30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
The Acting Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That where whole or pan of a deceased estate passes to the surviving spouse it should be free from Federal estate duty.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Sir William McMahon, Mr Armitage and Mr Neil.
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 pray. by Mr Cohen, Dr Klugman and Mr MacKenzie.
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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chapman.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That due to the new information on whale communication, behaviour and intelligence, and to the depleted state of most of the great whale stocks and the uncertainty associated with whale population estimates, that commercial whaling is no longer acceptable to the vast majority of Australians. It is urged that immediate steps be taken to end this activity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cohen.
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 Mr Connolly.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, your petitioners humbly pray that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Falconer.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of residents in the city area of Sydney respectfully showeth that they are opposed to the Treasurer’s recommendation to increase the interest rate of loans to State housing organisations. They assert that the proposed increase from 4 per cent to 10 per cent will drastically increase rents and cause hardship to public housing tenants.
Your petitioners therefore pray that your Honourable House will abandon the present proposal and maintain the existing interest rate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
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 we oppose abortion on demand in the Australian Capital Territory and the payment of medical benefits for abortions.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that legislation be enacted forbidding the performance of abortions in the Australian Capital Territory.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Short.
– I inform the House that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) leaves Australia today to attend the International Sugar Conference being held in Geneva and to have discussions in the Middle East. He is expected to return to Australia on 7 October. During his absence the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) will act as Minister for National Resources and the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) will act as Minister for Overseas Trade. The Acting Minister for Overseas Trade will be represented in this chamber by the Minister for Primary Industry ( Mr Sinclair).
-I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
1 ) That a select committee be appointed to examine and report upon:
Mr Keating I rise to a point of order. Two days ago I submitted to the Clerk a General Business notice which he submitted to you for your perusal. I was given to understand that it was too >ng and I was not able to read it in that form. Yet you are permitting the honourable member for Mackellar to read a longer notice today.
-I had prior intimation of the notice that the honourable member for Mackellar is reading out. I have ruled that I will not accept in a notice any recitation of fact which would, m effect, be a recitation of argument in support of the motion. The honourable member for Mackellar, on the other hand, is referring to the mechanics of the way a committee would operate if it were set up.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. The notice continues:
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. It relates to the fact that the Colonial Sugar Refining Co, acting as agent for the Queensland Government, has been seeking a loan of $50m from the Japanese. Was this matter the subject of discussion at the Loan Council? If so, when? For what purposes would the money be used? Was it also taken into consideration that sugar growers at present are facing a reduction in price in their contract with Japan? Could it well mean that the Japanese would seek a reduction in that price if they were expected to give a $50m loan?
– If my recollection is correct there was some reference to this loan either at the Premiers Conference or in formal Loan Council. I would have to check the record to see. I will see what other information I can give the honourable gentleman.
– Will you table it?
-As the honourable gentleman would know, the Loan Council records have always been regarded as strictly confidential.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Now that Australia has become a major uranium exporter will the Prime Minister use the international leverage we thereby acquire to get together with other uranium exporters to present a united front on the general tightening of safe- i guards, particularly with regard to weapons pro.liferation and extending to responsible disposal of waste? Will the Prime Minister negotiate with other uranium exporters to ensure that customers who breach safeguard agreements with exporters are denied further supplies of uranium?
-As a major exporter of uranium Australia will be able to involve itself fully in international forums to work for the objectives implicit in the honourable gentleman’s question. Through the nuclear suppliers group and the fuel cycle evaluation which has been sponsored by the United States we will be able to add very significantly to the forces that will work towards the best possible regime of non-proliferation and waste control. It is also our objective to consult with all supplier countries to make sure that the safeguards enforced by one supplier country add to the effect of the safeguards of the others. For example, if there is any suspicion of a breach of safeguards in relation to uranium supplied from Canada, Australia would regard it as her obligation to support the Canadian safeguard system to achieve the best possible result in relation to non-proliferation. Australia will be actively involved m these matters. It will be a force for good to work towards the best possible regime for non-proliferation that can be devised.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Does the Minister recall authorising two VIP round trips on 28 July to enable the Prime Minister’s wife to enjoy a night at the opera? Was it correctly reported that the Minister was highly irritated by the fact that the Prime Minister should ask him to approve the flight, which cost over $2,000?
-I call the Prime Minister.
-Mr Speaker, on one occasion only has my wife travelled in a VIP aircraft without me. That was an occasion when I had been asked officially to go to the opera in Sydney when a most distinguished Australian, Joan Sutherland, was singing. I believe that it was her last night in Australia. A small group was to gather together after the opera to converse with and to pay credit to a most distinguished Australian artist. As a result of Cabinet discussions relating to the Budget, there were certain matters that needed to be finally- determined and I had to make up my mind whether Cabinet should resume the next day; whether I should keep the engagement with the opera; whether my wife should represent me or whether we should both decline to go. If we had both declined to go at that late hour it would have been grossly rude and discourteous to the opera, to the organisers, to Mr Charles Berg and to Miss Joan Sutherland. I make no apology whatsoever for the use of that aircraft on that occasion. Also I am advised that on an earlier occasion Mrs Whitlam used a VIP aircraft, without Mr Whitlam being present, to fly from Sydney to Canberra to Goulburn. I believe that that flight would equally have been justified. I make no criticism of it.
-Mr Speaker, the right honourable gentleman is wrongly advised. No VIP aircraft was ever ordered for my wifenever.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– But this is being broadcast and I am not going to have one side broadcast and, three-quarters of an hour later, my personal explanation ignored.
-The honourable gentleman knows the rules of the House.
-Yes, I know.
-I do not make the rules but the honourable gentleman is breaking the rules.
– Yes, but I want people to hear during question time that no VIP aircraft was ever ordered for my wife.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-Mr Speaker, as to the particular matter that the honourable gentleman has raised, if the records prove him right- he knows that very accurate records are kept of these matters- then everyone will know it. But that was the advice certainly that I was given from official quarters. The honourable gentleman seemed to jump a little early. He seemed to think that I was trying to criticise him or his wife. I certainly was not. If a Prime Minister’s wife has to represent the Prime Minister on certain occasions, as she sometimes has to do, and if it is necessary to use a VIP aircraft to fulfil that engagement I make no apology for it, and I would have thought that the honourable gentleman would have made no apology for it.
-The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations is aware that legislation was introduced last year to allow for secret postal ballots in union elections. In the light of experience, is the Government satisfied that its legislation is working satisfactorily?
– In general, the Government is satisfied that the legislation is working satisfactorily. Unions are taking advantage of section 170 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which enables elections conducted by the industrial registrar or the Commonwealth Electoral Office to be conducted at no cost to the union. In the 12 months prior to August 1976, when the new legislation came into effect, I am informed that 178 applications for officially conducted elections were received. In the 12 months after 9 August 1976, the number was 244 and that represents an increase of 37 per cent. So, the figures indicate a definite trend towards officially conducted ballots.
As yet, I think it is too early to assess with any accuracy the extent of acceptance of officially conducted ballots since the legislation came into effect, because not all unions nave been required by their rules to have elections conducted. But it is my own view that ultimately most, if not all, union elections will be officially conducted. For the information of honourable members, I have recently provided an answer to question No. 437 giving details of all elections that have been held. The question is available at the Table Office.
The Government has been monitoring closely the requirement that the elections should be conducted by postal ballot and, on the information that is available to us, it would seem that some exceptions to the postal ballot provisions have been occurring. Some elections, for example, in the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union have not conformed with the requirements of the Act. As a result the Arbitration Inspectorate, in accordance with its duties to ensure observance of the Act, has carried out detailed investigations. I understand that, in those cases, new elections will be held. There have also been aspects of elections involving the Builders Labourers Federation which have been much less than satisfactory.
So, the Government is looking closely at those aspects. It will be putting proposals to the National Labour Consultative Council with a view to ensuring that the intention of the secret postal ballot legislation is in fact being achieved. Any necessary amendments in the Act will be incorporated in the industrial legislation that I will be introducing in the House later this session.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister and I hope that he will answer it with the same frankness that he did the previous question.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question and will not comment
-I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that a considerable number of electorates in Australia have no television reception whatever. Has he, nevertheless, authorised the expenditure of $2m to improve television reception in his own electorate? Did he take this decision despite the fact that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has placed his electorate as number 35 on the list of areas that need improved television reception?
– I shall ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to add to my answer in a few moments because he can give details of a program covering a very large part of Australia. About eight or nine years ago my electorate started to make representations to me because of the inadequacy of television reception and because very large parts of the electorate could not get any television reception. If they could, they could do so only by using vastly expensive aerials. Successive PostmastersGeneral over a long period- I think also in the Labor Government to give them their duerecognised in formal correspondence that the quality of television reception was grossly inadequate, that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board ought to do something about it and, that it would do something about it. But the Board never did in those regimes although they said that it ought to and that it should. The present Minister for Post and Telecommunications had the same general view that the quality of service was inadequate and that something ought to be done about it, but on this occasion he made sure that the officials did what they said they would do. They did make an examination covering a large part of western Victoria, including parts of the electorate of Wimmera and I believe also parts of the electorate of Corangamite. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications can give details of other parts of this program.
Some people in this Parliament and one or two commentators in other places, have on numerous occasions tried to suggest that because I happen to be Prime Minister I should not advocate anything on behalf of my own electorate. They have been trying to suggest that my electors should not be represented and that I should not be able to advocate their cause. If any honourable gentleman believes that my electorate is to be less well represented merely because I am Prime Minister I am afraid he has another think coming. In relation to this particular matter and in the totality of national priorities, the provision of adequate service to western Victoria is long past due. Previous governments- the Labor Government and earlier governments- were deficient in not repairing that damage.
- Mr Speaker, in adding to the answer to the question asked by the honourable member for Hunter, I advise him not to pursue this matter because he will find himself to be utterly incorrect. Simply because the honourable member for Wannon happens to be the Prime Minister -
– Read the Senate Estimates committee report.
– Why does not the honourable member for Shortland listen? If he does so he will find out. When the honourable member for Wannon, who happens to be the Prime Minister, puts a request relating to bis electorate to any Minister he is not put on the bottom of the list just because he is the Prime Minister; nor would a Minister put the honourable member for Werriwa at the bottom of the list just because he is the Leader of the Opposition. Virtually every State in Australia will benefit from the decisions that the Government reached in this Budget. Furthermore, within the next month I will be bringing out a three-year program which will demonstrate that this Government is determined to provide additional television facilities everywhere in Australia where there is a lack of capacity. No priority in this matter has been given to the Prime Minister. If the honourable member looks at the list- I will be happy to provide it to him-he will see that almost every State is to be assisted.
– The Minister for Primary Industry would be aware that there has been a great deal of speculation about a package of relief measures for the beef industry. Can he inform the House when he will be in a position to make a statement concerning this very troubled industry?
-I am particularly indebted to the honourable gentleman and the other rural members on this side of the House who have worked with us over the last three months in trying to devise practical, acceptable and worthwhile means of improving some of the circumstances of those people who are amongst the most disadvantaged members of the Australian community at the moment. I am hopeful that later this day I will be able to make a statement outlining a number of proposals which the Government intends to implement. It has been only after a great deal of scrutiny by the Government Members Rural Committee and by individual members of this House, and as a result of representations I have received from throughout Australia, that we have been able to devise something which we hope will put cattle producers in particular back into a position of something like equity with other members of the Australian community. Unfortunately, as the honourable gentleman would know, one of the major problems has been to remove some of the disadvantages that three years of hard Labor imposed upon them.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister authorised extensions to the Lodge costing a quarter of a million dollars? Have any other government contracts been let in the Australian Capital Territory during the last six months? Is the work at the Lodge the Government’s only major contribution to the depressed construction industry in the ACT?
-The honourable gentleman must have been asleep over the last two or three months. An announcement was made about the work at the Lodge. Representatives of the Press, television and radio have inspected the Lodge and taken photographs of what is being done. All the work at the Lodge relates to the staff quarters, which were utterly abominable and abysmal. The staff quarters should have been repaired and changed years ago. If I am advised correctly, the Leader of the Opposition advised the Committee on Official Establishments that he supported the work. I have here the report of the Committee on Official Establishments. I point out that a former distinguished Speaker of this House is serving on that Committee. The report states:
The Committee wishes to stress the fact that it regards the improvement of the services and staff areas within the Lodge as being the most pressing immediate need of all. The Committee is in no doubt that these areas are completely inefficient and intolerable. It is unreasonable to expect staff to continue to co-operate and live in such appalling, outofdate and inadequate conditions.
I believe that those who in the past spent money on other parts of the Lodge but ignored the staff quarters perhaps could have been culpable. There were extensive discussions with the unions concerned over this matter before the contract was let and the view of the Federated Liquor and Allied Industries Employees Union of Australia was put in these terms:
The scheme of improvements envisaged in the alterations proposals was endorsed by the union which believed that the working conditions for workers at the Lodge would be considerably enhanced when the alterations are completed. The union, however, would expect that these improvements would be implemented as soon as possible, including air conditioning which is considered a necessity.
Air conditioning has been restricted to the staff quarters. In the light of all the circumstances, the report which was tabled a long time ago and the obvious inspections which the media have made and any persons could have made had they wanted to, it would have been a grave dereliction of duty to allow to continue circumstances which meant that the staff at the Lodge would continue to operate in utterly squalid and impossible conditions. I was not prepared to put up with it or to ask the staff at the Lodge to put up with it. I do not ask the Leader of the Opposition to speak in relation to these matters but he well knows the evidence that he gave before the Official Establishments Committee.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Does the Government have any information about the recent announcement that the President of the self proclaimed Democratic Republic of East Timor, Francisco Xavier Do Amaral, has been deposed, expelled and imprisoned, together with several colleagues, allegedly for collaboration with Indonesian authorities? Does the Government have any background information about this announcement? Does the incident, if the report is true, reveal what might be happening in the headquarters of Fretilin? Was Do Amaral generally considered to be one of the few non-Marxists in the Fretilin leadership?
-I have read reports of this but I have no detailed information that I can convey to the House at this juncture.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at any time transmitted through the Commonwealth a suggestion that Commonwealth forces should keep order in Rhodesia during a period of transition to majority rule and for some time thereafter? If so, what has been the reaction of the Australian Government?
-There were unofficial discussions on this matter as the British were looking to solutions, with support from Western countries, on the Anglo-American initiatives. The program does not provide for Commonwealth forces. It provides for United Nations forces. It is one element of a total package. The question of Commonwealth forces is not under discussion at this moment.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to an earlier question asked about the use of VIP aircraft I ask my question reluctantly but in all fairness. Can the Prime Minister provide the House with any information relating to the use of VIP aircraft during the term of office of the Labor Government?
– I have here schedules which came from the office of the Minister for Defence. I am advised that they were prepared by the Royal Australian Air Force. I would not have used them had the question not been asked in the terms in which it was asked and had interjections not come from the Leader of the Opposition in the terms in which they did, because I was seeking to defend the decision and actions which the previous Government took. The schedules show that on 17 February 1974 Mrs Whitlam travelled alone in a VIP aircraft HS748 from Sydney to Goulburn to Canberra. There are two sheets which demonstrate the same and I table them.
– My question to the Prime Minister refers to the Prime Minister’s continual assertions that a proven technology exists to safely dispose of nuclear waste. Is he aware that the solidification and vitrification process in which he has such faith requires first that the reactor waste be reprocessed? Is he also aware that it is by reprocessing that plutonium is separated from other wastes and that it is for this reason that President Carter opposes such reprocessing? In view of the Prime Minister’s expressed support for President Carter’s policy, how can he claim that the vitrification process solves the waste disposal problem when its use requires the undertaking of reprocessing which is so strongly opposed by President Carter? Will it not be the case that if President Carter’s policy is implemented the United States and any other country which it can influence to its point of view will not be able to use the vitrification process to dispose of its nuclear waste?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question because it clearly demonstrates the difference between the disposal of waste from reprocessed fuel and the disposal of waste from’ the spent fuel rods from light water reactors. As I am advised, the technical problems associated with the spent fuel rods from light water reactors have been of a much lesser order than the problems associated with the waste from reprocessing. That is why I think much of the debate has centred around the question of waste from the process of reprocessing. The honourable gentleman has merely highlighted the fact that if President Carter’s policy in its purity is fulfilled, the waste from reprocessing is unlikely to be a great problem because there will not be much waste of that kind. But then we come back to the question of the disposal of the spent fuel rods from light water reactors. That is of a lesser order. It is my understanding that the technical problems in that are well known and well understood.
– I would like the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development to tell me whether the current Press reports regarding renegotiations of arrangements for the Albury-Wodonga growth centre are accurate? Will the Minister indicate whether the Government regards that project as a priority?
– I thank the honourable member for his question. Yes, the AlburyWodonga Ministerial Council met yesterday to decide our future roles and plans for AlburyWodonga. At that meeting we were provided with a detailed study by the officers of all governmentsthose of Victoria, New South Wales and the Commonwealth- and of the AlburyWodonga Development Corporation. They presented us with new goals and new plans which we will now implement. I make a few points about our plans for Albury-Wodonga. Firstly, as a result of the information given us by the officials and which has been endorsed by the Ministerial Council, we have now adopted a growth rate which will allow Albury-Wodonga to have a population of about 1 50,000 by the end of this century. That will allow a growth rate of about 15,000 in the next five years.
Secondly, we have taken that decision in the light of information which was not available in 1972 when the Albury-Wodonga operation was first envisaged. We have taken into consideration the new statistics, for example those which we have from Professor Borrie. They show a realisation of new trends in population movements around Australia. These trends are becoming clear as a result of the statistics gained from the census. The new arrangements allow us to pursue a program in Albury-Wodonga which is within Australia’s ability to accomplish, one which we can afford which was not the case before. All in all, I believe that we now have a program and plan for Albury-Wodonga which will succeed. It allows a growth rate within the ability of Australia to realise and afford. We are determined that Albury-Wodonga will now go ahead as a growth centre on that new population basis.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question subsequent to that which he has just answered for the honourable member for Deakin. Does the schedule to which the Prime Minister referred also show that the aircraft in which my wife left Sydney for Canberra on 17 February 1974 had, the previous day, taken her and me from Sydney to Newcastle and on the day itself had left with both of us from Newcastle for Sydney where I got off, and she then went on in the aircraft to Canberra where, of course, the aircraft is stationed? Has the Prime Minister also investigated the fact that that particular aircraft on its night from Sydney to Canberra had engine trouble and had to land at Goulburn and that the relief aircraft came from Canberra to Goulburn with crew to service that aircraft and to take back the crew of it and my wife?
-I call the right honourable the Prime Minister.
– He is being dishonest again.
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
-These sheets show one thing very, very plainly indeed, that is, that Mrs Whitlam travelled on that flight from Sydney to Goulburn to Canberra on 1 7 February 1974 by herself. I think it is rather unbecoming of the Leader of the Opposition to drag his own wife, and mine for that matter, into the parliament in a debate in this way. I offered no criticism of him for what occurred on that occasion. It was only his intemperate interjection, his statement, his protestation, which was a complete and absolute falsehood -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman should answer the question without dealing directly with the characteristics of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I was dealing with the characteristics of the Leader’s interjection which led to this matter being debated in the House. If that interjection had not occurred, if that protestation had not been made, if he had had a little better memory and had been able to speak the truth instead of a falsehood, this matter would not have come forward. It matters not what the reason was for the flight, or that the aircraft had been going somewhere the previous day, or that it had an engine failure. The fact remains that Mrs Whitlam was travelling alone in the plane and the Leader of the Opposition said that his wife had never travelled in the plane alone.
-I said that no VIP aircraft was ever ordered for my wife, and that is true.
– If I wanted to make these semantic points I would say that no aircraft had ever been ordered for my wife. But I did not do so. That aircraft in which my wife did travel was ordered for me. It was only at 7 o’clock on that occasion, when it was too late to catch a commercial aircraft, and when it was necessary in honour to keep a commitment that my wife travelled on the aircraft which was ordered for me.
-But I travelled on this aircraft.
-He travelled on this aircraft! He did not travel on the aircraft on 17 February 1974.
-From Sydney to Goulburn?
– And on the sixteenth.
-To what ultimate lengths of absurdity do we take this debate? There is not a VIP aircraft in the fleet at the present time in which I have not travelled at some stage in my life. I rather suspect that the honourable gentleman in his time has travelled on every VIP aircraft. But we are talking about a particular flight; a particular flight which was diverted to Goulburn; a particular flight on which it is shown that Mrs Whitlam flew in the aircraft and in which it is shown that she was the only passenger on the aircraft. There would have been one honourable and decent thing for the honourable gentleman to do when he went up to the back of the chamber and checked what the facts were- to have had the decency for once in his life to admit that he had made a mistake and to admit that he had misled this House.
-Mr Speaker -
– Just as his own Party condemned him yesterday, so too does this Parliament condemn him today.
-Mr Speaker -
-Order! Both honourable gentlemen will resume their seats.
- Mr Speaker, I ask that you require the Prime Minister to withdraw the remark that I misled the House. I did nothing of the sort. I quote chapter and verse for the accuracy of what I said.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The question whether the Leader of the Opposition did or did not mislead the House is not a matter for the Speaker to determine; it is a matter for the House to determine, if it is put to the House. If the Leader of the Opposition finds the statement offensive to him personally, I will ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the statement that the Leader of the Opposition misled the House.
– What I said is not unparliamentary, according to the Standing Orders. It is not against the standing orders. I did not say that a man was a liar, which would be utterly offensive and unparliamentary. I said that the House had been misled, and that is emphasised all the more when it is stated that that flight was authorised by the former Prime Minister.
-I have asked the right honourable gentleman to withdraw, as a matter of courtesy, the statement that the Leader of the Opposition misled the House.
-Mr Speaker, the statement made was correct. Is it against the Standing Orders to make such a statement, Mr Speaker?
-The question whether the Leader of the Opposition has or has not misled the House is a matter for the House to determine; it is not a matter which the Speaker can determine. It is a matter for argument and decision by the House. It has been my practice, when an individual member of the House protests that a particular statement is personally offensive to him, to ask the honourable member who made the statement, as a matter or courtesy, to withdraw the statement.
-Mr Speaker, I withdraw the statement and -
-I thank the right honourable gentleman.
-There is one other thing that needs to be said. I withdraw the statement out of deference to your request and because it is your practice, when a statement is made which is offensive to the person to whom it is directed, to ask that it be withdrawn. There is no implication that the withdrawal therefore removes the sense of it.
-I have made it perfectly clear that the House, if called upon to do so, will determine that matter.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, concerns Lebanon. What services are being provided by the Australian Embassy in Beirut? Are they the full functions of an embassy? Does the Minister consider that the Embassy staff will be safe from future disruptions to peace in Lebanon? What is the Government’s assessment of the current political and military situation in Lebanon? What humanitarian assistance has the Government made available to Lebanon?
-I shall be as brief as I can, in answering the honourble member’s question. It requires a great deal more detail than I am able to provide at Question Time. The Australian Embassy in Beirut reopened on 17 May. It is now concentrating on immigration and consular work relating to Lebanese who have applied to come to Australia. With the easing of civil unrest in Lebanon, normal immigration procedures have now replaced the special concessional arrangements under which some 10,700 Lebanese came to Australia in 1976-77. That number compares with the 1 ,500 who came to Australia in 1 975-76, before the special arrangements were introduced. As I said, normal immigration procedures have now replaced those special concessional arrangements. More than 1,000 Lebanese still have applicatons registered with the Embassy to emigrate to Australia, most of them being in the context of family reunions. Their applications are being processed as quickly as possible.
As to the security situation about which the honourable member asks, efforts are now being made to implement an agreement of 25 July 1977 regulating the presence of Palestinians in
Lebanon. Until that agreement is implemented it will be difficult to evolve an overall political solution to Lebanon’s problems. In the meantime, Beirut itself remains generally calm, if often rather tense. However, the situation in southern Lebanon is causing greater concern. The Government hopes that, in the interests of the people of Lebanon, and in order to avert any escalation of the situation, law and order will be restored and a political settlement arrived at as soon as possible.
The further question posed by the honourable member concerned humanitarian assistance. Honourable members will be aware that considerable humanitarian assistance has been made available over and above the admission of an increased number of refugees to Australia. In 1975-76 Australia gave $50,000 worth of skim milk powder to Lebanon and in 1976-77 $400,000 worth of canned meat was provided, to be distributed equally by the International Committee of the Red Cross and Caritas in Lebanon. In 1977-78 we will be contributing 100 tonnes of canned meat valued at $160,000 to a specific nutritional project aimed at assisting destitute and malnourished schoolchildren. This is the first contribution under a three-year program of assistance to this project, estimated to cost $500,000. We are keeping under review the possibility of contributing to a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees program for the resettlement within the Lebanon of displaced persons.
– I table the report of the Women’s Advisory Body on the working party 1977 and ask for leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted?
-No. We have not had it for two hours.
– If the Leader of the Opposition does not want the statement made in the House, I will make it outside the House.
-Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance. The Opposition expected the statement to be made at 12.45 p.m. so that the Grievance Debate would not be affected. We were happy for the Prime Minister to make it then. That would have been in accordance with the undertaking given by the Leader of the House.
-For the information of the House, it should be noted that the statement is only a tabling one. It could be made as easily outside the House, if the Leader of the Opposition has some objection to its being made in the House.
-It should be made at the proper time.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Trade Union Training.
– For the information of honourable members I present an agreement to establish an Omega navigational faculty in Australia.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Australian Shippers Council for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to section 37 of the Law Reform Commission Act 1973 I present the report of the Law Reform Commission on human tissue transplants.
- Mr Speaker, I ask you a similar question to the one I asked about a week ago. Why was this document tabled in the Senate yesterday but not in this House until today? You will remember that on the last occasion there was a five-day gap. That matter concerned the Schools Commission. You said that you would look into it.
-I thought the honourable gentleman had received a letter from me setting out the examination I had made. I will make sure that another copy goes to him immediately after question time. The essence of it is that because of the relationship of the Houses and Ministers being in different Houses it would be discourteous to one House if the Minister in that House did not table the report first in his chamber. As there are different sitting hours, it often means that in the other House the report necessarily will be tabled 24 hours later. I will give the honourable gentleman a copy of my letter.
– I would like to speak further on that matter. I think it is a serious one. It concerns members of both Houses. I appreciate that the Senate usually commences half an hour later than the House of Representatives. Accordingly Ministers in the Senate would want to present their reports not later than the Ministers representing them in this House table those reports. In those circumstances, would it be possible to devise a procedure by which the Minister representing the Senate Minister could table one of these statutory reports or ad hoc reports later in the day, say, after lunch on Thursday or after dinner on Tuesday or Wednesday?
-I will inquire into that. I remind the honourable gentleman that immediately a paper is tabled, no matter in which House it is tabled, it is available to members and senators. It is always available. The problem about the honourable gentleman’s suggestion that it be tabled at some later time in the day is that it would not then be drawn to the attention of all honourable members. Honourable members know, according to the Notice Paper and the order of business, that after Question Time they can learn what papers are tabled. The matter has been raised many times in the past. We have not been able to find a better solution than the one we have now. I shall take into account what the honourable gentleman has said.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the inquiry into the Bureau of Meteorology together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Science relating to this report.
For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Indicative Planning Council for the housing industry for 1977-78 to 1979-80.
– The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) misrepresented me twice during Question Time. I wish to make a personal explanation.
-The first matter concerns the use of a VIP aircraft by my wife. The circumstances are that, being Prime Minister, I had to travel anywhere I went in Australia by VIP aircraft. That has long been the practice and nobody criticises it. There are good reasons of convenience and security why it should have been instituted and continued. On 16 February 1974 my wife and I had engagements in the Newcastle-Maitland area. Accordingly , we went to Williamtown, the nearest air base, by VIP aircraft. The aircraft remained there overnight. The following day we left for Sydney where I had engagements. The aircraft had to go back to its base at Canberra. My wife had to go back to Canberra. Accordingly, she went in the aircraft. It would have seemed wasteful and extravagant for her to transfer to a commercial aircraft in Sydney to go to Canberra when the aircraft in which she had been travelling was going there anyhow. It happened that the aircraft became unserviceable and had to make an emergency landing at Goulburn. Another aircraft going to Canberra was diverted to pick up my wife and the crew of the disabled aircraft. It took them on to Canberra. I point out that the aircraft was ordered for me. It went to Williamtown; it had to go back to Canberra. I had to go to Sydney. My wife went on from Sydney to Canberra in the aircraft which had been ordered for me. I repeat: No VIP aircraft was ever ordered for my wife or for any member of my family. It is a different situation from that of going to the opera.
The other point on which I was misrepresented concerns the very expensive alterations being made to the Prime Minister’s Lodge and to the grounds of the Prime Minister’s Lodge. It is true that the committee which was appointed to inquire into official establishments asked me and my wife to give it our views. We accepted the invitation. It is none of our responsibility. It was never put to us what the cost of these changes should be or when they would be made. That, of course, is a government decision. We helped the committee, so it said, with our views on what needed to be done. I point out that a great deal of the expense at the Lodge in the last year -
-Order! The honourable gentleman in now debating the issue. The honourable gentleman knows that he can point out where he has been misrepresented.
-Yes. Sir, I have been misrepresented in that it has been asserted- I see that the undertaker is yawning. He will not produce his documents. They are unsigned.
-Order! If the honourable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation I advise him to do so.
-The Prime Minister implied that I was party to the expenditure on the Lodge this financial year and last financial year. I was not. I believe that tens of thousands of dollars was spent on substituting crushed marble aggregate in the drive. I was never consulted or informed about that in any way.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 4 October next, 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.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill 1977. National Health Acts Amendment Bill 1977. National Health Amendment Bill 1977.
Balance of Payments -Rural Industry-Australian Shipbuilding Industry- Television Services to Western Victoria -Brisbane Airport -The Parliament-Donations to Political Parties-Telecommunications Commission- Use of VIP Aircraft- Racism: Allegations Against Member
That grievances be noted.
– I want to point up the desperate bind in which the Government now finds itself over its balance of payments policy. On the one hand the Government wants a lot of foreign capital and it wants it immediately; on the other hand it has chosen deliberate policies designed to create social and industrial tensions which are frightening foreign investors from investing in Australia. It has created for itself an insoluble dilemma. This means that the Government’s long sought after recovery led by foreign investment and directed to the mining sector cannot occur.
In the context of confrontation which it has built up, it cannot get stocks of long term private capital inflow. Thu is the crux of the Government’s efforts to maintain a steady and viable exchange rate.
In an attempt to support the present level of the exchange rate it has launched a large program of overseas borrowings. Only nine months ago the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) called borrowing $ 1 billion ‘putting Australia in hoek’. Now he is moving to borrow around $1 billion overseas. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has admitted to the Parliament that the Government intends to borrow at least $850m.
To get its recovery in the external sector the Government now is shoring up the exchange rate. This does not mean that the Fraser Government is happy to keep the exchange rate up where it is indefinitely. It is happy for the exchange rate to drift down over time. A steady downward drift in the dollar over the next couple of years is in line with one of the other arms of the Government’s policy- its wages policy. The Government well knows that a declining exchange rate can be used to accelerate the fall in real wages. It knows that devaluation shifts resources away from workers and the industries in the domestic sector to a small group of large companies in the external sector. It is willing to let the value of the dollar drift downward to aid these companies. But for short term reasons it wants to demonstrate that the exchange rate is stable.
At this moment the Government has a desperate need of a large volume of foreign capital inflow into this country. Try as it might, it cannot attract that capital inflow. The truth is that its policies are repelling capital inflow. It is caught in a trap of its own devising. It is even in trouble with the large Australian based companies- as well as with the foreign owned companies- that are running money out of the country and worsening the balance of payments. The Government tries to justify its failures by claiming that ‘industrial disputes are keeping foreign investors away’. Yet industrial disputes are fewer now than at any other time since 1968. Most of the disputes which do occur flow directly from the Government’s provocation. The Medibank strike and the industrial action to restore real wages and to preserve living standards are examples of industrial actions that are due to the aggressive anti-worker behaviour of the Fraser Government. Without Government provocation there would be even fewer disputes in this country.
The Government also has sought to blame its failure with the balance of payments on the Opposition. It claims that attempts by members of the Opposition to wring the truth from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer at Question Time about foreign borrowings or other aspects of external policy create uncertainty in this country. The truth is that the socially irresponsible behaviour of this Government has created uncertainty and instability in Australia. Over the last few years, the conservative forces have turned Australia from a united society into a highly divisive one.
Overseas suppliers of capital have seen a dramatic change in Australian society and they have lost confidence in Australia. There is a great deal of hesitation by overseas investors to invest in this country. This Government cannot even attract enough confidence and support for its policies from the big Australian based companies which are speculating and adding to the flow of money out of the country. How can the Government hope to win the goodwill of foreign investors if Australian based companies do not have any real confidence in this country? The only way that Australia can re-establish stable economic relationships with the rest of the world is for the Government to cease its disruptive tactics that it has been using for so long. This is essential if stability in Australia’s external relationships is to be restored.
The Government must stop the massive redistribution of resources away from workers and the public sector. This policy is based on confrontation which scares away overseas investors. The Fraser Government seems to thrive on the belief that its members have been born to rule, that the workers must be confronted, that there is a class division and that wealth should be distributed away from the great mass of people to the very few. It is following a policy of confrontation. By bolstering up the great mining institutions by way of Budget policies and taxation concessions, the Government is engaging in confrontation on a scale never known before. There has never been as rapid a transfer of resources in the history of this nation. The Government must stop the redistribution from the domestic sector where 90 per cent of people are employed to the external sector where only 10 per cent are employed. We know that this Government is a government representing very wealthy rnining companies. We know that those very wealthy rnining companies employ only a very small percentage of the Australian work force. Our exports of minerals have increased from 12 per cent to 28 per cent in the last 10 years. Yet we know that the wealthy mining companies employ only 1.5 per cent of the work force. The Government, particularly the National Country Party, has adopted a continuing policy of representing the very wealthy sector. The leaders of the National Country Party have sold out the people they represent. They now represent the big wealthy rnining corporations.
The Government must stop the deliberate generation of social tensions in these times of economic recession. If the Government wants private capital inflow, it must drop its confrontation policy and adopt a more responsible approach to its economic and social policies. The Government will not be able to carry out its policies to attract foreign capital to this country and to bring about some stability in our balance of payments position unless it can provide some rational leadership. It seems to me that we are heading for grave problems in respect of the exchange rate. Unless the Government takes firm action against both large Australian based companies and subsidiaries of trans-national companies that are operating in this country at present to stop the huge transfer of funds that are going out of this country, enormous problems in respect of our balance of payments position will be created. In this respect, I need refer only to the speculation that is taking place because of the fear of devaluation. Of course, many people believe that the dollar is under valued. But the Government itself must take full responsibility for this uncertainty because of the policies it has been carrying out, particularly its confrontation policy.
– It is particularly disappointing to follow the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) who once again has done what he can to create as much uncertainty as possible about the future of the Australian exchange rate. This seems to be an Opposition tactic which is as muddle headed and as much in opposition to Australia’s best interests as in fact were his financial policies during that unfortunate period in which he took a role in the government of this nation. The points he made in general were so nonsensical that I do not want to spend much of my time countering them. However, I must say this: The honourable member repeated an absurd statement that never had there been a transfer of resources as rapid as this, and he was referring to what he claimed to be a transfer of resources from the poor to the rich. It is, of course, nonsense to say that there has been a major transfer of resources from the consumers of this nation to the rich. The Budget Papers clearly show that. Anyone who has the capacity to read those Budget Papers will see that
– They do not say that at all.
-The Budget Papers show that household income- as even the honourable member for Port Adelaide will be able to understand this if he reads the Papers- have been maintained. The honourable member’s question concerning the point at which resources were transferred at a rapid rate can be resolved by looking at a Labor Budget. Under a Labor Government the government’s share of gross domestic product in one year went up from 25 per cent to 3 1 per cent. This was a rapid and disruptive change in the basis of the Australian economy. It was the major single reason for the massive rate of inflation which has so damaged this country.
That brings me to the point I want to discuss, namely, the need for greater assistance to the man on the land. I welcome the news that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) will be making an announcement in this respect later today. It is absolutely vital that the rural sector, despite the continued attacks and criticisms of the Opposition which generally takes a very strong anti-rural position, receives some continuing recognition in addition to what it has already received from this Government. Some extraordinary claims of great concern have been made in recent times by people with an ‘immense rural background’, from the inner suburbs of Sydney who have had concern for the rural sector thrust upon them. They certainly do not have any basic concern or understanding of the situation.
A recent announcement by the Australian Woolgrowers’ and Graziers’ Council sets out very clearly the real problems facing the man on the land and why specific measures must be taken to help him. The first point made by the Council is that there would be no beef crisis if market access was not restricted. There is no doubt the beef industry has suffered very severely from the actions of overseas nations restricting the export of Australian beef. I speak here not just of the European Economic Community but also at various times of the actions of Japan, the United States of America, Canada and Sweden. The Government has taken the very dramatic step of appointing the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations (Mr Howard). If the disadvantages faced by the beef industry at the moment, and indeed by many rural industries which have exported to Europe particularly, have emerged from oppressive governmental decisions in other nations the need for something to be done is clear and evident. This Government responded to that need; it was totally ignored by the previous Government. The reasons for other nations taking a hostile view to Australian primary products is a matter for their internal politics but it is certainly a matter requiring political weight on our part. Quite properly the Government has applied full weight by appointing a Minister to handle this task.
I expect that there will continue to be an improvement in Australia’s capacity to get into these markets. It may purely be coincidental that they were closed to Australia during the administration of the previous Government. I do not know to what extent the Japanese may have closed their market to our beef simply because of fairly tough lines taken by the previous Labor Government in relation to raw materials. I think this is called resources diplomacy. It may well be that the Australian beef producer was the person who carried the can for that kind of diplomacy. Certainly it is now evident that this Government is doing what it can at diplomatic levels and by the appointment of this special Minister to get increased access to overseas markets for Australian primary products.
Probably the key problem facing rural industry as a whole, apart from access to markets, is inflation. As the Australian Woolgrowers’ and Graziers’ Council said, there would be no beef crisis if present prices to producers were associated with 1973 cost levels. It is self-evident that inflation in Australia has done an immense amount to destroy the capacity of Australian exporters, particularly rural exporters, to compete in overseas markets, yet these costs rises have brought no benefit whatsoever to producers of cattle. Unfortunately the only people who benefited from the increased costs, the people who got the increased amounts of money from this industry, basically have been the workers, the employees, in the industry.
The Minister for Primary Industry recently made a speech in which he pointed out that the average earnings per week of boners in the beef industry had risen from $102 in 1973 to $302 in 1977. Their earnings almost trebled in that period. That has been the experience of the industry throughout Australia. A company in which I have an involvement has faced a labour cost rise over the last six years which has been overwhelming and most distressing, particularly when it is recognised that at the same time the return to growers has gone down simply because of the impact of overseas market conditions. Let us face it; even if our costs go up it does not necessarily mean that people are prepared to pay more for our beef simply because employees in the industry want a threefold increase or because the other costs in Australia are going up so rapidly under inflation. The company I mentioned in which I have been involved in the past had a labour cost per pound of product only six years ago of about 2.8c. It is now 9.6c a pound. That increase, almost 3 te times, has been accompanied by only, roughly, a 75 per cent increase in the cost of the product to the consumer over those six years. The person who has been squeezed in the middle is the primary producer. That is why it is essential that measures be taken to combat inflation. That is why the fight against inflation is the major thing that primary producers hope for from a government. That is why I believe primary producers recognise, and certainly should recognise, the benefits emerging from this Government’s anti-inflation policy.
The Woolgrower’ and Graziers’ Council also made the point that tariff protection adds about $8 a beast, or $232m in total, onto the beef industry. No one in the rural sector should complain about the need to create employment opportunities in Australia through a tariff structure. All that the rural sector recognises and requires the Government to recognise, and requires the Opposition to recognise also if possible, is that if the employees of Australia are getting a benefit through tariff protection, the benefit of having more jobs than would be the case otherwise, then surely it is only just that the rural sectors gets some offsetting benefit against the substantially increased rural costs that emerge because of tariff protection. The rural industry is not being especially looked after, it deserves help.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-My grievance is the lavish extravagance of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his coterie of Ministers. I want to preface my remarks by drawing attention to the expression of the Prime Minister that life was not meant to be easy. He is ensuring that life will not be easier in Australia. I remind the House also of his statement on 3 February this year when he said that Australians lived in a lucky country and took too much for granted. On another occasion he made this statement:
We need a rugged society, but our new generations have seen only affluence.
Those new generations are our young unemployed people. He continued:
If a man has not known adversity, if in his lifetime his country has not been subject to attack, it is harder for him to understand that there are some things for which we must always struggle.
Against the background of those statements we can well see why the Prime Minister is determined to provide an exercise in extravagance at the cost of the taxpayers, to the advantage of himself and his Ministers, and to ensure that hardship is directed onto the young people in the Australian community. The Budget recently presented in this chamber provided for a system of tax change, not tax reform. There was no reform. Changes were announced to the tax schedule which will result in persons earning under $147 a week receiving a tax cut of $1.70 a week while the Prime Minister will receive a tax cut of $60 a week. According to the schedule there will be $60 for the Prime Minister and less than $2 for the average person. The $60 that will go to the Prime Minister is more than 50 per cent higher than the rate of benefit paid to young unemployed people and this Government is determined to ensure that they remain unemployed. That tax cut will add at least $3,000 to the Prime Minister’s income in the current year.
When the Government came to office we saw the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty and this gave the Prime Minister $5,000 for himself. It resulted in another $ 100 per week being added to his income. If the superphosphate bounty is justified there are ways and means by which it can be administered to ensure that it goes to farmers most in need. Certainly the Prime Minister of this country who is on $75,000 a year does not need another $3,000 in tax cuts and does not need another $5,000 by means of the superphosphate bounty. After all, the money comes from the pensioners who are now paying tax levied by this Government.
I want to move on to the ‘Life will not be easy’ syndrome which is applied to the public while lavishness is displayed by the Prime Minister. It was decided that there should be a special dinner set and it cost $9,000. It would work out at something like $1,000 an item. Surely that $9,000 could have been used to create some sort of regional employment development project that would have provided employment for people in the country areas where some of the highest levels of unemployment exist.
The next item I want to refer to is the purchase of a specially custom built Chrysler vehicle, at a cost of $16,000, for the Prime Minister’s use. A Mercedes is not good enough although that Mercedes had many years of life left in it. So the Government spent $16,000 on a new Chrysler for the Prime Minister. This same Prime Minister said that Australian tradesmen and Australian workers will have to work harder if the Australian shipbuilding industry is to survive. Under the priorities of this Government there are no funds to ensure the continuation of jobs for Australians in Australia. Instead, jobs are being exported. The Australian shipbuilding industry has been destroyed by this Government yet it has spent $16,000 on a new car for the Prime Minister.
We are now seeing the most extravagant and most irresponsible use of government aircraft to fly members of the Prime Minister’s family to the opera, of all places. Trans-Australia Airlines operates services, Ansett Airlines of Australia operates services and charter services are available but no, we had to have expenditure of $3,000 on a VIP aircraft to transport the Prime Minister’s wife to the opera in Sydney one evening. That is the kind of priority which this Government has. There is no money to promote employment for youth in Australia; there is no money for Australian industry; there is no money to increase expenditure and so stimulate activity in the regional pockets of unemployment; but there is money for this kind of trivia and extravagance. On top of this, a quarter of a million dollars is spent because, as I read the report in the Women’s Weekly, Tamie said that the Lodge was a disgrace, it just had to be renovated. There is the real reason for that expenditure, not what was said in the report of the Official Establishments Committee. We can set up a committee to bring down any kind of report we want and that is what has happened in relation to the report on the Lodge. So a quarter of a million dollars has been spent on renovations to make life easier for the Prime Minister but not to ensure that life will be easier for those people who are out of work or on lesser incomes than the Prime Minister.
Last year there was the use of VIP flights to transport wines from different States. Then we have the recent incident involving strawberries for the Queen’s reception. All of this indicates extravagance. More recently, within the last fortnight, the traffic laws of the Australian Capital Territory were bent to enable the Prime Minister to exercise his indulgence in fast cars. There were reports of the Prime Minister driving at 180 kilometres an hour in the streets in the vicinity of Parliament House to try out the latest Boxer Ferrari model. If there is a law and a set of priorities in Australia, there also ought to be equity in their application, and if the traffic laws apply to John Citizen they also ought to apply to the Prime Minister. If it is in order for the Prime Minister to drive at 1 80 kilometres an hour in the vicinity of Parliament House with immunity, the same ought to apply to John Citizen and people should not be booked because the amphometer recorded them travelling at 3 kilometres an hour over the speed limit. I instance those events as examples of the priorities of this Government.
We sought by way of questions on notice in the Parliament to get information on the true cost to the Australian taxpayer of the international safaris. Honourable members should bear in mind that every 11 weeks on average since this Government came to office the Prime Minister has had to go overseas. He has an 1 1 -weekly international safari. What the Government has done in its accounts is to ensure that the expenditure so incurred is dispersed among a multitude of estimates for the various component departments and it is very difficult, and so far has been impossible, to get an accurate cost of these trips. I draw the attention of the House to page 309 of Hansard for Senate Estimates Committee A which met on 12 September 1977. Senator Douglas McClelland is recorded as asking:
Do I take it that when a Prime Minister or a Minister flys commercially the cost of the air fares for those accompanying the Prime Minister or Minister are a charge against the department?
The response was:
That is correct. Where commercial travel is involved the fares for the Minister and his personal staff would be a charge to this appropriation item. The fares for other departmental officers accompanying the Minister would be a charge to the appropriate department’s appropriations.
There is the proof of the claim I made some weeks ago that the Government is deliberately concealing the cost of its extravagances on its international safaris. It is misleading the community. The next matter to which I want to refer indicates probably the most irresponsible extravagance of all of the Prime Minister and his Ministers, namely, the decision of the Government to authorise the expenditure of $2m to upgrade television transmission facilities in western Victoria. Whilst many parts of Australia have less than desirable standards of television transmission, the upgrading of these television transmission facilities ranks only No. 35 on the list of priorities of the Department of Post and Telecommunications. On page 355 of Hansard for Senate Estimates Committee C this matter was raised. Senator Button asked:
Has the extensive program … of upgrading the television facilities there been approved?
The departmental representative replied:
Yes, except insofar as it has to run the gauntlet of the Budget every year. In other words, the projects have to go through the Budget every year.
Senator Button then asked:
Can you give me some estimate of the expenditure which might be involved . . . in the Western Districts?
That is the main one to which I refer. The departmental representative replied:
Senator Button then asked:
These matters have been given some priority in planning, have they not?
And the reply was:
I suppose that, insofar as they are projects which have been approved and other projects which have come up have not received approval, that is true.
There is the evidence. The departmental representatives said in answer to a later question:
It would be by far the largest I could bring to mind of the schemes that were on the books.
So in effect priority No. 35 has become priority No. 1 under the direct instructions of the Prime Minister, and $2m is to be spent on television transmission facilities in his electorate at the expense of the other 34 districts in Australia which have higher priority in terms of need. This affects particularly the country dwellers. It is a direct instruction from the Prime Minister and the Government and is, as the departmental representative said, by far the largest item approved.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-That speech was totally out of character for the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). It was a vindictive, personal, nasty and totally venomous speech which lasted for 10 minutes. I have always respected the honourable member for Shortland but can only think that today the whips have been out for him to deliver a certain kind of product. I merely respond in one sentence: All the costs that have been mentioned in speeches this morning added together do not come close to the cost of Blue Poles. If honourable members opposite are going to cry for one lot of people they should cry for another and look at their own activities.
The expansion of the world historically has depended upon the principle which has been utilised so often by some of the great nations, that trade follows the flag. That has been further developed these days and now the flag tends to follow trade if it is to follow anything. That certainly means something in respect of development for the development of nations follows trade. So often in the past the medium for that development has been the medium of trade and the medium of the sea ports of the world. The new development in the area has been that the airports of the world have become the agencies whereby trade is enabled to become consummated. So we have in the developing parts of the world a simple principle: If you have an adequate airport you have the facilities for development; if you stultify an airport you can stultify and stunt development of that community. That is why I continue to be concerned about Brisbane airport. This morning I want to deal with one or two comments which have been made by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). This is not done in a venomous or vindictive way; it is done because I think that the Minister has been subject to very serious misinformation. I refer to a letter he wrote to the Australian National Travel Association in Queensland. It was addressed to the Queensland Manager, Mr Claringbould, and related to the Brisbane airport. I shall quote two sentences from that letter because they worry me. The first is:
In respect of Brisbane airport there are no real restrictions imposed on international movements at that airport by either the runway or the recently completed International Terminal facilities.
I will deal with that sentence now because it is grossly in error. The Minister stated that there were ‘no real restrictions’. I have available the flight habits of four international carriers, Boeing 707 aircraft, DC 10 aircraft, Qantas 747 aircraft and British Airways 747 aircraft. A Qantas 707 aircraft taking off from Brisbane airport with no freight but with 170 passengers and luggage, which is not the highest configuration, at 25 degrees centigrade cannot get to the nearest international port, Singapore. In fact, it falls 700 nautical miles short. At 34 degrees centigraderemember that this is a sub-tropical city international airport- its range is 1,000 nautical miles short of Singapore let alone Bangkok, Manila, Hong Kong or other ports which are available from both Sydney and Melbourne. A DC10 aircraft at 25 degrees centigrade with 300 passengers and luggage and no freight has a range which is at least 400 nautical miles short. At 34 degrees centigrade it is well over 550 nautical miles short of Singapore; so the aircraft cannot go to an international airport. The Qantas Airways Ltd 747, the new model -
-Yes, the 747B, at 25 degrees centigrade, not with the tourist configuration, with no freight and with 404 passengers, which is not the highest number of passengers, has a range which is 300 nautical miles short. At the higher temperature it is 450 nautical miles short. The British Airways aircraft, with the same configuration and with no freight, has either to unload passengers or to fly a shorter distance and land at Darwin or Sydney, where no real restrictions are imposed on international movements. At the lower temperature the British Airways aircraft has a range of 900 nautical miles short of Singapore. At the higher temperature its range is well over 1,000 nautical miles short of Singapore.
What concerns me is that the Minister for Transport- he is an excellent person and is not given to providing misinformation- has been very seriously misinformed. In the last sentence of that letter, which was written to the Queensland Board of the Australian National Travel Association and so is a public document, the Minister for Transport had this to say:
The main runway is adequate in length and strength for current and immediately foreseeable international aircraft traffic.
That is nonsense. It is not correct. Of course, he might apply the circuitous reasoning that the traffic is not high and therefore the facilities will not be made available. But, in fact, if we deny the faculties the traffic will not be there. So what should be an international airport becomes a second-rate domestic commuter airport. That is precisely what it is. It is for that reason that I have put two questions on notice to the Minister. I hope that he will answer them. I have asked him:
Will he inquire - this concerns his own State of Victoria- whether Qantas and the other international carriers to Australia would be content to have the main runway at Tullamarine airport 7,760 feet in length.
If that imposed no real restrictions, then no doubt the carriers would be delighted to have the Tullamarine runway length reduced by about 5,000 feet. Would the Minister be satisfied if, in fact, that were the length of the main runways at Tullamarine, Sydney or even Adelaide, which is the city from which the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) comes? Adelaide does not claim to be an international airport. It is not situated in a position where it would be, but its runway is significantly longer. So we continue to be concerned at the misinformation and misunderstanding which surround this issue. Members from Queensland have increased their concern. I shall take every opportunity to see that the truth is made known and that the facts are allowed to speak for themselves.
One further factor is that the capacity of the Brisbane Airport is limited. Calculations on the time at which that airport would come to capacity have been seriously in error. It has been suggested that it would be in the late 1 980s or the early 1990s. That capacity will be reached up to 10 years earlier than the original estimate because the growth of aircraft movements since the late 1960s has been at least two per cent a year in excess of the basis of the original calculations. Three of those years have been years of some recession in the aircraft industry. The recession, in terms of total movements, is now passing away. In fact, by the time of the Commonwealth Games, if the present position continues, there will be a queueing of aircraft in relation to Brisbane Airport. The queueing of aircraft in relation to an airport occurs just before that airport comes to its total capacity. So the time scale in which decisions have to be made concerning the promised new runway, for which support is total, is very short. The time scale is much shorter than people imagine. I know that the Minister will take these things to heart and respond to them.
My final point is that airports have an important relationship to the economic development of the community. Whereas once it was seaports, airports are the basis of the new means of travel in this century. If Australia’s development is to proceed on the path which we expect in the years to come- that is, in the north and the westQueensland and Western Australia will be- in fact they are- the most quickly developing parts of Australia. That will be an incontestible fact of life. The Industries Assistance Commission’s concern about the structure of the Australian economy is a reflection of that fact. It will be an utter absurdity, therefore, if the most quickly developing parts of Australia are to be the only parts which will be served with a totally inadequate airport, both domestic and international. That is the position at the moment. The time scale during which firm decisions have to be made is much shorter than the original calculations on capacity presumed it to be.
– I wish to touch on the events of yesterday and on the issue which was raised by this side of the House yesterday in the form of a matter of public importance. Before doing so I point out that we on this side of the House have said continually that the major issue in this country at the moment is the problem of people finding employment and that the Government’s lack of attention to this matter has meant that more and more people are becoming unemployed. The future outlook for the school leavers at the end of 1 977 is very bleak indeed. In fact, in many regions of Australia more than 50 per cent of those who will leave the schools and colleges will not find employment during 1978. We would like the Parliament to spend a great deal more time talking about this matter. We would like the Government to act on the request, which we have made previously, that a special parliamentary committee be formed to look at this matter more specifically than the Parliament as a whole can do, so that we can come up with the answers to overcome this problem. Despite all the requests we have made for the Parliament to pay greater attention to this matter, the Government is reluctant to do so. Instead, the Government would like to talk about trifling matters.
Yesterday I raised the question of donations to political parties and candidates. This is a matter with which I have been closely associated for more than 10 years. It is a matter which I have raised and spoken on in the Parliament on 20 or 30 occasions. I see it as a very important issue. In the course of the discussion on the matter of the alleged visit of the Uranium Producers Forum spokesman, Mr Mackay, to the Liberal Party headquarters, it was suggested by an honourable member on the Government side that he should be allowed to incorporate in Hansard a document of about SO pages which had not been shown to the Opposition. We members of Parliament have an enormous privilege in that anything we put into Hansard can be printed outside with impunity. That privilege caines with it some responsibility. Although the matter was initiated by only one honourable member, within a few hours the whole of the Government support had been put behind that honourable member and his attempt to have that document incorporated in Hansard. The document could have said anything. No member of the Government had read it. Yet the Government was prepared to have that document of 50 pages incorporated in Hansard, because it hoped that it would do some damage to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam).
That raises two matters: Firstly, it shows the desperation of this Government, which has nothing better to speak about. Secondly, in relation to the first point I made, we would like the Parliament to be talking about the issue of unemployment. Yesterday, the Government spent seven hours of parliamentary time trying to have that document, which no one had seen and which contained all sorts of allegations, incorporated in Hansard. I wish the Government would give us seven hours in which to discuss the problems of unemployment. I wish it would give us seven hours in which to talk about what will happen to all the school leavers. I wish honourable members opposite would give us seven hours in which to talk about political donations- which party is receiving what amounts and from what companies. This is an extremely important issue. I want to say a little more about it. The scurrilous way in which this Parliament was used yesterday by the Government and the activities of all the Ministers, from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) down, in an attempt to have this document incorporated in Hansard do not in any way detract from the point that we are making from this side of the House, namely, that there ought to be full disclosure of all the sources of donations to political parties.
Yesterday when I raised the matter not one of the senior Ministers or the collectors for the Liberal Party or the National Country Party came into the chamber to respond. The Government put up two back benchers, who have nothing at all to do with the collection of money for their respective parties. They talked in general terms of how they raised $2 and S 10 donations in thenelectorates and said that everything is honest. I have absolutely no reason to disbelieve them. I am not talking about the people within an electorate who give $2 or $4 or $10; I am talking about the major companies which could be giving $ 100,000 or, in the case of the Uranium Producers Forum, $500,000.
It took Mr Eggleton a week to deny that he held any discussion with Mr Mackay about donations from the Uranium Producers Forum to the Liberal Party for the next election. Of course, the Uranium Producers Forum desperately wants the Liberal Party and the National Country Party to be returned to office because their policy is to mine uranium as quickly as possible with the minimum of debate. Mr Eggleton said: ‘I did meet with Mr Mackay but we did not talk about funds’. This would have to be a strange coincidence. How many major spokesmen of industry go to see Mr Eggleton and do not talk about funds? Why would they go to see Mr Eggleton? A month ago statements on uranium were presented to this Parliament by six Ministers. Would honourable members not think that Mr Mackay would have sufficient sense to know that there would be no purpose in his seeing Mr Eggleton, who is not a spokesman for the Liberal Party or the National Country Party, who does not formulate policy for those parties but who is the director of the campaigns for the Liberal Party -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. A moment ago the honourable member for Port Adelaide acknowledged that Mr Eggleton had denied all these allegations. Now, having acknowledged that denial, the honourable member is constructing a case, once again built on allegations which have been denied.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There is no point of order.
-Mr Eggleton has said that they did not talk about funds. I want to know why on earth Mr Mackay would go to see Mr Eggleton if it was not to talk about funds. It is Mr Eggleton ‘s job to conduct election campaigns; it is his job to raise the funds. The Prime Minister has said in this Parliament on more than one occasion: ‘I have nothing to do with it’. Quite frankly, I do not believe that. He says that it is Mr Eggleton ‘s job. Mr Eggleton is meeting with these people and obviously they are talking about funds. It is of no good Mr Eggleton saying that he is meeting with spokesmen from major companies but they are not talking about funds.
This matter becomes increasingly important. Because of yesterday’s events everybody in Australia is entitled to believe that the Uranium Producers Forum has promised money to the Liberal Party-that it is buying the Liberal Party’s policies. We invite honourable members opposite to overcome this problem for the Liberal Party, the National Country Party and the Labor Party by supporting full disclosure of the source of any donations to a political party in this country. That is the only way in which to overcome the charges. Honourable members opposite know as well as I do that if we go to the polls in December, which at the moment appears to be the wish of the Prime Minister, each major party is going to need millions and not thousands of dollars. That cannot be raised in $2 donations. It is raised by massive donations. We and the people of Australia are entitled to know who is making those donations to the Liberal Party. Are its policies being framed on the basis of the money it is receiving from the major companies?
The only way in which the Liberal Party can answer that charge is by opening up its books and letting everybody in Australia see where the money comes from- see whether the Baillieus are donating to the Liberal Party on behalf of their companies. That is the only way in which the Australian people will be able to reach any conclusion about the honesty of government in this country. These disclosures are made right throughout the world. We can overcome this problem simply. We can stop wasting the time of this Parliament if the Liberal Party will accede to the request of the Labor Party, which has been made for years, that everybody who makes a donation to a political party ought to have his name made public.
Honourable members opposite yesterday said that the trade unions make donations. They do and the details are public. Every balance sheet of every trade union would show its political donations. But the companies hide theirs. This has been shown to be so in America, Germany and England. The only way in which the Liberal Party can answer the charge that Mr Mackay gave money to Mr Eggleton is to open up its books. Until such time as it does that we are going to continue to raise in this Parliament the fact that the Liberal-National Country parties’ policy on uranium has been bought by a massive donation from the Uranium Producers Forum.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) again got on his hobby horse which he has been riding for quite a long time. He seems to have only the one horse to ride. He is not making a very good job of it. He would be a very poor jockey. I should not like to back anything he was riding in the Melbourne Cup. He talked about the seven hours which were wasted yesterday and claimed that part of the reason for that time being wasted was that the Opposition had not had an opportunity to see the document. In fact, the document was tabled in the Senate; so there would have been plenty of opportunity for Opposition members to have studied that document. They would not need to have been geniuses to know that that was the same document as was presented yesterday because the document was talked about; it was known as the Fischer document. It had been tabled in the Senate. It was available to the Labor Party. To try to get out from under by saying they had not seen the document was only an excuse. I do not accept that as an excuse.
The time that was wasted yesterday was wasted as a result of an endeavour to stop the matter from being raised as a matter of public interest in this House. The waste of time rests clearly on the shoulders of the Labor Party. Had its members been prepared to accept the document when it was tabled and to have left it at that, none of this would have happened. As it was tabled in the Senate, why was there any difference?
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the honourable member for Maranoa to cast these reflections on the Chair? He will be aware that it was the Chair- Mr Speaker himself- who denied the incorporation in Hansard of this document Now that ruling has been challenged by the honourable member for Maranoa. That seems to me to be a reflection on the Chair.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There is no point of order. I accept the first part of the comments of the honourable member for Maranoa but not as they relate to the decision of Mr Speaker.
– It was not like you to reflect on the Chair, Jim. It is a shocking business.
– I am not reflecting on the Chair. I just said that if the Labor Party had not objected the document would have been tabled and that would have been the end of it. Those are the facts. I refer to the situation with regard to funds, of which the honorable member for Port Adelaide made such play. I emphasise that the funds that are received by the Liberal Party and the National Country Party come to them voluntarily; there are no strings attached. The Labor Party has to kotow to the leaders in the union movement for their funds or else it is in real trouble because that is where a lot of its funds come from. That is the big difference.
I had proposed to talk this morning about the Australian Telecommunications Commission. I shall do so now. The operations of the Telecommunications Commission are very important in my electorate, as they are in all outlying areas. They are important everywhere, but there is a particular need for the development of telecommunication services in the outlying areas. I shall read one of the duties of the Commission, among a number, and its functions. I cannot go through them all, but one of its duties is as follows:
The Commission shall perform its functions in such a manner as will best meet the social, industrial and commercial needs of the Australian people for telecommunications services and shall, so far as it is, in its opinion, reasonably practicable to do so, make its telecommunications services available throughout Australia for all people who reasonably require those services.
I know that the Telecommunications Commission is limited by the funds that are made available to it and that those funds have been reduced. It has to find some 50 per cent of the cost of capital works. Nevertheless, the fact remains that we do need a telecommunications service thoughout the nation. If there is to be some further Treasury subvention, if some alteration is to be made to the duties or the functions of the Commission, then I ask the Minister and the Government to look very carefully at that matter. I shall continue to outline the functions of the Commission:
In performing its functions in accordance with subsection ( 1 ) the Commission-
I congratulate the Government on the interest that it has taken in that area and on the progress that has been made in the area of satellite communications. The Commission shall also have regard to this matter.
That is a very good thing, but it is not possible to operate an economic service in the outlying areas of this country. That should not mean that those areas should be deprived of that service, because telecommunications generally has to be looked at from the point of view of both economic operation and service to the community. The final matter to which the Commission shall have regard is this:
So that is clearly laid down in the functions of the Commission. Although I have mentioned the factors to which the Commission should give consideration, that factor must not be lost sight of. The Minister would know that he has ministerial control over the Commission. He would know that he may, after consultation with the Commission, give to the Commission in writing such directions, with respect to the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers, as appear to the Minister to be necessary in the public interest. The Minister has a responsibility, as does the Government, to try to limit expenditure with the object of controlling inflation. That is a matter of priorities, and I urge the Minister to give it consideration. I am sure that he would be sympathetic to the suggestion that he should give a higher priority to the aspect of government control of our economy, and indeed, of our communications services. It should be noted also that alterations to charges for services may be made only with the approval of the Minister. It is another matter for congratulation that we have been able to hold these charges in spite of the rising costs. That is to the credit of the Minister and to the Government. I am very happy to be able to pay a tribute to the Minister because it is something for which the Government can take some credit.
One thing that is not usually realised is how the Commission operates in an endeavour to carry out its functions and duties. The Commission presently provides free installation of telephone lines to all subscribers who live within 12 kilometres of an automatic telephone exchange. That represents an enormous benefit to those people. It is a wonderful setup for them. The Commission provides that service to approximately 97 per cent of telephone subscribers in this country, and that represents an enormous number of people. Why then should the other 3 per cent of subscribers have to pay those unbearable costs involved in installing a telephone? If a subscriber is 20 miles away- I think the equivalent is 30 kilometres- he has to pay something like $6,000 over three years at bank rate of interest to have a telephone installed. If a subscriber lived 32 kilometres from a telephone exchange he would have to pay some $6,400 or proportionately less as the distance is reduced. Under present conditions in the rural industry these charges are definitely beyond the capacity of many people to pay and they represent an extremely difficult financial burden on many other people.
I have put a proposition to the Commission, of which the Minister would be aware. In the absence of free line installation for a distance of 24 kilometres, which the Government did at one time allow and which I contend should still apply, I submitted to the Commission the following plan in relation to the payment for line construction:
Interest free loans be provided for subscribers to meet the cost of line construction. The repayment of such loans to be spread over a period of five years but not to exceed $500 annually and where necessary the period of repayment should be extended to meet this maximum annual repayment of $500.
I have time to read only the last two paragraphs of the reply from the Telecommunications Commission:
There must be a limit, though, to the extent to which capital investment and operating expenses can be incurred in rural areas without affecting the level of service and facilities provided in the more closely settled areas where the need for telephone service is just as great and, from the Commission’s viewpoint, certainly more profitable.
Having regard to Telecom Australia’s overall commitments, it is regretted that the way is not clear to adopt your suggestion that the existing instalment scheme be extended to provide for longer term interest free loans. However, I would like to assure you that the policy governing the provision of rural telephone services is kept under regular review and the Commission will not hesitate to introduce any further modifications that are found to be practicable.
The only thing I want to say about all that is that I challenge the statement that the need is just as great in the metropolitan areas. I know that telephone services are essential for business. I know that people need to have a telephone service in the metropolitan areas. I believe that the cities and the country areas have to work together. We do not want to deny the city areas reasonable access to telephone services, but I submit that their need is not as great. The need in the more isolated areas is greater. I believe that the people who live in the isolated areas have greater social problems. Honourable members should imagine the position of the people who live in isolated areas.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have a number of grievances to raise. I only hope that I have time to cover them all. One of my grievances is that the Speaker has chosen for discussion today as a matter of public importance a Government motion instead of one that I proposed. I believe that is wrong. We saw yesterday how the Government can use its numbers to bring on for debate any business which it chooses, even if it results in a serious downgrading of the standards in this House.
-I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Somebody is trying to interrupt my speech and take up my time.
– The honourable member has made a serious reflection upon the Speaker.
-In reply to the point of order taken by the honourable member for St George, I point out that so far what the honourable member for Adelaide has said is not a reflection on the Speaker. An honourable member has the right to say that in his opinion the decision of the Speaker is wrong. Until the honourable member for Adelaide continues his remarks it is not possible for me to know what he is going to say. I suggest to the honourable member, however, that he does not continue to debate the decision of the Speaker. I call the honourable member for Adelaide.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure I am in order in pointing out in a grievance debate that the time taken up in discussing a matter of public importance should be that of the Opposition. I believe it is a contravention of fair play to give that time to the Government. I know that the precedent -
-I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-I am aware of your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I intend to stay within it. I know that there are precedents for this sort of thing.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member for Adelaide that the decision and the choice of the Speaker cannot be debated in the House. They are the two points that I made, and I think that the honourable member for Adelaide has made sufficient comment on the matter of public importance.
-By its desire to bring on a matter of public importance as a means by which to bash the unions- it could do that in its own time instead of taking up the time available to the Opposition- the Government is attempting to move away from the central issue facing this country at the present time, and that is the rotten state of the economy, the mismanagement of the economy, the way in which the population is being deceived by statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). That is the very subject that I wanted to raise. I mentioned in the course of my remarks earlier the performance in this House yesterday.
-Order! I think I should say to the honourable member that there is in the phrase that he used an implication that the Speaker in making his decision was influenced by the Government. I hope that the honourable member for Adelaide was not intending in any way to make that implication.
– I do not make that implication, if it is in contravention of the Standing Orders. The claims I make are directed against the Government and its priorities and its use of what should be Opposition time in this Parliament.
-Order! In this particular instance the decision is that of the Speaker. Any comment which implies any influence or any comment relating to the Government is indirectly an implication that the Speaker has been influenced by the Government. I suggest to the honourable member that his remarks should not contain any implication or suggestion along those lines.
-Most of my time has now been successfully taken up by the decision -
-I suggest that that has been the fault of the honourable member himself because he has not been able to appreciate the rules of courtesy and the Standing Orders.
– I had already moved on to another subject when I was once again interrupted. 1 consider that I have already dealt with that subject. I am moving on to yesterday’s disturbances in this House.
-The reference to Mr Speaker was still there, even though the honourable member had moved on.
-In my reaction to what you had to say, I said that my complaint- my grievance- is against the Government and its priorities. After all, this is a Grievance Debate, or what is left of it. I make the point that the Government could use its numbers, abuse its numbers, again today to bring on such a subject rather than to send a letter to the Speaker. Then it is the Speaker’s choice, I agree. He has his reasons for making that choice. Under Standing Orders, I do not reflect on his choice.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-This is another misuse of the Standing Orders of this Parliament to take up my time. It will be a spurious point of order.
– My point of order is that as well as a Government and an Opposition there are private members in this House. The Speaker has every right to accept a matter of public importance from anyone in this House.
-There is no point of order.
-As I suggested, it was just another ruse to take up the time of the Opposition in talking about matters such as the economy, unemployment and those thousands of school leavers who will not be able to find jobs when they leave school shortly. Instead, all we get from this Government are smokescreens, such as yesterday’s effort, taking up seven hours of the time of this Parliament, as the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) said. Today honourable members opposite are seeking to take up the time of the House- this time on trade union bashing- in order to deceive the people of this country about the real issue. I have something more that I want to say about yesterday’s news.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I ask the honourable member to withdraw the claim that by my raising a matter of public importance I am seeking to deceive people.
-There is no point of order. The comment of the honourable member for Adelaide was a general comment.
– I mentioned yesterday’s performance in this House. Let me say that another gross abuse of fair play was the coverage given to yesterday’s performance by Macquarie news this morning. If the journalists servicing that news have any sense of fairness they will redress the imbalance- the wrong impressionthat their news coverage today gave of yesterday’s proceedings. They displayed such a lack of judgment that they had the cheek to run only the version of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) of yesterday’s events. The greatest cause of the downgrading of the standards of this House yesterday, namely that honourable member, is allowed to mislead the people outside this place by giving his version on air.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide put the record straight but I say it again: The long document of Mr Henry Fischer relating to the Iraqi loans affair had been tabled in the Senate in April last year. Everything had already been disclosed. The Labor Opposition had nothing to hide. That disposes of the first lie. Our opposition was to the placing in Hansard of such a long document in contravention of Standing Order 76. It was a gross abuse of the forms of this House that that was attempted. The Speaker was clearly uncomfortable but powerless. Yet the cynical Liberal and National Country Party members, who have a big majority in this House, used their tyranny of numbers to drag this institution through the dirt in the way that they did.
Of course relationships broke down. Of course tempers were lost. Of course things were said on this side of the House, as well as on the other side of the House, which should not have been said. All of this comes back to what honourable members opposite were doing- using tyranny of numbers to do something which should not have been done- to seek to incorporate that document in Hansard. It all comes back to what I said in the few minutes available to me between the points of order by back bench oncer members, that is, that in order to take the people’s minds away from the economy, unemployment and other matters of great concern to this nation they create smokescreens such as union bashing. They manufacture differences relating to all sorts of subjects. They take the people’s minds away from unemployment and create scenes in the House such as the one yesterday in order to divert people’s attention.
That brings me to another grievance. Liberal and Country Party back bench members are acting disgracefully, individually as well as collectively, in order to divert attention from the real issues. Last Friday, 16 September, an article appeared in the Sydney Daily Mirror and the Adelaide News, written by Trevor Kavanagh, entitled ‘M.P. Afraid After Row On Latham’. It is, to say the least, a fabrication of a story, fabricated by the present, temporary member for
Phillip (Mr Birney) for personal publicity purposes. The journalist admitted in a telephone conversation with me that he took the story partly from an Australian Associated Press journalist who was far removed from the action; he could not have been further, up in the Gallery, from where the action took place in the House. Mr Kavanagh took only part of the story from that journalist. He took the rest of it from the honourable member for Phillip, as to what occurred in the corridors of this place.
The honourable member for Phillip is well known for the shallow evening newspaper stories that he creates or weaves together. Usually he gets his wife, one Toni McRae, to put them in the Mirror’s rival, the Sydney Sun. This time it was obviously more than even she could swallow. I understand that the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) is issuing a writ for damages against the Mirror newspaper for the way his name was dragged into the story. Suffice for me to say categorically that at no time was the honourable member for Phillip threatened in any way by anyone in this Parliament.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I feel quite certain that members of the public who may have been listening to the debate so far today would have a feeling of revulsion towards this Parliament. One could not disagree with their summary when one considers the quality of some of the contributions made. (Quorum formed). Honourable members opposite do not even like a description of their behaviour this morning in mild terms. They have commenced calling attention to the state of the House. We have sat here silently and heard accusations from such small minded people as the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), who made the crazy claim that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) drove around the streets of Canberra at 180 kilometres an hour- 108 miles an hour. That is an example of the low level of the contributions made today by Opposition members who seem to have woken up this morning, beaten their chests and thought: Let us go out and do a little bit of muck raking regardless of whether truth exists. That has been the level of their contributions. The Prime Minister did not- absolutely did not- drive around the streets of Canberra at 108 miles an hour. Yet the honourable member for Shortland stood here in the Parliament, looked honourable members on this side straight in the eyes, and claimed that it was true. Little wonder that at times the people of Australia have little regard for the veracity of many members of this Parliament. As the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has often said, it is refreshing to go back into the courts on occasions and mix with honest men. No wonder he formed that opinion, after seeing the performance of a number of members.
The example cited was typical of how unfortunate and inaccurate the claims and assertions of Opposition members have been today. The most unfortunate spectacle was that of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) attacking the Prime Minister for having allowed Mrs Fraser to use a VIP plane for the purpose of going to the opera. Here was the Prime Minister of Australia, the busiest man in the country, having accepted an invitation to visit the opera to honour the presence of Joan Sutherland, suddenly being faced with a dilemma. At 7 o’clock at night the nation’s business remained unfinished. Much as he wanted to go to the opera, he had little alternative but to ring up and say: ‘I am sorry. I must continue working for Australia. I shall send my wife in my place, to represent me and the position I hold as Australia’s Prime Minister’.
We heard the minuscule minded honourable member for Melbourne ask a question. Then we saw the performance by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), who took great umbrage at the fact that the Prime Minister had suggested that Mrs Whitlam had flown in a VIP aircraft on her own. The explanation given later, when the Leader of the Opposition suddenly realised that he had put his big foot into it, was more than acceptable. That was: ‘The plane was going from Sydney to Canberra. Why should not the Prime Minister’s wife have ridden on the plane if it was available?’ Exactly the same argument applies to the explanation given by the present Prime Minister in relation to Mrs Fraser suddenly having to step into his shoes and represent him at the opera. It is a very poor reflection on the quality of debate and the intelligence level of honourable members opposite when they try to make political capital on such matters. Every thinking member of this House, if he were the Prime Minister- God forbid that most honourable members opposite will ever get even into the Ministry, let alone become Prime Minister- would have done exactly the same thing as Prime Minister Fraser did. Yet because they are not in that position they see fit to hurl mud.
– Gough is misleading the House.
– I am not interested in the ex-Prime Minister, the present leader of the Opposition, misleading the House.
He had forgotten all about it. That is more to the point. Quite frankly, it is such a small issue that it could be forgotten.
In the minutes remaining to me I take the opportunity to grieve at the fact that a matter which was raised months ago still has not been resolved. Honourable members will recall that Senator Colston, a Labor senator from Queensland, reported me to the Commissioner for Community Relations, Mr Grassby. That was last April. I think it was on 1 April. I thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke. Obviously it was not. We are now heading towards the end of September and this issue is still going on. The last communication I had from Mr Grassby, on 18 August, asked me to be prepared to be in attendance at negotiations aimed at conciliating the sodescribed aggrieved parties.
– You were vindicated in the court.
-That is quite correct. I made certain claims. I do not want to repeat what I said then. It would only raise the issue again in this place. Mr Grassby, with the powers which he holds under the Racial Discrimination Act as the Commissioner, has an obligation to come to grips with the matter and to say to Senator Colston: ‘Mr Cameron claimed that a group of people were doing this? Since then nine people have been charged. I think the facts are that four have been convicted, three have been committed for trial and the trials of the two others are part heard. If ever there was evidence to prove the honourable member for Griffith correct, there it stands’. I simply ask the Minister responsible for this man to step in and say: ‘Let us bring this to an end’. This matter is causing me great personal stress. It is going on and on. Who knows, Mr Grassby might think that perhaps in a year’s time -
-Order! It is now 12.45 p.m., and in accordance with Standing Order 106 the debate is interrupted and I put the question ‘That grievances be noted’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Speaker has received letters from both the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) and the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107 he has selected one matter, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for St George, namely:
The threat to the democratic process and the Australian economy by the actions of trade union leaders, particularly in the building industry.
I therefore 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 democratic process in this country stands inperilled by the actions of arrogant trade union bosses. There are men in this country who care nothing for our system of government, our traditions or our way of life. They are determined solely to bring down Australia. They are often in a position to manipulate members of trade unions who would wish to disown their leaders but are unable to do so because of intimidation, trickery and other underhand methods. Today we have heard that a bans clause has been inserted in the Building Workers Industrial Union award. What was the reaction, as told to me, of Mr Gallagher? Apparently he said on radio that the BWIU will now go into conference to determine how it can institute a program of industrial disruption throughout Australia.
– It was the builders ‘ labourers.
-I am informed that it was the builders’ labourers. This mentality is typical of the direct threat to our democracy posed by these types of people.
I point out broadly what has been said about them by Mr Paul Johnson in England, before I deal with the Australian situation. Mr Johnson has been a member of the Labour Party in that country for many years. He has been an editor of the New Statesman. He is determined now to leave the Labour Party because its policies have taken a disastrously wrong turn away from humanity and liberty and towards repression and fascism. He points out that in England the prevailing view taken by the majority of union bosses in the Left is that liberty is conforming to majority opinion. The British labour movement is being followed by the union groups in Australia. A tremendous bureaucracy has been built up. In the last few years, partly because of the way in which people in this country have been misled- young people often have been beguiled by propaganda- we have seen a tremendous expansion of the theories of the Left within the Labour movement. They dominate members of the Parliamentary Labor Party nowadays. Their masters are the Marxists and other protagonists in the trade union movement. Paul Johnson sees this clearly. He sees the way in which governments in his own country have given in. He points to the development of violence. He says, very sensibly, that in a civilised community politics ought to be a substitute for violence. But the system is failing. Violence feeds on its triumphs over the law.
I will not dwell too much on what has happened in England, because the situation is getting as bad in this country. What have we seen in the past few years? We have seen examples such as the BWIU a few years ago purporting to impose a fine of $2,000 on the employer of a foreman who was involved in a matter of assault. I have always thought that there is one system of courts in this country which looks after everybody and to which everybody has recourse. I did not believe that any trade union group could set itself up as a judicial body and fine people. The sooner we legislate to ban these purported judicial actions, the better.
In the past few years we have seen a growth in the incidence of violence amongst trade unions. Much of it has been caused by the incredible factionalism within the union movement itself, with numerous different groups of communists all vying with each other. In some circumstances they have attacked each other’s offices. A few years ago members of the Builders Labourers Federation charged into the Australian Labor Party conference and beat people up. What does the Australian Labor Party do about this violence? It turns the other cheek because it is being pushed around and there is not much it can do about it.
– Two Federal members have been beaten here at Parliament House.
-I am informed that two Federal members have been beaten. That is a shocking thing and I am sure that no one could condone it. Mr Gallagher has said that the union movement should be above the ordinary law. A lot of union leaders take that view. A short time ago Bob Pringle said: ‘If you do not do what we tell you, next time I will bring 2,000 men, and none of you will live through it.’ That was said during the trouble in Victoria Street. I remember what happened in Victoria Street very well because I had some connection with the proceedings there. I remember occasions, both at Victoria Street and at The Rocks, when there was violence, when there was intimidation and when photographs of individual unionists and politicians were put up all round the place with slogans written all over them saying that these men were to be stopped, that they were to be beaten. There was incitement to violence. These men were portrayed almost as fugitives from justice. The statements in many of the pamphlets were to the effect that they were to be beaten up. We saw what happened when the Builders Labourers Federation got into an argument and invaded the Building Workers Industrial Union premises in Sydney, and eventually had to pay damages for what occurred.
We see now a direct challenge. I very much regret to say that in recent times it has shown some signs of succeeding. The Government has to find ways to deal with these things. Our trade with Indonesia and our trade with Chile in wheat have come to a complete standstill. Do these unions think they can run the foreign policy of this country? Apparently they do. But there is only one elected government, and it is time they learned that. The unions made threats and sought to use blackmail over the uranium issue. The average Australian fully realises that the democratic process has to take its proper course. It is the democratic process that determines these matters, and governments determine these matters. But do these people believe that? They do not believe a word of it.
The latest thing we see is a planned program for the building industry. Mr Gallagher has put out a pamphlet entitled ‘Let That Guerilla Loose’. In it he calls upon all members of his association to embark upon a campaign of guerilla action in the industry. He says: ‘Stop monkeying around’. What does that mean? Clearly, it is an incitement to disruption and violence. Then he talks about simple little things. He says that ‘the guerilla is our best weapon’. Then he talks about go slow action, working shorter hours, refusing to unload various trucks, not starting crucial concrete pourings, taking afternoon smokos and the like.
When one looks through the campaign one sees that what he is suggesting is a combination of subtle coercion and blatant physical intimidation. We all know of cases where, for example, the floor of a building will require 20 pourings and the men say that they will pour nineteen of them and leave the twentieth. They deliberately determine not to pour it. In other cases they may stop running the concrete machines half way through the job so that the physical proceedings on the site become clogged. I still do not understand why these people have not been the subject of police action. I just do not understand why the law has not been enforced against people who carry out what can only amount to blatant intimidatory acts of criminal sabotage.
There is a need for the Government to strengthen its powers to prevent breaches of the law. I want to make it quite clear that I am not opposed to the ordinary right to strike. I have said that in this House on many occasions. But that right is being completely abused. If a person does not work he should not be paid. If he refuses to work he should be dismissed. What is going on in Melbourne and Sydney at present is an attempt to get away from those simple, ordinary, fair principles. Let those people have their strike but if they are going to work a 30-hour week they should be paid only for the 30 hours. Why should employers be paying them for 40 hours? I would really like to know why an industrial commissioner recently recommended that strikers should be paid for five of the seven weeks that they were on strike. That is absolutely incredible.
This leads me to make a number of what I hope are positive suggestions for dealing with some of these matters. I talk in general principles. Firstly, it is vital, in my view, for the Government to institute a procedure for secret ballots, at least in proposed national strikes. I know that it is claimed that having ballots for strikes causes difficulty. We should start with the secret ballot for a national strike. I know all about the argument against this idea. (Quorum formed). Secondly, there should be antiblackmail legislation so that no commissioner or judge will have to take cognisance of claims of further industrial disruption when he is making a decision. We have had the case in New South Wales of a swimming instructor, a case in Melbourne and a number of other cases- one in Broken Hill- where the courts have allowed a person to be fired simply because to put him back would mean that there would be further disruption. We should reinforce the right of employers not to pay people who are on strike.
One day a year should be set aside for union elections. I know that union elections may come around every two or three years, but one day should be set aside on which people could go to some appropriate place and cast their votes in a secret ballot. We have to democratise the unions and made the bosses responsible to their membership, we have to remove the totalitarian aspects of the leadership that presently exist and all these other problems that have been occurring. The time is long overdue for us to take steps to ensure that violence within unions is stamped out. I refer particularly to Mr Hawke ‘s claim that there will be bloodshed and to the claim by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) that there will be fighting outside the Parliament.
These are disgraceful statements. There should be more use of the civil law and the proper injunction procedures that were used in South Australia recently to ensure that many of these abuses are contained. I am quite certain that employers would go ahead and take these actions if they were given an indication that the Government would support them. In particular, government instrumentalities should do so. It was a great pity that the New South Wales government of the day did not press on and use the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority to take proper action at law to deal with some of the abuses that took place.
I wish to talk further about the morale aspect. Employers are seriously concerned that the Government is not giving them enough assistance. We have to make sure that we stand by employers because some of the stirrers, as well as operating in the cities, are now moving out to the suburbs and affecting building projects of ordinary small businessmen. They are causing costs to go up and uncertainty. Projects are not being undertaken. As a result there is a loss in terms of contribution to the national effort and this loss is reflected in the rate of inflation and the level of unemployment. Despite the fact that unemployment is a great problem, it is estimated that 30,000 people have been thrown out of their jobs because of actions taken by building workers union bosses.
Action must be taken also in relation to corruption. The Government should do something to stop many of the practices about which we are told- about Jack Mundey taking off green bans only when he is paid to do so. These allegations have to be investigated as soon as possible by an appropriate royal commission.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
-I call the honourable member for Burke.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the State of the House.
The bells being rung-
-I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You called the honourable member for Burke before your attention was drawn to the state of the House but the clock is not running.
– Normally when a quorum is called the time of the honourable member concerned does not start until after the quorum is formed. It is considered that there are not sufficient members in the House for business to commence, therefore, the honourable member’s time does not start until there are sufficient members in the House to qualify for the business of the House to commence.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, could I have a few more minutes of speaking time to make up for the time lost as a result of the disruption by the Opposition?
-There is no substance to that point of order. I would point out that there is a difference between a quorum called at the commencement of a sitting and one called when the business of the House is proceeding. (Quorum formed). I call the honourable member for Burke.
– Before the sitting of the House was suspended we were treated to a dissertation by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil). Lord forbid that I should ever be charged before the courts of this land but if I am I would prefer that the honourable gentleman prosecute me than defend me. His argument was neither sound nor logical. He quoted the words of Mr Paul Johnson, an Englishman frequently quoted by those who oppose the Labor Party because that same man opposes the Labor Party. If we follow that through logically, with Mr Paul Johnson being such an authority on the Labor Party and if we need to know anything about the Liberal Party, I suppose we should speak for the honourable member for Hotham, Mr Chipp, who holds the same regard for the Liberal Party as Mr Johnson holds for the Labor Party. However, I want to read again the subject of the discussion of this matter of public importance which was in the letter written by the honourable member for St George to Mr Speaker. The subject is:
The threat to the democratic process and the Australian economy by the actions of Trade Union leaders, particularly in the building industry.
– Hail Mary full of grace.
-Good Lord, is there another full moon today? The matter that seems to attract the attention of the honourable member for St George is the threat to the democratic process and, by implication, the threat to the Australian economy. In that area he has attacked the wrong people. If he is looking at the threat to the democratic process in Australia he should be looking to the Government he supports. If he is looking to a deterioration in and a threat to the Australian economy, again he should be looking to the Government he supports. It is that Government which has brought inflation to its highest peak for 40 years and has brought unemployment to its highest level since the tune of the Great Depression. This is causing great harm and doing great injury to the democratic processes of our country and to its financial stability. The honourable member also supports a government that has gone out of its way to bring in the most undemocratic industrial legislation in the Western world. The legislation introduced was quite horrific.
I do wish that members of the Liberal Party would speak in unison, whether they be members of this House or of other parliaments. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) made a speech on 23 June this year to the Japan-Australia Society. In it he spoke about the reduction in industrial disputes in Australia and pointed out that we have had the lowest number of disputes since 1968. 1 will shortly cite some statistics to prove that point. The Minister went on to say that this significant reduction in time lost had been maintained this year. Indeed, he said, the March quarter figures recently released by the Australian Government Statistician showed the lowest loss for any March quarter for five years, and the number of employees involved was the lowest in ten years. Those are not my words; they are the words of the Government’s Minister. Later in that speech he said- this is something that honourable members opposite should bear in mind if they really care about people working in industry, which I sincerely doubt- that in Australia the time lost due to industrial accidents per year is generally greater than that due to industrial disputes. But when do government supporters stand in this House and demand legislation to prevent people being sent onto jobs that are not safe? We never hear them making such demands. Rather, we hear the sort of thing that the honourable member for St George was telling us about and which represents his special recipe for resolving disputes.
Listen to the words of the Premier of Victoria, that discredited Liberal Party Premier, Mr Hamer. He said in February this year during a news conference in the United States of Amenca that, to use his own words, reports of strikes and industrial unrest in Australia were exaggerated. I point out again that that statement was made by a prominent member of the Liberal Party, not a member of the Labor Party and not some person who has resigned from the Labor Party and is taking out his spleen on it.
The honourable member for St George advocates the most violent police action against unions, in common with his attitude towards most things. He said that there should be a procedure for secret ballots on national strikes. I want to take the minds of honourable members back to the air traffic controllers dispute earlier this year. It need never have come about if we had had a Prime Minister who was not being provocative and trying to drive people into a corner by making die comment: “They will not get a cent out of me’. One would think that he was paying their wages out of his own pocket. That dispute caused disruption. All strikes cause disruption. The honourable member for St George strongly supports the view that people have the right to strike. He told us that today. He said that there should be a procedure whereby secret ballots are held on national strikes. The air traffic controllers adopted that procedure, and they are not affiliated with the Australian Labor Party or the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The air traffic controllers organisation held a secret ballot of its members through Australia.
– How many voted?
-They all voted and responded very strongly in favour of taking strike action, so they went on strike. The next point is that you do not have a secret ballot about whether people will go on strike. A corollary is required. A ballot is held to determine whether they will stay on strike or go back to work at the appropriate time. The air traffic controllers did so. The dispute was extended for some three or four days because of mail delays. The procedure took some three or four days longer than it should have taken. In the first ballot they decided to stay on strike. This is not a matter of union bosses breathing down the necks of their members as the honourable member for St George would like the people of Australia to believe. The members themselves decided that action in a secret ballot. That is the sort of action which occurs in every place of work where men decide to withdraw their labour. Honourable members opposite will try to kick that around and try to delude the people but they know in their own minds that what I say is true.
The honourable member for St George also referred to anti-blackmail legislation. I am blessed if I know what he meant by that remark. He did not explain it to us very well. What he means by anti-blackmail legislation, I guess, is some sort of legislation designed to prevent negotiation and conciliation of disputes. If the employer gives the men what they want, in the mind of the honourable member for St George the men are blackmailing the employer. I would invite the honourable member to read the Preamble to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
The Preamble to that Act makes it quite clear that the Act exists to prevent and resolve disputes, not to start them. Yet every piece of industrial legislation that this Government has introduced has been designed to provoke and start disputes. Never has the Government introduced legislation designed to resolve them.
I missed the third point that was made by the honourable member. I apologise for that, but my mind had drifted off by then because the speech was so uninteresting. The honourable member said that one day a year should be set aside for elections, but again he did not explain how this would be done. How do we pick up a shearer in some shed in the outback of Australia- or does he not have the right to vote? Was the honourable member talking about only people who work in the cities? Does he realise that trade unions are national and have members working in every part of the country? Obviously honourable members opposite have overlooked those points in putting forward this pie-eyed proposition which is impracticable and unworkable.
The honourable member claimed that unemployment was caused by strikes. Before I deal with unemployment let me mention a few statistics relating to the number of working days lost in the first five months of each year from 1968 to 1977. Since this Government came to office there has been a reduction in working days lost.
– Very good.
-Of course it is good. It is the sort of thing for which everybody aims. But that does not please the Government. The number of working days lost has gone from 1,243,600 in 1965 to 559,800 in 1977. There has been a continued reduction in respect of those five months. So, to say that the trade unions are irresponsible and are being forced out on strike, obviously is quite incorrect. (Quorum formed). I have illustrated to the nation that the trade unions are not irresponsible in terms of working days lost through unnecessary industrial stoppages.
Honourable members opposite would agree that housing is part of the construction industry. Rather than talk about unemployment being increased because of the actions of trade unions in the construction industry, they simply should turn to the Budget introduced in the Parliament this year. In it they will find that in real money terms the money allocated to the States for housing assistance- that is, for low cost or welfare housing for people on low incomes- this year has been reduced by $22.5m. In other words, the Government would need to add $22.5m to the amount it has allocated just to equal the allocation that was made last year. Of course, that must mean a reduction in the number of those houses built. What a cardinal sin that is. There are 6,000 people on the waiting list of the Housing Commission of Victoria anxiously waiting for welfare housing, and this Government has cut back funds to that extent. Even more important -
– And then it blames the unions.
-And then it blames the unions, as my colleague has said. Those houses are not being built. What happens then? A round-up of statistics shows that there has been a decline in the production of clay bricks, of portland cement and of all the other things that go into the construction of houses. Newspapers circulated in the Gippsland electorate tell us that the Drouin sawmill is to close down. It manufactures timber housing frames for Melbourne. So, who is doing injury to the construction industry in Australia? It is not the Australian Labor Party but the Government, by not providing funds for the industry and by making specious remarks. Has the Government not seen the latest unemployment figures? Has it not seen the dramatic climb in the number of people employed in Australia? Does it not know that there are carpenters, bricklayers and concrete layers among those unemployed? Is it doing anything to get those men back to work? Of course it is not.
Yet its supporters come in here with this trumped up matter of public importance that was only ever an exercise in union bashing anyway. The honourable member for St George, bloody-minded as he is, knows that that is so. That is what it is all about. The Government wants to distract the minds of the Australian people from the ailing economy and the skyrocketing unemployment rate. It knows that they are the matters which concern the people and it is determined to deflect their thinking away from those matters. However, the Opposition will not be deflected. On every possible occasion we will let the people know how the Government has mismanaged the economy, how it has escalated unemployment and how it uses all sorts of cooked books to try to show that the inflation rate is not escalating. There are a number of other instances I could bring forward, but I notice that the clock is marching on. There are other areas where this disruptive and destructive Government -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is now concluded.
Select Committee on Tourism
-(Herbert)-by leave-I wish to make a statement on behalf of the Select Committee on Tourism on an issue which has been generating a great deal of publicity in recent months. The particular issue is that of advance booking airline charter flights to and from Australia. The last 30 years have seen many changes in the nature of airline operations. International air travel is no longer restricted to a small elite and is now a method of mass transportation. The United States-Europe route has developed from being exclusively a series of scheduled flights at one price. The introduction of economy fares was followed by advance booking affinity group charters. A more recent introduction has been the walk-on walk-off service, where tickets are purchased at the airport on the day of departure and in-flight services are kept to a rninimum.
The system at present operating to and from Australia is mainly that of scheduled services. In May of this year a Mr Laker of Laker Airways Ltd appeared before the Committee and outlined his plans for an advance booking charter operation between Australia and Europe. Mr Laker proposed 104 flights each year between Australia and Europe. He has made a submission to the Department of Transport outlining his plans but has yet to make a formal application. The Australia-United Kingdom fares suggested by Mr Laker are significantly below the lowest presently available to the general public, that is, the advance purchase excursion fares known as APEF offered by Qantas Airways Ltd and British Airways. He has proposed a $530 offseason return fare in contrast with the present $850 APEF fare, and a $834 high season fare compared with the present $ 1 1 50 APEF fare. Mr Laker claims that his fares would create a new category passenger and create a new segment of demand. He argues that the market from Europe which he would be tapping would be people planning to stay one to two weeks in Australia the holiday pleasure market.
Qantas has appeared before the Committee on two occasions. In January of this year it outlined the possible effects of increased charter flights on the scheduled services between Australia and Europe. Qantas concluded that the transfer of a significant number of passengers to charter services would leave insufficient traffic to justify the continuation of scheduled services between Australia and many countries in Europe.
An alternative was for a strict ceiling to be set on charter capacity and to provide a limited number of charters only in the two largest markets of Sydney/London and Melbourne/London. At a later hearing earlier this month Qantas stated that it would be possible for either Qantas or its charter subsidiary Qantair to mount advance booking charters between Australia and Europe with a range of prices similarly attractive to those being quoted by Laker. Qantas noted however that a lot more analysis was required before specific rates could be suggested.
The Australian Tourist Commission and many other witnesses who have appeared before the Committee have suggested the introduction of more charter flights to Australia. The introduction of more generally available charter flights between Australia and Europe would probably have some effect on scheduled services as well as increasing the number of travellers to and from Australia. However, neither Laker nor Qantas has provided satisfactory estimates of the effect of low price charters on overall demand. The Department of Transport acknowledged that tourist travel to Australia by air would be affected by the cost of travel and the level of transport services provided. In evidence given prior to the appearance of Laker the Department claimed that the lowest possible fares will be most likely achieved by scheduled carriers using price differentiation. The Department suggested that it would be virtually impossible for a charter flight operator to better the $850 fare.
The Committee’s attention has been drawn to a September 1973 report by the Sub-Committee on Aviation of the Committee on Commerce of the United States Senate on Inclusive Tour Charters. The report noted:
At that time, 1966, the effect of the Inclusive Tour Charters on the total air transport system was unknown, and the restrictions were designed to prevent the impairment of scheduled service. The Committee believes that experience since that time has indicated, however, that charter competition is not nearly as great a threat to scheduled service as was once thought.
That Committee suggested further liberalisation or charter flight rules subject to a monitoring by the United States Civil Aeronautics Board to ensure that essential scheduled services should be maintained. The report also noted:
The Committee recognises that until there has been some actual experience with one stop Inclusive Tour Charters the Board will have no empirical basis for determining whether there are markets in which restraints should be imposed.
Our Committee believes as a first principle that promotion of travel to and from Australia can only benefit from the availability of cheaper air fares. Further, none of the views so far put to the Committee on the disadvantages of charter flights of the type proposed by Laker have been substantiated by experience. This Committee considers that there is a strong case to be made for the introduction of advance booking charter flights between Australia and Europe along the lines proposed by Mr Laker. This should be on a trial basis of two nights a week for up to two years. Longer term arrangements would need to be determined in the light of the experience gained during the trial period. This experience would include the influence on real consumer demand and the effect, if any, on scheduled services. I thank the House.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I thank the House. We on this side of the House see the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism as a very good report. I know that a lot of time and consideration nave been given to it. The Committee has looked at the matter from the point of view of the Australian tourist industry and, at the same time, I note that it has not disregarded the interest of Qantas Airways Ltd because in the report the Committee clearly spells out that it is not recommending to the Government that Laker be given the opportunity of conducting this operation. The Committee recommends that there should be a trial basis of two flights a week for up to two years, based on a Laker type arrangement. That will allow Qantas, the Australian airline operator, to get cracking and to get on with the job.
I know and understand the bilateral problems which exist. Whether there will be a need for a bilateral agreement between the Australian Government and the British Government is something that has to be worked out. I hope that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) will get on with the job and come to an understanding, if an understanding has to be arrived at, between the Australian Department of Transport and the United Kingdom civil aviation authority. So the main thing is to get cracking. The Laker organisation has been able to do something as far as the tourist industry of the world is concerned because there is no doubt that its walk-on walk-off philosophy in Europe has forced the Atlantic operators to reduce the price of their fares. Fares have come down quite substantially. I hope that we will get a similar state of affairs here.
Over the years we have seen other charter operators throughout the world. For example, from the United States World Airways brought groups of people to Australia a few years ago. Permits were issued in 1973 for that company to fly charters into Australia. Qantas was not in any way disadvantaged because it was shown that the people World Airways was bringing were coming out as a result of a sales promotion technique which was applied by large manufacturers and wholesalers in the United States. If a retailer sold a certain amount he got so many free tickets on a charter flight to somewhere in the world. It was clearly established that if such people did not come to Australia they would have gone to Japan, South Africa or somewhere else. I see the charter operation as a similar situation to that of Mr Laker.
I think we can expect air traffic to operate at two levels. We have the prestigious traveller who likes to travel up front in first class because he likes to get the Captain’s bag and to be a member of the Captain’s Club. He likes to have cigarettes or cigars stuck in his hand every five seconds of the flight. If he does not have a cigar he has a glass of scotch or wine or some such thing. This is the way in which airlines overfeed people. This is all part of the sales technique. Those people are not interested in Laker’s performance. The people who travel economy have the alternative. They can either go first class or economy. Some of those people will continue to travel first class for one reason and that is that they like the prestige of having cigarettes or cigars and grog pushed at them all day long.
I believe a substantial market is available to pick up the proposition which people have put forward where they are proposing to introduce what we could probably call a third class ticket. At least it is an off-season ticket whereby they pull the price down from $850 return to $530. This will now allow people to take two years’ annual leave and away they go. I am thinking of Australians going overseas probably to visit their relatives. We are not really interested in promoting that sort of travel, but we have to face the facts of life. We are after the overseas people who will likewise be in a position of being able to pack up and come out to Australia for a low cost, short term holiday, probably in their annual leave or long service leave period.
This is the way in which I think we can promote this. After all, Australia is a high cost tourist centre. It will be an advantage if we can at least get people here at a reasonable cost. A flight from Australia to England or England to Australia takes only about 26 hours, including the usual one hour stop-over in Singapore and probably some other place. If people are disadvantaged by some congestion they are not seriously disadvantaged as in actual flying time it is only a 24-hour flight. On that basis we consider this to be a good proposal.
From the Australian point of view, it has already been established that every S per cent increase in the number of tourists coming into Australia provides about 1,400 jobs. It generates that amount of employment and development in the tourist industry. It is obvious that the States are now indulging in much more intensive campaigns than they were previously. Recently the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism visited Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government and a number of people down there- the Von Bibra family in the Ross area, for example- are doing an excellent job in making that State more attractive to not only Australian tourists but also overseas tourists.
These are the things which have to be considered. In the final analysis, even though the Australian Government might put money into assisting the development of our tourist industry, it will get a heck of a lot back in the form of taxation. We know that payroll tax goes to the States, but the rake-off for the Federal Treasury in the form of company tax and other taxes will total about a 34 per cent return on capital investmentthe investment by the Australian Government by way of assistance, initiative and incentive to encourage the tourist industry. We on this side of the House support the proposition.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, 1 present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– by leave- In November last year I tabled a White Paper on ‘Australian Defence’. That White Paper was a declaration of the Government’s aims and intentions with respect to the defence of this country. The paper remains the basic reference for discussion of our national defence. However, the issues with which defence policy is concerned are not static. They are constantly developing and we must keep them under continuing review and ensure that our defence planning is responsive. I do not propose to cover aU of the matters discussed in the White Paper. What I propose to do is to set out shortly some views on contemporary and prospective defence issues.
The 1977-78 defence budget outlay of $2,343m is an increase of one per cent in real terms over actual outlay in 1976-77. 1 say at once that this outlay represents a departure from the provisional allocations projected in the White Paper. It was inevitable that this be so. Honourable members will understand that the Government’s strategy for national economic recovery from inflation requires that expenditure in the public sector be contained. There will be some selective postponement of some of the objectives we set for ourselves last November. But the stated objectives in the White Paper of what defence capabilities we intend this country to have in sight in the early 1 980s remain.
In considering the Government’s expenditure on defence for this year I hope that it will not be lost from sight that the year 1976-77 saw a significant real increase in defence outlay. Having regard to that, a one per cent increase in real terms shows the importance the Government attaches to defence. Viewed against the difficult budgetary circumstances which faced the Government this year, a one per cent increase in real terms represents a notable achievement. I shall shortly give details of the new equipment and defence facilities decisions made by the Government in the context of the 1977-78 Budget. These are most important components of our long term defence preparedness and the Government is determined to ensure that new investment in these areas is sustained at an acceptable level.
The nation’s security must always command a high priority on its resources. This does not mean that in peace we must be fully prepared for war. But it does mean that in peace we must maintain the manpower, equipment, skills and supporting infrastructure that will allow us to be ready in time to defend ourselves should this ever become necessary. This means the maintenance of a substantial force-in-being even in time of peace. The price of this effort is unavoidably high, and increasing. But it is not so high as the cost of defence neglect would inevitably be.
The development of the force is an intensely selective process. It engages a wide range of technical, scientific and professional skills and experience in a highly complex process of analysis, evaluation and judgment involving ultimately the advice of the Government’s most senior Service and civilian advisers and detailed consideration by the Government itself. Our judgments as to requirements and priorities are also informed by the ongoing consultations that we enjoy with our allies and friends on strategic, scientific, technological and military matters. If some commentators have found the process too complex and difficult to grasp, as they have, I sympathise. We go to great lengths to ensure that our decisions are soundly based and balance differences of interest and professional judgment.
Our major review of the international security outlook last year noted certain unfavourable developments and the uncertainty of the future, but we judged our prospects on balance to be favourable. Developments since then which have been closely watched by our intelligence community and by our senior Service and civilian advisers do not call for change in our basic assessment, however, we must keep developments under continuous, close review and maintain insurance against changes that might be adverse to our interests.
Our present peace-time strategy is to support as best we may over a range of policies the continuation of the presently favourable prospects for our national security; to maintain effective defence relations with our friends and allies, especially the United States and in our neighbouring regions; and to maintain a substantial and efficient force-in-being that demonstrates our military capability to deal with situations that could develop with short warning and to expand in time should the need for this arise during the longer term.
A clearly perceived threat would enable defence planning and development to proceed in a specific way. That is not our circumstance. We study contingencies and from this study, together with other factors, we can derive judgments about the development of the Defence Force and the defence infrastructure. Contingencies are hypothetical situations, not probabilities. But, as in many other countries, the study of a representative selection, with different timings and characteristics, helps our defence planners to explore strategic and operational concepts, requirements for military capabilities, questions of command and control and such matters.
In recent years, such contingency studies in our Department of Defence have focused on the defence of Australia. I stress that. The House will not expect me to give an account of these studies, since obviously they must command a high security classification. But I should correct some false impressions that appear in some commentaries. As the studies progress, certain conclusions provide a broad basis for the development of strategic and operational concepts to deal with specific situations. But we are not going to produce a single, final answer to all our problems. The studies are manifold and involve continuing exploration of our defence problems in the light of strategic developments, changing technology and infrastructure, and changes over the years in the defence force itself.
Some comment has seemed to be calling for some particular threat to be adopted as the basis for our defence development. To do so would sacrifice flexibility and versatility. What we need is a mix of capabilities against various possibilities, none of which can now be foreseen with sufficient confidence to allow the sort of specific defence planning called for.
What the mix should be- allowing for strategic prospects, for the long lead-time of larger equipments, for technological developments and, always, the state of the country’s purse- is a matter for analysis and judgement. But a mix there must be, of high and low capabilities, if on the day, this country is going to be able to deploy a balanced force to meet a serious emergency, or to cope with a range of diverse lesser situations. Our requirements in this respect as we now see them are the capabilities and planning objectives that are described in the White Paper. As well as the strategic matters I have referred to, we also take into consideration factors of our physical environment, technological developments and developments in methods of waging war.
When it comes to technology a country like Australia has to be highly selective. Not only can advanced technology be very expensive to buy; it can be more suited to the requirements of powers in very different strategic circumstances from Australia. At the same time, however, advanced technology can often offer us important advantages, for example in greatly increased accuracy of firepower. We must also be able to move to higher levels of technology should this become necessary, and be able to operate together with the advanced systems of allies.
As to methods of waging war, we enjoy close contact with the military forces of various nations, which helps us to keep informed on developments in military doctrine and operational practice. This is of great value. But, as with technology, we have to watch that we gear our development primarily to our own requirements and not to those of other nations differently placed. There is a great temptation for some observers of the defence scene to say: Country X does so-and-so therefore we should follow suit’. This is an extraordinarily simplistic approach to Australia’s defence problems. We are concerned primarily with our own country, and the solutions that may be applicable to other nations may not necessarily satisfy our requirements.
Defence Force Activities
The training activities of the defence force and our equipment programs reflect the Government’s commitment to the defence objectives I have indicated. In addition the defence force provides significant assistance to civil organisations, and to the community at large in time of natural disaster.
However, the area of defence assistance to the civil authorities that I wish now particularly to speak about is surveillance. Surveillance operations are of basic importance to national defence both in peace and war. They are practised throughout the defence force, by the land forces and particularly by ships at sea and aircraft. The civil authorities having responsibility for fisheries, health, immigration and customs, for example, regularly request defence force assistance, and this is provided- subject always to availability of defence resources and meeting primary defence tasks. In this supporting role the defence force acts as the agent of the civil authorities and at their request. I emphasise this because there is from time to time some illinformed comment about the role of the defence force in surveillance activities.
The establishment of the 200-mile fishing zone will raise new requirements for surveillance. At this stage we cannot say what the dimensions of this expanding task will be. This will depend on development of the regulatory regime established for the zone, and assessment of activity in the zone once established. The task should not be underestimated- but neither should it be overestimated. The civil authorities do not conduct regular surveillance in all areas of Australia’s jurisdiction even now. There is no requirement for this. It would be expensive and without justification. I myself believe that the managerial task will increase appreciably.
The question of surveillance is one which has been put to close study by the Defence Department and procedures are being improved by the Chief of Defence Force Staff. It is an issue that very properly concerns me closely. We have a unique geography. As a consequence we have unique surveillance problems. Substantial defence resources will continue to be made available for surveillance. The defence force will continue to be closely involved in this task.
I turn now to equipment for the defence force. The Government is maintaining the central thrust of the equipment programs announced in the defence White Paper. Decisions taken earlier will result in a range of new equipments entering service during 1 977-78. These include:
Six P3C long range maritime patrol aircraft of the ten on order. These new aircraft will greatly expand our surveillance and patrol capability;
Two of the ten Hercules C130H aircraft which will enhance our strategic and tactical transport capability;
The first of two new Oberon submarines additional to the four now in inventory; and
Continuing deliveries of Nomad aircraft, Leopard tanks, fire support vehicles, trucks and bridging equipment for the Army.
Equipment acquisitions planned for this and later years of the five year defence program express principally our need for new and improved communications, better operational mobility and improvement of technological level and expertise in a variety of areas.
The Government has approved in principle a new multi-purpose secure strategic communications network to replace existing single-service networks. The complete system is estimated to cost more than $100m, spread over a period of about 10 years. In its final form this system will provide a technologically-advanced structure upon which can be developed a nation-wide defence communications network responsive to the demanding command and control procedures of the defence organisations of the future. It will enable voice, data and facsimile transmission to be made securely and with the detail and immediacy required for the defence force in peace-time tasks or in military operations against aggression. As a first stage, a fully functional regional system, with some basic facilities of system-wide application, will be established in Queensland.
It has also been decided to acquire five highpower long-range radio terminals for use by the Army and the Air Force and 24 medium-power shorter-range radio terminals for the Army. In addition to the foregoing, funds have been allocated for project investigation directed towards the eventual supply of replacement single-channel radios for the Army. The introduction of these new communications equipments will be carried out in close consultation with the Australian electronics industry. It should provide that industry with a significant workload.
The Government has also approved the purchase of an additional 200 Landrovers fitted with radio as communications vehicles. All these systems should prove valuable to operations by the defence force also when it is assisting with the relief of natural disasters.
Various improvements to our naval capabilities are provided for in the Budget. HMAS Supply, which provides an oil replenishment faculty to ships at sea, must be retired in the relatively near future. A new underway replenishment ship will be acquired. This new ship will be able to supply not only fuel but also ammunition and a variety of stores and weapons to ships at sea. This will enable them to remain on task longer and at greater range.
A program to modernise the hulls, machinery, weapons and sensor systems of the destroyer escorts HMA Ships Swan and Torrens will be undertaken. Possible enhancement of our destroyer fleet by the acquisition of a third missile frigate for the Royal Australian Navy is still being investigated. I expect this matter to be further examined by Government later on in this financial year. In connection with the eventual retirement of HMAS Melbourne we shall move this year to investigation of modern aircraftcarrier types, while continuing our study of alternative capabilities that might meet our requirements. Organisations in Australia and overseas will be invited to register interest in investigating possible aircraft-carrier designs as a basis for considering the funding of the investigations.
It will be clear that major operational, financial and manpower considerations are involved in this study. The ultimate decision will have farreaching implications in the shape and size of the RAN in the future. The evaluation of cost and design options for a new trials and research ship to replace HMAS Kimbla will start in this financial year. The practicability of refurbishing Navy’s Wessex utility helicopters is to be assessed with a view to improving their capability and extending their effective operational life.
In addition to the new communications I have already mentioned, there are a number of projects to be initiated for further improvement of our land warfare capability. These include acquisition of medium trucks for evaluation as part of a major program for the replacement of Army’s medium truck fleet. To enhance Army’s electronic warfare capability, and to provide for further development of essential skills, a limited purchase of electronic warfare equipment has been approved. The evaluation of further electronic warfare systems is to continue. An assessment of options for a self-contained field hospital system will be started. The system envisaged could provide a controlled environment for patients’ care, surgical, pathological, X-ray, intensive care and sterilisation services for the Army in the field. Such equipment could have an important secondary role in relief of natural disasters.
After considering the evidence developed from fatigue testing and analysis, final modifications and cost investigations, the Government has decided that replacement of the Macchi trainer, used for advanced jet training, is not called for at this time. The life of this aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy can be considerably extended with structural and equipment refurbishment. The aircraft will remain a most effective jet trainer for some years to come. The work of refurbishment of the Macchi will provide a substantial work load for the Australian aircraft industry. The Government will still continue to explore opportunities to involve industry in longer term plans for an eventual replacement training aircraft.
Work is continuing regarding the tactical fighter force. The present Mirage fleet provides a substantial capability that will continue to meet our assessed requirements for some years. We are seeking and analysing information on the practicability of continuing to maintain the Mirage as an effective fighter. At the same time we are closely assessing our requirements for a replacement and the factors influencing the timing of the acquisition process. This work includes our assessment of a range of contenders. I am aware of some impatience regarding the time being taken over a decision about the tactical fighter force. I offer no apology whatsoever for our deliberate procedures. There are huge sums of money involved. The decision will affect the defence vote in this country for many years to come. There are very complex issues involved. The matter must be thoroughly researched and examined in all its aspects.
Major facilities proposed for commencement during 1977 to 78, subject to parliamentary consideration, include:
Modern outfitting and refitting of workshops in Williamstown Naval Dockyard. This represents stage 2 of the modernisation of our capability for building warships. Modernisation of Williamstown Naval Dockyard commenced in 1974 after many years of careful planning. The stage 1 development, which is providing new hull construction facilities, is currently in progress. Stage 2 involves new workshops and engineering facilities to improve the outfitting and refitting capabilities of the Dockyard. When complete it will be the Navy’s primary destroyer-building yard, capable of building destroyers up to 4,500 tons using modern equipment and techniques..
Maintenance facilities for Sea King helicopters at Nowra.
Army personnel and support facilities at Randwick, New South Wales.
Development of the RAAF Base Edinburgh for No. 10 Squadron, which is to be equipped with Orion P3C maritime patrol craft.
A modern RAAF headquarters for operational control of aircraft at Glenbrook, New South Wales.
Provision of new workshops, headquarters, training and control facilities at the Flying Training School, Point Cook, Victoria.
A purpose-built laboratory for explosives and ammunition research at the Materials Research Laboratory, Maribyrnong.
On 17 February this year, I announced that HMAS Stirling, the new naval support facility in Western Australia, would be commissioned in 1978. I also announced that seven naval units would be based at HMAS Stirling. Budget priorities will not allow all seven naval units to be based at HMAS Stirling at the time of commissioning. Initially, three naval units will continue to be based there. The build-up of personnel to man the base and the construction of houses for them will be carried forward, but at a slower rate than earlier planned. It is still the Government’s intention, however, that the base be commissioned in 1978, as planned. The additional four ships will be deployed as soon as resources permit, probably early in 1980. The base will, of course, be used by visiting ships from our own and allied navies.
Regular Service manpower target levels were increased during 1976-77 by 500. During 1977-78 an increase from 69,666 to 70,041 in the target strength is planned for the permanent Defence force. Target strengths for each Service for 1978 will therefore be:
At 30 June of this year, actual strength was 70,081. Wastage in the latter months of 1976-77 was lower than anticipated.
I am pleased to inform the House that the rate of officer resignation has declined. I do not disguise the fact that the previous resignation rate deeply concerned my advisers and me. The Services can ill afford to lose highly trained and experienced men. The reorganisation of the Army Reserve is nearing completion. I expect to report more fully on this matter towards the end of this session. Increases in Air Force manpower will be directed mainly towards improved operational capability and maintenance support of equipment.
The appropriation of $25.9m for defence cooperation reflects our continuing concern to promote mutually advantageous working relationships between Austraiian and regional defence forces. The programs provide for combined exercises, training, technical advisory assistance and joint projects. The defence relationship with Papua New Guinea continues to attract priority- mainly in the provision of Australian expertise, but with an increased proportional allocation to joint projects. Assistance to South Pacific states will be increased significantly.
A basic defence objective is to ensure that the Defence Force can be supported and maintained from within Australia while recognising that the provision of the equipment and material required involves a combination of local industry, selected stockholding and the securing of reliable overseas sources of supply. A further objective is the progressive development of technologies and capacities to facilitate intensification and diversification of present activities to support force expansion, should the need arise.
A key issue is the extent to which reliance should be placed on overseas sources rather than developing greater Australian industrial capability. This has been the subject of continuing departmental investigation and very considerable public discussion. Some of this public discussion nas tended to single out some favoured industry for subsidised, priority development without examination of what might be defence priorities in the situations hypothesised. They also make no attempt to assess the practicability and the cost to the nation of Australia’s becoming selfsufficient. The degree of self-sufficiency often envisaged is simply not feasible within the total technological resources available to this country. It is certainly not within the bounds of reasonable budgetary expectations in present strategic and economic circumstances. Moreover, it does not seem reasonable to me to base our policy on the expectation that overseas supply will be denied us by all sources should we have to defend ourselves. We must carefully assess in what circumstances supply difficulties are likely and then whether these circumstances warrant the diversion of our national resources to the development of our own national arrangements. In com.templating such circumstances the nation has to make a judgment as to the degree of preparedness and insurance it requires and is prepared to pay for. I suggest that many of the critics have not carried their thinking through this full path.
At the same time, I recognise the tremendous importance of this issue. I can assure the House that it receives very deliberate and careful consideration when decisions are taken on the source of new equipment and the arrangements for its future support. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will recall that in may 1976 1 announced that the Defence (Industrial) Committee, under the chairmanship of a very distinguished Australian, Sir Ian McLennan, had been tasked with a comprehensive investigation of the defence capability of Australian industry. Its report, presented to me on 5 September, should greatly assist in further development of our policies in this important area.
From some of the more extreme Press reports, one could be excused for thinking that no Service equipment is ever made in Australia. This is far from the case. There are many contracts current with Australian industry or under negotiation. For example, two decisions flowing from proposals already announced will benefit the Australian ship-building industry.
The British PCF 420 patrol craft designed by Brooke Marine of Lowestoft, United Kingdom and fitted with MTU main engines manufactured in the Federal Republic of Germany has been selected as the new patrol craft for the Royal Australian Navy. This project, estimated to cost about $1 15m for 15 craft and associated support, was announced last November in the White Paper on Australian Defence. A contract has been awarded to Brooke Marine for the construction of one lead craft. The lead craft is planned to enter service with the Navy in mid- 1979 and the follow-on craft will begin entering service about a year later. Although, as an interim measure, the lead craft might be fitted with an existing Bofors 40/60 gun, an evaluation of modern close range guns is under way.
Building all but one of the 15 craft in Australia is in accordance with defence industry policy for increasing self reliance in the supply and support of equipment to the defence force. Furthermore, the Australian build program will provide a significant workload to local industry and I expect to make an announcement soon on where these craft will be built. Following an exhaustive evaluation of proposals received from Carrington Slipways Pty Ltd, Dillingham Shipyards ( WA) Pty Ltd, North Queensland Engineers and Agents Pty Ltd and Vickers Cockatoo Dockyard Pty Ltd, it has been decided to decline the offers of Carrington and Dillingham and limit further consideration to the remaining tenderers.
The PCF 420 patrol craft which has a length of 42 metres, a top speed of about 30 knots and a displacement of 220 tonnes is well suited to the task of patrolling Australia’s long coastline and will substantially increase our surveillance and control capability in Australia’s areas of defence and economic interest. The new patrol craft will include much Australian sourced material and equipment. This will ensure that the craft can be supported with minimum reliance on overseas sources. To this end an agreement has been reached with the main engine manufacturer to establish, in Australia, engine overhaul and repair facilities. Departmental examinations of tenders from three Australian shipyards for the construction of an amphibious heavy-lift ship, HMAS Tobruk, are nearing completion. I shall also be announcing the award of a contract for this ship in the near future.
The ship, which is planned to enter service in 1980, will provide the shipbuilding industry with a significant workload over a three-year period. It will add significantly to our ability to transport military equipment and troops to areas lacking normal port facilities and be particularly useful for civil aid. It has been decided to proceed with the fitting of electronic warfare equipment to RAN HS748 aircraft. A contract will be awarded to the successful tenderer when agreement is reached on satisfactory terms and conditions. The aircraft will be available in 1979 and will provide an important training capability for the Navy in exercising the fleet’s electronic-warfare capabilities and also for the Air Force and the Army.
In the more sophisticated areas, the locally designed Barra Sonobuoy is now reaching the early production stage. This has involved expenditure of some $ 14m in the electronics industry to 30 June 1977 and should production proceed as we expect it will mean a continuing workload for the electronics industry. In connection with Barra, local firms were awarded contracts for $ 1 5m covering integration of the system into the P3C aircraft and a mission-analysis facility. The significance for Australian industry of these and the new projects I have announced earlier should not be under-estimated. All will make their contribution to the retention of essential skills and the maintenance of employment in the industries concerned. In several cases where we are at the early study stage the ball is at industry’s feet and the field wide open. This particularly applies to the communications projects I have mentioned earlier where we are concerned to ensure adequate back-up capability is available and industrial skills are retained.
Since I have been Minister for Defence I have sought to encourage in this country informed debate on defence problems. I will continue to do so. I have also sought to encourage the development of a bipartisan approach to the defence of this country. I will continue to do so. I believe that it is vital that this nation develop a sharper consciousness of its responsibilities. In a world that has changed dramatically in the last generation it is clear that those responsibilities must largely be met by ourselves. In seeking to discharge that duty there is, I believe, no role for meanness nor for pettiness. I have said before and I repeat that there is no party represented in this House that has a monopoly of patriotism. We are one nation. We are one people. We have one duty.
I present the following paper.
Defence Review- Ministerial Statement, 22 September 1977
-Is leave granted?
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– You are going to give me more than 15 minutes are you not? The Minister for Defence had 35 minutes.
-The Chair accepted the proposition from the honourable member for Oxley who sought leave to make a statement. Can the Minister help me in that or does he insist on his motion being put?
– I want to facilitate a debate in the House. The only way that that can be done is for the House to take note of the paper. That is the course I have followed. I assure the honourable gentleman that in no way do I seek to trammel him. I do not know what time I took. I would certainly use every endeavour I have to ensure that he had exactly the same time or longer if he wanted it.
– As Manager of Opposition Business I would like to move that the honourable member for Oxley have the same time as was taken by the Minister in the course of delivering his speech.
– Twenty minutes will probably be enough but I will need more than 15 minutes.
-Is the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith moving a motion to that effect?
– If I have to do so to regularise it.
– Will you do it in agreement with the Minister?
– He is happy with it. I seconded it.
-The proper procedure is for someone to move an extension of time later on.
– Let us have it now.
-I suggest that the question before the chair is:
That the House take note of the paper.
If the honourable member for Oxley does not have sufficient time the Minister would probably accommodate him. The Chair cannot commit him.
-I call the honourable member for Oxley.
-Every time one hears from the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) one is confirmed in the impression that he has an absolute fascination with words but a total horror of fact. Some politicians seem to believe that they may be able to walk on water. It is quite clear on the other hand that the Minister believes that word power alone will carry him through anything. He is driven by genuine super power hyperbole. I suspect that the reason this rather strange and thin statement has been presented at this unusual time is that his old friends in the Returned Services League a fortnight ago mauled him rather badly. I have no doubt at all that he yearns much for the relaxation of a sunny Sunday afternoon on Botany Bay, defended or undefended. After reading this statement I have no doubt that it will be defended.
This is an atrocious document. It is appallingly thin. It is disturbingly confused. It is a confession that the five year defence program is broken and discredited and now has to be discarded. It is beyond rescue. Let us look at some of the assertions m the document. One assertion is the fictitious one per cent real increase in defence expenditure for this year. The Minister seeks to juggle some figures about, to create confusion, thereby, I suspect, hoping that he will be able to get away with this misleading claim. Let us compare apples with apples and not apples with oranges, as he implies from time to time when he talks about this. Let us compare the defence expenditure for 1976-77, at $2,182m, with what defence expenditure would be for 1977-78 if it increased according to inflationary movements and according to a real increase of one per cent in that expenditure, that is, of the order of 12 per cent. The allocation then for the year, at the end of the year, in final year figures-I re-emphasise that so that it is clear even for simple minds- would be $2,343m. That is, the actual allocation in this Budget is about $100m less than it should be if the Budget is to achieve a one per cent real increase in defence expenditure for the year.
Let us take that from another direction, from the direction of the much vaunted five year program outlined in the White Paper, with which the Opposition largely agreed and for which I happen to believe the Defence Minister on that occasion deserved credit for its presentation, its content and its quality. If defence expenditure this year were to reach the target which had been set in the White Paper- that is, a five per cent real increase-the level of expenditure for the year would be in excess of $2,700m. In terms of the White Paper, government defence expenditure is some $360m lower than what had been proposed only 12 months ago in the five-year defence program outlined in that White Paper. How many Manly ferries could the Minister for Defence buy for that? I suspect that there are false estimates in these defence appropriations. If one looks at page 666 of the Hansard report of Senate Estimates Committee A for 16 September 1977 one finds Mr Hyland of the Department of Defence saying this:
That is unexceptionable. He goes on to say, replying to an honourable senator.
To assess the out turn which I believe is what your question is aimed at, you would have to assume rates of escalation and make a calculation on those assumptions.
That is speculation at this stage. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer referred to a forecast increase of I0V6 per cent in average weekly earnings. If we apply that to our estimates as they now stand 1 anticipate that our salaries and wages bill would go up by some $60m. As to the amount by which the rest of the Budget would increase, that is speculation, although salaries and wages account for about half the defence budget.
Mr Hyland was being pressed. Quite frankly, he was being evasive not dishonestly evasive, but he was seeking to field the questions as a good public servant, trying to save the Government and particularly his Minister from embarrassment. From what Mr Hyland says here in this official document- the Senate record- it is clear that a full and candid statement has not been made of the true level of defence expenditure for this year. It is equally clear that, somewhere along the line, the Government has sought to doctor the figures. I tried to avoid using a harsher but an equally justified term. The Government has tried to doctor the figures to favourably influence the presentation of government expenditure and the deficit. There is something fishy about the costing anyway.
In the discussion before Senate Estimates Committee A the witness from the Department of Defence said that the FFG program, in January 1977 costs, costs $4 14m which is an increase of 25.5 per cent since January 1976. Of this increase $7 1 m, or 2 1 .5 per cent, is due to currency fluctuations following devaluation and $13m, or 3.9 per cent, is due to other causes. But that does not stand up to analysis. Devaluation of the United States dollar from January 1976 to 1977 was 12 per cent. It we allow for devaluation effects on import prices we find that the effect was 13.6 per cent. That is $45m, not $71m as the Defence Department claims. There is a discrepancy there of $26m and the Department must be brought to account for that. There ought to be an explanation. The Minister has had the decency, because he is a decent man, to remain in the House while I am speaking. I hope that he will take the matter up with the Department of Defence and arrange for a written communication to be sent to me so that I will understand how this discrepancy of $26m can be accounted for.
Quite frankly, following the Minister’s statement today, the White Paper is useless paper. The statement confirms what we all realised once we saw the Budget Speech: Defence was to be slashed back; the Five-year program was dismembered. In his statement the Minister referred to a one per cent increase in real expenditure. I have dealt with that. Nevertheless there is a practical fact limiting the Australian defence forces capacity to absorb extra expenditure. It is not the fault of the Minister or of anyone else.
I repeat the practical fact that the defence forces cannot absorb a sudden, massive increase in defence allocations. There is no doubt that a substantial degree of the cut back in allocations this year arises as a result of budgetary measures. But I suspect that an equally substantial amount of the cut arises because the defence forces cannot absorb rapid, substantial increases in allocations. Let me quote from page 45 of Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) which includes a table snowing the appropriations for 1976-77. We find under the heading ‘Equipment and Stores’ that the appropriation was $336.6m. However, expenditure for the year was $277.2m. That is some $59m below the actual allocation, or a reduction in the actual appropriation of nearly 1 8 per cent. The explanation is clear. Of course, budgetary measures have had something to do with it, but the capacity of the defence Services to absorb these sorts of rapid increases is limited.
Let me deal with aspects of the Minister’s statement, because it is a most depressing document. It is a series of propositions which are strung together in the most flimsy way in an effort to camouflage one basic fact- the Government is rescheduling many of its commitments to a substantial degree. It has discarded others. On page 8 of the roneod copy of the Minister’s statement he refers to the defence forces operating in a supporting role to civilian authorities. I think that we deserve much more information than we received from the Minister. All we have is his general statement. What are the implications of this sort of commitment for equipment? What are the implications in terms of the addition of equipment exclusively for civilian purposes or, more likely, the provision of defence types of equipment which will be quite inadequately used in a largely civilian role situation? What are the implications in the fact that in so many cases- I will deal with this when I come to the patrol boat issue- vessels are provided for a naval purpose but to support a civilian commitment? A vessel built according to Naval standards for a civilian task is twice as expensive as a vessel built solely for a civilian task. The consequence is that neither purpose is adequately met. This is the key to the whole issue when the Minister says that there will be a supporting role for civilian authorities. There will not be enough provision for civilian needs and there will be disruption of Service needs.
The Minister makes reference to the 200-mile fishing zone. He is unable to discuss at this stage the sorts of requirements which will arise from that development. I find that remarkable. In 1973 discussions on the law of the sea commenced in earnest. When we were still in government we referred this particular exercise as a research undertaking to the Strategic Policy and Force Development Unit. We set that Unit up. I would have thought that by now the Minister would have had adequate information on this matter.
I move quickly to page 10 of the Minister’s statement. I note that six P3C Orion long range maritime patrol aircraft will be delivered. They will be operational for three years without antisubmarine warfare sonia. Therefore we will have $18m worth of aircraft that are not adequately operational. These aircraft will be largely performing functions for civilian purposes which means that they will be grossly under utilised for the purpose for which they are being bought. In terms of cost effectiveness this is a disgraceful and recrement waste of taxpayers ‘ money.
The Minister also made the point on page 10 of his statement that two of the 10 C130H Hercules aircraft will arrive in the course of the year. What he did not say was that the last will not arrive until September 1979. This is an inefficient logistical arrangement; two C130H aircraft will be operating with CI 30 A aircraft. It means a higher operational cost and it means inefficient operation.
I must deal quickly with some other matters mentioned in the Minister’s speech because my speaking time, unlike that of the Minister, is limited. Two Oberon class submarines additional to the four now in inventory are to be acquired. The facts are that there will still be four in operation when the first of the two arrives this year because HMAS Oxley is laid up for lack of crew. We do not have sufficient personnel to crew five submarines. Perhaps well lay up two when the second arrives. This is a most disappointing sort of result because submarines are our most highly effective naval units. It means that we lose the effect of one of the most highly effective units in our naval armament. If the Defence of Australia Study had been completed, it is inconceiveable that this sort of mess we are in now, as indicated by the Minister’s statement, would have arisen.
In 1973, Mr Barnard, the then Minister for Defence, gave an instruction to the Department of Defence to undertake, and as speedily as possible complete, a thorough analysis of the defence of Australia. This project was called the ‘Defence of Australia Study’ and it dealt with the needs of this country in terms of defence structure, doctrine and so on. When we left office it still had not been provided in spite of regular prodding. I presume it still has not be provided. This is the obvious explanation for the sort of defective program we now have before us.
On page 11 of the Minister’s statement, we discover that there is to be a new multi-purpose secure strategic communications network. This proposal is highly commendable because a national network of this type is needed. But what is surprising is that it is a ten-year program and it is to proceed on an ad hoc basis. First Queensland- I guess this is good for votes rather than strategic development- is to get the first stage of the development. It is quite clear from Auditors-General reports that this extended staggered or ad hoc type of program for complex expensive electronic equipment is in fact wasteful of taxpayers’ money. Serious problems arise because of interface difficulties between computers. This is referred to in the latest AuditorGeneral’s report. So by staggering this network over 10 years the efficiency of the network will be impaired and unnecessarily high cost will be involved. The program ought to have been undertaken over a three-year period.
At page 12 of the statement, reference is made to HMAS Supply, the oil replenishment facility to ships at sea, which is to be retired in the relatively near future. The statement also point out that a new underway replenishment ship will be acquired. HMAS Supply will be retired in 1980.
By now surely we would have had something specific as a result of the many surveys on this proposal. (Extension of time granted). This is in spite of the fact that Mr Morrison as Minister for Defence in 1975 indicated that a replacement was required and initiated a study on this matter we still have nothing.
On page 13 of the statement, we discover that the possible enhancement of our destroyer fleet by the acquisition of a third missile frigate for the Royal Australian Navy is still being investigated. That is exactly what the White Paper said a year ago. Has the program stalled or is it merely filling for the speech? Will there be another destroyer? This was promised too. The FFG frigate program was to cost $US98m for each vessel at the time of order in January 1976. It is up to $US145m as a sail away cost and a little while ago, for whatever reliability one can invest in these sorts of reports, a report in the Australian Financial Review claimed that the total project cost of these two frigates was of the order of $ 1,000m.
We then come to the eventual retirement of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne which is the Nellie Melba of the Australian defence Services. This vessel is always about to be retired but no administration has been able to pluck up the courage to make the decision. We have been in government too and we happen to know what the advice is. The advice is highly critical of the continuation in service of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. Operational costs for the seven years to 1985 for this unit will deprive our Armed Services of valuable expenditure which could be used to more effect elsewhere. The direct and indirect operating costs of this aircraft carrier are of the order of $60m a year. The naval air power study for the five year defence program for 1974-79 indicated a direct and indirect costs of $230m which is probably closer to $300m by now. The unit ties up 2,500 personnel in the direct running of the ship. This is an enormous commitment to one highly vulnerable unit, the efficiency and the effectiveness of which are no longer in doubt. This aircraft carrier is unsuitable to the defence needs of this country.
It may be that a case can be made at some time in the future for through-deck carriers or harrier carriers, or whatever they might be. To this point that case has not been made for me. But in the meantime the justification for this sort of enormous outlay fails to be made and it creates distortion and imbalance to our defence arrangements.
The Minister at page 13 of his statement said:
The practicability of refurbishing Navy’s Wessex utility helicopters is to be assessed, with a view to improving their capability and extending their effective operational life.
When we were in government in 1973 we were told by the defence advisers that it was absolutely imperative that the Wessex utility helicopters be replaced. We were told that if we did not replace them, and quickly, they would start to crash. It seems rather strange that the Government is proposing to extend the life of these units in 1977.
On page 14 of the statement mention is made of the land capabilities of the Army. But there is no reference at all to the replacement of 105 millimetre or 5.5 inch medium field guns. A commitment for the 155 millimetre replacement guns was to be announced this year under the fiveyear program that we had outlined in our last year of government. There can be no justification for lack of reference to these units in this speech. We know that replacements have been under trial at Innisfail for some time and that the Army has been looking at, separately, Anglo-German and United States systems. These replacements are desperately needed. I am advised that there are only six out of the eighteen remaining medium field guns of the Army which are operational at any time because they are constantly breaking down. These guns were built during the Second World War. The alarm that this situation strikes to my heart arises from one simple fact: An adequately equipped artillery battery with medium field guns has about 36 such units of armament and Australia needs several batteries.
I now come to that section of the speech which deals with Macchi trainer aircraft. It is most remarkable that the Minister is talking about extending the life of this aircraft in view of the fact that in the White Paper he proposed otherwise. The advanced jet training is carried out in Macchi aircraft which are expected to reach life of type during the first half of the 1980s. Accordingly a replacement should be announced now. But in fact the life of the aircraft is being extended. Certainly Australian industry will have the benefit of work involved with refurbishing these aircraft. However, this work will be fairly limited. The industry was encouraged to believe that it would be involved in the fabrication- ‘the putting together’ for want of an appropriate technical word- of the replacement. They will not now have the experience with advanced technology that they expected to have. In October 1975 the Industries Assistance Commission reported on the aero-space industry and urged the Government as follows:
In the Commission’s view there is need for a publicly stated Government policy on the productive capability required for defence purposes.
There is no such policy set out in this paper and there will not be any such policy because of the tough decisions of the Minister’s statement. Accordingly, the aircraft industry in Australia will have to continue lurching along as best it can for the Mirage aircraft replacement is deferred indefinitely. Whenever we of the Labor Party spoke about extending the life of these aircraft, when the Minister for Defence was the spokesman on defence for the then conservative coalition Opposition, we were roundly criticised by him for making such a suggestion. Yet here we have this statement in this paper and it conflicts with what the Minister said on 22 March 1977- only a matter of weeks ago. At that time he said:
Elsewhere he said: a decision on the generic type of aircraft will be made in this financial year.
No decision is to be made now. There is an indefinite deferment. The Macchi has gone and the Mirage has gone. There is no mention of the Caribou which, according to paragraph 85 on page 23 of the White Paper, was to be replaced also. That replacement has gone, too. This reveals the nature of the savage paring which has occurred within the Department of Defence as a result of the Minister’s statement. (Extension of time granted).
On page 16 of today’s statement there is reference to outfitting and making certain improvements at the Williamstown Naval Dockyard. For what reason? A very large amount of money was spent to extend the dockyard at Williamstown. The purpose was to allow for the construction of destroyers. Is there to be a destroyer built in this dockyard? If not what is the purpose of the continued expansion there? It may well be justified, but no reason has been given to us for this very expensive undertaking. Money should not just be spent because the decision to do so will sound good when presented as a bland and limited statement in a speech by a Minister or because it might be influential within the electorate. There must be a reason which slots into an overall program and a sound purpose when public money is spent. We have neither reason nor purpose given to us.
On page 17 of this statement we suddenly discover that HMAS Stirling in Western Australia is not to have seven naval units based there as originally proposed, but that three naval units are to be based there from the initial period. Based on this statement, and following the White Paper, that may be for a decade or more. Where has the Russian menace gone? Where are all the joint patrols of which the Minister for Defence spoke so grandiloquently a little earlier than this time last year?
How I wish that I had more time to deal with this matter in a little more depth. I must move on, with only a miserable 5 minutes more in which to cover all the provocative comments which have been made by the Minister and which have not a feather to fly with. At page 1 8 of the statement he seemed to express some relief that the retention rates in the armed Services have stabilised. Of course they have stabilised. Where would people be able to go upon leaving the armed Services, except into the dole queues, into the ranks of the swelling army of unemployed people created by this Government’s policy? On page 20 he referred, rather liberally but with no basis in fact, to limited support for Australian industry for defence purposes. By and large, he fairly roundly trounced Australian industry for wanting a better share of defence manufacturing. The Government has reversed its policy. In a POliCY release dated 8 October 1975 the Government said:
Urgent action is required to minimise our dependence on other nations for the supply of defence equipment.
Those are fine words, but where is the action? The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), the shadow Minister for defence in the Government ranks, is lurking in the wings, waiting to take over, because of his outrage at the way in which he has been let down so badly with the falsification of so many promises by the present Minister.
On page 22 the Minister referred to the patrol craft. They are designed for naval purposes but they are largely to fulfil a civilian role. They are to be armed with pop guns- World War II Bofors. This matter is particularly important because the Government has had more than enough time in which to make arrangements so that it could announce very firmly on this occasion the armaments to be installed on these craft. On 6 December last year the Minister said in a defence Press release:
Two overseas manufacturers have been invited to tender for the supply of new dose-range general purpose guns for fitting on board new construction vessels for the Royal Australian Navy. Mr Killen said the general purpose guns would be fitted in the new fast patrol boats to be built for the Royal Australian Navy.
Instead of that, we end up with World War II Bofors. I suppose that next week he will announce that he is issuing peashooters to the Army. These vessels are large but underpowered. At the maximum they will perform at only 30 knots, whereas one would have expected them to do 40 knots. I am advised on reliable authority that because of their construction they will not suitably take the installation of guided missiles. In Germany, when a patrol boat is to be built and fitted with guided missiles the subcontractor is the ship constructor. The subcontract is released by the electronics manufacturer. In this country it is done back to front. We Will not get the first prototype of this boat until mid- 1979 and we will not get the first operational boat until the mid-1980s. There is not enough allowance for civilian needs and there is too much disruption to defence needs in the way that these vessels have been designed. Accordingly, they wil not function adequately for either civilian or defence purposes.
After hearing this statement I am certain of one thing: Whenever the next Federal election is held it certainly wil not be fought on defence. The Minister for Defence will be one Minister of whom we Will not see much around the traps, largely because his colleagues will want to keep him out of the way. The Minister for Defence has become totally discredited as a result of the statement he made today. It disabuses and destroys everything he claimed in his White Paper of only 12 months ago.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ruddock) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7 September, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Family Law Act in order to fix a maximum age for judges of the Family Court of Australia Honourable members will be aware that this Bill was introduced in the Senate and that it passed that place without amendment. I indicate here that the Opposition does not oppose the measure. It will amend the Family Law Act in two areas. A new section 23A will be inserted in the Act to provide that the retiring age wm be 65 years as a maximum. An ancillary amendment is necessary in respect of section 28 of the Act.
This amending Bill follows the constitutional amendment that we were able to achieve earlier this year when a number of amendments to the Constitution were approved by the Australian people. One of the questions asked of the people was whether they agreed that there should be a retiring age forjudges. I am very pleased that at last the Austraiian people had a chance to express views on matters such as that. Honourable members would have noticed that they expressed their view rather significantly. The number of voters in favour of a retiring age for judges was six million and the number not in favour was a mere 1,400,000. That question was carried with a larger majority than that on any of the other referendum questions. I would have thought that that had been the public opinion in this nation for many years indeed. The founding fathers formed a Constitution and expressed their ideas in written words. The Constitution was formed on the basis that judges would not be removed from office. I think that was fair and reasonable. There was a judicial interpretation in what was known as Alexander’s case in 1918. It was then decided by the worthy justices of the time that as they could not be removed they were there for life. That was rather an extension of interpretation.
If we want to look at what is deemed to be the situation we could do no better than to turn to the dissenting judgment in that case by Mr Justice Higgins who thought that it was perfectly fair and reasonable that the Parliament of the nation fix a retiring age for judges. He said that there was nothing inconsistent in having perhaps a tenure for a number of years or a tenure for life. The point he made is that there was provision for removal in certain circumstances and an appointment could be for a fixed or appropriate term related to a definite retiring age. It should not be interpreted that appointments were for life because that could mean that a judge could be there when he was not capable of working to his best mental ability. While the onus would then be on the Parliament to remove him it certainly would put the Parliament in a very awkward position.
Section 72 of the Constitution talks about justices of the High Court and of the other courts created by the Parliament. Surely we could read into that that if the national Parliament had the power to create other courts it would have the power also to determine retiring ages and, if so, that would apply to justices of the High Court as well because they are referred to in the same section of the Constitution. Mr Justice Higgins drew a parallel with section 103 of the Constitution which provides for members of the Inter-State Commission to hold office for seven years. They could be removed under the same circumstances as justices could be removed under section 72. So what we are saying in relation to this amendment to the Constitution is that perhaps all this should have happened in 1900. In my view it could well have been the intention in 1900 that the Parliament have the power to create courts by way of legislation and, ancillary to that, determine the question of a reasonable retiring age. After all, nobody in his right mind would expect Prime Ministers or other leaders in this country to be in their 80s, as has happened with many justices of the High Court as a result of the interpretation of section 72 of the Constitution.
Another weakness in interpretation., and acknowledged by section 72, was that justices of the High Court were appointed by the GovernorGeneral in Council. So they were not appointed by Parliament. We could presume that there would be just as many inaccuracies, discriminations or political affiliations connected with those appointments as with parliamentary appointments, yet the specious reasoning was that we should not have the power to remove judges from the High Court because it might affect their impartiality or because they might become victims of some political vendetta. However, this could not possibly happen if a retiring age was set.
It is said that because retiring ages already apply in State courts there would be no particular problem introducing them in Federal courts. The reasoning applied in Alexander’s case was that while the justices thought that it was fine to be appointed by the Executive Council, they thought it was very unfair to suggest that Parliament have the ability to remove them. I cannot see the logic or the consistency in that argument. The justices went on to use some expressions which I think are against the whole concept of federalism. For example, they use these words:
It is in the case of a Federation, where the central legislative and executive bodies are largely competitive with, and in a sense adverse to, the State authorities.
If we are ever to make a nation here surely we do not want our judicial system based on an adversary basis between State and Federal administrations. We have to get consensus and complementation which, I am happy to say, we got at the recent Hobart convention. After a long debate there and after some discussion of this position it was clear that people at the convention readily agreed that there had to be some commonsense applied to the retiring ages of judges.
-Who is ‘we?’
– ‘We’, in this sense, I am happy to report, comprises the Liberal Party, the National Country Party and the Australian Labor Party. The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) is not often helpful in interjections but on this occasion I am pleased to reply. Alexander’s case reveals that the judges who gave the decision that judges be there for life had some affiliations and I will advert to them. Griffith C.J., I am reminded, went on to the grand old age of 74 years. He was a former Queensland Premier and so had some political interest. Mr Justice Barton continued to the age of 71 years. He was a colonial politician. Mr Justice Isaacs went on to 75 years of age. He had been associated with Victorian pOlitiCS- nonLabor, I might add. Mr Justice Powers went on to 76 years of age. He was a conservative member and Minister in Queensland colonial pontics. Mr Justice Rich- I will save my comments about him- went on to the grand old age of 87 years but had no active political career. He was appointed from the New South Wales Supreme Court which, I think, might show that he had some political affiliations because he would have been appointed back in the 1913 era. It was well known that he did not want to retire until 1950 because he thought that there was a good chance of the Chifley Labor Government being defeated, and so it was. He did not want to have the then Attorney-General Evatt appoint a successor to him. That applied also to Mr Justice Starke who had a particular hostility towards the late Mr Justice Evatt. They were on the Bench at the same time, and just as with parliamentarians, they can form likes and dislikes.
Let me make it clear that these distinguished gentleman had those earlier political affiliations and aU the normal personal human frailties. The present Chief Justice has announced, as he is entitled to do, that he thought there might be a better method of appointing judges, including High Court judges, by having them appointed by an outside committee. But if he looks at how the two distinguished gentlemen I mentioned postponed their retirement because there might be a different government coming in surely he will agree that there is some sense of political assessment and political affiliation even in our top court, as there must be with everybody in this nation because we all have to vote. We are compelled to vote and, having been compelled to vote, make a political judgment. That is the constitutional background.
As the honourable member for Parramatta has so correctly pointed out, we had to have a convention to assess our understanding of what should happen. The interesting point about this legislation is its provisions relating to what is known as a non-party matter, the Family Court of Australia. Our distinguished colleagues in the Senate had the Bill for an extraordinary length of time- years longer than it was in the House of Representatives- and so had the advantage or disadvantage of formulating a proposal. One of the matters to which they addressed their minds was the creation of State family courts. They felt that it was very important to do so. When this matter was debated in the Senate on 26 November 1974 Senator Missen moved an appropriate amendment on the basis that if we created State family courts we then had a chance to guarantee a retiring age for judges. That was the basis of the amendment. He said:
Perhaps the most vital matter in regard to the creation of State courts is that the judges appointed to them will not serve beyond the age of 65 years because I think it has generally been agreed in debate that in this field of law it is highly desirable that judges should be limited in age.
We aU agree. That step had to be taken at that stage because there was then no constitutional amendment of the type I have just outlined. The question had not been put to the people in 1974 and there had been no convention. This leads me to this question: Now that we have this constitutional amendment and an ability to fix a retiring age, which has been fixed at 65 years, there is really no need to put so much emphasis, if any emphasis at all, on State courts. It is important that we now enter this field appropriately as we are entitled to do under the Constitution and have a federal family court. It became virtually a legal fiction that because we had to get judges of the right calibre and have an ability to retire them we would create State family courts. Therefore, it was argued, the States could virtually say that there would be a retiring age of 65 years because of a chance to negotiate that sort of arrangement. If we look at section 41 (4) (b) of the Family Law Act we see where State courts are created there is an opportunity to negotiate an agreement which guarantees that people appointed by the States shall not hold office beyond the age of 65 years. What I am now putting to my distinguished friends opposite is that that clearly shows there is no need to have that sort of arrangement in the future because we can control the retiring age ourselves. I notice there is a State Family Court in Western Australia. I also notice that no other State has a Family Court at the present time.
We then come to this other fundamental problem. As a result of the decision in Russell v. Russell we are somewhat defective in being able to grapple with all the family problems. There are very severe problems for a family and they are the family’s own problems. But we have to give the structure whereby those problems can be solved. We cannot solve them if we look at what has happened as a result of the High Court decision in Russell v. Russell. Let us remember that it is said that while there are federal powers to talk about custody, maintenance and property rights, they are not as wide as one would think. We do not have power to talk about property disputes if they are not ancillary to a matrimonial cause. We do not have power to talk about custody of children if they are not children of the marriage; in other words, what are called exnuptial children. We are well aware of this problem because the matter was discussed in Hobart. We were anxious to get some reference of powers. I notice there is a dispute about whether we can get a reference of powers.
It is clear that under the Constitution if we could get States to refer to the Federal Parliament powers in those areas of property, maintenance, custody and what have you, we would not have any difficulty in dealing with the problems of the family. Surely it is a fiction to think that under the Constitution we have the power to deal with marriage- as we have- with divorce, matrimonial causes and parental rights and that those powers have to be interpreted, as the High Court has legally said, but those matters are limited to the aspects of the family which I have mentioned. Property questions can be discussed only if they are ancillary to the matrimonial cause and the question of parental rights cannot be extended to include children who are not children of the marriage of both parties. So there is a definite gap there.
In Hobart at the Convention we suggested that the States might refer powers to us. I am pleased to note that the New South Wales AttorneyGeneral said: ‘Yes, by all means do it’, and he moved an amendment. Nevertheless, the amendment was not carried. The amendment has no political weight in it. It was suggested on the basis of what was best for the family in its time of need. We have the stupid situation at the present time that while one is able to go to the family law court to discuss problems between husband and wife, one has to go to another court to discuss problems which relate to property and to another court if the matter relates to the custody of the children who have been part of the family home. I can think of nothing more ridiculous than having that situation. We recognise that it exists but we cannot get the solution. I encourage the new Attorney-General (Senator
Durack)-I am well aware of the efforts made by the previous Attorney-General- to get the States to agree in this matter. I think that the Labor Statesif I may use the term- would agree. I am anxious to encourage that because it would be a start.
My colleague the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) will tell the House about a recent case in South Australia where the State court made a decision for the sale of the matrimonial home exercising the property rights under State law. The Family Court made an order for the right of the former wife to have occupancy for life. We get to the ridiculous situation where both orders could be enforced and the unfortunate woman could be in a position of occupying a home which could be sold to someone else. The only way to solve this situation where there is this conflict of laws is to go to the High Court under section 109 of the Constitution and ask it to work out which law is to prevail. If we were to put this proposition to the people by way of referendum, common sense would say: Cut out all this nonsense. This is a question of a family problem and a family court decision. It is quite clear that that court ought to be the court to discuss these rights’. The question of property rights, that is an estate in fee simple, should not be determined by a State law, as they normally would be, overriding or in any way contradicting the rights of a wife or husband to a matrimonial home.
I have the same problem in my electorate. There has been some dispute and the property is up for sale. The divorce has taken place and the former wife is facing eviction on the basis that she has no matrimonial rights there. So we get into all these circumstances. The concept of federal legislation is excellent. Weaknesses have been identified. We are overcoming one of those weaknesses as a result of putting the question to the people, namely, whether judges should retire at a reasonable age. The people readily agreed with that proposition. If we could put another constitutional amendment and ask the people whether the family law court should have the ability to deal with all matters relating to the family, virtually unanimously all people in Australia would say yes. The difficulty is that we cannot get that constitutional amendment so readily. This is one of the problems of the Constitution. It took us about 77 years to obtain one minor amendment, and we cannot afford to wait another 77 years to deal with the problems of the family which I have outlined. I would like to see more encouragement given to the States-this is the only effective way to do it quickly- to refer these powers.
There are some problems now which relate to the administration of the Family Law Act. The law is reasonable, the interpretation of it is understandable and the question always has to do with a tragic circumstance, usually the break up of a family. We cannot legislate for the conduct of people in the matrimonial sense. Nor can we legislate for their temperament. We understand incompatibility and all those other matters which come into the psychology and problems of life. The Family Court has to deal with these matters. We cannot lay down in law a black and white situation as to who is right and who is wrong. There can be faults on both sides.
We recognise that the basic unit in society is a strong family unit and that is to be encouraged. It should in no way be allowed to disintegrate. But once the disintegration has taken place we then have to deal with the fragments in the best possible way. How do we do that? We have created in all honesty and sincerity and, I think, in a rather well-meaning way, a Family Court concept which not only has the judicial concept but also has the counselling and assistance concepts to help people. But we seem to be running into troubled waters. These concepts can be found at various levels. If we can be quite direct about the matter, some of the temperaments of the judges might not encourage a speedy reconciliation or a speedy solution. But that is a matter that comes with life. When we look at the problems existing here perhaps we can relate them to a number of what we could call Treasury provisions. I notice that in the last Appropriation Bill we appropriated for family law $ 1 1 m but we spent only $6m. I find that rather fascinating. In other words, the Treasury has saved $5m in the area of family law.
As honourable members would know I have some knowledge of what is happening in New South Wales. There is great trouble and concern there because in matters where there are disputantsfamily disputes are the fiercest of disputesthe margin for reconciliation and negotiation is not wide. I am now told that there is up to two years delay in handling matters of dispute relating to custody or property. The situation is similar in Victoria. I am told that in New South Wales there are problems even in Parramatta because of the facilities available. I spoke to a colleague of mine this morning who said: ‘Look, we are all over the place in the city of Sydney. We have three separate locations. If you go to George Street you are likely to find 200 people confined in a space of 300 square feet’. That is something akin to the cattle sales. We have real problems with space and convenience and facilities. That is the situation in a nutshell. There has been the problem of trying to get the Family Law Court well established in a proper atmosphere.
I am disappointed that the money appropriated has not been spent because obviously it could be well utilised. The former State courts which were used in matrimonial causes would leave us far behind but they are no longer available. It is important that there be proper facilities because there are the problems of counselling and assistance. Honourable members can imagine that if they walked into a court of matrimonial causes and if everyone were jammed in and falling over each other, that would not be prone to help discussion as to whether there could be some settlement of the matter. We have a delay of two years at the moment, and we must then say that it is not so much the legislation which is failing, it is the application of the facilities and the ability to interpret the legislation. That is where the weakness lies.
We have increased the fee to $ 100. That is one way for the Treasury to get a little more back, perhaps. But in doing that we are not solving the problems. I should luce to see a committee set up to look at how the Family Law Act is operatingwhat are the problems, the advantages and the weaknesses and what areas need to be improved. I have mentioned those areas today. Facilities is one area which would be simple to improve. It would require money and the application of some effort. But we need also the right sort of people. They are available but they would have to be paid; so we would need more appropriations for that.
We also need to make counselling and other facilities available so that people can achieve reconciliation and a solution to their problems without the hardship that has been mentioned. We must guarantee that these solutions are available virtually at the time the Family Court is involved in order to avoid the situation in which, although we can solve the problem of separation, the very burdensome problems of custody, maintenance or property rights are not solved for a period of up to two years. Such delays are fatal. In fact, I am told that people are going away in disgust and are saying: ‘We will have to solve our own problems’. There is no point in suggesting that the Family Law Court could undertake this function; that would weaken the Family Law Court. So I suggest that we should set up a committee of inquiry. Obviously, the chief judge in the Family Law Court area should be the chairman. Practising practitioners should be available to put forward ideas about what could happen. We should also involve counsellors and people interested in family welfare concepts, such as social workers, and even representatives of family units, so they can determine what they can do together.
We emphasise that the Family Law Court concept has been a non-party one. I emphasise also that there is no hope of influencing people ‘s conduct through legislation or of guaranteeing a reduction in the divorce rate through legislation. It has to be done by providing better support facilities for the family, the best of which would be a job for the wage earner. There are family crises which are in no way related to temperament or conduct; they could be related to economic circumstances, such as poor housing, poor environment, or lack of income. It is our job to deal with these matters in terms of economics. We have to provide the right facilities to enable the talented people in the family law area to function efficiently.
I suggest that, at the appropriate time, the Government might consider setting up an inquiry into how best to improve the Family Law Act or its administration. I think the former Attorney-General announced his interest in this matter. All the improvements which I have suggested would involve consultation and cooperation with State governments and State Attorneys-General, whom we would like to involve as well. For these reasons, which I have outlined at some length, I think that the Bill is worthy of support, it is in accordance with what the people have already said should happen. This Bill will represent some minor improvement.
I want to encourage Federal family courts. We cannot have State administrations getting into this area because we could get all sorts of interpretations of law at State boundaries. It is important that when people can cross from State to State or State to Territory without a visa they should not have the problem of different interpretations of law when a judicial interpretation of their rights is required. It is important, therefore, that we get the reference of powers in the areas which are deemed to be defective.
In summary, let us try to spend the money as it is needed. Do not let us be penny pinching and scrape and save for the sake of reducing a budgetary deficit. It is important that the needs of these people are given top priority and that children in particular are given every consideration so that they can have the benefit of the help and assistance of their parents and so that the questions of custody and maintenance can be properly determined. I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to make these remarks. We welcome the Bill.
– I rise to speak in favour of the Family Law Amendment Bill. It enables some of the matters spoken about by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), who preceded me in this debate, to be dealt with in part. However, the Bill does not and will not overcome all the problems. In my comments I propose to make some observations about many of the matters which have been raised by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith and to put them into perspective for honourable members.
This Bill will fix a retiring age forjudges. It will enable the Attorney-General to appoint judges who will not be judges for life. He will be in a position to make appointments to the Bench under these new provisions as soon as this Bill is proclaimed. As all honourable members have agreed, as this Parliament has agreed and as the people agreed in the referendum which was passed it is desirable that Family Law Court judges should retire at the age of 65 years, I believe it is important that additional appointments should have been postponed until such time as the appointments can be made on this new basis.
In the second reading speech of the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) it was indicated that in the next 12 months some six additional appointments are likely to be made. As was mentioned by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, a bipartisan approach was taken by all parties represented in this House to the retiring age of judges. The proposals were supported at the Constitutional Convention and the legislation to alter the Constitution was introduced into Parliament by this Government. Those proposals were supported in this place and by the people in a bipartisan way.
– Overwhelmingly so.
-Of course. One of the important points that have been made already is that judges of the Western Australian Family Court already have to retire at the age of 65 years. There is a need forjudges involved in this area to be people who are able to adopt a contemporary approach to problems involving the family which come before courts, which in so many ways are unique. This age for retirement will apply to every new appointment to the bench. Undoubtedly, there is an urgent need for further appointments to the bench. As has been mentioned already, there are considerable delays in the hearing of matters in the Family Law Courts throughout Australia. But I think it ought to be noted that there has been a substantial change in our law with the introduction of the Family Law Act.
– Thank heavens for that.
-This has created great pressure upon government and upon the administration of justice. Insufficient cognisance has been taken of the problems associated with the fundamental changes that were necessary. I look at my colleague, the honourable member for Griffith, when I make those remarks because I believe that he might have been like many honourable members who supported this proposal when it came before the House- imbued with such idealism that he overlooked the practical problems associated with substituting one complete system of law for a system of law which had previously operated and was not cognisant of the problems associated with it. We are now starting to see some of those problems. In New South Wales in the Family Law Division some five judges previously were able to deal with all the matters relating to the complex law which my colleagues will tefl me previously existed in relation to the establishment of a cause of action to enable the court to dissolve a marriage. Yet under this new system some nine judges already have been appointed for New South Wales, with the prospect of more, but they are not able to deal with the matters which are coming before them. The fact is that the system is new. It is one which needs the establishment of new rules and new precedents. It means that practitioners have to earn what the system is all about. It means, in relation to its implementation, that naturally there will be delays associated with it.
There are some other important aspects that have to be taken into account. We have established a Family Court which is taking over not only the matters that formerly were dealt with by the Family Law Division in New South Wales for instance, but also many of the matters that previously were dealt with by courts of petty sessions. We now have a system in which judges rather than magistrates determine these matters. That is the case in spite of all the additional costs that are associated with having judges, not only in terms of salaries, the requirement for extra staff and the necessary detailed reporting arrangements but also in terms of such mundane matters as the fact that a judge is entitled to a car to take him to and from the court whereas a magistrate will find his own way to his court. There are many costs involved in the maintenance of a full Superior Court system where judges deal with all of these matters that previously were able to be dealt with by some very skilled magistrates.
I refer to the speed with which we have tried to implement this new system. The pace at which we have moved has meant that many of the matters that previously were dealt with by courts of petty sessions, such as those relating to maintenance, custody and so on, now, under section 46 of the Family Law Act, are required to be transferred to the Family Court. In cases in which there is a dispute involving custody, guardianship and access to the children of a marriage, or property exceeding $1,000 in value, the matter must be transferred to the Family Court, unless the parties agree to the matter being determined in the Court of Petty Sessions or in a court of lesser jurisdiction.
It is a fact that when it comes to these very difficult questions relating to maintenance, custody of children and property, there is the possibility of one party being advantaged as a result of orders being sought. One party could be advantaged by a delay. When a delay occurs, such as is the case now in the Family Court, there is a distinct possibility that a party who otherwise might agree to a matter being heard by consent before a court of petty sessions would say: ‘I wil get an advantage. There might be a two-year delay before this maintenance matter can be heard by the Family Court, whereas the Court of Petty Sessions might make an order in favour of my former spouse’. In that situation that person could use this section of the Act as a method by which to seek a delay and thereby quite adversely affect the other party. I make the point that, while we are having these teething difficulties in establishing a family court system of the size and adequacy that is necessary to deal with all of these matters, we ought to look at ways and means by which we can involve the State courts of petty sessions in dealing with and determining some of these matters. I believe that the pace with which we have implemented this system has been far too quick.
I wish also to take up some of the comments made by the honourable member for KingsfordSmith in relation to the very nature of the conflict of jurisdiction that has been highlighted out by the decision in Russell v. Russell. It seems to me that a number of particular matters might be considered, and the honourable member for
Kingsford-Smith raised two of them. The first method of overcoming this problem, as the honourable member quite rightly suggested, was to seek to have transferred from the States, by means of constitutional amendment, the powers that they now have in relation to maintenance, custody and property in a matrimonial causes situation. The second method was to seek a referral of powers.
However, the matter which the honourable member did not pursue and the one which I think quite rightly should have been pursued- I believe that it was being pursued by the previous Attorney-General until it became too late to contemplate such a change- was the establishment in the remaining States of State family courts exercising Federal jurisdiction. Quite clearly, if there were State family courts exercising Federal jurisdiction, those courts would have the power to determine matters arising under State jurisdiction. The matter could have been overcome easily if, instead of having this preference for an electorate Federal court system in our own hands, the sections of the Act which were envisaged, enabling the State to accept Federal jurisdiction- obviously this problem which the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has raised is recognised by the States- could have been accepted by the States. The problem then would not have been as real as it is at the present time.
– You voted for it originally.
-I did not vote for the Bill in its original form. I want to make that point clear also. The honourable member for Griffith has invited me to make these comments: I did not support the Bill in its original form. I supported strongly- I believe that that support has been vindicated- the amendments moved by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) when the Family Law Bill was before the House. One should look at the way in which the Act has been implemented and the way in which it is operating.
The observations made by the honourable member for Wentworth when he first spoke on the Bill were quite true and correct. He made the point, quite validly- this has been brought out very clearly in the debate today by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith as well- that we do not remove from the family law area generally the conflict that can arise in marriage in relation to matters of property, maintenance and custody of children simply by removing the allegation of fault in the breakdown of marriage.
Previously parties to a marriage were having those matters decided when the matrimonial cause was being dealt with. It was at that time that matters ancillary to that question arose. They were important issues in determining whether there was a matrimonial cause. But they are not removed simply by saying ‘We are determined to dissolve the marriage’ simply because there has been a notional separation for a period of 12 months. The real problems that arise in a marriage remain. The fact is that parties are still fighting over all those additional questions.
-No. They are still fighting. The fact of the matter is that the Family Court of Australia, with extra judges and extra personnel, is still having to deal with the same complex and difficult problems. I say here and now that I do not believe that we will help the situation in Australia by the development of a very complex and large Family Court system. I believe that we will have to see the development of a system in which the registrars and deputy registrars assume greater responsibilities and many of the matters that people want to bring before the judges are no longer dealt with by judges. We will have to see a greater delegation of responsibility and a greater determination by people who are in the system of some of these lesser questions.
I am told- I believe it to be the case- that even under this new Act, many judges spend a great deal of their time satisfying themselves about purely technical matters that could be dealt with by the registrars or by the officers of the Court. I am informed that in New South Wales in the old family law jurisdiction a certificate from the Registrar stating that certain technical matters had been dealt with was sufficient to satisfy the judges in the old Family Law Division that those matters had been completed satisfactorily and that the paper work was in order. Yet I understand that in many of the courts some of the judges are still going through the affidavits to see that they have been sworn properly and attested and to see that some of the technical matters that could otherwise have been dispensed with quite easily have been dealt with correctly.
– Why don’t you like judges?
-It has nothing to do with whether I like judges. I am saying that under the old system so many of these matters had been refined, and made efficient. We have established a new system with new personnel and new administration. It has associated with it many teething problems that should have been recognised. If we had not thrown out the baby with the bath water we might have had a system on which we could have built and developed. We could have had proper administrative arrangements worked out, and worked out satisfactorily. They could have been kept. We would have had a much more efficient system. We would not have had many of the delays that are occurring today, and we would not be agonising over this real problem of delays in our courts.
I am concerned about the delays because ultimately if there are delays they bring the judicial system into contempt in people’s minds. I believe the delays must be overcome. I do not accept that we can avoid our proper fiscal and financial responsibilities. I do not believe that we can simply seek to have money appropriated to overcome the problems that we should have foreseen. We should have been aware that those problems might have occurred as a result of throwing out entirely the old system, instead of looking at ways and means of developing it to overcome some of the specific problems that existed in the minds of honourable members when the Family Law Bill came before this Parliament.
Notwithstanding my comments about the problems faced by the Family Court and those associated with the development of the Family Law Act, I am pleased to be able to support strongly this Bill which will enable additional judges to be appointed. That may go a long way towards overcoming the problems that are facing the family law courts at the moment. I would encourage those people who are administering the system to see whether proper administrative ways of overcoming many of these delays that are being experienced can be found without the necessity of having unnecessarily to appoint additional courts and additional judges.
– I support the Bill with some pleasure. I welcome the proposed appointment of additional judges. As the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) said, there are considerable, regrettable delays in the execution of the law. Throughout the community these delays have led to widespread disquiet, discontent and frustration. I have had deputations in my office during the last month comprised of a number of people who are extremely concerned at the application and implementation of the law. I support strongly the proposition put forward constructively by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith for a committee of inquiry to be set up as quickly as possible to study the means by which the Family Court can be made more efficient and more effective. Undoubtedly it needs some cross-fertilisation of ideas from people who have been affected by or can make a constructive contribution to this arm of the law which is extremely difficult to administer.
I suggest that the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) attempt to become a member of the Constitutional Convention delegation. It would be an extremely interesting exercise for him if he became a member. I listened to 20 minutes of a reasonable speech from him. If one tears away all the fat and gets down to the meat, undoubtedly the problem is the necessity in Australia for uniform law in this area. I presume that he wants to persist with the current fragmentation. That is the disaster inflicted on the area at the moment. I have attended Constitutional Convention meetings since their resumption in 1973. 1 know how difficult it is to get some uniformity among the States. I commend the former Attorney-General and his predecessor for their efforts in this regard. It is very difficult to get uniformity.
I think the honourable member for Parramatta should acknowledge that one of the frustrating difficulties in this country at the moment is not only in the area of family law but is equally in the area of corporate law. The fragmentation is a shambles. People can do all sorts of things, can be charged under company law in a State and can reregister over the border. Does the honourable member want that sort of thing to persist? Does he want the hardship which is inflicted on thousands of couples in this country because of the lack of uniformity of law? The problem is this lack of uniformity. This is the heart of the problem.
While one acknowledges the regrettable number of deficiencies in the Family Court- they are deficiencies which I would strongly point out- they cannot be attributable to the Family Court. If there are any deficiencies, the reason for them lies either with the politicians who instituted the law or, more importantly, at the door of this Government because it has failed to provide sufficient funds to the Court. Those funds would inevitably have given the Court the additional staff it needs and the additional infrastructure it needs to become as efficient as it ought to be.
I want to make what I consider to be a constructive contribution to the debate in a very important and very human area. It deals with custody. I refer to an extract by Richard Chisholm, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales. It sets out concisely the problems in relation to custody under the Family Law Act. I quote:
When parents separate and cannot agree about the care of their children, the law usually refers to the problem as a dispute about ‘custody’, a word which has overtones of the prison rather than the family. Actually, a number of legal terms must be distinguished: A child’s guardian is the person who is responsible for him- he has the right (and the duty) to make such decisions as where the child will live and go to school, whether he will undergo serious medical treatment, and so on. Formerly, the father was the child’s guardian, but since the Family Law Act, which came into force on 5 January 1976, both parents are guardians. They have equal rights, and equal duties. The word custody usually refers to the situation after a court has determined a dispute: The parent having custody is the one who lives with and looks after the child from day to day, and makes most of the decisions affecting his life. The other parent usually has access, which amounts to the right to visit the child or have him stay with that parent at certain times.
One of the very onerous difficulties facing the Family Court- we have often overlooked this in Australia, particularly since the Second World War- is that one third of all marriages in Australia during the last 2Vi decades have been between people born in Australia and people bom outside of this country. The majority of those people would be from Great Britain, France, Greece, Italy and other Western European countries. They are dual nationalists. Some Family Court officers estimate that SO per cent of their inquiries are from Australian couples with different ethnic backgrounds. Their marriages are in jeopardy and they are seeking advice. It does not take much to envisage the immense problems this creates for the Family Court. These tug-of-love situations, if I can call them that, place great pressures not only on the Family Court but also on the Foreign Affairs Department. The House will recall that last May I raised with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) the matter of the appalling level of child abductions in Australia in recent years. The Minister said that the Department of Foreign Affairs handled approximately 200 applications per month in this connection. As a result, an interdepartmental committee of inquiry was set up. I believe that the Committee has completed its findings.
Because of my concern about child abductions and the difficulties that the Family Court faces I wrote a lengthy submission to the former Attorney-General and I shall make some reference to it. First of all, there is the problem that a number of forgeries occur when applications for passports have been endorsed. Australian passports are valid for a period of five years. One area which has frequently been exploited relates to a passport under which a child or children may be lawfully taken out of the country on a passport that may have been obtained by one or other of the parents some time before proceedings in the Family Court commenced. In those circumstances the Foreign Affairs Department is unable to act. I suggested to the former Attorney-General that in all cases where proceedings involving custody had been commenced, the parties to such proceedings should be obliged to surrender passports. Australian passports should not be reissued in their existing form without the renewed consent of either spouse or the consent of the court. In fairness, the court has the power to enforce that at present. It may ask the parties to agree to this being done but there is no obligation to do so. In situations where the custody of the child is paramount I think the passports ought to be surrendered. If neither party wants the child ‘s name presently on the passport to be changed during the proceedings the court need not intervene. However, if the court decides to give custody to one spouse or the other it should instruct that the passport be altered accordingly.
Regrettably, most child abductions from this country affect people who are dual nationals holding dual passports. I do not know whether the Family Court has the power to request the surrender of foreign passports. I think it has. One of the difficulties is that the Australian Government has no jurisdiction on overseas citizens or people who travel on foreign passports. However, if a foreign passport was surrendered that would overcome this problem. It would not prevent a person going to a foreign embassy in Australia and obtaining what can be termed a replacement passport’. However, in the intervening period the Family Court could notify the foreign embassy or consular office of the court order. Regrettably, when court orders are made in relation to custody or access there is no transmission of this information from the Family Court to the Foreign Affairs Department or appropriate consular office. There has to be a greater notification of decisions made in the Family Court to the Australian Foreign Affairs Department which issues passports and is responsible for them. Equally, this information ought to be transmitted to foreign embassies and consular offices throughout Australia. If my suggestions are adopted by the Foreign Affairs Department, the same procedures should be adopted by overseas embassies and consular offices in Australia or, at least, a request should be made for them to do so.
I acknowledge that we cannot do much about foreign citizens in Australia. However, as I said earlier, I think there has to be a greater exchange of information between the Family Court and the Foreign Affairs Department when court orders are issued particularly when they affect foreign nationals or rather those who have dual citizenship. The other thing I suggested to the former Attorney-General was that there ought to be as quickly as possible reciprocity with foreign governments overseas for the enforcement of custodial orders made in this country. This might be more the responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs although it stems from the Family Law Act. An international convention for the enforcement overseas of maintenance orders is badly needed. As I recall, that undertaking was given by the former Attorney-General. This also stems directly from the Family Law Act.
The final matter to which I draw the attention of the House is that of interstate abductions and the execution of warrants under section 64 (9) of the Family Law Act which states:
Where an order made by a court (including a court of a prescribed overseas country) with respect to the custody of a child is in force, a court having jurisdiction under this Act may issue a warrant authorising or directing the person, or any of the persons, to whom it is addressed to take possession of the child and to deliver the child to the person entitled to custody or to some other person or authority (including a person or authority in or from a prescribed overseas country) named in the order on behalf of the person entitled to custody.
I raised this point with the former AttorneyGeneral. Regrettably, it appears that in the case of interstate or intrastate abductions the obligation is on the parent to trace the abducting parent and then notify the police so that the warrant can be served. I urgently request that departmental investigations be initiated to find a more effective and efficient system for serving and executing warrants. I appreciate the fact that recognition of these contingencies is a civil matter and that the responsibility is on the person concerned to locate the abducting parent. When that is done the police will execute the warrant. I suggest to the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations who represents the Attorney-General, to the House and to the Government that there must be a far more effective and efficient method for parents to have a warrant executed and the child returned to them when a court order has been defied.
Another ludicrous anomaly to which my attention was drawn-this is one of the strictures on the Family Court- is the confidentiality provmons which apply, certainly in the Social Security Act and, as I understand it, in the Repatriation Act. I have had two cases drawn to my attention in which a parent obtained through the Social Security Department the address of a spouse who had defied the Family Court order for custody and abducted the child. The name in turn was transmitted to the Department of Social Security through the Family Court, but the Department of Social Security refused to furnish the Family Court with the address of the offending parent so that the warrant could be executed. I suggest that this is another factor that must be extremely frustrating to the Family Court and to the people in these situations. I have written to the five Ministers concerned. In those two cases I have written to Ministers, asking that if the Act needs to be amended it be amended so that the Court can execute its warrants effectively and efficiently.
Let me sum up by saying this: Undoubtedly, in this area, along with many others- particularly in this area in which so much human distress and tragedy is involved- there is an urgent need for the States to realise that if the Family Court is to remain effective and efficient there must be urgently a rationalisation and unification of laws.
– I want to make a few comments on this measure, with which I am quite familiar. The Bill is of some significance because it represents the first measure to be introduced into the Federal Parliament since the first parliament met which restricts the retiring age of Federal court judges. This Bill is an historic Bill in that sense. It will remind honourable members, of course, that this Government promoted three successful constitutional amendments. Since Federation there have been only eight all told, and three of them were successfully put through by this Government last May. This particular amendment was promoted by the Government at the Constitutional Convention last October and was basically in the form of the amendment suggested by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs in relation to this matter.
The fact that an age limit of 65 years is fixed is an indication of a parliament’s judgment that there is, in the Family Court of Australia, an appropriate age at which judges ought to retire. Let me say that, in the course of the 30 appointments that I recommended to the Government whilst I was Attorney-General, I stressed to the judges- in fact appointed for life- the desire of the Government that, come the age of 65 years, they might well see fit to retire. Whether they will do that, of course, will depend on how they feel in 10, 15 or 20 years time when they reach that age. But the thought is well and truly in their minds. I am speaking of the judges who have been appointed already.
As has already been announced, the Government is proposing to appoint another six judges. Those judges probably will be appointed in the States of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. The appointment of those judges will bring the complement of the Court to 36. It will then be the largest single court in Australia. The number of judges will exceed the number of judges of the New South Wales Supreme Court, which is currently the largest court. Of course, we are not in the game of building the biggest court. Indeed, there are very good reasons why we should not want to extend the number of judges any more than we have to. Whatever one can say about this, the fact is that both the previous Government and this Government were surprised to some degree by the number of divorce applications received m the first year of operation of the Court. Honourable members will recall statements previously made that we had expected a 50 per cent increase. We expected about 38,000 divorce applications in 1976. That was the expectation of the Australian Labor Party Government. It also was my expectation when I took on the office of AttorneyGeneral. Of course, it turned out quite differently, and there were 65,000 applications in 1976.
This year the number of applications has fallen back to the projected figure- that is, something between 39,000 and 40,000. That indicates that, if applications continued at that level and if one continued to appoint judges, there could come a time when judges had nothing to do. There is no point in going on appointing judges, even to the age of 65 years, let alone for life, simply to meet what I believe is really a temporary contingency in the Family Court. If one looks at the delays in defended matters one will find that the delays in New South Wales are basically no greater than they were under the old Matrimonial Causes Act- approximately two years. I do not say that that is desirable. With the current rate of work the judges are coping with the divorce applications. Thus they are dealing with divorce applications at the rate of about 40,000 applications per annum. Therefore they are keeping up with this part of the work.
In defended matters there is an obvious need to do what one can to use the judiciary’s time to the best advantage. The Government has taken measures to achieve that very object. For instance, additional registrars have been appointed. It seemed to me as Attorney-General that the registrars could do a lot of the work that the judges were doing- for instance, they could hold regulation 96 and regulation 99 conferences. As a result of decisions made by the Government, some eight additional registrars are being appointed around the Commonwealth. They will add considerably to the work capacity of the Family Court of Australia. They will be able to determine whether it is possible to settle matters before the issues go to the judges. At the same time the Government has been looking at better procedures in order to speed up the various matters that come before the court and to ensure that wherever possible the rninimum delay is involved in the judges getting down to the issues. My basic philosophy in relation to judges is that they are there to determine the issues between the parties. That is their job. To the extent to which purely procedural matters or matters of conciliation can be removed from their jurisdiction, those matters ought to be removed.
It was always a basic part of the Family Court concept that there would be counselling services. It is very interesting to note that, although it sounds a good idea to have as many counsellors as we can usefully have, the fact is that, come the day when we try to get counsellors, we find that there is a limited number of people who have the qualifications required of counsellors. The Attorney-General’s Department has attempted assiduously to increase the counselling staff in Une with the appointment of judges. It is not always easy to find people of the appropriate capacity and training to fill those positions. But the job is under way, and additional counsellors are being appointed. I believe that 36 judges ought to be sufficient to cope with the work of the Family Court, and one would hope that the additional judges would be appointed within the next 6 months.
Some mention was made of premises. Let me say that the Family Court premises around this country are the most magnificent court premises in Australia. South Australia Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland all have top rate premises. They are premises that members of Parliament ought to visit and inspect because they create a leisurely and informal court atmosphere in which counselling can be undertaken. Public child minding facilities for the children of witnesses and others who come to the court are provided also. The facilities are designed to make the atmosphere of conciliation and counselling the dominant atmosphere of the court.
It is true that due to the fact that the numbers of applications were underestimated in New South Wales the premises in New South Wales have not been as appropriate and as large as they might have been. But I would like the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) to know that the Temple Court building in Sydney is to be used by the Family Court. It is anticipated that those premises will provide for nine courts and appropriate judges’ chambers and counselling facilities. These premises ought to be available by 18 December this year. I was concerned to bring about this change of location because the premises at Scandia House have not been satisfactory for many reasons. But the facilities at Scandia House were provided to the Government when the Family Law Act was implemented in January 1976.
But let us not talk about Family Court premises in a derogatory way, because they are ideal premises. Large sums of money have been provided and any lack of expenditure of funds last year was due to the fact that funds were set aside for the enforcement of maintenance orders under arrangements with the States. Because those arrangements were not concluded but were the subject of negotiation, funds were not fully expended.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith mentioned the need to establish a committee of inquiry. The honourable member will recall that some days ago the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) who sits next to me in the chamber, suggested that a parliamentary committee be established. I suggested I think in June in an address in Adelaide that a parliamentary committee to inquire into the operations of the Family Law Act ought to be established next year. I think such a committee should not only look at those questions mentioned today but also look across the board at the whole operation of the Act.
There is no doubt that many people, usually either deserted wives or deserted husbands, feel a grave sense of injustice as a result of the Act. In saying that, it is not my desire to go back to the Ellicott amendments of 1975. But I believe that we have to comprehend and understand the feelings of these people. We have to understand the feeling of rejection they have when they suddenly find that the other party to the marriage has decided that the marriage is all over. If the wife makes this decision, the husband who does not want to terminate the marriage is kicked out. He has to provide the family home. He does not want to get out of it, but he is told to do so. Under the ordinary approach to custody, the mother keeps the children. In many cases some other gentleman comes along and lives in the family home. The husband is divorced and sometimescertainly in the case of the children- he has to pay maintenance. But he is not even allowed to go into the home. That is a typical sort of case. I am not saying that these problems necessarily can be avoided but a sense of hardship and injustice is being bred in the community in relation to the Family Law Act.
I think that we need to look not only at the procedural matters, such as the question of premises, which are very important but also at the basic questions of the social effect of the Act. The family has become a less popular institution in our society but it is one that we need to underpin in many ways. We are too ready to take off the shoulders of the family those responsibilities which traditionally belonged to it and put them on the shoulders of the State. This transfer is not helping the family. It means that the family is becoming a less significant unit in society and that people are looking more and more to the state for support instead of to the family. I believe we need to give very careful thought to this aspect of our social fabric.
The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) mentioned the question of custody, and I would Uke to refer to the point he made. One of the problems that has been faced is the problem of the enforcement of custody orders. There was no lack of enthusiasm on my part or on my Department’s part when we sought to achieve the enforcement of custody orders. There is no point in having a judicial system unless one has an appropriate method of enforcing orders. The proposition is as simple as that We need such powers if the judicial system is not to become a charade. The whole purpose is to get an order and to enforce it.
The transfer of the court order process from the State area- I am not complaining, but it is a fact- to the Federal area caused problems at the police level- whether police would enforce custody orders. Hopefully, this problem has now sorted itself out. The police of this country have agreed that they will continue to enforce warrants in this respect until other provisions are made. I hope there will be no attempt by the police to leave this very important area. I believe however, that, ultimately, we will have to face up to providing some form of enforcement body within the Commonwealth area. I am talking not only of an enforcement body to operate within the Family Court area but also of one to act in other areas such as the High Court. The task of enforcement officers would be to enforce orders of the courts. I believe that ultimately that sort of arrangement will have to be made. Although this is not necessarily police work, I believe that the ponce ought to maintain the present system until governments can afford the funds to establish an alternative.
The honourable member for Hawker mentioned section 17 of the Social Services Act. I can only say this to the honourable member I know of one or two instances raised by honourable members on this side of the House in which particulars were supplied by the Department of Social Security. I think the honourable member will find that the Department, after having received certain advice, will in fact provide particulars in an appropriate way to help locate a child and have the child taken from the offending parent.
The honourable member raised the question of overseas enforcement. I would like to tell him that this matter was not left untouched. At the recent Commonwealth Law Ministers Conference, it was a matter of considerable concern not only to Australia but also to Canada and many other Commonwealth countries. A decision was taken to have a look at this matter and to see what could be done. Indeed, the Conference took as an example of a perfect law to adopt our own Family Law Act. It is to be hoped that as a result of the studies by the Commonwealth Secretariat there will be some solution promoted.
It had been put to me that the Extradition Act could be used. I say quite categorically that I do not believe the abduction of a child should be treated as a criminal matter. To adopt a course will not result necessarily in bringing back the child. The ‘child-napping’ or whatever one likes to call it, may well be a crime on the part of the parent. But it is no satisfaction to have the parent back and the child somewhere in some other part of the world with his grandparents. This is not a solution. We have to develop some method to bring together the various countries. I suggest that we could start with the Commonwealth countries and adopt reciprocal rules which will provide for the enforcement both of maintenance orders and custody orders. I can assure honourable members that it is a matter that is deeply felt and appreciated, particularly by the Attorney-General of Canada. They can rest assured that it will be prosecuted by this Government and future governments through the Commonwealth Law Ministers Conference.
– On behalf of the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations (Mr Howard), who in this House represents the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), I would like to thank honourable members who took part in this debate, particularly the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) who, as Attorney-General, played a major role in the events necessary to enable this piece of historic legislation to be produced. Notwithstanding that some of the matters discussed were outside the immediate scope of the Bill, the debate has been most interesting and useful. I will bring to the attention of the Attorney-General the matters raised by honourable members hi this debate that they feel ought to be considered by him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife) read a third time.
– I move:
The Customs Tariffproposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Proposals No. 27 implements the Government’s decision on recommendations by the Temporary Assistance Authority in its report on manually operated chain hoists, chain pulley tackle and chain winches. Proposals No. 28 relates to changes of an administrative nature to Schedule A to the New Zealand- Australia Free Trade Agreement.
I have prepared a comprehensive summary of the changes contained in the proposals which is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Local Government (Personal income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1977.
Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1977.
Postal and Telecommunications Commissions (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Bill 1977. Television Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1977. States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill 1977.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request:
Appropriation ( Urban Public Transport) Bill 1 977. States Grants (Roads) Bill 1977.
-by leave-During the past 2 1 months the Government has been most concerned with two principal aspects of rural policy. The first has been to remove as quickly as possible the inequities created by the harsh policies applied during the three years of Labor administration. Secondly, we have been concerned to establish once again a firm and continuing basis from which rural producers throughout Australia might function profitably on a basis of equality with every other Australian
We see country and city residents interdependent, each benefiting from the prosperity of the other. We recognise the assertions of the Green Paper on agriculture and the necessity to compensate the rural industry for some of the disabilities which economic aid in other sectors creates. Rural exports still provide Australia with approximately half its annual export earnings; amounting to $5 billion in 1976-77. These exports remain vital to a sound national balance of payments. Primary production in its many dimensions is a major source of economic activity across two-thirds of the Australian continent. Moreover, it also provides a base for urban settlement and for employment in associated manufacturing and service industry throughout these areas.
The initiatives taken by this Government in the rural sector represent an extraordinarily wide and comprehensive program. With the impending introduction of legislation to establish the National Rural Bank, most of the major elements of the Liberal-National Country parties 1975 rural policy will have been introduced. Given the real budgetary constraints and the enormous deficit which we inherited, this achievement indicates the deep concern of the Government parties to improve the present disadvantageous financial position of many primary producers.
The major parameters of our rural program have included: Reintroduction of the phosphatic fertiliser bounty and renewal for five years at the rate of $12 per tonne, estimated to cost $40m in 1977-78; the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy was retained at $78.74 per tonne of contained nitrogen to 31 December 1976. In so doing I might mention that we did not accept the Industries Assistance Commission recommmendations as the Labor Party announced it would do. Thereafter the subsidy was set at $60 per tonne, for which $ 1 2m has been provided in 1 977-78.
We increased the wool price reserve from 206 cents to 284 cents a kilogram clean whole chp average and backed the Australian Wool Corporation in its pot-holing market operations above this level. We provided underwriting assistance to the dairy industry to guarantee a minimum payment on most manufactured mild products, together with a restructuring of dairy marketing arrangements. We increased the first advance for wheat in 1976-77 by 20 per cent to $66 per tonne or $ 1 .80 per bushel. A 12 per cent increase in the price of domestic sugar was granted on 16 August 1976 with a further increase of 8.4 per cent from 16 June 1977 to help offset local cost increases.
We introduced a national brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication program with compensation for reactor cattle. We restructured the Australian Meat Board with the incorporation of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation with a provision for a major rural producer policy advisory role through the Producer Consultative Group. We increased apple and pear stabilisation support. Again we did not take up IAC recommendations. We provided funds through State Governments and canneries to finance payments to fruit suppliers. We devalued and thus improved the position of primary producers and all export industries. We extended and integrated the rural adjustment program to enable carry-on assistance at increased levels to be available to producers. As well we enabled debt reconstruction, farm build-up, farm improvement and assistance to those farmers who wish to leave their properties. We also introduced household support. We provided increased and substantial funds for rural extension, research and commodity promotion.
Special statutory reserve deposit releases have been made to improve the liquidity of major trading banks for term and farm development loans. In June 1976 $159m was provided and a further $132m was released only a week ago. Other items are: The introduction of income equalisation deposits; lifting the $16,000 limit on tax averaging; improvement of the tax averaging provisions to ensure that the primary producer is never disadvantaged; the indexation of personal income tax; the introduction of lower tax scales; and the introduction of a 40 per cent investment allowance. We provided a special deduction of $50,000 for spouses to reduce estate duty. We increased the private company retention allowance from 50 per cent to 60 per cent; provided for indexation of the valuation of trading stock; dramatically restructured family allowances; removed disabilities in farmers entitlement for unemployment benefits; abolished the property component in deciding eligibility for pensions; and adjusted for automatic adjustment of pensions for movements in the consumer price index.
We increased funds for local government from $60m in the last year of the Labor Government, 1975-76, to $140m in 1976-77 and to $165m in 1977-78. We provided substantial funds for rural roads, amounting to $161m in 1977-78. There was payment of $32m to the States in 1 976-77 to help finance relief measures for primary producers affected by drought, flood and bush fire with a firm assurance to those currently affected by drought or other natural disaster, and to those under risk of being affected, of further federal assistance in a wide range of recognised relief programs. We have embarked on a program of assistance with respect to grasshopper control in conjunction with the States. We have introduced the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme. We have extended the Commonwealth rebate for apprenticeship full time training, the CRAFT scheme, to rural employers. Victoria has shown the way and there are already 500 rural apprentices in that State. In addition, in each particular commodity, the Government has developed in close co-operation with the industry concerned special measures to help offset production, marketing, promotional and research difficulties.
It is against this background that I now want to identify further additional assistance now to be provided to the beef industry. In recent years beef producers have been hard hit by unprecendented cost increases, by recurrent strikes, by the sometime closure and continued limited access to our most important overseas beef markets, by a prolonged depression in overseas beef prices, aggravated by serious drought conditions in much of the United States with resultant accelerated turn-off of stock from those drought affected areas in direct competition with pasture fed meat supplied from Australia; and, in spite of significant increases in domestic and export meat sales, there has been a surplus of cattle in the market with consequential low prices for producers. The deteriorating financial circumstances of beef producers in Australia today is of particular concern to the Government. In spite of rigorous marketing efforts overseas, the prospective establishment of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation and other assistance measures, returns of many cattlemen are at disastrously low levels.
In November 1975 the Liberal and National Country Parties clearly stated their POliCY for the cattle industry. It states:
The Industries Assistance Commission recommendations on short term assistance to the beef industry will be implemented. Proposals will also be considered to improve the long term viability of the cattle industry. The functions of the Australian Meat Board will be examined in conjunction with meat exporters and producers. A system of meat classification will be introduced after consultations with the Board and industry.
An examination will be made with the States and industry of all aspects of meat production, marketing, handling, and transport.
Firstly, let me deal with the IAC recommendations on short term assistance to the beef industry. In essence the IAC recommended that:
The existing special credit facilities for beef cattle producers be extended and the terms of loans be varied so that interest rates not exceed 4 per cent; the provision of up to 2 years carry-on finance and an increased limit of $15,000 for producers in the pastoral zone and $10,000 for producers in the temperate zone;
Household support be introduced for producers who are assessed to be non-viable;
State Governments to have some financial involvement but the contribution of the Commonwealth be not less than one-half;
Meat export charges be suspended.
The Government has already introduced all these measures recommended by the IAC. The suspension of the meat inspection charge from 1 March 1976 imposed by the Labor Administration will result this year in an estimated benefit to producers of about $28m. The States and the Commonwealth Government jointly provided $ 15m in low interest carry-on loans to beef producers in 1976-77 and a further $16m will be provided this year for beef and dairy farmers under the new Rural Adjustment scheme. The conditions on carry-on loans for beef producers were liberalised to enable cattlemen who had already had carry-on loans to make a second application.
The new Rural Adjustment scheme which became operative on 1 January 1977 also included household support, which provides assistance for up to one year to non-viable farmers who cannot meet living expenses and need assistance to alleviate personal hardship while considering whether or not to continue farming. The IAC was also particularly concerned that none of the above programs should prejudice the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign. In this regard, it must be remembered that it is essential if we are to retain our export markets that the 1984 target date for provisionally free status in all States and Territories be achieved. For this campaign the Commonwealth Government provided $18.5m in the 1976-77 Budget, which unfortunately was not all spent by the States, and $ 19.6m has been allocated this year, including $4.5m slaughter compensation for reactor cattle.
Let me also briefly summarise other assistance the Government has provided. It is essential to put into context the assistance that the Government is prepared to give to this particularly disadvantaged sector of the community. There was a grant of $1.2m to the Australian Meat Board to meet losses incurred on an earlier sale of meat to the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Legislation for the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation has been enacted. The new Corporation is due to be proclaimed on 1 October. One of the most significant extensions to the new Corporation is the manner and form of the creation of consultative groups. The chairman and members of the new AMLC are due to take up their duties shortly, and I am pleased to announce to the House that Mr R. G. Jones, Executive Director of F. J. Walker & Co Ltd, is to be appointed Chairman of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation. His choice has been made after a very careful check of possible candidates, including producers and businessmen. All were considered before a final list of two candidates was prepared. These two names were submitted to a joint meeting of the executive of the Producers Consultative Group and the executive of the Exporters and Abattoir Consultative .Group. After this meeting which was held in Melbourne on Sunday 18 September, both groups unanimously endorsed Mr R. G. Jones. Mr Jones is 56 years of age, a chartered accountant and a returned soldier. It is quite clear that he should be required to divest himself of any interest which might even remotely be considered to be in conflict with his responsibilities as Chairman of the Corporation, and in accepting the position Mr Jones has agreed to do just that.
The previous alleged abuse of the ‘pass-back’
E revision of the Livestock Slaughter Levy Act as been eliminated. The Commonwealth Government has repeatedly made representations at the highest levels to obtain better access to markets which impose restrictions on Australian beef. The success of these representations is apparent in the significant overall increase in the volume of Australia’s meat export sales. For example, the consultations between the Japanese and Australian Governments in April 1977 were a significant factor behind the decision by the Japanese Government to maintain quotas for the period April to September 1977 at the same level as in the previous six months. This was in spite of protestations by the domestic Japanese industry in a then election fever in an effort to reduce that quota level. The decision came at a time when the Japanese Government was under real domestic political pressure to reduce the quota because of increases in domestic beef production.
One former major market, the United Kingdom, now a member of the European Economic Community, has been of particular concern. To date little impact has been made on the extraordinarily wide number of tariff and nontariff barriers against meat exports into that market. Nonetheless, we have maintained constant pressure on the Community for a liberalisation of its beef import regime. For some years Europe has excluded Australian agricultural products from her markets, and disrupted our traditional markets in third countries by subsidising exports of her food surpluses. The Prime Minister has now appointed a Minister for Special Trade Negotiations to assist in this area, the efforts being made by the Minister for Overseas Trade. This afternoon the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations (Mr Howard) leaves Australia for a series of high level negotiations with the nine member states of the Community and the European Economic Community Commission in Brussels. Among the problems which he will be canvassing is the access of Australian beef to the European Economic Community
The Government has decided, in circumstances where the cash flow position of cattle producers has been seriously affected by rising costs and declining markets, to introduce a number of new proposals designed to ensure the long term economic future for cattle producers. Unfortunately, at the time the Budget was formulated it seemed that these measures would not be necessary but circumstances have changed. We believe that there are now for many of those in the cattle producing area quite serious decisions for them to take if they are to survive. It is in those circumstances that the Government has brought out this supplementary package. The Government believes the last three years of disastrously low prices aggravated by difficulties in achieving market access through political embargoes imposed in a number of our principal markets and aggravated by increasing costs within Australia nas placed cattlemen among the least fortunate income earners in the Australian community. Cattlemen have neither the advantage of indexation of their returns nor insulation against either accelerating domestic costs or extensive industrial disruption as it affects their sales.
In these circumstances the Government has decided to implement a number of new proposals designed to assist them in the short term through improving their cash income and by ensuring that those least advantaged have access to adequate credit facilities, and in the longer term by adjustment to marketing procedures and examination of the processes of handling and selling to facilitate longer term stability. The measures are as follows: Firstly, accelerated carcass classification has been a priority in forward planning. It is seen as a means of better promoting quality differentials not just for the producer but also for the customer and certainly in relating the different market and price opportunities to the producer. The benefit is seen as also enabling a better product identification for disease control and for facilitating processing in each of its different phases from the farm gate to the butcher’s counter.
Funds are to be made available initially to the Australian Meat Board and, after proclamation, to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation to meet contingencies in finalising commercial development of the system and to ensure there are no delays for completion of the six trial programs installed around Australia and already financed by Commonwealth and State funds. Including this expenditure, the Government will provide up to $6m towards the capital cost of implementing carcass classification in beef cattle meat chains. It will do all possible to ensure, after the commercial viability of classification is established, that there is no undue delay in its implementation-
Secondly, in recognition of the nature of the brigalow lands settlement scheme, and the particularly serious plight of these settlers, the Commonwealth has contacted the Queensland Government to modify the settlers present repayment obligations. The Commonwealth has proposed that, together with the Queensland Government, a moratorium be extended to settlers on the repayment of their financial obligations flowing from their settlement on holdings in this region to achieve, according to need, an average 2-year moratorium period. The Commonwealth Government has also offered to extend the Queensland Government’s term for repayment of Commonwealth loans by a further seven years. In so doing it has asked the Queensland Government to extend this extension of terms of repayment to the brigalow settlers.
The Government realises that the difficulties experienced by the brigalow settlers have placed them in a possibly worse situation than any other cattle producer around Australia. This scheme is unique in that the brigalow scheme was initiated after thorough examination and support for its economic viability by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The downturn in market circumstances and the timing of the advances made to settlers have prejudiced this assessment and the Government believes it therefore has a unique responsibility to these settlers. It believes this further assistance will ensure that this most beneficial of recent closer settlement schemes can still fulfil original expectations and more importantly settlers in the brigalow region can look forward to a further period within which to establish their holdings.
Thirdly, the Prices Justification Tribunal will be requested to establish whether a case exists for the Tribunal to inquire into the justification of prices for beef marketing and processing in the various parts of Australia. In order to facilitate this preliminary inquiry the suggested terms of reference the Government would have in mind for a definitive examination by the Prices Justification Tribunal would be in the following form:
Fourthly, the Government is concerned about the manner and form of the present marketing of beef. It is aware of initiatives sought by producer associations to introduce minimum price schedules and stabilisation schemes. It is concerned at the extraordinary variability between returns in different regions and for different types of cattle. It will, therefore, enter into discussions with State governments and the industry on the ways by which a weight and grade selling system for cattle could be introduced throughout Australia. In this respect it will examine the means by which marketing costs for cattle could be reduced, the benefits which might flow from carcass classification in its use to minimise price increases in present handling systems, the degree to which livestock selling might be better correlated with meat sales, how disadvantages in present livestock marketing systems might be overcome and the possibility of the introduction of a price stabilisation arrangement, probably of a buffer fund character.
Fifthly, the Government has decided that it should urgently initiate discussions with State governments and authorities responsible for rural adjustment to ensure the terms and conditions and funds available for carry-on loans for beef producers are adequate to meet the financial needs of financially disadvantaged producers and see whether household support is adequately available to those cattlemen whose income is so low that it does not even equal the level of Commonwealth unemployment benefits.
Sixthly, to improve the immediate cash flow position of beef producers the Government has decided it will introduce a cash grant of $10 a head for a 12-month period for beef cattle, excluding dairy herds, for a number of disease control processes, or for the speying of young beef heifers. The subsidy will be limited to $2,000 a producer; partnerships and companies will be treated as single identities.
The disease control measures will include tuberculosis testing, brucellosis vaccination and testing, and, where none of these procedures are relevant, then other recognised necessary cattle management procedures such as dipping and drenching. In this way producers throughout Australia will be brought within the ambit of the scheme. The alternative speying subsidy will be available for the speying of heifers up to 2 years of age. The scheme will apply as from tomorrow, 23 September 1977. It will take some weeks to finalise administrative arrangements for the lodgment of claims. In the interim, producers undertaking any of the approved procedures should keep a proper record and have it authenticated by a government official, veterinary practitioner, or other responsible person.
Finally, the Government recognises that there are particular problems which affect those who are producers in the more remote and isolated pastoral zone and which are different from those of people living anywhere else in the Australian continent. These people frequently live many miles from principal communications and certainly from market outlets. In order to ensure that there is no critical disadvantage from this situation and recognising the contribution these people make to settlement in climatically difficult areas of Australia, the Government is examining those Government imposts which prejudice their present position to see whether they can be adjusted to bring these people to more relative equality with the position of urbanised Australians.
I should add that the Government believes that responsibility for assistance to particularly seriously affected producers lies also with State governments. It would expect State governments to undertake a similar examination of their charges to ensure that they too do not unduly disadvantage one section of Australians as against another. In embracing these proposals the Government would, in particular, like to commend the responsible range of proposals made to it by a large number of parliamentarians in this Parliament from country areas as well as the several well documented submissions received from major producer associations. I commend these measures to the Parliament. I present the following paper:
Beef Industry- Additional Assistance- Ministerial Statement, 22 September 1977 and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
-After weeks and weeks of build-up, meetings with the Cattlemen’s Union of Australia and subsequently the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian National Cattlemen’s Council, the Government has managed to devise a higgeldy-piggeldy program in an attempt to assist the Australian beef industry and to take the heat off itself. The greater part of the statement which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has just made represents a series of statements which have very little to do with the particular problems confronting the beef industry. It is a valiant and desperate attempt by the Minister for Primary Industry to justify this Government’s generally abysmal record for its traditional supporters. It lists a series of items, some of which are involved with primary industry but many of which are peripheral to the interests of the beef industry.
The Government has neglected to state that it was the Australian Labor Party Government which introduced the fixed floor price scheme for wool and committed in excess of $400m to the wool industry. It fails to state that it was the ALP Government which introduced the first substantial increase in the first advance payment to wheat growers. It fails to state that it was the ALP Government which introduced the first special loans for beef producers. Most importantly, it fails to state that the income tax averaging measures arose merely out of the thorough misunderstanding and confusion about the Government’s measures.
The Government has not handed out $100m to primary producers; it has merely prevented the Federal Treasurer (Mr Lynch) from collecting an additional $80m from the section of primary industry which is fortunate enough to have a taxable income. The measures which were announced in the Budget, the income equalisation deposits and the proposals which the Minister has announced on this occasion will be of very little or no assistance to any primary producer, but more importantly to any beef cattle producer who does not have, and has not had, a positive income over the last two or three years.
It is all very well for the Minister to talk about introduction of the 40 per cent investment allowance. But that has been of no assistance to very large sections of rural industry which have incomes below $5,000. It has been of benefit only to those who have had substantial positive incomes and have been in the fortunate position of expanding their operations. Mr Speaker, may we have some silence in the chamber, please?
Government supporters- We can hear you.
– If honourable members want to talk, they should go outside.
-Order! The House will remain silent.
-Order! The honourable member for Barker will cease that unseemly conduct.
– The entirety of this benefit is probably confined to the wheat and grain industries. It is also ridiculous of the Minister to talk about the private company retention allowance from 50 per cent to 60 per cent when in this year’s Budget the rate of company taxation was increased by 3Vi per cent. In addition, the Government will continue to collect quarterly tax payments and this will have a substantial influence in rural areas which depend upon seasonal returns. It is also ridiculous to talk about rural industry obtaining considerable advantage from indexation of the valuation of trading stock. In one particular case- the wine industry- the Government has declined to amend section 3lA of the Income Tax Assessment Act and the indexation of the valuation of trading stock is unavailable to this very important Australian primary industry. It is also very doubtful if many primary producers, other than the large corporations, can take advantage of this provision.
The Minister has also talked about increases in funds to the States and to local government, but he has neglected to indicate that the much vaunted new federalism has in fact resulted in a worse deal for the States and, as a consequence, has passed on a great deal of pressures to primary industry. The Minister seems to take great delight in blaming trade unions for all the problems of primary industry, but again he has failed to repeat the statements he made to the Retailers Annual Convention in Sydney when he blamed ineffective management for many of the problems faced by primary industry. If the Minister was honest, he would recognise that many of the problems, particularly in abattoirs, grain handling authorities and other rural service organisations, are due as much to defective management as to union militancy.
The Minister also failed to mention that it was the Opposition which proposed substantial amendments to the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation which, if they had been agreed to by the Government, would have gone a long way to fulfilling the requirements of primary producers. Instead, the Minister in his usual prevaricating and obtuse manner rejected a reasonable approach and has opted for confrontation. He is presenting the results of that confrontation in the widespread dissatisfaction with his Administration amongst most sections of primary industry. It is absolutely certain that he will go down in history, particularly in the history of Ministers of Agriculture, as one of the least competent ministers.
I now turn to what the Minister describes as the measures to assist beef producers, and I recommend that every producer should read very carefully page 8 of the Minister’s statement because, in the first place, it makes the extraordinary claim by implication that the newly appointed Minister for Special Trade Negotiations (Mr Howard) is likely to obtain some concessions for Australian primary products in his negotiations with the European Economic Community. I have no hesitation in saying that the entire exercise of the appointment of the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations is a slap in the face for the National Country Party. One would have expected that the Minister for Overseas Trade would have been empowered and have had the capability to negotiate with the European Economic Community for access for our primary products. However, apparently the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) does not trust the National Country Party with this sort of exercise.
It was also pertinent to note that during his recent visit to Australia the British Minister for Agriculture, Mr Silkin, made it abundantly clear that uranium would not be a negotiating weapon. He in fact indicated that most European countries could not care less whether the uranium was mined or kept in the ground. This leaves the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations with very, very little to offer the Europeans and with the increasingly irrational protectionism of the Prime Minister and his henchmen, any European concessions for access to that market, particularly for beef, is highly unlikely. I would go so far as to predict also that over the next three years the Special Minister for Trade Negotiations will return empty handed from Europe. But then again the Prime Minister has a Sir Robert Menzies obsession with everything west of the Suez and has forgotten that the most important and expanding markets lie immediately to our north. Or is it that the Prime Minister delights in being rude and precocious towards our major trading partners?
The proposals which the Minister has set out in his statement are basically long term proposals. He says that on his own admission. There are very few measures which will enable beef producers to obtain immediate benefit and a number of the propositions are so vaguely couched that they will be overawed by administration difficulties and potential disagreements with the States. There are other parts of the proposals, such as the reference to the Prices Justification Tribunal, which are a window dressing job, because in 1973 the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices, dealing with prices in the beef industry, reported quite thoroughly on the matters which are now the subject of terms of reference to the Prices Justification Tribunal.
There are other measures such as the introduction of weight and grade selling on which the State governments are way ahead. These comprise weight and grade selling and general proposals for the improvement of beef marketing. The proposal for spending up to $6m on the capital costs of implementing carcass classification is a measure which had been put forward by the Labor Party earlier this year and repeated again in May. There is no assurance in the terms of the Minister’s statement that the introduction of beef carcass classification is any closer than when the Liberal-National Country parties started to react to rural pressure. There is no indication as to the costs involved and the precise amounts which will be payable to the brigalow settlers. I presume that some specific arrangements must be reached with the Queensland
Government. It would be interesting to know whether those specific arrangements have been determined already. Probably they have not.
The only other measure which involves the expenditure of Commonwealth funds is that which readily assists the cash flow position of beef producers. The Opposition certainly supports any measure which would improve disease control processes but has strong reservations about the proposal to spey young beef heifers. If for no other reason, if the Government’s rejections and statements about the future demand for beef are correct, the Australian beef cattle herd could be lacking in calves and quality in future years. The Minister has not set out the administrative arrangements. Is it to be done by the Commonwealth, or by the States, or in conjunction with the States? While he says it will apply from 23 September 1977, are the payments to be retrospective and is a subsidy up to $2,000 for each producer sufficient to get the producers out of trouble? I would contend that it is not.
Whilst the Opposition does not object to the proposals the Government has put forward, it believes it is too little too late; it believes these proposals have been devised only because of immense electoral pressure resulting from tremendous dissatisfaction with the Government in rural areas. The Government is paying the penalty of trying to pander to the mining companies and manufacturing industries and at the same time trying to maintain its traditional electoral base. Desperation is now the keynote of government policy in the rural area. It is using any measure at all to take the heat off itself and to secure a short term reprieve so it can sneak back into office for another term. If rural industry knows what is good for it, it will trust the Government no further. Given the Government’s performance, who could blame it?
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-I do claim to have been misrepresented. In the course of a debate last night on the suspension of Standing Orders, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), when speaking about certain matters that have been set down in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, said:
The matters have been set down for some months. But for the dereliction of duty of the former Attorney-General in leaving so many vacancies in the Supreme Court … the matter would have already been heard. I point out that the pleadings have been concluded. There are about half a dozen cases ready for trial. One of them has already been set down for trial.
The honourable gentleman went on to say:
Now there are about half a dozen causes which have been set down for trial.
You will understand, Mr Speaker, that I am used to being attacked by the Leader of the Opposition, and I would not have troubled to make this personal explanation had it not been for the fact that, as I read the Hansard report of last night the House and you did take certain decisions based on what the Leader of the Opposition said. I shall just repeat what he said:
The matters have been set down for some months.
As I understand it, he was referring back to what the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) had said at page 1428 of Hansard. He said:
I take a point of order. The document is not signed. Nevertheless it is apparently going to be allowed to be discussed. I understand that the document is the subject or could be the subject of evidence in defamation proceedings now under way in the Supreme Court of New South Wales -
The Leader of the Opposition interjected and said:
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith continued:
The ACT- involving the Australian newspaper.
As I understand it, the honourable gentleman was saying that there were actions which were set down for hearing involving himself and the Australian newspaper. I hope I did not misunderstand him, but that is how I read the Hansard report. I wish to say this in explanation: On my information there are a number of matters in relation to which the honourable gentleman has sued the Australian newspaper, and one or more of them may arise out of a document similar to the document which was in this House last night. I say also that on my information, which I hope is correct, none of those matters has been set down for hearing. As I understand it, these matters were commenced in March, or perhaps February or April, last year. There have been attempts to settle the pleadings, but the pleadings have not yet been settled and the result is that -
– This is no misrepresentation of him.
-I shall point out how it is a misrepresentation of me.
-The honourable gentleman is entitled to point out a misrepresentation in relation to himself and correct it, but the honourable gentleman is not entitled to revive the debate.
– No, I am not trying to do that; I am just laying the basis for saying how I have been misrepresented. The Leader of the Opposition went on to say:
But for the dereliction of duty of the former AttorneyGeneral in leaving so many vacancies in the Supreme Court . . . the matter would have already been heard.
May I say, first of all, Mr Speaker, that there are no vacancies in the Supreme Court of the Aus.tralian Capital Territory. The fact is that there are three appointed judges - Mr Justice Fox, the Chief Judge, Mr Justice Blackburn and Mr Justice Connor. Mr Justice Fox has been overseas for reasons well known to the Leader of the Opposition and to honourable members. Mr Justice Blackburn is about to go or has gone on sabbatical leave. Therefore there may be a need to fill some positions on the court, either temporarily or even permanently, depending on the future of Mr Justice Fox and on the future activity of Mr Justice Blackburn. But there is no vacancy in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. There has been no dereliction of duty on my part.
Whilst I was in Washington in August I met Mr Justice Fox. I arranged to speak to him when he returned to Australia, as he did yesterday. Of course, I cannot speak to him now officially, but I am sure that my successor in office will speak to him about the matter. There has been no dereliction of duty on my part. Vacancies have not been filled because there are no vacancies to fill. Quite apart from that, it would not possibly have been a dereliction of duty on my part because these matters are not ready to be heard. The fact is that the matters are still awaiting replies to be filed, as I understand it, by the honourable gentleman through his solicitors. When that is done, these matters can be set down for trial. I am speaking now of the matters against the Australian newspaper. As I pointed out, the Leader of the Opposition said:
Now there are about half a dozen causes which have been set down for trial.
Of course, I was most concerned when that allegation was made. According to my information, it is not true. I feel it my duty to bring that to the attention of the House. If the honourable gentleman has some explanation, I hope he will make it to the House. I have made honest inquiries and those inquiries show that the statement made last night was quite incorrect.
-The honourable gentleman has made his point of explanation.
-I happened to be in the House, not because of any notice or courtesy shown to me by the honourable and learned gentleman, when he commenced his personal explanation. There is no need for me to tell you about the application of the sub judice rule, Mr Speaker, but since it has been raised, I can repeat it for those who do not know it: One cannot plead sub judice just after issuing writs and so on. The document referred to last night, which was unsigned, unverified and unauthenticated, was tabled in the Senate on 28 April last year. At that time only writs had been issued.
-! rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I inquire under what rule the Leader of the Opposition is speaking? Is he taking a point of order? Is he making a personal explanation?
– We do not have the ruling of the Chair.
-I was extending to the Leader of the Opposition a courtesy, but I would like him to make it clear -
– I have been misrepresented, and I wish to make a personal explanation.
-The honourable gentleman must make it clear to me where he has been misrepresented.
-Because the former Attorney-General has misrepresented me.
– I am about to enlighten you.
-I will allow the honourable gentleman to proceed.
-Accordingly, at the time it was tabled in the Senate one could not have pleaded a point of order based on sub judice because the pleadings had not been concluded. Since then, of course, the pleadings have been concluded in relation to several matters, and at last one of them- not against News Limited or any of its publications- has been able to be set down for hearing.The first day of hearing has been set down for Monday 24 October. There are others, including those against the honourable member’s friends, the Australian, which cannot be set down yet- not because of any delay in my solicitors’ replying to the defendants’ solicitors but principally because there are not enough judges available in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court to hear these matters. As the honourable member has pointed out, at this stage there is only one judge who is appointed to that Court full time and who is available to hear causes. Mr Justice Fox has concluded his inquiries. He has been on some other mission for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Mr Justice Blackburn is no longer available, as the honourable member has said. I understand that an ordinance is to be made to permit the appointment of Mr Justice Else-Mitchell.
-Order! The honourable gendeman in his personal explanation is now straying wide of the misrepresentation.
-The simple fact is that the earliest date which can be secured is Monday 24 October. The action is against another defendant. The principle of sub judice applies quite clearly even if there are not yet sufficient judges to hear these matters. The honourable gentleman was responsible for that shortage of judges.
Sitting suspended from 6.6 to 8 p.m.
– On behalf of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) and for the information of honourable members, I present the report of Sir Bede Callaghan, C.B.E., following his inquiry into the structure of industry and the employment situation in Tasmania together with a statement made by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) on behalf of the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton).
– by leave -Too often people living in the more settled areas do not realise the size and isolation of parts of Australia. I have seen at first hand the urgent need for, and am aware of the enormous cost involved in, bringingthe provincial cities and remoter areas of Australia into closer contact with our capital cities. People who have chosen to live and work in these areas are entitled to the same considerations from the communications point of view as those who choose to live in the capital cities of Australia. I have also on many occasions reminded honourable members and Australians generally of the Government’s firm commitment to improve telecommunications and broadcasting facilities in rural and remote areas of Australia.
Honourable members need no reminding of the inadequacy of radio, television and telephone services in these areas. Australia is a large continent Its distances are vast The cost of using current terrestrial systems to take these services throughout Australia is enormous and in some instances difficult to justify. Australia is, however, not alone in striving to obtain improved communications faculties throughout large areas which comprise dense and very sparse population. Opportunity and technology now exist for resolving these deficiencies and providing new and exciting prospects to enable a fuller and better lifestyle for all Australians. Overseas experience, particularly in the United States and Canada, has shown that a domestic satellite system can provide services reliably and economically
The Government recently received a report from Australian Consolidated Press Ltd titled The Opportunity for Television Program Distribution m Australia Using Satellites’. This report discusses the domestic satellite systems of North America and suggests an opportunity for equally advanced services in Australia. The report presents a plan for a satellite service to distribute television programs simultaneously throughout Australia. It also points out that other improved services become possible if adequate capacity exists. I refer to instructional television, health care by telemedicine, long distance telephone trunk calls, closed circuit television and digital data transmission.
The report proposes establishing a nationwide television network distribution system. The adoption of such a proposal might well mean a major revision of the television broadcasting frequency plan ‘ to accommodate additional rebroadcast transmitters. It could mean a reassessment of future terrestrial telecommunication systems. The Government has therefore decided that this report should be subject to a detailed investigation.
A task force comprising officers from the Postal and Telecommunications Department, the Department of Finance, the Department of Defence, the Department of Transport, the Aus.tralian Telecommunications Commission and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission will be established. The Australian broadcasting industry will be involved; technical experts from Austrafia and overseas will participate; and Papua New Guinea and New Zealand will also be invited. The terms of reference Wil include evaluation of benefits and costs and an examination of the implications for the structure, ownership and control of the Australian radio, television and broadcasting industries. The task force Will be given up to six months to prepare its report. It will be responsible to me as Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
The decision is an indication of the Government’s intention to positively assist people in the provincial cities and in rural and remote areas while at the same time offering new and exciting opportunities to people in the more densely populated areas. The Government, in deciding to move quickly on this matter, hopes that the decision will bring private industry and the Government together in another co-operative undertaking for the benefit of aU Australians.
-by leave- The Opposition is quite happy about the study being conducted, but there are a number of things which the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) has not done in this case. Firstly, what has happened to the Aus.tralian Consolidated Press Ltd report? Why can honourable members not have that report? Why could it npt have been tabled tonight with the statement so that aU honourable members and the community as a whole would have been able to assess its relative merits? Not only the Packer Press but also the Fairfaxes, the Murdochs and the Ansetts will be interested in this matter. The Fairfaxes, the Murdochs and the Ansetts are very substantial subscribers to the election campaign funds of the Liberal and National Country parties. What is wrong with their having some opportunity to see what the report contains and to make a comment? I have no objection to the tabling of the report. Let us have as broad a study as possible of it.
Whilst we are talking about reports, I ask why the Minister has not tabled the report that was commissioned by the Labor Government when it was in office. A study was conducted to consider whether Australia would put up a satellite of its own, whether we would be wholly, solely and totally responsible for it, whether we would go into partnership with the Japanese or whether we would join with Indonesia which I understand put one up recently. All these things have not been spelt out in the Minister’s statement. It is obvious that this is all part of the Government’s election campaign. It is reminiscent of Menzies’ leadership in 1963 when the Parliament was bombarded with all the goodies about the place. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has now been the Minister for 20 months. Is it the Packer Press which stirred him? Why did he not do something about the report commissioned by the Labor Government? I think it was started by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) and finished by Senator Bishop who was his successor as Postmaster-General.
The Liberal Party is not the only party which is interested in satellites and what is being provided. I understand that the report which was brought in during the term of the Labor Government made certain recommendations on the timing of putting up a satellite. People who are interested in this matter have been making inquiries of top engineers in the Australian Telecommunications Commission. They want to know what has happened to the satellite. They have been told that it will not be ready for a while. That is why I compare this time of the year in 1977 with this time of the year in 1963 when old Ming was running the show. If honourable members opposite are happy with the Dunstan result, we are delighted, and we will be happy to have an election. Nevill Wran is having a look at one also.
-That is right, Nifty Neville. He is too smart for the Liberal boys and they know it. I am not so much concerned with what the Minister has said in his statement; I am more concerned about what he has not said.
– Did you hear it?
-I read it. I admit that I had difficulty in reading it. It took me all the dinner break to read the two and a half pages of it. What I am concerned about is what was not said in that statement because the things that have not been said are the things that I think should be concerning all Australians. If we are to have a satellite at least let us have the best satellite and let it be made available for public study, not just for an internal departmental study.
– Do you want to get a ticket?
-It is not a question of for how long we want to go. If we are putting up a satellite it will be up there for some considerable time. They do not cost 2Vic each; they are an expensive exercise, and I think that the best possible facility should be provided. I would also like the Minister to tell us the differences between this satellite and the one with which the Overseas Telecommunications Commission is associated. I believe that the one in which it was interested was lost in the Indian Ocean.
– A partnership one.
– It was a partnership one. Is it proposed that this satellite will take in overseas telecommunications? Will it become a replacement as a navigational aid for the Omega system? If it is proposed to replace Omega- I am asking these questions purely and simply because the Department of Transport is involved in this interdepartmental committee- why is the Minister for Transport going ahead with Omega? I repeat, I am concerned with the things that are not in the statement. I think that the Minister should have been saying a little more about the cost of this proposed satellite. No figure is mentioned in the statement to indicate whether it will cost $10 or $100m. Perhaps the statement was prepared hurriedly and it was not known what the cost would be, but I think that at least the Minister could have paid honourable members the courtesy of giving us some indication of the approximate cost of it, even if it finished up like the cost of the F 1 1 1 s. I want to know whether it is proposed that other commercial television channels will have access to it or whether only the Packer Press will be associated with it. These are the things that have not been explained by the Minister in his paper.
I ask that, before it goes any further, the reports that have been presented to the Minister by Consolidated Press and the report which was prepared for the Australian Labor Party Government should be tabled in the Parliament so that honourable members will have access to those two reports, so that they will have some knowledge of them and at least be in a position in which they can make some judgment instead of being served up with a paper such as this. I was advised at about 6.5 p.m. that the statement would be made at 8 o’clock. It is true that the Minister gave us the two hours notice required. I am not bitching. This is a very technical piece of paper. The Minister obviously does not know anything about it himself.
– He is no orphan in that case.
-He is no orphan; that is perfectly true, but at least if we had the benefit of the reports that are available we could obtain technical advice, just as he can obtain technical advice as to what is the best system to adopt and what is the best way to go about it. We have people on our side of the House here who are just as technically equipped as the people who assist the Minister.
– You are well equipped, are you?
-They may be technically equipped in all sorts of ways. I do not wish to make any further comment on this matter but I hope that the Minister will at least give some serious consideration to the points I have made with regard to making available to honourable members the reports involved.
Debate resumed from 14 September, on the motion by Mr Sinclair.
That the House take note of the papers.
Upon which Mr E. G. Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘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:
commitments by customer countries to apply effective and verifiable safeguards against the diversion of Australian uranium from peaceful nuclear purposes to military nuclear purposes.
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.’
-Having spoken at the opening stages of debate on the first Fox report, it now gives me great pleasure to re-enter this debate in its concluding phase. Many speakers, both in this House and in debate across the nation, have attempted to give the uranium issue a moral perspective. I believe it is proper that such attempts should have been made, and it is to this question that I seek to address my remarks. In order to understand whether it is the Government or the Opposition that is morally correct in its nuclear policy, one has to examine motives. The motive of the Government in its painstaking deliberations over a nuclear policy has been to make the right decision for Australia and the world. In particular, great regard has been given to the questions of Aboriginal rights, the safety of mining and milling, the operation of reactors, reprocessing, enrichment, disposal of waste products and the spread of nuclear weapons.
In the context of Government motivation and the morality of the decision to mine and export, I seek to canvass once more the question of nuclear proliferation. In the last year attention to the possible spread of nuclear weapons has been gaining increasing predominance both as an aspect of the nuclear debate and as a world issue. It is right that this should be so, and I am proud that Government members had given this matter the vital attention it requires. Late in 1976 a report of the authoritative Stockholm International Research Centre stated that within nine years 35 nations will possess the capability to produce their own nuclear weapons. Nonsignatories of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty included in that group were Pakistan, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Cuba, Spain, Egypt, Switzerland and Turkey. In such a context the survival of mankind might seem a daunting prospect.
Never has the world had to meet such a grim threat. Few nations have a greater responsibility to meet the challenge than has Australia. An article in the National Times of 30 May to 4 June this year stated:
Uranium could be the issue on which Australia wields more influence in the world than ever before.
I tell aU honourable members and the people of Australia that that statement was supported to the hilt by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) when he said:
In Brussels, London, the Hague, Paris, Rome and Bonn, as well as in Moscow, I consistently asserted Australia’s wish to develop her own enrichment capability so that as much uranium as possible should be exported in an enriched form.
He then went on to say:
The obvious interest shown throughout Europe in Australia as a supplier of uranium suggests that we shall exercise considerable influence in this important area.
Who knows, we may still achieve a bipartisan policy on that. The same moral motivation was inherent in the speech of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) to this House on the safeguards POliCY on 2 June when he said:
Surely there can be no doubt that, if Australia were to make its uranium resources available, the strengthening of nuclear safeguards would be enhanced. The possibility of premature development of the plutonium economy, with its implications for nuclear proliferation, could be avoided. It is only by acting now that we can contribute to long-term global stability.
Again, the theme was clear in the speech of the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). In his speech to this House on the day of the Government’s policy announcement, he said:
Far from hindering the cause of non-proliferation, 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.
It represents a consistent moral approach to one of the most crucial tasks any Australian government will ever tackle. Let us make no mistake. The Carter initiatives deserve supporting. They are currently facing their greatest challenge. In the United States of America, the Senate has voted to keep alive the Clinch River demonstration fast breeder reactor project and the Barnwell reprocessing plant. In Europe, France and West Germany have signed an agreement on the development and construction of fast breeder reactors. By making a determined stance in conjunction with the United States and Canada, remembering that Australia and these two countries hold more than half of the world’s reasonably assured reserves of uranium we can foster the peaceful development of nuclear energy as the principal solutions to the world’s current and foreseeable energy problems. What is the international alternative? It is a world of darkness, industrial dislocation, famine and poverty.
Having mentioned the moral approach of this Government and the Carter initiatives, I would also like to make a brief reference to the Canadian stance. Earlier this year, Canada froze uranium exports to Britain, West Germany, Italy and Japan pending the negotiation of stronger agreements on safeguards. Speaking at a Press conference in April, Prime Minister Trudeau said:
To us, the danger of nuclear proliferation is more important than economic advantage.
Thus the Federal Government’s reasonable approach is clear also in the Canadian attitude. In stark contrast stands the approach of the Australian Labor Party while m government. That policy was motivated by a grubby desire to make a quick buck whatever the national or international consequences may have been. Let us look at the facts of what it said. Even before it took office in 1972, we have the words of the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). He said:
Uranium exports, in whatever form could be highly profitable to this country. With the proper taxation policies, there could be enormous economic benefits for everyone who lives here.
The theme was well developed by 1 974 when the then Minister for Minerals and Energy made a statement to this House dealing with Northern Territory uranium. On 3 1 October 1 974, he said:
My purpose in 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.
What of the daddy of them aU, the current master of pious pontification on the uranium issuethe honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). I know he would like to forget, but let me remind him of his previous money-grabbing motives. In government he said to this House:
So we have another 40 years of production, another 40 years of power to be supplied by conventionally enriched reactors. There is no reason why the price of uranium will not keep escalating and there is no reason why this Government will not allow a maximum return to the people of Australia and the uranium producers of Australia.
The golden gleam in his eye did not dim with the passage of time. Just prior to the elections in 1975 he said:
We are prepared to give the Japanese any amount of fuel that they need, enriched if we can do so. The only thing is that we would like to do the enriching. Instead of sending just yellow cake at bargain basement prices we want to get the profit that comes from enrichment. We do not want the stuff to be sent to the United States or the Soviet Union or any place else where Japan may choose to have it enriched. A good offer is before Japan. It can come in with Australia on enrichment if it wishes. If it wants to wait until we develop the technology and secure the capital, as we have the raw material, it will wait too long. The Japanese should get off their tails and move into this undertaking.
His present rantings on a moratorium are a prostitution qf that policy. He changed and did a complete about face - not because he was interested in the health and prosperity of all Aus.tralians but because he knew that if he did not he would be out on his ear, stripped of his position as spokesman on minerals and energy, beleagured and berated by those of the Left. Where was their concern then for mining safety? Where was their concern then for reactor safety? Where was their concern then for the safe disposal of waste products? Where was their concern then for their moral obligation to help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons?
I put it to honourable members that such issues to which they now adopt a holier than thou attitude were lost in their desire to finance their own socialist extravagances which were bankrupting this nation. How different their policy is now. In Perth, in July of this year, the Opposition placed an indefinite moratorium on the mining and treatment of uranium in Australia. Delegate Holding told the Australian Labor Party conference:
It means that any company, national or international, which wants to involve itself in a mining process or export of uranium as from this date does so at its own risk. Such company being told quite specifically and quite categorically what the view of this movement is, if it decides to enter into any contractual arrangement, then it does so at its own risk. Any such arrangement will be repudiated by a Labor government and the loss will fall where it lies.
And so, in a sham 45-minute debate, one of the great political hypocrisies of our time was perpetrated. How hollow now seem the words of those honourable gentlemen opposite while in government. In 1974, the then Minister for Minerals and Energy said:
We, on taking office, assured Japan that we would honour contracts entered into right to within a couple of months of the election despite the fact that the contracts were made at excessively low prices. Demands have been made by Queensland Mines in particular to try and panic the Japanese. We have assured them that delivery will be made, that we have the stocks to make these deliveries and the stocks are at Lucas Heights at the present time. We can provide all commitments up to 1 980 out of these stocks.
Again, the honourable member for Blaxland on the same day said:
Those contracts are going to be met to the letter because the Australian Government has ratified them and the decisions of one Australian government have to be upheld by the next Australian government.
Notice Labor supporters do not talk these days about honouring commitments. On the contrary, they will dishonour them - to Australia ‘s everlasting shame. What in fact has happened is that the Opposition has replaced its profit motive of government years with a new motive. No wonder the people of Australia will never again repose any confidence in the Labor Party. Members of the Labor Party are determined to breed fear into the hearts and minds of Australians over the uranium issue. The desire to obtain quick dollars has been replaced with a desire to acquire quick votes. If they are genuinely concerned about dangers in uranium mining or export now why were they not concerned in 1972, 1973, 1974, or 1975?
After the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with the genuine concern of people over nuclear wastes and nuclear proliferation members of the Opposition have decided to set themselves up as peddlers of fear. They have embarked upon one of the shabbiest, immoral political tactics of all time. They must stand condemned by the Australian people and exposed for the hypocrisy of their attitudes in this Parliament
In an article in the Sydney Sun on 15 May 1977, the Leader of the Opposition wrote a column headed ‘The Crime of Mining Uranium’. There has been only one crime committed on the uranium issue. Both in government and in opposition, the Labor Party has preferred expediency as its policy motivation to honesty and international obligation. The newest member of this crime syndicate is its own President, Mr Hawke. Speaking at a Press Conference earlier this month in which he announced the decision of the Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to call a referendum, Mr Hawke said:
We are getting closer and closer to blood on the streets of Australia on the issue.
What an appalling, irresponsible statement from this man. Let there be no mistake about this ACTU policy resolution. It is a cunning of Labor’s fear campaign. The greatest hope the Labor Party has of whipping up fear and violence is for it to pit Australian against Australian in a referendum in which it would manipulate genuinely worried but ill-informed voters with its new found nuclear lies. The Government has pulled the political rug from under Mr Hawke by its recent announcement that there will be no referendum on the issue.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I support the amendment moved quite a few weeks ago by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). I had hoped that I would never have had to speak in this debate. I think it is absurd that in this Parliament when there are 91 members on the Government side and 36 members on this side, the Government should try to make a great point out of the fact of not being able to match the number of speakers. The numbers favour the Government by 2lh to one.
– We have never tried that, truly.
– The Government did try it. The Government is trying it here right now. This debate has been on and off. The Government has dallied until it got the decision from the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The Government has hoped to score political capital at every round. Uranium is one of the great emotional issues confronting the country at the moment. In fact, my colleague the Opposition Whip gave me a transcript of a telephone interview with Ralph Nader that was broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s program AM on 21 July 1977. One of the things that astonished me about that interview was that consideration was given to what may happen in a couple of hundred thousand years. The prolonging of this debate and what has been said in it ignores what may happen in this country in the next 20 days, the next 20 months, and the next 20 years. It is humbug, if I may say so. I hope that it is still permissible to use that word in this House.
I must say that I was sickened by what took place in this Parliament yesterday. A statement never made in this Parliament was voted upon seriously by honourable members on the Government side, and, if I may say so, my friend the Government Whip, in particular -
– I did not start that.
-You brought that tawdry document into this place. Surely to goodness, nothing but what is said in this Parliament should go into its records. It is my understanding that Hansard is a record of what is said here. What happened yesterday lowered the standards of the Parliament. Even a Cabinet meeting was broken up.
– What has this to do with uranium?
-It has a lot to do with uranium. I would be quite happy if an honourable member on the Government side stood up now and moved that the question be put. Candidly I would welcome it. I do not think there is anything left to say that will divide either side one way or the other. This is a serious issue. What the Leader of the Opposition put in his amendment was that the House should reject the Government’s precipitate decision without there having been sufficient public debate in Australia. Surely this is what we ought to be arguing about. With all respect to people like Nader, I do not think the issue is what might happen in 200,000 years. Unfortunately, mankind has not got, and never has had that sort of perspective. I doubt if at any stage mankind has had an issue quite as divisive and, in a sense, quite as decisive in the ultimate as the one that now faces us.
I am not one who believes that uranium should be kept in the ground. In a sense what we are arguing about is not what is in the ground but what we shall do with what has already been taken out of the ground. I would have hoped that Australia was a sensible and rational economic community and that we might have acknowledged that with nuclear energy there was arospect and a hope of redressing the balanceetween the haves and the have nots. On the other hand, I would not suggest that those who already have nuclear power or the disposition to use it are the ones to be most trusted with it. In my view we are being very pious in suggesting that we can be the arbitrators about the future use of uranium.
I have lived long enough to see technological changes in my lifetime from boyhood to now. I have seen things that have astonished us. I have no doubt that changes will occur in the next 25 years. It may well be that what is now called uranium wil be synthesised. I do not know, nor does anybody else. When the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) arranged that splendid presentation of something like 30 documents recently, I think he was in a sense saying that he hoped the matter would be debated. With aU respect, I suggest that we want a different sort of debate from what is taking place in this House. I hope that what is being done here will be terminated as early as possible. I hope that we are not going to get any more of this kind of nonsense in the months ahead; that we have to match every one of the Governments speakers when it has two and a half times as many to do the job anyway. Why not have three speakers in a row from the Government side before one of the Opposition members speaks rather than try to make cheap political capital out of the issue, as was done the other evening when the Government side had speakers and presumably we did not, and gave the impression that it was keeping the debate going. Surely that makes a mockery of a parliamentary system.
One of the things that disturbs me in what is increasingly becoming a secular society is that more and more people are claiming moral justification for certain actions. I suppose that immoral justification would be the opposite. Candidly, I do not know how one judges the relativity of these sorts of things but there is no doubt that mankind has the opportunity of destroying substantial parts of society. Hopefully nuclear power will be used for peaceful purposes but, deplorably, there is the possibility that it may be used for non-peaceful purposes. I am not too sure that that has not always been the case in the last 60 or 70 years, given the relative developments of various parts of the world. Germany sought to control the world by nonpeaceful means in 1870 and almost did so. It tried again, almost successfully, in the period from 1914 to 1918. It tried again in the period 1939-1945. Certain places like South Africa still use military power to sit on sensible politicachange.
I suppose that one of the great risks of nuclear power is that some small power, given the opportunity, can start something that will not stop where it starts. This is one of the sad facts of history. I had the pleasure the other evening of going to a lecture in Melbourne given by Professor Dahrendorf. He is a German of origin. He suffered under Nazi persecution in the 1930s and now, in a sense, is grandly a citizen of the world. He said that he deplored the fact that his country of birth, or that part of it to which he still subscribes- West Germany- had recently arranged to sell to Brazil the potentiality to develop nuclear power presumably for destructive as well as peaceful purposes. He suggested- I am not certain that I necessarily subscribe to his suggestionthat nothing was lost by Australia becoming a seller of uranium at the moment, provided that it put terms on those to whom the uranium was sold.
– What if they do not honour them?
– Exactly. That is the point to which I come. What if they do not honour them? Has that not always been the great challenge in the world? Has it not always been that those who should have done what they said they would do when they were under no pressure changed their minds when the circumstances changed? One has only to consider what can happen at the end of a football match or at the end of a session in a pub, or the way in which this House occasionally erupts, to realise that rational decisions can go out the window. It is rather sad to think of what will come into the vacuum. Surely that is what is involved in the use of this metal or element. I do not know the answers and I am not too sure that anybody else here does. I get a little tired of those who I claim have no more expertise in this matter than I have pontificating to me about what the scientific or physical realities are.
We find intruding into the debate now even the suggestion that the mere mining of uranium is dangerous. The mere mining of coal, copper, lead or zinc can be dangerous, but nobody seemed to have the same reservations when those metals first began to be mined. We all would be safer at the weekends if no motor cars were driven on the roads; but is that a rational approach to the problems of society?
Surely, occasionally we have to reason together. I submit that there are not the differences between the two sides in this House that are indicated in the procedures that we follow. I do not think that there are the divisions within the community in relation to this matter which it is said there are; but the community is asking questions, questions which increasingly it will ask in relation to many other matters.
It is the people of the world and their health and welfare that are at stake. I suppose that most of us read many years ago the famous story called Thais. It was about a man who could have done a job in a certain place but thought that his great task was to go and save a courtesan in another part of the world from the fate worse than death; but he inherited the fate himself. There is a great deal to be learnt from that: Physician, first heal thyself and, society, first solve the problems on your doorstep before you try to solve everybody else’s problems. Australia in many respects is in a unique position to be an exemplar to the rest of the world on many of these problems; but, from what I have seen in this Parliament yesterday in particular and to some extent in the debate on this question, we do not show ourselves as being very fit to be an example to anybody.
Debate (on motion by Mr Porter) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to extend the Lands Acquisition Act 1955 to the external Territories of Australia, to enable the Commonwealth to acquire land in those Territories for its purposes under the same Act as applies throughout the rest of Australia. Honourable members will be aware that it is the intention of the Government to establish an animal quarantine station in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Honourable members will also recall that in a Press statement dated 16 June last the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) said that it was the Government’s policy to own all land on which its facilities are located. Discussions will be held in the near future relating to the purchase of land for the quarantine station and, as necessary, the purchase of other land in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. This amendment to the Act will provide the necessary machinery for compulsory acquisition should a negotiated settlement not be possible. In such circumstances the amendment will allow the owner of the land- the Clunies Ross Estate- recourse to the courts for fair and just compensation.
The Lands Acquisition Act provides that all acquisitions carried out by the Commonwealth shall be on just terms, in line with the provisions of the Constitution. At present the Act applies in all of the States, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory but does not apply in the external Territories of Australia. All owners of property should have the same rights and the same obligations when the Commonwealth acquires their land. This BUI provides that the Commonwealth’s acquisition powers, as well as its obligations when acquiring real property, apply universally within Australia and all its Territories. The Act contains provisions safeguarding owners’ rights. Parliament is empowered under the Act to void a compulsory acquisition if it sees fit. Formal processes are laid down for notifying owners of intended acquisition and of the rights and obligations after land has been acquired. The Act also lays down the right to faircompensation, rights to arbitration and to assessment of compensation by the courts in cases of disagreement. The Bill makes special provision for landowners in the external Territories, isolated from the Australian mainland, to deliver claims, notices or other documents to a local address rather than to the address of a chief property officer on the mainland or in Tasmania. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
-The debate on whether Australia should supply uranium to overseas countries has been wide and far ranging. Both sides have thrown up evidence which they suggest supports their claims. At this stage of the debate I do not want to repeat or to incorporate in Hansard more statistics; rather I want to get back to what appears to me to be the basic question. I do not believe that there is a member of this Parliament who would suggest that the world is not facing an energy crisis. Most people recognise that, on current information available, about midway throught the 1980s the world demand for oil will be greater than the supply from new discoveries. Therefore, one of the most important energy sources on current estimates will begin to dry up. Of course, this will not happen overnight; it could be over a matter of decades. However, the problem begins to become evident. Let us look for a moment at the situation closer to home. The Minister for National Resources and Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Anthony) mentioned in his speech at the ANZUS Conference in September of this year in relation to Australia:
The only major shortfall in supply of energy sources over the next 10 years will be in crude oil.
He went on to state:
Individual States may suffer shortfalls in other fuels. Already Queensland is having difficulties with natural gas supplies, New South Wales and South Australia could also experience natural gas shortfalls in the late 1980s if no further reserves are discovered in the Cooper Basin.
Already my own State of South Australia has had to import oil to supply a major proportion of its major energy requirements. However, it is clear that in total we have an excess supply of energy resources for our current and foreseeable needs. One of these resources is obviously uranium. Looking at the problem narrowly, one can say that we have enough energy in Australia, that we will be okay for a good time yet and therefore we are in a very good position, so the Opposition argues, to make other countries change their ways. We and the energy deficient countries are aiming to conserve energy and to use the known existing sources more effectively. Similarly, those countries, together with us, are endeavouring to develop new energy sources such as wind and solar power. However, it appears at this stage that those alternatives are some distance off. Therefore, what do the energy deficient countries use for power when the energy resources start running out and technological advances have not uncovered new sources?
The Opposition seems to argue that whilst there is a risk, however slight, mvolved in the sale of our uranium, we ought not to proceed. Bearing in mind that it will take some years before the newly mined uranium is actually exported and, further, that we possess about 20 per cent of the Western world’s known reserves of low cost uranium, what then is the sort of judgment which the Opposition is asking us to make? What are the alternatives? Is the Opposition really suggesting that we can sufficiently retreat to a less energy reliant state of existence in the time available before the energy crisis becomes crucial? It is hard for Australians to understand how the people in New York, Chicago, London, Paris and Tokyo- any of the large capital cities- would feel if they could hear the Opposition arguing that we should withhold an energy source from them? Let us take as an example a person who lives in a 15-floor apartment in the middle of New York. Can we really say: ‘Look, I am sorry, but because there are some risks in using uranium, and even though the risks may be less than those in driving a motor vehicle, we are not supplying you with this basic source of energy. You will have to walk up the stairs and not use the lift. You will have to open a window and not use the air conditioning. In fact, we strongly suggest that you move back into the country to live’? That is a fairly emotional example but surely that is what a real energy crisis is about. It is not a crisis when it starts to affect the money in people’s pockets. It is a crisis when it starts to affect people ‘s lives.
It is hard for us in Australia to understand such a situation. But the question must arise as to whether we really have the right to refuse to supply an energy source demanded by an energy deficient country when such an energy source is in excess of our own demands. On what basis does the Opposition say that we can decide how to source an energy supply for a certain country better than that country can decide itself? Professor Titterton, Professor of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University since 1950, in a letter to the Canberra Times in September of this year, stated:
Twenty countries already have nuclear power stations and are steadily increasing their investment in this vitally important power source. A further 14 are currently building their first nuclear station. All have looked at the waste problem and have decided that it poses no impediment to the development of the nuclear industry. Does the small Australian anti-uranium lobby believe that it knows better than these 34 governments what is best for their peoples?
The Government has made a well argued thoughtful decision incorporating the most stringent safeguards yet produced to control the future mining and sale of uranium anywhere.
As I understand the situation, at the present time there are some 184 nuclear power units in operation in 20 countries. In all there are about 500 nuclear power units either in operation, under construction or on firm order in 34 countries. We are not looking at an energy source which some countries may want in the future or may be reliant on in the future. People are already reliant on energy that is generated by these power plants. The question then arises, even if the Opposition’s argument is accepted: What do we achieve by refusing to supply uranium to the rest of the world? Would our non-supply mean that people would be more alert to the problems and dangers inherent in the use of uranium? I read from the first Fox report. In its final judgment on mining and milling it states:
The hazards of mining and milling uranium if those activities are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify the decision not to develop Australian uranium mines.
When referring to the dangers inherent in the conversion enrichment and fabrication it stated:
Hazards to members of the public in the general environment arise at all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle. However, few problems seem likely to arise from conversion enrichment or fuel fabrication plants.
Dealing with reactor safety the report stated:
The hazards involved in the ordinary operation 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.
Finally, dealing with the problem of radioactive waste disposal it stated:
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 assessment.
Clearly, the Fox report does not support the Opposition. I quite openly admit that the storage of the waste products does concern me. However, I quote from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission ‘s journal of July 1976. An article by Messrs Alfredson and Levins, dealing with the waste disposal problems, states:
Many methods for ultimate disposal have been proposed, but many nations consider that the best policy for the near term is interim storage in man-made structures at or near the surface of the earth. ‘Engineered storage’, as this approach is called, has the advantage that continuous surveillance can be maintained and solid wastes can be more easily cooled at a time when the heat generation rate is greatest. It also has the advantage of providing more time for detailed evaluation of the many options available for elimination or ultimate disposal of wastes.
The article goes on:
All the necessary technology is available for constructing and operating a retrievable storage facility for periods of up to 100 years.
In the United States, assuming storage in water cooled ponds or air cooled vaults, the land requirement for a retrievable surface storage facility is estimated to be 40 hectares up to the year 20 10. Similarly in the United Kingdom it has been estimated that, in the year 2000 when threequarters of their electricity will bie generated by nuclear power, the total land area occupied by interim liquid storage tanks and ponds containing waste canisters will only be 1.7 hectares -
That is about two acres- about the area of two football grounds.
The end of the report states:
Storage of high activity liquid wastes in tanks of modern design is safe and satisfactory in the short term until facilities for solidifying waste and engineered storage are constructed in the 1980s. The required technology is already available. This interim solution will provide up to 100 years for extensive assessment and evaluation of the wide range of permanent solutions which have been proposed in order to determine the most acceptable method for ultimate disposal.
The Fox report and the information from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission do not seem to support the Opposition’s call for a suspension of the reintroduction of mining and export of uranium. Perhaps the other factor I should mention is whether our refusal to export will prevent proliferation. The Ranger inquiry in its first report stated that proliferation was the most serious danger in the nuclear industry. It was also stated in the Fox report that if Australia were not to export her uranium, this would have little if any impact on the projected expansion of the nuclear power industry. If we did not export, I doubt that we would reduce the risk of proliferation at all.
There is also the very serious consideration as to whether a decision not to export uranium could indirectly increase the threat of proliferation. If we do not supply uranium, particularly if this puts upward pressure on uranium prices, countries desperate for energy could well intensify their research on the fast breeder reactor and fuel reprocessing. Such a premature move towards the plutonium economy would increase the risk that plutonium would fall into the wrong hands and possibly be used for weapon making. The fast breeder reactor is a great deal more efficient than the conventional thermal reactors now in use. It enables about 50 times more energy to be extracted from uranium than does the thermal reactor. As a major proportion of the plutonium produced is suitable for weapon making, a move to the plutonium economy would add to the risk of proliferation. I understand that at present there are no commercial fast breeders in operation, but demonstration reactors are operating in France, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Finally, I turn to the safeguards. Quite frankly, I believe an effective Opposition would be endeavouring to suggest more effective solutions if it believed that our policy did not go far enough, rather than merely offering blank rejections. The Government’s 1 1 -point safeguard policy is extremely comprehensive. As far as I am aware the Opposition has not suggested an alternative. Of course, it did put up a proposal originally but our safeguards go beyond those suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E.G. Whitiam).
The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry identified a number of defects in the then existing safeguard arrangements. The Government has overcome these in its safeguard policy by introducing measures going beyond existing multilateral safeguard arrangements. The Ranger Inquiry said, and the Government has agreed, that it is both essential and possible to make safeguard arrangements more effective. The Government’s safeguards policy does just that. The world requires and demands our uranium. I believe that in the present circumstances we would be acting irresponsibly if we did not supply it
-As soon as the Government made its precipitate decision to mine and export uranium the whole purpose of this debate was lost. The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry was set up by the Labor Government to investigate the safeguards and requirements that would be necessary if Australia were to enter into the rnining and export of uranium. The Government took a decision before this House or the community had had an opportunity to debate the topic thoroughly.
The memories of many Government supporters and of most sections of the media are very short. Accusation after accusation has been made by Government supporters during this debate about the Labor Party’s inconsistency in relation to nuclear power and the mining and sale of uranium. Let me take honourable members back a few short years. In 1947 the then Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, first guided the thinking of Australians towards nuclear power. The establishment of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission was on the way when the Chifley Government was defeated in 1948. At no stage during the years has the Labor Party been against nuclear technology. The policy which was formulated in Perth this year by the Australian Labor Party National Conference includes the following:
To this end Labor will establish a National Fuel and Energy Commission to assist the Australian Government in developing and implementing a co-ordinated fuel and energy policy. The Commission will, together with the Department of Minerals and Energy, provide the Australian Government with expert advice on energy.
The Fuel and Energy Commission will: . . . monitor the exploration, development, transport, price, marketing and use of energy hydrocarbons, fissionable materials and generative water, with the object of achieving the best energy balance for Australia.
The only thing that we have done during the whole of the debate on nuclear energy in Australia has been to insist that environmental safeguards and normal safety procedures should be well and truly established- that the waste, the rubbish that lasts for years and years, should be disposed of with safety to the community. All we ask now is that this Government establish those safety factors. I remind the House that in 1969, with a loud blast of trumpets, an announcement was made that a nuclear prototype reactor would be built at Jervis Bay. I note the honourable member for MacKellar (Mr Wentworth) is paying due attention to me. I remind him that in 1953 and 1954 he wrote a couple of pamphlets entitled ‘Time and the Bomb’ and ‘Survival is a Part of Defence’. At that stage the honourable member for Mackellar was a proponent of nuclear weaponry.
In 1969, when the Jervis Bay prototype reactor was first mentioned, it was the Labor Opposition which insisted that environmental aspects of the disposal of waste should be very thoroughly examined by the then Government In order to prove my point, let me quote an answer given on 19 August 1970 by the Minister for National Development to question No. 1191 which I had asked. It appears in the House of Representatives Hansard for that date at page 253.1 asked:
Will he make available the reports on the (a) (i) geological, (ii) hydrological, (iii) hydrographical, (iv) meteorological, (v) ecological and (vi) environmental investigations carried out at each of the sites considered for the building of a nuclear power station and (b) ability of each site to dispose of the radioactive and thermal waste from the proposed reactor.
The Minister for National Development, Mr Swartz, replied:
The reports to which the honourable member has referred are confidential studies by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the Electricity Commission of New South Wales prepared for management.
Secrecy shrouded every move in the proposed development of a nuclear power station at Jervis Bay. The same secrecy, the same evasiveness, the half truths are still around now when we talk about nuclear power and the rnining and export of uranium. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) talks about the disposal of waste and says that technology has been developed. But he cannot give one instance of that technology being commercially viable at this stage.
Let me revert to 1969 because I think that many honourable members in this House and many people in the media ought to direct their attention back to the years between 1969 and 1972 to see just how consistent the Labor Party has been in its policies on nuclear energy in Australia. I repeat that at no stage have we in our policies ever been opposed outright to the development of nuclear technology. Because of the reluctance of the Government in 1969-70 to provide the community with information about nuclear technology at Jervis Bay I moved, during consideration of the estimates for the Department of National Development on 1 October 1970, the following amendment:
That the proposed expenditure be reduced by $10 as an instruction to the Government that a select committee of this House should be appointed to inquire into and report on the uses of nuclear power in relation to-
a ) the projected power needs of the Commonwealth;
the comparative advantage derived from generating power in this way as against all other sources now being employed;
the effects of the establishment of a nuclear power station upon the environment;
administrative procedures and regulations adopted elsewhere to lessen any undesirable effects of the operation of such a station to ensure the utmost protection of members of the public and the national interest; and
the desirability of establishing a nuclear power station at this time pending the outcome of further technological developments taking place elsewhere.
That debate commenced in this House at 1.14 a.m. I was joined in the debate by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) who said:
Then and only then will our people be informed of the crucial matters relating to the degree of radiation emissions, and their possible effects on health and the environment, and the dispersal of radioactive wastes.
He went on to say:
Thirdly, the concept of the tolerance dose of radioactive poison is developed. The first step is to determine what dose of poison converts humans immediately from vertical to horizontal positions where they remain. This, of course, is above tolerance, so the dose a little lower than that, perhaps five times lower than a lethal dose is prescribed.
He went on to talk of the dangers of radioactive waste and radioactivity generally. This was an important debate-at least according to people it is an important debate now- on nuclear power and nuclear technology. It took place in this Parliament at 1.14 a.m. because even then the Government of the day, which was of the same political complexion as the present Government, had no idea at all of and no interest in the national welfare of Australia or, indeed, of the world. The Government parties were looking at the topic then in the same way as they are looking at it now: Get it out of the ground, sell it, and hang the consequences. But they should always remember that the most important commodity on God’s earth is the human being- man and woman. The Government cannot take the risk with nuclear technology that it is prepared to take.
The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) also spoke in that debate. In his speech on 1 October 1970 he said:
I think it has been fairly well canvassed that the CANDU reactor using natural uranium fuel produces quite an amount of plutonium 239 which is the material used to make a very basic dirty bomb. A dirty bomb is one that throws off a lot of radioactivity. Of course, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating when we see the type of reactor finally selected.
It was because of the efforts of people Uke the honourable member for Hawker, the honourable member for Blaxland, the late Rex Connor, former Senator Don Willesee that the then Government, which was of the same politicacomplexion as the present Government, cancelled the development of the prototype reactor at Jervis Bay. The excuse given at that stage was that it was economically not possible to do so; but $3m had already been spent by the Government in developing that project. The real reason that Prime Minister McMahon, the Prime Minister of the day, cancelled the project was that the experts- the same experts who are being quoted now in relation to the disposal of nuclear wastecould not decide on the type of reactor that was required; did not know what environmental effects it would have on Jervis Bay; had no idea where the waste was to be disposed of. The project was cancelled for the very simple reason that nuclear technology was then, as it still is now, a dangerous concept. It is all right for the honourable member for Holt (Mr. Yates) to shake his head, but I remind him that it was governments of a political complexion similar to his that sent many of our young boys and girls into war. The present Government is doing the same sort of thing in relation to nuclear energy. But the Government is not perturbed about the after effects that could occur.
I reiterate that at no stage has the Australian Labor Party been totally opposed to the development of nuclear technology, nor has it been opposed to the rnining or export of uranium. We insisted in 1969 that a select committee be established. We established the Fox inquiry in order to find out the dangers associated with the development of nuclear technology. This Government, in pursuit of the almighty dollar, makes a decision and announces in this House that this is all going to happen. I ask honourable members opposite to answer me this question: Where do they intend to place the rubbish that comes from the nuclear reactors?
-Order> The honourable member’s dme has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I regret very much that I must gently correct some of the remarks made a moment ago by the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart). He said that in a booklet I wrote some 25 years ago I advocated nuclear weaponry. Exactly the opposite is the truth. At that time I advocated that, before it was too late and before proliferation had occurred, we should have a system of world control which would prevent the proliferation of nuclear weaponry!
-Order! The honourable member has made his personal explanation. He is not entitled to debate the matter.
– With your permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to make my point clear.
-If the honourable member can do that without debating the matter, I will be interested to hear him.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think I had better make it clear that proliferation has occurred. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do to stop that proliferation.
-Order! The honourable member has made his personal explanation. I call the honourable member for Holt.
-After seven debates on uranium both within and outside the Parliament, I am becoming tired of hearing members of the Opposition trying to use terrifying, stupid, imbecilic tactics on an intelligent nation. What sort of people do they think we are? Let me read to them a simple statement by the United Kingdom Central Electricity Generating Board. I suggest that they listen to it and follow it. The Board said that no harm attributable to radiation had been caused to any worker or any member of the public working in British reactors since 1955, when I saw the first one in operation.
What are you talking about? You are trying to scare the Australian nation into believing that it is unsafe to use simple atomic or nuclear reactors for energy. You do not even know that the Soviet Union at this moment is building one of the most powerful atomic breeder reactors ever seen. It is turning out simple reactors for atomic energy, like Mr Ford turned out motor cars. How antiquated your arguments are. What I resent above everything else -
-Order! The honourable member may not say: ‘You do not understand the argument’. He is addressing the Chair. I think I understand the argument. I ask the honourable member to address the Chair, not individual members of the Opposition.
– I defer to the Chair. The Chair is quite correct. If I use the word ‘you’, that means that I am addressing the Chair. I should say that honourable members opposite simply do not comprehend the change that has taken place in the nuclear world. The Australian Labor Party has come forward and protested about nuclear reactors. A Labour government in Britain secretly, without even telling its own organisation, authorised the explosion of the first British atomic bomb. Thank goodness the British Labour Party had the good, sound sense to understand that following the explosion of the first British atomic bomb there would be a peaceful use for uranium and atomic reactors.
Let us go a little further ahead in time. Are we, as a nation, prepared to sit back, to turn to the world and to say to it that 3 per cent of the world’s population will deny to the rest of the world 25 per cent of the power that it requires to generate its electricity? What a ridiculous concept for honourable members opposite to put. Dare they do it? They are gutless. Of course they dare not do it. How could Mr Hawke, with all his stupidity, really believe that in today’s world the Labor Party would say that it would deny atomic energy or the uranium of our country to the underdeveloped nations? Of course the Philippines will want our uranium. Who will not want it? The more I look at those sitting on the benches opposite, the more ashamed I am to think that a person such as Mr Hawke could try to tell us that we should not supply the rest of the world with our uranium.
What infuriates me is his statement that if we decide to supply the underdeveloped nations of the world with the power that they so badly need he will bring the whole of the nation out on to the streets and there will be blood flowing. What piffle! How can a man who calls himself the President of the Australian Labor Party talk such arrant piffle? Of course, the Australian people have more sense. Talk to any other unionist in the world. Look at the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) snivelling there. He should tell the people in Adelaide that the workers in Germany, the unions in Britain and the unions in America are forming up against the reactors that are now working. If honourable members opposite want another job, why do they not go to Russia and see what the Russian reactors are doing? Why do they not go to China and see its reactors? Fancy the Australian unions being the only unions in the world that are against the exporting of atomic energy. Why are they against it? They want to create unemployment. They want to see more people out of work. They do not care two hoots, as long as they can stop uranium being exported because of their political motives. Their motives are snivelling political motives, for a start. The Australian unions want to stop this nation exporting the uranium which the whole of the world wants. What do they imagine the rest of the world must think of them? They know that they are playing Tom Tiddler politics. If there is an election soon, honourable members opposite will be smothered. It will serve them right. The average worker in this country knows all about the position.
Honourable members opposite pretend that we do not know that Australia was involved in atomic energy protection arrangements. Of course we were. In 1956 Australia was one of the first governors of the atomic energy board which was designated as the body to regulate all atomic energy operations in this part of the world.
– That was when Santamaria took over the Liberal Party.
– Maybe the honourable member was just coming out of something in Botany Bay then; I do not know. In 1956 this nation first set itself the task of establishing proper control of uranium and of controlling where uranium was used in the world. I am stunned to think that no member of the Opposition has said with pride that in the early days of 1956 we were members of the atomic energy board in Europe. Members of the Opposition have forgotten it. Why? They are so ignorant, it is unbelievable. Now they talk about atomic waste. The say that we do not know how to cope with atomic waste. Since 1966 experiments have been conducted with regard to the disposal of nuclear waste. It is no mystery. lt is nothing sudden that has come upon the world. If members of the Labor Party wanted to attack the world they would say that the nuclear authorities or agencies had failed to supervise the waste material sufficiently. This is a good argument. I must say that I would respect their argument on that ground. Fair enough.
-I read your speech.
– The one you are giving now.
-If the honourable member had read the first one, he would be a much wiser gentleman. I am afraid that he did not. He does not really care. I do not think he is able to understand. To pretend that the science of this world does not know about the control of nuclear waste is to show the most appalling ignorance. Surely some honourable member has been to France and seen what the French are doing in regard to vitrification. Which honourable member has seen how the French deal with their nuclear waste? Anybody? Has any member of the Opposition been to see the harvest way of controlling waste? Has any honourable member been to Germany to see the control of waste, or to the United States? Is there any honourable member opposite who has done that?
-I have been to Italy. The Italians send their waste to Britain.
– I have been to Japan. The Japanese send their waste to the United Kingdom.
– The more I listen to honourable members opposite, the more I am convinced that they simply have not made any effort to study the way in which overseas countries deal with nuclear waste. Could any honourable member opposite tell me what is the main way they deal with nuclear waste? What system will they use? Honourable members opposite would not know whether it was a calculator, the vitrification method or pods. All they are interested in is trying to scare the pants off the Australian people into believing that the use of nuclear energy is a terrifying operation. That is absolutely childish and unbelievably stupid.
They must realise that today they are living in a new age, a new era. The times have changed. All the Australian people want to know is firstly, if we export uranium are we doing anything which would be morally wrong? The answer is no. Secondly, if we export uranium are we certain that the International Atomic Energy Agency can police it? The answer is yes. Thirdly, is there a technology which can deal with atomic waste when it comes out of all the ordinary reactors around the world? The answer is yes. So what are they really trying to tell us? I know, they are saying that babies in 10 years dme will have 10 heads because someone has stood on a nuclear pile buried somewhere. The more one listens to these sorts of arguments the more infuriated one becomes. The average person has come to the conclusion quite rightly that the argument is completely over. It is over on one line in practicality for the nation. It is over on the second line because every other nation requires it. It is over on the third line because we have all the methods of supervising its control and looking after it. What more do they want?
Everybody knows that they are only trying to create political troubles. A few baboons are running around trying to pretend that this is a great issue. It is not an issue today. It is a past issue. It is one of the issues which destroyed Mr Gaitskell, the Leader of the Labour Party in England. There was no man more saddened by the baboonery in Britain of the very Left Wing which shouted and yelled at him everywhere he went to make on behalf of the Labour Party a simple statement that the peaceful use of uranium was the best thing for Britian. He was howled down, knocked about and savaged everywhere he went. I have always felt very sorry for him because, like many other good, honest Labour people he knew that the use of uranium for peaceful purposes is no problem in the world. There has been no injury from atomic energy reactors. The sooner the Australian people come around to this and the sooner honourable members opposite stop this stupid nonsense the sooner the Australian people will be better relieved. If Opposition members come to power and then rat on every contract this nation has entered into with the rest of the world they will certainly betray every Australian worker in every field. They alone will be responsible for the unemployment which occurs. Serve them right.
-Nobody else takes the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates)- the temporary member for Holtseriously so I am unlikely to spend any time on his intemperate- I hope that is the right wordoutburst tonight. I support the amendment. Unfortunately, there are enough differences between the two sides of Australian politics without our manufacturing differences which do not really exist. I believe that there has been something dishonest in some attempts by Government supporters- we have just heard one of them- to widen the uranium debate away from the fundamental issue of safeguards. In my contribution to this debate tonight I want to differentiate between what is real and what is manufactured about these differences.
Firstly, I shall indicate the points of agreement between us. I take as my text the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) issued on the afternoon that the Government’s decision was announced. To use his own words I say yes, our decision must be motivated by a high sense of moral responsibility, not only to all Australians but also to the community of nations. On my side of politics we believe the sort of line we are taking does just that. I say yes, there are four fundamental considerations. The Prime Minister mentioned four, I have some others. But I agree that his four are fundamental when considering these affairs. They are listed in his statement. Firstly, there is the need to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation. Secondly, there is the need to supply essential sources of energy to an energy deficient world. Thirdly, there is the need to protect effectively our environment in which mining development will take place. Fourthly, there is the need to ensure that proper provision is made for the welfare and interests of the Aboriginal people in the Alligator Rivers region and all the other people living in the regions and working in the developmental projects.
I agree with those four fundamental aims. In my view there are more than those four. I would have to add to those four fundamental considerations that fifthly, there is the need to ensure satisfactory disposal of waste, particularly the highly dangerous long life plutonium. Heaven knows why this was not included in the Prime Minister’s list of fundamental considerations. Sixthly, there is the need to safeguard the transport of that plutonium free from terrorist activity when it is moving from one part of the world to another.
I shall continue with my list of areas where there is general agreement between the parties. Much of this debate has been taken up with manufactured disagreements. There is, in my view, an inevitability that nuclear power generators will be needed at least between now and the end of this century if the developed world is to maintain its standard of living and if the under developed world is also to be developed. I cannot be so idealistic, as much as I would like to be and as much as I applaud those who choose the alternative lifestyle, as to believe that developed people will voluntarily and peacefully allow their lifestyles to be reduced without enormous problems even though there are grave and risky costs for them in pursuing the nuclear path in order to obtain their benefits.
I have visited Sweden and Japan, among many countries. These are the two countries mentioned by Sir Macfarlane Burnet. I have talked with senior officials about their options just as I have talked over these serious problems in Brussels, Paris and London with a fraternal Labour Minister in London, a great friend of mine who happens to be Minister for Energy in England at present.
– Wedgwood Benn.
– It is not Wedgwood Benn. The honourable member for Holt of aU people ought to know that he is Secretary of State for Energy. Dick Mabon is Minister of State for Energy. I have been to Washington and Ottawa. I have spoken to people in all these places. That is not an exhaustive list. All these countries and more have a commitment to nuclear power. Certainly, there is a pause and a rethink at the same time. There is a realisation that some of the grave problems have been taken too lightly in the headlong rush to nuclear development. Certainly the international economic crisis which has overtaken the world and the increased technical problems associated with nuclear reactors have reduced the present demand for nuclear generated electric power.
It is my honest conviction that without some almost miraculous technological breakthrough which we cannot envisage at present, the increasing commitment to nuclear power will continue, although it Will slow down. If only some patently knowledgeable and impressive person would tell us that solar energy and/or wind power could take up the slack. Unfortunately I am convinced that this will not happen. Sometimes Sweden is cited as an example of a country where there may be a change of heart. Regrettably I have to point out that this is not so. Only two parties campaigned at the last Swedish election for the termination of nuclear development- the Centre Party, formerly known as the Agrarian Party, and the Communist Party. As I understand it, both lost votes. The Centre Party is now in power only because of the gains of the Swedish Liberal Party with which it is now in coalition and which did not oppose nuclear power.
Let me continue with the litany of where there is agreement- where we do not have to manufacture disagreement- between the Government and the Opposition on this issue. Yes, it is so that uranium development would in the long term have some significant economic benefits for this country. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) flattered me by quoting me tonight on this subject. I do not resile one bit from what I have said. It is a question of timing. We are not suggesting for one moment, in advocating a pause, that there would not be a long term gam if we went in for uranium development. None of the economic spokesmen has suggested that. But there is no immediate economic gain in any way in rushing headlong, without a pause, into nuclear development. It is a grave deception to give the impression that this development will be of much use to us in the immediate future. I do not deny that there are some who have sincere doubts about that long term economic development, but I have placed on record what is my feeling and I place it on record again in this House tonight. I repeat that when we are discussing this subject in the Australian Labor Party it is not on the economics that we are pushing our advocacy, it is on the moral issue. Let us focus on where the differences are rather than manufacture them and have a false debate on this issue.
Although the Gregory thesis has applied in the past- namely, that the success of the minerals export has led over the long term to a growth in our reserves, which led to an upvaluation of our currency, which itself had adverse effects on our other exports and on our import competing manufacturing industries- I do not believe that we can be sure that this will happen in the future because in the future we will have enormous balance of payments problems relating to the import of crude oU. We are going to need our export industries to save us from grave balance of payments problems and the consequent decline in our currency value. But that is not to say that we are going to need the uranium industry. This argument applies to our coal exports and any others that we are lucky to have in this country. I repeat that this is an argument about moral issues, about safeguards, and that is where the argument should have been focused if this debate tonight and on previous occasions were dinkum. Instead of that the House has had to listen to ridiculous and insulting outbursts such as the one we have just had to listen to from the honourable member for Holt.
Mr Bob Gregory of the Australian National University makes the point himself that his valuable work is an analysis of the past, not a prescription for the future. More than this, I repeat that a Labor Treasurer would like the taxes from all our mineral exports from all our successful industries to redistribute in this country in order to help the ordinary people of our nation whose quality of life we are determined to improve. The summary of what I have said to date is that the strategies of both sides of this Parliament- I refer particularly to the statements of the Prime Ministerare the same on fundamental issues. The Prime Minister left out a couple of things that I think are enormously important but I cannot disagree with his long term strategies. There is more to it than just that. Labor wants to see moral responsibility. We want to prevent nuclear proliferation. We recognise the need to supply an energy starved world with the valuable resources we possess. We want to protect our Aboriginal people and our environment.
Most of us think that there is a regrettable inevitability about the development of nuclear power and most of us recognise the valuable economic benefits which can in the long run accrue from the successful development of all our mineral exports, not only uranium. In fact we take credit, justifiably, for persuading our political opponents to share so many of these objectives which I have articulated. If we had not taken the stand which we have taken, with the help of a valuable conservation movement in this country, I assert that the Liberal and National Country Parties- and unthinking people such as the last person who involved himself in this debate- would have rushed headlong into developing our uranium industry in this country without thinking about safeguards, without reports such as the Fox report, without taking the trouble that has been taken. 1 give credit for the trouble that has been taken to this point of time.
The Prime Minister quite rightly paid tribute to Mr Justice Fox and his colleagues. They opened our eyes. Particularly they opened the eyes of our opponents. It is a tragedy that the
Fraser Government has not accepted all of the Fox Commission’s recommendations. For instance, I believe that there are good economic as well as environmental reasons for sequential development, as Mr Justice Fox and his commissioners recommended. But at least something has rubbed off- the bilateral agreements with at least some safeguards; at least some government participation in the Ranger venture, however halfhearted that has been; and at least some protection for the environment and for the Aboriginal people. I give some credit where it is due but we say that it has not gone far enough. However, all of these things are pluses. At least let us be thankful for some Fraser Government enlightenment.
It is grossly misleading for Labor’s political opponents to manufacture differences where they do not exist. There are some differences and I must outline them. Some of them are differences of approach and some are differences of tactics. They relate to the likelihood of nuclear proliferation, to the inadequacies of high level plutonium waste disposal and to the dangers of terrorist activities in the transport of plutonium around this globe. They address themselves to the belief that the Fraser Government’s tactics are wrong, in order to achieve the fundamental aims outlined by the Government itself. Labor believes that there is a vital need for a moratorium now to enable far greater international activity now and in the near future to increase the safeguards. Because we possess 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the world’s known uranium resources and because we are making economic sacrifices and can be seen -
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. Can you do something to muffle that Cambridge accent?
– He is not worrying me, so please do not worry about him.
We are in a strong position to influence the rest of the world to make our planet a safer place. That is what we ought to be doing right now and with a lot more fervour than we are showing. No one wants our uranium at all desperately at least for the next eight years. We have seen work such as that of Mr Ken Davidson just recently. Until 1985 there is no immediate need for our uranium. There are no immediate economic advantages for us which will help us out of our deep economic recession in having such uranium development right now. So let us apply ourselves to the need for upgrading the safeguards. I indicated earlier that 1 have had the opportunity to travel the world and to discuss this vexed subject.
My conviction is that the International Atomic Energy Agency itself is not satisfied with the standards which have been set down. Its policies are influenced by the numbers game. A number of its members are developing countries which believe that increased safeguards, with the resulting increased costs, are a developed rich man’s plot to deny energy resources to the poorer men of this world or at least to make those resources most expensive. This we must overcome. It can be done only by energetic, persuasive, proselytising activity. This is what we ought to be doing in the international forums of this world.
We have good allies. I mentioned that I had discussed this subject recently in Ottawa and I drew to the attention of the House the fact that there is a moratorium right now on exports of uranium from Canada to both the Euratom countries and Japan because they do not think that the present safeguards are satisfactory and they are looking to this country to be an ally in ensuring better safeguards.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I rise in this debate this evening to support the Commonwealth Government in its decision in relation to the mining and export of uranium oxide. I do so in the hope that the Government will, in a responsible and proper manner, develop throughout Australia during the next decade a strong nuclear power industry. I hold the view that some of the references made by my socialist friends on the other side of the Parliament are almost impossible to answer. Having followed the tortuous arguments that have been put forward I will endeavour to answer some of the remarks that were made by my old and respected friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). The honourable member talked about nuclear power in the hands of the wrong people. He talked of small countries. He became fearful of the fact that small countries might be responsible for the creation of war. The idea came to my mind that he meant because countries were small they were likely to be irresponsible.
In order to support his argument the honourable gentleman referred to a great and powerful country. He said that Germany was involved in wars in 1871, 1914, and 1939. So, this argument did not relate to small nations; it related to a great and conquering nation. The honourable member made very little reference to what happened in the Pacific in 1939 and 1945. He pointed out that we were inclined to be moralistic in our arguments and he said so in a tone of disapproval. He talked about a secular society. In that respect I am inclined to agree with him.
I think the greatest single pollutant on this earth is mankind. I see no particular danger in any sort of natural production, in anything at all that is not manifested through mankind. Human beings are what is wrong with this earth. If we want to keep it free from all form of danger we have to get rid of all human beings. Pressures have been generated by human beings for thousands of years and I venture to suggest that the same situation will exist for the next million years.
I have no doubt that the pragmatism in politics that has manifested itself over recent years will continue to manifest itself. The Australian Labor Party in opposition has one series of arguments, and we heard with great clarity from my friend, the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) that it had an entirely different series of arguments in government. Mark you, I must say that there have been occasions on which I think the same criticism could be levelled at the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. But on this occasion in this debate I think it is fair enough to point out that everything that he said about the development of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, about the speeches of the late Rt Hon. J. B. Chifley when he was Prime Minister in 1947 and about development plans for the Hifar reactor are perfectly true. To the best of my knowledge, having sat at that time with the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, no harm has been caused in Sydney as a result of the existence of the Hifar reactor which is just outside the southern suburbs of Sydney.
Subsequent to the explosion of an atomic bomb in South Australia, people from the South Australian Government set out to discover whether any ill effects could be detected. To the best of my knowledge one of Mr Dunstan ‘s Ministers is on public record as saying there is no evidence to support such a contention.
The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) talked about making the planet a safer place and the development of the nuclear industry within Australia. He referred to the nine reasons given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for the Government’s decision and said that by and large he tended to agree with most of them. I think most people in this House would not quarrel with the fact that Australia has an obligation to provide the rest of the world with a vital source of fuel and energy. Most people here are aware of the fact- this is constantly referred to-that our great trading partner and main customer is Japan. We hear people say, in an economic sense, that if Japan gets an economic cold Australia is likely to get pneumonia. Therefore it is vital for a developing country which has an enormous capacity to know that Australia will guarantee it energy sources, lt is in our interest to do so. It is also in Japan’s interest that we carry on programs that have emerged over recent years. It is in both our interests that an understanding is developed between our two nations so that we can look forward to the future with confidence.
With its millions and millions of people, Japan suffers an urgent reaction if it faces a recession. At present, 9414 per cent of Australians are employed, 5 1/2 per cent are not. Therefore it is easy for us to understand that there would be a much worse reaction in that country if we were to deny it energy sources. If we did so Japan would probably very quickly suffer enormous levels of unemployment.
It seems to me that, if we are to talk about the need to make the planet a safer place and most Opposition speakers keep coming back to this problem- we must face up to the fact that Australia is not one of the countries that will be able to contribute a great deal in this respect. Nations that are well along the nuclear road include Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria and Canada. I went over one of the Canadian nuclear power stations at Lake Erie in 1969 when I was a member of an Australian parliamentary delegation to that country. That situation was well on the road to completion at that time. Other nations that are operating nuclear power stations include Czechoslovakia, France, West Germany, East Germany, India, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Pakistan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Are these nations to be considered sinister because they are prepared to use nuclear power? Are they to be condemned because of the fact that they have adopted a policy that will produce this sort of energy? I think not. I think that Australians must be pragmatic. They must understand that this is a world situation and the rational, responsible and adult thing to do is to participate in a rational and responsible manner. If we are to say our best customers ‘go elsewhere to get your uranium oxide’, I imagine that a large powerful country Uke Japan will do exactly that, think there might be some people in Tokyo who would get out their little black book and put a couple of ticks against us and say: ‘Well, there will come an opportunity one of these days for us to remind them that you have given us unfriendly treatment on this matter’.
-Settle the account.
– ‘Settle the account’, is a fair enough expression. Countries like Austria, Brazil, Finland, Hungary, Mexico, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan have nuclear power reactors under construction. Iran, Luxemburg, the Philippines, Poland, Romania and Yogoslavia have them on order. These are all small countries. I do not know that necessarily they will be irresponsible countries. I do not see them producing Napoleons or Hitlers. I think it is a rational and reasonable thing to believe that these people, having decided to pursue the road to nuclear energy, Will conduct themselves in a responsible manner. One must in international pontics assume in the first place that those with whom one is dealing are going to act in a reasonable and responsible manner.
– Are you serious on that?
– I am serious that one must do so for a start. When one goes to an international conference one does not walk in like a commando with one’s machine gun firing. One must first of aU assume that the people with whom one is dealing have a certain measure of friendliness and willingness to co-operate.
– As Chamberlain did with Hitler.
– The honourable gentleman refers to the British Prime Minister and the German Chancellor of 1 939. 1 would simply say this: The British Prime Minister and the French Prime Minister were pragmatic people. They were aware of the fact that they would be able to avoid an international war such as the one in 1914-18 if they were to sacrifice the people in Czechoslovakia and Prague. The answer is this: The Czechoslovakians did not rate enough to prevent the arrangement at Munich, and Daladier and Chamberlain were signatories to it. They believed at that time, and the House of Commons believed at that time when Chamberlain came back to London, that we were going to have ‘peace in our time’. It was more than 12 months before it was quite clear that there would need to be a war. Anyway, conferences have nothing to do with uranium oxide, any more than they have to do with fish and chips.
– Chips is over there.
– That was not a personal reference to the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), and I beg his pardon. These problems for Australia are largely manufactured. I take the view that the great majority of people believe when they elect a government in this country that it will act in a responsible way. When the nine reasons set out for proceeding with the contracts for the export of uranium oxide are clearly understood the people will accept them. I am not sure whether it is the Leader of the Labor Party who talks to the President of the Council of Trade Unions with one cap on or vice versa; but, when we hear people who hold responsible positions talking in terms of violence in the streets, demonstrations and things like that, it makes us realise that there is a measure of irresponsibility.
There should be a recital of the facts as given by the honourable member for Lang. The view of the Labor Party when in government should be identified. The unfortunate decision in 1971-72 to discontinue the reactor program ought to be reversed at the earliest opportunity. The fact that it was going to cost in the order of $ 1,000m was rather forbidding. That is a forbidding figure at this dme. However, in a country that has a gross national product of more than $ 100,000m, as this country has, it seems to me that we ought to be able to pursue this developmental policy and as quickly as possible get to the stage where we can do some of the enrichment in this country. If we do that, the return in terms of economic benefits to the average Australian will be immensely greater. There is no doubt about that.
I believe that one of the other comments of the Labor Prime Minister of 1949- that the hip pocket nerve was a very sensitive nerve- was wise and sagacious. I frankly think that the average Austraiian is more interested in that sort of wisdom and sagacity than in a lot of the emotional claptrap which is being uttered about uranium and which could lead to violence of which any reasonable and respectable person would be thoroughly ashamed.
– I think that the average Australian whose morals are in his hip pocket has an excellent spokesman in the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham). Uranium is the basic starting point of politics in Australia. It is the main difference in politics between the Government and the Opposition and in any radical sense it is the only difference that there is. It is the test of every social question, as was the war in Vietnam 15 years ago. But it is a more comprehensive and penetrating test than even the war in Vietnam.
The war in Vietnam seriously called in to question the whole of that society which was capable of waging it. Uranium does that in an even deeper and more comprehensive way.
The threats of uranium and its uses demand a replacement of the whole materialist, mechanical, scientific, consuming society and its contradictory and inhuman values. The mining and export of uranium means inevitably the proliferation of thermo-nuclear bombs. The proliferation of thermo-nuclear bombs means inevitably the use of those bombs. The use of those bombs means inevitably the destruction of all or a considerable part of humanity. Those who accept the mining and export of uranium- the whole process of it- had better face up to that point to begin with. Acceptance of the process of uranium and of thermo-nuclear bombs, which are an inevitable part of it, is the ultimate insanity of human history.
The mining and export of uranium involves a process which cannot safely be coupled to the potential for human violence that actually exists m the world today. The statistics of human violence, even in the least violent countriesAustralia is one of them- are increasing at an appalling rate. The statistics of violent crime has doubled in about 10 years. The statistics of the consumption of violent drugs, especially alcohol, have doubled in about 10 years. There is very little opposition to the violent drugs; it is the nonviolent drugs to which there is opposition. The statistics of violence in road accidents have doubled in ten years. For the number of younger people who enter universities in Australia, a similar number each year enter psychiatric hospitals or undergo psychiatric treatment, and another similar number enter gaols where they spend most or all of their lives. No society that produces these statistics of violence can be trusted with the most violent force of alluranium and its products.
The mining and export of uranium involves a process which threatens the destruction of all forms of life on this planet. Why do I say that? I say that because there is an inevitable link between the disintegration of the finest particle of matter, the nucleus, and the disintegration of the finest particle of life, the molecule. The disintegration of the molecular structure, or pressure upon it, involves cancer and perhaps mutations. There is no safe level below which we can be sure that cancer and mutations do not result from the nuclear process. They have resulted already in tens of thousands of cases in the contempory world.
– In every country, including Australia.
-Where are they?
-People who die from cancer. We do not know what causes it. The nuclear process is involved in that, wherever people have been in close proximity to it, and cannot possibly be avoided. There is no threshold below which there is a safe level. No society which possesses basic values like those of the scientific, industrial, materialist society- this is the radical content of the difference between the Government and the Opposition, and I do not think the Opposition fully realises it- can be trusted with this power.
The existence of the threats of uranium demands a rejection of its use. It demands much more than that. The existence of the threats of uranium demands a new society. It involves a radical change in the basic values of those societies which have produced uranium and made it into a threat to human survival. These basic values are mechanical materialism, objectified non-human science, and religions whose supreme or sacred value is externalised above and outside human life. Materialism produces acquisitive, self-centred people and the false belief that more money means more happiness. It produces, using the expression used by the honourable member for North Sydney, a society in which morals are in the hip pocket. The belief that economic growth is essential for social progress and must inevitably produce it, which is as central to Marxism as it is to capitalism, is false and has been proved to be false.
– Materialism is idolatry and is shared by the honourable member with all his wealth. It is the worship of things instead of life. Human happiness and social progress depend not upon economic growth and more money within industrial production and social relations but upon a change in industrial production and social relations. Human progress does not depend upon more economic growth and more money within the existing set of social relations; it depends upon a change in those social relations. Objectified non-human mechanical science is the science which believes that the discovery of truth depends upon the exclusion of human feelings, that truth is not the result of feelings of human experience but of some logical and mathematical process from which human feeling is excluded. This is the science that produced concentration camps, gas ovens and human experiments. It is the science that produced psychiatric gaols for political prisoners. It is the science that produced napalm and electronic warfare in Vietnam. It is the science which in the decontamination chambers and steel claws of nuclear power plants has finally dehumanised industry. It is the science that will eventually justify the use of thermo-nuclear bombs.
An essential part of the basic values of these societies which have produced uranium and the threat of it consists of religions whose supreme and sacred value is externalised above and outside human life. When the supreme or sacred value of a society does become external to human life it is easy to treat human life as inferior and to destroy it. If one ‘s religion saw the sacred or supreme value to be in human life how could one tolerate the extinction of millions of people in gas ovens? How could one tolerate the acceptance of thermo-nuclear bombs as a legitimate means of defence? No, the existence of uranium demands not only its rejection as a source of energy but also a replacement of the basic values of the acquisitive violent, predatory society which has produced it and in which we are trying to live. It demands a new society. It demands those values which alone can produce a new society and that new society must come. Perhaps it will be within a generation or so but come it must. This new society and these new values cannot be produced by acceptance of the old society and the old values. The new society and the new values cannot come from the old politics, the old industrial relations, the old doctors, the lawyers or engineers; nor from the old pursuit of money or the old pursuit of jobs and careers. The new society and the new values demand new people. They demand what some of us have always called socialism but the new society and the production of socialists demand a change in people.
Can people change? The answer to that is yes. People are what their character structure makes them. Their character structure is the result of their own life experience. Their life experience is the result of the impact of external social pressures upon the natural needs of each individual person from the moment of birth or even conception. The result of this impact of social pressures upon the natural needs of the individual produces alienation in the individual. That alienation consists of acquisitiveness, of feelings of powerlessness and of worthlessness. Alienation consists of the desire to hurt or to dominate, just as it consists of an inability to resist those who seek to hurt or dominate. Alienation consists of the inability we as a society have to govern ourselves or to deal with vital issues such as uranium. We know we have that inability. Whatever are our feelings on this question and however strong so many feel about it, they know that we have an inability to deal with it. They know that we are not able effectively to govern ourselves.
If we are to begin the process of changing people and of producing new people we must realise that it cannot be done by the pursuit of money or by economic growth. Whether one takes the capitalist view or the Marxist view, and the difference is very slight, both are committed to the belief the human happiness will result from economic growth. The capitalist within the system of capitalist production relations and the Marxist believe that those production relations operate as fetters upon the process of production and have to be burst asunder by revolutionary forces so that the productive forces within the system can expand so much more greatly. Both the capitalist and the Marxist see human happiness depending upon economic growth but our experience with economic growth- the pursuit of it, the rat race that it involves, the acquisitive alienated society which it produces- should have demonstrated that that is a myth. Human happiness does not result from this unlimited consuming economy, this unlimited race for economic growth. A certain material standard of living is necessary for any kind of progress but the psychological drives which produce the aberrations of an industrial system and the wealth of the honourable member who has been interjecting, and the belief that that kind of thing can go on forever are a mistake and produce little happiness for those involved. I imagine that they have not produced much happiness for the honourable member either.
If we are to begin the process of changing people, of producing new people, first of all we have to understand how people become as they are. We need to understand what alienation is and how it comes about. Alienation is not economics. It is the key to peace and progress. In addition to that we need to develop new groups, new communities, new unions, new parties which consist of people who are able to be committed to one another in loyalty, honesty, responsibility and trust. In other words these groups have to be de-alienated. I do not think that any group of people, any community, any party, any union or any other body can contribute to a better society unless the people in it have been substantially de-alienated. They need to be able to act in a de-alienated manner here and now or there can be no social change, no social transformation, no socialism. Politics is the re lationship of alienated people. Mechanical industrialism is an alienated system. We cannot get rid of politics and mechanical industrialism until we get rid of alienation. This does not mean an end to technology but the use of technology in a prevailing cultural pattern of human values.
Finally, I want to summarise a couple of aspects of the uranium question. The uranium economy if it continues with its present intensity will be the graveyard of democracy because the uranium economy is the ultimate centralisation of power in human society. Centralisation of power and democracy are completely incompatible. The uranium economy is already the police state in action. It is here where civil liberties will be most interfered with and where penalties will be greatest. The uranium economy is the ultimate in human greed for power and money. It is the ultimate dehumaniser of society. Uranium is the ultimate threat to human survival. It is the ultimate in human alienation. For all these reasons uranium and its implications present the most radical difference between the Opposition and the Government, as did the war in Vietnam and it should be remembered that it was the opposition position in relation to that war which finally prevailed and was recognised as the true position. That will be so in the case of uranium as well.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr E. G. Whitlam’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 25 May, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the House take note of the paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Telecommunications Commission- Trade Unions-Donations to Political Parties- Incorporation of Document in Hansard-Use of VIP Aircraft-Julius Dam Project
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I raise a matter concerning the administration of the Postal and Telecommunications Commission. It has to do with the issue of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal. As honourable members know, the Queen’s mail is usually regarded as sacrosanct and treated with the utmost respect. But there seems to be evidence that the mail of the Queen’s representative in Australia is not being treated with respect. I refer to the fact that a number of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medals appear to have gone astray. I am extremely concerned that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) has not seen fit to inform the Parliament or the people of this disturbing situation. I have in my hand at the present time a communication from the Customer Services Department, Administration Branch, GPO, Sydney. It is directed to all divisional managers, district managers and postmasters. I am told that a similar circular has been sent around the States. It is headed:
AR’ certified articles posted Canberra 27-28 July from office of Governor-General.
The following is the text of a telex message received from the Divisional Manager, South East Division, Canberra referred for your urgent attention, please:
The Postmaster Canberra advises that approximately 1,500 A.R. Certified articles were posted at his office 27-28 July to all pans of Australia from the office of the Governor-General.
To date 20 per cent of cards returned are incomplete without either addressees signature, delivery officers signature or postmarked.
Arrangements being made to have cards returned to delivery offices for completion but if incomplete cards returned at same rate this Division will be acutely embarrassed as it is necessary to refer to Governor Generals Office for information about addressees.
Would you please urgently request all offices in NSW and other States Head Offices to remind staff concerned of need to correctly complete A.R. Certified article cards.
This was signed for the Manager of the Administration Branch. The concern is that many of these medals might have fallen into the hands of unworthy recipients. We know, of course, that the Federal issue came automatically to members of parliament and they went to Federal judges and to members of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory Legislative Assemblies. Then, of course, the State members of parliament received them, as did mayors, town clerks, and officers of the Returned Services League of Australia. I think executive members of Liberal Party branches around Australia received them, and nominees of Federal members and the like. This medal is a very expensive item. Each is worth about $8 a throw. Apparently about $56,000 worth of them have been issued in Australia. We find that in total 20 per cent of the Federal issue have gone astray. If we take 20 per cent of the total number that have been allocated, it is reasonable to assume that 1,400 of these medals have gone astray- medals which cost about $ 1 1 , 200.
I am very concerned that Her Majesty’s mail is being treated is such a cheap and off-handed manner. After all, these were sent by the top class client of the postal service. What would happen to the valuable articles which a less distinguished client might send through the mail? The fact that the administration of the service has reached such a poor level that even the GovernorGeneral’s mail goes astray to this extent should be of very grave concern to all Australians, especially those who are expecting to receive cheques, valuables, postal notes and items of that nature through the post. So I draw attention to the failure of the Minister to come clean and to reveal the facts of this situation. I challenge him now to indicate whether he has found the answer to this.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Earlier in the day the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) brought before the House one of the most serious matters which concerns this nation, that is, the disruption and permanent damage that is being done to this country by militant trade union leaders. This matter needs to be further aired in this place. We are not talking about trade union leaders who are concerned about their rank and file members and who genuinely want to bring about better work conditions for their members and genuinely represent them in industrial cases. We are talking about those trade union leaders who are motivated by political reasons, people who are prepared to use guerrilla tactics to disrupt the normal processes of the country, people who want to do no more than use their muscle through the trade union movement to bring about the economic downfall of this country.
Leading this group of militant trade unions are people who are aligned with the Communist Party of Australia and other communist factions. I am talking particularly about Mr Pat Clancy, who is aligned with the pro-Moscow group of the Communist Party- the Socialist Party of Australia. He is being hotly opposed by Mr Norm Gallagher of the Builders Labourers Federation, who is aligned with the Marxist group of communists. It is mainly faction fighting between these communists that is causing much of the disruption. These people are prepared to use more than the normal industrial tactics. They are not prepared to call a strike now, because they have found that the community is not prepared to accept strikes any more. They want to use intimidation, standover tactics and blackmail. They want to use those sorts of guerrilla tactics that will not show up in statistics but which cause enormous economic damage to this country.
What do we hear from these people? They are not prepared to come out and be honest about what they are doing; they want to do it behind the door. They want to use blackmail and standover tactics. What was brought up in a deregistration case? When the Builders Labourers Federation was brought before the Industrial Court for deregistration Mr Justice Franki had this to say in his judgment:
The senior industrial officer of the respondent Wal Glover of the Master Builder’s Association of NSW was recalled and gave evidence of a conversation he had with Mr Gallagher later during the morning of the day on which the printer gave his evidence. The senior industrial officer said Mr Gallagher said to him ‘Wal, you’ve got that fellow from Diamond Valley Press here today to give evidence. Ill put him out of business ‘.
This is the type of standover tactic which these people are prepared to use. They are prepared to use it not only against genuine business people who are trying to get this country going, but also against each other. As the honourable member for St George said earlier today in this place, in March this year there was a disgraceful exhibition when the Builders Labourers Federation invaded the offices of the Building Workers Industrial Union, tossed furniture all around the place, and frightened the female staff of that office. Why did they do this? It was because one union leader was simply trying to assert his dominance over another. I believe it is high time that the people of this country- the ordinary, decent Australian people who want to work and to get this country going- said to these radical communists: ‘We are not prepared to tolerate you anymore’.
The honourable member for St George earlier today mentioned several matters to which I believe the Government should give serious consideration in order to make these communiststhese radical union leaders- acknowledge the law of the land, to ensure that they are brought under the normal controls of society. Which is what I believe society demands. No longer is the community prepared to put up with those people who want to hide behind the umbrella of genuine organisations such as trade unions which have been established for many years for quite genuine reasons- to represent the working people of Australia. These trade union leaders want to hide behind mummy’s apron so that they can use their position of power to push their communist tactics. I believe it is high time that the people of Australia and the Parliament of Australia said: ‘We will not tolerate it any more. We are going to make these people abide by the law of the land’.
-Again we have been treated to an episode of union bashing- the second for today. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) is well known for his attitude towards the trade unions of Australia and even more so for his attitude towards the Communist Party of Australia. I point out to him and to the people of Australia that the Communist Party is not a prescribed organisation in Australia. It is an organisation which exists within the community. In the 1950s the people of Australia decided that that would be so. It is very easy to apply the logic of people like the honourable member, which is that if a person is not critical of an organisation or, in respect of it, is not anti-organisation he must of necessity be pro-organisation. There is nothing crazier than that sort of assumption.
The honourable member told us nothing that we did not know. He made the allegation and the accusation that the trade unions of Australia were responsible for the problems this country faces. He referred to the ‘ordinary decent people of Australia’. Is he saying to this House and through this House to the nation that people who belong to trade unions are not ordinary decent people? He is nodding his head in assent; so he must agree with that. He agrees that, somehow or other, trade unionists are different from the rest of the community. I remind the honourable member that most of the people who receive their incomes in the form of wages and salaries in Australia belong to a trade union of one sort or another. It is a recognised fact that people will come together in a spirit of amalgamation in order to achieve their common goals.
The point is that the honourable member cannot understand that. He just cannot understand that the people of Australia have enshrined in legislation the right to come together to put their collective point of view on a particular issue. Trade unions in fact are defined simply as being collections of people with a common goal. If the honourable member is critical of people for belonging to trade unions, let me remind him that he is in concert with other people in this chamber who come together with a collective point of view and who in fact put that point of view. How can the honourable member then deem himself to be in a different position from that of any trade unionist in Australia? Yet he would like to pretend that his position is somewhat different.
If the honourable member wants to talk to me about the right of members of the Liberal Party to do the things that they want to do, let me remind him of what happened to two Liberal
Party members in Victoria. Only yesterday two Liberal members of the Victorian Parliament thought that they had the right to do what they wanted to do. They neglected to go into the parliamentary chamber to vote on a motion of no confidence in the Premier. Where do they stand today? They stand outside of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. They stand outside of the party room. They found out, as the honourable member for Wilmot would find out if he endeavoured to try it himself, that members of the Liberal Party- the party that holds itself out as the party that gives its members the right to make their own decisions- are put outside of the party room. That is what he will find happening to him if he cannot countenance the views of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
Why then does the honourable member pursue the point of view that there is something evil about trade unions? I will tell the House why the honourable member pursues that point of view. He does so because he is not sure of his own position. He is unsure that the institution that he supports, or professes to support,, most stronglythat is, the Parliament- is the best body to manage the affairs of the country; or, alternatively, he takes the authoritarian point of view that only the Parliament has the right to put a point of view in the community. He would deny aU others, all organisations, the right to put their point of view. He would say that only the Parliament, only the Government, is correct in its decisions. He would say that no other point of view in the community can be correct. He is prepared to put down organised labour in the community, the trade unions in the community which have leaders who are democratically elected, irrespective of their political views. I believe that, given the opportunity, the honourable member probably would use every force available to him to prevent those people from expressing their point of view. I have stood, I do stand, and I always will stand in this chamber to support the rights of organisations to put their point of view -
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
BAILLIEU (La Trobe) ( 10.43 )-When the Parliament rises tonight it will be going into recess for one week, following a sitting of three weeks. It has been a rather hectic three weeks, particularly in view of one or two of the events that have occurred during this last week. I thought that before the Parliament went into recess it might be appropriate if I made some conciliatory remarks so that we will go into recess with a feeling of amicability which I know will be reflected by the honourable member for
Oxley (Mr Hayden) who, by his interjections, is obviously supporting that concept.
So I thought that, on behalf of the Government, I would make one or two charitable remarks about our colleagues opposite. I would like to thank particularly those honourable gentlemen who were responsible for raising as a matter of public importance yesterday the subject of donations to political parties, because it gave honourable members on the Government side of the House- I speak now particularly of members of the Liberal Party- the opportunity to make the point that we members of this party who are in the Parliament are constrained by a certain fund raising code which prevents us from going out and actively soliciting donations for our political party. Indeed, it prevents us from receiving directly money for our political party.
When the Opposition in this Parliament saw fit yesterday to make that into an issue, I am afraid that we could not restrain ourselves from referring to a 42-page document which was tabled in the Senate during 1976. That is one of the most revealing documents ever to be brought into the Australian Parliament. It is an indictment of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in that it reveals as clearly as is possible his approach to how money should be raised for the Australian Labor Party. It is significant that the approach that he has adopted apparently has been endorsed by his party colleagues. It is endorsed to such an extent that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) raised it yesterday in this Parliament as a matter of public importance. That document, which was tabled in the Senate and which is available for aU honourable members to read, tells how the Leader of the Opposition raised with emissaries from Iraq the need for $2m to be -
-Order! I ruled last night that there is a sub judice issue involved in relation to this matter. I ask the honourable gentleman not to contravene the sub judice rule.
- Mr Speaker, I wil not contravene any sub judice rule. As was explained in the Parliament today, this matter has not been brought before the Supreme Court, as was claimed last night quite erroneously by the Leader of the Opposition. In fact, he made that claim in a statement in which he misled this House and in which, more particularly, he misled you, Mr Speaker. That was clearly demonstrated to this House this afternoon, I submit to you, by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott). In this document which was tabled in the Senate reference is made to an enormous sum of money which was sought by the Leader of the Opposition from emissaries from Iraq.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will be out of order if he pursues that une.
– I continue by saying that later in that document a revelation is made as to how money changed hands. I intended this morning during Question Time to ask the Acting Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) whether approval had been given under statutory regulations for a sum of $500,000 to be brought into this country. Unfortunately, I did not get the call. It is a matter of extreme importance that this House be told whether $500,000 was brought into the country with the necessary statutory approvals in November or December of last year. Furthermore, I believe that it should be explained to the House whether a subsequent approval was given for another $500,000, which was also requested and, I gather, approved by the emissaries from Iraq.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) showed the most appalling political insensitivity in raising this matter in the Parliament yesterday. He gave members of the Government parties an apportunity second to none to expose the immorality of the Australian Labor Party as regards the ways and means by which it goes about raising party political funds.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I want to raise tonight the matter of the increasing reports in the community of a conspiracy between wealthy foreign owned mineral development companies, especially in Queensland, and the National Country Party. The allegation made about the conspiracy is that generous funds will be donated to the National Country Party if it is prepared to ignore the stricken state of the beef producers in Queensland. It is a sad situation at which we have arrived, if these reports are true. It is a sad situation that the National Country Party no longer can be regarded, as it once was, as the voice and defender of rural interests in all circumstances, regardless of what disadvantage or criticism it may suffer in their defence. The National Country Party has allowed itself to be bought lock, stock and barrel, presumably, according to these reports, as the mouthpiece for the wealthy mineral interests in the community.
It appears that members of the Liberal Party are surprised, although not totally shocked, by these revelations. But, then, they have a great deal more to do with the National Country Party than we do. Some of them are trying to interject and inquire why this conspiracy would take place.
– For money.
-For money? Does the honourable member for Prospect believe that the Country Party would seU its soul for money?
– What soul?
– I cannot argue with the honourable member. Why has this sale of conscience taken place? I am told by a spokesman from some of the mineral interests that it is a very simple proposition. Funds will be provided for the Country Party if it will continue to reduce the excise levy on exports of coal. The coal exporting companies, especially in Queensland, realise that if there is to be any relief for the stricken beef producers of that State money must be provided. They realise that last year and this year the reduction in the coal levy was the equivalent of about $50m. That is $50m extra windfall gain to the coal exporting companies. That is about the amount that the stricken beef producers in Australia are asking for as part of a relief program to help them out of their present grim, critical situation.
They are terribly disturbed that no voice is raised by the Country Party in their defence. They are completely staggered to discover that within the ranks of the Country Party there are members such as the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie) and the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) who have viciously criticised and condemned beef producers and their spokesmen. The basis for that criticism very simply is that these people who speak for the beef producers have pointed out the neglect and the wholesale way in which people Uke the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) remain silent. The honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) is mute in the face of the needs of the beef producers in Queensland.
-The honourable member for Kennedy is a mute.
– I beg your pardon?
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his speech or resume his seat.
-Mr Speaker, I prefer the former if I am given the choice. It is a most unpleasant situation that the National Country Party, which was established to represent rural interest and which achieved parliamentary representation by proposing that it represented rural interests, now that it is in a fairly substantial representational position in this Parliament should turn its back on the needs of the primary producers of Queensland.
There is one matter which I wanted to raise tonight but which I have not raised because I have been dealing only with preliminary matters. The matter which concerns me relates to the honourable member for Kennedy. I guess I will have to come back to the subject. The honourable member for Kennedy, who is part of a particular conspiracy in his electorate, sought to hoodwink the people of Mount Isa by telling them that there was money available for the Julius Dam when he knew that there was not. When his blatant confidence trick became unmasked he collapsed into ill health. For 48 hours he was incommunicado and unable to answer questions when it was discovered that he had misled the people of Mount Isa.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I briefly draw attention to a great and disastrous possibility in Queensland. At the moment the State is tinder dry. Auxiliary firemen throughout the whole area quite possibly will withdraw from their responsibilities unless something is done about a 35c premium that is being charged on their taxation. I ask the Government to review this situation.
In this House today there occurred an incident which I think must be revived during the adjournment debate. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in answer to an interjection by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), was obliged to give details of a trip by Mrs Tamie Fraser to Sydney to attend a performance by Joan Sutherland. The facts are that the VIP aircraft was due to take off. In fact, the Prime Minister’s staff were in the aircraft. He was delayed. It was not for a very important engagement, just a Cabinet meeting on the Budget! He was unable to fulfil his engagement. It was too late for Mrs Fraser to get a commercial aircraft, if she should have done so. I am one who believes she should not have. So she travelled to Sydney to attend a very important function.
The point is that the Leader of the Opposition bought into the argument. A most courteous reference was made by the Prime Minister- any one who was in this House would have noted the tone of his comment- about a trip which was made by Mrs Whitlam. How unfortunate it is that we have to bring the womenfolk into this matter at all. I feel that I am shedding my gallantry by mentioning these subjects at all. It was shown conclusively that the wife of the Leader of the Opposition travelled in that aircraft.
Before I make my final point, may I say that there was another incident of this nature. When Dr Cairns, the honourable member for Lalor, was Deputy Prime Minister, he authorised a flight by his wife. He had no right to do so. This occurred on 1 June 1975. She was accompanied by a Miss Murray. I do not want to make a great thing of this. The Prime Minister’s wife travelled to fulfil an engagement. The Prime Minister was almost on his way out to travel to Sydney. It is pretty obvious that the Leader of the Opposition told a deliberate lie in this House. He told a deliberate he. He said to the Prime Minister: ‘My wife did not travel -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw the term.
-Mr Speaker, I have the utmost respect for you, but I feel I really cannot withdraw that remark.
– I object, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I take a point of order.
-I ask the honourable member for Kennedy to withdraw the remark.
– Put on a big act.
-I am not putting on any act at all, but I feel there is a principle.
-I have twice asked the honourable member for Kennedy to withdraw the remark.
-Mr Speaker, I really do not feel inclined to withdraw.
-I give the honourable member for Kennedy a final opportunity to withdraw. I call upon the honourable member for Kennedy to withdraw.
-Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition told a deliberate lie. I feel it should be exposed to this country. He said that his wife did not travel on a VIP aircraft, when she did.
-The honourable member for Kennedy has used an unparliamentary expression. I call upon him to withdraw.
-Mr Speaker, I find this a very painful experience.
-Order! Will the honourable member for Kennedy withdraw?
-I am sorry, Mr Speaker, I cannot.
-I warn the honourable member for Kennedy that he should withdraw.
– IH bet he does. He is frightened.
-I will deal with the honourable member for Oxley later. I warn the honourable member for Kennedy.
-No, the Leader of the Opposition must be exposed for telling a deliberate lie in this House.
-I have warned the honourable member for Kennedy that he should withdraw.
– He is looking for headlines.
– I am not looking for headlines at all. It is a matter of principle.
-I have warned the honourable member for Kennedy that he should withdraw. I ask him for the final time to do so. Will the honourable member for Kennedy withdraw the unparliamentary expression?
-No, I do not feel inclined to do so.
-I name the honourable member for Kennedy.
– It is with some reluctance that I take this course of action, because I believe the honourable gentleman had put a point in which he believes and to which he wishes to stick. However, in the circumstances, I have no alternative but to move:
That the honourable member for Kennedy be suspended from the service of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The honourable member for Kennedy thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
-In the minute available to me I want to raise a matter which I think should be abhorrent to every member of this House. It concerns Sir John Pagan and the
New South Wales Permanent Building Society Ltd. Sir John was President of the NSW Division of the Liberal Party of Australia. He was the New South Wales Agent-General in London.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
-Order! The House stands adjourned until Tuesday 4 October next, 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:
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 17 August 1977 I anounced that up to$1m has been set aside within the Community Health Program for the funding of additional eligible women’s refuges in 1977-78.
The above 1976-77 expenditure figures are the most accurate figures currently available; final statements of expenditure in respect of 1 976-77 are not yet available.
Under the block grant arrangements applicable to the Community Health Program, the State authorities are responsible for the allocation of funds to individual projects from within the block grants to the respective States. Where figures are given above under the headings ‘ 1977-78 Allocation’, those figures are tentative as allocations to individual projects may be varied by the States during the year. In some cases, allocations are not yet available because they have not yet been decided by the States concerned.
*** Community Health Program funding was approved by the Commonwealth, but the State Government declined to pass those funds to the two approved women’s refuges in Queensland.
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice, on 1 7 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
EFIC has advised Australian exporters of the problems in dealing with this market in the following manner
In addition, the subject has been publicised in the Department of Overseas Trade ‘s journal Overseas Trading.
Angola, Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, Zaire, Zambia, Algeria, Arab Republic of Egypt, Syria, Bangladesh, Khmer Republic, North Korea, Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Panama, Uruguay, Portugal and Turkey.
Australian exporters exporting to these markets could have encountered some delays in obtaining payments. EFIC is only aware of actual delays in payment where an exporter is a policyholder.
1976- 77-$ 1,1 43,541
1977- 78(first2 months )-$2,276,677.
The Corporation’s record of recoveries for transfer delay claims has been particularly good.
Eventually, all such moneys are normally recovered excepting where subsequent recoveries are adversely affected by movements in the exchange rate between the Australian dollar and the contracted currency. Shortfalls in recoveries due to exchange fluctuations have not, however, been significant.
Antarctic Division, Department of Science (Question No. 1279)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science the following question, on notice, on 24 August 1 977:
-The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Rural Roads Expenditure (Question No. 1288)
asked the Minister for Transport, on notice, on 25 August 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am, therefore, not in a position to provide the details sought in respect of those four years.
In the case of rural local roads in 1976-77, Victoria adopted the option available under the Roads Grants Aa 1974 to submit a program of allocations to individual local government authorities. Details of these allocations have also been forwarded to the honourable member.
The amount of funds indicated for each individual project and for allocations to councils are, in all cases, a mixture of Commonwealth and State funds which the State estimated would be provided during the year. I am therefore unable to provide details of the amount of Commonwealth funds, as distinct from State funds, spent on each individual project or allocated to each council.
Heroin Imports: Narcotic Drug Analysis Group (Question No. 1290)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science the following question, on notice, on 6 September 1977:
Excise and which was to function as an integral part of the Commonwealth Narcotics Bureau with the officer in charge directly responsible to the Government Analyst for technical supervision and to the head of the Narcotics Bureau for the work to be undertaken, considered it vital to transfer a chemist in the group ‘s Melbourne section to Sydney.
-The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Drug Analysis Group in Sydney is continuing its work on identifying the constituents of drugs seized under the Customs Act so that the ‘intelligence’ produced may be given to the Narcotics Bureau to assist in tracing heroin imports. The services of the Drug Research Group in Melbourne are available to assist the Drug Analysis Group in Sydney at any time should they be called upon to do so. The Australian Government Analyst will accord the necessary priority.
Narcotics Drug Research Group (Question No. 1291)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science the following question, on notice, on 25 August 1977:
-the Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 25 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice on 25 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 25 August 1977:
– The answer the the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) Looking at 1976-77 as a whole, the pre- liminary estimate of gross non-farm product at constant prices, which remains subject to revision, shows an increase of 3.5 per cent on the most recent estimate (also subject to revision) for 1 975-76, not far short of the increase of ‘about 4 per cent’ which I foreshadowed in the 1976-77 Budget Speech.
Net foreign trade also made a substantial negative contribution to product growth in the most recent half-year, with both a decline in exports and a strong increase in imports contributing to this result. In particular, the strong increase in the volume of imports during the period appears to reflect the lagged effect of forward ordering of imports in anticipation of devaluation.
Signs that the reasons for the easing in economic activity between the first and second halves of 1976-77 were largely transitory and not indicative of a petering out of recovery have emerged in recent months. Retail sales and motor vehicle registrations strengthened over the course of the June quarter. Some renewed growth in export volumes and a more pronounced decline in import volumes presaged a more substantial turnaround on trade account. Lending for housing again commenced to rise.
In the preliminary National Accounts statistics for the June quarter, released on 16 August, gross non-farm product was estimated to have risen by 0.9 per cent in the June quarter 1977, following a fall of 1.5 per cent in the March quarter.
Department of Social Security: Publication
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on6 September 1977:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 8 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The source of infection is not known for all cases at present. Available information lists the sources as follows:
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 17 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 22 April 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
am asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
In what countries and at what cost did Australia advertise for migrants in 1976-77 and will Australia advertise for migrants in 1977-78 (Hansard, 23 September 1976, page 1446).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The only country in which Australia advertised for migrants in 1976-77 was Britain. Britain was considered to offer the best prospects of attracting workers with readily recognised trade and professional skills which are in strong and continuing demand in Australia. Total expenditure on advertising in Britain in 1976-77 was $145,000 which was met from an initial allocation of $130,000 supplemented by information funds not required in other areas. In 1977-78 a modest advertising program will be continued in Britain.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 18 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The present Australian system is based on one statutory authority (Telecom Australia) providing the national domestic network and one statutory authority (OTC) linking the domestic service with overseas countries.
The entry of a private operator into the telecommunications field would tend to lead to fragmentation and incompatability between competing systems particularly as telecommunications technology will continue to be subject to rapid change.
For the above reasons no study of the sort referred to has been undertaken and none is proposed.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 23 August 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 23 August 1977:
Are there any meaningful figures available giving (a) cost per listener per quarter hour for Austraiian Broadcasting Commission radio programs and (b) cost per viewer per quarter hour for Australian Broadcasting Commission television programs.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are no meaningful figures obtainable in either instance, because of the fluctuation in size of audiences and the wide differences in the costs of individual programs.
asked the Minister for Post aand Telecommunications, upon notice, on 24 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 25 August 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Armed Services: Representation in Middle East (Question No. 1395)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 7 September 1977:
Has he considered the recommendation in the report from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence entitled “The Middle East-Focal Point of Conflict’ that Australian Armed Services Attaches be posted to some Middle East countries; if so, what does he propose to do to ensure that Australia can independently assess the latest military technology for which the Middle East has unfortunately become the main proving ground.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I have noted with interest the recommendation in the report from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence entitled ‘The Middle East-Focal Point of Conflict’ that Australian Defence Attaches be posted to some Middle East countries.
This recommendation is under study in the Department of Defence in the context of a more comprehensive review of Defence representation overseas which is now in progress. This review is of the type which the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure recommended in its report on Australia’s Overseas Representation of May 1 977 should take place biennially for all departments.
Bearing in mind the need for restraint in the growth of departmental staffs overseas- a need recognised by the Standing Committee on Expenditure- all proposals for new or increased Defence representation overseas must be assessed on the basis of their importance compared with other Defence requirements for overseas representation. The recommendations of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence with regard to representation in the Middle East are being assessed on this basis.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 8 September 1977:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
No information is available as to country of design.
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 13 September 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Ferrari Boxer Motor Car: Newspaper Report of Speed on Canberra Roads (Question No. 1539)
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 2 1 September 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Capital Territory Police has advised me that other than from the article he knows nothing of the incident.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770922_reps_30_hor106/>.