that the name of the new organisation, the Bureau of Transport Economics, is the same as that of one of the 2 existing bureaux which are being amalgamated, although it is the logical name for the organisation. It conjures up notions of a takeover of the Bureau of Roads by the BTE, but I accept the Minister’s clear assurances that this is not the fact.
I have in my electorate, as have other honourable members, particularly in Victoria, received strong representation from local government authorities, including the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, about the amalgamation of the Bureau of Roads into a new Bureau of Transport Economics. I respect the views of these representatives. I have met with many of them and I am impressed with the points they have raised not only in relation to this matter but as well in relation to the much broader issue of policy towards roads.
Local government has requested, firstly that the amalgamation should be effected by legislation rather than administrative decision; secondly, that the new Bureau should be attached to the Department of Transport rather than incorporated within the Department; thirdly, that all previous policy advisory functions should be maintained; fourthly, that advice from the Bureau should be direct to the Minister for Transport; and fifthly, that the Director should have senior status and a high level of professional and administrative autonomy. The Minister in his second reading speech has met local government wishes in respect of the third and fourth points and, I believe, the fifth point.
So far as the first 2 points are concerned, as I understand it, the main reason for local government requests was to ensure the independence of the new bureau in its research and advisory capacities. It is technically not necessary for the new organisations to be effected by legislation in order to obtain this independence. The existing Bureau of Transport Economics was not established by legislation; yet it has the same autonomy as the Bureau of Roads, which was established by legislation. The Director of the existing BTE has direct access to the Minister in precisely the same way as does the Chairman of the Bureau of Roads.
The existing Bureau of Transport Economics has also built up a highly regarded expertise and objectivity in its 5 to 6 years of existence. Its work has been commended both in Australia and overseas. As the Minister said, neither its integrity nor its independence of operation has ever been challenged. The Minister has stated unequivocally that ‘the new body will act as independently in undertaking research and supplying advice as the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics have in the past’. I accept that assurance and I hope that local government does too. Let me assure local government that if experience does not bear this out then I will be at the forefront in raising the matter with the Minister.
It is vital to the economy of this nation that we have the most efficient and cost-effective transport system that it is possible to achieve. The various arms of the transport sector are in many ways closely interrelated. There is therefore a very strong argument that there should be one organisation within the framework of government that can undertake research and provide objective advice on the various forms of transport in a co-ordinated manner. Because of our large geographic area, the dispersion around Australia of our main centres of population and therefore internal markets and because of our isolation from world markets, the cost of transport assumes huge dimensions for Australia. Transport comprises 25 per cent to 30 per cent of gross domestic product. Its share of gross national expenditure is similar. We therefore clearly have a vested interest in improving our transport efficiency. The transport industry is facing huge challenges and rapid change. We must be equipped to meet these challenges and this change. I am hopeful that the new Bureau of Transport Economics will be up to the task because it will have a vital role to play.
I will come back to other parts of the transport sector shortly, but first let me dwell for a moment on the question of the funding of roads. The Australian Council of Local Government Associations has recently produced a booklet entitled Local Government at End of Road. I would commend this booklet to all honourable members. It contains many vital facts and figures relating to the funding of roads in Australia. In particular, it draws attention to the difficulties that local government faces in financing its share of roads expenditure, particularly on rural and urban local roads. It points out that the original task of local government was in fact to provide and maintain roads, and that this responsibility remains one of local government’s most important functions. The booklet makes the highly valid point that there are increasing demands on local government resources and a diminishing capacity to meet these demands.
Tonight I do not want to go into the details of the figures which the ACLGA has produced other than to say that I trust that the Minister and the Government will give them the closest consideration when taking decisions in the period ahead in relation to the Roads Grants Act. I have some difficulty in accepting all the points made by the ACLGA but I agree completely with the Association’s basic contention that Australia needs good, safe and efficient roads and that failure to meet this need will only restrict the nation’s economic arteries and allow a major national asset to waste.
It is quite clear from the Association’s submission that one of the basic problems facing local government in the area of roads funding is that of inflation. The Association has pointed out that inflation in the road construction industry has been increasing since 1970 at an average annual rate of 14.6 per cent, which is half as much again as the average increase in the consumer price index. The Fraser Government has taken major strides along the road to reducing inflation. Its efforts have yielded success. But there is still a long way to go. Unless we as a community recognise this, and demonstrate a better willingness to co-operate together to fight inflation than we have in recent times, not only road construction and maintenance but also a vast number of other desirable programs will be frustrated and our national living standards will be eroded.
As a Federal Parliament we also need to give further consideration to the principles and practice of the concept of federalism because this will have a major influence on the ability of both State and local governments to play their part, along with the Federal Government, in adequately financing road needs. The Fraser Government made a giant step forward in 1976 by greatly increasing the amount of untied funds going to both State and local governments. More will be done this year. But in so doing we need to give the closest consideration to what we as a community expect of local government. If we are going to devolve more and more functions and responsibilities to local government we must give it the funds to carry out these added tasks. We must also give it the time to so build up its capacity in human resource terms as to enable it to fulfil these responsibilities.
The basic reason why I support the Bill before the House is that I believe that the amalgamation of the Bureau of Roads and the existing Bureau of Transport Economics will enable the new organisation to provide better advice to government on the transport sector as a whole. Roads are of tremendous importance. So is rail and air transport. So too is sea transport. What we have to do is to determine community priorities in the allocation of funds between these different modes of transport, each of which performs a specialised role. We also have to determine priorities between the transport sector as a whole and all the other demands on the taxpayer’s dollar.
In my concluding remarks I wish to draw attention to the problems facing sea transport in Australia. In a continent of our size and geographic dispersion of population and our distance from overseas markets, sea transport is of great importance. Yet various factors have militated against sea transport developing its proper role in recent years. Indeed in the last 10 years the role of sea transport has declined dramatically due to a massive deterioration in its economics relative to other modes of transport. As a result, we are badly misallocating our resources in the transport area and as a nation we are therefore suffering a loss in our real income relative to what it should be. I hope that the new
Bureau of Transport Economics will pay particular attention to the problems facing sea transport. There appear to be 2 main problems. The first is industrial unrest in areas connected with sea transport. One has only to instance the chaos being caused to the beef industry in Queensland at the moment as a result of a demarcation dispute at the Brisbane container terminal. The cost to the nation of this and similar disputes on the waterfront is enormous. The cost to beef producers, already suffering desperate circumstances, is nothing short of criminal.
The second problem is the operating cost of Australian vessels and coastal and overseas shipping. Taking into account different crewing requirements and different rates of pay, we find that for every $1 spent on a British seaman on a British merchant ship, the equivalent cost for an Australian ship is $3.60. Even the costs of crewing Scandinavian ships, whilst these are twice as much as for British ships, are only SS per cent of Australian crew costs. The base pay of an able seaman on an Australian merchant ship in late 1976- the rate would now be higher- was $18,000 a year. On top of that there were the usual holiday loadings and superannuation benefits available under a master scheme. The able seaman is provided with an individual cabin with self-contained toilet and shower facilities. He has a choice of meal at each sitting. Colour television is now mandatory on Australian ships. As of November 1976 the able seaman worked 28 weeks a year. At that time moves were being made to have this reduced to 26 weeks but I have not had time to check whether this has come to pass. On Australian merchant ships there is a requirement of one steward for every 9 seamen. There is currently a union demand that stewards who are serving the seamen should themselves have a steward to serve them. How crazy can things get? Australian crews have the best accommodation and the best conditions of service of any seamen in the world.
It is not only in crewing where our costs of sea transport have become astronomical Waterside labourers earn for a 26-hour week 20 per cent to 25 per cent more than the national average weekly earnings including overtime. Our ports have become the most expensive in the world. The cost per man hour of waterside labour in Australia rose by 1 98 per cent- that is, it trebled -between 1967 and 1975. There have been further large increases since then. The cost of coastal freighting in Australia has become prohibitive. My latest figures are for September 1976. They would be worse now. In September 1976 the total freight cost of delivering steel rails from Port Hedland to Japan was $32 per tonne. The cost from Port Kembla to Port Hedland was $44 per tonne. It is more expensive to ship steel from Port Kembla to Kwinana than it is from Port Kembla to the Philippines.
Industrial stoppages also play a major role in increasing freight costs. Of the 7670 ship days available to the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd fleet in 1975-76, more than 12 per cent of these days were lost because of industrial stoppages at sea or on the waterfront. This was the equivalent of 2V4 ships being idle for the whole year. As a result of these factors, coastal shipping has become increasingly uneconomic. As a result, rail freighting is being substituted for coastal freighting. This is almost unheard of in the annals of world transport over the distances we are talking about in Australia. Ten years ago BHP used coastal shipping almost exclusively for transporting its products. Now more than 60 per cent of steel products from Whyalla to Brisbane go by rail. More than 50 per cent of steel products from Newcastle to Brisbane go the same way. Even in regard to deliveries to Melbourne from Port Kembla 25 per cent go by rail, despite substantial investment by the company in roll-on roll-off vessels.
These are sad commentaries on where we have headed in Australia in recent years. These trends must be reversed. In Australia we face a tyranny of distance both within Australia and between Australia and the rest of the world. We must have an efficient multimodal transport system. I am confident that the new Bureau of Transport Economics will play a major role in research in this area and in expert and objective advice to government on these matters. At the same time there is no reason whatsoever to doubt that the degree of attention paid to road needs in Australia by the Bureau of Roads will not be maintained by the new Bureau of Transport Economics. On the contrary, the facts suggest that road needs will receive even closer attention by the new organisation. Accordingly, I support the Bill.
– I have been rather interested to hear the debate on this Bill for the repeal of the Bureau of Roads. It seems to me that there has been a great deal of agreement amongst honourable members in a debate on the various modes of transport and on what we should bc discussing. However, I think that I should bring the House back to some reality. What the Bill deals with is the repeal of the Act under which the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads was established. One of the grounds on which the Opposition is opposing this Bill is that there is to be nothing in its place in the sense that this Parliament has had an opportunity to consider the legislation and to consider the powers which will be given to the alternative amalgamated body. AH that we have is the assurance of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that the amalgamation is going to result in certain things taking place but in fact what will happen is that the amalgamated body will disappear into the Department of Transport. We on this side of the House express concern that that will remove this body from the consideration of the House and that it will be too susceptible to manipulation by various means and that in fact its operations will not be public enough for the various investigations being carried out to be seen. This, of course, is consistent with the general style of the Fraser Government in so many matters.
I had occasion last week to comment that in governmental matters last year there were 300 regulations, I think, put forward, which was a record during the time of this Government for any one year. There was this tendency to remove the overview of the executive from the Parliament, where it properly rests. This is one of the objections we have to the repeal of this Act. We do not oppose an amalgamation of functions, but we believe that if there is to be an amalgamation of functions they should be clearly spelled out and the job that is to be carried out should be defined before this Parliament. We all have our particular reasons for showing interest in this legislation. I have 2 major reasons for showing interest. One is that I have had some contact with members of the staff of the present Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and I have heard their fears. Secondly, like so many other honourable members I have been approached by the local government organisations acting in concert as well as by one of my own local government organisations, the council of the City of Preston. I found the cases that they put had great persuasive influence. In regard to my own local council, I point out that it is predominantly a conservative council with 8 non-Labor members and 4 Labor members. So if its arguments are persuasive they must have a fair amount of basis to them.
I would like to deal with the staff matter in fairness to the staff and in fairness to the Minister. The staff fears expressed indicate the very indefinite nature of the proposition that has been put forward. Members of the staff feel that despite the length of time involved they do not have a clear concept of what is going on. I will read a paragraph from the letter I received from two of the staff representing the Australian Public Service Association and the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association members in the Bureau of Roads. Amongst other things, they say:
No doubt you are aware that ‘amalgamation’ was first announced in May 1976 and, hence, almost 12 months has elapsed -
This was written on 16 March- and members of the staff of the Bureau of Roads are still left wondering and worrying. We have been given many assurances by the Minister and officers of the Department of Transport but none of these assurances appear to be being honoured. We are continually frustrated in our efforts to obtain positive information about our futures as correspondence, whether it emanates from us, from the Bureau, or from our staff associations inevitably finishes up in the Department of Transport and is not answered.
On 2 occasions- on 2 December last year and yesterday- I addressed questions to the Minister on these matters and he gave answers to those questions without notice. I would add that in reference to yesterday’s question he was courteous enough to give me a more detailed answer after he had had a chance to consider the question put to him. Rather than read that answer to the House I think that to complete the picture it should be incorporated in Hansard. I have discussed this with the Minister. I seek leave to have the letter of yesterday’s date written to me by the Minister for Transport incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows- 29 March 1977
Dear Dr Jenkins,
In response to a question you asked me without notice today, I undertook to provide you with further information regarding a questionnaire received in my Department from twenty two members of the staff of the Secretary’s Division of the Bureau of Roads.
I have now determined the facts relating to the questionnaire and these are set out below.
On 17 November 1976 I announced the formation of a new body attached to the Department of Transport to be called the Bureau of Transport Economics and indicated, amongst other things, that the functions of the new body would include the existing functions of the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics.
Within a few days of that announcement the Secretary of my Department visited the Bureau of Roads’ premises in Melbourne and addressed the staff.
On 30 November 1976 the Secretary of my Department received a letter from the Chairman of the Bureau of Roads enclosing a questionnaire prepared by staff of the Secretary’s Division of the Bureau.
The Secretary of my Department referred that letter to his First Assistant Secretary, Management Services, for appropriate action.
Early in December 1976 the First Assistant Secretary, Management Services, visited the Bureau of Roads and held discussions with the Secretary of the Bureau. The Secretary of the Bureau is in charge of the Bureau’s Secretary’s Division from which the questionnaire originated.
In January 1977 the First Assistant Secretary, Management Services, held discussions with the Australian Public Service Association (Fourth Division Officers).
During the discussions held by the Secretary of my Department and his First Assistant Secretary, undertakings were given to the staff of the Bureau that, in accordance with Government policies, provision would be made to safeguard the rights of officers and employees of the Bureau. It was also indicated that the Department had commenced negotiations with the Public Service Board on the machinery of transfer of non-Public Service Act staff from the Bureau of Roads to the Department.
In January 1977 a joint departmental/Public Service Board review team was established to develop the organisation structure of the new Bureau of Transport Economics. This review is still proceeding. During the course of the review staff at all levels of both Bureaux have been given the opportunity to contribute to the development of the new structure and action is currently being taken to give all staff an opportunity to comment on the proposed organisation. Also, during this review further consultations were held with representatives of staff from all areas of the Bureau of Roads with particular emphasis on the matters raised in the questionnaire.
On 15 March 1977 a letter was sent from my Department to the Chairman of the Bureau of Roads referring specifically to the questionnaire from the staff of the Secretary’s Division of the Bureau. In this letter the Chairman was asked to let my Department know if there are any matters which the staff of the Secretary’s Division considered to be still unanswered. I might add that the Secretary of the Bureau of Roads has joined with officers of my Department during recent discussions with officers of the Public Service Board relating to staffing aspects of the amalgamation.
In conclusion, I would like to say that some of the matters raised by staff of the Secretary’s Division cannot be finally resolved until the ultimate organisation for the new Bureau has been approved and implemented. I am confident, however, that the rights of all staff are being fully protected and you have my assurance that I will keep you fully informed of all significant developments.
Yours sincerely, P. J. NIXON
-I thank the House. I do not now have to read out the detail. The staff of the Bureau can see the steps that were taken in this matter and perhaps they themselves can work out where the misunderstanding has occurred. But it is obvious on any consideration that the main problem they have had is this proposition that the Bureau be replaced- that it loses its independent existence and that there is to be some sort of amalgamation with the Bureau of Transport Economics. Although we are assured that this amalgamated body will have its independence preserved, it Will disappear into the Department under the control of the Minister and away from the sight of interested bodies and away from the sight of the Parliament itself. As I said before, it is not the amalgamation that worries the Opposition; it is the fact that the proposed new body has no definition. Its financing will be at the mercy of the Minister in charge of the Department. It will not function independently and we will not have oversight of what goes on.
Having said that because it is relative to what the staff communicated to me I would like now to refer to correspondence that I received from my local government body because I think it serves as the basis of this consideration. In a letter of December 1976 the Council of the City of Preston thanked me for supporting its campaign to retain the Bureau as an independent statutory authority able to prepare expert reports on road needs in this country. That is where the emphasis is as it concerns this local government authorityon road needs of the whole of the country and of the road needs of its area in particular. The letter goes on to point out that the need for such an organisation is borne out by the trend of events. The letter reads:
The level of Commonwealth financial assistance, in real terms, is decreasing constantly and a greater portion of the taxes levied on the motorist is being absorbed into general revenue.
That opens up another avenue that a body such as this should be dealing with and the old userpays principle should be spelled out. How do we define this? Do we just leave it to general revenue? The letter continues:
The Bureau of Roads has commented that if resources are directed from roads indefinitely while traffic continues to grow, road allocations will need to be boosted substantially to overcome the backlog. Local government, because it is dependent basically on property taxes, does not have the same capacity to increase revenue as State and Federal Governments. Even so, local government met 38 per cent of road costs in 1974-75.
With the devolution under this Government another factor comes into the picture, because local government bodies are going to be even further deprived by the manner in which finance will reach them through the Grants Commission. One would like to examine the submissions that were made recently to the Grants Commission to see whether every factor that affects local government was put by the Government to the Grants Commission. One would like to see whether, for example, environmental factors were considered in relation to transport and other functions of local government.
Unemployment Benefit- National Memorial-Reunion of East Timorese Families-Strikes in Victorian Meatworks-Trade Union Training-Rights of University Students
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977,I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Today I was rather appalled to learn 2 things. The first was that because of the Government’s obsession with what it calls dole bludgers it now intends actively to pursue that matter to the point of appointing a person to inquire into and report upon it. That was bad enough. The other thing that appalled me was that the person who was appointed to perform that task was Professor David Myers who, I have been told, is from La Trobe University. I want to make it quite clear now that I make no personal reference to that person but rather do I look at it from another standpoint.
– I think he has just retired.
-My colleague, the honourable member for Scullin, reminds me that the Professor himself is unemployed because he has just retired. I understand he holds membership of the Melbourne Club, is well known to the establishment in Melbourne, and is not unfamiliar with the Liberal Party. It seems to be a very curious choice of person to look into the affairs of the unemployed and to try to understand the tragedy confronting those who through no fault of their own find themselves unemployed. Many of those people have been unemployed for some considerable time and I think they draw very cold comfort from the expression used by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), namely, that life was not meant to be easy. The only problem with that slogan is that the author of it did not learn it from experience.
The Fraser Government has done nothing to honour the promises given before December 1975 during the election campaign. It said: ‘We will ensure that jobs exist for all those who want them ‘. In the intervening period the unemployment situation has deteriorated, and there are more people unemployed now that there were at that time. There are fewer job vacancies available for those who are unemployed.
-Not true. It is exactly the same percentage.
-The cockey from Bendigo is bellowing out something in the background to the effect that the Government inherited it from us. I want to make quite plain the text of the promise given by the present Prime Minister of Australia who is not trusted by more than half of the people in Australia. He made this promise: ‘We will ensure that jobs exist for all those who want them’. He was not able to keep that promise. He knew at the time that he could not keep it, and he has done nothing since to remedy the situation. At the present moment we have 346 000-odd people registered as unemployed, of whom only 245 000- I draw attention to this- are receiving the unemployment benefit. This means that 100 000 people in this country who are registered for work are not drawing the unemployment benefit. Are they dole bludgers? For those people there are only 29 000 registered job vacancies. Are the dole bludgers the people who make up the difference between the 29 000 registered job vacancies and the 346 000 people registered as being unemployed? Let us not forget that it is the Government’s economic policies which are keeping those people unemployed.
Having taken the action that it has, having brought those people to the point of suffering the misery and the degradation that go with unemployment, the Government insults them further by calling them dole bludgers. As though that is not enough, it then appoints a person from the establishment to inquire into the matter of unemployment. Why did the Government not appoint somebody who has some understanding of social welfare issues and an understanding of social problems? That would ensure that the inquiry brings down a correct finding. I am appalled that somebody was appointed to conduct such an inquiry, but I am even more appalled at the fact that the person appointed has had no contact for many years with the people involved and that he is a retired professor from a university. He is probably a man of the highest integrity but, like the Prime Minister, perhaps did not learn from experience the meaning of the slogan that life was not meant to be easy. Those are the sorts of things that disturb the community, as the Government will find out when next it faces the people. The wrath of the people against the Government is growing, and the Government will feel it. The whole question of unemployment certainly needs examination but it should not be started from the position of calling people dole cheats or dole bludgers, and sooling somebody on to them.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to speak tonight in favour of the proposition that the Government, at an appropriate time when the economic situation is somewhat more beneficial than it is at present, should establish a national memorial in Canberra. Every nation needs an amalgam of folklore, history and symbols on which to build a national identity. However many Australians, especially the younger ones, appear to have some difficulty in identifying with the substance of our heritage and migrant communities coming from many older nations than ours have faced a similar problem. These people need to be able to identify themselves with the wealth which has been given to this nation by the individual contributions of many of our citizens in the past. In fact, our history has been created by many outstanding personalities. It is worth keeping in mind the fact that the British have their Westminster Abbey, the French their Pantheon, and the Americans their Arlington. But our country is significantly bereft of national monuments which enable Australians to associate their nation’s past with the present and the future.
I suggest that the Government would do a great service to the Australian people, both present and future generations, if it agreed to the establishment in Canberra of a national memorial on an appropriate site such as the slopes of Mount Ainslie behind the War Memorial and overlooking the Parliamentary Triangle. I envisage that in a garden setting would be laid the remains of many outstanding men and women who have, since 1 788, played such a major role in the foundation and the later development of this nation. Recent reports concerning the condition of Caroline Chisholm ‘s grave in Great Britain and the recollection that I have of the graves of various other people, essentially in Great Britain, leads me to conclude that merely putting a wreath on their tombs occasionally is not really a fitting indication of the fact that this nation owes much to them. For example, Arthur Phillip is in the Church of St Nicholas in Bathampton; Sir Joseph Banks is in Heston Church, near Hounslow in Essex; William Balmain is in the Church of St Giles in the Field, London; Caroline Chisholm is in Northampton; Mathew Flinders is at St James Church, Hampstead Road, London; Lachlan Macquarie is on his estate at Mull in Scotland; and, last but not least, the much maligned figure of William Bligh is in St Mary’s, Lambeth Palace. They are but a small sample of the many people who are to be found not only in Great Britain but elsewhere and who I think we could do well to consider returning to these shores.
It is worth keeping in mind that some 200 000 Australians visit the Australian War Memorial annually. That demonstrates a need which many people have for some concept of our historical roots, where we came from and, hopefully, where we are going. However, I think it would be wrong if people were encouraged to believe that a nation’s identity has been formed solely on the field of battle. I envisage that a national memorial would contain also the remains of the early explorers such as Blaxland, Lawson, perhaps even Wentworth, if the present honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) would allow us to have him there, Hume, Hovell, Sturt and many others; the fathers of Federation such as Parkes, Forrest, Barton; outstanding military leaders such as General Monash and Sir Thomas Blarney; and of course all Victoria Cross winners of the past and the present. The arts and letters could be represented by such outstanding Australians as Dame Nellie Melba, Banjo Paterson and, of course, many other people who have made such a great contribution in the past.
– C. J. Dennis.
– Henry Lawson.
-Of course, Henry Lawson, C. J. Dennis and many others; the list is indefinite. What I suggest is that the Government should at least consider the principle of establishing such a national memorial and, perhaps with the assistance of the National Heritage Commission and the National Trust, a committee could be established to investigate fairly soon precisely where many of our pioneers are buried. So, when funds are made available, the appropriate movement can take place. I believe that this project would not be unduly expensive as the land is available in areas of Canberra. Maintenance and reinterment of the remains of early pioneers would be the main expense, but I envisage that many families would be happy to cooperate if they knew that their ancestors or relatives were to be given a place of national honour. I believe that although Australia is still a young country, we cannot afford to ignore our heritage. The fabric of the nation has been woven by millions of Australians over succeeding generations and it is surely appropriate that those who have made an outstanding contribution should not be forgotten.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to raise a matter in the adjournment debate tonight on which, unfortunately, I was not allowed to speak earlier this evening. It was in regard to a statement made by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) on family reunions involving East Timorese. I would like to quote to the Minister part of a verse from The Merchant of Venice and commend it to him. It states:
The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath:
It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
In referring to this passage, I am not necessarily putting the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in the same category as that well known character, Shylock. But when one hears from the Minister statements such as he has made tonight with regard to what is a real issue- the issue of Timorese people and their reunion with their relatives who are presently in Australia- he shows a shocking lack of sympathy with the problems confronting these people. For a start, the statement which he made referred to these people who come from East Timor as evacuees. There is a very great difference in the terminology ‘evacuee’ and ‘refugee’. I do not know the reason the Minister referred in the statement to these people from East Timor as evacuees. The surprising aspect is that the communique issued after the visit of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to Indonesia in 1976 referred to these people as refugees. There may not seem to be a great deal of difference in the words ‘evacuees’ and ‘refugees’, but there is a difference. I know how the Public Service operates and I know the constraints which will be placed on people who are classed as evacuees rather than refugees. I do not refer only to the people from East Timor who are presently in Australia and who are seeking some reconciliation with very close relatives, in some cases, from East Timor.
The Minister, in making the statement tonight, announced that there would be restrictions on who would be allowed into Australia. These restrictions would be by way of sponsored nominations which are acceptable under the family reunion policy. To my surprise and, I think, to the surprise of most honourable members who expected that the Minister would be announcing some widening of the normal criteria for people coming to Australia, he did not do so. All that he has done with regard to those people from East Timor who are presently in Australia and who are trying to get their relatives out from East Timor is to put exactly the same conditions on them as are put on people from any other country who are coming into Australia.
– That is a callous attitude.
-As the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) says, and he is probably one of the better speakers in this Parliament, that is a callous attitude. The acceptable categories, which will be considered as announced by the Minister, are spouses, minor dependent children and parents of Australian residents. Those are exactly the same conditions which apply to anybody coming into Australia, whether an evacuee or a refugee. Those relatives who have employment skills and experience which are recognised and in demand in Australia are also acceptable. I ask the Minister whether he will apply the same conditions to the families of refugees- and they are refugees- presently in Australia as he applied to the people from wartorn Lebanon. If those same conditions are applicable as applied to the Lebanese people, there will be a far greater entry into Australia from East Timor of those people whose relatives are already in Australia. If he does that, I will not liken him to Shylock.
– I want to draw the attention of this House to the disruptive series of strikes presently being orchestrated in Victorian meatworks by the Victorian Branch of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union, the secretary of which is Mr Wally Curran. The dispute is over a 19 point log of claims put forward by the Union. I seek leave to have these incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– No, no!
– Have you shown it to anybody?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, Government speakers are ignoring the practice of showing to the Opposition documents which they want incorporated in Hansard. Leave is not granted .
-Leave is not granted.
-The dispute goes back almost 12 months. The log of claims was first submitted to Victorian meatworks operators about the middle of 1976. The operators rejected the log of claims, with 2 exceptions. The union in turn rejected this situation. The operators refused to renegotiate the matter with the union, but invited the union to take the full log of claims to arbitration and said it would abide by the Court’s decision. The union refused to do this. These happenings occurred in July 1 976. From then until a few weeks ago the union took no further action. In February, however, at the instigation of Mr Curran and the Negotiating Committee of the Victorian Branch, a resolution was passed that the log of claims continue to be pressed through industrial action, without arbitration, and that this industrial action take the form initially of a 3-day stoppage in the first week of the campaign, to be followed in the ensuing 3 weeks by a one day stoppage each week. After that the question of further action was to be considered. Rumours circulating in the industry have it that this further action could take the form of a 6-month stoppage.
The union also decided to black ban any member acting in any way to weaken the dispute. To quote the report by the union executive, published on 23 February 1977:
There can be no backing away from this stand- We cannot allow a handful of fools to disrupt our struggle.
The strike action commenced 2 weeks ago with a 3-day strike. This took place without any contact having been made by the union with the Victorian Meatworks Association since last July. I have two large meatworks in my own electorate. In at least one of them the employees were forced out on strike despite an earlier vote by them rejecting the union’s proposed course of action. Throughout Victoria some 5500 to 6000 men are involved. Twenty-one plants are affected, and seven to eight boning works.
It is interesting to note that the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union does not appear to be engaging in the same tactics of industrial lawlessness in other States. Is this perhaps because they do no have a Mr Curran as their Secretary? Mr Curran is quoted in the book Inside Australia’s Top 100 Trade Unions, as saying: ‘We’ve been involved in political strikes in this Branch’ that is, the Victorian Branch- ‘I suppose because of the Marxist thought in the union. But politics is part of unions’ province’! Again he said: ‘I don’t believe there is any place in the Union movement for collaboration with employers. I have nothing but contempt for employer groups’. It is no wonder there is such industrial lawlessness by the union in Victoria. It is no wonder that at least two of the meatworks in Victoria have in the 8 months to the end of February 1977 each lost 17 000 head of cattle in production, and 1 1 000 and 18 000 sheep respectively. It is no wonder the employees in each of these works have lost $250,000 in wages while on strike. It is no wonder it has been estimated that if the present situation continues, employees in meat works affected by the strikes will lose some $6m in wages each year.
The pressure for this lawlessness does not appear to be coming from the rank and file. This is for good reason, because it is they who are the losers- in lost wages and lost status in the communitynot Mr Curran who keeps on drawing his weekly pay regardless. The union’s log of claims is quite exorbitant. The 2 key claims are for a 9 day fortnight, with a proportional reduction in working hours, but without any reduction in wage payments, plus a $20 a week wage increase for all non-piece workers. These claims come from an industry where the wages of boners, beef slaughtermen and mutton slaughtermen have increased by up to 140 per cent since 1970 and of other employees in the industry by more.
This lawlessness is adding yet another major burden to already desperately hard pressed meat growers. It will lead to still more increases in the price of meat to consumers. It will add to inflationary pressures in the economy, and it will put at jeopardy the jobs of thousands of meat workers, particularly in country areas where alternative employment is difficult to find.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has not to this stage made a statement on the reformation of the Trade Union Training Authority. This raises the prospect that the TUTA could be left substantially underutilised during 1977 and 1978. The Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations has stated that Mount Eliza, Victoria, and the management training scheme at the University of New South Wales ‘could go’ as we know them today. The Minister should as a matter of urgency give a statement on another Fraser cutback and the attack on the Australian trade union movement. Today the media made statements on issues which affect us as Australians. Again these statements are in the Press and a reply has not come from the Minister. I quote from the Canberra Times of today, 30 March 1 977. It states:
A combination of Liberal Party backbench outrage over paying government money to the trades union movement and of resentment by established union leadership, is believed to have stimulated a Government decision to appoint a 3-man inquiry into the operations of the Trade Union Training Authority.
So far the name of only one member of the inquiry, Mr Harry Haunschild, is known within Public Service circles.
He is within the Public Service association. The credibility problem comes back to the Government. The article continues:
In seeking to seriously modify TUTA, the Government faces the same son of credibility problem it faces in seeking passage of constitutional amendments it opposed three years ago, and repeal of aid legislation it supported at about the same time.
TUTA was established as a statutory body in September, 1975, the Bill to establish it having been passed without opposition. Two amendments proposed by the then LiberalCountry Party Opposition were accepted by the Whitlam Government.
The Government’s industrial relations platform endorses trade union training, in terms coinciding with the courses which TUTA conducts. The present Minister for Productivity, Mr Macphee, was a member of TUTA ‘s council before joining the Ministry.
The aim of the scheme which has centres in all States is to train union officials- from shop stewards to union officials and secretaries- to improve the quality of union leadership and administration. An article reporting an employer representative, the manager of Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd in New South Wales, stated:
Worker participation would result in a more stable, more effective and more efficient society, according to one of Australia’s top executives.
Participation was needed not only in organisations or companies but in industries, governments and between governments and industries, he said.
Mr Gordon Jackson, the general manager of CSR Ltd, made the observations during a seminar -
-One of the greatest capitalists in the country.
– The honourable member for Chifley is right again. The report continues:
Mr Gordon Jackson, the general manager of CSR Ltd, made the observations during a seminar on worker participation at the University of New South Wales.
Mr Jackson said participation in the broad sense was the key to better social relations generally.
So far in Australia there have been some, but not very much, real change in behaviour as regards worker participation.
Another article which reported a union official, the Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union in New South Wales, stated today:
Trade unions are being caught both ways in the inflation and unemployment crises.
Costs are rising but financial returns are falling because unemployment is reducing membership.
Unions are also spending money on problems affecting members that caused no worry in a time of full employment.
In the past workers would often leave a job for another one when industrial relations got difficult. But they were now pressing for union action to right their grievances.
An Electrical Trades Union spokesman said today its New South Wales branch administration costs had risen 20.3 per cent in the past 12 months.
The secretary of the union, Mr D. McLeish, said there had been an increase called for in services to individual members in award breaches, reinstatements and compensation.
How are we to receive productivity and national thought when we have a know-not, stop-start, conservative, leaderless government as we have now in this 30th Parliament.
– I draw attention to a situation which has arisen over the last few weeks at the University of Western Australia.
– Did Santamaria write this one?
– No, he did not write this one. On Orientation Day this year the University Liberal Club distributed mildly satirical material against the left wing groups on campus. By any standard it was jocular compared with the often extreme and sometimes obscene views and abuse that the Left has been publishing at the University for years about all sorts of people, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Speaker and even including myself. I have never worried about what members of the Left say about me, as I do not worry about what the Opposition says about me either. However, I am concerned at the reaction of a group of left wing academics who, in conjunction with off campus political groups, has seized the occasion as an excuse publicly to intimidate- I believe to try eventually to destroythe University Liberal Club. This left wing bunch of weirdos is comprised of almost professional signers of anti-government proclamations, but this time they have gone beyond the joke they normally are. Ours is supposed to be a free society, and freedom of speech and association should be two of our most precious liberties. These left wing academics, giving prominence to their academic positions, have signed a newspaper advertisement in company with such pro-terrorist groups as the Friends of Palestine and the Friends of East Timor as well as the Communist Club and the State Secretary of the Australian Labor Party. The advertisement demands the silencing of the Liberal Club. It appeared in the West Australian on 10 March and was clearly an attempt to intimidate all Liberal students.
– Put some ginger into it.
– I shall put some ginger in it for the honourable member for Perth before I am through. The advertisement and its implications are pure ideological bullying. Already one Liberal girl has been terrorised into changing her tutorial group at the university because her tutor signed this hysterical and politically motivated advertisement. Another student was publicly abused by a left wing tutor at a tutorial for being a Liberal supporter. There is no objection to academics taking a practical interest in politics or supporting any party, but when they deliberately set out to synonomise their function as academics with their function as political operatives -
– A good word.
– Do you know the meaning of it? Whatever party they belong to it is time the Government looked to safeguarding the ordinary rights of students to hold political opinions of their own without fear of discrimination at the academic level. It takes an inordinate amount of courage for a young student, especially one new to university life, to argue for a viewpoint when half the department in which he or she is studying has publicly declared that such a viewpoint has no right to exist on campus. Who can blame students for adopting cynical attitudes towards their quest for truth when morally bullying tactics are employed by a collective of academic thugs who use their status and the status of the learned institution as an imprimatur for their own personal political prejudices. Academics should never be able to bully defenceless students who, rightly or wrongly, believe they will be victimised unless they recant or keep quiet. I believe it is time that this situation at the University of Western Australia was brought to light. I ask the Government to move to protect the basic liberty and human rights of these students who are undoubtedly being intimated and to ensure that they are not discriminated against.
All democrats in this House- I think there are one or two on the other side as well- should be prepared to stand up for the basic democratic principle of freedom of association which is under attack by this left wing group of academics and their associates. This really does not have anything to do with the present disabilities and disagreements which some of the Liberal students at the University of Western Australia have with the Australian Union of Students. We are not wishing to confuse the issues. They do have a problem with the AUS but this has nothing to do with the matter I raise. It is a problem of the attack on individual liberties of fledgling students at the university by academics whose standards ought to be better and purer than they are. I hope that everybody in this House, having listened, will give sympathy to this problem and do what they can on both sides. Whatever influence people on the other side have with their Labor Party people in Western Australia they should be able to exert that influence to see that this situation is rectified.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Do Commonwealth Employment Service statistics indicate the general and sectoral levels of unemployment in (a) occupations (b) industries (c) regions and (d) age/sex groups in a manner which can be used for comparing various levels of general and sectoral unemployment.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) statistics of persons registered as unemployed are collected monthly by (a) occupations (b) adult/junior (under 2 1 ) age groups for both males and females and (c) regions and, within regions, they are collected by Employment Office area each month and by local government areas 3 times per year. They are not collected by industry.
Because these statistics are quickly available (within5 working days of the period to which they refer) and because they give a more detailed dissection (particularly in regard to EO areas) than the quarterly labour force series published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, they are used from time to time, eg. during the currency of the RED Scheme, for comparisons of general and sectoral variations in the direction and levels of unemployment. However, I would draw the honourable member’ s attention to the November 1973 report of the Advisory Committee on CES Statistics which warned that comparisons made on this basis were considered not to be completely reliable because of the voluntary nature of registration for employment with the CES.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 10 March 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Report will recommend to both governments a program to cater for Sydney’s airport needs for the next 25 years.
In reaching its findings the Committee will take into account all relevant factors- economic and financial, social, technical, operational, environmental and land use, and community attitudes. The Committee wiil inform, and consult with, other Commonwealth and State Departments and organisations, the airlines and unions, local government authorities, community organisations and other interested parties.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 March 1977.
With respect to each such concession to which the company is presently entitled
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Brisbane, Archerfield, Bundaberg, Cairns, Coolangatta, Longreach, Mackay, Maryborough, Mt Isa, Rockhampton. Townsville, Charleville, Inverell, Weipa.
New South Wales
Sydney, Bankstown, Casino, Coffs Harbour, Cobar, Tamworth, Wagga, Williamtown, Norfolk Island, Broken Hill.
Australian Capital Territory
Melbourne, Essendon, Moorabbin, Sale.
Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Wynyard.
Adelaide, Mt Gambier, Parafield, Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Kangaroo Island.
Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek.
Perth, Albany, Carnarvon, Geraldton, Jandakot, Kalgoorlie, Broome, Derby, Port Hedland.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 March 1977:
-The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Motor Vehicle Hire at Airports (Question No. 442)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 March 1977 :
Are companies, businesses or persons other than Avis Rent-A-Car System Pty Ltd permitted to operate motor vehicle hiring businesses in terminal buildings at airports in Australia; if not, why not.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
All companies operating rent a car businesses are permitted to service pre-booked clients at any of the airports nominated even though there is no obligation on the Commonwealth to give such permission. Those companies, however, are not permitted to solicit or conduct non-prearranged business at Commonwealth airports as these rights were granted at public tender to Avis Rent A Car System Pty Ltd.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770330_reps_30_hor104/>.