30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to inform the House that we have present in the gallery a parliamentary delegation from Sabah led by the Honourable Lau Pui Keong, M.L.A. On behalf of the House, I extend a very warm welcome to these gentlemen.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we believe that Australia ‘s constitution is undemocratic and should be replaced by a democratic constitution. This new constitution should be drafted at a representative, directly elected people’s convention following extensive public debate, and then put to a referendum of the people. The petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament, as a matter of urgency, will help to promote such public debate and will arrange for the holding of such a people’s convention and referendum.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr FitzPatrick, Mr Hurford, Mr James, Mr Charles Jones, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Martin, Mr Scholes, Mr Stewart, Mr Wallis and Mr Young.
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens (students, parents, teachers) of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision by the Government to withdraw all forms of financial assistance to students of Non-state Tertiary Institutions is in total conflict with stated Government education policy.
The decision will result in a shortage of places for training secretarial and clerical students and an inordinate demand upon the State Government education systems.
At a time of severe economic disruption, this action must lead to a serious worsening of the current employment situation, particularly school leavers.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Federal Government will act immediately to reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Sir William McMahon, Mr Chipp, Mr Jarman, Dr Jenkins and Mr Martin.
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 because television and radio
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Government will amend the Broadcasting and Television Act, in relation to both national and commercial broadcasters, to legislate
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Sir William McMahon, Mr Falconer, Mr McLeay, Mr Millar and Mr Uren.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between the 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.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in aged 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 Dr J. F. Cairns, Dr Klugman and Mr Newman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that as taxation effectively provides for Private Hospital and Nursing Home subsidies amounting to $ 16.00 and up to $ 1 7.6S a day, any proposal to meet such hospitalisation costs through higher health fund contributions is an imposition on tax payers, as is the elimination of tax concessions on health insurance contributions.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government reverses its decision to withdraw the Nursing Home subsidy from October 1st 1977, maintains Private Hospital and Nursing Home subsidies and re-introduces income tax concessions in respect of health insurance contributions.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Jarman. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of certain members of the Australian Association for Better Hearing, and other citizens of Australia, respectfully showeth that a financial burden is imposed on hearing impaired members of the public in that the special telephone equipment, which is essential for such hearing impaired citizens to make telephonic communication, is subject to installation costs and rental charges.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government give every consideration to waiving the installation costs and rental charges of the special telephone equipment required by hearing impaired members of the public.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petitions received. by Mr Charles Jones and Mr Morris. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of Australia respectfully showeth that we humbly pray:
That in relation to early childhood, primary, secondary and post-secondary education:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Clyde Cameron. Petition received.
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 Charter of the United Nations clearly precludes it from interference in the domestic affairs of a country or from obstructing the free transmission of news and information between individuals and between nations.
That the United Nations, in apparent illegality has imposed many restrictions and sanctions upon Rhodesia which has been remarkably free from the bloodshed and turmoil of Northern and Central African lands, even to the extent now of actively encouraging armed conflict against the legally elected Government of Rhodesia.
Lord Graham as Minister of External Affairs and Defence has said: ‘International communism is our enemy, all this talk of political advancement and majority rule is not more than a smokescreen in the early skirmishes of an assault upon the whole of Africa . . . It is even difficult to see this enemy because it is not merely attacking us, but on a broad front is attacking the whole world order, its standards, its law and order, its moralities, its churches, its patriotism, its philosophies and even much of its learning . . .
That Communist Chinese infiltration in much of Africa over many years and Cuban communist troops reported to number 25,000 are dominating nearby Angola, and possess modern missiles et cetera.
It is urgent that Mozambique, now under communist domination and which has a common border with Rhodesia, does not receive any further aid from the Commonwealth Government of Australia, which has benefited mainly, the terrorist guerilla movements that are responsible for the deaths of many Rhodesian people.
It is urgent for the Australian people to determine for themselves the actual facts of the Rhodesian struggles.
It is urgent that the Senate and the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled, will observe natural justice and proper humanity by inviting only authorised representatives of the present Rhodesian Parliament to Australia, to do what they have been deprived of doing previously, present their case fully and publicly so that this can be examined and tested, without interference, and so that the eventual impact on Australia’s own security and defence alliances can be gauged with better accuracy.
Your petitioners request urgent action to be taken immediately.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr FitzPatrick. Petition received.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth showeth that the undersigned are deeply concerned:
That abortion is the destruction of innocent human life.
That on 10 May 1973, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected the Medical Practices Clarification Bill which sought to legalise abortion on demand in the Territories controlled by the Federal Government.
That the acceptance by Federal Parliament of the recommendations of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly on abortion will permit abortion on demand in the Australian Capital Territory.
That the situation in the Australian Capital Territory has a great impact on situations in the States.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Federal Government will act immediately to prevent the introduction of abortion on demand in the Australian Capital Territory.
That taxpayers money not be used to finance abortion claims. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Jarman. Petition received.
Royal Commission on Petroleum
The petition of certain members of the Service Station Association of New South Wales Ltd, and certain members of the motoring public of New South Wales 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,
Petition received. by Dr Klugman. Petition received.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many Australians are concerned at the violations of human rights committed by the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Lloyd. Petition received.
Gambling Casino in Canberra
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we, the undersigned, being members of the United Church, Wesley Parish, Warwick, strongly object to the establishment of a gambling casino in the Australian Capital, as recommended to the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory. A casino is an undesirable establishment for the following reasons:
Problems that will affect the community are:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr McVeigh. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean the taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any one 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.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card, have suffered undue hardship as inmates of Private Nursing Homes, because the Federal Government subsidy was insufficient to meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was an inmate of the Private Nursing Homes suffered poverty in an endeavour to sustain their partner while in the nursing home.
Only in rare cases was the statutory minimum patient contribution as laid down adhered to.
That the telephone was a matter of life and death to many pensioners, but because of the cost of installation of the telephone many are unable to afford the installation.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else to live on and are forced to pay high rents, are in many cases living in extreme poverty.
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 prayby Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We are very seriously concerned about the exorbitant and crippling charges for Postal Services, especially those relating to standard letters, commercial papers and newspapers, and small parcels. Therefore, we request the following changes:
That there be a rate of 12c for ordinary or standard letters of up to a weight of 20g and to cover the sizes of envelopes up to 120mm x 235mm x 5mm in thickness. This upper-limit would cover letters including the common size of 4in. x 9in., i.e., 102mm x 230mm. Letters larger than 120mm x 235mm x 5mm and those heavier than 20g could be charged up to 50 per cent more, i.e., 1 8c. The present letter rate is 1 8c for up to 500g., which is 25 times more than necessary for ordinary letters. Therefore the present rate has been ill-conceived or overcharged. It is iniquitous and an unbearable burden on all classes of the community. An ordinary envelope 3V4 in. x 5% in., i.e., 90mm x 150mm with an enclosure of 2 ‘quarto’ sheets of letter paper weighs only lOg, and the 4in. x 9in., i.e., 102mm x 230mm, with 3 ‘ foolscap’ sheets, weighs only 20g.
Re rates for ‘non-standard articles’. For commercial papers and newspapers, we request that there be a new rate of 12c for up to 30g and 20c for over 30g and up to 60g. These rates are only fair and proper, and consistent with present-day inflationary conditions. Furthermore, the fair and logical adjustment of Postal Charges will not only increase postal business, but also alleviate the burden on people and industry.
We request: That there be, not only restraint from increasing Postal Charges, but also fair consideration and alleviator of unreasonable hardship of some of the present rates of Postal Services.
Your petitioners therefore pray that you, the Government of our Nation, will give favourable attention to our requests and our needs, for which we thank you.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of undersigned electors of the Division of Ballaarat respectfully showeth:
That according to the Victorian Council of School Organisations implementation of the guidelines prepared by the Commonwealth Government for the Schools Commission will have the following impacts:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the guidelines prepared by the Commonwealth Government for the Schools Commission not be implemented.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Short.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia being parents and teachers from Chandler High School respectfully showeth that we are greatly concerned at the Federal Government’s proposed expenditure on education.
The funds available for schools in 1978 will be the same amount in real terms as for 1977. In the face of rising costs this represents effective reduction in government school building programs of approximately $29m.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you will increase the allocation of funds to Australian Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Yates. Petition received.
Mr WALLIS I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. He will be aware that the Treasurer, in statements attached to his Budget Speech, estimated that the Government would save $60m in 1977-78 by paying the unemployment benefit two weeks in arrears. Is it a fact that the Department of Social Security has estimated that only $2m will be saved through the prevention of over-payment of the benefit in this financial year and a further $30m through the postponement of payments in the next financial year? Can the Minister tell us how this figure of $60m was arrived at? Is it another rubbery estimate or will this saving be achieved by further restrictions on benefit payments, including denial of income support to school leavers contrary to the recommendation of the Myers inquiry?
– My colleague, the Minister for Health, who in this chamber represents the Minister for Social Security, is not in the House at the moment. He has a commitment in Sydney. I will see that the honourable gentleman’s question is referred to him and that an answer is provided.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and relates to the very serious demarcation dispute between the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation over the right to moor vessels in the port of Burnie and some other Tasmanian ports. Is the Minister aware of the chaos being caused by this dispute and that many key industries in the north could be forced to close any day with mass standdowns of employees? Does he know that Mr Thornton, the managing director of Australian Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd which employs over 3,000 people in its paper, particle board and timber mills, warned yesterday that his company would soon be forced to close its entire operations in northern Tasmania? Can the Minister tell the House what action he will be taking to end this damaging dispute which is nothing more than a senseless argument between senior officials of the two unions?
-Order! The honourable member will not provide argument.
– I am aware of the dispute the honourable gentleman mentions which, as he says, is a demarcation dispute between the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation. Officers of my Department have been in regular contact with the Australian National Line on this question. There is little doubt that, if the bans remain in force, Tasmanian trade will be severely restricted. I understand that already cargoes have been held up. It is worth noting that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has policy in two relevant areas of this dispute. Firstly, it accepts that it has a responsibility in trying to resolve within the union movement demarcation disputes. Secondly, its policy is that in relation to trade with Tasmania the union movement should try to see that disputes are settled with the minimum possible disruption. Undoubtedly there is a strong and heavy onus on the two unions concerned and on the ACTU to try to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible. I am aware that the dispute has been before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on a number of occasions. I understand that further hearings are planned for the next day or two. However, in view of the honourable member’s question I will get in touch with the ACTU to remind it of its policy in relation to demarcation disputes and Tasmania and to point out that, as I understand it, the actions of about eight men are threatening the trade of a whole State and are putting at risk the jobs of hundreds of their fellow unionists. In these circumstances I believe there is a very heavy responsibility on the ACTU to resolve this question as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. The Treasurer said in his Budget Speech that the cost to revenue in 1 978-79 of the personal income tax changes will amount to $973m. Will the Treasurer give the House the assumptions, rubbery or otherwise, used in making these estimates? In particular, will he supply details of the rate of increase in the consumer price index in the year to March 1977 on which the half indexation will be based? Will this figure be discounted for increases in petrol prices?
Further, will he provide details of the rate of increase in earnings in 1978-79, which are necessary to determine the level of taxable income in that year?
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows full well the average earnings figure, which, of course, was included in statement No. 2. 1 invite the honourable gentleman to read that statement. He will find that the information is included therein. As to the balance of the question concerning forward estimates, the honourable gentleman knows that when he and his colleagues were in government estimates of the type he is seeking precision about at question time were not provided because of the imprecision which applies to particular points of the year. As to inflation, I certainly do not want to put down a precise measurement in response to a question from the honourable gentleman as to what the rate of inflation will be, measured at a precise quarter during the course of this year, except generally to remind the honourable gentleman that this Budget is in fact tough on inflation. As statement No. 2 in the Budget Speech indicates, by the end of the financial year inflation will be running in that quarter at between 2 and 2 Vi per cent.
-Yesterday the Treasurer used certain words in answering a question. A point of order was taken in respect of the use of those words. I indicated that if the words used were as stated in the point of order I would ask the right honourable gentleman to withdraw them today. I have checked Hansard and the words used by the right honourable gentleman were as stated in the point of order. I ask the right honourable gentleman to withdraw the words used.
– Is the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware of complaints being received of interference with television reception from citizen band radio? Will the Minister advise the House what action he is taking in this matter?
-Yes, I am aware of complaints by a number of people concerning interference. The course of action which ought to be taken by people is to report the interference to departmental officers, who are in the major cities and areas of Australia. When we legalised CB radio we accepted that there was a chance of some interference. I have a slight problem at the moment, that is, that members of the Professional Radio and Electronics Institute have placed a ban on not only the issuing of licences but also the investigating of complaints. Today the Public Service Board will convene a meeting to discuss the problems. I hope that commonsense will prevail and the bans will be lifted so that we will again have licences being issued and investigation of the complaints taking place. I do ask people to advise us of their problems. Our officers will then take them up with CB radio enthusiasts and if the interference continues action will be taken to make certain that it is discontinued.
-I address a question to the Prime Minister. I refer to a recent statement in which the right honourable gentleman said that the proposed new tax scales would be of great benefit to the country in that they would encourage people to work overtime. I ask: Why does the right honourable gentleman want to encourage people to work overtime? Would not the working of increased overtime in the current economic circumstances simply mean that there would be fewer employment opportunities for those seeking jobs, thereby leading to increased unemployment?
– I think that the honourable gentleman has confused two elements. In his question he was saying that there would be great benefit to country areas. That is one thing.
– I did not mention rural workers; you have farmers on the brain.
-The House can be certain that the Opposition has no concern whatsoever for farmers. One needs only look at the policies of the Opposition at the time when it was in Government. Those policies established the circumstances in which the farmers were ground into the dust. The inflation that Government encompassed and supported has done a great deal to put not only farmers but also small businesses and manufacturers in a very difficult position.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. I know that the Standing Orders allow much flexibility in answering a question. But surely the answer must be relevant to the question that is asked. I did not mention farmers. The Prime Minister introduced that element.
-Order! The honourable gentleman made it clear that he did not ask about farmers in his question. The right honourable the Prime Minister accepted that and is proceeding to answer the question, as I understand it.
– I was merely commenting on the honourable gentleman’s interjection.
– I suggest that the right honourable gentleman ignore the interjections.
– One of the things that have been very plain in recent times is that under the tax scales as they had operated there was a lack of incentive for people to earn more and often a lack of incentive for people to work a 5-day week. There was a lack of incentive for people to promote their own cause and that of their families by working overtime if they wished to do so and if the industry in which they were involved made that possible. It was easy to see the circumstances in which overtime payments could put tax rates through the 35 per cent barrier into the 45 per cent bracket. That happened at a salary which was a little over $12,000 a year. On a weekly basis or during a period of particular activity in an industry, people could be put in that much higher tax bracket and be paying 45c in the dollar in tax. That rate of taxation had acted as a disincentive in many areas. Employers in some industries wanted their employees to be able to work overtime, but the employees were not prepared to do so because of the height of the Hayden tax scale. Now, such people know quite well -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Mr Speaker, it is wonderful to know that members of the Opposition have a basic wish to prevent people working and not to want them to have the incentive to work. That is the substance of the interjections coming from the Opposition side. Now, people will know quite clearly that they will be paying tax at the rate of 32c in the dollar. If they work overtime, they will still pay taxation at the rate of 32c in the dollar and no more. They will not move into the 45c in the dollar taxation bracket into which the honourable member for Oxley so eagerly put them.
– The Prime Minister will be aware that seasons and markets make primary producers’ incomes variable. Tax averaging was introduced to overcome uneven tax liability in the rural sector. Will the Prime Minister advise the House how primary producers under tax averaging provisions will be affected by the new Budget tax scales?
-A problem has arisen on later advice in relation to some parts of the averaging system for primary producers. We know that there is a ceiling limit under which people can operate the averaging system. That is an income of $16,000 a year and it is possible to opt out. Before commenting directly on the precise nature of the honourable gentleman’s question, I would point out to members of the rural communities that the system of income equalisation deposits which was introduced by this Government provides opportunities which I personally believe are infinitely preferable to the averaging system. If any farmer wants advice on the way in which income equalisation deposits work, I suggest that he contact his normal tax adviser or if he wants to do so I am quite certain that honourable gentlemen on this side of the House and I would hope honourable gentlemen on the other side of the House, if they represent any rural electorates, would offer a free advisory service as they ought to. The system of income equalisation deposits is a device to enable farmers to equalise the fluctuations in their incomes which are very often or nearly always outside their control. It will be of great benefit to them. A number of people are already taking out such deposits and quite significant sums are involved.
In one or two areas a problem has occurred in relation to the averaging system. Because of the technicalities of this system, it is possible that a farmer with an average income of, say, $5,000 on a falling scale would pay in total over the years hundreds of dollars more in tax than would a wage earner on the same income. That also has arisen because of the impact of the Hayden scales on the original averaging proposals that were adopted before the Hayden scales. Out of this examination has come the knowledge that the Hayden tax scales rob farmers through the averaging system of $40m to $50m a year. The circumstances I have indicated, in which a farmer on the same average income as a wage earner can end up over the same period paying hundreds of dollars a year more than the wage earner pays, are utterly disgraceful. They are a clear indication of the inclinations of honourable gentlemen opposite, including the honourable member for Oxley who has done so much to support the great State of Queensland in that matter!
– Is the Treasurer aware that in reaching its decisions the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is bound under section 39 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to have regard to the economic effects of its decisions, especially on the level of employment and inflation? Is he also aware that in its published reasons for decision in the recent national wage case the Commission specifically stated that it had acted with considered judgment in discharging its obligations under the Act? If so, I ask the Treasurer whether he will tell the House what he meant by his statement following the recent national wage decision in which he said:
The Government would be looking to the Commission in the future to pay greater regard to the economic consequences of its decisions, especially as they affect inflation and unemployment.
Was the Treasurer, as appears to be the case, accusing the Commission of not abiding by its statutory obligations and falsely asserting in its judgment that it had done so?
– I would have thought that the attitude of the Government towards the recent decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission had been made clear in unmistakable terms. We recognise that decision and, unlike some parties in the industrial jurisdiction, we respond to that decision by accepting it. At the same time, as I have said publicly, that recent decision is equivalent to 83 per cent indexation. It will add in excess of $200m to the quarterly wages bill, or $800m to the annual wages bill. Quite apart from whatever interpretation the Commission itself might want to place upon that decision, it is utterly unhelpful to economic recovery in Australia. At the same time, it is utterly unhelpful to the provision of more job opportunities to those Australians who cannot find work at present. I invite the honourable gentleman to consider the consequences of his own industrial relations policy which proposes full indexation through the wage system. As this Government has made clear on so many occasions, as real wages are pushed up as a consequence of wage demands more and more workers will, in fact, be unemployed.
I invite the honourable gentleman, for his information, to dwell on the comment made by the then Labor Treasurer in the 1975-76 Labor Budget Speech when he drew attention to this point. I have quoted the words before. That point was made more explicit in what the Leader of the Opposition said to the 1974 Young Labor Conference in Adelaide. He said on the record that the major cause of inflation was excessive wage and salary claims. This Government does not resile from anything it has said in relation to the Commission’s judgment. We go further than that. We have said to the Commission that as money wages are pushed up, illusory as they become because they feed into the inflation process, those wage earners who are employed will receive an illusory money increase and, at the same time, those Australians who are unable to find work will find the going just that much more difficult.
-The Minister for Transport will be aware that development of Norwich Park in Central Queensland by the Utah Development Company has been deferred because of disputes with the Seamen’s Union of Australia and the union’s refusal to handle Utah’s ships into and out of Hay Point. Will the Minister advise whether the Federal Government can intervene in this dispute in order to ensure that this development proceeds, thereby providing job opportunities for some 1,000 persons on construction, development and mining?
– Matters have come to a pretty serious state in this country when developments of the nature of Norwich Park cannot get off the ground because of the selfish activities of some unions.
– Look, bonehead, if you want to interject use some sense in doing so. The background to this dispute is that the Seamen’s Union wants coal to be carried out of Australia in Australian flag ships with Australian crews. What that means, because of the differential between the cost of Australian crews and, for example, British crews, is that the freight rate for coal would need to go up from $9 a tonne to $ 1 8 a tonne. The fact is that the cost of using Australian crews in this trade is 233 per cent higher than for using British crews. That is the rip-off that the Seamen’s Union is trying to perpetrate on the Australian economy and the Australian taxpayer. The result is, of course, that the principals of the Norwich Park development have had to defer any progression of development, thus robbing the area of prospects for jobs and the like.
– How many do they employ?
– I should have thought that the interjector on the Opposition bench, who is not known for his interest in some of these matters -
– Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will remain silent.
– Why does he not tell the truth?
-Order! I asked the honourable member for Port Adelaide to cease interjecting. He ignored my request and used unparliamentary language in his next interjection. I warn the honourable member for Port Adelaide and ask him to withdraw his unparliamentary remark.
– I withdraw it.
– The difficulty occurs because the Seamen’s Union is seeking to introduce by force Australian crews in international trade. We have said that as a Government we are not opposed to the use of Australian crews so long as it is not to the detriment of the taxpayer, the producer or the economy as a whole. I think it is plain from the figures I have pointed out that when the freight rate has to double to enable Australian crews to be used in this trade it is not an economic proposition. As to the present position of the Government in this matter, two things are happening. Firstly, the company has taken the Seamen’s Union to court, and I understand the matter will be dealt with before the court in the next few weeks. Secondly, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been notified of the dispute by the operators of the tugs, J. Fenwick and Co. Pty Ltd. We have yet to see the processing of that matter. I do hope that settlement can be obtained at a very early stage so that this great development can proceed.
-Can the Treasurer simply say what is the estimate of the percentages of unemployment, inflation and rise or fall in national product in, say, the 12 months from now upon which the Government is basing its policies and what is the estimate of excess capacity in industry that would involve?
– Those estimates are, of course, built into Statement No. 2 which accompanies the Budget Papers. Most of the estimates to which the honourable gentleman referred are broadly covered in the Budget Speech also. As I recall the honourable gentleman’s first question, it related to gross non-farm product. There are two bases against which that measurement can be put down. As I think I said in the Budget Speech, the increase in gross non-farm product, based on within-year patterns, can be taken as 2 per cent for the whole year or, alternatively, on the basis of the period from June to June, it would be 4 per cent.
As for the question of employment, Budget Statement No. 2 makes clear that we would expect during the course of the year an increase in -
– You said that last year.
-Well, the honourable member’s Budget is on the record. It is the most discredited Budget, I think, of any that I have looked at in recent years. The honourable gentleman ought to be the last to seek by interjection to challenge figures. His figures were so grossly wrong that I think that is a fair point to take in response to his interjection.
So far as the labour market is concerned, what the figures make clear is an expectation of a growth in employment of 2 per cent, a work force growth during the same period of up to 2 per cent and some prospect of an improvement, therefore, in unemployment. No one wants to hold that out in an unduly firm sense because, as I have made clear in relation to unemployment, so much in fact will depend on the degree of indexation which the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission itself hands down. Also I have made clear in response to an earlier question that the recent 83 per cent of full indexation increase we believe is far too high for the interests of those seeking job prospects in this country.
As for the question of underutilisation of capacity at the end of the year, that, of course, is not something that can be put down with a degree of precision, which I think is what the honourable gentleman is seeking. But the main point to realise is that within the year from the June quarter to the June quarter we will see growth according to those estimates of 4 per cent. The honourable gentleman will be aware of the estimates that were put down last year. I will not repeat them. Growth during this year is estimated to be 4 per cent. That is the critical point to take into account so far as activity is concerned and also so far as the question of the level of unemployment obtaining at that time is concerned.
- Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question.
-Order! Is the honourable member raising a point of order?
– I wish to ask a supplementary question.
-The honourable member will resume his seat. I suppose that periodically the honourable member gets away with that type of action. I let him get away with too much.
-Has the Prime Minister seen a report which claims that the new tax system on 10 per cent increase in salaries and 5 per cent indexation will in 1978-79 impose a higher tax on taxable incomes last year from $4,800 to $7,400? Does he realise this claim is incorrect in that even on those assumptions the tax payable this year is less at all levels and even next year will be less at all levels except on incomes of $5,600 and $5,800 received last year? Finally, does he appreciate that this criticism assumes bipartisan support for tax indexation -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will cease arguing his point. He can ask for information.
-I will now finish my question. When tax indexation was opposed in 1975 by both the former Treasurer and the Labor Party’s economic committee -
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Enough has been asked in his question to permit an answer.
– I have seen the reports and I do note that some of those reports would seem to be comparing what will be the scales for the next financial year with composite scales for this year, and comparing them as though they are comparing what is happening next financial year with the prechanged situation. I think that is a rather odd comparison to make in any case because honourable gentlemen would know that there has to be a composite situation this year because the Hayden scales will apply for part of the year and the greatly advanced scales are to apply for the latter part of the year.
No matter what anyone might say, nothing can avoid the fact, nothing can hide the fact, that from 1 February next year all taxpayers will get a very considerable advance under the new scales, not only in terms of less tax paid but also in terms of encouragement to earn more if people want to do so. This is contrary to the philosophy of our opponents who by their interjections to an earlier question made it prefectly plain that encouragement in that way is alien to them.
I think that when people look at what we have done in relation to tax reform they should take into account not only tax indexation, which has been introduced as we said it could be in the first six months of the life of the Parliament, and company tax reforms but also the reforms that were introduced by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech. There has been a continuing move towards tax reform in a realistic way to lighten the burden of taxation on the Australian community. No matter what the Opposition might seek to do, it will not be able to hide that fact from the taxpayers of Australia. The House ought to be reminded that when the Hayden tax scales were introduced a taxpayer with concessional allowances equal to 10 per cent of his net income- on, say, $6,000- had his tax increased by 25 per cent. There was an actual increase in tax paid of 25 per cent. A taxpayer in the same classification but with an income of $8,000 had his tax actually increased by 17 per cent. That was in the year in which the scales were introduced.
The deception in that system can be seen from the fact that whilst some people were meant to get benefits, others- I indicated some on modest incomes- were in a very severe detriment situation. In the year in which the scales were introduced much greater tax- up to 25 per cent more- would have to be paid by them. There were many categories of taxpayers who would be paying from 15 per cent to 25 per cent more under the Hayden scales. Compare that situation with the one with which we are now faced. On 1 February all taxpayers will get a substantial benefit. If honourable gentlemen want to argue about the nature of that benefit I point out that a taxpayer on $100 a week with a dependent spouse would get a 100 per cent reduction in tax; on $ 140 a week he would get over a 30 per cent reduction in tax; and on $200 a week he would get over 18 per cent reduction in tax. I believe that the tax reforms shine through as one of the most notable advances in the tax field in this country or in any similar country.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that a group named the Australian Freedom Group recently released the names and addresses of the entire staff of the Joint Intelligence Organisation. Did this group claim that the list was supplied to it by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation? Have any steps been taken to establish how this list of names came to be leaked? If the group’s claim is correct, how does the Government justify large budgetary increases to organisations which fight private wars among themselves? In the light of the action taken against public servants for minor breaches of official secrets legislation, what action will the Government take in relation to this unprecedented disclosure of the staff of an entire secret organisation? How does this leaking of the names of the staff of the JIO affect the relationship between Australia’s security organisations and foreign security organisations, in particular the Central Intelligence Agency?
-Sometimes when honourable gentlemen ask a question in the House they exhibit a certain lack of comprehension of what they are talking about.
– Answer the question.
-If the honourable gentleman will wait a moment he will get an answer in full. He might be surprised by it. The question the honourable gentleman has just asked shows less knowledge and understanding of the matter than almost any other question I have heard in the Parliament.
– That is why the question was asked.
– Fair enough. I thank the honourable gentleman for his frankness. The Joint Intelligence Organisation is not like the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation or other organisations which are operative organisations. It is an assessing organisation. It provides assessments to this Government, as it did to the previous Government, of the strategic situation and various other matters. A number of honourable gentlemen would have seen JIO reports and reports of the National Intelligence Committee, which is very much related. If the honourable gentleman’s question is based on an event which occurred some time ago, the action I would want to take would be to give the people who disseminated that information an up to date version of the Commonwealth Government Directory. I am advised that they got the names from an out-of-date version of the Commonwealth Directory. Many of those who are thought to be in the JIO have gone back to other departments such as the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Department of Defence. I think that all the names, or certainly the majority of the names of the staff of the JIO, are found in the Commonwealth Directory. They are not secret. They are not classified. It is public knowledge. The honourable gentleman may go and have a look after question time.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I preface it by pointing out that there is no doubt that all members of the House welcomed the establishment earlier this year of the task force to advise on finance for small business. Will the Minister inform the House with what degree of urgency the Government will consider and act upon the recommendations of the task force, as this vital matter is of major importance to the more than 40 per cent of the work force who are employed in small business.
-The task force to which the honourable gentleman referred has been working for a considerable time on the responsibilities given to it. I understand that the results of that investigation will shortly be available to the Government. I can assure the honourable gentleman that my colleague Senator Cotton will give quick attention to the recommendations of that task force.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Northern Territory. How much of the staff cut of 3,000 positions which the Budget predicts in the Australian Public Service is to occur in the Northern Territory? Will any of the persons affected be transferred to the Northern Territory Public Service or will numbers there also be cut? Are staff shortages in the Australian Public Service affecting the services provided by his Department and others operating in the Northern Territory such as the Department of Health and the Department of Social Security?
-There has been no diminution of services provided by the Department of the Northern Territory because of staff ceilings imposed by this Government. I can provide detailed figures for the honourable member. The growth of the Northern Territory Public Service is occurring hand in hand with the diminution of the Department of the Northern Territory. Perhaps I could outline the way in which responsibilities associated with self-government are being passed over to the Northern Territory. As a function is passed over to the Northern Territory the section or branch within the Department of the Northern Territory responsible for that function goes over to the Northern Territory Public Service. That is the way in which the Northern Territory Public Service is growing. As it grows, the Department of the Northern Territory diminishes. I will look at the detail in the honourable member’s question and give him further information on the staff ceilings and the way they are operating in the Department of the Northern Territory.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that a claim was made yesterday by Professor Henderson that delays of up to 16 weeks are taking place in processing applications for unemployment relief? Is this claim a wild exaggeration? Will the Government continue to pursue the weeding out of fraudulent applications for unemployment relief whilst not penalising genuine applicants for relief?
– I would be very concerned if genuine applicants for unemployment relief were kept waiting for any considerable period. I think that the process of departmental service in this area ought to operate quickly and smoothly. I will ask the Minister for Social Security to examine the matter. If the honourable gentleman has specific instances in which he believes this has occurred I hope that he will make the information available to my colleague so that they can be examined forthwith. Perhaps now it might be an appropriate time to remind the House that in the management of staff ceilings in departments all departments have had a strict instruction not to impair in any way their over-the-counter services to the general public. This applies especially to the Department of Social Security which has a particular task that obviously is of great importance to a very large number of individuals and families at present.
-Mr Speaker, while I am on my feet may I also add about two sentences to the answer I gave about the averaging of income tax for farmers. The anomaly to which I referred was introduced in the Hayden tax scales which, as I indicated earlier, increased the tax paid by farmers by $40m to $50m. Now that that anomaly has been revealed we obviously have instructed the Taxation Commissioners to come forward with various proposals which will remove the anomaly and make sure that the kind of detrimental effects which I indicated will not occur.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education: Have staff ceilings imposed on the Aboriginal bilingual education program in the Northern Territory been lifted due to the fact that the scheme was started only in 1973 and it was envisaged that there would be an increasing need for staff as the
Aboriginal children concerned proceeded up the primary school?
– The bilingual education program is undergoing an evaluation by my colleague at the present time. It is the first evaluation since the program was instituted. Both my colleague and I have a very high regard for the program and place considerable importance on it. I have been to a number of schools where the program is in operation. I have found that it is of great benefit to the Aboriginal children and that there is great enthusiasm by the teachers concerned. As to the particular point regarding staff ceilings, I will refer the question to my colleague and have an answer provided to the honourable gentleman.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Construction. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to recent reports that industrial stoppages have declined and that working days lost through industrial disputes have fallen by 30 per cent on the 1976 figures? Do those figures also apply to the building and construction industry? If so, can we expect an improvement in that industry’s stability, increased investment and confidence, and increased employment opportunities in the building and construction industry?
– I have seen those reports and I think I have also heard the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions using the information. Unfortunately, the figures do not apply to the building and construction industry. The statistics which are gathered by the Bureau of Statistics, or whatever source gathers them, do not include time lost through the guerilla type action which currently is being conducted in the building and construction industry by the Builders Labourers Federation in particular. Industrial action such as embargoes on deliveries of material to building sites, unauthorised smokoes bans on sections of building jobs, stoppages during concrete pours and the like is not taken into consideration when the numbers of man hours lost are assessed, and there is an enormous loss of work and employment as a direct result of such action. For example, around Australia there are 80 projects on which either little or no work at all is being done. In South Australia, which is the area that I know best, no work is being done on any major project and has not been done for three months as a direct result of the action of the Builders Labourers Federation. The total value of projects of some size held up in South Australia is over $40m, and the peak job capacity for those works- about six are involved- is over 1,600 men. The latest unemployment filgures- those for June- indicate that around 1,300 skilled and semi-skilled building workers are out of work in South Australia. If the Builders Labourers Federation would lift its bans and discontinue its guerilla action, there would be employment opportunities for very many of the men who currently are unemployed.
There is no way in the world that anybody could possibly blame the Government or Government policies for the unemployment that exists in the construction industry. It is entirely the result of industrial action by building unions, and in particular by the Builders Labourers Federation. In fact, on one Commonwealth project in South Austalia worth over $ 1 m there has been a ban- I believe it was lifted yesterday- for three months. The cost of that ban to the taxpayers has been $40,000, on a job worth just over $ 1 m. The peak number of workers who could be employed on that project is 100. So the effect of such bans goes right down the line. There is ban on a very large private sector job worth $25m in Port Pirie. Port Pirie is relatively depressed. There is significant unemployment in the area. If this project were allowed to proceed peak employment opportunities there would be in excess of 800 jobs for skilled and semi-skilled building workers. The cost to the company over the three months the job has been embargoed is $90,000 and the cost per month as long as the embargo continued will be $10,000. That company is considering abandoning the project. I have prepared some tables which I would like to have incorporated Hansard. In the event of not having this agreement from the Opposition -
– Is the honourable gentleman seeking leave to incorporate a table in Hansard?
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– When anything is sought to be incorporated in Hansard the usual courtesy is for it to be shown to the Opposition- before the Dorothy Dix question is asked. As we have not been extended that courtesy we will not give leave.
-The honourable gentleman has made his point and will resume his seat. I ask the Minister for Construction to draw his answer to a conclusion.
– I make the point that one does not know when one will get a question in this place and, with the best of intentions, sometimes it takes a couple of weeks. I bow to your suggestion, Mr Speaker, and I shall not go through this very long list of more than 80 projects around the Commonwealth -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is entitled without leave to table a document if he chooses. He may wish to table this document rather than read it out.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is my intention to table the document but I thought it appropriate to draw attention to a couple of very good examples of jobs that have been held up as a result of this action. The loss of man hours involved on these jobs does not appear in the official figures. Let me take one example in Victoria -
– I rise to order. The Minister has been replying for eight minutes now. Mr Speaker, this is an abuse of Question Time. I therefore draw your attention to your ruling that Ministers should keep their replies short.
-The Minister will draw his answer to a conclusion.
– In drawing my answer to a conclusion, I direct attention to a Victorian project, the State Savings Bank of Victoria project, which is worth $50m, which will employ 1,150 men at its peak and which has been closed down for nearly six weeks because of action taken by the Builders Labourers Federation. This is the pattern throughout Australia. I table the document. I trust that those who are interested will take the time to inspect it.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I draw his attention to a statement in Budget Paper No. 2 that ‘apart from the Budget proposals themselves, there will be no new fiscal measures during 1 977-78 ‘. Is that a statement written by departmental officers and included in the Budget Papers or is it a Cabinet decision?
– It is a statement that appears in the normal course of events.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Has he received a telegram from the Farmers Union of Western Australia (Inc) which clearly demonstrates the hypocrisy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in supporting the ban -
-Order! The use of the word ‘hypocrisy’ in that sense is not unparliamentary but it does not assist the conduct of proceedings if those words are allowed to slip into questions. I ask the honourable member not to use the expression.
-Do you wish me to re-word the question, Sir? Mr SPEAKER- I think you should re-word it.
-Has the Minister received a telegram from the Farmers Union of Western Australia (Inc) which clearly refutes the claim of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that its action in banning the loading of wheat on Indonesian flagships is a matter of principle? Did the Minister note the claim by the Farmers Union that the ACTU-TNT travel agency, two of the directors of which are Messrs Hawke and Souter, is actively promoting holiday tours to Indonesia? Will the Minister comment on the differing views of the ACTU in relation to Indonesia?
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s question is coming perilously close to being ruled out of order. He cannot ask the Minister to comment. If the honourable member is seeking information he should ask for it, otherwise I will rule his question out of order.
– Would the Minister care to provide information on the subject of the telegram and on the ban on the loading of wheat onto Indonesian ships, which is jeopardising a valuable market for Australian wheat?
– From time to time honourable members on this side of the House have been known to comment on the amazing flexibility of the trade union movement in matters that seem to link industrial actions and political actions.
– It is quite rubbery.
– The attitudes of the President of the ACTU are even more notably rubbery, to quote my honourable friend, than one might expect of a man who supports bans at political levels and who is prepared to promote tourism trade at another level. It is of concern that there is in existence a number of political disputes which are affecting market opportunities and hence the terms of trade for Australian farmers. The telegram from the Farmers Union of Western Australia helps to identify part of the hypocrisy, if I may use that phrase, of the ACTU in matters of this kind. Firstly, I contend that it is not within the function of the ACTU to say that there should be no trade with Indonesia. Secondly, if it does believe that there should be no contracts with Indonesia, I find it remarkably hard to reconcile the actions it has taken in promoting tourist connections through the travel agency, which I understand has as directors both the individuals to whom the honourable gentleman referred in his question.
It is of concern that there should be maximum trading opportunities. I should think that even the trade union leadership would realise that by stopping trade of this nature- in this instance Indonesian flag vessels carrying Australian wheat and in other instances any flag vessel carrying wheat to Chile- the losers are not only the Australian farmers but also the trade union members themselves as the benefits go to farmers in other countries and to the members of the work force in those countries. In other words, there is no doubt that the political practices of the Seamens Union referred to by my colleague the Minister for Transport, those of the builders labourers referred to by my colleague the Minister for Construction and those of the other individuals throughout Australia to whom I referred recently, are significantly prejudicing economic recovery in this country.
– You are burying the Government.
-I would hope that it will be recognised at the forthcoming ACTU conference, even by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, that the time has come for some common sense and some rational approach amongst those who are the leaders of the Australian trade union movement.
-Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to Standing Order 151, which says that questions may be asked without notice and that at the discretion of the Speaker supplementary questions may be asked to elucidate an answer. I seek guidance from you, Mr Speaker, as to when you will allow supplementary questions to be asked. You will recall that earlier today during question time I sought the privilege of asking a supplementary question following an answer by the Treasurer to a question directed to him in which he brought to bear the full thrust of the capacity of his intellect and avoided answering the point raised.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will make his point of order without those sorts of references.
- Mr Speaker, may I just illustrate the point I want to make? In the Budget Papers it is indicated that average earnings will increase by 10W per cent. It is also indicated that -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now transgressing the provisions of the Standing Orders and is using this purported point of order in order to argue an issue. I will not permit him to do that. If he has a question to ask me, he should ask it forthwith or I will ask him to resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I do not intend to debate the issue but rather to illustrate the point -
-The illustration is not necessary. The honourable member will ask his question.
- Mr Speaker, if I can put it to you -
-The honourable member cannot put it to me. He should make his point of order or resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, there seems to be a need to put to you a substantial proposition from which to argue that there ought to be a clear set of guidelines for the asking of supplementary questions. If it says in the Budget Papers, as it does, that average weekly earnings will increase by 10W per cent and that this represents a real reduction in wages, then inflation this year must be in excess of that 1014 per cent.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I ask you to be good enough to indicate the guidelines which you would apply for the asking of supplementary questions or is it, in fact, your intention to protect the Treasurer from his clumsiness?
-The honourable gentleman asks when I will permit supplementary questions. This has been an issue before the House during the period I have been a member. It has been the inevitable practice that the House has followed to call an honourable member from one side of the House and then an honourable member from the other side. The meaning of the words ‘supplementary question’ as contained in the Standing Orders has never been determined. The custom has been for an honourable member to ask a question on the same subject matter. The next question is called from the opposite side of the House on each occasion. The practice of asking supplementary questions really is a practice that derives from the House of Commons where questions are asked upon notice. The Minister then comes into the House at an assigned time, is asked questions and a series of supplementary questions may be asked. The practice of our House is quite different. Questions are asked without notice and the practice has been to call honourable members from either side of the House.
– The State parliaments, Mr Speaker -
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide will cease assisting me because he is only demonstrating his own flouting of the rules. I advise him to remain silent. I answer the point of order raised by the honourable member for Oxley by saying that I will observe the practice that has been observed in this House during the period I have been here. If the honourable gentleman wants the position changed, I suggest that he make a submission to me which I will take to the Standing Orders Committee.
– Pursuant to section 58 of the Trade Union Training Authority Act 1975, I present the first annual report of the Trade Union Training Authority 1975-76.
– For the information of honourable members, I present on behalf of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the production of gold.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Science on increases in Australia ‘s Antarctic activity.
For the information of honourable members I present the report of the inquiry into public electricity supply in the Northern Territory.
For the information of honourable members, I present the interim report of the operations of the Australian Housing Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1976, together with the text of a ‘ statement by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.
Mr ERIC ROBINSON (McPhersonMinister for Post and Telecommunications)For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal on self-regulation for broadcasters.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– I do. An article on page 2 of today’s Melbourne Sun claimed that a special Liberal Party committee on political tactics has warned the Government against an early election and it goes on to say that yours truly had been given the job of delivering the message to the Government.
-The honourable gentleman might identify who ‘yours truly ‘ is.
-The honourable member for Griffith- myself. I simply want to deny the claim made in that article. It is inaccurate.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 6 September at 2. IS p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House fix an alternative day or hour of meeting.
– I wish to inform the House that Mr George Robertson Fraser, the Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter will retire from the Parliamentary Reporting Staff today after nearly 30 years’ service. A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Mr Fraser worked on Sydney newspapers for 20 years from 1928 until 1948 when he joined the Hansard staff in Canberra. He has held all editorial positions on the Staff up to that of Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter, the one from which he retires. He has been a valuable servant of Hansard and of the Parliament and I am sure honourable members join with me in wishing him a long and happy retirement.
Mr Fraser will be succeeded as Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter by Mr John Kerr, and Mr James Dulihanty will become a Leader of Staff.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Fraser Government’s neglect of rural industries.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The Opposition raises this matter because it is becoming almost sickening to hear Government supporters make all sorts of protestations about the plight of rural industries. As long as I have been a member of the House, we have heard Government supporters make these sorts of protestations. We found during the period of the Labor Government, for instance, criticisms continually emanating from the then Opposition benches with specific undertakings given almost daily on what those parties- the Liberal and National Country parties- would do for rural industries. Today, and on almost every occasion, the answers to specific questions about the problems of rural industries or the state of rural industries are answered by a reference to what the Whitlam Government did or did not do.
I would suggest at this stage that many rural industries at the moment would not mind having Senator Wriedt back as Minister for Primary Industry. I would suggest that the initiatives taken by that Minister, especially the establishment of the Green Paper and the discussions surrounding it which appear now to have died with the change of government, were positive ones in an area of real problems. They do not match up to the promises made by honourable gentlemen opposite but they more than match the actual achievements of honourable members opposite which are different in every respect from what they say in this House and what they say outside this House. I would like to quote one passage from a speech delivered by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) to the conference of the Committee of Economic Development of Australia. He presented a table of net farm incomes as a return for capital invested- labour and management- and compared it with average weekly earnings. I do not think this table reflects the real situation but it is a statistical table which the Minister himself felt that he could use. It shows that in 1972, the year of the defeat of the then Liberal-National Country Party coalition, the average net farm income was $1 15 a week as compared with average wages of $93 a week. In the following year, 1973, average net farm incomes were $180 a week. That was the first year of the Whitlam Government. Average male incomes were $102 a week. In 1974 average farm incomes were $306 a week as against average male incomes of $1 18 a week. In 1975 they were $190 a week as against $148 a week. The gap at that stage had started to close because of the recession in world trade. In 1976 they were $172 a week as against $170 a week. The Minister has projected increases in farm incomes this year to $212 a week as against average male incomes of $190 a week. He has indicated that farm incomes in 1978 will be $199 a week. No projection of average male incomes in that year is included in the table. I read that table because it indicates the fallacy in what is said about the relative effect of Liberal and National Country Party governments on farm incomes. Farm incomes are affected by economic conditions and market availabilities. I should think that the figure of $306 reflected good market conditions and shortages in some other countries rather than Government policy during the period of the Whitlam Government; but it certainly shows that farm incomes were higher at that stage than they are now.
The farming community is in diabolical trouble, which will not be cured by nice words, sweet phrases or complaints about what happened three, four, five or six years ago. Honourable members opposite gave undertakings that they would do something about rural industries. It is their actions and policies and what they propose to do which must be under question. Up to this stage they have not done anything of a substantial nature for rural industries. The great losers in this year’s Budget allocations are the rural industries. The wool industry is a net contributor to revenue. The Budget Papers show no allocation for beef loans. They show that the animal health research project has had no funds allocated to it. I welcome the allocation of funds for quarantine facilities, but it is highly likely that at least one of those projects has had funds allocated to it which will not be spent this financial year because of difficulties with the site on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. I hope that that can be resolved. It is a serious problem.
The major achievement by the National Country Party in this year’s Budget has been to allow to slip into the Budget and into the Parliament a taxation scheme which, in its present form, seriously disadvantages farmers utilising the tax averaging scheme. Whilst the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) seeks to blame previous alterations to the taxation scheme, I think I should point out to the House that the Hayden Budget as it is called was, in fact, administered during the whole period after its passage through this Parliament by honourable gentlemen opposite, including the present Treasurer (Mr Lynch)- not by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who drafted the Budget. Therefore, the amendments which were made to it subsequently are the responsibility of the present Government, not of the introducers of that Budget. I use only one example in relation to the tax averaging scheme. A person who over the five-year period leading to the present had a total income of $60,000 would have paid $12,000 in tax under the old averaging scheme prior to the introduction of the present scheme. Under the scheme now introduced he will pay between $14,500 and $16,000 in tax. That is the differential.
I make one other point about this: The Government made great play about the importance of the marginal tax rate and the incentive to earn additional income. A substantial proportion of actual farm incomes lie in the $70 to $1 10 a week bracket. If farmers with incomes in that bracket find it necessary to move to outside employment in order to supplement their incomes, their marginal tax rate will increase by 5c in the dollar. It will not be reduced. The marginal tax rate previously applying was 27c in the dollar, and it is now 32c in the dollar. Honourable gentlemen opposite might consider that. It disadvantages all wage and salary earners in the $70 to $110 a week bracket, which would include most juniors and many farmers.
The other achievement of the National Country Party in this Budget is the success of the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) in having the new crude oil price policies implemented. This means severe losses to almost every primary producer in Australia. The Minister for Primary Industry indicated to the CEDA Conference that this will affect rural producers but they can look forward to prices not rising quite so fast at some time in the future when the supplies to Australia from members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries begin to increase rapidly, which obviously will take place. That is little consolation to rural producers and persons living in remote areas. For instance, a wheat farmer in Western Australia can expect to have his fuel bills increased by about $600 a year. That is a pretty heavy slug in areas where already there are depressed situations and problems with marketing and very low income levels.
To make the matter worse- I think we should understand quite clearly what this is all abouthalf of that $600 will go to the Commonwealth Government in the form of additional taxes paid by the companies concerned, and the other half will go in windfall profits. Honourable members opposite have harped on the freight subsidy on fuel for remote areas ever since it was abolished.
– Who abolished it?
– Once again we have exactly the type of response I would expect. Honourable members opposite have now been in government for two years. They have done nothing about restoring the subsidy. They ought to stop talking about something in respect of which they are prepared to take the benefit and to make political capital by talking about the disadvantage when they will not do anything about it.
There is a proposal to introduce a wholesale prices equalisation scheme by using excise levies and an equalisation fund. That proposal would seem to me to have very great merit. I should have thought that it would have been complementary to, and could have been introduced at the same time as and as part of, the new crude oil policy. It would add approximately 0.7 of a cent per litre to metropolitan fuel prices and result in very substantial savings to persons who currently are paying up to 30c a gallon more than the basic price. That did not happen.
It seems that in these Budget discussions rural producers have not been represented at all. The National Country Party’s main thrust in this year’s financial discussions has been to raise crude oil prices. Last year its main thrust was to get tax concessions for companies such as the Utah company which has benefited by $50m from budgetary decisions in the last two years. I suggest that, instead of looking backwards and saying what other people did not do, criticising and seeking to make political capital by making comfortable statements that are not backed up by action, the Government should take a look at what it can do. If it does not want to do anything it should come out and say so. I noted at question time today and in the Budget Statements that there will be no new fiscal initiatives this year. The Minister for Primary Industry has already outlined a number of new fiscal initiatives. The Prime Minister has not cleared up whether a Budget statement is a statement of government policy or whether it is just so many words. Certainly at question time today he cast severe doubt on the whole of the Budget Papers because of his refusal to say whether the Government supported what is in those Papers.
Primary producers in the beef industry have been promised all sorts of assistance. It has not arrived. It is not in the Budget. The Minister for Primary Industry says that it will come later in the year. The House and the community is entitled to know what will come later in the year, how long it will take to arrive and how much it will cost because we have before this Parliament now estimates of expenditure and receipts for the next financial year. Nothing in those estimates indicates what will be spent on assistance to the beef industry. Will the fuel equalisation scheme be introduced or is it one of those things which the Government is looking at? Will the Government continue to criticise the Labor Party for removing the old scheme but do nothing about assisting in an area in which I think everyone now recognises that assistance- real assistanceis desirable? The previous scheme assisted relatively few, although badly disadvantaged, sections of the rural community.
The results of this Budget have been roundly criticised by almost every responsible rural organisation in Australia. That includes people who until recently have been senior officials of one of the coalition parties which claims to speak for primary producers. I suggest that it is time we were told what is being done and what are the things for which the Government is prepared to accept responsibility. It is too easy to say- too often we hear it said- what the Government would like to be done but not what will be done.
In a year when, for instance, tax reforms are claimed by the Treasurer to total $1.3 billion- a very substantial sum, although it is arguable whether that claim is true or false- nothing is being done about the impost of probate duties on rural estates, which have been spoken about by representatives of primary industry in this House as long as I can remember and, I suppose, as long as any other honourable member can remember. Not one single cent has been appropriated for that. The Budget gives in excess of $ 100m to the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, Esso Australia Ltd and one or two other oil companies. Last year the Government was able to find $30m to give to companies such as the Utah Development Company.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It gives pleasure to us all to hear the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) speak in this House. The only trouble is that we disagree with most of what he says. But I do welcome him as Opposition spokesman for the rural sector and I hope that in his performance he will demonstrate soon a greater knowledge of the problems of rural industry than his Press announcement of yesterday and his speech today would suggest.
There are tremendous problems in the rural sector. Let me assure this House and every Australian farmer that we recognise those problems, understand them and are doing our darndest to alleviate them. I correct the honourable member for Corio and say to him that it is not a matter only of our saying what we would like to do or just what we will do; it is a matter of being able to say quite proudly what has been done. In case the honourable gentleman has forgotten, let me very briefly run through a recitation of some of these things because it is very important that the record should be put straight. Income equalisation deposits are one of the most dramatic and beneficial innovations introduced to help to stabilise the incomes of primary producers.
I have heard a lot of hoo-hah about what the new personal tax scale means. One totally incorrect statement was made about the position of income tax payable by people in the $70 to $ 1 10 per week income bracket. I suggest that the honourable gentleman should look at the new tax scale. He will then see that it provides a significant benefit, both directly and indirectly, not only to those who live in the city but also to the farmers. Every Australian farmer has had a devil of a time trying to find casual workers- fruit pickers and the people who work in the various industries around Australia occasionally when there is a harvest and a necessity to get additional people. Casual workers will now be able to operate on the same flat rate of tax up to a $16,000 per year income level, which embraces to a large degree the people in the $70 to $1 10 per week income bracket without having to pay a penal rate of tax. Those people who want to go from the city to work occasionally on a farm will be able to do so without having to pay this penal rate of tax. Shearers, who are one of those groups of people who have been slugged under the
Hayden tax scale, are going to get a net benefit. Do not let anybody be fooled; this new tax scale, both directly for farmers who are paying tax and indirectly for those who are going to work in the farming sector, will be of benefit to the Australian farming community.
It is true that this year we have not again provided an extension of concessions in estate duty as we did in the previous Budget. But compare our record with the Labor record. Labor did absolutely nothing in this respect. In our first Budget we provided for a special deduction of $50,000 to apply when an interest in an estate passed to a surviving spouse. In the case of an estate of a primary producer passing wholly to a surviving spouse that estate is totally free of duty if it is valued at $98,000 or less. There is no doubt that the investment allowance has been worth while. There has been private company profit distribution. Many family companies have been established in the rural sector. That change has been worth while.
The measures we undertook in respect of the valuation of trading stock has been one of the greatest benefits ever provided for the wine industry. It has similarly advantaged people in the canned fruit industry. The honourable gentleman does not realise that in the three major primary industries which concern me and on which I want to say more in a moment- the beef industry, the dairy industry and the horticultural industry- the valuation of trading stock provisions made available a significant concession which, whilst it was not introduced peculiarly for the farming community, was of significant benefit to them.
I mention also family allowances, pensions, the unemployment benefit for farmers, assistance to local government, additional assistance to State governments. All these measures are parts of the positive program of the Government. They bring net benefits to the Australian farmers. The honourable member for Corio does not even understand that. What happened to rural roads under the Labor Government? It withdrew the funds and progressively reduced the ability of local government and State governments to finance rural road construction. We have increased those funds significantly. The Australian Telecommunications Commission has extended free telephone installation in country areas to a distance of 12 kilometres instead of eight kilometres. The Commission is progressively moving back into an area which was removed when Labor was in office.
Since we came to office we have provided about $65m in financial assistance to help finance relief for primary producers in the event of droughts, floods and bushfires. We have set up a regime so that whenever there are natural disasters there is a capacity and a flexibility to assist State governments and to provide directly to local governments, where needed, financial help to assist those who are seriously disadvantaged. The funds of the major trading banks have already been replenished for the purposes of term and farm development loan funds. They were replenished last year by a total of $ 1 59m-$ 106m for the term loan fund and $53m for the farm development loan fund. This is not what will be done; this has been done. It is part of the continuing program of assistance of this Government to try to correct some of the ills that the Labor Budget and the implementation of the Coombs report imposed upon the Australian farmers.
Even today at question time we heard the Prime Minister giving yet another indication of the effects of the Hayden Budget. The introduction of the Hayden tax scale was so horrific that it cost the Australian farmers between $40m and $50m. That involved those farmers who took advantage, as they thought, of the income tax averaging provision. As we have said, we are looking at our tax scale to make sure it will not be to anyone’s detriment. The Labor Party did not even acknowledge the cost.
As I have said, legislation for the establishment of a national rural bank will be introduced into this Parliament this session- I hope before the end of October. All the details will then be spelled out. We do not want the same speculation and concern as occurred regrettably last year over the general issues of valuation of trading stock until such stage as the legislation is presented. I can assure Australian farmers that discussions and the parameter of the scheme are well developed and legislation will be introduced this session. The terms of the loan, its availability and the interest that will be charged will be specified at that time.
The Labor Party does not seem to realise that the new rural adjustment scheme embraces not just assistance to help people out of their land when that is what they want; nor is it just assistance to build up the holdings of people where that is a more efficient and effective way to operate. Also very significantly it provides household support. This was introduced by our Government for the first time to help farmers, whether they be beef men, meat men, dairy men, fruit growers or whatever, who find themselves in a position in which their income is down and they are unable to operate viably. The household support is to help them to stay on their farms. The unemployment benefit to farmers has a similar purpose. Those two areas are very dramatically intended to try to ensure that benefits flow. Unfortunately, there has been some variability in some areas on the part of those administering the scheme under which farmers can receive unemployment benefit. I hope that any individual who feels that he should be entitled to unemployment benefit will bring his case to the notice of his Federal member. If that is done, we can ensure that there is uniformity of eligibility for unemployment benefit to the maximum extent possible.
I turn next to the subject of special research. We have provided a very significant increase in the allocation of funds for rural research, wool research, wool promotion and industry research. We propose to introduce this year for the first time an oilseeds industry program. Fruit growing reconstruction is now to be amalgamated with rural adjustment. The phosphatic fertilisers bounty is to be maintained. When Labor was in office, it eliminated that bounty. The nitrogenous fertiliser bounty is to be maintained at the level at which it is applicable this year for another 12 months. The Labor program, in accordance with the recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission report, was to phase out the bounty. Indeed, if Labor had remained in office it would have phased out the bounty in accordance with the IAC proposal which it had implicitly adopted.
The wool industry is probably one of the best and most dramatic illustrations of what we have done. We have maintained the wool floor price scheme. There is provision, not through the Budget but through the private sector, for the continued support of the industry. This is a dramatic illustration of how this Government supports the rural community and how it recognises the contribution, socially and economically, of that industry which is so important to this country. There is no fund in the Budget other than for research into and promotion of wool. But the Budget provision is there through the guarantee that this Government provides. The Government provides the assurance to the Australian Wool Corporation, backed by the levy which is maintained from growers and which ensures that the taxpayer has no ultimate liability, that funds will be available on a loan basis to ensure that the scheme continues and that the price of wool is protected for the Australian producer.
I could speak about so many matters. I will refer briefly to three industries because it is these three industries about which I think we need to be concerned to know where we are going. Before doing so, I point out that the Budget tactic is designed to reduce inflation. A reduction in the level of interest rates across the board would do more than anything else to help farmers, including cattlemen, dairy farmers and horticulturists. The members of my Party and the Liberal Party are most concerned that we reduce the rate of inflation and the level of costs. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) the other night demonstrated once again that he is still in the parameter of a $4,000m deficit. He wants to spend and spend the taxpayers’ money. What he seeks to do is drive Australia bankrupt. He jolly nearly did so in the 3 years of Labor Government and the farmers of Australia are still paying the price. If we can reduce inflation and costs, as we will through the Government’s personal income tax scale, the Australian farmer will be given a greater incentive and that objective is worthwhile.
The three industries I wish to talk about very briefly are the beef industry, the dairy industry and the fruit industry. The beef industry certainly is in a very grievous plight. In some areas of Australia cash flows are at a disastrous level. Indeed, beef producers in Central Queenslandthose producers from the electorate represented by my friend the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige)- would be, I guess, as badly off as anyone in Australia. There are two aspects that we should keep in mind in respect of the industry. One is the market effect. We are doing what we can in this respect. We are dramatically changing the constitution of the Australian Meat Board to that effect. Secondly, we need to devise ways to offset some of the cash flow problems. This is not something for governments alone- I have been told that the assessed cost to Central Queensland cattlemen of industrial troubles in the meat industry in Queensland is between $20 and $30 per head in respect of each beast sold. What has been done by the Labor movement, whose attitudes are espoused in this House by members of the Opposition, about industrial stoppages that have cost cattlemen in Queensland $20 to $30 for each beast sold? This is an area in which only the Labor movement can do something.
What is this Government doing for the industry? Mention is made in the Budget Speech of disease control. The brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication and compensation scheme is well worthwhile. It is something that needs to be extended; it is something that farmers can take advantage of.
– It is absolutely essential.
– As my colleague, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, has pointed out, this program is absolutely essential. Until Australia’s herds are free from disease, we will be prejudiced increasingly in some world markets. The funds provided for this purpose this year are an increase on those provided for last year and this assistance is well worthwhile.
There is a range of other proposals designed to improve cash flows. I have been trying hard to devise a way to accelerate classification. There are six different classification schemes under test at the moment. I believe the Commonwealth Government will be significantly involved in the capital facilities at the time a practical, universal, objective classification scheme is available. But, as I mentioned, at the moment six schemes are being tested. We seek to make sure that we reduce the work force and not add to it by having additional men to work the machinery. The scheme needs to be integrated with the cattle chain. The Government has committed itself completely to accelerating the introduction of this scheme as soon as possible.
We are looking at various assistance schemes. But it would be foolish to introduce them without knowing the basis on which they can best help those cash flows. We prefer to act on a basis of rational assessment; that we will do. As I have assured various groups, our objective is to improve cash flows and cash returns to Australia’s cattlemen. It is no use rushing into some scheme unless we know that the scheme will be worthwhile. That is our intention.
I turn now to the new marketing arrangements in the dairy industry. The most important aspect of the Budget that I wish to mention in relation to the dairy industry is that underwriting has been provided at a time when the industry is looking at various changed marketing proposals. Stage I of this scheme has been introduced and Stage 2 is still under negotiation. But underwriting has been provided significantly by the Commonwealth in order to ensure that, at a time of adjustment, there can be rational consideration of the consequences that flow. In fact, the cost of underwriting for this year will go into next year’s Budget. I am afraid that many of those who have been commenting on this scheme have not even spoken of that aspect.
The third industry I mention is the horticultural industry which, in common with the other two industries, is seriously disadvantaged. Stabilisation, canned fruit, and cannery rationalisation are proposals that are under discussion. It would be foolish for me to try to conclude an analysis of all these industries today. But I can assure the House that the program we have provided is one of positive assistance to maintain the Australian family farmer. Our program is one of concern and positive help. The category of measures taken by this Government is such that the Australian farming community is significantly better off today than it was under Labor and it is once more significantly moving to the time when the family farmer will be able to expect again to receive a reasonable return, not just for his labour but also for his management expertise and the capital he has invested.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-We all know that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is an expert funeral director but Labor deplores the fact that he and the Fraser Government he serves have set out to bury the country people of our nation. Me thinks he doth protest far too much. Some of the aspects he mentioned were given to the country people, and the farmers in particular, by the Labor Government. I refer, for instance, to the Australian Wool Corporation, the fixed floor price for wool and so on. Look at the Fraser Government’s abysmal record right now. Rather than looking at the Government’s record early in its period in office, let us look at what the issues are right now. Unless the Government runs for cover because of the objections raised by those on this side of the House and others in the countryside, farmers will lose the benefits of tax averaging.
One of the policies announced by this Government- and I know that I cannot mention the Budget, Mr Deputy Speaker- is:
The tax under the averaging provisions applicable between $3,75 1 and $16,000 will be calculated at the standard rate of 32 percent.
Under old scales applying to 30 June last, one had to earn over $17,000 a year before one reached 32c in the dollar, and averaging applied only to $16,000 anyway. Even under new composite scales- and I hope that I will be able to incorporate the scales in Hansard- an average tax of 32c in the dollar is only reached above $22,000. This is certainly burying the farmers. This is ruining the tax averaging system which has applied for so long. Unless our protestations bring results, which I hope they will, this is what farmers will have to put up with. When farmers have to put up with imposts like this, all country people are the sufferers.
But let me put averaging aside. Under measures recently announced by the Government, by 1 July next there will be an increase of tax for all those whose taxable incomes are between $4,600 and $7,600. Is this not the range in which the taxable incomes of the vast majority of country people lie? It is between $88 and $146 a week. It is not only the Australian bowlers in England who are being hit to leg at this time but also the country people. I do not mention anything now about the fact that family allowances are not indexed at the same time. Many people in the countryside will be suffering from that. Family allowances took the place of rebates for children. All other rebates have been indexed. Family allowances also should have been indexed. People on taxable incomes up to $12,000 a year with one child will suffer because there is no indexation of family allowances. The country people suffer along with all others. All of this has come at a time when one Government Minister had this to say about farmers:
Although seasonal conditions are largely unpredictable, at this stage they seem unlikely to support more than a marginal increase in the volume of farm production; if so, real farm incomes would be likely to fall somewhat.
What hopes are there on the horizon for our agricultural industry in view of this gloomy forecast and with no help, only hinderance, in the form of terminating even tax averaging for the farming community? Does anyone expect that an external recovery in international commodity prices is just around the corner? Such a recovery would, of course, help rural incomes. Does anyone really expect that is the sort of announcement we will hear shortly? Does anyone expect results from the sorts of announcements we have had recently that increased business activity and consumer spending in Australia will increase demand for and prices of products sold mainly on the Australian market? I will come later to the point that what farmers need more than anything else is an increased level of activity within this country.
Where is there help for the beef industry? What about some financial commitments to urgently needed beef classification? Where is there a financial commitment to this so-called Rural Bank which has been mentioned in recent announcements? I give my personal view: All the talk about that bank is a singular piece of window-dressing. What rural people want, like so many others, is access to longer term, lower interest financing. If this Government were dinkum about that it would make funds available immediately throught the Commonwealth Development Bank. Through that bank we have machinery already set up for dispensing those funds. I have yet to be convinced that there is a need for a further bureaucracy for this purpose, other than wasting time and window dressing. What about a financial commitment to the animal health laboratory in Geelong in the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes)? What about a commitment to fuel price equalisation? The answer given yesterday during question time by the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) was, to say the least, pathetic. The Government is still trying to blame the Australian Labor Party for all ills. It is time the Government realised that it has been in power for 20 months- more than long enough to implement some of its own policies. All that is wrong now can be blamed fairly and squarely on the Fraser Government and those who support it.
In relation to fuel price equalisation, I say that the budgetary commitment to this was lifted at a time when rural incomes were far higher, relatively, than they are today. There are ways, other than taxpayers’ subsidies, to bring about equalisation. The honourable member for Corio mentioned one of these. The recent Federal Conference of the Labor Party in Perth passed a resolution which I bring to the attention of the House. It stated:
Conference recommends to the Labor Government for consideration the implementation of a uniform national wholesale price scheme for petroleum products.
There are ways and means of distributors paying into a freight equalisation fund on an equitable basis. I hope the fact that the Labor Party has this in mind for when it takes over the reins of government, either later this year or half-way through next year, will spur this lazy LiberalNational Country Party Government into some action about the matter.
Before I forget, I point out that there is another recently announced Government measure which also hits many people in rural industries just as it hits all other small business people whose ventures are incorporated into companies. I refer to the increase in company tax. My old friend Jim Cope, known to many in the House as the former honourable member for Sydney, pointed out to me the other day that the increase in company tax from 42.5 per cent to 46 per cent is not just a 3.5 per cent increase; it is an increase of over S’A per cent because it is 3.5 per cent on 42.5 per cent. So there is an increase of over 8 ‘A per cent in that slug. It hits many people who have rural holdings. But, over and above all this, we have the proposed increases in petrol and diesel fuel prices. These increases will add enormously to production costs, especially for the wheat growing industry. Surely some help should have been given by the Government for fuel conservation measures. Some compensation should have been paid by the Government to those hardest hit, such as people in the country. But no such measures have been forthcoming from this Fraser Government.
In the case of wool marketing assistance, wheat industry stabilisation and land development projects, repayment of loans to the national government by those on the land will result in rural producers contributing more to consolidated revenue than they are receiving in assistance in their time of need. We in the Labor Party are aware that the wool industry is not only repaying loans but also is still contributing interest at a high rate on loans from the Australian Government. What rural people want most of all is a healthy economy and increased trade. They are hurt as much as anyone else by the growing economic stagnation. It has reached depression levels now, and I need hardly mention again the unemployment figures as one detail in this matter. Country people as well as city people are interested in Labor’s alternative economic program of modest stimulatory increased spending on capital works such as water conservation measures in the countryside, expenditure on local intiative programs promoted by local councils, improving their roads and other facets of their life which result in an upgrading in the quality of their lives, in job training and in retraining programs. All of these measures will benefit enormously people in the countryside as a contrast to the neglect of the Fraser Government. When it comes to marketing schemes, I go no further than referring to Mr Milton Taylor, the General President of the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association. He stated:
People in rural industry had always assumed that they would get more from a Liberal-National Country Party government- but history showed that more benefits had been obtained from a Labor government than from the other side.
What do we get instead from the Minister for Primary Industry? We get promises of better things over the horizon with the horizon never being reached. We get, if not union-bashing, threats to deport Poms. All of this is a diversionary tactic to overcome the neglect of the Liberal-National Country Party Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am reminded of the reference in cricket language of times gone by to Washack and Toshbrook. At this stage I am not quite sure whether I am listening to Mr Hurden or Mr Hayford. I suppose we could resolve the situation by using Christian names once again. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) commented on tax scales in the new Budget. I remind him that the dairying industry last year averaged, as gross returns, $1,400 per dairy farmer. Will they be eliminated from taxation rates under the new scheme? Of course they will be and so will a lot of other primary producers. Never let the honourable member forget that. But the interesting question probably is: Why were the returns to these dairy farmers or beef producers or horticulturists so low? The reason was that cost increases after the debacle of 3 years of Australian Labor Party government have decimated those industries. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the figures dealing with prices paid by farmers from 1970-71 onwards.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– Those figures show two things. I have in mind that there is a South Australian election in the offing which is probably why the honourable member for Adelaide got up to represent the primary producers. From those figures the House will see an increase in prices paid during the time the Australian Labor Party was in power in Canberra, using a base index of 100 in 1961-62, ranging from 133 to 252. No doubt honourable members will note with interest that in South Australia the price increase to the rural community was much higher than it was in any other State. It ranged from an index price of 133 to 263. 1 hope that fact will not be lost sight of if I am correct in assuming that this discussion was brought on in the House today because of an election in South Australia shortly.
I suppose I should offer my commiserations to the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). He represents a major city in Australia and he has taken on the job of spokesman for the Opposition on rural matters. I wish him a long and happy stay in that position. He was reported in the Press as having revealed that he had distributed to his colleagues a list of rural seats which had to be won by the Labor Party if it were to regain power. He added that if the seats were not won Labor need only think about shadow ministries. That is the point I just made. He carried on and said that it was his job to convince his parliamentary colleagues of the need to win these rural seats ‘with at least as much effort as they had put into losing them’. I acknowledge his difficulty and I acknowledge the fact that therefore we ought to look, even if only briefly when we have the time, at the Labor Party’s new rural policy. I have had a careful look at it but only on the basis of the evidence I have been able to glean from the Press and from some rather short Press releases from the Labor Party.
The Labor Party’s policy is significant in one way: It is a verbose, generalised series of commonplace statements that attempt to be statesmanlike by mentioning nothing specifically. The honourable member for Corio, so the Press tells me, tried 50 amendments to this policy document in Perth recently in an effort to give it some meaning but was defeated in all 50.
– That is not true.
– Perhaps the honourable member for Adelaide might like to explain the situation later because presumably he was at the Perth meeting.
– I was.
– I am just quoting from the Press. One would think that the generosity of the Labor Party would be such that it would have let him get away with just one amendment. It would have done a lot for his morale.
– I am sorry to spoil a good story but it is just not true.
– Well, say it was 30. 1 do not know but the Press said it was 50 amendments in order to try to give meaning to the form of words in the Labor Party’s policy. I think that is the important thing to hang onto in relation to this debate.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) mentioned that in the Budget we are determined to tackle inflation. We are determined to tackle wage escalations that are ruining all small farmers in this nation. I have dealt briefly with taxation. My friend the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) interjected when the Minister was speaking and said that the tuberculosis and brucellosis programs were vital. They are vital and this Government is providing a new input so that the States can more accurately plan than they have been able to do in the past. This is vital for all future meat exports. As America gets closer to achieving its aims in this direction more pressure will come onto Australian producers and exporters to meet similar conditions. It is vital that the Government has recognised this fact of life and has acted accordingly. Farm adjustment is another matter the Minister mentioned. All of us can remember the Opposition’s repeated comments to the detriment of farmers in relation to the superphosphate subsidies. The sum involved was $40m. Nitrogenous fertiliser is of great importance in my area. This Government has retained the level of support for nitrogenous fertilisers for farmers. This is vital for farmers. It is vital that some of the cost inputs imposed on rural producers by the Dunstan Government in South Australia are compensated for in some way.
The Government also is determined to tackle the problem relating to the proposed rural bank. My rural committee has prepared a most detailed paper on this matter. I was interested to hear what the honourable member for Adelaide had to say. As one could forecast, he spoke of going to the public sector and refusing to take any input from the private sector into credit facilities for rural producers. That we could all forecast and that we could all expect. I hope that the Government will come down with a much better balanced scheme affecting all people with credit to contribute to the scheme, whether such people be in the public sector or the private sector, whether they be associated with insurance companies or co-operatives. I am confident that that will happen.
The Government has deferred the repayment of loans to canneries and brought in the income equalisation deposit scheme. The sum now in that scheme is of great interest and it proves its success. The Government is tackling stock valuation adjustments and the use of Division 7 for small private companies and its implication on wineries. This is most important. Family allowances are another problem. We have other needs which honourable members will take up. The wine-brandy industry is of great concern to me.
What did the Labor Party do in its 3 years of office? It withdrew export market development rebates on all meat exports and the accelerated depreciation provisions were withdrawn. Outright deductions were withdrawn and investment allowances to primary producers were terminated. Fuel equalisation measures were terminated and section 31a was withdrawn much, I think, to the embarrassment in many ways, to give him credit, of the honourable member for Adelaide. The advantages of brandy over other Australian spirits were taken away. The excise on brandy, the manufacture of which is the only means of coping with the surplus that can occur from time to time in the grape industry, was increased by 230 per cent in 20 months by the Labor Government. Have we seen any increase since or any sales tax equivalent? Of course not.
The wool floor price is another example of the debacle of the Labor Government’s policy decisions that we can remember. Who will forget the standup fight between the Labor Party Executive and its Caucus on this issue while all confidence was taken from the industry at that time? Time is running out on me but I would like to thank the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council for its general support for the thrust of this Budget. It was most important for us to know that that sector of the industry has confidence in the Government and supports its actions. Finally I mention again the Australian Labor Party’s policy statement. We should debate it at greater length later on. It is a hotch potch of meaningless generalities. I thought that about 50 amendments to it were moved by the honourable member for Corio but all were defeated. He is reported to be searching for an image. I would have thought that that image has been quite firmly established.
– What amendments did I move? You do not have a clue.
– The honourable member for Corio was out of the chamber when I referred to a Press report on this subject. I qualified my remarks by saying that I was by no means certain of the number. The rural sector of Australia is safe as long as this Government is in power.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (12.28)- It is a pleasure for me to support the move for a discussion in this House of the Fraser Government’s neglect of rural industries. I was particularly pleased with the contributions made by the two speakers so far from the Opposition side. They put forward conclusive evidence showing that the Fraser Government’s treatment of rural industry illustrates double standards and broken promises in another critical area. This Government has given nothing and has caused more and more hardship together with the denial of life’s amenities that are enjoyed by more favoured sections of our community. My colleagues already have pointed out that this Government has failed to provide funds for beef classification. It has failed to make specific commitments to the proposed national rural bank. It has failed to introduce fuel price equalisation. It has removed income averaging and further retarded the progress of recovery by placing a large group of primary producers on a higher tax scale. All this is happening at a time when nearly every section of our rural industry is crying out for some return and some assistance, particularly in view of the great financial and physical contribution rural industry has made towards the development and wealth of Australia.
The honourable member for New England, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), said a lot about what the Government had done for the dried fruit growing area. He forgot to mention that the allocation for irrigation and pastoral water projects has been reduced from $28.6m in 1975-76 to $ 14.9m in 1977-78. He went on to talk about how the Labor Government treated rural roads. Everyone knows that the Labor Government increased the payment for rural arterial roads and also took over responsibility for national highways on the condition that the States would look after rural local roads. But the States pocketed the money, and most of them were Liberal and Country Party governments. If the honourable member for New England had ever gone into the dried fruits area he would know the implications of cutting back the appropriation for water resources. Pollution in the rivers is gradually destroying the dried fruits area, and that is the biggest complaint that will be heard in that area.
I have continually approached the Government for assistance in my electorate. Honourable members need not take my word for that. They need not take my word for how much is needed in the rural industries. I refer the House to an article in the Australian Financial Review on 12 August by Brian Toohey. The article pointed out:
With farm incomes estimated to fall by 14 per cent in real terms this year, Mr Sinclair’s office staff earlier this week was happily allowing crews in to televise them opening piles of letters and telegrams congratulating the Minister on his attacks on British-born shop stewards in Australian tradeunions.
As far as the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair) is concerned, the storm over his remarks about the British disease was just what was needed to give a kick along to his party’s lagging reputation in the bush. The article continued:
Ever since Mr Fraser took over as Prime Minister, the National Country Party cannot really point to any significant example of where it has managed to sway Government policy.
The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) criticised the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) for remarking that not all members of the Labor Party support its rural policy. How did the honourable member for Angas get on with the Government? Here is a report clearly indicating how successful he was. According to the latest projections by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, real farm income is likely to fall by 14 per cent in 1977-78. What a proud record the Government has!
I point out that when the Labor Party thinks of rural industries it thinks of all the rural industries, including country towns and small country businesses. It is not necessary to read the newspapers to understand the Fraser Government’s lack of concern for these other amenities. In Hansard of 18 August the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) made a long speech in which he told the House that he had been battling without success for many years to get television in his electorate. I am sorry that the honourable member is not in the House, because I had some other nice things to say about him. He pointed out that after all those years the situation was hopeless. Perhaps the honourable member overplayed his hand. Surely there must be one or two areas which get television. I have been to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) several times about my electorate and have asked for some expansion of television coverage in the country areas. We have had an expansion to Cobar, Bourke, Menindee and some of those areas, but places such as Ivanhoe and Wilcannia have been on the edge of television for years. What has this Government done about it? What have members of the National Country Party done to relieve that situation?
– What have you done?
– That is a good question, and I would like to answer it. Honourable members opposite have been telling us what the Labor Party has not done. The Labor Party has been in power for three years during the last 27 years, and look at the conditions in the country. Who is responsible? The people cannot be fooled like that. The honourable member for Kennedy tried to hide behind Blue Poles and some old chap’s report- Dr Coombs’ report. He tried to hide behind it, but it is too thin and everyone could see him. If honourable members opposite want to talk about conditions in the rural industries and fight for them, they should not get cold feet. They should tell the people. We had an example of this the other night when someone started to cross the floor. ‘Mene, tekel, petes’ is the writing on the wall. It is not because of the state of the economy in this country that the Prime Minister is thinking about an early election; it is because of the state of his own party. Members are drifting away from him everywhere. Who will be left? It will be the members of the National Country Party, because they have done nothing for the people they represent.
– You did not put anything in. You did nothing about it.
– The people in my electorate vote for me because I do not hide when it comes to putting the case for the country. I did not publish it in the newspapers, but everyone in the country knew that I put up the argument in Caucus for a floor price for wool and for the superphosphate subsidy. I do not hide behind Blue Poles or anything else when it comes to the country. I want to say a few words to the honourable member for Maranoa. When the honourable member for Kennedy was in Broken Hill during the last election campaign he told the people not to vote for the member for Darling because he was getting too old. The people laughed at him because he was huffing and puffing when he said it. In the next electorate to mine was the honourable member for Maranoa. It is a bigger electorate and he is a much older man; so now his colleague has put him out of a job. He should wake up to himself.
In the short time left to me today I want to say that the Labor Government did not just talk about things. We introduced the floor price for wool. No one can take that away from us. If the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) were here he would admit that it was pressure that I applied to him as chairman of the education committee which resulted in payments being made for isolated children. It is a pity that I have run out of time, because I have plenty more to say -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr SCHOLES (Corio)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) said that I had proposed 50 amendments to the Labor Party’s rural policy that was submitted in Perth and that all of them had been defeated. The honourable gentleman has no basis for that knowledge other than an inaccurate Press report which was based on nothing of any substance. I was not a delegate to the conference and I was not a member of the committee which drafted the report. I certainly neither suggested nor proposed any amendments to the conference document.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Corio was not in the chamber when I said that I was quoting only from a Press report. I acknowledged that, from the beginning.
-The honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) welcomed the opportunity to expand on what the Australian Labor Party did for the rural sector during its three years in government from 1972 to 1975. Unless I failed to hear what he said, I am absolutely positive he said that the Labor Government introduced the wool floor price scheme. He spoke for some five minutes about the fact that his Government introduced the wool floor price scheme. One can deduce from that that it was his Government’s only beneficial achievement for the primary industry sector during three years. He can claim only one thing to its credit. At the end of every period there must be a scoreboard showing the pluses and the minuses. I think the Labor Government would have so many minuses that we would not look for the pluses. To determine the cause of the decline in our rural sector we must look directly at inflation. Too many people around Australia, particularly those honourable members sitting opposite, overlook what inflation has done to the rural sector. They overlook the fact that because of inflation the rural sector has to pay increased farm costs and increased interest rates. I could keep on talking about the cost of inflation to the rural sector.
The increased interest rates which have been foisted on the rural sector have placed many of our primary producers in a position from which unfortunately some of them will never recover unless there are massive grants from government, not only federal but also State. State governments must recognise their share of responsibility in this area. Because of the on-costs of farm machinery many primary producers today, particularly those in wheat areas and those in highly intensified farming areas, find that they cannot replace their machinery. All these problems have been brought about by the inflation rate. Who can take a great deal of the credit for the present inflation rate? The honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) wanted to take credit for a few things but he, along with his Party and colleagues, can take credit for the inflation rate of 1 8 per cent over which they presided. The honourable member for Darling should take credit also for the great reduction in rural telephone services. His Government did not reduce them too far- only by about 300 per cent which is not a bad sort of reduction! He does not give credit to the present Government for having increased the telephone free line service. He does not believe in giving credit where credit is due.
I turn now to consider the enormous costs that have been forced upon our beef producers as a result of increases in wages within abattoirs. All the amounts I will quote are weekly wage payments. In 1973, a boner in the high tally area received $102.30. In 1977 he receives $302.50. That is not a bad escalation. In 1973 a beef slaughterman received $133.70 while in 1977 he receives $221.05. Again, not a bad increase. Unfortunately mutton slaughterman are in the worst position of the lot. I feel sorry for them. In 1973 they received $109.85 as against the current wage of $2 14. 1 5. A boning room labourer in 1973 received $94.45 as against $164.25 in 1977.
– They have to live.
– Of course they have to live. So does the primary producer. But who has to bear this enormous increase in costs. The primary producer, the beef producer, must bear it. To compound this enormous problem, what did the Labor Government then do? It was not satisfied with what it had done to that point, so it introduced an export tax on top of it all. To give a little credit to our Government, I thought that we had removed that tax, but the honourable member for Darling did not pay any attention to that fact. Not happy with that, the Labor Government then went out and strangled our export sales. One has only to have a quick look at the figures to see how the Labor Government brought about a massive decline in sales. I will give honourable members some of the figures in a moment. The Government has seen as its priority the reduction of interest rates. This will be achieved by bringing down the high inflation rate that we inherited. In the 1976-77 Budget, we entered into the first phase of our program to bring down the high inflation rate. The 1977-78 Budget takes that program another step forward. Certainly the interest rate and inflation rate will be greatly reduced. I agree entirely with the line adopted by the Government in regard to inflation control. It will bring about a decline in the interest rate. Low returns, high interest rates and higher on-farm costs have forced all our producers into the rather precarious situation in which they find themselves currently. What has this Government achieved for our producers?
– It is all very well for a member from a metropolitan area who probably would not know one end of a cow from another and thinks cattle are grown in a butcher’s shop to make such an interjection. This Government’s achievements include the controlling of inflation, the expanding of our markets, the stabilising of returns to our wool and dairy producers as well as the returns to many other producers. However, one area still of grave concern to me and the Government relates to beef producers. We initially saw our main objective as being to get out and to sell on the overseas market. The Government did this and did it remarkably well. The figures show just what we did achieve contrasted with what was achieved during the Labor Government’s term of office. In 1975 we had export orders of 532,000 tonnes. During 1976 we exported 734,000 tonnes. During 1977 we exported 885,000 tonnes. Clearly this Government, which honourable members opposite claim has not done anything at all for our producers, especially beef producers, has reestablished our credibility overseas.
Primary producers in northern Queensland and northern Australia generally really need government assistance. As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said, the Government is currently evaluating schemes to create a cash flow situation for these primary producers who certainly need a cash flow very quickly. The major reason that beef producers are in this position is that we have a massive over-supply situation. It was with this in mind that I proposed to the Government some 10 days ago a program to help eliminate some of the over-supply. To highlight the over-supply situation in our female herd, I have prepared a table. Honourable members opposite have agreed to its incorporation in Hansard. I therefore now seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. The $15 breeder spaying program- time will not permit me to go through all its benefits- will be simple to operate, will give benefit to all beef producers, will give station hands and rural veterinarians further employment opportunities, will reduce rural unemployment and will have a relatively quick effect in reducing the size of the national cattle herd to a more manageable level. The national spaying program has been well reported in the media. There have been very few people speaking in opposition to it. It will give producers additional income within 15 and 20 months when they sell off their spayed female cattle in a once only situation -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to implement the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission concerning the distribution between States of the local government tax sharing entitlements provided under the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976. The Act provides that in 1977-78 and each subsequent year, the amount of general purpose assistance provided to local government authorities will be 1.52 per cent of the previous year’s net personal income tax collections. Since the local government tax sharing entitlement is expressed as a percentage of the previous year’s tax collections the level of general purpose assistance provided to local government in any year is known with certainty early in that year. Honourable members will be aware that the earlier Commonwealth suggestion that the States’ tax sharing entitlements also be related to the preceding year’s personal income tax collections was again raised at the Premiers Conference on 1 July.
The Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act also sets out the percentage distribution of the funds between the States. The percentage distribution in the Act is that recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its report of May 1 976. Following representations from Tasmania the matter of the percentage distribution was again referred early in 1977 to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for inquiry and report. The Commission recommended a new and marginally different distribution in its ‘Special Report on Financial Assistance for Local Government 1977’, tabled in the Parliament last May. That distribution was agreed to by all the Premiers at the 1 July Premiers Conference and has been incorporated into this Bill. The new distribution means that some States will receive a slightly larger percentage share and some States a slightly smaller percentage share; this is the inevitable result of the arithmetic.
I point out, however, that the effect of increased net personal income tax collections in 1976- 77 compared with the previous year will swamp the effect of the small reductions for some States arising from the redistribution, and each State will receive substantially more in 1 977-78 than it received in 1976-77. On the existing basis of 1.52 per cent of net personal income tax collections being distributed to local government, the amounts payable to local government under this Act will be 18 per cent greater, overall, in 1977- 78 than in 1976-77. The Government considered the matter of the 1.52 percentage share when framing the Budget but decided that it could not see its way to increasing it in the present economic circumstances.
Honourable members may recall that last May the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) suggested that consideration be given to making specific provision in legislation that the Commonwealth Grants Commission should follow equalisation principles in future reviews of local government relativities. I am pleased to inform the House that the Government is in consultation with the States on the matter of prescribing guidelines in the Act. We shall be examining the matter further when all States have made their views known. Further legislation may be necessary then. In the meantime, the Government has decided to proceed with this Bill so as not to delay the payment to local government authorities of their tax sharing entitlements for 1977-78.
This Bill is a short one but it is important, nevertheless. Changes of the kind proposed in this Bill may well be required in the future from time to time. Under this Government’s approach to federalism, this change is being proposed after proper process of independent inquiry, as will be any such changes in the future. The Bill continues the arrangements which have been instituted by this Government and which I believe have been of singular benefit to local government in this country.
Local government received $140m in 1 976- 77, an increase of 75 per cent over the level of general purpose assistance provided to it by the Commonwealth in 1975-76. The level of assistance will increase still further to $ 165.3m in 1977- 78. Furthermore, the level of assistance is known very early in each new financial year, and this will assist local authorities with their budgeting. Very importantly, the funds will be untied. This will allow local government authorities to allocate funds in accordance with their own priorities. The inclusion of local government in the tax sharing arrangements has accorded it the status of a genuine partner in our federal system. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment of capital grants to the States in 1977-78 totalling $477,933,000. This amount represents the grant component of the Loan Council program for State governments in 1977-78, and is one-third of the total program of $l,433.8m agreed at the 1 July 1977 Loan Council meeting. The Bill also provides for the payment of capital grants in the first six months of 1978-79 up to an amount equal to one-half of the 1977-78 amount, pending passage of legislation to authorise grants in 1978-79. Payments authorised under this Bill may be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or from the Loan Fund, and appropriate borrowing authority is included. This is consistent with past practice.
These grants represent a continuation of arrangements initiated by the Liberal-Country Party Government in June 1 970, which provided that portion of the State governments’ Loan Council programs should take the form of interest-free non-repayable grants in lieu of what would otherwise be interest-bearing borrowings by the States. The effect of the grants is to relieve the States of debt charges which they would otherwise have to pay, and the grants accordingly have a substantial beneficial effect on the States’ financial positions. The grants were introduced to help the States finance works such as schools, police buildings and the like from which debt charges are not normally recovered. The States are, however, entirely free to apply these grants as they choose, and no terms or conditions are attached to them.
Turning to the details of the Bill, clause 3 authorises the payment of grants to the States totalling $477,933,000 in 1977-78 and clause 4 authorises the Treasurer to make advance payments in the first six months of 1978-79 at the same annual rate as in the current financial year. The amounts payable to each State are set out in the Schedule to the Bill. Clause 5 of the Bill provides for payments to be made either from Consolidated Revenue Fund or Loan Fund and clause 9 provides for the necessary appropriation of these funds. The extent to which the payments will be met from Loan Fund will depend in part on the level of government borrowings during the year, and this cannot be precisely estimated at this point. Finally, on the details of the Bill, clauses 6 and 7 authorise the Treasurer to borrow funds in the period from the commencement of the Act to the end of December 1978, up to the total of the amounts of the grants payable in 1977-78 and in the first six months of 1978-79. This borrowing authority will be reduced by the amount of any borrowings made before the enactment of this Bill, under the authority of the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Act (No. 2) 1976, which may have been used to finance grants made in the first six months of 1977-78.
I turn now to the general context in which this Bill is being introduced. The grants which are the subject of this Bill are, as I said, part of the State governments’ Loan Council programs and these programs are in aggregate to increase by 5.7 per cent in 1977-78. Those who choose to ignore the overall context might criticise this rate of increase as being low. A proper assessment, however, would take into account the overall level of untied funds provided to the States and their authorities from the Commonwealth Budget.
Total general purpose payments to the States together with the State government Loan Council programs are estimated to increase by no less than $685.1m or 14.0 per cent in 1977-78. Local government authorities’ share of personal income tax collections will be $ 165.3m in 1977-78, 18.1 per cent more than last year.
It is also relevant that the Loan Council program for the States’ semi-government authorities has been increased by $204m or 2 1.3 per cent in 1977-78. 1 commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– by leave- Since the tabling of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry’s first report on 1 1 November 1976, there has been a wide-ranging debate inside the Parliament and in the public arena. During this time, the Government has given painstaking consideration to the Ranger Inquiry’s valuable and constructive reports and to all other information available to it on uranium mining and export. This exhaustive consideration of the issues and evidence has led the Government to decide that there should be further development of uranium under strictly controlled conditions.
This decision has been motivated by a high sense of moral responsibility to all Australians and to the community of nations. It has flowed from four fundamental considerations: the need to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation; the need to supply essential sources of energy to an energy deficient world; the need to protect effectively the environment in which mining development will take place; the need to ensure that proper provision is made for the welfare and interests of the Aboriginal people in the Alligator Rivers region and of all other prople living in the region and working on the development projects.
Mr Deputy Speaker, before proceeding, I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the presiding Commissioner of the Ranger Inquiry, Mr Justice Fox, and to his fellow Commissioners, Mr G. G. Kelleher and Professor C. B. Kerr. They have had to make recommendations on a complex set of problems on which there are diverse and strongly held opinions in the community. They have discharged their commission with wisdom and sensitivity.
Since then I have appointed Mr Justice Fox as adviser to the Government on nuclear nonproliferation and safeguards matters. He is overseas and doing invaluable work.
The Ranger Inquiry was, of course, established by the previous Government. It looked at both the world-wide and the local regional environmental issues associated with the mining and export of uranium: the issues of nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear safeguards; the contribution of nuclear power to world energy requirements; the economic implications of uranium export for Australia.
The Government has examined every recommendation in the Inquiry’s Reports. Only in a few cases have the Government’s decisions varied from the Inquiry’s recommendations. Ministers will explain the reasons for such variations. The Government believes that every variation meets the Inquiry’s request that it should ‘just as satisfactorily achieve the same purposes and satisfy the same principles’ as the Inquiry’s proposal.
The Government’s decision was taken on the basis of the Inquiry’s principal findings and recommendations.
On uranium mining, the Inquiry concluded:
The hazards of mining and milling uranium, if those activities are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to develop Australian uranium mines.
The Government is now satisfied that the environmental control and industrial health measures proposed by the Inquiry and accepted by the Government, will provide proper regulation and control.
On nuclear power reactors, the Inquiry concluded:
The hazards involved in the ordinary operations of nuclear power reactors, if those operations are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to mine and sell Australian uranium.
This is in accordance with the Government’s own view.
On waste disposal from nuclear power stations, the Inquiry concluded:
While we do not think that the waste situation is at present such as to justify Australia wholly refusing to export uranium, it is plain that the situation demands careful watching, and depending on developments, regular and frequent reassessment.
The Government is satisfied that the technology exists for the safe management and ultimate disposal of highly radioactive waste. International developments will continue to be closely reviewed and Australia will continue to participate in international studies directed to improve standards for waste disposal.
On the possibility of nuclear terrorism, the Inquiry concluded:
In our view, the possibility of nuclear terrorism merits energetic consideration and action at the international level. We do not believe that this risk alone constitutes a sufficient reason for Australia declining to supply uranium. It does, however, provide a further reason why the export of our uranium, including what is proposed to be done with it, and where, are matters which the Government should keep under constant scrutiny and control.
The Government is satisfied that the specification of standards of physical security by the International Atomic Energy Agency constitutes the basis upon which national governments can provide strong protection against nuclear terrorism.
On Australia’s international obligations, the Inquiry concluded:
A total refusal to supply would place Australian in clear breach of Article IV of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and could adversely affect its relation to countries which are parries to the NPT.
Article IV of the Treaty obliges Australia to cooperate in the production and usage of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The export by Australia of uranium under stringent safeguards would give effect to our obligations under Articles III and IV of the Treaty. I must say that the leaders of the countries in Europe I visited in June were well aware of the obligations under that Treaty.
I would remind the House that Australia became a party to the Treaty and accepted the obligations it imposed, in January 1973, when the Treaty was ratified by the then Labor Government.
Overall, the Inquiry concluded that the total renunciation of any intention to supply uranium was undesirable and most unlikely to produce any worthwhile outcome. On the basis of this conclusion, the Inquiry submitted ‘that the options were either to proceed to supply as soon as practicable, or to delay making a decision about supplying for a period of several years’.
The Inquiry stated that the choice between these two options ‘depended largely on what was deemed to be the best strategy in relation to the matter of proliferation.’ The proliferation of nuclear weapons was, in the Inquiry’s view, the most serious hazard associated with the nuclear power industry.
Responding to this danger within the context of international demands for energy has been the fundamental basis of the Government ‘s decision.
The Government, having considered the Inquiry’s report and all the other evidence before it, has decided that the goals of limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and alleviating the world’s energy problems are best served by Australia agreeing now to the export of uranium.
The Government well appreciates the concern some people feel about nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Sir MacFarlane Burnet summarised these concerns well when he wrote recently:
As a biologist I should have preferred that there had never been developed the military and industrial exploitation of nuclear power.
I believe that that sentence would reflect the feeling of many well meaning people throughout Australia and the world. But we cannot absolve ourselves from the necessity of making decisions on nuclear energy by wishing that it had never been developed.
As Sir MacFarlane went on to say:
I believe that a majority of thoughtful people accept the inevitability for at least an interim period, of large scale use of nuclear energy in most parts of the world.
Things being as they are, nuclear power generators will be needed for the next twenty, or perhaps fifty, years in most of the developed countries, with Japan and Sweden in particular need.
The Government has taken its decision with a deep sense of international responsibility. I venture to say that were it not for that sense of responsibility, were it not for our wish to strengthen Australia’s voice in the moves against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, were it not for our obligation to provide energy to an energy deficient world, we would not have decided to export uranium. Commercial considerations were not and are not the dominant motive in our decision. In themselves they would not have been sufficient.
The oil crisis of 1973 precipitated the fundamental recognition that the world was facing an energy crisis.
While Australia has been insulated from the effects of the oil crisis by a plentiful supply of energy resources, the dwindling supply of petroleum has meant that many countries must change over to other sources of energy.
The energy-deficient countries are aiming to conserve energy, to use existing resources such as coal more effectively, and to develop new energy sources- including solar, wind, tidal and others. But these sources will not realistically provide energy on a sufficiently large scale this century. Nuclear energy is the only readily available alternative most countries have to meet their essential need for electrical energy in the wake of the oil crisis.
One hundred and eighty-four nuclear power units are in operation in 20 countries, with a capacity of 88,000 megawatts of electricity- four times Australia’s total electrical capacity. Many more nuclear power units are under construction or on order. Very ‘substantial quantities of uranium are required to fuel them.
It is manifest that:
There is a need for nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in a number of countries poorly endowed with fossil fuels;
There is a world wide growth of the nuclear industry;
There is a widespread concern about whether uranium will be available to satisfy these needs.
Because of their concern about uranium supplies, some countries are turning to those nuclear technologies involving reprocessing and the fast breeder reactor which would achieve the more effective use of available uranium but which would increase the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.
Australia possesses 20 per cent of the Western world’s known reserves of low cost uranium. In this situation we are in a special position of influence and have a corresponding moral responsibility to maximise protection against nuclear weapons proliferation by responding to the needs of many countries for adequate assurances of uranium supplies. If Australia fails in either of those courses, Australia will fail in her duty to the world.
Australia has an obligation to the rest of the world to provide the energy resources- the coal, gas and uranium- that will be required to overcome the energy crisis.
By taking the decision to export uranium, Australia can supply:
Energy that will provide jobs; Energy that will heat homes;
Energy that will protect standards of living and enable them to be improved.
By taking the decision to export uranium, Australia can slow the movement towards the use of plutonium as a nuclear fuel and lessen the attendant risks of nuclear weapons proliferation.
By taking the decision to export uranium, Australia’s ability to support more effective safeguards and minimise proliferation risks will be greatly strengthened.
There is a mounting international impetus to strengthen barriers to nuclear weapons proliferation. Increasing international consultation and discussion is taking place.
At the London Economic Summit in May, President Carter proposed the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation to examine and find the best solutions to problems with the nuclear fuel cycle. President Carter’s proposal was accepted. International studies will soon commence.
Australia has been invited to participate in the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation and has accepted.
Australia’s ability to influence these developments will depend to a great extent on whether or not it is a major supplier of uranium. Only as a producer and supplier of uranium can Australia be an effective force in achieving improved international safeguards and controls.
The Government’s policy on nuclear safeguards- announced in this House on 24 May 1977- which in some instances goes beyond the Inquiry’s recommendations, is directed at reducing the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation. This policy is stricter and more rigorous than that adopted to date by any nuclear supplier country. It encompasses the requirements the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) laid down in this House on 29 March 1977; indeed it goes beyond them in many respects.
The policy is based on an objective assessment of the conditions necessary to ensure that the uranium we supply to others for peaceful purposes is not misused and that our unqualified commitment to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is put into effect.
We urge the universal adoption of safeguards standards of similarly high quality. We will vigilantly monitor developments and continue to work internationally and with other major suppliers to increase the effectiveness of international controls and safeguards.
By exporting uranium and standing with the United States and Canada on the crucial issue of adequate safeguards Australia is contributing to the application of effective nuclear safeguards and to the avoidance of the misuse of nuclear materials. We would hope that South Africa, the other major exporter in the southern hemisphere, can see its way clear to join in this endeavour.
The joint efforts of Australia, Canada and the United States on the safeguards issue should not be misunderstood. There is no intention or desire to form a cartel for the supply of uranium. We want no part of a uranium organisation similar to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Our aim is to minimise the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.
The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Sinclair) will be following me with a detailed statement on the international implications, including safeguards, of the Government’s decision.
The issue of the safe and responsible management of the plutonium and the highly radioactive waste arising from the reprocessing of the spent fuel is also a matter of concern.
The spent fuel rods leaving the nuclear power reactors now in commercial operation are highly radioactive but this spent fuel can be, and is being, safely stored. This is not the key problem. The problems arise when the spent fuel is reprocessed and the plutonium is separated from the highly radioactive fission products.
This poses two difficulties: The safe storage and protection of the plutonium which is now in a form that lends itself more readily to theft and diversion to nuclear weapons, and the highly radioactive liquid wastes which have to be carefully managed before solidification and ultimate safe and permanent disposal.
The technology for the handling, solidification and safe storage of the high level of radioactive liquids exists. It is now being developed to a commercial scale. This technology has not hitherto been put into full scale commercial use as the quantity of commercially produced waste has not warranted a fully commercial process.
Because plutonium is a material suitable for nuclear explosives and because of the desire to minimise proliferation, the United States Government has placed a moratorium on spent fuel reprocessing and the Australian Government has reserved its position on reprocessing.
For this reason, the Government’s announced safeguards policy requires prior Australian consent before the spent fuel derived from Australian uranium may be reprocessed. Some of our major potential customers would have preferred a more permissive Australian policy on reprocessing. But we have reserved Australia’s position to ensure that, in relation to the uranium we supply, the potential problems associated with reprocessing are dealt with. We shall need to be satisfied, for example: that there is a need to reprocess for legitimate energy purposes; that international controls and safeguards are intensified to ensure an adequate and effective defence against diversion of plutonium to non-peaceful purposes; that there is not excessive stock-piling of plutonium in a way that could pose future proliferation dangers.
We shall be seeking constructive answers on these questions in the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation, in which Australia will be participating, and in discussions with other countries.
Although Australia as a major exporter of uranium will be involved closely in international studies concerned with reprocessing and the nuclear fuel cycle there is no intention of Australia storing other countries ‘ radioactive wastes.
In addition to the compelling nonproliferation and energy considerations on which the Government’s decision is based, it should also be noted that the mining and export of uranium will enhance Australia’s reputation as a stable and reliable supplier of resources, and bring Australia tangible economic benefits.
The Government has faced up to the many complex and sensitive international issues raised by the world-wide use of uranium. The Government is convinced that uranium mining and export should proceed. To do otherwise would be to: deny Australia an effective voice in strengthening safeguards and non-proliferation measures; accelerate moves to the plutonium economy with its proliferation risks; abandon the world’s energy poor countries, amongst whom are numbered our major trading partners; deny Australia significant economic benefits.
I now turn to domestic considerations and the conditions on which particular projects will be permitted to proceed.
The Inquiry’s second report dealt specifically with the Ranger project, in the context of the single ecosystem of the Alligator Rivers Region in which the project is located. As the Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits are also located in the Region, the Inquiry considered them in relationship to the Region as a whole.
The Government’s decision will clear the way for decisions on the development of other uranium deposits throughout the Commonwealth, as well as those in the Alligator Rivers Region.
The Government has decided that uranium development projects will be permitted to proceed only if they satisfy certain conditions:
The mining operations must conform with a mandatory ‘code of practice’ which the Government shall progressively prescribe; the requirements of the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 must be complied with; the Government must be satisfied as to the acceptability of the development on the environment and on the Aboriginal peoplethe total level of activity will be taken into account in this regard; the sale contracts for the uranium produced must conform with the Government’s safeguards policy.
With respect to the Alligator Rivers Region, the Inquiry envisaged a planned sequence of development of uranium deposits.
The Government has decided that in view of the complexity of the further development of each of the projects, it would be impossible properly to specify the sequence of mining, either as to order or timing. The Government notes, however, that the requirements it has set down and the processes of negotiation which must be carried on between the mining companies and Aboriginal land owners will in fact lead to any development being of a sequential nature.
The Inquiry was not concerned to examine uranium development outside the Region. The Government sees no reason at this time to specify the sequence of uranium projects elsewhere in Australia. But it would consider any advice on this aspect given to it by the Uranium Advisory Council and other appropriate bodies.
The Government has decided to accept all the Inquiry’s recommendations and findings relating to the mining and milling of uranium.
There shall be a uniform Australian code covering the mining and milling of uranium. The code will be mandatory and implemented progressively by legislation together with the States and Territories, commencing with the ‘Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores’ which has already been prepared and published by the Department of Health. The code of practice will be prescribed by Commonwealth legislation, but where State or Territory legislation has an equal or more stringent code, the Commonwealth legislation will be held in reserve and the administration of the code will be left entirely in the hands of that State or Territory.
This decision, in fact, goes beyond the recommendation of the Inquiry and indicates the Government’s concern for adequate and effective control and regulation of uranium operations.
I now turn to the specific recommendations of the Inquiry with regard to the Alligator Rivers Region.
The Government has decided to adopt the recommendations of the Inquiry relating to environmental controls in the Region.
In making any decision to specific projects in the Alligator Rivers Region, the Government will be highly conscious of the need to make sure that the total level of activity in the Region is taken into account.
The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) will elaborate shortly on the means we shall adopt to make sure that there is proper environmental supervision and co-ordination in the region.
The Inquiry made various recommendations concerning a national park. The Government has decided to accept the recommendation of the Inquiry that a major national park should be established in the Region to protect and preserve the natural features, the flora and fauna, the Aboriginal sacred sites and cave paintings.
The Inquiry recommended that the full extent of the Park should be declared at one time but acknowledged that the park might be declared in progressive stages, and indicated what the first stage might be.
The Government has decided to declare the national park in stages. The area which will be declared first is substantially greater than that gazetted in 1975 for the Kakadu National Park, and greater than the first stage suggested by the Inquiry. It includes all the land subject to Aboriginal land claims recommended by the Inquiry.
The full area recommended by the Inquiry for inclusion in the national park, other than that covered by the initial declaration, will be brought immediately under special control. This control will be exercised, initially, through the Departments of Aboriginal Affairs, Environment, Housing and Community Development, National Resources, and the Northern Territory with the Department of National Resources having the principal role in relation to exploration and mining. Special arrangements will be established to make sure there is proper co-ordination of the activities of the four departments in exercising such controls.
There will be no exploration, development or mining, at least for the time being, within the area initially declared as a national park.
There will be no exploration, development or mining within the remaining area, except with the express approval of the Commonwealth authorities involved.
The Government accepts the recommendation of the Inquiry that the town should be included in the national park but should not be Aboriginal land.
The Government has decided to accept the Inquiry’s recommendation that the Ranger and Pancontinental lease areas should be excluded from the national park. On the same basis, the Government has decided that the Noranda lease area should be excluded. The Government has made these exclusions without commitment to order or timing of any development.
Because of the Government’s requirement that it be satisfied as to the acceptability of the impact of each development on the environment, a considerable amount of planning and investigation into the environmental effects of any development of Noranda ‘s deposit at Koongarra will have to be undertaken. That deposit has particular environmental problems because of the sensitivity and fragility of the environment of the area and the location of the deposit upstream of a major wetlands area and bird reserve.
With regard to the Aboriginal people, the Government has decided to accept all of the Inquiry’s recommendations for the enhancement of their welfare.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) will have general responsibility for the oversight of the impact of development on the Aboriginal population and co-ordination of measures to moderate that impact.
All the recommendations of the Inquiry on the granting of land to Aboriginals and the legislative changes to enable Aboriginal land to become part of a national park have been accepted.
The Mudginberri and Munmarlary pastoral leases will be purchased from the present lessees to create an opportunity for Aboriginal land claims to be made and determined as recommended by the Inquiry.
Aboriginals will have new opportunities to control the use of their traditional lands and to protect their interests. The Government will adopt special measures designed to advance the wellbeing of Aboriginals and Aboriginal interests in the Region. Special efforts will be made to train them to be rangers in the national park so that they may care for their land- the land of their ancestors and so be responsible for the protection of their sacred sites.
Revenues from Mining
Substantial revenue from royalties on uranium mined in the region will be applied to the welfare of Aboriginals in the Northern Territory generally and not solely to those in local communities affected by the mining operation or to individuals.
Part of the increased revenues which the Government will derive from uranium development will be used in substantial additional funding of solar energy research as part of our national energy program. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) will speak further on this subject shortly in his statement.
With respect to the Ranger project itself, the Government is most conscious that the Memorandum of Understanding between the Commonwealth and the Ranger partners entered into in October 1975, more than three months after the Ranger Inquiry had been established, would not have been the Government’s preferred approach to mineral development. However, the Government would not wish to disturb arrangements entered into in good faith by the companies with the previous Government. We believe, as a matter of principle, that the repudiation by one Government of contracts entered into by a previous Government would be quite wrong.
The Government has therefore decided to continue arrangements existing under the Memorandum of Understanding. As a consequence, the Government has had to vary the recommendation of the Inquiry of the exclusion of the Ranger special mineral lease area from the national park. It will be necessary to exclude the entire Ranger Project Area of some 83 square kilometres from the park subject to the adjustment of the southern boundary to move it further from Aboriginal sacred sites at Mount Brockman, as recommended by the Inquiry.
For the same reason, the Government is unable to accept the recommendation of the Inquiry that the Atomic Energy Act not be used for the granting of an authority to Ranger to mine uranium. The Government notes that the Inquiry stated that its concerns about the use of the Atomic Energy Act would be lessened if the proposed Uranium Advisory Council were established. The Government has decided to establish the Uranium Advisory Council with the roles recommended by the Inquiry, and within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for National Resources.
It should not be thought that the Commonwealth’s participation in the Memorandum of Understanding will give Ranger an advantage over other mining companies. We will make sure that Government participation in the Ranger development will not accord specific marketing advantage to this project.
The Government agrees in principle with the Inquiry that there should be a uranium marketing authority which will make sure that the Government has proper knowledge and oversight of the commercial arrangements for the sale and export of uranium.
The Deputy Prime Minister will elaborate further on this matter in his statement.
The Government endorses the Inquiry’s view that the Alligator Rivers Region should be managed in its totality in conformity with a land use plan.
We look forward to the time when the management of the region, with its various planned uses, produces an harmonious relationship between the various activities: Mining, tourism, park management and environmental protection.
It is our strong desire that the management of the region should become not a national but a world-wide model of how forethought and planning, good management and goodwill can lead to natural resources being obtained with a minimum of interference to a region’s inhabitants and its environment.
Mr Speaker, I wish to make the Government’s position quite plain. But first may I say that I do not believe any decisions of government have been so painstaking as the ones taken in relation to this inquiry. When the Government was not satisfied with the papers and official matters put before it, those papers and documents were sent back for further elaboration and for further report. That is one of the reasons why the examination over the last two or three months has taken as long as it has. I believe that the information that has been available, made available or will be made available very shortly to all honourable members and to other interested people in the Australian community is more thorough than that in relation to any other decision of government taken in this century. But let me state quite plainly the Government’s view.
Uranium mining may now proceed, but only in ways which will not destroy or spoil the national heritage of the region with its magnificent scenery and unique ecosystems and which will not harm those specific areas of the Region considered sacred or of deep significance by the Aboriginal people.
The export of Australian uranium will decrease the risks of further proliferation of nuclear weapons and will support and strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It will help to make a safer world.
The advent of Australia as a major supplier of uranium will make certain that Australia ‘s voice on this most vital problem of international affairs- nuclear weapons proliferation- will be heard and will be heard with effect.
– by leave- The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has announced the Government’s decision to proceed with further expansion and development of Australia’s uranium industry. In this statement I shall explain the details of our decisions on development and the background to them.
Australia is presently a uranium producer. Australia has had a long history of mining and export of uranium. Uranium mining and milling began at Rum Jungle and in the Alligator Rivers Region in the Northern Territory, at Mary Kathleen in Queensland, and at Radium Hill in South Australia in the 1950s. Production at these sites was exported to the United States and the United Kingdom both for defence purposes and for electric power generation. The total amount exported was 7,860 short tons of uranium oxide. Although uranium mining at Radium Hill did not commence until 1954, mining for radium commenced there early this century.
Mining at Rum Jungle ceased in 1963, but treatment operations continued until 1971 and the output of about 2,250 short tons of uranium oxide was stockpiled by the Government.
Following improved market conditions for uranium early in the 1970s and discoveries of substantial new Australian deposits, export contracts were obtained by Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd, Peko/EZ and Queensland Mines Limited amounting to 1 1,757 short tons of uranium oxide for delivery over the period 1976 to 1986. The contracts were approved by the then Government and negotiations with Peko/EZ, Queensland Mines and Noranda Australia for development of the Ranger, Nabarlek and Koongarra deposits were in progress at the time the Whitlam Government took office on 2 December 1972. The Whitlam Government gave undertakings that the export contracts would be honoured and it subsequently made arrangements for the re-commissioning of Mary Kathleen and for the development of the Peko/EZ project at Ranger and for subsequent development of other mines in the Alligator Rivers Region.
A feature of the uranium development policy of the Whitlam Government was direct Commonwealth participation. The Whitlam Government obtained a 42 per cent shareholding in Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd. On the basis of these arrangements re-commissioning of the mine began in 1974, and production commenced early in 1976. Production and export of uranium is continuing at Mary Kathleen and to date 690 short tons of uranium oxide have been exported for electric power generation in Japan, the United States and West Germany.
Following its decision on the Mary Kathleen project the Whitlam Government tabled in the
Parliament on 31 October 1974 a statement announcing a program of large scale uranium development in the Northern Territory of Australia commencing with the exploitation of the Ranger deposit to be followed by development of the Nabarlek, Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits.
Together with the Whitlam Government statement on 31 October 1974 there was also tabled in the Parliament an agreement with Peko/EZ for joint development of the Ranger deposit by the Commonwealth and those companies. The agreement was signed by the then Prime Minister (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the then Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the then Minister for Minerals and Energy (the late Mr Connor) and by the Chairman of Peko Mines Limited (Mr Proud) and the Managing Director of the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited (Mr Mackay). That Agreement was elaborated further in a Memorandum of Understanding dated 28 October 1975 also tabled in the Parliament. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the then Prime Minister (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and Mr Proud and Mr Mackay of Peko/EZ.
The Whitlam Government also announced in its uranium development policy statement of 3 1 October 1974 that the Government stockpile of uranium remaining from the earlier operations at Rum Jungle would be available to Peko/EZ and Queensland Mines Limited to allow early deliveries to be made under the approved export contracts of those companies prior to the mines at Ranger and Nabarlek coming into production.
It should be recalled that central considerations in the Whitlam Government’s policy of uranium development were the economic benefits to Australia which would accrue and the responsibility Australia has as an energy rich nation in meeting the energy needs of other countries.
The Whitlam Government’s statement on uranium development which I have already referred to and which was tabled in the Parliament on 31 October 1974 opened with the following words: . . . this statement is to outline the Government’s program for the rational development of uranium resources in the Northern Territory; a program which will return substantial economic benefits to Australia from our supply of this vital energy resource to our overseas trading partners who face such grave difficulties in securing their energy requirements . . .
The Whitlam Government’s commitment of Australia, and Australian companies, to meeting the uranium requirements of our trading partners continued and reached the very substantial amount of 100,000 tonnes of uranium. The then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Les Johnson) said on 16 October 1975 in the second reading speech on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill that:
International assurances have been provided by Ministers that Australia will meet the uranium requirements of our major trading partners, which could amount to a total of about 100,000 tonnes of uranium by 1990.
Very clearly the Whitlam Government recognisedand responded most positively to- the urgent and legitimate energy requirements of other countries. Like our Government, the Whitlam Government recognised the interdependence between Australia and other countries and our responsibilities as a nation rich in energy resources to supply these resources to others. The world energy crisis has meant that adjustment must be made to other sources of energy in the wake of dwindling world supplies of petroleum. The reality has been accepted by all countries- developed and developing alike. This adjustment to other sources of energy is a profound economic and social hardship for many countries. It is difficult for many Australians, living in a nation rich in resources, to understand the vital need of others for energy resources. Many of our trading partners, both developed and less developed, have little in the way of natural resources. Their only resources are the skill and ingenuity of their people and the capital they have available. Naturally, they see resource rich countries like Australia as vital to their own economic future and stability.
Nuclear energy is the only viable alternative most countries have available to meet their essential need for electrical energy in the wake of the oil crisis. At the present time 184 nuclear power units are in operation in 20 countries with a capacity of 88,000 megawatts of electricityfour times Australia’s total electricity generating capacity. There are 2 14 nuclear power units now under construction in 27 countries. An additional 102 units are on firm order in 18 countries. This means 500 nuclear power units, with a total generating capacity of 381,000 megawatts, are either in operation, under construction or on firm order in 34 countries around the world. Nearly 300 more units are in the planning stages. This is a total of about 800. Installed nuclear capacity is now projected to increase to at least one million megawatts and perhaps 1.9 million megawatts by the year 2000. The commitment to nuclear power is not confined to developed countries. There are five nuclear power units in operation in developing countries, 20 under construction, six on order and 60 planned. Nuclear energy is not illusory. It is a fact of life. It is the only viable option for electricity generation that many countries now have. Very substantial quantities of uranium are required to fuel the nuclear reactors in operation and in prospect. The western world’s low cost uranium reserves are estimated to total about 1.9 million short tons, of which Australia’s reserves amount to 376,000 short tons- that is 20 per cent of the Western world ‘s known low cost reserves.
Annual uranium requirements necessary to satisfy the projected growth in nuclear power are about 90,000 short tons of uranium oxide in 1985, 140,000 short tons in 1990 and 200,000 short tons in the year 2000. The estimated production capacity in the western world in 1976 was about 30,000 short tons. Clearly there has to be a substantial expansion in uranium production in the world if the requirements for nuclear fuel and energy are to be met. The fact that nuclear energy usage for electric power generation has proceeded in other countries without access to Australian uranium, and will continue, in no way relieves Australia of its responsibilities as an energy rich nation. It simply highlights the futility of leaving our uranium in the ground. The Alligator Rivers Region is the world ‘s largest uncommitted uranium province. Effective exploration in the Region to date has been largely restricted to that portion of the main prospective formation which is amenable to airborne radiometric survey and which is only about 1 5 per cent of the prospective area. The overall uranium resources of the Region could be as much as five to ten times the resources identified to date. On this basis the energy content is of the same order as the presently known oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. Can it be seriously suggested that Australia should deny these vast energy resources to a world seriously in need of secure, alternative sources of energy?
Australia has a clear international responsibility to develop further its uranium resources. The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry Report stated that total renunciation of intention to supply Australian uranium was not justified and was undesirable. Successive Australian Governments, including the Whitlam Government, have recognised this. Our Government recognises its responsibility to ensure that Australia’s uranium resources are further developed and we will proceed to do so on the basis recommended by the Ranger Inquiry. In accepting the responsibility of further uranium development we will ensure that that development will be very strictly controlled, with the fullest and most effective protection for the environment and the welfare of the Aboriginal people as recommended by the Ranger Inquiry. The vast uranium reserves of the Alligator Rivers Region are located in an area of environmental and Aboriginal significance. The Ranger Inquiry was commissioned by the Whitlam Government having regard to these factors. Our Government agreed that the Report of this Inquiry must be available before decisions would be taken regarding development in the Region.
The Report recommends most stringent measures of control and regulation over uranium development and the Ranger project. This is accepted by the Government. We accept the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry with only minor exceptions in cases where we believe the objectives can be met in a more appropriate fashion. In some respects we have decided to go beyond the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry in the direction of securing more stringent measures of control and regulation. My statement, and those of other Ministers, will explain any departures from the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry. Other than in these cases, the recommendations of the Inquiry have been accepted by the Government. Let me give an illustration of what will not happen in future. I previously mentioned Rum Jungle. That mining operation was carried out with inadequate concern for the environment. It was an operation which reflected evironmental attitudes of 25 years ago which Australians would not tolerate today. I make it clear that there will be no more projects like Rum Jungle. We will embark on a clean up operation at Rum Jungle. As a first step $300,000 has been provided in the 1977-78 Budget estimates of the Department of the Northern Territory for clearance and rehabilitation of the mining area. The Department of the Northern Territory will co-ordinate a study of a comprehensive programme of rehabilitation of the whole area. The Government will take further decisions when that study is completed. The Government will be allowing further uranium development only where it is satisfied that strict regulation and control can properly protect the environment. The Ranger project will proceed subject to the full range of environmental controls recommended by the Inquiry.
I will deal now with the administrative structure for control and regulation of uranium development. In summary:
We will appoint a Supervising Scientist and establish a Co-ordinating Committee and Research Institute;
We will use the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act;
We will have specific arrangements to ensure Aboriginal welfare;
We will establish a Uranium Marketing Authority or similar marketing arrangements to achieve the objective of orderly development;
We will establish a Uranium Advisory Council; and
We will establish a uniform code of practice for the uranium mining and milling industry.
Specific administrative arrangements were recommended by the Inquiry covering these matters. We have accepted the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations with the addition of a uniform code of practice which goes beyond the Inquiry’s recommendations. There is a need for adequate administrative arrangements to secure proper overall control and regulation of this industry. The extensive interlocking administrative arrangements recommended by the Ranger Inquiry are to be commended and the Government has accepted them as a proper basis to proceed with development.
The Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations regarding the appointment of a Supervising Scientist, establishment of a Co-ordinating Committee and a Research Institute have been adopted. The Supervising Scientist, who will exercise a supervisory and integrating role, will be responsible to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development.
The second major element of the machinery for regulation and control is the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. We will establish a major National Park in the Region. The Director of National Parks and Wildlife, a statutory officer responsible to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, will have extensive powers over the Region as a whole.
The third element in the machinery for regulation and control is the special responsibilities of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs described fully in the separate statement by that Minister.
The fourth element of administrative machinery is the establishment of a Uranium Marketing Authority. The Ranger Inquiry recommended the establishment of such an Authority. The Government accepts the thrust of that recommendation. However, we will not take a final decision on marketing arrangements for Australian uranium until the legal implications of foreign anti-trust laws have been fully examined by the Government. Should we proceed to confirm our preliminary thinking that a Marketing Authority be established, the Authority would be responsible to the Minister for National Resources. It would ensure that the Government at all times has proper knowledge, oversight and control of the commercial arrangements under which Australian uranium was exported.
The Government attaches the greatest importance to orderly development of our uranium resources. We will want to see our uranium industry develop as a stable and secure long term supplier of energy to other countries on fair and reasonable terms. We will not allow the development of our uranium industry to be dictated by volatile events in markets abroad. Furthermore, we will ensure that our marketing arrangements accord no marketing advantage to Ranger resulting specifically from Government participation in that project.
The Ranger Inquiry suggested that a Marketing Authority could also administer nuclear safeguards. The Government’s view is that commercial and safeguards matters are separate issues and we would not want any suggestion that one can be traded-off against the other. We therefore do not consider it appropriate that a Marketing Authority whose task would be commercial should control safeguards.
The application and administration of nuclear safeguards on the import, export and handling of nuclear material in Australia will remain the responsibility of the Minister for National Resources and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Minister for National Resources will retain the powers he presently exercises over the control and administration of commercial and nuclear safeguards aspects of development. The Government will therefore always be in a position to move immediately to terminate uranium development, permanently, indefinitely or for a specified period as recommended by the Ranger Inquiry.
The fifth element in the administrative arrangements the Government will put in place is the rcommendation of the Ranger Inquiry to establish a Uranium Advisory Council, responsible to the Minister for National Resources. This body will fulfil the recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry for the establishment of a body with adequate representation of the people to advise the Government and with a duty to report annually to the Parliament with regard to the export and use of Australian uranium.
The final element in the administrative arrangements is that the Government will move to establish by legislation, together with the States, a uniform code of practice to apply to all uranium mining and milling in Australia. As a first step the Government will establish the existing ‘Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores’ completed in 1975 after extensive consultation with industry, trade unions and Government instrumentalities, both Federal and State. The Government’s decision to establish a code of practice goes beyond the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry and commends itself as a desirable policy to bring system and conformity into the industry throughout Australia.
The administrative machinery I have described will be the foundation on which further development of the industry will proceed. It is completely in accord with the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry and will provide a proper and adequate basis on which uranium development will proceed so as to harmonise the interests of development, environmental protection, National Park values and Aboriginal welfare.
The Government has decided that the Ranger Project will proceed on the basis of the Memorandum of Understanding concluded between the Whitlam Government and Peko/EZ. Those companies entered into these arrangements with the former Government in good faith and the arrangements will be honoured by our Government. The Memorandum of Understanding provides for the Commonwealth, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, to engage in a joint venture with Peko/EZ for the mining of uranium at Ranger, beginning with the establishment of a mine of 3,300 short tons capacity. The capital is to be provided in the proportions 72 Vi per cent by the Commonwealth and 27V4 per cent by Peko/EZ, with Peko/EZ receiving the net proceeds of sale of 50 per cent of the uranium produced.
The direct financial participation of the Commonwealth in a mining project is, of course, contrary to the political philosophy of our Government, but we are prepared to honour the agreement with Peko/EZ which we have inherited from the Whitlam Government.
The southern boundary of the Ranger Project Area will be adjusted as recommended by the Inquiry to relocate operations away from Aboriginal sacred sites at Mount Brockman. The Ranger Inquiry recommends overall a smaller area for the Ranger development than that specified in the Memorandum of Understanding. Apart from the relocation of the southern boundary, the Government is prepared to agree that the Ranger Project Area and other elements of the Memorandum of Understanding will remain undisturbed. In coming to this conclusion, the Government is satisfied that the comprehensive and interlocking administrative arrangements I have already described, which will govern development, will provide the necessary protection of environmental, Aboriginal and National Park values in the course of development and operation of Ranger.
The Government’s decision to retain the Memorandum of Understanding will mean that the Ranger Project will therefore be developed under the Atomic Energy Act as envisaged by the Whitlam Government. The Ranger Inquiry recommended against the use of the Atomic Energy Act on the grounds that this legislation was enacted largely with defence considerations in mind. Having reviewed this matter the Government nevertheless considered that the Atomic Energy Act provides an appropriate basis for mining operations at Ranger in accordance with the agreements concluded between the companies and the Commonwealth in 1974 and 1975.
In coming to this conclusion, the Government had regard to the view of the Ranger Inquiry that its concern over the appropriateness of the Atomic Energy Act would have less force if the Uranium Advisory Council recommendation of the Inquiry were adopted. As I have already stated, the Government will adopt that recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry and establish a Uranium Advisory Council.
Subject to satisfactory completion of the necessary environmental requirements and conclusion of arrangements with the Aboriginal people, the Government will take a decision on development of the Nabarlek deposit by Queensland Mines Limited.
Decisions on the development of the Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits will be taken following the completion of the abovementioned requirements. In the case of Koongarra, it was made clear by the Ranger Inquiry that there would be a considerable amount of planning and investigation to be completed, particularly having in mind the fragility of the environment which could be affected by development at Koongarra.
The Ranger Inquiry recommended that there be sequential development of the mines in the Alligator Rivers Region at appropriate intervals.
The existing deposits are at different stages of investigation and there will of course be different environmental and other requirements necessary in each case. This will result, in practice, in mines coming into production at different times. The Government therefore sees it as unnecessary to set down a specific timetable of sequential development and it is satisfied that completion of the requirements, which will be a prerequisite for any development in each case, will result in the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations regarding development being satisfied.
Subject to satisfactory completion of the necessary environmental requirements, the Government will also take decisions on the development of projects in the States.
In coming to these general conclusions on Nabarlek, Jabiluka, Koongarra, on development in the States and on the question of sequential development, the Government is conscious that particular decisions must await the outcome of environmental procedures. The Government believes it is not appropriate at this stage to come to decisions which could pre-empt environmental consideration or foreclose the Government’s intention to take decisions in full knowledge of facts that may arise at a later stage, including the careful monitoring we will maintain of the overall impact of activity on the Region.
I have already referred to the potential of the Alligator Rivers Region as an energy resource and to our international responsibility to countries which require stable and continuing sources of energy for their wellbeing and prosperity. Consistent with this, and having in mind the very long lead times between successful exploration and bringing resources to the production stage, exploration may proceed in the Region, but only under strictly controlled conditions. No exploration will be permitted for the time being in the area declared as the first stage of the proposed National Park and future exploration will be carefully controlled in accordance with the Park Plan of Management. In that area to be declared in the subsequent stage of the National Park, exploration will be permitted in the meantime under strictly controlled conditions to be supervised by the Departments of National Resources, Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Territory and Environment, Housing and Community Development.
The decision to proceed with further uranium development will bring with it significant economic benefits for the Australian community. The Ranger Inquiry made forecasts of these potential benefits, as have other bodies. Forecasts are of course subject to the usual qualifications, and inherent in them is a variety of assumptions. Nevertheless, they point to significant export income, employment and other economic benefits which would be derived from development.
The Ranger Inquiry assumed that production and sales would begin in 1981-82 at a rate of 2,000 short tons of uranium oxide increasing to 10,000 short tons in 1985-86. These estimates are broadly in line with the Government’s assessment of the world market situation in the first half of the 1980s. After 1985, the likely exports that Australia could make would increase substantially. Although actual sales prospects will not be known until Australia actively seeks long term contracts in the market on the basis of actual production, the forecasts presently available provide a basis on which carefully regulated development can proceed.
The Ranger Inquiry’s forecasts of economic benefits concluded that, at a price level of SUS30 per lb, the addition to our national income resulting from further development of an Australian uranium industry could account for more than 1.3 per cent of projected levels of national income in the mid-1990s. The Ranger Inquiry concluded that, should the higher prices assumed in its analysis be achieved, namely a price of $US30 per lb, the export earnings of the uranium industry would eventually exceed the earnings in recent years of any of our other major export industries. Some other economic benefits estimated by the Inquiry were: gross revenue to the year 2000 could exceed $20,000m in present money values; net national benefits discounted to present worth terms could be $3,255m.
The Ranger Inquiry’s forecasts also indicate that development of a national uranium industry will result in the creation of considerable direct employment opportunities. Based on the assumption that construction of the first project would commence in 1977-78, with production and sales commencing in 1981-82 at an average rate of around 2,000 short tons of uranium oxide, increasing at about that rate until 1994-95 when total output would reach 27,300 short tons, the Ranger Inquiry forecast that a total work force of between 2,000 and 2,500 would probably be directly employed in the industry. Additionally, the Inquiry forecast that construction activities associated with any such development could provide direct employment for up to 1,500 workers at any one time.
The employment opportunities created by the development of our uranium industry will not, of course, end at the mine site. Australian manufacturers supplying materials and equipment to the projects will need to employ workers, as will transport, retail service and many other industries.
The employment prospects would, of course, be further enhanced should Australia at some future stage decide to upgrade and enrich uranium prior to export. The Government does, as a matter of policy, wish to see the maximum processing of Australian raw materials prior to export. Consistent with this attitude we will study the feasibility of upgrading and enrichment of uranium in Australia, and preserve Australia’s options in this regard. The joint uranium enrichment feasibility study between Australia and Japan, initiated by the Whitlam Government, will continue. We will be prepared to enter into similar feasibility studies with other countries.
The Ranger Inquiry did not forecast possible levels of employment that could result from a fully integrated uranium industry in Australia, but a recent authoritative study by the South Australian Government, which I have previously tabled in this House, did so. That study by the South Australian Government suggests that the build-up of new direct employment possibilities could conservatively amount to 20,000 persons. The further economic benefits and effects of an industry of this scale are discussed, and the report comes to the remarkable conclusion that:
Employment opportunities, on the statistical data for the already established North American uranium industry, would be such that a fully developed uranium industry in Australia could support directly and indirectly about 300,000 persons starting with a mining work force of about 5,000.
The economic benefits of uranium mining for the Northern Territory will be particularly significant. The Ranger Inquiry estimated that uranium mining operations would add between $65m and $ 105m to incomes in the Territory- an increase of between 16 per cent and 26 per cent. The Ranger Inquiry estimated that direct employment opportunities for 1,250 to 1,500 workers, which is about 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent of the present labour force in the Territory, could arise. The Ranger Inquiry concluded that: . . . a regional uranium industry producing up to 1 2,500 tonnes of uranium per year would substantially enlarge the Northern Territory’s economy and could provide the stimulus for a much faster rate of economic growth in the area than would otherwise occur.
Clearly the information available at this stage points to substantial economic benefits. The Government will wish to consider the accrual of an appropriate share of uranium profits to the public sector. The Government will therefore initiate discussions with the industry on a possible framework for a secondary or resource-based tax on future earnings from uranium development.
I turn finally to the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations concerning energy policy in Australia. The Inquiry recommended that a national energy policy should be developed and reviewed regularly; that steps should be taken to institute full and energetic research programs into liquid fuels and energy sources other than fossil fuels and nuclear fission; and that a program of energy conservation be instituted nationally.
The Government accepts these recommendations. Steps have already been taken in this direction. As I announced to the House in my statement on crude oil policy on 1 6 August 1 977, 1 am currently preparing a statement on Australia’s energy policy which will deal comprehensively with all forms of energy. That statement will be presented to the House as soon as practicable.
The formulation and continuing review of a national energy policy is, however, a complex subject requiring detailed and expert analysis and is a task which the Government cannot and will not undertake in isolation.
It is for this reason that I announced on 10 February 1977 the establishment of a National Energy Advisory Committee as foreshadowed in the Coalition Parties’ Statement on Minerals and Energy Policy issued prior to the last elections.
The Government is looking to this Committee for advice on Australia’s energy reserves and on factors likely to influence the pattern of energy supply and demand, and future costs in Australia; the assessment of and development of our energy resources, and the economy and use of energy.
The Committee will also offer advice on the balance of resources for research relating to the development of energy sources in Australia and on developments both here and overseas in respect of methods and technology associated with the production and distribution of energy.
The Committee is advising the Government progressively on these matters and the Government will take full account of the Committee’s advice in framing an integrated energy policy for Australia.
In view of the responsibility and control which State governments exercise over much of the production and consumption of Australian energy materials, it is important that the Federal
Government maintain close liaison with the State governments on energy matters. For this reason the Federal and State governments have established the Australian Minerals and Energy Council to serve as a forum for consultation between the relevant Commonwealth and State Ministers on the nation’s energy needs, resources and policies.
I should make clear that the Government does not see a detailed national energy policy as a rigid blueprint for the development of Australia’s energy resources and the meeting of Australia’s energy needs. It must be a flexible instrument of policy planning which can be adapted to changing circumstances and will continue to give the public and private sectors an adequate basis for decision-making. It must be, and will be, kept up to date and accordingly we will keep our policy under regular review.
The Government has already taken steps to increase the level of energy research and development activity in Australia. The recently announced levy for coal research purposes will provide increased funds for research on coal mining and combustion, and on the production of liquid fuels from coal.
An agency-to-agency agreement on coal research co-operation was recently signed by the Department of National Resources and the National Coal Board of the United Kingdom. Similar agreements with the United States Energy Research and Development Administration and with the United States Bureau of Mines are at an advanced stage of negotiation. Part of the funds raised by the coal research levy will be set aside to stimulate research co-operation under each of these agreements.
The Commonwealth Government has also decided to join with interested States in considering an offer from the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and German private companies to share the cost of a $3m study of the economic and technical feasibility of a plant to convert coal to 10 per cent liquefied petroleum gas, 45 per cent motor spirit and 45 per cent diesel oil. In a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the Australian Minerals and Energy Council meeting in Adelaide on Friday 19 August 1977, the Victorian Minister for Mines, Fuel and Power, the New South Wales Minister for Mines and Energy and I announced that, assuming that a number of outstanding questions which remain to be clarified can be resolved satisfactorily, the Commonwealth and the governments of New South Wales and Victoria would be prepared to finance the other half of the cost of a feasibility study on an equitable basis, with an upper limit of $1.5m. Queensland also expressed interest in joining in such a study, on these terms, and will examine the proposal of the Federal Republic of Germany as a matter of urgency.
The Government has also decided that, as resources flow from the further development of uranium, additional funds will be provided to increase substantially our national effort on solar energy research.
Energy research and development is a matter to which I have asked the National Energy Advisory Committee to pay particular attention, and I expect to receive advice on this matter from the Committee in the near future. At the request of the Prime Minister, the Australian Science and Technology Council is also preparing advice for the Government on energy research and development in Australia.
The formulation of an energy research and development policy which will make the most effective use of the nation’s research resources cannot take place without detailed knowledge of the existing research effort. Accordingly, the Department of National Resources is currently undertaking a national survey of energy research and development in Australia. The survey of Commonwealth Government departments and instrumentalities has already commenced, and State governments, universities and private companies will be approached in due course.
The need for an expanded energy research and development effort has been recognised by Ministers with energy responsibilities from each of the major Australian political parties. At the 19 August 1977 meeting of the Australian Minerals and Energy Council, the Council expressed the unanimous view that there is a need for an active and co-ordinated national energy research and development effort. The Council is to consider at its next meeting a report from officials on the establishment of a national energy research and development program, and the means by which such a program might appropriately be organised and financed. This will enable the Commonwealth to frame a national energy research and development policy which takes full account of the advice of the National Energy Advisory Committee and the Australian Science and Technology Council and of the activities and priorities of the State governments.
Regarding energy conservation, the Government has already taken a vitally important step in moving to raise the price of indigenous crude oil to appropriate levels.
The National Energy Advisory Committee has provided me with a preliminary statement on a program of energy conservation for Australia and is at present developing a program of conservation measures for consideration by the Government.
I have outlined in this statement the detailed basis on which further development of Australia’s uranium industry will proceed. The recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry have received our careful study and it will be seen that we have accepted them with very little amendment in detail and no amendment in substance. The Government is satisfied that the recommendations of this far-reaching and comprehensive public inquiry set out a basis on which mining and export can proceed in harmony with, and with full protection for, the environment, national park and Aboriginal values.
We believe it is a basis on which Australia can confidently proceed, having the fullest regard for our national interest and the individual interests of all our people.
– by leave- This statement, the third in a series of six, relates to the international implications of the Government’s decision to develop new uranium deposits for export. Normally it would have been made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). The Government has no doubt that the decision it has taken on uranium represents the only responsible course in terms of Australia’s international relations and the objective of nonproliferation. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) have already emphasised the danger of retreating from our responsibilities as a reliable and secure source of supply of vital energy resources, the severe strains this would impose on some of our most important bilateral relations with other countries and the dangers of international tension, friction and instability that would result if energy rich countries, like Australia, deny resources to those less well endowed.
Important though these considerations are in foreign policy terms, I wish now to concentrate on the relationship between uranium export and the problem of nuclear weapons poliferation.
This problem was of paramount concern to the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry.
Clearly we must regard most seriously the Inquiry’s findings that ‘the nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war’ and that ‘this is the most serious hazard associated with the industry’. We must also be concerned with the Ranger Inquiry’s warning that ‘existing safeguards may provide only an illusion of protection ‘.
The Government has given close attention to these problems. We have taken our lead from the Ranger Inquiry’s view that they do not ‘render valueless the concept of international safeguards’. The Ranger Inquiry said, and the Government agrees, that ‘it is both essential and possible to make safeguards arrangements more effective’. The Government’s comprehensive nuclear safeguards policy announced by the Prime Minister on 24 May, is designed to do just that. It takes full account of the Inquiry’s conclusions and, in some respects, goes beyond the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations. The requirement under our policy for International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to be applied to any nuclear material supplied by Australia in the existing nuclear weapons countries, as well as in non-nuclear weapons states, is additional to these recommendations. So are the requirements for prior Australian consent to high enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear material supplied by Australia and the requirement that adequate physical security be maintained on the nuclear industries of uranium importing countries. This is true also of the requirement for a clause in commercial contracts noting that transactions are subject to the safeguards incorporated in bilateral agreements between the Australian Government and the importing country.
Now that the Government has decided to proceed with uranium export the task will be to press ahead and implement our safeguards policy.
I propose in this statement to discuss in turn the four cornerstones of our policy:
The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT);
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards;
Bilateral agreements between Australia and uranium importing countries; and
Australian participation in multilateral efforts to strengthen safeguards and the nonproliferation regime.
I will also examine the policing and enforcement of safeguards requirements.
The most important international nonproliferation instrument, on which, in our view, any safeguards policy must be based, is the NPT. Under Article II of the Treaty, non-nuclear weapon states undertake not to manufacture or acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Under Article III they undertake to accept safeguards, applied by the IAEA, covering all nuclear material in their peaceful nuclear industries. Under Article IV all the parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of nuclear equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for peaceful uses. Australia, as a party to the Treaty, has accepted these obligations.
Australia’s obligations under the NPT do not preclude export to non-NPT countries. But in the case of non-nuclear weapon countries, Australia’s own safeguards policy does restrict uranium exports to those which are themselves parties to the Treaty. This affords Australia two significant assurances that the uranium we supply to such countries for peaceful purposes will not be misused for nuclear weapons. First, it means that all the nuclear material in those countries will be subject to IAEA safeguards irrespective of whether it is of Australian or any other origin. Second, there is the political commitment to renounce nuclear weapons which such countries enter into when they adhere to the Treaty. This undertaking is not a unilateral declaration of intent: It is a binding commitment to all the other countries which are parties to the Treaty. No country could breach this commitment without the most serious damage to its international standing. It would also have to expect strong international reaction if it breached the NPT or denounced it. There would be grave political and material consequences for a country which took this course.
There are now over 100 parties to the NPT. Our goal is universal adherence. Our safeguards policy for uranium exports is designed to further that goal. The policy offers a tangible rewardnamely, access to Australian uranium- for those countries which do not have nuclear weapons and which have been prepared to renounce nuclear weapons by becoming parties to the Treaty. Equally, the policy offers a tangible incentive to adhere to the Treaty to countries not at present party to it.
The Ranger Inquiry correctly observed that ‘it is part of the spirit as well as the letter of the NPT that we should assist peaceful nuclear programs’.
It noted also that ‘the NPT only became possible because of the assurances in Article IV concerning the provision of nuclear equipment, materials and information for peaceful purposes’. It is not realistic to ask countries to renounce nuclear weapons and accept stringent safeguards while denying them the means to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
It would, therefore, be a fundamental error to suppose that uranium export and the objective of non-proliferation are incompatible. On the contrary, as the NPT shows, and as the United States has pointed out in recent times, an effective non-proliferation regime must combine a body of complementary elements. Along with controls and efforts to restrain the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies, these must include incentives- including assured supplies of natural and low enriched uranium.
This is doubly important at the present time, because inadequacy of such supplies would reinforce the trend towards the use of technologies based on plutonium.
The second cornerstone of the Government’s policy is the safeguards applied by the IAEA. The purpose of IAEA safeguards is to detect diversion of nuclear material before it can be converted to a nuclear weapon. The threat of this prompt detection acts as a deterrent to diversion.
The safeguards are applied under an agreement between the safeguarded country and the IAEA. The agreement sets out the obligations of the safeguarded country and the IAEA and covers such matters as: The aim of the safeguards; their extent; the requirement for cooperation with the IAEA; provision of information to the IAEA; acceptance of IAEA inspections; and arrangements to apply in the event of disagreements. Details of the obligations and the procedures for discharging them are set out in Subsidiary Arrangements concluded pursuant to the main agreement. These details include: material accounting procedures; requirements for records and reports; the frequency of, and arrangements for, inspections; procedures for taking physical inventories, including sampling; the rights of inspectors; and arrangements for measures of containment and surveillance of nuclear material to supplement the IAEA auditing.
IAEA safeguards require a country to make periodic reports of quantities, composition and usage of the nuclear material it possesses. Given this data, independent IAEA inspectors devise an inspection strategy for each nuclear facility. Inspection frequencies are set to take account of the amounts of material involved and the time required to convert material into an explosive device. At a nuclear facility inspectors check the correctness and consistency of records. They inspect nuclear material holdings, verifying amounts and composition of material against records. They employ non-destructive analytical methods and may further supplement these techniques by taking samples for destructive analysis, which is done subsequently at a laboratory chosen by and accredited to the IAEA. Inspectors make every endeavour to verify facility records while present at the facility. If a particular item remains unresolved, the inspector may postpone further action till the next routine inspection, or may require a further special inspection at a time which the IAEA will decide, the aim being the prompt resolution of the outstanding item. Differences discovered by the inspectors are considered to be diversions unless the country in question is able to explain them, for example, by demonstrating them as bona fide operating losses, mathematical errors or shipments, the notification for which had not yet reached the IAEA.
In short, the safeguards administered by the IAEA are a thorough, technically sophisticated, impartial and international means of verifying that nuclear material in a country’s peaceful nuclear industry is not diverted to nuclear weapons.
Australia’s safeguards policy requires, as a condition of uranium supply, the application of IAEA safeguards in all customer countries. This means, for example, that France or the United States or the United Kingdom will not be eligible to purchase Australian uranium unless they accept IAEA safeguards on the material supplied by Australia and give an assurance that it will not be diverted to military or explosive purposes.
Like the Ranger Inquiry, the Government believes that the NPT and IAEA safeguards- vital though they are- should be supplemented by other measures. As a necessary supplement, Australia’s safeguards policy requires the prior conclusion of a bilateral agreement with any country wishing, to import Australian uranium. These agreements will provide Australia with direct and binding assurances- having the same status as any international treaty, in relation to the use and control of uranium supplied by Australia.
The fundamental undertakings we will require from customer countries in such agreements are that nuclear material supplied by Australia for peaceful purposes will not be diverted to military or explosive purposes, and that IAEA safeguards will apply to verify compliance with this. This, of course, duplicates to a certain extent undertakings which non-nuclear weapon states enter into as parties to the NPT, but the Government has considered it important that these undertakings be included in the bilateral agreements, irrespective of any future change in a country’s NPT status. The bilateral agreements will also include provision for fall-back safeguards. The purpose of these contingency arrangements is to ensure continued international safeguarding of material already present in an importing country if safeguards under the NPT should at some stage cease to apply. They also permit Australia to make alternative arrangements should international safeguards as such cease to operate. There will be requirements for prior Australian consent to the enrichment of supplied uranium beyond 20 per cent U235 and for the reprocessing of spent fuel derived from Australian uranium. This is partly so that we can be satisfied that controls in relation to any high enrichment or reprocessing are adequate. It is also a means of guarding against excessive accumulation of weapons usable nuclear material which might enable a country to attain a nuclear weapons capability and therefore pose a potential proliferation risk. To prevent theft of nuclear material by groups or individuals the bilateral agreements will require that adequate physical security be maintained on the nuclear industries of importing countries. The benchmark will be the international standards recommended by the IAEA. Finally, the bilateral agreements will stipulate prior Australian consent to any transfer of supplied nuclear material to a third party so that Australia can satisfy itself that the whole package of safeguards requirements will continue to be met by the third party.
We do not start from the assumption that countries will seek to breach their solemn treaty obligations with us, or with the IAEA, or under the NPT. But we do recognise that, amongst the factors any country would assess before considering breaching its safeguards undertakings, would be the response this would draw from the other party to the agreement and from the international community in general. Enforcement of safeguards requirements is through disincentives, in the form of sanctions against breaches.
The sanctions which Australia could resort to unilaterally or bilaterally in the event of the breach by another country of a safeguards agreement would be at least as strong as those available to it in the event of the breach of any other bilateral treaty to which it is a party. In addition it could have recourse to institutionalised procedures in the IAEA and United Nations. Moreover it would have the opportunity to marshal international opinion and to enlist the support of individual third states to bring direct pressure to bear on the government concerned.
As I have said, the fundamental undertaking which uranium importing countries will give Australia is that uranium supplied for peaceful purposes will not be diverted to non-peaceful or explosive purposes and that IAEA safeguards will apply to verify compliance with this undertaking. There are procedures denned in the IAEA Statute for such a diversion to be reported to the Board of Governors of the IAEA, to all members of the IAEA and to the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly. Moreover, the Statute provides that, in such circumstances, the Board of Governors shall call on the country concerned to remedy the breach forthwith and, if fully corrective action is not taken in reasonable time, it may respond with sanctions. These include cutting off IAEA assistance to the country, calling for the return of supplied nuclear materials and equipment and suspending the country from the IAEA.
To supplement these IAEA procedures, as the Prime Minister said on 24 May 1977, Australia will be arranging regular consultations with uranium importing countries to satisfy ourselves of the implementation of the provisions of bilateral agreement. These consultations could be used if, for example, the Government had grounds for doubt that its safeguards requirements were being met.
The Prime Minister has said Australia would retain the right to cease supply of uranium to any country which breached safeguards undertakings. This can be done unilaterally and immediately through the Government’s export control powers. For those who might dismiss refusal to supply as a case of ‘locking the stable door after the horse has bolted’ let me point to practical considerations. No country will incur the heavy investment involved in nuclear power unless it needs the electric generating capacity involved for its industries and other uses. Having incurred this heavy expense and come to rely on the generating plant, it will place high value on reliability of supplies of nuclear fuel.
Australia believes that refusal to supply and other measures would have maximum impact if taken by supplier countries acting in concert. The view ought to be that a breach against one is a breach against all. As the Prime Minister said on 24 May, Australia will be exploring with other countries a common approach towards sanctions.
The fourth cornerstone of our policy is close involvement by Australia with international efforts to strengthen safeguards and the nonproliferation regime.
Through the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Europe and the United States, his correspondence on the subject with the Heads of Government of the United States and Canada which has been tabled in the House, the Deputy Prime Minister’s visit to those countries earlier this year, and numerous detailed discussions Australian officials have had in North America, Europe and Japan over the past year the Government has impressed on others its commitment to non-proliferation and to stringent safeguards. We will continue to pursue the widest possible consensus amongst both nuclear supplier countries and nuclear importing countries on the controls to apply to the world nuclear industry. There is no doubt that our full participation in multilateral activities, as a major uranium exporter, is welcome to and desired by, the major Western countries and others concerned with developing the most effective possible non-proliferation strategy.
We look forward, in particular, to participating with other countries in the proposed International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation. This will be a wide ranging technical study of the means by which nuclear power can help to meet the world’s energy needs without compromising non-proliferation objectives. It will cover questions relating to nuclear fuel availability, availability of enrichment services, assurances of long term supply of nuclear fuel in the interests of non-proliferation, reprocessing and questions associated with plutonium, fast breeder reactors, spent fuel storage and waste disposal, and alternative fuel cycle concepts. I wish to underline that aspect of the study program concerned with the linkage between assurances of nuclear fuel supply and the containment of nuclear proliferation. This linkage demonstrates the point I made earlier that uranium export under stringent safeguards will not erode, but will positively support, non-proliferation.
The INFCE initiative was first proposed by President Carter in April of this year and subsequently taken up by the meeting in London of the Heads of Government of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada. To date two meetings have been held of a preparatory group of these seven countries. We hope that terms of reference and an organisational framework for the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation will soon be decided and the study program launched in the Northern autumn. We have already advised the United States and other countries that Australia wishes to take part in the study.
The Government’s intended participation in this study, will not, of course, be the sum total of Australia’s international involvement in the area of safeguards and non-proliferation.
We will now be proceeding to negotiate bilateral safeguards agreements with countries interested in importing Australian uranium in accordance with the Government’s policy of 24 May.
We will be setting in hand the study foreshadowed by the Prime Minister in his statement of 24 May of means for Australia to assist the International Atomic Energy Agency to apply increasingly effective safeguards.
We are already giving detailed consideration to the terms of an Australian contribution to the formulation of a new international convention on physical security in the nuclear field.
I said at the outset that the Ranger Inquiry identified a number of defects in existing safeguards arrangements. We have sought to overcome these in our safeguards policy by introducing measures going beyond existing arrangements.
The Ranger Inquiry pointed to ‘the failure of many states to become parties to the NPT’. Our policy provides the incentive of uranium supply to encourage others to join.
The Ranger Inquiry noted that ‘many nuclear facilities are covered by no safeguards’. Under our policy the only non-nuclear weapons countries eligible to import Australian uranium will be those in which IAEA safeguards cover their entire peaceful nuclear industry as a consequence of their NPT obligations. Nuclear weapon states will have to give assurances that Australian supplied material will not be diverted to military or explosive purposes and will be covered by IAEA safeguards.
The Ranger Inquiry believed there were ‘a number of loopholes in safeguards agreements regarding their application to peaceful nuclear explosions, to materials intended for nonexplosive military uses, and to the retransfer 0 materials to a third state’. Our bilateral agreements with uranium importing countries will be designed to close any such loopholes; they will proscribe diversion of nuclear material to any explosive or military purpose and will require prior Australian consent to retransfers to third parties.
The Ranger Inquiry pointed to ‘the absence, in practice, of safeguards for source materials’. The background to this is that source material is of very low strategic significance; it needs elaborate upgrading and processing before it is in a form which can be used for weapons. Recognising this, the IAEA Committee decided that notification of movements of yellowcake would be adequate on the basis that the material would attract the full measure of IAEA safeguards at a later stage in the fuel cycle, that is when a measure of upgrading had been carried out. Nevertheless, the Australian Government wishes to make sure that by the time Australian uranium leaves Australian ownership IAEA safeguards in their full intensity will apply. The Prime Minister announced this as part of Australia’s safeguards policy in his statement on 24 May 1977. In practice this means that Australia will retain ownership of Australian uranium at least to the point where it has been upgraded to uranium hexafluoride. From this point on in the fuel cycle full IAEA safeguards will apply to the material.
The Ranger Inquiry was concerned about ‘the ease with which states can withdraw from the NPT and from most non-NPT safeguards agreements’. A principle in Australia’s policy is that, irrespective of any withdrawal from the NPT or other contingencies, safeguards should continue to apply in countries importing Australian uranium. Although a country can withdraw from the NPT on 3 months notice, this would be a very serious step and has never happened. However, if a country did withdraw it would not then be subject to IAEA safeguards under the NPT. Nevertheless, its bilateral agreement with Australia would still remain in force and there would be the provision in the agreement that IAEA safeguards must continue to apply. Withdrawal from the NPT is a prime example of a contingency in which fall-back safeguards, provided for in Australia’s policy, are relevant.
The Ranger Inquiry also referred to ‘the absence of reliable sanctions to deter diversion of safeguarded material’. I have pointed to sanctions provided for in the IAEA statute and said that we have reserved the right to refuse supply in the case of a breach of safeguards. As I have indicated, there are other steps Australia could take. I have also stated that Australia wishes to explore with other countries the development of a collective approach to sanctions, particularly by nuclear supplier countries acting in concert.
Finally, in relation to the effectiveness of IAEA safeguards, the Government’s view is that we can expect IAEA safeguards to give a sufficiently high probability of timely detection of any significant diversion that they constitute a real deterrent to any country contemplating developing an illicit weapons program in this way. While the IAEA can only perform as well as the best available measurement and other techniques permit, the effectiveness of IAEA safeguards can be maximised through the continuing refinement of safeguards techniques and ensuring the human and technological resources necessary. The Government has said it will investigate whether there are specific areas in which Australia could usefully assist the IAEA’s capacity to apply increasingly effective safeguards.
The Ranger Inquiry concluded that decisions on Australian uranium export should be determined above all by the assessment of what would be the best strategy from the viewpoint of our international non-proliferation objectives. For the Government too, a most important facet of the uranium issue has been the need to translate Australia’s objective of restraining proliferation of nuclear weapons into a detailed policy for the marketing of uranium. If Australia is to be able to give effect to its stringent safeguards policy, to see the innovations embodied in that policy actually incorporated in new international arrangements, and to be able to exert influence for the wider adoption by other countries of similarly rigorous policies, we must be able to speak from a position of strength. We must be seen as a country which has legitimate and direct interests and which is able to offer a tangible benefit in return for acceptance by others of these stringent controls. Far from hindering the cause of nonproliferation, uranium export, subject to the fullest and most effective safeguards, will place Australia in a position to help the development of an increasingly effective non-proliferation regime.
– by leave- When it took its decision to proceed with uranium mining under the stringent safeguards already announced, the Government gave the most careful consideration to the views of Aboriginal leaders as recorded in the Second Report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and to the Inquiry’s recommendations on Aboriginal interests. As a result, the Government took a number of decisions relating to Aboriginal interests about which I now wish to inform the House in some detail.
At the outset, let me emphasise the Government’s intention to work closely with Aboriginals in relation to the measures recommended in the Ranger Inquiry’s report and other measures which may be agreed upon. I intend to set the process of consultation in train personally at a special meeting with the Executive of the Northern Land Council, and with people from the Region, at Oenpelli in Arnhem Land this Saturday, 27 August. The Northern Land Council was established under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 with the functions of ascertaining and expressing the wishes and opinion of Aboriginals living in its area, of protecting their interests and consulting with and negotiating on behalf of traditional owners. The Northern Land Council has been in existence for some four years and is in a position to perform the functions required of it by the Act.
According to the Ranger Inquiry’s report ‘the principal threat to the welfare of the Aboriginal people, and the one they most fear, is constituted by the large numbers of people who can be expected to enter the area’. The Aboriginal concern was put before the Ranger Inquiry by the Chairman of the Northern Land Council, Mr Silas Ngulati Roberts, in the following terms:
We are very worried that the results of this Inquiry will open the doors to other companies who want to dig up uranium on our sacred land . . . We think if they all get in there and start digging well have towns all over the place and well be pushed into the sea. We want a fair go to develop. We are human beings, we want to live properly and grow strong.
The Ranger Inquiry concluded that Aboriginal opposition to mining should not prevail but the submissions from Aboriginals led the Inquiry to make recommendations which, as the report puts it, are ‘designed to minimise the risk constituted by the large numbers of people entering the area’. Particular recommendations are made for the strict limitation on the size of the mining town and the use of the area by tourists. But the effect of other recommendations will also contribute towards minimising the risks.
Moreover, the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations have been made on the basis that the Government’s recognition of Aboriginal land rights, through the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, is, in the Inquiry’s words, ‘a uniquely favourable factor’.
The main recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry relating to the interests of Aboriginals in the Alligator Rivers Region were that:
Other recommendations were made for the amendment of legislation in relation to mining on Aboriginal land, the possible employment of a qualified liaison officer to inform newcomers to the Region about Aboriginal customs and traditions and for legislation to enable the Northern Land Council and the Director of National Parks and Wildlife to enforce environment protection provisions in the Region.
T«e Government’s decision to accept all these recommendations will ensure that Aboriginals themselves can exercise effective control over matters affecting their interests and the Government will also adopt, in consultation with the Aboriginal people, measures to protect and advance their well-being.
The grant of Aboriginal land claims in the Alligator Rivers Region means that Aboriginalsin particular the traditional owners- will have an effective voice through the Northern Land Council in the management of development in the Region.
The decision to grant title to the large areas of vacant Crown land recommended by the Ranger Inquiry in its Second Report represents the first recognition in Australia of a traditional claim to land outside Aboriginal reserves. It follows the enactment last year of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, which was amended in order to provide that a finding by the Ranger Inquiry in relation to traditional Aboriginal land claims to vacant Crown land would have the same standing as a recommendation by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner.
The Ranger Inquiry gave most careful and thorough consideration to the evidence presented by the Northern Land Council in support of Aboriginal claims to land in the Region and submitted to me a report on its findings and recommendations.
In this context, I draw attention to the observations of the Joint Select Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory in its report tabled in this House last week on the methods used by the Northern Land Council in preparing and presenting evidence on the land claims to the Ranger Inquiry and to the Committee’s recommendation that the procedures followed in this case should be followed in later cases.
The second report of the Ranger Inquiry examines in detail the evidence for traditional Aboriginal ownership of the areas claimed. In respect of one clan area it was found that all members had died and succession of another group to traditional responsibility for the area was not proved. Accordingly, it was not recommended that any part of that land become Aboriginal land. Elsewhere within the areas claimed it was found that there were traditional owners in terms of the Land Rights Act.
The Ranger Inquiry considered and reported on other matters which the Aboriginal Land Commissioner is required to have regard to or comment on when reporting on traditional claims: The strength of traditional attachment to the land, the numbers of Aboriginals with traditional ties who would be advantaged by the grant of the claims, the possible detriment to others and the effect on existing or proposed patterns of land use which might result from the grant of the claims. Having weighed all these considerations, the Ranger Inquiry recommended that the unalienated areas, excluding the proposed town site but including both the Ranger and Koongarra uranium deposits, be granted to a land trust. The Jabiluka area is on alienated land.
Rather than proceeding to recommend the grant of title as would normally be the procedure on acceptance of a recommendation by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, it has been decided to adopt the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendation that the areas with more regular boundaries, presenting no problem of survey and delineation, be granted by means of an amendment to the Land Rights Act. The areas are those shown outlined in blue in Map 16 in the Inquiry’s second report, excluding areas of leasehold land and the town site.
The Act will be amended to provide for the inclusion of the areas in the schedule of lands, title to which is to be vested in land trusts.
The Northern Land Council will have a vital role to play in representing Aboriginal interests, and especially the interests of the traditional owners of the areas which may be affected by development, both in negotiations for the creation of the national park and in the negotiation of agreement on terms and conditions of mining projects.
The incorporation into the national park of areas of Aboriginal land was suggested by the Aboriginals to the Ranger Inquiry and recommended by the Inquiry. The Government has accepted this recommendation and negotiations can begin at once between the Northern Land Council and the Director of National Parks and Wildlife on an agreement about the basis on which land might be leased by the Aboriginal land trusts for the national park. In such negotiations, Aboriginals will retain the important rights and powers, such as control of entry to their lands, which derive from the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
As the Ranger Inquiry recommended, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act will be amended to allow Aboriginal land to become part of a national park.
The exclusion of the town site area from the grant of Aboriginal land was in accordance with the recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry. Since the town site is to be included in the national park, it will be planned and managed in harmony with the park plan of management which will be prepared in consultation with Aboriginals. The Government, by ensuring that Aboriginals are involved in the planning of the town from the beginning, intends to ensure that the mistakes of the past, which have led to Aboriginals living as fringe dwellers in towns in their own traditional land, are not repeated here.
Arrangements will be made for Aboriginals to participate in the planning and management of the whole national park and not only those areas which are to be granted as Aboriginal land. Aboriginals will be employed and trained to work as rangers and in other capacities in the park. There will be continuing close consultation on management of the park and the plan of management will provide for the protection of Aboriginal interests, including the preservation and protection of the great number of important art sites and sites of religious significance in the Region and the restriction of entry to Aboriginal land.
The grant of Aboriginal land claims means that Aboriginals will benefit financially from the development of the Ranger deposit just as they benefit from mining in the Aboriginal reserves which by the Land Rights Act become Aboriginal land. The equivalent of a royalty of at least 2Vi per cent will be payable by the Commonwealth Government to the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Fund Account for mining within the Ranger area and 30 per cent of these payments will go to the local Aboriginal communities affected by mining development in the Region. Another 30 per cent will be available for advancing the general well-being of Aboriginals throughout the Northern Territory on the advice of an all-Aboriginal advisory committee. Forty per cent is to be used to meet the administrative costs of land councils, with money not needed for that purpose being available for distribution to Aboriginal communities.
Royalties will be used to promote the economic and social development and well-being of Aboriginal communities as provided in the Land Rights Act. The Government will be giving particular attention to the use of royalty money and I am having a study made, as a matter of urgency, on the impact of royalty payments on Aboriginal communities and their use in supporting the general economic and social development of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. Changes are being made in the organisation of my Department in order that closer attention can be given to matters of land and mining in the Northern Territory, following the enactment of the land rights legislation and the Government’s consideration of the Ranger Inquiry’s report. The amount of royalties is likely to be substantial. I stress that, since this money will be spent in the Northern Territory, it will benefit the Territory community as a whole and not only the Aboriginal citizens of the Territory.
As I have said, the Government has accepted the Inquiry’s recommendation that the southern boundary of the Ranger area should be moved north, farther from sacred sites at Mount Brockman. This decision should ensure that Aboriginals will have, in the words of the Inquiry’s report, ‘a comfortable satisfaction that Mount Brockman and the sacred sites on or near it are safe and secure’. I will introduce an appropriate amendment to the Land Rights Act as soon as possible.
The decision to negotiate the purchase of the two pastoral leases means that these areas will become available to form part of the national park and that the traditional land claims to these areas can be heard in accordance with provisions of the Land Rights Act and recommendations submitted by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Mr Justice Toohey. If, on the basis of the Commissioner’s findings and recommendation, title is granted under the Land Rights Act to an area including the Jabiluka uranium deposits, Aboriginals will stand to benefit financially from royalties if a decision is made to allow the development of those deposits. It will also be necessary for the mining company to negotiate terms and conditions with the Aboriginals, just as terms and conditions will have to be negotiated in the case of the Ranger development, even though development of those deposits does not require Aboriginal consent since the mineral leases had been applied for before the introduction of the Land Rights Act.
Subject to the satisfaction of environmental requirements and negotiation of an agreement between the company concerned and the Aboriginals, the Government will take a decision on development of the Nabarlek deposit in Arnhem Land. Negotiation of an agreement between the
Northern Land Council and the company is already well advanced, having begun some years ago and then been suspended pending the report of the Ranger Inquiry.
Any future mining or exploration in the areas to be granted as Aboriginal land, as well as being subject to the national park plan of management, will be subject to the requirement of the Land Rights Act for Aboriginal consent- except where mining is exempt from the consent provisions, as in the case of the Jabiluka lease area which was applied for before the date of introduction of the land rights legislation into this House.
The Government will allow mining of the Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits only if it is satisfied that the impact on the environment and on Aboriginals is acceptable, taking into account the total level of activity in the Region as a whole.
Measures for Aboriginal Health and Well-being
The Government has accepted in principle the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry for a positive scheme for the welfare of Aboriginals in the region, which are to some extent based on the submissions of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to the Ranger Inquiry. Implementation of these and other supplementary measures will begin at once, in consultation with the Aboriginal people of the region and the Northern Land Council.
I see the Northern Land Council’s participation in these consultations as crucial.
As Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I shall have general responsibility for the co-ordination of these measures and for the oversight of the impact of development on the 800 Aboriginals in the region.
Particular attention will be given to programs suggested by the Ranger Inquiry designed to reduce dependence on alcohol and to establish special control measures in the region. The Aboriginal people themselves are sufficiently aware of the very destructive effects of alcohol on their lives to be anxious about the future.
The Ranger Inquiry noted the extent to which alcohol dependence is already a major problem for Aboriginals in the region and the serious risk that development could aggravate the problem. It emphasised the need for positive measures ‘to restore the confidence and morale of Aboriginals living within the region’ and referred in this context to its recommendations for the granting of
Aboriginal title to land, for the creation of a national park which could act as a buffer between Aboriginals and other people, and to the positive benefits of mining (in creating employment opportunities) and other activities in the area. The Ranger Inquiry proposed that the individual health, education, employment and accommodation needs of Aboriginals should be ascertained and recorded, in collaboration with the Aboriginal people, as a basis for ‘more satisfactory and more selective programs in their betterment’. The Government has accepted in principle all these proposals- indeed they fit in very well with the procedures for ascertaining the wishes of Aboriginal communities that have already been established to provide a basis for my Department ‘s programs next year.
In addition, the Ranger Inquiry proposed a number of specific control measures which might be use as a guide or starting point in the development of a scheme of control to be worked out in consultation with the Aboriginal people. These proposals will need to be discussed with Aboriginal communities and considered carefully by the responsible local authorities and other affected, such as the mining companies (in relation to arrangements for liquor sales in construction camps and the township). Where the specific proposals are found to be unacceptable to Aboriginals or impracticable for immediate implementation, alternative measures may need to be devised.
In implementing control measures in relation to alcohol we will take due account of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs interim report of last year on alcohol problems in the Northern Territory. Special measures adopted in this region may provide a lead for the introduction of similar measures elsewhere.
The Government’s decision to allow mining of uranium in the Alligator Rivers region will certainly have a profound effect on the lives of the Aboriginal people living in the region. Let there be no doubt about this. The Ranger Inquiry recognised that development must inevitably increase the pressures already leading to rapid social change and stress in the Aboriginal communities.
The Government’s decisions to adopt fully the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations relating to Aboriginals will allow them, as owners of the land, to follow their own lifestyle on their own land to the extent they choose, to influence the course of development, and to take advantage of the full range of opportunities which development may open up to them.
The Commonwealth Government recognises a continuing obligation to watch the impact of development on the Aboriginal people of the Region, to work closely in conjunction with them, and to ensure that the total level of activity in the Region is controlled in their interests.
by leave- The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has announced the Government’s decision on uranium mining and export. I would now like to announce the decisions which the Government has taken to ensure protection of the Australian public, preservation of the environment and establishment of a major National Park in the Alligator Rivers Region. I will also outline some of the major environmental issues considered by the Government in taking its decisions. In describing these measures the vital concern of this Government for the environment will become crystal clear.
In taking its decision on uranium mining, the national park, and Aboriginal land rights, the Government has been guided by the two reports of the Ranger Environmental Inquiry commissioned under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act.
As I stated in the House of Representatives on 2 June 1977, ‘the two reports taken together represent a major contribution not only to Australia but also to international understanding of the environmental consequences of the uranium industry in the broadest terms as it affects mankind’.
The Ranger Inquiry sat for over 120 days and heard over 300 witnesses. The Commissioners have examined the issues thoroughly and the Government thanks them for the very comprehensive way in which they tackled their job.
The First Report of the Ranger Inquiry suggests, and the Second Report repeats, that the total renunciation of the intention to supply uranium was not justified.
In relation to environment protection, the Ranger Inquiry has made a number of recommendations. I want there to be no doubt about the Government’s position on these recommendations. We have accepted the vast majority of them. And where our decisions do depart from the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry, the
Government believes that it has adopted alternatives that will achieve the objectives of the Inquiry and satisfy the same principles.
Principally because of the wide ranging nature of the Ranger Inquiry, I have decided that the environmental impact of a number of the matters considered by the Government and announced today have been adequately examined and taken into account. Accordingly I have granted an exemption under the procedures of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. The exemption which has been made in the public interest covers the general issues that have now been decided by the Government as well as those relating specifically to the Ranger operation. It does not cover other specific mining proposals yet to be examined.
The Ranger Inquiry has identified the major environmental issues and has made recommendations accordingly. The Government has decided:
To establish a major national park to include the town site, in the Alligator Rivers Region.
To appoint a supervising scientist to coordinate environment protection in the Region.
To set up a research institute to provide a centre where research and monitoring staff can work together.
To establish a co-ordinating committee which will include representatives of all agencies involved in research and monitoring activities, the mining industry and other relevant bodies.
To develop a uniform national code of practice to apply to all uranium mining and milling in Australia. The code will be made mandatory by appropriate legislation.
To adopt strict environmental controls and standards in relation to uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region.
I will demonstrate today how we have met the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry. In so doing I will show our commitment to the use of the best pollution control technology available in the world and to the adoption of stringent standards to protect people and their environment.
The Ranger Inquiry found that a decision on uranium mining in Australia must be based first and foremost on the adoption of a strategy which will achieve the best results in regard to proliferation. The Government is firmly of the view that the non-proliferation objective identified by the Ranger Inquiry will be advanced by a decision now to export Australian uranium.
The First Report of the Ranger Inquiry recommended that uranium exports be subject to the fullest and most effective safeguards to ensure that nuclear materials are not misused. The Inquiry recognised that effective nuclear safeguards are an essential element in the regulation and control of the nuclear industry. The Prime Minister announced the Government’s comprehensive safeguards policy on 24 May. My colleague, the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Sinclair), today has made a further statement on the Government’s safeguards policy, which provides the basis for the Government’s decision to allow uranium exports to proceed. For my part, I believe that the policy we have developed in this area is second to none and goes beyond the recommendations of Mr Justice Fox and his colleagues.
In the first finding of the Ranger Inquiry the Commissioners took the view that the environmental effects of uranium mining could be adequately regulated and controlled. The Government is confident that decisions it has taken will provide the level of control necessary to ensure protection of the environment, and I will return to this aspect later.
The second finding of the Ranger Inquiry was that the hazards involved in the ordinary operations of nuclear power reactors, if properly controlled and regulated, are not such as to justify a decision not to mine and sell Australian uranium. There can be no doubt that this finding clearly supports the Government’s decision in favour of allowing uranium exports to proceed.
The disposal of nuclear waste and the potential environmental problems which this could pose have been matters of public concern. The responsibility for disposing, in an environmentally responsible manner, of waste arising from nuclear power generation in countries abroad, is a matter for those countries which generate electricity by nuclear means. There is no intention of Australia storing other countries’ radioactive waste.
The Government will continue to seek expert advice and to follow with interest work on this matter now in progress in a number of countries, and has indicated its willingness to participate in the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation. I will be asking the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council to analyse developments in the different aspects of spent reactor fuel management, reprocessing and waste disposal.
As the Prime Minister has said, the issue of nuclear waste disposal has been examined by a number of eminent independent authorities including the British Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the Ford Foundation and the Ranger Inquiry. The Government has had the benefit of this expert advice in taking its decisions. None of these authorities has concluded that the use of nuclear energy should be abandoned because of problems associated with waste disposal.
The Ford Foundation report said:
We are convinced that nuclear wastes and plutonium can be disposed of permanently in a safe manner. If properly buried deep underground in geologically stable formations, there is little chance that these materials will re-enter the environment in dangerous quantities. Even if materials were somehow to escape eventually in larger quantities than seems possible, it would not constitute a major catastrophe, or even a major health risk, for future civilizations.
The Ranger Inquiry made it clear that it did not consider the present nuclear waste situation was such as to justify Australia wholly refusing to export uranium.
Processes have already been developed to solidify nuclear wastes into a glass-like material. These processes have been proved to be technically feasible at pilot plants at Hanford in the USA and Marcoule in France. Studies are in progress in North America and Europe to locate suitable deep underground stable rock formations in which to dispose of the solidified waste.
The Government has taken a number of decisions to ensure nationwide protection of Australians and their environment. In doing so it has followed closely the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry.
The Ranger Inquiry expressed concern that nuclear activities should be properly regulated and controlled. The Government has responded to this concern by deciding to establish, with the States, by appropriate legislation, a uniform national Code of Practice which will apply to all uranium activities in Australia.
The aim of this Code will be to protect the health and safety of citizens of this country by ensuring protection of their environment. One important element of the Code relating to radiation protection in the mining and milling of radioactive ores has already been prepared by the Commonwealth Department of Health in consultation with other Commonwealth and State authorities and with industry and trade unions. This element of the Government’s proposed uniform Code has received wide acceptance. Further elements will be developed, using similar consultative procedures. These elements will be based, where possible on existing international and overseas codes, and will assist in making environmental protection practices and procedures developed overseas more widely known in Australia. Expert advice will be obtained from bodies such as the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council, the Australian Radiation Laboratory and the National Health and Medical Research Council. The Code will be developed in such a way as to provide adequate transition periods for industry and mine operators.
In this regard I must stress that the Government’s concern extends beyond the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry. Environmental standards, procedures and practices will be specified in the uniform Code.
The development of this mandatory Code will involve many interests at Commonwealth and State level. I have asked my Department to set in hand work on elements of the Code through a consultative process involving the establishment of a Commonwealth interdepartmental committee and the development of new consultative arrangements with the States.
The Ranger Inquiry has noted the environmental problems that resulted from uranium mining at Rum Jungle. I recognise that environment protection measures at Rum Jungle could not be considered adequate by today’s standards. We are determined that this experience will not be repeated.
The Government is confident that the measures which I have announced today will ensure that current and future uranium mining undertaken anywhere in Australia will be subject to adequate environment protection controls.
I now come to the Alligator Rivers Region. The establishment of a national park in this Region is central to the findings of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. This was seen as a means to minimise adverse social and environmental impacts which might occur with the development of mining. The Government has accepted all the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations in this regard with a few minor variations which I will deal with later.
A major national park will be established in the Northern Territory embracing the full area recommended by the Ranger Inquiry. This positive decision is the culmination of proposals going back as far as 1965. The park we have decided to declare covers a far larger area than previously contemplated, being about 12,500 square kilometres or 5,000 square miles in size.
Our action reflects the concern and dedication of this Government to protect Australia’s unique natural heritage, not only for Australians but in the interests of international conservation.
The Kakadu National Park will compare favourably with the great national parks of the world. From my personal knowledge, I know that its magnificent scenery provides a stimulating experience which visitors readily appreciate. The landscape with the dominant sandstone escarpment some 300 metres high, over which waterfalls tumble to the alluvial plains below, contains panoramas rivalling the attractions of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Parks in the USA.
The archaeological sites and Aboriginal cave paintings are unequalled elsewhere in Australia and have been rated with the great palaeolithic art sites of France and Spain and the Bushmen paintings of Africa.
The diversity of habitats has resulted in a remarkable richness of plant and animal life. The congregations of native water birds in the dry season provide a spectacular display. Apart from a wealth of more common tropical plants and animals, the Park is known to be a critical refuge for a variety of rare and endangered species.
The area is important in relation to obligations and responsibilities deriving from Australia’s commitment to international agreements especially with regard to migratory birds, wetlands, endangered species and the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
Representations from eminent international conservation bodies such as the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources have stressed the global significance of the Park.
In accord with the recommendations of the Commissioners, the Park will be established under section 7(2) (a) of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. We will amend the Act as suggested in the Second Report to dispense with the normal declaration procedures, having in mind the public investigation by the Commissioners and the long history of proposals for a national park.
Similarly we accept the recommendation that the Act be amended to enable Aboriginal land to become part of a national park.
Consideration will be given to the need to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 so that effect can be given to the proposal by the Northern Land Council, that Aboriginal Land should become part of the
National Park by leasing to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife.
The Government accepts the recommendation that consideration be given to providing, by regulations, that mining companies and their contractors answer promptly any request for relevant information respecting their operations made by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and for him to have appropriate rights of inspection. As recommended, legislative action will be taken to enable the Director to enforce environment protection provisions, particularly by way of injunction to restrain or compel action, and to give the Supreme Court a wide discretion as to the exercise of its jurisdiction in such cases.
Because of the different categories of land tenure and our desire to proceed as rapidly as possible in establishing the National Park, we have decided to declare the Park progressively. The area declared initially will exceed considerably that indicated by the Commissioners when they considered the possibility of staging.
No further mineral exploration will take place in the declared area for the time being. In future such activities will only be permitted in the National Park after very careful consideration and then under careful control in accordance with a formally developed plan of management as recommended by the Ranger Inquiry.
The first area declared will be about 6,500 square kilometres or 2,500 square miles and consists essentially of the eastern half of the total area proposed for the National Park by the Ranger Inquiry.
It consists of the land within the boundary in which the Ranger Inquiry recommended Aboriginal land title should be given, plus a small area to the south of that boundary that was included in the gazettal notice of 13 May 1975, plus the Woolwonga Aboriginal Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.
We will proceed to develop the rest of the Park as quickly as possible; in the meantime its protection will be ensured through special control exercised jointly by the Departments of Environment, Housing and Community Development, National Resources, Northern Territory and Aboriginal Affairs.
The Commissioners attached great importance to a plan of management prepared by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife as a means of controlling activities associated with mining, regulating tourism, protecting Aboriginal sites and safeguarding other Aboriginal interests, controlling commercial fishing and buffaloes and ensuring the town is so planned and managed as to be attractive to live in.
In view of the difficulties in preparing a management plan for such a large and diverse area and because of the task of reconciling different interests such as conservation, mining and tourism in an integrated plan, the Government will ensure that the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service is able to carry out its functions and meet its responsibilities effectively and fully.
In line with the Ranger Inquiry recommendations five areas, associated with Ranger, Jabiluka, Koongarra, Opitz ‘Cooinda’ Enterprises Pty Ltd and the Roper Bar Trading Company, will be excluded from the Park to accommodate mining and commercial activities. They comprise about one per cent of the Park. Before any mining proceeds we need to be assured that any social and environmental effects are acceptable, having in mind the overall impact of development in the Region.
Mining will be permitted on the basis that financial arrangements will be made to ensure that once mining ceases the site will be rehabilitated. The site will then be included in the National Park.
The Government has, in accordance with the Ranger Inquiry’s Report decided that the town, a closed mining town with a population not exceeding 3,500, will be within the National Park and subject to the plan of management prepared by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife. Design, construction and management of the town will be the responsibility of the Department of the Northern Territory and the mining companies under principles and standards established by the Director.
The Ranger Inquiry recommendations about the Park and the decision of this Government to implement virtually all of the recommendations represents a new and challenging concept in national park management. The Commissioners rightly pointed out the compatibility between Aboriginal and park interests. This relationship is a matter of special satisfaction to me. I look forward enthusiastically to the development of training programs for Aboriginals, to their employment as park rangers, and to working with them in managing what will be probably become the most significant national park in Australia.
The Second Report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry recommended that environment protection of the Alligator Rivers Region could be accomplished in two ways, of which the establishment of a major national park was first.
The second element recommended by the Ranger Inquiry was the development of specific arrangements to protect the natural and historic features of the Alligator Rivers environment, to protect the Aboriginal people who have lived there for centuries and to protect the mine workers and their families who will take up residence there.
The Ranger Inquiry recommended that the total level of activity in the Region should be limited to minimise the impact of both the natural environment and on the lifestyle of the Aboriginal residents. The Government will take this recommendation into account in its decisions on mine development and related matters.
The Government has accepted the recommendations of chapters 17 and 18 of the Second Ranger report.
These recommendations relate to environmental supervision, research, and the establishment of standards, monitoring and administrative arrangements. I now announce some key elements of the Government’s decisions on these recommendations.
The Government has decided to appoint an officer, to be known as the Supervising Scientist, to exercise a supervisory and integrating role over all research and monitoring programs associated with environmental protection from the hazards of uranium development in the Alligator Rivers Region and to advise on the specific environmental requirements for the Ranger project. He or she will be empowered to seek information from mining companies and monitoring and research agencies, to inspect sites and operations and to make a public report annually. Legislation to provide the Supervising Scientist with these powers is now in preparation. As recommended by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry the Supervising Scientist will be responsible to myself as Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and I hope to announce an appointment in the near future. (Recommendation 6, chapter 1 7.)
The Government has decided to establish a Research Institute headed by the Supervising Scientist. The purpose of this body will be to provide the Supervising Scientist with a small number of highly qualified research staff to assist in the development and management of the multi-disciplinary integrated research programs that will be necessary for environmental protection of the Region. (Recommendation 7, chapter 17.)
Because of the number of government agencies involved in the research and monitoring program and the interest of mining companies, the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Northern Land Council, the Government has seen considerable merit in the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendation to establish a body, to be known as the Co-ordinating Committee, to be chaired by the Supervising Scientist. (Recommendation 3, chapter 17.)
This committee will co-ordinate the formulation of standards and procedures and control measures for environmental protection in the Region. I will be consulting with other Ministers with a view to establishing the committee as a matter of urgency. (Recommendation 9, chapter 17.)
The Government has accepted the specific recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry relating to the operation of the Ranger mine. The responsibility for these details will rest with the Supervising Scientist. (Recommendations, chapters 6 and 7.)
The Government has decided, on the basis of present knowledge to accept the recommendation that tailings from the mining operation should be returned to the mine pits. (Recommendation 2, chapter 7.)
The Government has confirmed that any proposals to develop further mines in the Region should be subject to the requirements of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act before any government decisions on these mines are taken. Before such decisions are taken the Government will need to be satisfied about the acceptability of the environmental impact on the Region of the development of the mine concerned. The application of the Act to other mining proposals in the Region will ensure that the Government will have all the facts on the environmental implications of these proposals when decisions on them are required. This will provide the opportunity for further public participation in this matter.
In conclusion let me restate my remarks to the House of Representatives on 2 June 1977. As the national Minister concerned with the environment I believe the thrust of the many recommendations of the Inquiry to be entirely consonant with proper environmental protection, and it will be clear from my statement today that the Government takes a similar view. I am confident that the decisions announced by the Prime Minister which I have elaborated today will ensure effective regulation and control of all uranium activities in Australia. We will thereby ensure the protection of the Australian public including the Aboriginal people and our environment, and will in so doing protect the Alligator Rivers Region with its rich archaeological sites, abundant wildlife, diverse and interesting vegetation, and exciting and beautiful scenery.
– by leave- The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has already announced the Government’s decision on uranium mining in Australia. My colleague, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) has in addition outlined the environmental controls to be adopted by the Government and he briefly referred to some of the health aspects of these. I now propose to give in some more detail the measures that will be taken to protect the health of those involved in uranium mining and milling and those people living within the proximity of mines who could be exposed to possible hazards.
My Department, in particular its Australian Radiation Laboratory, has for many years been aware of possible health hazards in uranium mining. It must be remembered that my Department was involved in monitoring the health of those involved in uranium mining which commenced at Rum Jungle early in the 1950s and lasted until the 1960s. Since that time, of course, a great deal of new information has become available on the effects on health and any new information which becomes available will be used to update the control measures that should be implemented.
Effective safety practices for employees involved in mining or members of the public in the neighbourhood of that activity must be founded on a number of points. These include soundly based radiation protection standards and properly drawn-up working rules; well instructed and supervised employees; effective protective facilities, equipment and procedures to minimise radiation exposure; regular and frequent monitoring and assessment of radiation exposures and contamination levels by suitably experienced and qualified staff; comprehensive health surveillance of employees in the activity; acceptance and implementation of the principle that radiation exposures be kept to the lowest practical level; and responsible and disciplined approaches by both management and employees, so that no person causes unnecessary radiation exposure to himself or to others.
With these aspects in mind, my Department set out to develop a code of practice that would contain provisions to comply with these criteria. On the recommendation of an interdepartmental committee convened by my Department, a Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores was prepared. This Code deals with radiation protection aspects only and is not concerned with the other potential hazards or with the broader environmental issues already elaborated on by my colleague, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. The draft Code was circulated for comment to 94 recipients made up of appropriate Australian and State government departments and authorities, uranium mining and exploration companies and mining associations, and relevant trade unions and trade union councils.
The Code was accepted by both this and the previous Government and was submitted in the evidence my Department gave to the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. The Inquiry in both its first and second reports acknowledged the Code, now titled ‘Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores, 1975’, to be an authoritative document and one which should be included in legislation. The Government has accepted and indeed gone further than this recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry and, as already indicated by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Code Will be included in the Uniform National Code of Practice which will be established by the Commonwealth, with the States, by appropriate legislation. It is considered that the consistent and rigorous application of the Code of Practice will ensure radiation safety for employees engaged in mining and milling operations and for members of the community in the neighbourhood of the mines or mills. My Department will co-operate in a continuing monitoring of radioactivity, air, water and effluent to ensure that standards are met. This on-going surveillance program will involve co-operation of the various responsible departments, allow critical evaluation of the operation and ensure updating as more scientific data becomes available.
Provisions of the Code relate to the management of all radioactive materials produced as waste and effluent in the mining and milling operations. The requirements of the Code are intended to be applied in conjunction with other safety requirements for mining and milling operations and with relevant legislation. While the
Code does not deal with the broad environmental issues of mining and milling of radioactive ores, its provisions are to be applied by operators of mines or mills in the context of comprehensive environmental studies made with respect to any proposal to mine or mill radioactive ores. The Code takes full account of the most recent scientific and technical information. In particular, the working panel which proposed it drew on a code of practice prepared by the International Labour Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency. It took account of recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection and discussions in expert panels convened by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It studied papers presented to, and discussions at, an International Symposium on Radiation Protection in Mining and Milling of Uranium and Thorium arranged by the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Account was also taken of current radiation protection standards and practices in the mining and milling of radioactive ores in other countries, notably Canada, France, South Africa and the United States of America. The working panel was aware that the International Atomic Energy Agency has in preparation a manual, with explanatory guidelines, on the management of radioactively contaminated wastes and effluents arising in the mining and milling of radioactive ores. It was also aware that the International Commission on Radiological Protection was likely, in the future, to make specific recommendations with respect to the control of radiation hazards in the mining and milling of radioactive ores. It is intended that the Code of Practice be reviewed from time to time to take account of all such further relevant scientific and technical information.
I have so far dealt with the possible effect on health of radiation but there are other factors that will need to be considered in respect of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region. Any development of the Region involving migration of people has a potential to affect the health of those people. Expansion of health services to the area will provide for adequate care of people moving to any new and expanding population area. Drinking water is to be taken from ground water supplies. Suitable methods of control are listed in the Code of Practice and continuing analyses of water samples will be undertaken. Monitoring of effluent is already undertaken in all populated areas in the Northern Territory. A continuing monitoring program will be similarly followed in the Region.
The National Health and Medical Research Council has set national emission standards for air pollutants, and for atmospheric contaminants. The Northern Territory Division will adhere to these. The area is receptive for malaria, and the possible reintroduction of this disease poses the biggest single public health risk to a developing population in the Region. The identification and appropriate treatment of people entering the area who may be carriers of the malaria parasite will be a difficult but necessary task- not only to the mining site and town centre but also to the National Park. Entry points for the area will be restricted and a screening system as operating at Gove, and Weipa in Queensland, will be introduced.
A total occupational health program, provided by the Department of Health, in conjunction with the mining companies, unions and other relevant agencies, will be carried out. The program includes health supervision of workers, occupational hygiene, hygiene of sanitary facilities, supervision of occupational first aid service, medical records, first aid and medical emergency treatment at work and social and preventive health programs. It is planned to develop health services to a standard similar to those provided elsewhere in the Northern Territory. The Region described falls within my Department’s Jabiru rural health district of its northern region. The headquarters for the district will be in the proposed regional centre township. My Department intends to provide an integrated health service complex in the new town. The health complex will provide the core of the district health service catering for the rural population, the town population and the mining population at Ranger and future mining sites. Whilst largely self-sufficient, it will be augmented by the two major Darwin hospitals which will provide specialist services and treatment for the seriously ill. The services provided are for all people in the district, including permanent residents and transients such as miners and tourists.
Another important aspect of development in the Region will be its effect on the health of Aboriginals. This was a matter of particular concern to the Ranger Inquiry and my Department in the Northern Territory will extend its health services to Aboriginals in the Region. At present 3 1 Aboriginal health workers are employed in the Northern Territory and a further 144 are in training. As recommended by the Inquiry, suitable Aboriginals will be trained to work in conjunction with the health teams in the Ranger area. In addition, the Government will look for appropriate advice from the National Health and Medical Research Council which as the foremost health body in the country has advised it since 1937 on all aspects of public health. Honourable members may be interested to know that the National Health and Medical Research Council has already produced about 20 codes or recommendations on radiation.
The Ranger Inquiry also recommended that legislation to control the use of radioactive substances be introduced in the Northern Territory. The Government has accepted that recommendation. A first draft of an ordinance has been produced and this will be discussed with the leader of the majority party in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly with the aim that it be passed as an ordinance.
I believe that by following the program that I have outlined, my Department will ensure that the mining and milling of uranium can be undertaken in Australia in such a way that the health of the public, including those actually employed in the mines, will be protected.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a copy of the six related ministerial statements together with other associated papers on the Government’s policy on uranium development and move:
That the House take note of the ministerial statements.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. The Proposals implement the Government’s decisions on recommendations made by the Temporary Assistance Authority in its reports on tyre cord fabrics; and vices. The effect of the decision on tyre cord fabrics is that an additional temporary duty of $2 per kilogram will apply to tyre cord fabrics imported in excess of quota entitlements. The decision on vices applies an additional temporary duty of $8 each on certain engineers’ and woodworkers’ vices and $ 1 2 each on other vices imported in excess of quota entitlements.
The new duties will operate from tomorrow.
I have had prepared a comprehensive summary of the changes which is now being circulated to honourable members.
I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
The Bill before the House contains provisions to authorise major improvements to the nursing home benefits arrangements. The financial position of patients in private nursing homes, which contain about half of the nursing home beds in Australia, has been of particular concern to the government. Many of these patients have been experiencing serious difficulties in meeting the difference between the fees charged and the nursing home benefits paid. This has been causing anxiety among nursing home patients and their relatives. It has been causing hardship for those in need of nursing home care, who are unable to obtain such care because they cannot meet the gap between the fees and benefits.
The nursing home benefits arrangements for which the Bill provides represent a major advance in the Government’s health and welfare program introducing a new era of financial security for nursing home patients. This is achieved substantially by providing significantly increased nursing home benefits. From 1 October these benefits are to be adjusted upwards annually, so that they, together with the statutory patient contribution, will cover fully the fees charged 70 per cent of patients in non-Government National Health Act nursing homes in each State. The Government believes, however, that the high cost of providing benefits for nursing home patients cannot be expected to remain almost exclusively its responsibility. It proposes therefore that hospital benefits organisations should pay the nursing home benefits in respect of patients insured for their standard table benefits while the Commonwealth continues to pay identical benefits for uninsured patients.
The Government is sure that most Australians will welcome this extension of the principle that those who can afford to contribute to the cost of their health care should do so. Unfortunately, since I announced the improved arrangements proposed by the Government, certain people in the community have seized the opportunity, presented by the winter parliamentary recess, to launch a reprehensible scare campaign. This created a great deal of uncertainty among nursing home patients and the community in general as to the financial assistance nursing home patients would receive in the future. Out of my concern for the welfare of nursing home patients, I have written a letter to all patients to reassure them that the proposed changes to the nursing home arrangements will advantage them as patients. I trust that they have all received those letters and that they are now reassured. Health insurers generally have shown a willingness to extend their benefits to include the payment of the proposed nursing home benefits. This was to be expected for it is a logical extension for the private health insurance system, which aims to provide cover for every ill Australian whether the ill person be in a doctor’s consulting room, a hospital or a nursing home.
I wish now to turn to the main provisions in the Bill. The Bill amends both the National Health Act 1953 and the Nursing Homes Assistance Act 1974. The amendments to the National Health Act are contained in Part II of the Bill and it is to these provisions that I would first draw the attention of honourable members. The Bill provides for the payment of a basic Commonwealth nursing home benefit in respect of uninsured patients in National Health Act nursing homes. The rates of this benefit vary depending upon the State or Territory in which the nursing home is situated and are set out in clause 1 1. Successive governments and this Government consider that it is reasonable to expect most patients in nursing homes to make a contribution towards their maintenance as they are usually long-stay patients. The present benefits arrangements applying to non-government nursing homes give effect to this principle in that, where the fee is lower than the combination of the patient contribution and the benefit, the benefit is reduced to ensure that the patient contribution as specified remains payable. This principle of reducing the benefit thus requiring the patient to make a specified contribution has been retained in the Bill.
In addition, the Bill provides for the payment of a Commonwealth ‘extensive care’ benefit for uninsured patients in National Health Act nursing homes who require extensive care. The criteria for approval as an extensive care patient is the same as that presently provided for intensive nursing home care. The only change is in terminology and this has been made as the current usage of ‘intensive care’ for the term ‘intensive nursing home care’ has caused some confusion in practice. The Bill provides for the rate of the extensive care benefit to be $6 a day. This is twice the level of the intensive nursing home care benefit, which has not been increased since it was introduced in 1969.
As mentioned previously, the benefit levels have been determined so that the benefits, together with the statutory minimum patient contribution, currently $6.70 a day, cover fully the fees charged to 70 per cent of the patients in non-government National Health Act nursing homes in each State. The benefit levels will be reviewed annually on this 70 per cent basis and the Bill provides for them to be increased by regulations. As I have mentioned, the Government proposes that the hospital benefits organisations should pay benefits for nursing home patients, insured for their standard table benefits, equivalent to the Commonwealth benefits for uninsured patients. These benefits will be payable in respect of insured patients in nursing homes approved under the National Health Act and the Nursing Homes Assistance Act including insured repatriation patients in those nursing homes. The Bill provides that it is a condition of registration of hospital benefits organisations that they provide these benefits. It further provides that hospital benefits organisations may debit all nursing home benefits to their reinsurance accounts thus enabling liability for the benefits to be shared between the organisations.
As nursing home patients generally have very limited means, the practice has been adopted by nursing home proprietors of deducting the Commonwealth and fund nursing home benefits from the patients’ fees and charging the patients the balance. The proprietors have claimed the benefits and the benefits have been paid directly to them. The Government recognises the importance of these arrangements to the patients and the proprietors and the Bill requires that the practice be followed in relation to the new benefits. Accordingly, it provides that it is a condition of approval of a nursing home that a nursing home proprietor deduct the benefits payable from the fees and where this is done the Commonwealth and fund benefits are to be paid to the proprietor. The possibility cannot be ignored, however, that isolated cases may arise where special circumstances exist which result in a proprietor not deducting the benefits. In such cases the Bill provides that the Permanent Head may direct that any Commonwealth benefits payable be paid to the person charged the fees. If the benefits have already been paid to the proprietor, they may be recovered and paid to that person. Where fund benefits are payable in such circumstances they are to be paid to the proprietor, but it is a condition of approval of the nursing home that he pay an amount equal to the benefits to the person charged the fees.
As the nursing home proprietor is responsible for claiming the nursing home benefits, it will be necessary for him to ascertain whether patients are insured in order to determine whether to claim Commonwealth or fund benefits. Accordingly, the Bill provides for it to be a condition of approval of nursing homes that the proprietor use all reasonable endeavours to ascertain whether patients are insured. The Government anticipates, however, that there will be a small number of cases where, following reasonable endeavours, it is not possible for a nursing home proprietor to ascertain whether a patient is insured. It is vital to the patient in such cases that benefits are able to be paid. Consequently, the Bill provides that in such cases, following an application from the proprietor, the Permanent Head of any Department may determine that the patient be treated as being insured and as a result Commonwealth benefits would be paid. The Bill also provides that should fund benefits be payable to a proprietor in cases where Commonwealth benefits have been paid, the Commonwealth benefits are to be repaid.
I wish to turn now to Part III of the Bill, which amends the Nursing Homes Assistance Act 1 974. By virtue of agreements made under this Act between proprietors of non-profit nursing homes and the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth meets the approved deficits of such homes. For uninsured nursing home patients in deficit financed homes existing arrangements will continue. However, the Bill imposes the same conditions of approval on these nursing homes, in relation to insured patients, as are imposed in relation to nursing homes approved under the National Health Act, to which I have referred. Further, it provides for the agreements to require proprietors to charge insured patients, other than insured compensation cases, an additional fee equal to the nursing home fund benefits payable. The Commonwealth will, of course, continue to meet the approved deficits of these nursing homes. The proprietor will deduct this fee from the patient’s account and receive the benefit from the hospital benefits organisation. The resultant increase in fees revenue will reduce the deficits to be met by the Commonwealth.
The Bill also provides for insured patients in these nursing homes to be approved as extensive care patients so that they are able to attract the appropriate fund benefits. Under the revised nursing home benefits arrangements the existing controls relating to admissions, fees and growth in non-government nursing homes will continue. I am confident that honourable members will appreciate the great value of the provisions in the Bill to nursing home patients and their relatives. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
-On behalf of the Chairman of the Publications Committee, I have the honour to present the Fourteenth 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 in the chamber.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Debate resumed from 18 August, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Television Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy^ Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The two Bills before the House deal with an amendment to section 6 of the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Act 1964 and section 6 of the Television Stations Licence Fees Act 1964 respectively. The purpose of these Bills is to vary the range of licence fees payable by commercial broadcasters and commercial television licensees by providing for an additional four levels. The Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill provides for a levy of 414 per cent to be imposed on such part of the gross earnings as exceed $3.5m but do not exceed $4m. A levy of 5 per cent is to be imposed on earnings between $4m and $4.5m and of 5V4 per cent on earnings between $4.5m and S5m. A levy equal to 6 per cent is to be imposed on all amounts exceeding $5m. A similar table is to apply under the Television Stations Licence Fees Bill.
The Opposition does not oppose this legislation. However, I would like to draw attention to a few matters before the Bills are submitted to a vote. One of the things that concerns me is the interlocking tie-up of the newspaper world in radio and television. Newspapers were in existence before radio came in. They immediately moved into the field of broadcasting. When television became the order of the day the newspapers, through their radio stations and their own medium, were able to take control of television throughout Australia. Rather than go through each of the individual cases, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard an appendix contained in the 28th annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board at pages 173, 174 and 175, a small part of page 176 and also the section dealing with the Australian Consolidated Press group at page 180.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
This Appendix lists newspaper companies and other companies or persons which have substantial shareholding interests, directly or indirectly, in two or more licences for commercial broadcasting stations or commercial television stations. The Appendix is divided into four sections:
II- Provincial and Country Newspapers HI- Overseas Newspapers
IV- Other organisations
ADS Adelaide-Holds 920,000 of the 3,000,000 shares in the licensee company. A wholly-owned subsidiary company, Midlands Broadcasting Services Ltd, also holds 300,000 shares in the licensee company.
SAD Adelaide- Holds the licence for the station. 5MU Murray Bridge- Holds 49 per cent of Messenger Holdings Pty Ltd which, through subsidiary companies, controls approximately 14 per cent of Bridge Radio Pty Ltd which company holds all the shares in the licensee company. 5PI Crystal Brook- Wholly-owned subsidiary companies hold the licences for 5PI and SSE.
SSE Mount Gambier (Advertiser Newspapers Ltd also holds 4,044,890 of the 62,359,755 ordinary shares in The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd (see below) and 165,000 of the 11,139,351 ordinary shares in Queensland Press Ltd (see below).)
DAVIES BROS LTD ( The Mercury, Hobart) Television
TVT Hobart - Holds 206,373 of the 1,798,982 shares in the licensee company and in addition, has a 50 per cent interest in Commercial Broadcasters Pty Ltd which holds 50,000 shares in the licensee company.
TNT North Eastern Tasmania Area- Tasmania Television Ltd, licensee or TVT (see above) holds 179,998 of the 3,600,000 stock units in Examiner-Northern TV Ltd, which company holds all the shares in the licensee company.
Broadcasting 7HO Hobart - Holds 100,000 of the 200,000 shares in the licensee company. 7EX Launceston- Tasmanian Television Ltd, licensee of TVT (see above) holds 179,998 of the 3.600,000 stock units in Examiner-Northern TV Ltd which company holds all the shares in W. R. Rolph & Sons Pty Ltd a subsidiary company of which holds all the shares in the licensee company. (See below for interests of Tasmanian Television Ltd. In addition, Davies Bros Ltd holds 9,900 of the 62,359,755 ordinary shares in The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd (see below) and 19,440 of the 23,460,000 ordinary shares in Advertiser Newspapers Ltd (see above).)
Directly and through subsidiary companies:
CTC Canberra Area-Holds 360,000 of the 1,200,000 stock units in the licensee company.
ATN Sydney-Holds 1 .403,526 of the 1 ,494, 1 1 8 shares in the licensee company.
NBN Newcastle-Hunter River Area- John Fairfax Ltd has a 45 per cent interest in Newcastle Newspapers Pty Ltd, which through a wholly-owned subsidiary company, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate Pty Ltd, holds 324,000 of the 3,375,000 shares in the licensee company.
WIN Illawarra Area-Holds 101,000 of the 1,000,000 stock units in the licensee company.
QTQ Brisbane-Holds 1,307,200 of the 3.027,200 stock units in the licensee company. In addition, the licensee of ATN Sydney (see above) holds 500,800 stock units in the licensee company.
DDQ Darling Downs Area, SDQ Southern Downs AreaNewcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation Ltd, licensee of NBN (see above) holds 50,000 of the 1,400,000 shares in the licensee company. In addition Ballarat and Western Victoria Television Ltd, licensee of BTV (see above) holds 36,000 shares in the licensee company.
Broadcasting 3XY Melbourne-Holds 3,3 13,670 of the 6.000.000 shares in David Syme & Co. Ltd, which hus a 15 per cent interest in the operating company of 3X Y.
John Fairfax Ltd, through a wholly-owned subsidiary company, holds 3,567,280 of the 12,672,000 ordinary shares in Macquarie Broadcasting Holdings Ltd, which, through subsidiary companies, has the following interests in broadcasting stations: 2CA Canberra-Holds 30,000 ordinary and 1,613 preference shares in totals of 30,000 ordinary and 2,050 preference shares in the licensee company. 2WL Wollongong- Holds all the shares in the licensee company. 3AW Melbourne- Holds all the shares in the licensee company. 4BH Brisbane-Holds 9,368 of the 12,500 shares in the licensee company, in addition 4BH Investments Pty Ltd, in which the Macquarie Group’ holds 84 per cent of the issued shares, holds 2,244 shares in the licensee company. 5DN Adelaide- Holds all the shares in the licensee company.
The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd ( The Herald and The Sun, Melbourne)
TEN Sydney-Holds 226,000 of the 750,000 shares in J. C. Williamson Ltd, which holds 222,222 of the 10,000,000 shares in the licensee company.
HSV Melbourne-Holds 637,505 of the 750,005 shares in the licensee company.
BTQ Brisbane-Holds 40,000 of the 1,450,000 shares in the licensee company and 4,376,689 of the 11,139,351 shares in Queensland Press Ltd, which through two wholly-owned subsidiary companies, Telegraph Investment Co. Pty Ltd and Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd holds 403,000 of the shares in the licensee company. In addition, Advertiser Newspapers Ltd (see ADS below) holds 165,000 of the 11,139,351 shares in Queensland Press Ltd.
ADS Adelaide-Holds 7,192,704 of the 23,460,000 ordinary shares in Advertiser Newspapers Ltd, which, with its wholly-owned subsidiary company, Midlands Broadcasting Services Ltd holds 1,220,000 of the 3,000,000 shares in the licensee company. The Argus and Australasian Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary company, also holds 51,840 shares in Advertiser Newspapers Ltd. In addition, Davies Bros Ltd (see TVT below) holds 19,440 and Telegraph Investment Co. Pty Ltd (see BTQ above) holds 24,000 of the 23,460,000 ordinary shares in Advertiser Newspapers Ltd.
TVT Hobart - Holds 500,683 of the 1,039,920 ordinary shares in Davies Bros Ltd, which holds 206,373 of the
SAS Adelaide-TVW Ltd, licensee of TVW (see below) holds all the shares in the licensee company.
TVW Perth-Holds all the 9,2 16,3 16 ordinary and all the 100.000 preference shares in West Australian Newspapers Ltd (Publisher of The West Australian, Perth) which holds 93,750 of the 6,032,147 shares in the licensee company. In addition, Tasmania Television Ltd (see above) holds 250, 124 shares in the licensee company.
Broadcasting 3DB Melbourne- Holds the licence for the station. 3GL Geelong - Holds all the 900,000 shares in Geelong
Advertiser (Holdings) Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of which holds all the shares in the licensee company. 3XY Melbourne-Holds 84 1 ,800 ordinary shares in David
Syme and Co. Ltd which has a 15 per cent interest in the operating company of 3X Y. 4AK Oakey. 4BK Brisbane-Holds 4,376,689 of the
Gambier - Holds 7,192,704 of the 23,460,000 ordinary shares in Advertiser Newspapers Ltd (licensee of 5AD), subsidiary companies of which hold the licences for 5PI and 5SE. The Argus and Australasian Ltd, a whollyowned subsidiary company of The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, also holds 51,840 shares in the licensee company of 5AD. The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd has a further interest in Advertiser Newspapers Ltd through its shareholdings in Davies Bros Ltd and Telegraph Investment Co. Pty Ltd (subsidiary of Queensland Press Ltd) which hold 19,440 and 24,000 shares respectively in Advertiser Newspapers Ltd. 6IX Perth, 6BY Bridgetown, 6MD Merredin, 6WB Katanning - TVW Ltd (see above), holds all the shares in the licensee company. 7HO Hobart-Holds 500,683 of the 1,039,920 ordinary shares in Davies Bros Ltd which has a 50 per cent interest in the licensee company. The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd has a further interest in Davies Bros Ltd through its shareholding in Queensland Press Ltd, a subsidiary company of which Telegraph Investment Co. Pty Ltd holds 64,639 shares. 7EX Launceston- Tasmanian Television Ltd, licensee of TVT (see above) holds 179,998 stock units in ExaminerNorthern TV Ltd which holds all the shares in W. R. Rolph & Sons Pty Ltd, a subsidiary company of which holds all the shares in the licensee company. (Through Us interest in Advertiser Newspapers Ltd (see above) The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd has a minor interest in 5MU. See below for interests of Tasmanian Television Ltd (see above). Queensland Press Ltd (see above), through a wholly-owned subsidiary company, Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd, holds approximately 33 per cent of the shares in Provincial Newspapers (Qld) Ltd (see Appendix L).)
News Ltd (The News. Adelaide ),(Daily Telegraph, Sydney) Television
NEN Upper Namoi Area, ECN Manning River AreaHolds 33,267 of the 100,000 shares in Tamworth Newspaper Co. Ltd which holds 82,500 of the 1,650,000 shares in the licensee company.
WIN Illawarra Area- Media Securities Ltd, a whollyowned subsidiary of Mirror Newspapers Ltd ( The Daily Mirror, Sydney), a subsidiary company, holds 398,950 stock units in the licensee company.
ITQ Mt Isa Area-Holds 6,860 of the 140,000 shares in the licensee company.
NWS Adelaide-Holds all the 1,150,000 shares in the licensee company.
VEW Kalgoorlie Area- Southern Television Corporation Ltd, licensee of NWS (see above) holds 4,900 of the 106,650 shares in the licensee company.
NTD Darwin Area- Northern Territory News Services Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary company, holds 7,850 of the 1 57,850 shares in the licensee company. (News Ltd also holds 33,267 of the 100,000 shares in Tamworth Newspaper Co. Ltd (see Appendix L).)
Queensland Press Ltd ( Courier Mail-md Brisbane Telegraph, Brisbane)
BTQ Brisbane- Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd and Telegraph Investment Co. Pty Ltd. both wholly-owned subsidiary companies, hold 403,000 of the 1 ,450.000 ordinary shares in the licensee company. In addition holds 588,280 of the 62.359,755 shares in The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd and Telegraph Investment Co. Pty Ltd also hold 2,789,862 and 1 ,463,826 shares respectively of the ordinary shares in The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd. Telegraph Investment
Co. Pty Ltd also holds 64,639 of the 1,039,920 ordinary shares in Davies Bros Ltd. 4AK Oakey, 4BK Brisbane- Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary company, holds the licences for 4AK and 4BK. (Telegraph Investment Co. Pty Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary company, also holds 24,000 of the 23,460,000 ordinary shares in Advertiser Newspapers Ltd. See above for interests of Advertiser Newspapers Ltd. The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd and Davies Bros Ltd Queensland Press Ltd, through a wholly-owned subsidiary company. Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd, also holds approximately 33 per cent of the issued shares in Provincial Newspapers (Qld) Ltd, (see Appendix L).)
Australian Consolidated Press Group Television
TCN Sydney- Consolidated Press Holdings Ltd holds 7,831,308 ordinary stock units and 768,266 preferred ordinary shares in totals of 10,143,481 ordinary stock units and 1,008,455 preferred ordinary shares in the licensee company.
WIN Illawarra Area- Consolidated Press Holdings Ltd holds 44,200 of the 1,000,000 stock units in the licensee company.
CBN Central Tablelands Area, CWN Central Western Slopes Area- Western Newspapers Ltd, in which the Consolidated Press Group holds 291,274 of the 778,901 shares, holds 92,922 of the 1,858,470 stock units in the licensee company.
GTV Melbourne- Independent Television Corporation Pty Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Television Corporation Ltd, licensee of TCN Sydney (see above), holds £02,771 of the 1,012,000 shares in the licensee company. In addition. Consolidated Press Holdings Ltd holds 1 4 1 ,629 shares in the licensee company.
BTQ Brisbane- Television Corporation Ltd, licensee of TCN Sydney (see above) holds 48,400 of the 1,450,000 shares in the licensee company. In addition Television Corporation Ltd holds 50,900 of the 1 1,139,351 shares in Queensland Press Ltd which, through two wholly-owned subsidiary companies holds 403,000 of the shares in the licensee company.
Broadcasting 2GO Gosford- Central Coast Newspapers Pty Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Television Corporation Ltd, licensee of TCN Sydney (see above), holds 8,180 of the 200,000 shares in the licensee company. 2GZ Orange- A wholly-owned subsidiary company of Country Television Services Ltd, licensee of CBN/CWN (see above) holds all the shares in the licensee company. 2NZ Inverell- Country Broadcasting Services Pty Ltd, licensee of 2GZ (see above) holds all the shares in the licensee company. 3AK Melbourne- Consolidated Press Holdings Ltd holds 7,650,488 ordinary stock units and 725,822 preferred ordinary shares in totals of 10,143,481 ordinary stock units and 1,008,455 preferred ordinary shares in Television Corporation Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary company of which Independent Television Corporation Pty Ltd holds 802,771 of the 1,012,000 shares in General Television Corporation Pty Ltd (see GTV above) which holds the licence for the station. In addition Consolidated Press Holdings Ltd holds 141,629 shares in the licensee company. 6AM Northam, 6PM Perth, 6KG Kalgoorlie, 6GE Geraldton- General Television Corporation Pty Ltd, licensee of 3AK (.see above) holds all the shares in the licensee company of 6AM, 6PM and 6KG which company holds 5 1 per cent of the shares in the licensee company of 6GE.
-I thank the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) for agreeing to the inclusion of those pages in the Hansard record. The tables in this report clearly spell out the degree to which the Press has taken over control and the way in which these interlocking arrangements exist. We in politics have seen some of the harm that can flow from such arrangements. One of the greatest critics of the Australian Labor Party in the period prior to 11 November 1975 was the Murdoch Press. We believe that this was brought about because the Cabinet was not co-operative and was not prepared to agree to certain demands and requests that the Murdoch group was making in the development of fields other than the media. The media got square. I am not casting any aspersions at the present Government.
The position is this: Political parties can be made and can be destroyed by this interlocking of the media and the control over the news. Certainly, at election time the right exists to buy time in the three areas of the media- radio, television and the newspapers. But it is the distortion of news items and of television news programs that concerns me. I can remember in particular a current affairs program and also a program on Sunday nights which dealt with the Canberra scene. I instance the way that these programs were distorted and how information was brought out. It is high time that there was some control over this form of media so that a fair go could be given to everyone. If the controllers of the media can use their machine to attack a political party, the political party or the organisation concerned should have the right of reply.
It has been suggested that in 1972, prior to the 1972 elections, the then Liberal-National Country Party Government was destroyed by the media for personal reasons. So my remarks apply to all governments. I think it is time that some system was devised to destroy the control that the media has over the community today and the way in which it can frame people’s minds with its programs. Through radio and television, those programs are brought into the kitchens, dining rooms and lounge rooms of Australian homes.
I want to deal with the financial aspect of the two Bills. The Minister has indicated in his second reading speeches that the Bills will have very little effect on broadcasting companies. But in respect of television, the increase in licence fees for the year commencing 1 September 1977 will be $1.4m and the total amount collected will increase to about $9.3m. We do not oppose this for the simple reason that we believe the system is well and truly able to look after itself. I will give the House some indication of the profits that are being made by the commercial television stations in four of the capital cities. I asked the statistical service of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library to give me some details which it has supplied. I ask the Minister for leave to incorporate this table in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the Minister. The table shows that since 197 1-72 the profits of the television stations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide- that is, profit before tax and before licence fee deductions- in 1971-72 was $1 1,337,000. In 1975-76 that figure climbed to $30,678,000. In my humble opinion, the television companies are well and truly in a position to meet the increased levy. The same thing can be said of an announcement that was made recently by the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. He gave figures which show that Australia’s 48 television stations made a record $44m pre-tax profit last financial year. This was a profit of 100.4 per cent more than the profit for the previous year and the biggest profit since television was introduced into Australia in 1956.
The same remarks can be made about radio. Australia’s 120 radio stations also had a big pretax profit in the previous financial year. It amounted to approximately $ 16.2m, an increase of 30.7 per cent over the profit for the previous year. Several things emerge from all these figures. Are our television and broadcasting companies charging too much for advertisements? Are they putting sufficient money back into the system by providing a greater Australian content within the industry? I noted the contents of a report that was tabled today by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications entitled selfregulation for broadcasters. This public inquiry has brought down a recommendation for increased Australian participation in broadcasting and television. It is a recommendation that the Opposition certainly would not oppose. It would strongly support such a position.
However, I come back to the amount of profit that is being made by the media today and raise again the point as to whether there is not overcharging. For example, a company has just had an application before the Prices Justification Tribunal for an increase in the price of its commodities. That application for an increase in price was based purely and simply on the amount of advertising it was having to indulge in to sell its products. I mention in passing that I noted with very much pleasure that the Prices Justification Tribunal has told the Minister responsible- not the Minister for Post and Telecommunications at the table- that the Government did not have the power to intervene in the hearing and that the PJT was on the right track in carrying out the sort of inquiry that it was undertaking. It is pleasing to see the Tribunal stand up and tell the Government when it thinks the Government is wrong and to go on and do the job it was set up to do. I return again to these costs and exorbitant profits. When there are increases in profits of over 100 per cent over the profits of the previous year, as has happened in the case I have just mentioned, one has to ask the question: What is happening to these profits? It is obvious that industry and commerce which are using the media to advertise their goods are having to pay more for the time they are buying on the media. In turn, industry and commerce- not just the particular company I have mentioned and which I am not prepared to give a free plug by mentioning its name- are now passing on these increased costs in the cost of their goods. In actual fact, this is one of the things that is contributing to the inflationary spiral that is taking place in the country today. It could well be that the Government will have to look at whether the profits that are being made today are exorbitant and whether there should not be some toning down and cutting back in the levels of profit and in the cost of advertising today.
In conclusion, I wish to state that one of the things that has been concerning me today is the way in which the Australian Broadcasting Commission in television is being pushed out of its coverage of national sporting events. My understanding of Press reports is that the ABC will no longer be broadcasting television coverage of the Olympic Games and that if it is to give any television coverage of the Games, the Commission will have to buy it off one of the private companies which has purchased the broadcasting and television rights. We also have the case of the Packer cricket circus, to use a term which I think everyone understands. I think that it will be a circus. I am not opposed to the players getting a fair go. I think that they have received a raw deal from the Australian Cricket Control Board in the past. They should have received more money for their skill as cricketers. The same remarks apply to footballers and other sportsmen. I think that golfers have done well out of media coverage of their sport. I believe that tennis has been destroyed as a competitive sport and a sport of interest to people. But so far as Packer and his organisation are concerned, what concerns me is the fact that-
– How do cricket and tennis come into this Bill?
-I am talking about the profits that are being made. If the honourable member for Wimmera does not want to listen, he knows what to do. Rather than see the ABC go out of existence or not have the right to televise or broadcast sporting events, I would like to see the ABC have the right to go into competition with private television companies even to the extent of having its programs sponsored. I know that that is not a popular opinion. People have said to me, when I have mentioned it to them, that they do not want to see advertisements mixed up with their cricket or football. But the ABC is no longer televising these sporting events as it used to. As time goes on it will be televising fewer of them. If people want to watch them they will have to do so on a commercial station and put up with the advertisements in the middle of them.
Rather than see the ABC become a second rate organisation in broadcasting sporting events, I would prefer to see it have the right to obtain sponsors in order to make sure that it can broadcast events such as cricket test matches, Sheffield Shield matches, rugby league matches in Sydney and particular sporting events in other places. That is my opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of my party. As I said earlier, the Opposition does not oppose the two Bills and is prepared to allow them to go through.
– I support the legislation before the House. The comments of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) in relation to this legislation are interesting. He said that he was not opposing the Bills. Therefore, I presume that he is supporting them. I do not wish to go into any lengthy details about the Packer Press. We all know the effect that gentleman has had in recent weeks on one of the sporting activities to which the honourable member for Newcastle referred. Like him, I do not go along with it I think Mr Packer has done a lot of damage to the famous game of cricket.
The honourable member for Newcastle was somewhat loud in his criticisms of certain television stations. I think he used the words ‘exorbitant profits’. We should be careful when we use those words. People often suggest that certain companies have made huge profits. They leave such statements out in the cold or up in the air. They do not give a clear indication of the expenses of those companies. We often read in the Press about a certain company making so many million dollars profit. Very little reference is made to the investment involved. I suppose that in some instances, even with inflation running the way it is today, the investment could prove to be beneficial. A sound businessman would look at an investment based on what it would cost him for interest, et cetera. This has to be taken into consideration when one talks about profits, let alone exorbitant profits.
A risk is involved in operating television and radio stations, as in any other business. The honourable member for Newcastle said that $44m profit had been made by television stations throughout Australia. He did not indicate the sort of losses that some television stations incurred in the early days. I wonder how far behind or in front they are.
– They lost only in the first year.
– I do not agree with that either. Many stations have made huge losses, not just in one year but in many years. That brings me to the matter of radio stations. I am very pleased to see that the Government has decided to draw a line. It has said that there will be virtually no increase in fees for those television and radio stations with a small or reasonably small turnover. It is all very well to say that a profit of $4m is a pretty big amount. This amount is gross earnings; it is not net earnings. I congratulate the Government on drawing the line so that all those stations with gross earnings of less than $4m will not be affected by this Bill. That is terribly important.
If I had time and if the House were prepared to listen, I could talk at some length on the problems of some of the smaller radio stations, particularly those in country areas. My own local station, which is situated in the heart of my electorate, has changed hands on two occasions in the last two years. That would hardly indicate that it was making huge profits. No doubt, it changed hands because its owners could not make a go of it. Another interesting point came out of a recent statement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson). He said that it was estimated that only 15 television stations and two radio stations in Australia would be affected by the increased fees. That is rather significant. There are certainly many more than 1 5 television stations in Australia. I remind the House that gross earnings must be more than $4m before the increased fees apply. This would indicate that a large number of television stations earn well below that figure. Only two radio stations will be affected. In other words, every radio station in Australia, bar two, has a turnover of less than $4m. I assure honourable members that many of them would not even qualify to pay the lowest rate of one per cent, on earnings of $0.5m.
I make these points in passing. The legislation does not contain a great many provisions. I do not think one needs to go into it at any length. I compliment the Government on making sure that the increased revenue it will receive from both radio and television stations will come from those which can afford it. The legislation certainly will not affect those which can ill afford it. That is very important. I shall not delay the House and branch out as the previous speaker did. I do not wish to be too critical of him, but he got a little off the beam. I do not want to be accused of doing that. There is one area which does not come within the category of this Bill but which I wish to mention. I refer to some of the side issues of radio. This results from a statement made by the Minister on 17 August. He referred to the increase from $20 to $25 for aircraft stations, hand phone stations, harbour mobile stations, land mobile stations which include citizen band radio, radio determination stations and ship stations.
I am somewhat concerned about the increased costs of citizen band radio. Most of us agree that many CB radios are being used by the younger generation. It is all very well to say that if they have the money to buy this equipment they can afford to pay a licence fee. That is true to a degree. Some of them are using it for various purposes. It is interesting to note that primary industries thoughout Australia are now using these radios to a large degree. Equipment that people thought was completely unnecessary a few years ago, they now find most beneficial. We certainly want to encourage them to use this equipment provided they do not block the wave lengths and bands which are necessary for other forms of communications.
I do not like to use the phrase ‘I warn the Government’. I believe that the Government should be treating these matters a little more sympathetically. The fee is $25 a set. As honourable members would appreciate, it would be impossible to operate with just one set because there would be no one on the other end. In numerous cases the operators have four, or even eight sets, which becomes very expensive. I suggest to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications that in future he might give a little consideration to the problems associated with that. Apart from that, on behalf of my party I support this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Eric Robinson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 18 August, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Eric Robinson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18 August, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Bill is to amend the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions (Transitional Provisions) Act 1975 to correct an error in the drafting of the original Bill. As honourable members would be aware, when the previous Government decided in 1975 to set up the two Commissions- the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission- there was an agreement between the unions and the Government that officers of those commissions would be able to transfer from one commission to another in the first 5 years. I think that that provision had to be made, bearing in mind that up to that point in time all the officers were members of what was the Postmaster-General’s Department. The rights of those officers had to be protected as they had previously been able to move around quite freely within the Department.
The Government of the day brought down legislation, which the Bill before us today seeks to amend, to protect the interests of those officers. Unfortunately, in relation to appeals to the Promotion Appeals Board it was found in one particular case that the Chairman and members of the Board were unable to disallow a promotion and to uphold an appeal. I do not propose to name the individuals concerned. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) is now aware of the details. All I want to say is that a Mr D appealed against the promotion of a Mr B into a particular position. The Board considered the appeal and decided that Mr D was right and that he should have been the one promoted and not Mr B. But the Chairman of the Board drew attention to the wording of the Postal and Telecommunications Commission (Transitional Provisions) Act and indicated that the Board could not change the order of promotion.Therefore Mr D even though his appeal in normal circumstances would have been upheld, did not have his appeal upheld. The Board confirmed the appointment of Mr B to the position.
Since then the unions and the Commissions have got together and, whilst a number of appeals have been disallowed, seven appeals have been successful. However, no member of the Board has put into writing that the appeals have been upheld and that the new people have been confirmed in their positions. At that time it was agreed that an approach would be made to the Government to obtain an amendment of the Act. I believe that the appeal by Mr D took place in about October 1975, so I am casting no aspersions upon the present Minister. This was just one of those things which happen in the drafting of legislation.
The Opposition supports the amendments contained in the legislation before the House. However, those seven appeals which were upheld were able to be upheld as a result of experience gained in the previous appeal made in about October 1975. I ask the Minister, who knows the details of this case as I do, to give serious consideration to trying to rectify the injustice that has been done to Mr D. It may well mean that another position will have to be created, but the anomaly has to be rectified. I leave it to the good judgment of the Minister to look at the matter and to see what can be done to make sure that this one man, who has been disadvantaged by the establishment of the two Commissions because of an error in drafting in the original Bill, has his position rectified. I am not suggesting that Mr B should be demoted because that cannot be done. He has been confirmed in his position. But Mr D has been seriously disadvantaged at a time in life when he cannot afford to suffer disadvantages- he has been in that particular service for many years. The Opposition does not oppose the legislation before the House. I ask the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to the case I have cited.
-The Postal and Telecommunications Commissions (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Bill is somewhat similar to the two previous Bills which have just passed through the chamber. This Bill is very brief but, nevertheless, not unimportant. I was glad to note that the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) used the words ‘drafting error’ by a previous government. That is very complimentary, but I suppose that as it came from a member of the same party as the party which constituted the previous Government I can understand his using those words. He would not claim that it was a mistake or an error on the part of the previous Government in preparing the original legislation. However, I am not arguing the point. I j lust say that he was very complimentary. This is a very short Bill. There seem to be a lot of words on the two pages of the Bill but its main purpose could be summed up in a very few words, namely: … by omitting from sub-sections (2) and (3) “For the purposes of sub-section (I)” and substituting “While this section continues in force”.
That is the basis of the whole Bill. But, as the honourable member for Newcastle said, it means a mighty lot; it means the continuation of the exchange of officers from the Australian Postal Commission to the Australian Telecommunications Commission and vice versa. I think it was understood that although these officers who originally belonged to the old Postmaster-General’s Department were now officers of two Commissions it was only right and proper that they should have the right to transfer from one commission to the other, even under protest, if they so desired. As there is very little in the Bill and I do not wish to delay the House for any length of time, I conclude by commending the Bill to the House.
– in reply- I assure the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) that I will look at the case in respect of which he has been good enough to give me details. I will see whether anything can be done to alleviate what is obviously an unfortunate position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Eric Robinson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 August, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Budget was introduced last Tuesday week in a blaze of glory. Since then it has been picked at and dissected. It is certainly not now the glorious document which the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and supporters of the Government tried to lead us to believe it was. Quite a number of discrepancies in the supposedly revolutionary new system of taxation which the Treasurer proposes are already obvious. I wish to deal with several specific matters. As my time in this debate is limited, I will leave comment on many other aspects contained in the Budget until a later stage.
One matter of great importance to the area I represent that has been affected by a decision taken in the Budget is the proposal to cut back federal funds allocated to water projects. This decision will have a grave effect on the three major towns in the northern part of Spencers Gulf in South Australia which rely on the River
Murray for their water. The other day the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) produced a jug of water in the House. Although it was probably not the cleanest of water, I suggest that if he wants to see dirty water he ought to see the quality of the water that people in the three northern Spencer Gulf towns and in other areas of South Australia must use in their every day life.
Sitting on my desk at Port Augusta is a bottle, about the size of a small sauce bottle, filled with tap water from Port Augusta. When the water settles, the bottom of this small jar is covered with one and one-eighth inches of mud. So that, after the sediment has settled, I will not be deluded into thinking the water is clear, every couple of days I tip the bottle upside down to remind myself how much mud is in the water. This quality of water problem has been recognised in South Australia for quite some time. But unfortunately the South Australian Government has never had sufficient finance available to do a great deal about this matter. It has applied what resources it has to try to rectify the position.
Practically the whole of South Australia relies on water from the River Murray. The city of Adelaide uses other reservoirs for its water supply but the River Murray supplements that water supply. As a result murky water from the River Murray, which is not the best water for one’s health, I am sure, gets into Adelaide’s water supply. The northern Spencer Gulf towns do not have the advantage of large reservoirs from which to supplement their water supply. They have to take all their supply from the River Murray.
The Whitlam Government recognised the problem that faced South Australia. It came to an arrangement with the South Australian Government to provide come finance to help Adelaide and the remainder of South Australia to overcome the problem. Prior to the agreement reached between the Whitlam and Dunstan governments in about 1974, the State Government had plans to filter the water used in Adelaide. At that time there was pressure for the water used by the northern Spencer Gulf towns to be filtered Because of priorities it was agreed that Adelaide should be the first area to receive filtered water. As a result of the agreement that was reached between the Dunstan and Whitlam Governments, Mr Corcoran, the Deputy Premier of South Australia, made a statement which indicated that in the foreseeable future the northern part of the State would receive filtered water.
The people of South Australia could look forward to some action as a result of the money that was to be provided by the Whitlam Government.
When we look at the Budget Papers, we find that last year $9.2m was allocated to South Australia in the form of assistance for water projects. This year that amount has been cut back to $6m. Of course, this amount of money will not assist the South Australian Government to any great degree in respect of its plan to provide filtered water. The estimated cost for the metropolitan Adelaide water treatment project is $l50m. In respect of water treatment for northern towns which, of course, are my responsibility, the estimated cost is from $32m to $48m. The estimated cost for the rehabilitation of River Murray irrigation areas is $53m; for the River Murray salinity control program it is $30m to $200m; and for the Bolivar effluent utilisation scheme it is $22 m. The total cost is a minimum of $287m. Of course, this amount of money obviously is beyond the resources of the South Australian Government. Although the State Government is applying its own resources to help to overcome this problem, certainly it will not get very far without the assistance of the Commonwealth Government. I propose to read some comments made in a paper on this topic by the South Australian Premier. He said:
I must repeat, however, that with increasing use of the River Murray the physical quality (turbidity, colour, odour and taste) of Adelaide’s water has deteriorated further. More importantly, our ability to disinfect the unfiltered water with chlorine is more difficult than ever before. In spite of high chlorine doses, the bacteriological quality by no means meets acceptable standards. This means in particular that our bacteriological monitoring system is no longer effective because any significant contamination is masked by the normal background levels. Thus while there is no confirmed epidemiological evidence to suggest that Adelaide’s water supply has had an effect on the public health to date, there can be no guarantee that this situation will not change.
I will read another statement by the Premier in respect of the northern towns of South Australia, among which are the three main cities of Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla. There have been great problems in these towns for many years in respect of water quality. There have been health problems. The Premier stated:
With respect to the Northern Towns of South Australia served by the Morgan- Whyalla and associated water supply systems, you will be aware that of the thirteen cases of the fatal waterborne disease, amoebic meningitis, twelve have occurred in these towns. Whilst it was never proven that the water supply was involved, the facts of the case are that not one case has occurred since the South Australia Department of Public Health called for chlorination of the supply to a level which will ensure O.S p.p.m. free chlorine at the consumer’s tap. The very high chlorine dosage rates required to achieve this residual with unfiltered water makes the water extremely odorous and unpalatable. The chlorine also makes the water very corrosive and the water supply system as well as consumer’s pipes and fittings are being attacked.
As a resident of this area I can verify all those facts. Only the other day a tourist pulled me up in the main street in Port Augusta and asked: ‘Look, when you go west of here can you get a decent drink of water?’ There is no question that the water is foul. As a matter of fact, people do not drink it. They rely for drinking purposes mainly on rain water collected in tanks. I can assure honourable members that the women of those areas have great difficulty in doing their washing with this filthy water. As I mentioned, the Whitlam Government provided finance during its term of office to help South Australia overcome its water problems. We see proposed in the current Budget a large cut back in assistance. As a result, the projects I have mentioned will be held up. There is a strong possibility they will never go ahead. I believe that the cutbacks will certainly put in jeopardy future plans not only for Adelaide but also for the northern towns of South Australia.
I mention in this context the risk of amoebic meningitis. I am sure that the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay), who is at the table, would be aware of the scares that occurred a few years ago in the summer months in these three towns, particularly Port Augusta. People with young children lived in fear of disease, amoebic meningitis. The incidence of that disease in the district was attributed to the quality of the water. As I mentioned earlier there were 12 deaths in that area from amoebic meningitis. Chlorine has since been added to the water and that has overcome the problem but it certainly has not improved the quality of the water as far as its general use is concerned. I feel that by cutting back on the allocation of money in this area the Federal Government has abrogated its responsibility to the driest State in the Commonwealth and certainly the one with the least reliable water supply. At the present time much of the State is in the grip of drought conditions. The amount of other water available is not of a high order. The other night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) when referring to the present Government’s attitude to these projects stated:
Last May the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for National Resources admitted that ‘the present Government does not have a program of assistance to the States for water projects’. Last Wednesday he had to read a long abdication. He reverted to an attitude he used to express in 1962 that water projects were a ‘State responsibility’, that ‘the State governments should find the whole of the money’.
Earlier I mentioned the cost of this project. While there were agreements between the Whitlam Government and the Dunstan Government for the Federal Government to come to the party to assist South Australia so that it could carry out these projects, unless that assistance is available I am afraid any progress in South Australia will be slowed considerably. It will be quite some time before Adelaide has filtered water. It will be a long time before the northern Spencer Gulf towns, the major industrial centres outside the Adelaide metropolitan area, ever get their filtered water.
I shall mention a few matters dealing with the Budget. It was thought that the Budget would be an election winner. But we have since seen that the reaction to the Budget has not been so good. We have seen that because of the reaction to the Budget other false issues have been raised. Last week we saw the industrial relations legislation pushed through this House. I am sure that was done with the sole intention of trying to take people’s minds off the Budget in case the Government decides to go to an election in December. Under the guise of defeating inflation many major initiatives were either cut back or wiped out when compared with what happened during the few previous years of the Whitlam Government. There were many cuts in the welfare field. I refer to cutbacks in finance for aged persons homes. I refer to my own area where nine projects were in various stages under the three-year program which was introduced by the Government last year. Only two of those projects will receive assistance. Last year the Government was also responsible for cutting back the subsidy available to these projects. Not only are homes for the aged affected in this way but also senior citizens’ clubs. So we can see that the Government has nothing to boast about in its welfare program.
We saw the scrapping of the Australian Assistance Plan and the disbanding of all regional councils for social development which were set up in various pilot areas throughout Australia. They were doing a good job and certainly getting right at the nitty-gritty of some of the social problems which exist in many of our larger urban areas. I think the Government should stand roundly condemned for its decision that instead of paying unemployment benefits in advance they will be paid in arrears. My office happens to be on the ground floor. I know that many honourable members have their offices on the 15th or 16th floors. They may not have the unemployed walking into their offices the way they come into my office. I assure the House that this decision will create a great deal of hardship for many people. The Government may say that this was done because people had abused the system.
I do not think the number of people doing that can be in any way compared with the number of innocent people who will be hurt by this decision. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (on motion by Mr Sinclair):
The the House take note of the Ministerial Statements.
- Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this matter? It may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this motion and Order of the Day No. 15, Government Business, relating to the motion to take note of the Second Report of the Ranger Uranium Inquiry. May I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both motions to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both matters? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Howard)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking for a period not exceeding 43 minutes.
– The decision to allow uranium mining to proceed is not only premature, it is also precipitate. The Opposition rejects it. The decision commits Australia to the renewed export of uranium before any of the customer-countries have committed themselves to effective and verifiable safeguards on the use of Australia’s uranium. The decision commits Australia to the renewed export of uranium regardless of the contribution of the nuclear power industry to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the risk of nuclear war. It commits Australia to renewed export of uranium regardless of the absence of procedures for the storage and disposal of radio-active wastes to eliminate the danger to human life and health and the environment. The decision places the responsibility for the development of proper safeguards entirely on the customer-countries. The Australian Government has run away from its national and international responsibilities. This is an irresponsible decision.
This afternoon we had a ministerial blockbuster. The barrage of statements purported to deal comprehensively with a crucial question. Yet the package- it was literally a packagepresented to the House failed utterly to deal with the central questions involved in uranium mining and the global nuclear industry- the questions raised by the Fox Commission; questions of immense gravity for Australia and the human race. The reports of the Fox Commission have been recognised around the world as the most thorough and concerned study yet published on the use of fissile materials and the nuclear industry. It is to Australia’s credit that this study was initiated by an Australian Government and carried out by Australians. The Fox reports stress that Australia’s decision on renewed mining and exporting of uranium is a decision which affects the world. In its first report, the Commission stated:
The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the most serious hazard associated with the industry. Complete evaluation of the extent of the risk and assessment of what course should be followed to reduce it involve matters of national security and international relations which are beyond the ambit of the Inquiry.
The Commission thus identified the problem of the proliferation of nuclear weapons as the fundamental problem to be solved before, not after, any decision by Australia to renew the export of uranium. This finding by the Commission was backed by the data it assembled on the current international safeguards regime. That data and the Commission’s findings demonstrated that present international nuclear safeguards against the diversion of uranium supplied for peaceful purposes into military or explosive purposes are wholly inadequate.
The Fox Commission was equally emphatic on the second great danger posed to human beings and our environment by the use of nuclear materials. This is the problem of the disposal and storage of nuclear wastes. The Fox Commission stated: ‘It is plain that the situation demands careful watching and depending upon developments regular and frequent reassessment’.
The Commissioners point out that waste control technology is as yet unable to deal with the safe disposal of radio-active wastes, which remain toxic for a quarter of a million years.
The decision ignores these two crucial questions. The six statements this afternoon were made up almost entirely of assertions, unsubstantiated by fact. They sought to distort the findings of the Fox Commission. In major instances the statements opposed those findings. The statements by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Acting Foreign Minister (Mr Sinclair) are absolutely contradictory on the matter of nuclear safeguards. The Prime Minister has said that he is satisfied that international safeguarding arrangements, supplemented by Australian bi-lateral arrangements, make it safe for Australia to export her uranium. By contrast, the Acting Foreign Minister devoted most of his statement to describing steps Australia would need to take to strengthen safeguards. The plain meaning of his statement was that existing safeguards are inadequate. The Government’s attitude towards the question of nuclear non-proliferation has thus been reduced to ‘sell now, worry later’. There is the same contradiction about waste disposal. The Prime Minister asserted:
The Government is satisfied that the technology exists for the safe management and ultimate disposal of highly radioactive wastes.
The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) could only point to processes which have only- in his words, ‘proved to be technically feasible at pilot plant’. In his statement, the Prime Minister conceded the embryonic stage of this development by recognising that those pilot plant processes have not yet been developed to a commercial scale. The Prime Minister promises that: ‘Australia will continue to participate in international studies directed to improve standards for waste disposal’.
This can only be interpreted as an admission by the Government that existing standards are not yet acceptable or adequate.
Governments and communities are more aware today than ever before of the fearful problems involved in the nuclear industry. The Fox Commission recognised Australia’s significance in helping solve these problems. The Commission reported that Australia had two options:
Either to proceed to supply as soon as practicable, or to delay making a decision about supplying for a period of several years.
The weight of the Commission’s reports was heavily in favour of the second option. In claiming the opposite the Government further involves itself in the process of distortion begun by the Prime Minister when the first Fox report was published. Why has this Government involved itself in this distortion? Why has this Government announced in the most extraordinary selfcongratulatory fashion its abdication from
Australia’s major international responsibility? Why has it rejected the second of the two options even though there is clearly time for further study? In an uncharacteristic flash of candour, the Acting Foreign Minister let the cat out of the bag. He said:
For the Government too a most important facet of the uranium issue has been need to translate Australia’s objective of restraining proliferation of nuclear weapons into a detailed policy for the marketing of uranium-
There is the reality- the Government’s uranium policy is a marketing policy and nothing else. What an extraordinary revelation of the reality. The Prime Minister’s cant is thus exposed. He claimed ‘a high sense of moral responsibilitythose are his words- for the decision; but the Acting Foreign Minister has given the game away- it is a matter of markets, not morals. This Government has turned the correct relationship between safety and commercial advantage upside down. Where is the commercial advantage in the proliferation of nuclear weapons? Where is the moral responsibility in making the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons secondary to- again I quote the Acting Foreign Minister-a detailed policy for the marketing of uranium? As President Kennedy once put it bluntly, such risks in the nuclear age would leave us all ‘with ashes in our mouths’.
The key to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is the provision of safeguards against the diversion of peaceful nuclear activities to military purposes. On 29 March this year I presented a program for effective safeguards. The Prime Minister today claimed that the Government’s safeguards policy now ‘encompassed the requirements of the Leader of the Opposition’. He then went on the claim that the Government’s safeguards policy which he announced two months after mine went beyond our program in many respects. His claims are false.
An integral part of the improvement in the safeguards regime that I called for in March was that Australia should join with others in obtaining agreement for around-the-clock International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of materials, subject to Agency safeguards. The Fraser Government has made no such commitment. This development has been identified by the IAEA itself as essential to adequate safeguards. Moreover, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency reported in June this year that there were deficiencies in member states’ safeguards systems. In particular, the Director-General reported that systems of accounting and control of nuclear materials were inadequate. Procedures for identifying material unaccounted for were also inadequate. The Director-General has asked for the support of member states of the Agency to improve practices in this vital materials accounting field.
The United States itself has reported some 8,000 lb of special nuclear material unaccounted for. That is enough material for at least 200 nuclear weapons. International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards are the most advanced safeguards in the world. They deserve our full support. But it is simply not true to assert that they are adequate for their stated purpose today. Furthermore, last March I called for Australia to decide as a matter of policy that it would not supply nuclear material to countries which intended to reprocess it. This is critical if we are to make a stand against the plutonium economy. The Fraser Government has ‘reserved its position’ on this proposal. Those were its words. It has thus adopted the safeguards policy which falls short of an effective one and, in spite of its claims, falls short of President Carter’s policy. It certainly does not meet Labor’s safeguards program as I set it out last March.
One of the devices used by this Government to justify the dicisions announced today is the claim that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obliges Australia to export uranium. This is a gross misrepresentation. Article IV establishes an obligation for parties to the Treaty to co-operate in the further development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The export of uranium without adequate safeguards against diversion would be utterly contrary to the whole purpose of the Treaty. In any case, whatever specific obligations may be established in Article IV, they are secondary to the basic obligation of the Treaty as a whole- that no state should ever undertake any activity, including the export of uranium, under circumstances where that activity could contribute to proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The Acting Foreign Minister asserted that an Australian policy of exporting uranium now would provide ‘the incentive of uranium to encourage states who do not sign the NPT to become parties to the Treaty’. The experience of my Government showed that the reverse is true; our attitudes encouraged Japan and the Federal Republic of Germany to become full parties to the NPT. Uranium can be said to be an incentive only if it is withheld until a state is prepared to accept the Treaty obligations. The Acting Foreign Minister then went on to make a series of further claims about Australian safeguards policy in relation, for example, to the diversion of Australian uranium by nuclear weapon states, the ‘loopholes’ in existing safeguards agreements, the ease with which states can withdraw from the NPT, the absence of reliable sanctions to deter diversion of safeguarded material and, finally, the overall effectiveness of IAEA safeguards.
Major customer countries in Europe are subject to the Euratom safeguards system as well as the IAEA system. A basic safeguards objective has been to bring about compatability between the Euratom and IAEA systems. Negotiations to this effect have continued for a decade- they have taken much longer than anybody expected 10 years ago- and resulted, only a few months ago, in the entry into force of a framework agreement between IAEA, Euratom and the seven non-nuclear states in the European Economic Community. While that agreement is a positive step forward, the Director-General of IAEA reported to his Board of Governors last June that ‘it has not been possible to secure any facility attachment until now in respect of any plant in Euratom countries concerned’. The framework agreement is there. It can apply to 300 nuclear facilities in the EEC, but not a single facility attachment has yet been achieved under that safeguards agreement which took 10 years to achieve- many times as long as was expected when the negotiations were first undertaken.
The Director-General then went on to report basic technical difficulties inhibiting the attachment of IAEA safeguards to those European facilities- 300 of them. This is a grave situation; it must be resolved if any Australian safeguards policy, even the limited and inadequate policy announced by the Fraser Government this afternoon, is to have any chance of achieving its aim. The Ministers who spoke today passed over this problem without concern. None of them has discussed the matter with the IAEA; none of them has been to Vienna. I must confess that one can quote from Hansard three or more years ago statements by me that we would sell our uranium subject to NPT arrangements or, in the case of states which had not signed or ratified the NPT, subject to IAEA safeguards arrangements. I also must confess that at that time I did not realise how far the world was from achieving such safeguards arrangements, in theory or in any verifiable form.
In June last year in Vienna I became concerned about this matter, and in June this year in Brussels with Euratom and again in Vienna with the IAEA I became still more interested. I do not feel any shame at all in having had my sensitivities aroused and sharpened by the reports of the Fox Commission, which I commissioned, and by further contacts with the IAEA and with Euratom. The fact is that no verifiable safeguards agreements are in force anywhere in the world. It will take some years to achieve them at the rate that we have been experiencing over the last decade. The Fraser Government has attempted to deceive the Australian people about the effectiveness of the Government’s safeguards policy. From my discussions with our representatives in Brussels and Vienna, I do not believe that the Australian Government is not aware of the facts which I have stated. That is why I have said, and I repeat, that the Fraser Government has attempted to deceive the Australian people about the effectiveness of the Government’s safeguards policy.
All of these questions are crucial and urgent. Yet all the Acting Foreign Minister could do was to promise that Australia would be doing her best to see that the systems are improved, that undertakings are given and that the loopholes are plugged. Such vague undertakings serve only to emphasise that current international safeguards are inadequate. The Acting Foreign Minister’s list of Australian safeguards commitments is in fact a list of the inadequacies of the safeguards system. It is a list of the things which remain undone but which must be done if safety is to be ensured. The international community is now at the early stage of agreement on a program of evaluation of the nuclear fuel cycle. The terms of that evaluation study have not yet been settled. When they are, the study itself will take some 2 years. That is the present expectation. Experience in all these matters suggests that studies or agreements take longer to conclude than is expected at the outset. This is the vital time in which the contemporary scope of the nuclear problem can be identified and in which the gaps in the safeguards systems can be closed.
Although there seems to be some disagreement between the Prime Minister and the Acting Foreign Minister on whether Australia was invited to participate in that study, the fact is that Australia will take part. This provides the ideal time in which Australia can use the influence that flows from her possession of so much uranium to ensure that the world community establishes an effective and verifiable safeguards regime. This is the worst possible time for Australia to set the escalator moving again. This is the worst possible time for Australia to increase the amount of available nuclear materials. This is just what the Government is doing in its rush to turn ‘its nonproliferation objectives into a detailed policy for the marketing of uranium’. It is simply not credible to argue that other countries will be encouraged to meet increased obligations by making available Australian uranium before they have agreed to those obligations. We are committing ourselves before they will commit themselves.
Why the rush to judgment? Even the crudest considerations of commercial advantage do not justify it. There is not a shred of evidence that the uranium market will decline in the years before it becomes safe to export Australia’s uranium. The major customer countries for Australian uranium will not need new supplies until 1984 or 1985. That applies to Japan and West Germany, which I have mentioned. Yet in its rush, the Fraser Government is destroying a critical opportunity for change in international relations and in the world nuclear industry. In a world that has become deeply and properly conscious of the need to preserve the environment and its responsibility to future generations, the nuclear industry offers an unprecedented threat. The by-product of the nuclear generation of electricity, and of course of nuclear weapons, is the production of radioactive wastes of fearful toxicity. High-level radioactive wastes have a toxic life of at least one-quarter of a million years. The manufacture of those wastes under circumstances where they could not be safely disposed of and stored threatens life on this planet and would constitute a monstrous betrayal of future generations. This is a poison which does not occur in nature; man creates it.
There is growing concern around the world over the safety of nuclear reactors and in particular the inadequacy of nuclear storage and waste disposal procedures. The technology of nuclear waste disposal is as yet wholly inadequate to meet the threat posed by nuclear wastes. It may be that human ingenuity will solve the problems but they have not yet been solved. The threat is not diminishing; it increases daily as the size of the nuclear industry increases. It was for this reason that the Labor Party, at its national conference in Perth two months ago, made the development of effective procedures for the storage and disposal of radioactive wastes a major condition upon which any decision to renew the export of Australian uranium should be based.
As I mentioned earlier, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development gave mutually contradictory statements on this subject today. Let us set the record straight. Research into the safe storage and disposal of high level nuclear wastes is underway in a few countries. This has not yet led to an acceptable industrial scale process and under these circumstances the decision to renew the export of Australian uranium at this stage is wrong and irresponsible. The Government’s irresponsibility was laid bare in the statement of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development when he said:
The responsibility for disposing, in an environmentally responsible manner, of wastes arising from nuclear power generation in countries abroad is a matter For those countries which generate electricity by nuclear means.
He washes his hands of the problem. Australia will take the money and run. On a global scale, the approach is comparable to the marketing of thalidomide. The Government, very properly, has refused to receive foreign waste for disposal in Australia. But, as far as the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development is concerned, other countries, other generations, must solve the problems by which we profit here and now.
The Prime Minister called in aid the oil crisis of 1973. The world faces not so much an energy crisis as an oil crisis. The world is not short of the fossil fuels which are admirably suited to the generation of electricity. It is true that a number of countries have selected the option of generating some of their electricity by nuclear means. Many of them now regret their decision on both economic and environmental grounds. They are reducing their plans. There is growing awareness that the benefits of nuclear technology have fallen far short of the early hopes. Nuclear generation of electricity is now being seen as the bridging technology between fossil fuels and the new technologies at present under development, such as solar energy. In his speech the Prime Minister quoted selectively from a letter to the Age last Monday by Sir MacFarlane Burnet. The Prime Minister carefully omitted Sir MacFarlane ‘s statement that nuclear technology holds grave dangers for mankind and was at best a bridging technology. The main purpose of Sir MacFarlane ‘s letter was in fact to call for large scale investment of whatever funds were obtained from this temporary technology in the urgent development of new sources of energy, especially solar energy.
The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) attempted this afternoon to justify Australia’s export of uranium in terms of a ‘total energy policy for Australia’. Yet he has announced no such policy. He has expressly stated, for example, that petrol refining is a State responsibility. The fifth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum directed attention to the question of petrol refining in Australia- the deficiencies in refining in some States and in distribution in other States.
Yet when he was asked today what the Federal Government is going to do about this report to it by the Royal Commission he said: ‘This is a State responsibility’. Nothing could illustrate further how far this Government is from showing an interest in a national energy policy. It will not take an interest, still less a responsibility, in that source of energy whose shortage is said to justify turning to nuclear energy.
This Government has no total energy policy. The world’s energy needs are growing sharply. They demand an urgent response. The response given by the Australian Government this afternoon does not address those needs other than in the most temporary, self-interested and shortsighted fashion. This Government has decided today to contribute to a bridging technology. It has jumped on to the gravy train of a technology that will have a life of a maximum of 50 years and which will produce toxic wastes which will endure for a quarter of a million years. The nuclear energy age will not last for half a century. It will last half the time of the oil energy age. It will last one-third of the time that the coal energy age lasted- up to the outbreak of the First World War. We need to have a sense of proportion in these matters. The Government today is concerning itself with a bridging technology alone. It has done this in the absence of procedures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and in the absence of any national energy policy.
At its national conference in Perth last July the Australian Labor Party took a policy decision on uranium which was based upon the facts and also upon the reports of the Fox Commission. The Labor Party’s policy was based on the recognition that existing safeguards and waste disposal procedures are not yet developed to the stage where Australian uranium can be used safely. The time factor is crucial and the Labor Party’s policy decision recognised that essential work is now about to be undertaken by the world community to achieve safety and that new supplies of Australian uranium will not be needed until the middle 1980s. Never has a policy of such capital importance been announced in this Parliament with so little reference to the facts and to the national interest. The thousands of words spoken by Government Ministers this afternoon made not one dent in the reality of the questions of uranium and the global nuclear industry. This is a wrong decision at the wrong time. It shows a contempt for the Fox Commission, a contempt for Australian public opinion, a contempt for Australia’s national and international responsibilities, a contempt for the safety of the world community, a contempt for future generations of mankind. We reject it with contempt. We call upon the House to reject it because I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
- Mr Speaker, I second the amendment. I want to concentrate my early remarks -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The original question was that the House take note of the paper. To this the Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment as follows:
That all words after ‘that’ be deleted and the following words substituted:
This House rejects the Government’s precipitate decision, without sufficient public debate in Australia and negotiation overseas, to renew the mining and export of uranium by Australia in the absence of:
1 ) commitments by customer countries to apply effective and verifiable safeguards against the diversion of Australian uranium from peaceful nuclear purposes to military nuclear purposes;
2 ) international safeguards which will ensure that the export of Australian uranium will not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the increased risk of nuclear war;
procedures for the storage and disposal of radioactive wastes which will eliminate any danger posed by such wastes to human life and the environment; and
adequate measures to safeguard the environment and national parks and protect Aboriginal rights and interests.
The question now is -
- Mr Speaker, before you state the question I wish to raise a point of order. My point of order is that the seconder of the motion is entitled to speak before the question is put from the chair. That is a protection to the seconder against being gagged. I do not suggest that that will happen now, but by putting the question you leave the seconder open to being gagged. I think that is contrary to normal practice.
-The point is well made. I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I second the amendment moved by the Leader of my Party, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam). I want to concentrate my remarks in the early part of my speech to the policy of our Party. I want to begin by stating in the most positive terms what the policy of the Labor Party is on uranium mining and export. There must be no confusion on this issue. Our policy was adopted by the national conference of our Party held in Perth in July. It was accepted by a unaminous decision of the national conference. Let me spell out in some detail what this policy stated. The ALP has declared a moratorium on uranium mining, treatment and export for an indefinite period. The moratorium will end only when the Labor Party is satisfied that all the problems of mining, treatment and export of uranium have been solved. This moratorium will not be a short one. We insist that the moratorium will be an effective one. To this end we have declared that the Labor government will repudiate any commitment of a non-Labor government to the mining, processing or export of Australian uranium. We say that there will be no commitment of Australian uranium to the nuclear fuel cycle until our conditions are satisfied. We say that not a sod of earth shall be turned on any of the uranium sites until our conditions have been satisfied.
We warn the uranium mining companies that if they go ahead they do so at their own risk. Already they know that they are facing higher costs for their investment because of the Labor Party’s moratorium. When we are returned to government, as we will be returned, they stand to lose everything if our conditions are not satisfied. The next Labor government will be absolutely firm in applying the terms and conditions of our policy. Let there be no misunderstanding about this. If the uranium mining companies want to go ahead and jeopardise their capital, the risk falls completely on them. This decision is not a narrowly based one. This has to be clearly understood. It is the considered policy of a very broad range of opinion within the Labor Party. It was reached only after extensive consultation with the Labor Party branches and the Labor movement. There is solidarity behind the policy within the ALP and within the broad anti-uranium movement across the nation.
Having made this clear, I want now to look at the specific terms of our policy. The Government has already breached one of the firm undertakings which we insisted upon. This is that no commitment of Australian uranium be made until a reasonable time has elapsed for a full public debate. This has not happened. The debate on the first and second Fox reports has been a shabby farce. That has to be clear. This whole business today has been a public relations matter. There has been no wide public debate on the issue in this arena. The Australian Labor Party has sought to stimulate debate. The Government has not. The mere passage of time is not a wide public debate. Not even the first condition of the Labor Party policy has been observed. For this reason alone we are against the decision which the Government announced today.
I take our policy a step further and refer to another crucial condition. This is the endorsement of recommendation 6 of the Fox Report which states:
A decision to mine and sell uranium should not be made unless the Commonwealth can at any time . . . immediately terminate these activities, permanently, indefinitely or for a specific period.
This part of the policy is directed to the long term. It means that if Labor ever accepts that uranium mining and export can be undertaken with safety, any commitment on uranium is made on a conditional basis. In short, we would stop mining and exports if new problems emerged which were not resolved in the terms of our agreement. We see no evidence that the Government will act on this proviso despite the statement by the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony). Accordingly, this policy is invalid for the second reason in the terms of the ALP policy.
Further, our policy refers to the unresolved problems associated with the mining of uranium and the development of nuclear power. There are problems in many areas- economic, social, biological, genetic, environmental, technical and Aboriginal rights. In particular, we stress two vital problem areas. These are the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the increased risk of nuclear war and the dangers to human life and the environment of radioactive waste. There is nothing in any of the statements made today to indicate that these problems have been resolved. All the evidence is that the problems have become even more lethal. No effective safeguards have been found against proliferation. For example, the Government does not want to look at recommendation 3 of the First Fox Report which states:
The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the real serious hazard associated with the industry.
Not only are we threatened by the spread of nuclear weapons with South Africa getting the bomb, but soon Egypt also will have it. Then Israel will have it. Then Pakistan will have it to counterbalance India. Iran and Iraq will have it. That is the madness of the spread of nuclear weapons. The decision today moves towards fuelling that fire.
There is a wealth of evidence to show that proliferation has increased in recent years and that it will increase even further. Nor is there the slightest convincing sign that any effective way has been found to store nuclear waste. The statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that existing technology is adequate for the safe storage of high-level nuclear waste is completely false. There is no existing technology, just an act of faith. These proposals also show a complete misunderstanding of the basic proliferation problems. For example, the Minister for National Resources claims that stopping our uranium will contribute to the plutonium economy. This, again, is false. The reality is that by making our uranium available we will hasten the advent of fast breeder reactors. Plutonium fast breeder reactors need uranium fuel reactors for their fuel supply. By adding to world uranium supplies we will guarantee the advent of the next generation of fast breeder reactors. Every fast breeder needs at least five tonnes of plutonium for its core in order to begin power generation.
Because there are no safeguards against proliferation and no safe ways of storing nuclear waste, Government policy fails to meet the third arm of the Labor Party’s policy. The policy put to the House today fails on all three counts. Therefore, we cannot make any commitment to the world nuclear cycle and the final section of our policy must be applied. This does three things. It declares an indefinite moratorium on uranium mining and treatment. It declares that Labor will repudiate any commitment made by a non-Labor government to the mining, processing or export of Australian uranium. It declares that Labor will not permit the mining, processing or export of uranium under agreements which are contrary to ALP policy. This must be the effective policy of the Labor Party until these three conditions have been met.
It is quite clear that in many ways the material which the Government has presented to the House today infringes many of the requirements of the Ranger report. Most notably, it rejects the requirement of the Second Fox Report for sequential development. The statements are completely unsatisfactory with regard to environmental safeguards. There is not the slightest doubt that uranium mining will destroy forever the unique environment of the Alligator River flood plains. It will bring development to the threshold of the Arnhem Land escarpment and the great Kakadu country which is a part of the world heritage. The flood plains and escarpment are complementary. Together they form a priceless treasure which should be preserved and protected at all costs.
Honourable members should not have any illusions about what mining will do to this country. It will destroy and rape this country as it has raped other areas where it has been going on. If honourable members have any doubts they should look at the mining at Rum Jungle. Rum Jungle is a wasteland. Honourable members opposite should not think that they are easing their consciences by declaring this area a national park. All the mining area has been excluded from the national park boundaries, even Koongarra which the Prime Minister concedes is the most delicate environment of all. Ultimately, these areas will be included in some sort of a national park. But it will be a Bjelke-Petersen type park, a Queensland Government type of national park in which mining can continue. The greatest enemy of a national park is the mining interests and their growth mentality.
If the safeguards to the environment are contemptible; the respect for the rights of Aborigines is beneath contempt. I was appalled when I went to Arnhem Land in June this year to find that the Government had made no attempt to convey the serious implications of the mining to the Aboriginal people of Arnhem Land. No Government Minister had gone to the area to try to outline to the Aboriginal people the policy it had in mind. After I publicised this fact the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) made a hasty visit to Oenpelli. It takes several years for Aboriginal people to consider issues of this magnitude. They have their customs and we should respect them. It is not a simple question of translating government policy into their language. It is my belief that the Aboriginal people of Arnhem Land have no real understanding of what will befall them once mining starts. A number of Aboriginal people were shown the bauxite mining at Gove. They were extremely frightened by the development. Gove is a paradise compared to what the Ranger and Jabiluka mines will do to the fringes of Arnhem Land.
Already, commercial exploitation through the notorious Border Store has had a damaging effect on the people of Arnhem Land. Placing a township of 3,500 people on the border of
Arnhem Land must disrupt and, perhaps, destroy forever the traditional life patterns of the Aboriginal people of that region. Development will threaten the sacred sites and the great cave art galleries. The Ranger mine will come right to the base of Mount Brockman which is the most important sacred site of the Arnhem Land Aborigines. The arguments relating to the environment and the welfare of the Aboriginal people are tremendously compelling. They cannot be put aside for narrow commercial considerations and the greed of honourable members opposite.
It is a myth that the mining will bring extensive or enduring economic benefits to the Australian people. It will create only a handful of jobs. Vast capital investment is projected for these uranium mines. Yesterday in the House the Government gave the go ahead to the huge North West Shelf project, which will absorb tremendous investment. This can only mean that capital investment will be drained away from the building and construction industry, manufacturing industry and rural industry in the rest of Australia. The severe structural problems which face our economy will be worsened by a hasty rush into uranium development. Mining development is capital intensive and employs few workers. It will bring great wealth to a few privileged companies at a terrible cost to the rest of the economy.
In summary, for all these reasons we reject the measures which the Government has outlined today. We reject the pitiful philosophy of short term greed which underlies those measures. We in the Labor Party concede that we have changed our stance on this vital issue since we were in government. (Extension of time granted). It is sometimes necessary to stand back and take a look at where one is going. We have been big enough to admit that we were on the wrong track and we have changed our policy with regard to uranium and have acted accordingly. We are proud of our policy and of the role of the Labor Party’s re-assessment of its policy. I repeat that our policy is not a string of polite meaningless words. We say to the uranium miners that if they go ahead and sink $250m or so into uranium mining in defiance of Labor’s policy they do so without a guarantee from the next government.
I believe that today is a day which many people of Australia will regret. I do not believe the Australian people have been involved in this public debate. For nearly 2% hours we heard the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and five of his Ministers make statements. Normally, if debate on each of the statements were undertaken separately, we would be allowed to speak for at least 15 minutes on each statement, but because debate on these statements has been made a cognate debate I have been allowed to speak for only a little over 15 minutes in my contribution on the six statements. If honourable members opposite say this is a wide public debate then there is a lack of understanding of parliamentary procedures. I believe it is necessary for the Australian people to understand this matter. For that reason I believe the Labor Party does give hope it does give people time to examine the policies and the reasons for not surging ahead with a policy of greed as the Government is doing.
-First of all I should like to take this opportunity to commend the Government on an excellent presentation, on excellent statements which have given to the Australian people the leadership on this important issue for which I believe they have been waiting. The Australian people know and are convinced that we have a moral responsibility to pursue and to develop our national resource and to do so for the benefit of the world. Tonight an amendment has been moved to the motion that the House take note of the statements presented by the Government. We have heard two speeches in relation to that amendment- one from the Leader of the Opposition ( Mr E. G. Whitlam ) and the other from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). I am glad that we gave the Deputy Leader of the Opposition an opportunity to join his leader in publicly apologising for statements they made and policy they adopted in 1974. 1 assume they were apologising as well for the fact that they were so anxious at that time to pursue the policy of developing our resources that they entered into agreements under which the Government was to provide 72 Vi per cent of the capital investment to develop a resource and was to allow a private corporation to join in that development by providing 27 Vi per cent of the capital, with the Government to get only 50 per cent of the net proceeds of the sale of the uranium produced and, presumably, the private corporation also to get 50 per cent for its 27% per cent investment. What a remarkable agreement!
They were so anxious at that time that, notwithstanding all that they have said in this debate tonight, those matters could simply be put aside. I have heard it said that some members of the Opposition are so cynical that they are saying of their policy: ‘We are really just putting it aside because we know that when we get back into Government maybe the price will have gone up and we will be able to enter into deals that will do us better credit’. If that is the basis upon which some people are prepared cynically to approach these sorts of issues I believe such people deserve no credit whatsoever.
We hear honourable members opposite attempting to argue that in the months in which the two Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry reports have been available there has been a lack of opportunity for debate. Tonight we have an amendment to the original motion which states that this decision is precipitate and has been made without sufficient public debate. Yet we know that in this House during the previous session honourable members opposite were not able to provide sufficient speakers to see the debate through. That is the fact. They asked for time to debate this issue yet they ran out of speakers. However, we see them again, notwithstanding what is stated in the reports of the Fox Inquiry, arguing by way of these rather nonsensical approaches that we have to solve problems of storage and disposal of radioactive waste and that we have to have adequate measures to safeguard the environment, national parks and so on. These are stated as requirements in paragraphs (c) and (d) of the amendment moved by the Opposition.
The documents which we have received today clearly indicate that every recommendation contained in the Fox report in relation to measures considered necessary to safeguard our environment to provide for national parks and to protect Aboriginals and their interests, have been adopted. Yet the Opposition deigns to suggest that those measures were not adequate. However, in any contributions I have heard from honourable members opposite when participating in this debate I have not heard them discuss the adequacy of the provisions that the Fox Inquiry laid down. Paragraph (c) of the proposed amendment states that the following problem must be solved: procedures for the storage and disposal of radioactive wastes which will eliminate any danger posed by such wastes to human life and the environment,
We know, from reading the statements contained in the Fox report and which are the result of consideration by experts, that there are ways and means by which these particular problems have been overcome. The knowledge is available and it has only been a matter of waiting for the time to elapse until sufficient wastes were available to warrant the commercial application of the technical knowledge that is available.
– That is not right.
-That is the case, as every expert will say.
– Why do you not go there yourself and find out?
-I have been to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and have spoken to some of our experts there. I have spoken to people at the Argonne national laboratories in the United State of America. I have spoken to all of the experts in the world who have had to sit down and develop the techniques to deal with the matter. Some of the honourable gentlemen opposite who have been trying to put fear into the minds of the Australian people, who have spoken tonight and distorted the arguments, are the sort of people who would have argued against the car. Some time ago I heard the Lord Mayor of Sydney say that, if a person had said to him at the turn of the century that there was to be a new invention which was to have four wheels, a tank on the back which would contain an explosive or volatile liquid, and a pipe running from the back of it to the front of it, where it would have some metal chambers and spark plugs which would create some explosions, and that one would sit up on top of it and drive it, he would have thought that that person was mad. The fearmongers we heard here tonight saying ‘It is not possible’, are no different. Yet we know that, with technology and the proper development of knowledge, a motor vehicle had been developed and every one of us drives one every day of the week. I know that some members of the Opposition own bicycles, but I do not know of one who wants to give up his car. Yet they come into this place and say that, although we have a new technology, we have the capacity to handle it, we know how it works and we have developed the ways and means of dealing with it, we should put it aside. They want to close their eyes to this sort of development. They are fearmongers. Yet, when they were in office and had to take responsible decisions they were quite prepared to take the same sorts of decisions we have taken, without the thoroughness with which these proposals have been developed. This Government has gone through and looked at every aspect of the problem and has brought down, I believe, a very responsible and very proper statement which covers every one of the doubts that anyone might have had and that members of the Opposition have endeavoured to create in people’s minds. I believe that if we read what the Leader of the Opposition said tonight- we know that he, along with other honourable members opposite, has doubts about the way in which he has been dragged along to support the Labor Party’s policies- we will see that the only area in which he is able even to mount some arguments that one could regard as tenable is in relation to international safeguards and the question of nuclear non-proliferation.
I ask honourable members opposite who raised questions about nuclear non-proliferation and suggested that terrorists might be able to obtain plutonium and make bombs to consider these simple propositions. If they do so, they will get the matter into its real context. The fact of the matter is that we have knowledge about how to kill people, how to kill people in large numbers, and how to develop fearful weapons. It was around during the last century. We know that during World War I gas was available which would kill large numbers of people and which would have horrific consequences. We know that in World War II germ warfare was available to all the participants. We know that the knowledge that was available scores of years ago would have been available to terrorists. We know that anybody with a rather elementary knowledge of chemistry and some elementary knowledge of biology could have made fearful weapons with which to terrorise people. What honourable members opposite are saying is that, notwithstanding the safeguards that are being developed and notwithstanding the efforts that are being put into controlling properly the product plutonium, in some way terrorists will get hold of that material and use knowledge which is much more sophisticated, much more refined and developed and not so generally available. Honourable member’s opposite are saying to us that we ought to be afraid. The fact of the matter is that, if we are to be afraid of the consequences of what people might be able to do to terrorise us or to terrorise the world or if people are irresponsible enough to develop weapons that will wreak harm on themselves and us, we must realise that that knowledge is readily available. ‘
I want to raise one other important matter- to me it is the most important matter- about the debate over nuclear power and over the choice of resources that might be developed to give us power. We know that power is essential. We saw in the United States recently when blackouts occurred and power was not available what harm can be wreaked upon our society. We know that power is essential and has to be provided if we are to be able to maintain law and order and the sort of society that we and other nations now enjoy. We know also that there are only a limited number of ways in which that resource can be developed.
I commend to most honourable members chapter 1 1 of the first Fox report to be read in conjunction with a book by a fellow called Professor Beckman of the United States. The book is on the hazards of not going nuclear. What chapter 11 seeks to do but does not do adequately in my view- this is what Professor Beckman’s book does do- is to evaluate the dangers in all forms of energy production. It attempts to evaluate the nuclear power cycle as against, say, coal. I am one who is very fearful about the continued development of coal. I have heard other members of this House express views on this matter, yet we are quite prepared in this country, notwithstanding the dangers, to develop those coal resources without thinking about whether enough research has been done into the possible climatic changes that the development and use of that resource might bring about and without knowing really what the results of it might be and what havoc it might wreak on the world in the future. Some of these questions are mentioned in chapter 1 1 of the first Fox report where it deals with the possible dangers to individuals who participate in the coal mining business. More people lose their lives mining coal than are likely to be affected through mining uranium. We know that as a fact. We have seen it over 20 or 30 years. This highlights the very urgent need to look at possible climatic changes. Every form of development of resources has dangers associated with it, but the one thing we do know now is that the dangers of the nuclear path are not necessarily as great as the dangers of some of the other paths that we have followed and have not been prepared to examine critically.
-I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). The series of statements by Ministers of the Fraser Government setting out the Government’s uranium policy this afternoon constitute one of the greatest propaganda exercises ever mounted in the national Parliament. For months the Government, in Cabinet and in the bureaucracy, has laboured to bring down its policy. But in fact the decision to export has been a foregone conclusion ever since the Fraser Government came to power. But the Fraser Government’s policy fails because it does not allay the fears of the Australian people as to the consequences of uranium mining in both the national and international sense. The consequences of nuclear power are global. It is an international problem affecting not only this generation of mankind but future generations as well. Yet the Fraser Government has reduced the problems to mere rhetorical flourishes and in terms that emphasise the economic benefits to Australia only.
– Who wrote this- Tom Uren?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have some protection from the rabble opposite? The key to the Fraser Government’s uranium policy is haste- haste to sell it to the Americans, haste to sell it to Europe in exchange, hopefully, for more beef exports to the European market and haste to fulfil Mr Fraser ‘s election promises to the mining companies that his Government would fill their coffers once again.
The Australian Labor Party says, in accord with the second option of the Fox Report that we should delay the development of the Australian uranium industry. We say delay because it is the only responsible national and international policy. The Labor Party national platform makes it clear that there should be no commitment of Australia’s uranium deposits to the world’s nuclear fuel cycle until the problems of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the disposal of highly radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants have been solved. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out the policy of the Labor Party is not a ‘leave it in the ground forever’ policy. It is a policy of delay and a policy of using Australia’s uranium resources as a lever to ensure that uranium consuming countries develop adequate non-proliferation safeguards that will work and that the nuclear industry has in fact developed the technology to dispose of nuclear waste.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, makes continual references in his statement to the uranium initiatives of the Whitlam Government and in fact the Government has continued the Ranger arrangement even though, as he says, it goes against his philosophy. It is a cheap political point and ignores the fact that the Whitlam policies were introduced before the Reports of the Fox Commission and the Flowers Commission in the United Kingdom were available. The Labor Party policy in government was developed before Australians had the benefit of information contained in those reports which outlined the hazards of nuclear power and the need for proper and adequate methods of control of these hazards. These controls cannot be developed overnight. It is pertinent that the nuclear power industry has been ongoing as a commercial industry for over 25 years and yet there are no adequate safeguards to prevent the proliferation of weapons nor are there adequate waste disposal techniques.
The Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, in his haste to please foreign governments and a handful of Australian mining companies has glossed over these problems. The Fraser Government is prepared to export uranium now and hope that sometime in the future proper safeguards will be worked out. The Fraser Government is prepared to make this valuable resource available without conditions. Instead of putting the carrot in front of the donkey it has fed the carrot to the donkey. The only way to ensure that problems of proliferation and waste disposal are solved is to delay the supply of uranium until the consuming countries provide adequate evidence that the problems are in fact solved. This is the central basis of the policy of my party.
Let us look at the problem of waste disposal first. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) have taken a particularly offhand attitude to this issue. The cynicism of the government on this matter is best illustrated in the statement by the Minister for the Environment, Housing and Community Development, Mr Newman, when he states:
The disposal of nuclear waste and the potential environmental problems which this could pose have been matters of public concern. The responsibility Tor disposing, in an environmentally responsible manner of waste arising from nuclear power generation in countries abroad, is a matter for those countries which generate electricity by nuclear means.
In other words, the Government is simply washing its hands of this matter and while the Opposition agrees that nuclear waste should not be dumped in Australia, it believes that in the interests of mankind a solution to this problem must be found before exports are allowed from Australia. It is not good enough for the Government to say as it does that the problem of nuclear waste has been examined by a number of eminent independent authorities. Nor is it good enough to say that processes have been developed to solidify nuclear wastes into glasslike substances. Information available to the Opposition indicates that these processes are far from proven. In fact the Fox Report at page 1 10 states:
There is at present no generally accepted means by which high level wastes can be permanently isolated from the environment and remain safe for very long periods.
Further evidence of the Fraser’s Government’s failure to come to grips with the immense problems associated with nuclear power development is contained in the policy with regard to the development of uranium mines. The Fox Report recommended that the mines be developed on a sequential basis. The Commission had a sound basis for this recommendation, namely that the gradual development of the industry would allow Australia to take advantage of the increased demand for uranium from 1985 onwards and not create an oversupply situation. In other words, sequential development would ensure that Australia maximised its returns. But the Fraser Government has adopted a laissez faire approach in which every company with a uranium deposit can develop its mine whenever it wants to. Such an approach by the Fraser Government is consistent with the approach it took in the development of the iron ore mines in the Pilbara in the 1960s and the coal mines of Queensland. The result of that policy was that the buyers played off one producer against another, forced down the price and the overall return to the Australian people was less than it should have been.
There is little doubt that even with the freeforall development policy adopted by the Fraser Government the returns on the investment outlaid will be immense. It is clear that the Fraser Government recognises this, but as with the recently announced import parity price for crude oil it has only a hazy idea of how it will increase the returns to the Australian people. The Deputy Prime Minister talks vaguely- as he did in the crude oil announcement- about initiating discussions with the industry on a possible framework for a secondary or resource based tax on future earnings from uranium development. I should make it clear that the concept of a secondary profits related resource tax to be levied on companies making windfall profits originated with the Australian Labor Party and it is part of our national platform on minerals and energy. The only difference between this tax and the tax proposed by the Labor Party is that we will not shirk our responsibility in imposing it. Talk is not enough.
One of the most extraordinary features of the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister is his attempt to justify the Government’s announced uranium policy in terms of a national energy policy as recommended by the Fox report. The Government has not got a national energy policy.
– You beat that; you have four.
– Do not worry. You will not be back, so speak up. The only way the Government could have an energy policy is through government supervision and control of the major energy producing industries in Australia. While all other major producing countries in the world have policies to this end, the Fraser Government ensures that Australia is the odd man out. We have only to look at the present ad hoc decisions on energy culminating in the uranium decision today to see that the Government has no comprehensive policy. We had the crude oil price rise in the Budget without any requirement that the additional funds should be spent on new exploration for oil; the North West Shelf gas decision with only marginal reference to Australia’s long term energy needs; and now the uranium decision. The Minister claims he is preparing a statement on Australia’s energy policy but it seems extraordinary, to say the least, that these recent major decisions can be taken in isolation.
As uranium will be only a bridge between fossil fuels and new technologies, such as fusion power and solar power, it will be necessary for substantial funding in the coming years for research into new energy areas. It is not good enough to wait for funds, as the Minister suggests, until resources flow from uranium development. Funds must be made available now, and they can be made available by a properly imposed resource tax on the excess profit situation arising from the crude oil policy or the export of coking coal, for research and development into alternative energy sources, in particular solar power. All that can be said about the Government’s uranium policy, if one can disregard the fact that it is premature, is that at least the Government has had the decency to adopt a number of the proposals as outlined in the Ranger Inquiry.
We can only take the Government’s statement at face value. At least it has accepted all of the Ranger recommendations on Aboriginals such as the granting of title to traditional Aboriginal lands in the Alligator Rivers Region including the Ranger and Koongarra mining areas. The Government has said that it is prepared to pursue the proposals laid down by the Ranger Inquiry to deal with the impact of mining development upon Aboriginal society. In respect of the Ranger project, the Government says it has accepted all of the Ranger recommendations relating to environmental controls and development. The Government also has indicated in respect of the development of other mining in the Alligator Rivers Region that future developments will take place only when the projects were in harmony with the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 and when the Government is satisfied that the impact of such developments will not be detrimental to the Aboriginal people or the region.
The Government has also made a firm commitment to extend the national park in the Alligator Rivers Region, though the Government has opted for a policy of gradually increasing the declared area of the park rather than declaring the full park boundaries now. It is to be hoped that these commitments are what they appear to be and that the Government will stand behind them. In conclusion, in what was otherwise a dismal picture of expediency, these measures would appear to be the only bright spots.
-We have just witnessed a lack-lustre performance from the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), the shadow Minister for National Resources. His heart was not in his speech. When he was in Perth recently for the biennial conference of the Australian Labor Party he and the Leader of the Australian Labor Party were rolled by the socialist left. Tonight he was on his fourth policy in respect of uranium. My colleague the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) has dealt with the schizoid statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) earlier this evening. In fact the Deputy Leader of the Opposition addressed people outside Parliament House this evening and indicated that the fight had just begun over the decision announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to mine and export uranium. In fact the Movement Against Uranium Mining had this to say about the Government’s announcement: ‘Today’s announcement is irrelevant; it is a minor and temporary setback’. That organisation says that it was a minor and temporary setback despite the fact that two independent reports were commissioned and that this Government has almost followed them to the letter of the law in announcing the go-ahead for uranium mining.
Australia’s decision on uranium, announced today will help to secure the benefits of nuclear power for the nations of the world. The Fraser Government’s decision will promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and ensure that it is safely used with minimal risk of damage to man and his environment. We have reached a point of no return along the course of nuclear evolution, bearing in mind the benefits of nuclear power and the risk that expanded use may cause increased proliferation. We need continuing and vigorous diplomatc initiatives overseas so that we can accelerate and influence world measures to prevent proliferation while uranium develops as a major world energy resource. The peoples of the world, poor and wealthy, want more and more power to increase their standards of living. The demand comes from them. One example of this is the rapid increase in the consumption of electrical energy all over the world. Over the next 25 years there will be no major alternative to fossil fuels- that is oil, gas and coal- except uranium. Uranium mining and nuclear power generation are demonstrably safe by any reasonable standards. The decisions of governments all over the world, whether liberal, conservative, socialist or communist, to increase investment rapidly in this energy system testifies to this.
Uranium mining was carried out successfully and safely in Australia from 1954 to 1971. Now it will happen again. Uranium is being mined on an increasing scale in the United States of America, Canada, South Africa and other countries.
– And Russia.
-And the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Already 160 nuclear power stations are operating and after 2,000 power station years of operation there has not been a single death or injury to the public at large. Indeed, 180 new nuclear power stations are being built currently and another 160 are on order. By the year 2000 nearly 50 per cent of all electricity generated in the world will be from nuclear power stations. The Australian uranium industry is capable of satisfying 20 per cent of the world market by 1 985 and could be expected to earn, for the good of this nation, $3,000m a year at projected prices. By comparison the wool industry currently earns about $800m while our total mineral exports currently earn about $2,500m. Between now and 1985 the industry will spend some $ 1,800m on present day values, most of it in Australia, providing employment and growth, particularly in our sparsely populated north. The industry will provide employment for nearly 10,000 people in total by 1985 when their wages bill will make available some $2m to be fed back into the economy every week. This in turn will produce demands for goods and services which will improve the economy and increase employment further.
There has been some debate on the safety of nuclear power stations. The world’s first nuclear power station was opened by Her Majesty the Queen at Calder Hall in the United Kingdom in 1956. It has operated with steadily increasing output, with high load factor and over 95 per cent availability ever since. It has exceeded its expected 20-year life already and is expected to go on for at least as long again. One hundred and sixty power stations fueled by uranium are now operating in 24 countries. These have acquired a total of 2,000 years of nuclear power station operation without there being a single death or injury to the public at large.
The risk of a nuclear reactor accident does cause some concern and although there has not been a single death to date it is reasoned that a death might occur. It might happen but other calamities in life also happen. It is about as scientific as saying that although no flood has ever threatened the city of Perth, one could destroy it tomorrow; therefore we should close the city down and abandon it. No one would accept such an argument, but one must examine the probabilities. The probability of Perth being so destroyed is so small that no citizen would leave on that account. Similarly although no one can say that there will never be a serious accident at some time in the future in a nuclear power station, the probability is very small in as much as a person has 20 times as big a chance of being killed by lightening. In fact nuclear power stations have proved so safe that certain insurance companies in the United States lowered their rates by 20 per cent from 1 January 1975 because on their account there had been no claims for injury or damage to the public or to property.
Australians will welcome the Fraser Government’s decision to develop and export uranium for peaceful purposes. Australians are twotoone in favour of developing and exporting uranium for peaceful purposes. They say that proposed mining projects should go ahead. In a survey conducted by the Morgan gallup poll, 1,950 people throughout Australia were asked:
Do you think Australia should or should not develop and export uranium for peaceful purposes?
Should the proposed uranium mining projects in Australia go ahead or be stopped?
On the first question people answered: Develop and export, 59 per cent; do not develop and export, 28 per cent; undecided, 13 per cent. On the second question, 57 per cent favoured going ahead with the present proposed mining projects while 29 per cent opposed and 14 per cent were undecided. The same people were reminded that recently an Australian Labor Party Conference in Perth had resolved to ban all future uranium mining in Australia indefinitely and also that the Conference had resolved that if the ALP became the Government- perish the thought- it would break and cancel all uranium contracts made by the existing Government. When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the ban on uranium mining, 60 per cent of the Australian people interviewed by the gallup poll said that they disagreed; 28 per cent said that they agreed; and 12 per cent were undecided. The other ALP Conference decision on uranium- one of its four policies- to repudiate future contracts was disagreed with by 58 percent and agreed with by 27 per cent, with the other 15 per cent being undecided.
In weighing the overall health hazard presented by nuclear reactors it is appropriate to compare nuclear plants with coal burning power plants. Adverse health effects from coal power are greater than those from nuclear power. This comparison points up the relative safety of nuclear reactors. Fossil fuel power stations pollute the atmosphere far more than do nuclear reactors. Burning fossil fuel produces carbon dioxide which accumulates in the atmosphere and increases in concentration. There is growing concern among top scientists about the effect on climate of the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The present concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 330 parts per million. The concentration has been increasing at about one part per million per year during the 20 years that Professor Keeling of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in the United States has been monitoring it. This increase corresponds to half the total carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuel. Climatologists predict that a doubling of C02 concentration would cause an unprecedented warming of the climate of about two degrees Celsius average and about eight to ten degrees Celsius at the poles. If carbon dioxide is as big a problem as many suspect we simply may have to limit our use of coal and other fossil fuels or live with whatever consequences may arise with respect to changes in the climate. It would seem therefore that no energy system is complication or hazard free.
After careful consideration, almost painstaking consideration, the Government has decided that uranium mining may proceed. I think that the timely export of Australian uranium will decrease the risk of further proliferation of nuclear weapons and will support and strengthen the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. As the Prime Minister said in his speech today, it will help make a safer world. With regard to environmental aspects, I and members of the Government committee on natural resources went to Arnhem Land and the Alligator River province last year and looked at the projects. We are very impressed with the statements today made by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs ( Mr Viner).
-I support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition ( Mr E. G. Whitlam ).
– You do not really, do you?
– In the Australian Labor Party it is usual for people to be honest. In the Liberal Party it might be different. I would have to rely on your experience to guide me there.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It might be helpful to this debate if interjections cease. I point out that the honourable member for Tangney was heard in silence and I suggest that the honourable member for Oxley and others later on in this debate be heard without interjection.
– In fairness, I must say that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) stands firmly behind principle- any principle which will serve him for the moment. The Labor Party has declared a moratorium on uranium mining and the export of uranium. This is not to be confused with a permanent prohibition against the development and mining of uranium. It would be unwise for any group in the community not to recognise the clear and substantial economic advantages which can be achieved from the development of uranium mining and the export of uranium. They are much more substantial than many of the dogmatic opponents to uranium mining have been prepared to accept to this point. Having said that, I believe that a much more substantial influence when considering this issue is the defectiveness of safeguards in relation to re-processing, storage and disposal of waste from nuclear power generation units and the very clear possibility that waste products from nuclear power generation units can be misappropriated and used in the proliferation of nuclear weaponry. These last matters are the most important matters which this Parliament should consider. They are matters which were referred to in considerable detail in the first report of the Ranger Commission of Inquiry. They are matters which were glossed over rather slickly today by the Acting Foreign Minister (Mr Sinclair) who had the duty to attend to those specific areas.
What this debate does is focus on some aspects of the world energy crisis although the matter has not been presented in that way today by Government spokesmen. I feel that, given the enormity of the crisis, the complexities of the ingredients of the crisis and the daunting challenges which the crisis presents for the future, we should have had a debate on oil last week, on natural gas last night and a debate on uranium today with the promise of a debate on energy policy later, probably slightly after the arrival of Godot.
This is no way to bring together a national resources policy, specifically an energy policy. If the Government had prepared and presented an overall policy first into which this commitment to uranium mining and export was slotted I am sure that the community would have been better served and more wisely informed, not only on what the Government was intending but also on how what was being proposed fitted into the international energy crisis scene. It is indisputable, in my view, that nuclear energy is seen by many people as proposing an important solution, it is said by some, in a bridging way to the energy needs of the world. At the present time it is providing something like 4 per cent of electricity generation. It is anticipated that by the end of the century it will be providing somewhere in the order of 1 5 per cent of total world electricity generation; but 15 per cent of a much higher total level of energy generation. Within those overall figures one has to recognise the skewing which arises where a particular country’s needs are relevant. For instance, at the present time Switzerland generates about 17 per cent of its electricity requirements from nuclear power generation, Belgium 15 per cent, the United Kingdom 10 per cent, the United States 8 per cent, and so on. The fact is that at the present time nuclear power generation does make a significant contribution to total power generation requirements.
I ought to observe, in case my views are about to be misunderstood or, even worse, misrepresented, that the Labor Party has committed itself to fulfilling existing contracts entered into by previous governments, one of which, of course, was a previous Labor government. Accordingly we will be making a contribution through that commitment to the maintenance of the level of power generation by some of the countries which I have mentioned. But it would have been helpful if the Government today had considered alternative energy forms- solar energy, for instance, of which so much is spoken. It would appear that solar energy will not be commercially practicable before the end of the century. Wind power and tidal power have quite daunting problems associated with them. Derivatives from coal would seem to offer some hope for the synthetic production of petroleum type substitutes, but not before the 1990s at the earliest in commercial terms.
What we are really talking about is a very tight world energy situation in which Australia can play a very important part, and that is acknowledged by the Opposition. The economic benefits are certainly acknowledged by me, and I believe by all of my colleagues. It would be unwise to deny what are established facts. For instance, export revenue for this country in the early 1980s will rise from about $300m to $500m and on to about $ 1 ,200m in the early 1 990s. That is significant because by the early 1980s we will be only 50 per cent self-sufficient in the production of oil and our import bill for petroleum type products will be of the order of $2,000m a year. By the mid-1980s we will be only 30 per cent self-sufficient and our import bill will have risen to about $3,000m. Compare that with the present situation where our import bill for petroleum products is only about $800m, and I am consistently quoting 1977 prices. So quite clearly this country faces challenges in the course of the next couple of decades in terms of financing its own energy requirements.
What I am saying succinctly is that I acknowledge the very real and important economic benefits which can come from the mining and export of uranium. For all that, however, I cannot help but feel much greater discouragement at the prospects which arise when one considers the defects in the reprocessing systems around the world, the serious shortcomings of storage, the complete absence of any effective disposal system and, most daunting of all, the real possibilities referred to in some detail in the first Ranger report that waste product can be diverted for the manufacture of nuclear weaponry. The facts are, as the first Ranger report pointed out, that international safeguards are not strong enough in terms of reprocessing. I am informed that United States civilian reprocessing units have been terminated because of leakage problems. It is well known that the storage of liquid waste presents serious problems because of the tendency for waste product to escape and because of the possibility that the volume of waste can be misrepresented and that there can be unaccountable diversions of some of the waste. All of this sums up to potentially serious problems in terms of the capacity of some country at some future time, in the absence of effective safeguards being established, to divert waste to the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
As I have mentioned, the Acting Foreign Minister this afternoon glossed over the safeguards problems. He proceeded with indifference to chapter 13 of the first Ranger report, which significantly is headed ‘Weaknesses of the NPT and of the Safeguards System’. We ought to recollect that paragraph 14 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty provides for the withdrawal of nuclear materials from Treaty cover for nonweaponry military purposes. That in itself sounds unexceptionable until one reads page 128 of the first Ranger report in relation to this matter. It says:
It must be admitted that there is no means of controlling the use to which the materials might be put once they are withdrawn from controls. Indeed it is highly illogical to have a safeguards system of accountancy and surveillance which is designed to provide some assurance that states are not misusing nuclear materials for weapons-making purposes if any state is able to escape even this limited control mechanism by a mis-statement of its intentions.
So, quite clearly the Ranger Commission has made it evident that misrepresentation can allow a country, even though continuing to be a signatory to the Non-proliferation Treaty, to misuse resources which are covered by that Treaty. The Acting Foreign Minister did not attend to this serious defect when he made his statement this afternoon. The possibility of a country withdrawing unilaterally from the international safeguards was not attended to at all.
The Minister did acknowledge that the first Ranger report referred to the need for the strengthening of international treaties, but he did not deal in detail with the nature of the defects to which the Ranger Commission referred. Under the Non-proliferation Treaty, which is a bilateral treaty, a signatory country can withdraw after three months notice of intent. Under the International Atomic Energy Agency agreements a signatory country can withdraw on six months notice to the parties. That indicates a seriously circumscribed sanction. It certainly falls far short of the glowing assurances which were given so casually this afternoon by the Acting Foreign Minister. Indeed, the Ranger Commission’s report said on these defects:
Thus, even if international safeguards were in themselves a totally adequate guarantee against diversion by governments, those safeguards are dependent upon treaty arrangements that can be terminated by unilateral act.
In short, the safeguards are fine while countries remain signatories to these treaties, but countries do not have to remain signatories. They can unilaterally abrogate their obligations under such international commitments. Yet the Acting Foreign Minister sailed blithely past these warning beacons which have been erected so clearly by the Ranger report. If we go to page 13 1 of the report we notice further concern being mentioned by the Ranger Inquiry. It said:
Concern has been expressed that NPT safeguards only require notification to the IAEA of transfers of yellowcake. A state can, in this way, acquire quantities of material which are not subject to any significant controls, and which may be diverted to weapons production. The Commission regards this as an unfortunate weakness in NPT safeguards, but the principal defect lies in the fact already alluded to: That it is possible for any state to withdraw from the Treaty or agreements upon which the safeguards arrangements are based.
Nothing that the Acting Foreign Minister said today would reassure us on these scores. He has said today, as indeed have the Government and all spokesmen for the Government, that, in spite of the warnings which were firmly expressed in the first report of the Ranger Uranium Commission of Inquiry about the serious defectiveness in these international arrangements, the Government is going to proceed in terms of the existing structure of these international arrangements. In fact the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs said today that the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency agreements were the first and second cornerstones of government policy. They are very shaky cornerstones for any government upon which to erect its policy. The Minister went on to talk about bilateral agreements which, as I interpret what he said, are very much a restatement of the International Atomic Energy Agency agreements.
He talked as though the Australian Government would have more clout internationally in enforcing its will than much larger countries have been able to achieve. This puts to one side the very grave shortcomings this country would face in trying to establish effective physical monitoring systems and trying to assert the sort of authority which would be necessary to bring about the sort of response which it would desire in circumstances where it felt its requirements were not being met. The Minister talked about asserting this sort of authority, but what happens when another country tells us to go to pot? It is all very well when countries signatories to agreements adhere to obligations of those agreements, but what happens in changed circumstancess or when some critical situation develops and a country no longer wishes to do this?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I am delighted to have the opportunity tonight to talk in this debate. The debate in May in which I hoped to talk fell short because the Opposition ran out of speakers. I appreciate the further time that I have had to study the uranium issue. I am well satisfied that in the time between May and today’s date I have been able to pick up considerably more information on it which has had a great bearing on my decision. It is an issue on which I have tried to keep an open mind. I must admit that not long before May, through ignorance, I had not quite decided what was right and what was wrong for Australia and the people of Australia. But now I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that there is no doubt in my mind about the decision that has been taken by the Government today.
I strongly support the mining of uranium and realise that previously, as I said, I was not equipped with sufficient facts. For these reasons I was being drawn towards a feeling that there should be no mining of uranium. I suggest that most dissenting members of the Australian public today form their opinion also with a lack of knowledge and in ignorance. When I have had discussions on uranium with people in the street and at meetings I have found that once I supply some information they are only too ready to admit that they did not have sufficient information and they were really against mining uranium because of their ignorance.
There is also much confusion amongst the Australian public. Really people should be looking at three separate issues. One of course is the mining of uranium in Australia; one is the possible use of nuclear power in Australia; and the other is what happens if Australia is used for the storage of nuclear waste. I think people who come up with a no answer are combining these three issues, and it not necessary to do so. We are concerned only with the mining of uranium. Australia has little need for the use of nuclear power plants simply because we are blessed with an abundance of coal. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stated today and as he has stated repeatedly, Australia will not be used as a storage country for other people ‘s nuclear waste.
When we talk about the abundance of coal in Australia it is rather interesting to note the fact that because of this abundance of coal throughout the eastern States it would be uneconomical for nuclear power stations ever to be used. As is outlined in the speech delivered by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) today nuclear energy is the only viable alternative that most countries have available to meet their essential needs of electrical energy in the wake of the oil crisis. He goes on to point out:
At the present time 184 nuclear power plants are in operation in 20 countries-
Of course, this includes countries such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and countries behind the Iron Curtain. The Deputy Prime Minister goes on to say, when dealing with this program of nuclear power stations:
There are 214 nuclear power units now under construction.
This will expand the number of countries with nuclear power stations to twenty-seven. He goes on to say:
In addition 102 units are on firm order-
This further expands the number of nuclear units throughout the world. Those people who are against the mining of uranium differ very greatly in their opinions with those held in most other countries. This program is under way. There is a vast number of nuclear power stations operating and under construction. I guess that, in terms of the world’s reserves of uranium, although Australia is an important supplier of uranium, had we made a decision not to mine uranium, it would have had no effect whatsoever on the world’s use of and projection into nuclear power stations.
The stories that have been told in Australia would tend to form the opinion that Australia is the only country with uranium supplies. Let us look at the uranium deposits of the world. Admittedly, they will depend upon what price bracket the uranium to be mined is put into. But looking at uranium mining as most people do, it can be mined for $30 per lb or less. In that case, Australia has between 16 per cent and 20 per cent of the known world deposits of uranium. If we accept that mining figure of $30 per lb of uranium, we find that Australia has about 16 per cent of known reserves, Canada has about 20 per cent, South Africa about 16 or 17 per cent, Sweden has roughly 20 per cent, the United States of America has roughly 22 per cent and there are considerable deposits in Niger in Africa and Gabon in Africa and in France. Honourable members can see that if Australia were foolish enough to say that there would be no mining of uranium, it would make no difference on how the world would use uranium.
It is important also to bring into some relativity the amount of energy contained in uranium. Of course, it is expressed in many different terms. It is interesting to note that a single tonne of uranium has the same energy potential as 3,000,000 tonnes of coal or 12 million barrels of oil. We have some difficulty in fully comprehending what millions and billions are when we continue to talk in these terms today. So let us talk about this subject in another way. An egg cup full of uranium has about the same energy power as 10 semi-trailer loads of coal. Alternatively, 4 oz of uranium will totally supply the energy requirements of a normal household for a 12-month period. Honourable members can see the different in the potential of energy obtained from uranium and from other normal energy supplies such as coal and oil.
Members of the Opposition have said that the Government has not given enough time for the uranium debate. As many previous speakers in the debate have said, the uranium issue really started in Australia in 1954. It ceased in 1963 and picked up again a few years later. Programs on uranium mining were well advanced in 1972. It is obvious from the statement presented to Parliament today by the Deputy Prime Minister that the Whitlam Government, now the Opposition, always intended to develop uranium deposits. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) said today that the Opposition had changed its mind. One has only to read the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister today to see that it shows clearly, step by step, that the plans of the Labor Government were quite concrete and its intention, as I said, quite obvious.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit the atomic energy plant at Lucas Heights in Sydney. I was rather staggered by the fact that the hundreds of people working there- top scientists, people who really know about uranium and nuclear energy, responsible people- just cannot understand what all the flap is about. We are exposed daily to hundreds of activities with many times greater risks and danger than nuclear power. One has only to look at some af the unfortunate things that happen. There is the danger of petrol in cars. The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) proved this when he spoke about the dangers of cars and industrial accidents. Daily we expose ourselves to hundreds of activities with far greater risk than uranium. The decision taken today is embodied in the best planned documents ever presented to this Parliament. I refer to the documents that were presented today. In my short stay here and in the many years that I have followed parliamentary procedure, I cannot recall anything so well planned as the documents that came forward today.
I support the Government in its statement that commercial considerations were not the dominant motive. In trying to assess the situation I have tried to keep the commercial consideration out and look at it from a moral point of view. It surely must pave the way for Australia to lead the world in nuclear guidelines. I am sure that when one looks at those guidelines one will agree with that. The strict guidelines brought into this Parliament by the Prime Minister last May add to all the safeguards and security that Australia is imposing on its exports of uranium. Whilst I say that the decision was made on moral grounds- I repeat that- we would be foolish if we did not consider some of the economic advantages that will obviously flow from this decision. As honourable members know, the Northern Territory, where these deposits are situated, is a vast stretch of land with a small population. Recently a German politician visited the area and the question was asked: ‘If you were in Australia, what would be your greatest concern?’ He said: ‘If I were an Australian living in Australia I would be concerned as to who would occupy the vast unused land’.
Once again, when one looks at the statement brought forward by the Deputy Prime Minister today, one sees clearly the economic advantage that will come to the Northern Territory and to Australia. It clearly shows the tremendous estimates of renewed employment in that area. It talks of employing an additional 20,000 people. This, of course, would be in about the year 2000. If one looks at the Canadian experience and at the number of other industries and people employed in supporting industries as a result of the mining operations in Canada, one sees that the estimate of 20,000 can easily grow to the employment of 100,000 people. This is exactly what we want. We want our people to be employed and we want population to go to that part of our land.
One thing we often overlook is the advantage of such a decision as this to the person in the street. We tend to become complacent and forget about improving standards, most of which come as a result of energy. We tend to forget about the things we do and the things we use every day which result from energy. A simple example that comes to mind is when we go home at night and turn on a switch and a light comes on. That is a big improvement on the days when people used kerosene lamps and candles. Everything we use, even a glass or a pen, requires energy to manufature. Few people, even those who are opposed to the mining of uranium, prefer to walk to work rather than drive a car or go by public transport. All transport is dependent on energy. Our continued improving living standard is dependent on the use of energy and on energy being available.
In conclusion, I point to one thing that comes from the economic advantages of mining uranium. Once again in the statements issued today it has been clearly stated that some of the money that comes from this operation will go into research on solar energy and converting our huge coal deposits into liquid fuels. That is terribly important. Uranium will not last forever. It is important that we have a plan to direct some of the economic benefits into the future beyond Australia ‘s supply of uranium.
-The Government which led Australia into the disastrous position in Vietnam is now recklessly flirting with the dangers of uranium. In the face of a flagging economy this Government is now seeking a mining-led recovery. With vandalistic impetuosity it is rushing into a situation without giving sufficient thought to all the factors involved. The honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield) has been contending the economic advantages of mining uranium. Much could be said to throw doubt on the proposition he has put. When all is said and done we are talking about a non-labour intensive industry. We are talking about an industry that will engage in substantial repatriation of dividends overseas. There is no great certainty that economic benefit will accrue in a direct way to Australians. Then, of course, we must take into account the fact that the export income that will be derived from this activity will affect our trade situation. It will undoubtedly require us to import more goods. Finally, we can speculate that there will be a threat to our secondary industry.
The Australian Labor Party wants to satisfy itself that all the safeguards that are possible are taken before we move into the mining and utilisation of uranium. We are concerned about the problems of proliferation, terrorism, waste disposal, contamination and environmental destruction. As was the case in the Vietnam situation, in time to come our stand will undoubtedly be vindicated. The way public opinion is developing at present, that position will be achieved in the not too far distant future. I shall mention some of the problems already in evidence around the world in regard to uranium. Between 1966 and 1975 in the United States of America, Argentina and France there were no fewer than 12 attacks on nuclear installations or facilities involving commando groups using well placed bombs, in some instances causing millions of dollars of damage. In the same period 128 hoaxes and threats to nuclear installations or facilities were received in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. On at least two of these occasions huge blackmail demands were made. In the same period there were hundreds of incidents of vandalism and sabotage at nuclear facilities in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, including arson attempts, the smashing of equipment and the severing of cables. From 195 7 to 1976 there were 15 known security breaches at nuclear installations and facilities in the United Kingdom, the
United States, Germany and Canada. When we come to the question of penalties we see that between 1975 and 1976, 12 United States companies were fined for non-compliance with security regulations. All of this information is available in far more detailed form in an exposition provided by an eminent doctor, Dr Flood, from the University of London.
The Fox inquiry has not any placating effect at all in respect of these great points of anxiety. In fact it shows that there are many hazards. Foremost among them are the hazards affecting the Aboriginal people. Tonight on behalf of my Party I want to concentrate, in the limited time that is left, on these matters which threaten the destruction of Aboriginal culture. I want to summarise several of the chapters of the Fox report. In chapter 1 the inquiry found that the traditional owners of the Ranger site and the Northern Land Council are opposed to the mining of uranium on that site. It was felt that their complaints were justified and that plans for mining had been allowed to develop without the Aboriginal people having an adequate opportunity to be heard. The Commission tried to give due weight to Aboriginal values and viewpoints but formed the conclusion that their opposition to mining should not be allowed to prevail.
In chapter 2 the Commission looked at the Aboriginal occupation of the region- an occupation that has extended over 25,000 years. Since European occupation the Aboriginals have tended to concentrate mainly at Oenpelli, Mudginberri and Jim Jim but they still retain their traditional ties. The report also mentions that the Aboriginal population in this region that is affected by uranium mining numbers approximately 1,000 and that art works and important archaeological sites make the region one of the most valuable in Australia. It is ecologically and environmentally sensitive and significant.
In chapter 4 the report talks about the relationship of the Aboriginal people with the land; the most important relationship for a traditional Aboriginal being that which binds him to a particular tract of land. There is a direct personal link between spirit beings or dreamtime heroes who gave the people their own tracts of land, the child to whom the spirit gives life in its mother’s womb and the place from which the spirit came. This link is not even broken at death as the spirit returns to the site from which it first came. The report then goes on to talk about the sacred sites which have particular spiritual associations. Many are connected with the wanderings of the dreamtime heroes over the land at the time of creation. Some sites are subject to secrecy, taboo, prohibition and danger. The Government may think that it has provided adequate safeguards in this respect. Two sites on the Mount Brockman escarpment, Djidbidjidbi and Dadbe belong to this category being connected with the rainbow serpent. The Aboriginals are concerned that damage to these sites through mining could bring great disaster on everyone concerned. Anyone who takes an interest in reading the material available will discover this great mythology.
There are more than 120 known archaeological sites in the region, of which only 15 have been excavated. They reveal evidence of the earliest human settlement in tropical Australia. In addition more than 380 art sites have been recorded and about 1,000 more are known to exist. Through having to make decisions in respect of mining, building programs, town management, social affairs and so on many members have withdrawn from this pressure and do not attend meetings of the Council in the Oenpelli region. They have already had enough before the mining industry intensifies. There has been a breakdown in the Aboriginal Council in that area. White staff members have had to carry a large degree of responsibility. This is not my contention; this is information that is contained in the Fox report. The report continues:
There was considerable evidence presented to the Commission that the Aboriginals still regard their land in accordance with their traditions and their traditional beliefs and values continue to have meaning for them.
The report states that employment opportunities at Oenpelli are under-utilised and that:
Consumption of alcohol, lack of motivation to work for wages, interest in ceremonials and development of own ventures in decentralized communities are the main reasons.
The report mentions the alcohol problem- the effects of white contamination about which I am talking. It states:
The excessive consumption of alcohol by a large proportion of Aboriginal people is having a deleterious effect on general welfare . . .
The problems associated with alcohol (disorderly behaviour, violence, noise et cetera) have upset the community over which there is an air of despondency. Low employment and school attendance figures are associated with problems connected with alcohol.
The conclusion reached in this chapter is to the following effect:
The Aboriginals of the Region are a depressed group whose standards of living are far below those acceptable to the wider Australian society. Their lives have been disrupted by the intrusion of an alien people. They feel helpless and lost in the face of mining proposals and their culture and traditional social organisation do not help them cope with the questions they have to answer. Their custom of reaching decisions over a long period of time is not allowed for.
That custom has not been allowed for in the processes that have been undertaken under the auspices of this Government. Moving on to Chapter 13 of the Report, more mention is made of the employment situation. It states:
The Commission feels that job opportunities created by mining are unlikely to attract many Aboriginal people unless they become motivated to participate in the mining program or ancillary services. The provision of services to the town, the development of handicraft and artefact outlets and the sale of market produce are also unlikely to increase greatly the number of Aboriginals in gainful employment.
It goes on to state in respect of race relations:
With the influx of non-Aboriginals into a predominantly Aboriginal area, conflicts and tensions will result, particularly in the construction phase of initial contact with transient workers.
The construction of a town with modern facilities in contrast to the lower standard housing of the Aboriginals may cause resentment or feelings of inferiority.
Is there not some indication that we might be going too fast with regard to the consideration of Aboriginal culture? Everything that I have quoted from the Fox report is to that effect. On the matter of health the report states:
Measures would have to be taken to prevent an increase in venereal disease and the introduction of malaria.
Some of these spindly legged people would be wiped out like flies if a white community were able to penetrate that area without proper safeguards being exercised.
The report goes on to say more in respect of alcohol. It states:
The mining companies say the situation is so bad it cannot become worse but there is a significant number of Aboriginals who strongly wish the situation to improve as the movement to outstations demonstrates.
This report goes on and on sounding its warnings. On the question of whether mining ought to be allowed to proceed, the report states:
The Commission accepts that the Aboriginals of the Alligator River Region do not wish mining to proceed. However, it does not consider that their wish should be allowed to prevail … no compromise was possible on the issue. Once the ‘go-ahead’ is given for mining, all that can be done is to ensure that as many benefits and as few harmful effects as possible should accrue to the Aboriginals from the mining operations.
The Commission does not try to justify its position beyond stating that ‘we have given careful attention to all that has been put before us by them or on their behalf”. It admits that ‘It is not possible to say that the development will be beneficial to them ‘. Like the Aboriginals, the Commission seems to feel that mining is inevitable and that it is better to accept this and go on from that point, alleviating the effects as far as possible.
I refer to the warning words of eminent Aboriginal spokesmen in the region in evidence to the Commission. I refer to the words of Silas Roberts, the respected Aboriginal magistrate in the Arnhem Land area. On the question of white people pushing them too fast, he said:
We are worried that we are losing a little bit, a little bit, all of the time. We keep our ceremony, our culture, but we are always worried. We still perform our ceremonies.
We are very worried that the results of this Inquiry will open the doors to other companies who also want to dig up uranium on our sacred land.
Why should not they be worried? Look at the mining situation. Even the comments by Mr Justice Fox are significant. He referred to what he called the quite reprehensible failure of the governmental agencies to take action about serious pollution from the Gove operation and, what is more, a disinclination to acknowledge that there was any neglect. These are the words of Mr Justice Fox. So we look at all the evidence available from the Aboriginal people and the warnings of Silas Roberts and every significant Aboriginal spokesman. We cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that the impetuosity of this Government, in its grab to salvage the nagging economic situation, will have the most deleterious effect on Aboriginal culture. I would dearly love to have the opportunity to speak about other aspects of this report which relate to Aboriginal welfare. The Government rushed headlong into a situation which undoubtedly will result in the destruction of this indigenous people when the Government was given a mandate to safeguard.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I support the Government’s decision that the mining and export of uranium should proceed. It is right that the Australian people should be concerned about this important issue- the mining and export of Australian uranium. On the one hand, great benefits are to be gained by the world community of nations and by Australia. These must be balanced against the risks and problemsforemost among them is the problem of containing the spread of nuclear weapons- on the other hand. The Opposition does the Australian people less than a service by its insincerity, its unreality, its inconsistency and, I would say, its manipulation of people’s fears arising from the widespread lack of knowledge about this matter. As I said; it is right for Australians to be concerned about this great issue, but it is important that they form their opinions on a true knowledge of the facts.
At the risk of being trite, I want to repeat a few basics of the matter. We are talking about the nuclear power industry. The point I stress is that this industry has been for many years an integral part of the everday scene in America, the United Kingdom and Europe. The nuclear power industry is about nuclear power stations for the generation of electric energy, to light and power homes and to provide power for industry. Nuclear power stations differ from conventional power stations only in this respect: The uranium reaction generates the heat which boils the water which provides the steam which drives the turbines which create the electricity. In so-called conventional power stations the burning of fossil fuels such as coal or oil provide this heat, otherwise things are the same. The nuclear power industry is part of the stuff of everyday life in the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. As other speakers have pointed out, about 10 per cent of America’s electric power is produced this way from 59 commercial nuclear power stations scattered around the country. It is anticipated that the amount of electric power produced by nuclear power stations in the United States will increase to about 20 per cent in 1985 and will reach as high as 50 per cent by the year 2000.
The proportion of Switzerland ‘s electric power which is generated by nuclear power stations is about 1 8 per cent. In a sense, that makes Switzerland the proportionate leader in this matter. In Sweden, it is about 13 per cent. In the United Kingdom, it is 10 per cent, from 11 power stations and in Japan, it is 8 per cent from 12 power stations. In the developing world, it is 5 per cent in Pakistan and in India it is 3 per cent from three power stations. What I am underlining- I hope it will not be thought that 1 am labouring the obvious- is that this debate is not about a new thing that may or may not come to be but is about an already important, growing and, indeed, essential source for meeting the world’s ever-increasing requirements of energy; in the industrial West, in Japan where nuclear power is especially important because of the minimal power resources of that country and, as I stress again, to meet the energy requirements of the developing countries and especially the non-oil producing developing countries.
It is worth noting that the latter- the developing countries- will be advantaged in two ways: Firstly, the impact of the five-fold increase in oil prices since 1973-74 on the non-oil producing developing countries has been quite catastrophic. The world development of nuclear power as an alternative energy source acts as a restraint on the further increase of oil prices. In this way the developing countries benefit whether or not they themselves enter into nuclear power for electricity generation. Secondly, of course, they have established and are establishing nuclear plants in those countries themselves.
What I want to make clear to the Australian people is that the compelling and overriding argument for the development of Australia’s uranium resources is to contribute to meeting the expanding energy needs of the whole world, and not least of the developing countries, in the context of the increasingly rapid depletion of finite fossil resources, especially oil. There is no other way these energy needs can be met in the next 25 to 50 years. Of course, research and development for increasing the use of coal will go on. Equally, in the long term, new energy sources, particularly fusion and solar power, will emerge. However, these are still only ‘promised’ at this time, whereas nuclear power is a proven and viable energy source.
Members of the Opposition seek to claim a monopoly of concern for the morality of this matter. I put this to the House and to the Australian people: Where would be the morality if Australia, with 0.04 per cent of the world ‘s population, refused to make available to an increasingly energy hungry world the 20 per cent of the world ‘s high grade uranium which we possess? I put it to the House that that is not morally justified and, indeed, as a practical matter, would not, in the long run, be a tenable position. That, as I have said, is the essence of the case for mining and exporting our uranium.
But it will, of course, be of great economic benefit to the nation. What our opponents tend to make of this is that it is all being done for the purpose of giving large profits to a few mining companies. What a travesty of the true situation! Australia and all Australians will benefit.
One dimension of this economic benefit- to his credit, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) stressed this- is the potential for increased exports. At about $50,000 a ton, with an export of between 10,000 and 20,000 tons we are looking at additional export receipts in the region of $500m to $ 1 ,000m. It used to be said that Australia rode on the sheep’s back. At this time, wool, wheat, coal and iron ore all contribute in the range of $800m to $ 1,000m per annum to export earnings. Now uranium should prove to contribute to the same, or even to a larger, order. Thus, it will prove of inestimable value in strengthening Australia’s balance of payments and to financing the purchase of essential imports- machinery, aircraft, vehicles and, increasingly, petrol. This is of benefit to all Australians. In addition there will be widespread employment and income effects throughout this country.
Of course, the companies directly concerned will make profits of which a due proportion will accrue to the Government and the Aboriginals of the area. Profits are also made by the coal and iron companies, the wheat growers and hopefully the wool growers. That is how the system works, but all Australians benefit. It should be noted in passing that the Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd, jointly owned by Peko-Wallsend Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Ltd, is 100 per cent Australian owned.
Of course, these essentially economic advantages for the world community of nations as well as Australia have to be balanced against the noneconomic problems and risks associated with the nuclear power industry. As I have said, it is right for Australians to be concerned about the issue. It is for this reason that the decisions we are debating today have been taken only after long and exhaustive examination of all aspects of the matter and with a high sense of moral responsibility to Australia and to the whole world community of nations.
Of the problems and risks associated with the nuclear power industry, the most serious, the dominant, is the problem of containing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and thus the horrific threat of nuclear war. Honourable members on this side of the House do not seek to minimise this prospect, as Opposition speakers would suggest. What is submitted is that Australia’s ability to contribute to a minimising of proliferation risks and the devising and implementing of effective international safeguards will be enhanced and strengthened by our undertaking to export uranium. The essential point, as I have stressed previously, is that the nuclear power industry is already established throughout the world on a very large scale and is here to stay. As previous speakers have pointed out, there are at this present time 184 nuclear power stations in operation in 20 countries. There are 214 power units under construction and a further 102 on order. That makes a total of 500 nuclear power units in operation, under construction or on order in 34 countries around the world, including, as I said previously, developing countries. In the context of this established global nuclear power industry Australia, as the possessor of 20 per cent of the world’s low grade uranium, has a manifest responsibility to contribute to the very substantial quantities of uranium needed to fuel the industry. As a major exporter, and standing with the United States of America and Canada in the stringent implementing of safeguards, Australia can contribute to the application of effective nuclear safeguards and to the avoidance of the misuse of nuclear materials and thus the containment of nuclear proliferation. In that way we can contribute to a safer world. There is no other realistic course for us to follow.
If the containment of the proliferation of nuclear weapons is the overriding concern to be balanced against the advantages of the development of the nuclear power industry, perhaps the second major difficulty is the issue of the safe disposal of radioactive waste. Speaking as a layman, I can assert only my own conviction and that of the Government on the balance of the evidence of scientific experts that the technology for the safe handling, converting into solid form and permanent terminal storage of high level waste does exist and is being developed to commercial scale as required.
We also hear reference to the alleged threat to health of radiation. Such fears are without foundation. I combine that point with the point I have been making about the importance of this matter for developing countries in putting before the House a letter from some correspondents from Kensington, Sydney, which appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald. The letter reads as follows:
We sit here with too much to eat, wear and drive. We sit on literally tonnes of energy.
Not too far away the countries of the Third World struggle to provide a modicum of better living. They desperately need energy.
Yet because we want to keep an area unspoilt, because some people, some day, might suffer something from uranium mining, we are prepared to line the wharves and stop energy ‘s export.
Never mind the fact that many more people have been choked and poisoned by the effluents of affluence than will be harmed by uranium.
Never mind the desperate energy needs of Pakistan, India, Indonesia. We are scared of radiation, so let them eat the cake of nuclear-free poverty.
I can add nothing further to that eloquent plea. Debate interrupted.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977, 1 propose the 1 question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-This evening, I would like to support the remarks made last evening in this chamber by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) on the national highway in the vicinity of Newcastle. The section of the highway in dispute runs from Doyalson to Swansea. The impact of traffic on that section bears most upon my own electorate. The section leads directly into Newcastle and has been the subject of dispute between the Department of Main Roads and the Federal Department of Transport for something like 18 months to two years now. On 27 August last year a meeting was held at Swansea of the local Federal members, State members, representatives of local governments, representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, the New South Wales Minister for Transport and Mr Sexton, the Deputy Commissioner of the New South Wales Department of Main Roads to exchange views and to try to develop some sort of consensus.
Unfortunately, throughout the period of this dispute, the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce has promoted the view that that section of the Pacific Highway, which is presently classified as part of the national highway, ought to be upgraded as requested by the Department of Main Roads- that is, to four lane standard. Unfortunately the Chamber of Commerce holds the outdated view that the more traffic that comes into the inner area of Newcastle the more business there will be for its members and, apparently it thinks, for the people of that area. The truth is that the opposite is the case.
The strip of land between Swansea and Newcastle in the main is a fairly narrow peninsula. It is fairly heavily developed and is in the process of further development. It is very heavily trafficked. Because of the problems associated with that region and in the vicinity of the Blackbutt Reserve at New Lambton Heights in my electorate, in January 1975 the then Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle, asked the Bureau of Roads to conduct a study into where the national highway should go in the vicinity of Newcastle and to take into account public expressions and public views. The exercise carried out by the Bureau of Roads was the best I have ever seen in terms of public participation and public input. Various proposals were explained by the Bureau of Roads representatives and a large number of residents and groups gave evidence before the representative of the Bureau. The report of the study group was tabled in the House last year. It is titled: National Highway Linking Sydney and Brisbane (Newcastle Area).
The recommendation of the study group was that the national highway in the vicinity of Newcastle should be on the western side of Lake Macquarie. Meanwhile under section 2.1 (c) and 2.1 (d) of this report the group recommended that the section between Nords Wharf and Swansea- Nords Wharf is a little north of Doyalson should be upgraded in a limited way to provide for increases in traffic until such time as a new route west of the lake diverts substantial traffic from the Pacific Highway. The report recommended that this upgrading of the Pacific Highway to a lower standard of geometric design than if it were to continue to be a national highway should be carried out as a matter of urgency. Since then the Department of Main Roads, as it has done under previous governments in New South Wales, has stonewalled on this proposal. The matter really in dispute is how much money it can get from the Federal Government. The Bureau of Roads has recommended $2m based on 1975-76 prices. The proposition which the DMR wants would have cost more than $13m. Since then consultations have been held between officers of the State and Federal Departments of Transport. I understand that a figure of $10. 7m has now been developed.
The point that the honourable member for Newcastle and I want to emphasise is that, if $ 10.7m is spent on upgrading the DoyalsonSwansea section of the Pacific Highway, the national highway on the western side of Lake Macquarie will never be built. We appreciate that there is an urgent need to upgrade the existing section of the Pacific Highway. Lives are being lost. The cost of upgrading is rising continually. We ask the Minister for Transport to discuss with the Minister for Transport in New South Wales further alternative propositions which will lead to an immediate urgent upgrading of that section at some figure between that recommended by the Bureau of Roads and that which the Department of Main Roads is seeking. We ask the Federal Minister for Transport to impress upon the New South Wales Government the urgent need to commence the national highway west of Lake Macquarie.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am certain that the House is as disappointed as I am at the extraordinary attacks on New South Wales dairy farmers which have come from Victorian dairy farmers and from the Victorian Minister of Agriculture. It seems extraordinary to me that a man in charge of an industry which is in serious trouble- as is the dairying industry in Victoriashould have taken such an aggressive and unhelpful view of the problems facing the industry overall. The facts are pretty simple. Eighty-five per cent of the production of the Victorian dairying industry is directed towards milk production for manufacturing purposes. Only 15 per cent of that industry’s production is directed towards whole milk consumption; that is the marketing of milk to the cities and towns of Victoria. That means that 85 per cent of Victoria’s milk production is simply carried out on a seasonal basis. In other words, when there is grass for the cows to eat they eat the grass and produce milk. When it is the winter season and there is very little grass growth there is a tendency for milk production to go down except, of course, for that small proportion of the industry in Victoria which winter feeds. The farmers bring in fodder or grow fodder, which is an expensive process, in order to guarantee the supply of milk to the cities and towns of that State. Only 15 per cent of that industry faces that additional expense, and a very significant expense it is.
On the other hand, in New South Wales roughly 60 per cent of the dairying industry production is directed towards the supply of market milk. The significance of that, therefore, is that 60 per cent of the New South Wales industry faces the very heavy expense of winter feeding and of all-year-round feeding of dairy cattle. Because of this huge cost involved in winter feeding it is inevitable that the average cost of producing milk in New South Wales must of necessity be far higher than the cost in Victoria. After all, only 40 per cent of New South Wales milk is produced by cows which depend for their food in general on grass grown where they are kept.
It is staggering that spokesmen for the Victorian industry- I regret to say spokesmen for the Victorian industry in this House- have presented to this House what I submit are totally misleading figures about the so-called efficiency of the Victorian dairy farming industry compared with the dairy farming industry in New South Wales, particularly in relation to the electorate of Macarthur and also the Hunter Valley area which is another great milk producing region. It is nonsensical to compare the costs of an industry in Victoria, where only 15 per cent of the milk is produced by cattle which have to be winter fed, with the cost of an industry in New South Wales where 60 per cent of the cattle has to be winter fed because their production is aimed at the cities. The fact that the export markets for Victorian manufactured milk have disappeared as a result of the negative and oppressive attitudes of the
European Common Market does not give the Victorian industry any justification for attacking the industry in New South Wales or for its spokesmen to act in a disgraceful way by trying to establish a degree of inefficiency in New South Wales which is nonsense. I regret that even within this House there has been a tendency to denigrate the New South Wales dairying industry which, I submit, on the statistics available, is just as efficient as the industry in Victoria. That can certainly be established in respect of the more productive areas of New South Wales. I believe that if comparisons are to be made between those two industries they should be made in a fair and honest way. I submit that the Victorian dairy farmers are simply endeavouring to destroy the New South Wales industry which is in fact dependent only on local consumption of milk because its market for 85 per cent of its production has been jeopardised by what has happened on the export markets. I do hope that in future when statistics are presented to this House, particularly by Victorian members, to illustrate an argument, they are honest.
-I found the speech by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) rather interesting and I think it most likely had a lot to do with certain other events that have taken place earlier this week. I have to assume that the honourable member to whom the honourable member for Macarthur was referring is the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon). The honourable member for Macarthur did not indicate who it was but I would think that the interest and concern of the honourable member for McMillan in the dairying industry in Victoria would be extremely great.
– It was the honourable member for Murray.
– I have to apologise to the honourable member for McMillan, but I am sure that he would have made the same speech had the opportunity presented itself. I think there are very great difficulties within the dairying industry and any form of national plan, including the abolition of the milk zones, which is currently taking place in all States, is a part of those difficulties. I do not think one can over-simplify or under-simplify the problems. I think the honourable member for Macarthur has tended to regionalise the problems tonight to a pretty narrow area. Victoria obviously produces the greater proportion of Australia’s milk. Victoria produces something approaching 60 per cent of all Australia’s dairy produce because it happens to be geographically and in other ways eminently suitable for the production of milk. Under the proposals which have been discussed and which are not finalised at this stage the Victorian industry is likely to suffer and to be penalised if it seeks to utilise those sections of the Constitution which would appear to, but do not in fact, guarantee freedom of trade. That is not the question I wish to raise tonight, but it is a matter which I think will not be easily solved.
The matter I want to raise is the question of the Government’s program relating to youth em- ployment training schemes. On paper the schemes have very great attraction in that they offer to young people the opportunity to obtain training for future employment. Unfortunately it is apparent that in some instances the Government assistance relative to these training schemes, which apparently is not very heavily policed, has been accepted as a subsidy for employment. What is in fact occurring is that in some instances in the work force senior women or senior men doing jobs which can be done by juniors are being dismissed in order that they may be replaced by trainees who are subsidised at $59 a week or, under the National Employment and Training scheme, at a different figure. At the end of the period of training, especially in jobs for which a low degree of skill is required as is the case in a number of these areas of employment, it is found convenient to replace with another trainee the person who has gone through the training period. This practice is becoming a little prevalent. It enables an employer to obtain a subsidised employee for a long period with no guarantee that that person will continue in employment. Apparently there is no restriction on the number of trainees that can be trained for a specific position. In these instances the purpose of the scheme is being defeated in that a person is not being trained for a position and the employer is being assisted by the Government to train a person who will not fill a position. There is a throughput of employees at a rate which will not arouse too much antagonism or comment within the Government department making the payments. Apparently there are. few checks on this situation. The employer is merely obtaining an almost permanent subsidy in respect to those employees. It is an unsatisfactory situation. People desperately looking for jobs are being used and people who normally occupy those jobs are being denied continuity of employment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Over recent months in this Parliament, on both sides of this House and on both sides of the Senate, there has been a considerable amount of soul searching and agonising by members of the Australian Parliament concerned to ascertain the true facts of what occurred in East Timor in 1975 and the situation in East Timor at the present time. A number of honourable members of this Parliament in recent months have expressed views indicating that concern. This culminated in a discussion amongst some backbenchers. As a result of that discussion, following a telephone conversation with the Indonesian Embassy on 25 July this year, I prepared and forwarded a submission to the Indonesian Ambassador requesting that visas be made available to permit a parliamentary delegation to visit East Timor on a factfinding mission. With the consent of the Opposition I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a copy of that submission which is dated 26 July.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows- 26 July, 1977
His Excellency, Mr Nurmathias, Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, 8 Darwin Ave., Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
As mentioned to your Migration Officer, Mrs Sjaftari yesterday, I am writing to enquire about the possibility of visas being granted to enable a three-man deputation of House of Representative backbenchers to visit East Timor on a factfinding mission.
The proposed deputation would not in any way be an official delegation representing either the Australian Government or the Australian Parliament. It would simply consist of a group of backbenchers who are anxious to ascertain the true facts. In view of the withdrawal of Mr D. M. Connolly, M.P. (Brad field), I will probably lead the delegation which would consist of one Government backbencher and a backbench member of the Opposition. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (the Hon. Andrew Peacock) has advised me that the view of the Government is that it ‘ neither supports nor opposes the proposed visit. ‘
As I have never previously applied for a visa to visit Indonesia, let alone East Timor, I feel I should frankly tell you the reasons for the request, which I now make, and the conditions under which I hope my request would be acceptable to the President and Government of the Republic of Indonesia:
I repeat, I do not pre -judge any of these issues- I merely say that as a concerned Australian, I believe I have now a clear moral duty to do everything in my power to ascertain the true facts and to publicly reveal them. To simply ignore these matters and to pretend that they did not exist would constitute an act of moral cowardice in the extreme.
I am well aware of the recent visit to Indonesia and East Timor by members of the United States Congress. I have also been informed that approval has been given for newsmen Gerald Stone and Richard Carleton to visit East Timor. I do not believe that the Government of the Republic of Indonesia would be unsympathetic to my request that members of the Australian Parliament also be permitted to enter East Timor. I am, of course, aware of the recent visit to East Timor by two members of the staff of the Australian Embassy in Djakarta, and I have had an opportunity of reading portions of their report following their visit to East Timor. You will be aware that portion of the report appeared in ‘Backgrounder’ for the week ending 24 June, and that they visited Dili, Viqueque Los Palos, Fatumaca, Caucau Same, Maliana Balibo, Bobonaro and Liquica. I assume because of the unavailability of commercial air transport in that area that the Government of the Republic of Indonesia provided the necessary facilities for the officials ‘ visit.
As I mentioned earlier in this submission, the Australian Government ‘neither supports nor opposes the proposed visit.’ The delegation would, therefore, have to (a) obtain the necessary visas from the Government of the Republic of
Indonesia, and (b) raise the finance to enable us to travel from Australia to Indonesia. I believe we will be able to raise the necessary finance to travel from Australia to Djakarta. This then leaves the question of granting of visas as the paramount matter to be resolved. As I informed Mrs Sjaftari yesterday, it would be hoped that our proposed visit could eventuate as quickly as possible and certainly before the end of August, 1977 (the Federal Parliament is due to resume for the Budget session on 16 August). It will be appreciated, therefore, that the matter is one of considerable urgency.
Two further questions would obviously require urgent attention:
Whilst appreciating, as Mrs Sjaftari pointed out, that the decision on this submission will have to be made in Djakarta, I would be extremely grateful if the matter could be looked at expeditiously because of the time factor. In view of Mrs Sjaftari ‘s suggestion that I should also communicate with the Australian Embassy in Djakarta, I am forwarding the Embassy a copy of this letter and out of courtesy, I am also forwarding a copy of this letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (The Honourable Andrew Peacock ).
Yours faithfully. MICHAEL HODGMAN, M P., Member for Denison
– That submission, covering four pages, sets out what I believe will be read by objective persons as a reasoned and, I would hope, restrained submission that there was a genuine desire to visit East Timor to ascertain the truth and, having ascertained the truth, to make the truth available to the people of Australia. It is a sad reflection that that submission remained formally unanswered until this morning when a group of six members of the Parliament waited on His Excellency the Ambassador in Canberra and presented him with a protest note which had been signed by no fewer than 80 members of this Parliament from both sides of this House and from both sides of the Senate. With the leave of the Opposition I seek to incorporate that protest note in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
We, the undersigned members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, protest against the refusal to date of the government of the Republic of Indonesia to indicate whether or not visas will be issued to permit a delegation of members of the parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia to visit East Timor on a fact finding mission.
-I have now to report that the deputation which waited upon His Excellency the Indonesian Ambassador this morning was frankly amazed to be told that members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia would not be permitted to enter East Timor at this time. The explanation given to us was that we would not be permitted into East Timor until ‘normalisation of the economic situation in East Timor’. We indicated to His Excellency that that explanation was ‘completely unsatisfactory’. I used those words when speaking to His Excellency and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), who is present in the chamber, will vouch for the truth of what I say. We were then told that the facilities of East Timor were completely unsatisfactory. I pointed out to His Excellency that barely three months ago two members of the United States Congress, including a woman, had been in East Timor. Senator Bonner, who was present, indicated that he had been in East Timor at the time of the trouble and, of course, the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) had been there.
– Richard Carleton was there.
-My friend the honourable member for Hunter reminds me that Mr Richard Carleton had been there recently.
– It would be worse than Parliament House.
-That is right. When the facilities excuse failed we were told that because representatives of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta had been there and Mr Carleton had been there recently it was felt that Australia had had a fair go. I made the point, and I believe I can speak for every member of this Parliament, that if it is good enough for members of the United States Congress to go there it is good enough for members of the Australian Parliament to go there. The time in which I may speak has nearly expired but I want to indicate on this day that I and others are not prepared to leave this matter where it rests. It will proceed. I hope that when the Parliament resumes the week after next there will be an opportunity to thrash out this matter and to ask one simple and fundamental question: If there is nothing to hide, why would there be any objection whatsoever to a visit from the nearest neighbour to Indonesia, the Commonwealth of Australia? The view that I express at this point in time is that I am not going to be deterred, and nor are others. On an appropriate occasion within the next two weeks this matter will be taken further, and I mean that it will be taken further, and people should not be under any delusion that the matter will be allowed to drop.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-At the outset I wish to congratulate the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) on the speech that he has just made. I believe that it will meet with the approval of every member of the Australian Labor Party and of millions of Australians. I say to the honourable member for Denison with all the courtesy that I can muster that now he can understand why some of our waterside unions have taken action to restrict the shipment of certain goods to Indonesia. It is high time that more speeches like that made by the honourable member for Denison were made by other members of this House because I think we have taken enough in this regard. We have given substantial help. We have bent over backwards to be decent to Indonesia but Indonesia is not appreciating it.
Tonight I wish to raise a matter that I have been wanting to raise for some time now. I am glad that the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) and the honourable member for Denison are in the chamber at present. The matter refers to the great upsurge in violent crime and corporate crime in Australia at present. To those who are interested, it is causing great concern. I wish to refer to an article in the Australian Financial Review of 1 7 August 1 977 relating to a statement made by a most dedicated, competent and honest senior Crown Prosecutor in the Sydney Criminal Courts, Mr Vince Wallace, Q.C. I have known Mr Wallace for many years. The article states:
A ‘vast and despairing plea’ for abolition of the unsworn statement from the dock, at least in cases of corporate crime, was made by NSW’s Chief Crown Prosecutor, Mr Vincent R. Wallace, Q.C, yesterday.
Mr Wallace was speaking to a paper by Mr Rodney N. J. Purvis, Sydney barrister and chartered accountant, on ‘crime, corporations and commercial morality’ at the ninth national conference of the Australian Crime Prevention Council, being held at Sydney University.
When we look back through the history books to the ecclesiastical days when the church was charged with the responsibility of prosecuting people for criminal offences in England, we find that the accused was dragged from his home, pushed into the witness box and ordered to testify. None of us would like to see anything like that reintroduced. But today, as Vince Wallace pointed out in his statement, a person charged with a corporate crime can remain silent in the dock or he can make from the dock a statement invariably couched in very impressive terms which have been suggested by his defence counsel. If he makes a statement from the dock he is not subject to cross-examination. He can refrain from going into the witness box. I believe that if an accused person is to continue to enjoy that privilege, it should be mandatory on the judge by law to remind the jury in a very penetrating way that the accused can just as easily go into the witness box and be subjected to cross-examination. This is something in which a lot of politicians who have had no experience in criminal law are not interested. They should be interested in it because of the proportions which corporate crime and violent crime have reached today. One of the newspapers pointed out recently that in New South Wales there were 492 armed robberies in 1976 and 376 armed robberies in the previous year. In Victoria there were 334 armed robberies last year and 302 in 1975. The lowest recidivist criminal has the right to shelter behind a statement from the dock rather than subject himself to cross-examination in the witness box. My time has expired so I will take this matter up later.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to support the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) but before I speak about that matter I want to refer to the comments of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). I strongly support the retention of the dock statement. He was not speaking against that. I remember that some years ago in the New South Wales Parliament there was a proposal to abolish the dock statement and upper House members of the then Government crossed the floor and voted against the Government for a number of reasons which I will not go into now but which, I believe, were very valid then and still are now. I do not agree that the law should be changed in respect of a particular class of citizen. It does not matter whether a man is a white collar or any other type of criminal; the same law should apply to him as applies to any other person. I believe that juries can understand the truth of matters. The honourable member for Hunter assumes that the white collar criminal, so-called, can express himself better but juries can understand people and very often they make allowances. It is an insult to juries to suggest that they will be fooled by silvertails.
The important point about white collar crime is that the police and the inspectorial authorities should have better facilities rather than more power. In the recent past there have been failures at committal level. Recently we saw an example of a case which ended at the committal level. There was another important case in which the accused was acquitted by the jury upon the direction of the judge. Most of the recent cases have never got to the jury. So it is very important that the facilities available to the prosecuting officers be improved so that they can prove their cases and will not have them thrown out. I remind the honourable member of a number of recent cases in which according to law persons were quite properly allowed to succeed- as was their rightsimply because the Crown could not prove its case. I do not know whether in those cases better facilities would have assisted but what is required are better facilities rather than a change in the law as it applies to certain individuals but not as it applies to others. I support a broader principle to which the honourable member for Hunter has not necessarily referred. The codifying of directions which a judge should mandatorily give a jury in respect of certain basic principles such as the onus of proof is long overdue. Judges vary tremendously in what they tell the jury and this is not satisfactory.
I support what was said by the honourable member for Denison. The visit to the Indonesian Embassy today was totally unsatisfactory. The Indonesian Ambassador has his work to perform and was only giving to the members who visited the Embassy the decisions of his Government. But I remind the House that in fact and in law the present Australian Government does not recognise the Indonesian takeover of East Timor. If anything, we should apply to the Portuguese Embassy for a visa to enter East Timor because as far as this Government is concerned the Indonesian Government has no power to grant visas ‘o persons to visit East Timor. When I raised this point the Indonesian Ambassador was absolutely stunned. The Indonesians cannot get it through their heads. They have walked into East Timor, slain thousands of people, have taken the country over and have arrogantly condemned the East Timorese people to a takeover whether they like it or not.
The House knows my attitude in regard to this matter. I have been amazed in the 18 months or so that I have been in this Parliament that the Timor issue has never become a real issue in the community. The Australian Labor Party is completely divided on it. Half of its members are out to get their leader for his previous attitude on the matter. I do not know what is the real attitude of the other half. It has not become an issue in the community but it is high time that it did because the Australian people are deeply concerned with what is occurring in East Timor. For the Indonesian Government to say that it will allow
American congressmen and Australian journalists to go to East Timor but will not allow the elected representatives of the Australian people to go there is a complete and utter insult to the Australian people. I call upon the Australian Government to make its position clear and to support the request of Australian parliamentarians from all political parties who may wish to visit Indonesia and to visit East Timor but not as part of Indonesia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is concluded. The House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 6 September at 2.15 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House fix an alternative day or hour of meeting.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 17 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)1 understand that, until the end of the last year, it was customary, when a Bill was presented to the GovernorGeneral for assent, for the Governor-General to ask the Attorney-General whether, in the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral, the Governor-General should recommend any amendments to be made and also whether, in the opinion of the Attorney-General, the Constitution required the Bill to be reserved for the Queen’s pleasure. The wording of the Attorney-General’s advice, commonly referred to as the Attorney-General ‘s certificate, was ordinarily as follows: ‘Your Excellency,
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of a letter of even date from the Official Secretary to Your Excellency, transmitting a copy of a Bill passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth intituled:- and communicating to me Your Excellency’s desire that I should peruse and advise upon the Measure.
As requested by Your Excellency, I have carefully perused the Bill, and I cannot suggest any amendments that, in my opinion, Your Excellency should recommend, and I am also of opinion that the Constitution does not require Your Excellency to reserve the Bill for Her Majesty’s pleasure to be made known’.
Earlier this year I was informed by the Governor-General that the practice of a separate request for advice being made in respect of each Bill would not be continued. I was also informed that it is the wish of the Governor-General that he should continue to have the advice of the Attorney-General in respect of each Bill presented for royal assent. He wishes to be advised whether, in accordance with section 58 of the Constitution, he should recommend any amendments, and whether he should reserve a Bill for the Queen’s pleasure. The wording of the Attorney-General ‘s certificate is now ordinarily as follows:- ‘Your Excellency,
I have the honour to forward herewith a copy of a Bill received by me from the President of the Senate/Speaker of the House of Representatives intituled-
The President/Speaker has informed me that the Bill is now ready for presentation to Your Excellency for the royal assent and that he proposes presenting the Bill to Your Excellency immediately.
I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that I have perused the Bill. In my opinion there are no amendments that Your Excellency should recommend. I am also of the opinion that Your Excellency should not reserve the Bill for Her Majesty’s pleasure to be made known.’
Quarantine: Mail at Broome Post Office (Question No. 1048)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 2 June 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 16 August 1977.
Do the Commonwealth Pathology Laboratories charge patients insured with private health funds.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
At present, services provided by the Commonwealth Pathology Laboratories are free of charge.
However, as announced in the statements attached to the 1977-78 Budget Speech, charges are to be introduced on 1 October 1 977 for services undertaken by the Commonwealth Pathology Laboratories for privately insured patients.
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
How many (a) Turkish and (b) Greek armed forces personnel are in Cyprus now (Hansard, 14 September 1976, page 1027).
– As the Minister stated in his reply to the same question asked by the honourable Leader of the Opposition last year, exact information on the relative troop strengths is not publicly available. However to the best of my knowledge estimates of the numbers of troops involved are:
In addition to these forces the Greek Cypriot National Guard has an estimated 10,000-13,000 troops, and the Turkish Cypriot fighting forces number approximately 5,000.
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 16 August ,1977:
On what date did Western Australia give a response to the Prime Minister’s letters of 7 June and 1 October 1976 concerning future legislative or administrative action on the Australian Assistance Plan.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
An interim reply from Western Australia was received by the Prime Minister on 30 October 1976. Subsequently, on 1 April 1977, the Western Australian Premier issued a Press statement announcing that the State Government would not provide funds for the Australian Assistance Plan.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 18 August, 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 August 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770825_reps_30_hor106/>.