31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members arid ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray
Your honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive and historic Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Citizens Military Force (Army Reserve) and Citizens Air Force. by Mr Aldred, Mr N. A. Brown and Mr Scholes.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
THAT it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30th June 1978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30th June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K.. Seaman ( now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
THAT the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
FURTHERMORE, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976/77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cohen, Mr Ian Robinson and Mr Willis.
To the Honourable 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 Dr Everingham.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Pastor Peter Mullen and Members of the Full Gospel Church at 5 Lefroy Street, North Hobart, electors of the Divisions of Denison and Franklin, respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), has purchased episodes of the American television program known as S.O.A.P. for screening in Australia, on the national network.
The aforesaid program was thought to be so pernicious and ethically offensive by the American population that it generated much unfavourable press, and caused no less than eleven sponsors to withdraw their support from the commercial stations broadcasting it. This program purports to generate irresponsible merriment by shamelessly exploiting the tragedies of adultery, homosexuality, transvestism, impotency, incest, crime and senility. Such a program broadcasted on the Australian national network can only be detrimental to the welfare of the Australian society in as much as it will either cause or aggravate problems in the areas of emotional stability, deliquency, harmonious human relations, the unity of the family, and furthermore, the program is an insult to the Christian creed and to those upholding it.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Goodluck.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and refer him to a Press report on 5 April in which the outgoing Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, Mr Nutter, was quoted as saying that a nuclear safeguards agreement with the Philippines is near completion. I ask: Is it a fact that negotiations with the Philippines on nuclear safeguards fail to recognise the need to ensure safety in the location of the reactors? What does the Minister propose to do to satisfy himself in that regard? I also ask: With how many countries other than the Philippines is Australia actively negotiating safeguards agreements? To how many other countries has Australia referred nuclear safeguard agreements? What are the bases of negotiations with respect to those agreements? Given that it is common knowledge that many governments have the text of the Australian model agreement, will the Minister now make that text available to this House? Why has he refused to reply to the question from the honourable member for Blaxland, indicating to him that he would give the House the benefit of the text of a model agreement? I understand he has given the honourable member an answer that there is no need to have it displayed in this House.
-The honourable member asks a whole series of questions. I will try to cover them in this answer. I recall signing a letter to the honourable member for Blaxland, I think late last week, indicating to him that a wide number of countries- I think that it is in excess of 15- have received the draft model safeguards agreement. As I have said in this House and outside it, that model safeguards agreement reflects the statement of the Prime Ministers, the statement of the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time when the decision was announced, with respective Ministers announcing policy details in this Parliament when I was overseas, and a following statement I made in this House on safeguards policy. Therefore, this policy is enshrined in the model safeguards agreement. It has been sent for discussion at official level to the number of countries that I have indicated.
Government to government negotiations by their very nature must be confidential. The House must be assured that the model safeguards agreement reflects the policy, stringent as it is, as announced by the Prime Minister and other Ministers in this House. The negotiations with the Philippines were held between Australia and Philippines officials during the visit to Australia in March of the Philippines Secretary for Energy, Mr Velasco. I am advised that officials were able to negotiate the terms of a bilateral safeguards agreement to a pretty advanced stage. I understand that, so far as the officials are concerned, only some minor points remain to be negotiated between them. When a text has been negotiated by the officials it will then need to be submitted to the two governments for approval. That cannot be taken to be a matter of course or for granted. The official negotiations are proceeding well. It will then be a matter for the Government in Australia and the Government of the Philippines to determine whether that agreement, should it be reached between officials, can be ratified by the respective governments. Negotiations have been conducted, as I say, on the basis of Australia’s model bilateral safeguards agreement which translates into draft treaty form Australia’s safeguards requirements as announced in the Parliament. The policy imposes stringent conditions on the sale of uranium to ensure that it is not diverted to nuclear weapons.
I turn to deal with the safety aspects which I recall was another element in the question. Of course, the safety aspects are important. As we have said time and time again, they are a separate matter from the non-proliferation safeguards. It is primarily for the authorities in the country concerned to ensure that proper safety measures and environment protection measures are taken. It will be a matter for us to be assured that the Philippines authorities are well aware of these requirements. These matters have been covered in talks held in Canberra between the respective officials, touched upon by the Minister for Trade and Resources and myself, but left at this juncture to the officials to negotiate. It will then be a matter to decide whether the Government can accept the agreement tentatively entered into between officials.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is there any truth in Fourth Estate suggestions that foreign secret service agents are now applying personally to the Prime Minister for visas to enter Australia for purposes of a vacational and vocational nature?
– I did see the suggestion in one reputable journal this morning, but I must say that it is a somewhat fanciful suggestion. There is proper deparmental machinery for giving advice on these matters. That machinery encompasses all the information available to government. Therefore, the advice is comprehensive. I am advised that on this occasion the advice was that a visa ought to be issued, that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs issued that visa and that visas had been issued to the same person on at least two other occasions. I was not at any time personally involved.
– I ask a question of the Treasurer. I refer the Treasurer to an answer he gave to a question some weeks ago, when he said:
There will be a situation in which there will be a larger deficit but it is not in any sense a matter of concern.
Would the Treasurer reconcile this with the statement he is reported to have made on 2 March last year that ‘Interest rates will start to come down when our deficit comes down. There is an absolute and unavoidable link between the size of the Government deficit and general interest rates’? In the light of these statements, what does the Treasurer understand is the relationship between interest rates and the deficit?
Further, what are the implications for interest rates of the deficit for this year being larger than the deficit for the last financial year?
-Of course there is a link between the size of the Government’s deficit and movements in interest rates and interest rate policy generally. I do not in any sense deny that. The remarks that I made, I think in response to the honourable member for Bonython, regarding the projected size of this year’s deficit and the comment I made that it was not a matter of concern, ought to be seen against the background of why this year’s deficit will be somewhat larger than predicted at the time of the Budget last August. I gave certain explanations on that occasion, both on the expenditure and the revenue sides, as to why the deficit will be larger, and I think the House will be aware of them.
I indicated also, and I think it is important in the context of that part of the Leader of the Opposition’s question dealing with interest rates, to bear in mind that this year’s deficit is being very comfortably financed. The non-bank takeup has been very satisfactory. I point out that during the course of the first few months of this year it has been possible for a commencement to be made on a lowering of interest rates. There has been a reduction of 0.5 per cent in interest rates in a number of areas, including lending levels for housing. It has been possible to achieve that reduction consistent with other policies. I do not suggest for a moment, as I made clear on an earlier occasion, that there is not a link between the size of deficits and interest rates. Of course there is. It is a question of degree. It is a question of seeing the extent to which it is possible to accommodate interest rate reductions within the size of deficits. I simply make the final point that when one is looking at the size of deficits one must see them in terms of the percentage of total government outlays that they represent and not only in terms of the actual money figure involved.
– Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the deep concern felt in developing countries at their rate of illiteracy? If so, will the Minister give consideration to recruiting trained and experienced teachers in Australia, as a high priority in our overseas aid program, to help alleviate the problems of illiteracy in those developing countries? Finally, has the Government any definite plans to share the concern of the Third World countries by drawing to the attention of the Australian public the problems of world illiteracy by suitably commemorating World Literacy Day on 8 September?
-The Government is aware of the concern in developing countries about their educational problems, including the problem of illiteracy, and is assisting in solving them in a number of ways through activities conducted under the aid program. Training for teachers from these countries is provided in Australia and at education institutions, such as the University of the South Pacific, within developing countries themselves. The assistance which Australia gives to education in developing countries is planned and carried out in close consultation with the governments concerned. In these areas it is primarily a matter of what those governments request and then it is a matter of whether we can respond to those requests. Requests are seldom made for Australian teachers to teach in schools in developing countries but a number of Australian educational experts have been sent to work in their teacher training colleges or to assist their education departments in developing their educational systems. Also, direct financial assistance is given to a number of in-country education institutions. Indirect assistance is given through support for the activities of the Australian voluntary aid organisations. In conclusion, I have not yet determined what measures would be appropriate for the commemoration in Australia of World Literacy Day on 8 September.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether the taxation incentives for oil exploration announced in last year’s Budget will apply only to expenditures made by Australian companies. In the case of partnerships between Australian and overseas companies, will only the expenditure incurred by the Australian partners be eligible for deduction from taxable income? Will exploration funds ‘loaned’ by an overseas partner to an Australian partner in a joint venture be eligible for deduction from the taxable income of the Australian partner? Is the Minister aware of a report in the Australian of 9 March last that a local company, Cultus Pacific NL, intends to use this means of minimising its taxable income in a 40 per cent joint venture with three Canadian companies? Finally, does the Minister agree that such methods of subsidising foreign exploration for oil in Australian waters are at the expense of the Australian taxpayer?
– The honourable member has asked a complex question involving some matters of which I am not aware. I will have them examined and give him an answer as soon as I can.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs been drawn to the fact that certain agricultural products, such as cheese and sugar-based processed foods, including brandy, are exported to Australia from European Economic Community countries under the benefit of heavy subsidies, and that such unfairly priced imports are creating problems for Australian producers of competitive goods? Is the Minister able to take any action against subsidised imports into Australia of these goods?
– I am acutely aware of the problem that has been mentioned by the honourable member for McMillan concerning the difficulties facing food processors in Australia in having to compete with heavily subsidised imports from member states of the European Economic Community. The Australian cheese industry in particular has been experiencing problems with subsidised imports from various countries throughout the world, including member countries of the EEC. I would like to make it clear to the honourable member and indeed to the House that the Government is prepared to take very strong action under the provisions of the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Act to protect the local industry against such unfairly priced products. Dumping and countervailing duties can be imposed under the legislation and, should industry lodge a complaint with the Government, we will take immediate and strong action. This is a matter that is concerning us greatly and any requests from industry to investigate dumping action of this nature will be dealt with expeditiously by my Department and appropriate action will be taken.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask: What is the most convenient telephone number through which he may be contacted by unsuccessful tenderers who want him to have their tenders modified or recalled?
– I suggest that the honourable gentleman telephone himself.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Will the Government be having discussions with the Queensland Government on the question of the management of the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves under the new legislation? Does he agree that there is a continuing need for close co-operation between Commonwealth and State governments and their officials to ensure that the interests of individuals are fully protected?
-Within the last day or two I have received what I regard as a helpful telex from the Premier of Queensland in which he says, inter alia, that it is clear that it is in the interests of all concerned that there be calm and reasoned approaches to the issues involved. As a result, I am proposing that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and appropriate Queensland Ministers discuss at the earliest possible opportunity the matters that are presently subject to debate in the Parliament. Of course, the processes of the Parliament must proceed and must be concluded; there can be no question about that. But I think it needs to be understood that as a result of the 1973-74 agreement with Western Australia there are responsible and proper working arrangements between the Commonwealth and that State. Arrangements with other States are also working well. It would certainly be our hope that, out of the proposed consultations with Queensland Ministers, both governments will make efforts to advance the cause of the Aboriginal people.
While there may be a mild degree of disputation between the administrations of Queensland and the Commonwealth, both of us need to keep in mind that our principal concern is and must be the wellbeing of the Aboriginal people. I know that this is the concern of honourable members of this House and I believe that it is also the concern of the great majority of Queenslanders. That being so, it is very clear that there needs to be co-operation between administrations. There are a number of areas of administration in which States clearly have a responsibility to provide services for all of their people and I am certain that Queensland would want to continue to maintain its responsibilities to the full.
Therefore where there are matters that need to be encompassed by Commonwealth administrationas we know, what happens will depend significantly on the wishes of Aboriginal people and communities themselves as a result of this legislation- this can certainly best be done by cooperative approaches by the Queensland and Commonwealth administrations. So I welcome those aspects of the Premier’s telex which are directed to that end and I will be sending a reply to him as soon as possible suggesting dates on which, I hope, consultations between the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Queensland Ministers can be pursued.
-Has the Minister for Health seen the statement by the Medical Benefits Fund of Australian Ltd that it will not pay benefits to persons attending clinics in the Cook Islands? Without wishing in any way to encourage persons to go to the Cook Islands for treatment, I ask: Is it not a fact that the Health Insurance Act provides that benefits are payable for Australian residents attending qualified medical practitioners who are recognised in the country where the treatment is received? Is this not part of the basic package which must be covered by the private funds? Will the Minister either amend the legislation to prevent cover by all funds or insist that the Medical Benefits Fund cannot evade obligations placed on it under the Act?
– I noticed the comment by Mr Cade of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd. I have not yet studied his reasons for claiming that his fund will not be obliged to pay benefits for patients treated by Mr Brych on the Cook Islands. As soon as an inquiry into the reasons for his making the statement is concluded, I will furnish the honourable member with an answer.
Whilst I am on the subject of Mr Brych and the payment of benefits to patients who have been treated by him, I inform the House that I have had delivered to him by hand a letter informing him officially that we are prepared to send a team of medical experts, cancer specialists and oncologists, and a prominent layman if necessary, to undertake a clinical evaluation of his treatment and also to examine the clinical records of patients who have been treated by him. I am still awaiting his reply. I expect him to formally reply to the Commonwealth Government’s offer. Therefore the continuation of the payment of benefits to patients who are being treated by Mr Brych will depend largely on the response that I receive from him to that letter and also on the outcome of the proposed inquiry.
In the longer term I think that patients generally should not take it for granted that the Government will continue to condone a situation whereby Mr Brych ‘s patients will receive benefits for treatment that he has rendered. We are not satisfied that he has any medical qualifications whatsoever. In fact all the evidence available to us indicates that he is a fraud.
-I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs: Is he aware of a report in the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser of 1 5 March 1978 concerning a conviction of a young man for drug use and drug pushing? The newspaper reported the presiding magistrate, after he was informed that the young man was moving to live in Western Australia, as saying:
The community and the court were fed up with drug offences and that going to Western Australia was a good move because his time had run out in New South Wales.
The newspaper also reported the magistrate as saying that had the defendant not been moving to Western Australia he would have faced imprisonment.
Honourable members interjecting
-Order! This is not an amusing question. I am a Western Australian myself.
– Western Australians are very proud that you came from Western Australia Mr Speaker. Does the Minister agree that by effectually deporting drug pushers from New South Wales to Western Australia the drug problem will be substantially solved or is there a danger that they will continue to push drugs to some unsuspecting young Western Australian?
– I read the report in the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser of 15 March to which the honourable member for Kalgoorlie has referred. I take it from the manner in which the honourable member raised his question that he does not believe that deportation to Western Australia is an appropriate penalty.
– That is not even a punishment.
– Seriously, the point that was made by the magistrate in this case was that this man had been involved in drug trafficking- indeed, the word ‘supplying’ is the appropriate word in this case. I am sure that all responsible Australians are concerned about people supplying drugs to other people. As Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, I am extremely concerned about drug trafficking, particularly the illegal importation of drugs into this country.
In answering this question, I make it clear on behalf of the Government that it is our resolve to crack down and to use all the facilities available to the Government in this particular field. Every aspect of our administration and our responsibility in this field is continually under review. Honourable members will recall that, late last year, I introduced legislation to increase penalties for drug trafficking. I want it made widely known that, even though those penalties were increased as recently as November last year, they are being reviewed further.
We are concerned about two aspects: Firstly, the social problems that occur in the communitythe ruination of lives, particularly the lives of young people. Those people who are involved in drug trafficking can expect no quarter from this Government. I am concerned also, as indeed is the Government, about some of the penalties which are being imposed by the courts. I hope that in the future the courts will take note not only of the penalties that have been prescribed by this Parliament but also of the mood of this Parliament in increasing those penalties.
– Does the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs still stand by his public statements that in allowing Vietnamese refugees to come into Australia, Australia’s health and quarantine standards will be maintained? If so, is the Minister aware that, at the beginning of this week, 28 of 79 patients at the Heatherton Sanatorium were Vietnamese patients who had recently arrived here and who were being treated for tuberculosis? If the Minister is aware of these facts, can he inform the House whether Australian health standards have been maintained by proper processing of these Vietnamese?
– Yes, I do uphold my statement that Australia ‘s quarantine and health laws are being maintained. I am not aware of the exact number of patients in any particular institution, but the fact that the patients referred to are being treated demonstrates that their medical condition has been detected and treatment is being carried out. In this way the public is being protected. I am not aware of the particular institution to which the honourable member has referred, but certainly after Question Time I shall ascertain the background of the people referred to. It may be that the majority of those patients came to Australia on small boats. Of course, the people on those boats are not processed medically before they arrive in Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Resources: Why is a trade delegation from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics visiting this country at present? What are the prospects of sales of Australian beef to the USSR?
– A meeting in relation to trade matters is held annually between officials of Australia and of the Soviet Union. A Soviet Union mission will be arriving today for discussions. During the course of this visit the Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade, Mr Smelyakov, will be having discussions with the Minister for Primary Industry and me. I am particularly keen to talk with the Deputy Minister to try to assess why the Soviet Union is not buying our meat this year. It has been a very large buyer of Australian meat. It was the second largest buyer in 1977, but to this point of time it has not bought any meat. It has not bought any meat from any country since about last October. So I am hoping that in the course of our discussions I might get some assessment of the market possibilities in the Soviet Union for Australian meat.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that he said in his maiden speech on 22 February 1956 that he was not too young to fight for his ‘faith and belief in the future of this great nation, in which the individual is, and always shall remain supreme ‘, and that ‘the individual happiness of each citizen is, and must remain for ever, the first thought of our national leaders’? Does the honourable gentleman intend to act in conformity with these statements? If so, what does he intend doing for the individual happiness of the reported 425,000 citizens registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service as unemployed?
– I congratulate the honourable member on his research, and I congratulate him on reminding me of a passage in a speech which,- as he read it, seemed to me, from over 20 years ago, still relevant today, as it was then. The policies of this Government are based in a belief in the individual and the individual’s place in society. We have done a very great deal to advance the cause of individual liberty and at the same time to alleviate poverty and hardship within the Australian community. The payment of family allowances as opposed to the old system of tax deductions, which helped the wealthy as opposed to the poor, was one of the most significant social advances in alleviating poverty in the less well-off sections of the Australian community that this country has seen in all the years since Federation.
In terms of civil liberties we have enacted much legislation- for example, legislation to establish the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal- to protect the rights of individuals against a large and sometimes seemingly all-powerful bureaucracy. The honourable gentleman may be assured that the faith and aspirations that were exemplified in that maiden speech will be pursued to the end.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Finance as the Minister in charge of expenditure. Has he seen the comments made by Professor Nevile, who is well known to this Government, concerning recent Commonwealth Budgets and general economic policy in relation to what he nominates as their effective expenditure policy’? To what rate of growth of the total economy are present expenditure patterns attuned? To what rate of growth of the employed work force should the balance of expenditure items be appropriate over the next three months of this financial year?
-I have not seen the comments of Professor Nevile. I do not spend my time reading comments by academics about the Australian economy. It is a pastime in which far too many members of this Parliament indulge, particularly members of the Opposition side. It seems to me that they listen to far too many comments from half-baked left wing academics who have no experience at all. The one person more than anybody else who seems to delight in quoting them is the present Leader of the Opposition, but of course if honourable members look at his track record as Treasurer and at his capacity to manage any aspect of that portfolio they will not need reminding of the dismal record of the former Treasurer.
– What have I done?
-I am just answering the question.
-Order! The House will come to order. I point out to the Minister for Finance that he is not answering the question. I ask him to make his answer relevant to the question.
-I just thought, Mr Speaker, that those words -
-Order! The Minister for Finance will resume his seat. I have given a ruling that the answer of the Minister must be relevant to the question. I do not expect him to canvass that ruling. I call upon the Minister to answer the question.
-In answer to the question of the honourable member for Lilley, the matter of growth within the Australian economy was spelt out by the previous Treasurer in his Budget Speech. Despite the fact that there have been changes in the pattern in some quarters, it is nevertheless expected that the estimates stated by the previous Treasurer in the last Budget will be largely on target this financial year, much to the disappointment of some people in this Parliament. I suggest to honourable members opposite that instead of looking at each set of figures month after month and trying to find gloom in them they wait until the proper accounts come out and the situation can be seen in the context of a full year. As to the question of employment, I again refer to the previous Treasurer’s Budget Speech in which he indicated that there would be a growth in employment this year. That in fact has occurred.
Opposition members- Oh!
-Does the Opposition claim that there has not been growth in employment during the course of this year? It is perfectly clear that that has occurred. Again, far too much emphasis is put on the negative aspects of the Australian economy. There has been substantial employment growth. The previous Treasurer and the present Treasurer have indicated that, with investment growing substantially throughout Australia, with inflation moderating and, in particular, with wage decisions being of a much more responsible nature, we will see a greater improvement in employment opportunities as we move towards the end of this financial year.
– It is fortunate that the honourable member for Lilley is not the Deputy Government Whip.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question and not take advantage of his position in the House.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs: Is it a fact that in a letter to Senator Keeffe dated 10 February of this year the Minister denied he had issued any directive, instruction or advice to the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission restricting its activities in Queensland? Is it also a fact that only a week earlier the Minister had written to Mr C. D. Rowley, the Chairman of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission, directing, firstly, that the Commission inform the Minister before entering into any land negotiations in Queensland; secondly, that the Commission provide to the Minister details of any Aboriginal corporation involved in any land projects; and, thirdly, that the Commission not complete any proposed land purchase without first consulting the Minister? Was this substantially restrictive directive issued to the Commission after complaints by the Queensland Government?
– I did write the letter to Senator Keeffe and the letter is correct. I wrote a letter to Professor Rowley and, by that letter, issued general directives to the Land Fund Commission as authorised under the Aboriginal Land Fund Act. Those directives apply generally throughout Australia and are aimed at achieving a closer liaison between the Commission and my Department in the purchases that it has made. That was done for a very good practical reason. Under the Land Fund Commission legislation the Commission has no authority to buy on a walk-in walk-out basis. Therefore, in respect of chattels, equipment and such like, it must obtain funds from my Department in order to complete a purchase. It is most appropriate, I would have thought, for the purpose of effective management and the management of finances that there be consultation between the Land Fund Commission and my Department at an appropriate level before a purchase is determined so that the necessary finances can be provided by my Department to match those that are available from the Land Fund Commission.
There is another very good reason. For example, if the Land Fund Commission were to buy a farm or something of that nature for an economic purpose as well as for a social purpose, inevitably there will be an on-going financial commitment upon the Government. I should have thought that, as a former Treasurer, the honourable gentleman would appreciate that it is necessary for such practical matters as forward estimating to know what the on-going expenditure of my Department will be. It was for those very practical reasons and in order to keep my Department informed of prospective purchases that general instructions were issued which apply throughout Australia.
-The Prime Minister no doubt is aware of the recent emotional outburst by the Treasurer of Tasmania.
– He is a trouble maker.
– He is worse than a trouble maker. He is killing all our hard work.
-Order! The honourable member for Franklin will ask his question.
-Will the Prime Minister tell the House and the people of Tasmania the correct situation, and perhaps comment on the Mount Lyell problem as an example of real assistance and concern?
-Order! The first pan of the question is in order. The second part of the question is out of order. It is not proper to ask a Minister for a comment or opinion.
-A number of things need to be said about this matter. In a wide variety of fields the Federal Government has done a great deal to assist Tasmania. Indeed, this Government has done more to assist Tasmania and to meet its special problems than any other government in Australia’s history. We need to understand that the position about which Mr Batt was complaining was caused by the policies and Treasury doctrines of the present Leader of the Opposition. In 1973, 1974 and 1975, and in the latter part of that period under the authority of the then Treasurer, the present Leader of the Opposition, inflation was running at levels of 16 per cent and 17 per cent, and over one half year it was running at 19 per cent or a little higher. Now, of course, inflation is 9 per cent and falling and it is going to go on falling. In those circumstances it can be seen that our policies already are having a significant impact in undoing the great damage caused by the previous Administration. They are also having a significant effect on the unemployment caused by the previous Administration, when it rose by 200,000 in one year as a direct result of the most irresponsible financial policies in Australia’s history.
Mr Ban’s claim that Tasmania is down the drain this year by $30m is plain nonsense and he must know that it is plain nonsense. In the two years 1975-76 to 1977-78 Tasmania’s share of general revenue rose under the policies of this Government from $ 156.8m to $2 14m, an increase of 36 per cent. Local government in Tasmania shared in this recent boost to Tasmania ‘s revenue. In 1975-76 Tasmanian local government received $2. 29m in revenue assistance and this year it will receive $5.29m, an increase of 130.8 per cent designed specifically to assist local government as well as ratepayers. We have said on many occasions that we hope many local governments will use some of the funds provided by this Government to contain rates and thus assist their own constituencies.
In addition, we have provided policies that have assisted and will continue to assist Tasmania in a number of other ways. The new urban public transport proposals will assist Tasmania. The water resources development program will assist Tasmania. There has been a 20 per cent increase in the road funds proposals for rural arterial roads. There has been an increase in expenditure of over 200 per cent on urban local roads. The Callaghan report again exhibits very real concern for the problems of Tasmania and there is a determination to act upon that concern. I think we need to understand that it was this Government that introduced the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme at a cost of $ 1 6m last year. The scheme is estimated to cost $22m this financial year.
Certainly, we know that there are industries in difficulty in Tasmania and in many other parts of Australia at the moment. But without the assistance to which I have referred the position of Tasmanian industries would have been disastrous. This Government has provided substantial help. Mr Batt must have been going around wearing a blindfold during the last year or two. We need to remember also that the Tasmanian Government has forsaken completely its responsibility to its people in other areas and broken agreements with this Government which were designed for the protection of the Tasmanian people. For example, the Tasmanian Government had an agreement to share on a fifty-fifty basis the financial support of the operations of the Mount Lyell Mining and Co. Ltd. After a time the Tasmanian Government became sick of that arrangement and said that it should no longer support its share of the underwriting. As a result of that, the Commonwealth Government decided, pending the receipt of the report of the industries Assistance Commission later this year and because of the importance of that community, in spite of the lack of concern by the Tasmanian Government, to pick up the total bill to carry the mine forward and to support the people of Queenstown. The Federal Government will do this until the IAC report comes forward and longer term decisions can be made. This is a record of concern for Tasmania and the people in every part of that State. I believe that Mr Batt should look at his own record and at his own Government’s record and occasionally speak the truth.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. On 1 March 1978, in a debate on a matter of public importance, the Minister asserted that in the field of migrant education ‘a significant increase in expenditure has been made by the Fraser Administration’. On the basis of the figures given by the Minister to justify this claim, the amount of $37,883,500 funded this year is $627,000 less than the amount necessary if expenditure had continued at the same rate as in the last Hayden Budget when the official inflation rate and the increase in the consumer price index in the years of the Fraser Government are taken into account. Is this new law of relativity wherein a mathematical decrease can be represented as a significant increase- the MacKellar law -
-Order! The honourable member should ask his question.
– … or perhaps I should say the Fraser law- the measure we must apply to all that the Fraser Administration has achieved?
– The honourable member for Maribyrnong seems to have a great deal of difficulty in getting the simple facts into his head. He has made statements on this matter on a number of occasions which are completely at discord with the facts. The simple facts are that this Government has a record of concern and expenditure in the ethnic affairs area, and particularly in the migrant education area, which has never been matched by any previous government, particularly the Government in which the honourable member was a Minister. I have said, and I stand by the statement I made, that in fact a record expenditure has been allocated for migrant education in this financial year. That is a simple fact which cannot be disputed.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972,I present the annual report of the Council of the Institute of Marine Science for the year ended 30 June 1977, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Science relating to the report.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Indeed, sir.
-He may proceed.
– I raise the matter with some diffidence. Hansard of yesterday at page 995 attributes to me certain words which I did not use. I used, in fact, different words which you called upon me to withdraw. The difficulty I am in, which I mention with some diffidence -
-I appreciate the difficulty. The honourable gentleman is following the correct forms of the House by not repeating the words he said. If he will attend me in my chambers, I will see whether I can have the offending words eliminated.
– I withdrew the words that I used. I will not repeat them.
-Do not repeat them.
– I did not say that Mr Hayden was debased. I said other words. I will attend upon you later, Mr Speaker.
-I appreciate the action of the honourable gentleman.
– I move:
In 1945 the Chifley Government produced a White Paper on full employment in Australia. It began by stating:
Full employment is a fundamental aim of the Commonwealth Government.
The Government at that time believed that the people of Australia would demand and were entitled to expect full employment. However, since that time a retreat from the full employment objective has taken place gradually over a number of years. The present recession simply has made it more visible. This withdrawal from the full employment commitment has occurred in all Western European industrial countries as well as in the United States and Australia. No government has announced that it has demoted the full employment objective in order to give priority to price stability, but it is clearly a case of actions speaking louder than words. There can be absolutely no doubt that this Government has given up the hope of ever returning to full employment in Australia. Worse than that, government, through its Ministers or through the bureaucracy, refuses to accept the responsibilities of properly identifying the make-up of the long term challenge to future Australian governments of putting people back to work.
The measure which the Opposition puts today is not a cheap political point-scoring exercise but a strong proposal which we have put forward on no fewer than three other occasions. Since this Parliament resumed just a few weeks ago it has established committees on such important matters as road safety, tourism, Aboriginal affairs, environment and conservation, foreign affairs and defence, public works, expenditure and a new and permanent Parliament House. It would seem to the casual observer that the Government has an absolutely indefensible case, having established the committees listed but refusing to establish a committee dealing with unemployment. Let me deal very briefly with the role of parliamentary committees. The committee system provides members with the opportunity of meeting together regularly to express their views. It also provides the officers of such committees with authority they would not otherwise possess in expressing their opinions to the Government. During the last decade there has been a rapid growth of committee activity. We believe that only through an effective committee system can the Parliament continue to perform its roles.
In 1965 Sir John Cramer spoke of the need to create more committees of Ministers and backbencher members to deal with the increasingly specialised and complex business of governing this nation. This Parliament supposedly is representative of the interests of all the communities in Australia. Honourable members from both sides of the House represent a number of constituents within those communities who are unemployed and who could remain unemployed permanently. The Australian people are demanding an answer to the question of why the Government is not doing more to alleviate the growing army of unemployed youth, women and school leavers- people who are wasting their talents and growing more despondent about their future. In a recent public opinion poll, 76 per cent of the people interviewed stated that unemployment was their primary concern. Concern for the unemployed outranked concern for inflation, industrial disputes, crimes of violence and education. In 1 975 the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System recommended, among other changes, that each House retain the right to appoint select committees to conduct long term inquiries into issues of concern to the Parliament.
I will select one committee, the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism, and deal very briefly with its terms of reference on this extremely important issue. One of its terms of reference was to examine the situation and potential of tourism in the Australian economy. Further it was asked to identify the short and long term issues facing the industry in Australia and to examine the roles and responsibilities of local government and the industry in relation to the development and promotion of tourism. I have selected these three terms of reference from a much wider range of terms of reference of one committee to show that the Government’s refusal to accept our proposal to establish a joint committee on unemployment is a blatant political decision taken at the highest level of the Government- in this case by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who believes that the sole aim of the Opposition in having a committee of this nature is to embarrass the Government.
On behalf of the Opposition I say that the unemployment situation in Australia is far too serious an issue for us to be concerning ourselves merely with embarrassing the Government. Our aim is to inject into the Parliament through this committee a greater understanding of the crisis of unemployment. We hope that the findings of such a committee would bring the Parliament to the realisation that urgent action has to be taken.
I turn now to the terms of reference that we seek to set for this committee. I ask honourable members to question themselves as I proceed through them as to the wisdom and validity of our case. Firstly, we propose that the committee should look at the extent of unemployment and the degree to which it has become a long term problem. It should not be difficult for any member of this Parliament now to understand and accept that unemployment in Australia has developed into a long term problem. We should not allow the state of shock in which we may have lived over the last three or four years since Australia experienced a much higher level of unemployment to delude us into believing that very shortly all will return to normal. All the evidence to hand tells us quite a different story.
Unemployment continues to grow. It does not matter whether we use the figures of the Commonwealth Employment Service or of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it does not matter whether we do not count people who are selfemployed, the farmers and the families of farmers and it does not matter whether we ignore the young people who have to return to school- it matters little which way we approach the issue- the fact is that there are 160,000 more people registered as unemployed than there were when this Government came to power on a promise of restoring full employment. All Australians know it is a long term problem but the degree to which it is long term remains unknown. A parliamentary committee could do a great deal to provide information on this matter.
Let us look at item 2 of the proposed terms of reference, which concerns the degree to which unemployment has an effect on certain industries, regions and sectors of the work force. It may be simple to ask whether we really need to investigate this matter, because we know it is the labour intensive industries that have suffered most and continue to suffer. In addition, we can add quite glibly that the industrial areas of Wollongong, Newcastle, Geelong, Ballarat and Whyalla have suffered most as regions and just leave it at that. Obviously if we are to do our work as parliamentarians that is an insufficient answer to give to the public of Australia. It is one thing to know what industries have suffered, what regions have suffered and what sectors of the work force have suffered. It becomes not so much a problem of what has happened over the last five years but of what is going to happen over the next ten years. There are 600 tradesmen registered as unemployed in Newcastle- at a time when the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) says we need more skilled migrants. The recession in the regional centres is tearing to pieces any attempt by State governments to decentralise industry. One may ask: What are we doing about the sectors of the work force that are carrying this enormous burden? Who are they? What effect is unemployment having upon them?
Firstly, let us look at the average duration for which people in Australia are unemployed. In February 1976, when this Government first came to power, the average unemployed person was out of work for a period of 14.4 weeks. In February 1977- just one year later- the period was 17.9 weeks. In February 1978, this Government having been in power for two years, it was 19.7 weeks. Added to this, in February 1976 there were slightly more than 1 1 people out of work for every unfilled vacancy. In February 1977 the figure stood at 12 people jobless per unfilled vacancy. The situation in February 1978- the month in which the Prime Minister predicted the situation would start to get betterthere were 17.7 unemployed people for every unfilled vacancy. A record number of 298,000 people were receiving unemployment benefit, resulting in a gigantic payout of over $70m in unemployment benefit in one month.
It is not just the crime of unemployment against which we should be fighting; it is the enormous waste of resources as seen from the unemployment benefits paid out for the month of February. The studies carried out by concerned groups outside the Parliament show that the above figures will lead to an increase in the number of unemployables as the unemployed people lose confidence in themselves. Employers regard the long term unemployed person as having something wrong with him. Some of the people concerned will stop trying to find jobs and will become less inclined to work. The effects of long term unemployment find their way through to all members of a family. Also, we are living at a time when thousands of young people are being forced back to school. The Parliament does not know the number of people involved in this regard but should know it. In 1976 the National Youth Council of Australia, in its submissions to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, stated that 9,400 persons returned to school because they could not find suitable jobs after leaving school at the end of 1975. This situation increases costs in terms of school personnel and becomes a burden for the individuals themselves. As I said earlier, there are substantial groups who carry a far greater burden than any other groups. In this area we have the migrants and the handicapped. Those people are least able to afford it. For many of them unemployment will mean living in poverty.
The report of the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty showed that the majority of these unemployed people had little or no buffer against any potential financial crisis. Sixty-seven per cent of the people surveyed had cash savings and other liquid assets of less than $50. Only 2 1 per cent had resources of over $200. Twenty-one per cent had outstanding debts of more than $1,000, and a further 16 per cent had debts of between $500 and $ 1,000. 1 hope that from those very brief comments concerning item 2 of the proposed terms of reference honourable members will see that there is a case for the establishment of this committee.
Let us look now at the social implications of permanent large-scale unemployment. Here I reply upon much of the research work carried out by the Australian Council of Social Service. According to its investigations, the reaction of most unemployed people includes financial stress, depression, boredom, lack of confidence and loss of self-respect. Financial stress and deterioration in adults will produce pressing singular effects that will increase mounting psychological disturbance and add to their physical illness. There is a growing body of evidence that shows that deteriorating mental health is closely related to unemployment. The main dramatic indicator of the relationship between job insecurity and stress is the suicide rate. A study carried out in 1975-76 by the Victorian Mental Health Authority in Ballarat and Dandenong showed extreme results. In Ballarat the attempted suicide rate of unemployed over the two-year study period 1975-76 was 278.8 per 10,000 people-one person in 30, more than 12 times the average area rate of 22.1 attempted suicides per 10,000. The incidence in Dandenong was 117.3 per 10,000- one person in 85, more than seven times the average area incidence of 17.7. A further study conducted in the Western suburbs of Sydney showed that about 50 per cent of those people attempting suicide were unemployed people between 15 and 25 years of age. This may be the most dramatic but it is certainly not the final point that has to be made in relation to the impact of unemployment upon our society.
Family stability is threatened. Both here and overseas investigations show a correlation between the increase in crime and unemployment. These matters are of enormous importance to a parliament making the laws governing the life style of our people and they should be under constant and thorough investigation by the law makers, in this case the Parliament of Australia. We also ask, in our proposed terms of reference (4), (5) and (6), that the Parliament look at ideas to put people back into the work force, which have been put into operation overseas and that could be adopted under Australian conditions. This is not the only country facing this crisis but it seems to be the only one intent on doing nothing about it.
When the Summit of Western leaders met in London recently, the first item on its agenda was unemployment. Western Europe and North America are adopting job creation programs. Each of those countries has accepted that it is embarking on a long term program and that it will require a completely new set of rules as far as manpower planning is concerned. In a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development it was accepted that in order to solve the problem of youth unemployment special measures need to be taken or else its growth will continue for years to come. Measures taken to reduce youth unemployment cover a wide area. The following are some of them:
In addition to those measures, in many OECD countries there are subsidised forms of employment in the private sector, either to maintain or to create jobs. In several countries the amount of the gross subsidy is the same as the unemployment benefit that would otherwise have been paid. In most countries the well known practice is to pay subsidies only to young people who have been out of work for a certain time. The Canadian Government introduced recently a works program financing projects lasting up to 52 weeks. Those projects were chosen for their potential effect in reducing cyclical, seasonal, regional or local unemployment. The program aims to utilise the management resources of local organisations or project sponsors. Even more recently it has been reported that the Danish Government plans to create more job vacancies for young people by paying workers over 60 years of age large salaries for retiring early. The proposal, aimed at reducing Denmark’s 200,000 unemployed, is being put to the Parliament this week. That Government proposes to introduce a salary based on a sliding scale until the worker reaches the pensionable age of 67 years.
There is another matter at which a committee such as the one we are proposing should look, and that deals with the decisions being made in various board rooms around Australia on whether Australian industry should stay in Australia or in fact be taken off-shore. About 50 industries in Australia over the past five years have been attracted solely to Indonesia. They include firms such as Repco Ltd, Dunlop Australia Ltd, Midford Products Pty Ltd, Sola International Pty Ltd, Australian National Industries Ltd, Thyer Rubber Co. Pty Ltd, Consolidated Metal Products Ltd, Sidney Cooke Ltd,–
– Why have they done it?
– As the Minister interjects- we could expect that- the sole cry of the people opposite is that it is the wage structure of Australia that attracts those companies away from Australia. The 196 companies that have gone offshore have been surveyed. It may be news to the Minister that only 8.5 per cent of those companies gave that as their reason for going offshore. The largest majority of the companies gave as their reason the enormous investment attractions that are being offered by the host countries. Whatever the case may be, time does not allow me to go through the whole range of matters at which such a committee as that which we are proposing could look.
As I said at the outset, this is not a cheap political trick being put forward by the Opposition. The Government has no case for not establishing a parliamentary committee to look at unemployment. We have a long term problem while the Government refuses to act. We have massive social problems for which the Government has to take responsibility. The Opposition puts forward this constructive proposal for the Parliament to adopt. I sincerely hope that members opposite when given the opportunity to vote on this matter will cross the floor and vote with the Opposition.
– I second the motion moved by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) ‘that a joint committee be established to inquire into and report on unemployment in Australia’. The nation is passing through the first stages of a basic structural change in its economy, the effects and extent of which are not easy to foresee. In my maiden speech on 23 February I spoke about the Post Industrial Revolution’ or, to use two alternative names, the ‘Post Service Revolution’ or the ‘Information Society’. I want to enlarge upon a few points.
My electorate, Lalor, illustrates the problems of contracting employment in manufacturing industry. Rockwell Standard of Australia Ltd, Tubemakers of Australia Ltd and GKN SankeyBenson Division are only three good examples of large firms employing large numbers of men. Their manufactured products can be produced more cheaply overseas. Prevailing circumstances in Australia suggest that employment prospects in manufacturing are likely to contract rapidly. Tubemakers of Australia Ltd, for example believes that 150 jobs are immediately at risk. The most recent Commonwealth Employment Service figures available concerning my electorate are as follows: Altona, 759 unemployed in February; Sunshine, 3,079 unemployed in February; Werribee, 483 unemployed in December- there are no figures since; and St Albans, 1 ,346 unemployed in February. That is a total of 5,667 people registered as unemployed.
It is true that those figures include some residents of the adjoining Gellibrand and Maribyrnong electorates. However the CES statistics conceal much of the reality- that many people who are unemployed, especially girls, are carried’ by their families and do not register for unemployment benefit, and that people who secure part-time work often- not always- are not included in the statistics. Vacancies amount to barely more than one per cent of the number of people unemployed. At St Albans, for example, the number of vacancies is only 13 for 1,346 jobless. One of the most disturbing features of the last election campaign was the increasingly punitive attitude that many people, especially older people, took towards the unemployed. The Protestant work ethic is obviously still alive and well. Clearly some citizens want to use whips and scorpions against the jobless, to punish them for what they believe is a slothful unwillingness to take on a job. However changes in manufacturing technology make it possible for us to produce far more goods with a much smaller labour input. In the United States it is said that of all output 98 per cent is produced by machine power, one per cent by human power and one per cent by animal power.
As late as 1967 it was possible for the then Minister for Labour, the Honourable Leslie Bury, to feel able to say:
Australia is one of those countries that does not engage in manpower planning. We are fortunate in possessing vigorous product and resource markets in which demand and supply forces can operate freely.
Most of the members of this House grew up in a time of full employment. I exempt, of course, the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon). Most of us have taken full employment for granted. It is only in recent years, in the 1970s, that we have now come to accept that a large proportion of unemployed, perhaps somewhere between 5lA per cent and 7 per cent, possibly even higher, will be taken as the norm as it has been in Canada and the United States for a long time. I do not believe that we ought to accept this situation readily. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a short chart produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which appears in Robert Heilbroner ‘s book entitled Business Civilization in Decline. It gives the percentage distribution of employed workers in the United States, France, West Germany and the United Kingdom and indicates the striking fall in the number of people employed in manufacturing industry.
The document read as follows-
Australia has become a ‘post scarcity’ society in which the main economic problem is no longer the production of adequate supplies of goods but their equitable distribution. The motor industry illustrates this very clearly. The productive capacity of the Australian motor industry is far in excess of current demand: The major problem is to find markets for the units actually produced or those which could be produced. As we know, Australian motor vehicles face extreme economic competition from imports and the prospects of Australian cars securing an export market are dubious. The survival of the industry depends on maintaining high- even excessive- levels of demand; accepting the concept of ‘built in obsolescence’ so that the turnover of vehicles is somewhat higher than is strictly necessary to meet community needs- as opposed to the needs of the motor industry.
Obviously it would be theoretically possible to have a 12 month moratorium on all new vehicles purchases; that is, that every resident, every company and every government department would maintain the use of existing vehicles and forgo the purchase of new motor vehicles for one year. However, the impact of such a decision would be catastrophic for the whole economy and fatal for the motor industry which could not survive a 12-month enforced layoff. Yet the implications of shifting from a ‘scarcity’ economy to a ‘post scarcity’ economy are not adequately recognised by the community at large and, I venture to suggest, not fully appreciated by the Parliament either. That is why a select committee seems to me to be an adequate way of examining the various serious implications. As I say, a 12-month layoff in the car industry would have terrible effects on car sales, appliance manufacturers and many related industries. Yet the survival of the motor industry in its present form depends on the maintenance of unlimited quantities of cheap fuel- a pre-condition which is unlikely to be maintained for the foreseeable future.
As we become more sensitive to more balanced resources use, this will have a critical effect on the employment prospects in certain industries. We need to know far more about this. We ought to be examining the significance of the concept of ‘intergenerational equity’; that is, the idea that we ought to maintain some balance between the use of resources by this generation and the availability of resources for use by future generations. I direct the attention of the House to some remarks made by Professor Heilbroner in his book Business Civilization in Decline. At page 80 of his book he points out:
Basically, the challenge arises because industrial growth, or capitalist expansion, is an exponential process- a process that proceeds like a snowball, requiring continuously increasing quantities of resources and spewing forth continuously increasing quantities of wastes, simply to maintain a constant pace of expansion. No social processes of an exponential character are capable of indefinite continuance. Sooner or later all such processes must overload their environment, consuming all its nutrients or poisoning it by the waste products associated with growth. That is why curves that originally shoot upward in near-vertical fashion sooner or later bend into ‘S ‘ shapes, or actually reverse themselves and to into decline.
He gives an example of this with coal, which he says is the fossil energy resource available in the greatest quantity. He continues:
It is estimated that the ‘ ultimately recoverable ‘ amounts of coal, which includes all of this resource thought to be located within the top kilometre of the earth’s crust, would suffice to maintain our current rate of coal use for over 5,000 years. However, if our use of coal continues to expand at a rate of just over 4 per cent a year- a conservative estimate, given the impending exhaustion of petroleum supplies- this same ultimately recoverable’ resource would be consumed within 135 years . . . Perhaps even more impressive is the application of exponential estimates to supplies of all minerals. Today we extract and use about 2.7 billion tons of the ten leading minerals each year. If our rate of use were to grow at a modest 3 per cent a year for a thousand years, this would entail a weight of materials greater than that of the earth itself. In fact, it is doubtful that we could sustain our growth of these ten leading minerals for a period of 200 years.
Again this is another problem that ought to be looked at by a select committee. Can we sustain the present level of exponential growth without stripping the earth so that future generations are unable to maintain an adequate level of life? If this problem is examined Australia may perhaps be one of the first countries to try to work out solutions if, in fact, solutions exist.
I want to mention a few other things briefly in passing. I do not think it is possible to understate the importance of the issues that are raised by the honourable member for Port Adelaide. We ought to examine very seriously the implications of the ‘limits to growth’ philosophy put forward in the famous report Limits to Growth prepared by the Club of Rome. We ought also to be prepared to look at completely new approaches to the work force particularly ways of absorbing the unskilled and semi-skilled. We ought to examine at least the argument put forward by Dr E. F. Schumacher, C.B.E. in his book Small is Beautiful that in some industries we ought to deliberately reverse the tendency towards capitalintensity and encourage labour-intensity; that is, small-scale manufactures. For example, it might be better for a city to have 200 medium sized bakeries, each serving a comparatively small area and each employing five or six people, than to have two giant highly mechanised bakeries each employing 300 people and dominating giant slabs of the market. Socially it might be far more desirable to encourage employment with small, or what Schumacher would call ‘ beautiful ‘ industry. I am not saying that this is the answer. I am saying that it is an option that needs to be examined very quickly.
We need to look at the implications of work rationing. At a time of unemployment such as we have at the moment we ought to examine very seriously the idea of voluntary options for early retirement. We ought to consider the implications of the 35-hour week very seriously. I believe that we also need to look at changing patterns in education to help enlarge personal ranges of choice. An extraordinary number of young people have a condition that sociologists call anomie. They feel they have been trained in an absolutely useless way in the schools for job situations and opportunities that do not exist. We have to be careful not to delude ourselves that this is just a matter of some fine tuning in the economy and that if we apply a few bandaids and take aspirins suddenly all the problems will go away.
We need to have generous opportunities for job retraining and updating qualifications. The community must plan new policies for resource use, land use and recreational facilities, all of which will change the relationship between man and work. We need to have more provision for adult education, especially in the arts. We need a guaranteed minimum income, a project which was put up in the United States in 1969 by so impeccable a conservative as Richard Milhous Nixon because he recognised that there was a need to have a guaranteed minimum income in the ‘post-scarcity’ society in order to keep up the level of demand. If the level of demand was not kept up, the effect on the economy would be catastrophic.
I urge honourable members to examine the report entitled New Patterns for Working Time which was put out in 1973 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This followed an international conference in Paris about the need to provide a variety of different options relating to use of time. People must understand the value of time so that they can work out a time usage pattern which is appropriate for them but which may not be appropriate for anybody else- appropriate for them because there will be plenty of social pressures outside which will threaten their sense of individuality. It is important to take whatever steps we can to preserve individuality against outside pressure so that people have not only equality but also true liberty. I urge the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) to accept the motion put forward very constructively and lucidly by the honourable member for Port Adelaide. I believe that we need a bipartisan approach to this problem. I believe that a joint select committee would be the best way by which we could look at unemployment and work out a long term solution for what is our greatest social problem.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I agree with one part of the motion moved by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) which calls for the appointment of a joint committee on unemployment. The honourable member asks that any such committee will have special reference to the possible conflict between unemployment and other policy objectives. The Opposition spokesman on employment has at last acknowledged that unemployment cannot be considered in isolation; that unemployment is not a phenomenon which has arisen somehow independently of political and economic factors. Unlike most of his colleagues, the honourable member apparently has some awareness of the complexity of the problem with which he is dealing. It is precisely this interrelationship which has escaped the notice of the vast majority of members of the Opposition.
The problem facing the Australian economy and the economies of all advanced Western countries is the interaction between inflation and unemployment. There was a time when inflationary policies were advocated as a means of reducing unemployment. But the events of the past few years in Australia and elsewhere have demonstrated that the inevitable result of inflation is higher unemployment. During the Labor Government’s administration this basic inflation-unemployment spiral got completely out of hand. By 1975 even the Australian Labor Party began to realise that public sector spending was not the panacea for all ills- political, social and economic. The inflation of 1974 and 1975, fuelled by massive wage increases, had been further inflamed by uncontrolled public sector spending. Even the Hayden Budget of 1975 recognised, by a belated attempt to put some restrictions on government spending, the need to reduce inflationary pressures.
It would have been easy for this Government to succumb, as the Labor Government did, to the cries for increased government spending. But such an approach inevitably would only have further worsened the intolerably high rate of inflation we inherited. We had to take action to control inflation and to save jobs. We did so and will continue to do so. The Labor Government believed that unlimited spending in the public sector would create jobs. Yet the folly of spending vast amounts on so-called job-creation schemes helped to give Australia a rate of inflation which peaked at over 19 per cent. These schemes did nothing to create permanent employment but added to inflation which raged on long after people in these job schemes had again become unemployed. So it is odd but welcome to see someone from the Opposition acknowledging the extent and nature of possible conflict between the objective of reducing unemployment and other policy objectives.
When this Government took office it immediately set about to bring public sector spending down to a more responsible level. It has achieved very considerable success in this objective. The Government has also had some success in reducing the rate of cost increases. But wage rates, which are the major influence on cost, are, as members of the Opposition well know, beyond the direct authority of the Commonwealth Government.
Our submissions to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in national wage cases have urged the importance of exercising wage restraint. This Government has pointed out the adverse effects of wage increases on the level of employment. Increases granted have in fact meant fewer jobs. The strength and validity of our argument has been proved by the fact that in six out of the past seven national wage case hearings the Full Bench has awarded less than the full increase in the consumer price index. The Commissioners have recognised, even if the Opposition has not, that economic and wages policies must complement each other if inflation and unemployment are to be reduced.
Prices are determined by demand and supply. If prices are raised when demand is already weak, demand will fall. Certainly no one in his right mind would consider further raising the prices on goods or services for which demand was falling. Yet this is exactly what organised labour and its supporters in this House have tried to do. They seem determined to try to raise the price of something which people are reluctant to buy because the price already is too high. I should be extremely interested to hear a member of the Opposition explain to me how, when labour is already in over-supply, further increasing its price can do other than to decrease demand for it.
There might be some isolated instances where this proposition does not apply, such as where a monopoly group such as airline pilots or waterside workers can control the supply of labour in their particular areas. But in general terms I defy any honourable member to challenge the proposition which I have just put. The crux of the present unemployment problem is the continuing increase in wage rises brought about, firstly, by the continuing pressures of organised labour and, secondly, by awards of industrial tribunals. This is the point upon which the honourable member for Port Adelaide and members of the Opposition should be concentrating because, in the present day situation, this is the main cause of unemployment.
In this context, I draw attention to the concept of the dual labour -market, which has become increasingly relevant in Australia in recent years. Currently the Australian labour force can be divided into two categories: The secure and the insecure. Secure workers are those people whose jobs are virtually guaranteed, as in the case of the Public Service or in areas where there is a very high demand for the workers’ particular skills. Insecure workers are those workers either who are unemployed or whose jobs are at risk. Increasingly it is possible to see a split in the ranks of organised labour between these two groups. Those people in secure employment are continuing to push for further wage increases, either through full wage indexation or even outside the indexation guidelines altogether.
A resolution adopted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions Executive at its wages policy meeting in Melbourne as recently as 20 March this year is a clear example of those people with jobs wanting wage increases at the expense of the unemployed. The resolution which encouraged ACTU affiliated unions to seek wage increases over and above those awarded by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission would, if acted upon by the unions, inhibit economic recovery and reduce the capacity of the economy to create new jobs. It is a priority which is nationally irresponsible and blatantly selfish, yet we have not heard one word of criticism of it from the Opposition.
In this context I draw attention to the current activities of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, which is perhaps the most obvious example of labour monopoly currently operating in Australia. At the present time this organisation is undertaking direct action for wage increases well in excess of the national wage case guidelines. It goes almost without saying that if the further wage increases are granted they will reduce the competitiveness of Australian exports, increase the cost of imports and, directly and indirectly, threaten employment in Australia. Yet do we hear any member of the Opposition raising one murmur of protest against this campaign and similar campaigns? Of course we do not. So much for the much vaunted principle of worker solidarity. It is obvious that those unions in a position to push for wage increases will continue to do so, with no concern whatever for any unemployment they may create amongst less fortunate workers. The Opposition will remain silent, uncaring about its national and social responsibilities.
There is close similarity to the situation applying 10 years ago, when Australia was still enjoying conditions of full employment. Then the Government was continually pointing out that excessive wage increases could lead only to runaway inflation. The reaction of the Opposition and organised labour to such arguments was that workers were entitled to such wage increases, and if they had inflationary consequences that was something for the Government to worry about. Now, 10 years later, we see the same socially irresponsible argument advanced by the secure members of the labour force to justify further wage increases. Such workers and their spokesmen are saying: ‘Let us have full indexation; let us indeed go beyond the indexation guidelines; and if there is further unemployment as a result, it is the responsibility of the Government to do something about it’. It is high time that this facade of moral indignation about unemployment which organised labour in the Opposition displays is stripped away to expose the basic hypocrisy behind it. The Opposition’s apparent concern for unemployment does not match its track record. In November 1972 when Labor came into office the unemployment figure in Australia was 1.95 per cent of the work force. By November 1975 when Labor went out of office 4.37 per cent of the work force was unemployed. In one year under Labor unemployment in Australia rose by 1 6 1 per cent.
The causes of unemployment are known. It is the application of the proven remedies that needs the support of all parties. A joint committee, as is foreshadowed in the motion before the House, would do nothing to produce a solution to the problems of unemployment. The areas of concern of the honourable member of Port Adelaide are of concern to the Government, but unlike the Labor party we have done something about them. What is needed now is the support of the community at large, including the Opposition, for the measures and programs initiated by this Government. The Opposition is not really concerned about the basic causes of unemployment. The Opposition is blind to the damage it did when it was in office, when it failed to take a stand against excessive wage demands. In these circumstances, to include members of the Labor Party in investigations into the nature, extent and incidence of unemployment, into the social implications of unemployment and an examinaton of employment-creating schemes operating in overseas countries would be nothing more than a sham, an empty political exercise and a hypocritical one at that.
-The Opposition has moved to set up a joint committee to look at the long-term problems of unemployment in this society. We recognise- I believe that many members on the other side of the House recognise- that the most serious social problem facing this society at the moment is the problem of unemployment. We also recognise that, on the evidence of overseas experience, it does not seem to be simply a temporary phenomenon. It is an international phenomenon and I suggest that it is not only the result of particular temporary economic factors but also reflects long-range problems accruing in all developed economies. Therefore, we are asking that the resources of this Parliament be used in a relatively bipartisan way to look at the fundamental problems in relation to unemployment.
It does seem to me that the response to this proposal by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) is in fact simplistic and unrealistic in his failure to recognise the depth of the problems that we face. In fact, his only reply was not to face the proposals that we made but to use the sterile argument which is used again and again that, firstly, unemployment is all the result of inflation; secondly, that the Labor Party in government was responsible for inflation; and, thirdly, that the unions, with their wage pressures, are responsible.
Let me say that of course there is a link between inflation, recession and the problems of employment, but the evidence of the whole of the developed world would suggest, firstly, that the relationship is not simple; and, secondly, that even with reductions in the level of inflation we are faced with long-term structural economic problems. Therefore, we have suggested to the House that a committee should look at some of the major aspects of this problem, but not in a short-run way. I have talked before in this House of various immediate ameliorative measures that we should take. I have previously suggested steps such as increasing the rate of unemployment benefit, trying to reduce the form-filling bureaucracy associated with unemployment and trying to define more clearly the roles of the Commonwealth Employment Service and the Department of Social Security. Those are immediate steps that need to be taken. On the other hand I believe that this House needs to sit down and look at the structural problems underlying unemployment. If inflation should fall considerably we will be left, at least for the rest of the 1 970s, with severe unemployment.
We are asking, first of all, that a committee be set up to examine the extent to which unemployment has become a long-term problem; that is, to what extent is unemployment to persist in this society even if the recession should pass away, inflation should pass away and the world economic malaise should pass away. Such expectations are extremely optimistic but even if all those things improved the evidence of the structural weaknesses in this economy would suggest continuing unemployment in the long term. Again, the degree to which unemployment bears particularly on certain industries, regions and sectors of the work force has to be considered. Much of this undermines completely the simplistic argument that it is simply inflation and it is simply wage pressures which cause unemployment. Some of the regions most severely hit by unemployment are ones in which the weaknesses are in the structure of the industries, not particularly in the wage patterns established in those industries. Regional concentrations of unemployment suggest that certain regional industries are much more vulnerable to employment problems than other industries.
Let us also look at another problem, which takes us away to a certain extent simply from wage considerations. Another group we have to think about is the young people- youth unemployment. This is not simply a product of either high wages or inflation. All of the overseas evidence suggests that since 1 950 in each economic downturn the proportion of young people unemployed has risen. It has become increasingly an intractable problem for modern economies. I believe that even if most of the problems that the Minister talked about- and he talked very little about the real problem of unemployment- were dealt with we still would face a problem with our young people relating to the changing demographic patterns. I think we have to consider the educational aspects of youth unemployment. It is a long-term problem, and it is one into which this committee should look. It is a problem which has been growing through each recession.
The social implications of prolonged unemployment have to be considered. Because this country has been fortunate for about 40 years and has not had unemployment at the levels which we now have we are not aware of the depth of the social implications of the present level of unemployment. In an entirely different society, bred with utterly different expectations, the damage to the social structure may be far greater than anything experienced in the Great Depression, when the expectations amongst the working people in many ways were not so high. We already have gathering and growing evidence that problems, such as the level of suicide, the level of illness and the level of family stress may be directly related to growth in unemployment. So the social problem needs to be considered.
Another consideration is the applicability to Australia of innovative employment-creating schemes operating in other comparable countries. I would not condemn the Government for the efforts it has made in this regard. But I feel that most Government supporters would admit that mostly these are band-aid schemes. Schemes are being developed, particularly in the Scandinavian countries and West Germany, which are efforts to introduce much more worthwhile ways of handling the problem of unemployment. Why should there not be a committee of this nature looking at those kinds of contributions which are being made overseas to overcome the unemployment problem and the extent to which unemployment could be reduced by implementing and extending manpower programs?
Let us consider again the problem of unemployment in its structural sense. Reports that have been prepared, indicate that if this country is to be economically competitive in the next decade it will have to face the need to restructure considerable parts of its manufacturing base. But that restructuring can take place only if we have a manpower policy which will cope with the manpower problems deriving from those changes. This is something at which such a committee could look.
I could go on examining the specific terms of reference we have proposed. Instead I appeal again to the Minister to put aside the kind of partisan bickering about who is to blame for the present situation. Let us recognise that we have the worst unemployment situation this country has faced for 40 years. Let us try to utilise the facilities of this House to look at the underlying sources of unemployment. Of course, it is certainly up to the Government to produce the short run ameliorative measures. But, I hope that we will get a more generous response from honourable members opposite to the proposals for a deeper analysis contained in this motion.
– I have listened with a great deal of attention to what has been said by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett). I think both honourable members are anxious to make a contribution to the problems of employment and unemployment. I credit them in public with having an ability and a willingness to do what is right, but I must point out that the honourable member for Port Adelaide did not utter one single word which, I believe, would go towards solving the problem. He gave us no reason to think that if we were to approve the establishment of a parliamentary committee the Opposition would be capable of contributing to a solution because of the restraints imposed upon it by its masters outside Parliament.
The second point I want to make is that we already know from statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) that all the means he recommends of overcoming our problems would exacerbate them to an alarming extent. The truth is that the Opposition has not learnt from its failures of 1973 to 1975. What policies does the Leader of the Opposition now recommend? He wants complete indexation of wages at a time when it is essential, if we are to become internationally competitive again, to cut our costs- I am talking about money costs related to the prices paid overseas for our goods in dollar terms- so as to bring them down to a level comparable with those of our main trading partners. I am talking about money costs. I am not talking about a trade-weighted balance, which is altogether different.
Another matter that the Leader of the Opposition has spoken about and that I think should not be raised at a time when the world is in a state of anxiety and even anguish is economic growth and restraint. He talks about imposing a resource tax at a time when we want to encourage foreign investment and we want to improve our competitive position in international markets and trade. Above all, we want others to buy our product so that our economy can be stimulated internally. I see no prospect of a committee of this kind being successful.
Having mentioned the comments of the honourable member for Adelaide, I think I should deal with the history of the unemployment situation in Australia since 1 972. 1 will put it in a slightly different way from the honourable member for Port Adelaide, whom I admire tremendously for his energy, his intelligence and the way in which he is succeeding in his shadow portfolio. I remind him, although he probably does not need reminding, that 80,000 people were unemployed in October 1972. It was agreed by all the technical experts with whom I came in contact prior to that time that, according to official papers prepared for the Government in 1969, there was little or no prospect of keeping inflation below 1 1 per cent to 13 per cent in 1970 and 1971. To what percentage did we get inflation down? In 1972 we got the underlying trend down to 2.2 per cent and the consumer price index down to 4.6 per cent. We had a growth rate in real terms of 7v4 per cent. Interest rates were down substantially in real terms, too.
What happened as a consequence of changed policies by the Labor Government? It mucked them up completely. If we examine the figures we will find that in June 1975 there were 246,000 people- not 80,000 people- unemployed and that the level was constantly increasing. Other changes were dramatic. The consequences of the stupidity of the Labor Government’s actions were so obvious that I hesitate to recall them today. Why were they so stupid? They offended every canon of sensible management of the economy, particularly fiscal and wages policies. Wages increased well beyond productivity. Public servants’ wages increased first and those increases flowed on to others. In two years wages increased by about 16 per cent when a 4 per cent increase would have been adequate. Labor indulged in business bashing which frightened business into restraint. Uncertainty grew continually worse. Nothing was as important as the wages explosion. As my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has said, there was also extravagant government expenditure in areas which did not add to productivity or growth. Those actions have caused alarming problems ever since.
I will go a little further. World problems grew in severity. Most of them are still with us today. For example, when the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries quadrupled the price of crude oil in 1964 it threw the world economies out of kilter. I suggest to the honourable member for Bonython that he ought to read an article which appeared last week in the London Financial Times. Deficits are building up in those countries importing crude oil from the Middle East, that is, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. Their international payments are growing because of the necessity to import more oil. Because the OPEC countries cannot spend the funds and the capacity of the purchasers to buy other products internally is reduced, there is necessarily a gap. As demand falls, so too does supply, and unemployment increases. It would be wise for the honourable member to read that article, which is intelligently written. I have not seen it previously.
The arguments in it deserve the greatest consideration.
– I will come round to your office to get it.
– Please do. The honourable member has been promising to come round to my office for a long time for a drink. The second reason for being in the peculiar state we are in today is what is called satiety. It is not a good word but I cannot think of another. The belief is held that we need a new series of innovations before we can get the world working properly and at full steam again.
I should like to refer now to the specific points in the motion moved by the Opposition and to comment upon some of the things that it says ought to be done. I do not think the establishment of such a committee is necessary. Frankly I do not believe that any good would come out of it. I should like to concentrate on paragraphs ( 1 ) and (2) of the motion, which deal with the extent of unemployment and the degree to which it has become a long term problem, and paragraph (7), which deals with the extent and nature of possible conflict between the objective of reducing unemployment and other policy objectives. If honourable members opposite want to know where unemployment exists and what are the occupations of the people registered for employment they should look at the quarterly labour surveys and the monthly returns of the CES statistics. If they come round to my office I will give them those documents. If one looks at the Labour Force document for November 1977-1 have great admiration for the Commonwealth Employment Service and for the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations as a whole- one will find all the answers one needs. I say with regret, and I hope with a fair degree of humiliation, that I cannot believe that the debate could have been led by a man who had not bothered to ascertain the facts before he came here and made an accusation against the Government.
If I might come back to the Opposition Leader and all Labor members of Parliament for that matter, the reason they can never hope to succeed with policies which will ensure growing output, growing employment and less unemployment is that their wages policy calls for full indexation of wages at a time when, in $US money terms, we are being competed out of world markets because we have a cost disadvantage of somewhere between 10 per cent and 15 per cent.
It is critical to the success of the Australian economy that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission reduce still further the percentage of the consumer price index that is applied to partial wage indexation in order to reduce real wages and restore our competitive capacity, and by those means once again to put us back in a position where we can exploit our opportunities in all parts of the world. I believe that that is fundamental to success, and I do not believe that there is any prospect of that policy being successful and that objective achieved while the Labor Party has any voice in what should be done.
The honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), who has spoken for me, is a person for whom I have great respect. I have long believed in the fullest level of employment, both of manpower and material resources. I have lived with that belief and I will die with it, even if that is within the course of the next few minutes, or for that matter the next few years. I must say that I was extremely worried by the figures relating to employment that appeared in the statistics published late last week or early this week. In the 12 months to February 1978 the number of employed persons fell by 25,000. And unemployed rose by 105,000. Of course the Government worries about it. Could we have a Minister of the talent of the honourable gentleman who spoke first on behalf of the Government who was not consistently worried, consistently devoting his efforts to getting employment higher and unemployment lower? Of course not. Although I do not come in contact with the Prime Minister ( Mr Malcolm Fraser) as much as I do with the Minister, I am certain that would certainly apply to the Prime Minister as well.
Coming to the last question, that is, the extent and nature of possible conflict between the objectives of reducing unemployment and other policy objectives. For some time I have believed that too many of the great countries- those that were once called the locomotive countries, the main driving forces on which recovery dependshave persisted for too long, as did the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in dealing solely with inflation. They forgot other objectives. I had the opportunity of speaking to Van Lennep and one of his top technical staff in July last year in Paris. They admitted that they had gone too far. They accepted what I had said to them that employment and output were just as important. My ideas corresponded largely with those of Arthur Okun of the Brookings Institute. In my opinion we should establish total objectives. Then the members of Parliament or the Executive of the
Parliament must decide the order of priorities and the extent to which they will give emphasis to each in order to achieve the maximum balance between supply and demand. Today demand is nowhere near as high as it should be. I have mentioned that there are the problems of inflation, employment and unemployment. I want to emphasise that increasing demand and output are tremendously important. If we do not achieve increases in output then I do not believe we can solve our problems.
I have recently read a debate between Arthur Okun and Mr Greenspan, both at one time or another head of the council of economic advisers to the US President. This debate clearly shows the differences of opinion as to what can be done to achieve the four objectives. As an example relating to a fall in economic growth and its effect on inflation, answering a statement by Mr Greenspan he said:
What the economic models tell me is this: If you reduce the growth of GNP by 1 per cent, then in the first year at least four-fifths of that will show up as less real GNP and no more than one-fifth in the form of less inflation.
Mr Greenspan took an opposite view. We desperately need increased output and therefore we desperately need to have an economy where demand is increasing consistently, as the Treasury has accepted. By that means we will be able after a lapse of time to reduce unemployment and, as the population and the work force increase, larger numbers of employees as well.
Those are the points I wanted to put before the House. I believe, and I want to state this again and again, that this is a country with magnificent opportunities. But we live in a world in which we depend very heavily on trade. Unless the OECD countries, including Japan, agree to stimulate their economies and local demand with a consequential increase in demand for commodities and world trade, with its effect on Australia, it is going to be tremendously difficult for us. The problems of America are immense mainly because the President will not come to grips with the energy problem, which in itself creates additional problems particularly with regard to the balance of payments deficit and the impact of inflation. He is now forcing the Japanese into deficit financing of a kind that also can create problems for us, particularly in relation to the demand for Australian iron ore and coal. These are problems of growing importance. I believe that they are the ones on which we should be concentrating throughout Australia and making our contributions to their solution in the best interests of this country by adopting new policies instead of the old ones that have failed.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Young) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr A. W. Jarman)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-The time allotted for General Business to take precedence has expired. The honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next day of sitting.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to seek the approval of the Parliament for the ratification by Australia of the International Sugar Agreement 1977 and to authorise the Commonwealth to on-lend to the State of Queensland funds provided to the Commonwealth from the International Sugar Agreement Stock Financing Fund, together with possible drawings by the Commonwealth from the International Monetary Fund Buffer Stock Financing Facility. On 13 October 1977,I made a statement to the House on the outcome of the United Nations Sugar Conference 1977 which negotiated a new International Sugar Agreement. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that the Agreement entered provisionally into force on 1 January this year. Australia has signed and undertaken to apply the Agreement provisionally pending finalisation of ratification procedures. To date, 37 sugar exporting countries and 1 1 importing countries have joined the Agreement. Together these countries account for about 84 per cent of free market sugar trade, the major non-participant being the European Economic Community.
Because of the nature of world sugar trade it has long been accepted that some form of regulation of supplies on the so-called free market is essential if sugar producers are to receive reasonable and stable returns for their product and if sugar consumers are to be assured of reliable and stable supplies at reasonable prices. The events of the last few years- a period when there were no internationally agreed market regulatory mechanisms- clearly demonstrate this need. As a result of a slowing down of production increases, setbacks in domestic production in several large importing countries and a rundown in stocks, world prices rose from £143 per long ton in January 1974 to £650 per long ton in November of that year. Between January and June 1975 world prices declined to £128. At the time the International Sugar Agreement was being negotiated world prices were steady but at a depressed level of around f 100. This low level of prices was largely the result of an expansion of production following high prices in 1974 and 1975 but it also reflected consumer reaction to high prices and a growth in industrial demand for alternative types of sweeteners.
The world sugar market has been in surplus throughout most of 1976 and 1977. Without the introduction of some brake on production and the level of supplies available for world markets, the prospect was for deteriorating market conditions for producers in 1978 and probably beyond 1979. Crop reports in most countries are favourable and leading world market analysts predict a surplus for the 1978 season of 4.5 million to 5.5 million tonnes. Without the umbrella of the Agreement there would have been the almost certain prospect of the world price falling to as low as £50 per tonne.
It may be helpful to honourable members if I briefly restate the main provisions of the Agreement. The Agreement is aimed at establishing a price range of SUS0.11 to $US0.21 per lbequivalent, today, to around $A212 to $A405 per tonne. Provision is made for review of the price range and upward adjustment when this is considered appropriate. The price range will be defended by a combination of global export quotas and stockholding provisions. Quota and stock accumulation provisions come into operation when prices are low; quotas are suspended and stocks released as prices rise towards the maximum. The cost of storing stocks will be substantially assisted by a stock financing fund which will derive its income from a charge of $US0.002 per lb made on sugar traded on the free market. These financing provisions, which ensure that the cost of stockholding will be shared equitably between consumers and producers, are a unique feature of the new International Sugar Agreement and are important not only in relation to sugar but also because of the possible implications for other commodity agreements. The Agreement empowers the Fund to make loans to exporting members, to help them defray the costs of holding stocks. In addition to this, following the negotiations of the International Sugar Agreement, the International Monetary Fund has expanded its Buffer Stock Financing Facility to cover nationally held stocks. Australia as an exporter under the ISA may, under certain conditions, be in a position to obtain such IMF finance.
The Bill now before the House provides authority for the Commonwealth to on-lend to Queensland, on appropriate terms and conditions, funds provided from the International Sugar Agreement Stock Financing Fund. It also provides for the on-lending to Queensland of possible drawings by the Co’mmonwealth from the International Monetary Fund Buffer Stock Financing Facility. Although the price range provided for in the Agreement is some 10c per lb, the intention of the negotiators was that the Agreement should stabilise prices at around SUS0.14 or SUS0.15 per lb. At this price level it is considered that efficient producers will obtain reasonable levels of returns, that consumers can be assured of secure supplies at reasonable prices and that the price substitution threat from alternative sweeteners, such as fructose-glucose syrups, will be held to a reasonable level. These artificial sweeteners have been developed in recent years to such an extent that they threaten to make further inroads into the sucrose market.
Honourable members are no doubt aware of the vital importance of the sugar industry to Australia, and will welcome the many benefits that membership of the ISA has brought, and will bring, to this great Australian industry. There are some 7,000 cane farms in a strip of land extending over 1,000 miles along the eastern coastline. The sugar industry is itself a largescale fully integrated industry. Sophisticated heavy engineering, transportation and handling industries depend heavily upon it and are essential to it. The sugar industry directly and indirectly provides work opportunities for some 100,000 people. The welfare of whole communities depends on this industry. The value of Australian sugar exports in 1976-77 was $A638m. This represented 12.4 per cent of the value of Australia’s rural exports and 5.5 per cent of our total exports.
Sugar production is also of considerable importance to developing countries. Some 35 developing member countries export sugar, and the economies of many of them are almost wholly dependent on export earnings from the sale of sugar. Australia, as a developed country, has a responsibility to work for the orderly development of a world economic system which takes proper account of the position of developing countries. We have accepted commitments in international forums such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development to lend our support to reasonable and realistic approaches for achieving more favourable and more stable conditions for trade in commodities.
The International Sugar Agreement is a first and important step under the UNCTAD Integrated Program for Commodities. The Agreement is one of the most sophisticated international commodity stabilisation agreements yet negotiated. It is an Agreement which has been very carefully negotiated by countries, with the paramount objective of stabilising world trade in sugar, in a manner beneficial to both producers and consumers, to both developing countries and developed countries alike. For the first time in recent years, the United States is a member of the International Sugar Agreement. The United States Administration looks to the Agreement as providing a cornerstone for a new domestic United States sugar policy which is being established. The United States Sugar Act, which for many years limited total United States imports and provided little access for Australian sugar, expired in 1974. After a period of trading wholly as one of the world’s largest free markets the United States has found it necessary to find ways to protect its own producers of cane and beet sugar against the disruptive effects of low world prices. For this reason, the United States Administration took a very important part in the Sugar Conference. The United States was largely instrumental in developing some of the provisions of the new Agreement, including its stocks provisions and the Stock Financing Fund to which both importers and exporters will contribute. The United States has a special interest in ensuring the successful operation of the Agreement.
Unfortunately, the EEC has not joined the Agreement. It has indicated that it is prepared to negotiate terms of accession with the International Sugar Council, but as yet it has not entered into these negotiations. It is most inequitable and most unsatisfactory to all other participants that the highly industrialised EEC bloc, the world’s largest producer of sugar, has not yet decided to join the Agreement. At a time when other producing countries, most of whom are developing countries, are subjecting themselves to production and export cutbacks, the EEC is expanding its production and its surpluses and is doing so with the use of heavy subsidies. The EEC stands alone at this time in the world sugar community as one entity which is not yet prepared to accept an international discipline for the greater good of the world sugar community. I hope that the EEC will promptly reappraise its position, with a view to enabling it to negotiate appropriate terms of accession to the Agreement by accepting disciplines and obligations comparable to those assumed by all other sugar exporters. Nevertheless, I believe that even without the EEC as a member, the new International Sugar Agreement will operate to restore a measure of order and predictability in the sugar market, which has been singularly lacking since 1973. EEC membership would help to improve the operation of the Agreement, but I am satisfied that with its present membership the Agreement offers the Australian sugar industry and sugar industries throughout the world the prospect of more stable and prosperous years ahead. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Notice has been received from the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) that on the next day of sitting he will move:
That the amendment to regulation 7 of the Defence Force Salaries Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1978 (No. 3) made under the Defence Act 1903, the Naval Defence Act 19 10 and the Air Force Act 1923, be disallowed.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the Treasurer, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to guarantee loans raised by Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pty Ltd to finance the purchase of one Boeing 727-200 series aircraft. Traffic growth on the domestic network has revived over the last 12 months and an additional B727-200 aircraft is required by both Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia to meet the anticipated increase in demand. The proposed Government guarantee will be limited to an amount of $US 10.3m or its equivalent. This amount represents 80 per cent of the total cost of the aircraft and associated equipment.
It has been long-standing practice for the Commonwealth to grant such guarantees and it is proposed that this practice be continued. The company will be required to consult with the
Treasurer on the form of documentation for any loans negotiated and on the terms and conditions on which moneys are borrowed. Also, the company will be required to satisfy the Treasurer that adequate and proper security is given to the Commonwealth over the aircraft. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the Treasurer, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to guarantee loans raised by Qantas Airways Ltd to finance the purchase of two Boeing 747 series aircraft, the sixteenth and seventeenth in its fleet. The Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1976 enabled Qantas to negotiate loans in its own name, with the backing of a government guarantee, for the first time. It is proposed that this practice be continued. The airline will be required to consult with the Treasurer on the form of documentation for any loans negotiated and on the terms and conditions on which the moneys are borrowed. Also, the airline will be required to satisfy the Treasurer that adequate and proper security is given to the Commonwealth over the two aircraft.
The proposed Government guarantee will be limited to an amount of $US80m or its equivalent. This represents 80 per cent of the total cost of the two aircraft and associated equipment. Qantas requires these two additional aircraft to assist in the progressive replacement of the less economic Boeing 707 aircraft and to assist in meeting the increasing demand for international travel. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
It is with great pleasure that I introduce the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1978. The BDI, which honours our election policy commitment, will provide $300m to the States over the five years commencing 1 July 1978, by way of non-repayable grants, to upgrade urban public transport. As honourable members will be aware, the current Urban Public Transport Agreement, under which the Commonwealth assists the States with urban transport capital works projects, comes to an end on 30 June 1978. Under that program, which has covered the five years since July 1973, we expect Commonwealth payments to total above $190m. As indicated, the legislation now before the House is to appropriate $300m. In other words we propose to increase our assistance for urban transport by more than 50 per cent as compared with the current program. I think this is a very clear demonstration of the concern of this Government to do all it can to improve public transport in Australia’s major urban centres. It is a particularly significant increase when viewed against the difficult budgetary situation.
Before turning to details of the legislation, I should make a number of general comments. Firstly with regard to the general arrangements under which the program will operate, I should point out that these have been the subject of extensive discussions between me and my State government counterparts, as well as between officials. In fact, these discussions were first begun in early 1 976 and it would be, in my view, difficult to find more comprehensive and frank discussions. The legislation before the House reflects the give and take of those consultations. Many of the arrangements provided for under the proposed legislation will in fact continue procedures which exist under the current legislation. However, a number of important changes have been made and new features introduced to meet States ‘wishes.
One particularly important change which the States have repeatedly emphasised is the decision to commit the Commonwealth Government to a five-year funding program. Funds guaranteed in this way will greatly assist the States. It will enable them to enter into long term contracts, secure in the knowledge of a guaranteed level of assistance from the Commonwealth. Under current arrangements the level of Commonwealth assistance was determined in the annual Budget context. To take one example, contracts for the supply of buses would be guaranteed assistance from Commonwealth sources only in respect of work carried out on units delivered within the one year. Under the new arrangements, any State will be able to secure a guarantee of assistance for contracts covering a five-year program. It is in recognition of the wishes of the States in this regard that we are proposing in the legislation to give each State a basic guaranteed allocation. Over the five years of the program this guaranteed amount will total $200m, allocated between the States as follows:
New South Wales- $70m over the five years of the program,
Victoria- $60m over the five years of the program,
Queensland- $35m over the five years of the program,
South Australia- $20 m over the five years of the program,
Western Australia- $ 10m over the five years of the program,
Tasmania- $5m over the five years of the program.
I should inform the House of the appreciation which the States expressed when I announced details of this new program at the recent meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council.
The remaining $100m of the Commonwealth’s contribution to this program has not at this stage been allocated between the States. This amount is available for allocation to the States at the rate of about $20m per annum. Each State’s share of this unallocated amount will be decided annually on the basis of needs and priorities assessed in the light of proposals put forward by the States. I must stress, however, that funds under this program- all of the funds to be appropriated by the Bill- can be made available only to support projects proposed by the States. It will not be an option for the Commonwealth to determine projects of its own accord. Such an approach will allow us to respond to changing needs and priorities throughout the five years of the program. It provides an essential element of flexibility for both the Commonwealth and the States. I should also comment that Commonwealth assistance will continue to be made available towards these State projects on a two-thirds to one-third basis. Therefore the total urban transport program under this Bill will amount to $450m.
I should also make another important point here. The new program departs from existing arrangements in that there is no automatic provision for the Commonwealth to support cost escalation as an additional contribution to each project. The provision in the 1973-78 program has proved difficult to administer, and places considerable demands on both the Commonwealth and each State. It introduced an element of open-endedness which created uncertainties. Consequently under the 1978-83 program the extent of the Commonwealth’s liability to each project will be specifically determined at the time the project is approved.
Turning now to questions of administrative arrangements, the States will be required to submit proposals of projects to be assisted. All projects, including those which are to use a State’s guaranteed funds, will be subject to Commonwealth approval. This was of course the practice under the 1 973-78 program. The requirement for approval of projects has been the subject of some comment. It is, as honourable members will be aware, a feature common to many such assistance programs. One obvious example is the Roads Assistance Scheme. As with the roads legislation, this process of approving the use of Commonwealth funds in respect of particular projects is the best way of ensuring that this Parliament knows what use is being made of funds it has appropriated. There is no mystery in this; there is no unwarranted interference in State processes. Honourable members will observe that the Bill provides for a process of consultation between the Commonwealth and the States after submission of proposals and before decisions are made on the projects the Commonwealth will support. As I stated earlier, the provisions of this Bill allow approval of a project to extend up to the full period of the program, that is, five years. States will, however, at the least be required to submit proposals on an annual basis for a share of the annually allocated $20m.
It would be appropriate to now briefly summarise the main provisions of this legislation. I have, as the House will be aware, circulated an explanatory memorandum outlining the principles on which this legislation is based. I hope this additional material will prove helpful to members. Turning now to details, clause 3 sets out the definition of terms used in this legislation, including ‘approved cost’ and ‘project’. The coverage of this program has been extended to bring it into line with our roads and decentralisation programs. The six State capital cities plus Newcastle, Wollongong and Geelong will again be eligible. In the case of Sydney, the statistical division has been extended to include the Blue Mountains area. We have also extended coverage of this scheme to urban areas with populations in excess of 40,000 and, through the operation of Section 4, I will, after appropriate consultation with the States, be able to include the urban areas of Ballarat, Bendigo, GosfordWyong, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Townsville, Rockhampton, Cairns and Launceston as eligible under this program. Section 4 will also allow the inclusion of areas to permit assistance to be provided for improvements in the three inter-urban corridors linking Newcastle, Wollongong and Geelong to Sydney and Melbourne respectively, as under the current scheme.
Clause 5 contains the project proposal, evaluation and consultation and approval arrangements which I have described previously. Clause 6 prescribes the two thirds-one third Commonwealth and State contributions. This clause also gives the States autonomy to implement approved projects. They will be restricted by only two financial ceilings: Firstly, by the amount of the maximum grant to the State for a year and, secondly, by the total approved cost of each project. Within those ceilings the State will have complete flexibility to adjust the rate at which projects are implemented. This will enable a State to, say, accelerate expenditure on one or more projects in the light of circumstances, for example unavoidable delays in other projects. Most importantly it will no longer be a requirement for the States to seek my concurrence before awarding contracts or deciding how approved works are to be implemented.
Under clause 7 provision is made to enable any moneys not spent in a year to be transferred to subsequent years of the program. However, I must emphasise that the States should not regard this provision as an easy way out if their expenditure performance does not meet the States’ expectation. In other words, the States must get on with the job. That has not always been the case. Under the existing Urban Public Transport Agreement the States have had a history of not being able to live up to their expenditure expectations. For instance, in 1974-75 an amount of $67.0 lm was budgeted on the basis of States’ forecasts but only $45.03m was spent. In 1975- 76, because States’ expenditure was so low the previous year, an amount of $40.3m was made available in the Budget; but the States were only able to spend $33. 8m. Last year, 1976- 77, was the States’ best year; they were able to spend $58.4m but this was still short of the Budget figure of $64. 6m. It is expected that this year’s allocation of $51m will be fully taken up.
Provision exists under clause 7 to transfer unspent funds from one State to one or more other States if circumstances warrant. Thus if a State fails to expend its additional allocations made under clause 8, those unexpended funds could be reallocated to another State or States if they have demonstrated needs. I should emphasise that the States’ guaranteed allocations as set out in the Schedule to the Bill cannot be transferred to another State.
The remaining clauses cover the normal financial and administrative requirements relating to the provision of advances, justification of expenditure and appropriation of funds for this program. Clause 1 1 provides for the States to meet normal requirements relating to inspection of works and documents and also provides for regular progress reports. As with the current arrangements clause 1 1 provides for the Commonwealth to be represented on an appropriate State body concerned with forward planning of urban transport improvements. This arrangement has provided an important forum for exchange of Commonwealth and State views and has worked to the benefit of both parties under the current arrangements.
The current Agreement has seen undoubted benefits flow to urban public transport. We have seen new rolling stock- trains, trams and busesadded to the fleets of public transport operators. Railway track extensions and additional tracks have been constructed to increase the capacity of systems. We have seen major work undertaken towards the electrification of the Brisbane suburban rail system as well as work towards linking the southern and northern sections of the Brisbane suburban network by construction of the cross-river rail link. Overall the current program has had a significant effect. It is my intention to have prepared a comprehensive report on the impact of the current program which I will present to the Parliament in due course. However some of the projects commenced under the current program are not yet completed. I therefore see one of the first priorities of the new program as being the rapid completion of such projects.
The requirements for adequate urban public transport are beyond dispute. Road congestion, car parking and pollution problems reinforce the need for a transport system which provides alternative means of urban mobility. We must never neglect those members of our society who depend upon public transport services. This Bill represents a substantial advance in our methods of assisting the States in urban transport improvement both in terms of funds and administrative arrangements. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the giving of a guarantee, of up to $4.5 m, in respect of the repayment of the principal of a commercial borrowing of up to $9m for three years by Cooperative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Limited, CF&G. The Government of Victoria will provide a similar guarantee of up to $4.5 m. Honourable members may recall that, on 10 March 1978, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Premier of Victoria jointly announced that their respective Governments had agreed to guarantee repayment of a commercial borrowing by CF&G on a 50/50 basis. The society has been in the hands of receivers and managers since 1975 and its principal remaining asset, the Brooklyn Abattoir, is in the process of being sold to Protean Holdings Limited for $ 10.25m, subject to the approval of the Supreme Court of Victoria and the Registrar of Co-operative Societies. With the aid of the proposed guarantees from the two Governments, the directors of CF&G have asked the Court not to sanction the proposed sale to Protean.
At the present time CF&G is insolvent: Creditors for amounts in excess of $14m remain unpaid. Nevertheless, the co-operative is presently trading profitably and neither Government thought it desirable that the co-operative should be forced to go into liquidation. The guarantees from the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments would provide CF&G with the opportunity to trade out of its past problems under the ownership of the existing shareholders. The Brooklyn meat works is one of the largest and most modern in Australia. The Government is concerned to ensure that it continues to operate in the overall interests of the industry on a profitable basis. CF&G has arranged a borrowing of $9m for 3 years on satisfactory terms and conditions. The borrowing, together with other funds, will enable the creditors to be paid in full.
The society will be required to enter into agreements with the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the Treasurer of the State of Victoria and the lender with respect to the proposed borrowing, and the guarantees will be conditional upon approval of both Governments of a management restructuring plan to be submitted by the society. These requirements are designed to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth and the Victorian Governments. To that end, there is a requirement in this Bill that officers of the Australian Public Service will have full access at all reasonable times to the financial accounts of the society when authorised in writing by the Commonwealth Minister for that purpose. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Commonwealth Banks Act to enable the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia to lend to all kinds of businesses. The present restrictions which confine its lending to the rural, tourism and industrial sectors will be removed. The amendments will enable the Commonwealth Development Bank to extend its lending to the establishment or development of undertakings in business sectors such as retailing, wholesaling, professional services, entertainment and the service industries generally. As at present, the bank will continue to be required to give emphasis to the provision of finance for small business undertakings.
Honourable members will recall that these proposed changes were first announced on 13 October last year when the then Treasurer and the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, made a comprehensive statement on small business finance to Parliament. The Minister for Industry and Commerce and I also released a press statement concerning the proposed amendments on 28 February this year. In the October 1977 statement, the Ministers announced a series of measures designed to assist small business, including extending the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation and the provision of equity finance by the Development Bank. These aspects are under close examination and consultations are being undertaken with relevant financial institutions. It is expected that a further announcement will be made at a later stage.
The Government has responded to the increasing concern in the business community about the adequacy of funds for small business growth and development. In May 1977 a task force was set up to investigate the question of finance for small business. A report was subsequently submitted to the Government. In its deliberations, the Government has been assisted considerably by the Government members’ small business sub-committee chaired by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Aldred). This government recognises the vital part played by small businesses in our economy. Their contribution in terms of employment, growth, innovation and enterprise has by now been well documented. The widening of the charter of the Development Bank provided for by this Bill represents a further step in a series of initiatives by the Government to ensure that small businesses are assisted towards realising their full potential.
It is expected that the Development Bank will be in a position to implement the expanded lending activities shortly after the legislation is enacted. As is the case under the Development Bank’s present charter, prospective borrowers will need to establish, to the satisfaction of the bank, that the finance sought is not otherwise available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions. In determining whether to provide finance, the Development Bank will continue to have regard primarily to the prospects of the operations becoming, or continuing to be, successful and will not necessarily have regard to the value of the relevant security. To what extent additional funds may be required for the Development Bank’s entry into this wider field of operations cannot be determined at this stage, but the position will be closely watched.
I now turn to the specific provisions of the Bill. The Development Bank’s functions are set out in section 72 of the Act which, in brief, enables the Bank to provide finance for persons for the purposes of primary production or for the establishment or development of industrial and tourist undertakings. The amendments to section 72 will enable the Bank to provide finance for the establishment or development of business undertakings, by removing the present restriction which confines it to financing only industrial and tourist undertakings. Its function of lending for the purposes of primary production remains unchanged. The amendments to section 72 will also extend the Development Bank’s role of providing advice and assistance to the full range of business undertakings that will be eligible to borrow from it. The government regards this measure to expand the functions of the Development Bank as a substantial element in its overall program for the encouragement of small businesses. I should also mention that I expect to introduce amendments to sections 84 and 1 1 1 of the Act during the Committee stages of the debate on this Bill.
At present section 84 of the Act provides that, except with the consent of the Treasurer, the Development Bank shall not borrow a total of more than $4m from the Reserve Bank of Australia and shall not borrow moneys repayable in a currency other than Australian currency. The amendment that I am now foreshadowing will make all borrowings by the bank subject to the Treasurer’s consent. This will bring the provision into line with the comparable, standard provision in other legislation with respect to statutory authorities. Section 1 1 1 limits the scope for borrowings by Commonwealth Banking Corporation officers from the Commonwealth Banks to loans for housing purposes and to loans from the Commonwealth Trading Bank where the Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation is satisfied that special circumstances exist. The latter loans are subject to a limit of $1,500. The amendment that I will be introducing later will seek to increase that limit to $5,000. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the Pay-Roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Act 1971, which subjects to pay-roll tax wages related to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, to raise the level of the general exemption from tax. Although the Bill does not draw distinctions between the two Territories, it is expected to have effect in practice only in respect of wages related to the Australian Capital Territory. The reason is that, under the program for the development of Northern Territory self-government as announced by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) on 14 September 1977, it is planned that the power to levy pay-roll tax on wages related to that Territory will be transferred to the proposed government of the Northern Territory with effect from 1 July 1978.
The general exemption is to be raised from $48,000 to $60,000 per annum. It is proposed that the higher level will apply from 1 July 1978. The exemption will, as at present, be phased out by an amount of $2 for every $3 by which the annual wages payable by an employer exceed the maximum exemption level. The last increase in the exemption level applied from 1 January 1977 when the exemption was brought into line with the exemption allowable in New South Wales. That State has since increased its exemption level to $60,000.
I think it is desirable to secure consistency between the exemption entitlements of employers in the Australian Capital Territory and employers in New South Wales. I am sure that the operators of small businesses in the Australian Capital Territory will welcome the change. The maximum deduction allowable in monthly returns will increase from $4,000 to $5,000 and will, in conformity with the rules for the phasing out of the maximum annual exemption, be phased out at the rate of $2 for every $3 by which the wages for the month exceed $5,000. No deduction will be allowable where the monthly pay-roll exceeds $12,500. From 1 July 1978 an employer who pays wages of $1,150 or less a week will not be required to register for pay-roll tax purposes. Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in an explanatory memorandum which will be made available to honourable members shortly. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this amending Bill is to permit increased assistance to Tasmania in respect of the continued operation of the Mt Lyell mine at Queenstown. Honourable members will recall that Parliament legislated last year to allow payment to Tasmania of up to half the amount paid by the Tasmanian State Government to the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited. The Government provided this assistance to Tasmania pending consideration of the Industries Assistance Commission’s interim report on copper. In case further assistance might be warranted pending the Commission’s final report, the legislation provides for assistance up to 30 June 1978.
The Commission’s interim report was considered late in 1977, and the Government announced on 8 November that it accepted the Commission’s recommendation to extend the period of assistance pending consideration of the Commission’s final report. The Government announced that its offer of extended assistance was based on previous arrangements between the Commonwealth and Tasmania, under which the Commonwealth had assisted Tasmania on a dollar for dollar basis. The Tasmanian Government subsequently indicated that it was unwilling to continue those arrangements. In conformity with its announced intention that the mine should continue pending consideration of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report, the Commonwealth Government then announced it was willing to provide all the necessary assistance, apart from an amount equal to the State ‘s receipts from payroll tax on the mine ‘s employment. This Bill accordingly seeks removal of the provision which limits Commonwealth assistance to half of the amounts paid to the company by Tasmania.
The uncertainty of the future world copper price makes it difficult to estimate accurately the cost to the Commonwealth of the increased assistance to Tasmania. However, a recent estimate is that the total cost of Commonwealth assistance for the period from November 1977 to June 1978 would be between $3m and $4m. Following the termination on 8 November 1977 of the first Commonwealth-Tasmania agreement, and pending the introduction of this legislation, Tasmania has been paying to Mt Lyell the whole of the assistance necessary for the mine’s continued operation. However, Tasmania has done this in the expectation that the bulk of this assistance will be reimbursed by the Commonwealth. This legislation authorises reimbursement on the more generous basis we now envisage, and should ensure that Tasmania continues to provide assistance to the Mt Lyell operations at Queenstown on the agreed basis. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
The Bill proposes several amendments to the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976, which is an Act of Government introduced to give effect to its policy of assisting Aboriginal communities and groups to incorporate themselves for various purposes and in a manner more acceptable to them. The amendments seek to resolve issues of concern to State and Territory governments, to remedy certain deficiencies found in the existing Act, and to provide for certain procedural matters. The Act has been the subject of exhaustive discussion between the Commonwealth Government and State and Territory governments through the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council. The main issue which concerned State and Territory Ministers was that Aboriginal councils established under the Act might intrude into State responsibilities for local government, existing or proposed. When the Act was first introduced it was intended to provide a suitable vehicle for the incorporation of Aboriginal communities, particularly the remote and tradition-oriented communities who might find difficulty with western European legal concepts as embodied in State and Territory legislation. In opening to Aboriginal communities the possibility of carrying out, through councils, certain municipal type functions, the Act was not intended to lead to a separate local government system. For example, by-laws made by an Aboriginal council will not, under the Act, apply to a person who is not an Aboriginal and, under the amendments being introduced, consultation will have to take place with State and Territory Ministers before an Aboriginal council is established in an area in which municipal services already exist or are proposed.
The anxiety that the establishment of separate local government bodies might be in the Government ‘s mind and that it might lead to what has variously been described as separate development, the creation of semi-autonomous Aboriginal entities and /or an encroachment on State rights under the federal system has occasionally been expressed. Perhaps I can set this anxiety to rest by emphasising that the self-management objectives of the Government do not involve separate laws for Aboriginals whereby they are able to cut themselves off from the federal or State institutions of Government which are part of our nation’s fabric. Where the establishment under this legislation of Aboriginal councils with municipal type functions is contemplated, the Minister is already required to take into account any proposed extension of local government into the area. The amendments to sections 16 and 17 of the Act now proposed go further than this. They require account to be taken of both existing and proposed local government responsibilities in areas where Aboriginal councils are to be established and for the Minister to consult with State or Territory Ministers before he decides on the establishment of a council. It is to be hoped that these provisions will satisfy the States as to the Commonwealth ‘s good faith and intentions.
It is not intended that any organisation of Aboriginals or Islanders should be compelled to incorporate under Commonwealth legislation unless it wishes to acquire land from the Commonwealth or with the use of Commonwealth funds. From the latter point of view the Act will merely serve to ensure that land which the Commonwealth makes available for Aboriginal communities is not disposable without the consent of the Minister and is retained in perpetuity for the benefit of future generations of Aboriginal Australians. There is no State or Territory legislation which will achieve this. Another, and less controversial, objection raised by the States was to the effect of section 78 of the Act on the security of State interests in land acquired by Aboriginal corporations from State governments and the need for States to retain ownership and control of such lands transferred to an Aboriginal land trust and subsequently leased to an Aboriginal corporation. To meet the States’ objection, which was valid, section 78 (2) is being amended by the deletion of the words ‘or a State ‘.
A further amendment is proposed to section 78 dealing with the disposability of land which would prevent an Aboriginal corporation from disposing of an estate or interest in land without seeking an order from the Minister declaring such land disposable. The former National Aboriginal Consultative Committee drew my attention some time ago to the fact that there was no provision in the Act for appeals against discretionary decisions by the Registrar in respect of various administrative functions vested in the Registrar by the Act. I agreed that this was an omission in the original Act, and various amendments are now being introduced to provide for ministerial intervention in or review of decisions taken by the Registrar under the Act where such intervention or review is appropriate.
The remaining amendments to section 3, section 27, section 38 and section 59 are procedural and do not involve any matters of substance. One matter I might mention is the amendment proposed to section 3 to enable an Aboriginal association which is already incorporated under State or Territory law, to incorporate under this Act. The amendment proposed to section 46 ( 1 ) will prevent dual incorporation and provision will be made in the regulations to be made under this Act for the State or Territory authority concerned to be duly notified when such an association is incorporated under the Act. Honourable members will be aware that, although the original Act was assented to on 15 December 1976, its proclamation has been delayed pending the resolution of the various issues which were raised concerning difficulties which were likely to arise in the implementation of the Act in the form in which it was enacted. The amendments now proposed should overcome these difficulties and allow for the proclamation of the Act. I commend the Bill to honourable members for their support.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Staley, and read a first time.
– I move:
Honourable members will recall that the Government amended the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 late last year to provide that broadcasting licences are initially granted for up to five years and are renewed for three-year periods or such lesser period- but not less than 12 months- as the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal believes justifiable. These amendments represented a further stage in the implementation of the revised administrative structure of broadcasting proposed in the 1976 report of the inquiry into the Australian broadcasting system and approved by the Government. However, section 6 of the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Act 1 964 provides for the payment of fees: On the initial grant of the licence; during the currency of the licence, on the anniversary of the date of the commencement of that licence; and m the renewal of that licence.
In view of the new variability of the period for grant and renewal of licences, section 6 of the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Act 1964 requires the payment of fees by licensees more than once in a 12-month period if the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal grants or renews a licence for a period which includes a fraction of a year. This was not intended and this amendment Bill seeks to confirm the principle that broadcasting station licence fees are payable only once each year. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Staley, and read a first time.
– I move:
The measures entailed in this amendment Bill are the same as in the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill except that they apply to television stations licence fees rather than fees for broadcasting station licences. Honourable members should take my remarks in respect of that previous Bill to apply to this amendment also. Obviously, this Bill also seeks to confirm the principle that television station licence fees are payable only once each year. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to give effect to the Government’s decision to provide assistance to the manufacture in Australia of agricultural tractors with an engine output exceeding 105 kilowatts. Following advice from the Industries Assistance Commission in its report No. 142 of 18 August 1977 on agricultural wheeled tractors exceeding 105 kilowatts, it has been decided to accord assistance, by way of a bounty scheme, providing for payment to Australian manufacturers of a bounty payable at the rates set out in the Schedule to the Bill. The bounty, which is payable from the date on which the Act receives royal assent is made under the same terms and conditions to that applicable to agricultural tractors with an engine output of 105 kilowatts or below, including the quarterly adjustment of the Schedule to reflect import price movements. In relation to import price movements, provision has been made for the regulations to prescribe a factor by which amounts payable as bounty may be varied from time to time. This factor has, to date, been ascertained by reference to the Reserve Bank of Australia import price index for the ‘machinery except electric’ group. The amounts of bounty shown in the Schedule to the Bill are those recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission, updated to the first quarter 1977 values by application of the factor so calculated. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Groom, and read a first dme.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to make a number of amendments to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act which has been in operation for two years. In that time the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has been working in co-operation with the Queensland Government and the Great Barrier Reef Consultative Committee. Clause 3 of the Bill removes from the principal Act the requirement that the Chairman of the Authority must hold special academic qualifications and have experience in the field of biological conservation. The provision to be removed by this Bill is considered not only unduly to limit the range of prospective appointees but also could leave open to challenge the appointment of a person who appears to be very suitably qualified.
The decision to include this amendment in no sense indicates that the Government sees a different role emerging for the Authority and its Chairman. Quite the contrary. The Government recognises that the position of Chairman is a most important one and the appointee must certainly hold suitable qualifications or have the specialised experience necessary to guide the Authority in carrying out its functions. This concept is reflected in the amendment to sub-section 6 of section 10 which will require the Chairman as well as the other members of the Authority to possess qualifications or extensive experience in a field related to the functions of the Authority.
The Bill empowers the Authority to appoint one of its members to the Great Barrier Reef Consultative Committee and makes the necessary machinery amendments to sections 23 to 27 to distinguish between a member appointed by the Authority and those appointed by the Minister. At present the Authority is required to nominate one of its members for appointment by the Minister. The amendment will allow flexibility in the appointment of the Authority’s representative and will overcome a difficulty that has arisen under the principal Act whereby the Authority’s representative is eligible to remain a member of the Consultative Committee after he ceases to be a member of the Authority. This difficulty has arisen because under the Act the period of a member’s appointment to the Authority and Consultative Committee do not coincide.
The Bill amends the definition of the Great Barrier Reef Region to close the Region at the tip of Cape York Peninsula and exclude the Saumarez Reef from the Region. Advice has been obtained that a failure to close the Region gives rise to serious legal doubt on whether a Region has in fact been declared for the purposes of the Act. The amendment will enable proclamations to be made under the Act declaring parts of the Region to form part of the Marine Park. The amendments exclude the Saumarez Reef from the Region as it is part of the Coral Sea Islands Territory. The description previously included part only of the Reef. Finally, the Bill makes a number of minor machinery amendments to reflect current drafting practice.
I would like to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the introduction of this Bill to provide honourable members with a brief outline of the Authority’s activities. In July 1976, Sir Charles Barton, formerly CoordinatorGeneral of Queensland, and Dr Joseph Baker, Director of the Roche Research Institute of Marine Pharmacology, were appointed as part time members to the Authority. The Authority was fortunate to have an eminently qualified biologist in Dr Donald McMichael as Acting Chairman during its formation. The Authority has prepared a report for submission to the Governor-General in the near future recommending the declaration of the first part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This part includes the Capricorn and Bunker group of reefs and Lady Elliott Island. In the development of this report the Authority viewed the participation of the public as a vital element in the planning for the Marine Park. This view is one which has already drawn favourable comment in the Press and from members of the public.
After declaration of an area as part of the Marine Park the Authority’s next task is to prepare a zoning plan for that area taking into account the diversity of interests and present activities on that part of the Reef. Once again the Authority will seek the views of the public to ensure the development of a workable and rational plan for that area. Apart from its task in relation to the declaration and zoning of the Marine Park, the Authority is responsible for ensuring that research which is relevant to the Marine Park is carried out. The Authority recognises the importance of the work undertaken by the three research stations located on Heron, One Tree and Lizard islands, and has arranged for research on the Marine Park to be carried out. The Authority will continue to carry out research and gather information relevant to the care and conservation of the Reef.
The Authority and the Queensland Government together face an enormous responsibility to conserve the Reef. It must protect it against exploitation and destruction whilst, at the same time, taking care not to deprive the public of the enjoyment of this unique resource. An answer to this apparent dilemma, I believe, lies in the implementation of an effective and rational planning scheme for the Marine Park which is based on a consideration of the interests of individuals, community groups and organisations as well as the known biological and physical features of the Reef. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4 April, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Scholes had moved by way of an amendment:
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that the Government should continue to provide funds to the States for new plantings in the same proportion as in previous agreements, of about SO per cent, in order to ensure that reasonable continuity of planting rates is maintained ‘.
-The passage of the Softwood Forestry Agreements Acts in 1966 and 1972 enabled quite a degree of detail to be discussed in regard to this matter. Honourable members will recall that when the 1976 legislation was introduced it was a one-year measure to allow re-examination of the program. It is to be regretted that the Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill which has just been introduced and which will operate for five years is so devoid of detail, so devoid of information and so devoid of any assessment of what the Government believes is necessary in this field. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) moved on behalf of the Opposition an amendment that indicates quite clearly that the Opposition has no basic objection to the Bill before the House but that it does believe that some funds should be provided to the States for new plantings and suggests that the same proportion as was provided for in the previous agreements is a reasonable basis on which to work.
Before going further into the debate on the Bill, I should like to point out briefly the reasons for that amendment. The Bill provides only for the tending of previous plantings. It relies greatly on the State parliaments to take up new planting programs. Anyone who has experience of politics in Australia, either at a Federal or State level, knows very well that State parliaments will hang back in this area. I think we have some responsibility to see that there is a degree of continued plantings. I say that advisedly. We are talking about a crop that takes some 20 to 25 years to reach a usable, harvestable stage. I appreciate that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has said that in the second of the five years he will look at the question of whether there should be further plantings. If the Government relies on the State parliaments during this gap of five years it may find in 20 to 25 years that there has been a considerable downturn in the crop available; hence our concern to ensure some continued planting.
The second point I should emphasise on behalf of the Opposition is that we are not in favour of the fairly widespread habit in the past under previous agreements of clear-felling vast areas of native forest to allow the plantings to take place. The object should be to use marginal cleared land. In the main, that would be failed agricultural land which has been cleared because of the taxation advantage to primary producers and which is a failure for other agricultural purposes but which may very well be useful for the growing of softwood crops.
The third factor which ought to be looked at in the light of our amendment is the question of environmental conditions. Little mention is made of that in the Bill. At least in the previous Bills some attention was paid to environmental considerations. In this regard I refer to the 1975 report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation on the operation of the Softwood Forestry Agreements Acts of 1967 and 1972. 1 was Chairman of that Committee at the time. It commented that at least in the 1967 Act there was a brief statement that the States shall ensure that planting during each year is carried out efficiently and in conformity with sound forestry and financial practices. It was not exactly enlightening as far as environmental factors are concerned. But in the 1972 Act more note was taken of environmental factors. It stated:
The States shall ensure that planting during each year is carried out efficiently and in conformity with sound forestry and financial practices and shall ensure that environmental factors relating to planting have been considered.
I think that in this sort of legislation we must always consider these types of factors. They are the types of factors that have caused a number of people to ask for a reassessment of the softwood plantings situation. When we deal with softwood plantings we are dealing with wider considerations- not just the growing of pine trees. We are talking about resource management, the question of self-sufficiency, whether it is necessary and how we provide it. We are talking of land usage, the sorts of things I raised in commenting on the amendment that we have moved. On the question of land usage, should we be clear-felling vast tracts of our natural forest or should we be using the marginal land that is available to grow this crop of softwoods? The other very significant factor in this area is the question of the environmental hazards that arise from such plantings. When I talk of environmental hazards I am not referring only to the green issues, if you like- the sorts of things that relate to Australian flora and fauna and cause so much emotional reaction. I am also talking about the problems that such plantings can cause for the watersheds of various water supplies in parts of this continent, the effect they have on water flow, the fact that there is no underlying vegetation, and so on. Very wide considerations are involved when one moves into this field.
I want to remind the House of some of the matters that were commented upon in the report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation published in 1975, and I wish to refer firstly to some of the findings set out on page 3. The honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) addressed himself to this Bill when it was previously before the House and quoted some of those findings. I have the feeling that he misunderstood the first finding, which states:
Australia’s timber resources are relatively small and should be conserved in the long-term interests of the nation.
Listening to the tenor of his speech, I was not clear that he understood that the reference there was not only to softwood timber and the planting of exotics but also to Australia’s resources of hardwoods and natural forests. The Committee stated that there was a need for a softwoods planning program, although it indicated that possibly it should be on a lesser scale, and I have commented on that previously.
One of the comments the Committee made was that the present softwood forestry agreements legislation does not allow for sufficient long-term planning by the State forestry services, which are primarily responsible for the planting of exotic softwoods. I believe that this legislation does not improve that situation at all. In fact it places the full responsibility for new plantings on the States, and I have no confidence in that. The Committee also stated that there was a need for greater flexibility in committing large financial resources to a long-term planting program with regular objective scrutiny of the nation’s needs. Once again, there is no indication in the legislation of that recommendation having been noted. I comment in passing that in introducing the 1976 Bill the Minister at that time did give recognition to this report and say that it would be considered. When he presented this Bill he made no reference at all to the report, as though it did not exist. In talking of land usage in this sense, the Committee suggested that in most States there was a need for greater public participation in deciding the use to which public land is to be put, and that is most important with regard to softwood plantings.
Another matter that is most relevant at this time, when we are discussing forestry and considering a piece of legislation that allows no further planting, is that forestry and the timber industry are important elements in the decentralisation process and a substantial employer of manpower in rural areas where employment opportunities are limited. That is quite important at present and is not really given any attention in the present legislation. One of the things I should emphasise when referring to the recommendations of the Committee is that this Parliament in its program should not concentrate only on softwood programs but should be willing to consider a similar program for the regeneration of our natural hardwood areas in a way that would ensure the maintenance of forest diversity and a number of other environmental values.
– Kinglake is in a very good electorate. Kinglake West is well represented in this Parliament.
– You are not talking about him?
-I am talking about myself. I represent Kinglake West. One of the things we are dealing with when talking about forests is the question of time. In softwood areas we are talking about thinnings at IS years and a suitable harvest at 20 to 25 years, but with hardwoods we are talking about a harvest in 70 or 80 years time. If we make mistakes now there is not much opportunity to correct them in 80 years time. We have lost. The Committee thought that these agreements should be examined at least every three years rather than sporadically every five years. Our other concern was the relatively short term of the softwood forestry agreement when compared with the growing period. The Committee believed, and it was an all-party committee, that the next softwood forestry agreement should cover a period of 10 years. It also made certain suggestions with regard to interest that I will deal with later. Another recommendation was that stringent conditions should be imposed upon the lending of Federal money to ensure that forestry management procedures designed to protect the environment are observed strictly. As I have pointed out previously, this Bill is completely silent on that matter. It is a Bill with little substance, except in the schedule, which merely describes the financial arrangements.
Turning to the Committee’s suggestions with regard to future agreements, I am happy to see that some of the suggestions have been accepted, largely in relation to financial provisions. Whilst we recommended that the next Act should be substantially different, we pointed out that there were two major and basic questions to be answered. The first was the question of the economic viability of the industry, and I think that has been answered. I do not think that there is any doubt about the economic viability of the industry. But because of differing opinions of the various bodies associated with the industry, the Committee then had to deal with the question of the areas to be planted each year, and in this case the Government has given its answer. It has clearly said that as far as it is concerned there is no need for any more softwood plantings. The question of the agreement allowing more orderly planning by covering a 10-year term has been ignored. It is again a five-year term.
I turn to deal with the availability of the finance and the manner in which it should be paid. In 1975, the States asked that the interest free period of the loans be extended from 10 years to 15 years. With the wisdom of Solomon, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation recommended at that time that the next softwood forestry agreements legislation should cover a period of 10 years- that was not accepted by the Government- with interest accruing from the commencement of the loan and with deferment of the payments of instalments of principle and interest for 15 years. I note in the Schedule attached to the Bill that that recommendation has been observed. There is a practical reason for that observation. After 1 5 years of growing softwood plantations, it is possible to start obtaining some produce from the thinnings and the smaller growth. I am pleased that that at least has been accepted in some way.
I have spoken already about marginal farmlands. The other point I am concerned about in this Bill is that no attention is paid to the environmental hazards.
– None at all.
– None at all. Many principles are involved. The Minister might say that the foresters in the States are good foresters and that they can grow these trees very effectively, and they can. Of course, they are very efficient professionals in the preparation and growing of and tending to the trees. But in common with most of us who are single-minded in some sort of occupationI was nearly going to say we often cannot see the wood for the trees, but that would be almost a Freudian slip in this context- they lose the awareness of the concern that the environmental hazards can cause in the community. We should seek to make certain that at all steps the environmental concerns that are held in the community are observed. Unfortunately, I see that my time is coming to a close in this debate.
– Only in this debate.
– Yes, only in this debate. I thank the honourable member for Robertson. I suggest that if honourable members read paragraph 159 of the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation and in particular sub-paragraphs (i), (ii) and (iii) and clauses (a) to (1) they will see the common-sense approach of this all party Committee to the sort of environmental factors that we should be talking about. Its members did not go overboard -
– Was it unanimous?
– Yes, it is a unanimous report. It was made by members of all parties who did not go overboard with a sort of bleeding heart approach. They made an eminently sensible consensus opinion on the sorts of safeguards about which this Parliament ought to think.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I, in common with the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), support the Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill. As the honourable member said very clearly and I think very accurately, it is a Bill of little substance. That is the way in which the Bill is set out. In fact, it is a Bill of little substance because it states that the Commonwealth Government, for this next five years, will not be involved in some of the matters it was during the previous five years because of a very good consensus with the States and because of advice received from people such as the honourable member for Scullin in his capacity, some time ago, as the chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation.
I suppose that the wags would ask why the honourable member for Scullin is talking about forests. I have discovered that not only was he the chairman of that Committee which made a very worthwhile report in early 1975 but also apparently he has inherited some forests in his electorate after the electoral redistribution of last year. He is also a trained biologist. They are the factors contributing to the speech which he has just made so very succinctly, although in one or two cases he was slightly inaccurate. The general agreement with the States in respect to this Bill has been widespread. In the case of New South Wales, the cutback in softwood planting started not this year but a couple of years ago. The State realised that the demand that had been projected some 10 years ago for the product just would not be there in the early years of the next century.
Since the financial year 1966-67, the Federal Government has lent the States some $47 m to encourage the establishment of softwood plantations. The States in general have provided some 50 per cent of the cost of those plantations, both for the plantings and for the maintenance in later years. The Commonwealth aid no doubt has been of great assistance to the States, especially considering the very favourable terms upon which the Commonwealth Government has provided those loans. Following the presentation of the report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation when the honourable member for Sculling was its chairman and also a very detailed report entitled The Australian Softwoods Products Industry by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, it has been discovered that the earlier projections over-estimated the demand and that at this stage this excess demand will not be required. That position may change. I am one of the people who hope that our population projections which have been reduced in the past few years for two reasons- lower fertility rates and much lower immigration- will move ahead somewhat more quickly than at present projected.
– How would that progress be made?
– The progress could be made by an increase in immigration rates to try to counteract the very rapid decrease that honourable members opposite caused when they somehow ceased to believe in immigration to this country. I have made my contribution on the other aspect. I do not intend to have any more than the five children I have already. In the present situation, we estimate that there will be a requirement for some 17,000 hectares to 18,000 hectares of plantation per annum. If one subtracts the amount which normally would be planted by private interests- approximately 8,000 hectares per annum- this leaves some 10,000 hectares for planting by the States. That is about half of the plantings that were taking place some 12 months or two years ago which totalled 222,000 hectares. That is the reason for the present contention that the States now require only about half the plantings that had been projected. Since the States in any case previously provided about half of the funds for new plantings, that constant level of funding from the States would meet all their requirements. They would not require Commonwealth funding for the plantings part of the program. The provisions of this Bill will cover the upkeep of the forests already funded by the Commonwealth. As has been stated by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), the operation of this Bill is of limited duration and the amount provided under it will be revised, hopefully upward.
I must say that, from the point of view of my electorate of Eden-Monaro, this Bill will not have any medium term effect. In my electorate, the State Government has cut back the plantings already from some 1,600 hectares, although that was a target that was never quite reached, to the present level of plantings of 800 hectares per annum which looks like a pretty fair annual projection for the next five years. No jobs have been lost in my electorate in the softwood industry, although one would have hoped under normal circumstances that perhaps with more plantings the number of jobs available could have been increased. But the cutback has not meant that jobs have been lost because there are plenty of other jobs in maintaining and improving the plantings in recent years. This has kept the people already employed in jobs.
At the present time the area devoted to softwood timber in my electorate, although not large by national standards and not large when compared to the vast amount of native hardwoods available for harvesting, is comprised of some 10,000 hectares owned by the Government- that is, the State Forestry Commission- and some 4,000 hectares owned by private interests. Most of that area has been planted since 1965, and we should remember that one of the main reasons for those plantings was the Federal Government’s involvement, from 1966-67, which gave the States some sort of guarantee that they would be able to go ahead with the job as it was then seen. There are certainly plenty of questions that have been raised in recent times relating to the softwood industry.
As I said, the general questions of projections of demand, when the presently planted forests reach harvesting size, have depended tremendously on fairly obvious factors such as projections of gross national product. Some of the models put forward by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics say that there is some correlation at the margin between gross national product and timber consumption per head. I suppose that is a reasonable assumption, and it seems to be borne out by the evidence the Bureau has been able to produce. The demand probably most importantly depends on population although, of course, the alternative possibilities to softwood must play a part. The cost of hardwood is one of the factors that induce people into or out of the consumption of softwood. I spent quite some years in the construction industry, and I saw the slackening in relative demand for hardwood in the late 1960s as softwood came on to the market at more competitive prices. I refer not only to Australian softwoodsthere was always a limited volume of that type of timber, and the quality in the early days of the main supply of Australian softwoods was not all that good- but also to imported softwoods which became much more competitive. I refer particularly to the imports of timber from New Zealand, in addition to those from our major supplier from overseas which is Canada.
I should mention briefly also when I mention questions relating to demand that the question of import replacement is a very strong one in respect of softwoods in Australia. The Vernon inquiry of the early 1960s was looking, amongst other things, at some of the economic factors facing this country in the future. It noted very strongly that the softwood industry was one that presented great possibilities for import replacement. I notice that we are still importing a great deal of softwood into this country. In 1976-77 the total value of softwood imports to Australia was $82. 7m, which is a lot of money considering that we still have a lot of timber in this country and considering that in that period, which was in the wake of the recession we began to experience early in 1970s, there was a plentiful supply of alternative Australian timbers. Despite the fact that hardwood supplies were still available people in many areas of the construction industry, which is one area where there is a genuine possibility of substitution, were still insisting on softwoods because of the obvious qualities of softwoods. In many cases, if the hardwood price had been kept down or if the cost of the imported materials had been a bit higher, we would probably have had more employment in our own hardwood industry in Australia.
The hardwood industry, however, is something that we are not really discussing today, except in its capacity as a substitute for softwood. We must keep this subject in mind I suppose when we speak about the problems of the environment. I will mention briefly some of the problems of the environment. I referred at the beginning of my remarks to what in my view were some slight inaccuracies by the honourable member for Scullin. I do not think he was accurate when he said that the Government has paid no attention to environmental issues in this Bill. The Bill indirectly pays great attention because it pays attention to the report of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which, in fact, prompted the thrust of the Bill. That report discusses rather extensively some of the environmental issues that we need to face with respect to softwoods.
One of the things I have come across in the softwood area of my electorate, the main part of which is in the Bombala district in the southern district of New South Wales, is that some of the primary producers involved not in timber but in other avenues of primary production, such as the beef or sheep industries, have said to me that there are noticeable detrimental effects on their pastures downstream from the softwood plantings. They do not have any strong scientific evidence to support this, but they notice that the run-off from the softwood areas seems to create problems in their pastures and streams and affects the quality of the water. They have a pretty strong notion at least that softwood planted in Australia after clear felling of the native timber has had a detrimental effect on the environment with respect to primary production. One could argue that those people, by their very existence, have had a detrimental effect on some other aspects of the environment. Of course, they produce things which we must eat or wear and things that are necessary for our export trade. I think it is generally believed that those people probably should have first preference in terms of some minor detriment to the environment, as distinct perhaps from the softwood industry which, if it creates problems for our environment, is in a better position to be cut back, probably in favour of native hardwoods. The honourable member for Scullin, when presenting the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation dealing with the operation of the Softwood Forestry Agreement Acts 1967 and 1972, said: . . this leads me to three major recommendations of this report which cannot be stressed too strongly. The first is that more funds ought to be made available for biological surveys and wildlife surveys for the whole Australian continent. The great tragedy of softwood planting is that of the native forest being destroyed, so little is known about its flora and fauna content or its relative value. The second is for greater research to be conducted into the side effects of softwood forestry upon all the environmental issues raised in the report.
I firmly endorse what was stated in the report. I would like an opportunity to say that in my view the people employed in the Forestry Commission who manage the softwood plantations and the hardwood plantations in my electorate are the true conservationists who, in their dealings with both the softwood and the hardwood environment, have always been very careful in their management techniques to take account of any environmental factors that they find could be detrimental.
Without trying to expand the debate outside the softwood area, but keeping to the question of the environment, I want to refer to the woodchipping industry on the South Coast, which has created a lot of heartburning in some sections, especially to some people in the Australian Capital Territory who have created a great deal of protest. A lot of those people have not really bothered to look at the problem in those areas of protest. It should always be remembered that techniques have been improved tremendously since the woodchip industry commenced on the South Coast. In my view- I have to admit that I do not have a degree in biology, but I have a great interest in the welfare of my electorate- the present regeneration of our native forests is being very well managed, especially in the area of wildlife and some of the areas mentioned in the report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. The adjustment of the techniques by the Forestry Commission is being made by true conservationistspeople who love the bush. I do not think that people would normally join the Forestry Commission unless they were of that nature. I should say also, without expanding it too far outside this Parliament -
– Why is it that our forests have been destroyed by foresters?
– There are not very many forests in the Gosford area but there are plenty of oranges, some of which are good and some of which are bad. At the present time some uncertainties are being created in the hardwood forest area by some of the attitudes of the State Government- not by the State Government’s Commission. I fear that at times the State Government is being put on by people who do not take the trouble to investigate fully the impact of the forests on either the local environment or the local communities. I wonder when the State Premier, Mr Wran, will stop the series of inquiries, one after the other, which have created a great deal of uncertainty in the area, as distinct from the move made by the Federal Government last year to give a firm commitment for an export licence for woodchips for the next 12 years. Nevertheless, that is a side issue in regard to this softwood Bill. I reiterate that it appears that both sides of the Parliament strongly support the Bill. It is a consensus Bill. It has the agreement of the State governments. I hope that when it is revised in five years’ time it will be changed to one in favour of greater plantings, if not of radiata, of other softwoods which are more in line with the environment and which indicate better replacement possibilities and perhaps a greater population in the early years of the next century.
-The Opposition supports the Bill, but it does so with some reservations. It has some reservations, not because of what is contained in the Bill but because of what is not contained in it. The Opposition has moved an amendment to the Bill. In his second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) pointed out that, as a result of the report by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics entitled ‘The Australian Softwood Products Industry 1977’, it was necessary to reduce the annual new planting levels by the States to avoid an over-supply situation. The report stated that the Government had decided that ‘a continuation of the program of Commonwealth assistance is not justified at present, and thus it will not now make further agreements to that effect’. The Bill will provide $4.2m for a new five-year program of maintenance or tending only.
I thought that an interesting insight into the mind of the conservative was gained by listening to the speech last night of the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) when he referred to the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation entitled ‘The Operation of the Softwood Forestry Agreement Acts 1967 and 1972’. The Committee made 21 findings but, when referring to the report, the honourable member for Barker chose to mention only the first three that supported what appeared to be his case for increased support for softwood plantings. He used those three findings to support his case against what he described as ‘rabid conservationists’. This has been the theme of all the speeches of honourable members opposite. We heard it from the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury). They cannot help having a dig at people who are conservationists.
– Your speech was far more reasonable than the one -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member will address the Chair.
– You are not being reasonable.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, everybody is interjecting now, even the honourable member for Diamond Valley, who does not have a tree in his electorate.
-Order! The honourable member has excited their interest. I request him to address his remarks to the Chair.
– My speeches tend to do that, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was saying that honourable members opposite cannot help having a dig at conservationists. The honourable member for Barker used the term ‘rabid conservationists’. Not long ago we heard the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) describe members of the Australian Environment Council as communists. The honourable member for Barker produced one of the worst examples of selective quoting that I have ever seen. Not surprisingly, he did not quote the next four findings, which state:
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro referred to that- and where it enables the clearfelling of larger areas of native forest.
I will not use the word ‘dishonest’, but the honourable member for Barker used some very careful selective quoting.
– You would never do that!
-Never. The Select Committee made many other findings that referred directly or indirectly to the environmental effects of softwood plantings, but the honourable member chose to ignore them. Unfortunately, his attitude is typical of the attitude of many Government supporters who claim to be concerned about the environment. When one listens to their speeches one gains the impression that they belong to the old Australian school that believes: If it moves, shoot it; if it is growing, chop it down.
– If it is in the ground, dig it up.
-‘ If it is in the ground, dig it up’, as the honourable member for Lalor has kindly added. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the findings and recommendations of the Select Committee.
The document read as follows-
The following is a summary of the findings ofthe Committee and the basis upon which its recommendations are made.
IS. The Committee makes the following recommendations:
-Unfortunately, Australia has a tragic record of destruction of its natural forests. Approximately half of the original forest area has been cleared for agriculture and for timber for houses. Regrettably, the State forestry commissions, whose original role was seen to be to conserve our forests, have been a major source of encouragement and promotion of wood as a resource. In the past, governments have taken their advice without proven consideration of the environmental effect of their actions. The forestry commissions lacked conservationists and environmentalists in the real sense and acted more as spokesmen for the industry, very often tendering poor advice to government. Some ten years ago it was thought that in the future there was likely to be a shortage of wood and that Australia would need to strive for selfsufficiency. The BAE report and further studies indicate that this is not likely to be the case, taking into account Australia’s revised population projection. However, the same studies indicate that there may be some advantage in prices by Australia having a good supply of softwood available.
I was disappointed to hear the honourable member for Eden-Monaro refer to his desire to see Australia’s population increase rapidly. I wonder whether he has read about or studied the world population problem at the moment. The projections are that the present world population will increase from four billion to eight billion in the next 35 to 40 years. One may say that Australia’s population is only about 14 million and that it will increase to between 15.9 million and 17 million, but one must remember that countries such as Australia, the United States of America and Europe, whilst their populations are not terribly high, are the ones that are chewing up all the world ‘s resources. We are using the cars, the steel, the protein and so on. Whilst our population is not high, we have a responsibility to fit into the world population program and to try to cut our population back so that we do not continue to chew up the resources at the rate at which we have been doing so. Some of the countries with much larger populations are not using up anywhere near the resources that we are using up.
– We need some from the other countries.
– I know that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has done his job. He has five children.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for EdenMonaro has had the opportunity to address the House. The honourable member for Robertson has the right to address the House without interruption. I ask the honourable member for EdenMonaro to refrain from interjecting.
-The planting of exotic softwoods started in the latter part of the last century but did not really get under way until the 1920s and 1 930s when it gained momentum partly as a result of the need to create jobs during the Depression. By now some 600,000 hectares of softwood have been established. The Great tragedy of this program has been the hundreds of thousands of hectares of native forests that were destroyed to make way for the softwoods. Only in recent years have Australians become conscious of the enormous damage done to our native forests that have taken hundreds of thousands of years to develop.
One should also remember how poorly endowed is the dry continent with natural timber forests, particularly commercial forests. These forests were deficient of softwoods which are so essential to the building industry and the paper pulp industry. Because of these factors and the $200m to $250m that Australia spends on importing timber, there has always been a strong lobby in favour of self-sufficiency. I make the point- I think this is borne out in the Bureau of Agriculture Economics report- that one of the things that we now have to do is to trade with some of the underdeveloped countries and with our neighbours like New Zealand. It is not essential that Australia be self-sufficient in everything. If we are self-sufficient in everything, what will we buy from countries such as New Zealand and Malaysia? One of the products we now buy from them is timber. I think it is important that we keep open avenues for our neighbours, particularly the developing countries.
Unfortunately, due to poor conservation in the past, the predominantly hardwood forests of Australia are badly run down with the best native wood gone. East coast cedar has been eliminated; Victoria’s mature ash has been removed; jarrah has been decimated; and the forests of New South Wales have degenerated alarmingly. The Labor Party has moved the following amendment:
Whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that the Government should continue to provide funds to the States for new plantings in the same proportion as in previous agreements, of about SO per cent, in order to ensure that reasonable continuity of planting rates is maintained.
We have moved that amendment certainly not because we are anxious to see forests cut down but because we are concerned that there may be a great deal of irregularity if we stop now and then start great planting programs in the future. This will provide for a continuation of softwood plantings so that the supply of wood will be more consistent in the future. Let me make it clear that we are totally opposed to the destruction of one acre of native forest to make way for future softwood plantings. There is any amount of marginal farmland that would be most appropriate for future plantings and, although we have some reservations about establishing monocultures or ecological deserts of one type of plant, we see the farming of trees as being far preferable to ‘hunting’ or ‘mining’ them in our present native forests. That is what we have been doing. We have not been farming trees; we have been hunting and mining them.
There is sometimes a little too much hysteria about monocultures. I suppose one could describe any crop- for instance, wheat or sugar- as a monoculture. I see no reason why softwood plantations should not be regarded as a long maturation crop. It is also untrue to say that no life exists in softwood plantations, as some conservationists would argue. It is true that in those plantations there is a vastly reduced variety of life from that which exists in our native forests but there is still quite a substantial range of wildlife. For instance, kookaburras, rosellas and small animals can be found there.
– Was the honourable member referring to me?
– He was just making a contribution to the speech. I think there tends to be a little too much hysteria in that regard. I do not propose to take up the full 20 minutes allocated for my speech. The main points have already been dealt with very effectively by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) who was Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. A number of other members have also mentioned them. The Opposition is concerned that in the Bill little mention is made of the environmental factors and we are concerned at some of the attitudes expressed by people such as the honourable member for Barker who spoke last night. We would ask the Government to accept our amendment and to look at these matters a great deal more closely in the future.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I do. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) in the speech that he has just completed made allegations and imputations that, because I had quoted only three recommendations from the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I had quoted selectively. In fact he said that I was, I think, anti-environmentalist. I would like to remind the House that in fact I did not speak last night; it was the night before. I said that the Committee had found that there should be continued plantings of softwoods. In fact the wording that appears in Hansard is as follows:
The Committee made other recommendations -
In other words I referred to the other recommendations, which the honourable member said I did not- but I think it is important to note these that I quoted as they provide a sound rebuttal to our more radical environmentalists.
I was not talking about every environmentalist; I was talking about our more radical environmentalists. Perhaps it would be a good idea if the honourable member actually read what was said.
Mr COHEN (Robertson)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, I do. I hold by what I said. I have just looked in Hansard at the speech by the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter). He was selective in his quoting. He chose to mention the first three recommendations that suited his argument in the debate. That is what I said.
-The amendment moved by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) provides for continued Commonwealth funding to the States for the planting of new softwood forests ‘in order to ensure that reasonable continuity of planting rates is maintained ‘. The honourable member offered no statistical data or other information which would suggest that the Commonwealth should continue to be involved in financing new plantings. The evidence to which I will refer shortly in fact suggests that Australia is facing an over-supply situation- not one of under-supply. The Opposition, in moving this amendment, has made reference to the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation on the operation of the Softwood Forestry Agreements Acts of 1967 and 1972. In doing so, however, it would appear to me that the very findings of that Committee have been ignored. For example, the Committee’s second recommendation states:
A thorough independent analysis of Australia’s timber should be conducted, taking into account all the variables mentioned by the Committee and in particular the added yield of the native forest which could be gained by more effective utilisation.
The fourth recommendation states:
It should be basic to any future softwood forestry agreements Act that a thorough reassessment be made every three years to ensure that the area being planted does not exceed the real needs of the nation.
Since the deliberations of the Committee there have in fact been a number of inquiries and assessments of the nation’s softwood needs and it is because of the findings by that analysis that the Bill before the House makes no provision for funding the States for additional new plantings or the purchase of land for that purpose.
In the second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) advised that the Government had initiated a review of the need for new planting. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Department of Primary Industry’s Forestry and Timber Bureau carried out assessments on this subject. The BAE studies included on entitled ‘The Australian Softwoods Products Industry 1977’, and the findings which were contained in a paper presented to the Australian Forestry Development Institute at Traralgon in the electorate of Gippsland in October 1977 entitled ‘Plantation Requirements for Australia’. The conclusions which were reached in these various inquiries indicated that if the planting of new forests continued, Australia could reach a situation in which it had surplus softwood. As many of the softwood forests are in private ownership and many farmers are presently considering the planting of their farming land to softwood, the consequence of an over-supply situation could be disastrous. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics further advised that in general terms it would be advantageous for Australia to be self-sufficient in softwood products. Again, repercussions would flow from these conclusions, having regard to the importation of forestry products from overseas, particularly from New Zealand and Canada. It is because of the findings of the various inquiries that have been undertaken that the legislation has been prepared in the form in which it was presented to the House by the Minister, providing only for the maintenance or tending of forests which have been planted as a result of Commonwealth funding to States under previous legislation. As other members have mentioned, in this financial year, the total payment to all States for this purpose will be $4.2m. In these circumstances it is strange indeed to read the terms of the amendment moved by the Opposition. In light of the evidence it must be rejected.
I turn again to the Committee’s report on the operation of the Softwood Agreements Acts 1967 and 1972. 1 am indebted to the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) for tabling the findings and the recommendations. It does well for the House to be periodically reminded of the findings of these various parliamentary committees. It was pleasing to note that the Minister and the State governments acknowledged one of the recommendations from that Committee report. On 3 November 1976 the Minister, in his second reading speech on the Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill 1976, made reference to that report. It is refreshing to note that governments take note of the work and ultimately the recommendations which flow from committees of this House. The Minister then acknowledged that the Commonwealth would normally require an environment impact study where forestry areas were to be cleared for the purpose of planting softwoods. The Government further agreed that in the 1976-77 year ‘to the greatest extent possible ‘ plantings would take place only on cleared land. In this current year that problem does not of course arise because the legislation and the proposed agreement relate only to the tending and maintenance of existing forests.
It was made clear by the Minister in his second reading speech to the 1976 Bill that the States had been advised that should the Commonwealth and States enter into agreements for a further period it would be necessary to comply with the administrative procedures and the terms of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974. If and when further plantings take place it is important that those plantings so far as possible are on existing cleared land or if any clearing is required then the plantings should proceed on marginal land and in the latter circumstances only when the Commonwealth has given its agreement after consideration of a report prepared under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974.
In Australia woodlands and forest comprise 1 8 per cent of the total land area of the nation. This represents 140 million hectares or thereabouts.
Of that area it is submitted that 42.5 million hectares are productive or potentially productive umber producing forest. Analysing that figure further we note that 11.8 million hectares of publicly owned State forest are dedicated for timber production, that is 28 per cent, 1.8 million hectares are comprised in national parks, that is 4 per cent, and other publicly owned forests or woodlands comprise 19.9 million hectares or 47 per cent. In addition there are 9 million hectares of privately owned productive or potentially productive timber which includes areas which are to be converted to agriculture. That comprises 21 per cent. When we consider the Bureau of Agricultural Economics report which anticipates an over-supply of timber if we continue to plant at the relatively high levels which were undertaken under previous Commonwealth-State agreements and we also take note of the scarcity of forest areas on the Australian land mass, it would be tragic to clear native forests for the sake of softwood plantings which may not be required.
The Minister in his second reading speech to this Bill indicated that the Government will review the funding situation prior to the commencement of the second 5-year period provided for under the proposed agreement. I think it is worth while to reiterate what the Minister said on that occasion. He said:
Because of the necessity for financial restraint, the Government was not prepared to fund land purchases in the first year of the proposed agreements. It has been indicated to the States, however, that the Government would be prepared to review the situation prior to the commencement of the second of the five years covered by the proposed agreements. This review will be made shortly.
I firmly recommend that the review be widened. In the course of that review I trust that the Minister will direct those involved to take account of the fact that future plantings of softwood forests should wherever possible be made on existing cleared land. Again I return to the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation and in particular to the terms of the Committee’s recommendations. The Committee, in its findings, noted:
There is scope for the use of farm wood lots which should be supervised by State Forest Services.
It also noted:
Insufficient use is being made of marginal farm lots in the softwood planting program.
The Committee acknowledged extensive inquiries into the management of Australian timber resources. Reference is made to the inquiry into the National Estate and the rural Green Paper both of which were published in 1 974. In that year, the Australian timber industry also undertook a major review of timber resources and the Forestry and Wood-based Industries Development Conference undertook a comprehensive assessment of all factors associated with the industry- the resource, its development, the commodity demand for forest products and so on. This and subsequent inquiries provide a considerable volume of information to those undertaking the review referred to by the Minister. Here again I am referring to the terms of the review which I hope are widened to ensure a thorough assessment of the forestry industry including projected requirements for the next 40 years.
I specifically refer the House to another finding of the House of Representatives Committee and respectfully suggest that it and the general findings and recommendations be noted and acted upon in any future analysis of the forest industry in Australia. Finding No. 1 1 of the report states:
The present Softwood Forest Agreements legislation does not allow for sufficiently long-term planning by the State Forest Services who are primarily responsible for the planting of exotic softwoods.
Long-term planning is important. To support that contention I give some examples from the electorate of McMillan. In the electorate there are a total of 3,700 hectares of State-owned softwood plantations and 6,800 hectares of privately owned softwood forests. On the other hand, the State-owned native hardwood plantations total 700 hectares. There are 316,300 hectares of State-owned native hardwood forests. In private ownership, 34,300 hectares are native hardwood forests. There are 600 hectares of privately owned hardwood plantations. Total forest area in the electorate of McMillan is therefore 362,400 hectares. There are extensive timbermilling plants in the electorate including those in the Latrobe Valley area, the Noojee district and in the Powell Town, Warburton, Millgrove and Yarra Junction areas. Many sawmillers and timber-getters are presently suffering hardship because of the lack of demand caused primarily by the current depressed state of the building and construction industry. Knowledge of government long-term planning is essential to give these men, their families and the communities in which they live reassurance that they can be gainfully employed in the timber industry. In any review it should be understood that consideration ought to be given to the distribution of forest areas from which timber can be extracted to ensure that an equitable distribution of sound winnable timber is available to all millers of whatever size or influence. Again the findings of the House of
Representatives Committee support that contention. The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) made reference to this aspect. The Committee found:
Forestry and the timber industry are important elements in the decentralisation process of a substantial employer of manpower in rural areas where employment opportunities are limited.
In March 1975 318 individual sawmills in country towns in Victoria were employing 3,750 men. An additional 3,000 men were employed in other rural-based wood-processing industries. As recently as 2 1 March this year in celebration of World Forestry Day some articles appeared in the Melbourne Age. One, written by Mr M. J. Hall, the Technical Manager, APM Forests Pty Ltd, estimated that 100,000 people, some 2.2 per cent of the work force, were directly employed in forestry and the related wood-based manufacturing industries in Australia.
In conclusion, I refer to the need for the protection of Australian native forests and the recommendations of the House of Representatives Committee that more extensive areas of Australian native forests should be dedicated as national parks ‘as a matter of utmost urgency’. Those are the words of the Committee. The Government respects the need to conserve many areas of our National Estate. In fact this week it has published the first extensive list of those parts of the National Estate recommended by the Australian Heritage Commission as worthy of retention and protection for present and future generations. However, I go further and respectfully seek to implant in the minds of various government departments, instrumentalities and Commonwealth and State Governments the terms of the recommendations in the report of the Committee of Inquiry on the National Estate. In conclusion, I quote the recommendations as they are relevant to the Bill before the House:
I remind the House of the findings of the Senate inquiry into that subject. I continue with the quotation from the National Estate recommendations: that all forestry authorities recognise the urgent need to manage, in the most conservative manner, the remaining rain forest areas of Australia. that all forestry authorities ensure that multiple use and conservative management of the forest estate is a primary aim.
There have been a number of reviews, reports and examinations on forests and the forest industry, but I respectfully suggest that there needs to be another review to bring this multitude of reports together in 1978. Many factors would have influenced the findings of those previous committees and inquiries. I refer to just two of them: Firstly, the depressed state of the rural industry, which is resulting in many farmers looking to the possibility of planting their farms with timber; and, secondly, the population projections which have been included in the report known as the Borrie report and the significant factors which flow from the projections, which show that, given certain limited projections, not more than 17.2 million people will be in Australia at the turn of this century.
For these reasons I recommend that a total review of the timber industry and of forestry and conservation issues needs to be undertaken forthwith. I do not think that the amendment proposed by the Opposition would help in any way whatsoever; in fact, I think it would prejudice the industry in the long term. Accordingly, I reject the proposed amendment and commend the terms of the Bill to the House.
-A feature of this debate on the Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill has been the lack of a global view of the situation of forestry and timber resources generally. The whole debate has centred on the domestic environment- domestic supply and demandwithout any regard whatsoever for the global view. To support my view that we should be looking at the matter more broadly, that we are a part of the south-east region of the world, and that we do not live in isolation, even in terms of timber resources, I quote from a recent article which appeared in the Canberra Times on 14 March. It deals with a report by the World Bank on the developing world. Its headline is interesting; it reads: ‘Forests “will vanish” if trends continue ‘. The article states:
The World Bank said yesterday that the developing world would have no forests left in 60 years if present trends were not reversed.
The article goes on to point out that the area of land devoted to forests has declined by 50 per cent since the turn of the century. These are rather staggering statistics. To talk about cutting back on our rather small plantings is to suggest something which would be quite contrary to world trends. That does not mean to say that we will have a shortage here because there is a shortage throughout the world, but it does mean that as the years go by there will be more pressure on forest resources throughout the world. We are not isolated from other countries in terms of trade. We import quite a lot of softwood timber products in the form of fruit racks, milk cartons and items of that nature. We will not be isolated in any way from this trend throughout the world for forest resources to decline unless something is done.
The World Bank takes the issue so seriously that it will devote $440m over the next five years to halt this decline in forest resources. I suggest that that is food for thought. In considering our forest resources we certainly cannot afford to disregard what is going on in the rest of the world. The newspaper article continued:
The report said there must be a change in policies that would result in a bigger share of resources being allocated to rural afforestation programs, which would directly benefit these small farmers.
As part of its forestry program, the World Bank would attempt to make developing countries more aware of the ecological consequences of the development of these valuable resources.
I suggest that, whenever we are considering our forest resources, we must keep our eye on the resources of the Western world and on what the trends are likely to be. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to project what our needs are going to be in 20 or 30 years time to plan the planting of forests. I concede that in certain circumstances there could be a surplus of timber, but I think it is much more likely that there will be a shortage.
It is rather trite to point out that a surplus can be responded to by delaying the harvesting of the timber- it does not matter a great deal to the forest whether it is harvested at 25, 35 or even 40 years of age; the timber is still there and will continue to grow up to a point- but that it is very difficult to respond to a shortage. If we respond by planting more timber we have a 25-year lag before we can get much benefit from it. So, I think that where we are in doubt we should play it safe and maintain our plantings. This is apparent when we look at what has happened in the past.
One of the most unpredictable factors is the effect which changing technology might have on demand and on the use of timber. It is interesting to observe that here in the Australian Capital Territory we have Integrated Forest Products Pty Ltd Inc., a rather big enterprise on Cooma Road, which is harvesting all the big pine logs in
Canberra at the moment. I do not think that the sort of technology that is being employed there was heard of- it certainly was not in general practice- when these forests were planted back in the 1930s and 1940s. There is a complete new technology which widens the possibilities for timber use. I have no doubt that in another 20 or 30 years there will be different technology- new innovations- which will put a very different colour on our need for timber resources.
Another angle is to what extent timber is going to be called upon to substitute for other resources which are running out or are in short supply throughout the world. In the past the reverse has happened. Many uses of timber have fallen aside because they have been replaced by other products- by plastics or metals of various sorts. For instance, in the furniture industry and the toy industry, where traditionally a lot of timber was used, all sorts of other materials such as plastics and metals are being used. Indications are that those resources will not be available forever. In 20 or 30 years there might be a move in the other direction. Timber will be brought back to substitute for scarce metals and other resources which are running out throughout the world.
Another angle to be considered is import replacement. As I said, we import a lot of our softwood products. We do not have the necessary type of timber or technology to avoid making these imports at the moment, but in a number of years time we might have. We might not have the need to import all these products; we might be able to utilise our own product in these areas if we have the product and the technology. Whilst conceding that there is a possibility of a temporary surplus of timber in some areas, I think that to play it safe we should presume that it is much more likely that there will be a shortage and that we should try to provide for it. As I said, a surplus can be responded to by flexibility in harvesting arrangements, but a shortage in the timber industry cannot be responded to quickly.
Turning to the Bill, although a number of Government speakers have maintained that this legislation is very favourable from the point of view of the environment, I suggest that this view indicates a very shallow analysis of the situation. On deeper analysis one finds that in fact this legislation is anti the environment in many aspects. I refer particularly to the fact that the Bill does not provide funds for the purchase of cleared land. Immediately pressure will be put on organisations to obtain uncleared land. State forestry organisations have planned for a certain number of plantings this year or for the next Budget year. They have planned to have so many hundreds of thousands of seedlings available to plant out. They have the equipment and the manpower. The State governments are trying to improve their employment levels, and they will want to go on with these projects. If they do not have the funds to buy cleared land, which may have been earmarked for purchase, there will be pressure on them to use timbered land or to lease other land such as Crown land on which there is already hardwood timber. I am certainly not an advocate of the replacing of hardwood forests with softwood forests, but that may be the effect of this Bill and what may happen if funds are denied to the States to enable them to buy cleared land.
The other very important defect in the Bill relates to management. Anybody who has had much to do with forestry would know that when funds are short management practices tend to decline or the most desirable practices tend to go by the board. I refer particularly to the thinning process. People who are familar with forestry procedures would know that in the normal management process the smallest or the bent trees are thinned out and the best specimens are left to grow and be harvested so that at any time there is only a certain plateau of umber standing in a forest. When pruning or thinning does not take place forest areas become overstocked, the quality of the timber declines and there is a surplus of small logs. Small logs are the bane of the industry. Nobody wants small logs; everybody wants large logs. Large logs can be produced only as a result of sound management practices which go by the board when funds are restricted, which is what will happen in this case. Other management practices such as pruning also go by the board. The practice of fertilisation, which is becoming more prevalent in forests these days, will also go by the board if there is a shortage of funds, which is what will be imposed by the Government’s policy as expounded in this Bill.
I want to refer briefly to the position in the Australian Capital Territory. There is a separate forests branch in the Department of the Capital Territory. It is harvesting enough timber these days to fund any expansion program. There is a standard expansion program. There are 2,000 acres of cleared land- land which has been grazed for many years, but not very wisely in some cases. It has been overgrazed; it has been overcleared. The hilltops have been cleared off. It is most desirable from an environmental point of view and from a resources point of view that we should replant this area with softwood timber. We have the funds to do it. We have the equipment. We have the trees, but we cannot do it- not because we are dependent on this Bill for funds but because of the staff ceilings. Because prospective employees would become public servants we are not allowed to employ some of the unemployed people in Canberra today, to step up our forestry planting program. That is a result of these rather doctrinaire staff ceilings which this Government has imposed. Although the Government is not denying us the funds- we have the funds- it is achieving the same purpose by the imposition of unreal and doctrinaire staff ceilings which deny us the opportunity to plant seedlings for timber, thus taking up some of the unemployment in Canberra.
That is all I have to say. I support the amendment. I think it has to be supported from the point of view that it would alleviate the unemployment problem. The cutback in funds for forest projects certainly will affect employment opportunities. The States are anxious to step up their programs, but they are getting no cooperation and no support from this Government. I support the amendment from an environmental point of view, as I have said, because it puts pressure on forestry organisations to purchase timbered land instead of cleared land. I also think the amendment should be supported from the point of view of the need to build up our timber resources because of the long-term possibility in relation to resources generally.
-I support the Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill 1978. I note that it is different from previous legislation in that it is a maintenance Bill rather than an expansionary Bill. I note the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. I think we should realise that perhaps the Government may have wanted to do more than it has, but there is a certain restriction on funds. This is a great pity, when one realises that this restriction has been brought about by the results of the Opposition which has moved the amendment. Be that as it may, the Opposition’s amendment in its own right could have some merit. I have spoken to people within the industry in this regard and have gone beyond the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and governmental sources. There seems to be a feeling in the industry that there may be a shortage of timber for domestic purposes on the world markets by the year 2002, which is the year referred to by the BAE. I recognise the argument advanced by the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) that perhaps this legislation does not take into account the global problems that could arise in the next 20 to 25 years. Perhaps that is not the Bill’s intention. It is a pity that we do not recognise more definitely some of the incentives which are available in other nations but which are not available to the Australian industry. Basically the industry has been left in the hands of private enterprise.
Much has been said about the environmental issues in regard to the forestry industry in general in Australia. I wish to make some comment on that later on. Looking at the global situation, the BAE submits that softwood plantings should be left in the hands of the States. I believe it is being too optimistic in its view. I believe the States will move only when they have assistance from the Federal Government and private enterprise. The BAE again reports that Australia will be selfsufficient domestically in softwoods, particularly in pine wood, by the year 2002. The BAE does not take into account the situation as it exists globally. For instance, today Australia imports 25 per cent of its forest products. The imports come from Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia. The annual cost to Australia of these imports is $2 50m. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) referred to the fact that we as a nation ought not to try to achieve self-sufficiency but rather we should look to our neighbours with a view to encouraging imports and also trade between us. Perhaps that is what we should do, but I lean more towards the argument that if we have the land and the wherewithal we should use these to the best of our ability and certainly try to fulfill the requirements of the domestic market at least.
Although the Bill does deal with this aspect, as the honourable member for Fraser said, the lead time in the shortage is between 20 to 25 years. We cannot pick up the shortage in timber in the short term. If there is an oversupply of timber there is no reason why the timber cannot be put in storage in a live state for periods of up to 20, 30 or 40 years. Perhaps that is the aspect at which we should be looking. Environmentally or otherwise I see no difference between a tree planted in a forestry project or natural timber. Perhaps this is the point on which I would disagree with the Opposition.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome recently predicted that there would be a world-wide shortfall in wood and wood fibre by the year 2000. Certainly Australia would have the potential to pick up that shortage in supply. I am led to believe that the lead time in the supply of timber market shortfalls makes it imperative that we do something this year, 1978. It takes 15 years- that is, up to 1992- to produce thinnings for pulp. It takes 20 to 25 years to produce logs for sawing and milling- that is to say, up to the period 1998 to 2003. It takes 40 to 45 years for full rotation of a plantation. So this year is a critical year from the point of view of thinnings, sawing and full rotation. As I said, the timber could be left in storage if an oversupply situation arises.
I believe that consideration should be given now to these aspects. Obviously something cannot be done within the framework of this Bill, but it could be done in separate legislation. We should make available large areas of land, and obviously cleared land where it is available, so that it can be put to this use. It would require a land usage in Australia of only 2 per cent to satisfy the situation in the year 2000. Only 1 per cent of Australia’s land mass would be required for pine plantations. So not a great amount of land is involved.
There is no cheaper alternative to timber from the point of view of the production of paper. Let us examine the construction industry. I think it is reasonable to look at a target of 150,000 houses a year, irrespective of the size of the population. Perhaps the honourable member for Robertson took much umbrage when the population issue was raised. The possibility of the existence of a zero population birth rate is not all that has to be taken into account. Australia’s population will increase from natural migration and natural births by the year 2000. So 1 50,000 residences or constructions per year is a reasonable target.
Wood represents the only renewable source as far as a material is concerned. The alternatives of steel, brick, aluminium and concrete are finite products and they leave vast open quarries in their wake. Anyone who talks about environmental impacts should consider that aspect. The fuels that are required to take this raw product from the quarry and put it into usable shape are again finite fuels- fossils and oils. I feel that when we are talking about an energy crisis and looking to the future we should remember that wood is a renewable source. It should be looked at as such. It is a product that can be changed in many ways and used in many ways. It can be reshaped. That leads me to believe that perhaps we should be paying more attention to forestry than we are at the moment. Perhaps we are just paying lip service to the energy crisis and are not taking the proper and appropriate action that we should be taking at this point of time.
Wood also has other advantages. Let us examine some of the advantages of wood to Australia today. The planting of these seedlings is labour intensive. It assists in the aspect of decentralisation, which it is obviously necessary to consider because of the number of people who are gravitating to our capital cities. The expansion of this industry will decentralise industry and decentralise people. In looking at the situation now and trying to demonstrate that there is a need for the future we need to look at the problems we face today. I list as the first problem the lack of appreciation of the opportunities that will exist within our timber industry in years to come. Inadequate governmental assistance is being provided, particularly compared with the assistance given overseas. There is very fierce competition from overseas producers which are being very heavily subsidised and which are pouring timber into Australia, thereby acting very competitively against our own industries.
– Yes, it is a dumping situation which is being brought about by the free trade agreement with other countries. The final problem- I list it as a problem- is the attitude of the environmentalists on both sides of politics.
The Bill is an example of the lack of appreciation of these problems and these opportunities as far as we can demonstrate. I hope that the States and private enterprise will be able to pick up what we are not providing. There is a need for them to take up the slack but, as I said earlier, I feel that I am a being a little too optimistic to expect that to happen. However, I applaud the decisions which are being made at the moment to expand the domestic industry, particularly in the Albury-Wodonga area. I believe a pulp mill is being established there. If we look to that as an example, we may find that we will be able eventually to close the gap in so far as imports are concerned. I hope there will be further expansion in this area. It is fairly relevant. I have been led to believe that the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand made a particular point of looking at that project. I do not know what was said or what discussions were had, but New Zealand has a pecuniary interest in what might happen in the Australian domestic scene.
We have examples of the extent of involvement of other governments, particularly the New Zealand Government. New Zealand provides very critical competition to the Australian softwood industry. Of course, it operates under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. As my colleague the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) said, it allows New Zealand to dump its products on the Australian shore and the Australian people pay the penalty. The Tasman Paper and Pulp Building Co. in its recent annual report produced a review of the years 1975, 1976 and 1977 which demonstrated that the New Zealand company which is involved purely in the timber industry in New Zealand was able to produce a profit in those three years of some $18m-$3.8 in 1975; $9.5m in 1976; and $4.9m in 1977. The remarkable feature of it is that during that time no tax was paid and no provision was made for taxation. That is an example of a government actively pursuing and encouraging the timber industry. It is obviously of assistance. The assistance rendered allows that company to place its product on the Australian market more competitively than our own industry, which lacks the sort of incentive given to its New Zealand counterparts except for the type of agreement about which we are now debating.
The New Zealand industry has been established longer than Australia’s industry. I know that honourable members in this House have talked about when the plantations were started in the South of Australia, but basically New Zealand’s history in this industry is that it involved itself earlier than Australia in such plantations and in the production of timber. In the 1930s New Zealand foresters were able to come to Australia and sell their shares to Australians. Many Australians, as a consequence, have vast investments in the New Zealand forestry industry. At the same time, there is no situation similar to that which allowed Australians to invest in Australia. So from 1930 onwards is the lead time that New Zealand has had over the Australian industry. It is now using that to a big advantage.
The stumpage royalty on pine in 1975 in New Zealand was $3.3 per cubic metre. Although it is not a direct comparison, Australia’s current rate of royalty is $5.65 per cubic metre- some $2.3 more. On hoop pine it goes as high as $13.3 1 per cubic metre. Again, most of these royalties are paid to the States. So a very heavy penalty is being paid by our industries to those authorities in comparison with New Zealand. I should like to compare the freight rates across the Tasman with the freight rates up the coast. On a mileage basis the freight rate across the Tasman from Auckland to Brisbane is much lower than the freight rate from Sydney to Cairns. Of course, the Australian National Line comes into this aspect. Again, we have a situation where the Government is not helping but penalising our industry whereas obviously the New Zealand industry is receiving great help from the New Zealand Government.
I should like to make some other comparisons between the New Zealand industry and our own industry. The competitive wage paid in New
Zealand is $120 a week and in Australia it is $162 a week. Again, that is a heavy penalty which has to be borne by the Australian industry. The forests are greater in New Zealand and the timber is larger. New Zealand is therefore able to get more output and productivity out of a log than Australia. I should like to summarise the New Zealand advantage over the Australian position. Free trade is accepted within Australia and New Zealand has free access to Australian markets without any import duty. New Zealand has a comprehensive, integrated logging industry which has been established over many years. It has larger trees, deeper stumpage, lower wages and wage-influenced overheads, and government subsidies and allowances. Perhaps we should be looking at the type of competition being faced by the Australian industry and helping it in this regard.
One of our current problems is the attitude of conservationists to the timber industry. The contention here is that the more we plant now and the more we have surplus in the future the greater the disadvantage to the Australian environment. I do not feel that anybody can really accept this argument. As I mentioned earlier, a tree on a plantation which was previously bare ground must be something of an improvement to the nature or the character of the land. The conservationists also argue that we should cultivate the indigenous species in Australia. If we consider Australian agricultural products, very few are indigenous to Australia Most of them have been imported. Even our grazing and agricultural industries import their species, so that is no argument. Probably the only indigenous agricultural product that we have in Australia is the Queensland nut tree. I merely mention that in passing. In addition, it is not generally realised that the native lands are very poor producers of timber from the point of view of yield per hectare. The man-made forests have a 16-times greater yield than the native forests, and yet the environmentalists argue against the proposition.
The environmentalists have spent too much time on these issues, which are rather emotional and have little substance and little realism, particularly when it is remembered that we are asking for only one per cent of Australia’s land surface to bring us at the end of this century to a proficiency in terms of pines that will enable us to supply the domestic market and to fill shortfalls on the world market. We have the climate and the land. If we can plant the appropriate timber at the appropriate place we can get the productivity from our forests. There are strains of pines that are suitable for South Australia; other strains are suitable for the southern end of coastal Australia; and strains such as the hoop pine are available for the tropical and subtropical areas. Australia has an advantage. We can grow the timber and I believe that we should.
Realising that there is a high labour content in this industry and that today we face an unemployment problem, perhaps it would be realistic for the Government to look at a high labour content industry such as this and set about providing a product now for the year 2000 by using labour that is surplus to requirements on this type of project. I can see no alternative to timber in the future- timber being the most economic alternative available for paper production. Talks have been held about using by-products from the sugar industry for conversion to cardboard and things like that, but that is not a cheap alternative. Those by-products would not be as cheap as timber to convert to paper.
– We should be doing something about developing those world class timbers in Queensland.
Order! The honourable member for Dawson is addressing the House.
– We do have those classes not only in Queensland but throughout Australia. We have the land and we have suitable climates. We have the varieties of trees that can be grown on that land according to the climate. We have skilled foresters and a very skilful industry employing people who know the subject, know the industry and work well in it. As somebody mentioned in this House in a speech on Tuesday night, 10,000 people have been lost to the timber industry in the course of the last three years, and we have to regain and retain that type of skill. We can grow timber faster, more cheaply and more economically than most other countries, given fair competition, and in that respect I refer again to the situation between New Zealand and Australia. I support the Bill. The comments I have made might indicate to the Opposition that I support its amendment, but I do not. I support some positive government initiative to assist a viable industry to become more viable and more essential to Australia’s future outlook in terms of both the domestic market and the export market.
– I regret that I was not able to be present in the House for all of the debate, but I do thank honourable members for their contributions. There is fairly wide support for the Bill. Although the Opposition has moved an amendment, the Government cannot accept it. During the debate reference has been made to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, which recommended in its report that an immediate study be carried out by a body such as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to determine the economic viability of the softwood planting program on both strict financial grounds and on the broadest cost benefit grounds. The detailed study carried out by the BAE as a result of that recommendation and referred to by the Minister for Primary Indusry (Mr Sinclair) in his second reading speech confirmed the likelihood of an oversupply situation developing in the softwood forestry industry if recent planting rates were maintained. A contributing factor to the development of that potential over-supply situation- this has been mentioned during the debate- was the high level of plantings achieved under the Acts which were based on earlier expectations of Australia’s population reaching 20 million by the turn of the century. The BAE study was able to draw on the findings of the Borrie report. It is significant that the subsequent BAE study referred to in the second reading speech incorporated even lower population estimates for the years subsequent to the year 2000. These estimates had become available in the meantime. The second study placed more emphasis on desirable long-term planting rates. Estimates of desirable softwood planting rates over the 15-year period to 1990 were slightly higher than those originally put forward by the BAE but still did not justify Commonwealth assistance to new planting. It could be argued that over-planting of forest crops for a short period would present no problem, and indeed that has been argued during the debate. But the Government would be remiss in promoting levels of softwood planting which, on the basis of available information, would lead to a long-term over-supply situation.
The question of continuing financial assistance to the States for softwood planting has been discussed fully at meetings of the Australian Forestry Council and its Standing Committee. The States did not dispute the general conclusion reached by the Commonwealth and did not seek finance for new softwood plantings after the 1976-77 financial year. Instead, the States requested that Commonwealth funds be made available for the tending of existing softwood plantations, which is the subject of the Bill before the House, and also for the purchase of previously cleared land. The environment benefits of directing a much greater new planting effort to previously cleared land are obvious.
The second reading speech indicated that the Government would be prepared to consider financing land purchases in the next financial year. In its review of the States’ request for financial assistance for land purchases, the Government will take into account its responsibility for economic management. It would be abrogating that responsibility for economic management if it made available the very considerable financial resources required to implement the new planting program which is implicit in the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). In conclusion, the Government believes that there is a need to update estimates of desirable planting rates at reasonable intervals to take into account changing circumstances, and a review is planned before the expiry of the proposed legislation.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Adermann) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7 March, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Evidence Amendment Bill is again before the Parliament. It was introduced during the sitting of the previous Parliament but the debate did not proceed at that stage. On this occasion the Bill has been transmitted to this House from the Senate. Accordingly, it has already passed that august chamber. When the legislation was before this House on the previous occasion, the Opposition indicated that whilst it agreed with the principle of the Bill, it could be drafted in a more accurate form and we proposed to move certain amendments. One of those amendments at that time related to the definition of the word ‘document’. We were anxious to make the definition a short and very concise one saying that a document included any record of information. We understand that that amendment was again moved in the Senate and that it has been accepted by the Government.
For the benefit of those people interested in the matter, I point out that this is a technical piece of legislation which relates to court proceedings, the question of evidence and what type of evidence should be admitted in a court. There is a doctrine in respect of the admissibility of evidence- the doctrine of hearsay. In other words, the fact that somebody might have heard something or might have written something down does not necessarily mean that it is true and accurate. In the modern concept of what is called ‘business records’, there are a large number of records which the court and public opinion would readily agree might be the best record available. For example, a hospital record made at the time of an event obviously could well be the best evidence of the position at that time. So this Bill states virtually that where we are dealing with the matters of business records we can have admitted evidence of a type which is available by way of a written record.
Royal commissions have been conducted in other States into updating the law with respect to the admissibility of business records. One such royal commission was conducted in New South Wales. I think that it was a good report in that it made the point that business records have a reasonable meaning and that in these days of computers and other facilities there are a number of records which could be readily admitted in a court. It avoids the difficult and tedious task that existed in the past of perhaps having to call people to give evidence in respect of all matters that had been reduced into writing. However, the legislation contains safeguards. This has to be the case because in the adversary position of legal proceedings it could well be that the other person involved in the case objects to the admissibility of the evidence. So the Bill is drawn on the basis that some weight must be given to what might be termed the accuracy of the records. Indeed, there are further restrictions in respect of what are called criminal proceedings. In other words, it is important that, if this type of evidence is to be tendered, there should be an obligation to call the person concerned. So the Bill deals with both civil and criminal matters but in the main is talking about business records.
Let me say from the point of view of the Opposition ‘s record that we do not accept some of the ad lib comments made in the course of the debate in the Senate that a business includes a trade union. It does not. Let us make it clear that a trade union is not a business and does not come within the ambit of the definition of ‘business’, despite what an honourable senator said in the course of his deliberations in the Senate chamber. One would have hoped that, when the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) was dealing with that matter in the Senate, he could have put on record that the word ‘business’ did not include trade unions as such. I deliberately refer to this matter because on 2 March 1978, as recorded at page 278 of the Senate Hansard, Senator Missen, a distinguished senator, I think was completely wrong in asking whether the definition of the word ‘business’ included the trade union movement. We want to make it clear that the Opposition knows what the Government has in mind and what the draftsman had in mind. It is very clear that the ambit of the Bill was not intended to include the example mentioned by the worthy senator.
The other matter I wish to emphasise in the course of debating the Bill is the question of another amendment we propose to move relating to a proceeding. The word ‘proceeding’ as now defined in the Bill to mean:
We have said on previous occasions that there are State courts not created by this Parliament but exercising federal jurisdiction. We propose to move an amendment to this definition in the course of the Committee debate to add the words or the court of a State when exercising federal jurisdiction’ for the very simple and understandable reason that, if a State court is exercising federal jurisdiction, it would be accepted that the Evidence Amendment Bill now before us and which will become law as a federal law ought to apply. I think that Senator Durack, when this matter was raised in the Senate, became a little confused as to what it was all about. He is reported as saying:
I am not prepared to agree to this amendment because it introduced the whole problem of mixed jurisdiction,
. I know there is a difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition … I think there is a philosophical difference between the Government and Opposition on this matter and I could not agree to this amendment.
We are not talking about any philosophy here. We are talking about law. We are talking about the very basic concept of the first premise on which the legislation was introduced, namely, that there ought to be uniformity in respect of federal matters when we talk about the admissibility of evidence. At the present time, unless we pass this Bill, the laws of each State would have to apply to the laws of evidence in federal matters. So to obtain uniformity we pass a federal law, as we are entitled to do, and it will apply to all courts in the Federal jurisdiction.
The definition in the legislation is in error in not stating that ‘proceedings’ also means proceedings in State courts exercising federal jurisdiction. It limits the proceedings to federal courts as created by this Parliament. I make the point that a rather ridiculous situation could arise. For example, the Supreme Court of Victoria could be exercising federal jurisdiction, as it is entitled to do, but may not be bound by this law relating to federal evidence. It would have to apply the State law of evidence. I think that is a matter which surely the Attorney-General can see in that light and we seek to amend it on that basis. It is not a question of having two different laws. It is a question of having one law because, where a court is exercising federal jurisdiction it ought to be also exercising federal procedure in relation to admissibility of business records in evidence before that court.
The other matter that we propose to seek to amend relates to clause 6 which seeks to amend section 7d (4) of the Act. The clause defines criminal proceedings and includes the proceedings under section 77 of the Trade Practices Act. At the outset I point out that section 77 of the Trade Practices Act deals only with civil proceedings and not criminal proceedings. Be that as it may, that would not necessarily be a matter for objection by us. We are talking about the Trade Practices Act and the sort of evidence which can be admitted in respect of proceedings under that Act. In the Opposition’s view it is fair and reasonable that where there are criminal proceedings against a person there must be restrictions on admissibility of evidence, because of the serious nature of those proceedings. They are criminal proceedings. This Bill provides that there will be further safeguards, particularly that the person should be called or, if it appears to the court that there will be some injustice, that evidence certainly can be rejected on a number of grounds spelt out in sections (1), (2) and (3) of proposed new section 7d. However, sub-section
In this section, ‘criminal proceeding’ includes a proceeding under section 77 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
The Opposition proposes to amend sub-section
That is the reason why the Opposition will move an amendment to sub-clause (4). I emphasise again that the definition in the sub-section is such, that the proceedings are more likely to be civil proceedings than criminal proceedings, because the Trade Practices Act at this time and in this area is dealing with penalties.
In the Senate- we seem always to be having to correct our distinguished senior senators- Senator Wright, as reported at page 280 of Hansard said that our amendment in that area was of no value at all and completely misconceived. He said that under the Trade Practices Act all the dependants would be bodies corporate. In other words, the worthy senator thought that the only people involved under the Trade Practices Act would be corporations. That is not so. In fact, so that we can set the record straight, under section 76 of the Trade Practices Act the court may order a person to pay to Australia a pecuniary penalty not exceeding $50,000, in the case of a person not being a body corporate, or $250,000 in the case of a body corporate. So, as all honourable members know, the Act states clearly that a person is liable to a penalty and that a body corporate is liable to an even greater penalty. It is inappropriate for the worthy senator to think that the Trade Practices Act deals only with corporations. It deals also with other persons. That gives some weight to the proposed amendment that criminal proceedings in relation to proceedings under section 77 of the Trade Practices Act should include proceedings where the defendant is not a body corporate.
As I mentioned at the outset, the major concept of the Bill is acceptable to the Opposition. I emphasise again the point that we must stop the Senate from making continued errors which are then repeated in this place on the basis that we did not advert to them. I refer to the suggestion in regard to the definition of a business under proposed new section 7a not including trade unions. It does not. We make that clear. In our view, a better definition of ‘document’ would be the definition used, namely that a ‘document’ includes any record of information. Therefore we would not need all the verbiage contained in the Bill. I refer to the definitions contained in (a) and (b) under the heading of ‘document’. I refer now to the definition of ‘proceeding’. In our view proceeding’ should include also State courts which are exercising Federal jurisdiction. I have mentioned the last matter previously. There are problems with which people may be concerned, that there might be an injustice done, but the overriding fact is that the court can reject any evidence. The other safeguard, of course, is that all evidence and the credibility of the witness are subject to cross-examination. So there is also that safeguard.
It is recognised in modern commercial terms that there is now a large body of records which need to have some better facility for their admissibility or tendering, on the basis of being admissible, than the old rules. This was referred to in the report of the Law Reform Commission in New South Wales which stated that there is a need for an exception to the normal rule of hearsay on this basis. It gave three reasons. It made the point that the present position does not adequately provide for the admissibility of records, particularly where they are of great bulk and where they are the records of an extensive business and could well have been compiled by a computer or otherwise. In other words, they would be records which are not just minor records but which are of a major nature and could not all be signed.
The second reason is that the present exceptions to the rule in the case of civil proceedings do not adequately cover the situation where the trouble and expense of identifying and calling as witnesses the persons concerned with the statement, or proving that their evidence is not available, are not justified by the likely value of their testimony. The Commission stated that that situation often occurs. The third reason provides an exception for criminal proceedings under which statements in business records are admissible if the person who supplied the information recorded in a statement is dead or for some other specified reasons not available as a witness or cannot be expected to have any recollection. The Commission made the point that there must be some understanding of what can be done now to assist the course of justice.
The Opposition proposes to move those amendments in the Committee stage, but we do not oppose the tenor of the Bill. As I have said, the matter has already been dealt with in debate in the Senate, but we are anxious to correct the statements that were incorrectly made there. We would welcome the Government’s agreeing to our amendments because we think they would strengthen the Bill.
-As indicated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), this Bill was introduced in the last Parliament but lapsed on the dissolution of that Parliament. It amends the Evidence Act 1905 to provide for the admissibility in a proceeding before the High Court or any court created by the Parliament, that is the Federal
Parliament, other than a Territory court, of business records in the circumstances and subject to the restrictions set out in the Bill and to which I shall refer. The Bill follows a recommendation made by the Swanson Commute that there should be provision for the admissibility of business records in proceedings under the Trade Practices Act. However, the Bill will in fact apply to all proceedings before the High Court or a Federal court.
If I might make one other preliminary comment before dealing with the clauses of the Bill and the principles which I believe are involved, it is contended by the Government that without provisions such as those contained in the Bill, business records would ordinarily be excluded as hearsay evidence. The Bill proceeds on the basis that the reasons for excluding hearsay evidence are not generally applicable in relation to business records. I emphasise the words ‘not generally’, because there are some very important exceptions and, in my opinion, some very important questions of principle involved.
People driving home at the moment listening to this broadcast might wonder what on earth are the principles involved in a Bill to amend an Act which was originally passed in this Parliament in 1905. The laws which govern the admissibility of evidence in the courts of this country are vital to the administration of justice. A corrupt government could completely unbalance the scales of justice by rigging the laws of evidence, and I believe it is fundamental- I commend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on his very considered speech with respect to this Bill- that we should look at all aspects of this matter to ensure that we are not doing with the best intentions anything which might result in an injustice to any person. There would not be a member of this Parliament who would willingly vote for any legislation which might unwittingly and unintentionally do somebody a very grave injustice. Insofar as this Bill cuts across the time-honoured hearsay rule, it is important that we consider it carefully and ensure that, in our desire to make the working of justice more easy and to facilitate the proof of facts by the production of records rather than by the calling of a large number of witnesses, we do not do something which will cause in some future proceedings grave injustice to some person, company or any other group.
There are one or two matters in the Bill with respect to which I express some reservations, but not to the extent of moving an amendment or voting against the clauses in the Bill. I wish to flag them at this time in the hope that at some future date, if the problems which I believe could occur do occur, there will be some record of their having been referred to in debate in this Parliament. I refer to the importance of the hearsay rule and to the basic fact that, in the absence of special statutory provisions, the hearsay rule would prevent the admissibility of these business records in legal proceedings. This results from a very important rule, that is, that records are of their very nature second hand evidence, and documents cannot stand up in a witness box and be cross-examined. One cannot see the colour of the witness when he is given a question which puts him on the spot. One cannot cross-examine a document.
In this modern day and age when more and more evidence is given by documents and machines such as breathalysers and radar equipment there could well be a tendency to think that in the twenty-first century a person’s guilt or innocence will be determined by what is in a document or recorded on a machine. The fact that this legislation is modern is clearly demonstrated by the fact that for the first time, to my knowledge and I would think to the knowledge of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in a legal definition of ‘document’ in an Act of Parliament are the words that it includes something which has been produced by a computer. There are some people who ascribe to computers an infallibility which, in my humble opinion, is quite unjustified and somewhat shattering. One has only to think of what happened with the Bell Telephone Company’s computer in the United States of America. When somebody added one cent to his telephone account the computer went mad because normally people do not pay more than they owe. I am not knocking computers and I do not want to incur the combined wrath of all in the computer industry in this country; I am simply pointing out that for the very first time we are putting into an Act of Parliament that evidence from computers will be admitted in courts of law. I think that that is a fairly significant thing. It is certainly something worth mentioning at this point.
Unlike the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I am not going to express an opinion as to whether this legislation applies to the records of trade unions. I am well aware of the opinions expressed in the Senate that it does. I have very great respect for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in his assertion that it does not. The interesting point is that the High Court of Australia or some other Federal court may have to determine that question. In proposed new section 7a ( 1 ) the definition of business ‘ includes:
Some lawyers may relish the possibility of arguing that the operation of a trade union is an undertaking. The definition goes on to say that it does not matter whether it is for profit or otherwise. I reserve my decision on that issue. I do not want to provoke the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I simply say that I do not know whether it applies. To be quite frank, as a matter of principle I have no firm view one way or another as to whether it ought to apply to the records of trade unions.
I turn now to the clauses of the Bill so as to avoid making a number of short speeches in the Committee stage with respect to each provision on which I desire to make a comment. I have already referred to the fact that the definition of document’ includes a computer produced document. The House should recall that. I draw attention now to the definition of ‘qualified person’. I refer specifically to paragraph (b) (ii) of the definition. I express my objection to the inclusion of the words ‘or may reasonably be supposed to have had, personal knowledge of the facts stated’. I am not happy about it. I am certainly not going to move an amendment, but I hope that the courts would not be prepared to assume that persons who were alleged to be authors- I repeat ‘alleged to be authors’- sometimes of small sections of many volumes of business records necessarily had personal knowledge of the facts stated. If we look a little further on we find that ‘facts’ includes ‘opinion’. The person who made the record may have had it second, third, fourth or fifth hand. I do not think that any judge of any court, particularly any judge of the High Court of Australia, would be in a position to chide me for warning or urging courts to act with extreme care when using that provision.
It seems to me that far too often people think that they are entitled to make assumptions about other people which they are not entitled to make. I draw attention to the words ‘reasonably be supposed’. I am not even clear as to whether that is subjective or objective. Mr Deputy Speaker, somebody may have wonderful ideas about you and me but when he meets us in the flesh he may be sadly disillusioned. I simply draw attention to the fact that the Parliament presumes a little when it puts into an Act of Parliament a right for somebody to make what he thinks is a reasonable supposition but which may be totally or completely inaccurate. I say again to those in this House and those elsewhere listening to the debate that these are important matters. I contend as a matter of principle that somebody who expressed a supposition about me which was totally inaccurate would not be allowed to get off the hook simply because he said that he thought that it was okay. In questions of defamation the courts often say: ‘You should have known better than to refer to the person who has been defamed in the terms that you used ‘.
I refer now to sub-section (3) of proposed new section 7b, which states:
In this section, ‘fact’ includes opinion.
That will send shudders down the spines of many senior judges and many senior lawyers. Often witnesses are reprimanded or cautioned by a judge for expressing an opinion when they should have been stating fact or for mixing up opinion and fact. The importance of this is that if in 10 years time computers can not only work out the answers to problems but also express opinions we may very well find that, with mechanised evidence in the courts, a computer will actually express an opinion about a human being. People may think that I am being silly about this but I think that I am right on the ball.
I simply repeat that I do not propose to move an amendment because as I will be saying at the conclusion of my remarks, I believe that the sound principles and the experience of courts will be the protection of the public with respect to this legislation. But it is axiomatic that this Parliament should not forget, when it has passed this legislation and put it on the statute book, that we should review it. For my own part I hope that the law and government committee of my party and the equivalent committee of the Australian Labor Party will keep a close look at this legislation, because we are doing some fairly startling things. I draw attention to the fact that our own Standing Orders prevent the expression of an opinion in questions which are asked in this House or which are put on the Notice Paper. I may very well argue at some future time whether, in line with the Evidence Amendment Act, the Parliament is prepared to withdraw the distinction between fact and opinion.
Proposed new section 7c is clearly a wise provision because it will lead to the exclusion of selfserving statements. I said to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition before this debate commenced that perhaps there should be some discussion of white collar crime. It certainly would not be proper to go into it in detail but I make the point, which I think is a very important point, that once the white collar criminals of this country know that this legislation exists there will be great incentive for even more fabrication of documentary evidence. They will be able to have it admitted without having to call 20, 30 or 40 witnesses to depose to the facts. Therefore I say that proposed new section 7c is a very important section, and the courts would be well advised to make sure that the business records to be tendered are not self-serving documents prepared with improper intent.
I say further, with respect, that sub-section (2 ) of proposed new section 7C is a very important one. I am referring specifically to sub-section (2) (b), which states that where documents are procuced the court must make sure that it gets all the documents. There is a power to reject a statement or document, as the case may be, if the court is not satisfied that it has all the documents. There would be nothing worse than having a situation created in which some documents went in and some poor wretch was convicted or suffered a serious defeat in the civil jurisdiction because all the documents had not been produced to the court.
I turn to the last four proposed sections upon which I desire to make some comments. Proposed section 7F is very important because it gives to the court- indeed the court already has the function but this proposed section restates it- the duty of assessing whether or not it should give great weight or little weight to the evidence which has been tendered in accordance with this legislation. I repeat: One cannot cross-examine a document; one cannot ask it difficult and embarrassing questions; one cannot see it pause as it tries to think up an untruthful answer in the witness box. I urge the courts in the administration of justice that in the application of this legislation they be very, very careful- as indeed they always are- to ensure that undue weight is not given to a particular document whereby a balance which should be there disappears and an injustice occurs. I will refer in a moment to a judgment of Sir Harry Talbot Gibbs, a Justice of the High Court of Australia, in Driscoll v. The Queen. I submit that that judgment ought to be read by all persons interested in the administration of justice. It bears out, in my respectful submission, the point that I have just made.
Proposed section 7M is also important because it gives to the court- the Parliament should make it clear that it intended to give to the court on this basis- a discretion to reject evidence, which otherwise would have been admissible under this legislation, on the ground of unfairness. Having appeared in trials and having seen documentary evidence admitted and given weight which, with respect, is far beyond that which ought to have been given- in some cases perhaps a judgment or verdict has been affected thereby- I repeat that this power is granted specifically to draw to the attention of the court that if evidence is unfair the court should not hesitate to exclude it.
Last but not least, in proposed section 7N a very important power is given, that is, to withdraw that document or record from the jury when the court is of the view that if the jury were to actually have it during its deliberations, the jury might give the statement undue weight. In that context, with the consent of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), I would seek to read and thereby have incorporated in Hansard an extract from the judgment of Mr Justice Gibbs in the case of Driscoll v. The Queen. I shall read from 5 1 ALJR at page 742. This was a case in which a man was convicted on the basis of an unsigned, very detailed record of interview which he disputed but which was taken into the jury room and accepted by the jury. The High Court of Australia upheld his appeal and quashed his conviction. As recorded on page 742, Mr Justice Gibbs said:
His Honour Mr Justice Murphy went even further, and I agree with him. As recorded on page 743, he said:
On the question of whether an unsigned record (as distinct from the oral account) of an interview should be admitted, a trial judge’s discretion to exclude admissible evidence should generally be exercised against the admission of an unsigned record where the accused disputes its correctness.
So we are legislating on pretty sound grounds and we are in line with the decision handed down by the High Court just a few months ago.
In conclusion, whilst supporting the legislation, I would hope that for the next two or three years the courts in administering this new law should lean over backwards to use it only where injustice would be caused if it were not used. There is no substitute for oral evidence; there is no substitute for examination, cross-examination and re-examination; and there is no substitute for the judge’s or the jury’s view of the demeanour of the person in the witness box saying what he or she saw or heard. Oral evidence is still the best evidence. Records can be fabricated. The smarties, the white collar criminals in our community, will undoubtedly try to twist this legislation to their own ends. Provided the courts use it only when necessary and provided the safeguards to which I have referred are borne in mind, I believe that this is legislation appropriate to the administration of justice in the twentieth century which I am personally proud to support.
-This Bill is modelled closely upon the provisions of the New South Wales Evidence (Amendment) Act 1976 which had the effect of repealing Part IIb of the Evidence Act 1898.I want to make some suggestions, for what they are worth, in relation to the proposed amendments to the Act by the insertion of a new Part IIIA- Admissibility of Business Records. At this stage I shall direct some questions to the Minister, as did the previous speaker, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), on a number of provisions contained in the Bill. I ask: Is it the definition of ‘document’ in proposed section 7a ( 1 ) intended to include Bankcard, credit account and statement of account? I assume that it is. Does the definition of qualified person’ include an executive director, that is, a director who either by himself or with other directors administers the business? I suggest that the inclusion of those items would make the definitions more succinct.
The definition of ‘statement’ does not include a misrepresentation or a falsehood. It seems necessary to expand that definition. Would it be advisable, as the previous speaker suggested, to include in proposed sub-section 7a (2) films taken by a person, tape recordings made by him or telegraphic or telex messages that he has despatched? In that proposed section there is no provision for these items. In proposed section 7b ( 1 ) (c) might it be better to use the words ‘or was reproduced from’ after the words ‘or reproduces’? That would make the proposed paragraph more succinct.
Proposed section 7N deals with the withdrawing of a statement from the jury. I have been asked to mention the following matter: Since a statement in document form which is presented to a jury is evidence which may be taken into the jury room, it seems better to require the judge to caution the jury about the probative value of the document rather than to hold it from them. I regard the amendments that have been proposed as representing a substantial advance on the law as it stands today. In fact this view is supported by the opinion expressed on page 173 of the third report of the South Australian Criminal Law and Penal Methods Reform Committee of July 1975 which recommended the adoption of the safeguards proposed by the New South Wales Law Reform Commission. These safeguards are substantially reflected in proposed new section 7D of the Bill.
I refer now to a matter that was raised by the honourable member for Denison. I do not know whether there is a definition of computer. If there is not, I offer this definition: A device that is by electronic, electro-mechanical, mechanical or other means capable of recording and processing data according to methodical and logical rules and of reproducing that data or mechanical or logical consequences in some form of representation corresponding to those referred to in the definition of ‘document’. I suggest it would be necessary also to define output from a computer as a statement or representation with a written, pictorial, graphical or other form which is a statement or representation of fact which is produced by a computer or has been accurately translated from a statement of representation of a computer. Sooner or later that problem has to be grappled with; it cannot be avoided much longer. Regrettably the Bill does not make any provision to define those things.
In general terms I make the observation that the form of legislation is preferable to that adopted in other jurisdictions governing the admissibility of business records. In Victoria and Queensland the Evidence Acts of 1958 and 1977 respectively set out provisions rendering documentary hearsay more readily admissible than was formerly the case. The form which the Victorian legislation takes was introduced by the Evidence (Documents) Act of 1971. It is an improvement on the 1938 Evidence Act of the United Kingdom which was the model, I understand, for all Australian legislation regarding documentary hearsay. Regrettably the legislation retains many defects. For example, the Victorian provisions contain a ‘ person interested ‘ exclusion in one of its sections which has the effect of preventing much reliable documentary hearsay from being admitted. There are difficulties in Victoria with the concepts of ‘supplying information’ and the ‘maker of the statement’. On the other hand, the Victorian and Queensland provisions dealing specifically with computer printouts, are well drafted and are unlikely to cause many problems. I do not know whether those matters were examined in the drafting stage of the Bill. I assume they were.
The New South Wales Law Reform Commission studied the Victorian provisions closely before drafting its legislation on business records. It rejected the need for separate legislation governing computer printouts and it rejected the need for such legislation specifically governing bankers’ books and books of account as is done in Victoria and Queensland. I assume I am correct in saying that: I think that is the position. The New South Wales Act covers the whole field of business records and ensures that, for example, hospital records and credit bureau records will be admissible whereas in Victoria they might be admissible only if on computer tape or if it can be shown that the supplier of the information had personal knowledge and was unavailable as a witness.
Other States have also enacted business record exceptions to the hearsay rule. However none is as comprehensive or practical as those of New South Wales. In Tasmania in 1966 section 40a was inserted into the Evidence Act of 1904. It was modelled on the United States uniform rules of evidence. Further amendments were made in 1974 along the lines of the disallowed Australian Capital Territory ordinance of 1971. These provisions, as I understand them, work along the same lines as the Victorian and Queensland Acts and share many of their defects. In my own State of South Australia business records exemption is contained in section 45a of the Evidence Act of 1929. This provision was inserted in 1972. It is different in form in that it is vaguely worded and relies heavily upon the discretion of the trial judge. This renders it difficult to predict with certainty whether or not a business record will in fact be admitted.
I think that the New South Wales legislation is far and away the best and most carefully thought out governing the admissibility of business records. I agree with the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) that it is about time we achieved some sense of uniformity in this country. This is another fragmented area which badly needs uniformity. The New South Wales legislation has the effect of rendering business records more readily admissible than any other version of legislation dealing with this area. It is reasonably clear in scope and operation and does not rely heavily upon uncertain discretion, a matter which the honourable member for Denison raised.
One should note, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith stated, the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission of New South Wales concerning oral hearsay which were outlined in its working paper on the rule against hearsay in 1976. If implemented, these recommendations will have the effect of virtually eliminating the hearsay rule in respect of much oral evidence as well as documentary hearsay. No doubt there will be some considerable practitioner resistance to reforms of this magnitude. Nonetheless, I recommend that this working party be studied by all members as it also casts significant light upon the ad hoc reforms which have been implemented in order to render documentary hearsay and in particular business records admissible. I support the Bill and indicate that in the Committee stages I will support the amendments foreshadowed by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
After Part III of the Evidence Act 1 905* the following Part is inserted:
PART IIIA-ADMISSIBILITY OF BUSINESS RECORDS
7a. (1) In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears- proceeding’ means a proceeding before the High Court or any court (other than a court of a Territory) created by the Parliament; 7d. ( I ) This section applies in relation to a statement tendered in a criminal proceeding for admission under section 7b where the statement-
reproduces, or is derived from, information supplied by a person.
The amendment is consequential. Nothing particular needs to be said about it.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move:
We are presented with some minor difficulties when amendments are moved to the same clause. At the present time ‘proceeding’ means proceedings before the High Court or any court created by Parliament. The point I made in the course of the second reading debate was that there are State courts exercising Federal jurisdiction. I think it would go without any argument that we would want those courts to apply the evidence amendment rules proposed in this Bill. The matter was raised in the Senate. The curious objection was raised by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that there was a philosophical difference. He wanted to see some uniformity. That is the point of the exercise. The whole tenor of this Bill is to give uniformity. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said in his second reading speech, unless we have uniformity and law on this point we reach a position where State law controls the question of evidence admissibility. We will have a ridiculous situation if a State court- for example, a Victorian courtwhen exercising a Federal jurisdiction, has to apply the Victorian law on admissibility of evidence because the definition of ‘proceeding’ in this legislation does not take into account the fact that there are State courts exercising Federal jurisdiction.
Under our proposed amendment the law would still be uniform. It would be uniform in that when a State court was proceeding in respect of a Federal matter it would be applying Federal law, including the Federal law relating to evidence admissibility. I think the AttorneyGeneral is completely in error in thinking that we are trying to suggest in any way that the State courts should have to do something other than what we would want them to do. The only way to achieve uniformity would be to have uniform evidence admissibility legislation applying to federal proceedings. That constitutes the whole tenor of this amendment.
– This amendment was moved in the other place and the matter was answered there by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). The Government does not accept the amendment. The point is that a State court exercising a Federal jurisdiction has its rules of evidence, either by common law or under statute. I think that a point well made by the AttorneyGeneral was that one item of evidence might be relevant to both the State jurisdiction and the Federal jurisdiction of the State court. It could well be highly inconvenient if the State court had at every turn to decide whether it was exercising State or Federal jurisdiction and had to apply a different set of evidentiary laws, depending on which jurisdiction was being exercised. In a practical sense, it would achieve absurd results if an item of evidence were admitted in one case for one purpose and were considered inadmissible for another purpose. There are examples of courts exercising mixed jurisdictions- that is, State and Federal jurisdictions- and, for those general purposes, as the Attorney-General elaborated in the other place, the Government does not accept the proposed amendment.
– I am far from satisfied. I know of no court which would hold a Federal and a State proceeding simultaneously. Let us make it very clear that we are talking about a Federal proceeding. I have no objection to a State court exercising its laws in respect of a State proceeding, but here we relate to a proceeding instituted under a Federal law by a Federal AttorneyGeneral. I am mystified as to how, under this proposed amendment, in the course of such proceedings a decision would have to be made whether State or Federal proceedings were involved. I do not think that the AttorneyGeneral knows what he is saying when he says that there is a philosophical difference. There is no philosophical difference. We are talking about law. The point I am trying to make is this: The proceeding would be a Federal proceeding. I cannot think of a proceeding being so divided that one part of it would be a State proceeding and another a Federal proceeding.
I am mystified as to how the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) can think that our amendment would in any way detract from the function of the court. We give State courts power to exercise a Federal jurisdiction in addition to their jurisdiction. Surely, when the courts are exercising a Federal jurisdiction one would expect that the same admissibility of evidence would apply in every State. Do we want to place ourselves in the ridiculous situation whereby a Federal matter which is pursued in a Victorian court can get a different result from the same Federal matter pursued in New South Wales because the State laws are different? Surely not.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-Is leave granted for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to move his second amendment?
– My second amendment relates to the same clause, but seeks to amend proposed new sub-section (4) of proposed section 7D, which states:
In this section, ‘criminal proceeding’ includes a proceeding under section 77 of the Trade Practices Act 1 974.
As I explained during the second reading debate, contrary to what the other place thought, the Trade Practices Act does cover both persons and body corporates. I think that it would be inappropriate for this definition to apply where a defendant is not a body corporate. We wish proposed section 7d to read:
In this section, ‘criminal proceeding’ includes a proceeding under section 77 of the Trade Practices Act 1 974 where the defendant is not a body corporate.
If the defendant is a body corporate it will fall within the provisions of that Act, regardless of this exception, because section 76 of the Act provides for two classes of persons in a body corporate. We are saying that where the defendant is a person we will want the protection of the restrictions on admissibility of evidence to apply, but that where the defendant is a body corporate it need not be so. Accordingly, I move:
– Again, this is an amendment which was moved in the other place and the argument was answered by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). For the reasons the AttorneyGeneral has given, the amendment is not agreed to.
– I move:
This amendment is intended to bring the provisions of this Bill into line with common law by providing for the situation where material has been obtained illegally. By way of this amendment the Bill picks up that point of common law as well as the point already provided for in the Bill.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! As the honourable member has spoken twice already on this clause, is leave granted for him to speak again-
– We have no objection to this proposed amendment. We were given a copy of this amendment only today and I thank the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) for that. At present proposed section 70 states:
This Part does not affect the power of a court in a criminal proceeding to reject evidence which, if admitted, would operate unfairly against the defendant.
As a result of this proposed amendment, it will read:
This Part does not affect the power of a court in a criminal proceeding to reject evidence which has been obtained illegally or would, if admitted, operate unfairly against the defendant.
I do not seen any problem with this. We agree with the proposed amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner)- by leave- read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 9 March, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill 1978 has already been before the Senate and has been transmitted to this House. We are aware of the Government’s intentions in this matter, because as far back as March last year a similar Bill was introduced, and the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) was in charge of the legislation. At that time we debated it at length.
As the House knows, this is necessary legislation to prevent the recruitment in Australia of people who will be engaged in hostile activities against a government recognised by the Australian Government as the lawful government of a foreign country. Honourable members will be aware, from the recent tragic history of people who were recruited, I think particularly in the United Kingdom, that they were executed in Africa because in their involvement in mercenary activities they ended up on the losing side. In March last year the Opposition said that we thought such recruitment was a very undesirable practice which ought to be completely prohibited. We thought Australians should not become involved in any mercenary activities at all, whether on behalf of or against a foreign government.
At that time we suggested that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to include provisions which would prevent incursions by Australians into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities. In other words, in our view it is against Australia’s national interests for Australians to engage in any hostile activities in any foreign country. We also thought that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to prevent preparations in Australia for incursions in foreign countries on the basis that there would be a stockpiling of weapons, training, drilling, recruitment or any action at all that could be deemed to be of a preparatory nature to hostilities in foreign countries. We thought those sorts of activities should be prohibited under the legislation. As I said, the prohibition of recruitment in Australia would be included in those activities.
In the course of the long history of this Bill, it was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. The Committee investigated the legislation and suggested certain amendments. We say that the amendments improve the Bill because they include some of the arguments that we were putting forward on the previous occasion. This Bill is an improvement on the previous Bill in that it includes a definition of what is a government. Under this Bill a government is now deemed to be the government recognised by the government of Australia as the lawful government of a foreign country. That means de jure recognition. We need to make the point that there could be de facto recognition. The Bill defines a government as a government that has de jure recognition. Clause 6 of the Bill states:
A person -
That is, an Australian- shall not-
The point I am making- I made this point on the previous occasion- is that a person can enter a foreign country with intent to engage in a hostile activity on behalf of the government of that country. I feel this provision can get Australia into many difficulties.
The Opposition is not pressing for further amendments to the legislation, but we think that provision is a weakness in the legislation. In our view it would be far better to prohibit Australians from entering any foreign country with an intent to engage in hostile activity whether on behalf of or against the government of that country. Because we have a lot of difficulty trying to assess the situation in a number of countries, as we would like to be able to do from this country, we do not think it is appropriate to have legislation which allows a person to enter a country and engage in hostile activity on behalf of that foreign government. Obviously two matters are involved. A person would be engaged in hostile activities against the citizens of that country or against citizens of another country.
If a person engaged in hostile activities against the citizens of that foreign country is on the losing side he may be executed, as unfortunately happened to Colonel Callan who was of British nationality. In the turbulence of hostilities and in the savageness of warfare no mercy is shown. We do not want to see Australians committed to that sort of activity, because it does affect our national spirit. Surely a government ought to express a view as to whether there should be some government help given to a foreign government and not just leave it to our citizens to exercise their discretion as to whether they should take part. Because of the difficulties which arise in these modern times we know that there have to be incursions by governments into other countries to protect their own citizens who may have been kidnapped or are being held hostage. Does this Government intend to allow Australians to engage in that sort of action? Under this Bill it can happen. They would be doing something on behalf of a government that we recognise.
The action could also be regarded as hostile action in a territory of a government that we also recognise. We know from the experience of recent activities that this could happen. We could get into all sorts of international conflict. Just imagine Australian nationals joining an army and flying into another country to take part in a hostile action in that country to protect citizens or to free hostages but then being taken into custody by the government of that country. Those Australians would not be treated very kindly just because they are deemed to be Australian citizens. They would be deemed to be enemies and shot accordingly. This can be a problem. What I am saying- this is what we tried to say when we discussed the legislation last year- is that by all means look at all the problems, but try to prevent Australians from becoming involved in hostile activities outside of this country. That is one of the weaknesses in clause 6. Having said that, we leave it at that.
I think clause 7 also has a weakness in it. Under clause 7 a person shall not, whether within or outside of Australia, do any act preparatory to the commission of an offence against clause 6. On a strict reading of that clause, it means that it is not an offence under section 6 if a person does something for the government of a country. If a person said: ‘I want to accumulate a stockpile of arms or keep arms, I want to train, drill or participate in training or drilling, I want to allow myself to be present at a meeting of people with the intent that others would be trained and drilled in arms, or I want to give money or perform services or receive or solicit money or goods or do all those things that would help in the preparation of hostile activity’, it would be perfectly in order if that person were acting on behalf of the government of the foreign country which we recognise. Those things can be done within Australia. This is not good enough.
I do not think any Australian would be at all satisfied if he knew that there could be people in this country saying they would train, have drill parades and be taught in the preparation of hostile activities in any part of Australia, whether it be a quiet country area or the city precincts, on the basis that it was well known that they intended to help the government of some other country. I think most Australian nationals would say that this was completely out of accord with what they thought was the normal activities of Australians who were law abiding citizens. We should not create our own little armies or our own little groups which would enter other countries on the basis that they were fighting for a cause in another part of the world. We recognise that there are many people in this country who come from other lands, but surely the spirit of immigration is that if a person adopts Australia as his homeland it is his bounden duty to act in the best interests of Australia and Australians.
These people might well have very firm convictions about the problems of the land that they have left but surely those convictions should be exercised only within the land they have left and they should not try to stir up more action in Australia. That has caused trouble.
As honourable members would be aware, in his second reading speech the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said that there have been incursions by Australians into foreign lands. Obviously that related to people who had become naturalised here and who went back to those foreign lands to engage in hostile activity and were dealt with on the basis that they were acting against the government of that country. There are numerous people in Australia from many lands who have all sorts of views about the government of the country from which they came. Perhaps in some cases they are anxious to protect that government but in many cases they are anxious to suggest that the government should be altered. It has been said time and time again that the best Australians we can have are those people who are born here and those who have come here and who act in the best interests of Australia. We cannot be in a position of trying to solve everybody’s difficulties within Australia, certainly on the basis of solving them by hostile activity.
The Opposition objects most strongly to the fact that clause 7 still allows action of this nature to take place on the basis of being deemed to be on behalf of the government of a foreign country that we recognise. There is a basic reason for our objection. It involves a country which is very close to Australia. I am referring to East Timor. If one examines the position of East Timor one will find that the government that we recognise is the Portuguese Government; but it is not in East Timor. Are we to have a situation in Australia in which people can urge the stockpiling of weapons, drill armies and engage in other matters of that nature in order to support some action on behalf of the Portuguese Government? The Portuguese Government is not interested. It has vacated the area. The position clearly is that people in Australia will be involved in discussing the issues of East Timor. We would be doing it as Australians. Perhaps we would be putting different points of view and would be getting involved in the issue of whether the people of East Timor are anxious to attack Indonesia or support Portugal. We do not want that situation to arise in Australia. It does not follow that the government of a country that we recognise- to which we give de jure recognition- will be in fact present in the area in which there might be hostile activity. That seems to be a rather stupid situation.
In other words, if people within Australia work on the basis that they will engage in hostile activity on behalf of the Portuguese Government at a first reading of this Bill one would say that it is perfectly all right to do so, but if they were to go to East Timor on the basis of opposing the Portuguese Government, which is not there anyway, it would be wrong. The real issue, of course, is whether they should be in the area which is the subject of discussion and which is the subject, to some extent, of Indonesia’s interest. I think it would be very easy and simple to define in the Bill that a person should not engage in any of these activities. For that reason, we believe that clause 7 is objectionable.
On the previous occasion we discussed this matter we also objected to the fact that under clause 9 the Minister may, by instrument signed by him and published in the Gazette,- declare that in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia it was in order to permit the recruitment in Australia, either generally or in particular circumstances, of persons to serve in a specified armed force. That would be an armed force outside Australia. I do not think that is good enough. I think it gets back to the situation I have been talking about. The whole idea of this legislation is to prevent people from being recruited to engage in hostile activity.
Sub-clause (2) of clause 9 says that there can be an exemption. The Australian Minister can say that a certain party can go ahead and recruit Australians for a particular force. I do not think we should encourage that at all. I think that clause 9 (2) is inappropriate and I would like to see it deleted. We objected to it on the previous occasion. We went to the extent of saying that if this were to be done, although we did not approve of it, provisions should be made for the tabling of any instrument. That action has been taken as a result of the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. So we now have an opportunity to find out what type of instruments have been signed. Following the publication of the instrument in the Gazette the Parliament could take action to disallow the instruments because of the provisions now applying in clause 9(4).
Another matter mentioned at that time was the question of whether there could be some prohibition of news items virtually encouraging recruitment. That has been dealt with in clause 9(5). We also asked for the removal of the provision which gave the Attorney-General power to delegate authority. That matter has been dealt with in this Bill. Clause 7 is the provision still causing the Opposition real concern. The acts referred to in clause 7 are not illegal unless they are of a preparatory nature to an offence against clause 6. It virtually means that any de jure government- Israel, Saudi Arabia, Uganda- can carry out military training or stockpile weapons with immunity and any person involved in those activities also would be immune because we recognise that government. Where the fighting does not involve the de jure government- for example, the fighting in East Timor or Angolapreparatory action can be undertaken in Australia. In the Opposition’s view clause 7 should not refer back to clause 6. There should be a complete prohibition against any stockpiling of weapons, military training and so on. It should be absolute.
As I said earlier, the situation in East Timor, which has no government, presents a real problem. As I know the situtation, I do not think that that matter will be resolved in the near future. There are strong feelings in Australia about what the Government has already done in recent times and about whether East Timor has been betrayed or destroyed. More debates will be held in this Parliament about East Timor and there will be agitation from the refugees and their relatives who are in Australia. It is wrong to have a piece of legislation which is defective in that fashion. Much of what I have said was canvassed in the previous debate on 29 March 1977. The Opposition will not go to the extent of calling for divisions because the Bill has been discussed at length and, in fact, has been passed by the Senate. But it places on record the fact that it objects to the way in which the Bill is now drafted.
We would like to think that the AttorneyGeneral, whom I understand is aware of our views, will again consider the situation on the basis that it is in the best interests of Australia and Australian nationals that there is no encouragement of the recruitment of persons in Australia. That is met in clause 9 but is weakened by clause 9 (2), which states that the Minister can, in certain circumstances, allow recruitment. We do no think that is right. From the point of view of hostile actions against a foreign government I should like to indicate that we certainly approve of the provisions in that respect. We do not want any hostile activity within another country by Australians. As to clause 7, we think that the preparation and accumulation of weapons and so on for the purpose of hostile activity should be prohibited. I again emphasise that the great majority of Australians would object to that sort of action taking place within this country. It is for those reasons that we oppose the Bill as it is now drafted.
-This commendable legislation has had a regrettable history in the Parliament. I support the Bill but have a number of reservations about it which must be apparent to many honourable members. I would like to see the Government take it back and have another look at it. If it is to be presented as a whole, I will support it. The history of this legislation is that it came into this House in about March of last year. A number of amendments were moved and a number of suggestions were made by various honourable members. The legislation then went to the Senate. Some of those suggestions were taken up in the Senate and other matters were raised. The Bill went to a Senate Committee and has now been referred back to this House. Some of the amendments and some of the changes seem to complicate matters even further, and I do not think that it is by any means an entirely satisfactory piece of legislation.
The basic problem to be faced is this: Can the Government legislate for a vast array of circumstances that may occur inside this country and outside it and hope to achieve a law that will cover those circumstances without the production of anomalies, serious difficulties of proof or other practical brick walls that it simply cannot get through? Alternatively, should the Bill be retracted to deal solely with occurrences within Australia and not deal with occurrences in other countries so that there is at least some certainty about the provisions as they apply to acts in this country, even though the question of what happens in other countries may be waived? Or does the Government try some half-way course and say: ‘We will prohibit actions in this country. We will try to find a test to divide the types of actions that occur in another country.’ In this case, the test has been to put in a definition of ‘government’. Normally I should think it would be preferable to define things properly and to include a definition of ‘government’, but in this case there are some difficulties and one of them obviously is the Indonesian situation.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) is probably correct. De facto we recognise the takeover by Indonesia of East Timor but de jure that has not been the Government’s position. If we consider the legal situation, it is the Portuguese Government that has de jure recognition. I suppose an argument could be developed, if we recognise de facto one government’s rights over a piece of territory, although we are not going to the extent of recognising de jure that government’s rights we are by implication obliterating our de jure recognition of the former government. A rather artificial argument could be mounted that might hold up in the international courts that we do not recognise de jure the Portuguese, but even if that is correct it is most unsatisfactory.
I suggest to the Government that at this stage we stand firm on prohibiting things that occur in this country; and I think that a sensible, simple Bill could be worked out. We could then look at what is going to happen later. Again, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has raised another point. I for one would not feel happy about foreign governments engaging in activities such as accumulating and stockpiling arms in this country. But on a reasonable reading of clause 7- on an exculpatory reading of clause 7- if it is being done to assist the foreign government it is not proscribed. That seems to me to be wrong. If we were to start again and deal with what is happening inside this country, introduce a Bill that is simple and will solve the problem and then pass it, that would be fine. Later, with a little more time, we could try to devise a solution to the external problem.
However, we have a number of conflicting provisions in this Bill, and I propose to go through them briefly and draw attention to problems that might arise. Firstly, in relation to the definitions, I think that the definition of ‘armed force’ is lax. All it states is that ‘armed force’ does not include an armed force forming part of the Defence Force of Australia. Does the armed force of another country include only the defence force of that other country or does it include the police or paramilitary organisations? It should be borne in mind that the forces are armed normally but they are not what we call armed forces usually. Indeed, in that respect I cite the old historical example in Bismarck’s day of one country I forget which one it was- invading one of the provinces of Germany controlled by Bismarck.
– Was it? Bismarck was asked whether he was going to call out the army, and he said: ‘No, I will get the police. The other side is pretty puny’. Obviously the police can have armed responsibilities; there are various paramilitary forces in different countries. A negative definition of ‘armed force’ which states only that it does not include the Defence Force of Australia is not sound and in fact does not lead directly to what I believe it ought to lead to, that is, a definition of defence forces, military forces, at the least paramilitary forces, or perhaps police engaged in defence operations. The definition is weak.
The definition of ‘government’ refers to lawful government. A very strong argument was advanced about this. The Opposition raised the point, but from memory I do not think that I was over concerned about it. I thought that a proper interpretation of the Bill would lead to a reasonable understanding of what ‘government’ was, and the courts obviously would have little difficulty about it. ‘Government’ would mean the government that, was in fact in power in a particular place. To add the words ‘lawful government that is recognised by Australia’ appears to tidy the situation, but we do have de facto recognitions. If we are to have a de facto recognition of some situation and not a de jure recognition- the Bill talks about lawful government; it can be referring only to de jure recognition- we are setting ourselves an almost intolerable foreign policy problem.
The next point I raise concerns the amendment in sub-clause (4) of clause 6, which states that a person can join the armed forces of the government of a foreign country, however that is defined, and it is a very loose definition. That may be a good thing or it may be a bad thing, legally or morally, depending on the particular set of circumstances, but when I look at clause 9, I think that the excessive complication produced is not warranted and we should draw back within the Australian position. Suppose a person genuinely believes that he wants to serve in the forces of a foreign country. He goes there and serves, and suddenly his side is substantially defeated. He does not know anything about it because he is up in the hills. The new government comes in and takes over and runs the city. An Australian is sitting out there in the hills and unknown to him a new government has come in that the Australian Government recognises. That Australian is now up in the hills fighting against the lawful government that is recognised by us. Somehow the Australian gets out of that situation and back to Sydney, where an excessively zealous Attorney-General who happens to be on side with the new government- these things can happen when Labor governments are in powerdecides to prosecute.
– Are you worried about your activity in Vietnam?
– Ten minutes of some degree of complimentary agreement with the Opposition is a luxury that I have not been able to afford in this Parliament for over two years. I certainly believe what I have said, but I have now got that out of my system and I will move on. Clause 7 leads to a difficult situation. It has been outlined before. What is the point of allowing your country to be open to having other governments come in with people or agents, or under aegis of the consulate or ambassador of the particular country, and start arranging military activities? Take the theoretical situation of a breakaway group in a foreign country that does not like the government in that country. A few years ago examples were claimed of breakaway groups training in Australia or mounting activities of a paramilitary nature. That was legal at the time, but we did not like it and so we introduced a Bill to prevent it. Now we have the situation where that cannot be done, but if you happen to be a representative of that government and you know that in Australia there are groups who are unsympathetic to your government- they might operate in Australia, despite the Bill, or in other countries- you as the agent of the government, and I use the word you ‘ in the descriptive sense and not as applying to any particular person, can operate here. It can accumulate, stockpile or otherwise keep arms, explosives and the like. So the situation has been reversed ridiculously. I take the example of the government of another country which we recognise but about which we are not too happy. It is free to send people here and to develop armed forces inside our country. I take the situation at its worst. The relationship may deteriorate between our countries. Perhaps that government may be overthrown. We may not agree with the new government that comes to power- or we may even agree with it- but we are left with a group in Australia that has been founded and prospers legally and legitimately into what may be a small or even a substantial military force. I think such a situation is wrong and that it is inimical to the interests of this country. It has come about because of the failure to ‘divide the legislation down the middle’ as has been suggested.
Clauses 8 and 9 of the Bill conflict. Clause 8 states:
A person shall not, in Australia, recruit another person to become a member of, or to serve in any capacity with, a body or association of persons the objectives of which are or include any of the objectives referred to in sub-section 6(3).
Clause 6(3) of the Bill is directed to activities which are against the government of a foreign country. So, in fact, clause 8 is saying that a foreign government shall not recruit any person to join a body or association whose aims, taking the major example, are to overthrow the government of another country. Clause 9 states, clause 8 implies and clause 6(3) reads in such a way, that the government of the foreign country in fact can make preparations for whatever it may want to be doing against its rebels or the like in another country. However clause 9 states that the government of that country shall not recruit another person to serve in any capacity in a foreign country whether or not the armed force forms part of the armed forces of the government of that foreign country. I think that is reasonable. But the wording simply conflicts with what is stated in clause 8 and it leaves the courts with a most difficult problem if such a position finally arises. Obviously the way to solve the problem as a matter of literary reading is to get rid of the words ‘whether the armed force forms part of the armed force of that foreign country’ and say ‘not being a member of the armed force of the government of the other country’ to make the Bill consistent with the Act. However, a policy problem arises from that proposal.
Clause 9 (2) ought to be deleted from the legislation or at least be changed substantially. The point was made on a previous occasion that clause 9 (4) provides that regulations shall apply, that clause 9(2) shall be treated in the like manner to a provision applying to regulations. But a regulation takes effect from the time it comes into operation. It still applies, even though it may be disallowed subsequently. So really the regulation can be defeated because in these sets of circumstances the likelihood is that if the Minister has reached the stage of using the provisions of clause 9(2) it is because there is some specific purpose for which he wants to use it. The Government will make a regulation if the Parliament is not sitting or if other practicalities cannot be met. The deed will be done. The provisions of clause 9 (2) are so wide that I think their scope should be narrowed or the clause amended. Some restriction should be placed on its operation. What the clause really provides is that the Minister of the day can allow anybody in any capacity to serve in an armed force if he wishes to do so. The clause is just too wide. It could be said tomorrow that the Government will circumvent the whole Act by saying that these people can serve in such and such a paramilitary, recognised or unrecognised, government or serve in any force in the world. That may be done by regulation which this Parliament may not be able to deal with it practically.
There is another allied matter in respect to recruiting. Surely there are some simple areas of recruitment which in the international interest it would be proper to foster. For example, if a country near Australia- it may be New Zealand or Papua New Guinea- wanted to obtain a senior defence scientist, a computer operator for its defence force or some specialist, but not a person who will engage in warlike activities, why cannot that country place an advertisement in an Australian newspaper? Why could not that country state, for example: ‘We are a developing country. We have our problems. We want to set up a military communications system that will use a satellite which will have a civilian use as well. The people in our country will be able to benefit. We have an office of defence scientist, just as Australia has. We want an assistant defence scientist. We want to put an advertisement in the newspaper. ‘ Such a person might be part of the armed forces of Papua New Guinea, but he would not be under the contemplation of this legislation. Why cannot a country do that? What is happening in Australia House in London now? I am sure that our representatives there are saying in special circumstances: ‘We are looking for a man as skilled as you in the armed forces’. It is a matter of adopting a reasonable and balanced approach. I would have thought that blanket provisions are always difficult to administer. Again, the problem has arisen by trying to define how this consideration will apply in other countries without taking more time to look at the matter and to draft the legislation.
Clause 9(5) seems reasonable. Clause 10 appears to be somewhat deficient. Clause 10 in the earlier legislation made it very clear that it was referring to proceedings by indictment. It stated:
Subject to sub-section (2) a prosecution for an offence against this Act shall be on indictment.
That clause provided that, if in a particular State a person elected to have a matter disposed of summarily, he could have it done in this way. But that provision has been removed from the new clause 10. Clause 10(1) now states:
Proceedings for the commitment of a person for trial . . . shall not be instituted except with the consent in writing of the Attorney-General.
That leaves the position perfectly open, at least to reasonable interpretation, that a summary offence can be provided for without the requirement of the Attorney-General to signify his consent. Without the provisions of the original clause 10 (2), what would happen if a person says that he will by-pass the indictment and take a summary case to get the matter over with quickly or have it taken up before a judge and plead guilty. It might be said that summary offences might never be contemplated in these cases and that is probably correct. But what is to prevent the Government clearing up the position and re-inserting sub-clause (1) and (2) of clause 10. They were never the subject of discussion. From my memory, it was never requested that they be amended. They were put in the Bill originally by the parliamentary draftsman for some reason. So why not as a matter of reasonable caution leave them in the legislation? Nobody wanted them taken out. At least they clarify the position.
The Bill is aimed at a problem. In broad terms it ought to receive approval. It might be as well to look again at the matter to confine the Bill to matters occurring in Australia- not outside Australiaand to make sure that they are proscribed. Because of unpredictable situations that can arise the Americans have a different way of dealing with outside activities. They will strip an American citizen of his citizenship. A person loses certain rights- I suppose that they are consequential rights- to property and the like and travel rights. The American Government makes it fairly clear to American citizens that if they go wandering off around the world they put their citizenship at risk. Perhaps that would be a halfway house solution we could adopt some time. Probably there will be no great problem and no real difficulty will arise. These matters are not likely to give rise to problems very often. But every now and again some unpredictable set of circumstances occurs. The one possibility that is not anticipated comes up. Some lack of law allows a problem situation that is against our national interest to develop or some injustice is done to an individual because the law is so framed as not to give proper protection. I ask the Government to think about the Bill again.
-The Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill is a very badly drafted Bill. It illustrates some of the complexities of legal drafting. I daresay that there is a fair degree of consensus throughout this crowded chamber about the purpose of the Bill. Most of us would agree about what its overall objectives are meant to be. But, when we come to examine the fine print, we cannot be happy with what the Government has presented to us. What do we find? It is true of very much of Australian Government legislation for the Government to say, ‘We have drawn the Bill very widely but it is all right, do not worry about it! We will read it very narrowly in practice’. There will be built in protection. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) will make sure that the Bill is read narrowly.
I want to begin with what is not just a narrow, semantic point but an indication that the Bill is not properly thought through. This the persistent misuse in the marginal notes and in the long and short title of the Bill of the word ‘incursions’. The Bill is not really about incursions at all; it is really about foreign excursions. A foreign excursion is defined from the viewpoint of the country of origin; it then becomes an incursion from the point of view of the country of destination. The words incursion’ and ‘excursion’ are complementary, like imply and infer, and are not interchangeable as is sometimes thought. According to the great Oxford English Dictionary, an excursion is ‘an issuing forth against an enemy’, and an incursion is ‘a hostile inroad or invasion’, that is from the point of the view of the place invaded. To talk about a ‘foreign incursion’ is a contradiction in terms. It is like talking about a partial virgin. It is just not possible.
I think also that the wording of clause 3, the definition clause, lacks a certain precision. As the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) quite correctly pointed out, we will be in some trouble with the definition of ‘foreign country’. In the Bill ‘foreign country’ means ‘any country outside Australia’. That obviously includes the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada. I am not sure whether it includes Antarctica. That is quite a complex question. What about Lord Howe Island or the condominium of New Caledonia? Are they foreign countries? Obviously we can all foresee the situation where a country like New Zealand may well want to recruit somebody in Australia. Nobody would object to that, but the present form of the Bill would mean that to go through this process it would be necessary for the Attorney-General to sign an instrument and publish it in the Gazette. I should have thought that a more satisfactory situation would have been to provide that foreign country’ meant any country outside Australia with the exception of- then we might well include- the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and other dominions of the British Commonwealth.
Similarly, when we speak of the definition of government’, it will be recalled that in the previous debate, in 1977, there was considerable criticism because there was no definition of the word ‘government’. When the previous legislation was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs the Committee recommended a definition of the word ‘government’. Of course, looking at the reality of foreign affairs, enormous complications may arise. The classic case is that of East Timor where there is a de jure government on the other side of the world in Portugal apparently not taking much continuing interest in the situation, a de facto rule right on the doorstep in Indonesia and an active group of independence workers who want self-government for this area which is so close to Australia. It means that, reading that definition in the context of clause 7, there could be the absurd situation where somebody could set up an organisation called ‘Stockpiles for Portugal’, collect all the bombs, weapons, armoury, poisons, munitions and explosives that he wanted in order to make use of them for Portuguese purposes, which, I suggest, is perhaps fairly remote from the purposes of the Australian community, and would commit no offence at all. On the other hand somebody who felt badly about the East Timor situation and decided that he wanted to raise money to assist the Fretilin forces might, if the Attorney-General was malevolent enough to proceed with the prosecution, be faced with a ten-year sentence. I find it an absolutely Gilbertian situation that under clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) the person who was collecting arms for Portugal would not be in trouble but that the person who was collecting money for Fretilin could face imprisonment for 10 years because one represents the de jure government and the other does not.
– It is not a lawful government, though. It is recognised de facto but not de jure.
-Of course I am not talking about Indonesia. I am talking about Portugal. Portugal is still the de jure government of East Timor. Clause 6 of the Bill is an extraordinary clause, perhaps almost as extraordinary as some of our Antarctic legislation, because it imposes a concept, absolutely breathtaking in its scope, of extraterritoriality. Clause 6 states:
1 ) A person - not necessarily an Australian person, but a person who has some linkage with Australia- shall not-
With respect, that really seems like legislative breast-beating. It is hard to see how it will be carried out in practice. Once the bird has flown, once he is in the other country, it is hard to see what the Government can do about it except to wait until he comes back. It is extremely unlikely, I submit, that he will come back, if he thinks he will face a sentence of 14 years.
A matter which the honourable member for St George mentioned in the 1977 debate, which he did not refer to again tonight and which is worth touching on is the concept of double jeopardy. It may well be that a mercenary may go overseas, be convicted and sentenced to some severe penalty and then, as soon as it is completed, be repatriated to Australia, to be greeted by the smiling face of the Attorney-General who says: “There is another 14 years for you here’. That seems to offend against the principle of natural justice. What does it mean to engage in a foreign country in a hostile activity against the government of that country? What if a person on the other side of the border has a machine gun and just keeps firing? Is he engaging in a hostile activity? He is certainly pretty close to the border, but he is not on the wrong side of it.
– I think the natives may regard him as friendly.
-They may want him to stay the night. So far as clause 6 is concerned, it is true that if we go back into the history of Australian foreign relations many people would have some doubt about this clause, particularly when we recall the period of the International Brigade of the Spanish Civil War. Honourable members will remember that in that case the Republican Government of President Alcala Zamora was in fact the de jure government until 1939. It would be easy to imagine a political trade-off of some sort around 1936 or 1937. There might well have been a recognition of the Franco regime which was the insurgent regime. That would have put many Australians whom I certainly would regard as great idealists in very real jeopardy. So I must say that I have some real doubt about the applicability of clause 6. I certainly do not think it has been properly thought out.
Honourable members will note that there is an addition to this Bill. It is different in form from the original version. I refer to clause 6 sub-clause (4), which states:
Nothing in this section applies to an act done by a person in the course of, and as part of, his service in any capacity in or with-
That was added as a result of the recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. The Entebbe situation raises some tricky points. It was suggested during the debate in 1977 that if an Australian had been involved in the Entebbe operation, working with the Israeli forces, he would not have been guilty of a hostile act because entering Uganda was not to be regarded as a hostile activity against the government of that country. I doubt whether Idi Amin would take that precise view. A good illustration of this is where one says: ‘It is really a rescue operation and we would not want a rescue operation to be included in it’. Perhaps that is so; but the clause is drawn so broadly that we cannot take any comfort from it.
Let us proceed to clause 7. I am very concerned about the drafting of this clause, particularly as it keeps referring back to proposed section 6. Clause 7 (1) (b) is a particularly curious provision. It says that a person shall not accumulate, stockpile or otherwise keep arms, explosives, munitions, poisons or weapons for the purpose of the commission of an offence against section 6, whether by that person or by another person’. The wording is very strange indeed. I could understand it if it said ‘in breach of section 6’ or ‘so as to breach section 6’, but I do not think anyone could imagine an international desperado, no matter how reckless he may be, when asked why he is collecting weapons, saying: ‘I am doing it for the purpose of committing an offence against section 6’. It suggests that for an offence to be proved one must have a conscious desire to defeat proposed section 6. I understand clearly the factual situation that the Bill is trying to deal with but it seems to me to be a most extraordinary way to draft it to say ‘for the purpose of the commission of an offence’. The desperado could put up a defence and say: ‘I had no intention of breaching that particular section. I did not know what the section was’. I think that it is a very badly drafted section and that it ought to be changed.
I agree with several other remarks that were made by the honourable member for St George.
I am puzzled by the fact that the original clause
I I is missing from this Bill. The original clause 1 1 read as follows:
It was a nice, blameless clause. I do not know whether it added a great deal to the original Bill, but I would be interested to know why it has been dropped out. It was not referred to by the Senate Standing Committee. The Committee did not recommend its deletion. It has simply been dropped out.
Let us turn now to clause 9. Clause 9 ( 1 ) (a) is much too broad and the wording is gobbledegook. It says that a person shall not recruit another person to serve in any capacity in or with an armed force in a foreign country, whether the armed force forms part of the armed forces of the government of that foreign country or otherwise’. Clause 9(2) also is much too broad. I would very much prefer the legislation to set out a schedule indicating the purposes for which people could be recruited and where they could be recruited and excluding the rest. At this stage the Bill has almost done the whole rounds. It has been through what is sometimes laughingly called the ‘House of review’ without apparent complaint. It has been considered by the Senate Select Committee and it still does not pass muster. I suggest that an appropriate course of action would be for the responsible Minister to propose the adjournment of the debate on the Bill and to provide an opportunity for discussion of amendments that might be proposed. I submit that very few people in the House are happy with the form of this legislation. They may accept, as I think we all accept, the intention of the legislation; but the point is that we should not legislate just to put out a whole series of windy propositions on which we all agree, and say: ‘It is all right. It will all work out on the date. We will leave it to the Attorney-General. He can be trusted to act properly’. Somebody remarked that this is supposed to be a government of laws, not a government of men. One should not just rely on a benign Attorney-General to carry the laws through in the proper way. One should get the Act right. The Government should say: There does not need to be a great deal of administrative discretion on the part of the AttorneyGeneral. The details of whom we are trying to punish and why are set out in the Bill ‘.
I think that we are all agreed, and I hope that the Minister will recognise, that there is a Gilbertian element about this legislation, particularly in clauses 6 and 9.I hope that he will agree to seek the adjournment of the debate. Nobody has had very much to say for the mercenaries. Even their financial rewards, tax free as they are, have not stored up gold for them in heaven. Whilst I was preparing my speech I could not help thinking of the words of A. E. Housman in his poem Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries:
These, in the day when heaven was Tailing,
The hour when earth ‘s foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling,
And took their wages and are dead.
– It is indeed a privilege to follow the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) and the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) in this debate. I say without any fear of contradiction that the honourable member for St George was one of the finest back bench performers of the Thirtieth Parliament. The honourable member for Lalor has already made a most valuable contribution to this Parliament. I am delighted that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) will follow me in this debate. Rather than speaking ab initio about the details of the legislation and what it proscribes, I want to place myself on record in this national Parliament as indicating the things which it does not proscribe. The first and fundamental point I want to make is that there is nothing in this legislation that will prevent any Australian anywhere in this country from following, pursuing and fighting for any cause in which he or she believes in any of the four corners of this world. I think that is a point which must be made clear because some people in this country are unhappy about things in other parts of the world. As the honourable member for Lalor remarked, about the time that I and the honourable member for St George were born- and perhaps about the time that the honourable member for Lalor was born- people came from all parts of the world to fight in the International Brigade in Spain. They followed a cause from the four corners of the earth.
I would like the people of Australia to know that nothing in this legislation will prevent me or you, Mr Deputy Speaker, or any honourable member from going anywhere in the world to fight for a cause in which we have a belief and to which we have a commitment. The point of the legislation is to proscribe activities which we as a nation within the international community are obliged to proscribe if we are to have any proper system of good government in the world today. I do not believe that there would be an honourable member in the chamber who would disagree with me when I say that if we were to permit a system of anarchy to operate in this country which would act as a spring-board to launch an attack on the governments of other countries we would find ourselves in exactly the same position of criticism as those countries which have given safety, comfort and refuge to the international gangsters of this world who have engaged in hijacking for whatever cause.
I do not believe that anybody in this Parliament would like to see Australia become a refuge for those people who come here for the sole purpose of engineering activity in the country from which they came or in other countries. I want to make what I believe is the most important point with respect to this Bill and it is perhaps the only reason why I am prepared to support this legislation. In the context of international implications of recruitment for service in armed forces in foreign countries, with respect to foreign incursions, the definition clause, clause 3, is all important. It states: government’, in relation to a foreign country, means the government recognised by the government of Australia as the lawful government of that foreign country.
There is nothing in this legislation to prevent those people from the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia from doing whatever they can to free their countries from the yoke of Soviet imperialism and there is nothing to prevent those people who believe, as I believe, that the true government of the people of East Timor is yet to be determined from supporting those who wish to see an independent government and an independent state of East Timor. Provided that the Government of Australia has not recognised the de jure government of the country to which the Bill may well apply because of the activities of those who wish to go to that foreign country, no offence is committed. In the context of East Timor my friend the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) was quite correct when he said that, de jure, Portugal is still the government of that country. If there is no breach of de jure recognition, no offence is committed.
I believe the question which people listening to this broadcast, and indeed honourable members in this chamber, will ask themselves is: Does this Bill cut across any of our traditional Australian liberties and rights? The answer clearly is in the negative. My honourable and gallant colleague the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) made a comment earlier in this debate concerning a question raised by the honourable member for Lalor with respect to war correspondents. Rhetorically he said: ‘What about the situation of a man, say, like Wilfred Burchett? On which side would he be for the purpose of this legislation?’ It is indeed a question which we should all consider carefully and seriously, but the point that I want to make above all other points is that this legislation would not have my support- would not have my vote- if it did anything to restrict the right of the Australian citizen, male or female, to follow a particular cause in any corner of the world.
This legislation does not apply to anything that any of us individually might do. It does apply to the activities of those people who seek to utilise this country as a marshalling point for activity which this country cannot approve internationally. Of course many people believe that this legislation was introduced for the express purpose of dealing with what is known colloquially as the ‘Rhodesian situation’. The ‘Rhodesian situation’ means many things to many people; but for the sake of the record I dare to express the opinion that legally there is nothing in this Bill to prevent any man or any woman if he or she so chooses from leaving this country today to serve in the armed forces of the present Government of Rhodesia if conscience so directs. I believe that that point should be made. I believe in fair play even if the point of view of the person whom I defend is against my own, and in fairness I should say that despite a welter of publicity in Tasmania approximately 18 months ago about an alleged Rhodesian military recruitment operation in southern Tasmania, I am not satisfiedindeed no proper evidence which would satisfy me has been produced- that any effort has been made to recruit men or women in this country to serve in Rhodesia in the present confrontation.
Sometimes I wonder how legalistic- I suppose that for a lawyer to say this is some concession; on occasions we are judged properly to be fools and to be so technical and so legalistic- the world is becoming. The situation is that by legal entanglement we have involved ourselves in the Rhodesian situation- I say this without expressing any view one way or the other- in such a way that we mouth condemnation of an illegal regime and we mouth condemnation of an alleged internal settlement, but none of us in this Parliament this week- with the exception of one senator- has been game to mouth any condemnation of the fact reported this week in the United Kingdom Press that 25,000 guerillas are being trained under Soviet and Cuban tutelage for the express purpose of waging war on Zimbabwe, Zaire and Namibia. I sometimes wonder what consolation I would feel if I was wounded or indeed if I died and somebody said: ‘Bad luck for you, the law was not on your side ‘.
Since I have been in this Parliament, rightly or wrongly, to the pleasure or to the displeasure of people on both sides of the chamber, I have contended that the unlawful killing of people, whether it occurred in Timor, Angola, Africa, behind the Iron Curtain or outside the Iron Curtain is wrong and should be condemned. Do we in this Parliament and this country have the right to say: ‘Unfortunately for you, my dear friend who has just been shot, the law technically is not on your side’. I repeat the fundamental point that there is nothing in this Bill that will prevent any individual in this country from following any cause in which he believes to any of the four corners of the earth.
I turn now specifically to what the Bill proscribes. I believe it is important to indicate with some precision what the Bill proscribes, otherwise some very genuine and decent people will suddenly think that we have passed legislation which curtails their activities. Perhaps the first and most important point that I should make is that clause 6 sub-clause (4) states:
Nothing in this section applies to an act done by a person in the course of, and as part of, his service in any capacity in or with-
the armed forces of the government of a foreign country; or
any other armed force in respect of which a declaration by the Minister under sub-section 9 (2) -
I think that in passing I have picked up a drafting error- it should be section 9 sub-section (2)- is in force.
I emphasise the point. It would be intolerable in Australia today if a person who either happened to be an Australian citizen or, as the Bill provides, a person not being an Australian citizen who is ordinarily resident in Australia were to be covered in any way by the provisions of this legislation. The second thing relates to subclause (3) of clause 6. 1 think that people ought to know exactly what we have legislated against. Sub-clause ( 1 ) of that clause simply provides:
A person shall not-
enter a foreign contry with intent to engage in a hostile activity against the government of that country; or
engage, in a foreign country, in a hostile activity against the government of that country.
– With intent: What if he does not have the intent at the time he enters?
– I hope to deal with the point that my very good friend the honourable member for Hunter has raised, because intent is a critical part of this legislation. Sub-clause (3) reads:
For the purposes of sub-section (1), engaging in a hostile activity against the government of a foreign country consists of doing an act for the purpose of achieving any one or more of the following objectives (whether or not such an objective is achieved):
My colleague from Hunter, with his professional experience, will be well and truly aware that the second part of that sub-clause- ‘whether or not such an objective is achieved’- in fact refers to an attempt. It is the draftsman’s way of referring to an attempt. The sub-clause continues:
is the head of state of the foreign country; or
Those who believe there ought to be a separate Croatian state would be covered by this legislation if they were to travel to Yugoslavia for the purpose of either overthrowing the government or assassinating President Tito. That point should be well noted. Whatever happens to them in that other country, as the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) said, if they return to this country they would be subject to punishment. Could we have it otherwise? Could we accept in Australia today that, if a person did not agree with the policies of President Carter, it would not be an offence in this country for that person to fly to America and attempt to assassinate President Carter? I might not agree with everything President Carter says, but we would be barbaric, uncivilised and in breach of our international obligations if we did not have a provision within the law of this country to say that such action was an offence. I hate, loathe and detest the heads of communist puppet governments in the Baltic States, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, in Hungary and in countries behind the Iron Curtain. But there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with the problem. The wrong way is for people to go into those countries and seek to assassinate the heads of state.
This legislation comes to this Parliament as a result of Australia’s endorsement of an international treaty, although I do not believe that is stated in the explanatory notes. This Bill is correlative to- part of a package deal, I might sayother legislation passed by this Parliament last year which dealt with crimes against visiting heads of state who come to Australia. If Mr Desai had been assassinated when he attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting would any person in this Parliament or any person in the country have said that had the assassin escaped to a treaty country from which people can be extradited to Australia but from which they could not be extradited to India he should not have been brought back to be dealt with in this country?
It is not an understatement to say that because this is novel legislation- I say ‘novel’ in the legal sense of new legislation breaking new grounds -it is possible to conceive of situations in which it could be argued that this legislation will work an injustice. I support the legislation because I believe we have a duty to do two things, and these two things are done by way of this legislation. Firstly, we should as a nation prohibit persons preparing for or engaging in incursions into foreign countries from Australia. Secondly, we should prohibit the recruiting within Australia of persons to serve in armed forces in a foreign country.
Whilst some might be able from the armchair of academic opinion to say that this Bill poses one or two problems and it is not properly drafted in one or two areas, my view is that the Parliament should pass it and should keep it under the most close review and scrutiny. Insofar as I have any authority to indicate the view of the Government parties law and government committee I believe our committee would keep this Bill under the most close and conscientious scrutiny. Nobody should be heard in this Parliament to say that this Bill in any way takes away a right, which all Australians would recognise, to fight for a cause.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– What interests me in this debate is that to date there has been an almost uniform view expressed by all who have spoken about the principle that the Government is endeavouring to deal with in this legislation. This Bill seems to be a prime example of a piece of legislation which, in terms of its technical drafting and some of the concepts which it has produced, has eroded in a very real and substantial way principles upon which probably all honourable members on both sides of the House agree. I support what was said by the honourable members for St George (Mr Neil) and Denison (Mr Hodgman). They said that Australia should not allow its territory to be used for the purposes of producing armed incursions into other countries. I support the view that was put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). He suggested that the correct way of dealing with this problem is to strike at any organisation in Australia which is involved in military or paramilitary exercises. That seems to me to be the point to which this House must apply its mind.
The honourable member for Denison and I share a common view on the problems that have arisen in Portuguese East Timor. Like the honourable member, I am opposed to what the
Indonesians have done. It would be an odd situation if, by virtue of that common view, the honourable gentleman and myself were to say in conjunction with others who share our view that the people of Portuguese East Timor ought to have the right to govern themselves without the military incursions of the Government of Indonesia. If we were to form a para-military organisation for the purposes of assisting the people of Portuguese East Timor we would be infringing the provisions of this Bill. If the honourable gentleman and I who have some training in the law were to say that we will call this para-military organisation an organisation to support Portuguese sovereignty, by virtue of the fact that Portugal is the government that is recognised de jure we would not be in breach of this Bill. Therefore we could get our battalions and march them over the countryside. I would like to be colonel. The honourable member for Denison I suggest might like to be major. We might even borrow the more professional services of the honourable member for St George. We would need to have somebody who knows about guns and how they work. In that situation it seems to me to be a palpable absurdity for the Government of Australia by legislation to give the moral approval and, indeed, the legal sanction of this Parliament, to any group in the Australian society which wants to involve itself in paramilitary exercises for any purposes whatsoever. The tradition in this community is a tradition of social and political change by rational exchange and argument. That is difficult enough to maintain.
I think that we have to approach this problem in terms of the history of what has occurred in our community. As the honourable member for Denison mentioned, considerable problems were created for the Australian Government by the activities of extremist Croatian groups which operated in Australia and had paramilitary organisations operating in Australia. It is a matter of public knowledge that, in pursuance of their objectives, some of their members went overseas for the purposes of involving themselves in acts against the Government of Yugoslavia. As far as I am concerned, those people who want to support the establishment of an independent state of Croatia can argue for that purpose and can produce material for that purpose, but I do not believe that any government in Australia can tolerate a situation in which a paramilitary organisation is brought into existence for the purpose of pursuing that purpose. I do not believe that such a paramilitary exercise becomes any more beneficial or any more correct if that exercise carries some sort of approval by virtue of the fact that that organisation might be involved in that exercise in support of a government which has been recognised as de jure by the Australian Government.
I share the view which has been expressed so ably in this debate by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. What the Government of Australia and the Parliament of Australia should be saying is that under no circumstances in Australia will this Government or this Parliament tolerate the formation of groups for any purpose for the conduct of military or paramilitary exercises. As far as I am concerned, the only organisation in Australia which ought to be engaged in the stockpiling of weapons and the carrying out of military procedures is the Australian armed forces. Indeed, if we had legislation which said simply that, that would solve this problem without all the very complex exercises in interpretation which are going to arise as a result of this piece of legislation. Let me make this point because it has not been made in this debate -
– A person or organisation is still liable under criminal law.
– That is a very interesting and novel point. What I am suggesting- and the honourable member for Denison agrees with me- is that if we were to create a paramilitary organisation and to say that all it was doing was supporting a government which was recognised de jure, we would not infringe the provisions of this legislation. I believe that that is intrinsically wrong. I believe that what honourable members on both sides of the House want to see, and legitimately so, is a situation in which we can say that whatever the problems, whatever view we in this society take- and we are a multicultural society- and whatever else occurs in Australian society, we will not allow a situation to occur where we have the formation of paramilitary or military groups for any purpose whatsoever. That is the line which ought to be drawn and which ought to be stated.
In support of that view I am bound to say that my attitude towards this matter has been coloured by my background and experience. Apart from not sharing the views of those people who supported the Croatian Liberation Movement, I as a local member in another parliament saw the tremendous problems which were created in the Yugoslav community by the existence of paramilitary organisations. It is perfectly legitimate for there to be differences between members of the Yugoslav community, as there are differences between members of the Australian community. But the minute any group within any ethnic community in Australia sees the operation of paramilitary organisations as a means to pursue its political objectives by force, I claim that there is no way that that development does not reach over into our own community.
For a period of, I suppose, just 10 to 15 years, members of the Yugoslav community who were going about their normal business and their normal social function to celebrate the National Day of Yugoslavia would be subjected to the most severe outrages. In my electorate a seven year old boy had half his hand blown off by a pencil bomb which was left by people who were in pursuit of a political objective. It has been a continual exercise for bombs to be planted and for the Yugoslav Embassy to be under constant threat. Only six months ago the front window of the Yugoslav Airlines office was blown out.
I am not drawing a broad line on that matter. What I say is that the minute groups in Australian society have paramilitary organisations and believe it is completely legitimate to pursue their objectives not merely overseas by military exercises, that development extends into our own community in a way which is completely contrary to the traditions and practices of the Australian people. I believe that this Parliament must take a very hard line on that aspect and say that the traditions of the Australian people are traditions which mean that people can argue freely according to their conscience for any political position they like but that there is no way that this Parliament is going to subscribe or give sanction to the operations of organisations along military lines. I believe that that is the line which ought to be drawn. If we state that principle as simply and as clearly as that in this legislation, we will achieve the objectives which I believe are almost the common objectives of all members of this House.
Other problems are raised in this Bill. Again, I do not want to conjure up theoretical positions which could arise. I believe that when we look at this legislation we ought to look at it in the context of the background and traditions of our own experience. Clause 9 ( 1 ) of the Bill states:
A person shall not, in Australia-
) do any other act or thing for the purpose of facilitating or promoting the recruitment of persons to serve in any capacity in or with such an armed force.
That relates to the recruitment of people for service overseas. That provision might sound all right, but Australia has never really had a tradition whereby the enrolment of mercenaries was a problem. That is also an historical fact. I do not believe that I share the view of the honourable member for St George on that matter. But we have had a situation in Australia whereby virtually hundreds of young Australians, by virtue of a deep political and religious conviction, could have been caught within that provision and therefore could have been subjected to a penalty of $ 10,000 or imprisonment for five years.
– How do you arrive at that conclusion?
– I shall simply relate to the honourable member for Phillip the situation which arose during the period of the Yom Kippur war. There are many members of the Jewish faith in my electorate. Let me make it perfectly clear that they are all Austraiian citizens and are all law abiding citizens with a commitment to this community and this country. But also, as a part of their religious belief and indeed as a deeply held political view, the existence of the state of Israel was something which was completely relevant to their entire faith. When they saw in the early days of that war that the whole existence of the state of Israel was under threat and in jeopardy, one had only to turn on one’s television set to see them lining up and publicly saying what they were doing. They were signing enrolment forms to join the armed forces of the state of Israel. That is what occurred. If that situation were to occur again tomorrow, those same young people would do exactly the same. I support them in their view. But what concerns me is that that very act -
– I am sorry, let me read to the honourable gentleman -
– It would not be a breach of the Act.
– I am sorry. I can only say to the honourable gentleman that if he takes that view he has not looked at the terms of the legislation. This is my objection to it. I suggest that the honourable member look at clause 9. Subclause (1) states:
A person shall not, in Australia-
recruit another person to serve in any capacity in or with an armed force in a foreign country, whether the armed force forms part of the armed forces of the government of that foreign country or otherwise . . .
– To overthrow that government.
– No, not at all. Sub-clause ( 1 ) continues:
I ask the honourable member to listen to subclause (d) which is the usual dragnet provision. It states: do any other act or thing for the purpose of facilitating or promoting the recruitment of persons to serve in any capacity in or with such an armed force.
There can be no doubt that the activities in my community during the period of the Yom Kippur war were such that all those young people who were involved publicly and openly as Australian citizens in signing forms on television, making it perfectly clear that they were recruiting for the armed forces of Israel, would have come within that provision.
– They could have gone to Israel, though.
– There was a situation in which a war arose in a matter of days. The agony of these young people was that they could see the state of Israel being destroyed before their very eyes. They were not making any apology for what they were doing. They were not saying behind anybody’s back that because of some legislation- this legislation did not exist then- we were really just going over to Israel to sit in the sun and lie on the beach at Tel Aviv. They were saying: ‘Look, the state of Israel is under threat. We are volunteering. We wish to join the army in Israel’. Their leaders were making no secret about it.
– No offence was committed.
– All I can say to the honourable gentleman is that he ought to look at the Bill.
– Are you talking about recruitment in Australia?
– It was recruitment here. The point is that it was recruitment here. I am dealing with an historic situation which would be covered by this legislation. Those people could have been prosecuted if the Government had so chosen. It is all very well to say that the Minister would not prosecute. If the Minister would not prosecute, why do we have to give him this power?
It is a rare situation in which a person can be subject to a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for five years. It is not a provision that ought to be taken lightly. It is not something that should be written off in terms of the political view of the Minister of the day. This Government puts in legislation a clause by which the Government states: ‘We regard the offence so seriously that this is the penalty’. Really if the Minister has another political view he can say that it is really all rot. That is a very interesting exercise, too.
Let me go back to that historic situation. All the nations that were involved in the state of armed conflict were nations which had friendly relations with Australia. The governments were recognised by Australia. The previous Liberal Government, the Whitlam Labor Government and this Government have tried to adopt an even-handed stance in respect of the situation in the Middle East. Because there are in Australia members of the Lebanese community and members of the Arab community they can say to the Minister: ‘Look, you cannot tolerate that sort of thing; it is a breach of the law’. Will the Minister enforce the law or will he make an exemption?
I believe that the general level of recruitment of mercenaries in Australia is really an academic exercise. It is something which in my view should not take up much of the time of this House, but given the multicultural and ethnic background of Australia and given the problems that arise in the international arena, it is not unlikely that Australian citizens with ethnic backgrounds will find themselves in situations where they will want, not because of money but by virtue of deep social and political convictions which go back to the land of their origin, to involve themselves in the armed forces of that country. It would be a fairly rare occasion, but it is not one that the Government can by this legislation deal with effectively.
I believe- I support the views of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition- that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) ought to take this Bill away and have another think about it. If he were to bring back legislation which simply proscribed in Australia that which I believe is offensive to all of us- the formation and operation of paramilitary or military groups for any purpose- I believe the legislation would go through this House in five minutes. I think the question of mercenaries is a side issue and something about which we should not be getting excited. There are enough problems facing this nation without producing legislation of this sort. The original concept, I think, essentially was good, but the drafting of this legislation will create more problems for future Attorneys-General than the Bill purports to solve.
– Have not you read it?
– I have read it very well. I am sorry that the honourable member has just come into the chamber, because he might have learned something if he had been here earlier. I simply say that the Attorney-General ought to take away this legislation. Let us deal with the issue which concerns us all. Let us not create legislation which by its very nature will become impossible to enforce and will create more problems for the Attorney-General of the day because of its provisions, which, given some of the situations which historically have arisen in Australia, are difficult and complex enough to be dealt with by the government of the day but which certainly will not be solved in any way at all by this legislation.
– As I was the Minister in charge of the passage of the previous Bill dealing with this subject last year, and having heard what has been a very learned debate, I thought that I should say a few words about what honourable members have said. I do not want to be unkind to honourable members; but, with very great respect, honourable members on both sides of the House who have spoken in this debate, I have to say, have not understood what this measure is about. It might be said that those are fighting words. I shall demonstrate, firstly by reference to the speech of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), that there are other provisions in the law to which reference was made last year, to which I apprehend the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) will be referring and which were intended to deal with the question that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports raised.
The honourable member said that it was undesirable that anybody in this country should be engaged in drilling for military purposes. I refer the honourable member to section 27 ( 1 ) of the Crimes Act which states:
Any person who-
in contravention of the directions of a proclamation by the Governor-General in that behalf, trains or drills any other person to the use of arms or the practice of military exercises, movements or evolutions; or shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
When I spoke in this House last year I indicated that the Government was contemplating a proclamation under section 27 of the Crimes Act in order to prevent unlawful drilling for military purposes.
I should have thought that honourable members would have seen that the Bill was about a very serious problem in this world. It is summarised in one word, and it is terrorism.
That is what this Bill is about. It is to stop terrorism which is occurring in this world. I should have thought that if honourable members had read the Bill they would have understood that. One honourable member interjected earlier: Have you read the Bill?’ Honourable members should have read the Bill more carefully, instead of picking out words, trying to take up the points, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports did, about people inciting others to commit offences or selecting words that are often found in Commonwealth statutes and words which every judge in the land understands. If honourable members opposite had read the substance of the Bill they would have understood that the purpose of it is to stop terrorism. It is to stop the sort of thing that occurred at Tel Aviv airport. It is to stop the sort of thing that occurred recently on the road towardsTel Aviv, which subsequently caused an incursion by Israeli forces into Lebanon. That is what it is designed to stop. In other words, if it were applied in every country it would be wrong to enter another country with intent to engage in a hostile activity against the government of that country. If any Australian did that he would be guilty of an offence and would beliable for the heavy penalty of imprisonment for 14 years. If this legislation were compared with that of other countries it would be seen to be at the vanguard of legislation in this area in the world.
– It is unique.
– It is unique.
– It is unique for people to get five years imprisonment in Australia for joining the Israeli army or for being recruited to join it.
– The honourable member for Denison, who is sitting behind me, says that it would be an offence to join the Israeli army.
– To recruit.
– The honourable member for Denison used the word ‘enlist’. It would not be an offence to enlist. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports said the same thing. He said that it would be an offence for a Jewish person in Australia to enlist in the Israeli army. It would not be an offence in Australia. What the Government is trying to do- it makes no apology for its action- is to stop anybody in this country going about and recruiting for foreign armies. We want to stop such action in this country. That is the Government’s policy. Clause 9 is designed to do just that.
– What about clause 9 ( 1 ) (d).
-Clause 9 ( 1 ) (b) states:
I have read that provision. A person shall not, in Australia, publish an advertisement. That is to say, a person shall not use an advertisement for the purpose of recruiting others into an armed force. But if a Jewish person in Australia decides that he wants to enlist and writes a letter to Israel or if he decides to answer some correspondence that he received from Israel that person would not be committing an offence under this legislation. We want to stop foreign people who are not acceptable to this country and who are not provided for in clause 9 (2), which provides for the publication of an instrument in the Gazette, from coming into Australia and engaging in the act of recruitment in Australia. The Government makes no apology for that. There has been a complete misunderstanding of the relationship between clause 6 and clause 7 of this Bill.
-Clause 9(1) (d). You have not dealt with it.
-Clause 9 (1) (b)-
-Clause 9 ( 1) (d). Take a look at it.
– That clause provides that a person shall not, in Australia, do any other act or thing for the purpose of facilitating or promoting the recruitment of persons to serve in any capacity in or with such an armed force. That is not enlisting in an armed force. That does not cover enlistment in an armed force. It refers to a person doing another thing for the purpose of facilitating or promoting the recruitment of another person. The person who enlists is not covered by this provision. If anybody does it, it is the Government’s policy, which is embodied in this legislation, to stop it. But it does not prevent a person from enlisting. It does not prevent that. What it is designed to do basically in the earlier clauses is to prevent terrorism in this world. One honourable member asked how we could enforce clause 6. Of course, if a person is overseas and Australia does not have an extradition treaty with that country we cannot enforce clause 6. But every Australian should know that if he goes overseas, and engages in such a hostile act he could be liable for 14 years imprisonment if he is caught. If he finds himself in a country with which we have an extradition treaty that covers this sort of offence he will be liable to extradition to Australia. Needless to say, if he finds himself caught in a country where there is hostile activity against its government, no doubt he will be dealt with under the law of that country.
Clause 6 in itself is designed to stop Australians and people who come here and stir up trouble before going overseas from engaging in what we now describe quite clearly as terrorist activity. That is a term we all understand. If the terrible incident that occurred in George Street in Sydney some weeks ago had been directed against our own Prime Minister by a person from another country which had a law similar to clause 6, if the person who perpetrated that crime came to Australia for that purpose and if that person would under the law of that country had returned to that country and been caught there that person would be liable to 14 years imprisonment. That is just an example of the sort of thing we want to stop. We want to prevent Australians from engaging in those activities overseas.
It may well be that some of the cases to which honourable gentlemen referred are not covered by this legislation. Honourable members opposite had quite a lot to say about this Bill when it was before this House last year and their colleagues in the other place were party to the Senate Standing Committee’s report. They complained about the definition of ‘government’ here and at the Senate Standing Committee’s hearings. As a result of that report the definition of ‘government’ was made much clearer. I do not hesitate to say that the effect of that was to restrict the operation of the Bill to some extent. But so be it. That was the will of the Parliament. We submitted the BDI to a parliamentary committee and we have amended it for that reason. Honourable gentlemen now regard it as being much clearer than it then was. Its operation probably has been restricted considerably, but I am not complaining about that.
I am saying that as a result of the amendment it is now precisely clear- not subject to argument- what ‘government’ means and it is now precisely clear when a particular act wil be a breach of clause 6 of the Bill. To that extent it wil operate. Clause 7 is complementary to clause 6, As I have said, section 27 of the Crimes Act is available to deal with other instances of people engaging in military drill. In recent years- I referred to this matter last year- there have been instances of drilling by people for overseas activities and a deal of evidence has been collected on that. These people were not necessarily people who call themselves Croats. They were people of a different racial background. I understand that section 27 of that Act will be invoked to stop that sort of activity. That is the broader extension of clause 7. This legislation basically is designed to stop terrorists.
– Oh, come on!
– An honourable gentleman opposite said: ‘Oh, come on’. I will come on. I will come back to clause 6. If the honourable gentleman cares to read it he will see that it is designed to prevent the type of activity that was undertaken at Tel Aviv airport from being undertaken by an Australian. If it means that people in this country who have a view about the government of the country from which they came are not to go into that country for the purpose of hostile activity against the government of that country, then so be it. It is our Government’s policy, and I should have thought it would have been the policy of the Opposition, to support the idea that such people should be discouraged and prevented from doing that sort of thing. Such activity can have no other description than terrorism, and our Government is basically committed to attacking terrorism wherever it is found. I do not believe for one moment that the Opposition is not committed to the very same purpose.
Question resolved in the affirmative. .
BDI read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 6 (Incursions into foreign countries for purpose of engaging in hostile activities.)
– Clause 6 has been the subject of a lot of discussion. The Opposition has indicated clearly that it does not approve of any activity in a foreign country, whether it be for or against a government. We recognise that a Select Committee of the Senate has discussed this matter, but no committee of this House has done so. I am well aware of the views of honourable members on both sides, and accordingly I move:
In my view, the clause should be redrafted on the basis that no person shall enter a foreign country with intent to engage in any paramilitary or military activity. In precise terms, that is what the Opposition has in mind and is in accordance with what was said on the previous occasion.
I do not accept the statement of the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) that this clause was designed to act against terrorism. Let me make it clear that this legislation follows the British investigation conducted by Lord Diplock, which clearly showed that the question of mercenary recruitment and all its ancillary actions involving hostile activity should be the subject of prohibition. The issue was not terrorism, it was mercenaries, to put it in its proper perspective. You will remember, Mr Deputy Chairman, the self-styled Colonel Callan and all the mercenaries recruited in Britain who were executed not as terrorists but as enemies of the area in which they fought unsuccessfully in an insurgency. At the dme it was not certain which side was going to win in Angola. Unfortunately those people, who were recruited in Britain for money, joined the losing side and were executed on the basis that they were enemies, not terrorists. That is the point that the Opposition wants to make clear.
We do not want to see a situation in Australia where Australians are recruited for either side and get into the same sort of difficult and heartrending situation that occurred in Britain. Again, if we look at East Timor where there is no government at all it appears that we could have recruitment there because such activity would not be against any government. People recruited would be involved in activity in an area where there is no government. Let us be sensible and reasonable about this matter. It has nothing to do with acts of terrorism, and in fact I think our own laws would deal with those quite adequately. It is a question of giving what has been up to the present time innocent support to the recruitment of people in a cause in which they wish to fight. We believe that Australians have a duty to this nation and that while they are here they must abide by the normal law and order position. Australians have their own Defence Force, their own style of defending this country. We do not want to have a series of little armies recruited and organised to enter into any other territory in the world. It is for that reason that I have moved that clause 6 be postponed. I believe it can be adequately redrafted to meet all the needs. If the Senate thought it necessary to appoint a committee to inquire into the matter, surely this House should do likewise.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Preparations for incursions into foreign countries for purpose of engaging in hostile activities).
– This clause clearly indicates that people can become involved in a number of actions. We can talk about the Crimes Act, but the fact is that this Bill talks about what can be done if a person is acting in accordance with clause 6, the offensive clause to which the Opposition objected a few moments ago. Clause 7 states that a person can do things such as stockpiling weapons, training or drilling or encouraging that to be done for the purpose of helping a foreign government referred to in clause 6. We believe that that is wrong and contrary to the spirit of the legislation. In our view, there should be a prohibition against such actions. In other words, there should be a prohibition against the accumulation, stockpiling or keeping of arms for any purpose of a paramilitary or military nature. The clause should stop there. The Opposition believes that the clause ought to be redrafted, for the same reasons as I put in relation to clause 6.
We are talking here in a vacuum because the Government is not prepared to look at the situation. One day this sort of thing could happen, and it might happen in the north. We could find people organising and drilling and stockpiling weapons on the basis that they are going to fight each other in East Timor or the Lebanon or Uganda or anywhere else. There could be a real tragedy. If we look at the problems of the world, we can understand what can happen. It then becomes a matter of the definition of ‘government ‘. If such action is for the government it is in order; if it is against the government a person would be subject to prosecution for these offences. The Opposition makes it clear that that position should not be tolerated. If it is good enough to rely on the Crimes Act to police these matters, then the proper way to deal with it, if it is included in this Bill, is to prevent it. Accordingly I move:
-This clause is seriously deficient. The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) said that honourable members did not have a proper appreciation of it, but he then went on to admit that it is deficient. His way of solving the problem of clause 7 was to say: ‘We are going to bring in a proclamation under section 27 of the Crimes Act’. If it is correct that the problem can be solved by making a proclamation under section 27 of the Crimes Act, why have a Bill? If it is not correct, why have a Bill that is no good? Do any honourable members want foreign governments, and there are about 140 or 150 of them, to have the right to come into this country, through their personnel or agents, and accumulate, stockpile or otherwise keep arms, explosives, munitions, poisons or weapons, train or drill, receive or solicit money or goods, become the owners of premises and allow or permit such things to happen? There are some regimes in the world that would use the other countries for the purpose of drilling and arming; would use premises in those countries for nefarious purposes. This Bill allows them to do that. How many members of the Committee want that to happen? The Bill clearly allows it.
– I cannot believe it.
– The honourable member for Diamond Valley cannot believe it. The Bill allows it to happen. The Minister said in this chamber on 17 March 1977:
As a further indication of the seriousness with which the Government views activities of this nature, I mention that the Government contemplates the making of a proclamation under section 27 of the Crimes Act prohibiting unauthorised military style training and drilling in the use of firearms.
That was more than 12 months ago. Where is the proclamation? It does not exist. The Government never brought it in. Although the Minister was the one to use fighting words and although I have used the most soothing words possible on the point, I reiterate that the clause is no good.
– I rejoin the debate to support the view so succinctly put by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) and to reiterate that the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) is really stretching the truth somewhat when he says that this Bill is a BUI against terrorism and that it ought to be supported. That statement is not completely accurate. The problem with clause 6 of the Bill has been pointed out by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) who was supported by the honourable member for St George. In fact the Bill proscribes activities which I think none of us would want to see occur anywhere in respect of those countries which have a de jure recognition by the Government of Australia. One does not have to be an expert in foreign policy to know that often the question of recognition of a country is not a simple exercise in a de jure or de facto situation. If what the Parliament is about and what the Government is about is saying that what we are doing is proscribing a terrorist activity, ipso facto, that action applies to terrorist activities in all countries. The position is as simple as that. If that is what the Minister was saying the Government seeks to do, this Bill does not do it. Under clause 6, if a person enters a foreign country with an intention to engage in a hostile activity against the government of that country, that is proscribed by this BUI if the particular government is one which enjoys de jure recognition by the Government of Australia. But if one wants to go into a foreign country that is not in that situation and to engage in the vilest forms of terrorist activity, the person is not caught by the provisions of this BUI.
– Are you for it or against it, Clyde?
– Tonight I am being reasonable. That is the legally correct situation. I admit that the Minister was trying to do his best in the chamber tonight with what is not a very good brief. He was saying really that this is a Bill to deal with terrorism. It is not good enough for him to imply that if honourable members make the very legitimate, proper and sound legal criticisms that have been made by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), the honourable member for St George, the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and even myself- they were points which should have been taken by any lawyer- we are really not being responsible when it comes to dealing with terrorism. The suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition which really invites the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) to take this Bill away and have another go at it could produce a situation which would solve all the problems which we have internally. At the same time, if we want to have a BUI which breaks new ground internationally in dealing with terrorist activities, I believe that would be excellent and that it would be passed through this House very quickly.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
– Without delaying the Committee any further, I propose to move for the deletion of clause 9 (2) which is the provision under which the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) can give permission to allow virtually what is prohibited in clause 9 ( 1 ). I submit that the appropriate way to do this is to move for the deletion of clause 9. The matter has been canvassed thoroughly. While clause 9(1) contains a prohibition, I see no reason why the actions of a Minister can then be exempted by some gazettal notice. This point was properly made by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil). I congratulate him on the sentiments he expressed. As you know, Mr Chairman, a gazettal can take place when the Parliament is not even in session. A great deal of action could follow. We would have very little opportunity to do anything about it, even though clause 9(4) contains some provisions which deal with this matter.
– Especially under a Labor government.
– The honourable member usually destroys a good speech with an interjection. I do not want to say any more on the matter. I find clause 9 (2) offensive and I move:
-Whilst I oppose the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) may I be heard to say briefly that I believe, even though it may not have sounded to be so to those people who are listening, that this has been one of the most useful debates I have heard since I have been a member of the Parliament. It is the first occasion I can recall when points of view above and beyond party lines have been put on a matter of very great importance with respect to the legislation of this country. There would be no member of this Parliament for whom I have a greater respect and affection than the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott). But, with the greatest of respect to him, I say that he did less than justice to his brief. He said during the Committee debate tonight that those of us who did not agree with the point of view he expressed either had not read the Bill or were not opposed to terrorism. I want all honourable members in the chamber to know in short before this clause is passed what the Government, simply put, is seeking to do. Under clause 9, if a person is an Israeli citizen living in Australia, joins the Israeli Army and goes back to Israel, that person creates no offence. But, if I suggest to that person that he join the Israeli Army, I could be fined $10,000 and go to prison for 5 years. I wonder whether the Parliament intends to pass such legislation.
I ask further What is the situation of a person who has dual nationality? A person may hold dual Israeli and Australian nationality. I do not believe that the Government intended that a person in this country should be sent to prison for S years for suggesting to someone that he might like to join the Israeli Army. I certainly do not support that proposition. I would support anybody who wants to join the Israeli Army and the independent State of Israel. If I go to prison for 5 years, that is fair enough. But do we really know what we are passing? I simply say that is the law we are passing tonight. I do not believe the Parliament really wants this to happen. It might not be a bad move to look at the Bill a little longer before we put it on the statute books.
– Having raised the point originally myself, I reendorse the point made by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). However, it was not dealt with by the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) who entered this debate in relation to the provisions of clause 9 ( 1 ) (d). Again, I ask the Committee to look at the width of that dragnet sub-clause. It states: do any other act or thing for the purpose of facilitating or promoting the recruitment of persons to serve in any capacity in or with such an armed force.
I referred the Committee to an historical situation. It was a matter of public knowledge which arose, certainly in Sydney and Melbourne and I suppose in other communities, where there are substantial numbers of people belonging to the Jewish community. During the Yom Kippur war young Austraiian citizens who were members of the Jewish faith, publicly and openly- they were encouraged to do so by people who were responsible for organising it- virtually were enlisting in the Israeli Army in droves. This was shown on television programs. Young people, who were in all respects very fine Australian citizens, were saying as a matter of fundamental political commitment: ‘We have to go to Israel because this state which is so important to us is under threat’. That was a matter of public knowledge. As the honourable member for Denison said, if he had been asked at that stage and if I had been asked at that stage to do so, I would have supported this move publicly. I would have supported that action. Under this clause, that would constitute doing: . . any other act or thing for the purpose of facilitating or promoting the recruitment of persons to serve in any capacity in or with such an armed force;
If I do that, I am likely to be fined $10,000 or imprisoned for 5 years. Having referred the Committee to an historic incident, I say that I believe that a similar situation could arise again. The Attorney-General of the day, who would have the responsibility of enforcing this legislation, could say: ‘Look, we did not really mean it. Although the law is there I do not intend to do anything about it.’ Having regard to the fact that we are a multicultural community, what will he do when members of the Arab or Lebanese community say: ‘There is the law. You cannot let that occur in the community’. Let us not put on the statute books laws which endorse this sort of principle and which, at best, make for bad laws and, at worst, make for laws which will give Attorneys-General of the future very real problems of enforcement. I really think there ought to be a second look at the Bill, and I endorse the view of the honourable member for Denison.
-There are one or two matters that must be said, in view of some statements by the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott). Firstly, I am totally opposed, as I presume all members of this House are, to terrorist activity. I was disappointed at the implications of the statement, which were that members either did not understand the clause or were not 100 per cent strong in their opposition to terrorism. Secondly, it is penal legislation, and clause 9 ought to be reviewed because the fact that it is penal legislation will provide very harsh penalties for most Australian citizens. I have spoken about clause 9 sub-clause (2) already. Thirdly, lest there be any misunderstanding that members on this side have come into the chamber without an adequate understanding of previous legislation or that government supporters are making some criticisms of the Bill that one would expect they would have considered in detail beforehand, this Bill went to the Senate and was returned to this House without being presented to the Government member’s law and government committee for consideration. That is something for the internal processes of the parties on this side. Therefore, it has been important to raise matters that might otherwise have been dealt with beforehand, which would have not meant taking up the time of the Parliament.
– I am sorry that I did not have the opportunity to enter into this debate earlier, but I am greatly concerned about certain aspects of the Bill, in particular clause 9. I merely want it to be put on record that, whilst the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), in his second reading speech, spoke about changes which were recommended by the Senate in relation to this clause, I would rather like the opportunity to have explained to me precisely what those changes do with regard to clause 9.I do not think they adequately cover the question of dual nationality, in particular. These matters have been noted by my colleagues on both sides of the chamber, and I merely wish my criticism to rest on that point.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Staley)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose this legislation. The purpose of the Bill is to extend the powers of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation to borrow moneys for promotional purposes. The House probably will realise that at the moment the Apple and Pear Corporation is funded by levies on domestic and export apples and pears, both in processed and fresh fruit form. Because of seasonal fluctuations there have been insufficient moneys available to the Corporation to meet peak promotional costs. It is the purpose of the Bill to give the Corporation the power and the right to raise moneys other than those raised by way of the levy.
The Corporation is engaged in the activity of promotion of fruit which is mostly traded by others, and it can borrow at the moment only for fruit which it trades itself. Therefore, as the legislation is presently framed, when it needs money during the peak promotional periods it is not in a position to borrow. The effect of this change will be that it can borrow when necessary, to promote not only its own fruit but also the fruit of others within the industry. This, of course, will allow the Corporation much more flexibility. It will not have to limit its budgets for promotion, and when the levy moneys are collected they can repay the funds available to it. Clause 4 of the Bill states:
Section 30 of the principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph (a) of sub-section ( 1 ) and substituting the following paragraph:
borrow moneys for the purpose of-
exercising its powers to engage in trade;
performing its functions of promoting the export from Australia of apples and pears;
performing its function of promoting trade and commerce in apples and pears among the States, between States and Territories and within the Territories; or
performing its function of encouraging the consumption of apples and pears in the Territories . . .
That clause makes plain the kind of expansion of powers to be given to the Corporation by the legislation. I believe this amendment to the principal Act will better allow the Corporation to carry out its functions, mainly its promotional functions. It is basically a machinery measure, and for those reasons the Opposition does not oppose the legislation.
-This Bill is significant because it is the first legislation to come before the Commonwealth Parliament authorising the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation to guarantee the repayment of moneys which are used for the express purpose of the promotion, sale and consumption of Australian apples and pears and apple and pear products. It therefore gives honourable members on both sides of the House, not necessarily from the major State with regard to the production of the finest apples in the world, an opportunity to speak about the qualities of apples and pears and the need for government, both State and Federal, to engage in the active promotion of the consumption of Australian apples and pears. If every Australian were to eat one apple or one pear per day we would not have to export one apple from this country. It amazes me that we are producing in this country one of the finest products in the world and that few Australians bother to eat it. Quite frankly, whether we are talking about Tasmanian apples, Western Austraiian apples or New South Wales or Victorian pears for that matter -
– Victorian pears.
– I referred to Victorian pears. The fact is, as the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) said- in fairness I must say that he has shown considerable interest in the apple and pear industry in recent times- that we are producing in this country a very fine product, and it seems to me that we ought to do something along the lines of the action taken in regard to the Australian rice industry only two years ago when a promotion campaign doubled the consumption of rice in this country in less than six months.
The Australian Apple and Pear Corporation superseded the old Australian Apple and Pear Board. That change was brought in by the Whitlam Government. It was subject to very considerable criticism at the time because of the paucity of grower representation on the corporation. However, I think that in fairness most people would concede that the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation, despite the small grower representation, which was the decision of the previous Government, basically has done a very good job. It has been balanced by the activities of the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association.
I want to bring that aspect into the debate because it is a matter of some interest at the moment as to whether funding to that Association will continue from the proceeds which are obtained from growers by way of levy to enable the Association effectively to represent the views of growers within Australia. This is not a small matter. As I indicated a moment ago, because of the small grower representation on the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation, it is absolutely essential that the Apple and Pear Growers Association of Australia be continued. That organisation basically has to put the view of the growers. It can continue only if it continues to receive financial assistance by means of a proportion of the share of the money raised by way of levy. This matter is before the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) at the moment. I have no doubt that honourable members who represent fruit growing electorates have had representations from growers in their electorates to the effect that the Government should ensure that the Association continues to receive sufficient funds to keep it going by way of a share of the levy. I notice that one of my colleagues from the National Country Party does not agree but I am putting the view of Tasmanian growers.
– They agree.
– I am very pleased that the Country Party does agree. Indeed, it is very appropriate that we should agree on matters such as this because the Apple and Pear Growers Association is in a position to put a point of view on behalf of growers which would otherwise have been put if there had been greater grower representation on the Corporation. As the honourable member for Blaxland has said, the legislation covers the contingency of the Corporation’s not having moneys in hand to apply at a particular point of time due to the seasonal operation of the fruit industry. I think it is very proper legislation. I urge the Corporation to do everything in its power to promote the consumption of apples and pears within Australia in addition to any promotion with respect to outside markets.
My colleague the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck), who will be following me in this debate, will no doubt refer to the need to promote the newly developing markets in areas other than zones A and B, being the traditional markets of the United Kingdom and Europe. We have great opportunities to develop markets for apples and pears in the Middle East. We have great opportunities to develop markets for apples and pears on the west coast of America. Above all, thanks to the efforts of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), we have I hope an opportunity to develop a market in Japan. The honourable member for Franklin, who is well renowned as one who has fought for the apple and pear industry in Tasmania and particularly in his own electorate, will follow me in this debate. I have much pleasure in supporting this legislation because it gives to the Corporation a power which was much needed. I conclude by saying that I hope that more Australians will eat an apple a day. If they were to do that the fruit industry in this country would revert to the position of strength that it held a few years ago. I know that that is the view of both sides of the House.
-I thank the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) for his remarks. The honourable member was formerly a member of the Tasmanian Legislative Council, representing the electorate of Huonville. He is well known to the apple growers there as a tenacious fighter. I want to refer to the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission. Sometimes I think that the members of the IAC are theorists who do not really know what the industry is all about. They like to restructure industries. They like to think that they know about an industry but unfortunately they have been proved wrong. I recall that the honourable member for Denison once asked: Why pull out the apple trees?’ Unfortunately, since 1973, 40 per cent of the apple trees in Tasmania have been pulled out, and today there is a demand for apples. The honourable member for Denison and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) were among those who asked: ‘Why pull out the apple trees in Tasmania?’ We are faced with a world demand for good apples and, unfortunately, we cannot meet that demand. I do not mind being called the apple grub of Tasmania but I do not like being called the tourist grub. By that I mean that for many years Tasmania has been synonymous with the apple. People always think of Tasmania as the Apple Isle.
– The best in the world.
-The honourable member for Denison is quite right. Today a lot of people are thinking of Tasmania as the Tourist Isle. I do not blame them for that, but I still like to think that we are synonymous with the apple. Tasmania provides two-thirds of Australia’s total apple exports to the United Kingdom. We produce one-third of the apples produced in Australia. We are the best producers of apples in Australia. According to an article in the Sunday Telegraph- I am told that it is a very good newspaper- apples from Tasmania are two cents cheaper but are of the best quality. Of course they are of the best quality. Today the Tasmanian Treasurer said that Tasmania was being sold down the drain. He should remember that the introduction of the freight equalisation plan has provided $16m to Tasmania. A lot of my friends in the National Country Party do not like to hear me saying that our apples are the best in Australia. They do not like to hear me saying that the people of Australia prefer our apples to theirs.
– They are not.
-I know that they do not like it but it is true. The introduction of the freight equalisation plan has enabled us to put our apples on the market in Australia. The people of Australia know quality and they have been buying our apples. The Tasmanian Treasurer is also the Minister for Education. Every time I went to an education meeting he attacked the Federal Government, and now he is attacking the Federal Government by saying that it is selling Tasmania down the drain. That same Minister does not come out and say that the introduction of the freight equalisation plan has meant that for the first time we have been able to put our apples on the mainland market and have been able to compete with the mainlanders. There is a distinction between Tasmanians and mainlanders. We like to say that we are Tasmanians. We produce one-third of the total Australian apple production and we provide twothirds of the total Australian exports to the United Kingdom. We are the Apple Isle. We must keep on saying that and presenting Tasmania in that way.
– Australians will not eat them. You have to export them.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I like to have your protection in this hostile environment when I am trying to present my case.
– It is all from your own side.
– I am sorry. I am one-eyed like a lot of other people.
-Order! The honourable member has the right to speak without interruption. I ask other honourable members to remain silent.
-The very important point -
– We like your apples.
-Thank you very much. The honourable member, who comes from Sydney, admits that he likes our apples.
– I did not admit it.
-The honourable member did. He said it.
– I did not admit it; I stated it.
-I beg your pardon, he stated it. He recognises quality. Tasmanians have been able to produce quality apples that have been acceptable to the mainland markets. Since the introduction of the freight equalisation plan a lot of the mainland States have said: ‘Tasmania is being advantaged. It has a freight equalisation plan’. The only reason they have said it is that we have the quality, we have the techniques, we have the people in Tasmania who have been able to produce apples that have been acceptable not only to the mainland but also the world. If one looks at the situation in the United Kingdom at the moment one will see that Tasmanian apples -
– Why were you eating Victorian apples tonight?
-Why did the honourable member leave Tasmania? He left Tasmania and went to Victoria because we could not put up with his Northern Ireland dialect. The fact is that we have the quality apples. The introduction to this Bill- I am sorry I have departed from the Bill to a degree -
Future Airport Needs at Sydney- Community Youth Support Scheme- National Water Resources- Aircraft Accidents: Insurance Protection- Security in Parliament House- New South Wales Labor Government
-It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I rise tonight to speak of the MANS interim study on the future airport needs of Sydney. It is a study about which I am very concerned. Altogether it has eliminated more than 120 sites for a second airport for Sydney and in the process it has given us reasons for the elimination of only one site, Holsworthy. Others such as Duffy’s Forest, which has always been rumoured to be a very hot favourite, have now been ignored although the vast majority of the people who use airports come from the North Shore where Duffy’s Forest is located. In fact I have heard that those people have disbanded their anti-airport committee and they do not know what to do with all the money that the Committee has. I am very concerned indeed that this report does not give us the reasons why so many sites have been eliminated. The MANS study recommends that there should be a transfer of F27s and general aviation to Bankstown. Naturally the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) would be opposed strongly to any such proposal. Bankstown Airport has already reached saturation point. Of course the study does not recognise that logically because Bankstown has already reached saturation point something should be done about the traffic that is handled already by that airport. It is obvious that the authorities are looking at either Camden or Schofields. There is already a very great division between the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). On the one hand Mr Nixon has stated in correspondence to me that he wants to divert general aviation traffic to the Navy depot, HMAS Nirimba, at Schofields; and on the other hand Mr Killen has stated in correspondence to me that he violently opposes the proposal and that he will stick by the opposition. In other words, there is a distinct division between these two Ministers of the Government. Of course, Mr Killen is correct in saying that the diversion would interfere with our defence arrangements. At Schofields great investment has been made for the training of personnel. There will also be an effect on the Royal Australian Air Force airport at Richmond.
The report eliminates the possibility of the site being located at Holsworthy where there is a firing range with danger from buried mines, bombs and so on. Three areas are then leftMaraylyaMarsden Park, Londonderry-St Marys and Bringelly. Airport development at the first two areas would have a serious impact on the effectiveness of the RAAF airport at Richmond. I imagine that the Department of Defence would have a few words to say about that. The fact is that there will be a tremendous impact on any one of these three sites. The basic proposal that has been put is that either a parallel strip will be constructed at Mascot or a second international airport will be established at one of these three sites. All of these sites are in the outer western suburbs of Sydney but we should keep in mind that most of the traffic that uses international and interstate airports comes from the northern suburbs, around the Duffy’s Forest area. The construction of another airport would have a tremendous impact in noise and danger on areas such as Blacktown, Mt Druitt, Riverstone, Windsor, Richmond, St Marys, Penrith, the lower Blue Mountains and surrounding areas. Look at the electorates that would be affected.
– As the honourable member for Parramatta says, his electorate would also be affected. I have been authorised by him to say here tonight that he and I join in opposing any proposal to establish the second international airport or general aviation traffic anywhere in the outer western suburbs of Sydney. Mass development is taking place in that area, and that development is growing year by year. I think it is very important indeed that the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock), the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Gillard) and the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) should each come out of his rabbit warren, face the people and join with the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown), the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and myself in our opposition to a second international airport being located anywhere in the outer Western Suburbs of Sydney. Furthermore, it is time that the Government gave the people of the outer Western Suburbs the right to express their own view on this matter. It is time that a referendum were held in the outer Western Suburbs to gain the viewpoint of the residents.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish tonight to speak in support of the Community Youth Support scheme. Since the origination of that scheme in October 1976, some 3 1,000 young people have participated in it. The latest figures, which are from February last, show that 7,500 unemployed youth were involved in 250 projects throughout the country. Firstly, from those statistics it is clearly evident that the scheme has been highly successful in involving community groups in the problems of unemployed youth and in attracting that youth freely and voluntarily to take part in programs designed to assist them. Secondly, with respect to these programs, I believe further that on the whole the scheme has also been highly successful. That success can be commonly measured in immediate terms by the numbers of participants who go on to gain permanent employment. Here again statistics can prove the case, because of an encouraging and significant number of such participants, particularly those from those projects who co-operate closely with the Commonwealth Employment Service. Thirdly, the value of the Community Youth Support scheme is equally apparent in other less tangible ways.
Well-run CYS projects which have attached to them enthusiastic professional project officers importantly provide unemployed young people with stimulation and with sympathetic and understanding adult supervision and guidance to which they readily respond and relate. The scheme brings together unemployed young people. It brings them out of their houses and away from the boredom of the television set and the despair of their bedrooms. They learn and they gain support from the fact that they are not alone, thus increasing their confidence and mutual self-respect. They are afforded the opportunity and benefit of social contact, with all its related benefits. That is something with which ordinarily school or work would provide them.
The scheme is not a job creation program and was never intended to be so. To press for a youth oriented job creation program is to put another argument, but let not the CYS scheme be wrongly criticised on that ground. For the reasons I have outlined I believe the scheme to be of enormous benefit in its own right and I roundly reject the view that it is a waste of time and money. I know of no other government initiated scheme which has been so successful in assisting so many- 31,000 people- so responsibly. Up to February of this year approximately $3.4m has been spent on the scheme, which represents less than $ 1 20 per participant.
Thus, in accepting the importance and the value of the scheme, I wish finally to comment on its improvement and continuation. I welcome the Government’s move to increase from six to 12 months the maximum period for which a project may be approved. That will ensure greater continuity for project officers and participants alike. That will go a long way towards encouraging those excellent potential project officers who may previously have declined to become involved because they believe that six months’ tenure was insufficient. I welcome the recent emphasis placed on the local State committees to maintain closer oversight of projects to ensure that they remain geared to the needs of unemployed young people. I welcome the appointment to the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations of a number of skilled field workers who will assist in this task. Such improvements were announced by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) in a statement two weeks ago. I do not think the statement was remembered by many honourable members. In the light of the fact that in my electorate one project was only recently reapproved until August and another one is starting shortly, I believe that these improvements are ample evidence to indicate the Government’s continuing interest in the scheme. I believe the Community Youth Support scheme to be extremely valuable. While there remains the great human and social need for it, I will never tire of pressing for its effective maintenance, continuation, improvement and extension.
– I bring to the notice of the House the tragic circumstances surrounding the death last month of a young couple from my electorate. They died as a result of the flooding of the Oakes Road Bridge when the Toongabbie Creek overflowed. The Toongabbie Creek forms a border between the electorates of Parramatta and Mitchell. I am sure that the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) will support my sentiments. It beggars imagination that three miles from the demographic centre of Sydney, Australia ‘s largest city, people drowned as the result of a natural calamity accentuated by government neglect.
The Parramatta River Basin Drainage Study, which was prepared by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation and published in June 1976, made a number of detailed recommendations designed to prevent flash flooding. The report was commissioned by the Sydney western regional organisation of local authorities after the flash floods at Granville four years ago when the need for an inquiry on drainage in the Parramatta River basin area was realised. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), as Minister for Urban and Regional Development, made $53,000 available for this study in 1975. Shortage of time prevents my tabulating the specific proposals of the report, but I mention some recommendations concerning the construction of catchment areas. It was proposed that drainage channels be constructed to divert the flow of water by means of a system of retardation weirs along Toongabbie Creek and then, after the flood has subsided, to let the water gradually down the river to Parramatta.
It is disgraceful that the unctuous Ministers for Environment, Housing and Community Development have sat on this report for nearly two years without bothering to act on the proposals for flood mitigation. My good friend, the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), wrote to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development on 4 February 1977 requesting information on what action the Minister intended to take on this matter. The Minister replied. I quote from his letter:
I am aware of the merits of the proposal. However, in the light of the present economic situation, I think it would be unlikely that funds would be made available in the very near future.
One can only hope that the Minister’s myopic view about this matter has been shaken as a result of this tragedy at Oakes Road Bridge. I doubt that this will be so. It amazes me that a Minister of this Government, which has restored so many of the exemptions and subsidies benefiting the already privileged minority- a government whose Budget deficit will, according to recent estimates, exceed any other in our nation’s history- can express the vapid opinion that nothing can be done in regard to the urgent work required to mitigate the flooding in the Parramatta River basin.
One cannot help feeling how cynical the Government’s 1975 campaign slogan of ‘turning on the lights’ now stands in relation to the reply by the Minister to my colleague. The statement in the light of present economic circumstances’ is an old catch phrase used by conservative politicians to deny justified grievances emanating from this side of the House. It just is not good enough. I add this warning: Unless the Government acts on the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation’s report there will be more tragedies as a result of flash flooding. How many more needless accidents shall take place before the Government acts responsibly? I do not deny that the solution to this problem lies in a co-ordinated effort by all three tiers of government- Federal, State and local. However, the main source of the $1 1m required to effectively implement the full recommendations must come from the Federal Government.
The Whitlam era provided a start to this scheme. Some $50,000 was provided to help build the Briens Road bridge. Some $50,000 was provided to pipe the Finlaysons Creek. These are parts of the whole Toongabbie Creek system. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) trumpets about the country about a $200m national flood mitigation program. In seven years the Toongabbie Creek system has claimed eight innocent lives in my electorate which is a highly developed and heavily populated area.
I demand that a high priority be allotted to the implementation of the SMEC scheme. I am aghast that in an area so highly populated and which is just three miles from the centre of one of the world’s great cities, people can drown on a local road because governments refuse to implement a scheme which was fully organised and explained as a complete cure to the problem. Unless something happens almost immediately to see that the flood threat is mitigated I am sure there will be more deaths. But I hope that because of the deaths of these two young people in the last month the Government will be prompted to get off its tail and spend the $1 lm required to implement this scheme so that perhaps these young lives will not have been lost in vain.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Do I understand that it is the custom in the House that from 1 1 p.m. to 1 1. 10 p.m. a Minister shall respond to debates from private members concerning their grievances, or is that not now the case? I and other honourable members would like to know whether we are to sit in the chamber and make requests of the Executive while not a single member of the front bench capable of answering is here to answer.
-There is no substance in the point of order. For the information of the honourable member, the Minister may -
– I think there is. Yes, I think there is.
-The honourable member for Holt will resume his seat. I am ruling on his point of order. I rule that there is no substance in the point of order. But for the information of the honourable member I point out that the Minister at the table may request a continuation of the debate from 1 1 p.m. to 1 1 . 1 0 p. m. for purposes of his own choice. He is not obliged to provide that service to the House.
– I raise a further point of order.
– You are taking up our time. Sit down.
– If honourable members opposite think I am trying to obstruct Ministers answering matters they wish to propose -
-Order! The honourable member will make his point of order.
– The point of order is this: What is the point of honourable members making speeches during the adjournment debate unless a member of the Executive is prepared to answer them between 1 1 p.m. and 11.10 p.m.?
-There is no substance in the point of order. I ask the honourable member to resume his seat.
-I enter this debate tonight to bring to the attention of the House the totally inadequate insurance protection available in respect of passengers lulled or injured in aircraft accidents. The limited protection available to aircraft passengers is in marked contrast to that available to passengers of motor vehicles. There is an urgent need, firstly, to provide that compulsory third party liability insurance be taken out by all airline and aircraft operators and owners. Secondly, there is an urgent need to prevent insurance companies including conditions in contracts for insurance which enable them to escape liability because of pilot negligence or breach of aircraft navigation regulations. Thirdly, there is an urgent need to increase substantially the limit of liability now applying to those cases in which passengers or their dependants are not required to establish fault on the part of the aircraft operator or his crew as a prerequisite to compensation.
The House will be aware that the liability of operators of domestic airline services and charter services is governed by the Commonwealth Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act and complementary State Acts. This legislation imposes on operators no fault liability to compensate injured passengers and their dependants to a limit of liability of $45,000. This amount is ludicrously low when one considers the level of damages being awarded by the courts to victims of motor car accidents. The right to compensation of those injured while flying in aircraft engaged in private operations depends upon the injured party’s ability to prove negligence. It is to these persons that I wish to direct the attention of the House tonight. There is no obligation on the operators of these aircraft to insure against third party personal injury claims. Tragically for those people injured in accidents involving aircraft of this kind, those against whom they could obtain substantial judgments are off en men of straw.
There is an urgent need for the law to provide that it be compulsory that third party personal injury liability insurance be taken out by all people who own aircraft. Some of those people who engage in private aircraft operations do enter into insurance contracts. From the point of view of those people injured, these insurance policies are barely worth the paper on which they are written. They are worth so little that anyone who flies on a private aircraft should think not twice, but three, four or five times, about his interests and the interests of the members of his family because these insurance policies are so inadequate that they do not give the protection which should be given. They require that the insured will not breach either airworthiness requirements or air navigation regulations. These conditions provide an easy ‘out’ for and an ‘out’ which is often taken by the insurer. Proof of the negligent act which establishes the liability for the injured passenger’s right to compensation is often the ground upon which the insurer escapes and avoids liability.
Insurers should be prevented from escaping liability by relying on breaches of the Air Navigation Act or of the regulations made under it. In this day and age it is anomalous that passengers travelling in light aircraft do not have the same protection as passengers travelling in motor vehicles. While the anomaly remains, great hardship is being and will continue to be caused. Legislation similar to that applying to motor cars is urgently needed to protect passengers who fly in light aircraft. In view of the not inconsiderable use of light aircraft for carrying passengers, both paying and non-paying, it is in the public interest that full insurance cover be provided for passengers. Until there is adequate insurance cover for passengers who use these aircraft, those people who fly in them are taking unwarranted risks and should in fact avoid flying. Few passengers are competent to know whether the pilot of the aircraft is complying with regulations.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired!
– I wish to raise tonight the exaggerated and rather hysterical response to security in which all honourable members, attendants, aides and workers in the Parliament are now entangled. I do not deny that some security arrangements are probably necessary for this Parliament. What I query is the rushed, hurried and sudden imposition on the Parliament of a set of security arrangements for which no clear arguments have ever been adduced, whose nuisance value might well outweigh any positive virtues and which appear unlikely to deter anyone with malign intentions towards any member or members of this House.
My first objection is to the sudden method of the implementation of these security arrangements, virtually by overnight edict from the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the
House, the supposed guardians of the rights and privileges of the members of this Parliament. I do not question the sincerity of the Presiding Officers; what I do question is their failure to consult more widely with the members of the Parliament. As was said elsewhere, and I think said well: ‘The rights and privileges of members of parliament are peculiarly matters for the Parliament to consider and there should not be an infringement of these rights and privileges, whatever that infringement might be, without proper consultation and discussion with the members of the Parliament’.
Undoubtedly, barriers have been created between members of this Parliament and the public. There is an inevitable sense of intimidation arising from the apparatus of control and name taking which has been created. Undoubtedly, inhibitions might arise in relation to contact between members of parliament and persons wishing to consult them in private. Moreover, I think it is fairly doubtful that the infringements will yield any effective security in this warren of a building. I think that, if we are really concerned with security, the act;on we should take is straight away is to begin to build a new Parliament House, conceived in terms of the needs of the late twentieth century.
My real reason for rising tonight is to try to find out why this set of restrictions has been imposed. We have never been given any clear and reasonable justification for the sudden imposition of these restrictions after decades of neglect. The all-purpose excuse that has been used has been the dreaded word ‘terrorism’. It was used again tonight as a justification for dubious actions. We are in great danger in this House of drifting into a situation whereby the incantation of the word ‘terrorism’ will serve the coalition to stifle rights and liberties, even rights and liberties of members of this Parliament, just as the incantation of the word ‘communism’ was used in the 1950s and 1960s to stifle rights and liberties.
What seems to have happened has been a gross over-reaction to the tragedy of the Hilton bombing. I think it was obvious at the time in the use of the Army. In the view of many counter terrorist experts that was a counter-productive overreaction. This House should demand a cool explanation of the nature, form and possibilities of terrorism in this society, some critical examination of the threats we need to guard against. This House has never been given such an explanation.
I hoped to find one by reading the Sir Robert Menzies lecture of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) which was devoted to the subject of terrorism.
– You will find it very instructive.
– I read it and was extremely disappointed with it. If one goes through it thoroughly one finds only two specific references to terrorism in Australia. One of these references is vague and misleading and the other is inadequate. I quote the vague and misleading one. The Prime Minister said:
Violence is by no means a new phenomenon in this country.
It is true in a general sense that there have been riots, and also clashes between strikers and pickets in this society but the peculiar thing about Australia is that it has been overwhelmingly free from political terrorism directed against particular individuals. Unlike practically every other society in the world in the 20th century we have never had an act of political assassination in Australia. That needs to be remembered. We should not do injustice to our history. The Prime Minister also stated:
In the last 1 5 years there have been more than 40 incidents involving the use of explosives.
We need details about that statement. The Prime Minister should give this House an explanation of those events. I raise the issue because if we are not careful the very over-reaction to terrorism will itself incite terrorism. There is no doubt amongst most counter terrorist experts -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the short time available I want to refer to three matters that arise from the demented, deranged and disgusting deceit of the New South Wales Labor Government. One is the freeways controversy. I have the assurance of the office of the Minister for Transport that 100 per cent of Sydney freeway costs this year will be provided by the Federal Government. But the State Minister for Transport has changed the word ‘freeway’ into urban arterial road ‘ and has tried to score political points out of it. This is a snide tactic, typical of the way the New South Wales Government is wrecking the State economy with its business bashing, forcing the mining companies to leave the State and other activities.
The second thing to which I want to refer is an amazing advertisement for the Earlwood byelection which appears in a newspaper which was published today. The advertisement shows Mr Wran and the Labor candidate. It says that the Labor candidate is the Government candidate. Why is the Australian Labor Party not prepared to say to which party he belongs? When was he endorsed by a government? He was endorsed by a party. What is the purpose behind this action? The reason for this statement can be seen below. The advertisement states that the electorate has been well served in the past except when Sir Eric Willis was not in government. It fails to note the figures which show the excellent record of Sir Eric and his great majorities. In six out of ten Parliaments the Labor Party won the seat yet he was beloved in the electorate for his work for the electorate.
Now here is the rub. The advertisement states that if the people want a voice in governmentbecause Sir Eric does not have a voice in the Parliament; Earlwood does not have a voice in Parliament- they should telephone the Labor candidate. This is blackmail. What it is saying is that if the electors want any attention for their area they have to vote for this Labor candidate. It is the same sort of trick Bjelke-Petersen tried in Mount Isa in Queensland. It does not matter if one is a citizen; if you are not Labor you are out. You will not get schools, hospitals, roads or listened to; you will be blackmailed. That is entirely the purpose of this advertisement. Furthermore, it points out that this Labor candidate is in agreement with the State Government on the Mascot airport. It does not say that Sir Eric was in exactly the same agreement.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. Does the Minister wish to extend the debate?
– Yes. I rise to reply to the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown), who was speaking about 20 minutes ago. I would like to make a few points about the comments that he made and the comments that the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) made. The honourable member for Holt will be well aware, as is every honourable gentleman, that all honourable members have facilities to monitor in their rooms the debates in this chamber, and my presence here now indicates that that monitoring occurs in my office and that I was well aware of what the honourable member for Parramatta said.
It is unfortunate that the honourable member for Parramatta does not have an understanding of some of the conventions of this chamber. I make two points about conventions that I understand prevail in this place. If a member is to make the sorts of comments in the rather hysterical way that he did, he at least should warn the Minister- I believe that is a convention of this place- that he intends to speak; and, secondly, if he chooses to make such an attack he at least should have the courtesy to remain in the chamber until the Minister has the chance to reply, as is provided at 1 1 p.m., and which I am now doing.
– He had a pressing matter to attend to. He is here now.
– Did he? Having made that point may I just turn to the subject matter of the attack by the honourable member for Parramatta.
– I raise a point of order. I would like the Minister to know that I have not fled the chamber; I am here.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– I did not notice the honourable member return.
– I did not leave.
– He has been sitting here all the time.
– If he has been here all the time, I apologise. I now have the chance to explain to him that there is a national water resources program, as the honourable member mentioned in his speech. I make a couple of points about that. Firstly, from my recollectionit is difficult to get access to records at this time of night- I can say for certain that the honourable member has never been to see me about the matter. Secondly- I will check the file tomorrow, but he could quickly dispel any doubts I have on the subject right now- I do not recollect that he has ever made written representations on this matter as well. Obviously, by his silence, he has not.
The national water resources program that we have introduced includes already in 1 977-78 an amount of $ 1 m for flood mitigation works. There was a delay in producing that program. Some of it was on the Federal Government’s side, and it was due to the election. However, because of delays in providing reports and other information by State governments the implementation of that program was delayed. There is now a $lm program. I have written to my colleague in New South Wales telling him about it. The important thing about that program is that it is not up to the Federal Government to decide the priorities under that program. So I would raise another question, and that is: Has the honourable member approached the New South Wales Government about the problem in his constituency? Again by his silence he obviously has not.
– I raise a point of order. Am I allowed to debate the matter with the Minister?
-The honourable member for Parramatta has not the call.
– He is suggesting–
-I will call the honourable member for Parramatta if he wishes to raise a point of order.
– The honourable member will have the chance later, I am sure, to deny both things about which I have made assumptions.
– How? He cannot speak again.
– He can ask me a question tomorrow at Question Time, quite easily. I am being as gentle as I can with the new honourable member just to tell him what the facts of life are here. If he wishes to prosper the solution of a problem, and I do not deny from the description that he has given that it is a problem, I would suggest that he go to the Government of New South Wales, to the appropriate Minister in the Government of New South Wales and put his case. If he can convince the New South Wales Government that the problem is as bad as he suggests, he will have no difficulty in having that Government give it a high priority in the programs that it will furnish to me for 1978-79. 1 can assure the honourable member that if it has that priority it will be funded. It is as simple as that, because the money is there.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. If no other honourable member rises the Minister may continue speaking until 1 1 . 1 0 p.m.
– I think I have made my point but, more importantly, because the honourable member has described a real problem, I would now suggest to him that he come to see me, or write me a letter and I will do everything I can do to prosper his cause with the New South Wales Government, to alleviate the problem.
-Order! The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
Are there any figures available showing the number of deaths caused by lung cancer in uranium miners working (a) underground and (b) in open cut mines in (i) the U.S.A., (ii) Canada, (iii) South Africa, (iv) the U.S.S.R. and (v) Czechoslovakia.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission has provided the following information:
This information contains a summary of all available information and is obviously not as extensive as I would desire. I am confident the honourable member who is medically qualified would in interpreting these data be aware of the limitations.
I would draw the attention of the honourable member also to the publication of my Department entitled the Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores and to the comments on it contained in the editorial of the Medical Journal of Australia, Vol. 2, Issue of October 29, 1977. As the editorial points out, ‘This code was regarded by the Ranger Commission as the most comprehensive and restrictive available in any country’. Its application will minimise the risk of lung cancer in the workforce.
Expenditure on Domestic Air Travel (Question No. 453)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
What sum was paid by his Department, or by Departments formerly encompassing the functions now performed by his Department, to each airline for air travel within Australia during 1976-77.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Payments in 1976-77 as shown in the accounting records of my Department were:
The amounts shown relate to expenditure incurred by the Department of Health only and exclude the fares paid by the Health Insurance Commission, the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, the Capital Territory Health Commission and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth ‘s role has not been decided.
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government regards activities to reduce industrial accidents and prevent occupational disease as inter-related and:
I should add that the National Safety Council’s record over the years shows that it promotes and teaches practices that have been demonstrated in application to be effective in reducing industrial accidents in almost all circumstances.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
In view of the answer to my question without notice to the then Treasurer on 8 September 1977 (Hansard, page 879), regarding the minting of a gold coin, (a) what was the outcome of studies of the technical and legal aspects of this proposition and (b) when is it expected that such a coin will be in circulation.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The studies referred to by the honourable member have not yet been completed. The timing of any action on this matter will depend on a number of factors including those associated with the legislative position.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Administrative and Clerical Officers Association
Australian Public Service Association (4th Division Officers)
Professional Officers Association
Federated Clerks Union
Commonwealth Foreman’s Association
Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draftsmen of Australia
Association of Professional Engineers of Australia
Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union
Australian Society of Engineers
Federated Storemen and Packers Union
Building Workers Industrial Union
Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association
Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union
Clothing Trades Union
Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners
Plumbers and Gasfitters Union
Vehicle Builders Employees Federation of Australia
Transport Workers Union
Australian Workers Union
Electrical Trades Union
Australian Public Service Artisans Association
Federated Iron Workers Association
Operative Painters and Decorators Union
Australian Timber Workers Union.
Royal Commission into Human Relationships: Recommendations (Question No. 691)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)I draw the honourable member’s attention to the answer to a question without notice on the report of the Royal Commission addressed to me by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Bowen) on 1 March (Hansard, page 269).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 April 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780406_reps_31_hor108/>.